Rockabye Hope

Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of!

What the heck are “snips”? Sounds like what’s leftover after the barber cuts hair.  Snails?  Ew!  And the dog’s tails?  As a child, this poem made me squirm.  When I grew older, I heard another one:

A son is a son until he takes a wife.  But a daughter is your daughter for the rest of her life.

Really?  Sons equal desertion?  And there’s the famous “Boys will be boys.”  Often said to justify inappropriate or violent behavior.

All these unfortunate rhymes (prophecies?) disturbed and saddened me.  You see, I was already blessed with a son, whom I adored.  But back in my twenties, I watched my mother lament that I was the only sibling who ever kept in touch with her.  My brothers gave her the equivalent of an over-the-shoulder nonchalant wave, “See ya! It’s been fun!” after college and poof…..were gone.  I vowed to maintain a close relationship with my own little guy so history would not repeat itself.

Three years later I was pregnant again and (not admitting to anyone how much I was hoping for a girl this time) was ecstatic to be told that I was carrying twins.  A boy and a girl!  The doctors were certain. How wonderful!  Another boy so my son would have a brother (and a playmate!) and now a daughter so I could experience motherhood from the other side of the coin.  Like any mother, I began to fantasize and make preparations.

Fast-forward to delivery day.  “Congratulations!  It’s a boy!”  Long pause.  And finally one brave nurse ventured,  “And…it’s another boy.”  The silence was as sterile as the droning of the metal hospital equipment.  Nobody understood the loss I felt.  She had been real in my head and heart.  Her name was Cassandra.  And now she was gone. It felt like a death. The death of a long-time dream.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I be happy with what I had?

“We are done having children,” my husband said adamantly.  That was that.  No more chances. His words sucked oxygen from air.  And then to seal his decision, he promptly made an appointment for a vasectomy the day of the twin births.  I heard a door slowly close with a creak, then slam itself shut, and finally deadbolt, echoing the finality of the verdict.

After that I was deemed “severely postpartum” and promptly drugged out of my mind with Prozac.

My mother came over to our home while I was still in the maternity ward to systematically dismantle the pink parts of the decorated nursery.  She returned all the delicate, lacy dresses and hair bows to the boutiques and discreetly replaced them with yet more overalls and Lil’ Slugger pants.  Welcome Home! Friends preached that I should just be happy that my sons were healthy.  “You ungrateful bitch,” I thought I heard them whisper when I turned around.  “Some people cannot have any children at all.”  This was true.

I did everything a new mother does (nursed, sang lullabies, cuddled them) but still I couldn’t shake it.  I was judged and condemned for not loving my little boys. Which was not it, not at all.  Nobody got it.  Nobody got me.  I was alone with my thoughts and the pictures in my head of how things were supposed to be.  Expectations.  Expectations kill reality.  I would rid myself of them all.  Never look forward to the future, lest I be disappointed.  Stay in the present moment.  That’s the only thing they say we have, right?

Five years passed.  And then it came to me.  I had a little girl.  I really did!  She was already here, just waiting for me.  All I had to do was locate her. I would adopt.  International adoption gave me back my hope.  Adoption held the tiny silver key that just might open a window of opportunity where that door had been shut.  A door that I thought had come completely off its hinges, along with my sanity, a long time ago.

And finally there could be some acceptance, compassion and understanding. But it had to come from me as I bestowed it on all four of my little blessings – three sons and a daughter.

Little Miss Menopause at Once Upon Your Prime

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Race. The colour of my skin, the flare of my nostrils, the texture of my hair, the S of my backside. I am none of these; I am all of these. Race. My mother is caramel, my father pure chocolate, and I am hazelnut. They taught me that education and excellence would open any door. I believed it; still believe it. Race. Raised in Nigeria, I live in The Netherlands. I temper the directness of the Dutch with the verbosity I think Nigerians inherited from the British. Race. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl, a woman, a lover, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a mentor, a coach, a writer, a warrior — all I have been, all I now am, all I will one day be. When I look in the mirror, I see me. What if my father were Australian and my mother Chinese? Would I still be me?

Timi at Livelytwist

clker.com

clker.com

 

I hate being judged. Who doesn’t? But we still do it, all the time. Where I come from, Pakistan, many of us live in constant fear of what people say or think of us with someone always breathing down your neck.  It’s difficult to break away. And the sad part is, I was no different. I labeled people based on how they looked, talked, walked, on their work, race, and beliefs. But now my heart can’t take the burden anymore. I want out of the vicious cycle. Standing in front of this mirror, I rejoice at my diversity as a woman, Muslim, Ghilzai-Punjabi-Pathan, Pakistani, Canadian. I celebrate my many faces. And I keep on against the urge to judge because I’ve been on the other side. The reflection in my mirror is no longer blurry. I can finally see.

Nida On the Road to Inkrichment

 

As a girl, I wished these Korean eyes were bigger. It hit me that I never wished for blue eyes or brown with long Caucasian lashes. Only that mine were rounder. And there’s this nose, the most displeasing part of my face that I grew to forget as my sense of self took shape around deeper things: my gifts, faith, values. These lines that bracket my mouth, a chronicle of the choices I have made in self-neglect. Always too busy to primp, to nurture Self. And the lines that also tell of things outside my control, Mom’s enviable genes that passed me over. The woman in the mirror is the youngest she will ever be. I see naked imperfection. It is what my boy looks upon everyday. My breath catches. To him, I am the clearest face of God.

