Kids see Things that Adults can’t see

by Selma 

“Today I am a round blue thing mommy. What am I?” said little Donny. As soon as he pose the question to mom he hugged his legs firmly and started swaying from left to right and back again; he laid curled up like a little fur ball on the floor. Sure that he had mom’s attention, he stopped swaying to receive his mom’s response.

“Hmmmm, let me think,” said his mommy, “are you a furry, round blue thing?”
Mom thought that perhaps he was pretending to be the little blue furry kitten pictured in his story book the night before. Why would anyone think of painting a kitten blue anyway, she remembers thinking.

“No. No fur on me”, laughed Donny, “keep guessing mommy.” He swayed to the left and again to the right and then stopped, eagerly awaiting mom’s answer.

“Well, are you a round blue thing that enjoys to be kicked around?”, his mother asked.

“Mmmmhn. Maybe. You can kick me around but that’s not what I am for”, said the boy with his eyes dancing on mommy’s face.
Mom was sure that the little boy was talking about the nice blue ball that his grandparents had recently sent for him. But, right after thinking that, a more recent image arose in her mind: “No ball kicking inside the house,” dad had said in an authoritative voice. Dad was bent over picking up the shattered pieces of the broke lamp. “Balls are for playing outside; not for inside the house — things get broken and hurt”, dad had punctuated. Dad’s reprimand had made Donny cry but he never kicked his ball inside the house again.

“Hmmmm are you a round blue thing that likes to bounce up and down then?” asked mom.

“No mommy. I cannot bounce. God didn’t make me for bouncing. Just for rolling.” replied the little boy.

“No?”, Mommy said in surprise. “You’re not your new blue ball?”

“No mommy. I’m not that.”

Mom looked away from the magazine she was paging through to get a clue from the things he was playing with at the moment. No mention of round blue objects in the story books he had around him nor anything blue in his vicinity. He was playing with his toy cars but those were not blue. Mom couldn’t decide what to say to him.

“Well, I’m afraid I will need you to give me a clue because I cannot guess what it is you are today Donny”, she said.

“A clue?” He was intrigued . He got off the floor and walked to where mom was sitting. “Well, daddy loses it everyday and he cannot go to the office without it. So every day he spends a lot of time looking for it. It’s daddy’s very important thing.”

Well, John is always misplacing his keys, that’s for sure thought mom, but Donny specifically said that he is a round blue thing. Keys are not round, mommy thought.

“I give up Donny. I cannot guess what you are”, she said at last. Even with his clue, she really couldn’t guess what he was pretending to be today.

“Mommy, today I am the little round blue marble on daddy’s keychain. The one he uses to start the car with.” He said this and then he folded his arms feigning anger, or perhaps that was pride on his face?

“Oh my Donny. You had me on that one. I would never in a hundred years have guessed that today you were the little blue marble on daddy’s keychain”, she ruffled his curly hair. “Now it’s mommy’s turn to ask you a question. Why is it that you are a round blue thing today?”

“Because today I am that little blue marble that’s hanging from daddy’s keys. The End”, said Donny. He emphasized the ‘the end’ just like mommy did at the end of every story she read to him.

And with that mommy knew that there was no point in her prodding him for more clarity. Today her son was feeling like a little blue thing that was very important to his daddy. It was no use trying to play detective or psychologist. Kids know what they know.

There is no Love in Violence

“Domestic violence rarely affects only those directly involved in the abusive relationship.” ― Asa Don Brown
Short of stepping on Curly’s tail, Becky stormed into the living room, slammed the screen-door shut and hurried to her room.
“What?” her mother asked from the kitchen, “back already? Did you forget to take something?” her mother continued.

Becky didn’t answer. Her footsteps were heavy as she went up the stairs. She closed the door to her room, pressed the play button of her CD player and turned the volume on high. She got inside her closet and sat on the floor on the corner closest to the window. The evening was pleasant and the sound of the birds on the tree outside the window was silenced by the sound coming from inside her room.

Her mother finished rinsing off the dinner dishes and wiping her wet hands on her apron, rushed upstairs to see what the matter was with her daughter. She knocked on the door with the secret code they had settled on for the month, but no tap-tap, the code of acknowledgement, came from inside the room. Mother knocked the same way again and again, but again Becky didn’t reciprocate. Mom turned the door knob and realized that the door was locked from the inside.

