My girl at dinner pointed out that if I ate any more, then more parents, teachers, and fish-shop owners would congratulate me on at least LOOKING pregnant. Because, every couple weeks or so, someone pats my tummy and says, “Congratulations! Omedetou!”
I have taught my daughter’s preschool teacher the term, “foodbaby”. I have taught my neighbor, the fishmonger, organic grocer, and countless clerks that I must be pregnant with dinner or my lunch, just smiling like, ha, isn’t it the most awesome, funnest thing?
This is a culture that has no qualms about pointing-out someone’s fluctuations in weight, when they’ve gotten fatter. Maybe it’s like noticing a haircut. You either got one or you didn’t. Except that in calling-out such an inward, loaded happening out, paying congrats to a woman with some very normal tum, one needs some extra-thick skin. Also, I am sensitive to this thing, for my fellow-sister who may be grieving her baby, may be dealing with a miscarriage. Please, people. Wait until you see the “I’m pregnant, now let me sit on the train” pass. Wait until you spot her rubbing her tummy or protectively, instinctively caressing this round tummy, pulling her sweater a bit over to tuck in a little one. She is a mother, already. Wait until you see some evidence, please! Don’t just look for what is fat.
I am light about this, I am. I smile and imagine a third child at the table. I shake my head as they ask when I’m due! What??! Of course, I could simply take the hint and go work out. It’s just funny–I truly don’t believe this would be happening in the US–this situation where every week, every three weeks, I’ve got another funny story about the latest person who asked me if the baby is coming soon and how great for my children!
Asia is a pretty skinny place. Most Japanese pregnant women don’t look pregnant from the back, at all. Some women truly even diet, afraid what any “extra” weight will do to effect their delivery and/or the conversations with their doctor.
It’s not like the nation is suffering from an overeating obesity problem; a little tummy stands-out. I guess I stand out? (I’m shaking my head. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter, does it).
It’s called being over thirty-three people; it’s called, “backoff!”, and I really like snacks! It’s also a bit of “I’ve had two children”. I walk, run, and bike everywhere, so leave me alone. Also, being that it is now the tail-end of winter, some of the pudge they mistake for a last-trimester baby is really sweater-under-jacket-bulge; they must really be looking for it. (Some of the pudge may also be pancakes, short stacks, crepes, cake, whatever. I’m holding-on to being petite).
Oh well. At least they’re excited for me. For my food baby and all these sweaters and jackets with stupid thick wool ties bulking-up my silhouette. Of course, this is all assuming that in warmer weather, they don’t just swear they saw the baby kick from under there, under my seemingly-maternity shirt.
Listen, maybe it will give me a seat on the train and some sweet gifts. Maybe it earns me the “right” to seconds. Or fifths.
Yesterday, we fought, morning of our big date. It was carry-over from a silly argument the night before. The kind that made us go to bed without making up, without “sorries” or any goodnight kiss and it was there in the morning hiding behind some sort of old, nagging curtains. The kind that need to be ripped- down anyway, to let in more light.
The retched, unresolved thing was still there, though tempered by rest and my husband taking kiddos upstairs to eat while I slept a full hour more. I walked upstairs to coffee and an “I love you”. And something still persisted, resisted, and got bigger and nastier, threatening disaster. And all we could do was set the record straight, remembering our great big solid awesome love which made me sniffle. And then we finally kicked it out, finally ripped down those seventies window treatments and flung ’em out the door.
And then? We let our kids know the big date was ON; we both wanted to look great for the other, asked our girl for tips and suggestions–what to wear and where to eat (a dress, she said for me–something special, and suit and necktie for Daddy, handsome and with cologne, even).
It was powerful for a family, gladdening to our marriage, big daughter helping. It wasn’t stifling, those kids in our room while we prepared, even when she poked my scalp with an uninvited headband. She helped her Daddy choose a shirt that wasn’t boring and even wove the pearl cufflinks through his sleeves’ button holes. The twisty bit was tricky–they did that together.
Also wonderful, her seeing my nailed painted Tahitian pink, shimmering eyelids and earrings she selected–blue gray river pearl, smoothed by years of currents, the movement of wearing-away which makes a stone, makes minerals into gems, micro-organisms into resplendent objects, even better.
