Nancy Lemann

Nancy Lemann

A weeklong electronic journal.
Feb. 17 1998 3:30 AM

Nancy Lemann

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       During pregnancy, I was irresistibly drawn to knickknacks. All day I'd put things in quilted, geometric storage bags. I was obsessed with slipcovers. Consumed by homewares. I couldn't walk down a street without being irresistibly drawn into a store that sells knickknacks. During pregnancy, your actual brain size decreases. That explains the obsession with knickknacks.
       A typical weekend during pregnancy: I can't remember what we did. My whole life was knickknacks, though, I do remember that. I was irresistibly drawn to La Jolla, Calif., to a store selling knickknacks and I saw some knickknacks, which I said I must have. I told the proprietor, "I must have it,"--pointing to a small dish with roses.
       After dropping my daughter off at school, I would head furiously for the knickknack store. I noticed that every other woman shopping there was pregnant also. Actually it was the bedding store. I looked at lace curtains for an hour, throwing them every which way on the floor as I surmised them and held them up, taking them out of their packages and creating a mess. But the salespeople didn't mind. Maybe they were used to it with all the other pregnant women there. I'm trying to remember what I did next. Probably stricken with sciatica as well as my sore spot while still there. So I'd come home to rest and later pick up my daughter.
       I felt bad that I did so little. Then I remembered the book I was reading--a curious book about a guy in Asheville, N.C., who meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had fallen on hard times during his horrendous decline one summer, Fitzgerald being then 39, which for some reason was to him like being Methuselah. I was comparing how times had changed for writers--I had just read the biography of Walker Percy, whose life, like that of many prominent writers now, was a thing of honors, teaching courses, meeting the pope, getting honorary degrees, bestowing awards, etc. That was his life. Oh, but not F. Scott Fitzgerald's. His life was just being alone, getting drunk, being an alcoholic, smoking too much, and writing.
       I don't know how you can write when there is a living, breathing human being kicking its arms and legs inside you, driving your nerves to be frayed. It is mentally harrowing and that is why I was not writing at the end of my pregnancy. Trying to create two things at once is difficult.
       Matronhood makes you a tad lame, it may be. All that incessant nattering about knickknacks. It used to be that I didn't have time for curtains. I didn't know how to get curtains! And was proud of not knowing. Now it is a different story. I know how to get curtains, coat racks, foot stools, curtain rods, knickknacks, cable TVs, God knows. I honestly have to ask myself will I stop getting this stuff once I return to normal.

Nancy Lemann is the author of Lives of the Saints, The Ritz of the Bayou, and Sportsman's Paradise. Her new novel, The Fiery Pantheon, was recently released. She lives in San Diego and is a new mother for the second time.