Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Unique Connection

Life is about connections. I thought of this as I was sitting on my family room floor, savoring the memory of a special moment at the coffee shop. On this Saturday morning, as usual, I woke up, showered, gathered my books and headed to the local meeting spot for a little peace and quiet. I ordered my vanilla latte and was prepared to settle into a morning of reading. The atmosphere was buzzing with the after-holiday noise of friends getting together.

I was deep into my reading and was just making a transition when there was a glow that surrounded my table. My new friend breezed to my table with her kilowatt smile and sunshine hair. I was so surprised and delighted to see her, I jumped up and we hugged as if we were lifetime soul sisters and not two women, different races, opposite life circumstances, who had just met earlier in the month. There was such joy to see her again and she to see me. We were connected in a unique way that will be a delight to discover and explore.

She is a connector, a joiner and she immediately introduced me to a young man who was sitting at a table across from me. I noticed him earlier because I had to change my coffee cup and so briefly stepped in front of him at the counter. As a life observer, I also glanced at his table and saw his Bible, it made me smile. This coffee shop draws a lot of people, it seems, who come here to meditate and study.

My twinkle-eyed friend, in her signature exuberance, said we had to meet. She gave quick introductions, and also in the same moment, introduced me to her friend she came to chat with. She whirled away with the promise to come back. The gentleman and I started a chat and then with permission, I sat down for a deeper discussion. It was an orchestrated moment by God.

It turned out the gentleman was a pastor, a discovery I learned an hour into our discussion. There were Socratic moments in the discussion and a lively dialogue of the meaning of the church, the messages of Jesus and Paul, the future, almost everything under the sun. It was a moment that left an indelible impression on my spirit. I noticed my eyes glancing at the door in hopes that my husband would join me for this unusual moment.

As our talk turned to our mutual heritage, Creole from New Orleans, we sensed a moment that only God could plan. We commented that this was something neither of us would do at this coffee shop and how funny it was how my friend introduced us. He only knew her face briefly, their paths crossed professionally. Our joint observation of her was on the heels of a talk about gifts and talents. I asked him about the church and we proceeded to exchange information with a promise to have his wife email me and my husband call him. I was writing when again, I felt a ray of sunshine to my right, it was my friend

She has such a natural way of instinctively knowing the right people to connect. The three of us launched into another conversation as if we were old friends from college. An energy from the coffee shop radiated around us, our talk was electric and lit up that little table. Eventually I mentioned the time and we turned to see people standing up, it was the last Saturday of the year. We gathered our things and said the hurried good-byes of comrades.

I walked away full, delighted, it was one of those mornings that I wanted to bottle up. I was so excited that I called my husband. He could hear the joy in my voice as I tried to describe the feeling. I realized, you had to be there.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Photos of My Mother

I've been thinking about my mother a lot lately, perhaps it is because I am 43, close to the age she breathed her last breath. She was so young and beautiful when she closed her eyes and entered eternity. She left behind a husband, three sons, and three daughters. I am the youngest daugther, a mere four-years-old, a time before I remember her. My younger brother and her youngest son just emerged from babyhood to toddler hood with his third birthday just 17 days prior to her death. I think about what she must have thought when her beautiful eyes closed for the last time. There was so much she tried to pour into me like a neverending stream. I have her hands, her face, her writing, her thoughtfulness. She taught me to be precise in folding my clothes, did I know at three and four what she was really teaching me? I wonder.

I have daughters now. My youngest daughter just turned four years old. I will be 44 next May. I look at these legacies of foremothers, my six-year-old twin soul and my four-year old warrior princess, and think about my mother. My beautiful aunt, her younger sister, gave me precious photos of my queen. She was a pretty little Creole princess with her wavy brown locks and never-ending smile. She was born of a solidly middle-class black family so was afforded the priviledges of ballet, education, culture, and travel. I'm told she was a classy lady and the entire room stopped when she crossed the threshold. Her next younger sister comented on my mother's grace and perfection.

