I took to my stoop

In Crown Heights, near home

The first few times he called out to me, it caught me off guard.

“Hey neighbor,” would come the sound of a man’s voice from my left. He’d be sitting on his stoop, loosely surrounded by a few other men. They’d cock their hips and lean against the stair railing, one of them picking at something on his shirt. All of them would look in my direction, but not at me.

The man who said hello would look me in the eyes directly though, with a warm stare, a permanently grin-creased jaw, and irises deep brown-blue.

The first few times a half sputtered “hi” would escape my lips as I walked by. I’d look up from the sidewalk or my phone at the last minute, not really knowing what else to say in response.

He caught me off guard at first, maybe because when I first moved to the neighborhood I’d try to greet passersby too, but most people never really even made eye contact. I wonder for a moment if maybe I’d allowed the perceived rejection to get in the way of my friendliness.

He holds up his hand. I smile before continuing on my way.

“Bye neighbor.”

How cultures around the world think about parenting

Meghan:

“Craziness? Culture.”

The most succinct tagline I’ve read for an article related to anthropology in a long time. This is a great piece on how sharing differing styles of parenting around the globe could be beneficial to moms and dads everywhere… that is, as long as the sharing doesn’t involve exporting American-style anxiety about how to find the one “right” way to be a “good” parent.

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

What can American parents learn from how other cultures look at parenting? A look at child-rearing ideas in Japan, Norway, Spain — and beyond.

The crisis of American parenting, as anyone who has looked at the parenting section of a bookstore can attest, is that nobody knows what the hell they’re doing. Yet despite this lack of confidence and apparent absence of knowledge, many American parents zealously believe that their choices carve out their children’s futures. Indeed, they seek the advice of expert after expert in the field in order to succeed at one goal: to raise the happiest, the most successful, and the most well-adjusted leaders of the future.

But what dangers lay in thinking that there is one “right” way to parent? How much of how we parent is actually dictated by our culture? How do the ways we parent express the essentialness of who we are, as a…

View original 1,247 more words

Polo

When Maro leaves, I hold onto Polo until the Range Rover is out of site. He and I sit in the dirt, me holding his collar, petting the dust and straw out of his coat. He sits patiently next to me, enduring the petting, panting as he watches the car move slowly down the road, up over the ridge, disappearing at the crest of the hill. We stay where we are for a few minutes. He leans into my leg when the car is finally gone, resting in the shade of the fig trees. The sound of the buzzards swells around us again. In the moment, a nap feels appropriate.

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One of the stray cats wanders out of the shade, and Polo lunges. I watch them chase one another through the trees, Polo eventually getting the cat between his teeth to playfully chew on her ears and tail. I can’t move yet, feeling suspended in the moment of strange bliss in this place. No suburban noise or buzz. No electric hum. No people. For the first time in a long time, I love the feeling that I am alone.

My legs start to itch from sitting in the straw, and I lift myself from the ground, dusting what straw and dirt I can from my backside. Polo releases his grip on the cat’s neck, letting her wander back into the shade with the other cats. He licks his chops, shaking his head in an effort to get that last bits of cat hair from his tongue, and then bounds in my direction.

We make our way back up the driveway, to the side entrance of the house.

I pull the curtain onto its peg by the doorway. With a hefty nudge the kitchen door swings open, and I prop a stone against the bottom to let a breeze into the house for a while. Polo plops himself at the doorframe, head resting on his front paw, staring disinterestedly into the house. I am still amazed that, in his 8 months of puppyhood, he has never walked into the house. That he instinctively knows it’s off limits.

I put a kettle on for tea, pull a chair close to the table, settling myself for an afternoon with a book from the Norman’s library: Run, by Ann Patchett. It feels right to be reading this book. It’s set back in Boston. Back where I feel like my own life is on pause. Separate but still existing. Back where things are important? It feels right that I found it nestled among the thousands of other books. Like it found me.

- July 2013

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Photo Walk: storm from the rooftop


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The New York I’d almost forgotten

Back in the city, on the subway, letting the train rattle my body.

Across from me a young woman and a sleeping toddler are folded into each other. He rests in her lap, one leg reaching to the floor to keep him steady, the other on the bench. His thumb rests in his mouth, his eyes glued shut.

I glance up, expecting the woman to be staring stoically into the empty space in front of her, like so many other mothers and sisters and caretakers I’ve seen on the train.

Instead her head bobbles back and forth, the movement of the train bouncing her first forward, then backward.  Right then left. Each time, she catches herself just before hitting the seat bar to her right, or the man to her left. Her eyes flutter in these moments, fighting to open, to stay aware of her surroundings. For a few seconds she intentionally bounces her right leg, her young face grimacing, willing her body to stay awake even if her brain cannot. But again she dips out of consciousness, slips into the comfort of sleep, slumps momentarily to her left.

Her arms hold the young boy without difficulty though, her grasp around him firm.

Ritual

As Father’s Day approaches, this one goes out to my Dad.

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Dad was the one who made dinner. He would get home around six, wash his hands of electrical dust, and get to work on the chicken. Sometimes it was steak. The only time Mom cooked dinner was when she invited people over, and she would make something like fish, or shrimp, or elaborate basil-walnut-chicken pasta dishes. By default, when Dad cooked, everything was marinated in A1 sauce.

The four of us girls helped make salad, or mashed potatoes from a box, sometimes canned green beans, and while the chicken was cooking, we would set the counter with five plates: four plates on one side, one plate opposite. We used paper towels as napkins, and each of us would get a brightly colored kids cup to the upper right of our plate.

Usually Dad cut everything into small pieces before serving it. He’d hunch over the cutting board, spearing the meat with a fork. The chicken and steak were always charred from the grill, but he’d cut it into small enough slivers that we could dip it healthfully in A1 sauce and Ranch dressing to mask the burnt flavor.

While we ate, Dad stood across from us, making sure none of us pushed another off the bar stools, telling us funny stories about people at work.

“Fireball Dave got electrocuted today,” he’d say, chuckling as he re-enacted what it had looked like.

Back then, his belly didn’t jiggle when he laughed. His whole body would bounce happily, and his face would crinkle in a familiar pattern of silly amusement.

He kept a blonde mustache and a beard then. I always thought he looked like Robin Williams.

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