.

.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

She's a lot better


My mom is on the mend. She appears to have had the flu, which is ever more debilitating in a 91-year-old. That same flu kept me in bed for three days after my son's graduation, and I believe I sent it on its way to Jamaica with my brother, who also was in bed for three days, and no doubt it claimed our mother, too. She sounds much clearer than she did a week ago, and she's happy, too, that we will be coming to visit her in a few short days. I can hardly wait. Truth is, I hate preparing to travel, both the mental preparations and the packing, but I will be just as happy when we are there with her. I'm thrilled my husband and daughter are making the trip, too.

While we're gone my cousin and family will stay in our apartment, so she can join my other cousin, the one who does college prep for kids from her husband's reservation in Montana every summer. They'll be bringing the kids on the New York leg of the program. This is their fourth year doing this. She has the kids do intensive ACT test prep classes, gives them career and college counseling, and takes them to interview workers in various capacities. My husband last year gave them a back stage tour of his museum. They also do a beach trip, visit the Washington D.C. monuments, and do a New York City tour. My cousin is an educator and a lawyer; her husband is a social worker. They live in Virginia and they both feel called to do this. So far, every single student who has gone through the program has enrolled in college after. My cousin and her husband are doing some good work with kids who really don't have many people pulling for them. I wrote about them before here.



The artist's gaze


This painting by artist Rene Smith was on display during Bushwick Open Studios 2013, an annual community arts event in Brooklyn. The artist takes as her subject the naked male body, transformed by a woman's gaze. I only showed the PG-rated portion of the work. Something about this particular painting captivates me, something more than the fact that the subject looks like a man I used to know a long time ago. Maybe it's the way the eyes look out at us, steady and vaguely amused, communicating  a kind of trust, a willingness to be revealed.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

And so it begins



Here is a photo I took on my way to work this morning. I am happy to live in card-carrying liberal New York City, where I'm reasonably sure there will be no Draconian efforts to draw maze-like lines on voting district maps or pass nefarious other laws designed to prevent or neutralize my vote. 

I can't speak for elsewhere however, because the Supreme Court on Tuesday gutted a critical article of the Voting Rights Act, which required states with a record of discriminatory practices to get approval from the Department of Justice for any changes to be made to their voting laws. And today, the Supremes followed up by throwing out lower court rulings that blocked a Texas voter identification law and political redistricting plans that had previously been ruled discriminatory. Let the games begin.  

The Voting Rights Act. Paula Deen. DOMA. The Trayvon Martin murder trial. Climate change. Mandela on life support. Affirmative Action. Prop 8. Immigration. In my world it's been a super intense news week, and the outcomes have been a mixed bag indeed.





Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Love is Love

The Supreme Court struck down DOMA today, which means that my friend Mark will now be able to sponsor his husband Fred, who is French, for a green card, and their family of four children will no longer be in jeopardy of one of their parents being deported. The political is personal.


"The summer of the fancy adjectives"

That's what my daughter has dubbed her internship as a food writer covering New York City's restaurant and dining scene. She's enjoying herself and learning so much, but last night for a story about summer's best dishes, she began to get a little punchy with the adjectives as she tried to come up with different ways to describe the "nutty flavor of asparagus" or "the woodiness of summer truffles" or "the bright fresh notes of citrus." "It's all a thrill to my palate," she laughed. "Let me count the ways."

She did get her story done, even though she was up till the wee hours of the morning finishing up. There she is hard at work. And there she is a little while later, taking a break to watch So You Think You Can Dance with her mama. We are such fans of that show. I think my girl has a well-functioning pressure release valve, much like her daddy. When things get too stressful, she takes mini breaks and regains her sense of humor about it all. I learn so much from her.





