Someday They Will Care For You

A bitter pill, swallowed whole, of censure and spite awaited her as she entered the house. Critical mass. Her bags were unloaded – so much baggage.

“Your room is over there.”

Fingers pointed.

Shuffling, she closed the door, finally tasting her own medicine.

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I Left My Heart In Monteverde

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Monteverde, Costa Rica

When I was young, I dreamed of travel. I read novels with exotic settings. I had a poster of Santorini, Greece on my wall, andI was one day headed to Australia, India, and Nepal.

But life happens, and travel costs money. I married and had a family. It wasn’t just me anymore. We were Mr. and Mrs. A. We decided to be a single income family so one of us could be home to raise our four kids. We made sacrifices, and the first thing on the chopping block was international travel. Wanderlust doesn’t die easily, though. Our concession was to travel extensively throughout our region, often returning to much loved family vacation spots. Still, the desire to explore the globe never went away.

The kids have now grown and are heading out on their own adventures. Two of them are wanderers, in college in other states, eager to strap on a backpack or grab a rolling bag and head down the terminal with their passport for adventure. The other two are more content to stick close to home, and it’s a struggle to take them anywhere these days. I chalk it up to the rubberband effect of friendships. Only time will tell.

That leaves us standing in our once bustling house, looking at each other again for what seems like the first time in twenty-five years of marriage. The reverberating echoes of school and band and dance and soccer, of fighting and laughing and vying for attention slowly dissipate, leaving us able to hear each other once more.

Twenty-five years. This was a big one. We talked of celebrating our anniversary in style. I suggested Hawaii. Tropical beaches, rugged landscape, and all of that ocean were calling. There were hills to climb. Maybe we would go mountain biking or snorkeling or take up surfing. We are not loungers, content to sit on the beach soaking in the sun, sipping Mai-Tais, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We prefer exploring, hiking, seeing the wildlife and the differences in environment and culture.

My husband was okay with Hawaii. Just okay. I knew he would make the trip for me. He does a lot of things for me. I wanted this to be for us, so when he came home talking about Costa Rica, my ears perked up. The thing with not traveling, though, is that it makes you nervous to take that first step. Isn’t that true of anything? We searched the internet. We contacted tour agencies. We got an estimate. Wow! It looked like Costa Rica might be cost prohibitive. The kids might be on their way out of the house, but they had left a trail of financial needs that we were still helping with. We put it all out of our minds and celebrated in a nice resort on the coast less than two hours from our house.

Still… Costa Rica was calling, whispering our names, jiggling us, asking us to consider the possibilities. Maybe if we planned our own trip…

So although our anniversary had passed, we were again looking at hotels and things to do in Costa Rica. We came across a little B&B in a remote mountain location called Monteverde that was not anywhere near the top of my list of places to see. The B&B was cute, and got high ratings on Tripadvisor, but was only available for one night within the small time frame we were looking at. We looked at each other. Should we? Nervously, we gave that ball a push, and soon it was rolling. With one reservation taken care of, we only needed a flight, my passport, and the whole rest of our ten day trip filled in. I had always dreamed of being a travel agent, and I got to work immediately. Soon we had the whole vacation lined up with hotels and tours and transportation. Before we knew it, we were on our way.

Monteverde
Monteverde
Blog RS0774
Quetzal

Blog RS0771I’ll leave the rest of the trip for some other time. Suffice it to say that Monteverde was our favorite part an amazing trip, even though we only spent one night here. It’s green, cool, peaceful, and very focused on conservation. We took a tour with a local guide, Marcos, who led us immediately to a quetzal and talked excitedly about the natural history of the cloud forest. We stayed at our cozy but upscale B&B and interacted with our lovely host, Carlos, as well as tourists from France and other parts of Europe. We came back from a night tour to a beautiful and delicious plate of plantains and ice cream and enjoyed breakfast  in the morning on the open air patio. We made a connection to this place, and it was very hard to leave the next day.

Casa Batsu
Casa Batsu

There’s a whole world to explore. I hope to see so many things and places still, yet I long to get back to Monteverde. I want to wake up early and wander through the cloud forest. I want to sip delicious Costa Rican coffee on an outdoor patio while watching the birds. I want fresh pineapple with gallo pinto in the morning and passionfruit smoothies in the afternoon. Maybe I’ll even zip through the canopy.

Monteverde is calling me back.Blog RS0779

If you’ll excuse me, I have a trip to plan.


