tough girls

Tough girls are the girls who fall down and stand up,

quickly brushing off their bare knees, tights, or pants.

Pink or green, frills and pearls, denim or black corduroy.

It’s largely in the speed

of getting up,

the-back-to-smiling-return-rate.

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Girls and boys both notice this.

“She’s so tough”, my kt will say of a friend or passing by girl.

She didn’t even cry, or look how fast she stopped.

These are girls to admire.

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It’s the art of falling, the grace in a good crash, & the salve of a cool Band-aide.

It’s showing them race cars, ballet stars, the wheels of a Tonka,

inline skates, ice blades, the spin of Baryshnikov,

paired with the sometimes inevitable scars.

It’s getting down to get up,

and the fun of dirt under your nails.

And for these girls,

the promise of a manicure the next day.

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And when our friend, in her mostly white outfit, fell down hard on loose dirt,

the kind that flies up, making a dirt cloud,

that rich brown powder was everywhere. There were plumes of it.

She got up, glanced down, surveying her body in less than a second,

and announced, “Well, I’m not bleeding!”

So pleased.

All smiles. All fun and fine.

This is what it is to play.

I really was amazed, though I shouldn’t be, right?

(Is it that I expect such toughness more from boys? Is that really the root?)

Her scrapes and pink puffy elbows could have alerted her to fear or at least be dismayed.

I know I would have given in to a tantrum. To frowns, to a “Man! This always happens when I wear white!” tirade.

She could have cried about her now spoiled, soiled, looking like a detergent commercial skirt and top.

But nope. While her new friends, the boys at the park, looked on, she was up with her smile,

running hard in those Champion brand sneaks & lace skirt whipping in the wind.

“Try and catch me!”

I see my girl take note, see how admiration shows up in her voice, big and tall.

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Maybe five minutes later, it was my daughter who bit it hard

on the concrete jogging path

that snaked through the park,

turning under trees.

I saw impact, heard a “Whoooomp”

of her slender hands smacking down, holding her up from a harder, more elaborate fall involving her head.

It was such a land, I was surprised that her palms didn’t have blood

or small stones sticking to deep cuts or

at least a concrete burn.

Her knees were not as lucky.

Pink tights with holes at the knees.

A long pause as she reacted and poured out tears.

But just for a second. Then running. Laughing.

who cares about the tights

when you can be a tough girl, too?

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Swedish Meatballs

Dahlings. I have Swedish meatballs for you. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Yes, this post could be about crunchy apples gliding through golden honey, sweet for the Jewish New Year, but real quickly–let me please serve these Swedish meatballs.

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Oh, boy. I’ll probably be changing my order. Probably not all-beef and look, they have lasagne!! Okay. Change of plans. It’s a lasagne party. With Swedish wine & those fantastic and fantastically inexpensive, chocolate bars. Meet you at the checkout with your pallet on wheels. 

Do you have Ikea near you? Did you know that Ikea is launching their own Ikea Town in East Strand, London? Did you know that many families consider a day at Ikea to be comparable to an adult trip to Disneyland?

Back in August, I got my shot as guest feature in Ikea’s own, chic-for-less lifestyle magazine. When, normally, they may feature svelte Scandinavian families, a hot British flat, impeccable style down to suede Tod’s, and ridiculously crafted children’s rooms, they chose to feature me, rather us. I know, right! It’s a little like being the socially bumbling girl who finds herself elected Prom Queen. Joke or dream come true? I dunno, but…I’ll take it. At least until they say, “Um, no.”

KOLSYRAD PÄRONDRYCK for everyone!

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I posted the link before, but that was all-Japanese. Here is the English version, ta-da!

Summer Ikea Feature

Mel Willms Photography-IKEA 900-3

Did you click? So yeah, my fourteen minutes of fame, right there, & I loved it. (Windows pre-curtains-oh well).