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summers Past and Present


We're going to Jamaica over the Fourth of July weekend, because my mom isn't doing so well. She's confused lately, not knowing what time of day it is, thinking she is in Spanish Town, which is where she lived with my dad just after they were married, and forgetting she can't just get up and walk, which means they find her in precarious positions on the edge of the bed when they come to help her in the morning. She's also been seeing some man at the door, and tells the women who help care for her to close the door because he's out there again and please don't let him in. My niece, who is now back in Jamaica after completing a one year masters in biomedical sciences (she's heading on to dental school in the fall), texted on Sunday night, asking nervously when were we coming to visit. I called her back. She said she thought we should come sooner rather than later, that Grandma was sleeping a lot and she didn't know what was up with her. My brother says it could just be the cough medicine she is taking for the upper respiratory symptoms she has, but it is apparently also possible that she has had a mild stroke. She is going to the doctor, so we'll hopefully know more soon.

I called my son just now to let him know that we would be traveling. He spent his spring break with his grandmother, so I'm at ease with the fact that he won't be able to go with us. The kids arrived at camp two days ago, and as unit director he has his hands full. He's overseeing the counselors now, instead of being one himself, and he has to look out for 32 kids instead of just 6 or 7. I asked him how it was going and he sighed. "It's sad," he said. "So many of these kids are medicated. At least 15 of them are on ADD meds, and some are on anti depressants, and I can see so clearly how much some of them need it, and I so wish they didn't." It's hard to have the overview, he said. When he was a counselor he just dealt with the kids as they presented themselves, but now he has their files and knows their backstories, the ones in therapy, the ones on antipsychotic meds. "They're so young," he said. "And the meds just make them zoned in and fogged out." Then he added, "We'll make sure they all have a good time anyway."

I asked about the counselors. He said, "They're fine, a little lazy. I kind of have to stay on them. But they'll be okay. They have to be because I can't do it all, which as you know is my inclination." It's true. He's super responsible, this boy, especially when it comes to a job to be done. I said, "Each step up the ladder adds complications, doesn't it?" and he laughed. Right then someone came along and I heard him say, "Talking to my mom," and then he handed this person, a young woman, the phone. She said, "Hi, I'm Kim! Nice to meet you! I promise we're taking care of your son!" Since there were exclamation marks at the end of her every sentence, I thanked her warmly and we said a cheery goodbye and she handed the phone back to my son. "That's one of my good friends here," he said. "I like her a lot." So that's how his summer is going.

My daughter got herself a second job as a hostess at an organic foods restaurant. She started today. So now she is super busy juggling her schedule for that and the increasingly major stories she is writing for her internship. I'd link her stories except her byline is on them, and I had promised when I started this blog that I would not use my children's names here, even though you know so much else about them. The photo above is one my mother keeps in her Bible. I snapped this blurry copy of it when I visited her in March. She's with her grandkids on the front porch of the house in St. Lucia, during Grandma's Annual Summer Camp. My kids are 6 and 8 here. My niece is 10 and the littlest one is 3. I remember I took the picture. The kids were on their way to the beach.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flowers for Nana


“We would also have to say goodbye to the joy of watching this next generation soak up the massive quantities of love their grandmother would have given them, and seeing them learn that there was someone in the world who loved them as much as their parents did: a grandmother who was delighted by all their quirks and who thought they were the most amazing creatures on earth.”

—Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club


The flowers were chosen and arranged in her honor by her firstborn, who fathered two of her grandchildren. It is said life ends, but love doesn't. June 20 was four years. 


Instagram slut

Someone told me yesterday that I am an Instagram slut. He took care to explain this was not a criticism, merely an observation that I post photos on Instagram almost every day, some days I post four or more, which is apparently not the etiquette, since it clogs up the public feed. He entreated me not to take offense when he discerned that I had. No doubt he heard something in my studiedly casual follow-up questions, my feelings disguised by the reporter's mask. I led him into the quagmire. He pointed out that this was simply the term for an overeager poster, and that it was a minor consideration because after all, people were free to follow or unfollow me as they chose. He added that he personally enjoys seeing my photos, especially the vintage ones of family members that he would not otherwise see.

You've probably figured out that the person making this observation was my son, who was home for the weekend. Who else would have the nerve? Everyone else would just quietly unfollow me, as I notice now that some people have already done. I'm not mad at that. I purposely keep my Instagram photos private, so that it goes out only to a few who I think won't mind my self-indulgent play. My daughter and husband tried to mitigate what they immediately sensed what my feeling of having been chastised. My daughter said, "It's your Instagram album, Mom. Do whatever you want." And my husband leaned in and said, "Well, you're my Instagram slut. Who cares what anyone thinks?" which did make me smile.

