Alien?

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“My brother is an alien,” she stated confidently in her sweet, three-year-old voice.  She was too young to know that once she had also been an alien.  The immigration officer smiled in a professionally controlled way.  Likely she had heard that joke a few times in her long career behind that desk.

There is no concern in our voices, no hesitation in presenting the official, stamped, sworn-to papers that will make our baby son an American citizen.  After all, we are white, privileged, financially stable, citizens by birth.  There is no question of our right to the time and attention of this bureaucrat, whose salary and benefits, after all, are paid by our tax money.  Our lives are comfortable, our extended clan vibrant with welcoming love for these two young children.  Children who were born to other parents somewhere else in the world, brown-skinned, with hair and eyes as black as night.

True, we suffered years of longing and waiting, tears and anger, attending baby showers with fake smiles on our faces, dredging up congratulations out of the shreds of our shattered hopes.  But now, we are parents, finally.  Not the way we had originally planned, not “blood of my blood,” no shared DNA, no possibility of “she looks just like you!” But parents, nonetheless.

Doubtless feelings of fear and inadequacy plague all new parents, its measure according to personality and ability, tradition and experience.  But add in this:  guilt.  Guilt because this is a world in which someone like me can travel thousands of miles to a foreign land, hand over thousands of dollars to an adoption agency and an attorney, spend weeks or months living in an apartment hotel and finally, at last, travel thousands of miles back home with the most adorable, wanted, loved, prayed for children in the entire universe.

And what of the mothers left behind?  We did not meet our daughter’s mother three years before, because at that time it was not always feasible.  But this time we did, in our lawyer’s office, depending on him to adequately translate the depth of our gratitude.  Our words and those of this lovely young mother were choked with tears.  We assured her that we would speak of her always in kindness; that we would be sure her son would know that she wanted him, desperately, but gave him to us “with her whole heart” because she knew the life she would live with him would be stark and painful; that he would be an alien in his own land and she wanted better for him.

Almost thirty years have passed since those meetings with our son’s mother and with the immigration officer.  But sadly, immigration and the cruel and untrue characterizations of immigrants from those who purport to represent the American people assault me on a daily basis.  I am forced to realize that my children could so easily have been “Dreamers.” That under a different set of circumstances, their mothers might well have brought them to this country or any other country illegally, because that is what parents do when the only other option is letting your child die of malnutrition, be kidnapped into a rebel army, or forced into prostitution.  And legal or not, I would say to them, Bravo, Welcome, Well Done.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 2/1/18
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt: profuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Want to Know – Definitions

 

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This is a companion piece to a recent post that poked fun at some of the things that drive me crazy about the loved ones with whom I share daily life.

I am back on the soapbox I have constructed over 30 years of being wife, mother and woman of the house. It may be technically impossible, but I have managed to create a soapbox with only one side.  That side would be MINE!

So, my dear ones, when you say the following, I think you must have a native language I do not know about. Either that or you revised the English dictionary and forgot to get me a copy for my birthday.

“A few minutes….”  This usually appears in a request such as “Can you come out to the garage and help me for a few minutes?” What I need to know is this. Should I just put on my boots and come out to the garage? Should I go the bathroom, put on my boots, and come out to the garage? Or, should I review my will, call the kids to tell them I love them, pack a small suitcase, go to the bathroom, put on my boots, and come out to the garage?

“On your way home….”  This is a phrase that proves your general understanding of directions and the roads that go between home, work, and the farm store is not up to GPS standards. It is a hard concept to construct in words.  Perhaps this map will help clarify.

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If you call me at work and ask if I would be willing to go to the farm store before I come home, you would probably get an affirmative answer. Admittedly it might include loud sighing or a snarky tone indicating that you have no idea how tired I am after a hard day at work.  Still, it’s likely that I would be willing to do it.  But when you start with “On your way home……,” I get an uneasy feeling that you’re trying to sweet talk me and hoping I don’t realize that the farm store is not, on any map of this universe, on my way home!

