Monday, September 26, 2005

I miss blogging...

I miss reading all my favorite blogs. I feel my little "family" has disappeared and of course, it's my fault for being so absent, so neglectful. A couple of weeks ago, Tamar wrote about her cave. She spoke about it so beautifully, in a positive way, describing a personal space, "hours of alone time, time to think, reflect, feel, understand, and, especially, time to write."

How I want that cave!

At the same time, I do feel a little withdrawn into another type of cave, one not so wonderful - I find myself anxious, tired, worried, bored even though I have something to do at all times of the day, sad. I miss writing, I'm always about to write something. Opening sentences hang on my fingertips, about to be typed, but disappear with my inaction. I sometimes feel the loss of "art" and find myself mourning the things I'll never accomplish. Like that novel of mine, like all of them.

Certainly, things are plodding along. J so far is handling school all right, no problems so far. He seems to like the classes and the teachers. M is very happy attending three days of preschool. She definitely needs a year before kindergarten - I'm hoping she'll be ready for it. Today we learned (not unsurprisingly) that A is below grade level (3rd) so he's been put into an "intervention" program. We start next week...he has to be in school at 7:00 a.m. three days a week. I don't think I need to tell you how much I'm dreading that. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he's getting the attention, but I feel a little hopeless about it since we had him in a morning class last year and neither his handwriting nor his maths skills improved. I'm thinking some of what he's in intervention for requires him to get older before his skills will advance.

Is it terrible to be sad that my child needs so much help? Is it terrible to be a little envious of parents whose children have no difficulty? I keep wondering what I've done wrong. In my darker moments, I'm convinced my husband has bad genes. Yes,'s all D! Damn him!

Thank god for mindless video games and television, oh and my books. Whatever would I do without my books?

Hugs to everyone. Thank you for being you, for being steady and reliable and uplifting.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


It's real quiet now, everyone's asleep, Sassy, too. I could probably say anything I wanted, get away with curse words, maybe a dirty movie. Yes, yes, I'll write something erotic...


We've moved onto September 22. The 21st slid by, a class in the a.m. A quick lunch on the couch in front of TiVo, a soda in the SUV on my way to pick up A and then M, Sassy tagging along and marking up the passenger window with her nose. The kids are finally in the car and the dog's jumping from seat to seat, her red, inherited-from-Abby-our-other-dog (R.I.P.) leash getting tangled. Backpacks thrown on the floor next to shoes and loose papers and my purse. Some internet browsing while the kids snacked on oatmeal cookies and a peach. An e-mail answered, notes printed out for class in the p.m. Homework. M has her own pre-school pages to work on and she's so proud. Every page she did. A did his, too. He does so much better when I'm not there breathing down his neck but I have to because he must make those letters the same size with spaces in between words...he has to make his sentences readable. I sort of laugh at myself, at how simple the writing is and yet how difficult. Well why should he put spaces? Everybodyknowsyoudon'ttalkwithspaces. Therearen'tspacesuntiltheendofthesentence!

My mother died four years ago on the 21st. I say that with spaces clearly audible. My sister focuses on the time passing. Ten years since Papa. I told her that I'm still not beyond the shock of them both being gone to think of the calendar. Mom has been on my mind. Yet today in class I told a story about my father and his absent-mindedness as a way to explain to the students to not be offended that it will be May, 2006, and I will still be asking them their name when giving them grades or checking for their presence for the roll sheet. I ate pickled okra as soon as I got home to remind myself of my parents' refrigerator back when life was never-ending and I'd never be independent and never get away from that tension-laden place in Pasadena. I used to sit on my bed beneath my open window, pink paint peeling off the window frame, reading some classic literature book, wondering why-oh-why didn't I go away to college. Dying to get out. I know that my oldest son is beginning to think similarly. I know he'll be bolting the moment he can. My little man, the one with the glasses and the tuxedo, sleeping in my arms in a wedding in Las Vegas. The one with the long hair and glasses-free brown eyes and what will be a very cutting wit.

In the afternoon after homework, I closed my eyes as I stood in my room next to the sliding glass door, a breeze coming in through the screen and I wondered when I'd be independent - I felt sad there, feeling autumn coming towards me. I don't know what it is about this time of year but the change in seasons puts me in such a state. Sure, maybe it's the obvious - the illnesses of my parents, losses of lovers, people leaving to go back to school, a shift. The sun doesn't warm me during these months - Sassy rubbed her body against my legs like a cat. M pulled me away from my thoughts, M in her red stockings, magenta boots, green skirt and matching shirt, a shirt that says in glittering pink letters, "Supergirl". Her hair is wild and big because I brushed it earlier to get tangles out. She has the finest freckles across the bridge of her nose fading into her cheeks. And the slightest overbite.

