Thursday, July 25, 2013

I'll Be There

Tonight when I kissed my baby boy asleep, his hair smelled like injera and berbere, the same way the tips of my fingers smell from feeding him gursha-style bites of dinner a few hours before.  I breathed deep this smell of rich Ethiopian spice and heard in the glow of his dark room at 11pm the refrain of my son singing "Look over your shoulder, honey...ooh!" from the song "I'll be there" by  Michael Jackson. 

I'll be there for you, honey. 


Monday, July 15, 2013


My father-in-law broke his hip two weeks ago, so it's been a rough go of things in the family since then.  A lot has been going on.  My sister-in-law on the east coast is here for a couple weeks visiting and has been working her magic on the stubborn old man who had gone on a hunger strike upon being put in a rehab center.  She goes out every morning to eat breakfast with him and bring him whatever he needs from the store or his condo.  She gets there by riding my bike.  Today, they watched The Hustler on AMC, and I made a mental note to watch it myself. 

When she came home this afternoon from her morning with her dad, she gave us the rundown on the day.  Out of the blue, her voice cracked and she couldn't speak.  She told us through tears that he'd talked today about how much he wished he could be around to watch our daughter, an amazingly gifted runner, compete in a track meet. 

Tonight we all went to see him while my husband taught his night class.  He had just finished his dinner in his room, no longer at the front door trying to make his escape, no longer on a hunger strike.  We flipped the channels and found Little House on the Prairie.  We watched the episode when Laura and Almonzo get engaged.  When Opa got changed into his pajamas, we went outside and picked blackberries from the huge bushes in the parking lot.

Two Ethiopians are taking care of him in the afternoon/evening shift.  Tonight, they both chatted with my kids after they got my father-in-law ready for bed.  I felt proud and relieved to have these two sweet souls caring so kindly for my favorite old man.

Warm Fart Water

It had been four days since my kids had bathed.  My daughter showered but my son decided it best to hang out in a bath of his own filth playing with little green army men. I sat in the bathroom cutting my nails, my daughter talking beside me.  My son picked up an empty shampoo bottle and started pouring the bathwater into his mouth, mostly for effect but surely swallowing some of it.

We both let out a bunch of 'ewwws!' with my daughter letting him know what all is in that bath water.

"There's dirt from your feet, your earwax, boogers, just all kinds of disgusting stuff, and now you're drinking it."

Right on cue, her brother let out a man-sized fart into the water and added, "Don't forget farts too."

He put his face right in and laughed his head off. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

a Longing for Justice

Tonight, the verdict was read, and I immediately wanted to throw up.  My family came home from grocery shopping, and I had to leave the house to keep from crying in front of my kids. 

I walked around my white neighborhood in the safety of my white skin for an hour.  My emotions that had started with shock morphed into intense anger for about twenty minutes, and I walked the pristine neighborhood with a tightly clenched fist, nails burning into my palm.  I understood a little bit the emotion that incites a riot.  I wanted to punch something or set something on fire. 

On my walk, I'd stop to check fb on my phone and see other expressions of grief, shock, and anger.  I stopped on a public staircase and cried. 

I posted a status update saying "No one in this country prays harder than the mothers of black sons."  I was, and am, at a loss at how this could happen.  I fear for my baby boy, the one who still wants to be picked up by his mama, the one who pats my back as we hug, the way he did at the age of nine-months, the one who often wears hoodies and will be seen as a threat once he reaches puberty.  He'll probably still pat my back when we hug.

After an hour, I decided to go home and bake cookies with my kids.  I let them open the butter, scoop the sugar, crack the eggs, turn the mixer on and form balls of dough to be plopped onto the cookie sheet.  My son came down to the kitchen/dining room with his CD player from his room and a CD of old-timey radio shows from the '40s that a friend from college made for him when he was two.  It's how he usually goes to sleep at night these days, listening to old-time radio hour shows about Pecos Bill and Robin Hood.

 He laid on the floor tonight and listened to the same stories that children during the second world war listened to at night.  He rolled on the floor sucking his thumb, singing along at certain songs he's learned.  He's a night-owl who listens to these sometimes after everyone else has gone to sleep.  I was surprised to hear him singing along to songs that I don't even know.  In between batches of cookies being put into the oven, he wanted me to sit with him and listen, safely on my lap.  It was exactly what I needed: a night in the safety of our home where he is in my arms and untouched by the trigger-happy racists of this country. 