“Becky, open the door. Let me in. Becky, what happened? Did something happen with you and Margo?” Mom was getting worried. This was so out of character for her daughter.

She waited a few more minutes and knocked again. “Becky,” she said, a little more impatient this time, “talk to me. Open the door.” Becky got out of the closet, lowered the volume on her CD player and unlocked the door. Then she sat on the floor next to her bed. Mother knocked again and this time Becky reciprocated by tapping on the side of her bedroom table with their coded tap-tap. Mother turned the door knob and entered the room.

“Honey, did something happen to you over at Margo’s house?”
Becky hugged her knees and looked away from her mother. Mother followed Becky’s lead and sat on the floor next to her daughter.

In the short year that they have been neighbors, Becky and Margo have become best friends. They walk to and from school together, they spend endless hours playing outdoors and talking on the porch-swing, they walk up to receive holy communion together at Sunday Mass and apart from the fact that each girl has their own house chores to do, they are inseparable. Once or twice a month Margo’s mother has invited Becky to come along as Margo’s guest for a family dinner at a sort-of-nice restaurant in town. The dinners always left Becky a little perplexed but she dismissed the feelings Because she could not find the appropriate words to form the thoughts about the feelings, even in her own head. This being the case she never got around to saying anything about this to her mother. When mother would ask, Becky would talk about the food instead of the feelings she would bring back from the dinner experience with the Romanos.

“Yes, I decided to sneak in on Margo instead of calling out to her. When I looked in through the screen door I saw Margo kneeling on the floor. She had her hands stretched out infront of her and I saw her daddy loading her arms with heavy books.”

“You mean that it was like some kind of punishment?” her mother asked.

“Yes, exactly. It had to be. Margo looked sad and scared but she had her arms stretched out and her daddy kept putting book after book for her to hold in her outstretched arms. At one point, Margo got tired so she relaxed her buttom on the back of her legs and her daddy hit her on her back with a book,” replied Becky suppressing fresh tears that burned to come out.

“And you saw all that? ” her mother asked holding her daughter’s hand with one hand and wiping a tear off her own face with the other.

“Yes. But the worst part is that Margo saw me looking. I think that I will never be able to face her again. I am embarrassed to have seen what I saw. And I am sure that Margo is embarrassed for it as well.” Becky’s words punctuated the conversation and a long silence, thick as a morning mist, permeated the room. Her mother didn’t know what to make of the situation. And she didn’t want to say something out of place without thinking things over first, so mother and daughter just sat there on the floor.

In the year since they have been neighbors the mothers have not become close. They have exchanged pleasantries but unlike the girls, their relationship hasn’t advanced beyond that. For starters, Mrs. Romano, Margo’s mother is a career woman. She works from 9:00 – 5:00, sometimes later and like the rest of the neighborhood, Becky’s mother refrains from approaching Mrs. Romano to allow her the space she and the neighbors think she needs. Come to think of it, besides attending Mass with her family on Sundays and the occasional dinners out in town, Mrs. Romano seldom participates in anything in the community. Mr. Romano, on the other hand, works from home. According to Margo he is a translator of German Novels. He is at home all the time and it is he who attends to Margo and her younger sister when they return home from school. He is very polite yet reserved with the neighbors. He attends school meetings but doesn’t socialize with anyone at school. According to Becky, the Romanos move to a new town every two years or so and before coming to Macondo, they lived in Los Alamos. Apart from that, no one knows anything else about the family.

*****

“The abuser does not believe, however, that his level of authority over the children should be in any way connected to his actual level of effort or sacrifice on their behalf, or to how much knowledge he actually has about who they are or what is going on in their lives. He considers it his right to make the ultimate determination of what is good for them even if he doesn’t attend to their needs or even if he only contributes to those aspects of child care that he enjoys or that make him look like a great dad in public.” ― Lundy Bancroft Bancroft

Do Little Girls still Dream about Getting Married?

“A Wedding dress is both intimate and personal for a woman–it must reflect the personality and style of the bride.”— Caroline Herrera

Lucille has long wavy brown hair that when loose, cascades down to her tailbone. Today she has it arranged in a long thick braid that swirls around her head.  Baby’s breath adorn it and there is no denying that she looks ever so radiant in that hair style. Her face is powdered and she wears a little dab of blush on her cheeks and mascara on her eyelashes. She is pretty, to begin with, but today she looks ever so beautiful.  It’s her wedding day.

