Monday, January 30, 2012
Isaiah: "Mom, what is 'gay'?"
Isaiah: "'Gay.' What's that?"
Me: "Gay? Uhh. . .it means that you're happy."
Isaiah: "No, the other meaning."
Me: "Of gay?"
Isaiah: "Yes, mom. I heard this boy say that the way somebody was jumproping was 'so gay'. The other boy that was jumping got really, really mad. Like really almost crying mad."
Me: "Was he trying to be mean to him?"
Isaiah: "I think so, Mom."
Me: "Sounds like he was. Is he a friend of yours?"
Me: "The boy who was being mean. Or the boy who was jumping rope."
Isaiah: "No. They were both older. Like maybe fourth grade. I know them, though. I was just there because we were out there playing."
Isaiah: "So is that a bad word? 'Gay'?"
Me: "When used like that it is. It's a very mean word when used that way."
Isaiah: "Mom, that boy says 'stupid' a lot, too. And I think I even heard him one time saying a real bad word. One of the real ones that grown-ups use, not like stupid."
Me: *coughing* "I don't want you to ever call somebody 'gay' like that or say what someone is doing is 'gay.' That's not cool. At all."
Isaiah: "I didn't think so, Mom. It sounded mean how he said it. Why is it a bad word?"
Me: "It's not always a bad word. But explaining what it means is kind of a mature thing to try to get you to understand. You know like how I say some shows on TV are mature?"
Isaiah: "Yes. Like 'The Family Guy' even though it's a cartoon."
Me: "Exactly. Like that. So when you get older I can explain why that word when used like that might hurt somebody's feelings. For now, just don't say it."
Isaiah: "Okay, Mom."
Me: "I'm glad you told me, though."
Isaiah: "Can you take us to Target today to buy us a new toy with our allowance?"
Me: "No, dude. We just went. Remember?"
Isaiah: "'Dude' seems like a bad word when you say it."
Me: "Well, it's not."
Isaiah: "You always say it when you say 'no' or you want us to hurry up or get out of your face."
Me: "Oh yeah? Alright, dude. Go ahead play and let Mommy finish reading her magazine."
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Here's how I thought it would all work:
- You fall in love (while you are still rather young-ish), get married, and love each other forever.
- You (effortlessly) conceive and have a baby.
- You (perfectly) love and parent the baby.
- You (unfailingly) read to the baby.
- The baby grows into a (wonderful) child.
- The child goes to (the best) school.
- The child is gifted (of course).
- The child excels at nearly everything he or she tries.
- The child gets into (all of) the colleges of his or her choice and/or gets all of the opportunities of his or her choice. You and your perfect spouse are still there to enjoy it.
- The child graduates (on time) from the college of his or her choice (plus or minus an advanced or terminal degree of his or her choice.)You and super-spouse are over the moon.
- The child (immediately) becomes a gainfully and irrevocably employed grown-up in the field of his or her choice. You and super-spouse have bought a vacation house over the moon.
- The gainfully employed grown-up child subsequently meets someone and falls in love. You and super-spouse prepare to be super-grandparents.*
Here is what I am learning:
It doesn't usually work that way.
I am reflecting right now on these twelve imaginary steps. Twelve steps that don't ever seem to fall into this perfect little order that we imagine. Nope, not at all.
When I look at this list--one through twelve--I realize that virtually no person sails through this list without a hitch. No, not one. I'm also recognizing that depending upon where we are in our lives, we worry about different parts of this list.
Or. We mature enough to scrap it altogether and enjoy the lives we have and to find what is perfect in them.
When I first moved to Atlanta, man. . . all I ever thought about was step one. Worried about it. Prayed about it. Talked about it. Fretted about it. Well, actually. . . . I worried mostly about the step before step one--meeting someone.
Eventually I met Harry so I was on to worrying about other things. Just like my friends were.
Anyways. Today I'm looking at my own little world and thinking about the hiccups I've had on that twelve step list. And let me be clear--as far as my life goes, these are not major hiccups. They are things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't earth shattering really . . . . .but matter. At least to me.
Like, for example. My son, Isaiah, talked non-stop from the day he turned one. His memory is like a steel trap and his soul could rival that of any Grady elder. He is wonderful and insightful and smart and everything else you can think of. So naturally I figured he'd take all of this wonderful and insightful and smartful into the classroom when he started school. But you know? School has not been a cake walk for him. It hasn't been horrible. But it hasn't been a cakewalk either. And that? That caught me off guard. Damn, it did.
It was supposed to be so simple. He'd show up and simply blow their minds--just as he'd blown ours. But you know? School and kids and learning can be complicated. More complicated than I had given it credit for. And no, my child is not doing horribly in school or anything like that. But it isn't what I expected. It isn't what I recall from my days as a student in elementary school. No, it is not. Oh yeah. And he also isn't me.
See? That's what's stressful about that list. It's all about expectations and how you think things are supposed to go. You get all bent out of shape when it takes a turn somewhere in Albuquerque. At least I did.
That's why you need people who care around you.
This year Isaiah has a teacher who, instead of focusing on whether or not he is gifted, has chosen to focus on the fact that he is a gift. And not just him. Every child in that class. And it is amazing. Really, really amazing. She has helped me to stop and remember that my child is a gift. And I thought I was someone who would never need to be reminded of that. But school is different. She, through her caring, has helped me to remember:
Forget whether or not he is gifted. He's a gift, remember?
It kind of reminds me of when I struggled to breast feed Isaiah right after he was born. Oh, how much I cried and cried when it wasn't working! It finally took our pediatrician to remind me that I needed to stop trying to follow some perfect to-do list and just enjoy my baby.
Oh yeah. My baby. Enjoy him.
But anyways. I guess Isaiah's wonderful teacher has helped me to do the same thing. Enjoy my baby. And see the things that those twelve steps make me forget sometimes. And all this caring is happening in a public school, no less. Yes! Man, I could go on and on about her. . . . but I won't because it might lead to the ugly cry. Or worse her reading this and having the ugly cry.
You know what else? The point of maximal fretting on that twelve step list of expectations totally depends upon where you are in your life. It really does.
Like. . . . I have several friends with relationships that are unraveling. Some quietly unraveling like one loose piece of yarn in a crocheted afghan that gets tugged on softly until nothing remains but a large pile. Others unraveling suddenly. . .so suddenly that everyone around them is dizzy from it.
See? Failed again by that list of steps and weeping into the crook of an arm because it didn't happen as planned. As we planned.
But does life ever really happen exactly as we planned? Does it?
Someone wants to fall in love. Someone is in love but wants to be married. Someone is married but is in a different city than their spouse. Someone wants their child to go to college. Someone wants their kids to graduate from college. Someone is upset that their college graduate child isn't gainfully employed. Someone wants their gainfully employed married college graduate child to have a baby already.
