Disappeared, returned. Mommy fail for the records

Last night, my son disappeared. And I had no idea he’d even left the house.  In and out of flu-induced sleep, I lay on my bed as the youngest blasted Masha and the Bear from my phone.

Ya had just been in to talk to me — at least it seemed like only minutes had passed.  “Some guy threw rocks at Jojo and me. And he tried to take my scooter. He said it was broken and he’d fix it. I said no. I told the lady at the center.”  He inquired about dinner, having too much knowledge of the pantry contents to not to have already searched out what he wanted. Taking my fries as a temporary fix, he bounced down the stairs and the television clicked on.  I never heard it click off.

My phone rang. A Florida number. No one I know lives there. It went to voicemail. The noise, however, broke my sleep.  Chi comes in next, body shaking in uncontrolled tremors , tears streaming down her face. She babbled on incoherently.  I comprehend few key words: front door unlocked, he’s not here, can’t find him.

I’m disheveled,  barely understanding what’s going on. A search. The many adults – most barely home from work – are canvassing the neighborhood. My child is no where to be found. The friend he was with is no where to be found.

I go outside. On the porch I realize I can’t go looking. Ri is asleep. No one is here to watch her. I linger, feeling equal parts embarrassment and foreboding. Should I panic like Chi? Do I call someone? Who?

w Ya wonderA woman stands near her car, clarifies the “missing” report. She assures me they’re looking for my son. The gate has been notified. The scooter is also being sought.  She’s reading my face. I’m not concerned enough, I think she determines.  Clearly, I haven’t a clue and my parenting is lacking.

I still don’t know how I’ve lost my son. Where could he be? Why are his shoes in the foyer? Isn’t it raining? I thought he was eating French fries in the kitchen…

And then, a shirtless, shoeless Ya walks up breathy and unconcerned. He’s oblivious to the commotion. Chi hugs him, even more emotionally charged as she kisses his face, hugs his confused frame.  A man in his work clothes, drags up behind, handing over the scooter and nodding toward where he found it abandoned.  The neighborhood girls rattle off where they’d looked before nonchalant Ya walked up on them and inquired about Jojo and the scooter.  The lady climbs into her car, satisfied all is as normal as can be, “Well, he’s here. Thankfully. I’ll let the others know.”  She asks the questions expected, “Are you hurt? Did the guy with the rocks touch you? Is all okay?”  He answers, “No, no, yes.”

I survey my son. “When did you go back out? Where are your clothes? Where were you? Do you know how dangerous it is to be outside when no one knows where you are? You actually thought you should confront the kid throwing rocks?”  I left no space for answers.

From JoJo’s sister, I hear the “guy” with special interest in the scooter and a hand with rocks is a sixth grader. He picks on people often. He lives nearby.  He likes to taunt, tease and take. I file the information away, as Jojo walks up with one shoe on and no shirt.

I’m drained. My head is throbbing.  I’m barely following the scenario I’ve been thrust into. We walk into the house, locking the door.

“Please don’t ever leave the house without telling me where you are going and who with.” He nods.

Setting up the shoot

It dawned on me that I rarely – if ever – have shown the preparations for my planned and plotted concept shoots.

In my head, I get this picture of what I’d like to accomplish – of how my finished editorial will look. And then I spend countless hours searching for inexpensive wardrobe pieces and props. I think about how I can craft things, adapt things, borrow things to make my project into something real.

I tend to stay away from other photographers’ work, as I never want inspiration to appear as copying. And though I know concepts have been done (and done, again), I don’t want to emulate another artist’s style. I want to create my own.

So this “graffiti shoot” has been months in the works. It started with an instagram shot – the guy in it was surrounded in street art. Colorful, ecclectic. It reminded me of the NY Train Art coffee table book I’d had as a kid. I just knew I had to shoot in that spot.

I spent a lot of time on AliExpress, a hit-or-miss website collaborative of
Chinese-based wholesalers who offer their goods for pennies on the dollar. That is, if they actually deliver the items.

For Rico, Ya, and Chi, I chose harem pants – the ones tantamount to Hammer pants of yesteryear. Splatter paint in neon? Why, yes. And basic black for the teen. For my youngest man, I found some eccentric bibbed pants with contrast pockets – perfect for stashing in. Jay proved a little more difficult. He’d shot up a size and it seems that 10 is just not a size anyone readily stocks online (for cheap). So, I went classic baggy jeans and over-sized neon tee.

For baby girl, I wanted something quirky – bubble shorts and suspenders. I found something on my go-to site, but decided to have a custom creation made especially for her.