If you would like a young, hip version of a foray into Costa Rica, head here to read my daughter’s blog. (Shameless promotion, I know.) 🙂

Do Not Fear Failure


Tomasz Stasiuk / Foter / CC BY-SA

Failure.

It starts like the first twinges in the stomach when you know you are going to be sick. Not just pop some pills and go to work sick, but running to the bathroom can’t keep anything down sick.

It’s not an option, you say. Okay, you grant me that it’s an option, but it’s the option that comes from giving up, you say. Wait, I say. What about the times you try your hardest, you put yourself into the fight, you get beat up, and you lose… Is that failure?

You see, you can try and fail. People do it all the time. One partner in a relationship can try and try to make it work, but if both people are not invested, all of that trying will not result in success. You may look into the eyes of your baby, read to him, go to all of his basketball games, but if he is swayed by that one wrong friend, he may end up on a self-destructive path, one for which you may feel responsible. You may have a chance at the job of your dreams, only to have your efforts crushed by a vindictive boss and the betrayal of presumably trustworthy coworkers.

Failure is a bitter pill, a large, hard-to-swallow, pill. It can leave you feeling helpless. Or angry. Or despondent.

Which brings me to a favorite quote of mine.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Teddy Roosevelt

Isn’t a lot of the fear of failure tied up in what others will think of us? After all, so much of life is trying, failing, then trying again and again until we succeed. Walking. Talking. Learning a new language. Learning a sport. If our parents had made fun of us instead of encouraging us to keep trying, they would have created little humans who were anxious and apprehensive, maybe even neurotic. Instead, they realized that we were trying, that sometimes there would be flops, and that eventually we would get it. What if we approached each other the same way? Give people room to fail. Provide a safety net so the failure is not destructive. Wouldn’t our society be stronger, more cohesive?

Am I afraid of failing? Sure. Am I going to let it hold me back? Never. Life is for living, for learning, and for growing, and it’s too short to worry about failing.


In response to the Daily Post’s writing prompt,  “Must Not Fail.” What is the one thing at which you are the most afraid of failing?

I”m also using this for my Writing 101 day 7 assignment, Hook ’em with a quote. (Yes, I’m a little behind, and yes, I know it’s not at the beginning. But I set it as my excerpt. I’m counting it.)

A Ghoulish Birthday Celebration

Amid the webs and dusty bins
A quiet, little spider spins
A message,
And they come to share,
Ghoulish scribes from everywhere,
A celebratory birthday fair
For every word that’s ever been
called forth in ethereal air.
Words, like webs,
In space do spin
And settle on hearts like dust on bins.

Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press
Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press

A City of Books

aidaneus / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

As I walk through the doors, I smell heaven in the form of book glue and musty pages. I have just returned to Powell’s Books main store, located on the corner of 10th and Burnside in Portland, Oregon. I have always said that all I needed was a bed and I would be content spending the rest of my days here. (And oddly, though it’s not my style, I always picture that bed to be an antique wrought iron style.)

They even have coffee! I’d be set!

Powell’s City of Books indeed feels like a literary metropolis. Though they now have multiple locations, and you are guaranteed to find good books at any of them, it is the downtown flagship store that I talk about when I say I’m entering heaven. This place is quintessential Portland, before the city became hipster and trendy. It occupied the Pearl before the Pearl was a hip and happening place. It’s a place of quiet browsing for standard or oddball titles, where used books and new books commingle. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the selection of over a million new and used books, the staff has recommendations handwritten on cardstock hanging from the shelves. They even highlight local authors! I’ve been happily surprised by many new titles that I may not have ever known about thanks to these shelf tags.

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giuliaduepuntozero / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Wandering around the store, you will find staggered floors reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter, color coded to subject matter. You may get dizzyingly lost, but there are color coded signs hanging from the ceilings as well

albedo20 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

to point you in the right direction. Need a rare book? Powell’s might have it in their rare book room, an enclosed space that is open on the weekends or by appointment, but be sure to leave food and drink outside. Personally, I have never entered the rare book room, but I love that it’s there. Maybe on my next trip I will peruse its shelves.

My family hates to go to Powell’s with me. Don’t get me wrong, they like the store, but they are not all readers, and even the most avid bibliophile among them doesn’t love books the way I love books. They enter with a bit of excitement mixed with groans. They know they will find things to interest them, (Powells boasts an interesting display of gift items in addition to the books) but they know once we enter the doors, I will get lost in the shelves for hours. I usually don’t have to worry about the meter, though. Validated parking is always free because I never leave the store empty-handed (though I prefer to take my tiny Soul into the closet of a parking garage).


gonzalo_ar / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Powell’s ranks number one on Tripadvisor for shopping in Portland, above the Portland Farmer’s Market and Saturday Market, both of which are iconic local experiences. I guess that means I’m not alone in my love of this place. And for you authors out there looking to self-publish, head on up to the Espresso Book Machine. I might have to make use of this someday.

