Colors.

They say that who you’re attracted to is a matter of personal preference. .. at least I think that’s what they say. But then I don’t know this they, I only know us. And I’m worried that we don’t seem to love us enough to be attracted to our own.

Don’t misunderstand, here. I’m not talking about disliking “our people.” But my kids – one with a foot out the door, one just walking in, and several waiting inside at windows – don’t seem to believe that blacker berries have sweeter juice; that darker flesh has deeper roots. Tupac, where are you?

You see, my kids only know the versus to Everyday People, but somehow the concepts conveyed within the lyrics were lost. They’re not colorblind. And all people, I’m realizing, in their understanding,  are not created equal.

Last night, my son said happily, “I only like white girls.” And while I can dismiss his proclamation as innocent because his current elementary crush is a sweet Caucasian girl, I think it’s more. My  older son had, moments before, shrugged off observations of a girl’s obvious interest in him because hubs described her as the ‘pretty dark-skinned girl with the braids’ – he said nonchalantly,  “I didn’t notice. I don’t date dark girls.”  And a few weeks ago my daughter declared that she’d only marry a “light skinned guy.”

I have failed.

Among my favorite novels is The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life by Wallace Thurman.  And in it, the family has adopted a mantra akin to ‘lighter and lighter with each generation,  the better we will be.’ I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t have the book accessible. I read the book in high school initially,  and I remember my stomach knotting over the concept that black was not beautiful or desirable and it certainly wasn’t safe or privileged.  Being black was a hereditary curse forever staining the potential of a person.

And in the wake of media outrage over police shootings and mistreatment of people of color, following obvious slants of legal rulings and punishments heavily weighed against persons of color, I suspect that curse is real. Ignorance is not bliss and I’ve seen absurd over generalizations about blacks’ propensity for endangering the public that call for something quite like genocide.

My children are not immune to this sterotyping. They know they’re judged before they speak, before they act.

And so, they are drawn to people presumably less targeted.

I really don’t care the color of my childrens’ future partners. I only wish for them to find abundant love, companionship, and understanding in their chosen confidants. But I’m bothered, no, I’m appalled that each is voicing a desire to narrow their selections superficially. Dark, light, or somewhere in between – there’s good and bad in each shade. Characters content isn’t worn on the skin.

Her song

Hap bir to you,” she croons
Smiling with delight at her song.
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It’s no one’s birthday today, yet
She happily shares her sweet serenade.
It’s one of the few things
We’ve come to expect from this
Our near-mute fifth little miniature fusion.
Comprehension has never been her problem,
But her philosophy, seemingly, is silence.
Perhaps, in her head, it’s golden.
I wonder what she’s left unsung.
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Inspired by Six Word Fridays, “sing”.

drops of red

Just after school let out for the summer, I found myself sitting in my van. The light was red and the van idled. The sun was an eerie blaze ahead of me – one of those just before sunset glares.  There I was, suddenly unhappy.  I gripped the steering wheel and studied my wrists; And my mind conjured up this image of little droplets of deep red trickling down each.  I shuddered, shaking off the morbid vision and mashing the gas as the light turned green.

That evening, I felt a bit out of sorts. Where’d that thought come from? Was I so burdened by stress of money issues? By stagnation of my career? Or, more likely, by the desolving structure of my childhood family? Truth, I’d recently realized just how human a man I trusted was. And disappointments in his actions, his continuing lies, and his blatant rejection were fresh injuries to my spirit. But I shouldn’t have been thinking about slit wrists and endings.

I scrolled through my newsfeed. Facebook nonsense, as usual, was mundane and trivial.  And then I saw a link to a newspaper article. My graduate school classmate turned friend turned colleague had been found dead. The report said she’d committed suicide. I let out a cry and tried to stifle my quickly intensifying sobs.

She’d been a distant friend – or acquaintance,  even – as our families had increased and our jobs evolved. Nevertheless,  every time we saw on some another, we’d take a few seconds to smile, compliment,  promise to meet for longer.  I had a standing invitation for her fantastic Austrian coffee and easy, welcome conversation. Then rumors began. Then assumed truths, accusations. There were articles, evening news reports, and speculation. Somewhere in the madness I faltered.  I didn’t call to offer comfort, didn’t email a quick “you’re in my prayers.”  Privately I worried about the woman I’d known and publicly I spoke concern for her young children, the elder of which who had so happily played with mine.  I wondered, no, I still wonder what actually happened.

