Category: International Adoption

Changing the Morning Mix

“Mommy, is it time to get up yet?” Julia yodeled from her room.

“No,” I yelled and lowered my sleeping mask back into position. The sky had just began its morning blush over the grey shadow of trees in the park. But I knew it was brutally early without checking the time. Julia wakes up the birds up that wake up the rest of us.

After thirty minutes more of listening to her sing and converse with herself, I pealed back the silky mask and rechecked the horizon. It held a slit of sunlight. The air pushing through the window smelled like hope. The clock read 6:33.

I jumped out of bed, and headed into Julia’s room. “Pick up your room and get dressed, We’re going running.”

“Whatttttttt? I’m not going to school?”

“Sure, after we run.”

I jumped into my clothes and then jumped her into hers.

“But I’m hungry Mommy,” she said as I slid the first sneaker onto her foot.

“I’ll get you a banana. Eat it on the way,” I said determined as MacArthur was to take Normandy.

One of the great challenges to motherhood has been maintain my running. All my life I’ve lived to run, high school track and 5Ks and 8Ks in adulthood. When one of my best friends, Beryl, gave me a Bob’s Revolution Jogging Stroller for my baby shower, I choked back tears when the beast arrived in the mail.

” Of course I bought that for you, ” she said, “you’re one of my oldest friends.”

The beast cost $450 bucks. The stroller known among the mommy set as the SUV of strollers was one large, expensive piece of equipment, one that I didn’t mind taking up room in the apartment.

And that stroller saved me mentally, for the first few years. But by the age of three, when Julia would announce “ Mommy why did you stop running?” every time I took a break on a rocky hill, or at a red light, or when I paused to change the song on my iPod, she sounded more and more like Coach Smith, my high school track taskmaster. So, I decided it was time to let go of the stroller. Besides, at 42 pounds it was getting to be a tight fit for Julia.

After that I ran sporadically and hated myself for it. I grabbed a sitter here and there and did a half-ass job of maintaining my running through the fall. Then the Snownado of 2015 hit the eastern seaboard.Then my life revolved around red wine, pasta Bolognese, and Babar books. During the last weeks March and the first signs of Spring were even more welcoming, more alluring. By mid April just the sight of a jogger either brought envy to my heart, or tears to my eyes.

“ Just take her with you,” Beryl said at dinner a week later. “I used to go ice skating with my mom and I loved it.”

“ I really prefer to run alone,” I said, “ but I guess running with Julia is better than not running at all. Two weeks ago, she and I did a loop of the bridle path in Central Park, me on my legs, she on her scooter. But because of the rocky parts and inclines she produced more tears than scooting time.”

“Try it again,” she said.” Without the scooter.”

I ached to run. So on Thursday April 30th I decided to put an end to the ache.

*

Julia and I exited our building. The air was cool and silky. I love the smell of sunlight in the morning. I’d forgotten how beautiful the world looks before you start hustling through your day. We crossed the street and strolled into Central Park. Julia munched her starter breakfast, while looking around puzzled at the emptiness of the typically bustling playground we favored, at the massive number of adults running and biking.

“Why are there so many grown ups in the park and no kids?” she asked.

“This is the time adults play, before work.”

An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track.
An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir, which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track.

And with that, she finished off her banana and tossed the peal in the trash receptacle. We headed up the bridle path toward the loop of the reservoir. A quarter of the way around the 1.6 miles, Julia, a child who runs like freed slave every time she hits New York City pavement, lodged her first complaint.

“Mommy. my legs are tired,” she moaned.

“Okay, let’s take a rest and headed into walking,” I answered somewhat annoyed.

When I started jogging again. She seemed pleased. Then Julia kicked up her heels and zoomed past me. Surprisingly. I liked it.

A mid thirties woman jogging towards us looked down at Julia and then yelled out, “She’s fast!”

“Did you hear that Mommy?!” Julia said. “She said I was fast! Then she kicked into another gear.

