2015 in Review: Six Word Memoir

We rang in 2015 in Deming.

 

Grandma China’s been gone eleven years.

We thought it was only ten.

Went ahead with the commemoration anyway.

 

K. cut three years of hair.

Just like that, he looks older.

Little boys get bigger. He resists.

Sometimes his fear outweighs his trust.

We celebrate risks faced and overcome.

We process the others. He grows.

I see him. I’ve been him.

 

P. turned 13. She wears eyeliner.

They grow so fast. Cliché. True.

I love who she is becoming.

She is stronger than she knows.

 

Feast Day at San Ildefonso Pueblo.

The dances root us in place.

 

I am constantly trying to simplify.

 

One board at a time—plenty.

 

After thirteen years, the Saturn died.

We left it where it stalled.

 

EKCO poets with Shelle and Valerie.

Write ten pages. Cut them up.

Collage them together. Rehearse. Perform.

 

We finally have a house plan.

There is a window between our bedrooms.

Can’t wait for that to go.

 

My friend started a book club.

Favorite: Between the World and Me

 

It’s time to be more honest.

 

Being a stepmom is no joke.

P. and K. – my greatest teachers.

 

Hembras. “Mother Lode.” My stepmom play.

My pink rebozo played a baby.

 

It’s time to write about Harvard.

Then I’ll have a suitcase trilogy.

Packing it to go to college.

Clinging to it after the fire.

Unpacking it to live my life.

 

I love reading at Sunday Chatter.

 

The cutest dog ever chose us.

Sat at our gate all day.

K. fed him, named him Leo.

Now he’s ours. I love him.

 

We lost Henry’s dad, April 20.

 

My dear friends lost their brother.

 

Aparna Levine healed my back pain.

 

I’m not allowed to run anymore.

Insurance pays gym fees. Hello, elliptical.

I’m trying to take up swimming.

Easier on the knees. Great cardiovascular.

Took first lessons since first grade.

I’m still learning how to breathe.

 

America Healing in Asheville, North Carolina.

 

Adrián Pedroza for Bernalillo County Commissioner.

 

It’s hard to share this part.

Depression has me back on Lexapro.

I tried everything I could try.

Running, writing, sleep, therapy, acupuncture, limpias.

Weight lifting. No coffee. No sugar.

Yoga. Meditation. Long walks. Good friends.

Poetry. Theatre. Being harder. Giving less.

Some combinations. Sometimes all at once.

But then there were mornings lost.

I’m kind of a mess today.

Yoga unlocking emotion in my hip.

I’m in tears on my mat.

Hours crying in the living room.

Nobody home. Thank God. I can’t.

And the worst is the judgment.

It came from nobody but me.

Suck it up. Pull yourself together.

Stop crying. Get off the floor.

What is wrong with you now?

You have everything you ever wanted.

You are healthy. You are loved.

Henry. P. K. This place. Words.

People are mean in my head.

Stop messing with my friend Michelle.

If I were my good friend

I’d say, you’re sensitive, that’s beautiful.

I’d say, it’s just for now.

I’d say, understanding why isn’t necessary.

Right now just do what works.

There’s nothing wrong with needing help.

Some people need to be medicated.

I guess I am one of them.

What else is there to do?

 

I remember I like to dance.

 

Summer garden wasn’t about the harvest.

I needed my hands in dirt.

I grew stevia, lemongrass, and sunflowers.

I grew six yellow pear tomatoes.

Oaxacan green corn, basil, marigolds, hyssop.

Lemon verbena, bell peppers, volunteer melons.

Grasshoppers and hornworms ate like kings.

K. said to chop their heads.

“Post them on toothpicks as warnings.”

 

I finally took the curanderismo course.

 

I want chickens in our yard.

They would help with the grasshoppers.

 

K. made the school’s archery team.

He and Henry shoot into hay bales.

 

The Kellogg Fellows are buena gente.

I get to work with six.

Carmen, Carnell, Carlos, Kayla, Sarah, Ventura.

 

Happy Arte Hour. So much fun.

 

We are launching an artist cooperative.

 

coffee, coffee, Zendo, Zia Latte, coffee

 

We lost Leo. He came back.

 

We rafted. Let’s do it again!

 

We lost my cousin, Robert Otero.

My BFF married a good man.

We lost Henry’s cousin, Epi Chavez.

We lost my tío, Joe Calderon.

A wonder he lived so long.

We lost Henry’s cousin, Alfonso Lopez.