It never stops. Someone wants to have a baby and can't. Or they did have a baby and that baby has health problems. Or they had a perfectly healthy baby but really want another baby. Or they finally got all their babies but now their marriage is unraveling. Or something else altogether.
But always something. Something to groan about. Some step on that pesky list to get you all hung up.
And I'm not saying that this list of expectations is all-inclusive. I'm also not saying that college is on everyone's radar or that every person reading this actually gives a hoot about every single one of these steps. But I am saying that somehow some version of this list has become the circle of life for a whole lot of people.
Even the really, really blessed ones like me.
So today, I say we all just scrap that list altogether. I say we wake up and give our best. That we strive for great futures for ourselves and our children but all the while. . . we stop and smell as many roses as we can along the way. And surround ourselves with people who care.
Because all of it is really a gift. . . .a perfect gift.
Oh yeah. My baby. Enjoy him.
Oh yeah. My life. Enjoy it.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
You are me
and we are you. . ."
I saw this young couple in the residents' clinic several months ago. Super young--like not even twenty years old. And it was a rather odd visit to have in an Internal Medicine clinic at a public hospital. This couple was here together because even though they hadn't been using any birth control methods for several months . . . . they hadn't yet conceived.
"So we just came to get checked out." That's what the young woman said as she looked over at her partner.
"Checked out?" I asked.
"Yeah, ma'am," he quickly answered. "Like to make sure we can have a baby."
And I looked at this teenage couple and coached myself not to have a judging facial expression. I hoped my face didn't show my thoughts.
Say WHAT? What the hell are y'all thinking? A baby? A BABY!
But they sat there patiently--her in the chair next to the desk and him rolling around on the wheeled stool. Faces as innocent as little cherubs and eyes twinkling-twinkling like little stars.
Even though they were young, I liked how genuinely and lovingly they looked at one another.
"Do you mind me asking how old you all are?"
"Both of us nineteen," she replied. She scoldingly cut her eyes at him and he abruptly stopped rolling back and forth on the chair.
I cleared my throat. "Are you . . .like trying to get pregnant?"
"Yes, ma'am. We're the last ones in our family. Everybody be asking what we waiting for." When he said that, he looked at her and laughed.
And honestly? This sounded completely crazy to me. Two nineteen year-olds who'd been trying to conceive since age eighteen sitting in our clinic asking to have thyroids checked and sperms counted up to see what was keeping a bun from going into their oven.
"Ma'am, do you think we gon' be here more than another hour? I got to go to work and need to know if I should call my job," he said.
His face was so boyish and the way he kept twirling from side to side on that chair made him look even younger. I couldn't imagine what kind of work he was doing.
"What kind of work do you do?" I queried.
He then told me of his job working in a storage warehouse. Good money. A very solid, substantially-more-than-minimum hourly wage. And health benefits even.
"Including dental," he added proudly.
And her? She was finishing up cosmetology school.
"It's going real good," she shared before launching into telling me about the upscale salon where she hoped to get a job.
"Yeah, she always been great with hair. She do everybody hair already so I'm glad she in school for it." He was quick to support her. It was endearing.
"That's great," I responded. Because that was great.
Great yes. Even though in my head I still thought the whole idea of two nineteen year-olds intentionally trying to get pregnant was a little off putting. And even more, I found the thought of those same two nineteen year-olds getting sweated by their respective families because they hadn't had a baby yet rather . . . crazy-ish.
That said, we ran a few simple tests on them both. Each received a full physical exam and everything checked out okay. After referring them to the family planning clinic, I bid them adieu and wished them well.
And by well I meant growing older and maturing some more before conceiving a human.
The other day I was standing next to the clinic elevators and who did I see? Them. Side by side still and looking at each other just as lovingly as they had before. I glanced down at her unbuttoned coat and noticed an increasing abdominal girth poking out of the opening.
"Pregnant!" I said out loud when I saw them.
They immediately remembered me. He spoke first. "Yeah, ma'am. We just kept tryin' and we finally got pregnant!"
I love it when men refer to pregnancies as a "we" phenomenon. And you know? They were a "we." A nineteen and a half year-old we. But a "we" all the same.
I looked at their hands and their laced together fingers. Next I noticed the cursive name on his uniform. Just coming from or going to work again I supposed.
"You all having a boy?" I asked.
"Naw, it's a girl! We just fount out!" she squealed. "But everybody guessed it's a boy!"
They looked at each other again and smiled.
"She gon' be so spoiled," he said with a shake of his head. "I know it already." He glanced over at her again with her petite body with it's new miniature beachball in front. Beyond that, she didn't look pregnant at all.
"You know why they keep guessing boy, right? It's because you look so good." I figured I'd throw in my mother-wit as I mindlessly pushed the "down" elevator button repeatedly.
"Oh yeah," he chimed in, "'cause them girls rob you of your beauty right? Tha's what they say? Ha ha!"
"That's what they say." I giggled at that old adage.
"Well, not her. She been pretty since the day we start going together."
Going together. Wow.
"How long has that been?"
They both knitted their brows in tandem thinking. "Middle school," she finally answered. "Or a little before that."
We stepped onto the elevator and I watched them. He carried her purse and held up his arm for support even though she wasn't that big or tired appearing. It was just the gentlemanly thing to do for the lady you love.
And it was obvious that there was love there. Love between that young couple for sure. And no, they weren't married and yes, nineteen is hella-young if you ask me. . .
Nobody asked me. And even if they did. . . . who am I to judge their readiness to start a family? A tax payer you say? Was this your initial thought?
Funny that my initial thought was negative. . . . or rather, it's actually not funny at all. The truth? Here I was imagining for them some life tethered to government support and generational poverty and ignorance. All because they wanted a baby at nineteen. Or was that all?
Look. I sure as hell wasn't looking to have or feeling ready for a baby at nineteen. But that doesn't mean they aren't. Or that someone else isn't.
What if this hadn't been at Grady? What if this was some young ivory-faced nineteen year-old couple with tiny crosses around their necks and vermeil bands on their ring fingers?
I waved good bye to them and congratulated them once more on the pregnancy. As I watched them walk away, I froze for a moment.
Had I passed judgment on them for being young, black and working poor? Had I sized them up and assigned them a life and a future that, in all actuality, I had no idea about at all? Had I?
All that they had shown me up until that point was youth, yes. . . .but more than that, just love and devotion. The same things we had when we were expecting our first baby. Harry taking off of work and holding my coat and my arm at those prenatal visits just like them. And just like our first baby and the one that came after. . . .the main thing their little daughter would have in common with Isaiah and Zachary was that she was wanted. . .and conceived in love.
Young love, no less, but love all the same. I had no grounds for thinking anything else.
As they disappeared from my sight, this word popped into my head:
prejudice [prej-uh-dis]: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
I stopped at the glass door and caught my reflection. . . . .
