The Cure for Melancholy

Today, my daughter’s Big Girl Bed arrives. Today, I put away the crib that has been in one bedroom or another for six years, the crib I once arranged lovingly, tying little knots into bows and folding soft blankets in preparation.

The ends of things have always saddened me. My family still jokes about the car ride home from the cabin we stayed in for one week every summer–the whole way home, I cried. For five hours. Sometimes, according to my dad, I’d stop crying just south of Madison, leaving the final two hours blissfully quiet.

When I was nine years old, I fell in love with American history while watching North and South, a TV miniseries about the Civil War. I think it was a two-week series. I’d place my red tape recorder next to the TV speakers so I could “record” it. Guess what happened after the final episode? A whole lot of crying.

I’ve already cried today. Just a bit, but I haven’t even disassembled the crib yet. All I did was move it to make room for the new bed when it’s delivered soon. And I thought, “That crib will never be in that spot again. I’ll never hold my baby in my arms and rock her while I sing, before placing her down to sleep.”

It’s in my blood, I think, this tendency to start with, “Never again….” instead of the more optimistic, “What’s next?” It’s been with me as long as I can remember, a melancholy view of the passage of time. I can look on the bright side, and often do. But melancholy is sometimes my natural resting place.

It’s also the mood in which I feel most creative, when since I was little I’ve taken out my diary or notebook or computer and started writing. I learned early, accidentally, that putting words on a page lightens the weight. The act of writing is my cure, the melancholy in my heart released, bringing me to a point at which I know that of course I will still hold my baby and rock her to sleep. She might be heavier, her legs might dangle longer, but I still have more time.

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28 thoughts on “The Cure for Melancholy

  1. This is beautiful and really captures how I feel with each change. That big girl bed is a huge step — it’s a bittersweet memory even all these many years later (my daughter just started her first “real job”). “The act of writing is my cure…” >> so true. Enjoy that time, Jess.

  2. awww!! I remember the transition with both Michael and Owen into big boy beds. And now with Michael starting Kindergarden next year, I’m a mess! Luckily this baby #3 is due to arrive any day so I have some more baby time to cherish, but I have a feeling I will react the same way when our crib is put away for the last time.

  3. That’s always difficult. I still have a closet full of dresses that I keep saying I’m going to sell on etsy.com. I haven’t even taken pictures of them. I just remember her walking around in them and can’t let them go.

  4. This is beautiful. I love how you describe your love of writing as something that was born from a need to lift yourself out of melancholy. I was just as melancholy and sentimental about things as a kid, and I can definitely agree that writing was therapeutic.

    And I LOVED North & South! What a beautiful mini-series. I keep saying I should get it on DVD and rewatch it.

    • It was on cable a few months ago and I watched some of it; still a treat to see, but it wasn’t quite the cinematic feat I remembered. πŸ™‚ Quite cheesy. That’s the 80s for you.
      Thanks, Natalia.

    • I don’t know what the answer is for us–maybe more downtime with the kids until we’re so sick of them, we want to let them go?? I’m sure you’ve read that children’s book in which the mother sneaks into her son’s bedroom every night to rock him and sing to him? I used to get weirded out toward the end, when she’s crawling into her adult son’s home to hold him on her lap and sing to him. No longer. That’s going to be me, no doubt.

  5. That last graph is so true to me. Those are the things that make me write too. There will be plenty more rocking to sleep. And on the bright side, it will be so much easier to put them in without crib rails! I have always loved crawling into bed and snuggling with my kids and reading books. Enjoy those times to come with your new “big kid.”

  6. What a sweet, sad story, beautifully told, and with a happy ending too–the melancholy cure. I’ve always been a bit like that about endings too, and find I do my best writing in a quiet, meditative mood. I used to “mourn” my children growing up too, just like you do, “I’ll never have them sitting on my lap this way again.” But then I so enjoyed the next stage of life they were in, I found I could honestly say that I wouldn’t want to return to what we had. So hope that helps.

    • It does, Deborah, thank you. I have found the same in the short while I’ve had my young kids–that I haven’t wanted to return to a prior time; your words were a good reminder.

  7. Think how lucky you are to have your creative side to express your feelings. Regardless of what I am going through I know I will make it to the other side because I have the blank page. As for the changes… it’s always hard as they grow, but much later you will look back and will struggle to pick your favorite phase. Each is special.

  8. This was beautiful! Life goes on, and though we put away the baby things, there are so many wonderful things to look forward to. My children are now grown, and I’ve got 3 grandchildren and another on the way. Even now, I miss having a baby and all that goes with nurturing them on a daily basis.

  9. I completely relate…sometimes we really need to say goodbye before we can move on to “what’s next?” It’s cathartic and let’s us really enjoy the next part. I find every part of motherhood bittersweet – every time he properly pronounces a word he couldn’t before I get so happy for him and so sad that he’s “growing up”…I still revel in his “lellow” for yellow and “aminal” for animal. But, those too will become a “remember when…” It’s a beautiful process, isn’t it?

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