Category: Single African American Mother By Adoption

How a Technophobe Single Mom Found Her Groove with the Amazon Echo

 

In my previously, pre-mommy life, I would have no words for the Amazon Echo. None would be needed. I’ve always favored Crayola’s over computers, even while growing up beside two Joy-stick-addicted brothers in a middle-class Detroit home.  I maintained my creative bent right into attending undergrad at Parsons School of Design, thanks to the support and financing of my parents. No A.I. for me, thanks.

When motherhood arrived through the adoption of an eight-month-old Ethiopian girl, my position didn’t alter. When my twenty-something nanny nudged me toward internet-ready lullabies, I declared my Manhattan apartment a techno-free zone and clung to the human version. My daughter’s toys weren’t low tech, they were no tech. However, my brother Jeffrey pushed me past my semi-luddite tendencies regarding the TV.

“You’ll be watching more movies at home…so will Julia.  You need to upgrade to a flat screen and surround sound.”

I huffed into the phone,” Alright, only because I get a good deal through work.”

Days later when the system arrived, I called him tech support back in Michigan.

“Great, let’s get it hooked up now!” Jeffrey said, his voice all amped up from tech-induced adrenalin. An hour later, I plopped in a disk, grabbed the remote and clicked on the DVD button. Sound boomed from the speakers, twin dark maws, atop the TV cabinet.  Images whirled across a screen so bright, so big, it seemed the neighboring apartment across the way had a good shot at enjoying, Aliens, too.  “Wow,” I mumbled.

Jeffrey chuckled. “Welcome to the new world.”

But one flat screen TV does not a revolution make. My eight-month-old blossomed into a classic American kid, one captivated by all things electronic. I banished PlayStation and Nintendo determined to guard my seven-year-old against mind-numbing entertainment.

On an evening in June as hot as August I entered the cool of a West Side apartment to the twang of techno. My daughter and her seven-year-old pal tumbled across the Serapi styled rug in the living room. Silvered light slid through the west windows. All seemed beautiful, until, on a side table, among books and bowls of snacks, I spotted the source of the music, a dark tower, about two feet high.

“You have an Echo!?” I said jabbing the air.

“Sure,” the mom said.

“Don’t your kids talk to that thing non-stop?”

“Nah, they mostly play music.”

Unconvinced, as Dee hunted down loose socks and crumb-coated bowls across the living room, I quizzed her husband.

“Andy only asks about sports scores, hasn’t figured out that he can do anything else.”

“Don’t you want him to find information on his own?” I asked with a tone that implied the fall of democracy wasn’t far behind.

He smirked. “Why not both?”

Julia and I made our good-byes then headed home. But as she skipped over a subway grate, her long, lean brown legs twisted and thrilled in the simmering heat. Her mind was still back at the Richardson’s apartment.

“Mommy, can we get an Alexa?”

“We don’t need it.”

“But mommy, I lovvvvvve music and I can’t play it.”

“I know Julia.”

“Please mommmmmmy.”

In the days to come I thought of how Julia, as a baby, crooned in her crib, creating her own music, of how my own musical DNA, formed by the foundation of my dad’s Detroit record shop, had been shelved once when I became a Single-Mom-in-Chief.

The parcel arrived two days later. Inside, the always-on, Bluetooth speaker. Built Artificial Intelligence. But not enough to assist me in hooking it up. After thirty-minutes I called for backup.

“Try unplugging and replugging it Ma’am,” the Amazon tech said.

Getting Ma’am, did not help matters.

“Try reinstalling your Wi-Fi password.”

I groaned, and put the Echo in a choke hold.

“Ma’ma, let us update the software from here…don’t talk to Alexa for at least an hour,” he said.

I stared at my cell. Did he just refer to a machine using a proper noun?

“Sure, I can do that.”

Three days later Julia looked up from her morning bowl of Honeynut Cheerios and asked, “Mommy, is Alexa ever going to work?”

