Oct 9, 2014

Fall, falling, fallen

The streets are lined again.

Summer has zipped by as long awaited delights usually do. This year it felt particularly crowded with memorable experiences. Perhaps it's just the welcome relief of easy exhales: the past couple of years held a series of challenges that had left me feeling rather wrung out.

This year, amidst a celebration of unremarkable health and stability (which felt remarkable nonetheless), we got away from home and hearth and their constant tending for a few easy mini-breaks. They amplified the wash of gratitude and ease quite a bit. 

There was camping on Peddocks Island, Rocky beaches, night skylines and beach bonfires. Accidental friendship between little tykes and illuminating chats with good friends.

Then a jazz festival in the pouring rain that surprised me. I'm an incidental listener of music and have no shame in admitting it. Yet the energy of really good music over-rode all our significant, chilled discomfort. Not to mention our 7 year old's unexpected stoicism in the face of severe yuckiness (technical term, that) and his understated yet apparent delight in music. It seemed to mark a milestone in his maturity even if the whining did resume with the school year.

An overnight trip to our neighbors summer 'camp' on a NH lake.  day and a half  full of peace, companionship and beauty. Casting for sunfish, eating buttery corn, a high speed boat ride, paddling in the shallows and paddle boarding in the deeps. A glass like lake in the setting and rising sun with gentle, warm and funny friends (SO grateful to have them in our lives). Unparalleled slowness and Peace. 

But every summer weekend in the Boston area also offers up release without the time and expense of 'getting away'. Ours came in a torrent. 

Day trips to area beaches, even on cloudy, chilly days that showed that I've finally earned my New Englander stripes and caught up with my fearless family. Digging in the sand, trying to out-run the surf, exploring tide pools, breathing in the tang and listening to endless crashing waves. 

Like every year, Kayak trips down the Sudbury River and it's peaceful marshes, broke up otherwise packed-to-the-brim weekends. Oyon transitioned from being a masthead (in his seat at the head of our tandem kayak) to wielding his very own canoe paddle.  He added to his day-dreaming, the gentle drag of an oar in the water (as his dad laboriously course-corrected our boat for the intentional rudder effect). We encountered the usual wildlife that tolerated us graciously as we gawked from within the almost drowsy fugue that these peaceful paddles always bring on. It's that odd state of half awake you encounter when wrapped in only the swishing of the water, rocking of the boat, the even rhythm of your dipping-rising paddle and the sound of popping fish-exhale bubbles. The wildlife allowing us free pass into their terrain included prehensile looking Blue Herons, Osprey, sunning Red Eared sliders (tiny turtles), Plovers, swallows and hawks. 

The occasional hike - to high places, low places and spaces in-between.

Lots of backyard soccer with the Baba and with friends (of all ages).

And now the days are getting shorter, leaves are turning as blooms start to fade. A last explosion of color as we pass into a season of monotones and brace for the chill.

Bring it on.
It all really is good.

Oct 3, 2014

Phones that chatter

When the toddler's diaper trilled with my ring tone, I had had only a fleeting moment of pause. In those sleep-deprived and semi-catatonic days, dredging up concern at anything past the bare necessities was beyond me. That my cutie's privates were ringing registered only as "So that's where my phone is."

Sep 11, 2014

Remembering. Not.

I'm terrible with dates. Can't remember the important ones, can't forget the forget-worthy ones. So when this (13th) anniversary of the WTC terror attack rolled around and people said things like 'never forget' and 'always remember' it put me in a spin. 


I can guess. 
- Recalling where you were on that day is cathartic: it might exorcise subconscious anxieties triggered by mass discussion.
- Figurative gestures commemorating victims feels respectful (which means nothing) and is empowering (which means much).
- Indulging emotions shared by many brings a sense of connection and community. Not much different from the 'high' of national pride on Independence day.

No judgement or snarkiness implied: I am certainly subject to all of the above. 

I'm distressed today - though it pales on the scale of the real grief out there. I hurt for the victims, almost climbed back into bed to hide under the covers as a widower on NPR said "I WILL see her again. I'm going to do enough good to get up there".
I'm also somewhat haunted by the palest shadow of terror that touched me on 9/11. My co-workers and I were evacuated that morning from our offices in downtown Boston. Since the Pentagon strike all government buildings were considered to be under threat (I work for the state). I rushed into the subway with swarms of others, many in fearful, horrified tears. No one knew what was happening in those pre-smart phone days. We felt and acted like we were under siege. I shared in the paralyzing terror that at any moment we might be victims, mass transit feeling like an obvious target. Once safely home, the scenes on CNN made space for fresh horrors on behalf of those affected (and brought on shame for my paltry and ultimately unfounded fears). Thirteen years later I remain stunned at the world I'm leaving for my child to inherit.

