Friday, April 30, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Crutches last month, flying this month.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Penn Relays!

My daughter and one of my nephews study the scoreboard
just after Jamaica's Usain Bolt ran his lightening fast 4x100 meter
race at Penn Relays last Saturday. They're just realizing that
Bolt clocked a new world record for his split, covering
100 meters in 8.79 seconds. Unbelievable!

This nephew of mine talked trash the whole time with grown
men sitting around us. They loved it! There was much good-natured
banter, with the Americans in the stands chanting "U.S.A.!" and the
Jamaicans countering "Jam-ai-ca!" My nephew is a runner, too.
And he's fast. He's just 9 now, but we will be cheering for him soon.

Two more of my beloved nephews watch the races from the
jam-packed stands. There was so much green and gold apparel
in sight, not to mention Jamaican flags, you would have
thought we were in Jamaica. My daughter, the only girl in this row,
is growing up with a whole lot of boy cousins, which was also my story.

After the relays, the crowds file out of the U-Penn arena
in Philadelphia for the long drive back to their various cities.
Our group was one of the last to disperse. We had arrived from
New York, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey and wanted to visit
for as long as possible. This pic is blurry but the boys' expressions
are so sweet that I love it anyway. All in all, an exhilarating day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Italy and other adventures

My daughter got into the cooking and travel program in Italy this summer! They called my cell phone on Friday to let us know.

My husband and I were sitting on the bench around the fountain on the plaza at Lincoln Center when the call came.We had both taken the day off from work. We'd anticipated being at Penn Relays that day to watch our son run.Turns out, he did not run. Because of his Achilles tendon injury, he hadn't clocked in an official time at an outdoor meet this season, so even though his time was competitive in practice, his coach had to submit another hurdler's time as part of the 4-man relay team's overall record. That kid's time was 2 seconds slower than my son's, which was enough to knock the team out of college men's contention. My son was disappointed, but I'm really glad his coach didn't rush him back into competition. I'd much rather he heal properly.

Anyway, since our son wasn't running on Friday after all, my husband and I decided not to take our daughter out of school for the day, and to just attend the main event as a family on Saturday. But we still both took the day off from work. We went to lunch at a restaurant we'd never tried, then strolled over the Lincoln Center and just sat by the fountain, chatting and watching people aimlessly, like we were in our twenties again! God, I loved it. The sun on our faces, the spray of the fountain dancing at our backs, a clear blue sky above our heads.

Then I got a text. My daughter said the scholar services coordinator of her scholar program had called and asked for my number. We had been told we wouldn't hear anything for another three weeks, so my girl didn't dare hope the news was at hand. Sure enough, my phone rang a moment later, and it was indeed the news she had been praying for! The coordinator wanted to talk through a couple of details before the official letter went out. But my daughter was definitely in!

My husband and I refrained from calling immediately to tell our girl. Selfishly, we wanted to be there to see her face when she heard. She literally twirled around the house, singing, "I'm going to Italy!"

Apparently, the interviewer had been impressed by her commitment to and knowledge of the culinary arts. The program she got into also includes travel and studying Italian cooking traditions with an expert chef. As I understand it, she'll be part of a group of about 12 American high school students, and will begin with a one week orientation in Rome, where she'll also see the major sights and sample local cuisine. Then there's a two week homestay with a family (she had to write a letter about her life to the family when she applied. She told them she was looking forward to watching World Cup soccer with them this summer!). Then a week at a well-known culinary school (the name meant nothing to me) where they will create "their own culinary story of Italy" (whatever that means), then the final week in Venice, seeing the sights and sampling the tastes of the city.

I'm so excited for her. My brain, of course, in making a terrific rukus in my head, with all the imaginings and "what ifs." But I have been told by the mother of one of my son's friends, who did a Spain trip with this program when he was in high school, that the program is extremely careful about safety. And they have the kids call home weekly. The program is certainly very reputable. My daughter's teacher, who wrote her recommendation for the application, knew all know about it and spoke very highly of the experience, based on other kids he knew who had done it.

So my girl will be spending her summer in Italy!

In other news, her third quarter report came yesterday. My girl is back on the honor roll at school, with a constellation of A's, including (drum roll) an A in math! (I suspect she thought they would be looking at her grades as part of the decision making process for Italy.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


 This picture of my son is from when he was here for Spring Break. I like the way the wooden hearts in the vase behind him seem to be sprouting from his collar.