I saw me, daughter of divorce, daughter of being a bit afraid of fights and what if they don’t get worked out and not everyone comes through, hands held together. I need to see change. Stagnance, tension makes me worry. Need the closure snapping, locking to hold tight the beads. Need the bear hugs and tender kisses, the promises renewed, the husband not going anywhere except closer.
It was, for all of us, dramatic–kids taking part in the process of love and forgiveness, since they had already heard the fighting, sensed the sarcasm. She had already stumbled into judging which of us was right, and who was mean. I know…
Getting dolled-up had to be public, a sending-off for something special.
That’s not even touching on the actual time out and the mystical city night of shooting upwards to a destination the height of stars, los mariachis framing love. It was all there. The margaritas held their salt on rims and you and I seemed to renew vows under the painting of green, swirling, serenading hills, Las Colinas.
Out of all of the Valentine’s Days, with your incredible-know-me-so-well-gifts, it was this one. Even when you surprised me with buying our Delray Beach home, out of jewelry, all of the languages of love, it was this one that got caught in my throat. On this one date, in this conversation, I most admire you. It is all a gorgeous, lush song, this life of ours, the life we’ve made–and then the getting home, fierce wind gusting, flapping windows and scarves to get in and make us cold. Holding hands, though, fingers in gloves, we took off our shoes and looked in love, came in to our children and pulling the covers up on their little necks. You examine and love a life that gets tucked-in, sit stronger knowing your marriage is a gate, the gate, that will receive attention. You sleep in the comfort of growing up into such steady promises of faith.
And in the morning, you share with your daughter, the menu and magic of their house flan, the berries and cream that dotted the plate, drink with an umbrella, the wonder that is rich, salty mole sauce, smothered over the most tender chicken. You convey solidity, affection for her father. You want to live a life examined, video-tape your speak, to really learn how it is you talk, how the bitter teenage tendencies can ripple through your four-year-old daughter, ripple through lips and make shoulders shrug tight.
There is wisdom in looking-in at love’s place. You wouldn’t keep prize-koi fish in the kitchen sink, wouldn’t place your newborn baby on a rock or swing; so, too, these loves, these prizes I’ve helped grow and win. I’m learning, this Valentine’s Day, to keep track of the heart and let it sing.
Sometimes your kids subtly snarl their lips and the boy throws something, displeased.
Sometimes your girl calls you the baddest mommy ‘cuz you’ve given her,
expected her to eat something very very green.
This, coming a day after you made the worst meal ever,
I mean how is it even possible to make ramen into a disgusting mush?
You probably felt defeated, muttered an apology that was inwardly mean, the old self-depricating
words they’re not supposed to see.
Maybe she saw the door open to be quite bold…
Things you lost, things you still haven’t found
Makes for some sensitivity,
especially when you go to lay down.
(You know how thoughts have room to breathe
on the way to sleep).
Your girl leans over, with a kiss and a flourish,
says, “Thank you for taking me here”.
Says, “This is the best egg and you are a great mommy”,
Says, “I love you so much” just because, maybe.
And sometimes my husband wants seconds on his meal,
the one I cooked after the last time when everything got burnt.
Sometimes the broccoli is not overdone;
the greens are not over-salted
and your son hands over a piece of banana-smoosh
instead of throwing.
Sometimes you remember to buy coffee
in time before running out completely
the students in my big Japanese middle school
follow after me like breathless puppy-girls
spotting Brittany Spears. (Or maybe I’m the puppy).
Sometimes I hear 40 seconds of “She is so so cute!”
Sometimes they even congregate outside the office
willing their tongue to practice the introductory English-speech
that will enable our conversation.
Whisps of “Where…where…why are you going”?
Sometimes things are just dope, wonderful, and rad.
Sometimes you choose to only make room
squirrel the moments of glad.
Mostly, though, it is all love here.
Mostly, love rules the day and centers the night
all of us lovers of kindness,
all of us who remember a day by its laughs,
our waving with infinitesimal snuggles and kisses
from toddlers with the most delicious soft tummies
and gleams in their light-filled eyes
and a husband who is everything good, every cliche but sincerely.