But back to my 'why': why must we remember and not forget?

I know....knowing history prevent repeats (or some such). But I neither carried out those attacks nor have a hand in any of the complex mechanisms that influences these events (like US foreign policy or world histories, which we all wish could be undone). I'm not indifferent either: I vote and otherwise try to support people who are better placed to do these things.

So why would I want to remember that thousands lost lives and exponentially more had theirs permanently altered? I totally see the value on dwelling on it when say, race hatred breaks out in the a southern state. We can be heard on that and possibly affect change. But what of remembering 9/11....what will it achieve? 

I guess I'm questioning this need for a collective indulgence of negativity when it is not likely to have any constructive outcomes. For a large chunk of my life, I've tried to block forget-worthy dates.

My father died on September 15th, 1992. While I was away on a college field trip in the heartlands from where it took me 3 days to return to Kolkata. I found on arrival that he'd not only died (en route they'd told me he was critically ill) but had been cremated. There one day, 'poof' the next. My mom and brother remember him on every death anniversary through their respective rituals of remembrance. I'm glad they find closure and catharsis but am happiest the years when I forget that date. It's a resurrection of grief that adds nothing to my life. I do not feel the need to mark the day of his loss, the day everything changed. 

My first child would've been born on January 15th, 2007. Instead of holding him/her 9 months from conception, I encountered a red kidney shaped tray in the hospital after 3 and attempted to donate the remains to medical research. So some good could come out of it. I do not want to remember that date and am happiest the years that it comes and goes unmarked.

My life today is infused with light and love that comes from a hundred directions. That I am fortunate is beyond doubt, no matter what my imagined as well as past losses would have me think.

So I will NOT remember today, thank you. It changes nothing.

If I could pray though, I would. For the survivors for whom grief must be so much more than a word: a writhing, seething mass of hurt that must continue to haunt. I'd pray that like everything, the hurt fades in time. Melancholy is not a bad residue when there's so much pain in the past.

And there are always silver linings.

Penguin Pez and the car door

On the way to school the Penguin chain-pull on Oyon's book bag got caught in the car door. He recovered it before we drove off but we spent the ride to school making up a giggly tale  about what might have happened if he hadn't. This preamble is mainly in defense of the liberal use of behinds (and all it's 7 yr old synonyms) in the tale. I may have been driving the car but 7 year old scatological sensibilities were steering the story. 

The last few verses are wholly mine (instead of just the verse), tacked on after dropping him off. Predictably, O did not approve. Not enough bottoms were referenced for his taste. 

Anyway, here it is, for better or for verse. :-)

Pez Penguin and the car door 

Penguin Pez, stuck in car door, 
squealed with un-hearable voice 
Head stuck in, rest stuck out, 
not his ideal choice

Butt got tickled (causing giggles),
Grazing spiky bush.
Which wasn't so bad considering,
It might have pricked his tush.

Headed for school, the boy inside
Chatted of this and that.
As passing car met puddle deep, 
Pez butt felt a 'splat!'

At a traffic light, an idling bike,
Violently smoked
Right onto the wet behind
That out of car door poked.

A block from school a naughty kid,
Trashed his sticky gum.
Flicking it in direction of
A passing Penguin bum. 

In school that day, the boy showed off
His toy at recess time.
Penguin Pez, clean of head,
Rest encased in grime. 

'Ha-ha!' went pals at yucky toy,
Boy looked thunderstruck.
A brand new toy, destroyed so quick.
How awful was his luck?

A clever kid who saw it all
Said to them just then.
'Don't you know of Pezguins, guys?
From the Land of Plen!'

'Bottoms gross but faces clean
To trick the Mindy-Mand,
Who grin at friendly Pezguin face 
Until the butts do land.

Squish! Then Pezguins get to eat
Mindy-mandy stew.
The Land of Plen has lots of Bloi
But Mindy-mands, just few.'

