hurt feelings

In the car, and a cup of coffee by my side, and my on just a little further away. And he says, “Mama – is that a dove, or just a pigeon?” 

I look up, “Oh… Oh Nels, it is a mourning dove!” because the morning is bright and beautiful and so is the bird. And then I look at him, and he looks at me out the side of his eyes, and he smiles. We are both so happy.

I turn down the hill – we’re heading off to a swim date – and I say, “… why’d you say ‘just a pigeon’? Poor pigeons!” 

He responds: “Because they’re common.”

I look at him again. Now his smile is sly.

“I hope no pigeon heard me say that.”

***

At arts and crafts, my son makes me a Valentines Day flower from paper, bubblegum pink on a green stem The instructor is impressed – Nels has remembered how to fold a tulip from a year ago, when he went ot public school. He gives me the flower – “For Valentines Day!” and I see a dark-skinned, slender youth cuts eyes and smiles a little at us.

Life has been just a bit hard, as Ralph has been sick. I’ve twice the housework but I’m not feeling so grand myself. So many of my little plans, they’ve been put aside.

It’s OK, though. I’ve got my little son at my side. My daughter puts her hand in mine. They’re growing older, but they don’t forget their love for their mama!

his name was always “Buddy”!

I am exhausted. I’ve been working hard. I’ve been helping others. I’m right at that point where I might have to rest a bit more. Just for a while.

I’ve moved to veganism. My body – about a year into vegetarianism – is once again making a shift, an adjustment. I feel – as I have before – sluggish, slow. I take a great comfort in the friends who are supportive and loving, and who understand that for me this is a big life change.

I try not to talk overmuch about the change – but think on the reciprocal, as I am constantly surrounded by people talking about and consuming meat and dairy, and often offering it to me as well. As when a co-worker said to me on Friday: “Chicken pot pie – doesn’t that sound good?” I smiled and answered, “Not to me!” because that seemed the most honest. I swear the foods we eat can be as divisive as the religious rituals we practice or forgo.

Tonight – my son is crying, upset at something I said. I coax him down the stairs, promising an apology and a hug. He has never in his life been able to resist these things, I suspect because he so earnestly wants peace between us restored. But he is angry, so: he backs down the steps. When I hold him in my arms he tells me he loves me so much. I feel the same. He is getting taller.

Will he still hold me close even when he’s larger than I?

My daughter and I are up nights studying her large textbook. She seems thrilled to acquire formal knowledge; the first time we’ve openly shared this love between us. I am brought back to my early years myself, although of course her class materials are much more dense than they were when I was her age. We make little jokes and we watch YouTube films helping us with the concepts: protein transport and tagging in the Golgi Apparatus; ribosomal synthesis; microtubule components of the cytoskeleton. Her body slides close to me and we study together. Several pages a night; likely part of my exhaustion.

Tonight after a shower the house is settling; the pets have had their last meal. A few cookies and some almond milk and then together making a night as a family.

it’s like falling in love

My son is tall; his coat from last year, a favorite, reaches the top of his hips and the sleeves end above the wrist. His hair is growing out from a short cut; in the morning, there is invariably a disturbed cowlick on the left side. I’ve taken to calling him “Tufty” and when he comes in close to hug  me, he is fast approaching my height.

He calls my mother this evening and – although I can’t hear her end of the conversation – it is obvious she is asking him on a date. Good; as Phoenix will enjoy undisturbed study time. She has a very hefty Biology book  – the sucker must weigh several pounds! – and today we discussed isotopes, radioactive decay, covalent and ionic bonds. The material is familiar to me but the last time I studied it was two decades ago! The rhythm of s and p orbitals, however arcane and antiquated in my memory, is nevertheless a familiar one because that long ago, that was my world.

So strange to be discussing quantum physics with my “little” girl.

I enjoy a walk with a mama and her young son; he is happy and scampers about, mindless and with a runny nose. Then he falls and cries; inconsolable. No one can carry him except his mother, who is heavy with another child. Eventually he calms and he carries his little stuffed bear in a blanket; we retire to his home and he shows me how he puts the bear down for a nap. I’m unsure if there is anything more beautiful than listening to a two year old putting together sentences – crude but, if listened to, easily understood.