I told that woman in the mirror, Careful, profesora. . . . Be careful.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .Maxwell singing "I'm you."
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
*names and details changed to protect anonymity
|(added hair courtesy of Parissa's ponytail.)|
The more that I learn, the less that I know.
Never thought I would want to slow down.
Just focus on clouds in blue skies,
Above all the rain, the sun shines.
It's just an ordinary day. . .
Never thought I would want to slow down.
Just focus on clouds in blue skies,
Above all the rain, the sun shines.
It's just an ordinary day. . .
I'm much to strange for this ordinary world.
~ from the television show "Smallville"
|Short coiff = blasphemy or illness according to Grady elders|
In the Resident's Clinic yesterday:
Resident: "Hey Dr. Manning. . . Mr. Purifoy is here and told me to make sure you saw him before he left. He was asking about you."
Me: "Oh yay! Love Mr. Purifoy!"
Resident: "Yeah, he's a pretty awesome guy. He's in room 46, okay?"
Me: "Gotcha. Thanks!"
Two minutes later in room 46
Me: *knocking on door and peering head inside of the room* "Hey there Mr. Purifoy!
Grady elder: "Hey sugar! I was jest askin' 'bout you!"
*gives me the hairy eyeball*
Me: "What's wrong, Mr. P?"
Grady elder: *sucks teeth* "You cut your hair some more?"
Me: *rubbing my head* "Uhhh, probably. I cut it every chance I get."
Grady elder: "But whhhyyyyy? Why you do that?"
Me: *chuckling* "Awww, Mr. Purifoy! Why you busting on my hair today?"
Grady elder: *squinting eyes* "And it look like it got grey since I seent you last! You meant to do that? Cut it and grey it? Maybe tha's my cataracts actin' up!"
Me: *cracking up laughing*
Grady elder: *now looking serious* "I'm not laughing, Miss Manning. I'm for real. Why you keep on cutting off your hair, sugar? Why you do that?"
Me: *taking zero offense considering this comes up often with me and the Grady elders* "Ha ha. . . . you never have been a fan of this short hair have you Mr. Purifoy?"
Grady elder: "I jest always think a lady look so niiiice when she got her hair long on her shoulders.. . .'specially when it look all silky. I bet if you stopped cuttin' on yours it'd grow clear down your back."
Me: *shudder* "Eek."
Grady elder: "Bet it sho' would."
Me: "Actually, Mr. P., I can assure you that this is true."
Grady elder: "What? Then yo' hair does grow? Then why you cut it all off? What would make you do such a thing, Miss Manning? What your mama say when she saw that?"
Me: *laughing still* "I don't know what to answer first, Mr. P!"
Grady elder: "Like what was the whole thang goin' through your head when you set down someplace and told somebody to cut all your hair off your head like that?"
Me: "Uhhhh. . . .well, let's see. I was thinking, 'This might be real cute.'"
Grady elder: *nose wrinkled*
Me: "Dang, that's cold, Mr. P."
Grady elder: "And you such a pretty little thang, too."
Me: "Guess what, Mr. Purifoy? You won't believe this but my husband loves my hair short. I grew it to my chin after my last baby and he liked to have passed out when I cut it back off! He was so happy!"
Grady elder: "Happy?"
Grady elder: *snort*
Me: *snort back*
Grady elder: "What he said about them grey hairs popping up in front?"
Me: "It was his idea for me to stop fighting it. We call it 'The Anderson Cooper Look'."
Grady elder: "The who?"
Me: "Never mind. Hey! Your blood pressure and blood sugar look really good today! Your resident doctor just showed me your numbers."
Grady elder: "Yeah, that new pill she gave me helped a lot."
Me: "Good! Have you thought more about the cigarettes?"
Grady elder: "Naaaaaw, don't even start either, hear? Hey! You know that girl. . what her name. . . BE-yawn-say?"
Me: "Beyonce? Do I know her? Uhh, no. Do I know OF her? Uhhh, yeah. She just had a baby, you know?"
Grady elder: "A who? Oh, well my granddaughter say she take them hair weaves to make her hair so long like that. So you know, if you wont that kind of hair you can jest pay for it you know."
Me: *laughing out loud* "Now you're trying to get me a weave, Mr. Purifoy?"
Grady elder: "It's jest that I don't know about all these pretty women with these little boy hair cuts." *shakes head* "When I was coming up the only folks with hair like that was sick."
Me: "Sick? W-ow."
Grady elder: *looks apologetic* "I was just suggesting it in case you wonted a change or something."
Me: "I know, Mr. P. I'll keep it in mind, okay?"
Grady elder: "Alright then, sugar."
Grady elder: "And I'm workin' on them cigarettes, hear? It's jest been more than fifty years so it's hard, baby. But I'mon try."
Me: "Good, Mr. P." *squeezing his hand for a moment* "Okay then, sir. . . Let me go ahead and let your doctor finish wrapping up the visit, okay? So good seeing you as always."
Grady elder: *looking pensive*
Grady elder: "Look here, Miss Manning. . ."
Me: *hand on the doorknob with raised eyebrows*
Grady elder: "I didn't hurt your feelins did I? Sayin' all that stuff about your hairdo?"
Me: "Not one bit, Mr. Purifoy!"
Grady elder: "Oh good, baby. Cawse you know I love you don't you? Even with your hairdo like that."
Me: *palm on chest* "You know what? I do know that, sir. And I love you right back."
Nope. Not offended. Nope. Not annoyed. Because this? This is the best part of what I do. The people. The relationships. The funny little exchanges. The laughter and the hand squeezes. All of these things swirling together every single day and all of these things that make these ordinary days feel so extraordinary.
That's all I've got today.
Hey. . . .Pay attention to something ordinary today. . . . and find the extraordinary in it, hear?
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .Greg Jones' Smallville anthem -- "It's just an ordinary day." Couldn't embed it, sorry!
|BE-yawn-say and her hairdo.|
Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Isaiah and Zachary have wallets. Dreadful little nylon wallets with Velcro closures that they open and close repeatedly. They needed these wallets because this was the first year we started giving them an allowance. Oh, and before you say, "An allowance? What?!" Please. . . .don't get too excited. Their "allowance" certainly ain't much.
It actually involves what has become a very complicated school/home behavior and reading chart. I didn't mean for it to become so intricate, but thanks to Mr. Isaiah A. Manning it has become just that. Essentially, every day I fill out what is called "The Heart Chart." The chart has all these categories like "school", "homework" and -- my favorite of all -- "Mommy." The "Mommy" one simply refers to your overall interaction with ME that day. Oh, and did I mention? Isaiah came up with these categories.