I’d spent my days eying the shipping carton in my closet, considering sending the Echo back to the Mothership. Tech support had been a bust. Jeffrey, the early adapter, didn’t have an Echo. Besides, I needed a smart kid, not a smart home. But as I regarded my daughter’s pleading eyes, I felt something different. Something new. Shame.

I clicked off the flat screen, re-juiced the Echo, then tapped the app on my cell. I reinstalled my Wi-Fi password and preferences, then studied the setup video. Again.

“Give Alexa a prompt,” the final super read.

I winced. “Alexa, what’s the weather?”

“It’s 72 degrees in New York City.” A female voice alto. Strong yet warm. Ish.

Julia’s spoon clanged to a halt. “It’s working!?”

I smiled and nodded.

Julia squealed and said, “Alexa, play ‘Shake it Off!’”

“Playing Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, from the album 1989.”

And with that she jumped up and launched into a frenzied dance of gratitude.

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.55.17 AM
The one and only. Even if you don’t have a kid, it’s pretty cool.

 

The next morning, I awoke, in bed, alone. A rarity. I don’t have an alarm clock. I have Julia. I slipped on my robe, crept down the hall, and found her twirling around the living room in the pale sunlight, to the strain of strings; The Nutcracker Suite.

“Look Mommy, I’m doing ballet!”

I blinked.

“And Mommy watch this…Alexa…what’s your favorite color?”

“Julia honey, it won’t…”

“…My favorite color is… infra red.”

Julia beamed.

Clearly, the Echo programmers were parents.

That evening when Julia mentioned a book she’d read at school “Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop,” I realized Parker’s music could round out the story.

“Alexa, play the best of Charlie Parker,” I bellowed from the kitchen, over the rattle of pots.

Be-bop bounced through the air. A vitally important example of intelligence, I now shared with my daughter. A teaching moment was underway along with dinner. As bedtime approached, Julia absently, slowly, gathered her shoes and dolls from the floor, I looked to Alexa for help. “Alexa, play the Barney Clean-Up Song.” Barney bumbled on. Julia picked up the pace. I marveled. Muscle memory is a beautiful thing.

The writer Arthur Clarke declared that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Julia would agree. Alexa is lending a hand in providing resources for daughter’s creative passions. That’s help I welcome. And since the world has made tuning into the news a cautionary pursuit, I value Alexa in new ways. Once the goal was to protect Julia from senseless video gaming. Now I need to shield her from a world where even nature has turned conflicted and violent. Alexa is magic. Just not magic I thought I’d need. Even depend on.  Perhaps, that was Clarke’s point all along.

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The Help Most Every Mom Needs

The marathon that is motherhood has many runners in the relay, but few water stations and shade. So, I when received a new newsletter from the writer KJ Dell’Annonia about the value of ignoring some of your kids rants and raves, I had to look beyond the unwashed pot of mac and cheese, loose socks and rings of crushed Cheetos in the carpet, and click on this value advice.

Julia’s verbal skills are off the charts. So, therefore, so is her ability to launch an epic and relentless Whine-a-Thon: “The corn on the cob is too hot…. The subway car is too cold…Why can’t I have marshmallows for breakfast.”

And her biggie:

“Mommy, why can’t I have a brother, or a sister, or dog or a dad,” she said breaking it down for me as we walked to the subway station, headed to her pre-school. “Everyone in my class has at least three living things in their house. And I’m the only one…”

“Julia, that’s not true.”

“It is true mommy!”

I countered with the two other two single parent adopted kids in her class: one mom, one kid, one house.

“Theo has a dog, and Tamir just got two cats,”

I came back with the one single, divorced Mom in Class 715.

“Okay, Olivia lives with her Mom…”

“…And her Abuela.”

Aghhh.