I look at the images capured in sepia and black & white and try to imagine life in 1924 when she was a new baby posing for her six-month pictures, or 1930 as a six-year-old dressed for school. I have photos of her as an 11-year-old posing like my daughters pose, she was going to ballet. I have her 16 year-old picture of her debutante dance, it was 1940 in St. Louis. Looking at images of her through young adulthood, pictures of her in 1958 posing with 4 of her then children. I imagine that kilowatt smile that lit up the room and her long, lean, Creole-French-Irish-German-African-Cherokee inherited frame gracing her sofa, casual on a Saturday, enjoying the rambuctous laughter of a house full of children.

She looked like a woman in love in 1960 as she walked along Grand Avenue, diminutive next to her beau, my 6'4" father. The gaze of her eyes made her mouth turn up in full smile. I have a picture of me on her lap in 1964, I was six months old. She was in a wheelchair because of her stubborn determination to ride a horse, the result was a broken hip. One would never know of the biting pain of a broken hip from horseback riding. Her joyous laughter was captured by Kodak. She was surrounded by all but her eldest daughter, my younger brother yet unborn. Her curly hair was coifed and grazing her shoulders, her daughter, my sister, had on the stylish glasses of the era. They were celebrating!

The next photo of her is with her hair pulled to the side in a pony tail, her frail body ensconsed in a wheelchair, surrounded by her siblings, silently mourning the death of the patriarch and giant shadow of a father, his the Creole legacy that fills our heritage. It was a hot afternoon in 1966, she was surrounded by all but one sibling, despite the saddness of their father's passing, they found a moment of joy captured forever in black & white.

My mother died in 1968 and I am on a quest to know her. Her sister has unearthed photos of her as a child, a teenager, a mother. I gaze at this face like mine and try to imagine her life. I infuse myself in the images, mining for the jewel of family, tucked away like a ruby, in a gilded box, waiting for her twin soul to knock on the door and ask the questions.

I look at pictures of my mother and I dream.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dancing in the Snow

I went to bed in the wee hours Saturday morning, the result of a rare night out with my husband. The frigid night had chilled me through to the bones and I just wanted to get warm and cozy under a mountain of comforters. My muscles ached for the treasured ritual of sleeping in, my reward for a week of home management and at-home-mothering.

The flurescent-bright morning peaked through the windows, assaulting my eyes with the white-whiteness. I was roused from my drowsy, caffeine-deprived sleep by the excited chatter of two little girls ready to go "snowing." They scurried out-of-bed, their room across from our room, and ran to the balcony door. "It's SNOWING!!!!" They ran into my room and jumped on the bed, helpless to contain the youthful joy of the first snow of winter.

The legs connected to my body wouldn't move fast enough for the two balls of energy that lit up the hallway. They ran into their room and quickly dressed in layers of clothes. I had to remind them that the snow would wait, they had to eat first. It was usually my day to sleep in as my husband assumed the child duties on Saturdays. Their bottled up excitement wouldn't let me stay in bed so I slumped my way downstairs to make pancakes. My son was asleep on the sofa in the family room, a casualty of watching two little girls on "howl out night" who had more energy than a vending machine can of espresso from Japan. I needed a latte to get me moving.

My girls barely touched their breakfast and did the wind-up-toy jig of children whose parents were taking too long. I cleaned up the dishes, not my usual Saturday morning chore but my son managed to wake up and join his entourage of tween boys for a day in the powdery sunshine. The girls raced through the ranch house and stopped at each window along the way from family room to living room, as if mentally calculating how much snow was on the ground.

I made myself a raspberry peppermint mocha and went back to my room. I opened the blinds so I could take in the cottony white covering on the hundred year old trees. The snow made the neighborhood, with its mid-century homes, look quaint, like a Norman Rockwell painting. I could see neighborhood children on the community triangle park playing and throwing snowballs. My eyes were adjusting to the blinding white of the sun kissing the pure white snow that covered everything like a blanket. I looked at the sky and more of the fluffy flakes were swirling and dancing their way to the ground.

Sleep came quickly to me as I was tired from a long week. I hadn't realized an hour had passed when my six-year-old bounced in my room and declared that they were outside with daddy building a snowgirl. She asked me if I'd like to join them but declared, "Mommy, that's ok if you are tired, you can rest a while." She turned and jump skipped down the stairs, I heard the slamming of the door that shook the rafters of this old house. I pulled the covers back up to my neck.