No one in this country prays harder than the mothers of black sons.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Things Found In My Dryer 2

Part 2: Three tiny animal bones (bottle cap for size reference).  These treasures brought back from the high desert of Central Oregon, perhaps remnants of a coyote kill?

Love Your Children

I am hoping that the thing that stands out more than anything from our last five days in Central Oregon is not the night I spent vomiting.  I have only barfed four times in my entire life, so each episode is rather memorable.  The first: the backseat of my mother's blue Chevrolet Nova after eating orange soda and cheetos.  I said, "Mom, my throat feels funny" and then let it loose.  Second: a week after botched eye surgery when the pressure spiked so high in my eyes that I let loose the In-and-Out burger I'd eaten half an hour before.  Third: middle of a sleepless night after eating local Ethiopian food and French chocolate cake.  Fourth: two nights ago, inexplicably, while at our high desert cabin where no one else got sick but me.  I was up all night and am still recovering, not able to eat anything beyond the B.R.A.T. diet (bananas, toast, apples, tea).

The reason for the recounting of My Life in Vomiting is because of something that happened this afternoon with my kids.   They had been given the big task of unpacking their stuff and cleaning up their room (which never really got cleaned after having two friends sleep over for four nights in a row last week).   My husband was doing the bulk of the cleaning while I unpacked and did laundry, with frequent breaks to lay down due to light-headedness and residual nausea.  After one of my ten minute breaks, I found my kids downstairs in the basement bedroom practicing magic tricks with their uncle who is here visiting from Germany.  I took a deep breath and waited before the lecture.

The lecture came and went, and they were sent to their room with instructions not to come out of it, "not even for water or the bathroom" until it passed my inspection of cleanliness. Forty-five (or so) minutes later, after a solo trip to the store for kefir and bananas (all I can really manage to keep down), I came up to check their room. 

They stood together at the door whispering.  My son said the apology out loud and my daughter read to me this note:

"Dear mom sorry for not lisining to you when you told us to do a chor and we are so so so sorry that we disobayd you mom. Love your children."  Big pink heart at the bottom. 

My son immediately spoke up at the end of the reading to say, "It might be confusing to hear 'love your children' because it doesn't mean that you should love your children but instead it means, like at the end of a letter, 'love, your children'."

Maybe it's just me, but I found this hilarious.  I love the idea of my kids signing a letter to me with the reminder that I really ought to love them.

Things Found In My Dryer

My dryer won't always be so clangy and bumpy, so in an attempt to find the whimsy in a normally frustrating part of my weekly household chores, I present a new series called Things Found In My Dryer.

Part 1: Tiny plastic chicken.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kindness from Stranger

As we walked through the aisles of a store, I had to break the news that my daughter had missed a birthday party of a friend of hers last weekend because we'd gone out of town.  It came up because she'd wanted to get a gift while we were there.  Her reaction was what one would expect from an almost-eight-year-old girl who'd missed out on a birthday party.  The tears flowed.

I asked her not to cry and said I was sorry she had to miss it.  She was still quietly crying as we got to the check-out line.  I put on the conveyor belt candy, flip-flops for my son, and a deep treatment conditioner for both the kids' hair.  The young black lady working the register had noticed us as we walked up, and as soon as she finished with the customer ahead of us, she turned our way and asked me, "Are these your adopted kids?"

She then turned right to my daughter as she rang us up and asked why she was crying.  Getting no quick answer, I explained that she'd just found out that she had to miss a birthday party last weekend.

The cashier nodded, never taking her attention off of my daughter.  I was a bystander.  She pulled out a container of stickers and gave her one.  She told her, "Boy that's disappointing to miss a birthday party, but I can tell you as someone who has lived 24 years on this earth: there is always another birthday party.  Another one will roll around the next year, and you won't miss it, and it'll all be okay."

My daughter nodded, her face still wet with fresh tears.  I was so thankful.  I told her so.  She brushed it off and handed me my back.

I want to call her manager to give her commendations.  I want her to know that I appreciate the attention she gave my "adopted daughter."  I, of course, couldn't help wondering what her story was, if maybe she herself wasn't also adopted.  Maybe she just has a big heart for children, but I couldn't help finding it strange (not in a bad way) that she focused so much attention on my daughter.  Maybe she saw me as the negligent, ne'er-do-well white mother screwing up yet another adopted black child.  It's possible.

No matter what, I was thankful her message to my daughter helped her feel better.