Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rahel Holds Tight

I pulled out of the back gravel parking lot at work in our very old VW bug at 11:45 to pick up the meal for lunch.  The day was unusually warm, so I let the windows down and turned on the radio.  As I sat at a light on the bridge to get onto the 205 freeway heading south I realized that the song playing was the one my husband sang this summer while karoeking at our yearly block party.  He'd only heard it a few times but liked the words so went for it.

"Don't take your life for granted...Why don't you hold on tight to what you've been handed, cause you just don't know how long you will have it..."

He belted it out, screaming a lot it, making up for his unfamiliarity with volume.  My next-door-neighbor who was sitting next to me in the dark reached out and touched my arm with tears in her eyes and said something about how true those words were and don't I just love my husband?

Heading south on the 205 freeway, feeling every bump in our rickety old car, I realized that the next song playing was the one my son kareoked at the same block party.  He stood up without telling anyone but the DJ and sang like an angel, making half the party cry.

So let the light guide your way. Hold every memory as you go. And every road you take will always lead you home, home.

I arrived at Cartlandia on 82nd Ave having had a small cry in the car.  I carried 20 plastic containers of beef tibs, doro wot, misir wot, shiro, gomen, injera to my car, trying my best to arrange them so they wouldn't spill on my drive back.  Rahel, the cart owner, handed me the receipt and thanked me like always for thinking of her for these large orders.  This time though, she covered her eyes, tearing up herself.  In the past, she has told me that I "bless" her with these orders and calls me "honey" on the phone even though she's probably ten years younger than I am.

She said, "Life is hard. My parents are back home, sick, and I send everything I earn to them.  I'm here alone, just my husband with me."  She cried more.  I reached my arm as far into the cart through the high window as I could.  She took my hand and we held on for a moment.  I promised myself to always give her these large orders.  The money she makes from her cart business goes to her family back home in Ethiopia, and the elders I am paid to look after love her food.

How can we not talk about family when family's all that we got
Everything I went through, you were standing there by my side
I've been waking up tight day after day
Hope is taking its time to go my way
But I don't take my life for granted
I'm gonna hold on tight to what I've been handed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


The water from the shower running over my skinned knee hurt more than I thought it would.  It's good as a parent to remember what a skinned knee feels like.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Winter gear T-rex

A moment around dinner where we are scattered but I sit at the dining room table with my son to slow down for a few moments. Our nephew who is currently a high school exchange student in Spain has a friend in his hometown in Southern Oregon who committed suicide a few days ago.  Our nephew's mother, my sister-in-law, wrote some thoughts down about what it's been like to live in the wake of this tragedy.  It was beautifully said.  Hold each other close and show kindness everywhere you go.

So my act of kindness was in my own house, with my own child, the one who has been experiencing bouts since school started of pushing our buttons making it difficult to like him.  In spurts, like a wind-up toy that eventually powers back down.  Or something.

I let my son direct the conversation.  It was focused around his questions about scientific discoveries and the workings of the human body.  Questions like how do we think something and then our body acts it out?  Have scientists figured out how to make things invisible yet?  Are there parts of the world that haven't been discovered?  What living things have gone from the surface of the ocean to the bottom and back still alive?

It's good that humans weren't around during the time of the dinosaurs.  Questions about how the dinosaurs went extinct.  The asteroid that hit the planet, sending it into an ice age.  Mom, was it snow or ice?

Well, if skis has been invented, the dinosaurs probably could have survived.

Cue to many wonderful mental images.  So many.  Dinosaurs in winter gear.

My husband and daughter still weren't back, and I felt in my body a slowing down, what had started out as a purposeful engagment with my child within fifteen minutes was altering my natural weekday go-go-go-do-clean-hurry-so-at-9pm-i-can-sit-quietly-in-clean-order routine.

We pulled the bikes out of the garage.  My tires were flat, so while my son ran to get the pump, I tried to ride my bike anyway.  Upon attempting to turn around in the intersection by ouur house, the tires gave out and  my bike toppled over with me on it, skinning my left knee.  Checked to make sure no one saw.  Got back up.  My son happily pumped air into the tires while I talked to a passing neighbor about how my kids already have National Geographic magazine for kids and which neighbor kid might like it instead.

My husband and daughter got home, but I promised the ride so we went until the street lights were coming on.  My son was shoeless and helmet-less.  He trailed behind me close to the curb like I asked him to.  He told me how much he likes riding bikes.  His bike is too big, so to stop, he has to lean into grassy spots.  There wasn't much stopping like usual to pet friendly cats or look at Halloween decorations.

I found a low wall and high curb and stopped.  He sat on my lap, a few blocks from our house.  I apologized for my frequent impatience.  He always says it's okay, but it's not.  I told him that I don't want his childhood memories of me to be of a yelling, impatient mother.  He said, "okay" and I said, "Well, it's not that easy."  I have my own memories, not all the time, but in certain busy and dutiful years, of a mother often walking from room to room doing tasks, rarely sitting down with me for open-ended time.  I trailed behind, talking at her back.  A perfectly clean house is not worth giving my kids that memory of me.  I want their memories to be of my face, and I know they won't remember the resulting disorder of our surroundings, a result of being present and in-the-moment with my kids.

Lofty goals probably, but at certain moments, my chest is filled with terror that something bad might happen to one of my kids, and I tell myself that today is what we have.