“Temporary…”  This is a word that can be applied to any length of time.  It means something different depending on the context. Life is temporary, for sure, but its span is hopefully a long one. Seasons are temporary, their length and character determined by where on the earth they are being marked.  When a doctor says the medical procedure she is about to do will cause temporary pain, well, we all know what that means!

I accept that the word temporary doesn’t need to be specified in most cases. I am fairly flexible in that regard.  But when you pile dirty rags, smelly solvents, and greasy tools on the kitchen counter and tell me it’s just temporary, I need a number!

 

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 9/16/17

Things I Want You to Know

puzzle-210786_640As much as I love you, my dear family members, here are some things I want you to know. You have possibly not heard them before because……

I am too polite.
I was raised to be accommodating.
It’s my job to make everybody happy.
You weren’t listening anyway.
It’s just easier to do it myself!

However, please memorize the following:

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I am not a GPS system designed to locate your iPhone, glasses, the television remote, or whatever else you may have misplaced in the last 10 minutes.

 

I’m not sure what you can eat for lunch.  I presume food, but what do I know?

Dishes normally do not fill the sink with soapy water, jump in and wash themselves.

trash-313711_640My name is not “somebody,” as in “Somebody needs to take out the garbage.”

It is not my responsibility to identify the takeout you saved in the refrigerator, that now smells like the back end of a mule.  It really isn’t my responsibility to take it out of the refrigerator and get rid of it, either.  I just do it because if I don’t there will soon be a whole pack of mules back there.

I am sure our marriage vows did not include never letting you forget anything important, because if they had, I would have forgotten to agree to it.

I do not know why “my” son or daughter do stupid things, but “our” children are so amazing!

It is really not okay to wipe up the kitchen floor with the dish sponge.

Even though my pocketbook is large, it is not my responsibility to carry things.  All of you are strong enough to carry your own stuff.  (I would have used another word beginning with “s,” but this is a G-rated post.)  If you don’t want to carry it, you don’t really want it!

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I do appreciate you all doing your own laundry, but probably I did not sufficiently explain a few related concepts:

Putting dirty clothes in the washing machine implies that you are going to wash them. It is not your personal clothes hamper. When the dryer has finished, the clothes actually need to be folded and put away because a laundry basket on the bathroom floor is not your bureau either.

I’m sorry to say, but the upset stomach you have as a result of eating a half dozen cookies, a pint of ice cream and half a bag of potato chips is not the same as labor pains, kidney stones or a ruptured disc!book-912723_640

I swear that I fully support a person’s right to privacy, and since you are all over 21 not everything you do is my business.  But when you leave your bills, bank statements, love letters or iPhone open to Facebook on the kitchen counter, all bets are off.

My friends in the blogging community probably have many more ideas to contribute. If so, I would love to hear them.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 8/31/17

 

 

 

I Need a Vacation After My Vacation

I have read several posts lately from bloggers I like describing wonderful vacation plans, sharing journal entries from exotic trips, replete with pictures of incredibly beautiful vistas that renew their spirits and calm their pounding working-world hearts.

I admit to being somewhat jealous, and easily fall into “everybody is having more fun than I” pity-party mode.  But then I remember, vacations can be great, but there are so often costs that don’t involve money.  And those beautiful pictures and exotic journal entries may not give the whole picture.  The pity party is over when I righteously comment to my inner traveler:  Yes, but what are they leaving out of their breathlessly positive reports? How much fun did they really have planning, executing and then recovering from that wonderful trip?

Family Vacation #1

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Because of our limited financial situation, vacations always involved riding in the back seat of the car with my two younger brothers.  Cars didn’t have air conditioning then, so in summer the windows were open and dust blew in our faces, along with the heat and occasional stray bug.  We didn’t have “devices” then either, so we actually had to talk to each other or occupy ourselves playing various games.  At the time “talking” consisted mainly of heated sibling discussions regarding the rules of “Alphabet” or “20 Questions.” It was a matter the level of national security whether or not you could count a letter that appeared inside the car or exactly how long you had to have made eye contact with a letter outside the car to legitimately include it!

