Coming a little closer to the fire

We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.

I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.

In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.

They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.


St. Paul and his old stories

My four-year-old asked me to spell “Oshkosh” for her the other day. We moved from there a few years ago; it’s a common enough word in our house, I suppose. Weird, but so are kids. I went with it.

“O-S,” I said, waiting for her. “S is like a snake, like this.” I drew one with my finger in the air. She copied it. “Then H.” You get it.

“Look! I spelled ‘Oshkosh’!” she said. She held it out to me: “I miss Oshkosh.”   


I keep no fewer than 754 items on my coffee table at one time.

Bull-oh-knee, sister.


A Big Nag, a namaste, an invitation

The Big Nag began a couple months ago; January maybe?

Let me back up. One morning, I was in one of Lansing’s elementary schools on a preschool tour. Louisa’s old enough to go next year and I’m old enough to see the value in free childcare, should we get in (please, sweet baby Jesus). This particular building is a public Montessori school called Wexford. Sounds very British (it’s not). Its neighborhood is near ours; it’s full of small, tired houses and potholes. Koi swim in a small pond outside the front door.


On our visit, the principal walked Louisa and I by another fish tank in the lobby and into a preschool/ kindergarten room. I’d braced myself to see typical preschool fare: glitter glue, blocks, someone crying. I have children; I know what this looks like.

Instead, hear me: all was quiet. Children’s bodies lay in a loose circle on a big piece of carpet. Their little eyes were closed; they inhaled and exhaled at the teacher’s yoga instruction. We watched, mesmerized (my children are never this quiet, not even in sleep). After a minute, the class returned to “pretzel legs.”

Namaste, they all said.  

“What’s that word mean?” the teacher asked.  

A boy said, “It means, I see the good in you and you see the good in me.”


The universe is expanding

Two days ago, we thought the heater was broken: a scent like rubber burning pervaded our morning. The repair man charged us $85 to do something vaguely mechanical, the equivalent of making sure the heater was plugged in, turned on, running in MS-DOS mode. “Nothing wrong,” he said. “Maybe it’s not your heater.”

The smell persisted, filled our house. My thumb cranked up the Plug-Ins, put boxes of baking soda behind the couch.  

“Maybe it’s a skunk,” Dave suggested, stupidly naming that which I was content to pretend wasn’t happening. “Maybe a skunk sprayed the dog.”

“Shut your mouth.” I’m always, always a supportive wife. “That cannot be it.”

That was it.


It’d be all out of context, this future-knowing stuff



Louisa was hiding under a blanket on the couch. “Where’s my Weezy? Where’s Weezy?” I called from the kitchen. She giggled. I came in and tickled the foot that was sticking out. I scooped her up: “Weeza!” And in a moment, looking into her eyes, I remembered how impossible this moment seemed four years ago. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have this snapshot then? Wouldn’t I have slept better? My God …”


The three thousand who learn somewhere else, and we who live here anyway

I lugged a ladder around my house Monday morning, spraying vinegar water on the windows and wiping them clean with newspaper. It was the Sunday paper, and that matters because it wasn’t just the paper in my hands that left its ink on my fingers. I kept the front section on the front stoop under a Read more about The three thousand who learn somewhere else, and we who live here anyway[…]

The refugee images that won’t let us go

This morning, Louisa stood by our gnome, Christopher Robin, and smiled for a photograph. She held her lunchbox and wore her monkey backpack, all ready for the first day of day care. Her knobby knees, her cheese-ball grin: she’s so 3.

She’s not a baby. She’s a little person.

I held my cousin’s third baby last week, sweet baby Cora. For two hours I held that squirming, sleepy baby on my shoulder and in my arms. Her elbows and knees poked from beneath the gauzy blanket in the same way Louisa’s did from my belly. I didn’t want to let her go: all the warm fuzzy hormonal feelings flooded over me in a way they never did when I had my own babies, thanks to depression and sleep deprivation. (Plus, it’s compelling being an honorary aunt.) Sweet baby.

Memories of the first weeks of Louisa’s life came back, in and out with the news last week: refugees. Refugees, and a two-year-old drowned, washed up on a Turkish beach, and I cried more over that story than I have over news stories ever. I cried because the boy’s body reminded me of Louisa’s knobby knees, and because just two years on earth isn’t enough, and he spent his years in a dangerous place.


Oh, sweet baby.

It’s horrific, and holding a baby in my arms who is just as loved as the Syrian baby in his or her mother’s arms tonight, right now — it’s too much. God, it’s too much.

I cried, too, because it’s a home they were after: a safe place. Oh, sweet baby.