But all the same I immediately sat down and deleted half my pictures, and today I am wondering if I will ever post another one. Something clicked off in me, the whole experience now tainted. Which is a shame. I love those Instagram filters. They are the most artful that I've found, which I think is why this particular app caught on so widely in the first place. Since yesterday I have been downloading other photo filtering apps and trying them out, then deleting them because they don't quite satisfy. So here is my question. Is there a photo filtering app other than Instagram that you use and love, or even just like? If so, please send your suggestions my way.

Meanwhile, I know full well that I should not let anything said by a smart-ass whippersnapper affect me this way. Children have no idea how their offhand comments, perhaps meant to display how urbane and worldly they truly are, can slice the quiet flesh of their parents. Looking back, I can see that I committed the same offense against my own parents ten trillion times. I also see that they forgave me every time. And besides, I've decided to own the descriptor Instagram slut. And I just had this idea. I can start a brand new private Instagram account and accept not a single follower. Then I can post as often as I darn well please. This is my stream of consciousness while drinking my morning coffee. No matter how it sounds, it was good to see my boy. Happy Sunday, friends.







Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Broadway night


“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. 
The pieces I am, she gather them and 
give them back to me in all the right order.” 

—Toni Morrison, Beloved


Meeting two dear friends for dinner. Women friends are my therapy.


Perspective


My daughter is having some of her lifelong friends over this afternoon. Even though I have known these kids since they were four, I made her promise to tidy up the house before they came. Once upon a time, I would have run around trying to do it myself, unconscious of my underlying belief that anything less than a pristine house meant I was somehow failing at life. This summer, I am releasing all that. My mother kept a spotless house when I was growing up. Everything in its place and all places artfully arranged. I have recently realized that in some part of my brain, I judge myself for not being able to keep an HGTV home. I look around my house and I feel as if I am failing. The expectations I have internalized just from watching my mother, the way she staged elegant dinner parties with such poise, her impeccable presentation of self day in, day out, that is the tyranny. But no one has actually imposed it on me—not my mother, certainly not my husband and children. I have imposed it on myself.

So I'm about to get real. My mother worked full time as I do. Sometimes she worked late into the night, showing homes for the real estate business she owned with her brother. The only way she could possibly have achieved such spectacular upkeep of her home was with the help of the housekeeper who came every weekday. Not to mention we lived in a spacious house with closets everywhere and garages and outside storerooms, so our living spaces never felt overrun. I live in an apartment  with too few closets. We have a storage unit for which we pay monthly rent, and it cannot hold another thing, not a piece of paper, certainly not the plastic bins and suitcases I am looking at in my children's rooms right now.

Next month, after my brother and I do our level best to dispose of, give away, store and adopt my mother's personal effects from her house in St. Lucia, I am sure there will be even more stuff proliferating in our already crammed New York City apartment. This is just the way it is. It is not an indictment of me as my mother's daughter. It does not mean I am a failure at adult life. It just means I don't have a daily housekeeper to help me keep order and I don't have enough storage space, and one day I will do a huge mind-freeing purge, throwing out all of the things in my apartment that are no longer needed or useful but until then, it just is. 


Photo: Handstand at age 9


Monday, June 17, 2013

Working

My niece graduated last week with her masters in biomedical sciences, and will head to dental school in Washington D.C. in the fall. She says her accelerated masters program has taken her studying skills to a whole new level, just in time for dental school. My son graduated a month ago with his bachelors in exercise science and sports psych and this fall will probably coach high school track and field while getting himself certified as an EMT with the FDNY, although he might do a little bit of traveling around first. I'm so proud of my babies, the boy I birthed and the girl who calls me aunt.

I'm proud of my daughter, too, who is learning on so many fronts through her internship as a food writer this summer. If only I could just butt out and stop with the advice. Will she make mistakes? Probably. How else to learn? Last night as I tried to give her a suggestion for an email she had to write, she sighed said exasperatedly, "Mom, will you please stop underestimating me?" It was only that I was judging based on what I knew of journalism at her age, and it is becoming clear to me that she already knows so much more. And so I shall, right this minute, cease and desist, let her do her thing. You all are my witnesses, okay?