I had to accessorize: chunky chains, headphones (a modern touch), and for the girls, bright sneakers and boots.

Now, I’ve shot the five over two days in B’more and I can’t show a single image online… the collection is up for publication consideration and until I get ::ahem:: rejected or, better, printed, I can’t even sneak a peek to anyone. AGONY.

Let’s just say the results are amazing. You’ll have to trust me.


Spring break has begun.

We left sandwiched into Mom’s car shortly after breakfast.  Although we suffered through a few hours of traffic, once on 85S, our drive was fairly smooth.

Traveling with a trio of littles means we stop often. Luckily, we planned for leisure. No time constraints,  no rush, and no problems.

As hunger struck Ya, we began to search for the best place to dine. Ruby Tuesdays’ all you can eat salad bar won our selection. And we definitely ate (likely making up for missing lunch on the road ). Of course food led immediately to lethargy, and we had to consider which hotel was best.

Equipped with bug spray -just in case – we found an overnight offering breakfast. The bed was luxurious. ..except the company (my girls) slept as though sleep rolling were a competitive sport and it was championship time.  Breakfast,  unfortunately,  was disappointing. Disc shaped microwave eggs,  sausage, yogurt, and hardened donuts, bagels or toast were our selections.

Despite a 12 pm checkout, housekeeping attempted to break in at 10:15am. Thank goodness for that extra door bolt.  We planned to maximize time relaxing before resuming the travel west towards our destination.

Snow day for five

We ordered up a little snow for the five to enjoy.  It started early,  while I sat scrutinizing my peacock painting at Cheers. First, it looked pretty sparse, just a few flakes wafting through the air before settling and melting. But then, they came faster and began to stick. Suddenly, there was a blanket of white.  Traffic slowed, as caution and chaos battled along the roads.
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And when they called closure for school, we decided to explore the few open spaces that remain in the community. We were first to the hill, with our makeshift sleds in hand.  Why can we never find the real sleds when needed?
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Ri wanted no part of the snow or cold, while JD insisted winter was his favorite season.  But when his wet canvas sneakers began to freeze, he was more than happy to escort baby sister home.

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We gave it a good half hour and left the hill when too many would be sledders joined us on the slope.
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The parting of the sea

I remember it clearly: Mel handed my mom a box on Christmas morning. Tav and she were “making rounds” to their list of must appear on holidays folk. Mom opened her box with a mixture of trepidation and excitement – the kind that comes from not knowing what natural reaction will read on her face as she discovered her carefully selected gift chosen by her son’s wife.  And as she pulled out a variety of baby things,  her eyebrow raised in perplexity. She read the accompanying note as Mel swelled with happiness next to her.

I guessed, easily, from the unfolding events that the couple was expecting – my brother’s first child, though he’d been a father in so many ways for years.  I think I left the room, then, settling in to watch television while my parents processed the news. Tav came in shortly thereafter,  “Mel and I are having a baby,” he said.  “Congratulations, ” I replied. And an odd, uncomfortable vibe filled the room.  Then, after less than half hour’s tolerance, they left for other visits.

I don’t know how to describe my feelings about it all.  There’s been this pervasive distancing between my closest brother and I for the last five years.  I’m almost certain it started when his first marriage dissolved at what I believe to be an onset of unspoken mental illness in his ex. 

He pulled away from me even as I rekindled my relationship with hubs – maybe to allow this new man space in my life, or maybe to sort out where his own life was going. 

And somewhere in our separate quests to find love, we seemed to let go of that bond that held us close regardless of physical distance.

I suppose I can point toward a closet of secrets that has been steadily filling as we’ve grown older. No shady, sordid truths within the confines, but rather, a build up of omissions about life events that family – especially siblings – would share.  We stopped confiding, stopped dreaming together of what we most hoped for in life.  And what has remained is superficial conversation.

It’s been over a year since that Christmas.

We never spoke of what happened to the child they’d created together.  One minute I’m calling Mel for permission to get baby a Tigger play suit (in honor of Tav), and the next Mom is saying the ultrasound came with unexpected news.  I know my brother grieved, but I was never made privy to his now very private adult life.

Near Thanksgiving I got a text. It simply said, “It’s a boy.”  But he’d never said prior that they were again expecting. News was sparse, and I wasn’t welcomed into the months of anticipation – of dreaming possibilities – that Mel so readily shared with her family and friends.  

There’s been this she can’t hold water cast I’ve been dealt. And the privacy veil about my brother’s whole life has grown thick. Don’t post… don’t mention… don’t speak…  Essentially, don’t feel like this is your happiness to share.

That’s one handsome hubs

Yes, he’s mine.
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