Friday, December 25, 2020

Peace and joy

Christmas has been determinedly low-key, as my son is working, his love is with her parents in New Jersey, and my daughter is with her love and his family upstate. We drove her there yesterday, after a lovely week she spent with us here, it was like she never left home. It was restorative. My niece is here with the man and me, and her boyfriend just arrived to have dinner with us, which my husband is cooking, bless him. The day has been painless—we opened presents, ate bagels with cream cheese and lox for breakfast, made a few phone calls, FaceTimed our girl, then I climbed into bed and read into the late afternoon, grateful to have the concentration to read whole books again, a gift of this period of quarantine. I'm reading Hidden Valley Road, the true story of a family with ten sons and two daughters, who saw six of the boys diagnosed with schizophrenia. I sank into the story, gathering in every detail, because a young man I love, a boy my son grew up with, has recently been diagnosed and is having a very hard time. There has been some heartbreak associated with this recent relapse, undoing, I don't really know what to call it, but of course I can't get into the details for reasons of privacy. 

We saw the young man yesterday when we were walking out to the car to drive our girl upstate, and he greeted us warmly, though with more distance than in the past. He looked really good, tall, as beautiful as a male model, groomed and stylish, but I couldn't see his eyes because he was wearing those mirror sunglasses, and of course, a mask. Given what he has recently been through, it was good to see him looking so flawlessly put together, but I felt so sad afterward, as if we had lost a piece of how we used to be, our family and this young man, who is struggling, with no idea how very worthy he is or how much he is loved. I guess it's still on my heart because I really didn't mean to veer there in this post. 

The photo up top is one I took of my beautiful, joyful girl, when we were wrapping presents two nights ago. Though her very presence fills me with joy, I have to remember that like all of us, she has her own shadings of emotion, her dark moods, and let's all give space for that, grace for that in the coming year.

I hope you all had a good, peaceful day. Me? I'm always happy when Christmas is behind me. Okay, gotta go. My husband is calling us to dinner now. Happy holidays my dear friends. See you on the other side.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Woman Overboard

Once again I think I've gone overboard on gifts. What does it say about me that I never think that what I'm giving is sufficient? Where along the way did I bury the idea that one thoughtful gift chosen with love was enough? And of course, my children must always have the same number of presents to open, even though they open their presents now in separate homes, with partners, who must also have the same number of gifts from my husband and me, and again, not just one. Now that everything is wrapped and in bags, waiting to be delivered, I can see that I've been excessive. Neither of my children expects anything at all, so why do I set this pace, year after year, of marathon gift-giving?

I think maybe its genesis lies in my feeling like a lonely outpost in an adopted country during this season, trying to replicate for my children the experience of my childhood in Jamaica, where multitudes of aunts and uncles and my parents' large circle of friends brought gifts at Christmas, and our tree was laden on Christmas morning. How ridiculous of me to try to recreate that bounty for my children, when their circumstances were so different from my own childhood, and they had no expectations at all about what Christmas should be, except what I fed to them. And now they are grown, and I am still apparently unable to moderate myself, clicking and buying that one more thing that I happen across that I feel sure they'll love, or use, or find whimsy in. 

I'm a little embarrassed, really. These stuffed bags of gifts in exquisite wrapping paper—my mother always used exquisite wrapping paper, with bows on every present—say so much more about my own sense of want than about what will truly thrill and delight my children, who tell me again and again that they need nothing. I credit their temperance in this regard to their father, who is of the one-well-chosen-gift school of thought, who shakes his head as the boxes arrive at our door, but let's me be, because this is who he married. Yet I can't help but feel I'm being a little obscene not to have curbed myself better in this year when so many families find themselves unable to give even that one gift.

My daughter is with us for the week, and will join her boyfriend and his family for Christmas morning upstate, before they both head back to Boston for his second semester of business school. We all had a bit of a scare two weeks ago when one member of their cohort bubble on campus tested positive for covid, and they'd seen him and his partner just three days before. Fortunately, his worst symptom was a crashing headache that lasted for days, and fatigue. His girlfriend, my daughter's best friend in her new town, soon developed the same symptoms, and yesterday she texted my girl that at precisely 5 p.m. she had suddenly found herself unable to smell or taste anything.

My daughter and her love quarantined scrupulously for two weeks and took three tests each during that time, all of them mercifully negative. My niece, who had just returned to live with us after three months in Orlando, also tested negative a week after she returned. She wore masks in the house and mostly stayed in her room until she got her test result, and she made her boyfriend get tested too before she would see him. He, too, was negative.

