It was the way you glanced in her direction every so often
To see if she was looking at you
Then acting surprised when your eyes met
And you’d give her that sly half smile
Or sometimes it was the way you didn’t look at her
As if she didn’t exist
Except as a ghost wandering through your thoughts
That you were trying to ignore but failing to do so
But mostly, it was because you never got angry with her
Even if she kept you waiting or asked you to do something menial
Your half lidded gaze and movie star smile, tuned directly to her
Revealed the truth in your words, “As you wish.”
The inspiration for this poem comes from Sadje’s What Do You See #177. This picture actually has one of my favorite Bible verses in it (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
“What is love?” is a question that has been asked by philosophers, poets, scientists and theologians. I know this poem doesn’t even come close to answering this question. There are so many different types of love as well.
The best answer to this question, I think, comes from the movie, “The Princess Bride.” Wesley’s response to all of Buttercup’s requests was, “As you wish.” This obedience to her, said with a look of utmost adoration and worship, was the basis of my understanding of love, especially romantic love, for many years.
Is this an unrealistic definition of what love looks like? Maybe…probably… but one can hope!
My Hubby and I did actually meet at a party in college and his lips were definitely one of his features that I found attractive, along with his deep voice and his leadership skills (and no, that is not a euphemism for something else!!). I have to admit, I didn’t even notice him the whole night at this party. It was only in the wee hours of the morning, when he and I were sitting across from each other at a diner (‘cuz that’s what you do after a night of partying), talking about our fathers (of all things!), that I started to pay attention to his lips as he is speaking and then I have this distinct memory of a voice in my head saying, “I can see this man being next to me while I’m giving birth.” Weird, right? Who has that thought after just meeting a person? But it did make me wonder, “Is this what they mean by ‘when you know, you know?'”
It’s been 21 years now that we’ve been married (plus an additional 6 years of mostly long distance dating). At this point, I’ve known my Hubby longer than I have not known him! And he was there next to me during the births of all our children!
As I was explaining to my teen age daughter who has friends who are starting to date, attraction is sometimes instantaneous and sometimes not; what is attractive to one person, may not be attractive to another; and there are many different aspects of people that we can find attractive (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually). What attracts you to someone may be easy to explain – but there may be times when you can’t explain it, you just know it. And when attraction finds you at a time you least expect, having that bucket of ice, can be helpful!
The water covers the bones like a flood engulfing islands
The sachet of spices soaks in the stove top hot tub
Bobbing in circles as it imparts its essential essence
The ginger sizzles with an aromatic burn
Quickly extinguished as it splashes next to the star anise and daikon radish
The fire is lowered and the waiting begins.
She will watch the sun rise
Remembering your journey
From little boy to grown man
Imagining your journey
From your house to her home.
She will soak the rice noodles when the sun starts to slide
And cut the meat, paper thin
Wincing when the knife gets too close to her fingertips
Two types of onions, chopped, give her an excuse
To second guess how she has raised you.
Before the moon rises, she will prepare the table
Chopsticks on white napkins
Large bowls filled with
Softened rice noodles
Raw beef sliced paper thin
Onions – two kinds.
And when the doorbell rings
And your deep voice reverberates in her womb
She’ll ladle the broth
Steaming with spices
Warmed with ginger
Hearty with marrow
And serve you a bowl
Of her love.
( For the visually challenged
reader, the image shows an
old woman whose face is
deeply lined. There is a faint
smile on her face)
This is a late entry for Sadje’s What Do You See #52. This prompt marks the one year anniversary of Sadje’s What Do You See. Despite the lateness, I wanted to to acknowledge the inspiration Sadje gifts us with her weekly picture prompt. Her observations of “what she saw” over the course of this year are spot on! Thank you, Sadje for stretching our imaginations and sharing our interpretations!
This poem was inspired by my husband’s mom. No, she doesn’t look like the picture of the old Asian woman from Sadje’s prompt. My mother-in-law actually looks quite younger than her almost 70 years on this earth – her skin is smooth, unblemished and her hair retains its thick curls (natural) and black color (bottled). She does wake up at 5 AM to start cooking phở when she knows we will be visiting. It usually takes us 8-10 hours to get to my husband’s hometown and the broth she makes is the first thing we smell when they open the door. Good phở cannot be rushed (believe me, I’ve tried!) and my mother-in-law’s recipe is the best!