Wayfarer on A Holistic Journey

 

What do you see in the mirror?

disarmed the sun

she bathed in sweat just
from breathing, shoulders 
rouge in the evening blaze

        as she balanced on the edge
                                     of hope

        the decisive rain
        disarmed the sun,
        a zealous s t u t t er
        that drenched her to a start

        and she smiled

                   as she fell headlong into
                                             expecta
                                                      tion

FacetoSky

The Invisible Woman

PleaseLookMomThough Please Look After Mom was an international bestseller by a South Korean novelist, I didn’t care for the lackluster title or the parts that were overstated. But the well-painted portrait of a mother who goes missing redeemed the read plenty. She is a prototype of wife and mother from every culture since the dawn of time. We see the heart of the invisible woman.

So-nyo, an elderly mother of four grown children, vanishes in the Seoul subways. Her husband hurries ahead in the crowd, characteristically impatient, and in a moment of disbelief the subway door shuts their hands apart, pulling the car away with him. The novel is a rotary of voices – of the children and husband who search for her in despair while thinking back in shame at the woman they realize they had never seen.

Hyong-chol, the eldest child, thinks back on the time his father brought into their village shack a woman to live with him, with the family. Naturally, So-nyo left the house. Trying to buy her way into the hearts of the kids, the Other Woman carefully packed their lunch, even to top it with the fried egg, then a luxury. Hyong-chol not only didn’t eat it, but made his siblings bury their lunchbox. The Other Woman went on to buy them new containers that kept their rice warm. The son refused to renounce the food strike.

   Mom came to school to find him.  It was about ten days after the woman had come to live with them.
   “Mom!” Tears spilled from his eyes.
   Mom led him to the hill behind the school. She pulled up the legs of his pants to reveal his smooth calves, grabbed a switch, and hit them.
   “Why aren’t you eating? Did you think I would be happy if you didn’t eat?”
   Mom’s thrashing was harsh. He had been upset that his siblings weren’t listening to him, and now he couldn’t understand why Mom was whipping him. His heart brimmed with resentment. He didn’t know why she was so angry.
   “Are you going to take your lunch? Are you?”
   “No!”
   …Instead of running away, he stood still, silent, and suffered her blows.
   “Even now?”
   The redness bloomed into blood on his calves.
   “Even now!” he yelled.
   Finally, Mom tossed the switch away. “God, you brat! Hyong-chol!” she said, embracing him and bursting into sobs. Eventually, she stopped, and tried to persuade him. He had to eat, she said, no matter who cooked the meals.

Even in the second reading, my eyes smarted. I am not endorsing child abuse, of course. But my heart swelled with understanding of So-nyo’s pain and the desperate attempt of a mother to get her child to eat – though it meant that she let Another Woman feed him. In one of the most telling moments in human drama, embracing insult to injury, a mother physically tries to force her son to an act that reinforces his father’s galling unfaithfulness. She swallows her dignity for the well-being of her child.

So-nyo chooses to go under. I’m not praising her for laying down as a doormat beneath the man she had served with nothing but devotion. In fact, she returns home to chase him and the Woman out of her house. But part of the attraction the book holds for the reader is that So-nyo seems to be Everyone’s Mom. Please allow the sweeping generalization that bears exceptions. The protagonist was so recognizable: I saw a great deal of my own mother in her and could pull up a good many other moms and grandmothers who could have replaced her name. Hers is a life of sacrifice from the day she marries and her self-renunciation, a silent one. Not once does she complain – I think because it doesn’t occur to her to. Interestingly, I don’t recall her ever saying, “I love you” to any of her kids. Calloused hands freeze over while washing the offerings of the garden, the clothes, the dishes in the winter water. Unflagging fingers pickle food for the seasons ahead while dancing over pots and fire as they contrive the next meal. In fact, she has an awful lot in common with the women out of Little House on the Prairie. In reading aloud some of the stories to my son and husband last year, I tried to figure out what was so familiar about the Prairie series when my life has been so unworthily comfortable by comparison. It hit me one day that the untiring work of the parents, especially of the mothers, mirrored the call to unsung exertion that many Asian women answer when they have children. But this isn’t ethnocentrism. Many, across time and culture, can see So-nyo in our own mother, aunt, neighbor, or grandmother. She is not attractive, and goes about with a towel over her eyes for the sweat. She is no model but certainly beautiful. She has always been there for her family, receives her husband with ready food when he slinks back from an entire season of idle adultery. But she is missing from the family radar. When she actually disappears, the family unravels both individually and as a unit.

Two years ago, I asked a friend if he thought he appreciated his mother who had raised five boys. He didn’t begin to, he answered, until he had his own. And pointing to my boy, added that Tennyson will come nowhere near appreciating the cooking let alone the rest of it until he himself becomes a father. After having my own family, I have nursed shame for not having helped my mother enough in the long immigrant years she juggled work, cooking, and housekeeping, all the while somehow keeping present and active in my schooling. In my elementary years, Mom sewed for the garment factory. One time, flying off the lightning force of the Singer machine, the whole needle sank into her finger. I remember her rushing to the doctor, trying to cup the dripping blood with the other hand. The pain did not slow her down in the many things her hand had to touch: the needle’s remained to this day. We can never thank Mom enough. Because by the time you’re a parent who sees your mother’s hands in your own labor, your own family becomes priority. Grace runs down – not up. The love of a mother will outdo and outpace her child’s, and the debt you owe her is one you pay forward.