Monday, September 10, 2012

5th Generation

The baby girl crawled over to the boy, balanced on her knees and lifted her hands toward him. 
This was not a shy baby. It was immediately clear that ignoring her was not going to be an option for the boy. 

It mattered not that she had just met him.  It mattered not that he looked down at her as if she were an alien species. It mattered not that he preferred appearing aloof, thinking instead of food and video games and how much he wished he were somewhere else.  That baby held her head high, looked him straight in the eye and stood her ground.  She wanted to be picked up and he was the one who was going to do it.

Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the baby by this singular instance.

But, I had seen that look before.  I knew that look.

I had seen it in her mother.  I had seen it in her aunt and cousins.  I had seen it in her grandmother and her sisters.  I had seen it in her great-grandmother.  And without a doubt, I had seen it many, many times in her great-great-grandmother.   This baby girl came from a long line of self assured, confident women who were not afraid to speak up--women who made things happen. When I saw that baby girl reach up to the boy with such expectation, I saw five generations of women flash before my eyes.  It was clear to me that the apple had not fallen far from the tree.

And this baby was quickly growing impatient with the almost 13 year old boy who had yet to pick her up. He stared bewildered, looking down at the baby and then pleaded in my direction with raised eyebrows, big eyes and reluctant face.
 I let him flounder alone under the uncomfortable, resolute, piercing regard of the baby.

The boy did pick up the baby with the grace you would expect of a young one from the male species who has never done such a thing before.  He plopped her unceremoniously down upon the sofa.

Because I am a dues paying member of the Always Looking One Step Ahead Paranoid Mother’s Club I knew that baby was in immediate danger.  She was facing the wrong way and she was going to lean backwards and fall off the sofa.

I yelped out to the boy, “Ahhhh…watch her!  You can’t leave her like that!”

He answered quickly and firmly. “MOM!   I’ve GOT this.   Chill….”


And that baby sat content, swaying and tilting and patting the boy’s knee, defying all the natural laws of babies in danger because they are placed backwards on the edge of the sofa.  She looked up at the boy and he grinned at her.  She rewarded him with a new tooth smile and reached her arms up again.  The boy picked her up and sat her in his lap.  The baby played with the boy’s face and they twirled each other’s fingers. She leaned in and he held her tight.

“See Mom?  You worry too much.  It’s all good.”


As his mother, I refused to consider the future ramifications of how quickly the preteen boy had been swayed by a cute girl with a pretty smile.  It was hard not to acknowledge, however, how completely he had come under this baby girl’s charming spell and quiet determination. Five minutes earlier he was a dismayed boy intent on avoiding all contact with the unfamiliar, drooling baby.  Yet, now I heard him speak baby talk.  I watched him play peek-a-boo.  I saw him love that baby.

Yes, there was something about that baby girl.  I had seen that personality. I had seen that resolve.  I had seen that girl power.

Yes, I had seen the same look that determined baby girl had.  In fact, I had been seeing it for the last five generations of women who knew how to make things happen.   
And I shook my reserved and jealous head and laughed to myself, “Watch out world.  Here comes another one.”
 Check This Out!
This photo of that wonderful baby girl and her grandma, my cousin, was taken by Chantelle from Memories by Chantelle.   Her philosophy Live! Love! Laugh! Photograph! is one that we all should embrace. Every one of you should check out her Facebook page  and if you live near me then you should definitely consider hiring her.  My teenager is a senior this year and Chantelle is my first choice to take her senior pictures. She is truly, without a doubt, a gifted photographer and you would be so lucky to have her photograph you and your family.  I mean, really, tell me that priceless picture below doesn't make you smile....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not So Different

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was stunning.

She entered the courtroom in absolute possession of determination, self-assurance and flair. The fabric of her African dress swished and flowed as she marched to the front of the room. She flung her brightly colored wrap around her shoulders before she raised her right hand. As she took her seat, she adjusted her perfectly matched head wrap.

I suppose you could call her an imposing figure-her height, her confidence and the abundance of deep purple, magenta and orange fabric she was wrapped in all demanded your attention. Yet, it was the intensity and pinpoint focus of her eyes that caught my attention.

We couldn’t have been more different.

She owned the room while I shifted awkwardly in my chair. She was tall, black and elegantly African. I was short, white and wearing comfortable Nike shoes and mom jeans. Her oversized orange hoop earrings hung from her ears. I fingered my ears and tried to remember where my stud pearls were. We were not just different physically. Geographically, politically, economically and philosophically we were born into opposite ends of the worldwide spectrum.

Yet here we sat, 20 feet from each other--her fate was in my hands.

Her history brought her to the United States, where, many years later, she found herself fighting to prove her innocence. As the lawyers presented their sides, it was clear the case was quite complicated on many levels. The testimony required interpreters for the French and Arabic languages as well as a few unique African dialects. The difference in cultural nuances and traditions often clouded the facts and made testimony quite unclear and certainly more complex. Even the simple definition of “friend” was never quite nailed down. Each day I found myself in a whirlpool of African immigrant history, tradition and culture mixing with the spirit, routine and resolve present in their current, very American lives. It was my job to filter it all through the American judicial system.

Later, I would find out she lived not far from me-just a few miles. I wondered if we shopped at the same stores. I wondered if she was being a good mother to her kids.

Later, I would find out the incident took place half a block from where my daughter was considering going to college. I drove past the door they said she stormed out of. I recognized the very place they said she became guilty. I saw the very place she became bloodied.