The kids, enthralled, had crowded 'round
To hear this crazy plot.
Dirty toy lay by the bag,
All had now forgot.

Creative kid (named Joy) then said 'There won't be more unless
The teasing stops and you help Boy
Clean the Penguin mess'

Four kids were seen, trying to clean,
A tiny, grimy toy.
As Boy shook hands with brand new friend,
A clever kid named Joy.

Jul 26, 2014

Finding my 'maybe'

About three times this past year I've felt an odd and overwhelming need to give thanks. It's taken me to an interesting place.

Jul 15, 2014

The funnies: LTYM, Boston, 2014

It's not always easy to laugh freely. Daily annoyances, over-the-limit personal baggage and the sheer grind of Life, can preempt the handiest of smiles and reserve them instead for self-identified 'perfect' moments, which are invariably few and far between. So to tease them out of people, can be a Herculean task.

Jul 14, 2014

Un-stereotyping 'motherhood': LTYM Boston, 2014

I'm annoyed by the word Motherhood'.

It's too easily associated with over-simplistic tropes of noble self-sacrifice, loaded with implied superiority and dripping with saccharin sentimentality. The narratives seem reductionist at best, marginalizing at worst. As if you can't be capable of love if you haven't had a child. As if that there truly is no greater joy than parenting. As if the only path to wisdom and empathy tracks through a landscape of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. And by the way, what of the Fathers?

Jul 10, 2014

A whale named 'Hancock'

It's almost as if I never saw the whale...at least, if you go by the pictorial records of my days. 
The way memory seems to work is that the ones you preserve (visually or by retelling) stand in as summaries of the entire experience as the surrounding details fade, even the important ones. 

But this was the first of my many whale watching trips, where I had the ability to easily archive this joy on my handy phone camera. Yet I didn't click. Not much anyway.

Jul 8, 2014

Bonfires and things

The mop-topped little boy looked like he was about 5 years old. He stood quite still just outside their Yurt, a few hundred yards from our campsite.

   "Are you going to the beach?" he called to Oyon, who was the obvious focus of his attention.

Jul 2, 2014

Scratching on rocks

This beach is crowded with rocks of many colors. Some stack comfortably together and others tumble in the tide. There's a salty tang in every breath and prickles of hot sun on suncreen-less skin are so intense that sensation overwhelms any concerns about UV rays. It's promising to be a lovely afternoon on the island where we are camping. I'm starting to hear the quiet in my mind as my hands busy themselves with nothing.

Jun 16, 2014

Fathers Day

This Fathers Day my husband requested I not make a fuss on Face Book about anything around it in our home. There's too much sharing on social media these days for our comfort and though I blog about all things personal, even I'm developing a bit of a privacy reflex when it comes to the crowded world of FB.

Sugared almonds, fathers and brothers

North End, Boston

Many years ago, Gabriel Garcia Marquez crafted a Pavlovian association for me with almonds. I'm sure many, many others too think of the bitter smell of cyanide and a tired man forfeiting his battle with disappointment ('Love in the time of cholera'). Yet I had strong memories of almonds in my life before, though I'd all but forgotten. 

They had to do with my father and brother. They were not bitter.

Jun 6, 2014

Threads that make me ME

The moods that flit across my face
Are way too slow to match the pace
    Of my tumbling streams of thought.

I've ideas, plans and then some more,
Dreams and stories in my store,
    Whether or not I ought.

For some may say my childhood asks
That grins and giggles be my tasks
    But I really don't agree.

My questions, tantrums, even whine,
Are threads that deftly intertwine, 
   To make me fully ME.

May 28, 2014

The anatomy of 'Greys'

“Sandra Oh is leaving!” screamed the blurb from my Facebook news feed recently.
“Sandra WHO?” I thought, dutifully clicking on the link. 
Turns out NBC's  prime-time drama, 'Greys Anatomy' hit the usual high finale note as the 2014 season ended. 

'All about my mom' book
Now, whenever I imagined blogging about TV, I saw myself indulging my immense 'West Wing' fixation, though it's passed into the annals of television history years ago. I imagined some delicious deep delving into it’s glowing idealism, deconstructing its themes and inferring its inner messages with an adolescent glee. 

Even my seven-year-old caught onto my mania. Mainly because I complained incessantly about my nasty addiction and how it was eating into my free evening time while spiking TV viewing hours into the stratosphere - compared to my usual near-zero baseline.