Not only did she use the Spanish word for grandmother for her Latina pal, Julia locked her argument with a closer, “I would have asked for a cat but I know you’re allergic.”
Two days later I gave in a got her three fish, Pinkie Pie, Blueberry and Cory, adopted from our local Petco. Three Beta fish. Two years later, only Pinkie-pie is still standing, or, umm swimming.

“You put three Meta fish in one tank,” my co-worker bellowed.
“No one at Petco told me you couldn’t! They just took my American Express Card.”
Today, it’s a sense of pride that the nicest, least-aggressive fish is the lone survivor.
Thanks to Pinkie Pie and KJ’s words, now I’m taking that same tack. I’m just trying to stay ahead of the whinny barbs, ignore more and talk less, and wait for the tide to turn. I penned a note of KJ to thank her for the assist.

“It’s not easy,” she wrote back.

Boy, was she right.

Then I remembered something I heard Whoopi Goldberg say on The View some years ago. That her kid was such a crier she used ear plugs to tamp it down.

“But what if she needed you?” another host asked.

“I could hear her enough,” Whoopi said.

Since we live in New York City, with a bottomless supply of audio assaults, screaming sirens, dog wars, and buildings that multiply conversations, so clearly I can hear every word from my bed, eight floors above, I’ve used Mack’s Soft Ear Plugs for years. Soft, pliable, and effective, they can be had at Amazon for $2.25 for six pairs.

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 12.22.41 PM

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003LZQGN6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&th=1

Now I employed my sleep support as Mommy sanity support.

So, on the third day when the whining and whirled, I left Julia on her metaphorical soap box in the living room, headed down the hall into my bedroom, grabbed my ear plugs from my night stand and jammed them into my ears. Then I smoothed my hair down to conceal them. Then I grabbed her gear for day camp: tennis racket, lunch box, water bottle (half ice, half water) then I palmed my door keys and shouldered my purse and work tote.

“Okay, let’s go.”

“I don’t want to go to tennis, it’s too hot.”

“…..”

“The bench is hot, and the other kids have a towel to sit on, I don’t have a towel. I don’t want to take one of our black towels because nobody has a black towel. They all have towels with Sponge Bob and Mulan and Trolls on them…”

“…..”

“And Coach Simone makes us play too long.”

“Julia did you just complain about playing a game too long, I’ve seen you hang at the playground for hours…”

“But Mommy, that’s different.”

Back to radio silence.

These wonderful ears plugs got me to wonderful Harlem Junior Tennis Program, 30 minutes away by subway and bus, with a much larger portion of my sanity intact for a morning drop off. As we entered the park, Julia bolted away to join her pals warming up with rackets and bright, techno yellow fuzzy balls. I pried the plugs from my ears and popped them into my purse.

“Good Morning,” Coach Simone said, her beautiful brown glowing skin luminous in the sunlight, framed by her hot pink tennis dress. A handful of brown, pink and tan kids whacking balls into nets, some over the wide white band. The orderly pale lines of the court. The rich green field. Why hadn’t I noticed this in three days.

“Yes, it is a good morning,” I said, and smiled, wished and well, and walked away with my secret.

To receive KJ Dell’Annonia weekly email on “raising a family, having a life and loving (almost) every minute of it,” in your inbox, subscribe now,  http://kjdellantonia.us12.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=101be682cae125f8735451df8&id=80abd93691

 

Umm, Where was I?

It’s amazing how differently an adult experiences summer when you are the parent of a small child. Sure, time still moved, it just moved less and less in my general direction, towards my writing.  Much of my waking hours ticked by while running the Julia circuit: Saturday swim lessons, birthday parties, play dates and other dates that always held a nucleus of children.

Gone are the days of my dashing out to the Hamptons, hanging out on the white sandy beaches or sitting among a huddle mass of my friends, planning the menu for our long, languid Saturday night dinners. Of course I know such a house will come back, say, in four or five years, when Julia is a bigger girl. But that future summerhouse experience will be a family house, not the casa di gourmand. 

