Like unwashed potatoes

by Christina on November 27, 2014

Ever since I read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies a few years ago, I think of unwashed potatoes whenever I nuzzle my baby and smell in all his baby perfectness:

“She smells him behind the ears, where he most smells like sweet unwashed new potatoes. This is in fact what I think God may smell like, a young child’s slightly dirty neck.” ~Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Yes… that must be what God smells like.

We read her other book, Operating Instructions, for our last book club in which she chronicles the first year of life with her son, Sam.

Anne Lamott has a way of writing about the most mundane moments of motherhood in funny and new ways. As a new mom, it’s reassuring to read about her being totally and utterly miserable one moment, and then feel insane love and obsession for her son the next. Below are some of my favorite parts:

On how amazingly beautiful he is…

“He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He was like moonlight.”

“It’s a very beautiful mouth, but all you see when you look at him are his eyes. They’re not quite human; they’re more like those of a gentle extraterrestrial.”

On the crazy love, worry, protectiveness you feel…

“Now there is something that could happen that I could not survive: I could lose Sam. I look down into his staggeringly lovely little face, and I can hardly breathe sometimes. He is all I have ever wanted, and my heart is so huge with love that I feel like it is about to go off. At the same time I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I just didn’t used to care all that much.”

“I stayed up very late, watching the baby sleep, trying to exhort him psychically to take deeper breaths. If I could have one wish, just one crummy little wish, it would be that Sam outlive me.”

On the miseries of pumping…

“Have I mentioned how much I hate expressing milk? I do it nearly every day so there are bottles of milk on hand for whoever comes by to take care of Sam, but I hate the f*ing breast pump. It’s the ultimate bovine humiliation, and it hurts, the suction is so strong. You feel plugged into a medieval milking machine that turns your poor little gumdrop nipples into purple slugs with the texture of rhinoceros hide. You sit there furtively pumping away, producing nebbish little sprays on the side of the pump bottle until finally you’ve got half a cup of milk and nipples are six inches long. It’s so incredibly unsexy and secretive…”

On how great it is to get away, and then the craving you quickly get to come back…

“It is just so great to get away from Sam. At first. At first it makes me feel like Zorba the Greek. But then the jungle drums start beating and I feel like you do when you’re having a massive nicotine craving… the longing to be with him again became so intense that I sat there hyperventilating.

On the love and hate (but mostly love) of nursing…

“I was a mess all morning. Maybe my hormones are raging, maybe that’s what the craziness was all about. Something is really off. Part of me wants my body back, wants to stop being a moo-cow, and part of me thinks about nursing him through kindergarten… This is the easiest, purest communication I have ever known.”

On the infinite love you discover…

“One thing about Sam, one thing about having a baby, is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of – and then you do, you love him even more.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris Palmer December 1, 2014 at 1:30 am

Beautiful!

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