Later, I would look up news reports of the incident. Later, I would be shocked at how much information was ruled inadmissible in court. Later, I would wonder if it would have made a difference in the outcome.

But sitting in my jury chair, I knew the only possible answer was “NOT GUILTY”. Was it possible she was guilty? Maybe. Was it proven? Not at all.

When I left that courthouse I went home to cook dinner for my husband and children. Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Most of all I wondered: Did she leave that courthouse and go home to cook dinner for her husband and children, too? Was it possible that we really weren’t that different after all?

Check This Out!

I’m currently in an “at-one-time-messed-up-rock star/actor” biography reading stage. Somewhere near all of these books on the shelf at the library I found this little gem of a book. Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask by Jancee Dunn. Dunn, many years a rock journalist, is pretty darn amusing in this book of essays. I can’t imagine anyone not finding a bit of humor in her takes on life, her parents, and her siblings and how they all mesh together now that she might be called, by some, middle aged. It’s a quick read and was well worth my time—you should check it out!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Empty Your Pockets

Considering the public nature of the echoing rotunda, I thought his bellowing was a bit too dramatic. “For GOD’S sake! You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”, he yelled to the ceiling. His eyeballs rolled. He huffed.

Given the inherent tension of the situation, I found his hollering was a bit too alarmist. “Did one of you ACTUALLY put TWO Advil…and ONLY two Advil… into this pink plastic bin, send it through THEEE x-ray machine at THISSS courthouse?” He held the pink bin up high, for all to see, and shook his head, in disgust, from side to side.

And seeing a lack of any real threat from my apparent faux pas, I felt his vocal drama was just plain gratuitous. “Is this supposed to be FUNNY? Some sort of attempt at-----humor?” He narrowed his now frowning eyes as he glared at each of us in line.

It was clear the man in the security uniform was annoyed.

I wasn’t trying to be funny, though. I was trying to get to jury duty on time.

I had rushed through the courthouse doors carrying my reusable grocery bag. It had appealing pictures of fruit on the outside and was full to the brim with my lunch, a Regis Philbin biography, some yarn and a crochet hook.

I saw the dour warning signs the minute I entered the building. “STOP! EMPTY EVERYTHING FROM YOUR POCKETS! Place items in plastic bin and proceed to x-ray machine. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING MUST BE EMPTIED FROM YOUR POCKETS!”

I fingered the two Advil in my jeans pocket. Hmmmm….it was just two Advil.

"YES! WE REALLY DO MEAN EVERYTHING!" the next sign said

The Advil quickly went into a pink plastic bin. I threw my purse into my fruit bag and waited in the slow moving security line. I had plenty of time to read the list of courthouse prohibited items. Striving to be a model juror, I had left my guns and knives at home. Also, thank goodness, I had not packed my skateboard, expandable baton, darts, syringes, corkscrew, stink bombs or fashionable metallic belt into my fruit bag. The last item on the prohibited list, however, caught my eye.

Knitting needles. They were not allowed.

I thought of my crochet hook hidden in the bottom of my fruit bag. I thought of all the trouble I could cause with my crochet hook that would most definitely be frowned upon.

I approached the x-ray machine and mindlessly sent my pink bin and two Advil through the x-ray machine. I anxiously put my fruit bag on the conveyor belt. I turned to the lady watching the camera and immediately confessed my guilt. “I’ve got a crochet hook in there.”

I waited to be apprehended.

She smiled at me. “That’s ok, honey. As long as you don’t have knitting needles you’re good to go.” Shocked, I shouted “REALLY??” inside my own head. I proceeded through the metal detector, a bit disturbed how easily I had conjured up crochet hook mayhem and a bit disturbed that they would have let me have a go at it.

I passed through security with a sense of relief and freedom, grabbing my cleared fruit bag. My bubble of relief was quickly burst by his bellowing. My stomach turned when I realized my security battle was not over. The crowd watched as I began negotiations to free my Advil hostages.

“Well, I’ll be! 23 years on this job and I thought I’d seen it all. Lady! What were you thinking?”

“But…well….the sign…it said EVERYTHING. So I emptied everything…”

“Lady! Do you have any idea the stuff that gets put in these bins every day? You’d better wash those off before you take them.”

I nervously chuckled and promised I would wash my Advil, which I was now in great need of. I walked away, toward the stairs, as quickly as would still seem normal. Unfortunately, he was not done.

“Hey, Advil lady!” he called out. “On second thought, I wouldn’t take those Advil at all. You really wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff I see come through in those bins. Bad stuff…..very bad stuff.” he said sternly. “We’ve got some really crazy people coming through this courthouse every day…..I’m just sayin’.”

And then he turned toward his security partner and said louder than I hope he had intended, “How nuts was that? I’ve seen some crazy stuff, but I never thought I’d see someone do that…….”

Check This Out!

 I recently read the thought provoking book, The Submission: A Novel, by Amy Waldman. A work of fiction, The Submission deals with a contest to design the 9/11 memorial in New York City. A jury judges the entries that were submitted, blindly, without knowing the architects’ identities. The winning design is ultimately revealed to have been created by a Muslim. While I did find the book slow in a few places and I wasn’t sure I liked the ending, I did find it incredibly interesting and timely. It tackled what is a very complicated topic quite well. Where would you stand? Are you sure?