 

P. was the best Halloween chola.

Thanks, Andrea, for doing her makeup.

 

My godmother was diagnosed with cancer.

 

P. dyed her hair in LA.

Four hours later, it’s bright pink.

 

Things I am embarrassed to admit:

I love that Justin Bieber song.

It’s too late to say sorry.

My mama likes everyone, except you.

 

Why don’t mid-school kids wear jackets?

That hoodie can’t keep you warm.

 

We lost Berna, a family friend.

 

Some things I could’ve done without:

Two words. Donald Trump. Enough said.

Middle school girls with duck lips.

Road rage. Police violence. Susana Martinez.

(Pee-tzah. Cokes. Call off your guys.)

 

I am blessed with good friends.

Stephanie reminded me who I am.

Emmy, thank you for making time.

Avi visited with her youngest daughter.

Anel and I wrote in Santa Fe.

María Limón surprised me one morning.

Finally got to meet Jesse’s kids.

I told them stories about college.

I wish his family lived closer.

Vicki and I ate and laughed.

Got to hold Desiree’s baby Luisa.

 

It’s time to be more honest.

I am constantly trying to simplify.

I’m still learning how to breathe.

Everything is better when I write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 2, 2016 at 8:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Cease to Exist, Part II: Aftermath

It takes me a long time to forgive, longer to let go. It’s harder when the object of my forgiveness doesn’t apologize, and harder still when the object disappears, leaving me to do the work of relationship on my own. Look at me, I want to say. Put your hand here where it hurts. I don’t want to punish; I just want to be seen.

I was spending Valentine’s Day at the dollar movie with my girlfriends because that sweet boy who’d put a journal in my hands all those years ago got engaged to someone else. Though we’d broken up when I was nineteen, he’d written to me during those two years after college when I was a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize City. His letter kicked off a sweet and hopeful correspondence between us. We made plans for him to visit, talked of our hearts coming full circle. And then there was silence. No letters, no calls, except that one from my mom telling me he’d met someone else. Though we had promised each other nothing, in my mind, the story ended with us together.

I learned a lot in Belize, how to bake bread, how to play guitar (well, sort of), how to pray, how to coordinate a youth group and a parish fair, how to teach twelve-year-old girls to play volleyball, how to write every day, no matter what, how to enter and re-enter a long and deep healing process that I didn’t even know I needed. Belize cast light on my shadows, and some of them followed me home.

*

IMG_3606Those days and nights after the St. Valentine’s accident were filled with fear, a sense of dread and doom. On our first trip to the credit union, before my mom and I spoke with the “cease to exist” guy, we’d met with an in-house financial advisor who’d said we weren’t eligible for credit union membership. No membership equaled no loan, which equaled no car to replace the one totaled on the night for lovers. As we drove back to the dealer to explain our plight, clouds settled over me, darkening the crisp blue of Albuquerque’s winter sky. My mom might have said, “It’s okay. We’ll figure it out,” or perhaps commiserated with a “yes, that woman was rude.” But I had already left her for the land of Nothing Ever Works Out For Me. We find a great car in my price range, but I can’t get it. And I wouldn’t need a car if my old one (read: my parents’ car) hadn’t been totaled. And that car would be fine if I just had a boyfriend to take me out on Valentine’s Day.

IMG_2404There have been blessedly few periods in my life when I have felt like Charlie Brown, the Wicked Witch of the West, and my overgrown five-year-old self all rolled into one, alone, threatened, afraid, certain the moment I step outside, a house will land on me. But when those periods hit, they feel eternal. These periods have all been preceded by a Major Life Event (emphasis mine)—a breakup, an accident, a move, a loss, sometimes all at once. Just as in the midst of a migraine, you can’t remember a time when your head didn’t feel like it was being stabbed from within by an icepick, when depression hits, you can’t remember your joy. And if there ever was joy, it was fleeting, the bright spot in an otherwise overcast life. In a depression, I might call a friend, go for a run, or take a nap. Sometimes I’d bake just to have a sense of accomplishment. Look at me, I made four dozen Hershey Kiss cookies. Maybe I am capable. Maybe I’m not a loser. Maybe I won’t have to live in my parents’ garage. Whatever the lifeline, its lift was temporary. Soon enough, I’d have to hang up the phone, jog home, wake up, or find something to do with all those damn cookies (besides eating them, which just leads to an even deeper depression).

Sometimes I would turn to my journal with a pen to bleed out some of the sickness. I tried never to read over what I’d written in the past for fear I’d find the same ailment that plagued me in the present, or worse, that those entries from Joy would feel like dispatches from a far-away land that I would never visit again.

