When my mom
met my now-husband
four months before she died,
she told me I had to
“marry that sweet man”
I resisted, of course;
marriage sucked, and
my mom still didn’t know
Except, years later,
I understand she knew
much more than I
know, even now
As Anthony left
the house earlier,
that I was lucky to marry
such a man as him
“Not to be smug,” he added,
with a laugh
“Yes, I am,”
I replied earnestly,
“And I told your mom
she raised a good man,
(And then he
and that was
watched me grapple with
centuries of painful truths
in a couple
He’s supported me
even when he doesn’t
agree with my conclusions,
and encouraged me doing
what I must to
He has been
I don’t know if
I will blog here again,
but I want you to know,
if you take nothing else
from having joined me here,
that the best thing I did
my whole life
Many years ago, I bought a box of antique fans at an estate sale. My mom gave me the dime being asked for them.
Before I found the box of fans, I’d complained about being dragged along to sales with my mom. After I found the fans, I felt decidedly more pro-sale.
My older son, Li’l D, discovered the fans a couple of years ago. At least once a month, he’s asked to look at the fans. I even gave him one of his own, and promised him the fans if he still wants them when he’s much, much older.
My husband, Anthony, has witnessed these exchanges. He’s seen the little cardboard box that’s housed the fans for decades and, it seems, decided a better home was deserved. He made that home himself.
For years, I felt my mom when I took out the old box and thought of the gifted dime that bought its contents. Then I felt my mom and my oldest son while sifting. Now, another layer of connection has been added. Anthony is part of the experience of these fans, too.
Someday, Li’l D will pull a small green box off a shelf. When he does, he’ll remember a little of my mom, and a lot of me. And he’ll think of his daddy, too, and how Daddy once sat down to make a fan box in Mommy’s favorite color.
Out behind their grandmas’ house, my two little boys rocked back and forth on a two-person swing. I smiled as I walked nearer; they’re really growing into friends.
“Don’t take a picture!” commanded my seven-year-old, Li’l D.
“I wasn’t going to,” I said. “I’m trying to take more pictures with my heart these days.”
“That’s good,” Li’l D replied. “Sometimes kids just want their privacy.”
“I hear you,” I said. I do. From now on, I’ll only post about Li’l D with his permission, save perhaps in rare cases where his part in a vignette is peripheral.
Minutes later, I climbed into my car for a rare date with my husband. As I did, my mind was on those two boys swinging in the backyard.
Little by little, they’re getting bigger. Sometimes it aches to see how quickly they’re growing. Times like yesterday, though, my heart simply swells that I get to see them grow into their vocabularies, opinions, and friendship … no pictures required.
A few months ago, my family happened across a used bookstore that was going out of business. The store’s lovely, kid-friendly owners couldn’t afford the rent, which had just been jacked up something like 50%.
My husband, sons, and I bought a couple of boxes full of books that day. Before we left, my husband signed up for the owners’ school book fair mailing list. It’s a good thing he did, too!
A few days ago, he got a great email about the bookstore. First, there’d been such an outpouring of love for Camelot Books, its owners had decided to open up shop somewhere else a few months down the road. The store wouldn’t be closing down for good. Woo-hoo!
Second, there wouldn’t be enough space to store their inventory in the meantime. With thousands of books still left, the real sale had begun!
My family and I returned to the store yesterday, eventually leaving with one enormous box of books for only about fifty dollars. We left, too, with memories of another hour spent surrounded by books, love, and each other … and the elation of knowing this bookstore will continue, and with it a joy that has little to do with physical location.
“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.
“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”
“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.
“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.
“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”
Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”
I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.
One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.
Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.
I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.
My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”
I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.
(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)
Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!
As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.
(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)
And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.
Most people don’t have that.
That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.
Most people have never even had one-third of that. Read more…
I wrote about priorities last week; specifically, I wrote about embracing the idea that many things aren’t priorities for me. Very few things are.
Since then, I’ve quietly considered my priorities. “Being online” isn’t one of them. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be online. Rather, it means I have to be conscientious about the time I do spend online. I figure I have about 30 minutes a day before its opportunity costs–what I’ve sacrificed in my offline life to be online–outweigh its benefits.
Does this sound restrictive? It feels very much the opposite: freeing! Putting a boundary around my online time gives me the peace of mind to really settle into the physical world. For six months or so, I forgot how to do that. My whole world was reading (and writing) politics online almost incessantly, the better to understand heartbreaking, systemic political truths I’d never seen while simply skating over the surface of politics.
Sustaining relentless online time meant sacrificing time for things in the physical world that sustain my soul. This includes playing with my kids, snuggling and talking with my husband, walking, running, reading books for the pleasure of it, washing dishes, folding laundry, pausing to murmur a prayer of thanks, being fully in my rockin’ work, singing to musicals as I commute, picking up fistfuls of dirt and watching as it drifts through my fingers back to Earth, and sitting down face-to-face with friends.
I can’t spend too much more time writing about this. I’ve already used a good chunk of my time online today writing here, which is silly since this is all preface for a 7-minute video I recorded yesterday!
Day by day, I’m prioritizing better … and, as I think you’ll see if you watch the video below, it feels great.