He also came up with the system for interpreting it. Each day, you can get one of three things per category--a heart for the best behavior, a dot for neutral behavior, or an X for unsatisfactory behavior. If you get ten hearts, that adds a dollar to your baseline four dollar allowance at the end of the week. For every two Xs, you lose a dollar. Dots are neutral across the board.
Oh yeah. And for every ten books you read, that's a dollar, too.
So essentially, this ends up yielding somewhere around three dollars per week between Xs and books and hearts. On a really, really good week though, it can get as high as six dollars. The whole point of it is to teach them a lesson. About earning and saving and the value of money. About calculating their earnings for that week and the consequences of their actions. I even have them use their money for church contributions and charitable things, too. It's all meant to teach them something. At least, I hope it will.
Last week was a good week. Isaiah earned seven dollars because, in addition to having a good school and home week, he slam-dunked "Mommy" and threw back some books as well. So yeah. This was a good week.
With allowance plus Christmas money from the grandparents in their wallets, the kids came to me requesting that I take them to Target to buy something with their money. And seeing as Target is never a hard sell for me and that they had saved a fair amount, I obliged them.
In we go to Target. It was kind of cute watching them carefully reading the prices and trying to decide if something was actually worth the money. I even decided that I wouldn't cover tax--which I usually do cover. By the way--this whole tax thing really ticked Zachary off. He was like, "It really isn't fair for you to have seven dollars but you can't buy a toy that cost six dollars and ninety-nine cents 'cause you have a tax."
And to that I said, "Ain't that the truth."
Isaiah decided on a giant Bakugan. Zachary chose to purchase a new Beyblade. And I would digress to explain just what a giant Bakugan is or help you understand what the hell a Beyblade is, but really? It wouldn't help at all even if I did. Just know that the Cartoon Network and their anime animators have captured the hearts and attention of all boys between the ages of five and eight, and a giant Bakugan, a new Beyblade, Pokemon cards, Ben 10 and all of those things fall under that umbrella.
So the Bakugan toy cost $17.99. And the Beyblade cost $7.99. Both plus tax. Which was fine since they each had enough to cover it. I handed them their wallets and told them to be prepared to pay for their toy. This would involve "speaking up like a young man" and also knowing how much money you gave the person as well as having some idea of what you should be getting in return.
Just in case.
So we stand to the side and painstakingly do the math. And me, I'm feeling like a rather kick-ass mama for this whole thing. Like just maybe it's the kind of thing my kids will be blogging about as grown ups. . .reflecting on this teachable moment in Target and such.
We situate the money thing and then choose a line. A manager lady sees us walking toward a checkout kiosk and redirects us to another one. "She'll take you over here on six!"
I smile and nudge my boys over toward six. Velcro wallets and all.
"Can I buy me some candy?" Zachary asked.
"But I have enough money. This cost point sixty nine, Mama."
"Sixty nine cents. And no."
"Could I help you please?"
A voice interjected abruptly and impatiently as I plucked a candy bar out of Zachary's hand. Not only was it impatient--it was followed by an unmistakable little huff.
The tone of that request was slightly funky. Yet funkily familiar. I glanced up and. . . .gasp!
Say it ain't so.
Her again. Yes. Teenage Mutant Target Checkout Chick.
I bullshit you not. I couldn't help but laugh out loud to myself. I knew this would not be the patient and tender moment I was hoping my kids would get.
"Son, go ahead and hand her your Bakugan," I said to Isaiah briefly giving her the benefit of the doubt. I could tell by her lowered eyelids and raised eyebrows that she recognized me. And I curled my lips and dropped my own lids half mast to let her know that I was not even fazed by her or her funky attitude. Then or now.
"Here you go, ma'am," Isaiah spoke carefully. His high-pitched voice was careful and rehearsed as he passed the twenty dollar bill to her.
She snatched it like he was twenty years old and buying a pack of cigarettes instead of a first grader obviously paying for his first ever anything.
She didn't say two words to my baby. She just threw that money in that drawer and yanked the change out of the drawer like it was ten extra cents for cheese on a Whopper. Then she looked over his head and toward me. Well not really toward me. Just at me with this bored and exaggeratedly annoyed expression with my little math lesson. "Ninety one cents your change." She held up hand toward me palm down and preparing to give ME his change.
"I'm not your customer, ma'am," I replied dryly. Hand now on my hip with backbone fully prepared to slip.
She gave a mini-eyeroll and dropped the change into Isaiah's splayed little hands. A quarter fell on the ground and she didn't even flinch. Or say sorry.
Awww hell naw.
Fortunately, Isaiah was so proud of his transaction that he was none the wiser. He slid his coins into that little Velcro wallet and kept it moving. Sure did. I figured that I'd just take the high road with him.
But then as Zachary stepped forward, I caught her eyes rolling again. Not even subtle about it either.
And that was it.
"Dammit, you know what?" I said through gritted teeth. Gathering up the few items I had and Zachary's toy, I stood on my tippy-toes and looked for that manager. She looked at me with this "what's your problem?" expression--which made me even madder. I repeated myself. "Dammit. . .you got me confused for somebody else. . .dammit. . . where is that manager?" And the manager query was really rhetorical because I saw exactly where that manager was.
Oh. And I made certain to ice-grill that cashier before excusing myself from her line.
|Zachary demonstrates a classic "ice-grill" here.|
My boys looked confused as I abruptly scooted out of the line again. And I wish I could tell you that I didn't say "dammit" repeatedly since my kids were there. But I can't because I did. And in this instance I did because it was 100% called for. Call me a horrible parent, but you know? Sometimes an expletive is 100% called for. Or should at least be 100% excused.
I decided right then and right there that I wasn't waiting for strike three with her. No I was not. I marched right over to that manager--kids in tow--and let her know exactly how I felt.
"I come to this Target all the time. That young woman you have over on register six"--I pointed right at her as she glared in my direction, "--has a terrible attitude and absolutely horrible customer service. Horrible. And not just today either. It's ridiculous and actually. . . .an embarrassment to me. And it should be to you, too."
That sister-manager looked at me intently. She knew that I was talking about a hell of a lot more than just the fact that they both worked at Target.
And so. Since I had her attention I went on to tell her of how funky she had just treated Isaiah and how obvious it was that my six year-old son was trying to pay for his toy himself. My voice started quivering while I was talking of my child and I didn't even try to fight it. I explained that we were the only ones in that line and that even if we hadn't been, her attitude was totally uncalled for.
THEN I went back to the day she miscounted my money into the drawer and accused me of being short. Sure did. I even ratted on her for how nasty she treated that man with his Trader Joes bags on that day. Yep, I went there, too.
"I should have found a manager on that day, but I was in a hurry," I went on, "but today, I'm not. I'm not in a hurry and I am not having it. You need to know that she makes your store look bad which makes YOU look bad. Look. . . .I don't want her to lose her job, but now I know that she wasn't just having a bad day on that first day. You have to do something."