I lay there and could hear their squeals of laughter ringing through the sky like the bells of the Christmas carolers. My body willed itself to get up and join the fun. It was not something I did, to me, snowy Saturdays were meant for a good book, a great latte, and a glorious nap.

I pulled on layers of clothes, frantically searching the closet for the suffocatingly-warm Michigan transplant sweatshirt that saved me from the freezing Iowa winters while in grad school. Victory in hand and warmth cocooning my body, I ran down the stairs with my daughter's excitement. I came outside and found them gathering snow for a snowgirl. My little four-year-old was instructing my husband on how much snow to take off the mountain on the car. My six year old was rolling a ball for her body as daintily as she could.

We played for a while and went to the back yard. The snow balls started flying almost as soon as the fence was closed. My husband pelted me with one that landed on my legs. I, in turn, landed one on his back. The girls were alternately throwing and dodging the flying, wet mounds. We decided to divide into teams. The warrior princess was my partner and the dainty princess was my husband's partner. The girls took delight in gathering their arsenal of snow balls, ready to test their throwing arm. I wasn't a softball girl when I grew up so it took much effort to pitch them along the length of the back yard.

My husband ran inside to grab the camera and video recorder. This spontaneous snowfight had to be captured for posterity. It was fun and we were oblivious of the time. The balls kept flying through the air with the same speed as the snow was descending on us. When we were panting from breathlessness and hadn't-worked-out-yet running, we decided to finish that snowgirl.

The girls ran inside and gathered together a pink hat and purple scarf. My husband broke off a couple twigs for her arms. We had to improvise on her nose with a shriveled up carrot from the back of the vegetable bin. The snow was still coming down and noses were running amid the laughter and joy of a winter Saturday outside.

We danced around the yard gathering things for the snow girl and sometimes throwing another snowball. We stopped and looked at the neighborhood in the city now our home. It felt right, this our first snowfall in St. Louis. The music of our laughter echoed through the streets. It was a magical moment.

The setting sun prompted us to end our wet moments with a trip to the local coffee shop. We warmed up with lattes and hot chocolate. The girls chatted about their snowgirl and reluctantly gave up their day outside. We left the coffee shop and as we drove down the brightly lit street, all decorated for Christmas, our princesses fell instantly asleep in the backseat. My husband and I looked at each other and beamed a kilowatt smile. We danced in the snow, spontaneously, it was an unplanned, unscripted time together as a family, and that is what it is all about.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We Talked Last Night

We sat across from each other in a trendy restaurant downtown. The converted loft-like atmosphere and soft lighting was perfect for an after-concert vibe. It was frigid last night, a silent night, the kind that lets you know it is really going to snow. It is snowing this morning, big white fluffy flakes falling like a blanket from the sky. We will stay in today and bake cookies with the supplies we picked up at 2am.

He sat to my right, we didn't assume our usual across-the-table positions. It was a telling moment. He looked quite handsome in his tuxedo, fresh off the stage from a performance with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. His singing voice is beautiful, reminiscent of Luther Vandross at times. His range allowed him to sing the Latin celebrations of Mary and the high performance of the INUNISON Choir Gospel Christmas.

We perused the menu, it was 10:30pm on a Saturday night, a time we rarely know to ourselves. He decided on the chicken salad and I ordered a mango chicken sandwich with homemade potato chips. Our waiter was a bouncy young man and was quite delightful. He moved with a quick-step that reminded me of a too-happy art professor.

Our conversation started in a guarded fashion. There was a felling in the air, this mid-December night, that we should talk, really talk about the deep things of life. We took in the atmosphere, the music from the open bar, the few remaining couples around the room. A handsome, same-sex couple, trying to make it through dinner with body language that indicated a disagreement of some order. A young married couple with a breezy friend who came in from the frigid night to pilfer from the wife's plate. She ordered a glass of red wine and the three had a lively conversation. There was a cute little couple across the room, she had on a black, knit, skull cap over the tendrils of blond hair that peaked out. I could only see the back of his curly black hair grazing the collar of his starch white shirt. Just to the left of me was another same-sex couple, these men seemed to be having a more intimate conversation and their body language was more affectionate, they were sitting like my husband and I. I glanced at the people sitting at the bar in the lively, music and wine-filled conversation of a Saturday night with friends. They were all in their late 20s and 30s by appearance and the sound of music.