Our wonderful, generous, & talented friend, Melissa Willms, took the photos. While I definitely could have spruced up the place better, she worked her talent & the fun ensued. Just look at some of her work. Just look.

Thanks, dahlings!

Tata & tack så mycket (thanks very much),

because I’m a dork who looks things up,

Melissa

A Little Discretion

Dry cleaners, black pants, me dropping off this morning.

I check pockets, front and back, my hands inspecting the silk lining.

One was a pair we brought from the US, what quality.

Two pants, zubbon, ni hon, two pairs.

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Red member card, black pants, every thread smooth

while I sneaked a look at the clerk’s hair, so clearly a hair piece.

He smokes near the front door, then strides inside, when a customer arrives.

Nothing phases this man and in the maybe three years we’ve gone to him, he’s never really inquired about our whereabouts

or done much more than smile. He is a smile.

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He, with his salt and pepper plume, everyday pressed fresh polos. Longish nails, maybe a bit yellowed, pushing buttons on his computer. Uchiyama san.

Folding the pant leg, my elbow bumps my handbag and a sudden spray of the contents–clatter go three tubes of lipgloss, two Herbert Smith plastic pens, the good ones, and the pummpphh of my wallet, vintage canvas Dior. He leaned over the width of the white laminate counter and BAM, my leopard flat coming down on the obvious tampon, blue and white plastic wrapper. He gave a bit of a laugh. Oh, man. Bam, if it were a roach, it’d be dead.

This, in a culture that says lipstick is for applying at home. Eating is for the dining room, not on a train, certainly not while walking out in public. Drugstore clerks package such feminine products, along with condoms and all that other private stuff, in opaque black bags. They tape the top and that is that.

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Oh no, another one. My cheeks pale as I clopp on another misfit tampon, which, again, he sees, right now.

“Do you have anything more down there?” Oh, wait. He points. His fingernail, his hand and gaze don’t lie; there, just under the cutouts of white lace grazing the tile floor is my mascara tube. Thank you. Excuse me. Thank you and excuse me.

All these things meant for home. This is why women use quilted pouches, any pouches. It is more feminine, perhaps, to keep these things out of public view. Sometimes it is good to protect or maintain what is personal.

I didn’t grow up with my mom teaching me all of these things. I didn’t improvise, clearly. We didn’t have such mother/girl time as that. In the short moments picking up my mascara, I remember an awful thing: it is ninth grade. I have a heavy backpack. I have a heavy need to both blend in and especially, only gorgeously stick-out. I may have even carried my drill team wooden rifle. Boom, my back is struck with the weight of some enormously big kid. My books fall. Papers are strewn, absolutely strewn and I am suddenly in a an afterschool special, white papers blowing. Why did I have so many papers? Could they not have been better secured? The hulktacular football player is gone, but you know what’s there? I have a faint recollection that there, on the ground of JP Taravella High School were tampons or liners, one of them. They are many. I am mortified while a stream

I zip close my pocketbook. It is so deliberate, a dainty, pinky-up action with ferocity.

I almost want to show him; look, I will not make this mistake again.

I push out the kickstand and I am whirring back home.

Poise and Trash-Talk

During part of the day, when I tidied my room & worked magic on my unbridled, undisciplined closet, I watched some TV.

Rather, I streamed Netflix & gobbled up Stacey & Clint’s hilarious finesse when they set straight a 22 year-old woman from NY. (I think they called her outfit, “Garbage Can Hussy”). A good session of people who are reported to the specialists usually is my magic bullet inspiration to cleaning my room, painting my boyish-nails, or throwing away stuff. “At least I don’t do that…um help me to please not do that…oh boy, I better get to work”.

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Anyway, I finally weeded out & separated a whole stack of maternity clothes because probably, if you are not pregnant, but last wore the shirt when you were 36 weeks loaded with life elbowing you in the ribs & knocking the wind out of you, probably, you don’t need it in your closet.

