Monday, January 31, 2011

A Bris and a Funeral

Within the past week, I've received the best and worst kinds of news.

A friend's baby was born.

And a cousin died.

In the past four days, I've attended a bris and a funeral.

A bris, welcoming a new baby into the world. A funeral, saying goodbye to a man whose life was cut way too short.

We looked at the perfect newborn, with spiky red hair, and rosy cheeks, bundled up in a white blanket and we blessed him and thought of everything that awaits him in his lifetime.

And, we looked at the casket, and listened to the words of his 6 children (most of them teens), now without their father. We thought of everything that he had done, all of the lives he had created, shaped and touched in his short lifetime.

The moyel at the bris talked of future milestones that this beautiful baby boy would experience.

And the rabbi at the funeral talked about all of the milestones this middle aged man had experienced.

The proud parents stood side by side, wiping tears from their eyes. They said the baby was named after a dearly departed family member.

The grieving children talked about how their dad made time to take each one of them on their own vacation with him every year. They read letters and emails he had written them, telling them how proud he was of them. He had written to one son on his 21st birthday, "You're good at basketball, but you're sick (great) at life! That's the most important thing, to be sick at life!"

The bris ended with great relief and joy; the funeral, with great despair and sadness.

Next week, there will be another bris, a new baby born, and another funeral, a life extinguished. It goes on and on and on and on.

One big circle.

So, knowing that we're on this brief journey, what are we to do?

In the words of my dear cousin:

"Be sick at life."

Monday, January 17, 2011

And In This Corner . . .

The lights are dim, the TV bright. "Ni Hao, Kai-lan" is on and Kai-lan is teaching my little boy how to say "thank you" in Mandarin.

He's sucking his thumb, but I can see from his eyes that he's smiling at her too. He's debating whether or not he wants to take his thumb out to practice his Mandarin. He opts against it and flips his stuffed monkey around by his raggedy right ear, flicking his finger back and forth.

I close my eyes
all of a sudden
slams into my head
with HIS head.

On purpose.

I want to say "No, No! No, thank you" in Mandarin, but it's too late.

It's a WWF tournament.

In my bed.

"No headbutts!" I yell, (in English), laughing. "Headbutts!" he repeats, smiling his trademark devilish grin.

"You're troubl-icious!" I tell him. "That's it! I'm changing your middle name."

He jumps on top of me and hovers over me, menacingly. "Ai-plane ride!" he screams.

"No, ai-plane rides, Coo-Coo," I say. I toss him on his back onto the bed.
His hair is mashed on one side like a deranged Justin Bieber and he's right back up, smacking me in the face with his baby paws.

"Hey!" He giggles uncontrollably. "Heeyyyyy!" he mocks me. I flip him on his back and flips over in 2.1 seconds. He attempts a second headbutt.

"No headbutting!"

I level him again and he starts coughing/laughing.

I grab his sippy cup from my bedside table.

"Okay, calm down. Take a sip," I tell him, holding it up to his mouth.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot stops the match to hydrate their opponent?
It's like I'm Apollo and Mick at the same time.

He's hydrated. He's back. He's like El Nino ripping through my bedroom.

He bounces up and down on the bed.

"Sit dowwwwwwwwwwn!" I yell, but it's too late. He flies off my bed and lands on the back of his head. On the floor.

I scramble and pick him up. He's crying and I'm almost in tears.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot cries when his opponent gets knocked out of the ring?

We wipe away his tears together and get cozy back in bed. "Come on, let's watch Kailan," I say. He's clutching his monkey in one hand, he's got the thumb in his mouth, his feet covered with a blankie. He's curled up in my arms and all is right in the world.

Without warning, his head moves towards me like a boulder flying 60 mph.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot would continually risk life and limb by sitting this close to a wild, unpredictable, bull?

A mom.



Champion of the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Throwing Stones

The tragedy in Arizona has rocked the nation this week and now it seems as though everyone is throwing stones, trying to make sense of what is clearly senseless violence.

In the days after the massacre at Columbine, I wrote down my thoughts which are very similar to my thoughts today.

What Remains

Two boys enter, eyes wide
will their plan go off?
a hail of bullets
snap bang pop
are they fireworks?
screaming madness
chaotic masses of teenagers scramble
hide like soldiers
hunted like animals
boo, laughs the gunman, as a bullet splatters a brain
cuts short the life of a star athlete
a popular student,
a boy
a friend
somebody’s son
hooting and hollering
who’s the next target?
who believes in god?
who’s to be spared?
can they get them all?
thousands of lives shattered in agonizing moments
frantic voices whisper desperate pleas
last loving words into cell phones
images flashed over airwaves
millions hear dark voices
"I hear the gunmen,
help us please! i’m calling from under my desk"
a teacher lies bleeding
"hang on hang on," his students cry
a final look at his children and he
lets go
camera crews in the midst of chaos
is this a primetime movie?
no, it’s breaking news, breaking news: "Bullets ring out at another American school"
call in the analysts, the shrinks, the gun owners, the priests, where are the goddamn parents?
a boy shot in the head hurls himself out a second floor window
a girl screams out the pain of the nation
"he put a gun to my head"
are they animals?
Satan worshipers?
or mentally ill boys?
somebody’s child becomes a murderer
others are left like rag dolls in twisted horror
tears, questions, and no answers
lost dreams
children who never grow out of their teens
pointing fingers
parents cry out why? how could this happen here?
who’s responsible?
the day after, a child goes off to school
"am i safe, mom?" he asks
thousands of moms lie
secretly cry
for a better day.


And one more thought on the political circus that has overshadowed the terrible events in Arizona. This one, from the Grateful Dead:

"Throwing Stones"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.

Picture a bright blue ball, just spinning, spinnin free,
Dizzy with eternity.
Paint it with a skin of sky,
Brush in some clouds and sea,
Call it home for you and me.
A peaceful place or so it looks from space,
A closer look reveals the human race.
Full of hope, full of grace
Is the human face,
But afraid we may lay our home to waste.

There's a fear down here we can't forget.
Hasn't got a name just yet.
Always awake, always around,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Now watch as the ball revolves
And the nighttime falls.
Again the hunt begins,
Again the bloodwind calls.
By and by, the morning sun will rise,
But the darkness never goes
From some men's eyes.
It strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets,
Staking turf, dividing up meat.
Nightmare spook, piece of heat,
It's you and me.
You and me.

Click flash blade in ghetto night,
Rudies looking for a fight.
Rat cat alley, roll them bones.
Need that cash to feed that jones.
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Commissars and pin-stripe bosses
Roll the dice.
Any way they fall,
Guess who gets to pay the price.
Money green or proletarian gray,
Selling guns 'stead of food today.

So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Heartless powers try to tell us
What to think.
If the spirit's sleeping,
Then the flesh is ink
History's page will thus be carved in stone.
And we are here, and we are on our own
On our own.
On our own.
On our own.

If the game is lost,
Then we're all the same.
No one left to place or take the blame.
We can leave this place and empty stone
Or that shinin' ball we used to call our home.

So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

[Bridge two:] Shipping powders back and forth
Singing black goes south and white comes north.
In a whole world full of petty wars
Singing I got mine and you got yours.
And the current fashion sets the pace,
Lose your step, fall out of grace.
And the radical, he rant and rage,
Singing someone's got to turn the page.

And the rich man in his summer home,
Singing just leave well enough alone.
But his pants are down, his cover's blown...
And the politicians throwin' stones,
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And it's all too clear we're on our own.
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin', spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.