Blog, Ramblings

Chocolate Dreams

My son’s sleeping has finally become regular over the last few months. This semester was certainly much better than last, with only two weeks of multiple wakings due to a cold, croup, and ear infection. By 8 PM he’s in bed, and because he’s pretty much given up on napping during the day, he only mumbles, sings, chats for a few seconds before his eyes shut, his breathing slows, and soft snores escape his lips. In the morning, he’s up anywhere between 4-6 am, at which time he drowsily pit-pats his way into our room, climbs in bed with us and, if it’s our weekend (meaning neither of us have to go to work), he’ll keep sleeping until 7-8 am.

This morning was no exception.

His routine before settling himself back to sleep is as follows: Once in bed, he rolls from me to my husband. At each of us, he leans over, smacks a wet kiss on our cheek, and says, “Mommy [or daddy], I love you.” We say I love you back, he smiles, sighs, and turns over. Sometimes he’ll do that a few times before he goes back to what children dream of.

Occasionally, he’ll talk in his sleep. We know he is prone to sleep disturbances, as he’s had night terrors pretty badly, but on the smaller, less intrusive scale is the sleep talking.

This morning, after he’d fallen back asleep in our bed, he sighed, smiled, and whispered, “Mmmm, chocolate.”

Oh how sweet his chocolate dreams must be!

Blog, Ramblings

Growing Up

Lately, my three-year-old son has become obsessed with growing up. It’s not the simple obsession of “My birthday’s coming up” or “I’m getting older.” No, he wants to be a grown-up “like mommy and daddy.”I’m certainly not ready for that yet. I’m still mourning the infant and the baby as he’s now an active, rowdy, funny kid. There’s not much baby left in him yet.

Yet the delicate balance between dependence and independence is such a wondrous phenomena, especially in children. They year to do things themselves (we constantly hear in our home: “No, I do it myself!”) but at the same time, they don’t want mom or dad to be too far away (we still get tears and sobs, with little arms clung to my legs and his sad voice begging “Mommy, don’t go. I want to stay home with you.”) At each stage, my heart melts and breaks, becoming an indefinite form of mush. At night, when he sleeps, I can only pray, God, please keep him safe always.

Last night, we were reading I Love You Forever, a children’s book about a mother’s love as her child grows up, through each stage, until the mother herself is old, frail, sick, and the roles reverse. It’s a beautiful book (though some find it creepy as the mother creeps into her child’s home to hold him, rock him, and sing to him – I take it figuratively), though I can hardly ever finish the book without a lump tugging and threatening to bring on the waterworks. So I don’t read it to him too often. Last night, when we got to the part of the teenager now grown into a man and leaving home, we have the following conversation:

Him: Mommy, why is the boy leaving his house?
Me: Because he’s a grown-up now, and grown-ups don’t live with their mommies and daddies.
Him: Why?
Me: Because they have their own houses and families.
Him: (pause, then eyebrows bunch up, head tilts back) I don’t want to be a grown-up anymore.

We followed this conversation in the morning, on our way to school.

Him: Mommy, I want to be a grown-up.
Me: But then you won’t live with mommy and daddy anymore.
Him: But I want to live with you! (his eyes were starting to shine)
Me: Me, too, baby. I want you to live with us for a very long time. That’s why I’m not ready for you to be a grown-up yet.
Him: Okay.

I know he’ll be a grown-up soon enough. Before I know it (or like Kenny Chesney’s song says, as I blink), he’ll be that teenager going off to college, getting married, having kids. And I’m so not ready for that yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be, but he’s already growing up way too fast and I’m afraid I’m blinking too much. He’s going to be four this summer; he’s starting Pre-K in Aug. Next year, he’ll be in Kindergarten. Yet, I feel as if I just brought him home from the hospital yesterday, cuddled him in my arms, nursed him, sat mesmerized by his gummy smile.

It’s bittersweet indeed.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Lost Treasures

Today I relished in a day off from having to drive up to work. No thirty-six-mile commute for me. Instead, after dropping my son off at school, I drove three minutes to the nearest Starbucks, where everyone knows my name (I have the melody from Cheers in my mind…) I parked myself there, with a venti Caramel Macchiato, and proceeded to rewrite the scene of my father’s death. I had decided that would be the scene I wanted to benefit from the manuscript consultation at Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference because it’s been one of the hardest to write. It will more than likely be one of the last chapters in my book, and one that is still raw. It’s been two and a half-years since he died, but I still remember every second of that day (though some parts have begun to fade along the edges and time has warped a little.)

I sat for almost four hours. I had a six-page “draft” I had churned out about a year and a half-ago. But it was all telling. It was a synopsis of what happened, but not real writing. So I put it aside and started fresh from memory, choosing a starting point that wasn’t the beginning, and worked it. I ended with ten pages, the limit I needed for the manuscript consultation. I know I can expand it more, though I don’t know if I need to. We’ll see how the consultation goes. It’s a deeply personal piece, one that I hope can stand on its own (in narrative) and that will be a part of the bigger picture (the book.)

