War and Peace

I can barely open the door before it throws itself in my face, rattling against its frame. I rein in my voice like I’m working a pulley, and talk to the door.

“I said hurry and eat, brush, and go to bed. I’m leaving the house.” I can’t help flipping the pitch at the tail: “You happy?!” Sharon Olds can keep me company over fish tacos. I make a note to grab my beloved copy, as my head makes it into his room on the last try.

He releases his weight on the other side and flops on the bed. “You wanna leave? FINE!”

“I’ve done nothing wrong. I just pointed out that you need to be more responsible when I’m not here. You can’t not eat all evening and then stuff your head in the fridge just before bed. You don’t want indigestion again. But you need¬†something to be able to sleep now.”

The words walk out of his mouth almost staccato, measured. The boy who still feeds and cuddles with his stuffed tiger cub suddenly sounds sixteen. “Mom, I didn’t have an appetite. I don’t need to eat now. It’s no big deal.”

“Do you know why I’m going?” The words are rocks, breaking apart. The tears burn. “I’m leaving because you hate me. I love you and you don’t want to be near me and I don’t want you to go to bed hungry.” Anger, love. They are one and the same passion. I storm down the stairs and he is above me, hands on the banister.

“I don’t hate you!” he yells.

“Of course you do. Your actions say you do. You said I make you sick.”

Somebody come collect the boy’s jaw off the floor. His brows furrow, furious with indignation. “I never said that!”

“Yes, you did. And you blame me for everything.” For the backpack that throws up its contents on the floor, for the headphones you can’t find. For being your mother. “I’m going,” I turn, desperate for tissue, and he calls out, “Wait…I have to give you something.” He disappears into his room and as I blow my nose in the kitchen, I feel something hard being closed into my free hand. A ruby out of his treasure box, plastic and pretty the way it gleams, his most prized keepsake. It looks like the rock candy I licked down to a mound at his age. Something to remember him by.

He thought I was leaving for the long haul.

He’s gone upstairs. And my stomach is arguing and turning. It won’t survive a wait for tacos, so I scout the fridge when I realize he’s back, pausing behind me a moment like a long comma. He drops a piece of paper to the floor and finally goes to bed.

My eyes are sore and tender as the tears swell. Isn’t this the home we seek of our journey? We roll the dice, kick it up on the boardwalk and go back three spaces – even go bankrupt. We hope we don’t perish in jail. We make our way along the edge of our wins and the losses, biding our autonomy. But at striving’s end, all we want is to lay it down, to say and hear I want you. I need you. Please stay.

Exodus

How many songs do you still know from high school? The old band – cooler than ice cream in its day – revs up the radio and you’re right back, lyrics sure after all these years. Which is why Holistic Boy learns a lot of things through music. He had the optional challenge of memorizing the first 17 verses of Exodus 20 in the King James the past school year and so I went to work. After writing the melody, I found the perfect male baritone (for the voice of God), and recorded countless takes on the piano with Husband and Son on drums. The families in our homeschool community were given the best version to run at home. T and many of his homeschool friends learned it easily as we sang it a verse at a time in our weekly gatherings. The final stage presentation was open to anyone who wanted to perform it this spring, whether they had mastered it or not. Some who made Bible Master were too shy but I was so proud of the kids that night. We had five-year-olds up there. The 17th century diction and syntax were not easy but they got it.

1 And God spake all these words saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

Women, Money, and Barbarians

8 Years Old:

Boy: Mom, if I marry a girl and then don’t like her anymore can I switch?
Mom: *shake head* No, that’s why you must choose very carefully.
Boy: Oh. *looking disappointed*

