This moody picture captures my current mood considering all the events that are currently happening. I, too, feel like I want to build a castle and protect myself and my family against the coronavirus, the pain of racism, the heartache of loss – the loss of how life was before, the possible loss of relationships/people. I am heartened by the people in my life who reach out, to build that bridge of compassion, understanding, acceptance and solidarity.
We need bridges right now – especially to places (internal and external) that seem foreboding. Walls are built not only to keep things out, but also to keep things in. What are the walls that we have built? Why did we build them? What walls do we see around other people? What are some reasons those walls are up?
The other part to consider is what happens after we build that bridge. Should we just expect the door to be opened? Do we knock softly – maybe hoping the door doesn’t open? If the door doesn’t open right away, do we shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well, I tried,” then turn around and go back over the bridge? Do we bring our battering ram and force the door open?
Building bridges is just one part of the process. Are we brave enough to see this process all the way through?
I am drinking hot coffee despite the 90 degree weather, the sweet creamy liquid warming my nostrils before I take a sip. I hold it for a moment, savoring it’s decadence before swallowing, while watching my children run through the sprinkler. The sunlight glistens off the water droplets hanging onto their dark hair and tan skin. These diamonds sparkle and glisten before being flung into the air echoing the sound of their laughter. I drink my coffee and commit this happy, shining moment to memory.
Growing up, my sprinkler was the fire hydrant in front of my neighbor’s house. Instead of soft, squishy grass underfoot, we had pavement that left our feet raw from scrapes on the unyielding surface. Our laughter gurgled like the fire hydrant while our screams matched the siren wail of the police – a warning that our water play time would soon come to an end. My mother would drink black coffee and watch us from the stoop, her worries emanating from the lines between her eyes, like the sun’s rays burning our already darkened skin.
On this summer day, I drink my coffee, leaning against my marble countertop while looking at my children through the panoramic kitchen window and toast myself for not having wrinkles between my eyes.
Serendipitously, this haibun also works for Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to juxtapose our life as an adult against our life as a child. I do marvel at the difference between my childhood as an immigrant to this country versus that of my children. My parents both worked, my mom during the day and dad at night. We lived in a diverse neighborhood in the city where my brothers and I would walk to school around the corner. We took public transportation and made frequent trips into “The City”. I did my share of “babysitting” my brothers and could be classified as a “latch-key kid” growing up.
Eventually, we were able to move out of Brooklyn and out to Long Island where my younger brothers were able to live the “suburban life” – taking a school bus, playing football on Friday nights, getting their driver’s license at 16. By that time, I was already in college so my experience with “suburban life” only came when I was married and about to have kids.
My kids have never had to take public transportation as their sole means of getting around. They marvel at sidewalks and when we do go on the train or bus in the “big city”, it’s a grand adventure! They have always had a back yard and have no clue what a “stoop” is. My husband (who is also an immigrant) and I have taken them back to the places where we grew up and they marvel at the “tiny houses” and wonder how we lived with only one bathroom, without a yard, and having to share bedrooms.
Race/ethnicity, social class, education, profession – these are all inter-related. My “shining moment” would not have come to fruition without the hard work and sacrifice of my parents, without the guidance of teachers, without the encouragement of friends. Yet for some, even with these current supports, the institutionalized discrimination/racism inherent in our systems in the USA keep them from reaching their shining moment, from getting their just reward for their hard work and sacrifice, and that of their ancestors.
We all deserve a shining moment in our lives. I would even venture to say, we deserve more than one. I would even be bold enough to say, that we deserve to shine as bright as we would want in every moment in our lives. Shine on, friends, shine on!
I love my Papa. I am his favorite daughter….OK, his only daughter….but I am also his favorite debating partner. My dad and I are similar in so many ways and this is probably why we debate/argue/quarrel more with each other than he does with my other siblings.
My dad always held high standards of morality, values and principles. He passed that on to me, although sometimes we look at these high standards from different sides. So we see things in a different way and approach problems/issues in a different way. Although if you look at the underlying values of these approaches and points of views, you would see that they are the same. You might even ask, why are we even arguing?
The fact is that despite our similarities, I am a different person than my dad. I’ve had experiences that my dad has not. Some of these experiences are because I grew up middle class in the USA while he grew up upper class in the Philippines. Other experiences are because he is a man and I am a woman. Still other experiences are because he was born and grew up in a different era than I did (almost a quarter of a century separates us).
It was about my sweet child and their completeness
So I took a deep breath and researched
We went to the doctor and talked to the priest
We went to the mall, to try on clothes, at least
My love for my child would get us though
Acceptance is hard, some days I’m not there
Bittersweet thoughts in my head still flare
But my child’s on a journey, how can I not care
We can adjust to change, no need to despair
So proud of my child as we begin to prepare for
This poem was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #237 – Transition. It is a work of fiction – my children haven’t expressed any gender or sexual preferences so far. I hope that if they do, I would be able to live up to the open acceptance I have characterized in this poem.
I want to believe that human love is unconditional, but I know that isn’t true. Even our love for our children isn’t unconditional – we expect something back, whether it’s obedience or taking care of us in our old age. Still, I hope to show my children that love can transcend and transform any difficult situation.
With the pandemic and calls for racial justice continuing, let’s not forget that this is also Pride Month. Love is love! Intersectionality should be a part of any process seeking true justice and equity.
EDITED 6/22/20 4 PM – I forgot to link this post to Kate’s Friday Fun request for our favorite sayings (this is what happens when inspiration wakes you up at 3 AM!). I don’t actually have a favorite saying, but I do collect sayings that I resonate with me. This saying, I think, was an unconscious inspiration for the poem above:
“Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby- awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
This saying has also made a home in my mind lately. I’m not sure if it’s leasing the space or if it’s there to stay…
“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....”
