THIS BODY CREATES
This body was born.
This body created life.
This body will die
I want to feel it all.
I was born into a family of artists. To this day my home is littered with reminders of so much of the creativity and aesthetics that I was surrounded by when I was growing up: artwork, furniture, musical instruments, all so much more valued and valuable than their monetary worth (which, to be honest, remains very low).
My father was a fine sculptor and a mediocre painter and potter. My mother was a much better ceramicist and sometime painter. And together they made music. The soundtrack of my childhood roadtrips didn’t come from a radio or a CD player (or even an 8-track tape!) but from my parents’ joyful voices harmonizing from the front seat.
When not in the car, the music was played on a guitar and their voices were joined by those of my aunt as well as other friends and visitors. It was warm. It was safe. It was creative. It was beauty.
My aunt, as well as being up for any kind of singalong, sewed beautiful clothes and had a huge loom in her sewing room.
Music also came from the piano that now lives in my home. The same one that was hoisted up the side of the building and in through a window, in the first home of my grandparents after they survived a holocaust, fled Europe, and immigrated to Canada. It is almost incomprehensible to me how one maintains their love of arts and beauty after experiencing so much ugliness, but they did. My grandmother was a pianist who poured all the passion the Nazis tried to squeeze out of her onto the keyboard.
Even my blustering grandfather the dentist liked the creativity of doing his own lab work, creating on his own what others would typically farm out to specialists. And later, after retirement, creating a workshop for himself in the basement, where he created chunky jewelry and dangerously heavy toys for his great grandchildren ~ the cradle coated with toxic varnish, the massive clock made of concrete, the toy train made from sliced tin cans, sharp edges and all. Even though most ended up in the trash, he continued on with the sheer joy and enthusiasm that came from his own sense of creativity.
I took piano lessons (hated them) and ballet lessons (loved them) but was never particularly good at either. And being good was what mattered in my art ~ not artistry. There were rules and exercises and standards to meet. And I couldn’t meet them. To make matters worse, I didn’t like to work, so I settled for mediocrity. My brother, a singer, actor, musician and writer, seemingly effortlessly, far exceeded mediocrity. Not me. The story of me was me was that I was the thinker, the feeler, the intellect, the mature, the sensitive, the conscientious, the academic. Creativity never made the cut.
It has taken me a very long time to write a new narrative about who I am. But to justify the use of the word “creative” to describe myself, even in my own mind, I have to prove it to myself with an evidence inventory:
Things I have created:
Very heavy pottery.
My own fashion sense when I realized I could never compete with all those conventionally (and expensively) pretty girls.
Body shapes for modelling in life drawing classes.
Dances and choreography and movement to every piece of music I hear, even if only in my head.
Piercings, Tattoos, Hair colour and styles to decorate my body and put on display my sense of self.
Redesigning my home over and over again, to experience the freshness that comes with rearranging furniture, painting walls, hanging art.
Childishly pornographic pics of what I thought sex looked like (age 7).
Actual ways to have sex.
Piles of journals.
An oversized furry poncho
Countless sewn and knitted clothes that never fit quite right because I don’t like following patterns.
Reams of deeply depressed and depressing poetry (teens-early 20s).
Harmony lines in every song.
Some good and some not so good meals because I don’t like following recipes.
Laundry sorted on the line.
A story about a live grocery cart that made it sound like I knew much more about drugs than I actually did (age 5).
Ideas. Thoughts. Questions.
Finally, and most remarkably of all, this body created life ~ twice.
My youngest child, who has no filter, no boundaries, and no executive functioning to speak of, has always been fascinated by birth. Even as a toddler he would run up to pregnant people and ask question after question. He loved watching birth videos on YouTube and really bad reality shows about teen mothers. Once in the change room of our local swimming pool, he even walked up to a very pregnant, very naked woman, laid his chubby hands on her belly, and gazed up at her adoringly. Luckily she was a friend, and this was her fourth pregnancy, so she didn’t appear particularly fazed.
Even while trying vainly to teach him even a tiny bit of self-control, there was part of me that envied him. I too had always been fascinated by birth, and from an unreasonably early age I craved nothing more than to be pregnant and have a baby. I too was dying to lay my hand on every pregnant belly I saw. I too watched birth videos ~ and wept. I became a doula and a childbirth educator, and I wanted to know every birth story.
So it was a great disappointment to me that when I asked my mother about my birth, the story went something like this: “Oh, I was completely knocked out. They called it Twilight Sleep. All I remember was the doctor saying, ‘it’s a girl’. And I just said “oh, mm-hmm…” and going back to sleep. The second part of the story of my birth ~ the part that received much more airtime over the years to come ~ was that my early arrival ended up being just two days before my parents’ first wedding anniversary, which was ruined. Instead of being able to go out for the fancy dinner they’d planned, it was pizza in the hospital.
This would not be the story I would have for my own children. I wanted to create life. And I wanted to be present for it. I wanted to experience it. I wanted to remember it. All of it.
And I did. And I do.
I remember the magic of watching how my body changed and grew itself around tiny lives. I remember the excitement, I remember the pain, I remember the fear, I remember the sadness, I remember the confidence. I remember what was said to me, I remember how people touched my body, and I remember the small, strong bodies of my babies as they moved through my big strong body. I remember their slippery bodies being lifted onto my warm chest.
This body grew new bodies. This body created lives. That grew up and away. Pieces of my body roaming free in the world. New bodies carrying pieces of my body into a future I will not see. New bodies that are my afterlife.