Here is the talk I gave at Chapman University, about adoption and the role of imagination in forming our identities. Hope you enjoy it! Please pass it along if you do.
It’s been a long while. I wish I could say that I’ve been absent because the fam and I have had our toes sunk in the mud by a lake somewhere woodsy, or that we’ve been busy hunting for abalone shells, enjoying these last days of spring before the summer descends.
The truth is, we moved onto a new house in the middle of multiple work deadlines (sorry, Becky, I swear I’ll have the new book finished in a jiffy), the end of the school year, and Scott being in and out of town. I was hardly stopping to smell the roses. The best I could do was convince the movers not to trample the roses.
I had a disorienting experience when I saw at all of our stuff on the truck. Everything looked huge and tiny at the same time. I was like- Who are we, anyway? Who would we be if this truck just drove away and never came back? Scott was like- are you smoking weed? And I was like- way to undermine a poetic moment. And then we moved our entire existence six miles away, to the top of a big hill.
I have missed this blog space, because without it, I lose my frame. I lose my outlet, which has been a life-saver for me over the last six years. Six! I just checked. And in the middle of all this crazy change, I find that it is still here for me, waiting. So hello, again!
We were worried about how T was going to handle the transition. I’m happy to report that he was a peach. He loves the new place. We can see tons of airplanes from our wide windows and that is all T needs to be happy. That and a corn dog once in a while.
In truth, it was me who had the hardest time with the move. Scott was a bit taken aback by my high-strung emotional reaction.
What if the next house doesn’t have good luck? What if it doesn’t keep us safe? I cried to him.
Honey? It’s not the house that keeps us safe.
So, yeah. Some stuff going on. About security and home. About time and loss.
Speaking of time, T just graduated from kindergarten. His school handles things in a low-key way, which I appreciate There are no tiny caps and gowns, no ceremonies. At 12:30pm last Friday, I went and picked him up at school, then we went swimming at his friend’s house and that was that. Next year the grades start to have numbers, and there just aren’t very many of those numbers if you really think about it.
We were lucky enough to have a remarkable teacher this year. The kind that come around once in a blue moon and you remember for rest of your life. I am deeply grateful to all the teachers out there who have extra love for the kids who struggle- for the outliers, the special ones. The beginning of the year was rocky, but his teacher saw his big bright light and she believed in him. Slowly, he became what she saw him to be. He did beautifully.
He won the Doctor Award at school, because he takes such good care of his friends. I was nearly as proud as the day when he said, out of the blue, “Hey Mama, Lou Reed is cool!” This kid is my hero.
He went to the airport to watch the jets with his Auntie this morning (his Saturday ritual), and before he left he stood next to me and pointed out the picture window toward the airport.
If you ever miss me too much, he said, I’m right there at LAX. It’s not far.
It was never really the house at all.
We have been kicking around the idea of moving for years, dragging our feet. Then within a course of a month, KABAM, we have a new house and our old one is sold. It happened in a flash.
It has been a shock to my system. I’m all busted up about leaving. I’m not simply a touch teary and sentimental; I’m sitting on our front porch and sobbing.
I remember the first time we saw our little green house with the neat white trim, the golden afternoon light filtering through the camphor and jacaranda trees. It was love at first sight. We couldn’t believe our luck when we got it.
We waited for a child for two solid years in that house. We did not have the baby we so desperately wanted, but we did have our nest and I clung to it. I decorated his room with a zeal I don’t believe I will ever summon again for things like curtains. I spent some of the hardest days of my life in that house.
I was sitting at our weathered farm table when I finally got the call:
You have a beautiful eight-month-old son. His name is Tariku.
My neighbor was pregnant with twins at the time. We spent many afternoons together, drinking lemonade on her porch. Something deeply lazy and serene washed over us as we slowly adjusted to the idea of the sea change before us. Those twins are now Tariku’s closest buddies and we haven’t had a moment of serenity since.
As Scott and I prepared to go to Africa, I sat on the bright green carpet in Tariku’s room under the painted starry night sky, while I packed and plotted and planned. I tried out various nicknames. It was Tariku’s room. Terry’s room. T-Bone’s room. T’s room. I sat in the rocker for hours and looked at his photos and was able to trust, for just a moment, that it would be fine somehow. That he would come home to us after all. That the world was about to shatter into something entirely new.
