Yesterday was a son date. Meaning, I had lunch w/ one of my two amazing sons. Earlier this week I had lunch w/ the other. Interesting detail: each picked the same restaurant, a small Asian café we all three like. They always have the pho (a ViệtNamese soup), minus the tendon & tripe. I have any of a number of things — I’m far less predictable in my tastes.
But each time we shared a green papaya salad (a favourite of ours), and talked. The main course, as it were: conversation. Without work, or two grandsons, or other interruptions. Just me & a son, over food. It doesn’t get a lot better…
Too often, we expect love to flourish w/out any nurturing. Or, more likely, we consider the daily things we do for each other to be enough. But really? You can’t have quality time w/out a fair amount of quantity.
Neither son revealed anything earth-shattering. I see them both, in this golden period, frequently. But rarely, as I noted, without the hubbub of daily life as a backdrop. And often — to be fair! — the hubbub takes precedence.
Here’s to time spent with loved ones: friends, family, colleagues. Folks you’d like to know better. Because sharing food, as M.F.K. Fisher said, is about more than just the meal:
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.
Try it. A date with whomever — I happen to be lucky to have my sons nearby! — over shared food. I promise it’s worth the effort.
Sometimes very small things that other people do ~ a 2-3 minute Google search, that turns up an important fact (at least to you, or, in this case, me) ~ have BIG impact. And yes, I’m thinking of something specific.
I have a background in science as well as writing. In 10th grade, I actually wanted to be a geneticist (seriously), and did my term paper on the science of organ transplants, still very new then. My hypothesis was that if we transplanted ovaries, women would be having the biological child of the transplant-er’s genes.
My teacher told me it was an unseemly topic for a young girl. UGH.
Later, I would weld a seam between my love of biological science & my love of writing, working as my daily newspaper’s medical & science journalist. One of my all-time fave jobs.
These days, I read science-based non-fiction for fun. Every year, my husband used to buy me the Best of Science & Nature Writing anthology for Christmas. Lately, I can’t wait that long, & check it out of the library when it’s released!
So trust me when I say I thought my knowledge of basic genetics was pretty accurate.
Offhandedly, I told my elder son – father of my two adored & adorable grandsons – that I had made my peace w/ the fact that my genes weren’t going forward in his wo boys. My X chromosome is not represented in them; they have their mother’s. And I thought that was fine.
But my sensitive elder son somehow caught on to my hidden sadness, and looked up gender & chromosomal inheritance. Mom, he messaged me, only one of your 26 chromosomes is gendered. You live on in the boys.
I burst into tears when I read that.
It couldn’t have taken him more than minutes. But I doubt I ever forget that my perfect grandsons really are mine as well as their father’s, mother’s, maternal grandparents, paternal grandfather… The long line of my own beloved family line is there in 25 of their chromosomes. And I’m the richer for having that knowledge, as well as a son who took the time to find it out & let me know. Oh! And his sense that it was important, even when I didn’t know myself.
Not a big thing in the schema of his day. But huge in mine. It really is the small things that make big differences. 💖
It’s interesting how a prompt becomes its own poem. If we’re lucky. 😏 This NaPoWriMo prompt had lengthy instructions, which I followed carefully. Here they are:
Finally, our prompt for the day (optional as always) comes to us from Elizabeth Boquet of Oaks to Acorns. In keeping with the fact that it’s the seventh day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo, Elizabeth and I challenge you to write a poem about luck and fortuitousness. For inspiration, take a look at Charles Simic’s “The Betrothal” and Stephen Dunn’s “The Arm”. Need something more? Perhaps these instructions from Elizabeth will get you going!
Create the following lists:
1. List 1 – 3 random objects. (Smaller tends to be better.)
2. List 1 – 3 random but specific locations. (Think in the cookie jar, or under my seat…)
3. List 1 – 2 objects you’ve lost and a few notes on their back-story.
4. List 1- 2 objects you’ve found and few notes on their back-story.
Now, choose an object from List 1, a location from List 2, and connect them in a poem with ideas from Lists 3 & 4 and Voilà! A fortuitous poem! As an example of a finished “fortuitous” poem, here is Elizabeth’s own “State of Grace”.
So I did all that. And began a poem about amaryllis seeds… From one of my 3 words, ‘seed.’ And then a memory of a box I’d discovered in our recent cross-country move surfaced, and an entirely different poem had to be written. Fortuitous indeed. Here it is:
Lost & found
Hidden under the eaves
In boxes unopened for decades
Mantled in dust
I found their childhoods
My son who has his own son
My son who follows his father
In nomadic migrations
They are not the same son
They never were
One the observer
Born with a thinshell
Open to the world’s dark spaces
The other held within his own
Almost sufficient self
Hidden from view
Linked only by birth
And the luck of our good
Fortune: love and fish and trees
In old photos the years are dust
Two boys hold plastic swords
Pose for a long-lost camera
Stand by a house once loved
Caught in the web that time and age
Weave around their captive faces
This box I almost discarded
Filled with old and golden light
My younger son has a blog, as I do. HIs deals w/ his ongoing world travels (he currently lives in Brisbane, but spent last year hopping from Goa to Nepal, from the Philippine Islands to Thailand. Not to mention Sweden, Bali, et al… Next stop, probably the city of my childhood: once Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.
He comes by this peripatetic gene honestly — my grandmother would say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Either tree, really: I grew up in Southeast Asia, as we four girls & my mother followed my father’s career in the state department. My beloved joined the Marines in part to see the world. And our marriage was rushed, so we could go to Algiers where he had a new job. Years later, we would relocate to Saudi Arabia, where my younger son was born. We would live there 8 years as a family — 4 years of his life — and my beloved, his father, would stay two more. He learned travel as a 2-month-old infant, traveling in a carry cot.
In a recent blog post, he was able to articulate for me something I’ve wrestled with throughout my own migratory life: thereis a difference between friends for years and friends from years ago.
I have almost no friends from high school, much less earlier. Two friends found me on FB, and there are a couple of others who found me via my sisters. But none of these are people I would call in case of sorrow or loss, or to share new joy with. I have my sisters & heart-sisters for that, a small but true number.
All my sisters — of blood & heart — have friends from childhood. I seem to have shed many of my friends, as if they were autumn leaves. Probably a good analogy, as autumn leaves are shed for growth and preservation of energies. Many of my ‘old’ friends — from years ago — have beliefs that don’t really accommodate my own. They’ve chosen other paths, and that’s fine. But not necessarily something I like to think about.
I do have one friend from the first days of my long-ago college entry: the ‘brother’ who introduced me to my beloved. G & his wife & 3 daughters are true ‘friends for years’: the eldest daughter, my wonderful Kylie, emails me papers from her classes sometimes, and sends cards. The middle daughter, Lynzie, follows me on Pinterest, and is the source of GREAT tea pins! Little Fiona — who will be in HS before we know it! — is the 3rd of these virtual nieces, and the fact that I remain so close to all of them is a bright spot of reassurance that I’m not secretly unloveable… ????
This thread of reflection is brought to you by my younger son, his blog, and the things our children teach us. Recently I wrote a young friend that your children are takers, but they are also givers. And this — these skeins of connected rumination — are what mine have given me today ~