Category Archives: Tania Pryputniewicz

January 21 – A Daughter, Sand Angels, and the Sun

by Tania Pryputniewicz

I woke curmudgeonly grumpy from a tangle of blankets, one son’s knees grazing my spine, husband and Husky hugging the far wall. At my feet, my middle son. Parallel to the bed on the floor, my twelve year old daughter, hair smothered by pillows as I turned off the alarm. Transplanted from northern to southern California, I should have been overjoyed after three years of two-city living without my husband to be reunited under one roof.

But I’d acquired a hyper-vigilance due to raising our children alone–a “too-little-to-go-around” self whose reaction to any sentence starting with, “Mom” opened with, “What?…can’t you see I’m….” x, y, z. My daughter, with infinite patience last year, drew note after note decorated with rainbow letters, “Can I come down for tea with you tonight?” Fatigued, as hard as I tried, I felt locked in internal sorrow, afraid I’d never rise above our circumstances to be larger of heart.

I feel my shortcomings as a mom most intensely in relation to my daughter. Because we are both firstborns? Female? Because her brothers’ needs seem easier? I only know I’m more conflicted with her. And she has no qualms about letting me know how I’ve failed her. Which took me to some dark places last year (given the struggle to raise the children, work, hold down the fort, and stave off the ever present poet’s dream of writing a poem worthy of eternity).

But even as we wrangled, I understood the only way was “through”–not over, not around, not under, but through. The sun would rise; I’d try again. Some nights we had tea; others I deferred to stacks of student papers, dishes, or her brothers, especially during the month the littlest broke his elbow and needed surgery.

We’ve only been in the new city for two weeks, but my shoulders have dropped several inches now that two adults absorb the field of the kids’ needs. The one place that soothes all of us remains the ocean, mercifully close by here as it was up north, so instinctively, we keep the ritual.

Within moments, I’m photographing patterns–the retreating waves make sand angels below each beached pebble everywhere I look. My girl comes abreast of me and delights in the find. My husband salvages a purple bucket and one tiny green plastic soldier; the boys catapult down the sand dunes. The Husky runs leashless in wide arcs, nipping at the waves.

Dusk finds my daughter and I walking together. She’s willowy, lovely, inching towards adolescence. Hard to believe soon she’ll yearn less and less for my attention. I ask her to stop long enough for a double self-portrait. Finally, we get it right, shoulder to shoulder, positioning the setting sun so it crowns half of her face. We found that when you tilt just far enough apart, the light of the sun breaks into a gold-red fan of spokes across both faces like a blessing.

Tania lives in southern California with her husband, three children, husky, and two disoriented housecats still recovering from the move. A poet by night (MFA, Iowa Writers’ Workshop) and a writing teacher by day, she is heading into her second year of teaching Transformative Blogging for SCN (next class starts February 4th) and is writing a book for women bloggers.

March 7 – Horses, Motorcycles and Lemons

by Tania Pryputniewicz

I can’t stop being attracted to horses so maybe I should just ride one; is it spring, or the astral maneuverings of my daughter’s obsession with horses surfacing as if I’d thought of it myself?

Like the woman with grey eyes and coral mouth preparing to mount her motorcycle in front of Howard’s Station over the weekend, sheathed in her leathers, something about the loose black hood framing her silver hair that made her appear as a nun as she tilted her head to slide on her helmet. We exchange a few words on Ninjas and I consider briefly, riding one again, almost not afraid of dying again, my daughter standing quietly at my side.

Not since the screaming descent, before children, on the carbon-fiber frame of a bicycle, my husband’s helmet glinting far below through the sun/shadow spattered curves I had yet to navigate, have I used that full-body lean and swerve to sweep the curves for the joy of it–with that unhesitating precision you need on a motorcycle. And without that god-commanded umbilical restraint hardwired into mothers that keeps them within a two foot radius of their children at all times.

The rider waves, snakes smoothly out of the parking lot. I take my daughter’s hand, steer us and the conversation towards breakfast and the rest of the week’s lessons in gravity and heat. One of my sons will fall out of a lemon tree; one of my sons will mist water from a spray bottle onto a light-bulb. Rinds of glass will continue to appear over the course of the week in the toy boxes under the stairs.

The sound of the shattering glass takes me instantly back to childhood, Illinois, my brother’s lemon meringue filling on the ceiling, thick shards of pie glass exploding into the corners of the kitchen and under the refrigerator the instant my mother took the pie out of the oven and set it on the cold counter.

Here, in San Francisco, the pupil’s of my son’s eyes shutter appropriately tight; talk of a concussion recedes and by afternoon’s end he’s selling the lemons he harvested for fifty cents apiece.

And in the last two miles before our house on the drive home, the wild turkeys with their tan necks jolt raggedly along the edges of the horse pasture…my husband murmuring something about how much horses weigh, how much damage a fall at full gallop can do, why isn’t ballet good enough for our daughter. If horses are meant to be in her life, they’ll find her, I think to myself, knowing better than to share the insight aloud.

It’s not that I find my disinterest in danger waning, but a desire to inhabit the body returning as the kids individuate and release back to me parts of my psyche, incrementally, with highs and lows erratic as the tides. The body follows suit, with time on its hands again, wanting to wrap its arms around the neck of a horse.

Tania lives in California with her husband, three children, kitten, Siberian Husky, and four feral cats. She has an MFA in poetry and taught in the classroom for many years, though recently found herself living more of her life’s dream by working with women writers on-line, including her forthcoming class for SCN this March, Beginning Transformative Blogging.