As I was finishing my lunch in the dining room, I suddenly realized there was silence coming from the basement when just a few moments earlier there had been rambunctious banging of “music” wafting up the stairs. Wondering which object I would find flushed down the toilet this time (and when exactly I would learn not to leave him alone in the basement), I rushed down the stairs saying, “Griffin! What are you up to?” Imagine my surprise when I came upon Griffin unloading the dry clothes from the dryer and loading the wet ones from the washing machine.
“Wow, buddy! What a helper you are!” I said as I marveled at how big and responsible he was getting.
“Yeah, Mama! Hey, remember that time I pooped on the rug and in my underwear?”
Griffin, much to our delight, absolutely loves books. While he might be a bit of a spaz (and I say that lovingly), he will almost always sit down and listen to a story. He has been loving the book Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems lately. He has asked me to read it to him three or four times in a row in one sitting! Today, he plopped down on the kitchen floor and said, “I’m going to read Leonardo to you!” I was fortunate enough to catch it on video (sorry for the poor sound quality):
Griffin: Are spiders scary?
Me: Not really
Griffin: Well why can’t we touch them?
Me: Sometimes they’re too fast to touch.
Griffin: Well I think it’s because 1. Some of them go out of my hands, 2. Some of them have fire eyes, and 3. We can’t touch them
Me: That makes perfect sense to me.
Kate Chopin is one of my favorite authors of short stories, so I wanted to read one of her novels. Chopin had me with her opening words, pulling me into the late nineteenth century Louisiana setting. The story revolves around Edna Pontellier, a woman who, by the standards of the time, appears to have it all: a devoted, wealthy husband and two young boys. The family spends summers at a beach cottage and the rest of the year in a palatial New Orleans home. As the title suggests, Edna slowly becomes aware of the web of social conventions that imprison her and demand that she exist only in the service of others (primarily her husband and children). She chafes and rebels, in increasingly scandalous ways, culminating in a poignant and satisfying ending.
It was a quick read, and certainly worth re-reading. (I reread the first chapter immediately upon finishing the book and found much to admire in how it sets up the eventual conclusion.) The primary theme is a bit dated, and is delivered bluntly at times, but there is still much to think about. I particularly enjoyed how Chopin highlights the tension between the mindless emptiness of strict social conformity and the potential selfishness of resistance. Edna is compared to a child on more than one occasion as her actions become increasingly self-centered: like a child, she is not considering the impact of her actions on those around her. This question of how to harmonize your duty to yourself with your duty to others is, of course, as relevant today as it was in 1899—relaxing gender expectations cannot magically resolve this for us.
Ultimately, although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I was not as impressed with Chopin’s craftsmanship here as I have been with many of her short stories. If you’ve never read any Chopin, she can pack a powerful punch with very few words. Check out “The Story of an Hour” and “Doctor Chevalier’s Lie” for two great examples.
At three months, Maggie now: grasps her hands, puts her hands and fingers in her mouth, grasps for objects, rolls onto her side, laughs, tracks family members across the room with her eyes, kicks both legs and pivots herself while lying on the floor.