A friend of A stopped by and this little boy had a dog on a leash, a cute cocker-spaniel. Immediately A got Sassy on a leash and the two boys, both 8, went walking their similar-sized dogs around the neighborhood. We're so proud...Sassy didn't jump at the other dog or try to wrestle. She's a member of the family now, so yes, she has these little imperfections. We're working on them. Why should she be any different from any other member of the family? Seeing A with Sassy on a leash at his side thrills me, warms me. He's so happy with his dog who sleeps with him on his bed, all night, who licks his face and makes him smile.

When I packed up and left to school, I could see in the mirror M and D waving at me. I need a laugh, I said.

D gave me what I needed when I got home.

While I was away:

M [excited, at the dinner table, a un-bunned hot dog in her hand, pointed towards the floor]: Daddy, look at me!

D [turns to look while he's fixing himself some ravioli at the counter]: What do you want to show me?

M [moves her hand to show D the hot dog and is shocked to see that Sassy has eaten half the hot dog, the sight of which sends her into a fit of screeching]: Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

D [immediate leaves the ravioli]: Oh no Sassy!

M [sobbing]: I don't want her to die! Daddy, don't let her die!

A [very impressed with the stealth-like capability of Sassy]: She's going to die all right, she's going to die tomorrow.

D [admonishing A using his full name]: A, no, don't say that. She's going to be fine, honey.

J [looking up from his drumming magazine]: Who died? Your friend died?

D: Nobody died!

M [getting off the chair and hugging Sassy who's very happy with the hot dog treat]: I love you, Sassy! Don't die!

J: Hey, M, are you going to eat the rest of the hot dog?


Sometimes I think my children have absorbed my death anxieties.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Ten o’clock and I’m sleepy-eyed, the kind of sleepiness that pulls you under while mid-sentence. When the boys were younger and demanding of stories while I lay beside them in the dark, I would begin one sentence and finish with another. J was always so in tune with my tales that he caught me right away, waking me, pointing out my out-of-sync words. A on the other hand never noticed. M doesn’t let me tell stories – we sort of tell them together, her little voice leading me along.

Me: Once upon a time there was a Princess—

M (in a scary, ghostly tone of voice): No, Mommy, there was a witch and she saw a dog named Sassy and she walked the dog in the woods.

Me: The witch—

M: (same scary, ghostly voice) Then Tinkerbell came and saved the dog from the witch.

Me: And they flew together—

M: (same scary voice) They walked to a castle with no locks or windows. Tinkerbell took the broomstick (pronounced “brum-stick”) from the witch and gave it to the dog.

Me: And they—

M: (excitedly) Theeee….end!

And so with M, I’m not given much opportunity to drift off into other-sentences.

Today, we celebrated J’s 12th birthday and I found myself desperately wishing for memories to flood me of when he was small and cuddled with me in my arms – how easy we forget those times even though while we were there, the hours, the days felt eternal, endless. How I wished for him to be just a little bit older, just a little more independent. How I wish now for him to be just a little less independent, how I wish he’d not shoo me away when I try to hug him.

Dinner was lively, at our local Chili’s. We opened gifts and had cake at home – J was thrilled to get all stuff for his drum set. A new crash cymbal, jazz drumsticks, a bag to carry his growing collection of drumsticks.

J’s feet are now bigger than mine.

I consoled myself by lying this night with M and hugging her close to me, memorizing the feel of her warmth and her easy acceptance of my cheek-kisses.

This morning though, J’s birthday seemed far away. I sat on the edge of my bed and watched HBO’s In Memoriam: New York City, 9-11-01. I found myself near-sobbing at the tragedy of it, at the limitless horror of the images. I felt almost as if I was seeing it for the first time because it’s been so long since I dared to watch anything on the event. In fact, when it happened, my mother was in a deep coma, one she would never wake from. I remember those 9-11 images on the television, I remember being shocked and saddened and afraid, but mostly I remember turning to my mother who lay silent on a hospital bed and weeping because I knew I’d never hear her stories again, I’d never lie with her again in her bed. I remember what felt like the most private, ignored grief as the country consoled the 9-11 victims.

Red-faced, swollen-eyed, I shook myself off when I shut off the television, burying the pain. I drifted into the kitchen were we put balloons and streamers up. I tidied the house, made the beds, kissed A on the top of his head as he played a video game. I watched him play – computerized cars zipping along a computerized track, speeding faster than any sort of reality.

“Look at the boost, Mom!”

“I see that…” Sassy whimpered at my feet, ready for a walk, ready for the day to get on. M cried for me to put her socks and shoes on, A ran from D, not wanting a much-needed bath.

I was glad to drop away from the scary tale to other-sentences, to today-ness, to a birthday.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Free Moment

At last I sit here at the computer in my overtaken office, at last a free moment to "blog". School starts for the boys on Tuesday - M began preschool on Friday. They seem anxious to start, to get the beginning over with. How funny that in these last days of summer vacation, we're all enjoying morning walks with Sassy, afternoon bike rides, and noontime swims in our community pool, all as if we have weeks left before our days will firm up with the school schedule. In hindsight, I'm sorry that the boys spent as long as they did in summer school. It's my sincerest hope that they'll do well in enough this coming year to skip summer school. That really took a huge bite out of the break. Next year I hope we do more than we did.

