Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday, Indeed

I read this headline and opening line of an article just reported and shuddered for many a reason:

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

A worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers when a suburban Wal-Mart opened for the holiday sales rush Friday, authorities said.

I swear my next post won't be so dark....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Ready for That Exit

After we crawled three miles in 40 minutes to get on to the Tappan Zee Bridge, I was thrilled when the traffic opened up and our Sienna zipped down the highway, passing the Welcome to New Jersey sign. We had about eight miles left in our Thanksgiving trek, and while it wasn't quite the 'over the river and through the woods' journey I've had in other years (note to self: must write the first-Thanksgiving-in-the-Peace-Corps tale at some point) to get to celebrate the holiday with family, buying all the food supplies and packing up the three boys still tuckered us out enough to make us quite anxious to reach my sister's home. Add to the mix one three-year-old fellow who has been wearing underwear for just nine days, and you can just hear my sigh of relief as P exited the highway.

Except not this exit. With growing awareness as he made the first left and then the right, I sucked in air sharply as I realized the route we were heading to K's. "Why are you going this way?" I suddenly barked. There are exits just a few miles down the highway we could have taken, but somehow the evil navigation system led us to this one. It took a moment for P to register just why my voice suddenly became loud and tense, and he reached over and grabbed my knee. I sank down into my seat and froze. Unaware of their mom's growing panic, the boys happily sang along to the CD, "The shot heard round the world was the start of the Revolution," a flashback of the Saturday mornings of childhood spent watching SchoolHouse Rocks.

As our van reached the light to make the next left, I flipped my hood up over my head and dropped my gaze, staring at the silver sewn letters of my hoodie, the zipper half zipped, my sons' names engraved on the thin tags I wear around my neck-- anything to avoid seeing the street we were now traveling on. My stomach gurgled and I suddenly felt nausea rising up to my throat.

341 days ago, my dad was killed on this street. I have not been near it since I last visited him, just ten days before he died. I sort of vowed that I would never drive on it again. Some folks need to revisit the place of their loved-one's death, mark the scene with a wreath of flowers, a plush toy or a handmade wooden cross perhaps. I have never felt such a need. I have concentrated on scenes in my head, remembering times that he was alive and vibrant--- blowing zerberts on my sons' pale bellies, shouting too loud at my nephew's football games, hammering the bottom of a bottle of ketchup to drench his food with his most-beloved condiment. I don't let my mind go to the place where I might imagine his last moments, the impact of the car, the wet pavement of that dusky December evening.

And tomorrow, I will celebrate Thanksgiving with four of my siblings. It will be our first Thanksgiving since we became orphans. We'll make my mother's stuffing because no matter how fancy that smoked oyster or andouille sausage dressing recipes you have-- white bread, lots of butter, onions, and a generous amount of Bell's Poultry Seasoning tastes like home to us. And when we sit at the table, I'll be sure to look for the pale green glass dish full of Gherkins pickles because for my dad, the Thanksgiving meal was just not complete without those sweet pickles served in his own mother's special pickle dish.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Invites and Prayers

Thanks to my clear handwriting, every once in awhile a friend will ask me to address invitations for her. I am far from a professional calligrapher, but I enjoy this task-- finding the perfect pens, experimenting with varying fonts, and finally marking the creamy envelopes with names of people I don't know. It is interesting to note that the only 'C' I received on a report card in elementary and high school was for handwriting, I think in second or third grade. It doesn't take much of a pyschologist to note that given my strong perfectionist tendencies, clearly I've been making up for that mark ever since, but that is far from the point of this post.

This morning sitting at our dining room table, I was happily addressing some envelopes for save-the-date wedding invitations for a friend. It was one of the few lazy weekend mornings we have had for some time. The boys were reading, spread out on the couches, legs askew draped in fleece blankets. P had lit a fire and turned on some of my favorite folkies, Gorka, Griffith and Wheeler. P was in the kitchen starting a fancy stew for guests we're having over tonight, and the smell of red wine and mushrooms was already wafting from his post at the stove.

S sat up from his reading and came to check out what I was doing. "What's that?" he inquired. I explained that I was addressing envelopes and pulled out the printed invitation to show him.

"You see-- Bella is getting married this July and she wants her friends to know the date so they can mark their calendars."

"Is Bella marrying a woman or a man?" was the follow up question.

"A man. His name is Derek," I explained.

"Oh," Sam replied and turned away from the table to resume his position on the couch.

And with that short exchange, I felt a small tug at my heart. His simple inquiring whether our friend was marrying a man or a woman, held no judgment, no politics-- it was just a question. And I felt a small bit of pride because for him, it was just about love and the decision to marry the person whom you love. In his relatively small world, for what he has learned in our home, and in his community, and now his state (yea, Connecticut!)-- women can love women and now they can marry, just as men can love and marry men (which makes him relieved) even though he knows that there are not many places that same sex couples can marry.

For the past weeks, my excitement about the presidential election results have been tempered by the California vote to repeal gay marriage. When I first heard the passing of Prop 8, I was incredulous and then just plain sad. I, like many others, read the story of another mom of boys, Pam Patterson, who took a huge chunk of her family's savings, $50,000, to fight against gay marriage in California saying: "It was a decision we made very prayerfully and carefully. Was it an easy decision? No. But it was a clear decision, one that had so much potential to benefit our children and their children."

I think of Pam's sons and my sons, and I just cannot see the benefit of denying two people who want to commit their lives to one another in marriage. I think how painful it might be if one of those Patterson boys grows up to find himself in love with another man. And my prayers-- well, they ask that when my boys are old enough to make such a decision, they may marry the people they love.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yet another reason...

to resist the video game thing in our home:
"Video game consoles consume a "staggeringly high" amount of energy, according to a report the Natural Resources Defense Council is releasing on Wednesday."

The boys have just started to press us about the video game systems they hear about from their classmates. C has been keen to invite himself over to a few of his classmates' homes, boys I don't think he actually plays with, but who both just so happen to have wiis at home. I tell C that clearly he is more interested in playing with the wii, not the boys themselves-- which to his credit, he doesn't refute. I finally made the bold pronouncement in the car this evening: Just like we will not be getting a dog anytime soon, we will not be getting a video game system. We're--just---not.

Do you think that I can appeal to their burgeoning sense of environmental concern to combat the pull of the video games? Yeah, and I worry about their 'likability factor.' Imagine how this would go over in a kindergarten/first grade classroom, "We don't play video games because they waste energy and are bad for earth."

Self-awareness at Six

Given my English teaching background, I am always a sucker for a good simile. Today while driving to school with C and S, I spoke with them about the two times of the day I find the most difficult: getting out of the house in the morning to go to school and leaving school in the afternoon.

"Yup," S sagely replied, "School is like baths for me. I don't like to get in the bath, but once I am in-- I just never want to get out."