Saturday, January 31, 2015

Empathy

I'm always carrying so much stuff. I think heaven might be going somewhere with nothing, not even change in my pockets.

The scene: snowy driveway after dark.
The characters: Mother carrying 4 bags, mostly filled with boy's winter clothing.  Boy, about 4 years old.

Mother opens gate and drives car into driveway. She unbuckles child and gathers bags. Boy exits car and walks towards the gate. Mother struggles with bags.

Boy: Momma, I'll get the gate for you since you have so many bags.

Mother's heart melts. Thinks: He has empathy. 

Boy struggles with gate. Boy: I can't do it. 

Mother: Yes, you can. Go closer to the edge and pull. You'll have more leverage.

Boy walks to the center of the gate and bangs it shut. Boy: I did it.

Mother: Yes. Yes, you did. Thank you.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sending the plate back to the kitchen twice

"Yeah, but that's plastic. I don't care if it's for teething, and I'm teething. I don't put anything in my mouth other than a nummy. Not food, not plastic, not nothing." Beren, November 2011 

Tonight, Beren looked down at his plate and announced, "This tofu is not orange."

Jared, this evening's chef, said, "No, it's not. I forgot the turmeric." While Jared was cooking, Beren had requested "orange" tofu. Jared had assured him that we had the stuff that makes tofu orange.

Beren insisted on orange tofu. We all brought our plates back to the kitchen and scraped the tofu back in to the skillet. Jared added a sprinkling of turmeric and tossed the tofu around. "Not orange enough," Beren said. Jared dumped the rest of the powdered root into the skillet and dished out the food.

Beren happily stuffed two forkfuls of noodles, peas, tofu, and turmeric in a satay sauce into his mouth. Then, he scowled.

"What the heck," he said.

Jared and I looked at each other. "What the heck. I have a white plate. What the heck. Why do I have a white plate?" Beren demanded.

Jared smiled, "He didn't learn that from me."

"Why do I have a white plate?" Beren asked again. "Would you like my plate?" I asked showing him my pink plate. "Yes," he said. As I traded my plate for his, Beren said, "More noodles, I want more noodles."

Jared and I began to laugh and laugh and laugh until Beren began to smile and we could see orange tofu in his mouth.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Peas and corn


Mid-morning snack, today. Boiled peas and corn. Frozen vegetables are a great invention, especially for a parent who's just raised herself from a influenza-ridden sickbed to prepare food, nauseating food. Jared's out covering a garden club presentation I was supposed to do.

"Momma, your cooking is the best," Beren says as he scooped another heap of peas and corn onto his  spoon. 

"Why, thank you," I say. "When I was a girl, I thought my momma's cooking was the best, too."

Toothy, pea-y, corn-y smile. "Why?"

"That's just the way it is. Everybody thinks their momma's cooking is the best."

***

Now that dinner is approaching, I think I'm craving my Mom's spaghetti, meatballs, and sausage. How does she make it so good? I think I'm starting to feel a little better. Mom?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Time Transformation


"When will I be at the belt line?" Beren sometimes asks me. He stands at my side and looks up, the crown of his head reaching the top of my thigh.

Belt line. It must have been a phrase he learned from Jared, or maybe my parents.

"Soon, perhaps at the end of next summer," I tell him.

***

Today, he asked, "When will I be as big as you, Momma?"

"Mmm. When you're a teenager. Maybe ten, or probably more years from now," I said.

His face foreshadowed tears, and then they came. "But, I want to be me. I always want to be me!" he wept.

"You'll always be you, no matter how what size you are. You'll always be my Beren, and I'll always be your Momma. I'll always love you," I said. I was surprised.

"I always want to be me!" he said climbing into my arms and clinging to my neck.

"Oh, you're always you," I said again and again, trying to soothing him.

His bone-rending sweetness filled my heart as I gently rocked him. I wondered what I could have said.

***

Only now I realize I said he'd one day be a 'teenager'. Perhaps he supposed he'd no longer be 'Beren'. 

***

Jared and I filled up the drive to a friend's memorial service chatting. 

We arrived and I couldn't help the tears. "I'm such a wimp," I said. It's not so much that I meant that I was a wimp, but that I regretted how close my nerves run to the surface. "You're not a wimp," Jared said.

We spent two hours in the beautiful Quaker service, listening to stories and remembrances about our friend. It was desperately sad and incredibly inspiring. The room was filled.

Leaving the Friends Meeting House, the sunset was as fiery and sparkling as our friend's life. 

I felt I wasn't the same person as I was two hours before. Maybe sometimes we become someone else, even if for just a short while.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Global Burden: Why I'm Signing Off, in a Way


I occasionally write about things digital, "electronic", and "social" media. When I was a child, a youth, and into my very young adulthood, I had few interactions with things electronic and digital. Of course, I can and will gladly count our stereo (with a dial tuner and VU meter), television, my brother's video game system, and my precious Walkman.

I did not use a computer until I was 18 years old. I used typewriters to write high school papers. Excepting a typing class in middle school, in which we also played computer games, I had nearly twenty computer-free years.

Hardly a day goes by now that I don't use a computer. As best I can, I avoid using a computer excessively in front of my child. I started a Facebook account for our business, and I use my personal account to post about my blog and describe infrequent achievements of note or of little note. I check in on friends, and along with anywhere between 3 and 138 or more other friends, I 'like' my friends' frequent or infrequent achievements of note or of little note.

Of late, I've had the feeling of being stabbed electronically. Blessed with friends, electronic and real, who believe strongly in social and environmental justice, and possibly the sense that social media can profoundly change the world, my social media ticker tape feeds me deeply disturbing news.