Ready for fishing with her Barbie pole and life vest, courtesy of Uncle Dan
Ready for fishing with her Barbie pole and life vest, courtesy of Uncle Dan

Meanwhile, Julia had a great summer. She went upstate to The Adirondacks and    got in touch with her inner fisherman. She traveled to the Catskills for a stay at the  Manhattan Country Day School farm through the invite of friends and got to touch with her inner farmer. And one morning she also got in touch with her inner her big girl, as I discovered while running around the house in my underwear, working to get ready in fury. That morning Julia reminded just how fine tuned little eyes can be.

Historians deemed 1967 The Summer of Love. But in the Holmes Household 2014 was the Summer of Change.

B_Girl final
Mommy, look what I made

Our wonderful nanny married the love life of her life, Julia start riffing out communiqués in complex sentences and making up her bed, while I experienced the power of what half an Advil PM can do for the single parent monkey mind that refuses to shut down at days end.

 

Julia enjoying the fresh air fun of a working farm
Julia enjoying the fresh air fun of a working farm

 

Julia on the big day
Julia on the big day

 

 

 

 

 

All in all Julia’s toddlerhood is a thing of the past. She a little girl, a little person with thoughts and opinions and ideas about everything including how she should dress. And that’s okay. It’s the order of things. Yet, a part of that order includes the inability for me to rise early enough, say 6:30 a.m. to write before Julia awakes. Now she’s the official morning greeter around these parts, knocking on my door and announcing Good Morning! with a verve only a four-year-old can serve up. I was never a morning gal, as my mom and college roommates can attest. But to have that sparking salutation, to see that beautiful auburn face, to receive the first injection of love at the start my day, well I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I will say this: welcome fall. Welcome autumn with your golden light. Welcome back school. Welcome. Welcome back to the land of the scribe single baby mama.

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.

 

 

What Moms Talk About When We Talk at Playgrounds

“Since Yelcin listens to Turkish at home he’s taking his time learning English. While my mom was here she only spoke Turkish. Now his English is getting so much better,” Servgi said as we shared a green bench in Central Park together.

The first virgin fresh breezes of Spring stroked our faces. Our hands sat nestled on our laps, warmly, sans gloves. Here, in the calm of a Saturday morning, I welcomed the chance to share time with Servgi, mom to boy in Julia’s class. With the daily hustle of getting ourselves and our toddlers out of the door and into school, a grinding five-day-a-week paramilitary operation that left little time for parents to connect. Saturdays were another social animal all together.

“I had same the fear,” I said with a grin, relieved the danger had passed. “I thought Julia was going to be speech delayed and that she’d need a language therapist. She was a late talker. After all, she listened to Empiric the first eight months of her life.”

A blank backwash set into Servgi’s face then splashed back on me. I’ve told the story of Julia and me and Ethiopia so often our back story sits way back in my mind. Yet, it’s so firmly apart of our identity its slips my mind that others only see a mom and a little girl. They write their own narrative. Everyone does. They’re viewing the first Star Wars movie. Julia and I are on Star Wars IV, Return of the Jedi.

“I adopted Julia from Ethiopia, at eight months old. I thought I had told everyone that needed to know in class.” Within class 616 out of twelve kids, three were adopted, two by single women. Another kid had two mommies; one set of parents were composed of a South Asian and an American; the diversity of New York City worked triple time in our little Pre K class.
Servgi stared straight ahead. Her eyes crinkled, then blinked. She turned and set them into mine “I just knew you were a single mom. I didn’t know how that happened or anything. My sister’s thinking of it. I knew other kids in the class were adopted, and she wanted me to ask them about the process. But I didn’t feel comfortable.”

I remembered the sister’s aching days well, longing for information, searching for a more knowledgeable mind to mine for facts and help. The road to adoption is fraught with the paving stones of heartache and losses and preconceived biases. Without help it’s so difficult to see beyond that long stretch of potholes and off ramps and jack-knifed-tracker-trailer-trucks and car fires littering the road. It’s Mad Max: Welcome to the Terror Dome. And it’s you’re life.