In the same spirit, I probably don’t need my bikinis taking up space in my drawers because I go to the beach never, despite Japan being one big island, or string of islands. I am still not over this. (I think I thought I’d be like twenty minutes from the beach like when I lived in Delray Beach, Florida. I am absolutely land-locked)!

Even during our most sweltering, the-humidity-is-a-jerk-summers, I didn’t end up laying out just somewhere. On a rock on the side of the street, at a park, on my patio, sans top. End of the summer and my legs are still their ivory white. I think we’d better Space Bag those bikinis, mate. On top of that, I finally found all my shorts, just when one should ready their scarves.

Also, no one ever mentioned that women here, after they have babies, or after they reach some secret I-dunno-what-age, they stop wearing two pieces, or maybe they never did. Japanese women are such creamy skin, no eye bag beauties even at 99. All those arm sleeves and intense glove and hat-wearing will pay off. It makes sense, then, that the culture as a whole does not show cleavage. It is like, centuries ago, there was a town council meeting, and everyone voted “No” on the décolleté issue. “What about for moms, Sid? Like those nursing? Or the bigger, more gorgeously voluptuous ladies”?

“No. No. No”.

“All in favor”? “HAI”! Done.

They do not show cleavage (but for the young ones, it is perfectly respectable to show miles of leg). According to these standards, some of my neighbors should probably put me on the Japanese equivalent of What Not to Wear. That would be just dandy, except if they would have some stuffy couple who have never gone overseas or read Vogue or at least desire to eat tabbouli or think about people who have naturally wavy or curly hair. I say that last bit because I swear to you, people even ask me if my son’s hair (yes, even when he was months old, like two), was a PERM. What kind of strange, cretin stage mom would sit some infant down and perm him, spread utterly noxious, putrid chemicals all over his hair shaft, make his little toddler tushy sit like that for an hour, maybe offer him a magazine or Coke, and then say, “Well, my dear, boy! How marvelous do we look?”

I have been asked about his “perm” maybe five times.

hair

I also tossed old tops and juvenile prints. I tossed ’em hard. They are just outside my bedroom door, these bags, but I don’t dare look back. Some recycle shop can keep ’em. I’m moving on to a more sophisticated palette and shirts without holes. In the process of looking at what I tossed, I realized something. At thirty-five, my arms and posture want nothing to do with cap sleeves. Fine on Ts, but not on cloaks and mini jackets or dresses. I am ready for elegance and pants that fit. I’m ready for a room with a good view, not clutter. I’m ready to find all I’ve misplaced and keep it nice. Basically, the deal is that if I clean my room, I get to watch TV. More fashion, maybe something more mindless.

I had no idea I would talk about tidying a room. Here I thought I would say a few inspired words about the Miss America pageant I saw or you know, write about my girl’s birthday and all the sweet, lose-my-voice-magic of throwing her a Frozen birthday party with happy, squawking kids. Maybe I’d talk about her growing into four, my so many sleepless nights making Olaf and snowflakes. I thought I’d post pics of her adorable friends and the lovies I get to call my daughter and son.

Nope, apparently my inner-self wants to talk perms, cleavage, and cleaning my room.

Tonight, While Sudsing with Tinkerbelle

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You said a hurtful word. You were mad that when I tried to help, using your purple Tinkerbell scrubbie, a little plume of soap clung to your upper cheek and then moved over to your eye. You were disappointed that I couldn’t keep the soap out, tired in the drooping glow of Sunday night. But then you moved into dangerous territory, into words that experiment with hurt.

“I wish you weren’t my mommy. you are just an annoying girl.” 

The pain of the flyaway suds tried to move to my eye, tried to migrate into my heart, but I took it well, isolating my girl from those acid-tipped words. They mustn’t be allowed, though. Such words should not live in the heart (where they will later slip out, where they can grow).

