Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"It must come true, sometime soon, somehow"

Christmas Eve was so peaceful and lovely this year, I felt like we were floating like the wispy snowflakes that fell all day. Our house was filled with music and the glowing, spicy-smelling tree that Jonathan surprised me with. It’s so beautiful even though all the ornaments are plucked off of the bottom half. We couldn’t stop smiling at each other. It was one of those days that you think your life will be like in the future when you are the most dreamy and hopeful. I had this sense of being separate from everything dark and coarse and just existing in this sphere of expectancy and memory and love for my Jonny and my baby. We went out to breakfast and Chai was more “autonomous” at the restaurant even than usual—we watched him, amused, as he hurled napkins, straws, and silverware on the floor and then howled when we wouldn’t let him throw our plates. He spit everything out; it seemed, out of spite that we were restricting his freedoms. He ran away in the parking lot. For some reason with the snow swirling outside the window even his challenging behavior seemed charming. Jonathan said, “You’re just a little ray of sunshine, aren’t you?” and we laughed. All of our movements and words seemed sweeter, more significant than usual. I think Christmas really did get into our blood. We held hands in the car driving home through the white sky and drank hot chocolate. This year, it really did feel like magic, just being us.
I loved scurrying around town on my own finishing up surprises and being able to listen to music by myself and really feel it. I miss that so much; in fact it’s been so long since I really listened to certain songs with an undivided mind that the intensity made me cry.

The kindest employee at Allen’s Photo worked a Christmas miracle for me by photoshopping something on his own laptop that I hadn’t been able to do on their company’s website and wasn’t skilled enough to create on my own. He told me he loved my idea, that it sounded like it would be super easy, and created it for me even though they were swamped with orders and it was in no way part of his job, and I was only spending $3.17 on having it printed. It was so terribly nice that it warmed me all the way through my body. I went to the dollar store to get some little things for Chai and saw families shopping there for their entire Christmas, which made me feel cold and cheap like the little plastic toys they were pulling off the shelves. Going to the mall immediately afterwards (for Teavana) was like being pummeled in the face with the privilege it is to even be able to shop there, and it solidified why I despise the Santa myth, it is so cruel. I’m grateful to be able to conjure some tiny Christmas magic tricks for my little boy. I think the “joy of human love” is just as magical and lovely as believing that elves in the North Pole know your name and planned it all for you, and I hope as Chai gets older he will appreciate that excitement that comes from being thoughtful and preparing heartfelt gifts too.

It was fun being resoundingly pregnant this year at Christmastime and gave me a lot of creative energy. It felt so good to wrap secrets and anticipate their revealing, and to remember that after Christmas we still have one more “present” to look forward to. Christmas Eve night, we each opened one present and sang a couple of Christmas songs in Spanish. We held onto each other. Those were such dear and loving moments. I didn’t realize how fulfilling it would be to celebrate with just our little family—I thought I always wanted to be surrounded by a thousand people and that having Christmas alone would make me feel old. It didn’t. I felt the most childlike wonder and happiness. 

While Chai was running around squawking and waving his cheerleader pompoms, I told Jonathan a story about the first Christmas we were dating and how vivid and bright my thoughts were, and how I felt like I was alive for the first time, and my yellow-bird dreams. He told me, “We always belonged together…right from the very beginning…didn’t we?” Sometimes it seems crazy that we’re really doing this…that we have this life together, that we have an exquisite child that we take care of together, that we’re about to have another one…my friend Wendy said once, “How has no one figured it out? Don’t people realize we’re just KIDS?” It’s not “ending up” maybe because so much of the story is left unwritten, but we do belong together, and that’s the most beautiful part of Christmas or anytime is belonging. The rest of the holiday got a little complex, so I want to always remember this Christmas Eve and how sweet and soft it was. I’m grateful for the beauty in my life and my relationships.
(This was my Gift of the Heart for Jonathan that the Allen's Photo employee magnanimously helped me create!)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas night, it clutched the light, the hallow bright

This last week I felt so much. For most of the week it was disgust with the haters on the Wear Pants to Church Event. I thought the event was a little convoluted from the beginning but the more I read the reactions of the zealous, the misunderstandings skewed sixty directions like a many-pointed star, the energy of judgmental indignation, the banal blathering of churchy platitudes over and over and over again, seeming to have completely absorbed what I see as transparent, cobwebby excuses, the more revolted I felt. It was infuriating. I didn’t engage, but I read like a crazy person and read Jonny the “best of the declines” out loud until it started making me dizzy sick and effectively (for now) made me feel loath to engage in conversation about anything related. This is my tribe?