My shrink used to say, “You can have want you have just not how society tells you it will come.” I quoted Dr. Sickles often. But what does someone do that doesn’t have shrink logic to access? They do a Blanche DuBois. They depend on the kindness of strangers.

“I went to Spence Chapin,” I said, starting out slow. “I heard good things about them and their office was close to my home, just on the other side of Central Park, on the eastside. I picked an agency that was easy to get, so wouldn’t drag my feet. I’d had seven years worth of set backs.”
Servgi sighed.I sat silent, allowing the first set of data to load in. Servgi and her husband have one biological child. A son. Yelcin, a boy who is clearly the sun of his parents’ universe. And Julia’s too, I thought as I watched them they giggle and glide into a make shift game of tag on the cushy-matted area of the playground. My daughter has good friends. Julia is a good friend, for the most part, when sharing comes ease. For a very long time, ten years to be exact, it seemed as if I’d never do something so basic, so human, as sit on a Manhattan playground and watch my kid, my daughter, play a chasing game. I chased that dream for a decade until I snared and caught it. Yet and still, I have settled into my crazy ass busy life, I have to poke my memory into dredging up my Biblical Job like journey.

“Tell your sister there are a lot of kids out there that need homes. I just read that UNICEF estimates that there are roughly thirteen million orphans in the world, with 95% of all orphans over the age of five.”

“Wow that’s a lot of kids.”

“I think the article stated that in 2013, there were nearly 9,000 international adoptions to the U.S, with older kids coming in at 30% percent.”

“Did you think about that, adopting an older kid?”
I chuckled. “I raised my age to two years with the idea that it would speed up my adoption. When Becky called from Spence Chapin, and said they had two-month-old, I was floored. “I requested a two-year-old, remember? I skipped the baby section of the T. Berry Brazleton book.”

“Becky laughed and said, ‘I suggest you go back and read it. With luck you’ll bring her home at six months.’” “At some point you just want a kid, little else matters.”

Servgi let loose a rumbling belly laugh. The universe setting its own intention never fails to get a giggle. “ My sister wants to adopt from Turkey, where we’re from.

“That’s lovely…Spence Chapin could probably help her. They work in Bulgaria, Columbia, and work with other countries…a few hundred adoptions to the States.

“It’s a good place for her to start.”

“And they regular information meetings, so she can go and check out adoption without making an appointment.”

“I look at the news I see kids all the time,” Servgi said as a little girl with a curly Afro scooted by us on a purple three wheel. “It’s just sad.”

I sighed then turned my face toward the gray cement ground. “Once you let go of having your child, your way, once you realize it’s about the eighteen-years after they come out of the womb, not just the nine months prior, that changes everything. Then the wonderful ladies at Spence Chapin can help you figure out what works best for you.”

I looked up at the tens of kids, brown, yellow and pink buzzing about the playground, spun by the frenetic energy of youth. How happy they were just being, just running, just laughing. Playground energy is powerful. Effervescent.

“I tell people, first you’re afraid that you can’t afford it. Then you move forward. You travel to meet your child and see the tiny faces in an orphanage, kids beyond the one you came to meet. At moment you realize, you have everything a kid wants. Someone who cares. You can see it in their eyes. Becky and Stella were there for me day in and day out, affirming with me that one day I would become a mom. You need that from a lot of channels to keep moving forward.”

“Mommy, mommy watch me, watch me,” Julia sang out from a high point atop the rope climb. “Mommmieeeeee!!!” Yelcin now crooned with her. Servgi and I turned towards the ring of voices. The shinning sun crowned our heads. The park was alive with children, running, jumping, throwing, catching, digging, pulling, and some crying. Today is a good day. Today I can share. Today I am a light.

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.