"Actually, I see you here a lot," the manager said.
"Oh, I come here often," I replied ignoring the fact that my Target habit had just gotten called out. "And I'm not a difficult customer. At least I don't think I am. People shouldn't have to deal with this. They shouldn't. I need to pay for the rest of my stuff on another line because if I go back over there she might get cussed out."
Or worse, get a Inglewood beat-down plus a 1981-era T-Tone pulled on her.
"Thank you, ma'am. Really." The manager was professional and appropriately serious. I appreciated that.
Then that sister-manager walked right over to register six and moved TMTCC out of the way as she--the manager herself--personally completed the rest of our transaction. Or rather my son's transaction. She smiled and acknowledged Zachary as he proudly gave her his money out of his crappy little wallet. That manager counted his change right back into his little hand and even waited patiently as he put it into his wallet. "Here you go, little man," she announced while handing him his bag and receipt.
"What do you say, son?" I coached him.
And as my boys danced around me all giddy with their new bags filled with the toys they bought with their own money out of their own dreadful Velcro wallets. . . .that manager looked back at me and repeated herself. "Thank you, ma'am. Really."
Right after that, a woman stepped into the line behind us and began putting her things on the revolving belt. The manager held up her hand like a crossing guard.
"I'm sorry--but this aisle is closed for now," the manager told her. And just like that she shut off the light and gestured toward the back with her surly employee shuffling beside her.
I felt a little bad. But the whole point was to teach her something. At least, I hope it did.
As we approached the door, Zachary looked up at me and said, "We did good in Target, right?"
And although I felt a little pang inside of me for getting that girl--that teenaged girl who looked like me--in trouble with her manager, I knew it was the right thing to do. And it was overdue. "Yep, bud. We did do good in Target."
Dammit, we did.
Happy Sunday. Two posts in one day! Woot! Woot!
|with one of my favorite Grady elders ~ photo shared with his permission|
I was walking through the hallway in the main lobby of Grady. I was supposed to be meeting a medical student and I was already late. My feet were going fifty miles per hour and my mind even faster. . . .
"Oh my gosh! Pardon me for not looking where I was going!"
I looked up at this sweet-faced Grady elder that I nearly mowed down next to the gift shop. I reached down to gather the hat that had fallen off of his head and furrowed my brow apologetically. Instead of looking annoyed with me, he glanced down at me in my white coat with twinkling eyes.
"That's okay, baby," he gently replied as I handed him his cap. His voice was rough like cookie crumbs and immediately I loved it. He paused for a moment then snapped his finger and then pointed right at me. A big smile crept across his octogenarian face. "Ha! Ha! I know you! You that TV doctor that be on Fox 5! Ain't that you?" Before I could answer he grabbed both of my hands tightly, studied my face some more, and came to his own conclusion. "Sho' is! Sho' is you!" He stomped his foot for emphasis. "Ha! Haaa! I be seein' you!"
With every word, he kept squeezing my hands rhythmically and grinning from ear to ear. Man. He was so tickled to have me in front of him--which was kind of funny considering how those local Fox segments are only like three minutes long.
"Manning! Miss Manning, right?"
"Yes, sir!" The "miss" instead of "doctor" title didn't bother me in the slightest. "You doin' alright today, sir?"
I realize that I have an almost musical quality to my Grady-elder-Southern-respect voice. The words roll together and my intonation floats up and down like crescendo decrescendo notes. I first noticed it one day while giving an almost ninety-something year old lady directions in the hallway a while back. Every time I said, "No ma'am" or "Yes ma'am" I could hear it--musical. Different than the "No ma'am" I'd use for the fifty-something year old lady in the post office asking me if she could help me with anything else. I wondered in that moment if it was patronizing.
You doin' al-right today-sir?
"Baby, if I was any better I'd be twins!"
This Grady elder sure didn't seem to think so. He just squeezed my hands again and laughed out loud. "I feel proud to see you! You know I be seein' you on the television, right? Sure do. And you a doctor, too? Go on keep it up, hear?"
"Yes, sir." The song in my voice quieting a bit as I thought about what he'd just said.
And so. He stood there just smiling at me and nodding for a few seconds more. So before I left, I reached out and hugged him tight. Tight like I'd known him for way more than those twenty seconds. It was natural and easy and reciprocated.
And then that was it.
I know, I know. If you've been reading here for a while, you've heard versions of this story before. Grady elders seeing me in the hospital and telling me they feel proud. Me walking off thinking about who they are and what they've seen and where I am now. Yawn. . . I know.
But honestly? It never gets old for me. Not ever. Every single moment like that stops me in my tracks and makes me want to write it down to honor it. Because I never stop feeling indebted or moved or lucky to be here, you know? I don't.
Remember the time that man stopped me outside of McDonald's after I'd been on CNN? I am so happy that I wrote about it because I literally reread that story once every couple of months. And every single time I do, I cry and cry.
Oh and remember when the two Grady elders broke out in song while waiting for the Grady elevator? Singing "I won't complain" at the tops of their lungs? The words used describe that moment have kept it closer to me. . .in high definition even . . . .because I don't want to forget it. I don't. And I won't.
So pardon the redundancy. It's just that some things bear repeating.
My meeting with that first year student was wonderful. I found him waiting for me patiently in the other entrance of the hospital scanning all that was around him. . . .the people, the sights, the sounds. . .all of it. He was standing tall and proud in his overly-white white coat that screamed "pre-clinical medical student". . .but that was okay. As I walked up, I looked at his cocoa-colored complexion and smiled; he could totally pass for a much younger version of the man I'd just left.
"This place is amazing," the student said earnestly.
I squeezed his hands just like that Grady elder had just squeezed mine. "Yes. . . it is. It really, really is."
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
"Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sidestep
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination
'Cause I'm gonna make you see
there's nobody else here
No one like me
I gotta have some of your attention
give it to me."
~ The Pretenders "Brass in Pocket"______________________________________________________
Last night I was talking to my sister, Deanna. Because she is an awesome sister, she picked up the kids for me yesterday evening since I had to teach late at the medical school. Deanna is an educator and, like my parents, is hard-wired with that patience for teaching kids and, especially like my parents, has that special ingredient for making them feel good about themselves.
She was also a rock star student growing up.
I'd say that I was definitely a more-than-decent student growing up. I won't go so far as to say that I achieved rock star academic status, though. But my sister Deanna? Man. When we were in school, she was valedictorian-salutatorian smart. She was straight-A-no-not-never-a-B smart. And me? Eh. . .not so much.
I still think this rock star student thing involved some kind of genetic coding that I didn't quite get. Like Deanna and our baby sister JoLai were those kinds of students for as long as I could remember. I spent half of high school in shared classes with JoLai because she was just too damn gifted to be in the ones for her grade. My brother got the luxury of experiencing the same with Deanna, which for him was slightly worse since she was two grades below him instead of just one like JoLai was to me.