I studied Julia striding beside and in front of me, her long yet tiny legs,  her Ethiopian-ness in full view. Images of the last top ten finishers of the NYC Marathon, a healthy mix of Ethiopians present danced in my head. For a moment I could see my daugher crossing the finish line, the tape breaking across her chest, me there, waiting and cheering, bathed in tears. She would take a bow, a victory lap then head back to her studies at Yale Medical School.

The dream set, I got back to the job at hand. That morning my goal was to get back to a sport I love, at the time of day I love, by any means necessary. What I had not planned on was the pride I’d feel watching my daughter run in the sun beside me, and how each moment she passed me, her legs pumping away, her heels high, that joy grew and speed, and broke, to begin again. How I’d wear the glowing smiles that other runners cast other at us like garland throughout the day. That I would watch my daughter dash under the sun, taking the bend of the track just above the dark stones where the white cranes nest during their season, and box turtles sun themselves, and think this is how a love affair begins.

 

 

Finally, Happy Single Parents’ Day to Me

That single moms were sinful was the underlying message I absorbed while growing up in my two-parent, middle-class home in Detroit. There were two things my parents couldn’t abide — bad grades and illicit pregnancy.

When I was sixteen, my mom and dad sat me down and explained their preferred version of birth control. “We don’t want you to have sex,” they said. “We don’t believe in abortion. If you go and get pregnant, you’ll be staying home to take care of it. That would mean no college.”

It worked.

After graduation, I headed off to Parsons School of Design in Manhattan and then into the working world. I made friends and forged a career in advertising. Along the way, I collected classic children’s books, baby quilts, and knitwear scored at yard sales in the Hamptons, but I never had a child. In my thirties, when a girlfriend hosted a baby shower and decorated her apartment with photos of newborns from her mom’s pediatric unit, I tucked away dozens in my purse.

I discovered I was pregnant at 39. After my first trimester, I shared the news with friends. Then the pregnancy failed, taking my three-year relationship with it. I’d put off telling my mom out of fear. I arrived home two days before Christmas, walked into her kitchen, and blurted out,

“I was pregnant and lost the baby.” I collapsed into a heap of tears. After a long silence, my mom said, “I’m so sorry.” I knew she was. I spent the holidays in a cocoon of her care.

My dad, eight years dead, didn’t get a say.

I survived, along with my baby lust. A few years later I met another man. After failing to conceive, we began discussing adoption and researching options. Then our four-year relationship collapsed.

Eight months later, my phone rang. “We’re calling everyone who signed into the meeting as a single,” the social worker said. “There are rumors that Ethiopia will close to singles.”

“When?” I asked.

“Don’t know. But if you start the process now, there’s a good chance you’ll be grandfathered into the existing agreement.”

To quote the writer Toni Morrison, “Freeing yourself was one thing; taking ownership of that self was another.” While I’d begun the paperwork to become a single mom, taking ownership and freeing that self from shame was quite another thing. While many historical figures were raised by single parents‑‑ Presidents Obama and Clinton among them – and the 2010 U.S. census estimated that 11.7 million single parents were living with their children, I couldn’t fully face taking on that label.

“You can have the life you want,” my fifty-something Jewish analyst said. “Just not in the order society tells you it’ll come.”

Even my mom now held a more pragmatic view: “You may start out with a man, but it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with them. So if you want a baby, go get one.”

Discovering that Morrison had raised two sons and made a career by getting to her computer by 4 a.m. to create works that led to her winning the Nobel Prize, helped me believe I could have a creative life while raising a healthy, happy child.

I’ve learned to ignore the scrutiny of strangers focused on my left hand, checking for a gold band, as hold my daughters’ hand with my right. And I mostly dismiss my own self-judgmental inner voice that tells me I could die without ever marrying. I know that if I’d remained childless, I would’ve ultimately died from bitterness.

Through the adoption of my Ethiopian daughter, I’ve formed a community with other single parents, two-parent families, and same-sex families. What I didn’t expect was the big wide love I participate in every day and the gratitude I feel just by being Julia’s mom. Sure, my daughter could use a dad. But after months of government red tape, it wasn’t a certainty that she’d have a mom.

