They are grown men now, my two blond children, and will shake their heads at their mother posting a picture of them dressed up as ninja turtles. But in this picture is the essence of these two now-men, and they boys from whom they grew.
First? It’s creative. And I am grateful for the very different kinds of creativity that animate their lives. The elder is a teacher, and has taught me more about math than he knows. Because he does so with animation and creativity (witness the karate stance!), this poet can grasp his analogies. And because he cares, I continue to try (witness how he play w/ his younger brother!). He’s also turned me on to so many important books, from his early Christmas present (a beloved text-less picture book) to today’s fiction & literature. First son also writes beautifully — strong on dialogue and action.
The younger has taught me more about computers and the culture of technology (not to mention the music he pursued for years) than he knows. And because he also does it with creative insight into how these will be useful in my world (witness how well he enters into his brother’s play!), I can learn. While his acute knowledge of the tools necessary (do you see all those toy tools in the floor?) enables me to find exactly those things most helpful. Not to mention he, too, writes.
The dinosaur curtains are their love of tradition, family, and history. Both are great family men, there when cousins propose adventures, there when aunts need help moving. And there to organise a cousins’ gift exchange at the holiday, or spend time with a mother who is in town for a few days.
The colourful chaos has been the air they breathe since childhood — third culture kids, one raised to early childhood abroad, the other born and raised to pre-school there, a few years later. I still remember the two boys whose father was overseas for months on end, reading faxes of bedtime stories. The boys who slept in the floor by my bed during the first Gulf War…
I always wanted children. Even as a child, when I refused to even contemplate marrying a BOY (yuk!), I told my mother I would have children. She explained to me that I had to be married.
Unh uh, I replied, shaking my blonde ponytail. Dogs aren’t married. She pointed out that dogs were NOT people, despite my feelings on that issue. And while that may be true (I’ll still debate it!), what she might have told me is that sons are even more fun than puppies. Honest.
Years later, I am happily married to the father of these two adult miracles. Who have taught me far more than music, math, technology, writing, books, beer culture, movies, or patience. Who each day creep into my thoughts: what would Elder Son like? What is Younger Son doing? So today, I am (as always) profoundly grateful for my two practically perfect sons. I am grateful for the long nights, the late phone calls, the empty milk cartons, the CDs (mine!) that kept being stolen from cars left unlocked, the cats rescued and left with us, the aging dogs that became ours… All of it. I’m grateful for every single minute. It’s a gratitude that keeps on giving ~
I woke up in the middle of the night to a room awhirl. Seriously awhirl, as in the bed might well have been on a crazed merry-go-round. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant evening. Vertigo and I have met before. In my stomach. Unhappily.
Which leads me to today’s thanks, believe it or not. Because there’s nothing like being sick to help you realise how an ordinary day is a gift. But I’m not pulling that kind of stunt. Instead, what I’ve noticed today, being sicker than a dog (and mine can cough up copious quantities of sick), is how much being sick throws my life into focus.
So here it is, today’s recognised good fortune: I’m thankful for a soft bed to go whirling in. And a clean bathroom to go hurling in. I’m thankful for a washing machine, and hot water to fill it. And a shower, with more of that amazingly restorative hot water. I’m thankful for organic chicken noodle soup, too. It really does taste like homemade. I’m incredibly thankful for a husband who is solicitous, thoughtful, and soothing. He doesn’t feel well either (although at least the virus didn’t settle in his inner ear!), but still went to the store for us.
Most of all? I’m thankful that I know this will pass. That the big sky mind will return in the near future, and this will all be another chapter in ‘vertigo I have known and lived with.’ If there’s one thing I love about my Buddhist studies, it’s being able to breathe tonglen for someone who has it much worse than I do. And knowing how lucky I am that it will pass…
Today I’m grateful for the ways lives bump into each other. Because it’s all connected. At least that’s what Buddhists think — you, me, the screen where the letters appear, the chocolate I bought at Target, the leaves blowing against the front door. I know that, but I don’t always remember.
Until a former student’s father emails me, writing that his daughter told him I do writing workshops with teachers. That was my day job when I taught her, and she remembered. And told her father. Who remembered. And who then wrote me, asking: would I conduct a writing workshop for his district? Because he’s a superintendent of a consolidated school district, and Common Core is here & now, and they’d like to do some writing.
I sent him a note, ccing the people he should contact, and thought about webs. Thought about how my life overlaps like the coloured leaves in piles on the ground outside. And where did this start? With a student in a writing class.
It might just be what I tell friends: Oklahoma is a very small town . 🙂 But I suspect it’s that universal web (no, NOT that one… :)) at work. What we do is one node; who we are another. And each of those nodes is connected with everyone and everything we encounter. So that ultimately it’s all that huge webby thing ~
How I teach is the result, certainly, of my work in professional development. But I never think of my students seeing that. And I don’t really believe my student thinks of it that way. What she saw was only one element of a web of linked people and causes and learning, manifest in her classroom. But she took it home, and shared it. From the node of the classroom, her writing, my teaching, she extended the web into her home, into her father’s district.
This comforts me, even as I wonder how I’ve screwed up at times (the arrogant, brow-beating math teacher I yelled at in a meeting comes to mind…). But this time, I must not have screwed up. Or my wonderful former student surely would not have recommended me to her father…
More years after the taking of this picture than I’d like to admit, my aunt Carol is still teaching me things. As is her husband — my uncle Jim — and their three daughters. Today, for instance? They reminded me how lucky I am to have such a great extended family.
Even though I grew up as a third culture kid — first an Army brat, then an expat brat, then an expat adult — I’ve always been close to my extended family. Perhaps because my mother & I spent my first year-plus living w/ my grandmother and my youngest aunt — Carol of the picture — and perhaps because I stayed with aunts & uncles throughout my childhood, they’re each very dear to me.
So today, celebrating a BIG birthday for my uncle Jim, it was hard not to find myself remembering this picture of Carol with me as an infant, and many others, some existing only in memory: Carol & Jim taking me for a long weekend to their home outside of Tulsa; Carol, Mother, & me going Christmas shopping; my aunt Joyce making my 6-year-old birthday cake; my aunt Lettie hosting family Christmas at her elegant home.
Today I’m thankful for the many memories I have of my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had today — far too rare! — to hug one of my aunts, and to have, just for a moment, a vivid window into my own childhood. And to be given, too, a look at the young children of my three cousins. How very short the years have been… hours instead of months.
It’s a good month for family. And to give thanks we have them ~