Today is the International Day of the Girl Child.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
I'm at Mamalode today. My essay When I was a Grown Up is being featured today along with the work of some truly fabulous writers for this month's theme: VENT Click here to read the essay. Please feel free to re-post and share the piece from Mamalode's website. And definitely check out these wonderful Mamalode writers:
“The more opportunities we have, the more likely we are to be able to handle the unexpected.”
-Gever Tulley, Beware, Dangerism!
On a recent walk through the woods at Emery Park in South Wales, NY, we came upon a clearing encircled by evergreens. A zombie playground punctuated the mowed grass. 'Can I sit on the swings?' Violet asked- not one to ever pass up a seat on a swing set- even if the seat grazed the ground. We assessed the rusted chains, the sharp peeling (probably lead based) paint, the steep dip of the top bar- no longer joined with its support beams- the split seat. 'Sure. Go ahead.'
I typically tend to hold my breath while she plays with abandon on the playground- counting down the minutes until I've given her a fair amount of time and I can scoop her up and leave. The swing set reminded me of Gever Tulley's book 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do). While it wasn't quite up there with Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track, Make a Bomb in a Bag or Lick a 9 Volt Battery, it was an opportunity to allow her to experience a sense of danger without completely throwing her in harm's way. Explore the unusual sensation of the rickety, unstable counter pull of the metal posts lifting off the ground as she tried to propel herself forward. Listen to the eerie un-dead groan of the chains as she reanimated them with her tiny weight while above our heads a hawk circled the metal carrion. Wrap her hands around the corroded place where hundreds of children- for decades before her- positioned their hands.
Those children probably grew up in an age when letting go was not tied to reservations about safety. It was the expectation. Go outside! Explore! Dare to play! Children are certainly better for it- for each chance to move, climb, experiment, search, navigate, get dirty, find themselves knee deep in creeks, color the sidewalk, deconstruct and reconstruct things, building a store of experiences to help them handle the unexpected.
On that note, we are off to lick some 9 Volt Batteries.
Friday, September 20, 2013
The surface of the shelves in Princess Commando’s room are a three dimensional collage of her fascinations, mementos, and imagination. A whimsical timeline of her life- Pokemon figurines from 4th grade, the beach glass she held in her four year old hands, a rubber bracelet her older brother gave her to support some relief effort somewhere in the world, a fancy tin box with the words ‘Random Crap’ painted in vintage letters, birthday cards and special messages from her teachers, little creatures roughly sewn with her nimble fingers.
How much of myself am I allowed to be? It’s been the question of middle school. That potholed road lurching the wagon and jostling resolve. I tell her that as long as she keeps letting the goodness of her heart seep into the world, she should always to be true to herself. But being true is sometimes discomforting. Sometimes it causes an unwelcoming glance or builds cardboard walls between her and those who are fickle to her friendship.
Being true and longing to belong becomes a tricky balance. As she is maturing, she is beginning to understand that she does not need to sacrifice her beliefs and amusements for others approval. But, she chooses to stow them safely away instead of advertising them like badges on a backpack. The shelves are the altar she kneels before to remember former comforts and certainties.
I was dusting her room one day-gingerly trying not to disrupt the order of things. But as I maneuvered my dust cloth into the tight spaces between the objects my clumsy fingers rattled the shelf and like dominoes the figures and trinkets tumbled. One little box and its contents spilled onto the table below. There were four baby teeth scattered between the lid and the box. And piece of paper folded a hundred times so that it was no bigger than a tooth. I carefully uncreased the paper. In her tight and tidy hand writing it said, ‘Long live the Tooth Fairy.’
It’s been two years since her faith in the Tooth Fairy dissolved. It was a milestone in her life- the first which marked a transition from childhood to preadolescence-an agonizing awakening. Seeing those baby teeth- the ones that fell out after a new truth was told- made me want to tuck $5 into the box just for her effort to remain reverent to the parts of herself that once were. I tenderly scooped up the little pearls and put them back in the box along with the piece of paper, fastened the lid and placed it back on the shelf. Even though so much has changed for her in flash of time, as long as that box remains up there, the Tooth Fairy lives.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Sucked away with a chill
Away with the ringing of bells
Away with the saddles on their backs
Away with hooded sweatshirts and pants
Away with the clumsy morning dance
Away with the zombie trance
Away with morning car ride sun glare
Away with new class schedules tripped up with error
Away with the singular noise of a snoring dog
Away with the coffee that cleared the fog
Away with the exhalation that escapes my lungs
Away with the pinch in my heart, a song unsung
Away with the anticipation of the groan of the afternoon bus
Away with the small thrill of the reuniting of us
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
My essay, The Truth Is, is featured Mamalode today, along with the work of some really fabulous writers. Click here to visit me over there.
We can’t return
We can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game. – Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game
No matter where we are going, no matter the length of our travels, my passenger’s side rear view mirror contains the image of my girl’s scrunched face trying to prick my attention to solicit a beam in reply. If it’s warm, she rolls down the window and leans her chin out like a puppy lapping up the breeze, hair flying wild. Childhood in a snapshot. It’s swiftly getting left behind in the rear view mirror. With Princess Commando entering 6th grade, Henry beginning his freshman year of high school, First Born Son closing out his high school stay in senior year, and a three year old who overnight has grown legs and lost her baby face, I have been gazing into that slip of glass more frequently lately. Lingering in sweet comforts of the way we were- moving forward with butterflies in my stomach.
I took Princess Commando to visit her former school which houses grades Pre-K- 4. The building recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. She marveled at the new wing with its floor-to-ceiling windows, a dedicated Art room (instead of Art on a Cart), a full sized gymnasium. She was amused by the cosmetic upgrades and the arrangement of the classrooms. She ran her fingers over her former locker number. Her shoulders sank.
“I wish I could go back.” It was so much simpler then.
We walked down the same hallway we traveled on the first morning of kindergarten 7 years ago. It was only yesterday that I twisted her honey highlighted hair into two jaunty ponytails on the top of her head, helped her pull on her colorful tights and slip on her suede moccasins. The corridor is brighter now and at the end of it, there is a wall papered in a life sized black and white picture of a tree-lined promenade-a blown up photograph of a parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the school’s namesake. The lane unfurled through time and space. I stood before it focusing on the point where the perspective narrows. The future and past locked hands in a bittersweet waltz. Zephyrs of hope and longing spilled off the print. My 11 year old standing on my right and her 5 year old essence on my left.
No matter where we are going, no matter the length of our travels, no matter the physical or emotional distance between us, I will seek their faces- eyes wide with wonder, hungry to learn, yearning to become the people they are today- in that slip of glass.
First Born Son on his first day of Pre-K, 14 years ago. It seems like 100 years ago. It seems like yesterday.