++++++++++++++++++++++

Boy: Mom, when do people get married?
Mom: You can marry in your teens but most people do it in their 20s and 30s.
You have to work hard and be able to provide for your wife and kids. House, food…
Boy: *Nodding* I have to make money.
I would like to babysit.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Mom: Yes, everything, all of creation started decaying when Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
Boy: Even the Tree of Life?
Mom: *stumped* Good question.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Daddy, Mommy said I can get the Pokemon cards for Christmas.
Dad: Why don’t you get it with your allowance?
Boy: Mommy, should we get it with my allowance or yours?
Mom: *laughing* I don’t have a lot of money.
Dad: *hooting* Mommy has a BIG allowance! It’s called a credit card.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Mommy, I realized it’s not good to be rich. People will get jealous and kill you.
You should be medium rich.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Daddy, are barbarians still around?
Dad: What do you mean? Of course not.
Mom: Honey, it’s an honest question. The Western Roman empire fell to Barbarians. He’s wondering what happened to them.
Dad: Well no, Tennyson. They became civilized. BY THEIR WIVES. They were tamed by their wives.
*family laughing* There was the male barbarian. And the even FIERCER female barbarian.

 

You do realize some body-snatching went on here?

You do realize some body-snatching went on here?

Men and Women: Another Difference

I deserve flak from my female cohorts. As a young adult, I never got the I-AM-WOMAN-HEAR-ME-ROAR hullabaloo. Why Oprah and devotees, TV shows, and pop culture rattled on about the woman with all the balls up in the air, exhausted in the attempt to satisfy diverse roles. Then I got married.

And became a mother.

The breadth of the tasks in my day-to-day, not to mention the depth, is such that I actually forget a lot of what I do. It is a great much, the littlest things one tends to as a mom.

I tore out a page of our calendar for you. I usually do more lessons, and doctor visits obviously are not a regular affair. But this day was typical in the way it packed one activity right into the next:

Breakfast
Dental checkup 45 minutes away
Lunch
Groceries
Brief playdate
Return: traffic
Martial arts
Math lesson
Dinner
DisHeS
Laundry
Prep for husband’s lunch next day

It was 6:40 when I was able to sit. Come to the computer and catch my breath – for eight minutes before showering Tennyson and tucking him in. In the past, I’ve gone on to cook two, three meals ahead for the little Foodie, find my way to the end of the dish pile, and clean the kitchen. This year, I’ve let myself write.

So I give you a glimpse of my week to share a rendition of a pretty amazing show we have going in our home.

LoungeOne day I walked into the master where I found Husband pacing. Out streamed from his mouth an uncharacteristically impressive list of To-Dos he had drawn up for the day. “…and I have to do oil change and detail the car and replace the tires pick up the timbau from Riverside mow the lawn get ready for Samba…”

*Pause*
*Slow exhale*

“I think….I’ll naaap.”

And he sank himself into the lounger with the grace of a deflating hot air balloon on landing.

Once I had picked my jaw up off the floor and my bug eyes had resumed their Asian size, I kicked him out, his laughter trailing him. The thing is, he’d meant it. The man really was going to take a siesta. It wasn’t just at my stunned bafflement but for the delight in the sweet change of plans that he’d crowed. It is beyond me. My husband is beyond me. Men are beyond me. If mothers so casually replaced obligations with sleep or every impulse, the human race would go extinct.

I Am Rich

Mom was the first to rise. I would peel open an eye to catch her brushing on mascara while Dad snored. Our one bedroom smelled of Shiseido moisturizer and the coffee that pulled her from fatigue into her day. The breakfast rice swelled on the stovetop. I went back to sleep.

I remember the colors of Christmas. We never had a tree, for the lack of space and the frivolity it was. But the lights we did, tiny red and green bulbs a scant garnish on the rail of my top bunk. Every December I’d tramp through grey snow slush to Woolworth’s with my cousins, the giant five and dime that offered everything under the New York sun. Chocolate, Maybelline with all her wares, Arrid roll-on deodorant, lines of nail polish. Instead of walking out with Christmas presents for friends and family, every holiday jaunt I would leave the store thinking, “I’ll have some money next year.” And it took me 14 years to realize next year never came. But my parents still came through.

