Yesterday I attended the most beautiful funeral. My cousin Minda died Saturday, and the rest of this week has been a blur.
Did I mention that we’re celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah this weekend, and that there will be 70 people at my house Saturday night in her honor? The occasion was moved to a synagogue here in Detroit from Southern California a few months ago because Marcia, the bat mitzvah’s mom, knew her sister would likely be too ill to travel, and might even die. Continue reading
I haven’t opened the duffel bag. Eighteen hours till we leave for the bus, and I haven’t even peeked. I am itching to unzip that big black bag, even a little crack, but so far I have resisted.
My 11 year-old son packed himself for camp. I asked if he wanted me to double check, and he said no. When I asked myself why I wanted to, I realized that I had no good reason, save a mom’s anxiety that her darling might not have enough bathing suits or pj’s.
The packing checklist is marked up, the box from the Ziplocs he likes to stuff underwear and t-shirts into is empty. The duffel bags are full. If I encourage independence and then follow him to the corner, does that make me a liar? A worrier? A normal mom?
I don’t follow him to the corner. Last Tuesday I sent him off to Royal Oak with a buddy, even let them cross Woodward Ave., and I didn’t watch. Three hours later they returned, smiling, satisfied, thrilled that the server at the tea shop treated them like real customers, annoyed that the clerk at the movie theater did not (though she did sell them tickets to see Minions anyway.)
If I say I trust him, but I’m double-checking, he’ll know. Kids have a sixth sense like that. They listen. They watch. And so I am not checking.
Wednesday afternoon I let him push the cart at the grocery store. Every time he careened around a corner I warned him to slow down. I took over in the produce aisle because there were so many people. He told me he could handle it, and I didn’t let him try.
He will leave for overnight camp tomorrow morning, and I will assume that the pens he packed have ink. I will trust that the swim goggles are properly labeled. Tomorrow he leaves on the bus. I will send postcards and silly socks. He will not think of me much. And that is as it should be.
This Friday’s poem is a revision of something I wrote MANY years ago. The 4 year-old is now nearly 18. Her curiosity, fashion sense and religious questioning are still intact.
Is God In My Seatbelt?
Four-years-old, and she really needs to know.
I pause, mid-buckle; running late
for preschool. We have been talking
about how God is in trees and fish,
her baby brother and sunflower seeds.
But a seatbelt? I don’t know.
Tell her yes,
says my rabbi friend – some smart person
invented the seatbelt,
and God was in that person.
I bring it up days later, but my daughter
has moved on to other things –
like which bracelets match flowered socks
or how to keep a headband on a stuffed tiger.
She nods gravely, humoring me for being slow.
What I really want is gum, she tells me.
Can I have some while we drive?
Joe and I hatched the idea for Friday poems over coffee in Ferndale one afternoon. Let’s just write, we agreed. No comments, no praise. Just send a poem every Friday. See where it takes you.
Three months into the experiment, I’m hooked. Even when I put the piece together just before lighting Shabbat candles or grab a stanza from three years ago and polish it into something more presentable, the Friday poem always refreshes me for the week. It reminds me that I’m a writer.
Here’s this week’s contribution, composed in a parking lot between a doctor’s appointment and Josh’s archery day camp awards ceremony.
May all your favorite bands stay together
– Dawes, “All Your Favorite Bands”
May you get to the bottom
of the strawberry box
without a single moldy surprise
May you catch a firefly
on a balmy night full of fireworks
over the wide green golf course
May you finish your favorite book
sprawled across the hammock
in that shady spot behind the garage
May your dog snuggle
close in your bed
without hogging the covers
May your chocolate chip cookies
emerge from the oven
with crisp edges and gooey centers
May you hear “I love you”
every day of your life
the way I mean it this morning
My six-year-old walked into the kitchen with a box of dominoes in both hands, the cordless phone cradled between left ear and shoulder.
“I love you, too, Daddy. Here’s Sammy,” he said as he navigated the dog gate and handed the phone to his brother.
Like mother like son, I suppose. And I laughed; but I also stopped short. I am trying to re-learn to do one thing at a time. For an inveterate multi-tasker, this can be painful. Continue reading
The rental smelled like a cheap hotel room – a cross between stale smoke and disinfectant. A tin can of a car; a shoe box; a way to get around town for $22 a day. Continue reading
I kiss Miriam goodnight and am overwhelmed by scent: Midnight Pomegranate hand lotion, mint foot cream, tea tree shampoo. The fragrance is fruity and woodsy, surface and substance, the tangle of possibility and promise embodied by a 12 year-old girl. Continue reading