You know how people obsess over their first born? They take photos everyday of all the wonderful and cute things the first born does? They are extremely cautious and protective.
Have you seen those parents with more than two kids? That third child or in my case fourth child apparently didn’t exist until he was two. We had pictures from the day of birth and then nothing until his second birthday. It’s as though there was a moratorium on photographs during that time.
It all started when the kids and I were looking through old photographs. Remember when we took rolls film into the store to get them developed? As we looked and reminisced Shawn kept asking, “where are my baby pictures?” “Where are my baby shower pictures?” “Where are the pictures of you pregnant with me?”
How do you tell that baby you opted out of a shower? I had two baby showers or more with each baby, except for Shawn. There is only 15 months and a few a days between he and Josiah. How do you say, I was tired? I was too practical? It was a mistake? Friends and family offered to host a shower for me but I said no. The only thing I wanted and needed was a double stroller. I met with one friend and one family member at a restaurant where they presented me with the stroller. This definitely predates selfies. I’m not sure if we asked a waiter to take our picture.
Then one day a few years ago I put out an APB, I turned on the bat signal, I called, sent text messages asking friends and family to scour their photos to see if there were any pictures of Shawn. A few were located. I was relieved. I showed him the few that were sent to me. He have me that smile he gives when he’s excited but doesn’t want to show it.
I have lots of except for Shawn scenarios. All of the kids were vegetarian for the first 18 months except for Shawn. He was eating meat at six months. Everybody slept in their own beds as babies except for Shawn. I was exhausted so he slept with me to keep me from getting up in the middle of the night to feed him.
He’s not scarred for life over the exceptions. At least I don’t think he is. We have more than made up for the lack of pictures. Now it’s Josiah (third born) who I struggle to find photos of on my phone. He doesn’t seem care though.
I could write a whole book on how events in my my childhood affect who I am as an adult and the decisions I make as a mom of four. My mother raised three children as a true single mom. There was not a dad around. It was just her. She made all the decisions and her decision was final.
Fast forward to today. I decided to have more of a democracy. Every family member is equal and has a say in all major and minor decisions. We recently took a trip to Maryland over the Christmas holiday. I asked everybody if they wanted to go. If one person had said no then we would have stayed home. We literally had a conversation about putting up Christmas decorations and specifically a tree. I could care less about a tree. They don’t like taking down decorations. We scaled it way back and with a compromise we put a metal tree with lights that’s meant for the yard up in the house. Don’t judge us. It worked. I have the final vote on major things like buying the house we are in now. Everybody went with me to look for houses. My daughter, Melody, wanted one house and even through a mild fit. I told her she could not see what I could see. I was not only buying a house but a neighborhood and a way of life. Living on a cul-de-sac three house from the neighborhood pool proved to be a great choice and worth less square footage.
All of that to say, anybody can call and conduct a family meeting in our house. Josiah had requested to hold one to discuss his new guidelines surrounding waking everybody up in the mornings. Now Josiah is the third child. He is a typical attention seeking, vivacious, charismatic middle child who also likes being punctual. His school bus arrives at 7:40 so he has the alarm set for 6 am.
He had taken on the responsibility of waking everybody up if they were sleeping too late. He’s done a fantastic job at this self appointed duty. He has helped his siblings, especially his sister and younger brother, make it to the bus just before it stopped and opened the doors. He has even saved the day by finding neighbors willing to give them rides when it seemed they would not make it on time. After a year and a half of this daily activity he resigned from the self appointed position because of the stress. He did not provide any notice. It was effective immediately.
After a couple of days he realized how much they had grown to depend on him to get out of the house. He was sympathetic to their plight. During the meeting he said they would each get one free wake up per month. Unfortunately Shawn had already used his. He also told them the unused ones would accumulate from month to month. There was much discussion and shouts of outrage an insult or two and threats of bodily harm. At some point I heard, “objection!” and somebody yelled “order in the court!” It may have been the same person. For some reason the oldest gets unlimited wake up calls because he has a car. That created another uproar among the other two. But it was a good strategic move. Stay on the good side of the person with the car.
In case you’re wondering why the oldest doesn’t take everybody to school on a daily basis, it’s because he has late arrival. He will take them if they have activities in the morning.
I truly feel like I’m helping them find their voices at an early age and most of all realize they are an important part of this family and I value their input and points of view. They might decide there was way too much discussion and not allow their children to have any input. I won’t be offended. Everybody has to walk their own path according to the influences in their lives.
I came home from working out yesterday and saw my two youngest sons standing in the kitchen. The baby of my bunch (he’s 11) was holding an egg slicer with an unpeeled cutie in it over a cup and squeezing with all his might. I asked them what they were doing and they responded, “Making fresh squeezed orange juice!” My response was, “Well that’s not going to work.” I did wonder why they were putting so much effort into that when there’s a juicer sitting on the counter. Is that innovation or wasted energy? It’s hard to tell. Nevertheless I’ll pick up orange juice on my way home today.
Remind me to tell you about the family meeting we had last night.
How many days into the new year do we stop saying, “Happy New Year”? Sometime after the 3rd it started feeling awkward to me but then I decided that maybe it was appropriate for people you hadn’t seen or spoken to just yet. But I’m not really sure. Is this a question for Miss Manner or Amy?