For the last five years, I have started all of T’s bedtime stories:
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Tariku Moon, who lived in a little green house on Mount Royal Drive…
That era is ending now, never to return. Like the sweet sounds he used to make before he could form words. Like the smell of his baby head- some combination of powder and cookies and fairy dust- as he napped on my chest in the rocker. Like the small, shifting weight of him as I carried him around for hours in the Ergo, my little kangaroo.
We have been through so much here. I think I am partly grieving the couple Scott and I were when we moved into the house, with all of our hopefulness and naivetè, seven years worth of mistakes and missteps still ahead of us. It was a freer, wilder time. It would be dishonest of me to say that absolutely everything is better now that we finally have the child we always wanted. We are tired. There are crazy new lines on my face. I have to pack a lunch box every morning and, man, does that start out cute and get old quick. Still, when I step back and look at the home we made, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I realize how happy we have been, how lucky we are to be growing and moving on.
We bought a dynamite place in a snazzy-cute neighborhood, with lots of fantastic cafés, artisanal grilled cheese, overpriced denim and clever mustaches. There are also tons of families, beautiful park space and a terrific farmer’s market. Our new pad is light and bright and vibrant. I am sad to leave, but I am also thrilled about the sense of wide open possibility. We might just be buying bunk beds… Also, my new kitchen is SWEET.
We are leaving a home that we have loved and of which I am proud. Our happiness has been in these walls but it is not of these walls. We will take it with us when we go.
Onward, to the next adventure!
We are all a little bit dazed today, having just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas. A cruise may not seem like a likely choice of a vacation for us, but this was a rock cruise- a Weezer cruise to be specific. A boat full of bands and music fans, the climax of which was an epic afternoon show in a secluded cove on an island beach.
I honestly had no idea what to expect. Julie the cruise director subtly organizing love matches during shuffleboard tournaments on the Lido deck? Trying to navigate our five year old through a gauntlet of smoky casinos and boozy spring breakers?
What I discovered is that our week on the cruise wasn’t about pina coladas in the hot tub (though there certainly were a few) or the basking by the pool (it was surprisingly blustery and cold), but rather about family.
My experience of family has always been a shifting thing, kind of like our time on the boat. Sometimes the wind kicked up and the water roiled navy and white as the deck under me listed from side to side so noticeably that I had to lie down and hold onto my head. Sometimes the ocean was kind and ridiculously turquoise, giving no indication of the whole alien world churning beneath its surface.
Our life is rich with extended family, including the Weezer fam. I confess that I have always secretly enjoyed all the annoying minutiae of traveling as a band. I rarely get impatient when being herded through airports, into buses, into arenas, onto gangplanks. I love being in the midst of the whole motley crew of us: the wives, the come-and-go girlfriends, the kids, the babysitters, the parents, the cranky tour manager (sorry, Stu). Once on board, the always thoughtful and creative fans showered us with cards and tiaras and patches and posters, much of it made with their own hands. As a kid running around the house belting out “Join the Circus” from the musical Barnum, this is what I always hoped my life was going to be. A strange dream, maybe, but I was right- it’s pretty wonderful.
Later that afternoon, we met up with yet more of our “relations” for a reunion that makes me tear up every time I think of it. We have remained close with all of the eight families with whom we traveled to Ethiopia on our adoption trip, but T rarely sees the kids because we all live in different parts of the country. To our delight, a couple of them decided to come sail with us.
I am wary of superimposing my own fantasies of some mystical aspect to their friendship, but objectively, it was pure magic. The kids were beyond thrilled to see each other and kept shouting the things they had in common to literally every passerby who would listen (We were all born in Ethiopia! We all have brown skin! We all have pink parents!). I know that they felt the commonalities extended beyond the obvious, but they didn’t have words for it yet. I’m not sure I do either.
I can only say that there is a deep connection between these kids, and between us, their parents. It is very relaxing for Scott and me to be around the people with whom we shared the most meaningful time in our life. There is so much that is just recognized and understood and doesn’t need to be explained.
My heart is full every time I think of the unbridled joy on their little faces as they ran around the ship deck, upending everyone’s Mai Tais and commandeering the hot tub.
As the boat rocked me to sleep each night, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this life of ours, so abundant with music and family.
Thanks to everyone who made the cruise so special.
