It was Thanksgiving week and my husband and I were living in Boston, far from the South, far from deep fried turkey and my mother’s stuffing and my mother-in-law’s sweet potato pie, far from watching gauzy curtains wave in the breeze while the warm sun shone over the Thanksgiving feast. Down South we would pray over the meal, then consume it fairly quickly, after which the men would groan up and lumber like zombies for the football game while the women started coffee and headed off for the shade of the back porch where the fans were running. Thanksgiving week in the South usually afforded us some decent beach time, too, and I knew what to expect of it. But it was snowing all over this new place. In fact, New England had been blanketed by an early snow that lingered and depressed me, bringing with it a cold that stopped me in my tracks. There was no sun. I had just had a baby 14 days earlier and my hormones were starting to settle in that place you have to be careful about, the place that, if you don’t watch it, will lead you into a postpartum land empty of color and joy, but I didn’t know that yet. I was so bewitched by this little baby girl.
My husband’s friend, David Blueblood,* who had a kind heart and didn’t want to see a couple of transplants spend the holiday alone, had invited us to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving Day. On the Tuesday before, I called him and asked what I could bring. He reminded me that we must be exhausted, he urged me to not bring anything, but my mother didn’t raise me to be rude—you don’t ever show up to someone’s house empty-handed—so I volunteered to bring a pie. [End Page 157]
“Don’t bring a pie,” he said.
“It’s fine. I’ll bring a pumpkin. I do a good pumpkin.”
“Honestly, I hate to say this but my mother is very particular about her pies. They really should be homemade. In fact, our entire Thanksgiving dinner is entirely homemade. Please don’t trouble yourself.”
“It’ll be homemade. Don’t worry.” I had easily baked pumpkin pie a dozen times before. I decided that I would make it the following day, Wednesday, so it would be nice and fresh for Thanksgiving Day. This pie would be a piece of cake, so to speak.
That night, while I should have been baking, the baby had her first real bout of screaming colic, the kind where a kid’s face gets all stiff and dark and you can see it trying to shit itself in desperation, but it can’t so it just screams instead. I stayed up most of the night with her because my husband, who had already worked 36 hours in three days, had to work the next morning as well, and I could at least nap during the day while the baby was asleep. At first we rocked in the living room, where her shrieks echoed off the bare walls and funneled to the bedroom, and then we ended up in the front room office, which was unheated and freezing cold. I stayed in there for several minutes because I hoped the chill would startle her into shutting up. When that didn’t work, we took a drive around the neighborhood in the car, where I had my first taste of loving the baby fiercely while simultaneously resenting everything she stood for, such as my loss of freedom and the death of my ability to sleep. Around six in the morning, she fell asleep, and I did too, for about two hours. By eight, she was up screaming, and I had my hands full of salty, angry, drippy, writhing baby for the rest of the morning. I was exhausted beyond any previous knowledge of exhaustion, and I knew I still had to bake that pie.
I called my mother and asked what to do for colic.
“Put her down,” she said. “Let her...