And then yesterday…there were some fb updates about another school shooting, but I didn’t realize until I was listening to the radio on the way to postpartum group that it was little children, that it was a kindergarten class. I thought of 5 year olds in their little hats and little mittens, talking about Christmas at breakfast that morning, and how frightened they must have been, how they must have hurt. Their poor parents who were waiting at the fire station, who thought their little children were still alive, and no one came running. Their families brought Christmas presents for them, maybe already wrapped, and Christmas morning will come with those kids missing and nothing will ever be okay again. It’s too brutal, it’s too horrible. I’m so sorry! I started crying in the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about their bewilderment and the hideous pain their parents must be feeling. I don’t think I would want to survive if someone hurt my Lolly, if he were gone, just gone because someone decided to harm him in the ultimate way. I don’t know what I would do that first night, how could I bear him being gone? So much trust, sending a kindergartner off to school before they understand any of the ugly. As I was crying, a white dove flew past while I was at a stoplight. I couldn’t help noticing how beautiful it was and the gracefulness of its body as it flew. I thought, how can this exist at the same time I’m listening to someone talk about murdered kindergartners? How can there be a dove in this same world? Everything was so fiercely contrasted yesterday. The life and vitality of my little boy and even the little girl who we don’t know yet squirming under our hands. Being able to speak with and touch the people I loved. Chai’s violent affection with the postpartum kids. The Christmas music playing on the radio seemed so haunting. I kept crying all day. It was frustrating to see so many posts on facebook crying for gun control and announcing their plans to homeschool. Don’t you get it? Those won’t save you, nothing can save you, they are only illusions of control. We just hope and hope that we’re not in the building when the bomb goes off. That a predator doesn’t pick us or our little ones, but picks someone else. That we’re not in the lane when the car next to us loses control, that our bodies don’t turn against us, that we make it through without becoming victims. Those with intent to harm and nothing to lose will find a way to do it. There is no deserving, we are all so vulnerable. Ransom captive Israel.

That night we went to the MoTab Christmas concert with David, Laurel, and my parents and there were so many moments that were merry and jovial and fun. I kept wanting my mind to relax and go to this Christmas place where I could just enjoy and feel like a happy child and believe none of it was real. But instead, everything lovely and powerful about the concert seemed to highlight the pain and loss of innocence. For me, every moment of the concert was about those kids. Alfie Boe was amazing and even the cheesiest song he sang made me sob: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Little children who should be home, who should be safe and loved, who will never be home again. I kept thinking about the parents who would give anything, anything to have those little ones home for Christmas like they should have been, but now they have this grief to carry around for the rest of their lives. When he sang “Bring Him Home” it destroyed me, and I’m sure many others there felt similar emotions. It was so beautiful and so heartbreaking. I felt that the room was reverberating with grief. It felt good to participate in a moment of silence with so many hundreds of people; in a wretched way it felt good to shed so many tears from deep pain in my heart.

I don’t know if I can say that I’ve suffered for this, because what is my suffering if I cry holding my little boy safe in my arms? Yesterday I told him that someone had hurt some kids and that I was so sorry, and that I would try my best to keep him safe, but that I was scared. He looked at me solemnly with his blue eyes, touched my face and said “Soft!” which is what he always does when someone is crying. I’m just so sorry, I am aching on behalf of the families. I keep thinking, that’s exactly the way I should feel. In the midst of it I felt disgusted with myself because cognitively, I know that so many children suffer from even darker horrors every day, something like 21,000 children somewhere in the world greet death every 24 hours, but I don’t weep every day for that. I grieve for what is laid out in front of me, what I am most heavily forced to witness, hear about or know of. What does that say about my compassion? Today I forced myself to acknowledge that many times when I have spoken of a relationship with Jesus Christ, my own or encouraging others to create one, my ideas have been centered on avoiding pain, taking off the edge of the hurt, filling a troubled heart with comforting images that speak of a purpose in the madness and chaotic anguish. Isn’t that exactly what Marx meant by an “opiate for the masses?”