I’ve thought a lot about that awful moment in my van. About my children without me. They’re resilient,  they’d move on. They would enjoy productive,  happy lives. Someone else would take my place at their important events, would console them in sadness and disappointments,  would cheer them on in daily tries and triumphs. I’d be a memory. It wouldn’t be enough for me.

On Monday,  I celebrated my 35th birthday. I embraced getting older. I reflected on changes I’d like to make. I evaluated my goals, determined which to tweak and which to let go.

And I resolved to live, even as reports about Robin Williams taking his own life began to take over the day.

Calling out

“Mom? Can we take a trip again when everyone is gone; just me, you, and Laura? ” he asks timidly. To speak it louder than a whisper would certainly draw unwanted, non-physical but equally painful abrasion from the excluded. Underlying his request is several years of feeling displaced in his own family, in his home.

No one said it’d be easy. No one warned me that he’d suffer from this merger.

My baby boy, no longer a baby at just shy of six, lashes out. He’s increasingly more volatile – the great debater on all miniscule factoids. He makes demands. He interrupts, imposing his presence in every conversation. He makes me frustrated; so frustrated that sometimes I just have to separate from him.
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My boy. The one who introduced himself to me unexpectedly.  The baby Doc said I shouldn’t carry to term because of some fluke condition a test said he possessed. My tiny, skinny son born weeks ahead of what I was certain was his due date. My screamer who couldn’t eat without the pain of reflux. My water baby. My chubby cheeked, kiss – loving gentleman. My co-sleeping, extended nursing babe. My child with the wisdom of one far older, but without the foresight of action’s effect.

At each meal, he insists, “I’m sitting next to mom.”

He randomly inquires about the  possibility of Mommy and Me days.
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He imparts himself in conversation with frequent, repetitive interjection. It’s important,  his persistence insists, and critical to present discussion

He endures possessive interference from his little sister (who borrows his “guys!?!” label as a sibling call all).

And he waits endlessly for a chance to cuddle – to just sit next to me silently present.

“Please can I sleep on your floor? Dad’s not going to hug you no more. He’s got all the time. I only got snuggle time for like an hour. Why can’t he sleep in his man cave?” he begs, boomeranging into my room 18 minutes past our first goodnight hug and kiss. 

Reluctantly,  I send him away. He hugs me tight and I kiss his forehead. He smells of my perfume, having fiddled with the bottle on my dresser and shot the potent mist all over. I reiterate my promise to photograph his Lego creation in the morning.

My heart aches for him. I don’t know how to stretch my time. I pray he doesn’t condemn me as a mom failure with evidence of my shortcomings. He is a critical piece of my heart.

I hear the familiar mantra echo in my head, ‘Actions speak louder…’

Did I tell you I love you?

He sauntered over, slumped into a chair and asked me. Without reply, he knew the effect.

“There is that smile. I love it when you smile. You and dad should smile more often. You’d be happier. ”

I’m reminded, then, of overwhelming obligations that hinder such a simple expression. But despite the pressure to catch up, to overcome,  I need to remember to live in the “now.”

He’s older, a teenager with a desire for independence and personal space. The countdown to graduation and adulthood is quick. And yet he’s here. In this moment. He has chosen to linger at the table with mom.

I sip my coffee. And we two survey the crowded cafeteria. Families with many little children create a cacophony of conversation. Dishes rattle.

“I hope we play you guys early in the season,” he says, voice rising and cracking as he builds enthusiasm about this sophomore endeavor. 

“Coach says… ” he rattles on about his pending football season. This year, we’re on junior varsity – later games and tougher expectations. He’s changed positions, too. Now he’s on the field with offense and could score with some plays.  The anticipation of the first scrimmage hovers in his thoughts, his dreams.  He’s ready.

I still have his jersey from last year, the jagged cut reminding me of the ambulance,  the neck brace,  the danger of this sport he loves.  I’m supposed to ‘upcycle’ the uniform into a cheer jersey for Ri. And she’s probably going to be his favorite cheerleader in the early minutes of his games.

He smiles and shoves a finger into the bridge of his glasses to push them into place. They slide right back, the red electrical tape showing on the side despite his efforts to color it black.

He surveys our neighboring tables discreetly,  noting no new patrons in his age bracket. And he rambles on.

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

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