Friday, May 30, 2008

You know your colors!

Ben has finally learned his colors. For nearly two months now, he’s been naming them all mostly correctly, and now there are nuances which include gray, black and white. This achievement is celebrated by me and his teachers, and also by him.

He teases me: “Mamma, what color is this car?”

I puzzle a minute, playing along,then say, tentatively, “red?”

“Greaaaat,” he intones, patronizingly and in perfect mockery of my mother-proud voice, “you know your colors. High five, mamma.”

But here’s the fact: now he is noticing our colors. Last night, we were lying together as we always do after reading books in his top bunk. He was silent a long time, studying my face. “Your hair is gray,” he said, softly.

“Yes, it is.”

“My hair is black, mamma.” Yes, it is.

His favorite book recently is “A Mother for Choco” in which a whimsically yellow, fat-cheeked baby bird finds a perfect mother in Mrs. Bear, who looks nothing like him. It’s a book about differences and needs, and how even people with big physical differences can love and comfort, and mother, each other.

“I want to be Choco’s mother,” says Ben.

“K “ I say, wondering where this is leading.

“I mean, I will be Choco’s daddy, you be his momma.”

“OK,” I say “sounds like a plan.” The differences between boys and girls, mommies and daddies. He knows it’s only about penises and vaginas, so far.

Ben calls us a family. Momma, Ben and Lily. He says, "I have a Daddy. He's in New York. He's from Africa." It's the myth he's created around the truth I have told him, that his daddy was from Detroit,and I don't know where he is right now.

He holds his hand next to mine, palms up. That way, they look alike. “Look, Momma, my hand is almost as big as yours.”

“Yes," I say, “and they look the same."

“Yes,” he says, “yellow.”

I wonder, high yellow? When will he learn that term?

He turns his hand over, then with his other hand, reaches to turn mine over. “Look, momma, our hands.” He doesn’t say anything more.

“Yes,” I say, “Aren’t they beautiful?”

“Noooo,” he says, and I hold my breath. “They are COOL mamma, not beautiful.”

Right, cool. “Yeah,” I say, “like chocolate and vanilla!” I wonder if I should have said anything, but I want to make room for the conversation which I fantasize is on his mind.

He laughs. “No,” he says, “brown and yellow!”

When he was just two, my brother-in-law's brother and his family visited from Mississppi. Their daughter, Kate, who was all of four then, was fascinated with Ben. At Thanksgiving dinner, she wandered over to me. Ben was on my lap. She put her snow white hand under Ben's dark chocolate one, and said, "Miss Cindy," in the sweetest southern drawl, "isn't that a beautiful sight?"

I don’t want him to live in a colorblind world. I want him to know his colors, our colors. I want him to know that looking different doesn’t mean anything except looking different.

Tonight at the grocery store, he asks for chocolate ice cream. He’s never used the term before, just, “that kind” before, usually strawberry or mint (which he dubbed “too tasty.”)

As I write this tonight, I look at his art on our dining room wall. It’s changing. There are “guys” now, with eyes like moons and legs coming from their heads. And smiles. And one guy with tears coming out of his eyes. And my favorite, a mountain and a village. He calls it “Promise Mountain.”

I promise you my son, we will celebrate and honor our differences, and we will always, always be a family.

And it is great that you know your colors, even though your momma winces at what more you will be taught by the world about them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rushdie said it best

I am still wading through Sunday's Times. Modern Love a disappointment (in so many ways.) China's images seared into my brain, a poem forming. But a fun article about Rushdie yielded this gem:

“'There’s a writing self which is not quite your ordinary social self and which you don’t really have access to except at the moment when you’re writing, and certainly in my view, I think of that as my best self,' he said. 'To be able to be that person feels good; it feels better than anything else.'”

Maybe that's what the blogging is about. Not only the rush of writing, but the added layer of knowing someone, anyone, is reading your best self.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Random thoughts on blogging

Reading Emily Gould’s piece on blogging in the NYT Sunday Mag yesterday made me think. I started this blog to record the changes Benjamin and I went through in moving here. All five of my gentle readers know most of that. Then it sort of morphed into a record of our lives for Benjamin—a way of recording his life, my thoughts, for the future. Something for him.

But as I was taught in English classes, can you really trust the narrator? Is this a bare sharing or an edited version? Of course it’s not completely bare, although some entries certainly are close. But most of what goes on in interior thought is not on these pages because it’s a permanent record. Or could be. And, to some extent, public.

Google me and this blog comes up first. Last week, during a difficult client interview, the really disturbed father looked at me and said, “I want more time with my son. You know, for things like kite flying.” I shuddered to think he might be reading the blog. He might. Anyone who can type my name in might.

