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The Single Baby Mama’s New World Order

When the universe the universe hands you a gift, you grab it with both hands. And I did just that when Julia’s sitter, oops I mean Julia’s Personal Assistant arrived to the house early. Natasha rejects the terms nanny or sitter.

“I’m here crazy early,” Natasha said after I opened the front door of the apartment still sporting my ruby red bathrobe.

“I’ll just drop off my bag and go do an errand,” she said.

And that was the plan until Julia caught on.

“I want to go! Can I come? Please Tasha!”

“Sure, come on Jules.” Then Natasha turned to me and said with a sly smile. “I’ll give you a little time to yourself before you go to work.” Then the two of them scooted out the front door and into the warm morning.

I thought of putting this luxury of time towards hauling out my fall/winter clothes, or pruning down the books I’ve deemed unimportant enough to keep, for about seven minutes. Then through the living room windows I caught a glimpse of the honeyed light. I peered down eight floors, and sported a woman clad in tights and a tank top jog along side Central Park.

After four years of running with Julia while I pushed a SUV-sized Bob Revolutionary jogging stroller, and now with her running beside me, I can say, alone time while running was a huge gift. So I jumped in tights, tee shirt and sneakers and bolted from the apartment, crossed the avenue, and podded into Central Park. Normally I don’t run on cement. This was no normal morning.

Autumn in New York is a beautiful time in the city. Trees are still green and lush. The air smells a little fresher because of the moderate temperatures, mostly rising only to the low 70s. There was a reason why Vernon Duke was inspired to write a song about autumn here.

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. One of my favorite places to run in the world.

So I ran and ran until my barely charged iPod burned down. I kept ran until I could not run another step. Forty-five minutes later, I crawled out of the park, towards home, sweaty and happy. As I reached the entrance of the building I noticed the doorman talking to the porter a bit further away from the door, on the grey sidewalk, standing in the sun.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the day, I thought.

I pressed my key into the lock, opened the front door, and pealed off my sneakers and socks as I clambered down the hall.

“Mommy’s home, Mommies home!” Julia said running up to me, lassoing her thin arms around my knees, Then she stepped back and plopped her hands onto her skinny hips. Natasha stood next to her and did the same.  They glared at me.

“We want to talk to you,” Natasha said.

“Yeah, Mommy!”

“We didn’t know where you were when we came back from our errands. Your phone was here and iPad so we knew you hadn’t left for work. But we couldn’t find you. We went down to the recycle area, we asked the building porters, and still couldn’t find you… so then started think that maybe it was episode from Law and Order SVU.

Stared at them both blankly and chuckled. They didn’t laugh. They were dead serious.

“We thought something happened to you.”

“Yeah, Mommy!”

Natasha leaned in close. I wasn’t sure if she would hug me or slug me. Heat radiated off her skin. “We were really worried we didn’t know where you were.”

“I went running.”

“But you didn’t tell anybody.”

The thought did cross my mind to send her a text but I didn’t because the fact is: I haven’t had to tell anybody where I was going for a long time. As the only adult in my house. I make and execute the rules around theses parts. But with a new sitter, opps I mean Personal Assistant for Julia, everything is clearly different. Albeit in a good way.

“I’m sorry guys I made you worry,” I said and hugged them both, sweaty and all.

“We went down to the basement and called out,” ‘Jenine Holmes answer if you can hear me.’ “Then we finally went and asked the doorman had he seen you, Carlos said you went jogging.”

Geez, if I had spoken to Carlos he could have warned me that I was in deep doo doo at home. 

“Really guys I’m very sorry.”

“Mommy you deserve a butt spank!” Julia said with more than a little bit of gee.

“She sure does!” Julia’s PA said backing her benefactor.

I smiled. “Okay Jules, I’ll take my medicine,” I said, bent my bum over and braced myself.

Let’s just say, for a five-year-old kid Julia has quite a wind up and a heavy hand.

After a few hundred swats Natasha pulled Julia’s tiny hand away, “Okay, Jules that’s enough.”

But it would never be enough. There was so much love in the swatting, some much love behind their angry eyes. It was right then and there that I knew. We three, on a serious level, had formed a real and vital bond. All summer I worried about finding a sitter who could work with Julia’s longer days at school, worried how this child care scenario would play out with Angie  leaving our home seeking full time work. Who knew the universe already had the answer? Already had the new world order worked out. A new lesson for the Single Baby Mama. I just had to step forward, and say yes.

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.

 

 

Lessons in Swimming

Easter weekend, on a bright Saturday morning, I sat poolside studying Julia and her friend I’ll call T, taking their weekly swim lesson. With Passover and Easter falling over the same weekend, the poolroom was still and empty, except for Mr. T’s mom and me‑‑ and our kids.

Coach D with some of his other students. Julia is the furthest from camera, at the end.
Coach D with some of his other students. Julia is the furthest from camera, at the end.

