Month: September 2013

The Mommy Faith Chronicles Vol. 2

On a beautiful day in New York City, Julia and I rode the subway, the car packed cattle-car tight, looking good and smelling good. She in her ruby-red Mini Mouse dress with solid white dots,

Julia in her Minnie Mouse dress
Julia in her Minnie Mouse dress

a gift from her God Mummy Kim, which I accessorized with sheer white tights with white dots, and a little red riding hood coat, a gift from Grandma, which features a midnight black lining set with dense white polka dots. I wore an orange and gold Indian print skirt circled by black elephants set trunk to tail, and an orange, gold and turquoise patterned coat procured from a Barney’s Warehouse sale, ten years ago, that still pulls compliments.

As a single baby mama have a lot of rules, self-imposed rules. I keep standards , meet standards, standards that my married and partnered mom pals can ignore if they so choose. “Don’t go to the doctor looking slap dash.”
“Don’t take your kid into the doctor looking slap dash.”
“Don’t deliver your kid to the school with either of you looking, (yes you guessed it), slap dash.”

Looking like the crazy mom, running wild down hallways, hair flying, wearing mix matched socks, toilet paper stuck to my shoes, oatmeal caking my kid’s mouth, her Pull- Up pooching out from pee-pee, is one of my primal fears.

So, back to the subway. On September 19th, as folks stood all around me, men and women, sitting and standing, rained down a whirl of wordlessly mouthed compliments, “she so cute,” “what and adorable dress!” I felt a deep well of pride rise up and soak my maternal heart. I mouthed back my thanks, brimming with pride, my hand pressed to my chest near the throat, head lowered, eyes demur, in modesty. And as the speeding train slammed into the station, as I prepared to gather my child up from the seat, as Julia paused from chugging Cheerios, she looked around at the gaping faces of wonder, widen her eyes a bit, leaned to the left slightly, and launch a man-sized, machine gun fart, way beyond a toot-toot of the polite passing of gas.

The train fell into a gap of silence then launched into a roar of laughter, I chuckling the loudest. Yet, above the den I could still hear the voice of God: “Don’t get bogged down by the unimportant, by the things you cannot control,” God said. “Parenthood takes a sense of humor.”

*

“Why they laughing?” Julia asked as I led her from the subway car, my eyes so filled with tears, I could hardly see my steps that led us down the platform, up the flight of steps, to the landing and on to Broadway.

“Julia, you surprised everyone. You’re not supposed to pass gas in public. We’ve talked about it, right? That’s something you do in private, in the bathroom.”
“Why?”
“It’s not nice.”
“But why?”
“You just don’t Julia.”
She pooches out her lower lip, her standard, I’m mad or I’m thinking position. “Okay, Mommy…but why.”
Now that Julia has started school, (pre-K so don’t panic time isn’t passing quite that fast), it seems both of us learn something everyday. I’m learning that train conductors are kind people and will reopened the doors for a mom running with a toddler clutched to her hip. I’m learning that every parent has that wide-eyed look of crossing a major milestone just walking into the school, pressing out our chests like Mick Jagger strutting across stage. Never have I felt such a sense of accomplishment before I entered work or sat before my laptop. Getting a toddler out of the house by 8:15 am is like launching a Tet offensive in Vietnam. It may take a village to raise a kid, but it damn near takes Navy Seal Team Six to get one out of the house to school, looking good and smelling good, before 9am. Then get up and do it all again.

Today, I crossed a new Mommy mania divide. Grandma sent Julia a pair of snazzy jeans with set with a flurry of tiny, cool studs around the front pockets. The pants are a 4T. Julia is a 3T. With her long legs, I’d hoped they’d work. The length wasn’t the problem.
“Julia take those off please, they’re a little big in the bottom…”
“Noooooo I wannnna wear them!”
“C’mon take ‘em off.”
Cue Julia flinging herself on the floor and kicking her feet.
The clock read 8:17 am. The departure clock sounded two minutes ago.
“Juliaaaaa!”
“No, I don’t want to.”
Across the living room I spying a gold ribbon, broad width, wire edged.
And reader, I turned it into a belt.
I grabbed it, folded it in half, lassoed it through loops of her jeans, and bowed it in the front.
“Julia let’s gooooo!
Down the elevator, across the lobby, blowing past the doorman, and on the street I spotted a lost traveler. I didn’t have time to help her. I stopped anyway. She had a better grip on her native Dutch or German, with a limited access on English. Together we worked out her travel plan. My mind was about 65% in the conversation, thinking of the clock, seeing the door of Julia’s classroom closing, but I took the time any woo. I couldn’t say way. It just seemed the right thing to do.

Ten minutes later, as Julia and I crossed Amsterdam Avenue, I figured out why. For the first time in a weekend a half, I saw the M11 bus bounding up the street. The bus we needed.
“Sometimes God delays you to help you,” I’d heard Joel Osteen say on a recent broadcast.
This wasn’t a new thought. But it was a new event for Julia and Mommy and the morning rush.
After we climbed aboard, Julia looked around at the row of seats and asked “Why we taking the bus?”
“Because like Everest, it’s there.”
Julia started blankly. When she gets older Julia will appreciate having a writer for a mom.

*

Julia, with her wonderful teacher, Mrs. S.
Julia, with her wonderful teacher, Mrs. S.

By God’s grace we hung up to Julia’s backpack in her cubby at 8:55. Five minutes to spare.
And after I helped Julia settled in—hands washed, and painting smock on—I took the last minutes before class began to explain her bizarre belt to her teacher, a woman so sweet, she seems sent from central casting to perform the role of Pre-K teacher.

