A Reunion

June 20, 2013

I am heading to my high school reunion this weekend. It has been thirty years. It is amazing how fast it has come. It is equally amazing to see how much has occurred in my life in this thirty years. This is me then.

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I went to school for four years in Greensboro.

Then with some kind of bravery or foolishness or both I moved to New York City. I was going to try it for a year. I got hooked. I almost left after a drab summer and dark winter but I fell in love with my neighbor a week before boarding a plane to Los Angeles. I think I am more of an East Coaster anyway.

Besides, that neighbor is my husband of twenty years

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and the father of our three amazing children.

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It has been both wonderful and humbling to share parenting with him. We have a good life. We live in tight quarters in Manhattan but we like it this way.

In my years in New York I have performed in theatres, in stand-up comedy venues. I have worked in law firms and department stores. I have worked as a location scout.  I have been a personal assistant to a wealthy woman.

When I became a mother I decided to become a La Leche League Leader, a volunteer breastfeeding support counselor. Then I went pro!

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I now have a thriving Private Practice as a Lactation Consultant. That I get to empower mothers to use their bodies to nourish and grow their babies is inspiring everyday. And, from time to time I talk to the media about breastfeeding.

Going home to Fayetteville has become bittersweet. Mama died from lung cancer in 2004. I miss her but I also have her inside of me. She impacts most everything in my life.

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When I do go home I get to be with my dad,

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my sister and brother-in-law and my wonderful niece and three nephews.

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And, I still have some solid friends at home. These friends are always there for me. Sometimes we go months or even years without talking but I know they are there.

I am excited to go to this reunion to see some old friends that maybe I have lost touch with. It will be a quick visit but it will be good to go and let my voice slow down a bit and let a drawl slide in. It will be good to sip some sweet tea.

See y’all in Fayetteville!

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Remember this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/opinion/sunday/10sex.html

And then I wrote this:

Dear Erica Jong

July 13, 2011

Dear Erica,

I read your essay in the New York Times “Is Sex Passe?”

This passage really got my ire up!

Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Well allow me to answer!

I remember when my first child, Phoebe, was a few weeks old and we attended an afternoon barbecue at my in-laws. The topic of sleep – the ultimate new parent topic – arose I shared that we had Phoebe in our bed. Cousin Norma jumped right in, “You can’t do that! It will ruin your marriage!” I was shocked.

I kept Phoebe in our bed initially as a survival method. When I placed her in the bassinet at the end of our bed in the tiny house in the NYC suburbs she looked like she was in California. Neither Rob nor I needed to leave our bed to attend to our baby. We adored her and loved having her close to us. It also made it much easier to feed her through the night. Rob and I could cuddle and make love without disturbing her. Having a baby in bed increased our intimacy. We were more focused, more intense.

At this backyard shindig I learned that Cousin Norma had  been married and divorced three times. She was the one with marital problems.

And Erica, I know you breastfed your daughter. Did you co-sleep? Did you put Molly between you and your husband?

When you parent you have to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh if one moment you are a sexual goddess caught up in the moment and suddenly you switch gears, twist your body toward your baby, offer a breast, keep skin-to-skin contact with two people, be two at once, settle the baby down and go back to being the passionate goddess. You have to be able to laugh.

You do not have to divide yourself into sections. Similar to parenting more than one child – you meet the needs of a younger child and an older child. You can be a present wife and mother.

Oh, dear Erica, I think you feel you need to be an orange – all segmented. Me, I am a juicy peach- no segments, a complete package.

After 18 years of marriage, twelve years of breastfeeding and even more years of a family bed Rob and I are a happy couple with an enviable sex life.

As a woman who writes essays about the guilt of mothering and feminism please do not discount attachment as anti-woman. You are stoking the Mommy War fires.

Sincerely,

Leigh Anne

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Well, I sent my letter directly to Erica as the New York Times was no longer accepting responses. And she wrote back.

Leigh Anne–

Thanks so much for writing. You’re right: we don’t need to be segmented. 

I don’t think I was writing so much about myself as about my view of other parents who are not as whole and loving as you.
I so appreciate your taking the time to write your beautiful letter!
Erica Jong
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I imagine as a writer you have to stir things up a bit. I will take her lead and not hold back. Not always be the sweet polite southerner. I can be tough and opinionated! So look out, y’all!