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Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

Love you well deserve

 

“You both
have so much energy,”
a mom told my husband
as she watched him and me
play with our boys
at the playground
a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, well,
we have fun,”
he replied.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

“It really looks
like you’re having fun
with your kids!” a cashier
told me and my husband
a few days later.
“It’s sweet.”

(“It just comes naturally
to my husband,” I should’ve said,
but didn’t.)

“My mom really
had fun with me
and my siblings,”
I said, smiling.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

Last week,
someone told
my husband that
our seven-year-old
is just the sweetest.

“He said, ‘You can tell which
kids are so, so very loved,’
my husband relayed. Read more…

A sitcom jersey & memory lane

On Wednesday evening, I caught the flu my two-year-old had just ditched. I stayed home Thursday, but was determined to make it to the office on Friday. Why was I so determined? First off, my cube is quiet and tidy, unlike my home. I cherish my time there.

Second, a beloved teammate was in from another office this week. I so seldom get to see him, I wasn’t about to let a little thing like “recuperating” keep me from the office.

Finally, it was a rare jersey day. With the Super Bowl just a couple of days away, I could wear a jersey and sneakers to the office! How could I sit that out?

My husband, Anthony, loves hockey and owns at least a dozen jerseys. At first, I put on one from his alma mater. It more or less matched my comfy toe shoes, which was this sports-ambivalent person’s main criteria for choosing a jersey.

Seeing myself in it, unfortunately, I could easily imagine a dozen conversations explaining that, no, I didn’t actually go there. (Been there, done that. It’s no fun for an introvert, even one in peak health!)

Anthony brought out one from a bin under our bed. Unlike the first, this one, a gift from his third season on a show for which he worked five years, had shared meaning. I’d worked on the show as an extra once, when my husband and I were newly dating. My heart fluttered when I caught a glimpse of him from the bleachers, and again when he swung by to say hello. Read more…

Please keep smiling

For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.

Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.

Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.

(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)

After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.

“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.

I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied. 

I committed to doing so.

A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.

I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too. 

When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”

(I vow now not to let it.)

“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”

Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.

“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.

Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.

What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.

I meant it,

and I will.


We Grew Up in Violence

My happy scarers

My two-year-old hides behind his hands, then throws his arms out wide while shouting, “Boo!”

I shriek as if startled, which makes him scream in delight before devolving into giggle-fits.

We repeat this over and over. Sometimes, we’ll do it a hundred times in one sitting.

My seven-year-old recently asked, exasperated, why I pretend to be afraid.

I replied, already wistful, “Your brother will understand soon enough that he’s not actually scaring me. So while he still believes it, I’ll keep on shrieking. I’ll keep on cherishing the sweet sound of him laughing, knowing he’ll soon enough be on to other joys.”

“Oh. Will you scream if I do it, too?”

“Sure, if your brother’s around.”

So he tried, too, and I shouted in mock horror.

Now, for at least a little while, both my little boys take turns scaring me, and I’m happy.

Everything falls away

Today I got a blood-chilling text message. For privacy reasons, I can’t get into its details. 

What I can say is that, in the moment of seeing such a message, everything superfluous falls away inside. Even if the outside world demands interaction, that’s all done on auto-pilot. 

Heart, mind, soul, all turn toward what’s most important: each other.
All’s well, happily, but I have a favor to ask of you. Please call or text someone you love right now just to let them know how much you love them. I’d be so grateful.

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