Julia and Mr. T bobbed in the water beside their coach, a kind-hearted, cocoa-skinned mid 40s man, who melded the art of swimming with the mellow teaching style of Yoda. Coach D has a way with kids and the water. Still, after a year of lessons, on this morning, we discovered a different side of his coaching style

Mr. T. wasn’t into jumping into the pool, even at 4 feet. Coming in around 3 ½ feet, or so he probably didn’t think it was such a great idea. Additionally, bodies of water appear deep no matter where you stand, at least to me. And possibly him.

But Coach wasn’t having it.

“Do you mind if I give him a little assistance,” Coach D said to the boy’s mom.

“Sure, go ahead,” she said.

Then Coach called out, “I need some help out here.” His assistant, a lean tan, twenty-something Latino man sporting swimming trunks, peeked out from the office door, beyond the far end of the pool.

“Can you come here, please?” Coach asked.

The man moved forward, towards T and Julia with a slowed kind of walk that didn’t suit him. Far too tentative and measured to be his norm. He rolled to a slow stop and stood beside the boy.

“Toss him in,” Coach D said.

“You sure?” his assistant asked.

“Okay with you, Mom?” Coach asked again.

“Yes.”

Then Julia’s kid alarm bells activated, no doubt brought on by the boy’s large, round eyes that now leaked tears that streaked his face.

“C’mon you can do it, just like this,” Julia said and raised her thin brown arms up into a mock diving move. But still the boy clung to the edge of the tile anchored by his toes and his fears.

Now Mr. T’s mom and I began to cheer him on using the typical “ You can do it!” and a few “It’ll be fun, c’mon!” thrown in, to no avail.

Coach D stood in the waist-high water, alone, waiting. “Do you think I would ask you to do something that would hurt you? he asked the boy.

The boy shook his head from side to side. Then a sob escaped from his throat. And a lump formed in mine.

“Then come on, jump,” Coach said.

And still the boy did not move.

“Okay, Mike do it,” Coach D said.

And with that the boy flew through the air like a fallen bird, and crashed through the smooth, blue surface of the water.

 ***

I thought of all the times I’d been pushed into the brink by life. People have call me brave for adopting a child on my own, for being a single parent. But like Mr. T, I felt the fear, and clung to the edge of the known world, too. How would I be perceived as a single parent? How would I care for this child economically on my own? Then, the social worker called with the notification that Ethiopian might close to single adopters.

I spent two days in my apartment, clinging to the edge of the pool. On the third day I called the social worker and said, “I will come in and fill out the paperwork to get started.” It was wide in the air. Then I touched down. My body bobbed and quaked in the chilled water. And then I began to swim.

And like Mr. T, once I started swimming. I kept swimming, for three years, until Julia came home. In a way, as a single parent, I still swim quite a bit, however it’s mostly with the tide. And by now having water-soaked skin and damp hair is my new normal. But some days the water holds a North Atlantic frigidity that make me forget that I know how to swim, temporarily.

***

Mr. T  splashed towards Coach, slicing the water with smooth toddler stokes, completed his lap then pulled himself free of its grip. Cheers reverberated off the tile walls like symbol crashes at the symphony, delivered by four happy adults and a thrilled little girl. T’s little chest billowed out, proud and round. His eyes shorn bright. It was thrilling to see him, the whole of him, happy and pleased with himself, his feet planted on new ground; a new Eden of accomplishment. He reminded me to look around at where I stand, at my daughter, at our lives and take pleasure and pride in the same.

The 9AM Mommy Basil Injection

“By praying for one another, we’re giving each other insulin,” my friend A says after we’ve dropped off our kids and dashed over to the near by cafeteria, half a block from our kids Upper Westside school. We selected the side booth, to the right, our go to position, permitting us to set our backs against the room, against the outside world, for a time.

“This is our praying booth,” A says, her head cocked, causing her long, chestnut hued locks to tumble around her small shoulders.

“Just like a confessional,” I answer. “But only with more crying.”

We chuckle, motivated not by humor but from truth.

I’ve always been a praying sort. First I prayed for a child, and then I prayed for that child’s good health. Now my praying has taking on a smorgasbord quality, prayers sent up here and there, from the time my feet hit the floor to midnight when I turn down the covers and I launch my final salute just before sleep. They run from, “Please God let there be enough milk for breakfast and coffee”; to “Please God let the subway come now so we can get to school on time,” to “Please God let my Spanx smooth out my pouch enough that I don’t regret wearing this dress out of the house.”

BecomingScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 11.22.50 PM a mom may have ramped up my requests. Through my friendship with, A I have lifted up my prayers to mystic levels. Praying for others will do that, taking you out of your own head, your perceived quagmire of troubles and problems. Once upon  a time I’d believed serious trouble stalked me. Not anymore. Sure, I have bad days. Living a faith-based life does not make you immune from crampy-hit-me-with-another-bar-keep-days. But whatever thorny briars I land on are more of the artisanal variety, handmade by my or another’s neglect, or circumstance, or my miscalculation. Now I pray for right out comes on a higher level. For you see, through witnessing A’s journey, her worries, her journey, I know I have everything. A healthy kid is the greatest gift any parent can have.

