The mermaid

mermaid RiCerulean shimmers amidst shocked white spray
Undulating, stirring the constant changing tides
The crash of salt and sea
Rocks jutting just above scream “halt!”
She baths atop this surfaced throne
Watching the waves churn about her
Head turning heaven-ward, she is still
Sunkissed skin merges with iridescent drops
Whilst pearls and shells modestly adorn

*inspired by the word ‘wave’ from Six Word Fridays

Land! Treasure! And a message in the bottle

I’ve been planning this session in my head for quite some time: a pirate ship, a few swarthy crew members, a beach.  I pictured my kid-version of Captain Jack Sparrow coming to life in front of my camera lens.

I ordered a boat. When it arrived in the little box, I told hubs he’d have to blow it up. I think his heart stopped at the thought. “You bought a boat?” He asked, as though the very idea were absurd.

“Yes, a boat.”

Truthfully, it is a boat, though the little wooden transportation would hardly float and is certainly not water-ready. But it is absolutely perfect for my photo projects.

Ri had another tutu coming. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Another tutu?” Our collection is taking over my “studio space.” And yet, I couldn’t pass on a chance at getting a little pirate set. Nor could I skip getting the super-reduced $5 costume Babies ‘R’ Us version.

We ventured to our favorite park early in the morning, but the sun was already too high in the sky. Harsh shadows threatened us, but my little pirate model was ready. Ready to run from the camera, ready to jump out of her docked boat, ready to attack anyone near with a driftwood sword she’d picked up on the shore. Typical, truly.
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pirate

This is childhood

Explore.
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Discover.
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Play.

RiAnne, 18 months.

Suave, rising sophomore

This summer begins in a mere 15 days. Fifteen! It’s hard to believe I’m wrapping up another year of teaching – - even harder to realize that my children have reached new milestones in their educational journeys. And hubs just survived a year as our “daytime caregiver,” rearranging his work schedule to ensure our very active daughter had competent supervision and love-filled days.

I’ve watched my babies discover themselves in these past nine months.

My son, Suave, has tried to assert his independence. He’s bucked our attempts to shelter him, staying behind at school without permission or skipping bus rides we expect him to take. I know he feels confined. We worry about where he lingers and who he hangs out with. Perhaps we owe him the opportunity to explore and a chance to make choices. But I worry ceaselessly. Call it my “mother nature.”
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He told me that of the seniors he knows, no one is graduating. “They’re on the five year plan,” he said matter-of-fact, as though that were an option for study in high school. And he couldn’t understand my reply: “Maybe you need a new circle of associates.” It’s like these troubled kids – these students who’ve lost their focus – seem to draw a stronger gravitational pull on our son than the “good” students are capable of.

How do you encourage a child – ahem, teenage young man – to pick “friends” befitting of his aspirations? Guilt by association is a very real thing. People are judged my the company they keep even if they are not personally like their surrounding posse.

I love that he’s proud to share his good marks. Whenever he gets an A or B, he announces the achievement as soon as I’m looking in his direction: “How was your day, mom? I’m third highest score on my SOL…” And those offensive Fs? Well, he’s trying, he says when confronted about them. Somehow he never has homework. He’s hardly ever “caught” reading – especially not for school. And despite having a bedtime the same as much younger siblings, he sleeps ALL THE TIME. I wonder, if we give him an extra hour, would he sleep only at bedtime?IMG0679web
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But my Suave, who still pilfers for snacks in the cabinet and hides the remains throughout the house, is generally a great young man. Yes, I readily admit it. He always asks about my day, and waits eagerly for me to reciprocate. He takes a special pleasure in using his money to treat me to something – a coffee, a small meal. And I know he loves this evil stepmother beyond what I warrant. He deserves so very much adoration for who he is and who he is becoming.

Though it may be seen as a flaw, he also forgives. He believes in people – - that they want to do what’s right and will try to do it. Even when they don’t (consistently), he still holds out hope.

In the fall, he’ll be a sophomore – a “wise fool.” I’m thinking this football rising star will come into his scholarship, too. And I’m ready to cheer on his victories in the classroom and on the field.

Modelesque

This morning, hubs beat me out of bed. He showered, dressed, and brushed my lips with a kiss. He said his usual “see you later,” as he rarely says goodbye. It’s too final.

Two are away with relatives for the weekend. It’s commonplace these days. The other two olders lay on the floor of Chi’s room, camping out. Most nights they breathe towards one another, each breath in sync. They sleep better together. Bad dreams keep distance.

I woke Chi-bee up early, hoping to get her ready for a shoot before the sun was too harsh to work under. These days, by nine the sun sits too high and the shadows have diminished.

Despite every effort, we still didn’t make it to the park until 8:30, and today was certainly not overcast. And yet, we had one of the best “model” shoots we’ve ever experienced. Mind you, Chi covets any fantasy shoot that allows her to assume a role. She is my actress, after all. Over-the-top make up, her flowing gown, and a tropical crown gave her the regal persona. She delivered.


Chi for Hypnotic web

I’m finding it hard to believe my baby girl is 11 and a half. She’s matured seemingly overnight. Suddenly, her little girl looks are the refined features of a young woman. Her curves have filled out. (And we’re having to consider how clothes will lay and buying undergarments she’s fast outgrown.)

Now, what she wears is important. How she does her hair is critical. And without ingrained confidence, it’s easy to suffer under “haters’ attacks.” There are many of them, even without the inclusion of boys in core classes who encourage competition and entice these disses with additional scrutiny.