At some point, my parents would barely even look at their report cards. Especially JoLai's. Even though Deanna was brainy, she has always been a social butterfly. The only times she ever got in trouble for anything on her progress reports related solely to conduct. But by the time my parents reached JoLai, it had been perfected. She was smart and knew how to close her mouth and do her work. Imagine that.
|Me and my rock star sisters|
Anyways. After all that knowledge she dropped on the boys, we started talking about what it was like for us growing up.
Deanna squinted her eyes and said, "I think I always believed that I was smart, you know? I really did."
That made perfect sense to me. I can't say that during those years I felt that way. I did always know that my parents had high expectations. But I'm pretty certain that I didn't feel quite as strongly as she about my ability to deliver on those expectations.
"I'm not sure I felt that way," I replied. "In fact, I'm sure I didn't. I didn't think I was dumb or that I wasn't able. But I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dialogue going on in my head telling me how smart I was--at least not one that was coming from me."
Deanna stacked up some papers and slid them into Isaiah's folder. He gave her a quick hug and ran off to the playroom with Zachary. She looked over at me and started chuckling to herself. "Girl, one time when I was in the third grade, this boy said to me, 'I'm the smartest boy in this whole school!' I looked him dead in his face and said, 'So what. I'm the smartest person in this whole school!'" We both cracked up laughing.
"I don't remember you being such a jerk about being smart."
"Naaaah, I wasn't. But I did know I was bright. I'm not sure how it happened but I really did."
"Hmmm. . . . I wish I had felt that way. Ugghh! Especially in middle school. Now that? That was rough."
Deanna teaches middle school so we both nodded knowingly.
"You know. . funny you should mention middle school," she spoke with a nostalgic smile. "Daddy had warned me about middle school and how tough it could be. He told me that kids from other schools would be there and I may be challenged by the fact that a lot of other smart kids were there, too."
I nodded and listened as she went on.
"And you know? I distinctly remember it. Three weeks into being there it dawned on me. 'I'm smarter than all these kids up in here. I get stuff that they don't get. Damn.'" We both laughed out loud.
But even though we were laughing, it was true. She was smart like that. She did always seem to "get" hard things and master hard concepts surprisingly better than her peers.
I thought about her words and what they meant. I thought about the fact that we had grown up in the same house and that despite all of those things, I never really felt that. Not about being smart, per se. "You know, Dee? That's a powerful thing for a student to have, don't you think? An internal belief that they are smart and capable. I want my kids to feel that way."
She smiled at me from across the table. "They will."
We sat in silence for a few moments. I reflected some more on our upbringing and how different we all were as kids and even as adults. My mind began to wander and a scene from many years ago popped into my head crystal clear.
|Middle school me.|
This particular situation was different. This drama company, though for children, was based out of Loyola Marymount University--so the children auditioning were from all over Los Angeles. These kids had headshots and composites and video demo reels and experience. They had training and resumes and all kinds of swagger that me and my just-got-dropped-off-by-my-Inglewood-mama-and-that's-it butt didn't have AT ALL.
And so I sat. And I watched. Kid after kid. Projecting their voices from their well-trained little diaphragms and waving their jazz hands. Some even having the ability to bring themselves to tears.
For a few moments I felt nervous. Me with my skinny, underdeveloped body and awkward, oversized glasses. Up against them with their shiny curls and high-end clothes and gleaming braces and glossy photographs. But then. . . something happened. I remember it like it happened four seconds ago. A voice. In my head. But instead of this voice in my head telling me that I was smart or the smartest or bright or the brightest, it told me something else.
"Kimberly, you're special. You have something that is uniquely you. And not one of these kids has what you have. Not one. Even if they are awesome and talented. You have something else that can't be duplicated. You're the only you there is. And you? You're special."
Now. I know that sounds crazy, but I swear to you it's true. I stepped up onto that stage knowing that every single one of those children and their stage mamas was watching. I ignored that bright light beaming in my face and felt all of those anxious nerves connected to knowing that nearly a hundred plus eyes were focusing on me in that dark theater trickling down into a puddle at my feet.
And so. There I stood. Ninety pounds soaking wet with a body that rivaled Olive Oyl hearing that word over and over in my head. Special. Special. Special. I pulled my narrow shoulders back as that giant spotlight blinded me from anything and everyone in the room. And in that moment. . . .I believed it. I believed that I was special.
Damn, I did.
So without the jazz hands or the forced tears, I lifted up my voice and my ah hah moment over that entire auditorium. Langston Hughes. Yep. I recited a poem by him that I had learned a few years before. Nope. No special scene from some well known play. Nope. No Romeo and Juliet or MacBeth or any such thing. Just a short, simple and meaningful poem by the poet Langston Hughes.
Special. Special. Special.
My heart was pounding and I could hear it because that room had fallen unusually silent. I paid close attention to the intonation of my voice and the meaning of those words as I spoke. Not overdoing it or trying to be someone I wasn't. Just. . . .doing me. Special me. In that moment I convinced myself that my uniquely me way of doing this would work and that even though I didn't have a headshot or a composite or a demo reel. . .that I wasn't competing with them at all. I told myself that . . I know it sounds silly but. . .I told myself that I was special. I really did. And . . . .I believed that what I had to say was worth every single person in that room hearing. I sure did.
Then something funny happened. Everyone in that room believed it, too.
Reciting that poem that day was a pivotal moment in my life. It's bizarre because although the people in that room stood their feet and gave me thunderous applause. . . . .what I remember the most is that. . .for the first time, I had already given it to myself. That felt better than anything else. Even better than their standing ovation. It really did.
Yeah. . . .
I snapped out of that daydream and looked up at Deanna. She listened intently as I told her that story. Then I finally said quietly, "You know? I don't think I really thought I was smart. Maybe later on I did. . . .but not back then I didn't. But what I did believe was. . . was that I was special. I. . .I really did." I patted my chest but then immediately felt a little embarrassed for saying it.
Deanna was so gracious. "I know you did."
I was so glad that she understood. But then she always has gotten things fast.
I let out a big sigh. "Man. . . . I hope my kids feel that way, too."
"They will," she replied softly, "They will."
As spoken by an eighty-eight pound eighth-grader:
"Democracy will not come
I have as much right
as the other fellow has
to stand on my own two feet
and own the land
I tire so of hearing people say,
'Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.'
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread
is a strong seed
in a great need
I live here, too.
I want freedom
just as you."
~ Langston Hughes
Happy Wednesday. And be special, okay? I tell my children--and myself--that often.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .
Sunday, January 15, 2012
|Segregated Grady Hospital during the Civil Rights era (aka "The Gradys")|
Today is January 15, 2012. My name is Kimberly D. Manning and I am a medical doctor. I received my medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. For the past ten years, I have had the honor of teaching Emory University medical students and training Internal Medicine resident physicians at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
And I am a black female.
