Rocks

Rocks

by Guest Blogger May 22, 2018 8 Comments

By Katie Hautamaki

As my grandfather neared the end of his life, and his wife and children gathered in his hospital room, my uncle—the only member of the family prone to gestures like this—presented him with a rock engraved with the word "HOPE." My grandfather tried to eat it. He died a few days later, in the early hours before the sun rose, on Easter Sunday.

I was a college student at the time, an English major, and I took this as a reminder that human experience is a mysterious interplay of the wonderful and the ridiculous. It made me think of a line from an essay by Annie Dillard: "Wherever we go, there is only one business at hand—that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us."[1]

These days I need no such reminders, because I am a mother of small children. I live with people who throw tantrums because they wish I was wearing different pants, who want to be prophets when they grow up, who think gray tufts of Spanish moss are beards hung in the trees by old men who no longer want them. 

My children struggle to accept the inevitability of death—I think because it’s so absurd. To be born, to grow and learn and live, only to stop? It might be the most ridiculous thing they have ever heard. My son was incredulous in the face of it: "Everyone dies? But what if I don’t want to?"

Belief in resurrection comes easier. They accept the doctrine without question and apply it with all manner of interpretative liberties. "Remember I told you that GiGi went to heaven?" I asked my son as I packed for my grandmother's memorial service. "Is she back?" he said. Last summer my daughter almost drowned during her own swimming lesson (an absurdity in itself). As I dried her off, my hands shaking under the towel, she told me, "It’s okay, Mom. God can make me come alive again."

When my youngest child was born, I received a package from an out-of-town friend. Among the baby gifts—a board book version of Jane Eyre, a soft rattle—she included a white ceramic egg cradled in a small brown nest. The egg is stamped, in black typeset, with the word "HOPE." I think my friend intended it to be nursery décor, and at first I kept it on the baby's dresser, but my toddler kept trying to eat it, so now it sits on my kitchen windowsill.

Last Easter, before the sun came up, I filled my children's baskets with jelly beans, crème-filled eggs, and rock candy. My daughter held her clump of pink sugar crystals up to the lamplight, turning it slowly. "Can I eat this now?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "You can eat the whole thing."

[1] Dillard, Annie. "An Expedition to the Pole," in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: HarperCollins, 1982).

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Katie Hautamaki is a former magazine editor and current mother of three. She lives in Tallahassee, FL.

 

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Photo by Ruth Troughton on Unsplash




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8 Responses

Katie Hautamaki
Katie Hautamaki

August 31, 2018

Thank you, Sophronia! What a beautiful and spot-on way of putting it. They do know all the truth we’ve forgotten.
Sophfronia Scott
Sophfronia Scott

June 13, 2018

This is a wonderful piece. I’m comforted by many of the things my son said when he was young. Children, I’m convinced, are close to source and know all the truth we’ve forgotten.

Katie Hautamaki
Katie Hautamaki

June 08, 2018

Oh thank you, Veronica! So glad you enjoyed it.

Veronica
Veronica

June 03, 2018

I don’t usually comment, but this was so luminous and beautiful and delightfully funny that I couldn’t help myself. (I will never see Spanish moss the same again.)

Katie Hautamaki
Katie Hautamaki

May 23, 2018

Thanks for reading, Elliot! Nothing new under the sun indeed :)

Katie Hautamaki
Katie Hautamaki

May 23, 2018

Thank you, Susannah, what kind and encouraging words!

p.s. My daughter’s name is Susanna (sans the h)—such a lovely name (and underused, I think)!

Susannah Pratt
Susannah Pratt

May 23, 2018

Oh! I just LOVE this essay. I love the repeated imagery, the nuttiness and sincerity of your children, the Annie Dillard sprinkled in! So beautiful!

Elliot Wilner
Elliot Wilner

May 23, 2018

The observations of Ecclesiastes have been re-written in every generation — and are nicely expressed, in very similar language, by Katie Hautamaki.

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