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good Fathers


"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it." 
—C.B. Kelland



"You have my whole heart. You always did. You're the best guy. You always were."
—Cormac McCarthy

*

Happy father's day to the good fathers I have been blessed to love and be loved by—my dad and my husband. My daughter and I are taking her dad to brunch and then bringing him home for the key lime cake she and her BF made him yesterday—they were such a team, working seamlessly together—and fizzy mocktails. As I write this her mixer is whirring in the background, whipping up the meringue icing, and she is zesting limes while watching Friends With Benefits on Netflix. My husband is at a talent auction fundraiser where his flower arranging and seafood gumbo-making skills are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. He'll be home soon, so I better stop blogging and get ready. That photo of my husband and children may be my very favorite; I've posted it here before. It reveals the wholeness of their connection, their tender bond, the simple trust with which they love.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday Lime*











A "lime," in Eastern Caribbean parlance, is an easygoing stretch of time when you and one or more people with whom you adore spending time, do whatever  you choose, with no fixed plan, just loose outlines of what might happen, with the assurance that no matter what transpires you will have a rockin' good lime.

My daughter and I limed yesterday afternoon. It began with mother-daughter pedicures on the upper west side, during which she brainstormed questions to ask three food vendors she is profiling for her internship. Then, our toenails screaming red, we headed to the High Line for late lunch, watching the sky grow more ominous from the window of our cab. As soon as we arrived the sky opened and we sheltered under an overpass trying to wait out the rain. My daughter climbed aboard the Citi Bikes lined up in a pristine row along the sidewalk, and pronounced the bike to be "way cool." Citi Bike is a new program in the city. You sign up online and pay a small monthly rate, and then you can check out a bike for an extended period, so long as you return it to any one of the numerous bike locations around the city before the month is up. No more tripping over bicycles in small apartments or paying high bike room fees. I sound like an ad but no one's actually paying me to say this.

When the rain didn't seem to be letting up, we decided to make a dash for the food court on the High Line, which is an outdoor park built along an elevated abandoned railway line. It's probably my favorite place to go in the city. The people watching is unparalleled. And since my girl just wrote a piece about new flavors on the High Line, I was eager to sample some of them, with her as my guide. The brisket sandwich she wanted me to taste was sold out, so we had ribs instead, followed by a little cup of tiramisu gelato. I snapped lots of photos of course, mostly of my girl. What can I say? My children's faces enthrall me. My daughter did her level best to ignore me, until at last she said, "Enough, Ma!" but cheerfully.

It stopped raining while we were eating and so we strolled along the tracks, stopping to listen to a solo musician who had set up under one of the covered areas. His playing was haunting, and my girl dropped some dollars into his case and we stood with a little cluster of listeners until he was done. Then we sat on benches and chatted and caught the breeze as the sun dipped into the Hudson River. We enjoyed watching a group of Asian kids in prom finery, posing for photos with the day setting behind them, their mothers tugging at dress straps and fathers straightening ties and smoothing lapels and all of them beaming with pride.

Soon it was time to head home because my girl had evening plans with friends. I caught one last photo of her in the cab home. All in all, it was a very sweet lime. And after she left to meet her friends, my husband and I had a very sweet Friday night lime, too, and that's probably as much as I'll say about that.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just being


Now that the sky-obliterating scaffolds around my building have been finally taken down, the benches where I like to sit and read and dream and watch the leaves sway against the blue and chat with my neighbors who happen by, are accessible again. This is such a good thing for my state of mind. Another good thing: I'm working from home this morning, and my girl is free to spend the afternoon with me. What will we get up to? Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doll House


Sometimes I walk past these sweetly manicured brownstones in the city, and I wonder who lives inside, what their lives are like, if their corner of the world is as manicured as the facades of their homes appear. Today I am slogging through, dragging myself and my dark thoughts through the day. I am imagining everyone's life more perfect than my own, their pockets more able to carry the weight of their responsibilities, the bodies lithe and supple, their homes large and light-filled and artfully appointed, with enough storage for everything of course, and no penchant in them to worry, certainly not the way I worry about the most minute things, almost superstitiously, as if the moment I let up worrying, disaster will blindside me, so I have to keep it at bay by worrying. Sometimes a new danger occurs to me, one I didn't even know to be worried about until I chanced across it, and I feel a wild flash of panic, as if I need to make up for lost time, as if I better get busy worrying about that thing before it has a chance to find my house and come through my door. You might think I'm kidding, but sadly, I'm not.

