Jul 2, 2015

Silver and black



I walked to the waters edge when the moon was full. It seemed like the thing to do.

The surf was loud and the breeze, sharp.
A silver swathe cast by the perfect orb in the sky, cut the glistening black water.

There was no Peace there. Just pieces.

When I'm asked, I shall probably say it was 'lovely'. No one will believe the cold.

Jun 30, 2015

"Yer a wizard, Harry!"


When I found my 8 year old reading 'The Half-blood Prince' over my shoulder one night, my instinct was to immediately slam it shut. In the angst ridden tale of Harry Potters life, this book explores a particularly troubling part where the villain is demystified, his humanity revealed. Oyon has demonstrated an ability to handle ambiguity but understanding the genesis of Evil is a tall order for anyone, let alone an 8 year old.

As I wrangled with weighty judgements, a soft chuckle interrupted my whirling thoughts. I froze so as to not disrupt him and snuck a peak at the lines his eyes were tracking. It was the part about celebrity-loving, superficial Professor Slughorn. I let him finish the page and asked if he enjoyed it.

He had.


That night I checked out a library copy of the first Harry Potter book ('The sorcerers stone') on my tablet and read him the opening chapter at bedtime. He took over a few pages in and we read to each other in turn, pausing often to exclaim, comment and laugh. 9 pm came and went with my bleary-eyed boy still begging for more. Now on my sixth re-read of the whole series, I not only emphasize with the draw of this brilliantly told saga but thrill in his captivation. In a last ditch effort to be a responsible parent instead of a JK Rowling fangirl, I turned on the audio version of the book for him. He could now shut his tired eyes and drift off to sleep still lost in his newly discovered world.

The next few days were like watching a long forgotten movie as I watched the book swallow him whole. After school, he'd barely have dropped his school bag before bee-lining for the tablet. He walked around (when he had to) holding it up to his nose, eyes roving furiously over the pages, bumping into furniture, spilled juice, kicking over things and causing a wider variety of mayhem than usual.

Library day arrived at school.
Instead of the usual fare of Captain Underpants and hardcover non-fiction tomes on his interest of the moment, he came back with an over-thumbed,  ravaged softcover copy of 'The sorcerers stone'. He took to carrying it to school and eventually stored it in his desk so he could have the story at home (on my tablet) as well as in school.

I had put a pin in my reservations about his readiness for the themes in this book, reasoning that the first few were pretty innocuous, that the disturbing darkness really started descending in the 3rd book. His speed-reading dissuaded much reading out loud (neither of us had the vocal stamina) but we had short chats about what each day had revealed to him. I was worried about him navigating the stories on his own: I know the pain that lay between those pages and that Oyon was likely to feel and react to it all. So far he seemed to remain on an even keel.

About a week into this mania we watched the 6th and last movie, partly to dymystify the end and counter anxiety. It led to this startling conversation  as he quizzed me about Voldemort's history.

After offering up a brief sketch of Tom Riddle AKA Voldemort, I commented on how amazing it was that with such  similar backgrounds, Voldemort and Harry turned out so very different from each other. Most of the followings conversation is verbatim as I wrote it up right away:

"It's really not amazing" he commented casually
"But they had suffered equally."
"No way! Harry had a horribl-er life."
"What? No! At least he knew his aunt's family...Voldemort was in a cold, lonely orphanage!" I couldn't believe my son had such little insight...was he even reading this book?!
"But that IS worse! His family hated him and treated him like garbage. Its better to be alone than that!" he retorted, tossing my incredulity right back to me.
"Oh. I never thought about it that way." I was chastened yet added, "but shouldn't that have made Harry even angrier when he got older?"
"Not really." he explained in a patient voice, "When bad stuff happen first you get mad then you get used to it. Harry had SO much sad happen that he got used to it and stopped being mad. Voldemort didn't have such a bad time so he got stuck on being mad and didn't think hurting others was a big deal. See?"

I really didn't.

He made a last desultory attempt at explaining, all the while unpacking his LEGO tub...he was obviously checking out of the conversation.


"If you know how awful something is, would you want anyone else to feel that way? If you're busy being mad and don't think it's a big deal to be sad, then you don't even care. So just go! Go crazy!" he said vaguely,  experimentally  jamming  an axle LEGO piece on a hinge brick to see if the result held any mechanical potential.