If you love books and are ever in Portland, check this place out. I frequent book stores, and I’ve never seen anything that comes close to Powell’s. Have you?


albedo20 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

A Hike To Remember

Grand Canyon0214We sat on the edge of the canyon, blissfully enjoying the ever-narrowing slice of shade. Sunshine was by my side, understanding that a slightly overweight mom in her later years, though fit, might have a tough time scaling the Grand Canyon in the heat of the day. Maverick and Goose would soon leave us to run to the top and would be full of jeers when we finally got there. We really should have started earlier, but we were lucky to get a reservation in the park, and we wanted to enjoy the cozy, comfortable hotel just a little bit longer.

We were passing through on a mission. Sunshine was starting college next week in the Lone Star State. The boys and I were taking her there, making a road trip of it, seeing some of the desert southwest in the heat of summer, because who doesn’t want to do that? We had arrived at Grand Canyon National Park the day before, and I had set our agenda for the day. We would hike down into the canyon early, and then travel to our hotel in Flagstaff. Grand Canyon0210

Grand Canyon0213The cool morning beckoned us down the trail. We were loaded up with water bottles and plenty of M&Ms, but without a plan. Free for the day, we would just hike as far as we wanted before turning around and coming back up. The wide trail invited us to walk and take pictures. The rest stops along the way sheltered us and offered water. The squirrels and birds cheered our progress.

Grand Canyon0216From one vantage point, we could see the three mile house. We were getting tired, but wanted a definite destination, so we set our sights on that. Here we would stop and dig into our fuel source, the M&Ms. The day was gorgeous, sunny, with a few high clouds. The tricky thing about the canyon, however, is that the closer you get to the bottom, the hotter it becomes. A day that had started out for us in the 70s was rising with every step down into the 90s, which is not terrible if you are hiking down, but we still had to make our way back up, and now it was getting close to noon. The warning signs along the way did not give me comfort.

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We made it down! Now to go UP. (The sign that is shielded by our bodies is a danger sign.)

We refilled our water bottles and shooed the squirrels away from the candy as we rested, the boys impatient to get moving. At some point, Sunshine dropped a couple of M&Ms on the ground and a flurry of squirrel warfare ensued, causing us to jump onto the ledge and earning us the ire of the more orderly hikers on the trail. After all, the brochure said definitively not to feed the wildlife. Now we knew why.

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_sjg_ / Foter / CC BY-NC

We looked up the trail. What had been so pleasant coming down now looked daunting. I had my personal list of killer trails: Vernal Falls in Yosemite, Mount Constitution on Orcas Island, and Iron Mountain closer to home, but none came close to this one, with an elevation change of over 2,000 feet in just three miles. I steeled myself and started putting one foot in front of the other. Round a corner, rest in the shade. Round a corner, rest in the shade. Sunshine was by my side the whole way.

Which brings me to where I started this story, almost at the top and having a clear picture of which child I could count on in life. As we made our way the last few bends and turns in the trail, the temperature shed its austere cloak and became more welcoming. We found ourselves encouraging other hikers who were finding the path equally difficult. We passed people coming down in all manner of dress, but none of them looked like experienced hikers, and passed a ranger who seemed to be at a loss, questioning them and turning some back, while at the same time inquiring about the welfare of the people coming up. Not a job I would want to have. As expected, Maverick and Goose were at the top, jeering at us and begging for ice cream.

Grand Canyon0221We made it. We had hiked the canyon. (Well, part of it, but I’m counting it.) We paused for a quick victory photo and headed to the car. Ravenous, we didn’t look for a picnic spot. We unloaded the cooler and sat by the road on a downed tree, scarfing down the most delicious impromptu salami and french bread sandwiches. It was quite possibly the best food I’ve ever eaten. Hunger will do that to you.

We did finally make it to the hotel in Flagstaff, and judging from the red ring around the hot tub, were not the only people to have made this trek. For months after, I would put on my socks that retained the red smudge of the trail dust and remember our road trip. The canyon itself made an indelible mark on my heart, and I can’t wait to return, hopefully not in the heat of summer, to hike it again.