Mom would do what she had to, ride as many subway cars as she needed to procure what her kids asked of her. Resources on the state of Maine for a school project, the cheesecake her girl loved. One call to the restaurant where she waitressed, and she came home arms full with shiny travel books and the box from Zaro’s bakery on Grand Central. She kept our home tidy between and around the 14 hours of work; and though she could’ve better discriminated how she fed us, my brother and I were never in want of food. She asked nothing of me, not even the dishes, except that I do my best in school. Like many of us, I grew up with no iGadget, the closest thing being Atari. Yes, I want it, Daddy. I could feel the weight of the purchase on his shoulders in the store. I got so good at the video game, I could play Froggie upside down. I lay, hair fanned out on the carpet, chin to ceiling, and steered the frog on the TV screen across the perilous highway whole and happy.

My mother woke resolute every morning. She worked so hard I wonder if she even had time to be afraid. I sacrifice sleep not to keep clothes on my son’s back but for the gratification of my art, the joy of writing in these secret hours. Although I’d rather do without it for spiritual reasons, it meant everything to me to be able to get the tree five years ago – not only Tennyson’s first Christmas tree but cmastreehis parents’ as well. One taller than we are with ornaments we had never handled to help make for our boy fuller memories of tradition we never knew. We had afforded him something to decorate and bring alive into the magic of the season.

I am seeing how the question of sufficiency impacts the choices we make and how satisfied we are. Do I make enough, have enough?Is he good enough to marry? From all the jokes on the last post, is she good enough to keep? Does my child? Have I lost sufficient weight? Are my grades up to par?  Were my parents enough? Am I smart, capable, healthy enough for the project, job, race? Have I accomplished enough? Each question makes for a post, if not a book.

The resentment I held my parents to much of my life was the assertion that they were deficient. While they did lack greatly in some respects, I am seeing with the years that they did not have much by way of emotional resources. They did what they could with what they had. For me. Although my husband asks little of me, it is when I want him to do or be more that I become discontent. My child comes to me and expresses his grievance when I wound him but he always returns to the place of forgiveness. I am astonished to find that to him, his father, and my parents, I am more than enough. I also have deeply loyal friends. And here you all are. I am so unworthy. No need to correct me; I didn’t say worthless. You would unfollow if you knew the thoughts I spin sometimes. We don’t know one another’s unfiltered story. But this I can tell you.

I am so very rich.

Report Card

STUDENT

Art AApronLove2
Geography A
History A
Latin A
First Lunch A+
Math A
Music A+
Phys Ed A
Second Lunch A+
Public Speaking A –
Reading B
Science A
Writing B+

 

TEACHER

Beautician C (Can pull off a B when she crams)
Dr. Mom A-
Homemaker C
Homeschooler A-
Nutritionist A
Tired, crazy woman A+
Wife C

Genius

Two years and 11 months

Two years and 11 months

According to Malcolm Gladwell, behind the genius of high-achievers that leaves us awestruck is really just 10,000 hours of practice.

Let’s see what this might look like for you as a drummer, Tennyson:

You’ve put in at least 500 hours thus far.

1 hour of practice a day, 35 free days in a year –>
330 hours
the next 5 years –>
1650 hours plus the 500 = 2150 hours by the age of 12

The next 12 years, double the daily hour –>
660 hours every year, a total of 7920 hours
plus the ones from the first 12 years = 10,070 hours by the age of 24

Unless an earthquake brings this house down or you find yourself with a single parent, you will continue to have every opportunity to play. And even in the tightest straits we will sell the furniture before we touch your drums. Every hour on the set you’ll get to exchange for more options as an adult musician. Every hour brings your dreams that much closer within reach. You easily played for an hour-and-a-half when you were five. It is up to you whether you want to hit your 10,000 sooner or later than 24. But a good idea to develop your art as deeply as you can, find its place in our world before you settle down? Keep those two hours a day sacred and you will learn self-mastery, excellence, and your happier self. We know the more we love our music, the more we love it, right? Play your joy and never make excuses. I don’t want you to end up looking on as Joe blows smoke out of his set, saying “I could’ve done that.” He just practiced longer than you.

Your biggest fan,
Mom