I had an 8 a.m. meeting this morning, way too early for me. There was a panel of five women and one man talking about what can be done to curb gun violence. They offered the usual prescriptions about background checks and assault weapons bans, but there was also some exploration of societal factors that escalate the problem. One of the women, a psychologist, talked about the need to teach our children to handle disappointment, and to help them foster a sense of kinship with others, especially those who are different from them, rather than an absorption with self and tribe. And then she said this: "We have to allow our children to fail. We have to let them fail and show them we still love them and that the world didn't come to an end. We have to teach them how to pick themselves up after a failure and go on." It's seems so obvious, really. So why do I worry so about my children as if they are delicate hothouse flowers I must protect at all costs, not the resilient, wise, quick-humored souls I know them to be.

So here's a question: When you think about someone having it all, having goodness and wealth and health and beauty, having love and community and purposeful occupation, I mean everything we dream about having, who is that for you? What public or private figure comes to mind? I'm just curious. And I'd wager whoever it is, would be surprised to be seen that way because perfection, the kind we might dream of having, doesn't exist in our understanding. Maybe I need a new understanding.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Holding Pattern


I'm a little burned out with blogging at the moment, feeling as if I'm just repeating myself and not really liking to hear myself whine. So unless I feel compelled to write a post, for the rest of this month I think I might just post photos and maybe sometimes a quote that's speaking to me. The only quote speaking to me today is from Danielle LaPorte, who wrote "Love your sadness. It won't last." That sentence has been playing in my head ever since I read it a couple weeks ago, which is one clue that behind my fairly functional public demeanor, I am sad about something. Maybe my elders. My brother and I are going to St. Lucia next month to clear all personal effects out my mother's house by the beach and get it ready to be rented. In the background of my life, I'm struggling to come to terms with this. The photo is of pedi-cabs on Sixth Avenue yesterday.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy 64th anniversary to my lovely parents


Truly, I have had the best parents. And I was privileged to witness my father in love with my mother, and she with him, till the very end. Were my father alive, he and my mom would have been married 64 years today. They had been married 47 years when he died in 1996. I miss him, and I also miss my mom, who called me from my brother's house in Jamaica three nights ago to tell me happy birthday. "It's not my birthday," I said as lightly as I could manage, though it frightened me to realize that she was losing track of days. "It isn't?" she said, momentarily confused. Then she caught herself. "Oh, I see," she said. "I have your name in two different places in my prayer date book." I told her she could write my name on every page of her book, and send prayers up for me every day. "I already do that," she said, a smile in her voice. I didn't make too much of the mix-up and she didn't appear to either. But I think it might be time for another visit to see her soon.


Bait and Switch

I could wade into the whole discussion about government surveillance in the name of national security this morning, and muse about the motives of so-called whistleblower Edward Snowdon, who told the world what anyone who's ever used Google or Facebook or a smartphone already knew, that our information can be hacked into at will and is as available to government agencies as it is to corporate marketers, none of this one bit illegal by the way, even if you think it should be.

I could express my bewilderment that a 29-year- old community college drop-out (who voted for Ron Paul, which we can pretend is irrelevant) was able to rise through the CIA and NSA to secure himself a $200K-a-year job with the highest level security clearance, and who, as Steven Colbert joked last night, objected to living in a country where the government spies on its citizens, then fled to China.

I could be honest about the fact that with another president in office I might be a tad more dusted up about this, as I certainly was when Bush passed the Patriot Act, but I also realize we have had two wars since, and that the same politicos who are crying foul about PRISM—the surveillance program that has access to Google, Facebook and Apple but not, apparently, to Twitter, which continues to say no to NSA requests to open its floodgates—are the first to pummel the government for not more fully surveilling and foiling the Boston bombers.