My husband is the first of four boys. His brothers are scattered across the United States – we are the second closest to his parents. I remember the first time I visited my husband’s parents in their home – I was really nervous but my mother-in-law made me feel welcomed and promised to share her recipes with me if I married her son. She served phở to us that winter day and ever since then, anytime we would return to my husband’s childhood home, phở is the first meal we would have.
I have often wondered what she thought of the women who came to take her boys far from home. Does she feel replaced? Does she worry if they are taking care of her sons in the same way that she took care of them? Does she enjoy the quiet of the house? Does she miss cleaning up after them? Does she wish they lived closer and visited more often?
I haven’t asked her these questions, but when I think about my own answers to these questions, and think about my kids who aren’t even dating yet being far away from me, my eyes start behaving like I’m chopping onions and I start to think of how I can serve them love in a bowl.
Most limericks are funny or irreverent I always think of the one about the the man from the island off Cape Cod, MA. This one is more of a cautionary tale. While I enjoy looking – I’ve learned that some people are just good to look at.
This week, my Honey and I celebrated 18 years of wedded “bliss”! Yes, “bliss” is in quotes because like any other couple, we have had our ups and downs. But dealing with this pandemic as a couple and as a family has shown us that we are pretty well matched.
We celebrated by enlisting my parents to watch the kids while we went on a hike. What would have usually been an easy date night turned into a lesson on risk taking and selflessness (or maybe it was selfishness?). We hadn’t seen my parents since the shelter in place back in March so my kids were ecstatic to spend some time with them. Of course, we went through the pros and cons of whether to allow physical contact, use masks, etc. Sigh. There was no right answer, only love and prayers as we left the house for a few hours.
We took two short hikes – one a sun-filled trail that ended by a man-made lake surrounded by fields. The area is protected land for birds and other wildlife. A groundhog crossed our path as well as two beautiful iridescent blue birds who didn’t even move from their perch when we passed. The second hike was in a park in the middle of the city – a hidden gem that had well-marked hiking trails that traversed up and around a wooded hill and an unmarked trail that led down and long the river. We ended up getting lost and reluctantly had to use our cell phone map to guide us back to the car. An adventure with my Honey – fun and excitement for me (“We’re not lost, we’re exploring!”), exasperating for him (“Let’s use the GPS already!”), but overall we had a wonderful afternoon!
It was great to be able to “escape” for awhile – no work, no kids, minimal thoughts of the pandemic. We went during the week so the trails were pretty empty – no need for masks or social distancing. We didn’t go out to eat at a fancy restaurant which is our usual anniversary outing, but spending time together, in nature, breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on our skin was refreshing, healing and connecting.
Here’s to another year with my Honey and wherever our path takes us.
But I can’t be responsible, if I don’t have a clue
This poem was written for Sadje’s “What do you see?” Picture Prompt #36. I thought this was an excellent picture as there are so many interpretations as evidenced by the numerous writers and poets who submitted their verses for this prompt.
I originally started this poem and thought it would be about love, how love changes your life, adding color and vibrancy that would be gone once that love is gone. Basically, how it felt when Elvio told me was taking Sally to the 8th grade dance instead of me.
But as I wrote and edited and wrote some more…and as I read and thought about the 4th of July celebrations this weekend… another thought manifested itself into the poem.
There are people who would rather not know what is happening in the world – if it doesn’t affect them, it’s not on their radar. Sometimes they focus on other things in their life. Sometimes they think “ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes they know, yet still chose to ignore.
Our world is filled with so many different colors and shades and hues! We can chose to notice them and marvel at their beauty. Or we can chose to ignore them and live monochromatically. If we chose the latter, what would we be missing?
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein
Note; Apologies to any readers who may be color blind and who might have been hurt/insulted by this post. My metaphor above pertains to race/ethnicity and to nature. In no way do I mean to suggest that people without the physical capacity to see color perpetuate racism or that they are unable to experience the fullness life.
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