Shifting sands

I keep meaning to start a new post, and then life intervenes. This is good, life intervening. Except today, and for the past few days, but actually for as far back as I can remember, life includes contending with news of horrible deaths. Just in the past week: A thirteen year old girl stabbed to death in her sleep. Restaurant patrons hacked to pieces. Bombings. In this country, still more black men shot to death by police, on a daily basis. It is too much to absorb, but it is not possible to look away. It is not possible to accept it as the status quo. Because we are human.

So I have been focusing on the kids. How I can be a better, less lazy parent. (It’s easier to do that when they are in camp all day, and come home exhausted.) They are loving camp this year, even more than last. And they seem to be making real progress towards learning to swim, especially Young J, who is having fun swimming underwater to be sneaky when he plays tag with his friends, learning how to fence, and what LARPing means. Young A is in his glory, playing gaga and boating.

Last night, I needed to get sandwich ingredients for the boys’ lunches today, so I sent them around the corner with instructions and money. I waited on a bench out of sight. It was pure joy to see them succeed in their small enterprise! And to watch them carefully account for the change they brought back. (They haven’t been to the store on their own often enough yet to realize they could also buy candy…) Yet another moment I am so glad I haven’t missed.

Last week, I also heard live music – we all went to hear the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Central Park, with a Japanese pianist who has been blind since birth. We arrived too late to score seats or a bench, so we plopped ourselves down on the asphalt tiles right in front of the stage. It was uncomfortable, and having Young A sit in my lap, all forty-seven pounds of him, didn’t make it less so. But it was a beautiful night in spite of threatening rain, and the all-Beethoven program was perfect, and halfway through the first half, Young J and Young A switched places, and got sleepy, so I soon found Young J’s head nestled gently in my collarbone and I rested my head on his, and vowed I would remember that feeling as long as I get to live.

Two nights later, I was at Madison Square Garden for the first time ever, watching yet another band from the distant past, The Stone Roses, resurrect itself. It seemed as though most of the crowd was from the UK, which meant the concert had the feel of a football match. Lots of singing and rhythmic clapping, more than one usually sees at rock shows in the US.

Which reminds me. Last July, J and I and our friend T took part in the recording of a new album from a band of even longer standing, The Mekons. After the recording session, we waited with great anticipation for the result. At long last, one of the songs recorded that evening has made its way to YouTube. You can see me towards the right of the screen in some of the crowd shots (and T too, if you know him, but not much at all of J). I can also just spy in the crowd another woman who was there that night, with a scarf covering her bald head, who had the look of a chemo patient. I really hope she’s still here, getting to watch this too.

I haven’t been back on my bike since the great big ride, in case you’ve been wondering. It has been a slow couple of weeks for exercise. We gear up now for what is coming in just over a week, our departure for Italy. I’m still in a fair amount of disbelief that we’re going. I have my next MRI scheduled for two days before the trip, which seems unfair, but I am assuming it all will turn out well. (I had a checkup with Dr P yesterday, and all of my bloodwork was fine.)

If all is not well, I will take steroids, and talk my way through Italy. Which reminds me, last week I also took the kids to Coney Island, where a fortune teller machine had the following to say to me:


I don’t think it got the memo that I’ve been off steroids for quite some time now, and nowhere near as chatty as I was then. Since the advice about not talking so much isn’t particularly accurate, I’ll assume the advice about staying home is also not right.

I almost forgot to mention another reason this post got postponed: I’m back to writing poems. I’d had a particular writing contest in mind for weeks now, and I had been assuming I’d write an essay to submit to it (they were accepting entries in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction). When I sat down to work on it, however, a poem emerged. I thought I’d write it, then move on to working on the essay. And then another poem emerged. It’s as though I had immigrated to another country and completely stopped speaking my mother tongue for decades, then one day woke up and opened my mouth and suddenly it was all I could speak. For me, translating lived experience into poems has always been a process that requires long gestation. So this week, I think I finally allowed myself to start giving birth to those poems. I wrote two, and found another I had started last November, which I completed. I submitted them two hours before the midnight deadline, which, for a procrastinator like me, was noteworthy.

This change of language in which I express myself is also timely, because in a week, I will go back to Italy after a long, long time. My words may be a little creaky at first, but I can’t wait to reinhabit my Italian persona. This time, though, it will need to coexist side-by-side with my English-speaking mom persona. (The thought of the language gymnastics makes my brain a little achy and tired in advance.) We’ll be there two weeks. At this age, the kids may pick up a fair amount of the language just by listening carefully. By the end of the trip, my modest goal for them is that they be able to order their own gelato… so that I will have more mental energy to focus on choosing mine.

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