“Lipstick later, after you’re in your dress because we don’t want it staining it accidentally,” says Nicca.

Six women stand in the room. It is the room that mom always keeps locked.

“Too many pins and needles that could pierce little fingers,” is all my mother would give us as an explanation.  We were never allowed in there.

Today we stand at the door looking in. Next to Lucille stands the seamstress, Ms. Rose to everyone except us. Mother is there to help Lucille get into her wedding gown. I have seen my mother do this countless times before, but every time the admiration comes from new people so the whole experience feels different every time.

“What a beautiful piece of material this is,” my mother had said the day the mailman brought the box containing the white material. But mother said that about every piece of cloth she ever worked with.  I have seen her hold all her pieces of material with reverence and then after that, seen how my mother’s beautiful eyes glow like beacons on a dark night at sea. That glow always made her face look younger. After that initial reaction, mother would never expose that beautiful material again in our presence until it was unveiled on a day like today.

The dress is laid on the floor with a crinoline arranged inside of it. Wearing only her stockings and undergarment, Lucille is made to stands on a low ladder. Two ladies hold her outstretched arms and from up there she slides the bottom half of her body smoothly into the skirt of the wedding gown.

“She looks like a mannequin there standing like that,” my sister whispers to me.

“I know,” I say. “I want to be a bride too someday,” we both giggle.

Mother proceeds to help Lucille with the sleeves, helping her insert one arm first and then the other in slow motion.

The embroidery on the sleeves and on the bodice, with the pearls and small beads in the shape of happy tears and the boat neckline that fits her perfectly, all these alluring points elicit compliments mingled with tears directed at the bride.

“Oh Lucy,” exclaims Lucille’s mother, “you look so beautiful in that dress. Good choice! Look at that everyone — what a beauty this daughter of mine is.”

“Yes, beautiful Lucille,” the others repeat. They can’t seem to come up with other words besides beautiful.

“She looks like Cinderella,” my sister and I agree, “just like a princess.”

My mother stands behind Lucille buttoning the long line of silk buttons. Pride swelling on her face as she hears the others complimenting the bride.

Someone kneels in front of Lucille and helps her to slide her feet into what seems to us like tiny glass slippers. Lucille looks down at her shoes and then straightens up. Her motions exactly like those of Cinderella in the movie. She looks at herself in the long mirror someone rolls in front of her and with her hands on her cheeks, tries to conceal her delight.

“No crying please,” warns Nicca, “that will ruin your makeup and it will stain the dress. No, no, no!”

But Lucille is not crying. She is happy. This is the day that she has been waiting for. She is on her way to marry the man that crawled into her heart a little at a time.

“Oh, happy day,” she says with a smile, and forcing her eyes off the mirror, she looks around the room. She finds my mother standing by the door and extends her hands out to her. My mother walks up to her and she and Lucille clasp hands.

“You look beautiful,” mother says to her.

“Oh, Ms. Rose thank you. The dress is even more beautiful than in the catalog. You are a real magician with those hands. Thank you.”

The wind is still as the beautiful bride walks out our storefront door. She has lipstick on her lips, a bouquet of lilies in her hand and a long tulle veil on her head. Escorted by her mother, Lucille walks the short distance from our house to the church. She walks erect, with a radiance emanating from her soul and she demurely acknowledges the well-wishes from the onlookers.

My mother holds our hands and walks us closer to the church. We see Lucille let go of her mother’s hand and clutch onto her father’s arm. The women who walked with her from our store disappear inside the church and then a procession of young women, all wearing clothes of the same color line up behind Lucille. The bride and her entourage disappear inside the church as the happy wedding bells toll loudly announcing the ceremony.

 

The Fabric of our Lives

 

That evening there were twelve kids at our lawn party. The grownups were noisily conversing, or arguing with each other, as it had seemed to us kids, to notice that the littlest boy was eating away at the candy from the colorful bottle he found next to the ketchup and the relish on the food table. Some of us had already gotten used to seeing that plastic bottle sitting on tables at every party that it made us think that not having it meant a lack of proper hospitality to our neighbors.  On one similar occasion, we had been made to understand that we were only allowed to have one tablet for the entirety of an evening. The tablets contained in the bottle came in all different colors and each color was a different flavor. Leonora and I were fond of the color purple and we each took one of the grape flavored tablets when offered.  The tablet wasn’t caramelized like hard candy and neither did it dissolve easily in our mouths. Yet its sweet flavor was released slowly enough to entice even the young palate of children. The part about these being for heartburn and sour stomach, never registered as anything other than grown up talk, as none of us knew what having a sour stomach or heartburn even meant.