 *

“Happy Single Parent Day early,” my friend Charlie said over a glass of red wine.

“That’s a joke, right?”

“No, it’s a real day. March 21,” he said.

That evening I searched for and was surprised to learn that Single Parents’ Day had been in existence since 1984, launched in an article by Janice Moglen, a divorced mother of two who hoped that it would share the same recognition as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

So how does one observe Single Parents’ Day?  For me, it’ll be the same way I manage every other day, by chasing my kid, cleaning up spills, and shuttling her to swim class. Folding laundry. Reading stories. Slaying dragons hiding in closets.

Wondering what to give a Single Parent on this remarkable day? How about offering to babysit for a few hours so they can get catch a nap?

Happy Monday

The good book states that God created the universe in six days. However, Monday was the start day of the Almighty’s party. Mondays are epic, in the best and worst ways. There’s a reason way doctors say more heart attacks hit on Mondays. Monday is boots on the ground day. Time to put up or sit your ass down day, pardon my s’il vous plaît.

For me, Mondays serve as the positive start to my week.

Monday is the only day the nanny takes Julia to school. Monday is the one day where I can count on a luxury of time to organize my closet, sort my books, and maybe even, work on my personal writing before heading off to work. I’m talking a whooping an hour and fifteen minutes of free time within the confines of home. Alone. In single mommy land, that is a gold mine of time.

A few Monday’s back, I had plans, big plans. At 8:15 as Angie entered the house, I’d strap on my sneakers and exit. Then loop the Central Park reservoir and hit my lobby by 9:00. Shower, dress (apply my make-up in the subway like every other female gangster fashionista in New York City, and have my butt in my office chair by 10 am.

Well, best laid plans, of women, mice and men. For that Monday, 15th of May ,started with a plague in my home; a reign of destruction that arrived with a George Bush style shock and awe.

Plagues pretty much serve as plot twist in the bible: locusts, floods, and the much promised, fire next time. Of late

America has experienced its share of plague-woes. News reports in the past weeks have made testament to citizens caught in wild hell fires in the west, devastating floods in the Midwest, and the whirling funnel of death that cuts through the nations’ midsection, thought homes, churches, schools, and lives. Plagues hit and they hit hard.

And so it was with me. Dressed in my running tights, sweat wicking tee-shirt, and a smile I opened Julia’s door with a big ”Good Morning!” Then choked on the fumes.

“Mommy, I poo-pooed,” Julia said sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by a thousand white islands made from baby wipes.

Julia had pulled tee-shirts and undies from their drawers, to enlist in the clean up effort. Soiled piles rose in small hills across the floor, too. Further back, the potty seat liner was ajar. And at first glance, I swear, green Ghostbusters like fumes were waffling out from the top.

“Julia, when did you poo-poo?” Trying to determine when the poopnado touched down.

“This morning, and I cleaned my body,” she said.

And she had, in manner of speaking.

Julia had done her part; it was just that the poopnado covered a wide area of her room: the potty seat, and the surrounding low line areas of clothes, even the rug. And while Julia had made a deposit in the potty, devastation still lay in her pull up, across the once white islands of wet naps, and swath that ran up her back.

Much like the great Johnstown Flood of 1929, it was a poopnado of the likes I’d never seen.

And so did what any good parent does, I put my head down and put my back into cleaning up. I made adjustments for a new Monday. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I accepted what was instead of what might have been. I tossed Julia into a hot bath, got down to job of sanitizing her room’s surfaces, then gathered the soiled clothes and dumped them into the washer and started the machine. Then I returned to the room and broke out the cans. A fog of Lysol and Febreze clouded the air like napalm. Lastly, after a good soaking I scrubbed Julia down, took her from the bath, dried her off, dressed her, and fed her. With two minutes to spare the doorbell rang.