Just last week, in the midst of a hair catastrophe, Chi chose to wear one of her “model wigs” to school. Against my better judgment, I let her. It fits her, after all, so what was the harm? Turns out there was quite a bit.

She reported that the day was “The worst day ever.”

Thinking she was speaking in hyperbole (her horoscope had said the previous day would be her best), I replied, “Why? Because it’s not Tuesday?”

She paused, breathed deep, and proceeded to explain her humiliations. During lunch, her wig was yanked off not once, but three times. Twice by someone she thought of as a friend (who thought this was somehow funny to do) and once by a bully of elementary school horror returned. She was devastated. There were people watching. And I can only imagine how naked she felt under the taunts and teases of these nasty girls.

I’m thankful that Chi-bee has resilience – that she knows a moment’s discomfort isn’t a defining moment of her self-worth. She bounded back. She knows she’s beautiful (and Oma still wants her brown).

And yet she cried when I covered my face in make up and played model in the mirror. She still sometimes says she wishes she looked like me and not her father. Some days she even shows twinges of jealousy over her baby sister’s attention seeking antics that result in strangers commenting, “Oh, she’s sooooo cute,” as they pass.

Maybe I should tell her how I feel when I look in a mirror? How I still feel inadequate in my looks. I struggle with my pudge. I abhor my many scars. And I’ve never ever felt like the pretty one in the room.

I pray for my Chi, my stunning beauty who holds so much treasure in her every atom. I worry that she’ll forget how very amazing she is in these moments of scrutiny. This, my friends, is a wicked time in a young girl’s life. I hope she rises above.

He called to thank me.

The phone rang last night around 9:45. I was working on my computer, littlest cradled in my arm making the effort more difficult. I elected not to get up for the phone and hubs, glancing at the upward turned screen said, “Ike.”

I answered, “Chi’s dad. Yeah, I’ll call back later.” And I stayed where I was knowing that if I moved, the baby would once again awaken and stop my progress on these photos. I heard the phone chime a new message signal – pointless, because I rarely check my messages. Text me, if you expect reply, I can’t say it enough.

Then the phone rang. “He’s calling again. It’s got to be important, Rachelle. No one calls back to back unless it is.” Leave it to hubs to insist I answer the phone. He’s always encouraging me to do things out of my comfort zone – beyond my immediate objectives – and supporting me when plans don’t go accordingly. I think he knows me well.

So I got up, lay the baby on the pillows of our bed, and answered the phone on the last possible ring.

“Hello?”

“This is Ike.”

“Yes, I know. How are you?”

“I called to thank you.”

At that moment, with those words the brain started racing around my archives of thoughts. It stopped at the file of “I’m pregnant,” it darted past the “do me a favor…,” it hurdled over the “You ought to be seeking more for her…” and it crashed into “I’ll always keep contact information, but I’m not facilitating anything anymore.”

I laughed. “Thank me?”

“To thank you. I don’t have the words… I need to thank you.”

And at this point I’m thinking I’ve missed something in the translation between his Igbo thoughts and my English words.

There really isn’t anything to thank me for. My daughter – our daughter – has been my greatest achievement. And though I am no “mom of the year” in any regard, she has always been the center of my world and the focus of my efforts. Any sacrifice outsiders believe I’ve made was a conscious choice to ensure the life I carried had the richest existence I could provide. So what if there was no money to splurge? Who cares if I fell into a career and postponed what I believed was my dream job? My focus was on Chi – my life source, my most prized creation. My energy went to raising her, to memorializing our moments and treasuring her growth. There’s no regret. There’s nothing missed. Why then, am I being thanked?

He continued, “Thank you. Thank your mum. I – I… I don’t know what I was thinking. I thank you for not listening to me then. I see her pictures, oh, she is… wow. Thank you…”

And he told me of his regrets, of his shame. “I stopped calling. I can’t lie to her. I should’ve been to see her… I… and Nneoma, she asks about her sister. My sister, she says ‘Where’s my baby, my girl?’ I said there’s three girls and a boy. She says, “where’s my girl?’ My family, they all say, ‘I bet she’s big now?’ And I didn’t have a response.”

I replied, “She’s as tall as me, she wears my shoes. She’s smart. An honors student, in advanced classes. She is so understanding, she loves. She is an artist, an actress…”

And hubs, who had been showering, but was now seated on our bed, chimed in quietly, “athletic…” his pride in her apparent.

“Thank you. I know… I know… you… I… thank you. It’s been on my heart. I called. You didn’t answer. I shouldn’t have called back, but I thought… and you, you answered.”

We chatted idly about his children, my baby’s siblings. I shared with him her interest in track, in drama, in singing. And we said goodnight.

And I looked at hubs. “God. When I meet Him, He and I? We’re gonna have a serious talk.”

And he nodded, smiled. He, like me, knows what it’s like to have a vacancy in life that should’ve been filled with a parent’s devotion. We watched the Food Network silently, then, until he drifted off to sleep and I worked to finish polishing my shoot photographs.

This morning, despite a very restless night courtesy of Ri, I woke feeling a peace I’ve not had for several weeks. Chi was ready early and sat at the top of the staircase, backpack on and book open on her lap. “Okay, let’s go.”

On our three mile ride to her drop off, there was no music. I broke the silence.

“I spoke to your Dad last night. He said you can call him anytime.” That’s all I said, my voice even, a clear effort to avoid inflections that might reveal my thoughts. Will she open her heart to him only to have him disappear? Will she be able to understand him enough to create a relationship? Will she want to visit him, his family? Can I let her go?

“Ok. I’ll call him after school today.” And that’s what I most love about her: her willingness to accept others into her life if only they make an effort to be a part.

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