Each time depression hits, I feel singled out, a twisted kind of chosen one whose lot in life is to feel more deeply than others, to carry an emotional and spiritual weight that normal people can’t bear. I wonder, why me? What did I do to deserve this? (And then I remember the words of a writing teacher who spoke about this indignation in a lecture on authenticity in memoir. She asked, “Who are you to be spared?”)

Relating to depression in this way feels a lot like cursing the wind. I don’t have to like the grit in my contact lenses or the toppled trash bin; but questioning the wind’s presence doesn’t relieve my eyes or improve the condition of my yard. Telling the wind to f@#* off doesn’t impact its force or change its direction. It only inhibits my movement.

So next time—if there is one—depression enters my room, instead of pretending I don’t see it or telling it to go, I might step closer to it, observe it, relate. Look at me, it will say. Put your hand here where it hurts. It doesn’t want to punish. It just wants to be seen.

 

 

Cease to Exist, Part I: Impact

I am remembering a trip to the credit union with my mom. She was helping me buy a car, and the suit and tie man behind the desk was explaining the ins and outs of the loan, the particulars of early payments, missed payments, and what would happen to the car should I “cease to exist.”

Weeks earlier I had been rear-ended by a Dodge Ram Charger in a 4-car pileup and totaled my parents’ Ford Taurus. The accident happened on Valentine’s Day, and my dates were my roommate Beth and a woman I’d met in group therapy. We were on our way to the dollar theatre to see The Empire Strikes Back when the Toyota Camry in front of me slammed on the brakes. I screamed, certain that I was about to plow my parents’ car into the rear bumper, and then breathed a sigh of relief when I realized we had stopped short. In an instant, a bad thing had become a good thing, and I had made that happen. Beth, in profile, her face illuminated by the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign across the street, opened her mouth to speak. She might have turned to me, the light glinting off her glasses.

The worst hits come out of nowhere. You go to the movies on a Friday night. You slam on the brakes. You exhale. Your friend opens her mouth to speak. But you don’t hear her. Instead light in the rearview catches your eye. The light makes you scream. Or maybe you were already screaming, and that’s why your friend opens her mouth to speak, to ask why.

There is the before: holding tight to the steering wheel, as though it could protect you, bracing for impact, headlight filling the rearview, not looking back, knowing there’s nothing you can do.

And there is the after: A man’s face in my window. “Oh my God, are you okay?” Stepping out of my car, the door still opens and closes. Radiator fluid pools on the road. Saying, “No, it’s okay, I don’t need an ambulance,” even though I probably do, even though I know that saying no is a misstep. An ambulance is a big deal. An ambulance is expensive. But there’s no blood, no broken bones. It could have crushed me. I could be dead. But I’m not crushed or dead. So I must be okay.

I don’t remember the middle: the impact, the sounds, the smells, the feeling in my body. The body-mind is wise in this way; it protects us from pain until we are strong enough to feel it.

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Pit, Part IV: Silence

Three and a half weeks after Hurricane Green Chile our streetlights still do not work, and though we live in the same house on the same street as before the storm, a fear creeps over me when darkness falls.

I hated having my own room when I was a little girl. My parents got to share a bed. My three older brothers shared a big L-shaped room at the back of the house. More than a few nights I tried to crawl into bed with my parents, but they usually sent me back to my bedroom with its pink walls and purple carpet. Some nights I would call out to my mom because I was too afraid to leave my bed, certain that someone or something would attack before I could reach their door across and down the hall. Sometimes my brothers would hear me before my parents could get to me, and all I can remember are the sounds of sleepy teenage boys saying, “Michelle, just get up. They can’t hear you. Just go to their room.” And then, magically, my bedroom light would turn on, and there my mom would stand in her blue housecoat. She never looked happy in those moments. But she wasn’t angry either, just sleepy as she listened to my carefully crafted argument for moving into their bed.

Mine was the room closest to the front door, and I reasoned (because, clearly, reason was the thing at work here) that an intruder would find me first. And besides, wasn’t it unfair that everyone else got to share a room, and I didn’t? I don’t think my argument ever worked. I remember her saying that our house was the same at night as it was during the day, and that helped a little, knowing that our home did not change, only the light, knowing that the older people in my family had all learned to befriend the house in darkness and that maybe I could too.