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Fourth Grade Snapshots

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Terry McCombs / Foter / CC BY-NC

Shit! I can’t believe my parents were fighting again last night. I swear I didn’t get any sleep until Dad left. I’m glad he’s gone. I’d like to stay and make sure Mom’s okay, but she’ll probably be pretty drunk by noon.

My teacher is droning on about math. Blah-blah-blah. When am I ever going to use this stuff, anyway?

The best thing about yesterday was the video the counselor showed us about people taking care of each other. Man, I wish I had people like that in my life. The teacher didn’t understand when I told her my family would just tell me to shut the fuck up. She looked shocked, but at least she listened to me.

The art project was stupid. I didn’t do it. Who wants to draw a picture of himself with a bunch of dumb stuff in his head?

I wish it wasn’t Friday.


These kids are picking on me again. Why do they always pick on me? I wish I could just hang out in the LRC. Tony keeps making comments across the room. My teacher says he’s trying to make me mad and to ignore it, but I can’t ignore it. People with Asperger’s can’t ignore.

I don’t have my assistant anymore. It’s kind of hard being without her. I used to go to the back table when I was feeling stressed and ready to blow. She would help me calm down. Sometimes she would have to take me to the LRC. I miss her, and I know she misses me because she comes to see how I’m doing, usually on her break. I begged her to come back, but she said she was needed somewhere else.

Math was good until the teacher had us play Around the World. I was out. I didn’t want to be out, and I got upset, really upset. The kids all stared at me. I hate people staring at me. So I yelled. A lot.

My other teacher in the LRC wants me to play this game where I match faces and emotions. I don’t really get it. Then she always asks me about my day. Sometimes it’s just too overwhelming and I start to cry.


Tony is stupid. I hate that kid, and when I get a chance, I’m going to beat him up. Mom told me not to take any crap from anyone. She said I could fight them. My teacher said that’s not the way to solve problems, but I think I’ll go with my mom’s idea.

He made me mad yesterday, and we almost got into it in P.E. I was sent to the office to “cool down.” My mom and dad came in after school, pissed. They were yelling at the principal and everyone. It was a little embarrassing, but nice to know they have my back. I don’t know how long I will be at this new school.

That Austin kid was yelling during math yesterday. What a retard! We were just playing Around the World and he blew his top. That was the best part of math, too. The rest of it is too hard. I just try to doodle, but the teacher usually comes around and asks me to put my drawing stuff away. She tries to help me, but it’s just too hard. I don’t get it.

The counselor made us watch this stupid movie about getting along. Whatever. People are dumb. I’m glad it’s Friday. I won’t have to see them for a couple of days.


My head itches again. I don’t think the treatment worked. I just want it to go away. It’s embarrassing to be sent home from school. They try to be sly about it, but all the kids know why someone disappears after we all go have head checks. The teacher is watching me. I wonder if she noticed me scratching my head.

The boys in this class drive me nuts. They are always causing problems. We can’t just walk down the hall without them provoking each other. Seriously, it’s like being around my grandma’s roosters, chests all puffed up, strutting toward each other, itching for a fight. I wish they would just shut up so we could get through this math.

Austin blew yesterday. It was scary, but not as scary as the time he started throwing chairs. I don’t know what he is capable of. We were just playing a game and it didn’t go his way. What a baby!


My teacher this year is the best. She gives us time for reading. We can go anywhere in the room, as long as we are quiet. I usually go under the computer table on the beanbag, but Tony and Dylan end up close to me, and they don’t read. It’s pretty distracting. They just roll around the floor and bother everyone until the teacher notices and sends them back to their seats. I just want to read my book. I love this book!

Math is hard this year. We’re supposed to learn fractions and we’re using this tape diagram. It’s different. I wish I could pay attention, but Tony usually ends up throwing little things like pieces of eraser across the room. He should be listening to the teacher, but he doesn’t. He thinks it’s funny. It’s annoying.

Austin was really frustrated yesterday. I feel bad for him. Everything is so hard for him. I wish I could help.

The movie we saw about getting along was really inspiring. I felt so good after watching it, and I really wanted my class to act like the people in the movie. After the movie, Kayla, Jessica and I got to draw at the back table. This was the best part of the day!

I’m so excited! This weekend we are going to Eagle Crest. That means swimming!


They just brought my food backpack. I’m so glad we will have something to eat this weekend. I used to get really mad, but after they started giving me this backpack, I feel much calmer. It’s still hard. I don’t think the other kids understand. They probably all have food at their house, but we don’t. We don’t really even have a house. It’s more like a really old trailer, but at least we’re not homeless anymore. That was scary.