Summertime conjures images of lazy afternoons by the pool, backyard barbeques, a gorgeous peach, beach tar on your feet. But if you’re a musician, summer is actually when you work your ass off. Scott has been rolling from gig to gig with Weezer and we’ve occasionally been tagging along. Comicon was a kick. The Orange County Fair was like a sensory gorge. I let T ride every ride over and over and then eat giant hot dogs and funnel cake and pet the pigs and the bunnies. I was like- who are you gonna be, the mom that doesn’t go to the fair? The mom that spends the whole fair saying no? So I said yes, and there was emotional fallout, of course, but I was braced for it and it was really no biggie. Even his worst moments now are generally just mega-annoying and not deep despair-inducing.
This summer has been a ride. There has been a lot of work and travel and fun and difficulty and disappointment and sadness. My kid is swimming like a fish. I had a chat at a party with Sheryl Sandberg. I wrote some hard stuff. I had some minor surgery on my girl bits. T-bone hated summer camp. I cried for like three days straight at the beginning of July. A friend died. I’m turning forty. Yeah, so there’s that.
Honestly, I have been holding on for dear life. I am a gripper by nature. But once in a while I manage to loosen that grip- usually when the late afternoon pink tangerine light announces itself in a way that defies you not to stop and feel it on your face, not to just pause look at your child laughing on the playground. I could sit around all day planning how I’m going to be a better person: more present, more conscious, thinner, more disciplined, recycle more, whatever. But I can’t wait until all that comes true to be happy. I’ll take the moments now. The ones in which I take my hands off the bar and put my hands up in the air and scream for joy.
My dear friend Jen Wilson passed away last night after a long and heroic battle with cancer. Her friends and family are all grieving today.
Jen’s husband and mine are in the same band and we traveled the world together. Many nights, we said goodnight across a bus aisle before drawing the curtains of our bunks. In the morning, we stumbled into each other on our way to find coffee. We sat around together for hours in both grand hotel suites and crappy European dressing rooms. She was my stage-side companion for the last ten years and in a way, we were family.
When I showed up in the Weezer picture, she had been at it for years already. She welcomed me into the camp with open arms and taught me the rockwife ropes. I can only hope that I’ve learned to weather this blessed and challenging life with half as much grace and humor as she did. Jen was real. She managed to be the salt of the earth, while always carrying the latest Louis Vuitton bag. Above all, she was devoted to her family and friends.
When Scott and I were desperately trying to have a baby, Jen was already pregnant with their second child. Many of our friends with new babies acted uncomfortable around us. Jen was a notable exception. She was able to truly listen to me, sometimes offering advice, sometimes just being a sympathetic ear. More than once she prescribed immediate retail therapy and dragged me out in pursuit of some much-needed distraction. She was able to be present for my pain and so she was fully able to be present for our joy when Tariku finally came home. She threw me an amazing baby shower. Jen threw a lot of showers. She was the girl who wanted to give you a party.
I love the story about Jen working as a barista at Starbucks when the “Undone” video first came out. People would come into her work and say, “I saw your husband on MTV!” She would just nod and smile but she hadn’t even seen the video yet, because they couldn’t afford cable.
I remember a flight to New York one time, during which Jen was holding Ian and I was holding Tariku. We were across the aisle from each other and both the boys were being fussy. I was far tenser than she about having screaming babies on a plane. I remember looking at how she was rocking her son and shaping my arms around my baby in the same way, learning from the wisdom of a more experienced mother. Soon they were both quiet.
There is so much she taught me. I will take it with me. I will remember her sunny smile always.
This is my newly decorated living room. This is it. There is no couch. There is a rocking chair across the room, for exactly no one to sit in because the drums are so loud your ears would bleed. Jealous?
Why did I let this happen to my life, you ask? Did I hire my sixteen-year-old burnout nephew as a decorator and pay him in weed?
Let me tell you the saga of my couch.
Once upon a time, we had an expensive leather sofa bed from Restoration Hardware. Because I am a sensible gal, we got it off Craig’s List. When we took our truck to Venice Beach to pick it up, we found it weighed exactly 47,000 lbs.. While we were inside finding this out, we got a parking ticket. Then we had to go and hire two guys from the Home Depot parking lot to help us take it home and get it in the house. At this point, we may as well have bought a new couch.