Hurricane Katrina occupies my thoughts - I flip on CNN, MSNBC, or BBC whenever I get a chance - I'm praying for our citizens who've lost so much. I'm sorry I don't live in a place where I can volunteer because giving money seems so...empty. But, it's what I can do.

I also plan on working for the Democratic party next election - I don't think our domestic infrastructure can take another four years of the Republican party. If Katrina hasn't revealed who's been hurt by the current conservative government, I don't know what can. How well-hidden the growing, impoverished class has been! How low on the totem-pole of W's priorities they've been sitting - the abandonment breaks my heart even further. I feel like shouting, "The Emporer has no clothes!"

My grandparents just left our house - an impromptu lunch. Earlier this morning my grandmother called me, letting me know she'd bring by KFC chicken, that she wanted to give J a little something for his upcoming 12th birthday. Mama Nana and Papa Úl looked good considering their advanced age (late 80's) and recent health troubles - Papa probably shouldn't be driving but he is and he won't consider giving it up. I'm pretty certain it will take a driving test to get him off the road. I hope one will be required soon enough. On the other hand, I know how terrible it would be for him to lose that independence. So...until then, there will be more impromptu lunches.

While Mama Nana was here, we talked about Katrina, about the lagging response times, moving on to immigration. Papa Úl, a long-time Democrat, a WWII vet, a son of Mexican-born parents, railed against Arnie, laughing at the rants about the flow of Mexican citizens into the U.S., "His father was a Nazi! Who is he to talk about Mexican people working in California?! My God!" A note...don't bother arguing with Papa Úl, you will get a smile and swift shake of his head and hand at you, followed up by more digging in with his position. In other words, there is no arguing with my grandfather. Today, I agreed. I even threw in that Arnie himself was rumored to have been a Nazi Youth member. Just to liven up the conversation. My grandmother said that was a true fact. D looked at me and said on the sly, "He couldn't possibly have been..."

I shot a look at D and with my eyes, told him to never mind.

Because my grandmother was once an immigrant, because her sisters, her children, her mother, and many friends emmigrated from Mexico, her perspective is always interesting and the images she evokes of her own youth are wonderful. She believes there shouldn't be the problem there is because Mexico is capable of being a stronger force in the world than it is. She blames the Mexican government and illusory, stubborn beliefs.

"Life here in the U.S. is not what they dream about," she said, "it's harder here than in Mexico. Those left behind have plenty of dollars in their wallets but the family is divided. What happiness is that?" She painted a picture of meadows, hills, and skinny dogs. "We were happy," she remembered. "The struggle here to survive isn't worth the loss."

Perhaps. I'm reminded of a winter holiday I spent in Mexico City with my mother and sister, spending a few weeks in a great-aunt's multi-story apartment. I can still feel the cold tile floor, I can still remember my imaginings over the recent death of another tenant in the same building who rolled out of his window and fell three stories down into the courtyard to his death. "He fell asleep in the wrong place," according to my elderly aunt, Tía Margarita, who told the story in a highly judgmental fashion, blaming the man for his own demise (the story was told as a warming to us to not venture near the large, open windows with no railing).

I recall in particular an amazing day trip to a nearby national park, ten of us crammed into an ancient sedan, our favorite cousin, Juanito, driving (Juanito had had a stroke and we weren't 100% sure of just how much he could see out of his bad eye - some suspected he was mostly blind but that wasn't enough for the family to intervene because he was great at bribing the highway police and everyone rather risked a car accident than getting delayed by a speeding ticket). People sat on laps, sitting on still someone's else's lap, no joke, laughing and chatting the hour drive. My mother prayed that we wouldn't get hit - she laughed and chatted, too, but in a clearly distracted manner. We did get there, had a great picnic and an exhausting, beautiful hike. The day had been blissfully fun. Throughout the holiday we ate from street-side vendors (really one shouldn't do it) and played cards with the kids our age (we taught them "Pig" - according to my mother, for years after the trip the kids played the card game and always played thinking of us). The funny thing is that my sister and I didn't speak Spanish. We learned a little down there and must have learned enough to communicate because in my mind, I can almost believe we all spoke the same language. I know we didn't. What happened was that children can "talk" to one another in special ways.

My memory of Mexico is one of joy mixed in with hardship - life wasn't easy, money didn't come easily, but you always had family to celebrate with. I can see that living in the United States robbed the transplanted immigrants of that particular enjoyment of life. My extended family here...doesn't have that unique joy. It's this loss of joy my grandmother spoke of.

Today, the temperature has risen to 90 or so, maybe more than that. The heat reminds me of being in that stuffy car - I think of the heat in the drowned, wrecked Delta. I hope for a quick return of joy.