We got a haul one weekend earlier this month. We got sales pitches, free pencils and pens, and plastic cups with logos. Each schools’ booth in the Eastern High School gymnasium was trying hard to capture our attention — and our kids’ — with free swag and candy — or pet a snake, color a button, make a Lorax mustache, spin the wheel for a prize. The kids dumped all their goodies in a free backpack with an orange Tiger logo on the back, then asked to go see the next booth, the next one! They’re passing out emoji erasers!
Just about every weekday morning, I drive 12 minutes south to an elementary school in a Lansing suburb. All my girls attend this year: it’s a K-4 public school. We love that place: the teachers and staff are warm and friendly, art class rocks, the field trips are fantastic, the principal welcomes kids by name as they unload from the drop-off line.
Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.
Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.
I watch my friend in her sparse kitchen. She uses a small saucepan to scald milk for us to drink. Dave used to do the same when he baked bread in our kitchen, and the sweet-sour smell reminds me of home. She pours two steaming glasses and then sits on the folding chair, the only Read more about How we respond here to the refugee crisis[…]
The sounds of the neighbor’s air conditioner, a cardinal’s cry, and a big yellow bus’s “pfssht” all congeal in my last-minute dreams during those minutes just before I have to get out of bed. Those sounds are native to Alpha Street at 7 o’clock on any weekday.
Our windows are open, the blinds are up. From our bed under the window sill, I prop my chin on the pillow to watch the world awaken. The bus turn on its flashing lights to stop. Neighbors start cars, dogs bark. A minute later, I abandon my post to brush my teeth in our attic bedroom’s half-bath.
Usually, I think about my kids sleeping downstairs. How they were supposed to be on that particular bus; how the Lansing school district assigned them to that route as late as last month. How I put that letter in the recycling bin.
That letter was our latest “Instead.”
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 …”
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[…]
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.