The day draws colder; now, with my family and another neighborhood moppet in tow, we head for a lunch of hot noodles and then ice cream for the younger children. Home and Phee and I will hit the books; Ralph will eventually make dinner.

And to bed anon.

A good Sunday.

let them howl!

My hands are buried in a bin of t-shirts – shopping a sale for the ever-growing young people in the house – when I sense an argument behind me, a man and a woman. As they move close to where I’m installed I hear her say with intensity, “I’m grumpy because you screamed at someone in the parking lot which caused a panic attack!”. I laugh and say, “Yeah dude, that’s totally uncool!”

I look up to see a young woman with her father. She looks shocked, and blurts out: ” – that’s my dad!”. Meanwhile “dad” is glaring at me like he’d like to light me on fire with his mind. But what strikes me is that this young woman clearly finds him so fearsome she can’t believe someone would call him out. I think, “Well I’m not scared of your dad, babe!”

But I say, “Hi!” to them both and smile. She feels better a second later and compliments my hat – and I tell her, “Thank you.”

It is sad to me this man thinks he can act like a bully, can scream at someone, and in no way expects to be confronted. I used to be so incredibly non-confrontational I could never say a thing. But it’s a lose-lose, isn’t it? You call someone out directly, or with any heat – they’re angry. You call someone out with humor – they’re angry. What this means is this fellow thinks he can treat people poorly and that no one should object.

What an example to demonstrate for your child!

I hope this young woman comes to realize that she is not the bad behavior of her parents. She doesn’t have to answer for their poor behavior nor does she have to stand for it. She can un-learn these behaviors if she likes. She can love her dad but not participate when he does this sort of thing.

I’m thinking of my kids. I certainly don’t want them to grow up abusing people on the street – so Ralph and I don’t do those things. But don’t give me credit. Maybe it’s easy for me to treat strangers with respect, because my own father modeled this behavior.

But I also don’t want my kids to grow up like I used to be – scared to say anything. I figure I gotta work on having compassion for every one on the planet, every single person. If I’ve got the compassion in place, I should speak up like I feel.

defroster / defogger

“Hello _____,” I say quietly to the woman at the table next to me.

“Do I know you?” she asks. Her voice is jittery and nervous but doesn’t sound angry. At least. I am glad I said Hi to her even though her appearance frightens me. She is clearly using drugs again. She has lost about eighty pounds since I saw her last, and the effect is shocking.

She peers at me and says, “Oh, uh… I know you,” and gives a short barking laugh. It is very sad because of course, we have had many conversations together over the years. I have spent time with her and her child. I wonder where the child is. I wonder who is caring for him now.

I watch her for a while. Even if I weren’t an addict myself – celebrating my fifth consecutive clean and sober Christmas, praise baby Jeebus! – I know I could never again see those so afflicted the way the rest of the world does. Every person I see, I see them as a child. I see that they were once loved and treasured in a way past understanding. Where are their parents, their grandparents, their grammar school teachers now? Do they think of their loved ones, and wonder?

Today was hard at work. It can be like that sometimes. I remind myself as I get in the car: I’m not supposed to know how to do all this stuff perfectly. I’ve done a tremendous job balancing halftime work and supporting my family. I’m only supposed to do as best I can.

Home and the kids play video games; the cats are napping. Ralph is making up a dinner. Too tired – from being ill, from a hard day – even to inspect my latest fabric package.

Instead: time for bed. In hopes the morning brings a fairer perspective.

a fleeting glimpse / out of the corner of my eye

This morning on my walk back up the hill, with my faithful dog at my heels, I am suddenly reminded of my father. He ran long-distance, so several times a week he would set out for a few miles by himself. He had such a distinctive gait that, if I ever saw it again, I would be knocked into stillness at the recognition. A stride I don’t see reflected in my brother or I, my father’s two children, but it’s such an indelible memory it is a part of me nevertheless.