The other kids used to make fun of me, but the teacher had us all talk about being kind and being part of a community. They stopped, mostly. Tony and Dylan still say things, but I try to ignore them.

We did art yesterday. We never do art anymore, but the counselor wanted us to draw a picture of ourselves and the things that matter to us. We’re supposed to hang them in the room. I was just glad to not feel pressured to read or write or do math for a while. It gets pretty stressful. I drew my mom and my dad, even though he’s not around anymore. I drew my dog really big. She’s the best! She’s always there when I’m sad. I think Mom worries that we will have to move again and won’t be able to take her. I don’t know what I’ll do then. My teacher saw my picture and said it was really good. I just saw her tuck a notebook and a new package of colored pencils in my food backpack. My happiness level just went up about five notches.


I hope the baby isn’t getting sick. He seemed a little groggier than usual when I dropped him off at the babysitter. I’m hoping I don’t get a call. It would be tough to have to leave this class in the middle of the day.

Camille is scratching her head again. She’s already missed a lot of school due to lice, but I think I’m going to have to send her to the office to get checked. She seems to take it all in stride. I wish her mom could get a handle on the problem. I hate to see her miss so much school. We don’t really have a way to get her caught up.

The boys are starting to needle each other again. I don’t know what to do. Yesterday the counselor came and showed the class a movie about empathy. They all talked about it and most of them seemed to understand. The one who surprised me was Tony. He had the most insightful comment, and his words afterward just raked across my heart. I wish I could save these kids sometimes. The drawing project seemed to have such a calming effect on most of the class. Tony didn’t like it, but I know now that he’s just a scared little boy putting up a intimidating front.

Jackson’s parents were at the school yesterday. I honestly don’t know how to help socialize a child who’s advice from home is to solve problems with his fists. Even if I could send him out of the classroom, he would be missing a lot of instruction, and he’s already pretty far behind. This is his third school. These problems are going to follow him wherever he goes.

My group of overachieving girls was thrilled to have art time. They chatted quietly at the back table as they worked on their projects. I wish I could give them more of time for this, but the test prep has become more and more important, while at the same time behaviors are becoming more and more difficult to deal with. Some days it’s hard to get things done.

Caleb shocked me with his art. This quiet kid who usually needs a lot of prodding to work drew the most amazing self portrait. Here’s another one I would save if I could. I just stuck a notebook and some colored pencils in his food bag. I hope he enjoys drawing this weekend.

Austin is doing so much better than at the beginning of the year. I was a little nervous about losing his aide, but he seems to be managing his emotions a little better. I will have to find a different way to play Around the World that won’t set him off. I know the kids don’t understand him, but they don’t really understand each other too well, either. That’s just something we’ll have to work on this year.

I do hope the baby is okay. I really need to come to school this weekend and prep for math. The kids don’t seem to get it, and state testing is coming up. It looks like I’ll be here most of Saturday… again. I’m still waiting for this job to get easier.

Fifteen

Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press

The cake sat on the table, candles burning to the nubs. The festive, edible confetti covering the top of the cake suggested hope, but the yelling from the other room was not promising.

A door slammed in the distance, rattling the old house, wavy glass windows shuddering at the disturbance.

Grace returned, tears streaming down her face. The house seemed to fold around her as darkness fell outside. The streamers and balloons lining the small dining room danced slowly overhead in the drafts from the windows. Some of the candles had burned out. She blew out the others, leaving the cake in the middle of the cheap, plastic tablecloth.

She sat in the semi-darkness. If someone had told her things would be like this, she might have made a different choice. She shuddered and retracted the last thought superstitiously. They were just going through tough times, she told herself. Things would get better.

She surveyed the room. Behind the cheery balloons and crepe paper streamers, the walls were covered with school pictures and awards. In the secondhand china cabinet, a baby picture stood proudly between tiny, white, patent leather shoes and a threadbare stuffed animal.

Grace thought back to the night, a lifetime ago, when she had told her then boyfriend of two years that she was pregnant. He had scoffed, then had gotten angry, then had insisted on an abortion. He was a lesser star on the football team, the son of a prominent town doctor. She was the daughter of a pastor. What would people say? There had been yelling and harsh words, and she had stormed off.

Abortion. The quick fix. Her parents would disown her. Frightened and alone, she sat on the park bench, knowing this decision was up to her. After Luke’s reaction, she couldn’t count on him for anything. How could she have been so trusting? How could she have been so stupid? She was barely seventeen.