I could admit that I realize we can't have it both ways, and observe that sixty-two percent of American citizens polled accept that national security requires some compromise of privacy, and how much privacy do we believe we actually have left anyway?

I could get really opinionated about all that, the way I do, but I won't. Instead I will just post this photo I happened across of my daughter's class during one of their fifth grade farm weeks. That's my girl in the red plaid flannel pants third from the right in the front row. Better to keep the focus squarely on the good, don't you think?


Monday, June 10, 2013

So Much Clay

You know I adore a good then-and-now photo comparison. My friend, engaged in a marathon weeding out session in her apartment this weekend, found this fabulous image of her son (left) and another boy, both of them one-time classmates of my daughter and still her friends. The boy on the right is also our neighbor-under-the-scaffolds. The photo was taken when our kids were in fourth grade and these two were just starting to imagine the band they would have, playing drums on the desks and miming guitar riffs and writing tween-boy songs.


Well, just look at those boys now. Both majoring in music performance in college, they play gigs almost every weekend at increasingly prominent venues. They've also cut a CD and last year they went on the road for a few weeks, opening for a bigger band on tour. After my friend posted the photo above on Facebook, someone commented that it will make great album cover art for the future.


The band's name, unchanged from the boys' subversive 13-year-old choice, is Shitkill, a name that used to make their mothers cringe but that now rolls off their lips with the ease of a shrug. The drummer is the kid on the left in the vintage photo. The guitarist is the kid on the right. These boys always did seem to be possessed by their dreams.


All this to say, the things that occupy our children, the way they play, the pursuits that capture their imaginations, have power. Their dreams are the clay of their future selves, and if we can help them keep it soft and malleable, they will be fearless, turning childhood fantasies into inevitability, fashioning lives they can love, or at least that's what I'm thinking and hoping and praying on today.


(Shitkill photos cribbed from Facebook)


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The travelers have returned...


 with wonderful stories of family abroad, the beautiful bride and her gallant groom, and an adorable 3-year-old diva princess in a fairytale dress who didn't want to scatter the flowers when the time came and threw a tantrum when denied champagne.


There was a tower of artful desserts, wedding guests dancing late into the night, and cousins and aunts the day after, and the laughs they all shared. These photos were snapped by me on the way to breakfast this morning as we stood waiting for a traffic signal to change.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Usual Posture #104


I miss this boy of mine who is now a man. I go into his room sometimes and just stand there, thinking that maybe I will put his clothes piled up on the far side of his bed into a suitcase till he returns at the end of summer. The clothes are folded for the most part and sit on top of a trunk, also full of who knows what. I appreciate that he tucked them out of the way on the far end of the room. Usually I stand there for a while and look at them, evidence that he has been here and will be coming back soon. And then I turn and walk back out of the room.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Of goodwill and privilege

On my bulletin board

It's pouring and thundering in New York City today, courtesy of the outer bands of tropical storm Andrea to our south. I lay in bed this morning, cosy in the storm-dark room, the rain pattering on the window air conditioning unit, and I played with the notion of just staying under my fluffy green comforter all day. I was alone in the house, my husband and daughter having flown away to Toronto last night to attend the wedding of one of my husband's cousins. I wanted to go, I had planned to go, but when we finally looked up the cost of tickets, I swallowed hard and allowed the long stream of stories to be edited this week, every one of them passing through me, to assume some importance.

Now, sitting at my desk on this rainy Friday morning, I'm secretly piqued by the coworkers who did take the day off. I could have been with my husband and daughter in attendance at a wedding instead of here in the office, keeping their copy rolling along. One colleague is trying to give me instructions remotely as if I'm her secretary, counting on me to once again cover the work she should have taken care of before she left. Tone is everything in a business communication. I am declining to do her work for her this time, because she's starting to make this a habit, and more to the point, she didn't ask nicely. Her email was a multi-step command, not even a thank you before her name. People do not like to feel used. I do not like to feel used. I sent her back an email saying, "These details will need to be handled by you on Monday. Thank you." As snarky as that sounds, trust me, I was being restrained. Her story is weeks late, with stray details everywhere, and the goodwill bank is severely overdrawn.

