It’s been a long day without you, my friend

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.*

The longer I’m away from anything, the harder it is to make my way back. That book on the nightstand—I put it down one night and didn’t have the nerve to crack it open the next—becomes a member of the DNF list.

Did Not Finish.

Since I’ve been gone, Coco started high school. Cherry is on the endless mailing list of college recruiters. And Bacon underwent dozens of medical tests that promised scary outcomes, but proved nothing. I’ve become a middle-aged, female  Atlas, holding our world over my head while screeching, “Don’t eat that. Eat this. Put down your phone. Finish your homework.”

My arms hurt.

My mother always told me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I shouldn’t blame my absence on Mom. I’ve been occupied. And whiny.

I hate whiners.

My girl Hillary lost the election. Today’s news brings it home. She was robbed. We were robbed.

Whining.

I kicked my next door neighbor out of my house last October. She said he wasn’t a racist. I reminded her, “My children aren’t white.” She said he doesn’t believe what he’s been saying. With my hand on the doorknob, I told her, “If it walks like a duck, if it talks like a duck, it’s a duck.” I shut the door behind her.

I’m a red state snowflake.

We made nice over Christmas. I wish I’d served duck soup.

*Wiz Khalifa

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Children-Day 14

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

 Kahlil Gibran

Early on, my kids asserted that they weren’t me. And they weren’t each other. And though no one in my family was biologically related, we all shared the common gene for individuality. We’d defy anyone, who wanted to box and label us. So when a woman asked me last week, “Can you give me a hint how to tell your girls apart?” I started to foam at the mouth.

Then I thought better.

“Coco has dimples.”

“Oh.” She nodded her bobble head.

Save it for the page, I thought.

Not Up To a Point

Cherry and Coco

On a dog day last summer, I hung by the pool chatting with another mom. Her child was going into fifth grade, the final year of elementary. My oldest was headed to secondary.

She asked, “What do you think of our neighborhood middle school?”

“Does anybody ever want to send their kid to sixth grade?”

My quip gave her an opening. She confided that one of my daughter’s classmates would be headed across town to a school with a more desirable student body.

“Why?”

“She thinks it’s full of gangs and drugs.” And fewer white kids.

“I love our neighborhood. It’s diverse.”

“Yes. Diversity is good. Up to a point. I’ll be interested to hear how you feel about it later.”

Through the wavy heat, I watched Cherry bounce a perfect dive off the board. Her golden skin glistening before she disappeared into the water. I turned back to the mom, still debating the merits of School A over School B. Racism disguised as polite conversation. Had my daughter faded in the sun? Did she assume that since I was white, I wouldn’t take offense? Didn’t my Chinese children count? I stared into the deep end of the pool waiting for Cherry to surface. She did. And I said nothing.

Six months later, I picked up my youngest from elementary school. She climbed into the mini van, head low. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Coco, I know you’re upset.”

“Those boys.” The same three that had taunted her all year. “They made fun of me. And T__ did the eye thing.”

I walked around to her side and opened the door. “Get out of the car.”

“What are you going to do?”

“You’re going to tell your teacher.” Ten minutes later, Coco was healed, simply by standing up for herself.

The next day, her teacher assembled a line-up of fourth and fifth graders, all of Asian descent except for one. She said to the boy, “When you put down one person for who they are, you’re making fun of everyone. Now, you have to apologize to the whole group.”

It was a tough moment, but he wasn’t likely to be a repeat offender. I wish I’d said the same thing to that mom. Diversity is good, always. Not up to a point.