Sunday, May 26, 2019

Politics at the Playground

Recently, as my girls played on a slide at our neighborhood playground, a very arrogant man approached me and rudely said in such an inappropriate way these exact words:

"Your kid is blocking the slide.  Do you want me to tell her to move, or are you going to do it?'

*Time stopped for me*
"Breathe, Mama, breathe," I told myself.



"I'll do it," I said with a sharp glare in my eyes and a sarcastic tight smirk on my face. He had to feel me looking straight through him.  

For about 10 seconds I sat there on my sarong under a shady tree and thought of 5 different ways I could question this man in a not so pleasant  manner about his audacity to even open his mouth to me in such a way. Everyone of the ways started with m*thaf*cker and included m*thaf*ckin.  But...the innocent babies played nearby. 

"Well go ahead then," he said as he made a sweeping motion with his hand prompting me to proceed with the order he'd just issued.


  "Breeeeaaaathe," I coached myself.

History flashed before me.  Every word that I have read on paper, every story I have heard , and every memory that I have pertaining to the assault on and mistreatment of black people--particularly women--by white men of authority or not became present in a second.  Mainly, I pictured the sister Mona from the film Sankofa taking a machete to an inhumane imbecile who thought he had dominion over her body and control of her actions.


Still, I kept my composure.  

But he didn't understand or take seriously enough the implications of the moment, the situational context.  He didn't realize that the healing, the repair, is not completeand has not really even been initiated.

*** 
A bit of backstory:  My 4-year-old has this thing of sitting at the top of the slide under its dome covering, pretending as though it were her castle.  Typically when we're at the playground I have to remind her to not do this, because other children may want to get in that spot in order to slide.  I had reminded her of this twice already that day, even when no other kids were attempting to slide.  It's something I always work to make her cognizant of, because she can be obsessive about her desires.  At this particular moment that it was occurring again, my head was partly in a book, so I wasn't privy to what was going on.

I went over and corrected her once more, and said not an unkind word to the man. Although in my speech, I did make it known to her--and him--that no person without the decency or know how of appropriately addressing a concern pertaining to children playing on a playground needs to even consider opening his mouth to her or any other child who is not their own offspring to say a-ny-thing

Now, this--what always feels like an attack on my humanity--has happened three times during the nearly six years that I have been in Hawai'i.  Each time the constant source of the initiating remark of disrespect came from the tongue of 50+ European-American male.  They've come here from some place in the states and--as they have done historically--asserted themselves as the dominant force in the area despite the native inhabitants and mores of the land. It's almost as though they lack the capacity to  implant themselves in a humble way in a place where the underlying theme is Aloha, literally meaning "the presence of breath" (ha) or "the breath of life." Interestingly, such people here are referred to as "haole" literally meaning "no breath."

Of course, all of this is relative.  My former next door neighbor and father of my one of my girls' playmates also falls into the 50+ European-American male category, and he is one of the most kind, respectful, giving, and relatable people I know.  So, this isn't to paint the picture with a broad brush, since there are obviously exceptions to the fools.
(Hopefully the above doesn't sound too much like a reversed version of, "I got black friends.")

In my experience out here, only a very few of them will still try the predictable mess that they so comfortably pull with people--namely people of color--in the states. Most have learned out of necessity and a will to stay alive to come humbly in these islands. 

I saw this on Instagram recently, and OH! how it speaks directly to my soul in moments like this.  I laughed out loud at it for a good three minutes.  




But I typically try to keep the Khalid and Malcolm part of me in check while letting an updated version of Martin play the main role. It is not always easy when it comes to my babies, but I do put forth effort--as long as things don't get out of hand. I see myself as mellow, but that revengeful scorpio thing is real in my experience.

(Although, it didn't end too well for one of these characters who verbally assaulted me a couple of years ago as I--with sleeping child in arms--approached the door of the building in which we lived. You can't always just get away with telling people to "go back to where you came from."   We pretty much ignored the man going off on us up to that point.   I can not say with certainty that this man would not have shot me and my family if he'd had a gun, all because my husband had stopped  the car in front of the door in the rain to allow me and my child to run in and avoid getting too soaked in the downpour. Read here for the kind of madness that people like this are capable of.)

There's usually a right way and a wrong way to address situations with which you disagree. Some people lack understanding of the former. 


