Friday, September 17, 2010
Tonight I was the waitress at a fancy restaurant. My two pint-sized patrons were celebrating.
“What is the occasion?” I asked.
“Well, this guy here is taking me on a fancy date because I just got married and am back from my honeymoon and he is taking me out for doing a good job and getting married. But he is not my husband. My husband is a real prince who rescued me from the high tower.”
“How did you get there?”
“A witch,” she answered, holding up her knurled hands, barring her teeth, and looking straight at me, as if to say, “I think you know her.”
Just glad to know she is having what all mother’s hope for: a fairytale childhood for their sweet little princess.
I sent the big kids downstairs to play today. There were two really good reasons. First, I needed to have a brief and professional conversation with the person at the door without endless interruptions such as, “Um, do you know what? Ya . . . I can . . . um, I have a . . . Um, do you know what?” or the less audible but ever-present hand sneaking across the periphery, as if I could have forgotten for one moment that five-ish years ago I became a mom. The second, and equally valid reason I sent them downstairs is because downstairs is awesome- a good balance of educational toys, junk from McDonald's hidden behind the educational toys where mom won’t find it and throw it away, and open space to run, jump, yell or pack incessantly for trips to far away lands, as the case may be. But banishment is banishment, even when it is to the Isle of Imagination. So, after useless protests from them and hand gestures from me that confirmed my seriousness, they headed down. On his way by me, Mister gave me the stink-eye and I heard him say to his big sister and he rounded the corner, “Let’s make Mom some Yucky Soup.”
Yucky Soup is something Mister likes to make downstairs in the retro-preschool kitchen, stocked with shiny wooden foods and empty bottles of curry, cumin and celery salt. He likes to make it for me. He likes to make it often.
And I think of all the bubbling caldrons of Yucky Soup I have stood over, sweating to make sure my culinary bitterness was just right for the occasion. Stirring and stirring, investing myself in poisons I inevitable spilled on myself along the way. The tricky thing about Yucky Soup, when served up by my son, is that it looks pretty much the same as all the other tasty wooden treats he brings me. I only know it is Yucky Soup if he tells me. Which he usually does, because isn’t that the point?
For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife." Proverbs 30:33
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Summer vacation ended with Mister crying on the couch, an ice pack behind his head and another on his arm. We had stopped at the park on our way home and he had bounded from the van to run the perimeter. When he came screaming and holding his head, I assumed he had slipped. “It bit me! It bit me,” he wailed. I scooped him up and plucked the baby from the sand, where she had just situated herself. She added protest to his agony as I double-timed it back to the van. I buckled him in, ran around and was about to fasten my own seat belt when he became seriously hysterical. “It bit me again! It bit me again!” I ran around, scooped him out of his seat and stripped him down to his unders. A hornet had stung the back of his head and fallen down the back of his shirt, only to crawl out and bite his arm once he was strapped in. I hugged him quickly and got him back in when he started kicking. The hornet was still alive and tangled in his sock. I plucked it off, and it circled my head as I slammed the door and ran around to the other side.
Since then Mister prefers to stay indoors where he is oft heard repeating to himself the mantra of both mom and preschool teacher: “Bees only sting me when they are scared. If I am not scared, they will not be scared.” And I cannot help but think of a beautiful woman I met the autumn before Mister came home.
It was my birthday and my husband had taken me on a weekend getaway in the mountains a few hours from our home. In route to the Bed and Breakfast where we would stay, I read aloud from a gut-wrenching memoir on a list of adoption must-reads we had been given by our agency. It was the story of a Black baby adopted in the 60’s by loving and oblivious white folks living in a very White small town. The experience of this man was articulating questions and apprehensions that my husband and I felt ill equipped to deal with on our own.
By God’s grace, the woman who owned the B & B was an Asian-American immigrant from Canada with a doctorate in Sociology. So when she brought us a beautiful organic breakfast the first morning I asked a question. She sat down and opened up her heart, sitting with us for two mornings, retelling her experiences growing up with immigrant parents from China and moving through the immigration process to the U.S., where she was forced to ‘choose a box’ despite a well-articulated argument about race as a social construct to which she did not want to be tied.