I read this on CNN’s belief blog: “Some religious leaders argue that modern American life insulates much of the nation from the kind of senseless death and suffering that plagues much of the world every day.“Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance,” wrote Rob Brendle, a Colorado pastor, in a commentary for CNN’s Belief Blog after this summer’s deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 dead.“You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to there,” wrote Brendle, who pastored congregants after a deadly shooting at his church five years ago. “For us, though, God has become anesthetist-in-chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things.”

I'm wandering in this quagmire of my own privilege. Most of the time I am cheerful and I love my life and my family and I laugh and listen to music and even grant myself ample space to feel sorry for myself often. What I typically perceive as painful is such a light stripe. I don't think it is moral to use God as a way to be "excused from bad things", but even as I express that I know I haven't really known "bad things," so how sincere can my mourning really be? I keep thinking that maybe what I was meant to understand from Jesus is that I was NOT meant to numb out because of assurance in a divine plan, but I was meant to weep and weep hard. I’ve written blog posts before about the saddest things and I usually ended them tied up with balloons of hope, but today allowing this to float away on some na├»ve imagined string of reconciliation seems too heavy in and of itself. I just want to say that I’m so sorry, for the lonely boy as well as the lost children, and that I’m grateful for my life and for having experienced as much love as I have. I don’t want to anesthetize myself anymore. And after my eyes clear, I will remember the dove.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Joyful and Chai-umphant (18 months)

Chai turned 18 months old on December 7th. He, like Pearl Harbor, will live in infamy. My obsession with my baby boy has surpassed all reason. He is my funny, dear little friend and I love him. Jonathan and I were watching videos not even a year old of Chai when he was a fat, gormless bald baby and we couldn't believe it was him. We thought we adored him last year; now we keep telling each other, this, this is the true Chai! I don't think it would be possible for us to enjoy him more deeply. I appreciate his loving nature and all the beautiful things about life that he brings to my awareness. Here are some things I want to remember about my tiny good man at 18 months:
*He is a wonderful dancer! Whenever he hears music, at the store, in the car, and even during a movie or TV show, he bops around, tiptoes, waves his arms and shakes his shoulders and booty. He is able to recognize tempo and when it's a slow song, like Christmas music, he closes his eyes and sways with long, graceful arms. We always say he is "feeling artistic." It is hilarious and as Jonathan says, he "charms the pants off everyone." I wish I had some great video of his dances but I have this condition where I'm scared to delete anything off my SD card so whenever I record video it's only a few seconds' worth. But Chai dancing is pure joy to me. He is so expressive and so sweet and funny. Lately, he does this little celebratory dance whenever we come home from work, he starts rocking out and yelling when we walk in the door. I DIE every time.
*Chai is incredibly affectionate. I love that he is so active and independent but also so cuddly. He loves to sit backwards in my lap and rest his head on my chest. He always joins in whenever someone is rubbing my poor aching back and he will come rub my back on his own if I ask him to or if I'm ever kneeling down. 
 I can’t get enough of his deliberate, wild hugs and his sweet-smelling face and his trotting steps and his mischievous smiles. He is also great at giving kisses when the desire strikes him. He puckers his huge lips and leans in very slightly, about 5%, the recipient has to go the other 95. When he decides to kiss someone he typically kisses everyone in the room. Sometimes when he is feeling particularly benevolent he will pucker up to cashiers and the like. On mornings when we sleep in, (that's right!) he crawls over to me and will fall back to sleep with his hand on my arm or chest. 
*Chai loves aunties and uncles. His auntie "Moh" lives with us right now and every morning when he gets up he goes to look for her. If she is home, he runs to see her and calls her name over and over while his whole body shakes with happiness. If she's gone to class, he waves sadly into her room and says, "Bye...bye...Moh!" She is such a kind and playful auntie. She lets Chai wear her jewelry and indulges his demands to ransack all her possessions. She is always willing to take him on walks or dance with him in her arms. Chai has become really close to my brother Doug and his wife Emily lately as well. They come over once a week for our Wednesday "dinner party" and Chai loves having them around and falls into despair when they leave. He knows that they are the owners of "Pie" (Chai's name for their dog, Penny) and if we ever say their names around him he begins to yell for "Pie" and look around as though she might suddenly appear. I want my siblings to know that I'm so grateful for their kindness to my little boy and I don't take it for granted. Every child deserves lots of people that love them and I'm so happy my baby has that. 

