Daughters of Mine

28 Jul

After a hectic day of work full of several meetings and deadlines, I rushed through rush hour traffic to pick up my girls by 6 PM from the Horizons Day Camp, where I had guiltily dropped them off for the first time that morning.

After spending a short weekend in LA being enveloped in sisterly love celebrating my mother’s birthday, I was back in Silicon Valley where I’ve been living for a year now.  We got home around midnight which made my early morning routine a little foggier and a little bit slower.  After fighting the urge to sleep in, we made our way to Starbucks to pick up coffee and chicken and hummus boxed lunches for the girls because I didn’t have a single thing in my fridge that could quickly materialize into an edible lunch meal for my girls.

I ordered ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches for them to eat while I sipped my coffee and slowly came back to life and thought how nice it was to be able to grab breakfast at a coffee shop on a weekday like we used to do in LA.  Lost in my thoughts as we made our way to the day camp center, my girls sang new songs they had made up, recited stories and asked me question after question which reminds me, I need to define equinox to them as this morning when they asked, the morning coffee had not peeled away the sleepiness that I have been fighting for the last week of 4 hour sleep nights.

They seemed excited to go to the day camp and meet new friends.  As we walked into the center we heard a child crying for his mom which made the girls reassess the desirability of the situation and they quickly clung to me asking me not to go.  “Take me with you mommy, I can stay at work with you.  Don’t leave me here.” “I can’t sweetheart, you will both have fun and remember, you have each other.”

As I walked away heavy with guilt, I couldn’t shake off the blanket of sadness that seemed to suffocate me and threatened to make me cry.  In the car, I wondered if I was doing the right thing – working and studying towards a better tomorrow at the cost of seeing them race to adulthood before my eyes without me being there MORE.

They’re not toddlers mind you, they are 8 and 9 and are pretty independent and strong young girls.  I have always marveled at their resiliency and capacity to adapt to new environs.  I was confident that they would be fine but I felt this urgency to be by their side gnawing at my nerves all day.  During lunch I spilled water on myself as I wondered if I should have gone to visit them instead of eating my meal with colleagues.

After a meeting that ended at 5:30, I rushed to my car and looked at my map app.  I jumped on the 101 S towards Palo Alto and exited a couple of miles after to avoid the parking lot of traffic ahead. My estimated arrival time slowly got away from me, 5:48, 5:52, 5:58.  It tortured me as I took surface streets and it recalculated urging me to take a U-turn and teetering between 5:58 and 5:59 pm.  As I missed the left turn and had to wait another eternal few minutes on the intersection of Page Mill and El Camino, I willed the lights to turn faster, the arrival time to freeze at 5:59 and my girls to be okay.

As I finally pulled into the office park, I quickly parked in a loading zone and jumped out of the car like a madwoman running in my heels across the plaza to pick up my girls before 6 pm and hoping that they weren’t the last kids in the center thinking I had abandoned them.  As I walked into view, they came over and greeted me with their gorgeous big smiles and started showing me the lanyards they had made, the art work, describing the three new friends they had made until I interrupted them to hurry up and get to the car which was illegally parked.  As we dashed back to the car I couldn’t help but feel silly for having been so worried.  Of course they would have a good time, of course they would make friends – they were my daughters after all.

In the car, they took turns spilling out the contents of the day as I recuperated from my bad mom guilt trip hangover.  At the red light I turned over my shoulder and excitedly reminded them that we would be going on vacation in two more days. “We’re going to have 8 days of nonstop time with each other girls, we can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, cuddle sessions, all of the time and attention that you want.”  Bella looked lost in thought.  “Are you okay Bella?”  “Uhm, yes.”  “Aren’t you excited?” “Yes.” (In a very non-excited voice).

I couldn’t help but sigh deeply inside.  Here I was carrying the world on my shoulders all day, feeling like the worse mother in the world because I HAD to work for a living, because I am ambitious enough to move out of my hometown LA to pursue a better future with a loving partner and father to my children, because I come home tired after long stressful days at work to cook and be a good mom and then stay up late to study for my evening classes as I work towards my degree, because I wish I could stay home with them during the summer and be there for all of the moments of childhood that seem to keep slipping through my fingers – and they were oblivious to all of it.  Just like I was when I was a child.

When my mother would wake up at 3:00 AM to cook dinner before she got ready for her shift at work which started at 4:30 AM I always wondered why she bothered working so hard, I was critical of her dedication to us.  When I would come home after school and I saw her sleeping on the sofa, exhausted and still in her work uniform as a cook, I felt a mixture of sympathy and love with an edge of annoyance that I never got to talk to her, that she never greeted me, that she wasn’t like the other moms that were home all day waiting for their children to get home to ask them about their day.  Now as a mother, I am grateful for the wonderful mother that I had.  She has her imperfections like we all do but her qualities far outweigh the human qualities about her.  Her desire and hard work towards a better tomorrow, her strength through bad financial, emotional and marital times, her love for her grandchildren, her hugs filled with aromatic coffee, her gentle smile, her love and acceptance, her belief in all of her children, her tenacity to overcome a horrible childhood, her generosity in love – all of these things and so many more keep her in the pedestal in which I have her.  My own guardian angel watching over me, reminding me that someday my own daughters will see the sacrifice that mothers make for their children.  Reminding me that these daughters of mine will be just fine because I’m raising them to be like my mother raised me to be: resilient, hardworking, confident, ambitious, and kind.