Our boy ran his first post-injury track meet this weekend and was pleased with his performance. Despite the vulnerable Achilles tendon, he posted a decent time in hurdles and placed fourth in high jump, which was good, he said, because he was seeded sixth. He sounded happier and much less stressed than he's been sounding recently. Track helps relieve his good-grades anxiety.

During a phone call he made to us a week ago to discuss dropping one of his six courses so he could focus on securing good grades in the other five, he seemed wound really tight. His dad was great on the phone with him: "Do whatever makes sense to you, son." "Did you talk it over with your adviser?" "Just do your best and don't worry too much. We know you're working hard." "Remember we have your back no matter what."

I was on the extension and didn't talk much, because my husband was working his magic. After we put down the phone, I looked up and said, "Oh my God, he's like me!"

"I know," my husband said. "Poor kid."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fat Girl

I've always wanted to write one of those "25 Things About Me" posts, just to see what made it out of my consciousness and onto the list. So here goes:

1. I am fat. I sometimes feel so self-conscious about this that I decline social events where I will encounter new people simply because I don't want to face that moment when I walk into the room and eyes turn to me. I don't want to see in those eyes the glancing thought, "Wow, she's fat."

2. I don't decline social events with loved ones, meaning my immediate and extended family and good friends. My loved ones give me a reflection of myself that is easy to live with. I am lucky to have such a circle in my life, the company of people with whom I feel completely free.

3. I have not always been fat, although when I was in my 20s and a normal size, you could not have convinced me that I wasn't enormous and awkward. That was my inner vision of myself. The other day, I was on a bus and looked out the window at a woman on the sidewalk and she seemed hauntingly familiar, but I couldn't place her. She was pretty and simply dressed in loose, neat clothing. She had a little frown on her face against the sunlight, which made her look concentrated, but not uninviting. I felt curiously drawn to her. And then it struck me. She reminded me of pictures of myself from when I was her age. Was that actually how I had appeared to the world? Why didn't I enjoy myself more back then?

4. One Sunday during an interminable sermon in church, I idly contemplated what my primary identity might be. Turns out "wife and mother" won hands down. But I knew that. What came after was not "Black" or "female" or "writer" or "daughter" and anything like that. What came next was "fat." If I'm really honest, fat was right up there with wife and mother as in "fat wife and mother."

Okay, I think I'm going to stop this exercise. Obviously, I'm having a very fat day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coming Out

I've been thinking a lot about the second to last Ugly Betty episode. In it, Betty's 16-year-old nephew Justin, who has recently understood that he is gay (something viewers knew from the first episode, but he was only 13 then), comes out to his working class Latino family.

I love the subtle way the writers handled the storyline, even if their vision might still be a fairy tale in most families of gay teens. I was moved by the matter-of-fact way Justin's mother, grandfather, aunt and uber macho soon-to-be stepfather fold in this new piece of information about their beloved child. They even plan a surprise celebration for him, with rainbow flags and streamers and cakes and posters, until Betty's coworker and friend Marc, also gay, comes in and rips down the flag and sternly admonishes the family that they are taking Justin's moment away, that they have to wait for him to feel comfortable telling them.

"But we want him to know we support him," Justin's mother Hilda protests. "Studies show that if gay boys aren't supported by their mothers, they will never form lasting relationships." Mark exits, heart aching, because his mother has never accepted his sexual orientation (which of course is why he has transferred his filial loyalty, with archly comic results, to the scheming Wilhelmina, played to perfection by Vanessa L. Williams).

To say my daughter is an Ugly Betty fan is to understate the case. She so identifies with Betty (played by America Ferrara) that for an assignment in which she had to write about a person who inspires her and why, she wrote about this fictional character. "The show Ugly Betty is all about dreaming big, having faith in yourself, and never giving up," she wrote. "Yes, Betty is a fictional character, but for me, the lessons imparted by her resilience and optimism translate powerfully to the real world."

She already has the DVD collection of all but the final season, so of course, I was watching the Wednesday night countdown to the finale with her. We both found tears on our faces as we watched Justin (played by Mark Indelicato) struggle to accept his feelings for his friend Austin, sure that his family would be appalled by his dawning knowledge of himself.