So then I thought, especially after reading Emily’s piece, maybe I should take it down. But then, there are risks inherent in life. I haven’t taken any steps to obscure my identity because I don’t think that’s right, somehow. Knowing that the few of you are reading is warming to me, and I check the sitemeter regularly and try to imagine where you all are, how you like it, what might make you smile. I’m too cheap to upgrade, so all I know is geographical location when you log in and maybe your ISP. Most of you I know, some I don’t.

I appreciate other blogs I read where the author is known, a real person, not an identity someone slips into to post thoughts. But then, how do I really know? The identity can be, in the internet world, a somewhat fungible thing.

And right now? Ben is watching the Little Einsteins, and for the first time in forever, he’s actually doing what they ask—helping them blow to raise a balloon. And he’s doing that with a mouthful of cheese sandwich, his holiday breakfast of choice.

Peace, shalom, salaam, this Memorial Day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blank pages

The blank page sits before me like a beacon.

All I can think of is the way my son looks sleeping in the back seat of the car, or how he laughs when finding a new friend to play with, of how he loved singing his Japanese songs at Peachtree on Friday. Random images, all of them of Benjamin, all of them sweet and sustaining.

Our life here in Ann Arbor has shifted into a regular gear, from day to day we do the same things, moving through our life more like natives rather than newcomers. There’s the Y or Jungle Java when we are needing activity on a weekend, and like yesterday, it’s raining and gray. The bikes with our favorite routes to two different playgrounds in the warm evenings after supper. Getting up early to ride the bus or bike to school, or when we are being sleepy, driving the car. Shopping on payday or the next Saturday. Walking the dog. Finding the delights of living in this town where resources abound and new adventures lie around every corner.

And then there are the days when I know the reality of raising Benjamin means dealing with his issues: all the issues an adopted kid faces, with the added layer of being adopted by someone old enough to be your grandmom; his high risk for learning disability, which is obvious many times; the sheer enormity of being a single parent facing all sorts of decisions and challenges in schooling choices. Ben got three vaccines today, which knocked him back a peg and I realized, guiltily, how easy grocery shopping was with him subdued. And of course his wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Terry Joiner, wanted to talk about academics, IEPs and pre-school transistions today. He's urging me to make some choices which mean taking Ben out of Montessori life and beginning to face the real world--which here in this town is rich in resources for Ben.

I wanted to say, hey, it's enough getting him to his four year old well-baby visit only five months late! I'll deal with all the other stuff tomorrow. But of course I must begin to engage in these choices and begin making them for Benjamin, hoping against hope I am doing the right thing at every turn. I have to admit that not having someone to talk to about these choices when they waken me at 3 a.m. is a source of sadness for me.

But right now, Benjamin sleeps sweetly in my bed, because he was feeling crummy and wanted to, and I caved. Lily lies at my feet, and outside, the cardinals are singing their evening songs. There's a part of me that's glad I don't have to negotiate those choices: the sweet, day to day domestic ones. It seems for the moment worth the trade off of single parenting.

Life, even with all its challenges, is good, and the blank page still beckons.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

In my world, Mother's Day is what I make of it, so I decided that the best way to celebrate the day was to take my son to see Thomas the Tank engine at Greenfield Village. Little did I know it was going to be raining and cold.

Nevertheless, we carried on, and Ben and his pal Alexander held out and were real troupers. We rode on the train, we got tatoos, and we celebrated mom's day in grand fashion, all in the rain and cold of a Michigan Mother's Day.

We closed with a glass of wine and fleece blankets at Alexander's house.

I love being a Mom, there's just nothing else to say.

Monday, May 05, 2008

First Bike-to-Work of 2008

Sunday night, my four year old son is pumped. “Mom, our bike goes really, really fast!” he says, sleep beginning to show around the edges of the light in his brown eyes.

“Yep, and even faster when you pedal!” I say, reminding him of trail-a-bike teamwork.

The next morning is so different, no foot dragging, no reluctance. “Hurry up, Mom, we need to get rolling,” he says, dressed in record time and waiting for me for a change.

On the way down the Plymouth Rd. hill, another biker is trying to pass. Benjamin makes motor noises, and the biker makes his own. “We’re beating you!” my son yells in a cheerful challenge. He greets all pedestrians with his amazing smile and his loudest “good morning.” At the Main St. light, he chats with a motorist through an open window.

When we pull up to his pre-school on Ashley, all his friends crowd around the window. He’s a hero, and he is beaming. He graciously lets them try on his red helmet.

This Monday morning is a breeze, a breath of fresh air, a twenty-minute smile: for us and, I suspect, for each person my sunbeam son greeted on our commute.