 

Spinning Round and Round

13 Jun

Originally posted on On the Fast Lane with the Flying Monkeys:

Spinning round and round
Giggles swirling around my ears
Giggles coming from me
 
Spinning round and round
Dress up to my waist
Gently undulating up and down
A blur all around me
 
Spinning round and round
Faster and faster
Laughter turn into sobs
Tears down my cheeks
 
I can’t see a thing
My head feels heavy
But I keep
Spinning round and round
 
My legs give out and I stagger to the ground
The blades of grass prick my skin
Grab hold of them
steady me
 
Spinning round and round
A blur all around me
 
I lay down to sleep
Better to stop
Spinning round and round

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La Migra

13 Jun

Originally posted on On the Fast Lane with the Flying Monkeys:

We went out to the Geffen MOCA and dinner with AM and her boys on Thursday evening.  As we settled down with our sushi and rambunctious kiddos, we started talking shop, as AM fondly refers to it.

A year had passed since I changed careers, a career that she so generously recommended me for and positioned me perfectly for.  In a year I had learned that this was the perfect vehicle for my ambition, hard worth ethic, and all around personality of a control freak. :)  I had just received a promotion and she wondered how I came to possess the professionalism, poise, and ability to navigate and distinguish myself while working at a high-powered law firm and coming from Boyle Heights with my highest education being at Roosevelt HS  no less (a school whose distinction includes being featured in the documentary Waiting for Superman as an educational fail factory).

As far as my work ethic…

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Hunger

13 Jun

Originally posted on On the Fast Lane with the Flying Monkeys:

This is hard to share because there’s a certain shame and stigma to going through this in a first world country, but it’s important to know that it happens, here in our country, and that it is more pervasive that we like to admit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I had you Bella, it was so hard to leave you. You were such a little thing, born a bit early; you weighed 5 lbs. and 8oz. When you would curl up your tiny limbs up to your chest, you could easily fit inside a shoe box. How could I leave you? I only had six weeks with you before it was time for me to go back to work and when I went back that first day I couldn’t help it; the tears kept streaming down my cheeks and it hurt so bad to be away from you. I had taken one of…

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Hate on Sight

13 Jun

Originally posted on On the Fast Lane with the Flying Monkeys:

I run at ass crack dawn every day mostly because that is the only time I can squeeze in one more activity into my busy schedule but also in an attempt to avoid the creeps that stalk about waiting to harass women at night.

As I turned the corner I heard the familiar “hey baby, looking gooood” and noticed two cholos sitting at a bus stop bench that rudely corrected my theory that losers are too lazy to be up that early.

My body went on high alert; my stomach muscles contracted and a flurry of emotions threatened to make me double over as I felt the familiar rage within me: hate on sight.  As I inhaled I could feel my nostrils flare, my chest heave; and all I could think about was how I wanted to scoop up the dregs of festering hate inside my body and spit it…

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Image

Happy 9th Birthday Bella!!

3 Jan

Happy  9th Birthday Bella!!

Time Split within Languages

31 Dec

“You were invited, you RSVP’d and then didn’t show up.” “No, I wouldn’t do that! I wasn’t invited, I would have loved to go to that wedding, but I wasn’t invited.” “Yes you were, we sat at the table where you were supposed to sit and there were two empty seats, because you didn’t show.” “Si, y ni dijistes nada.”

I racked my brain trying to go back 10 years and piece back that memory but I couldn’t. I felt awful for having done something so rude and not being able to remember how/why.

10 years ago at 19, my life was in Spanish. I went to work and spoke English for a few minutes a day to my supervisor but most of my work friends were Mexican, making it easy to lapse into Spanish during our morning breaks, during whispered conversations on the way to the bathroom and during our daily lunches filled with boisterous laughter that bounced off the cheap carpet at City Hall East. I even laughed in Spanish, “Ja! ja! ja! Ja!”

At home, I spoke nothing but Spanish. I spoke so much Spanish or Spanglish that I feared that I was losing my grasp on English. Whenever I had to switch over to English abruptly, the words came out thick, my tongue slow as if stuck on peanut butter full of consonants.

Then it stopped.

23, with a new job and single parenthood. Not a single Mexican or Spanish-speaking co-worker in sight.

I curved inwards, trying to find and make sense of who I was. Not being able to express my feelings as freely as they flowed in Spanish; I grew quiet. The English words I released felt so proper and guarded as I took great care to avoid butchering this language that I had placed on pause for so long.

Another job, another life flowed by and the Spanish hardly surfaced. Even my girls, who shared Spanish as a first language, lapsed into all English with a mix of Japanese learned from their Buddhist preschool.

English. Painstakingly listening to the pronunciation of words on Dictionary.com, over and over, whispering the words as I walked to work until I felt comfortable enough to say them out loud to someone.

Now at 29, I miss the reassuring shield that Spanish used to provide. Like a tattered baby blanket, it fell apart in my hands and I find myself working hard to mend it back into the vibrant pattern it once had.

I ran away from Spanish to obliterate the memories that were formed in that beautiful language. It was easier to stop the unpleasant flashbacks if I moved my mental lever to Spanish:Off.

Such a black and white solution might seem callous, cowardly and cold but it worked.

But as my thirties beckon; I find myself gingerly stepping in and out of my Spanish voice and then stomping back in and out as my thoughts swirl into a frenzy and come tumbling out in a new musicality.

A duet that twirls into a self that isn’t quite Spanish and isn’t quite English.

I finally figured out why I didn’t go to the wedding; a once bitter recollection that had been buried in mortification. But that was a lifetime ago, it seems.

As I look forward, shortly immersing myself into a new decade, I hope that I don’t lead such a segmented life. I want to waltz easily to the tune of yesterday while retaining the smile of today.

Not quite English, not quite Spanish but both, hand in hand dancing along.

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Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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