I really enjoyed our expensive couch for exactly two months. We even had a house guest! A certain relative (hint: rhymes with shmother-in-shlaw) visited and slept on it and then proceeded to not be able to stand us for the following six years, but what the heck! At least we had a sofa bed.
One fine Saturday, the dogs ate the entire back of it.
Here they are, the little darlings. That is not the couch- that is the couch before the cursed couch. They ate that one, too. Do you want them?!? DM me.
But I am not easily thrown. I had it reupholstered by a very nice man who had to bring not one but three of his sons to move it.
I bought those weird plastic electrified shock mats to keep the dogs off it (go easy on the comments here PETA activists, at least I didn’t donate the dogs to science). But then I realized that we were living with plastic shock mats on our furniture and that is psychotic, so I took them off.
They ate it again. I had it reupholstered again. By this time, we may as well have bought a car. I put up dog doors to keep them out of the living room but those were such a pain that eventually we just started leaving a dog gate ON the couch, which made me not even want to look at the living room much less live in it.
They shoved the gate over and ate it again.
At which point, I was like: I FOUND THE PERFECT PLACE FOR THAT DRUM SET!
Magically, within one afternoon, the couch disappeared and my living room looked like this. It chafes a bit, but it has also been an instant party. The very night the cursed couch disappeared, there were four pre-schoolers rehearsing with their new band while I made dinner with ear plugs in. Je ne regrette rien. Fun is better than a couch any day.
An old, dear friend emailed yesterday to tell me that he and his wife are considering international adoption. He wanted to know if I had any advice. I began to write a short email back and a novel pretty much poured out of me. As I was writing, I looked at the date on the computer and realized that exactly four years before, Scott and I were on a plane to Ethiopia. I had been feeling emotional all day and couldn’t really pinpoint the cause, but I guess I was having a subconscious body memory of that earth-shaking time in my life.
The letter only begins to scratch the surface of some of our hard-earned wisdom about the international adoption process, but it’s a start. I thought I’d share it with you. Here it is..
I am so thrilled to hear you’re considering international adoption! I’m always a little bit jealous of people at the beginning of their adoption journey. You have such a transformative road ahead of you. I could never have predicted the myriad ways that adoption would blow my heart, my mind, indeed my whole world wide open. In fact, four years ago today, we were on a plane to Ethiopia to adopt Tariku. I still can’t believe my luck. I think back on the adventure and it seems like someone else’s amazing life.
It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. And when it is over you will truly know yourself to be both fiercer and more tender than you ever could have expected. I think that the patience was the hardest lesson for me. I used to say that they should have given me a law degree as well as a baby, when the whole thing was over and done with. So at least you’re ahead on that score. Neither you nor Linda will be scared off by a little bit of confusing paperwork!
Okay, I have buckets of advice. It’s my favorite subject, after all. I’m not sure how far you’ve gotten in your research, so forgive me if I’m being too basic. I’ve been thinking about what the most important nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained are- what I most want to share with you as you head out the gate…
First of all- if you haven’t started your home study yet, start immediately. Today. It’s the first step in any adoption, domestic or international, and it’s done through the state so it can take a while. Don’t wait until you feel absolutely confident (you probably won’t) or have all the details sorted in your head, just start. I promise you’ll want to move faster than they do once it gets going.
Do you have any ideas of what country you’re interested in? It has changed so much since we adopted 4 years ago and I’m not sure about the various regulations. There are pros and cons to every place. I know that you have to go back to Ethiopia twice now (it was only once, when we did it) and that the wait is significantly longer. However, I can’t say enough about my experience with the country and its people. There is an incredibly attached and loving caregiving style with children in Ethiopia. I thought Scott was going to have a heart attack in the airport when every woman in sight kept coming over and hugging and kissing Tariku. It’s a wonderfully warm culture. All children who live for a time without parents suffer some sort of trauma; that’s just a fact. But I truly believe that the love and affection he received in the care center helped to facilitate the attachment process when he was finally in our arms. That was one of the primary reasons we chose Ethiopia. What I couldn’t have predicted was how the country would capture my heart. I can’t wait to go back there- we plan to as soon as T is old enough to handle the flight.
