Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? (Psalm 56:8)

This rainy, chilly Sunday morning, I wake at around 5 or so. One of my children is sobbing. At least, it’s not sobbing that I have ever heard before from any of them (yes, it’s true, mamas can pick out the cry of her child in a crowd, let alone her own house). But it must be one of them, who else is here?

I was confused when it appeared that all three boys currently under my care were sleeping peacefully (albeit two in one bed – impromptu slumber party). Even though I saw them in bed, I then thought, It’s coming from outside (I know, don’t think I didn’t think that. Cue the axe murderer.) My still asleep brain somehow could handle the fact that despite the fact that I had just laid eyes on all three children IN THE HOUSE, apparently one of them was locked outside, crying.

When I opened the front door, there was a small figure – so small that at first I thought it was a dog – huddled in the middle of my street, sobbing heartbrokenly.

Next thought: someone’s cat got run over. As I approached (yeah, if you’re thinking, Idiot! get in line with my husband), I realized it was one person, a (seemingly) young, teeny tiny girl, sobbing as if her heart would break – or indeed, as if it already had.

Sadly, because we live when we do, in the society we do, the gut instinct that led me out into the street to find a crying child cautioned me against getting too close – that this girl could have a gun or be whacked out on drugs, or be of danger to me – and more importantly, to my sleeping children in my house - somehow.

I spent close to an hour sitting out on the street with her. She never moved, just cried and cried and cried. She repeated things like, “I don’t have anybody! I don’t trust anyone! I have no home!” over and over.

Because I live where I live, there are certain things that immediately pop into my head when a ruckus occurs out on the street, especially in the off hours.

Was she drunk?
(I don’t think she was.)

Was the guy sitting in the shiny new SUV parked behind her her boyfriend, her father, her pimp?
(Turns out the boy was her boyfriend. He was a slight, clean-cut teenager who was somewhere between exasperation, resignation, and amusement with his girlfriend (I think) and her drama.)

Did he have a gun?
(Yeah, I asked her that, and I am not proud, but you know, I wasn’t approaching a strange car without at least some inkling of who or what was in there.)

Should I call the police, the women’s shelter, her mom?
(No, no, no. I got out of her that she was 18. She looked about 10.)

Mostly, she HAD to get out of the street before someone – most likely my newspaper guy – ran her over.

A woman driving home from an engagement party – immaculately dressed, driving a silver BMW – stopped to see if she could help. I was just glad for another face at that point. The boyfriend never emerged from the car (seems he’d been driving around following her as she wandered the streets, sobbing, and had pretty much given up on talking any sense at all into her.) I offered to call the cops, I offered a jacket, I offered food, money for a cab. She just kept repeating “I don’t know anymore!” and sobbing. (Well, once I thought she asked for Cheerios, but I was wrong.)

I had just about decided there was nothing I could much do, if she didn’t want me calling the police. I told her to come knock on my door if there was anything I could do to help, reiterating my earlier offers of phone calls, food, money. I told the very polite boyfriend the same thing. I was about to reluctantly disappear back into my house and let the drama go on without me.

Then, an angel descended. No, not really. But my rector, one of the nicest men alive, and a man of God so he’d know what to do, drove up the street. He didn’t have any more idea than I did, but he was leaning towards calling the police.

Then, before any of us could make a move, the girl unfolded herself and stalked regally down my alley, disappearing. She was lovely, even after crying for an hour, crumpled on the wet pavement.

The silver BMW lady wanted to leave, I could tell. She had been talking out her car window to the boyfriend. He had said that the girl was upset over something (yeah, I wasn’t gonna pry, wasn’t it enough that I had engendered a three-ring circus?) and he’d been driving around, following her, for hours. On one hand, great, she was pulling the Camille act all over the neighborhood at 5 o-freaking-clock in the morning. On the other, that was some serious emotion I saw. Whatever was upsetting her – however trivial or laughable it may have been to any of us – was real to her. (Of course at 18 *I* thought my heart was never going to recover from Michael Madigan loving someone else and not me anymore. So, you know, 18. So young. A child.)

I am still ashamed that my first presumption was that she was drunk, my second that she was a prostitute (are hookers rocking Converse tennis and skinny jeans these days?). I am ashamed that I worried about a gun. I did not do any of these things JUST because both young people were African American; I did it because they were strangers, and gallivanting around my neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, and because I had three sleeping children in the house behind me. If they had been white teenagers, I actually would have been less sympathetic. Which smacks of racism right there – my assumption that a white teenager has resources that a black girl might not have is just as prejudiced. (I still would have asked about the gun. I hate guns. They terrify me. And apparently everyone in the world but me has one at this point.)

All I know is that I heard a child crying and the mom in me wanted to fix it. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even really make her feel better. But maybe, sometime, when she thinks about how no one cares, she’ll recall how some crazy middle-aged lady wearing pajamas and a retainer stood out in the wet street for an hour, talking to her, teasing out details of her life, trying to find a way to help.

I even offered her her Cheerios. Thank God I’d gone grocery shopping yesterday.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jai ho!

I am laughing out loud reading this:

I am enjoying this second in the series almost more than the first:

Quirky but fun, I'll stick with it to see where it goes:

And I just wept my way through the last chapters of this. Seriously, I need to stop reading books that make me cry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

All that tread the globe are but a handful to the tribes that slumber in its bosom.

Having spent the past hour and a half sobbing, I finally close the book and put it down. My eyes are swollen, my nose is running, and I feel spent.

I go upstairs and check on each of my boys, gently patting their long limbs under the covers, tucking well-loved stuffed animals into the crooks of their arms. I smooth their hair back from their foreheads, I kiss their cheeks, I breathe in their little boy smell.