“We happened to visit our old church last week,” A says as she takes on the jet-fuel of caffeine, “and we happened to met a nurse advocate, one we could never afford. She’s going to help us get the equipment we need.”

“That’s God at work,” I say.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.44.47 PM

“She only works with private diabetes clients, so she’s really a gift.”

A’s mouth says the nurse advocate is a gift. But it’s her eyes, gray-green and still that contain oceans of worry, dark half moons set below that tell of her long night that speak the loudest.

Ever since my friend’s four-year-old daughter, a bright shining child with dancing eyes just like her mom, received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes there have been odd gifts that have come her family’s way through this new upside world. The first gift came when A and her husband took their daughter to the hospital after the child started vomiting with such a force on vacation than it moved them toward the nearest emergency room rather than to the airport to board a flight to the east coast as planned. After the EMS team stabilized their four-year-old, five days later, the doctors informed A and her husband that if their family of three had boarded the aircraft for the east coast, only two of them would have exited the plane in New York City.

Now A lives in a world where she wakes her kid throughout the night to test her blood sugar levels, a land where the poking and prodding and worry has no end.

“Forgive me for saying this,” another mom at our school moaned in the sealed, privacy of the elevator car as we descended to the first floor and headed into our day after drop off, “But it’s not like her daughter has cancer, I mean people don’t died from diabetes.”

Heat crackled on my skin. Like gas and electricity. “No, actually she could die,” I blared back leaving off the “you asshole” final punctuation to my statement. “She could fall into a coma if her blood sugar level plummets, while sleeping and not wake up.”

“Oh, I didn’t know, “ the mom said to the back of my head as I huffed off down the street.

Only in New York does one need to qualify just how bad of a time you’re having. Across America, when you share news of this level, people just give their condolences. Ask if they can help. Send out prayers if they are the praying kind. In Manhattan folks want you to prove just how bad it is, say, on a scale from one to ten because, hey they could be working on an eleven situation you don’t know about.

Since last August A and her family have always hit an eleven.

“Getting your kid up school is equal to executing a military operation every day,” a mom once said to me. But at least troops will listen to their general; they’re trained to listen. A four-year-old? Forgetaboutit. And wrangling a four-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes is like the invasion of Normandy. Every damn day. A bad start to my day is finding Julia in the kitchen, just as we need to leave the house, chortling, “Look at me Mommy, look at me!” standing buck naked. (Yes, it happened last week.) A’s bad day has her kid sneaking a piece of candy, or a carb and A discovering this news when she tests her blood sugar, Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.54.54 PMor when her daughter starts to go pale, or body’s wild ride of natural insulin that still thinks it can drive the car, shooting out wild spikes. Mayhem. Then A and her husband must bolt from their home and dash to the hospital in the middle of the night. (It’s happened three times since August.) An even worse day on the heartbreak scale, an epic four-year-old melt down on the kitchen floor crests with, “Mommy I don’t want to have diabetes anymore.”

“Type 1 Diabetes typically affects young people and only represents about 5 to 10% of the population,” says Ron Rosedale, MD, author of The Rosedale Diet, and co-founder of the Colorado and Carolina Centers for Metabolic Medicine. With Type 1, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.” So just as a young body starts to grow, a break occurs. And lasts throughout life. First A must get her daughter an insulin pump, and then to respect the pump then living with the pump, working it into her teenagehood into adulthood, into both of them feeling confident enough that her child won’t experiment in the ways most of us did. Typical teenage hubris could take her daughter’s life.

So, I up my prayer game. I remember that God is always at work whether I can see God or not, kind of like electricity, or the subway or Kevin Bacon. I recall that my job is to be there for A through our gangster mommy lives in the Big Apple.

“Life is tough,” Pastor Paul constantly reminds his New York Flock  “and if you’re going through hell don’t build condo there.” But there are times when you, whether you want to or not will have a motel stay, suffering long-term durations in hell.

“I understand how this can strain a marriage,” A says.

“But you guys are strong,” I say.

I know that A and her husband cling to God as much as one another. I love that about her. When their nerves fray, she’s the first to say sorry, no matter who launched he first stone.

So far, I’ve never married. Never taken the vow. But I know the promise of friendship. Real connection. And more than through bad dates and broken relationships, and random layoffs I know what I friendship needs. I know how to be a good friend through a bad medical report, and cheating husband, alcohol rehab, and the murder of a child.

So I come a sit with my friend in hothouse of illness and motherhood in the crying booth and offer up cool drink of water by listening with my full on heart.

 

 

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.