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In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Creativity, Law, Literature, Writing on July 27, 2012 at 8:45 am

Rose Auslander is a partner at a Wall Street law firm and Poetry Editor of Folded Word Press. Co-editor of the Twitter anthology On A Narrow Windowsill, Rose has read her poems on NPR; her poem “For You Mothers” received a Pushcart nomination; “Oh My” received a Best of the Net nomination. She is a Regular Contributor to Referential Magazine, and her work appears in cur-ren-cy, Right Hand Pointing, Cyclamens and Swords, The Dead Mule, and Red Dirt Review. And she blogs!

The following excerpt, which first appeared here in The Mom Egg, is part of Rose’s upcoming memoir, A Pencil on the Ceiling, about surviving as a pregnant first-year law student nursing her way through her diploma

My infant, my daughter, my beautiful red-blond, blue-eyed child, lies in my arms, in my bed.  An unseasonably cold September afternoon, raining, chill, the chill that seeps into a person’s veins like formaldehyde.  My three-month-old daughter sleeps in my arms; my poor, embalmed arms feel nothing.

I wrap up in the afghan I crocheted for her, the yarn I worked into granny square by square, month after pregnant month, obsessively, mathematically, finding new permutations of pastel blue, pink, yellow and green to draw through into white, infinite borders of white.  I sit wrapped in yarn, unraveling.

How did I ever think I could start with yarn and crochet a garden of colors for a baby?

If only I could sleep, sleep . . .

No, study first. 

Law school.  How did I ever think I could get through law school with a baby at home?

A pile of case books rests on the pillow next to my infant daughter, next to markers of neon blue, pink, yellow and green, and pencils for thoughts, all for my numb hands to try to draw through into white, infinite pages of white.

Come on, just study. 

Or at least color:  Blue for facts (what happened in the world to cause the dispute), pink for procedural history (what happened with the case in the courts), yellow for the holding (what the court decided), green for what I can’t understand.

I drift off into National Business Lists, Inc. v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 552 F. Supp. 89 (N.D. Ill. 1982), sleepily coloring in facts like:  “The customer does not itself receive much of the information contained in the computer data base.”  Feeling much like that customer, it takes me forever to get to the holding, and by that time, I’ve forgotten what the case was about.  I’m stranded somewhere in endless fields of green.

Hoping somehow to get through the hundreds of assigned pages, I try to read cases while holding baby Freddie, nursing her, even changing her.  But I swear, each time she nurses herself to sleep, she sucks more of my brain cells out with the milk.  And the milk/ammonia scent?  A knockout drug for those of us who’ve been staying up until 2 a.m. each night reading cases, and getting up again at 5 a.m. to nurse a baby-who-will-not-sleep.

Why won’t she let me sleep?

By 3 a.m., I put down the books, and close my eyes.  There are still endless unread pages of unintelligible heretofores, theretofores, therefors, and wherefores in every subject.  If I can’t get my brain back from wherever it has gone, I’ll never get to  my environmental law reading, where I’m already dangerously behind.

How did I ever think marking up cases in colors would somehow turn me into a lawyer?

  1. I could feel this, Rose! So glad you made it, with flying colors. 🙂

  2. I’m intrigued with this excerpt and want to read more, go along with the author through an obviously tough time, hear more of this authentic voice showing so well, how one endures instead of giving in. I found the writing superbly-crafted, real, despite the fact I know nothing of law. However, I can empathize with struggle. The human element here is quite strong. I would definitely buy this book.

  3. Rose Auslander’s story of law school’s 1L year intersected with new “1L” motherhood gets the experience just right; however, it is her strong writing that causes her experience to resonate. This excerpt speaks to both my heart and my head, and I look forward to reading more of this memoir. Very compelling voice.

  4. I love the visuals of the color coding and want to read more. This is a great piece. Well done Rose! Elizabeth

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