A blip in geological time, I spent the last five hours reeling from a particularly upsetting news item. A trip to a succession of box stores, a long hug from my husband, building blocks with my son, and kitten play time did not lift the veil. Only a few sips of a flower essence laced glass of water stilled me.

Social media can and has changed the world, as well as individual lives for better and worse. Electronic intrusions and interruptions are constant. For me, there's a push and pull. Did anyone 'like' my blog writing? What about my latest post about my business? And, then the phone rings and I'm startled. Silence that pesky thing. Back to the computer. Any emails from someone other than L.L. Bean's marketing department? Alas, one 'like', a junk text message, and 10% off on glum windbreakers.  

Then, from across the world a wrenching image and accompanying a dire news item comes. my experience likely differs from those with televisions and newspapers. I don't have either, and so news media grips me. While I listen to the radio and am moved by some of the stories I hear, somehow a visual image sinks the electronic knife deeper.

Global local news is infrequently good news. It is unsettlingly awful and monstrous. It affects me personally and global politics affect me in ways I can hardly understand.

Tiny me is a small player on the global stage with my shopping cart full of organic items. Really? It often seems the weather (and I mean weather, not climate) affects me more than even 'local' news. Hearing about global social injustice via the internet has taken my head away at times, and I think I'm going to sit on my couch with my husband, son, and kitten for a little while and just be. Trust me, it will be just a little while because none of us sit still for long.

So, my dear family and friends, you'll see me on social media, but I'm not receiving anyone else's ticker tape for now. You will have one less 'like'. Be assured, I still do like you. I like you and pictures of you, your children, your activities, and your frequent and infrequent achievements of note and of little note. I do. I've been charmed and inspired, cheered and honored.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jeannine



One of my herbal teachers recently departed this world. I was touched by the day I spent with her and Jared, tasting and making. 

"Here are some flax seeds. Chew. Are you getting the slippery feeling in your mouth?" Not me, but Jared did. "Rosemary. Taste some. Is it warming or cooling?" Cooling, I thought. Warming, Jared said. He was right. We sampled Damiana tincture, which has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. It was possibly the only thing I got the "right" sensation from. It was a little unusual, but if I were to get anything "right", why not the carnal? 

We inhaled a crock of Rosemary infusing in olive oil. Delicious. We perused Susun Weed books shelved beneath a flowering parsley plant. "I love parsley," she said. We stared into mason jars of macerating echinacea.

A generous spirit, Jeannine taught the class even though only Jared and I signed up. Maybe because she knew us, maybe because she knew our path, possibly before we even did. She'd turn out to our first guide among the healing plants.

Thank you, Jeannine. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dial 2-1

View of parents from 39 1/2"

Today, we went to Yonkers to look through Jared's grandmother's belongings. It was a little sad, but the the busy nature of the day carried me through.

As Jared's sisters sorted through items, I thought of myself, years passed, sorting through my own grandmothers' things. At the time, I felt as though I wanted to take many things. Some clothing I left in plastic so I could smell my maternal grandmother's perfume. My paternal grandmother's scent I was less  able to capture. She was a smoker, but it's not cigarettes that remind me of Grandma. Good Polish food on the boil does. I can smell it now.

We decided to not talk about death with Beren. He hadn't seen Nana in a long while.

He has some ideas. He watched a car kill a chipmunk this summer. He's smacked bugs and said, "I deaded it." He has not yet made the connection between delicious chicken and feathered, pecking chickens who lay eggs.

Well, this writing was interrupted by stomping footsteps and banging at the door by a not yet sleepy four-year-old. I was hoping for an earlier bedtime, but I did learn two important things that I will share with you: "Dial 2-1 to make bad dreams go away. 2-5-9 brings good dreams," so says one sleepy four-year-old.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Back to the rhythm


Driving around, I've noticed that outdoor Christmas lights have lost their shine, though they still drain the same wattage. Perhaps the anticipation is gone. We still have our tree up, and I'll let that Fraser fir go until the needles begin dropping like a winter coat in April. Our menorahs are gathering dust, but I'm not ready to put them away either. Anything that means light is welcome during these cold days.

In the days before Hanukah Jared came down with a bad cold that lingered through new year's and then morphed into sinusitis. He laid on the couch like in a way he hasn't in years. I barely held the house together, motivating us from family function to family function.

Moving from place to place with lots of desserts and presents made for a wild month. "I didn't get enough presents!" Beren exclaimed one evening. I searched for celebratory holiday things to do. Most things had a shopping element or involved standing in the rain or possibly parallel parking our huge truck with a four year old strapped in the back. I gave up. Keeping our basic rhythms seemed more practical than teaching some likely abstract meaning of not just one, but two holidays.

Then, Jared's grandmother died on Christmas day.

Beren dove into a bad case of the croup as soon as Jared recovered. He coughed and wheezed. I bundled him in blankets and stood on the porch with the December rain all around us. In the moist, cool air the cough abated. I opened the door to our warm, dry house and back came the cough. We canceled a few engagements.

The day Beren started getting sick, we brought home a kitten. The kitten was contentious. It knocked down Beren's blocks. It scratched, "No!" either Jared or I would say. We coached Beren on how to hold a kitten - a kitten is very different than the calm, cool adult cats that Beren has adored. Beren found it all infuriating, disruptive and disturbing. So did his parents. It's taken about 10 days, but we're all getting used to each other.

So, let the light shine longer just a little longer as we get back to our rhythms.