There were nights this summer when I sat on the couch wide awake while the house slept. Some nights I lay in bed with my eyes open, staring through our bedroom window at the outline of sunflowers, their backs to me. I thought a lot in those moments about what I don’t say when I am hurt, angry, or afraid, and the fear that grips me when I think about revealing these feelings even to someone I trust, even to Henry. And again, I am that little girl, calling out to my parents in the middle of the night, and I’ve woken my brothers, and they’re saying, “Michelle, just get out of bed and go to their room.” I can’t. I am paralyzed.

But what really kept me awake those nights were the things I don’t tell, the information I withhold because I am afraid of what I will have to give up in exchange for my honesty. I have kept secrets as long as I can remember. I have kept stupid, inconsequential secrets. I have kept secrets at work, overcommitting myself and not telling my colleagues until we’re too far into a project to do anything about it. I have kept secrets in my relationships. It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. Only it’s not. And when we’re all adults, it’s not really about permission. It took many of those nights, lots of writing, long runs along the acequia, longer conversations with Henry to see that my strategy of silence was about power.

He has power over me; I don’t have power over him.

If I don’t tell him I am hurt, then he won’t see me cry, and if he doesn’t see me cry, then he won’t know I am weak, and if he doesn’t know I am weak, then he will think I am strong, and if he thinks I am strong, then he won’t feel his power, and if he doesn’t feel his power, then I win.

If I keep a secret, if I withhold information, then I get to do things my way. I have power. I win.

As a child, one of my most profound experiences of the masculine was feeling powerless against it. I learned to wield silence. But silence used in this way is a weapon. I don’t want to fight anymore. So what now?

Coming next week: The conclusion of The Pit series, Loving the Darkness

Published in: on August 21, 2013 at 8:44 am  Comments (2)  
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The Pit, Part III: SAD

Kids are back in school. The house is quiet.

972137_10151500199949423_1619312883_nOn the surface, summer was what summer should be. There was the Desnuda reunion road trip from San Antonio to Rio Hondo, where I watched dolphins swim through a channel toward Laguna Madre and the Gulf. It was sunrise, and even the mosquitoes held still as, one by one, the creatures surfaced for air and continued their journey to the sea. (Their quiet determination surprised me. I had expected them to travel in groups of three, leaping through the air and giggling at the apex as they do at Sea World. The morning stillness, their breath the only sound, was better.) The arroyo, the desnudas, and the dolphins put me back in touch with my manuscript. I wrote at a kitchen table, on a cushy chair, in Anel’s magic casita in San Antonio.

There was Father’s Day mass at Holy Rosary, the one-day Otero family reunion (and requisite water fight) in Las Cruces, the Rael/Otero Northern New Mexico family vacation. We rode the train from Chama to Antonito, dipping up into Colorado and back to New Mexico through a rock tunnel, over a suspension bridge, and alongside deer and elk, the fires in Jemez and southern Colorado beyond our view, the only hint of destruction as we pulled out of the station, spider web tents hanging from the branches of aspens and pines along the tracks.

382521_10151534847664423_839236494_nI grew corn and tomatoes and planted more of the seed paper on which our wedding guests wrote their good wishes for Henry and me. They bloomed as pink, orange, red, and yellow coat buttons under the office window and outside our dining room. I planted sunflowers that reached up to our bedroom window and greeted us each morning as though they knew nothing of drought.

The four of us camped out in the backyard. Henry and I got prettied up, prepared a portable feast, and experienced (for this is the only word for how one takes in this event) the Santa Fe Opera. After a week of dance camp, K’s love of movement overpowered his shyness, and he walked the dinosaur at the Natural History Museum as part of a Keshet Dance Company flash mob. (He had the best free-style.) P discovered a love of graphic novels. She devours them, reading in the car, the bathroom, at the dinner table. She reads them in lieu of watching Disney channel at Nana’s house.

Photo by Avi Huelskamp

Photo by Avi Huelskamp

There was the Belize women reunion on San Juan Island. We saw a pod of orcas from a rocky perch on the west side of Friday Harbor, visited a lavender farm, looked for heart shaped rocks on a lagoon shore.

And still I am relieved to see sunflowers browned and tilting toward the ground, to smell green chile roasting in the parking lot of Pro’s Ranch Market, to feel a chill against my skin as I leave the house to jog while the kids sleep and Henry lifts weights at home. Summer is ending.

Fall is near.

On the train I imagined how gorgeous the ride must be in early October when the aspens are torches lighting up the mountainside. I looked for the aspens, white trunks, slender and sturdy, knots like dark eyes taking in the forest, heart shaped leaves the green of apples. I love the sound of a breeze through an aspen forest, the quaking of the leaves, as though each tree takes a breath.