A small spark awaited her decision, its life hanging in the balance. The realization gradually overtook her. She would have this baby, and she would work as hard as she could to give it the best life possible.

Three months before her eighteenth birthday, Grace gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Athena, after the goddess of wisdom – and warfare, she had found out later. Teenage Athena was now demonstrating her warlike aptitude. Perhaps wisdom was coming.

Athena had never been a calm child. As a fetus, she had pummeled her young mother from the womb. Grace sometimes blamed herself, thinking that wavering over Athena’s life had influenced her temperament. Once she was born, Athena had greeted Grace’s hopeful face with a wail that lasted for the next three months. She fussed at nighttime, never wanting to sleep. To calm her, Grace walked her up and down the road – a new road, in a new city, where no one judged a pastor’s daughter.

Yet Grace remembered the good times. Athena’s birth, though complicated and unexpected, had ushered her into the club of parenthood. She had looked down on her little, wailing daughter with her red, squeezed-up face and her balled up fists and fallen totally and completely in love. Those tiny toes, that shock of hair, the gasping breath between wails were all proof of a miracle. In an instant, the spark had flared into a flame. Where before no Athena had existed, a tiny, blustery, little presence now proclaimed itself to the world.

Standing, Grace smiled and wiped her tears. How could she ever second guess her choice? Today she would celebrate, even if she had to celebrate alone. Through the difficult past fifteen years, the depth and warmth that came from loving her child had filled every crack and crevice in her heart.

As she cut into the small, cheerful cake, the door down the hall creaked open. The streamers danced in the gust of air.

“Mom?” a hoarse voice called, hesitantly.

“I’m in here,” Grace called back, slicing through the frosting and into the rich chocolate center.

Athena stopped in the doorway, arms crossed. They looked at one another with red, puffy eyes, then both burst into laughter.

“Is that my piece?” Athena asked, enfolding her mom in an awkward, distant-yet-desperate, teenage hug.

“You bet it is,” said Grace, lighting a candle nub and placing it on top. “Now make a wish!”

But really, what more was there to wish for?

Reciprocal Love

I love Shel Silverstein’s poetry for kids. It’s fun and insightful, and I read his poems to my classes all the time. Yet I am confounded by one of his books called “The Giving Tree.” On the simplest level, it’s the story of the relationship between a boy and a tree. The boy plays with and climbs the tree, then starts using the tree for resources. The tree gives and gives, and the boy always returns, but only to take. For some inconceivable reason, this makes the tree happy, at least until the boy builds a boat and sails away, finally making the tree sad. (I think I would feel relief.) Eventually the boy returns, and when he does, so does the tree’s happiness. From what I remember, it continues in this vein right up to the end. People love this book. They tout it as a wonderful example of unconditional love. I hate it. I think it’s a horrible story about selfishness and codependency. It’s a terrible book for kids. Could I accept it as a tongue in cheek book for adults? Maybe. But as a book for kids? Never.

Which brings me to the question posed by The Daily Prompt: How far would you go for someone you love? How far would you want someone else to go for you? 

The answer has changed as the years have passed. I used to be more willing to give of myself, of my time and my money, like the poor tree in the book. My bar was set pretty low, and I gave more than I received. Unlike the tree, however, this didn’t make me happy. It made me feel unloved and taken advantage of. My friends talked, but did not listen. Others in my life required favors, but were not there when I needed them. Eventually my bar inched up until for a while I just stopped giving. They were baffled, but I felt less like a doormat. Does this mean my sense of love is not as refined as the tree’s, that I’m incapable of unconditional love? I’d like to think it means I’m smarted and wiser than the tree, and capable of looking out for myself. I have come around and found a way to be there for friends and family in a way that works for me.

Of course the relationship is different for children, but only to a point. I have watched my four lovely little creations enter this world with a spark of life. Like any good mom, that was a time when I would absolutely go to the moon and back or fight any intruder to the death for them. As they grew, their needs became more wants than necessities, and I had to regroup and see what I was willing to give and what I expected in return. This is where the tree and I part ways. She never expected anything in return. She never taught the tree where the boundaries in a relationship were, and that’s an unkind thing to do to the child. I will absolutely help my kids in times of trouble, but only when I am the last option, and even then I require their appreciation. I will help them brainstorm their way out of trouble before I intercede financially or otherwise. I now have adult children who talk about caring for us in our later years, so I know this tough love was the right approach.

I would go to the moon and back for the people I love, but only because I know that they would do the same for me.