Shot through the Heart

I thought after viewing the morning news at the dawn of last Wednesday my next post would focused around Steve Martin was becoming a first time Dad at the age of 67 and the second coming, so to speak, of Alex Baldwin’s fatherhood as he and his third wife await their new baby.

abcnews.go.com/Health/alec-baldwin-wife-pregnant-fatherhood-time/story?id=18494143

I though I would craft prose around the disparity between the treatment of over forty moms verses dads, how society gives older fathers nearly visible high fives, and few snickers behind their backs at their news of “a bun in the oven,” while many first time over 40 Moms, receive wide eye stares, and looks reserved for Hollywood alien spacecraft landing on suburban lawns. Two years ago, a Whole Foods cashier not once but twice, integrated me during the same transaction about my claim of motherhood to Julia.
“ You sure you’re not her grandma?” The girl with the Kool-Aid colored red hair and pink slacked lips, asked.

I thought I would write about the documentary I’d seen a few months back featuring an Indian woman who finally achieved motherhood, at the age of seventy year-old, through an egg donor program and a willing doctor.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28112285/ns/health-pregnancy/#.USYl5Y7FX-Y

I thought I’d write of her glowing pride, as she held her baby, while her wrinkled, brown-skinned husband nearly levitating off the floor. “Now we are no longer ashamed, now we have a child,” he said, the curse of childlessness had ended. I knew for sure I wanted to write about the broken pride I held for this Indian couple, half a world away.

Then I clicked on an email around, noon and I found out Julia did not get in my first choice school for her, St. Hilda’s.
Even before Julia came home, even before the miscarriage that led to the journey of adoption, riddled with stories of bribes and terrors, I braced myself for the private school process in New York City. Five years earlier a Wall Street executive, Jack Grubman was brought down, not by the Feds or a money mismanagement scandal, but from his attempt to bribe his way into an Upper East Side pre school. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=123782&page=1

Every nursery school ,that I know of, our home is private, requiring an application and “play date test.” So if I must pay, why not give Julia the best, what I considered the best, what I had seen as the best. For the past five years I’ve watched two extraordinary boys at my church grow into talented, smart young men before my eyes, through the efforts of their parents, and St. Hilda’s. I wanted St. Hilda’s before I wanted Julia.

But the email said “ We sincerely regret”

I had prayed. “that we were unable to offer your child”

I had affirmed. “a place in our school.”

I read the e-mail, and let out an audible gasp reserved for witnesses to a pedestrian mowed down by a drunk driver.

I haven’t felt this low since my adoption of Julia was almost annulled.

*

“You know, after everything you and Julia have been through the past three years, this is just a blip on the screen,” my brother Jeffery said. “ Sure, schools matter but the parents matters more.”
I stood staring at the sea of Manhattan traffic trying to figure out just when my baby brother had become so brilliant, so statesman like. Gandhi of Michigan.

*

I walked into my home Wednesday night, and before I removed my coat, I removed a bottle of wine from the sideboard.
“St. Hilda’s said no,” I told my nanny’s curious eyes, the answer to the why’s and what for’s of my actions, my opening and pouring a beaker of wine within minutes of entering the house was unseen in the year that she has worked for our family.

“But we had the second playdate!” she yelped.

“Yeah, that seemed a good sign.”

*

“I’m in shock, did they say why?” My mom asked.

“They never say why,” I explained. “It’s like a mob hit., two to the chest, one to the head. And adios.”

*

Julia’s not quite three years old; plenty of time for disappointments, more than enough time to learn life uses them as paving stones. This I know. But this was a new variety of a disappointment. Disappointments of mine, I can weather. Disappointments for my girl, my Julia, well, talk to me in a month.

*

“I’ll see what I can find out about other pre-schools,” Ronda offered, later that night.

“Sure,” I said, and took another gulp of wine. The Cabernet burned its way down my throat. This is not a wine consumption enjoyment moment. This was self-medication.
“A blip on the screen.” Really?

*

The next morning, remembered the date, February 14th. A shot to the heart and your to blame, your give love a bad name.