RiAnne, 18 months.
RiAnne, 18 months.
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.
“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.
Seated, outside on a folding chair
Overhead, the umbrella shields blinding sun
Waiter inquires of my desires, serves my needs in haste
Legs crossed, I sip on coffee, and watch the world walk by
Wind picks up and once-sturdy umbrella shifts, catching the gust and toppling over
Hot coffee spills across once-clean, white table cloth
I try in vain to catch the waiter’s attention, but he’s busy … with other patrons … on break … off duty?
So I gather myself, pay the bill and drop a tip on the table in thanks
It was time to be getting on with the day, anyway.
(inspired by a Life Metaphor poetry assignment for my students… and my life)
Chubby fingers gripped round conic toy
rubbing it between pressed palms, determined
Little one opens her hands, releasing
off it spins on wooden floor
Yesterday, on top of the world
Nothing could damper my spirit
Then you spoke those final words
And confirmed the unthinkable betrayal true
Twirling top bounces off the wall
Topples over on its side, stopped
She toddles to its resting place
Looking at finality before moving on
There’s nothing left to hope for
Your sentiment was clear to me
this closing understanding becomes my release
My spirit, though grieving, rises again.
You reap what you sow,
Or so they say so often.
I find it odd you’d plant
seeds in so many places expecting
that none would grow, or bloom.
Grow, however, is what seedlings do.
Sprouting in springtime, these wild things.
Was the lie a weed, tell?
It still breaks surface green, strong.
And I thought I saw hints
of pretty petals showing their color.
Adorning this living thing and expanding.
Beautiful sight initially beheld – eye catching,
but then it broadens, covers ground.
Unchecked, it encroaches on other flora
and strangles each with its arrival.
Writing along with Six Word Fridays at “My Memory Art“.
I’m getting better.
Not too long ago, I would lug my fully ensemble of photographic equipment to parties and gatherings. It marked me: bull’s eye, she’s the one expected to document this for all the rest of us.
Countless times I fell victim to this obligatory task – “Rachelle! Make sure you get this picture.” Or, “Rachelle, where are you! They need a photo of such-and-such.” It seemed some people only shot me an invite for the potential photos I was certain to take.
Believe me when I say I love taking photos. I’m excited to hold my camera, to capture a moment and make it last. It’s always awesome to flip through my pictures and reminisce on the second the shutter clicked.
But I’ve never liked demands. I’ve never appreciated being put to work at a soiree I was supposed to be a guest at. It hardly seems fair to want me to be on high alert at a social gathering. The pressure stifles my interest – - my desire to document. As a guest, what I chose to remember – what I shoot – is what is important to me. Unless, of course, someone is paying me as a photographer.
And so now, when I go to a family event, I bring my phone for capturing the majority of the memories. It has great picture taking capability. It is portable. It preserves memories and shares them instantly. I don’t feel the pressure to polish my pictures, either.
Then, I’m not the one called for photo ops (especially not mid-bite, or mid-celebration). I take what I want, capture what I want, and share freely what I get.
Yes, Cam tags along. He sometimes sits atop the table or under my chair. I even bring Bad Mama Jama (my 70-200mm super lens) and she hangs out inconspicuously in her case. And I get to savor the experience in real time as a participant instead of being the observer.
Oh, and as a plus, Hubs brings his camera along and clicks with a different perspective.