Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Omni-Mom

Wake up. Write. Read. Pray. Dress. Pack lunches. Eat breakfast in the car. Gym. Shake yo' booty. Shower. Pick up Gingerbread Boys. Pick up Gingerbread Man. Immunizations. One, two, three. Ow. Get sticker that says "I was brave!" Drop off Gingerbread Man. Drop off Gingerbread Boys. Home for lunch at 2:00. Breathe.

Still to come: homework time, practice time, supper time, and evening band concert.

IT'S OMNI-MOM, our favorite heroine!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kid Fears

If you were to look down, out of the sky, hovering over a small house in a city far from here, you would see a scabby-kneed girl, a serious girl, a girl too old for her biological years. You might be able to feel the fear that rose up around her like a bubble, a tangible fear, a fear that followed her wherever she went.

On trips to the beach with its soft, sandy white shores, she would sit in the shallows where the sand under her was crested from the action of the waves. There she was safe from scary things in the deep, from seaweed that stretched out toward her ankles, from fish that might nibble on her toes, from monsters and goons.

On picnics, she sat on a blanket, or on the cement if there was cement nearby, for the grass might harbor small things that would crawl or bite. It might harbor glass shards, or rusty nails, or pop cans.

At school, she listened. She wrote. She read. But she wouldn't raise her hand, for fear that someone would laugh, or worse, that someone would notice her, when really she wanted to be invisible.

At home, her fears settled over her like the sky. Darkness, dogs, the netherworld under the bed, lightning and thunder, high places, failure. She tried to imagine them away. Darkness was just the absence of light. Dogs could be vanquished with a sharp command. The only things under the bed were shoes and dust. Lightning and thunder were just manifestations of the weather. When she was nineteen and nearly invincible, she climbed the Eiffel Tower, putting one foot after the other on the open metal grillwork to prove to herself that she could conquer her fears.

But she is still surrounded by a bubble of fear, a fear of things much more personal--of pain and loss, of failure and the future--and she longs for the time when her only fears were of ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

La Dolce Vita e Molto Caro

Twenty years ago, you packed your bags. It was time to go home. Mostly you packed shirts and pants and socks, squeezing them into the corners and crevices of your suitcases. You rolled them up, not caring about the state they would arrive in.  You were certain you would never want to wear any of them again, having worn them over and over and over during your months there. They had been scrubbed within an inch of their lives and hung out to dry by your faithful Italian host mama, bleached in the strong Italian sun and dried to a crisp.

You packed the camera, the film, the journal. The notebooks, the sketches. 

You packed the souvenirs and gifts for your family, gathered during visits to Venice, to Florence, to Rome, to San Gimignano, to Assisi. Books, panforte, a silver Etruscan ring, a compass, Murano glass. You didn't bring back much for yourself--a green suede jacket, a book of photos, a ring, some Florentine paper.

Most of what you brought back couldn't be packed. Your fluency in Italian. Your habit of eating fruit after meals. The peculiar way you peel oranges. An appreciation for deep blue sky and ancient stone. Your love for the ridiculous shapes of cypress trees and umbrella pines. Your memories--of tap-dancing on a bridge over the Arno, of standing in the same room that Michelangelo doodled in, of lounging in the Campo, of navigating Europe by yourself. The sweetness you felt for your host family.

You also brought back your homesickness. You wouldn't need it anymore, of that you were certain. You didn't realize that Siena was also home now, and years later, you would feel the homesickness in reverse.