Although I mostly bit my tongue and held back words with the foolish man at the playground, there were countless mean things I could have said, wanted to say, and maybe should have said to set him straight at least in that moment.  I just hope, though, that for the sake of his cute little girls who will navigate this world as part him and part their Japanese mother, that his undeniable illness and lack of respect he clearly holds for people with whom he does not or can not identify does not become an overarching force in their lives.   

Lil Miss "Troublemaker" striking poses with her new ball shortly after the incident, unfazed.


I admit that I stared this man down for the remainder of the time he was out there and in my view, smiling intermittently.  His voice was shaky and nervous as they passed me by leaving the park.  He said, "Bye, now."  I replied --with that tight smirk on my face, "Have a great day!" One of his daughter's waved at me, to which I replied, "By, Sweetie," giving her no indication of the 257 ways I had cussed out her daddy in my mind.  

*****

When I saw this man approach the playground with his family, I envisioned exactly what would ultimately go down, and it did exactly as I saw it--everything from my daughter seating herself at the top of that slide to that man coming at me wrong because of it.  His energy was just off.  As such, I actually moved myself and the girls away from the playground for a while, and we went and sat down under the tree to drink water and eat fruit.  Eventually, though, lured by the excitement of more children having fun in the sun, she made her way back over there.    The increase in instinct that I have experienced since becoming a mother is amazing, and I need to tap into it more consistently!




Sunday, March 17, 2019

While I Wait...

These thoughts are formulating for new posts.  I'm writing and thinking about writing.

In the meantime, I've just been taken aaaalll the way back to like...2004 or 5 when I was first turned on to Lizz Wright. I was surely in love with this woman's voice and music, so much so that I had to drive from my home three hours to Houston, TX to witness her live.

*Chills*

That's one thing I miss now living out here in the Pacific Ocean: musical concerts and driving a state over if need be to witness those artists I love.  Nobody (I really wanna see) comes way out here!  😩

Here are two of my favorite Lizz Wright songs.







Saturday, January 5, 2019

New Years Be Like

"It's very rare, and it's from your culture, " the sweet little man in an eclectic shop of treasures down in Chinatown told us. A shop, where upon entry, you're enveloped by Buddhist vibes and the smell of incense.  We'd been there before, during which time I'd purchased a few pairs of really nice earrings--one pair made by the man's wife. This time we were back celebrating the life of our newly-turned-two-years-old daughter. A gift for baby and also one for Mama for being Mama and giving birth to baby. During both of our visits, the shop owner was adamant about us leaving with a string of his collection of very rare African glass beads.  It's what we'd returned to consider.


We were greeted at the door with a smile.  He saw us coming, and he saw us.  He tuned into my exhaustion, offering a place to sit and some water--room temperature  or cold. Then, "Don't let the child make you nervous," he instructed my husband who is usually on edge regarding the shenanigans of our 4-year-old.  Of course, being in the presence of an abundance of breakable invaluables and antiques had her wanting to assess it all with her busy little hands. Every other word out of her father's mouth was instruction to "stop" or "don't touch." Anxiety was at a heightened level, for sure. 



The African presence in Honolulu, though a rarity, is notable.  Still, we knew when we were in the shop a month prior that all of the same bead necklaces would be there on our next visit. Although the owner has been in business for over 40 years, it didn't seem that patrons were just knocking down the doors to get at the various African treasures contained within it, no matter how attractive and rare.   Despite its scarcity, the cost of the string of beads didn't break our budget, for which I was grateful.  

Although we might wear them on rare occasions, the beads are a future gift for the little one.  She appreciates the vibrant colors and the bumpy feel when she runs her fingers over the row of beads.  Someday she will understand their history.    

Then there's the antique coral on a silver chain for me.  It was nearly not apparent, but then its presence and essence were undeniable.  Typically I'd say, "It's really not my style," yet it was actually quite perfect for me in that moment. We see it as representing  our recent loss: A conception unknown and lost in the course of hours on the first day of the year.  A single red drop, only minimally representative of the reality of what occurred, yet sufficient all the same.  We four were almost five.



We're only a few days in, and 2019 has already been a roller coaster ride--at least what I imagine one must be like.  I'm thankful for those around me and this beautiful and diverse place in which we live. My baby is TWO! The inevitability of this truth doesn't change my disbelief at all. :-)



She woke up happy on her birthday, January 2.





Funny faces and dim sum at a favorite restaurant, Ginger & Garlic in Honolulu.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

When I Grow Up

Recently my baby said to me:

"Mama, I hope you want to be a singer when you grow up, cause you can really SING!"

