Tag Archives: growing up

Growing Up

14 Apr

One flick of a light
one click of a door
* goodnight *
Bedtime is hers alone.

* * *
National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

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Tonight

13 Apr

Hushed
The house goes dim
Music begins to play
.
Then
One-by-one, black-and-white,
Black-and-white,
Blouse, skirt, suit, tie,
Performers take the stage
.
The light glows bright.
Young mouths open
In song,
Letting go
All the tones,
All the shapes
Of all the words,
All the consonants
And all the open vowels
They’ve been taught,
All they’ve discovered
Together themselves
.
And all the families
In our seats
Beam
Burst
In every row someone
Holding just one hand
Over one mouth,
Now open, too,
In
Empathy
Or awe
.
At how our children,
How our children’s voices
From year to year
Grow.
.
Yes, they fidget
and someone in the front row
Is always fixing his shirt,
But their voices
Blend. Their confidence
Soars. And we hear them.
We see them. They are
A choir now.
.

* * * * *

National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

Belief

10 Apr

If you told the twentysomething
newly-out lesbian me
whose every hope hinged
on this dream
of a longtime lover
and two cats
that I would be living
with a wife –
Did you hear me? –
a wife, a daughter,
two dogs, a cat,
another daughter
grown and flown
miles and miles away 
who fills the house
with happy when
we visit one another,

If you told me
this was the dream,
this

was the life
I had built
for myself,
if history had looped,
and I had a way
to warp what was to come,
would I have taken it

then,
as a newly out lesbian
twentysomething
know-it-all
in-your-face
artist
scraping by
in my studio
apartment
overlooking
the lake?

If you told me the night
I laid on the floor
with my head between
two speakers,

would I have believed you
when you said
this
is the life
I am meant
to lead?

Would I have believed
this
life
we’ve
built,
this
life
I
want,

these friends,
this family,
these pets,
these girls
are
what I love most
in the world?

Would I have
Believed you then?

* * * * *

National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

At Twelve

6 Apr

At twelve, I rode home from summer camp
In the backseat of my parent’s car. All
Of the air had been siphoned out
And my mother wore braces on both hands

Or maybe just

On the other hand, a different hand, not
The same hand where she’d worn the brace
A week ago, when I was last home, and this –
This is when I knew there was no turning back.
This is when I understood for the first time
That we were only beginning our descent. This
Is when I realized there were no brakes –
Not even my dad knew how to stop the car.
Not now. Not ever again. I was twelve,

The same age my daughter is now.

R Phillips Conservatory 4

* * *
National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

Writing a letter won’t change the world, but it’s something

11 Dec

“Why aren’t there two brown girls together?” my ten-year-old asks me. We are sitting at our dining room table with her friend after a sleepover, making cards and badges and art using colorful scrapbook paper and American Girl stickers. I shake my head, my heart breaking for my brown daughter whose awareness of racism is growing alongside the nation’s rage and despair and – thank goodness, finally – the outcry against the killing of Black men.

Her American Girl stickers portray a few brown girls. And Black girls. Even raven-haired girls who might be interpreted in a certain light as non-white. But the majority of the girls – kicking soccer balls, playing cards, setting up tents, riding horses – are white, and those who aren’t white are pictured alone, or with a girl who is white.

My daughter is beginning to say these things out loud when she sees them. She is learning to recognize how much of our lives are reflected back to us through a white lens – and she doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

I look from her to her friend, who is coolly cutting her next shape, setting it down, reaching for a marker. We don’t talk long. My daughter expresses her disgust. I agree. She asks me to pass the glue.

But it’s not okay. It’s not okay that everything from our stickers to our books, our schools, our places of employment, our laws, our expectations of society, our security forces, our healthcare system is viewed and reviewed through a white lens. It’s just not.

Especially when that white lens leads eventually to fear, and hate … and killing.him.before.he.can.kill.you. AS IF HE POSES A THREAT.

But what do we DO? How do we as a family respond to this tiny – insignificant? – symptom of a culture that elevates the perspective of people who look like me, and dismisses (both subtly and overtly) everyone else?

Do we write to American Girl and ask them to add more girls, more ethnicities, more brown girls playing together in their sticker sets? What does this change?

I want big strokes, sweeping change. I want to believe in justice. I want to require it.