I took my dismissal with what grace I could muster and moved away to chew on this. I've read this series numerous times, subscribing every time to the rather obvious explanation planted by the author (in a story-line farther on in the series), that the ability to love is what distinguished  Harry from Voldemort. Yet it seemed to me that Oyon had just argued that it was Harry's ability to feel pain, not love, that changed his life and that of many others. (Incidentally, studies have shown that altruism and giving is highest in demographics where people have limited means, whereas those who can afford to give often turn away.) 

Coincidentally, I was reading 'The order of Phoenix' at the time and stumbled across these lines that I'd barely registered before: "There is no shame in what you are feeling, Harry", said Dumbledore's voice. "On the contrary...the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength."

Most days, I cannot agree with this sage wizard.

My empathy meter is terribly mis-calibrated and  I often find myself carrying leaden chunks of grief inside that're difficult to dislodge, since they are not truly mine. Now here's my little boy, hinting that's its a good thing after all.  I know I've tried to fit him with these very lenses to see the world but I've always worried that he'd be plagued by them the way I have. I've mounted counter measures accordingly: we helped spread some good, I did 'News graphs' with him to help him parse positive thoughts from the debris of News, I levelled with him about a traumatic air disaster to focus on good outcomes. Many ways to balance some of the despair worming into our collective consciousnesses. Yet my disquiet grew, rather than shrank.

Until now.


Cloud gazing, not deep-thinking
Oyon is showing a greatly diminished interest in the Harry Potter books, though he's chugged onto book three now. I'm not pushing him or even sharing my enthusiasm. Partly to not rob him of his joy, but also because it's obvious to me that Oyon may be more ready for the Harry Potter themes than I am for his readiness.

I think he's going to be alright.

Oyonism (8+)
Lounging on the couch with us one night, after having spent some of the preceding afternoon cloud-gazing.....
O: Why's the sky so blue?
Hubby: <something about light refraction and particulates>
O: Ok. But I know one question no one can ever answer!
Hubby: What's that?
O: Why are we here? What IS all this?
Hubby: Great question.
Me: There's an answer for that actually, but it's different for each person.
O: What?
Me: Some people believe in reincarnation and Karma. Some think it's because God loves them....
O: Wrong, it's evolution! We're here because, you know, the universe exploded and dinosaurs came and then people were born. There's proof of this.
Me: Somethings aren't just about proof though. There's no proof Harry Potter exists but your life is happier and more fun when you read about him. You get to choose.
O: Yeah, but that's just imagination. I don't like imagination in science.
I'm trying to not mess with him anymore. We will leave further exploration of how there is no science without imagination for another day. He's got enough to go on right now with processing existential questions while trying to figure out how to make a cart of angry piggies roll correctly through a maze. Both issues are equally weighty in his mind. Who am I to argue with that?

Jun 10, 2015

A billowing shirt

My brothers headache had gotten exponentially worse within the space of a few hours that hot afternoon in 1986. Things were not going well.

Apr 19, 2015

"Stuff" that matters

Almost 20 years ago I started graduate school in tornado alley. The tornado shelters marked on floor plans in every hall was chilling to a girl from hot and steamy Calcutta. In just a few months though, the anxiety of weekly siren tests gave way to complacence. It wasn't going to ever really happen. 

Of course....it did.

Jan 29, 2015

LTYM 2104 - audition

Even the most private person sometimes feels a call to share the things that matter. I'm not one of them. A private person, that is. I over-share as a rule. So When I heard about the LTYM call for submission, my default reaction was 'But of course!'

Nov 7, 2014

5 Random things about me

    My friend Cheryl recently blogged about 5 truly random facts that help me see and  know her that tiny bit better. She tagged me to do the same. In the words of Cameron (also tagged), I'm also usually "the place where memes go to die" but not this time. I'm taking the bait and tagging others. Because celebrating random traits rocks in these times when carefully crafted images are so easy to perpetuate. They often deceive whereas the honestly random ones might just give you away. The real 'you'. 

Here are '5 random things about me'

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. 



Oct 3, 2014

Phones that chatter

When the toddler's diaper trilled with my ring tone, I 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

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. 

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?