The aspens are dying. Swaths of mountain are covered in tree bones, skinny old men eaten by time and disease. Those “spider webs” are silk cocoon sacks, writhing with the larvae of tent making caterpillars that, together with bark beetles, drought, bronze poplar borer larvae, and climate change have led to Sudden Aspen Decline or SAD.

Summer was sunflowers: not having cancer, time with friends, time with family, watching P and K come into their own, Henry. Summer was SAD: fire, the aspens, bringing my unconscious beliefs and ways of being to consciousness and recognizing that they too will die. They have to. Even the sunflower browns and bends toward earth. Fall is near.

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 7:06 am  Comments (6)  
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The Pit, Part II: Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above

but all I’ve ever learned from love

was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.

-Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen

There should be a statute of limitations on old relationship pain, and it should probably kick in when the length of time since the relationship’s demise is equal to or greater than the relationship itself. You dated someone for three months, you get three months to forgive, let go, and move on. One date with the dancer who took your number at Salsa Under the Stars? Let’s be generous and give you a week.

Letting go has never been my strong suit. I can purge old clothes, books I do not love, even letters and photographs that spoke to or captured my younger self. Though I would never choose to do it again, I know I could lose most of my possessions in a fire and recreate my life out of the love of family and community.

But my attachment to pain is different.

I can call on old relationship pain, remember exact conversations, what I was wearing, the way the light blazed on the flamboyant blossoms outside Santo Domingo Church/washed out that desert path as we walked/bounced off my wine glass as I left the table. I remember slamming down a public phone in Oaxaca, storming up an arroyo in El Paso, running to a bar bathroom in New York. There’s a quality to that pain that made me feel alive.

But there’s something deeper.

Love heals us. This love with Henry heals me.

So why does the old stuff still hurt sometimes, even if it happened years ago and only lasted a few months? Why is it that when this relationship bends me in a particular direction I am once again that woman walking away from the Mexican payphone, kicking rocks out of my path under the El Paso sun, blowing my nose into a scratchy paper towel in that bar bathroom?

Healing is hard work. It’s the manual labor of the soul. I have been doing some excavating and heavy lifting this summer, going deep into memory, holding my beliefs up to the light and watching some of them shrivel. One belief in particular was embedded in me so long ago I thought it was truth. It has shaped my view of men and my relationships with them. It has protected me, and for that, I am grateful. It has also made me resentful and incapable of releasing the past. Maybe I could have come to it on my own. But I think I needed this relationship with this person to feel safe and loved enough to allow it to surface.

Here it is: He has power over me; I don’t have power over him.

Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 7:38 am  Comments (9)  
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The Pit, Part I

Before I met Henry I dated everyone: guys I met in coffee shops, guys I met salsa dancing, writers, musicians, professors, attorneys, politicos, a photographer, a chef. I dated much older men, a few men with children, men who adored me, walking wounded men who should have been in therapy and not on Match.com. I dated unavailable men, more than one man who lied about his relationship status, and a few guys I didn’t respect or even really like. I dated men who made me laugh and overly serious men who would say, “That’s really funny,” instead of laughing. I dated creative men, brainy men, talented men, charismatic men who absorbed so much light in a room that it cast everyone else in darkness.

So after dating everyone, it felt like a kind of victory to grow in love with Henry, to affirm my belief that I was capable of building an honest, respectful, loving relationship with a good man and to silence the voice inside me that questioned my worthiness of such a relationship.

Before Henry it was easy to fantasize about my relationship, the one that did not yet exist. The pre-Henry breakups were painful, but I could often attribute my hurt feelings to that narcissist/liar/insect/emotional vampire/(insert appropriate moniker here) I was dating.

But here’s the kicker, the thing that shames me to admit. After all these years, all the therapy and limpias and bad poetry and bonfires, after my book and Oaxaca and Henry and our family, I still feel a little wounded sometimes.

to be continued

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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Mommy Diary

 

Because there are no bad nights, only good material

ImageIt’s five in the morning, and I am in a deep sleep until I hear K. calling, “Daddy. Daddy.” Daddy is snoring because he slept four hours last night and got up before the sun to finish a presentation he was giving at an eight-thirty board meeting in Santa Fe. So I go to K., and he is crying because he can’t breathe through one of his nostrils and nothing will come out when he blows his nose, “even when I stick a tissue up there.”

“Do you want a steam bath or a little tent like we did this afternoon?”