My husband and I seemed to turn in unison as our appetizers appeared, his a seafood bisque and mine portabello stuffed mushrooms. We took delight in the chef's culinary skills and commented on the food, he tasted mine, he sent his cold soup back. I sipped my herbal tea, he a diet Pepsi. We talked about the lively performance of the Blind Boys of Alabama and the one I called his older twin who danced a jig at the last song. Our talk was friendly, but guarded. We had lived together for years, there was an undercurrent. We had lived through too many seasons, too many words, too many moments in the years of marriage, moves, memories.

I asked him a question to talk about something other than the children and the university. I asked because I sensed a tugging, an urging of my heart to trust the answer. I wanted to slay the demon of fear that kept me silent at times, that kept our conversation just on the surface, just a pebble skipping across the lake. I asked because it needed to be asked, the time was right and I asked him, "So what goals do you have for yourself in the coming year?" He answered with one line sentences for the main categories - financial, spiritual, relational. Then our waiter came up to do refills, it was the moment they appear when you really want to talk in private.

We turned to each other and realized, without acknowledging it, that this was our chance, our jewel, our magic. We weren't parents or administrator, or at-home mom, we were a man and a woman at dinner, talking. The future lay before us like a blank page, waiting for the paint of our lives to create a masterpiece. The past lay behind us like pages in a scrapbook, a testament of what we overcame and survived, memories of the battle, the wounds of a warrior. Yet, tonight, as we sat and took a breath, the mood was peaceful and honest.

We didn't talk about the kids or bills or disappointments, we talked about the parallel lives we were living, the yearning for a deeper more intimate experience. We were calm and cordial and were able to just sit and look each other in the eye and listen. Marriage can be delightful and disasterous. We walked through the landmines of our life and often just wanted to make it through the day.

Our vision was sometimes clouded by the bills, the dirty clothes, the challenges at work, the chatter of the kids, the obligations, the duties, we couldn't see the forest for the trees. There was beauty in the way he appreciated life and people, the calmness with which he handled the storm of university administration. The word of his colleagues rang in my ear about his talent and commitment and ability to be down-to-earth. There was the joy of my quirky humor and attachment to family, the creativity and liveliness of everyday life. The comments of his colleagues and my family rang in my ear about me being so warm, outgoing, classy,and delightful. The things other people saw in us were clouded from our view. Tonight, we cleared the sleep from our eyes, woke up, and looked at each other.

The time ticked by and we were oblivious to the last couple who left, the crisp white tablecloths that had been neatly folded and removed from the surrounding tables. The dimming of the restaurant lights and the admonishing of the waiter to stay as long as we want because the bar was still open. A rare gift to just sit without a need to do the next thing had just been handed to us like a golden wrapped present. We exhaled. Our shoulders eased out of their hunched position and our body language seemed to respond in unison, we sat back with the feel-good of an invisible massage. The fear was gone, the weight was lifted, we shared.

He talked, I listened, I heard him. His eyes glazed, I talked, he listened. We looked each other in the eye, sometimes averting the gaze, but intent, focused. The package unwrapped and examined for all its beauty was no assumptions, no imaginations, no what-ifs. We were able to turn our inner ear to the soul and spirit and absorb. We both felt it. We didn't know what it would mean or where it would lead, but tonight, we were man and wife, talking, listening, caring, sharing, believing, hoping, forgiving, trusting.

Tomorrow will be another day and he will get on my nerves again with his shirt on the floor and I will make his skin crawl with my "no high fructose corn syrup" mantra, but tonight, this quiet, still, frigid December night, we talked, and that is a gift to cherish.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Cousin Passed Away

I just found out a cousin passed away a year ago. He was a dear man and committed to our family legacy. I am sitting here at my computer remembering the time he and I spoke, the time we met, the joy in our voices. This cousin lived in California. A lot of black families have "California Cousins" as if they were some foreign entity. My extended self on the west coast has been there since the 1940s. I live in the St. Louis area, the coast is a country away, too far to drive on a whim, another world.