Fifty years ago today the date was January 15, 1962. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was somewhere blowing out thirty three candles on his birthday cake. During that time, the vast majority of black physicians in the United States were educated at either Meharry Medical College or Howard University School of Medicine--both historically black institutions. In January of 1962 more than a quarter of the population in Atlanta, Georgia was black.
And Grady Hospital was segregated.
"White" Grady and "Colored" Grady. Known by most during those times as "The Gradys"; this plurality serving as the perfect descriptor for these separate but not-so-equal hospitals within one hospital. Yes, in 1962, Grady hospital was segregated.
Fifty years ago today.
Not only segregated. On January 15, 1962, there were no black physicians with staff privileges there. None. As a matter of fact, during that time there were approximately 4,000 hospital beds at hospitals in the Atlanta area. But physicians who looked like me could only practice in less than 500 of them. 438 to be exact.
Fifty years ago today.
If an African-American patient that I cared for as a primary care provider was hospitalized fifty years ago today, yes, they could be admitted at Grady. However, I would have to give up all patient care privileges at the moment they hit the door. Because, you see, while black people could receive care on the segregated C and D wings of the hospital, they could not receive that care from physicians of their same race.
No, they could not.
In January of 1962 there were groups picketing in front of Grady Hospital. Groups like COAHR and others in the community inspired by a thirty-three year old preacher who had become the face of the Civil Rights Movement. The same preacher who preached around the corner from Grady Hospital at Ebenezer Baptist Church. So there they stood. The Committee for the Appeal for Human Rights withstanding hateful stares and venomous words. Young people bravely holding up signs criticizing the inequity of the care offered to "negro" patients at Grady Hospital -- and also the fact that black physicians weren't allowed there.
Fifty years ago today.
Other than it being just wrong, there were other problems with that whole no-black-doctors thing. See, just like it is now, Grady was the hospital that served the indigent patient population in Atlanta. And just like now, many of those patients were black. With segregation like it was, many of those folks were cared for by black physicians in the community. And back then, your primary doctor was usually who cared for you in the hospital, too.
Unless, of course, you needed to be admitted at Grady. Regardless of your wishes, that nice black doctor of yours would likely have been called a "boy" and sent on his way.
Or "gal" or "nigra" had it been me.
Fifty years ago today.
I guess it was good that there was at least the "colored" Grady. I mean, it could have been worse. In addition to Grady, at least there was Hughes Spalding Hospital (the colored hospital) across the street. Across the street. Yeah. So fifty years ago today, your negro doctor caring for you across the street from Grady couldn't come to care for you there. No, he or she could not. Oh, and if you weren't poor enough to be considered "indigent"? That made it even more complicated.
All that was going on on this day in 1962.
In January of 1962, my father was a freshman in college at Tuskegee Institute. He had graduated from high school in Birmingham, Alabama that previous year and, like many black folks back then, was the first person in his family to go to college. But also like many black folks back then, he wasn't the first smart person in his family.
No, he was not.
My paternal grandmother valued education. She celebrated my father for his academic achievements and applauded his decision to get higher education. Like me, my father excelled at science and things involving interpersonal skills. He enthusiastically told his counselor in 1961 that he wanted to major in Biology and go to medical school. Unfortunately, that counselor discouraged him. Shot down that dream quick, fast and in a hurry telling him that it was too much of a gamble. If a black man is going to go to college and he wants a job, he needs to go get an engineering degree. And let go of this pipe dream of being a doctor.
"What if you don't get into medical school? Then what?"
Going to college was already a big deal. And it wasn't like there was a doctor in the family for him to call for advice or to counter with, "But what if you do get in, son? What if you do?"
So fifty years ago today, on January 15, 1962, my gifted-in-science father was struggling in math and engineering classes at Tuskegee Institute where it would take him more than six years to graduate. Because that's where the world was back then. Race and gender clearly dictated decisions and created ceilings made of a hell of a lot more than glass.
Me? I chose to go to Meharry Medical College because it was a good fit for me. Not because there was no other option or other place willing to let me fit. But had I thought of medical school on January 15, 1962, my medical education story would be different. It would have been Meharry or Howard or bust.
Or perhaps, for a woman, nothing at all.
Fifty years ago today.
Today I'm reflecting on how far things have come on what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s eighty-third birthday. I am imaging a life for me in his world, a life at Grady Hospital some fifty years ago. And what I am realizing is that I wouldn't have had any kind of life there. At least, not as a doctor. And damn sure not as a teaching physician at Emory.
Oh, did I forget to mention? 1962 was also the first year Emory University integrated its student body. 1963 marked the admission of the first black student in Emory's School of Medicine-- a young man named Hamilton E. Holmes. As for the faculty part, I'm not sure when that part fully changed. I do know that Dr. Asa Yancy Sr. was the first brother-faculty member appointed at Emory which technically took place in the late 1950's (even though he still couldn't get privileges at Grady.) Something tells me that it probably took a little more time to get some sister-doctors on the roster.
But that's just my guess.
So yeah. A lot has gone down in fifty years. So instead of posting the "I Have a Dream" speech or even discussing some of the annoying criticisms that have come up about Dr. King after his death or talking about President Obama or even ranting about how black history should be discussed in more than just the winter months . . . .I am simply sitting here quietly feeling thankful. Thankful that I am right here right now and not fifty years ago today.
And even more thankful that people like Dr. King and my daddy were there.
Sometimes I feel angry that the doors open to me were shut in my father's face. But when I see how proud he and my mother are of their children and what we have become, I feel a little better. And when I listen to his stories of growing up poor, black, and one of eleven children in the epicenter of the Jim Crow era--and I see what he has become--I feel proud, too.
Proud. Proud of where I can go and what I can do. Thanks to all of them taking a whole lot for the team some fifty years ago today.
Kind of makes me wonder what I'm doing for the team.
See? This Civil Rights thing was more than just a notion. A whole lot more. Me? I get to be a Grady doctor. And no, not in the figurative sense--in the literal sense. I literally get to be a Grady doctor because somebody wasn't afraid to be spit at and hosed down and hit across the head with a brick. I get to be a Grady doctor because some surely terrified individuals put themselves in harm's way on Freedom riders' buses and some peaceful young person in my own father's neighborhood got attacked by German shepherds just for standing up. Because of them I get to be where I am right now. A doctor. At Grady.
So to all who lived through it, I say thank you. For every time you had to stand there and hear someone call your grown-ass father a boy or a nigger or your beloved matriarch a gal or a nigra, thank you. To those who bravely went against the grain when it would have been much easier to hunker down in some false sense of pink superiority, thank you, too. Because I know that there was a lot more moving in that movement than just black folks.