― Erica Jong
I loved the peaceful beauty of this photo – exactly what I needed to see with all the turmoil in the world. I could imagine the quiet breath of fluttering wings, the hush of the forest. The human photographer must have waited long time, in silence, in order to catch this photo and not disturb the wonder of nature.
Humans disturb nature in so many ways. Reading the essays in The BeZine made me realize the tremendous impact of human behavior, human self-interest and – dare I say it? – human selfishness, on the destruction of our natural world, the destruction of our brothers and sisters, and ultimately, our own destruction.
There is a saying that I’m sure you’ve seen on nature trails, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” But what if even our footprints destroy the very things that brought us to the nature trail to begin with? We would be able to take those pictures, but the people coming after us would not. Would getting these pictures be worth that destruction?
Ultimately, talking points preserve narratives seeking to keep the status quo or create a reality that aligns with the person’s ideology or personal needs. Marshall Shepherd 3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020 We want to start this introduction to the SustainABILITY issue of The BeZine with a […]
I am so honored to be a part of this collection! Thank you to Jaime Dedes and Michael Dickel atThe BeZine for their commitment to raising consciousness about climate change as well as racism/anti-racism and the current pandemic – not just as individual concerns but as an intersection of issues that affects us all.
This haiku was written for Patrick’s Pic and Word Challenge #236 – Freedom. My head has been pretty preoccupied with all the protests that have been occurring, as well as the usual pandemic news briefings. It’s disconcerting to me in many ways, so I have been trying hard to find the places that I can control and feel effective in what I do. This has been challenging.
Besides redlining, sundown towns are another “hidden” aspect of the systemic nature of racism here in the USA. These practices were not written in history books but people – whites and blacks – knew about them. Because they weren’t documented, there was no way for blacks to prove they were being discriminated against. And if they tried to prove it or if they did not follow these written rules, there would be a violent reaction.
This is how racism works for people of color – stay silent or be a target. For white people, racism’s message is – stay silent and enjoy the benefits or you’ll be a target as well.
This is why we need to be raise our voices and our actions to be ANTI-Racist. Being passively against racism is how racism exists. This passivity includes saying the right words, even believing in equality, but not doing anything about it.
I live in a white neighborhood – there is only one other Asian family that lives in our whole entire neighborhood. On our cul-de-sac with six families, I know there are three families that support the current president who has shown support for racist attitudes. I bought the sign below:
Will freedom of speech be extended to us? We’ll see when the sun goes down….
I really liked the haziness of this painting – it reminds me of the images/ideas I had in my head about the kind of house I would live in when I grew up. I wanted a symmetrical house, with a weeping willow in the yard, maybe a pond close by. There would be a swing under the weeping willow and in the fenced in yard, there would be apple trees and flowers. And of course, there would be birds flying under the yellow sun with a few puffy clouds overhead.
I lived on the first floor of a duplex in Brooklyn when I envisioned my “grown up home”. We had a little yard in the back that was usually overgrown with weeds despite our attempts to grow vegetables and flowers. The kitchen was all the way in the back, so you had to pass through all the rooms to get to the back of the house. I would ride my bike up and down the street on the sidewalk, from our house to Aunt Rita’s house – that’s as far as my mom would let us. Sometimes, we would go to the bodega at the end of the block to get treats or get some plantains for a quick and yummy afternoon snack.
My kids have never lived in the type of place I lived in growing up. They’ve only known single family homes in the suburbs with decent yards and two or more bathrooms. They all are currently obsessed with living in tiny homes when they grow up, that they would park in our driveway so we can all still have dinner together as a family.
All my dreams of living in a spacious house have been reversed with my children’s dream of living in a home smaller than my childhood Brooklyn home. The irony.
As I write this in my typical American suburban kitchen with granite countertops, I am acutely aware of what I have, that others don’t. Yes, I know my husband and I worked hard to afford to be “comfortable”; that our parents also worked hard so we can live “better” then they did. But I know we had help – social supports, financial resources and a systemic societal advantage of being stereotyped as the “model minority”.
So while I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I still have experienced racism:
I’ve been accused of stealing at the local grocery store numerous time (to the point that I go to a different store farther way in a more diverse neighborhood just so I don’t have to worry about being “randomly audited” when I shop – because it isn’t random if it’s always and only me)
I’ve been called racial slurs as I’ve been out running
I’ve felt afraid going to a new place and realizing I was the only non-white person there and getting those looks that tell me I don’t belong
The thing with racism is that it erases the individual – that all important staple of American exceptionalism. You don’t see my struggles and triumphs. You don’t know about the awards I’ve won or that my closet with pants sizes ranging from college to pregnancy. You aren’t aware that I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or of my passionate conviction that Heinz is the best and only ketchup in the world. You don’t know that I dreamt of a house with a willow tree in the front.
But because I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I need to use that advantage to help those who were not as fortunate (through no fault of their own). Otherwise, I will be just as complicit in perpetuating racism.
I was actually thinking of titling this poem, “Patrick – A Poem”, but I wasn’t sure if the subject would appreciate that since he seems most comfortable behind the camera than in front. I owe Patrick a great debt of gratitude – he was one of the first, if not, the first blog that I followed and commented on. I was quite surprised that he actually responded to my comment with such warmth and humor. That’s when I realized that WordPress wasn’t just about posting stuff. It really is about building a community through words and pictures.
You can find my first submission for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge # 43 – Lesson – HERE. It took awhile, but I have been fairly consistent with doing this challenge, even though I am a week behind. Patrick’s photos are breathtaking and his words are thought-provoking. In another life where I have more of an artist’s eye, I would have loved to be a world traveling photographer and writer. But for now, I am content seeing the world through Patrick’s Pix to Words.