Mostly, if I am honest,
there is more joy than the day before,
more to rave than roar.
This is, above all, a family of singers, ticklers, and silly-voice readers.
We all notice peace, all crave the real sweetness, the lasting goodness.
The Valentine-thinking, the red hearts beating with love-soaked thinking
and smiles that are always noticed,
if only inside.
Sometimes everything is alright enough
and then some
when I am learning, moment-by-moment
to dwell on the what-you-can-control
means maybe not even dinner.
The little things are enough.
The discipline is the joy is the discipline
and we are all little love-monks making the humblest of cards
which is our life and the little tasks that make up a life,
At least let them know my love
by the way I set the table.
Something just clicked. I am on the train, wiped from my time with K at the doctor’s office. The six trains plus navigating people plus steering bulky stroller towards elevators and away from the back of people’s legs adds up. I feel heavy, thirsty, in need of a back rub, and just something green in my hands. I want to walk inside a forest, inhale moss and witness birds as they sing or pull out a sloppy worm. I need nature and water, the primal elements to balance concrete and the hard slabs of walking it, riding rails, and feeling crowded air.
This is my aha–though rather obvious to anyone with lungs or eyes or a working heart and brain. This is why NYC must have its Central Park, why Paris savors its Tuileries and rooftop gardens. We devour the thing we crave.
I spend so much pocket-change on flowers, daydream of raised gardens, heirloom tomatoes, indoor rubber trees and leaves of ivy growing around and up and inside my home; I am thirsty.
I live city life, am city life. I am pulled like the trains, know all the stops and songs, stare into screens, all of us, using the tread up on our shoes. We city creatures with our stuffy need for mountains and something not steel. When was the last time I hiked or belayed? (It goes sixth grade, then ninth, and then in college).
I am so heavy. Heavy when tired. This is probably when people book cruises or read Eat, Pray, Love and finally get their booty to a yoga class. It’s all vitality we’re after–the luxury of breathing better, cleaner, fuller,
It is a worthwhile luxury to invest in green. We’re all in it for the long-haul, right? Want to make our homes and hearts inviting.
I wanna not burn out in the starkness of city. Take back the jungle and let airplants sway down and hit me in the face. Nibble carrot sticks with ferocity, harvest butterflies barefoot, and nestle with my kids on pockets of verdant green. Drink matcha and dance to Vivaldi’s Spring. Smell like Aveda and drink pitchers full of distilled water with lemon. Walk in stride with the rain, run ahead of the wind, grow baby freckles in the sun.
I finally have the reasons I need to go back to that flower shop and buy that big tree. You’ll find me near leaves, see me newer than tired. Stronger instead of “beat”.
The house you build, the house we’ve been fortunate to buy and to have,
is always moving. always a work.
that is, there is so much movement
to accommodate its heart, that is people,
& those houseguests.
Our house is not beautiful, beautiful like magazines
spread open to every drawer, or even room being in order,
being ready and free and established with order.
There is movement and I am at its center,
the creative queen bee who needs a five foot rumba always following after me,
with folding, cleaning, and cooking capabilities.
(A Japanese house is kinda different than what many friends back home may have, in terms of space, storage, and rooms).
You get creative. You compromise and give away whatever you discover is waste. You make kids bunk-up;
sleepovers and rearranging to make room for one more, or four or two).
Our house is not always, ever all-right,
in the looking through an Instagramic, Apartment Therapy,
kitchen screaming Moosewood or uptown chic or House Beautiful lens.
If we waited or cried forever for that perfect moment
to say yes to a guest
in need of a room, or a couch, or a landing pad,
if we waited til some perfect,
they wouldn’t still be at the curb,
but o–the richness, the lottery-won visits
It has been astounding, wonderful, crazy.
I shoulda made a guestbook six years ago,
when dear ones started touching base and talking dates.
Cousins of the best tree-house, old neighborhood buds,
new wives, beaus, pregnant on arrival announcements,
prayers and naming our son, Jude,
All the gifts, the hugs,
the new uncles the kids never had until
we said yes and put fresh sheets on the beds,
keys on spare or homemade, ridiculous rings.