Leonora and I lived nextdoor to each other on a street closest to the beach. Never did a day go by without I going over to Leonora’s house, or she coming over to mine. Our houses were separated in the middle by a green mesh fence that was removable. Long iron poles with hooks at the top and at the bottom held the mesh in place. The mesh ran all the way around the four corners of our yards. Our families each raised chickens and they didn’t want our chickens to roam too far away from their respective coops. This fence was a good fence. At times it acted as a great net for when Leonora and I played badminton and also for secretly calling out to each other when we didn’t want anyone else to hear us calling. A few simple kicks in the right place and our suzus would ring out with secret messages to one another. Some messages would say ‘meet you at the library or at the park in 10 minutes’, or ‘I’m angry or sad’, or just plain-old ‘wanna come over’.  We referred to our fence as our very own Morse-code device.

Our parents were friendly to each other as well, but they didn’t have a way to calling out to each other like we did. Our mothers would stand close to the fence and talk and laugh with each other, but that’s all they would do. Except that on some special occasions like national holidays or long weekends, we’d shu all the chickens in after their morning strolls around the yard, lock the coops and roll back the fence on the side where we shared a green lawn. Our parents loved to have cookouts. They would set tables to sit our two families and sometimes they’d even invite one or two other families. Then there were the other tables on which they’d place the food and drinks for that day. Both Leonora and I liked it when our families did this, as then we were allowed to stay out longer than usual without having to think about whose turn it was to do the dishes or to empty the trash cans or tiresome decisions like that. We would eat and drink as much as we wanted and we’d play games as long as we could.

The food was always very good, but it always disturbed us to see our parents and all the other grown-ups eat too much and drink too much of everything.

“This is an amazing party,” the other kids would say at regular intervals, and then we’d move on to continue playing our childish games.

I really don’t remember when or who it was that introduced our family to our first bottle of whatever that was, but I remember that the introduction was followed by  “It’s what they take in such and such a country for heartburn and sour stomach”.  Since then, that good old bottle of whatever that was has been an integral part of all our celebrations.

Minutes later, Mrs. Garcia was running behind Mr. Garcia who carried little Marvin curled up and unconscious in his arms. In her haste, Mrs. Garcia left her shoes behind in the yard. Mother found them and had me and Leonora run after Mrs. Garcia to return the shoes.

The couple and the boy were nowhere in sight. Stopping by their house revealed to us that home was not where they had headed to with their child.

“Let’s go to the hospital,” I said to Leonora.

The Macondo hospital wasn’t  far from where we lived, so holding on to one shoe each, we raced each other to get there. A full day out in the sun and now the exercise found us gasping for fresh air when we arrived.  We gulped down a big breath of air to replenish our starved lungs but copious amounts of  Dettol, Bleach, pee and Pledge furniture polish scurried in instead. It wasn’t a pleasant smell.  Neither Leonora nor I had ever been in the emergency room before, so the unfamiliarity of the smell and the place had us feeling light-headed and weak at the knees. We determined to take short sporadically paced breaths and sat there and waited.

People came and went in the emergency -room, yet no one seemed available enough for making a quick inquiry about the whereabouts of The Garcias.  We waited for a while longer thinking that perhaps The Garcias were being held up in consultation with a doctor, but they never emerged again.

“We’ve been here long enough already” Leonora reasoned after a while, “new patients have gone in and have left already. Perhaps The Garcias didn’t come here after all.”

On our return home, we had no energy for running.  An unfamiliar odor had impregnated our nostrils, and it seemed to have penetrated all the way up to the farthest recesses of our brains causing us to walk with lethargic movements. The early evening sea-breeze felt good on our foreheads but we refused to let it into our lungs for fear of what that salty combination would smell like. We each still carried a shoe in one hand just like before, but for some reason, the shoe too came to reek of the smelly emergency room. We held it with a little trepidation then.

The adults had cleaned the place up well, put all the garbage in bags and left-over food had been properly distributed among the families. The tables were folded and returned to the shed, and the mesh fence had been hung back to the poles like before. There was no news of little Marvin or his family. The women had collected all the tablets that were scattered on the ground and they noticed that the yellow tablets were fewer than the other colors. No one dared say what this could mean so they said nothing for fear that the possibility could be true.