When looking for an international adoption agency, it’s important to talk to some people who have gone through an adoption with them, preferably in the country of your choice. I was very happy with Children’s Home Society and Family Services in St Paul. What you want to look for in an agency is a commitment to ethics and transparency and an involvement in the communities from which the kids are coming. When we were in Ethiopia, we had the opportunity to tour the hospital and school that Children’s Home Society sponsors in Addis. At the time I was just annoyed to have any time taken away from my getting to know T, but in retrospect it’s significant to me. The global and personal ramifications of international adoption are complex and it’s important to me to feel like I’m contributing toward a world where women aren’t forced to give up their children due to poverty, famine and disease. So you want to make sure that the adoption agency is on the same page. Of course there are all kinds of scary stories- and believe you me EVERYONE will feel the need to tell you one for some reason. But there’s no reason to be scared. Just do a little research (duh).
Which leads me to my next piece of advice- many well-intentioned people say assinine things about adoption. Like multiple times a day. You will gather a file of stock responses and it will become no big deal. Don’t let it throw you. The only people who have relevant advice are people who have gone through it. The nice thing about these people with experience in the matter is that a lot of them have blogs! Here are some of my favorite:
The most important thing I can recommend is to do some radical attachment parenting once you get your child home. This is true regardless of the age of the child. I have a friend who adopted a five year old and she kept that little girl less than six feet from her for six months. They ate with her, slept with her, bathed with her, eventually went to school with her. AND they have three other kids! And she is doing marvelously now. For us, we cocooned with Tariku for two months, then transitioned him slowly for another two. No one but Scott or I held him or nurtured him. We did a lot of just sitting around holding him to our bare chests. We slept with him and bathed with him and played endless peek a boo and other activities with a lot of eye contact. The only time I ever put him in a stroller was to go for a walk or a run. Otherwise I wore him in the Ergo carrier, which I think is the best carrier for heavier/older kids and for longer periods of time. Obviously you guys work a lot. But if at least one or the other of you can be with the child all the time in the very beginning, it will make a huge difference. There is plenty of more extensive advice about attachment and adoption, but this is the general idea. It’s definitely a huge commitment, but I can tell you that the initial attachment process with Tariku was the sweetest, best few months of my life.
Another thing- I think it’s important to introduce some specific rituals into the child’s life that honor his/her adoption in some way. We had a welcoming ceremony. The rabbi who officiated was a woman we met in Ethiopia, who also adopted a child from the same care center. So one of Tariku’s friends from Ethiopia was at his ceremony! It was so special. Another thing we do is celebrate his “gotcha” day ( I know- super dorky adoption-speak) as if it’s a second kind of birthday. I also light a candle with him for his birth mother the night before Mother’s Day. These are just the things I’ve integrated, there are countless ways people honor their children’s stories. It’s up to you to be creative about your family’s special language of ritual, because there is nothing pre-packaged that recognizes adoptive families in our culture.
Lastly, I think it’s very important that we as parents keep a regular, developmentally appropriate dialogue about adoption going with our kids. It shouldn’t be up to them to ask. I talk about adoption a lot, so it becomes really natural and comfortable (for both of us), and I give T the opportunity to ask questions or not. His interest level seems to go in phases, but I want the structure to already be in place when the questions start to get hard.
Okay, well, that’s a novel! And there’s more where that came from. You can always call me with any questions. I’m so thrilled for you. Adoption is hard and complicated and it’s completely amazing. I send you all our love and blessings as you embark!
We’ve been reading a great book with T called Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, about being in an interfaith family. I highly recommend it. It gave me the idea of eating latkes for Christmas breakfast (yum). The book has actually inspired me to try to come up with some tradition blending of our own, and we’ve been having a blast sprinkling Hanukkah gelt in the Christmas stockings and going on a hunt for the latke food truck on our way to see Santa.
We’ve also been going to church lately. We’ve been hopping around, trying out a few different churches, seeing if there’s a place we feel we fit in- weird, interfaith, transracial, looking-kind-of-like-a-boho-biker-gang family that we are. Strangely, finding a church we like is more important to Hanukkah Mama than it is to Daddy Christmas. I loved the rituals and traditions of temple growing up and I feel compelled to offer my son a similar experience. It doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s temple or church, it just matters that it feels like home and gives him a shared experience of the sacred. My belief in the importance of offering T a racially diverse community whenever possible leads me to lean toward church.