The thought of this cousin doesn't leave me this morning as I sip the remaining warmth of a Tanzania Peaberry French Press. He was instrumental in doing the genealogical research and legacy dig that unearthed interesting family facts. My cousin was a tall, creamy caramel-colored man, his smooth skin was kissed by the California sun. He had thick, curly dark hair, and a welcoming smile. I remember the bear hug he gave me on a trip out to Diamond Bar back in 2002. I felt the embrace of ancestors when he, not much my senior, engulfed me into his arms and gave me a protective squeeze. Now he is gone, never to talk to him again. It saddens me.

One of my other cousins, a fellow member on a family email site, informed me of the demise of this cousin. I should qualify that the cousin who passed away was not a first cousin, he would probably we called a second cousin once removed or some other sort of classification. His mother and my mother were cousins. He was my mother's second cousin, my third cousin. I was not in his immediate family, I moved, and I live in St. Louis so it is logical that I wouldn't have known, given the population-of-a-small-island-size of my family.

I remembered a picture of he and I. I'm glad I still have it in my California photo album. I remember the joy and sunshine of that happy day. I will remember him for his laughter and his joy. He really wanted to bring all the branches and flowers of the huge family tree together. He wanted to honor the roots that are our ancestors from Haiti, France, and New Orleans. He wanted to celebrate the six generations from those island roots. Through his eyes I can look at how far and wide this society grew, these people, originally "gens de couleur libre",part of antebellum New Orleans.

My cousin will be missed. I will miss the opportunity to sit down and trace the trail of our family lineage. I will miss the warmth of his smile as we look at family pictures. I will miss his encouragement at my patched-together French. I will miss him and I will celebrate his passion as my family prepares for a huge, extended family reunion in 2008. Family is important because it gives a connection to someone, something beyond the confines of my own existence. As a black person in America, I celebrate the gift of my family heritage and the ability to trace our beginnings. I will always thank my cousin, not-so-distant, for being on the same search site as I was, reading and learning. I will always celebrate our brief, over-too-soon, picnic in the park. He is gone but will live on in my heart.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Twirling in the Night

I watched with delight as my daughters twirled and twirled in their new holiday dresses. The satin and tulle was like a cloud of gold as they sashayed and pranced around the living room. Their sparking shoes picked up the glint of light in the room and their squeals of laughter were contagious. They were excited and gave a show to Diana Ross's, "I'm Coming Out"

The occasion for the new dresses was that their father was singing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, a black tie affair. My fashionista and style conscious six-year-old declared new dresses were in order. They joyfully tugged their father to the van as they went out on the clear, dark night of winter in December. The trio, accompanied by their brother, would spend the next two hours reviewing the glitter and glamour of little princess adornment.

My girls are delightful to watch in their wonder of everything. The newly minted four-year-old always looks to her big sister for guidance, but isn't shy about voicing her own opinion. She was the choreographer for the evening show. She reluctantly disrobed from her stunning attire when the dancing stopped. I assured her she could do a command performance in two days when she was fully arrayed with her curly tendrills in ribbons and bows. Her big sister began to make an out-loud checklist of everything they needed for their debut as they glided offstage.

I could hear their chatter about how well they danced. One of the girls uttered she wasn't nervous and really needed to do a curtain call. They pranced back into the living room for their final bow and swayed around the living room stage as my husband announced their names. Where did they learn to curtsy? Was that inherent with being a little girl? Each girl came forward and like a ballerina in a music box, turned with her dress catching the wind beneath her. She knew magic was coming. Their little hands joined and they did a theatrical bow together, each with her arm sweeping out as if to capture the entire audience of two in their joyful exuberance. They stage exited with their eyes glued to us. I was smiling and laughing with sheer delight.

I closed my eyes for a moment as my husband was shutting down the video camera, and I imagined this scene in 10 years when my daughter prepares for her cotillion. I imagined her descending the stairs like an ebony princess, glowing and shimmering in a golden dress. My eyes quickly shot open as my now-pajama-clad-daughters jumped in my lap with shoe boxes in hand. They smothered my face with butterfly kisses and I kneaded their pudgy soft bodies.

My girls were still playful little princesses and I look forward to more twirling in the night!

Friday, December 7, 2007

How Much Do I Really Know Him?