Now, I really do enjoy singing, and music has always been a passion of mine. Yet, I don't sing for or in front of anyone except my girls and only sometimes my husband.  With the girls it takes place in the car and usually most of the day in the house, since there's likely always some music playing.  So, they always get to hear me sing, most often to myself.  I don't recall what song had just concluded on the car radio when she offered her kind, humorously motivational remarks, but they caused me to reflect on myself, my life, my loves, and my manifestations to date.

I do come from a musical family and have always been surrounded by music and song. Given that she has mostly lived her short life way out here in the Pacific, baby girl doesn't really know that aspect of her Louisiana family.  My mother is a singer, as is my brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and play cousins as well.  One cousin of mine recently produced a gospel single. My best friend in junior high had/has a beautiful singing voice that makes you want to--in my memory of it--just lie down and forget the world around you (she also recently finished her PhD studies!).  One of my best friends in high school would always bless others with her talent and is now lead vocalist for a jazz band.  Most of those mentioned above typically sang in the context of the church, and while I was also a church choir member once upon a time, I surely wasn't bold enough to be a lead singer like the others, and my singing is more of the R&B/soul/neo soul (do people still say that?) variety.  

In junior high I did co-lead a song with aforementioned best friend (a song we wrote) at a 4-H event, and somewhere there may be a video of me singing a Lauryn Hill song as my senior project in an auditorium for a high school art class. (We had options to produce a physical piece, perform a dance, or sing a song for the teacher and class. Somehow I was bold enough that time to do the latter with one of the most difficult-to-sing Lauryn songs! But I had sang that song so, so many times in my room that I just had to do it out in the open.)

All that's fine and well, and it really has been neither here nor there.  But my daughter's recognition of that aspect of me, and the fact that she likes my singing is touching and brings up all sorts of thoughts of how she'll remember her mother.  If nothing else I hope somehow it encourages her to indulge herself in all the beautiful gifts that constitute her being, even if only for self-satisfaction. 


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Whew, Chile!

I've got blog posts started and not finished, ideas for essays ruminating in my mind, and hilarious stories involving my two littlest loves. 



 Yet, things in my world have gotten hectic and busy and oftentimes absolutely chaotic!  There isn't always the time to write, and I've yet to find the time to "make the time."  It's forthcoming, though.

Buuuuuuut, I wanted to share this video somewhere and here is the only viable online space that I'm currently (very minimally) accessing to share anything these days.

Despite how immersed I've become in Life here lately, I'm not sure HOW I have missed this for the past three months!

Erykah Badu has done a Tiny Desk concert where she performed--of ALL the songs she could have performed from just about any one of her albums that would have had me in such a serious fallin' out, nostalgic, deeply passionate mood--"Green Eyes."

Y'all. 

And here we are 18 years after Mama's Gun dropped with this gem of a song--with her sounding just as she did singing it back then, richer even--and I still get chiiiiiills at how deep, real, and sincere, not just the lyrics are, but at what she emotes in this song.

It's so deep to me. People in the comments who feel just as strongly say they've been listening to it constantly.  I've personally only been able to watch/listen to it once, and I've probably only listened to the actual song on the album a hand full of times over the past several years.  It just touched me in such a deep way the first time that constant, repeated listening wasn't even necessary.  Every single word/sentence/concept/idea/notion/note/sound/transition is imprinted in me forever. I've accessed various of these lines (only mentally) in different situations over the course of making my way into womanhood, not because someone has "done me so wrong."  But because there has been a time or two where I've literally wanted to sing to a person, "If you cain't be what I need you to, then I don't know why I **** witchu."  Or because the heart and mind will have you caught up thinking, "I can't leave; it's too late," and so you know exactly what she means.

Anyway, Anyway, AnyWAY.

Here she is.  I'll be writing again soon. :)




Monday, April 23, 2018

Sankofa

I looked over at my three-year-old one day as she casually reached up to the counter to grab something.  When I saw that it was her sister's sippy cup, I was confused.

"Why in the world would she be reaching for that?" I wondered 

Then, as she retracted her arm, sippy cup in hand and heading toward her mouth, I realized she was committed.  The child was about to drink from the cup. I firmly called her name to get her attention, stopping her mid move and asked what she was doing and why and no.  The child proceeded to throw a full blown fit.

Huh?!?! What did I miss?