The morning after Illinois passed civil unions into law, the lesbian moms with kids at my daughter’s school all walked our kids to school together – two parents together – just … because. We didn’t plan it. It just happened. Two moms walking a kid to school is… unnecessary, is … strange, is … empowering, is … magical. Remembering makes me want to cry. We’ve come so far in such a short time. We have. On certain things.

Now there are protests. And there have been protests, for months, for years, people crying out, raging, standing strong, saying NO. And other people – like me – are finally listening.

It’s just that the problem is so big and so many of us feel so small.

And – let’s be honest – it’s also that speaking out, standing strong means we risk losing people we love from our lives.

There’s that. While at the same time …

People are laying themselves in the street in solidarity with Eric Garner.

People are risking arrest and holding signs and saying NO everywhere they go.

There is so much that must be done.

Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Person by person.

Each one, reach one, right?

So maybe writing to American Girl is something, even if it only serves to sharpen my daughter’s voice, or to open a conversation with you. How else do you dismantle injustice?

Shaking a fist.

Writing a letter.

Lighting a candle.

Holding a sign.

…Bit by bit.

No one can go to battle every day, every minute, all the time. Can they?

And yet – so many people do.

…Person by person.

Pulling young family members aside,

talking with them about systemic racism

and the news.

It’s all something:

Speaking up.

Standing strong.

Not being silent

anymore.

It’s all something,

and there are

so many somethings

to be done.

Mental Hygiene

31 Jul

LilypadsLast Friday, I was gulping down my second cup of coffee, dressed uncharacteristically in creased slacks and heeled sandals at a meeting for work, sitting between a dear friend and a new acquaintance. They were catching up. I was taking it all in. And at some point, my new acquaintance referenced “mental hygiene” as an antiquated phrase which eventually morphed into “mental health.” I’m honestly not sure which phrase I prefer, but she dismissed “mental hygiene” as the foundational philosophy for electric shock therapy and other efforts to clean or sanitize the human mind.

I saw her point, sharing her disdain for our culture’s approach to mental health through the ages, and yet …

“Mental hygiene” also resonated with me. It suggested daily maintenance, frequent care and attention. It’s a phrase that could remind me to take those daily silent moments for myself, opening that deep, rich sense of myself with the same care and frequency I put into brushing my teeth, showering, or brushing my hair.

Did I find a new title for my blog?

For months, I’ve been hopping all over the place in search of a new theme for this blog of mine. Because Miss E now has an undeniable need for privacy, which means telling the stories of our more profound or transformative conversations feels to me like breaking her trust. She is experimenting with distance and intimacy. She is full-on tween. These are precarious days.

She is also nearing the age I was when my mom began to spin out, eventually shedding her role as a parent for many years…

Recently, I arrived home after a grueling day at work, calling “Hello!” as I unlocked the door. My two dogs came running to greet me. I pet them both on the head, cooing my love. Then I went searching for the humans. Kelly, my partner, was out with clients and our home was unbelievably, eerily silent. I walked down to the basement, where my eldest was sorting the chaos of her bedroom, working hard to make it peaceful and clean – and while she was lovely to me and kind, I had clearly interrupted. I tried to stay brief, sticking to: Hello. When is our company coming? What’s the plan for dinner? And finally – Is your sister here?

“She should be in her room,” she answered, shuffling her pile again.

Miss E had never in her life failed to greet me at the door, but I climbed the stairs, knocked on her Minecraft-decorated door, entered, and found her sitting on the bed with headphones on, iPod in-hand. I kissed her head.

“What?!” she said, scrunching up her shoulders. “I’m watching videos.” I hadn’t seen her in ten hours. At least.

Still, I nodded. “Okay,” I told her, leaning over and kissing her again. “I love you.” I stood straight and walked towards her bedroom door.

“I love you, too, Mom,” she said.

I told this story to my friend Helen the next day at work, this story of the first time I arrived home after a challenging day and my young one didn’t run to greet me at the door. She said it hit her right in the heart, which I needed to hear, and she said she’d been there with her kids, too, who are all grown now. “She’ll come back to you,” Helen assured me.

“I never came back to my mom,” I replied. I didn’t think it through; I just said it. But it was true, I realized as the words came tumbling out of my mouth.