I had a very personal and present relationship with God as a child. I think that relationship made me good at being alone. I always had this other thing- a light behind me, a hand to steady me- that kept me from being lonely. Some people naturally gravitate toward a dialogue with God. Some people don’t need it, don’t want it, don’t believe it. I’ve always been able to see it from both sides and they both make sense to me. But me, I have the God impulse. I don’t expect to necessarily ever find a satisfactory answer, but I’ve resigned myself to the search anyway.
Scott, on the other hand, couldn’t stand church as a kid. Church was the place that he got stuffed into a suit and made to sit still to make his grandfather happy. It was a place of discomfort and obligation. But he’s being a champ about the whole church thing. We’ve been having a nice time getting up on Sundays and getting a little bit dressed up (which T loves to do- he’s a dapper little dude by nature), going to church and then going out to brunch with friends. It’s becoming a sweet ritual in our week.
It’s not enough for me to talk to God in my bedroom alone; I want to share the experience. And I’m just gonna say it- it’s all the same thing. Temple, church- whatever. It’s a place to feel a part of the human race in a way that transcends the constant brain chatter, a place to stand together and sing together and remember that we belong to each other.
Happy holidays from Hanukkah Mama, Daddy Christmas and T, just T, who gets to be whatever he wants to be!
How’s this for surreal (Dali’s got nothin’ on me)…
Two weeks ago I was trick-or-treating on our tree-lined street in sunny Los Angeles (dressed like a cave family with a pet triceratops):
Today I was freezing my tush off at the haunting, beautiful memorial at Plac Bohhaterow Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) in Krakow, the site where the Jews of the Krakow Ghetto were corralled before deportation to the concentration camps during the Second World War.
Krakow architects Piotr Lewicki and Kazimierz Latak created the memorial, comprised of 70 empty bronze chairs, representing the discarded possessions left behind after the liquidation of the ghetto.
I experience these things differently now, as a mother. I stood in the square and kept thinking of the mothers who hid their babies in their backpacks, in their suitcases. The mothers who were separated from their children. The mothers who stayed with their children and died with them. I could go on with the ghastly thoughts that nearly made me lose my borscht, but I won’t. I don’t think I need to- you parents out there are with me, I know you are. I said a prayer for the mothers who stood there before me under circumstances so horrific as to be unimaginable, and for the mothers in the world today still suffering similar atrocities. I went back to the hotel and wrote a letter to T. I do this sometimes, when I have something I really want to tell him that’s not developmentally appropriate. I keep the letters in a folder to give to him when the time seems right.
Tomorrow I’m taping an interview for a talk show called Rozmowy W Toku, talking about the Polish translation of my memoir. How amazing that I get to be here to experience this beautiful city that carries, among many other things, this terrible scar on the face of the world. How remarkable to stand and witness all the healing that’s grown up around it.
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Poland…
I ache for the landscape of the Mojave desert, even when I’m standing in the middle of it. Whenever I’m here, there’s a constant hovering awareness that I’m going to have to leave and it seems to manifest as a free-floating sense of longing. I guess it’s the price I pay for having found a little corner of this planet where I can see myself living as an old woman, in some fantasy Georgia O’Keefe-esque existence.
We had six people out here in Joshua Tree for the weekend, all of us helping to shoot the video for Scott’s song “Pretty,” (yes, like my book) which he’ll be releasing soon. That’s a pic of DJ Mendel directing, Kaz Phillips-Safer shooting and Anais Bjork supplying the gorgeousness. T and I were production assistants: making coffee runs, doling out sunblock and, most importantly, digging for fossils. Because no video shoot is complete without a paleontologist on set.
Overall it was a fun adventure, but T was frankly a real pain all weekend. Change is hard for him and he gets tremendously anxious in unfamiliar environments. He refused to let daddy out of his sight for even a second, so we wound up just baking in the sun on set for hours instead of going to Pioneertown to see the cowboys. He also refused to go to sleep, which is annoying, but more importantly it makes me feel sad for him. He’s just a little boy; I want to world to be less scary. I want him to feel safer and not like he has to control everything. I also want to be two inches taller and speak fluent French, but that ain’t gonna make it true.
After we were done with the video, Scott took T home and left me alone up here for a couple of days to get some uninterrupted work done on my book proposal (I know- he’s pretty much awesome). It’s wildly gorgeous and the wind is rattling the windows. The stars are so low that I’m wearing them as barrettes. I’m eating cereal for dinner because I can. I love the freedom and solitude and yet I miss my little boy something fierce.