Yes, there were.
Today is January 15, 2012. My name is Kimberly D. Manning and I am a medical doctor. I received my medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. For the past ten years, I have had the honor of teaching Emory University medical students and training Internal Medicine resident physicians at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
And I am a black female.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King.
|My son, Isaiah. . living the dream.|
Now playing on my mental iPod. . .with gratitude.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
One of my writer-mommy-friends, Elizabeth, has been doing this thing on her blog this month called "small stones." Every day she makes some kind of observation about something and then jots down a few words about it. It can be just about anything. Something in her house. On a photograph. An action observed in one of her children. Or even just some everyday object like a chair. That's it.
So Elizabeth got this idea from this writers' blog and linked over to it when she started this. Here's what they say about the whole "small stone" thing:
1. Notice something properly everyday in January.
2. Write it down.
Hmmm. I admit I was a wee bit intrigued. (And seeing as Elizabeth often intrigues me, this was not unusual.)
Seeing as I was feeling all intrigued and such, I linked over to that writers' blog and read this part of their spiel:
"Pay more attention and fall in love with the world."
Now that I can get with.
Don't get too excited. I'm not nearly as organized as Elizabeth. But I do believe in paying attention and falling in love with ordinary things through careful observation.
And so. . . since I don't have my act together enough to do one per day for the whole month of January, I thought I'd do the next best thing--a top ten!
Ladies and gentleman, damas y caballeros! I bring you this week's really introspective top ten. . . . .inspired by Elizabeth. . . .
TEN SMALL STONES FROM THE START OF 2012!
Technically, it isn't a top ten but a list of ten. . . but you get the picture. Also, Elizabeth effortlessly uses words like bougainvillea which aren't really in my vernacular . . . but that's okay. (She'll be proud of me anyway.)
Hey! Stop by and read some of hers if you want some of those delicious words because they are delicious and . . . intriguing, for real. Any writing that makes me want to read more or write more is my kind of writing, man.
Here's my crack at it.
Small Stone 10
Hands held high, fingers splayed like so. Playing defense or hoping for an offensive rebound. High tops squeaking on slick wooden floors. My hands clapping, splayed like so -- I didn't realize you knew how to dribble with one hand! My heart swells with pride but also a hint of melancholia, remembering those same hands once tiny and reaching for me to lift you. . . .fingers splayed like so.
Small Stone 9
I showed this photograph I took with my iPhone to Isaiah and he saw what I saw immediately.
"ROY G. BIV," I told him. Then I smiled my smart-mommy smile anticipating his little-boy question surely to follow my cryptic statement.
"Mom? What is the 'I' for again?" he asked nose wrinkled.
"Oh yeah. Indigo."
Not what I expected, but maybe I should have.
Small Stone 8
"Are those special shoes?" you asked me while pointing at my feet. I look down at them and realize that perhaps a shoe with such a thick rubber sole and outwardly visible staples might warrant some explanation. "They look a little bit like the orthotic shoes," you add, "You know what I'm talkin' about?"
And in response to this I smile at you, then chuckle and nod. Partly because I do know exactly what you are talking about. But mostly because you are a Grady elder who didn't think twice about letting me know this fact.
And me? I love every minute of it.
Small Stone 7
Hands over hearts, mouths moving in synchrony and voices ringing out in unison. Your faces full of first grade mischief, fingertips drumming on your chests and eyes trained on the Lego table. You say this part the loudest:
"Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!"
I walk away laughing, wondering if you think this pertains to the United States or the Lego table.
Small Stone 6
Time blocked out to talk about career guidance and all things academic and future-related. A sharp turn takes it somewhere else. First one tear and then many more. Fast, furious, hot, necessary. I scoot the box of Kleenex closer to you. You talk. I listen. That's it. That's all.
I want you to feel safe and whole and not alone. Before you leave, a hug instead of a handshake. You cry some more because you can.
Small Stone 5
You unlock the door and I hear your feet strong and sure on hardwood floors. The next sound is of keys splashing on the table--and even with kids sitting at the kitchen table, you greet me first.
Eyes on eyes. Smiles on smiles. It doesn't matter how your day was or mine was. Now? It's already better than it was before. My arms encircle your neck and then, my lips press firmly against yours. You kiss me back, eyes closed. Then, you open them and look at my face, the same as always.
"Eeeeeewww!" Zachary squeals.
"Disgusting!" Isaiah chimes in.
Decidedly I tighten my embrace and kiss you once more. . .intentionally. . .deliberately. Knowing that this can and will become a teachable moment for our sons on how to make love a bidirectional verb.
Small Stone 4
In between emails and work and more, eyes quickly scanning to see. Do you like me? Do you really like me? This day there is a paucity of comments. Very few reactions, responses, replies or epiphanies. Is anyone even reading?
Oh please, I tell myself, Don't tell me you're disappointed.
Then I do what always provides the affirmation I am looking for--read my own words. Clicking and reading. Reflecting and feeling. And then I am there again. In those moments, those lessons, and all inside of those words. Yes, I am.
This is why you are doing this, I tell myself, Remember? This is why.
Ironically, that night I click the stats bar. 1,034. The most unique visits ever in a single day.
Lesson there: Sometimes when you don't feel like a hit, you are still getting hits. But the real lesson there: You need to be a hit with yourself first.
Small Stone 3
I study your face to make certain you are okay. . . inspecting your eyes for some hidden exhaustion and watching your smile to see it quivers from being forced. Instead I find you relaxed and whole and more than okay--you are great. Us? We go waaaay back like car seats . . .way back to your very first day of medical school when you didn't even know the difference between words like distal and proximal.
Now those early days seem distal; here you are an intern with two capital letters behind your name that you earned fair and square.
But on this rainy Wednesday morning we laugh and catch up over hotcakes and hot coffee. You are passing through town and in all that hustle bustle thought to call me. Me, of all people. And so I study your face and hear your laughter again . . .remembering that through those shared moments our hearts remain proximal for good.
Small Stone 2
Retro-green and busy with fuzzy wool that pills and catches on any and everything. But so what. You are like my tomato red pants or my leopard print kitten heel pumps; when I put you on, I feel good. And even if I already felt good to begin with, when I slide you over my shoulders I feel better. Even on my glasses days.
Stuff you put on can do that to you sometimes. At least for me they can.
Small Stone 1
Behemoth and burgeoning, the worse off business gets for this country, the more business seems to come your way. And just how your business comes to you--a lost job, a lost insurance plan--it doesn't matter. You don't make it your business to dissect or judge or turn away. Instead you remain steadfast--standing tall, mighty and welcoming to all. To all.
You accept broken English and broken lives. You also accept the criticism that comes with opening your doors to the least of these. To the least of these.
I am proud to be a part of you; you heal more than just patients. More than just patients.