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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Boo Houses


Boo Houses rise up during Halloween night to my delight.

The state fair came to town each year but for the life of me, I cannot remember what was there when it wasn’t

 

Hatching Praying Mantises

Baton practice and softball games

Cracking pecans and snapping beans

The Voices of Joy and fishing with Daddy

 

Rings around a real mulberry bush

Selling watermelons-10 cents each on hot Virginia days

Greyhound trips to Florida with Nanie and the church ladies who always had hard candy

Running full speed to Grandpa’s big chair

 

Canoes, bloodworms and fishing lines

Riding bikes with closed eyes and outstretched hands

Long rows of collards, corn and watermelons

Mini-bikes in fourth gear through fields and ducking under clothes lines

 

Feather fletching and bow nocks

Holding Pippi Longstocking tight in the library

Jaws at the drive-in movies and hitchhikers on pants’ legs

Field days with three-legged races

and of course,

Boo Houses

 

written Oct 2000

 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Good and Perfect Life


Waiting to leave everything she knew for the second time, an 11-year-old sat on a tiny plane at Logan Airport and cried on her mother’s shoulder. “Why did you have to leave Boston, Mom? “, she said softly in between sobs. “We had a perfect life. We had a good life”, she pleaded as she looked at me through the tears.

How can you convince an 11-year-old that you weren’t really happy-deep down inside. How do you convince yourself? At what point do you become selfish in the quest to be happy? What is happiness anyway?

True. Our life in Boston was good. In the 11 years of her life, she lived in the same white house on a dead-end street with lots and lots of kids to play with.  She walked to school, past the pond, then biked to school, when she got older and was able to ride in a little caravan with friends. She had a trampoline in the back yard, an excellent hill for sledding on the street and went to a neighbor’s house for popsicles and swimming We picked up a small cheese pizza from Tino each week and she shared her report card with him and made crosses for him for Easter. She was the life of the school dances and the soccer field. She had close friends from different cultural groups and they spent time swapping stories that would make any person smile and hope that they stay friends for life.

True. Our life in Boston was good. In the 11 years of her life, I lived in the same white house on a dead-end street for which I happily worked two jobs to keep up along with single-handedly fixing the toilet, trimming branches, cutting grass and monitoring the actions of the sump pump. When I walked her to school, I had to jog or speed-walk back home only to have to rush to work only to inevitably arrive late and have to bear the burden of finding a seat at the huge table when all I wanted to do was pee and wipe the sweat from under my bra. I lived on a street with white, 2 parent families who huddled in groups swapping stories about home remodeling, rarely including me and always forgetting to tell me when the neighborhood kids were walking to school; setting me up for the mad dash at 7:15 to get her backpack and lunch ready so that she could be a part of the neighborhood contingent for Walk to School Wednesdays. I had a big back yard, with trampoline and swing set which often meant that I had to choose between doing something important inside (cooking, cleaning, writing) and supervising children. Happily, I usually chose to hang outside with the kids while I tended my garden or played with the dog, Bella. I was the coach and she was the soccer player.I pursued interests and hobbies with gusto. I laughed a lot. Smiled easily. Looking down on her in that tiny plane I thought,  “Yes, we did have a good life. I was happy.”

But I was unfulfilled. So maybe, I wasn’t happy? Does everyone get to be happy or is that just a cute thing to say: “I’m happy” and was there enough happiness to leave our good and perfect life for something that is at this point is not as good or perfect.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in parenting

 

What is trapped inside of memories?


I am frustrated by the fact that memories of my childhood largely escape me. I only have access to only a few scraps that I replay over and over in my mind. Other memories, are the byproduct of second-hand stories told during holidays to explain a photo saved in an old book; ‘remember the Christmas when you got the Easy-bake Oven’? Hmmm, vaguely, “Did I like it?”

My childhood was tricky for lots of reasons-more than I care to share on a public space. I have often thought about the connection of my lack of memory to my own highly developed (?) internal coping mechanism and how this coping mechanism has played out in my relationships, especially with men and my mother.

In the times when I fixate on my childhood to explain some adult crisis in my life, it is not uncommon for me to ask one of the only three friends that somehow know all the memories that I have forgotten: ” Where did I live when I was 14 again and why was that significant” or “Why do I react a certain way to a certain thing?” or more mundane questions such as, “How did I get this discoloration on my thumb?” or “what was the name of the teacher that I loved so much, you know- the one who called me blue bird?”

My own memories-the ones that I own first-hand, are more like Polaroid pictures. I can get access to one image at a time from a shiny pack which only holds a finite number of images. I often spread them out, touch a few of them with an inward eye and with a furrowed brow, try to make connections with other people’s’ memories of me. One of these memories (a feeling really) is of being helplessly trapped in bathroom door at nursery School. No one seems to remember the door. Was there ever a door? Was I ever trapped?

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in life freestyle, Uncategorized

 

The Forever Scar


(by Danielle)

In 2008, I was at my neighbors birthday party. I was having so much fun until I cut my knee on a brick but I’ll start from the beginning.

First, I woke up and saw that my room was covered in sunlight and the joyous sound of birds chirping and flowers blooming. After I soaked in the happiness; I got dressed, ran downstairs to get an orange and then I went outside to play. I saw some friends so I went to join them. As I was playing, I saw my next door neighbors so I went to talk to them. They said that they were having a party so I went to their party. As I was playing on the swings, I was also playing tag. I got tagged and started to chase the opponents. Suddenly, I tripped on a stick and fell on a brick. As the blood started oozing down my leg, I started limping to the swing which was a mere 5 feet away but for me, it felt like 50 feet. The task was a great ordeal for me to accomplish but I did. While I was sitting on the swing set, I didn’t cry because the agonizing pain was too much for my 8-year-old body to bear. I sat on the swing set with blood dripping down my shin like I had just been shot. My friend saw my leg and told my neighbor. My neighbor brought me home to my awaiting mom so she could ‘patch me up’. Luckily, I didn’t need any stitches or casts but to this day, the scar still haunts me of the nightmare that was.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Reflections on School


25 years after being put on a plane with a casual, ‘“please watch out for my daughter” to a total stranger in the security line, I find myself back home among family. 