On our last morning she likened racism to bees. “I talk with my children and try to prepare them for what they will experience, but when my children are in a beautiful orchard I don’t want them to focus on the small bee, annoying as it may be. I try to show them the trees and the clouds and the beauty of what is around them.” I thought her answer was awesome until my son was stung twice in a span of five minutes and decided the out-of-doors, his former love, was no longer for him. When he goes outside he only sees bees. He is always looking for them. Because they hurt. Because he remembers last time he was stung. Because he questions whether or not it is worth it. There are some decent toys inside.
I have been thinking about bees a lot lately, especially when I drag my sweet, scared son from the basement into the sunlight. He usually cries at first but is distracted easily enough by the trampoline. But I still think about bees and look for them, too. My credibility cannot afford another run-in with the animal kingdom before the healing months of winter. And I think of what lies ahead- the little stinging things that ruin a perfectly good summer day and send my baby home crying.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
On Thursday evening we met a few families at dusk and walked a mile down the paved bike trail to fetch dirty water from the creek. Then we walked back, spilling as we went. The kids, running and chatting on the way there, scraped the rubber of their shoes against the pavement and began to hunch, passing the water between them and making intermittent attempts to balance it on their heads. There was a lot less talking on the way home. And when we were done, there was not even enough to fill a bathtub.
We have done this activity before, but never because we needed water or planned on drinking it. And I pray that my children are spared from the day when they do not have the things they need to survive. But even as a ‘homework assignment’ walking a mile for water hurts: my feet; the palms of my hands, where the handle rubs; and my heart because this ritual is reality for another mother who will feed her baby with water murky with disease and dirt.
Peanut did not carry any water. But she watched, leaning over the bridge as we filled the buckets. And I wonder what she already knows, and what she sees when she curiously stares, chin tipped slightly towards her sternum in impish grin. I pray: that she uses her life to help others; that she finds joy in sharing; that her arms are strong for the task; and she laughs at all the days to come.
“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Proverbs 31:17
True story. My husband was out of town. We still have three kids. The odds were not good for me, and qualifications mean nothing when the odds are bad. I was determined to have a great day, but locked myself in the car to call my parents a few times before ten o’clock in the morning because I just needed to know that the signal of my cell phone was tethering me to someone else, even if it had to bounce around from tower to tower, picking up static along the way.
After the skate park, Science Center, lunch, nap for the baby and the pet store (only to look) it was time to get groceries. We started at the upscale local co-op where all the well-mannered, fragrance-free organic people quietly wander the isles in Zen-like happiness wearing things made of hemp died with pomegranate. We went there for three items. I buckled the baby into the small, recycled plastic cart and made my way to the fresh bread. We were going to have grass-fed Sloppy Joes on fresh rolls. Even though dad was not home. Even though I knew that eight days of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese wouldn’t kill them. But I just couldn’t bring myself to make a meal-plan (which we now post on the refrigerator) that said M: Pizza, T: Pizza, W: Pizza: TH: Pizza, F: Pizza. And, admittedly, there has to be something between Little Caesar’s and organic beef, but anyhow . . .
The bread was next to the wine. “Tuck in your elbows!” I called as I turned to select something from the case. Then there was a loud crash and howling. I turned to find the two big kids, pinned side by side under our cart, which they had upturned by both standing on the back and holding the rail, exactly as the picture prohibits. So, they lay pinned and screaming, with the front wheels of the cart spinning in the air and the face of the buckled baby smashed and screaming against their chests. In all my trips to Wal-Mart I had never seen anything like this. Ever.
Consider yourself warned.
Mister's Great Day
"Today I had fun at skate park and today I didn’t fall down. And today I had really fun at the Science Center and they had toys at the Science Center. I played with a rolling dog. Today at the Science Center I saw I mouse and today a kid was trying to catch it. He had some gloves. He got gloves on so he wouldn’t get bit. I had to tell the man that the mouse was out of their office. He was glad that I told him. Today I had really fun scootering and I didn’t fall down. And today I had a super fun everyday. And today we went outside. And today I had fun having sloppy joes. And today I had super fun."
Here's to more super fun everydays.
"This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24