One summer my parents were brave (foolish?) enough to take a cross-country trip to visit my mother’s sister in California.  I don’t remember much conversation between the adults and us kids, although there must have been some.  My mother and father talked to each other, but we really couldn’t hear them over the road noise–not that we were particularly interested anyway.  But we could clearly hear my father’s voice when, exhausted from the heat and the long hours at the wheel, and sick and tired of listening to the arguments over who was touching whom and who was cheating at Alphabet, he would briefly take his eyes off the road, turn his head around and yell:

PIPE DOWN BACK THERE!!

Adult Vacation #1 – The Single Life

Advance planning during the single years involves asking a friend to watch Fido for a week or so, trusting them with the key to your apartment, and hoping they won’t forget to water your favorite plants.  Then you take off to somewhere you really wanted to visit. You get there by whatever means you decided, see what you want to see, get up when you want and go to bed when you’re done.

Adult Vacation #2 – BC (Before Children)

At some point, becoming involved in a committed relationship with another (flawed) human being does make the process a bit more complicated.  First comes the shocking realization that someone else has a say in the location of said vacation.  That not being enough of an imposition, they also get to express an opinion about the means and cost of arriving at the vacation spot.  After some gentle give and take (after all, you really love this person), you decide to drive to the beach.  You’re home free, right?  Sorry, but no!

beach-654641_640Once you’re there, you still need to negotiate whether to use the air conditioning or leave the sliding doors open to the sea breeze; what time to eat breakfast, which place sells the best coffee and has the best deals; what spot on the beach is close enough to the room so you don’t need a moving van to carry the supplies, but far enough away so you don’t have to listen to the traffic; is it better to be down-wind from a smoker or someone who uses stinky sunblock?  Which spot gets a nice breeze, but not enough wind to knock down the umbrella?  Which group of people has a monster radio that they are going to play at screeching high decibels while throwing Frisbees over your head?  And that’s only on the first day!!

Family Vacation #2 AD (A Disaster)

Once you add children into the mix, things get dicier.  Now I know some people travel effortlessly with their children and have fabulous family vacations that will be the subject of fond memories until everyone is too old to remember.  I’m just taking their word for it, but you might want to think again about the questions at the end of paragraph two above.

One year when our children were around 8 and 5, we decided to go camping. When I was a child we went on some family camping trips and the PTSD resulting from them should have given me a clue about what I was in for.  But not wanting to deprive my children of the opportunity to earn a few PTSD points for themselves, I figured what the heck, let’s give it a try.

We set up with not too much trouble, my husband being the handy, outdoor type who lived through a survival trip with Outward Bound back in the days when survival was actually dubious.  At least for me it would have been.  I figure if our humanoid ancestors had spent centuries working their way out of caves and trees in favor of indoor plumbing, who am I to argue with progress?  But I was ensconced in the sacrificial phase of motherhood, when I was still willing to trade personal comfort to ensure my children the proper childhood experiences.

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I won’t prolong the agony, but suffice it to say that I am not very good at sleeping on the hard ground with random pieces of small rocks creating bruises in my tender skin and dodging the flailing arms and feet of the two children sleeping on either side of me. And never mind that I generally need to get up in the night to use the “bathroom.” There isn’t a flashlight big enough to assure me that Sasquatch isn’t lurking behind the trees and do not think I am willing to walk across the campground in the middle of the night to use the facilities, such as they are.

Adult Vacation #3 – The Golden Years

So now the children are grown and on their own (more or less, but that’s grist for the mill on another day).  I’m retired, which means that I’m basically always on vacation (more or less), and decisions about where and when to go on a formal vacation are subject mostly to energy and available funds.

I’m still willing to go camping, but my requirements have changed.  Set me up in a 30- foot camper with indoor plumbing, a hot shower and a refrigerator that makes ice cubes and holds a bottle of tequila and I’m good.

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Better yet, just jack up my house, slide some wheels under it and roll me down the road.