Jennifer Egan

A weeklong electronic journal.
Jan. 26 2001 5:30 PM

Jennifer Egan

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I spoke to Adam about the premiere sometime on Thursday. He said it went great. Of course, the audience at Sundance is friendly, he told me; they come to a film wanting to like it. In other words, if your film doesn't play well at Sundance, you may be in trouble. Still, Adam cited these encouraging signs: hearty and sustained applause, and the fact that two thirds of the audience of 1,400 stayed on for the Q & A. Only one of the stars could make it: Jordana Brewster, who plays the 18-year-old protagonist.

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My mother-in-law was in town from Boston, so she and David took care of the baby in the afternoon and I went to a doctor's appointment and a Pilates class at Ground Floor Exercise, something I haven't done since August. The sense of being out in the world on my own was exhilarating, but also a reminder of how drastically my life has shifted; I'm not accustomed to rushing home (why rush?), and normally after a Pilates class, I'll wander to Fairway and do some shopping, or look through magazines at a newsstand or buy an ice cream cone … today, I raced to Fairway before the class, shopped frenetically for dinner, and was out the door 15 minutes later. After the class, I bolted for the subway. And back at home I scrambled to get some kind of sauce for the swordfish going before the baby woke up.

This sort of existence has always before struck me as utterly dreary: the harried mother with no time for herself, no time to think about anything more profound than meeting the many petty demands made upon her—not me, I always thought. Never me. I flew to Atlanta six weeks before giving birth, and when I noticed a mother with a baby sitting down near me, I scanned the aisle for a free seat far away from them and lumbered over to it, my gigantic belly leading the way. But interestingly, as I speed-chopped tomatoes and onions with my eye on the sleeping baby, my existence didn't feel dreary. It felt full. It was a pleasant feeling.

I managed to read some of the newspaper for the first time in four weeks. Normally I read the Times thoroughly each day, and so my delusional impression has been that since the New Year, there hasn't really been much news. Reading the paper occasioned many little explosions of surprise: Wow, so this power shortage in California is for real! No kidding, Caprioti's made the finals of the Australian Open! Gosh, Al Gore is going to teach college and write a book about families with his ... wait, so that means ... George W. Bush is actually president? It's not a Saturday Night Live skit? I am acclimating myself to this fact slowly, delicately (so as not to get the bends), but I'm not quite there yet.

As of today, Emmanuel is four weeks old. He's a burly little baby, not a newborn, who smiles and coos a little. I feel like I've crossed some threshold with him; the sense of mortality and responsibility that has half crushed me these past weeks has finally eased. Before, when the baby nurse would leave at the end of the day and David was still in rehearsal until 11:30 or so, I would feel a deep, shivery dread of being left alone with the baby—a sense that I was absolutely unequal to caring for him. I checked the clock constantly, reassuring myself that in two hours, one hour, 30 minutes, I wouldn't be alone with the baby anymore. I still don't understand the source of that dread: hormones? Exhaustion? It felt more primal than any of that. Then, in just the past couple of days, this feeling has lifted. Now I feel a kind of excitement at finding myself alone with my little boy. Such a relief! Maybe it was finishing the book. Maybe it was letting the baby nurse go. Maybe it was that walk through Washington Square Park on Wednesday with David. Or the fact that it's been sunny outside. Maybe it was time passing.

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