Admittedly, a big part of my dismay about the scenario has to do with whatever hangups I have around  saliva exchange/contamination, but the very nature of the scenario had me puzzled. Now, I know there's the attention seeking thing that apparently intensifies once a new sibling arrives.  I've been dealing with that for far too long now.  I am also aware of the mimicking of what the baby does that happens in an attempt to get the same attention that the baby does when she behaves a certain way. I mean, I don't say much when my oldest climbs in her sister's stroller and babbles like an infant.  But trying to drink out of a sippy cup at nearly four-years-old, taller than half of my body, a mouth full of teeth, and thinks/analyzes on a level critical enough to trip up the brightest of scholars is just taking it a little bit too far for me.

But I read about this thing called regression.  That's all fine and good, yet it seems to be calling for a certain level of patience that I'm continually striving to rediscover. 

For the most part, though, I try to let her have her moments of reaching back to her babyhood and remembering.  After all, I understand that it will be relatively short-lived.  Plus, she never had a sippy cup or a stroller.  But at her age and with all the characteristics mentioned above, some things are just over. Her breastfeeding days are  surely done. Yes, she will still try it, but there definitely won't be any regression there.  And if her sister doesn't stop with the on purpose biting and laughing, it will soon be a memory for her as well!


My little explorers.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Entitled

My family and I really enjoy patronizing public libraries. We're regulars at the one a few blocks from our home and at any given moment might have 20+ books checked out between us all.  (Getting around to actually reading or even opening them all is another story.)  Prior to living in Hawai'i and having acquaintances from countries all over the world (this place is super diverse), I've come to realize that the existence of libraries that are free and open to the public is something that is not a reality everywhere.   Some people have no concept of a public library.   Given the history of lack of access to books and information experienced by my ancestors, this is something I feel a need to be in on and surely can't take for granted.  My girls will are certain to understand this relevancy as well. 
 
All that said, we go to get books and hang out at least once a week.  My three-year-old has been taking part in the weekly story time program since she was six months old and my one-year-old has done the same since her second month of life.  Now that she's walking up a storm, she acts like she owns the place whenever we go--moving all over, taking books off shelves, putting things where she thinks they should go, rearranging kiddie chairs, and not wanting to be told anything in the way of stop/no.  It's a fun place for them both to learn and explore.
 
 
Noni more than three years ago at her first story time.  Wow!
 
 
When selecting books to check out, I think I get more excited about the children's books than I do those for adults.  It's intriguing to discover what makes a children's book captivating enough for the intended audience to even care. One that we currently have on hand and that my oldest child has had me read numerous times in the week and a half that we've had it is called Bob, Not Bob
 
 
 When she chose it from the shelf and I read the title, it was sort of confusing where the authors are coming from.  Yet, it turns out to be a really cute and fun book to read.  Noni gets a kick out of my stuffy nose voice that the authors insist one assume when reading the book.  It really doesn't work without it, though.  I, too, am pretty impressed with my own ability to sound clogged on command.
 
Another book we both enjoyed when we had it a couple months ago is Alfie, a tale of a turtle that disappeared. 
 
 
There's a switch up half way through where the story is then told from the perspective of the turtle.  Very interesting indeed.
 
I'd hoped and am still hopeful to someday do a video series where I read books with my girls.  It hasn't quite worked out as of yet for various reasons, but sometime before they're too old to want to sit and read with me we might be able to get it done.
 
**********
 
This seems like a good place to unpack some of the many library pictures taking space in my various digital storage locations.
 
 
 Noni at about 1.5 years of age stacking blocks at another library in our area. 
 
 The girls in the children's section of our neighborhood library sometime in 2017.
 
 My little one taking charge later in 2017.  She was loving the new rainbow rug that day.
 
 
 
 
 Noni and the great big Earth after viewing a play held at our neighborhood library.  Those are always fun.   
 
 She loves pop-up books.  (Photo taken earlier this week.)
 
After walking all over the place, being told several times to stop standing in chairs, being told five or six times to stop screeching (something she does very loudly when she's excited), and transporting the felt ducks to various locations in the vicinity, she finally decided to get busy with the task of putting the cut outs on the felt board where they belong. (Photo taken earlier this week.) 
 
 And this one of big sister reading to me and little sister while little sister amuses herself in big sister's head.
 
***
 
And here's the first time Noni met her buddy Leilani, which was the same day I met Leilani's mother, who became my friend.  It all started with a random encounter at the library. 
 
 

And in no time, they grew up!
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