That evening the party disbanded with a shadow hanging over every adult.”Please God,” they prayed, “don’t let this be true.”

 

 

 

In the Home-bound Train

Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!

Young people in latest fashion loiter the narrow streets, chatting, socializing. A couple of kids on skateboards here and there and an occasional cyclist now and then fool the mind into thinking that this is a small busy town in the outskirts of Paris perhaps. Middle age couples stroll by hand in hand and yet older couples, judging from the way they are dressed, hurry along en route to somewhere important. Sitting next to the window of the restaurant it’s hard to tell that we are two floors underground a busy train station. The imagery was all created with intention. This is Paris. Wrong. This is Musashikosugi, a station a couple of stops away from Tokyo Station.
Yesterday I boarded a clean and polished train from my suburb and embarked on an hour-long ride to meet an old friend at a posh restaurant newly opened. This station is exactly half way for the two of us. It had been 4 years since Hiroko packed house and moved away to where she is now. But it has been over 20 years for me since I visited this station. I have good memories of Musashikosugi. Memories of Lulu and Rocio and Monica and Elena and the gang of Nikeijins, second-generation people with Japanese roots, visiting their parents’ homeland for the first time and like me, hoping to learn the language afresh. We were all new to this country back then and enrolling in Japanese Lessons here was what brought us into each other’s lives at this particular station. The station was unpretentious and rather quaint and inviting then and we roamed its corners after lessons so as to prolong our time together.
But now, the place has been bulldozed and in place of its quaintness vulgar high-rise buildings and underground cities have been constructed. There’s no stopping this trend. It’s all hip and good. No matter who we are and how much we know of this station, we relish the novelty and bask in the exaggerated reality of the area at the expense of the quaintness that gave the station its character before.
So, I went to Musashikosugi to meet an old friend for an early dinner. We got lost in our chatter trying to summarize four years into a few hours. It was really nice seeing her and hearing about all the exciting things that have transpired in her life. I also updated her about things going on in my life.
But while we chatted there was a big accident at precisely that train station. It stopped normal train traffic for hours. But since life was dream-like under ground, we were totally unfazed. Not until we were ready to say our goodbyes and head our separate ways, did that reality become part of ours as well. Infuriated for the delays, thinking only of myself, and how this inconvenience was going to steal me of my sleep, I joined in the commotion and tried to find an alternative commute back to my normal life. All to no avail. But in the process of letting go to the moment, I inadvertently remembered something that I had read online a couple of years before. I will share it with you. There is a lot of insight to it and it does a better job at expressing my thoughts today when I consider how close I came to being a victim myself in that accident. I could have been just another one of the passengers pulled out of the wreckage and you wouldn’t have me to tell you this story today. I am glad I’m still here but as of today, I am living my life worthy of several others whose lives have been cut short by that terrible accident.
                     “The Train of Life
       Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.
As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends,children, and even the love of our life.  Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats!
This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all the passengers…requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way – love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty — we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly, thank God for the journey!
Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!”
On my return to my home, I had to make several detours. It was very inconvenient.
I am now closer to home but not quite yet, I messaged my husband that evening.
I wrote those words as I sat inside the train which slowly became crowded with exhausted passengers also trying to make it back home after a full day at the office. It was way past my usual relax time at home. I had a marvelous time with my friend but by that time I just couldn’t wait to slip into my pajamas and to hit my pillows.
I confess that yesterday I didn’t take a book to read as it just wouldn’t fit into the little bag that I chose for my outing. So the next best thing for me to do was to text a few lines to friends in a conscious effort to not fall asleep and possibly miss my stop. The girl sitting next to me swayed from left to right and her head occasionally touched my left shoulder. She carried a book bag. She was a student so I figured that she must have had a full day of studying and socializing and more than me, couldn’t wait to hit her pillow at home.
We are all on our way home…
My experience yesterday made me look at those words from a different angle and once the train started moving smoothly once again, I wrote my last message for the night to my husband: Finally, I wrote, now we will all be able to get home before this night turns into tomorrow because when tomorrow comes it will already be yesterday’s news.
Next stop is the end of the line for me. See you soon honey.
***********
  “Next stop is the end of the line — your hometown.  Throw off everything and get off.”— Noriko Tsubota

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