Have you ever wondered if you really know someone? I wonder this as I sit here in my office, gazing through the glass doors at my husband. He is in the laundry room, just off the family room, the door is open. The cream colored dress shirt he is preparing to iron is laying across the washing machine. I catch glimpses of his arm, his shoulder as he does this pre-work ritual. I watched him and wondered what he was thinking this morning.

We have started and ended our days together for the last ten years. There have been up moments and down moments and sad moments and happy moments in between. I watched him finish his ironing, unplug the iron, and leave the laundry room. He closed the door and glanced up at me staring at him. He smiled.

I sit in my quasi-office, just tucked away in a little corner in the dining room. I am still getting used to this smaller house we moved to when we relocated. My back is to the open floor plan that leads to the stairs and the living room. I can hear him walking up the stairs and the girls in their room playing. I listen for the usual walk he takes to our bedroom, puts his clothes on the bed, and then the few steps to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes he came downstairs, freshly showered, smartly dressed, briefcase in hand.

He walked out to the car, put his things in, came back inside and picked up his cell phone. He kissed the girls, hugged me and then was gone for the day. I stood in the doorway and watched him drive away. It was a mystery to me what his day entailed. I tried to envision him on the highway, this first morning after the first light snow. It is cold, he forgot his coat.

We travel together down this path of life, we raise our children together, and I often wonder, how much do we really know each other. I pondered this and then wondered, if it is really possible to know anyone, truly, in the deep spiritual sense. What are his deepest fears, his deepest longings, his deepest dreams? Would I know them if they came up and shook my hand?

I finished the last of the breakfast dishes, washed his plate, held it in my hands for a moment. This man, my husband, the familiar, the unknown.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Quality of Life

Have you ever stopped to do a quality of life report? Have you ever stopped to assess your current life situation and ask yourself about its worth? I am doing that now. I think I decided to look at the quality of my life as I sat among the other middle school parents, waiting for my middle child, my last son, to step on stage and sing in his soft tenor. I was sitting in the audience, on hard school-issue chairs, trying to keep my very squiggly four-year-old still.

As the various choirs sang with their lovely, angelic voices, there was a silent war raging inside me as a stay-at-home mom, harried from all the running around of the day. I raced from one end of town to the other because my six-year-old had Daisy Scouts and welled up with puppy dog tears at the very mention of missing her monthly meeting. I can thank her troop leader for rescuing the night and offering to play chauffeur to my daughter after the troop meeting.

I quickly jumped into the drivers seat, interior warm against the winter blast, engine running as my thirteen-year-old sang his part in the front seat. He was oblivious of the prior stress he caused me this evening by not telling me about the concert until he came home from school today. Did he know I hadn't slept in three days because of his sisters illness and this was her first day back? Did he know I really wanted to cuddle up with them on this really chilly night and eat popcorn, have an impromptu Girls Night In since my husband was away on business? Did he even care? He was in his own mental, eighth-grade world, and the only thing that mattered was that I was at his beck-and-call. He had to make it the concert tonight, he was the only boy in the 8th grade concert singers and they needed his voice.

My heart was racing and my breath came in gasps as I willed the van to move faster. Once we arrived at the school and I practically pushed him out, I thought I would have a moment to exhale. My daughter had other things in mind. I parked the car and scurried her out-of-the van and did the "I'm late" run/walk/run/walk to the auditorium. We ended up sitting in the back and had time to take our coats off before the orchestra began their performance.

There are moments I wonder if I asked too much of her to sit still tonight. Her "ants-in-the-pants" performance exhausted every bit of nerve left in me and I was yearning for a latte and a vacation. I finally decided to give myself and my fellow patrons a break and ushered her out once my son sang his last number. We loitered in the hallway until the final choir took their bow and I could honestly say I was there for the entire performance. We did the walk/run/walk/run to the van against the December night.

On the drive home, I praised my son for his performance and congratulated him for making the all suburban 7th/8th grade concert choir. The moment was lost when he started teasing his sister and there was a round of "shut up stupids" and "be quiets" and "MOMs." Inside I kept wishing I had earplugs, a personal masseuse, and enough lattes to fill that giant teacup planter on my refrigerator.

As I turned the corner to my street and descended the hill, I thought about the quality of my life. I had one of those 43-year-old parent moments, a little tired of all the sacrifice, giving, and crying that accompany twenty years of motherhood. Was this what I thought my life would be like at this age? Did I remember what I wanted to be when I grew up? Is this the quality of life people strive for? Does that make me a bad mom for asking?

