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…
When I left Japan more than a decade ago, it felt natural standing in front of any classroom. Not so today!
Today I read Dr. Seuss books to a classroom of second graders. 20 sets of second grade eyes turned toward me so that I fretted, “Was volunteering really such a good idea?!”
I quickly found my groove. I read two books, eliciting laughter when I used funny voices, before exiting to a chorus of thank-yous. “I liked that book!” shouted one boy as I stepped back into the hallway and toward the rest of my day.
I grinned my whole way back to the car. Comfortable or not, natural or not, I was briefly able to combine two of my favorite things: books and kids. No matter which way I look at it, that made my morning a win!
Saturday, 11:45 a.m.
As we inched toward Hollywood in traffic, I asked my husband, “Do you have a snack in your car? I need to eat something.” He knows my blood sugar’s been giving me grief recently.
“Don’t you have that apple?” he asked.
“You’re right!” I smiled as I reached into my purse for that green apple.
Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
My husband and I were on our way to our first date in months. We’d almost made it out the door when our seven-year-old, Li’l D, asked me, “Aren’t you going to take the apple with you?” He’d set a green apple in front of me a few minutes earlier.
“I don’t need an apple, sweetie,” I said. “But thank you!”
He looked so crestfallen, I put the apple in my purse. For show.
Saturday, 7 p.m.
My littlest one, Littler J, babbled with overtired zeal as we loaded him into our car. Li’l D was quieter in his sleepiness as he climbed into his car seat.
“Hey. You know what?” I told him. “I ended up needing that apple!”
“Told you!” he cheered. To himself, he murmured, “I helped.” His chest puffed out for a moment, leading my heart to swell in return.
“You sure did,” I said, smiling. “You sure did.”
My little boys love racing each other down a ramp near our house. Yesterday, much to my two-year-old’s chagrin, my seven-year-old, Li’l D, only wanted to run down twice.
“Could you please run down one more time with him?” I asked D. D, seizing the opportunity, said he’d run down it one more time … if I said I was obnoxious.
I weighed his proposal for a moment before mumbling, “I’m obnoxious.”
“What? I couldn’t hear you,” he teased.
“I’m obnoxious!” I said, much louder.
He grinned before racing down the ramp with Littler J.
“Again?!” D asked.
“I’m obnoxious,” I replied.
Both my boys laughed as they raced down the ramp one more time, and I? I laughed, too.