It occurred to me last night as I was sitting in the hot tub and watching the sun set over the desert, that if I could travel back in time twenty years and whisper in my teenage ear: You’re going to be an author and have a wonderful husband and a firebrand, amazing child and you’re going to get to travel a lot and one night you’re going to find yourself alone in a hot tub in the desert, looking up at a glowing pink sky, I would have thought, That’s a pretty f-ing cool life. But I forget about that and from the inside, it gets to just be a big anxiety stew, with scattered moments of gratitude and joy. From the inside, it always feels like aching for something even as I’m standing right in the middle of it. It’s important to have the moments when you say- this is all right. In fact, it’s all I ever wanted.
Religion is the hardest thing for me to blog about. I can write about sex no problem. I revel in the cathartic aspect of admitting all manner of embarrassing mom foibles. And yet when it comes to religion, I feel out on a limb. It’s still something that’s unsettled in my life and I have the unusual (for me) desire to please everyone. I want my atheist friends to think I’m smart like them. I want my Jewish friends to bat Yiddish colloquialisms around with me. I want my Christian friends to know I’m down with Jesus. I could go on…
I grew up in a world in which religion was a simple thing. My family and everyone around us was steeped in the Jewish ethnicity- its foods and prayers and customs and expressions. Neither of my parents lived more than twenty minutes from where they grew up. Holidays were crowded with family and the house always smelled delicious.
And then I moved three thousand miles away and married a Christian guy. And even before that, I was a religious seeker, struggling to find a spiritual community that made sense to me. I’ve felt close a few times- a Zen dojo in New York, a hippie temple in San Francisco, a Pentecostal church in East L.A… but in the end something always stuck in my craw and I eventually drifted away.
This comes up for me now because I just sailed through the High Holidays yet again without formally acknowledging them in any way. I did have a quiet personal moment, but I didn’t share in any kind of community.
I think my craving for some structured spirituality would just stay an intermittent yearning in my life if it weren’t for the fact that Judaism was so important to me as a child. I wonder if I’m slighting my own kid by not giving him a religious community. I don’t have a good answer, but I’m conscious of the question and I’m open to a solution that makes sense for our family. T’s new school has an Episcopal affiliation and he’s been really enjoying chapel, so that’s going to have to be enough for now.
When I think of being in an interfaith marriage, I remember the time Scott and I visited our friend Yoshi in Kyoto (that’s the three of us pictured above). I was having trouble telling the Buddhist temples from the Shinto shrines. Yoshi told me that there was no reason to draw hard and fast lines between Buddhism and Shintoism, because most Japanese people practice some mix of the two, with a dose of ancestor worship mixed in.
I told him that it seems like cheating. Like you should have to choose. It’s like calling yourself Jewish and praying to Jesus when you feel like it. And then praying to your dead grandmother when you feel like it. You can’t cover all your bases. Those just aren’t the rules.
He just looked at me, confused, and asked, “You don’t pray to your dead grandmother when you feel like it?”
Yes. I actually do. All the time. Lord knows she was opinionated enough in her lifetime, maybe one day she’ll weigh in with a clear answer. Until then, I guess I’m going with the Japanese model.
Here is some of the footage DJ Mendel and I shot today for the Mother Tongue video projections. Big thanks to the lovely and talented Meghan Daum for the use of her pool! And to Scott (as always) for the music.
My more spiritually evolved husband is always encouraging me to say yes. Any new thing that comes up, he steers me away from my characteristic neurosis and toward an attitude of openness and curiosity. Every once in a while, he gets particularly emphatic about it. When the offer came in to take my show to the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, I believe he said, You can’t say no.
So I said yes. And that’s why this will be a very short blog post- written over a green juice at the Tribal Cafe next to the theater at which I’m rehearsing. I’ll be running from here to meet T at Capoeira class, to drop off some podcast stuff for Melinda, then to dinner with T’s Uncles, who are in town from San Francisco. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to answer some emails and to attack the stack of baseball/preschool/occupational therapy etc questionnaires while T is obsessing over Dinosaur Train, before trying to keep from passing out long enough to read him A Mother for Choco (adoptive parents, check this one out, btw).