My dad would lift his hand in acknowledgment when a car passed, or perhaps another runner headed the other way. I don’t know how many times I saw this hand motion – hundreds. Thousands? Sometimes I was the driver, or passenger – it’s a small town so I saw my father running many times. Such a familiar sight to me too, this movement on his part, this acknowledgment. He would be deep in his meditative space – that’s what running was for him – and he’d lift his hand, that’s all. But I can see it, and see the cast of his head on the path, and his mind was elsewhere. But even now if I close my eyes and try to remember much more than the flow of the gesture, or the feeling it instills within to remember it – it vanishes.

The dog and I arrive home and two of our cats ask to be let in; a third sits placidly on our kitchen table and calmly moves off when he sees me. (Naughty!). The dog has a quick drink of water and pads over expectantly for my praise, and a scritch between the eyes. I settle his blanket over his bed and somewhere in all this I realize that to support our family – our too-young college student, our spirited son, our dog, our five cats – is quite an accomplishment. It is a labor of love and nothing else. I hadn’t quite seen it that way, seen what a good job we do. Not for any other reason in that there’s always that next step. Today, for instance, we will be replacing the light above the sink. I have bills to pay by phone, on my work break. Two packages to mail out, and a final late Christmas present to wrap. We get to plan the evening meal – a little trickier as Ralph and I have both been ill and unable to eat for the last thirty-six hours.

The dog now sleeps on his bed – he is chasing and barking at something in his sleep. All the funnier as he does not bark when awake. I suppose a big part of our life, Ralph and I, is delivering safe dreams to more than few sentient creatures.

Christmas Eve Travels

“Look – there’s a *marshy* area!”


Christmas Eve Travels

I can’t think of a more beautiful drive than the coast, at sunset. We’ve bought some quick road food and we’re completely packed in our little family sedan – gifts for family and one another, some food for the Christmas dinner Ralph is planning. The curvatures of the highway make me ill; I’d fare better if I’m driving. Instead I’m navigating dinner plans with my sister through text. Trying to find a family-friendly place to share a meal.

I finished my last Christmas present this morning – a hooded one-piece pajama set for my daughter. My mother used to sew my brother and I lovely bits for Christmas – I could remember hear cheap Kenmore hacking into the night while we were prevented from entering the living room. I remember one year she made us quilts – pre-printed panels of cats (in my case), an inexpensive burgundy velveteen sashing. This is back when we had a fabric store in town! It wasn’t a “true” quilt (as quilt snobs will tell you!) as it was tied, rather than quilted – it was a comforter.

Well, I absolutely adored that quilt. I don’t know when it went missing but I loved it. My brother had something in a blue theme – I can’t remember what. I think I will always remember the love I felt receiving something that someone spent their time constructing with their hands.

My thoughts are on this time of year – a time of plenty, a time of tipping service people a little more, of procuring gifts for family and friends – but also, strangers. My thoughts as we speed comfortably along the sunset-speckled glittering roads – tired as I am, I have a festive cheer.

And I’m not the only one. “I packed my sparkly tiger shirts,” my son says happily, from the backseat. I did not know he had more than one, until this  moment.

The shirts, we were to find out – in lieu of even one extra pair of underwear.

L8 Nite of Tic-Tac-Toe

this is what I get for momsplainin’

Tonight I’m sitting across a small table from my daughter. I’ve been working all day and have had little to eat; I’m famished enough to order and then devour a corporate coffeeshop’s blueberry scone and roasted tomato sandwich – too hungry to do anything else.

My daughter and I talk about school, the upcoming quarter. We talk about what might come after that. And I tell her, my eyes stinging a bit, how amazing it is to watch her grow. I can’t really get the words out but it’s like, this is a person whose opinions and desires are getting more pointed, more developed, and more adult than I would have guessed. She is as always fiercer but also imbued with a deep-seated compassion I do not recognize, it may have been helped by a few of us but it has an unshakeable foundation past my understanding.