Still, I need to get real where the pique is concerned. There was no one but me ordering the priorities, and it just seemed to me that the priority now is paying for my daughter's fall semester of college. In any case, there is something to be said for wandering around your house knowing no one is coming for two whole days. You don't have to make yourself presentable for the stream of friends of your children arriving at your door. You can eat bruschetta and fennel soup for dinner and watch House Hunters International for a long as you please, imagining life in any number of far flung places, enjoying the fact that your mundane New York City apartment would be just as unfamiliar and therefore exotic to someone from Umbria or Denmark or Morocco. Watching an episode set in England with my son recently, I was intrigued by his observation that compared to the friends he visited in England a year ago, our apartment was large and sunny. Americans, he opined, live with more space than we realize and we take it for granted. He's right. I think of our apartment as tiny, and the clutter currently taking it over does nothing to dissuade me from that notion. Yet compared to so many, we have everything we need.

I was thinking of this from the back seat of a cab as I traveled to work. We drove past stately buildings on Riverside Drive, the abodes of the wealthy. My children went to school with some of their children, so I have been inside some of those houses. They are astonishing really, something out of a high-end home decor magazine, but I was thinking this morning how it's all relative, how I grew up in Jamaica in what would have been considered a rather grand home by some of my friends. I can see that now, but at the time I took it for granted. I lay reading on my bed with the breeze coming through a door open to my own little patio, and I never questioned my privilege. 

It's another kind of privilege to be alone for a night or two, knowing that my beloveds will be home soon. So what if I have to take out the trash because my husband's not there to do it. This and laundry are the two household tasks I most eschew, although I'm not so keen on cooking or clearing the dishwasher either. The truth is, I'm fairly useless as a housewife, though I do pack the dishwasher like a Tetris master and tidy up and put things in their place semi-obsessively. 

It's sort of eye-opening how quickly one can get out of the habit of daily blog writing. I haven't posted all week. I've been hanging out with my husband and daughter. I actually hate leaving my girl in the mornings to go to work.  Silly, right? She's just so delicious to be around, her spirit so amused and forgiving and light. A couple of days ago,  when I left for work, she was still in the boxers and tee-shirt she'd slept in, wrapped in her sleeping bag that she uses as a blanket, fingers tapping out a food gadget review on her laptop. Reruns of Sex and the City were playing on the TV, and she looked up occasionally to commiserate with Carrie Bradshaw and her trio of friends. As I kissed the top of her head goodbye I wished I could have stayed home all day with her and just had away-from-the-world girl time.

Well, this was a ramble. 



Sunday, June 2, 2013

Young hearts

Once they leave home, when they come back, it's never the same. Home is now a pit stop, a place where they keep their belongings while they are out in the world with their true loves, their friends, having adventures elsewhere. They are always on the way out to somewhere, a quick warm hug before they disappear again through the front door, promises to keep in touch floating back in their wake, their sense of freedom tangible and firmly trained on "the other." They have finally arrived at the place in their lives where everything is possible, everything is ahead of them and there is nothing keeping them from rushing toward it, hearts leaping at their escape from childhood, from tedious accountability, from curfews and the need to manage their demanding parents.


First our daughter went out the door to meet the young man she's been seeing since high school. His mother invited her to dinner at their house tonight. She won't stay out too late as she starts work tomorrow. She seems remarkably at ease with this fact, entirely untroubled by the unknown. Then, a few minutes ago, my son left with three of his best friends in the world, duffles in tow, heading to the woods where they will spend the summer at the camp the four of them have attended since they were boys. Now they are unit directors and waterfront directors and counselors, helping to run the programs for the kids while being together with their friends again in that idyllic lakeside place.


It's a good thing that I really like my husband. A good thing, too, that we worked out how to be alone together in this year just past. Because even when the kids are home, this is how it is most of the time now—just the two of us, the way we started out, young hearts leaping at the possibilities. It's important for us to remember.


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