We only say yes and the most wonderful guests come!
And then for our kids?
It is like living at the foot of a mountain,
only the rugged, the plenty in spirit
come and with them,
the arch-your-ear stories.
The bundles of chocolate bars and coffee beans,
the hugfulls of wisedom and heartfuls of prayers
specifically, as if that old addage, making way for angels
dressed as strangers were true,
the great uncles you honestly didn’t know you had until you taught them
how to order ramen and then you all dove into bowls of ice cream.
The talks about nuclear fission, by a lead-engineer
at my dining room table, the one with the scratches and second-hand crayon,
just after the big meltdown of unit four.
Guests come and you are the one who gets to serve them,
but hunger is hunger is love
and you all share some happy tears and
seemingly-tall tales told as if round the fire,
to our kids.
This is a hotel for the courageous,
the weary, the lovers of G-d, and family.
This is a wheel on the road to the sparks that fly with
“Y E S”.
And you know what else?
Imagine if we’d waited on kids until the perfect,
until the “reeeeeeallllly settled”, the better clothes, figure,
dining table, sleek chairs, or some wide yard.
So you hold hands, say “maybe”, or “okay and yes”
hold hands, and they just come,
all the giggles, all the infinitesimal wiggles out of a fearful, dissatisfied
all you’ve really done is nail a coat hook,
make that extra key, and open-up
to the most gracious, the most divine,
the ones with stories, quirks, tattoos, paintings,
piercings, mugs of steaming, streaming tea,
lavendar quartz from Kashmir, doctors working without borders,
young men on a mission of climbing every foothold, to the utmost rooftop guests.
The couple who knitted our baby’s booties while on assignment in Kazakstan,
the ones learning new languages, with new words of explosive love
on their tongues.
The aunt who chose to live
here to keep getting strong.
And of course, Mom, who boards and helps like there is no problem
love and some wit and wisdom won’t budge.
Our house is not some outpost of perfection,
but for some reason, it’s all working
to refresh and continue
tracks and mountain treks for those we want to keep knowing
an eternity-long and forever, their names buzzing around our children
for months and years later.
You don’t forget the one who took your room,
but sat with you to weave.
We planted seeds tonight in coffee filters
watered in clear-sealed bags to take-in sunlight
because we ate fruit
the kind that grow on trees
we began celebrating the Jewish festival called Tu B’Shevat,
a Matsuri for Trees, my daughter caroled in.
Thank you, God, for the gift of trees
abundant tree leaves
solid branches hefty trunks
seeds and juicy juicy fruit!
Of course we rattled off a solid list of animals
who depend on trees,
(come on, that’s basic).
Our boy smuggled-in kinkan
like pirate coins
raided the banana basket like loot
and it was
Japanese-grown, gorgeous delicious,
tips-of-the-bunch-shrunk in plastic
like a glove
he loves fruit.
And our girl,
marvelous spotter of tonight’s full moon
cuz it’s Tu B’Shevat,
sang, “It’s as bright and sparkly as the sun!”
And it was!
Swinging higher until now, hours later,
I’d have to step outside and walk a bit down the driveway to see its
orange orb petals of reflected rays.
She loves the sun, moon, and fruit.
And we painted,
swirled watercolors and acrylic
on canvas squares,
hers showing us
mustard and wakame leaves.
Also a border of crunchy red ones;
she knows seasons.
And because we are just that cultured, ahem,
we three painted to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
and guessed when spring gave way to summer.
I chose to paint rain and clouds and everything I don’t always love,
Trees, too, and especially.
Everything needs water, not just coffee, black,
and sometimes water comes dark, ribald like the night,
earthy, not delicate, nope.
But then it rains and those drops fly out,
the barks, the peels of light
and then seeds
seeds coming alive
life coming alive again
in time for everything it needs to grow
We painted and planted and sang in Hebrew.
We ate truckloads of fruit for Tu B’Shevat.
Now they sleep and all of our seeds,
the best ones,
they are the ones that shall grow.
And isn’t it trees and seeds and the longing and picking of fruit that is continuance?
It is choosing a spot and letting the anchor drop on a place called Hope.
This is for me, Tu B’Shevat.