And I don’t say all these things, but still she doesn’t see what the big deal is. I tell her, “Well… it’s like, when you were two. You know. The stuff you cared about. Like you didn’t want us to make you wear a hat. Or you REALLY wanted a bowl of chocolate ice cream – “

She immediately lifts her head, and gives me that tiger-eyed stare and says, “Mom… have I really changed so much?” her voice the dry tone, the perfect comedic, sarcastic, self-effacing bit. I dissolve into laughter and resist the urge – it comes daily! – to reach out and pinch her. WHY is this my child?

My son is at the counter, ordering a cookie. He is leggy and thin, his jeans on their last wear if I can somehow catch them away the next laundry cycle. I have made myself only say it once. Only tell them once. Okay, twice. What does it look like to the community if a tailor has children who look unkempt and shabby? I can tell you my kids DO NOT G.A.F. ABOUT THIS. Which also makes me laugh.

My health is pretty good. My wrist and shoulder hurt; from clerical work, from knitting, from sewing. I am tired and a bit worn out and I’ve accidentally overdone it for the season. No surprises there, really. In all – considering I’m balancing out-of-home work for the first time in a baker’s dozen years – well, I’ve done rather well!

It is so rainy and wet outside – and my car so damp and foggy inside – that the drive from the coffee shop to pick up my daughter’s friend, is a tense one (for me). After about ten minutes somehow the heater is working so the glass is all clear, and the car oppressively hot. I can’t express how comforting winters are here. I live in this rain-drenched corner of the world and I adore it.

I wonder how much of the rest of it I will ever see? I wonder where my children will go, what they will do? They have developed such quick wit, such strength. I suppose that is how most parents must feel, on balance. Parents that let their kids have their wings, at any rate.

Late evening, home. Five feet to my right Nels and his neighborhood friend play Tic-Tac-Toe, their pallet bed festooned with all the necessities: books, pen and paper, a small lantern that throws a constellation upon the walls, the ceiling. Their giggles are earnest and comfortable; as if they’d been lifelong friends, instead of just these last six weeks or so. Grilled cheese and tomato for a late-night snack; the cats are settled in, the dog has had his evening walk.

Tomorrow will be another day of cooking, of wrapping presents, of music and the energy of children. Somehow it all gives me life, although the days fly by a little quickly for my comfort.

L8 Nite of Tic-Tac-Toe

Mani-Pedi

joyeux noel

The stress and pain of the last few days since last Wednesday’s unpleasantness are still with me. I can be patient; I can wait for the hurt to pass. And I usually find myself rather rueful at just how much I take things to heart. If anything, I am more sensitive as I age – even if I behave better than I used to. I have more self-discipline, I don’t say things I regret later. I behave appropriately in the moment. I am grateful for this.

And – I suffer. I suffer even when it seems everyone else is fine. I suffer even if I’m doing the right thing, and putting one foot in front of the other. This is just how it is. I pray. I meditate. I try to look deeply.

But – I am human.

Friday: I blow the last of our grocery money on a spa date with the kids. My son is ecstatic – he can’t believe the lushness of the services offered. My daughter – well, sometimes it seems she is more than two years older than her brother.

Mani-Pedi
Today the cold and damp weather did not deter us; Phoenix’s beau has joined us for the day and the two of them huddle together in comfortable companionship in the back of my little BMW as we motor through town. Christmas shopping – on a credit card – finding the last little bits and bobs for our gifts this year. The children are happy and they are loud; they are now near adult-sized so after a bit, Ralph and I send them away in the shop so he and I can have some peace.

Downstairs and the wrapping paper stacks, and gifts, and tags – Christmas cards to send out, and so many homemade concoctions simmering on the stove. Shea butter and goats’ milk soaps, and a syrup made with citrus zest, spices, fruit. Candies cooked up on the stove; I show my daughter how I do it, without quite instructing her or making her learn. No, just preparing the ground (as I’ve always done with her!), so that one day if she ever wants to do the same, the rhythm will be in her blood, and her fingertips will have confidence, if not practice.

My husband and son take the dog out for his last walk of the day. A hot shower, pajamas. Maybe one last sliver of sharp cheese, and crackers. It is gorgeous to have days off, now that I work again. Several in a row. Gift-wrapping and tidying the house, and soon the celebration with the family.