So THIS is the trouble I’m having now, I thought. This right here.

… which brought me back to the idea of Mental Hygiene. And how writing for me is like flossing.

Flossing my mind?

Helen may be right. It’s possible. Miss E may come back. Or maybe she won’t go far when she goes. When she separates. I can’t predict.

After all, at forty-five, I am slowly coming back to my mom – imperceptibly perhaps, but STILL – I wouldn’t have predicted that.

And so I floss. And I brush. And I rest. And I write. As much as I can. For my own mental hygiene. Praying we’ll all turn out all right.

 

Snapshot

1 May

photo album square on quiltMuch of my job this week has been selecting photos. For a report.

Good photos tell a story. They touch your heart. They offer a window into a rich moment in someone’s life. But it’s hard to find just the right photo, one that tells the story you need to tell right now.

Which got me thinking: What photo would tell the story of my life? My real life, with the dogs resting on my bed and the cats meowing to go outside? With my daughter sleeping in the other room and my partner out for drinks with a friend? With the computer on my lap in the bed? Which picture tells this story?

Is this even the story I want to tell?

Facebook has us telling stories like these all the time – but always with a zing, a twist, a joke, or a Deep Thought. Because otherwise, who cares about the dog now snoring beside me or the cat who thinks he’s a dog at the door? Could be any dog. Any cat. Who cares? So we frame it. We tell a story ABOUT it. We don’t post just the picture. Or – we rarely do. We embellish. We colorize. We crop. We enhance. We edit.

But I want the bold moment, unadorned. The reunion after a week apart. The first swim across the pool. The moment I first held my baby in my arms.

I remember the moment I first held my baby in my arms, of course, even without the picture. I’d been snapping photos for half an hour, but once I had her in my arms, really had her in my arms, having abandoned the camera, I wouldn’t let her go. I held her, I think, for a full hour, although my partner and our eldest were eager to hold her again, too. She was mine, really mine, and I was amazed.

But these unadorned mind-blowing moments, I rarely record in words or on film. They are simply what is.

So what photo would tell the story of my life today? Would taking a snapshot make it more or less important than it feels right now?

A computer on my lap. A dog at my feet.

On my night stand – A half empty beer can. My phone charger curled on a stack of books. A small square photo album stuffed with polaroids from 1972. Chapstick. A pen. Scrabble tiles that spell my name (Thank you, Jocelyn). A green swirly cup with a lid and a straw (if you have cats, you’ll understand). Cien quetzales de Guatemala. Reading glasses – the plain ones, not the ones I carry in my purse. A sliver of red Arizona rock. The book I’m reading now. My Droid.

Five pairs of shoes on the floor by my bed – my everyday Docs, black; some casual/dress shoes, also black, with grey stitching, which I bought years ago in Spain; bright orange slip-ons from Morocco; brown Rocket Dogs with small orange and green hearts all over, and gold skulls; tall black vinyl boots. And slippers with faux fur lining, probably fifteen years old now, ready to be replaced except they are – so clearly – my faves.

These objects tell the story of my life tonight.

Just as a tiny bedroom with white shelves all around, green carpeting, and a window I always kept cracked just the tiniest bit even in winter, told the story of my life as a child.

Is there a photo that tells the story of your life? What objects do you have close at hand?

Sticker Dance

28 Apr

You proudly peel back the sticker

and place it on your chart by the rest.

Your feet giggle-tap. Your eyes dance.

And I, your auntie, fill with sunshine

from my own tingly toes to the tip of my nose

as outside, the thunder snaps.

 National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

Everyday Stretches

24 Apr

listening hard

listening open

listening light

listening

hugging hard

hugging open

hugging light

hugging

writing hard

writing open

writing light

writing

accepting hard

accepting open

accepting light

accepting

loving hard

loving open

loving light

loving

every

day

*  *  *  *  *
National Poetry Writing Month

30 poems in 30 days

Girls

15 Apr

If, in young friendship,

a promise is born

of hope and wishes

only and remains

unkept, then whose

heart breaks more?

The girl waiting

for the promise to be

fulfilled, or the girl

unable to fulfill it?

And if each girl

understands

the other,

and they

move on,

stronger together

for what they know,

are they really

as young as

we, the adults,

might believe?

 

National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

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