All posts filed under: Essays Archive

When Nursing Wasn’t Enough: This is My Past

My milk was starting to come in, and I went to the salon. I had to have my hair done. People were coming to the house, coming to see the new babies, twins, and I wanted to at least look better than what I felt. My hair was a matted mess from days of being uncombed. I’d skipped more than a couple showers, more than a couple hours of sleep. So, couldn’t I get a few of those hours back and get my hair done? But the babies were hungry, and my milk was just starting to come in. I nursed them, but then went on to my appointment. My stylist turned the chair to face the mirror where I could see myself. Where I could see the flat iron smoothing the coils and the kinks to a mahogany flow. I felt a sense of relief—a moment for myself. “Look at you, already out the house. Who’s watching them babies?” “My mom.” I pulled out my phone, showed her the pics. The boy, the girl, …

Keep Up With Your Stuff

When my twelve-year-old daughter, Adelia, lost her wallet on the public city bus, I was actually pretty proud of her. For several weeks, she had been taking two trains in the morning (with a transfer at one of the busiest central transit stations in the country) to get to her new middle school and then two buses to get back home, and not a water bottle nor a notebook had been left behind. Her father and I marveled at her punctuality, and an attentiveness so attuned that she had recently found time to grab a donut while waiting for the second train. But Adelia was distraught when I picked her up that afternoon, her voice edged with tears as she recounted leaving the wallet on the seat next to her.  I listened to her wail and then gently hushed her, saying “Honey, it’s fine! It’s just a wallet.” It was a plain brown wallet that used to belong to her dad, and it only contained her school identification, her trans-pass, and $12, all items that …

Detention

There is no training for holding your dead father’s hand. There is no training for how warm the hand first feels in your own, and how 40 minutes later when you finally stop keening, his hand has grown cold in yours. The horror of that moment threatened my ability to stay present, which as a Buddhist I had been trained to do. There is no training for turning back one last time as you walk through the doors of that room to see your daddy, the hero, lying there. Helpless. Still. Gone. The intercom buzzes and I slowly get up to let in the delivery person. Standing there, I instantly recall all of the times I’d stood in that doorway waiting for him to come walking through the fire doors and down the hallway to my apartment. There was never a time that he came walking down that hallway empty-handed. Whether a gift for me, a toy for Theo, or coffee and donuts, he didn’t know how to stop giving. Supporting. Showing love. Tipping the …

Allowing Our Children to See Us

My daughter and son are running around the house in their usual post-meal frenzy, throwing toys in the air and jumping off our couch. They run to their room, grab a scarf from my daughter’s drawer while yelling lâches at each other, a term they learned from their French father, which means to let go. They like to play this game to see who lets go first before falling to the floor. My instinct is to stop them. Some days I’ll notice the smiles on their faces, hear their mouths full of glee that break into laughter rolling from the depths of their bellies. But today, my initial reaction is one of anger. Today I haven’t had a chance to write. Today I haven’t finished my cup of coffee or showered. Today I am running on 4 hours of sleep and the noise is a clock tower bell ringing over my head. I feel the warmth emanating from the end of my throat, the clenching of my jaw as I form fists with my hands …

There’s Strength in Softness

For my sixteenth birthday, my mother gave me the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. She pasted small, pink-and-green cutout flowers on the sides making it less plain, placing it inside a plastic five-by-seven box frame. Composure and calm, according to Kipling, are virtues his son and the reader should have in varied situations. My mother signed the bottom and added, “This is just as true for little girls as it is for boys.” Composure and calm were two characteristics I had never readily possessed but two qualities my mother seemed to have devoted much of her time trying to instill in me. Early lessons were implicit and based on observations of how she lived. My mother had one kidney and spent most of her life on dialysis three times a week. I have vivid memories of accompanying her to the hospital. At six years old, I sat right next to her as tubes filtered her blood. “When do I do dialysis?” I once asked, twirling side-to-side on the chair. “Be still,” she said. “Dialysis is …