Although my life had been a series of strategic maneuverings between parents, broken promises on the softball field and adult experiences that no kid should have, high school found me as a naïve 15-year-old with two long ponytails left over from middle school years. In the threshold of high school I learned how to think and realized the power of my intellect and independence. It was in the house-turned school that I learned how to learn.  I excelled in debates during spirited school ‘family’ meetings in the dining room of the house. I took walks to classes with teachers to the public library as we discussed math problems and stuffed more people than was allowed into my VW beetle as we navigated to  tai chi class at the local community center to regroup and center oneself.

High school took me in, gave me a community and pushed me out onto the steps of a top-tier university alone in New York City. I was three hundred miles away from myself; loafers held to the sidewalk by a steamer trunk and the last smile from the airport stranger. On the corner of 116th street and Broadway, I instantly felt small and unworthy-a feeling that I didn’t ever really shake. It didn’t matter that I figured out how to move my belongings across campus ten steps at a time. It didn’t matter that I met a friend for life that first day. It didn’t matter that the hopes and dreams of my family were etched in the iron gates of the university. I did not belong. Someone had made a mistake.

For four years, I crisscrossed the campus looking at the names on the library façade, Voltaire, Goethe, Sophocles, Dante-how many steps to the top as I repeated the names over and over in my mind. Feeling unworthy to have them as friends. Unworthy to understand their timeless message.

I was in a birdcage looking out. I was watching someone else’s life unfold. Yet, I found my way around the places where the water pools on the cobblestones, around stone statues and blue-eyed portraits always carrying my student identification, if I had to prove something to someone…just in case I had to prove something to myself.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in life freestyle

 

Independence


How does a fiercely independent daughter support a fiercely independent father who has temporarily lost some of his independence? Yes, I know- the textbook answer and maybe even the answer in the Bible is to be selfless and accommodating.  Yes, put his needs above your own. Yes, yes, I know and I agree.

Yet, this man has spent his whole life working in tandem with my mother (even though they don’t even like each other half of the time) to nurture me to be an independent person- to be able to exist on my own-to move a couch to learn how to fix a toilet to be able to get from point A to point B. My independence has allowed me not to need, per se, the company of others when most people do. It’s part of who I am.

Yet, I am also a daughter who needs to care for her father. The service of help is not an easy load to bear (I know…tough cookies) He is doing everything the doctors and nurses ask of him and even what I ask of him-c’mon daddy, let’s walk up the street or don’t forget to take your temperature or eat this dinner. He is complying but deep down I know that he is fighting an inner anxiety to do all of this himself coupled with a resignation to let me take care of some of the logistics. He asks almost as if complying, “Hollee, do the waffles have too many carbs?”, “can I eat 3 turkey sausage or do I have to eat just 2”, “when do you think the swelling will go down”, “can you get me a video of the surgery” , “how far do I have to walk”.  I respond.

He sits in the back seat as I take him on outings all over town but I know that he is wistful about being the navigator and not the driver. I see the new-found complacency on his face and ask a question to which I already know the answer, “Is there anywhere you want to go?”. He replies, “nope”. But I know that if he could, he’d be somewhere else. He’d be independent.

I’ve surprisingly fallen into the care giver role with relative ease after chastising myself to ‘get it together’. I have added humor to the medicine counting  and actually saw him laugh and smile yesterday for the first time in a long time as I took away his walking stick and said, “stop playing like you can’t walk” and “oh, I bet you’re too weak to throw your tray away too, right?”. I think he tries to sneak back in the bed, just so I can catch him and so he can take a crisp deep breath to let me know that he got caught.

Yet, as I settle into this role for at least another 4 + weeks (he’s counting down the weeks until the doctor could give him the green light’ (hopefully, it’s not to use the chain saw), I am also struggling with my own loss of independence. I don’t want his routine to be my routine by default. I want to decide what to do with my time without the minute emotional backlash from not being right here (just in case).

In a simple world I would not think about this dilemma. I would wait for my later reward in heaven. I would acquiesce . Be the selfless daughter. Put my own needs aside.

But in my complex understanding  and full-bodied experience of caring for a parent, I have to wonder– How do I maintain my independence while supporting him to get his emotional, social, and physical independence back at the same time? How do I prevent him from losing himself due to fear of a setback? How do I nurture and push away simultaneously as I do with my 11-year-old daughter?

Interdependency is how we get through life but so is our ability to be independent and have a fighting spirit. He has the fighting spirit and shown by his progress. Now it’s just a matter of getting the confidence to catch up. 11-year-old Danielle said today to her grandpa, out of the blue, ” I am learning so much about you grandpa. I always knew that you were independent but I didn’t know you were THAT independent. You just had heart surgery and your attitude is -I got this”. I almost cried at the profound nature of this statement and so did he.

Enid Lee, a noted anti racist educator, would say that you have to experience something different to believe that it is possible. This is as much as message for him, as it is for me.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in daughter-ing

 

How would you live in 92 years


Aunt Flossie was one of the most beautiful women around; fiercely independent and ‘mean as a snake’ (in a good way). She was the kind of woman who dressed up, put on red lipstick, a fur coat (yes, fur coat) and just lived life to the fullest. Lots of laughter and fun. I think I saw her drinking hypnotic last year at Thanksgiving. Yep, it was her. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in life freestyle, Uncategorized