There was something so poignant about the love and acceptance that were waiting to enfold him once he declared himself. And the writers had him do so in such a beautifully understated way, at his mother's wedding, when he turned to Austin, extended his hand, and walked onto the dance floor with him for a waltz. As Justin's arms circled Austin for the slow dance, Hilda looked over her new husband's shoulder and smiled contentedly, because she knew her son was happy.

I felt as I was watching the episode that I was witnessing a watershed moment in television history. So now I have to go back and watch all those Ugly Betty seasons that have so captivated my daughter. Belatedly, I have glimpsed the grace and humanity of this series that so inspires my girl.

(Photo courtesy of ABC)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Annie P and Me

Kingston, Jamaica, 1976

Found this in one of my photo albums. I was a freshman in college when this was taken, and had gone home for the Christmas vacation. I was the age my son is now. That's my friend Annie in the blue top. One of my little cousins is on my lap. This photo was snapped on the back stairs at 37 Paddington Terrace, the house where I came of age, and for which this blog is named. Check out our afros. We're just a coupla cool chicks catching the sun. Annie P died earlier this year (I wrote about it here). Seeing this picture brought a whole rush of memories. Wish I could go back and do some things differently, but that's a useless thought, isn't it?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Getting Grown

Yesterday, my daughter's orthodontist made her day when he informed her that in three weeks the braces on her lower teeth will be removed, and three weeks after that, the upper set will also disappear. She's over the moon! She feels as if she's waited just about forever for this day. But her mother will miss her sweet little brace face.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


This letter, which I found posted on Barnard's website, is a revealing artifact of a past era. It was sent to the all-women's college by a residence official at Bryn Mawr shortly after Barnard admitted its first Negro student, the incomparable Zora Neale Hurston. According to the college's records, Ms Hurston lived off campus, thereby preventing the unwelcome situation of "negro men from the neighborhood" appearing at campus "entertainments." How very different the school was when I was a student there--living in the residence halls--a short 35 years later.

Next week on tax day, when the Tea Party fringe elements start yelling ugly slogans at their planned protests, I'll think of this utterly fascinating epistolary artifact and remember that progress is not only possible, but inevitable.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Day At a Time

Let's see. Here are some of the posts I didn't write.

1. My daughter, husband, niece and I had a wonderful meal at Colicchio and Sons, where the waiter made sure that the birthday girl, who follows chefs the way other girls follow movie stars, felt like the princess of the culinary world. Tom Colicchio was actually in the kitchen cooking that night, and he sent out a sumptuous amuse bouche for our table, courtesy of the house. And my daughter's dessert plate arrived with the words "Happy Birthday" tastefully scripted in thin chocolate sauce on the edge of the plate. My girl was practically levitating. (Below: My daughter and my niece tackling the dessert course.)

2. My husband did the flowers for Easter Service at our church, in tribute to his mother, who used to teach floral arrangement classes and who often did the flowers for Easter Sunday service at St. Johns Cathedral in Antigua. This was my husband's first Easter without his mother, and he wanted to honor her memory. So he got up early on Saturday morning and went down to the flower district and arrived home just past noon with long boxes of anthuriums and palm leaves and other greenery in his arms. He sat at our kitchen counter and created two beautiful large triangle arrangements for the sanctuary. It was clear to me that each flower had been carefully and individually chosen, in shades that ranged from deep red to shell pink to white. He chose anthuriums because they were his mom's favorite flowers and they also evoke the place he is from. Our minister told the church we had an artist in our midst, and he went on to tell the congregation who did the flowers and why. Everyone praised my husband's talent, and everyone felt the love that had informed the placement of each flower, palm frond and leaf. The arrangements were exotic and perfect on the wood paneled altar, a fitting tribute. Somewhere, his mom was smiling. (Below: The arrangements before transport to the church.)

3. Our son injured his achilles tendon, and was on crutches. But he was cleared to return to track practice yesterday, and is working his way back in. He is supposed to run the shuttle hurdle relay at Penn Relays next week! We will be in the stands cheering. I hope he is healed enough. (Below: My son, sunglasses on head, at a track meet at Ichan Stadium last year.)

4. My job. I am churning with anxiety over the unknown. I tell myself, a day at a time. I tell myself that no matter what transpires, I will find my way through.