If you haven’t been told by anyone lately, Happy New Year. I sincerely hope your year is filled with joy, peace, love, abundance and the ability to endure the difficult times.
She liked getting to work early. There was something about the peaceful elevator ride to the 38th floor that she loved. Maybe it was the view of the city. It could have been the multitude of sunrises she experienced. Perhaps it was the quiet before the storm. She knew by the time she stepped off the elevator, triggered the light sensors and brewed her first cup of coffee it was only a matter of minutes before the chaos of her busy work life would begin.
Before she left for work in the mornings she made sure to double check herself in the full length mirror. She had nightmares of panty lines, stray lint and well hidden stains or tears in her impeccable clothes. She never wore a shoe that had even a slight flaw. Her hair was the perfect shade of brown. She paid a lot of money for her stylist to create this shade just for her. Her face was perfectly powdered, lips lined filled with the perfect shade of red plum and her shadow evenly applied on each lid. Her eye lashes were lengthened and water proofed, not that she ever cried but she had gotten something in her eye once causing agitation which led to her rubbing it and triggered a watery reaction in her eye. Needless to say she began purchasing waterproof mascara. She also has two sets of identical makeup for home and office.
She intentionally selected the 38th floor of this building for her office. It held a special meaning to her. Thirty-eight was the number of times she remembered being called trash by Roberta when they were eleven. Before she could call her that a thirty ninth time, she moved to a different neighborhood. Her dad lost his job and her mother was diagnosed with cancer. They moved in with an elderly aunt in a rough neighborhood. Her mother told her all of this much later. At the time she only told her that a bitch named Karma had gotten Roberta’s family. For years after that she thought Karma was the girlfriend of they guy who sold handmade cigarettes on the corner.
I hated the summer nights more than anything. It had nothing to do with the long, hot and humid nights. Growing up in the Deep South I was as accustomed to the heat as anybody could get.
In the winters all of the shutters were pulled to and latched. The windows were closed. The heavy curtains were drawn at night to keep out the draft. Three layers of wood, glass and the best material this side of the Mississippi kept the house silent at night. But in the summers, sometimes in the late springs, curtains were pulled back and windows were open and the shutters no longer blocked the night sounds. This was the beginning of my sleepless nights each year.
The land we lived on and the house we lived in was my granddaddy’s and his daddy’s before him. My mother was the only surviving child of six. When she married the land went to my daddy. Since my mother only birthed girls this beautiful land went to my husband when poppa died. It helped that I had married well and he proved to be a good business man. Poppa loved John like a son and better than his own daughters.
I never paid much attention to the sounds until I was older. It was after John and I married that realized what was going on. I went to momma. I cried tears of despair in her lap. She stroked my hair and told me it was not my place to ask John any questions. This was business and the best way to keep a plantation thriving was through the labor of the negros working the land. The way we kept cost down was by creating our own laborers. That’s one of the reasons we had huge profits. She tilted my chin up until I was looking her in the eyes and she said, “Never mention this conversation or cry another tear. This is our way and has been for generations. Now get up and make yourself presentable to your husband when he walks through the door.”
I did as I was told. In all the years of marriage I never said another word. But the night cries kept me awake. The seasons held me hostage. No amount of singing, cotton in my ears or strong drink could drown out the night.
It was not love, she told me. It was business. It was how we as a family continued to thrive. It was necessary.
I believed every word until I saw a mulatto baby boy toddling around the quarters. He was an exact replica of John. Only with brown skin and curly hair. I had yet to give him an heir. Much like my mother I was cursed with girls. Three beautiful girls who adored their father as much as he adored them. But still, only girls.
There it is, the garage door is opening. I glance at the beautiful clock on the mantle. It was a wedding gift from one of my friends. I am not sure why I bothered to look. It’s always the same time everyday, 5:37. I sit there wondering. How does he manage to get home at the exact same time. I wonder if he ever gets home early and just sits around the corner waiting until it’s time to open the garage door. He never runs late, never. It’s always the same time.
When we were first married we would commute together, well to the bus station at least. He would drop me off in the mornings then pick me up in the evening. It was a great time to get to know each other better. We would talk about a variety of things, there was no limit to the conversation. When he picked me up from the bus station in the evenings, he would hop out of the car, greeting me with a kiss then and open my car door . He asked about my day and listen to me as I filled him in on the ins and outs of my daily adventures.
When the first baby came, we agreed I would stay home. That was the same year we moved into our first house. I was always excited when he arrived home. The sound of the garage door opening meant so much to me back then. It meant adult conversation, somebody else to hold and change the baby and time with my honey. It was great. We were a happy family of three until the other baby came along. Then we were a happy family of four.
The kids and I would run to the back door when we heard the garage door open. I would lead the way yelling, “daddy’s home!!!” and they would follow saying the same thing in their cute little toddler voices while clapping and smiling. He would walk in the door with a big smile. After kissing me he would pick them up and kiss them. Daddy was home.
Then one day or maybe over the course of a few months, something changed. I no longer led the charge. I did not feel like being the head cheerleader. I stopped running to the door. Without me leading them and encouraging them the children stopped too.
I looked at the clock, 5:39 pm? He’s late? He’s never late. I wonder if something happened to him.