The truth is, we have no idea how to stay one hundred percent safe in this covid world, but we're doing our best. We won't see our son for Christmas, he's working that day and night, but he's coming by later this afternoon to exchange gifts and see his sister. He will be masked while he is here. As a front line worker in the city, he will be receive the Moderna vaccine just after the New Year, but as I understand it, that only guarantees that if he gets infected, he'll be able to fight it off with minimal symptoms, though there's no telling if he will still be able to infect others while his immune system rallies. 

We're not doing much of anything on Christmas day, other than cooking a meal. We're keeping everything determinedly low-key. I wager I'll be working on that day like every other, as I'm still trundling along trying to hit my due dates. Just popping in now to say hey, I hope you and your beloveds are doing well. Please stay safe, and I send you love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

First look

In a Cosmopolitan magazine round-up of the best new books of 2021, guess what soon-to-be-released memoir by a badass woman of the resistance was included among its selections?

We then learned that Marie Claire magazine had also chosen the senator's book as one of the best new books in the coming year. So now you know who and what I have been channeling almost every waking hour (and many dreaming ones) in the last year. The book is due April 20, 2021 from Viking, and is available for pre-order now.

And now it's back to the salt mines for me. Work continues, even on this book, for which first pass pages and captions for the photo insert must be given a final read with a further election update to be added before the new year.

Plus, y'all, I'm editing a really wonderful book, a sweeping family saga by an Armenian American author whose name you will soon surely know.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Life in Harlem (update)

The man and I went to health center in Harlem and got ourselves tested for covid yesterday. Results in two to three days, the men and women in white coats said. We were two of a steady stream of city dwellers of every walk and description, immigrants, hipsters, soccer moms, and corporate suits, checking our status as the numbers rise. I'm feeling fine, really, and so is my love, but every time I listen to reports of new death records smashed, ICUs with no more beds, nurses weeping after brokering too many family goodbyes on video, doctors with that traumatized thousand-yard stare, I start to feel a little covidy, almost in solidarity with the nation's PTSD. Is that a sore throat coming on? Is the heavy feeling in my brain the start of a covid headache? Why am I so tired and is it only that I didn't get to sleep till 4 a.m. last evening? And when I awaken, am I feeling only the usual joint aches or is this creakiness something more?

My son called me two days ago to announce that he won't see us for Christmas, as cases in his part of the city are spiking, and he feels very exposed. Don't you all wear PPE on emergency calls, I asked him? Not every time, he said. Only if we're fighting a fire or going into people's homes. We have to conserve supplies. I'll see you in the new year, he told me, sounding weary of it all. As a firefighter, he will be one of the first to get the new covid vaccine, perhaps the first dose as soon as this month. But there are unanswered questions, he pointed out, like, if he contracts the infection after being vaccinated, even if he doesn't get sick, or have any symptoms, could he still shed the virus to others? There's too much we still don't know, he said.

Later, I joked to my daughter that he announced his removal from our social family bubble with no sentimentality, and no attempt to "manage mommy." She knew what I meant. Empath that she is, she would have announced her decision more gently, with a sense of regret that it has to be this way. We both laughed, an inside joke.

That bright yellow house lives down the street from the health center where we went for our tests. The house doesn't look much like it would be hanging out on a side street in Harlem, which makes me love it more. We also know and love its occupants, the unapologetically socialist minister of our little activist church, her wife of three-plus decades, and their two sons. Our minister's wife, also a rabble rousing preacher woman, took the picture. The entire first floor is dedicated to social service projects, soup kitchens, sanctuary for the undocumented, shelter for the homeless. This is where my church man husband attends meetings several days each week, most of them virtual now, doing his part to keep the soul of the neighborhood healed and whole, or at least on the way there.

Update: We both tested negative.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Soldiering on

I think I have too much work. I'm dancing as fast as I can, trying to do a good job for everyone, it's the people pleaser in me, but you know, I'm a little worried, even a little burned out. I usually assess more accurately than this how much I can take on, how to keep due dates from overlapping and backing into each other. I didn't do so well this time, so I'm in the trenches, trying to be a good soldier. Thanksgiving with my daughter and her love and their incredibly cute and chilled out puppy was so, so good. Very low-stress. My son had to work, but he and his fiancee came over the next day, and the family togetherness was everything. Then on Saturday the man and I drove our girl and her guy back up to Boston, and turned right around, heading back home to New York the same evening. Eight hours on the road. The company was excellent both ways, and four days later we all seem to still be covid free. I hope you all are staying healthy and that you had a good, low-stress holiday, too. I might be scarce in these parts for a minute, but I'll be back doing the rounds in our lovely virtual neighborhood soon.