*Chai loves ice. Jonathan always feeds him tiny pieces of ice from his own mouth, like a baby bird, and Chai beams and is generally full of glee. It's like his favorite treat. The first time it snowed, we gave him a tiny icicle to suck on  and he went mad with happiness. He kept crying to go outside for more until all the icicles were gone. 
*Chai is a little word sponge. I can't even keep track of all the words he can say now, and he surprises me with new ones every day. Some of the new words from the last two weeks or so are "up" "wash" "toys" "cow" "monkey" "mokey" (milk) "tankoo" (thank you) "Pie" "dance" "winky" "booger" "clothes" "book" "down" "pretty" "lights" "baby". He learned to ask for Yo Gabba Gabba and does so often: "Gabba gabba gabba!" He can identify all the parts of the face and make dog, kitty, bird, and cow sounds. He likes to name the animal immediately after making the noise, like "Hohohoho!" (barking) "DOG." He also talks in his sleep. He will roll over, sigh, and mutter, "Chai-Chai-Chai" or "shoes!" Last night he laughed in his sleep. 
*Even though it's gotten colder, Chai is still obsessed with taking walks outside. We've had so much fun with him the days that it snowed. He gets so excited when we put on his shoes that his whole body shakes. He asks to go outside constantly, even when it's freezing or late at night. He loves exploring.

*Chai is obsessed with taking baths. A few times a day, even if he's had a bath only hours before, he will become frenzied with the idea, look at me all wide-eyed and say "Bath! Bath bath bath bath!" run to the bathroom and knock on the door (which we try to keep shut all the time because of Chai's penchant for throwing things, like his bottle, into the toilet), all full of hope. If I tell him the bath can't happen right then, he collapses with despair against the door and weeps, "Bath! Baaaath!" When he actually does get in the tub, it's a serious business. He's figured out all the ways to stay warmest--huddling up against the  running faucet, or, when it gets deep enough, floating on his stomach and blowing bubbles. He also enjoys throwing all the shampoo and body wash bottles into the tub with him, and then out of the tub on the floor, and attempting to drink bath water out of various cups. 
*Chai loves to pinch us when we're feeding him a bottle. We always try to ignore it, but he gets the smallest amount of skin possible and twists. Sometimes, he also pinches in vengeance. Sometimes we call him "Pinche Chai" :) 

*Chai, like most of the good people on Reddit, likes to watch videos of kittens falling asleep and doing other cute things. Sometimes we use kitty videos as a distraction if he is getting cranky or demanding an inopportune bath or walk and it works every time. 

*Jonathan is always buying and selling tech parts and building computers. Chai loves to copy everything he does. He pulls tech parts out of boxes and blows on them and loves to "fix" computers with tools whenever he can get his hands on them. 

 *Some people have asked if Chai is aware that another baby is coming in a little while. He has started calling my belly "baby!" and he definitely knows what babies are, but I'm not sure he's put it together yet. However, he has been more attached to me lately and always wants me to snuggle and comfort and feed him (before he was less discriminating . I don't know if it's an intuitive awareness that things will be changing soon or if it's a developmental stage, but it means so much to me to be able to have extra closeness to honor the time we have left together, just us. I am so aware all the time that one day the little boy I know now won't exist anymore, he will never curl up in my lap and gently pat my face and my hair again. There won't be as many kisses, he won't always stretch his arms out to me with pure delight. Hopefully we can have a different kind of relationship that is also sweet and fulfilling, but I know I will miss my sweet baby. I remember it every time I hold him. He has my heart.