On myriad motherhood subjects—think sanctimommies, sex after baby, the challenges of monogamy, and an endless stream of dirty socks—Kyran Pittman is an eminently quotable writer with a sharp, saucy wit, a kind of David Sedaris for modern breeders. To read her memoir-in-essays, Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life, is to want to copy and paste sentences and whole passages repeatedly into emails to your mom pals. Here is Pittman on that ancient tome of pregnancy, What to Expect When You’re Expecting:
“What it told me to expect is that breeding is a highly complex and delicate process that requires standards and oversight not enforced in nuclear facilities. Fall short of 100 grams of protein a day, and you have only yourself to blame for your child’s subpar intelligence. Allow preservatives or alcohol to cross the placenta, and you are begging for social and emotional disorders. Sugar? Why don’t you just take a shit in the gene pool? It’s the ‘Scared Straight’ program of prenatal health.”
And on the sartorial state of a mom with a newborn: “I was dressed for success if I could uncover a nipple in less than a minute.”
And on little boys’ boundless appetites for projectiles of all kinds: “At this moment, or at any other given hour of any given day, one of my sons’ hands is likely wrapped around a rock.”
In a culture where smart, funny mommy blogs are as common as, well, dandelions, it’s no shocker that Pittman, now a contributing writer for Good Housekeeping, earned her storytelling chops via her blog, titled simply and aptly “Notes to Self.” Her quippy, often self-deprecating humor is perfectly cast for either blog post or magazine page, as is her skill at simply and eloquently homing in on the significance of universal domestic ups and downs: each essay offers, in its closing, some measure of poignant reflection, the kind of thing that readers and editors crave.
But these pieces also suggest Pittman is much more than just a garden-variety specimen of the blog-to-book phenomenon. She shows her strength and the promise of a long career in her ability to be as serious and thoughtful as she is screamingly funny. Looking back on her occasionally rocky upbringing, she writes, “It’s one thing to not get what you want from your parents. That’s the grist of anecdote and character. To not get what you need, that’s another matter, less readily transformed from its raw state. Through the mirrored lens of teenage cool, I could see my father was drowning, unable to save himself, let alone take care of anyone else… . But in my heart, my parents had left me. And there was no magical misfit to pin it on, or turn it into a funny story.”
And in “Goodbye, Girl,” addressing the well-worn topic of female aging, she reflects cleverly on how approaching middle-age feels strangely similar to adolescence: “There’s a striving to it that feels familiar, like those insecure teenage years, when I was trying so hard to act my way into someone I didn’t know how to be yet.”
Pittman treads fairly lightly on the subject of her own early years in this book, but she gives away enough to suggest that there’s ample grist for more essays there, indeed. A second collection could well explore that territory. For now, though, she mines every square inch of her married-with-kids existence—twelve years in—with delightful results.
Kyran Pittman will read from Planting Dandelions at Burke’s Book Store in Memphis on May 5 at 5:30 p.m.