Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago. Here, Sarah Menkedick revisits Louise Erdrich’s memoir, The Blue Jay’s Dance.
Nine weeks into my pregnancy, in the middle of an Ohio woods lit gold with fall, I sat in a small, dark cabin and wept. I had no idea how to proceed and I also understood with a wrenching clarity that I could not turn back. I had no model for pregnancy beyond the asexual lady on the cover of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, clad in neutral sweater and slacks, plain-faced in her rocking chair, an emblem of the dull, docile femininity demanded of American mothers. I was terrified of her blandness and of my own obsequiousness to that book, my careful noting of the iron content in dried fruit and my newfound pedantry about pasteurization. After a decade spent trying to prove my exceptionality, I found myself, in October of 2013, flailing in my newly discovered ordinariness. I felt my life, my identity, my future like shattered glass at my feet.
I took a shower to calm myself and then, hair wet and sick at the smell of shampoo, I ran the five hundred feet from the cabin down to my parents’ house, where I sat on the couch with my stepmother and let loose with frightened sobs. She knew not to attempt rescue, to soothe me with platitudes or plead a strong case for the valor of motherhood. Instead, she sat quietly with my terrible uncertainty on a sunny fall morning and did not turn away. And then she recommended Louise Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance. She had read and loved that book when my brother and I were little. I believe she understood that seeing motherhood through the eyes of a writer would validate and ground it for me in a way that nothing else could. Read More