I sent my son to unlock the door and sat in the van, engulfed in the merciful silence of all bodies out. It was chilly and dark and for a moment, I just listened to the sweet sound of nothing. I came inside and looked at the toys strewn about the family room floor, the load of laundry waiting to be folded on the sofa, the left over juice forming ringlets in the glass, and inhaled the familiar.

In all the chaos, the messiness, the never-ending chores, the screams of sister to brother, the deafness of son to mother at chore time, the travels of my husband, the length of my days, I stopped and smiled. I love my life. I couldn't live anyone else's, even if I secretly wish my husband's salary could give me the maid, the cook, the chauffeur, the laundress, and the nanny that I mentally crave on nights like this. I sigh again as I listen to the playful songs of the girls as they shower for the night. They don't know I had a mini-mommy-meltdown on the way home and really just wanted to run to the beach somewhere, anywhere. I will join them upstairs for hugs, kisses, and love.

Tomorrow will be another day, and yes, I do have a good quality of life.

Thoughts on a Trip to the Library

I stopped by the county library last evening to return an overdue book. I looked around, this library is always pretty active and that night was no exception. While I waited for the librarian to take my money, I noticed a table of uniform-clad teenagers engrossed in conversation over a laptop. They looked like the tony, silver-spoon, privileged children from the couple of big money suburbs that were nearby. I just looked for a moment and turned to the librarian when she returned with my change. The moment almost went without a thought until I prepared to leave.

One of the young ladies - uniform short skirt, requisite privilege private school sweater, and leggings to belie the fact that her skirt was really too short on this misty evening - walked out ahead of me, her arms laden with big books. She looked to be about 16 or 17 years old. I was a few paces behind her and again, the moment would've gone without a thought until I went outside. She was a few paces ahead of me and something made me look at this tall, thin, brunette to see what she was driving. She stepped between the cars to the row in front of mine. In the seconds it took for us to walk to the parking lot, she was joined by a preppy, tall, 17 year old young man. It turned out they were parked side-by-side. They were each driving a Mercedes-Benz, the very expensive car of the upper classes. I stood outside my van, slowly putting the key in the 1998 Chevy Venture Van and wondered if their parents purchased the year-salary automobiles for them. She was in a convertible, he was in a 350 SL class, both were newer, 2006-2007 models.

I pulled out of my parking spot and as I reached the light, waiting for my left turn, I noticed a car that pulled up in the right lane, it was a Volvo. The driver was another of the privilege teenage set. The entire scene struck me because I thought about the lives of these young people who were probably oblivious to the plight of poor and middle class teenagers. Did they care or notice the mortgage crisis that caused an almost hundred fold increase in foreclosures in October? Did they notice that a gallon of milk was over $4 or that some people must choose between medicine and food? When they filled up the gas tank, did they give thought to the price that hovered over $3.50 a gallon? Would they care about the people that kept their ultra-mansions in the West County suburbs nice and clean?

The irony of the scene came to my mind because the book I returned was Wade Rouse's "Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler." The book was a memoir loosely based on one of the prestigious prep schools in the St. Louis suburbs. He never mentioned the city by name to protect the anonymity of the money-crowd, but all clues in the book pointed to the mansions, pink-clad, brand/designer labels that the rich mommies and teenagers use to define their existence. I pondered the moment with the kids and wondered if they would ever use their resources to benefit humanity.

I waited for the light to turn green to make a left turn to my little, historic suburb. The Christmas-tree lights were burning brightly across the street at the name-brand, exclusive shopping mall with stores such as Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom. I surveyed the area as I drove down this street that stretched through the metro area. There was a private school tucked away, a small enclave of far-set mansions and acre-long front yards, two such suburbs were back-to-back with homes that were the size of the White House. It made me wonder about the excess of this country during this holiday season and the gulf between the haves and have-nots.

When I pulled into the driveway of my traditional home in an historic suburb that values its 100-year old legacy, I smiled to myself. When I turned the key and stepped inside the door, there was something waiting for me that was more valuable than a Mercedes - love. My thought was rewarded with a hug from my four-year-old daughter.