ImageHe wants a tent. I boil water, move the purple ottoman into the bathroom, set a bowl on top of the toilet seat. I pull the tea kettle off the stove just before it whistles. Pour. One drop of peppermint oil. One drop of eucalyptus. I am thinking that Henry is selfish for sleeping and doesn’t care about any of us, and in a few hours, he will wake rested and happy, and everyone will like him more just like they always do because he’s the real dad, and I’m just the stepmom.

“Okay, little guy,” I whisper from the foot of his bed. “Bring the Kleenex.”

In the bathroom, I drape the towel over his head and close it like curtains around the bowl.

“Close your eyes. Just breathe. Stay under as long as you can. Then we’ll blow your nose.”

Every time he blows his nose, I swear he’s losing brain tissue. He coughs, which is good, because it turns my thoughts away from selfish, sleeping Henry and to the cough syrup on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet.

Eight years old. Two teaspoons. I pour and hand it to K. He doesn’t take it, so I put the spoon to his mouth and tip. He holds the syrup in the well under his tongue, and at first I think he’s playing, like that night almost a year ago when he woke itching from chicken pox, and I fixed him an oatmeal bath and he froze like Han Solo in carbonite, or like those mornings when he takes twenty minutes to make his bed because he twists himself up in his sheets and wedges his head between his pillow and pillowcase, and walks around, bumping into doorways and furniture and calling for help.

It sounds like he’s laughing, but he keeps on, and he’s not swallowing.

“You gotta swallow it, okay?”

He’s crying.

I say, “This is the same cough syrup you took yesterday, and it was fine,” as though reason were what this parenting moment required.

He’s still crying and trying to talk, “I don’t like it, I don’t like it,” and every time he moves his mouth, he spills purple syrup onto the dinosaurs on his pj bottoms.

“Okay, spit it out,” I say, handing him a tissue, and of course, the tissue is too small to catch everything, and it’s five-thirty in the morning, and we’re a little uncoordinated. So then he tries to clean his pj bottoms with that tissue, which only makes things worse. I hand him a damp washcloth from the shower ledge, where I’ve been sitting this whole time.

“We’ll change bottoms, okay?”

He nods. Wipes his eyes.

“How’s your nose? Can you breathe through that nostril?”

“Now it’s open, but the other one closed.”

By this time, the water in the bowl has cooled, and I’m thinking maybe it’s best to change tactics.

“How about a bath?”

ImageHe shakes his head, so it’s back to the kitchen and the teakettle and the peppermint and eucalyptus oils, and how could Henry sleep through all of this? Any minute now, he’ll get up and take over because he always knows what to do, and I’m just making this up as I go along.

While the water heats, I pour cough syrup into a half teaspoon.

“Let’s try this a little at a time.”

K. opens his mouth, but he won’t swallow.

“If you just swallow, it will be over faster. Honey, you’re making it worse.” There I go with my reason again. “Do you want some sugar? Do you want some water?”

How about twenty bucks? A new Lego? A puppy? Please, for the love of God, swallow the damn cough syrup.

He’s shaking his head, his mouth open. And then a wet booger creeps out of his nostril and is just about to hit his lip, when I say, “Ooh! Blow your nose.” It happens so quickly, he swallows without thinking.

This only works once.

The water boils. I set up the facial tent, rub his little back, hold tissues up to his nose each time he pulls the towel off his head, look at his cute little face, how long his hair is now, how much he’s changed in the five years I’ve known him. How much I’ve changed. The first time I gave him a bath, I forgot to put my hand like a visor on his forehead and got shampoo in his eyes. He cried like I’d cut off his arm, and I left K. and the bathroom to Henry to finish.

I learned how to keep the soap out of K.’s  eyes. When he calls for his dad at five in the morning, and I show up, he does not send me back to my room.

“Can you breathe through both nostrils?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he answers.

And now I’m glad that Henry is still asleep because when I tuck K. into bed, he asks, “Will you lie down with me?”

He offers me some blankie, and I cuddle him until he falls asleep.  

ImageIt’s six-thirty in the morning when I get back to bed. Henry stirs enough for me to scoot next to him. Too soon, P. is out of bed. I can’t move. Henry gets up and gently closes our door behind him. When I open my eyes again, it’s ten o’clock. I never sleep until ten. I feel rested. I hear Henry and the kids chatting in the living room. I smell bacon. I get up, open the door, and step into another day of life.

 

 

Published in: on February 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist

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"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Vessel

a person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, esp. something nonmaterial