October 2016 / Little Book of Herbs Jenna Korsmo
I’ve had this little book of herbs in my life for a very long time. It’s traveled with me for years in and out of boxes. I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had it. It doesn’t have any sentimental value to me, it wasn’t given to me by anyone special (I don’t think), I don’t know how or why I acquired it since I’ve never really been that interested in herbs. I mean, I like herbs, I like to cook with them, I’m certainly not mad at them. My best guess is that I saw this book somewhere, a thrift store, a used book store, a yard sale, some place selling used things and I thought, “meh, this book is cute, I guess.”
I quit smoking last summer. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to let go.
My wife and I are parents. We adopted our daughter from foster care recently. It took 2 years. We also have a son that’s been with us for over a year. We are waiting to adopt him, too, but that might not happen due to really complicated, unfortunate, stomp your feet, unfair circumstances. But, it might happen, but it might not, but it might. We love him differently, and my mom who loves being his grandmother says it’s OK, because we’re just people, and we don’t have to love everyone we meet in the same way. But, I want to love him in a way I imagined to. I want my love to fit in the box I imagined it to fit in.
My mom and I used to travel back and forth from Tucson to Phoenix a lot when I was a teenager. She used to play Al Green tapes like she got paid for it. “Listen to this part, Niña,” she would say, “doesn’t that make your heart break?” And it did. I loved watching her in the car listening to music that made her feel that way. I wonder if my children will ever see me like I see her.
I’ve had this little book of herbs in my life for a very long time. I cook with herbs daily, but I don’t ever consult the book. I keep it in my dining room with some other like-minded books. They look good together, I think. Sometimes I find it, just the book of herbs misplaced in random spots around the house. Little toddler hands at work. I found it on top of the dryer in the laundry room a few months ago and just left it there. I would see it every day, acknowledge it, but I didn’t bother to move it for a while.
I quit smoking last summer. My doctor is pleased and my dentist is a judgmental asshole, but still pleased. My chest is pleased. My sleep is good. My breathing is clear. My mind says, this is bullshit.
My wife and I are parents to two toddlers. We’re parents to two brown skinned toddlers, and I’m already trying to prepare for the sit-down talk with them about police brutality, and how they should protect themselves. These thoughts are gross.
How can I smoke and be a parent? That’s crazy trashy, said you, and you, and you, and me. How can I be a writer and not smoke? I ask myself this question when the babies are sleeping and my laptop curser is mocking me.
Our daughter was born addicted to heroin among other things. I hate her birth mother for that. I’m also in debt to her, forever. Her child became mine the second I saw her. She was this gorgeous infant, and I’ve never felt so entitled to something in my life, and I became proud of that entitlement. We were going to save her, and we did.
Our son was left in a shelter for an entire year. A year. He was 2 and a half, and he came to us with night terrors, and trauma, and he didn’t bond to us for what seemed to be a long time, and he threw tantrums that lasted for hours, and it was fucking hard. So, we worked, and hacked away, and stayed consistent, and we were going to save him, and we just might.
I’ve had this little book of herbs in my life for a very long time. If I died tomorrow, could someone assume it was of importance to me considering where it was found in my home? Assumptions are comforting, aren’t they?
I quit smoking last summer, and I wonder sometimes who else did. I wonder who else wants to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes after the sun goes down like I do. Sometimes I want to smoke all the cigarettes and not tell anyone. But, I for real, actually quit smoking last summer, so fuck me.
My wife and I are parents, and we waited until we were real life grown-ups to start a family. We work really hard navigating through the very broken foster care system. I want to tell everyone I know about those struggles, but when I meet with other parents, no one cares where your kids came from, because everyone is tired and they only want to tell you how long their kid slept last night. I know right now, I don’t really give a shit about how your pregnancy was, and I know you don’t give a shit about foster care. And, it’s okay because here we are, together with these small assholes, also known as toddlers. Living with them is like living with mentally ill patients that are drunk all the time. Some days are really tough. That struggle is universal.
Some days are also beautiful, so strikingly beautiful when you feel their tiny ferocious hearts beating against your chest, and their perfect small hands around your neck, your fingers wrapped around those little nugget toes. Everyone says it changes everything, and it does. It also changes you, to the core. Being a parent totally means you aren’t who you thought you were, even if you wait till you know who you are.
I cook with fresh herbs sometimes, and I quit smoking last summer, and I’m somebody’s wife, and we’re parents to babies made from addict strangers. I like red wine, and I dance to Sade in my kitchen almost every night. My head is tired, and my belly is always full, and my hands smell good.
Copyright © Jenna Korsmo.
Jenna Korsmo writes non-fiction essays and short stories. Her story telling often exposes her poor judgment, and an attempt to convey the silver lining. She has a collection of short stories about her childhood, In Case Of Emergency, and she's currently working on a new batch of essays about foster care, family, and being a queer mom. Jenna resides in the middle of the desert in Tucson, AZ with her wife and their two children.