It occurred to me this morning that it’s not a bad chaos, as far as chaos goes. I like having a million people running in and out of the house and sticking around for turkey burgers. I like the fact that I have a bunch of creative projects up in the air. I like that fact that what I’m attempting feels almost out of my reach- it might all fall apart at any minute, but it might not. One of these days, I may be the artist/person/mother I want to be if I keep shooting just a little too high.
That said, I can’t keep this pace up forever. There’s a time to get quiet. When I get back from Edinburgh mid August, I’m going to finish my memoir and to that end expect to be completely anti-social for anywhere from two to six years (in case you’re wondering where I went). Until then, it’s all loud life all the time.
Tariku is gunning to be the first African-American toddler member of the German metal band Rammstein. Check out the part in which he’s actually singing the lyrics. His first favorite song is “Island in the Sun” but his second favorite is “Du hast.”
If this doesn’t give you a giggle, you seriously need to consider upping your dosage.
Today is T’s actual birthday, but we celebrated on Sunday. Last year, I fought for our right to party. This year, I just called his two besties three days in advance and had them meet us at Descanso Gardens. We chowed Babycakes gluten-free brownie cake (best. ever.) and then let the boys ride the train until they almost threw up.
That was it, folks. And it was such a great, sun-dappled, mellow day.
I could say all that stuff- I can’t believe how big he is. He’s growing up so fast. Blah blah. And it’s all true. But mostly, his birthday stuns me because I look at him and think how much he survived to get here. I marvel at the resilience of his joyful heart. It’s the honor of my life to witness the miracle that is him in this world.
We’re back from New York with countless memories to treasure, twelve toy subway trains with matching t-shirts (yup- there’s subway merch nowadays. what do they think they are, a band?) and pneumonia. I’m not kidding about the pneumonia. I’m currently lying here waiting for the Z-pak to kick in and planning a mac-n-cheese, TV marathon, bad mom evening. So much for foreswearing antibiotics. And dairy. Oh yeah- and TV.
We miss New York already. We were enjoying our fantasy Brooklyn family lifestyle. I feel proud of how urbane T became in such a short time. Now, when he plays with his trains he says, “This is Bergen Street, transfer to the A, C and E trains.”
And even though living in NY for a couple of months was hard, I think it was nice for Scott and me to shake things up a bit. I realize this is going to make me sound like the world’s lamest person (I swear, I wasn’t always like this- I wrote a memoir about it) but I enjoyed the fact that we found ourselves doing things like going grocery shopping together. I brought him along as muscle- because we had to actually carry the groceries ten blocks home and not just pile them into the mom mobile- but then I found myself conversing with him along the way. And you know what? He’s pretty funny. It’s not like we were living the glamorous life in NY or anything. We were mostly just working our asses off and trying to get by. But it was fun to discover a new place- to find the little pockets where we fit in. We came back exhausted but still somehow energized. A little adventure does us good as a family.
But don’t get carried away- musing about all this adventure and romance isn’t inspiring me to cook him dinner or anything. It’s fish sticks all around tonight. I have pneumonia. Probably from all that wandering through the charming brownstones in the cold.
Overall, I’m relieved and glad to be home. And so is T. Even though he’s still talking about a few of his friends from the park…
Allow me to start off with a little New Year’s plea- I’ve been nominated for Babble’s Top 100 Blogs of 2011. Please vote for me! If elected I promise to, um, blog. More.
I feel sheepish for asking when I’ve been sadly neglectful of this blog of late. So neglectful that I’m WEEKS late in posting this Christmas jammie picture, and for this I apologize. I hope I’m not being as annoying as those people who leave their Christmas decorations up until Memorial Day.
I do have a good excuse- we were busy moving the whole operation to New York City for a couple of months so that I can do some theater and T can freeze his tushie off and be introduced to illegal narcotics by the other kids in pre-school. Just kidding. We could never get him into pre-school in NY- it’s impossible.
We’re all settled into a sublet in Park Slope (in Brooklyn), which is oddly a neighborhood I lived in for five minutes twenty years ago when I first moved to NY as a teenager. It’s changed a lot since then and now it seems to be the corner of NY where everything adorable is stored. Adorable families, brownstones, stores, restaurants, park. T is definitely anxious and stressed by the big change, but overall, we’re having a blast getting to know the neighborhood together.
Also- underground choo choos? Getting there is ALL the fun. He never wants to get off.