After I finished, I had a quick bite at Subway (the usual – six-inch turkey and provolone cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper – I don’t stray from that either.) Then I  returned a pair of shoes, and sat in my car, not sure where to next. I had at least another hour before I could go pick up my little one, since he was napping at school, and then it hit me: Go to mom’s house. I had to go anyway, because she’d made some Abui yogurt and soup, so it was the perfect excuse to go and esculcarle for the music sheets my dad had written me.

It’s always the same when I go to my mom’s house: I expect to see my dad. Even though a chair now sits at the head of the dining table, which was his place, and since he was in a wheelchair, didn’t need a chair, there was a glass of water on the table and a small prescription drug bottle on that side. My mom’s taken it over, but it reminds me of him.

(Note: I keep saying house, but it’s an apartment. We just always called it la casita when referring to it among ourselves.)

Anyway, my first greeting was a large roach on its back, dying. I sprayed some Raid on it, which caused it to start wiggling, causing me to itch. I despise roaches. I emptied out a small, white trashcan my mom had and placed it over the roach, giving it privacy while it died and giving me comfort that it wouldn’t suddenly spring back to life and chase me. Ha!

I went into my old bedroom, where I last knew the music sheets were, and I started searching. I looked around, moved books and boxes, removed bags, and found nothing. I prayed – Lord, illuminate me, give me an inclination where these things may be – and then I looked up. On the uppermost shelf of the closet where things, only I couldn’t tell exactly what those things were. So I moved a chair, climbed up, and moved some more. Sure enough, all the way to the back and right was a stack of folders and a white box. I got them and saw what I’d been looking for and so much more: awards, certificates, letters, music sheets, pictures, my baby book, school years memories, and old stories and poems I’d written! There was also a folder with information, schedule, etc. of when I played the bells for the superintendent of schools back in 1990 representing Everglades Elementary. Cool!

I came home with my treasure, eager to sift through it. I discovered (and somehow, I’d forgotten) that I wrote short stories when I was in high school, the early years. I remember writing poetry (really cliched, love-struck, rhyming poetry) because poems plagued my journals. But in a notebook, there they were: typed short stories with character development on a side sheet, typed in the first computer I owned: a hand-me-down dot-matrix computer! Insane. They were better than the poems I wrote (though that doesn’t necessarily say much about my writing back then)!

The best part, by far, has been the letters written to my mom and me by my dad, back in early 1990 when he went through a health crisis. He went to Colombia to get better, believing more in the doctors there than those here. These letters now give me a glimpse into his desperation, frustration and, more importantly, love. His love for us. His affection. I don’t remember that, and I wish I did. I wish I remember his telling me he loved me and he was proud of me. I wish I remember that affection. I don’t, but I now have these letters as proof they were real.

What prompted the search, though, and which I found, was the song he wrote for me when I turned nine. He played the piano, and he wanted me to learn. He also wrote music and lyrics, mostly religious ones when he was a priest. (I have recently found his collection of sheet music with church songs.) Well, he wrote two songs for me, that I remember: when I turned nine and when I went to Colombia by myself (I was also nine, almost ten.)

Here are the words to my daddy’s song (in Spanish, of course):

Mujercita eres ya
nueve son tus añitos. (Repeat)
El señor, que es tu Padre,
no te fallará jamás.
Siempre fiel a su amor.
Conducir te sabrá
por senderos oscuros
y llevarte a la gloria
de la ciencia y la virtud.

So yep, that was it. Short, but sweet and spiritual.

Blog, Writing

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is going to be on the short side, and while I should be going straight to sleep, I have to make this transition from end of book to the mundane (have I mentioned I like that word?).

I just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and I had to take a deep breath. This was a toughie for me. I spent the good first half of the memoir shaking my head and wondering whether I really wanted to keep reading through this dysfunctional family. I kept wanting the Department of Children and Families to go in and swoop the four kids away from those reckless parents. But then again, it wouldn’t have left as much of an imprint, I think. By the end of the memoir, I want to know what happens and I’m rooting for Jeannette and her siblings to get out of that oppressive hole.

The Glass Castle is certainly a memoir about acceptance. Where Eat, Pray, Love contained a self-conscious, woe-is-me tone, Walls writes without blame. She is matter-of-fact, here is what happened, and she doesn’t succumb to lamenting her childhood. It proves how strong she really is.
It’s also a memoir about love, in a dysfunctional, different kind of way. It astounds me that two brilliant people like her parents could be so irresponsible. I have an almost-three-year-old son and I could never imagine doing the things Walls’s mom did. I shook my head many times during this past week, while I read her memoir. I shook my head in incredulity.
I brought out my imaginary pom-poms, though, when she finally had enough and told her mom and dad off, and when she and her sisters and brother broke free. The parents became the children and the children the parents. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others, and in The Glass Castle it certainly was obvious.
But the end. Oh the end. The part when her dad asks to speak to her and, in the same call, asks for a bottle of Vodka – that part reminded me of my dad. Not because of the alcohol, because my dad didn’t drink, but because my dad’s addiction to smoking was just as bad as her dad’s with alcohol. In the end, I gave up fighting his smoking habits and indulged him. It killed him indirectly, in the end, but I still indulged him.
So I definitely recommend this memoir, but it’s not for the faint of mind. Those with children, beware, because it has you clutching on to your own kids more dearly. I’m still amazed that after going through such a childhood, Jeannette Walls came out brilliant and overcame the set backs in which she was born.