“Well, that’s a great solution,” Mrs. S said, in the sweetest softest voice.
“I just didn’t want you to see her wacky belt during a potty break and be puzzled.”
The rose-cheeked, round woman with a voice that could charm children from bowls of candy, a voice you can’t image uttering a curse world, or being welded in anger, said, “ Well, Miss Holmes they say, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.”
And that’s when I remembered God has a fine talent for using the simplest acts to create our greatest lessons, that Julia and I were in our right place, with the right people, that they wouldn’t find our actions opportunities for ridicule or the fodder for gossip or an example why single mothers fall short, that Julia and I, in a very real sense, in a very way had found a new home in the world.

The Eternal Classroom

On eve of the first day of school for Julia, I awoke twice in the night, rose from bed before dawn, made a double cappuccino, dressed, guided my daughter from her bed, helped her dress, gave her a breakfast of yogurt and fruit, marched her a few blocks west, and together we hopped the subway to enter her new phrase of life.

Julia took to the classroom like a fish to agua. That act did not worry me. However, as I watched her play with new friends, and interact with new toys, new teachers, new ways of learning and being in the world, I could not help to think one thought: My daughter had dragged me towards a new level of understanding, yet again. Everything in life is impermanent.

Children are Zen Buddhists in Pull-Ups. Just when parents become accustom to one phase, the wee-set is off to the next. And as I watched the wide faces of wonder woven into the flesh of other parents, men and women who studied their kids like a newly discovered geo-fossil, I remembered; shifting sands of change are the foundation for life. Julia’s job: to keep that insight front and center.

Just so I did not miss the point, the universe, on this very important day issued a few more reminders. It began, around 1pm, with a ringing phone.

In the rush to get Julia to school on time, I left, on the kitchen counter, my lunch. So, I called in my sushi order, my favorite “I forgot my lunch,” treat. At the other end of the line, the phone rang and rang and rang. Odd. So odd, I decided to walk to the eatery. Eight to ten minutes into the trek, twice my mind tried to nudge me to other take-out places, the first deemed too pricy, the second, its order line, so long, it trailed down the length of the small shop and out the door on to the street. So, I kept moving.

As I rounded the corner, on Seventh Avenue I saw the chairs, glassware and oval-shaped plates out on the tables lining the walkway in front of the black and red-painted wall of the restaurant. “Maybe they had a flood in the kitchen,” I thought working to reassure myself, for a few moments until I reached the entrance. The laser set note attached to the rectangular glass read:

“Dear Loyal Patrons of Ido Sushi.
We regret to inform our dear customers and friends that we have decided to close this beautiful establishment due to rising costs and the impact of hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, we are unable to raise prices as this would go against our beliefs in providing great food at great prices.
We are happy for those great moments we have experienced and…

And I could not read any further.
“They closed last Saturday,” an older man supervising people through the selected wears said.
“When they didn’t answer the phone I feared the worse. But kept walking over here. I had to see,” I answered. “I could just cry.”
He shrugged. “Lots of people have come by saying the same thing. They announced online they were closing on the 8th. Fifty opera singers came to say good-bye.”
This news made me even sadder. From the photos on the walls, near the sushi station, and set above a tiny stage, I knew opera singers frequently, after a working gig, came to Ido to sing for their supper. But as my backup lunch joint, I rarely ventured downtown on weekends. Ido Sushi closed on a Saturday. September 8th.
The man’s white hair flipped and flopped in the heated gale; a pale-sail as he looked down at the loose collection of liquor bottles—gin, apple-flavored vodka— resting on an angled side table. “Today is their daughter’s birthday. They just wanted to enjoy it. So they just decided to put the rest of the stuff outside.”

The Ido Presentation Board
The Ido Presentation Board

Out of the Demetrius of a ten-year old business, I spotted a large, lacquered wood cutting board/ sashimi presentation server. I pulled it out from the shelf and tucked it under my arm.

When I discovered four, pearl-hued desert dishes—unchipped and smooth, tucked on in their sides inside of a brown paper box—I asked the handy guy standing watch to help me guide them into a plastic bag. I took a funny turquoise and crème colored shaped ceramic bowl just because.
I headed back to my office, the wood of the worn board heating up against my palms in the liquid humidity. In my mind, in the ninety-degree temperature, the large board grew heavier. Time alters the weight of all things.

Holding the curve of the wood, studying the lacquered grain, at each stop light, I thought of the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who had dined from it, toasted above it, maybe stolen a kiss over it.

Ido Desert Dishes
Ido Desert Dishes

I picked up a Cobb Salad, and managed to run into not one but two old friends, women I had lost touch with over the last six or seven years. Today mementos walked the streets of Manhattan.
Walking further south down Hudson Street, past the food trucks and lunch seekers, from the burger truck, Frites and Meats, the scent of fire-grilled beef, fried onions, and Detroit summers, hit my nose. The sound of “Hotel California” by The Eagles slammed against my ears. The famous guitar riff, known by Eagles fans and those who could not even pick out a member from a line up, delivered an old memory. I had watched a man, my serious last boyfriend, play this tune many times, with a righteous flair, to my delight, to my awe. But no more. Four years ago, like fine Japanese pottery, we broke.

But today I did not receive pain or loss or longing in the lyrics, in the guitar licks. I found something new and fresh to ride over the heated air of another September 11th in New York City. Entertainment and forgiveness. Here in Manhattan where no matter what we do on September 11th we do in memorial to the lost.