The book I just finished has put on the table for examination the worst of every mother's fears, and while I am glad I read it, the book will go on my shelf and probably not be opened ever again by me. It is not the sort of book one rereads, despite the true compassion and love I feel for some of the characters.

It is a book that forces me to look at What if? and when it comes to my boys, the only what if I want to contemplate is a happy one. To speculate otherwise feels like tempting fate; although, sometimes, I think of it as protection. Like if I can imagine the worst, it will never, ever happen. Either way, I can't think too hard about this novel, it is too heartbreaking.

Yet I wake up this morning snarly and cranky from lack of sleep and a nagging headache. I find myself grousing at my beloved boys for demanding too much too early, for being too loud, for simply acting like little boys. Oh, the dichotomy of motherhood.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Half Price Books booty. Arrrrrr!

Magyk, the first Septimus Heap. Primo liked it well enough to ask me to get the next few.

The Amulet of Samarkand, the first of the Bartimaeus trilogy. I haven’t given this to Primo yet. He is travelling with his dad next week, and will need reading material for the plane. (And if you think I am sending library books out of state with that child, you are sadly mistaken.)

Jason and the Golden Fleece - by James Riordan. We are all about mythology these days.

Star Wars 1,2, 4-6 – More plane material.

H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute of Villainous Education) – Mark Waldon. Yeah, I couldn’t decide if this looked stupid or cool. For a buck, I decided to give it a shot. Primo hasn’t finished it yet, though. I started it and still can’t decide if it’s stupid or cool.

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club – Gil McNeil. I love this book. It’s right up there with Raffaella Barker’s Hens Dancing and Summertime for go-to comfort reading of the English novel variety – only with bonus knitting and yarn talk.

Bonjour Tristesse – Francoise Sagan. The classic French coming-of-age tale, blahblahblah. I forget where I first read about this. I have a moldy green hardback copy, but this is a compact little QP version. So I can throw away the moldy one.

Keeping Watch – Laurie R. King. One of King’s non-Mary Russell novels.

Until I Find You – John Irving. If you ask me (and you have), Irving jumped the shark about two thirds of the way through Owen Meany. But for a dollar, I am willing to give him another chance.

Model: The ugly business of beautiful women – Michael Gross. Why do I want to read this? I do seem to have a thing for exposes of an industry – think Fast Food Nation, The American Way of Birth and …Death, and most of Mary Roach’s books. Or those books that delve into the nasty underside of the sports of figure skating and women’s gymnastics. They make good reading.

Astrid & Veronika – Linda Olsson.

In Fact: The best of creative nonfiction - (Lee Gutkind, ed.). Sometimes I need books lying around that I can pick up and put down, and pick up and put down, and pick up and put down…this is one of those. Plus, Gutkind teaches at the local university.

A High Wind in Jamaica – Richard Hughes. One of you recommended this to me when I was reading something else that was allegedly similar. Yeah, I know. I’m killing you with details.

The King’s Daughter – Suzanne Martel. Mail order brides and pioneer living. Excellent.

The Mother Dance – Harriet Lerner. Cuz I love reading books that tell me what I am doing wrong. But of course. Also, it makes H crazy to see me reading books like this.

This Day in the Life: Diaries from women across America (24 hours of true life stories). Aren’t there some bloggers we all know in this?

World of Knitted Toys. I have already been apprised of which child wants which animal.

I'm missing three. Huh. That'll teach me to keep my receipts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

But, wait, there's more...

Despite the cold and the rain and the slog back to my car that took me longer than the actual relay leg I ran, the marathon was a blast. Thank you for your support, both emotional and financial.

On Mother's Day I participated in a Race for the Cure event that more properly could be billed Zumba for the Cure - a bunch of our instructors led a class at the starting line of the race, and a bunch of us zumba nuts danced along. It was fun. I probably should've worn soccer cleats, and a jacket, but it was still fun. It was a lovely way to spend Mother's Day morning.

H and the boys took me out for a Mother's Day brunch on Saturday, to a new-ish, posh-ish little eatery up the street. The food was quite nice, but not especially kid-friendly, even when they TRIED to be kid-friendly (hint: my children don't generally care for goat cheese or sourdough, no matter how you disguise it). Our meal culminated dramatically in a water glass shattering as Terzo drank from it, provoking lots of mouth-washing-out and finger-sweeping with no regard for our fellow diners' sensibilities. I have no doubt that both the waitstaff and the other diners were pleased and relieved to see the back of us.

Also Saturday I took advantage of ferrying Primo to a birthday party to go to a Half Price Books and spend lots of money. Well, not too much - 20 books for $45 bucks. Not so shabby. I picked up a bunch of stuff I have been pushing Primo to try - the first Septimus Heap book, for example. I also scored the novelizations of the original Star Wars trilogy, and the novels of what kids today call Episodes 1 & 2 and us old folks call those abominations that George Lucas inflicted on us after finding out that Vader is Luke's father (what? you didn't know that? sorry.) Anyway, even though the books appear to be verbatim transcriptions of the movies, both Primo and Seg are very much enjoying them.

I prefer to rummage through the clearance racks, even at HPB, rather than pay "full price" (all of $4.98 in most cases) for anything, so I returned home with a grocery bag smorgasbord of literature. I will post a list for you shortly. If you care.

I also had to venture to Borders to buy the birthday gift for the party (Rick Riordan's newest, The Red Pyramid) and found myself somehow emerging, blinking, into the light with the new Anna Quindlen, Every Last One, and volume 3 of the Sandman graphic novels, as I progress in my quest to own (and read, over and over) the entire brilliant series.

You'd think my trip to the library last week, in which I snagged both the newest Mary Kay Andrews AND the new Lori Lansens, AND my requested copy of The Walking Dead compendium, would have sated somewhat my thirst for piles of books surrounding my bed and scattered all over my house, but apparently not.