The neurological damage was much more extensive and included both paralysis and a loss of sensation from the neck down. In time, Crosby regained limited use of her hands and arms and could begin to overcome the extreme and dangerous atrophy that set in following the accident. She was able to return to teaching part time at Wesleyan in The author refers to herself dictating the memoir, but it feels very much as a piece of writing -- that is, as something composed in large part through revision, through grappling with the enormous problem of communicating sequences of experience and thought that few readers will have shared.
The accident occurred relatively late in her life and without warning; the contrast between her existence before and after the catastrophic event is made even starker by the fact that she cannot remember it happening.
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On that last point she has been extraordinarily fortunate in whom she found herself drawn to: the bond she shares with Janet seems like a rope across the abyss, or more like a steel cable, perhaps. I call her by her first name simply because the author does. The view from Janet R.
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At the same time, A Body, Undone is anything but sentimental about the possibilities of growth and healing. Pain is so singular that it evades direct description, so isolating because in your body alone. Crying, and screaming, and raging against pain are the signs of language undone. No pseudo-Nietzschean bromides to be had here. Crosby discusses her reality with a candor that must be experienced to be believed.
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Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life. I have been exiled from my body. I was ejected at a very young age and I got lost. I did not have a baby. I have been afraid of trees.
I have felt the Earth as my enemy. I did not live in the forests. I lived in the concrete city where I could not see the sky or sunset or stars. I moved at the pace of engines and it was faster than my own breath. I became a stranger to myself and to the rhythms of the Earth. I aggrandized my alien identity and wore black and felt superior.
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My body was a burden. We like to play dress-up at nightmare only. Every Halloween, the block becomes the center of such a maelstrom. It takes off its apron and goes all dark and wild-but only for the night. Unlike people in other parts of the neighborhood, we wait to begin decorating our houses late that afternoon, as if to emphasize that misrule and mayhem, evil and chaos, only occur for one night here and will be exorcised by morning.
In a flurry of activity, we make over the street with only a few hours to spare. The ornamentation is not elaborate; most of the decorations were purchased a decade before and still retain a bit of dust from having been hauled out of the basement. Glow-in-the-dark skeletons hang in effigy out of second-story windows, clumsily carved pumpkins line the stoops, and cobwebs festoon the gates and trees.
The homemade, somewhat tattered props suit our block: they shroud it, offering just the right sprinkling of decay and spook to transform the carefully maintained prettiness of our street. At five o'clock sharp, street traffic is prohibited, and we officially open our doors. Lugging baskets filled with candy outside, every family on the block settles on the front stairs, adults with cocktails, children with macaroni and cheese. My family-my husband, Eric, and two children, Benjamin, thirteen, and Lilly, ten-always invites a crew of extended family and friends to join us. My only rule is that everyone who comes over that night should wear a costume.
My love for my family rises exponentially every year as I see them struggle to comply with this rule. My usually elegant brother-in-law Nick permits us to swathe him in purple velvet swashbuckler attire. My mother-in-law, Maria, unrecognizably silly, giggles in a clown costume, while my refined sister Jeanne gets funky in seventies rainbow-colored Afro and platform shoes, and my brother- in-law David raps in a blue polyester tuxedo and bling. My children's costumes, long discussed, carefully conceived, have evolved in response to their growing maturity: Tinker Bell transformed into a teenage rock star; a dalmatian devolved into Dracula.
I tend to like wearing small touches only, usually accessories that somehow hint at my mood that year: a black pointy witch's hat, crown, Mardi Gras mask, fairy wings. The crowds begin to pour onto our block. People from all over Brooklyn gravitate to Garden Place, and it becomes one big street party, more and more raucous the later it gets.
Our block plays the role of sentinel that evening.
We are polite, even generous overseers of the madness, but always above the fray. The crowds of trick-or- treaters press, forming lines at the bottom of our stairs. We sit midway up our stoop, just high enough to make it difficult to reach us. In control, we casually toss candy from above into the up- stretched candy bags. The evening will eventually teeter on the brink of sourness, as make- believe chaos gives way to potential threat. Dark descends and unruly teenagers wearing gas masks or burglar panty hose replace the toddlers dressed as princesses and firemen.
A teenager leaps over a fence into the neighbors' yard to kick in a pumpkin and grab fistfuls of candy. Our block is momentarily shaken but reminds itself that this is only a night of pretend.
All we have to do is stand up, brush the candy wrappers off of our costumes, and go inside, firmly closing the door to such nonsense. Danger, indeed-not on Garden Place! When my family first moved onto the block, a neighbor told me how much candy to buy. I thought she was exaggerating-she wasn't.
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In those three hours, we give away more than three thousand pieces of candy. I won't pretend that I go to Costco or Walmart to buy cheap hard candy in bulk or go online to buy some healthy alternative to candy. My children and I instead go to the grocery store, and they get to pick out whatever kind of candy they want-usually bag upon bag of the most deliciously disgusting candy one can buy: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Ways, and 3 Musketeers bars.
Later in the afternoon, we sit in the middle of our living room, ripping the bags open, the chemical fumes of processed chocolate wafting around us. The kids love to wrap their arms around and then dump the piles of candy into the baskets. Seven at the time, all pinky-glowing skin and downy dimples, she sat on the floor up to her elbows in Hershey's Kisses. I agreed with her. We did have the best candy. And, for some reason, that gave me immeasurable pleasure. Not because I was in competition with my neighbors, but because it somehow symbolized all of the particular sweetnesses of this period.
And nothing made me feel safer than raising my children in this tiny enclave of Brooklyn. The neighborhood sang a tranquil lullaby that rocked any anxieties to sleep. Perhaps it is human nature not to remember that the simple line "rock-a-bye baby" is followed inexorably by "the cradle will fall.
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