It took a while, talking. Moving her rinsed-off little body, the long, sweet nearing four-year-old body out of the shower, onto our yellow bath mat. It’s the kind that could be used to dry off a van in two seconds flat at a really great car wash. Crying, crying, she wanted to stay in that bath, not connecting.

We didn’t use conditioner in her hair tonight. It was just shampoo and the really great honey-made brush just the exact size for her hand to hold. The tangles slip out and there is a sheen that moves through her hair like the Orinoko. She is a river of beauty, and sometimes wild.

We lay a small towel over her pillowcase after all of the talks, the prayer, the recounting memories, and my wooden-spoon spank was over. (Here are parenthesis, but this is not subtle: I did not grow up with spanks. I am, in essence, adversed. But. There is a but. I believe now, right now, with my loves, with my words that i plant specifically with them in their hearts, in their minds, with palpable, poetic, demonstrative love, there is also an accompanying spank. I show them, it is not done in any anger. My voice, my mind, is cool and it is with sadness but strength of mind, that i do it. Once. And with the hope, the intention, that with all my radical, love-fest, gorgeous, firm words, accompanying natural consequence, there will be growth. change. a shift. a remembrance of love and wisdom that accompanies or even proceeds action).

I believe we all need to see, still, there is real kick-back to our behaviors. our words have power. time spent on one thing affects others. we are all wet paint sometimes, when our hearts are awakened to the undying laws that we affect others. that kind words beget life, and spouting hurtful words from somewhere inside brings pain. There is blessing, always, and there is the possibility of pain, this wedge or mean thing which would like to test: how far can i go from them? What will happen if i say this? How far can i go and still be blessed?

And of course, all of this is part of growing from baby to toddler, little girl to big girl. We have to figure things out. We need freedom to experiment, yet we need the structure and goal of respectful words and sweet, gorgeous action. She’ll have to manage her frustration at my lack of language. I will always be different than the other moms. We will be the loud tickly dancing wild, asking questions people. I hope we always snuggle and talk about grievences, wonderment, or pain. I hope we, together, hold each others’ hand and say, “Listen, honey. We were made for love”.

Well, my child, my girl. Your little feet were made to dance and stomp and parade and sometimes snub, but come back. Always. You were made to run circles around fears, to flick on the lights and howl with laughter. You were made for so much love.

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And i moved a strand of hair from her soft face and recounted memories, enumerated on my love. You see, G-d placed you inside of my womb. Everyone in your life was chosen for you, my dear, and look how I love you. From the very second. Look, I pointed to the decoupaged alphabet poster I’d made. “You were just teeny, maybe three weeks old! I kept all the papers, all my letters that I crafted on our kitchen table. Every day, tired, learning to nurse you, I wanted to make you this alphabet. And look“, I showed her. “See the shiny gold key over your K?” I told her about treasure, about her.

We mentioned the other poster, the one tracking her itty feet through each of her first twelve months. Aqua toes into teal and a blur of tangerine at the heel. There is color where I kept track. She has been my girl and I know I’m a good mom. We’re a team who is ready for four, methinks, and maybe in a few years, sixteen.

I sneak in later to re-tuck her endless legs back into their sheet, kiss her on the border of forehead and whispy hairline. the fan makes her shoulders cool, so i cover them up. i kiss my girl, taking the tiniest of inhales the same as when she was my newborn.

The next morning, when I’ve dropped them off, key in my bike, handbag in the crook of my arm, right before I am really off, I hear mother…”OKAAAAAAASAN!” her voice lifts my chin in an instant. I am at attention, peering through the diamonds in the gate for her. “Okaaasan! Bye Bye!” Her arms wave with ferocity. She has a friend flanking each side. They are also helping her wave. We are practically cheering. It doesn’t matter that she cried last night or that she grows impatient at my Japanese. she is still mine. my arms reciprocate, with the largest waves. Our smiles send each other off, send each other off with great-mamas-sized, perfect 4-year-old smiles that make our whole head glow. This is what it is to grow strong with you.