“Buenos dias,” I said swing the door open.

Angie spoke on a delayed timer. She always studied my face not the tone of my voice upon arrival, to see how things are going in the Holmes household.

“Come sta?” She asked as she moved across the threshold.

“We had massive a poop,” I said,

“Yes,” she said wrinkling up her little nose, “I can still smell it.”

I bid them good-bye, and said adios to the thought of running, too worn out by the poopnando, but not to the idea of a bit of yoga.

The air calmed. Outside, through the windows, golden sunlight danced through dark green leaves. And it was on move six, after downward dog, after I’d placed the flat of my feet together and straightened my spine, and closed my eyes that an odor flared up my nose. An odor that was out of place in my psychic happy place. I cracked open an eye. And glanced down. And there on my right heel, caked over the smooth tan skin, I discovered a thick crust of ca-ca.

I sat at the crossroads.

Do go the way of the ca-ca? Do I allow the poopnando to carve a path through the rest of my Monday? Or do I set a new path.

The French, I recently read in a book, seem to accept that “life is messy,” especially when you have four-year-old; a truth for single and coupled baby mamas and papas, a like.

“Having a two-year-old is like having a blender that you don’t have the top for,” Jerry Seinfeld
once said. Make that a double with a four-year- old.

So, I went forward with more downward dog, keeping the ca-ca as far from sight, and nose as possible. I knew that a good scrubbing would take care of everything. I knew Julia had got off the school smelling like rose. I knew my Monday was still mine. My spiritual intent held its ground. The poopnando had claimed nothing.

 

 

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.

The Mommy Faith Diaries, Vol. 1

Then the dad picked up the racket and handed to the cashier. Shock broke over the little girl’s face and mine, a flood that swept us both up.

“Hey, Miss, can they use my coupon, “I yelled to the cashier now welded the racket.

“No, only one per transaction.”

I stared as the remaining items slid into the thin brown plastic bag.
Someone should do something,” I thought.

Then I felt God’s boot on my butt. “Yes, and that someone is you.”

I didn’t want to embarrass the parents. But I had a greater want. I wanted that kid to have that tennis racket. Hell, any kid who wants a tennis racket should have a tennis racket. “She could be the Latina Serena Williams. Give that kid a damn racket,” I wanted to scream.

“Buy it for her,” God whispered.

The family, in the midst of gathering bags, prepared to leave.

“Excuse me, I yelled. “Would you mind if I buy the racket for your daughter, I have a coupon.”

The father eyes glazed over, for a few seconds, then he nodded yes. The mom smiled. The girls gaped.

“Where’s the coupon?” the cashier demanded.

“Well, ahhhh, just take it out of here, forget the coupon.” I said shoving money at her. “How much is it?”

“$17.44.”

Can you create a miracle for less than twenty bucks?  The look on the girls’ faces, the look that said, what a surprise, the world is, at times, a kind place, confirmed you could. The younger girl carried that look out of the door. The older girl, the next Serena, grabbed that racket, shoved it into the plastic bag, twisted it shut, and headed for the exit before someone changed his or her mind.

I held in a snicker. She will go far.

The parents thanked me. “ No need to thank me, “ I said waving them off. “We all want to do the best for our kids,” I said, “We all work hard so we can do something nice.” At least that’s what I said. All I could think was, “Somebody kid was going home from the damn Toys R Us with something they wanted. Tonight.”

Since anger makes me hard of hearing, God spoke louder. “You know, the train delay, the screw ups with the cart, I did that so you’d be here to help.”

Joel O. had just delivered this lesson the Sunday before.

” Sorry for the delay,” the sales associate said, and handed over the paperwork. It seemed a lifetime had passed.

“Thanks for your help and patience.” I folded the sheets, tucked them in my purse and headed to the escalator. A few feet from the moving steps, a tall Asian woman with an even taller teenage boy behind her, flagged me down.

” I saw what you did, that was very kind of you,” she said. “God’s is going to bless you.”

I gave her a weak smile. “He already has, I have a healthy child at home,” I said. “I just want her to have that tennis racket.”

photo-check
The evidence of things unseen

“He’s still going to bless you.”

Her words broke deeper into me, easing in a calmness that caused wetness to cloud my eyes. For a moment. I’d had so many moments of anger in Times Square. My first moment of grace here at the intersection of the world, took my breath a way. Then I sucked them up. Tears just aren’t a good look in Times Square on a Friday night.

The next day’s mail contained a check, a check I had no idea was on the way. A day later, I realized even God likes to show off every now and then.

Wherever Two or More Are Gathered

Two years ago, when an Ethiopian judge asked how I proposed to take care of a baby alone I repeated, after my panic subsided, an old African proverb:“It takes a village to raise a child; and back home in New York City I have a small village.”

My words came back to me, with the news that Julia will attend the same preschool as the son of  another Single Baby Mama cohort. And amazingly, another S.B.M.’s son will join our 3’s group.

So as I clutched the acceptance letter in my hands in front of the wall of mailboxes and read the crisp, page-length text, two, three, four times, as the words washed into relief, washed deeper into me, as my jaw stopped its throb and ache from the lock of stress, a new thought bloomed and brightened in my brain; we Single Baby Mamas will now connect and share the realities of our lives and our children’s lives, daily.

The next day, as we three moms stood on the chilled Central Park playground watching our kids zigzag around the wild zone of free play, I announced, “I’m just so happy Julia got into a good school.”
“I hope you’ll all love the school as much we do,” Single Baby Mama #2 said.
“It’s great that they’ll all be together,” #3 added.
Single Baby Mama #2 smiled. “It maybe selfish,” she said, “but I’m glad there’ll be around single moms there. Usually I’m the only one.”

I’d experience the same unruly feelings for the first time a summer ago, after I bolted from the house with my then one-year-old, through the 100-degree July heat, rushed down and then up the steps of the subway and through the doors of a birthday party for a three-year-old only to discover I was the only mate-less parent in attendance.

As the birthday celebration worn on to its inevitable conclusion, as Julia stuffed chunks of chocolate cake into her mouth, I worked to remember that I nearly didn’t get a child to experience this awkward, odd feeling.

Sometimes the logic holds.

I want Julia to have the best of everything, and yes that includes a father.  God required two adults to come together and make a baby for a reason, I believe. However, for now, the best will consist of a great school, a great home and good mom. And I have a great example to follow. One of Julia’s God Mothers (yes she has two God Mommys Eula and Kim between their survival spirit and unsinkable faith my daughter will be well armed in the world. The search for a God Father continues.)

Still, in this case I am the one learning by Kim’s example.

Over the years I’ve watched Kim, for the most part, raise a wonderful daughter, Jenny, my God Daughter, on her own. Kim never complained, never doubted, at least outwardly. She has supported Jenny as she has grown into a lovely, smart, accomplished young woman; a woman we are all very proud of. And just when you thought the universe had done enough for Kim, a loving, smart accomplished man arrived into her life, a funny, handsome doctor no less, creating a miraculous second act in her life. Kim’s wonderful husband came with a young son in tow from his first marriage. Kim’s bond with the boy, and he with her, is so strong, so seamless, it would seem to strangers their union was formed in blood.

A few weeks back The New York Times ran a piece about a village of women in rural Vietnam, who, lacking marriageable men in their community, or had husbands who did not returning after the war, set out to create, birth and rear children on their own, at great risk to society and economic pressures. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/world/asia/in-vietnam-some-chose-to-be-single-mothers.html.

During the dark years of waiting for Julia’s arrival I asked the adoption agency for the names of other single moms and dads to be.  To me, this small community of women is vital. We don’t just survive, we thrive. And, so do our children.

Now looking at the wind worn wrinkled face of an older woman in the Loi providence from the curve of the newsprint, her red sweater clad grandson curled in her arms, I realized, over my morning cappuccino that I was face to face with an older, long-lost sister.