Mother’s Day

May 6, 2012

I remember the first Mother’s Day card I received.  I was in India adopting my son and my bff Libby was with me, and she had brought a card all the way there so she could give it to me on the day I met my son for the first time.  She wanted to be the first to wish me Happy Mother’s Day!  I had been so completely focused on preparing everything in my life for Rahul and making sure I had everything he would need that I hadn’t really thought about how my own role in life was changing.  I remember thinking, Oh yeah! I’m a mother now!

 

As someone who came reluctantly into motherhood I had to wrestle with feelings of fear and distain toward joining “the mommy club”.  I hadn’t dreamed of becoming a mother my whole life–in fact, I hadn’t dreamed of it at all.  I remember once, on an ill-fated date, being asked how many children I wanted to have.  Zero, I said.  My date looked at me in absolute horror.  He literally stood up and paced and nearly left (good riddance) until another friend talked him down.  And you may be surprised, but I’ve received many similar reactions throughout my life when I have said I didn’t think I wanted children.

 

It wasn’t until about two years before Rahul came home with me that I began to have stirrings that I was supposed to be doing something more with my life.  A friend who had a similar lack of desire for children (and had been taken to a psychiatrist by her mother-in-law who thought she was a lesbian because she didn’t want any children–seriously, has she MET any lesbians?) had experienced a life-changing yearning when she held her nephew in her arms for the first time and was now expecting a child with her husband (a second marriage–the first one dumped her because of the “no kids” thing).  She advised me to seriously reconsider my ideas about motherhood.  And I did.  I thought about it seriously for the first time, but could not wrap my mind around becoming a single mom.  Then a few months later I experienced a big heartbreak and in the pits of my despair I realized I was yearning for something more than what that relationship could have given me.  I was yearning to be meaningful to someone.  To create family.  To use the blessings my life was overflowing with to help someone else.  Adoption.  The idea gelled completely in my mind and I knew it was my life’s purpose.  And a few weeks later I was filling out adoption papers!

 

So when I found myself facing my first Mother’s Day I thought it might be fun!  A day to celebrate me!  Well, my first Mother’s Day was so completely horrible that I literally wore sunglasses all day because I was crying and didn’t want Rahul to see.  People called me all day long to wish me well, which should have been encouraging, except that Rahul was miserable and unstable and totally hated me.  Every time I got a new “Happy Mother’s Day” phone message I wanted to throw the phone across the room.  It wasn’t a day much different from any other in those first few months, except that I had people congratulating me all day.  And to me that created a chasm between myself and everyone else.  I was prepared for Rahul’s difficult transition. It was incredibly hard, but I didn’t have expectations that it would be easy.  I think it was hard for most of my friends and family to understand how painful and traumatic it was for Rahul.  Most people pictured a much happier situation than it was in reality.  But  I wasn’t crying that day because Rahul was making me sad.  I was crying because I felt like no one understood what I needed that day.  Not well wishes and congratulations.  I needed a hug, comfort, a visit, support.  I realized that day that being a single mom to a child with special needs was incredibly lonely.

 

Subsequent Mother’s Days have gotten increasingly better.  Rahul is happier each year and he has expressed so much gratitude and love to me on Mother’s Day and every day that I don’t feel like there is anything I need from a special holiday.  And being a mother is my favorite thing in the world.  It is the most amazing experience and I’ve never regretted it once.  But I still feel a familiar tug each year on my heart at the beginning of May.  A reminder of the chasm that I still feel exists between myself and so many others.  Do people really see me?  Do they understand how treacherous my motherhood journey has been?   Do they realize how different my life is from theirs?  My side of that chasm is much more crowded now–with people who have held my arms up and remembered me and taken care of me.  Friends who have loved me and listened to me and supported me.  Friends who have had similarly crazy journeys through motherhood.  Family who have laid down their lives so Rahul and I could make it through the past four years.  It takes a village to raise a child.  And it takes a village to keep mom standing.

 

Women Who Throw Phones

January 31, 2012

I’m starting a club.  It’s kind of like the First Wives Club.  But its called Women Who Throw Phones and you can only join if you have done at least 5 of the following:

  1. Thrown your cell phone across the room, picked it up and thrown it again
  2. Spoken to your children in an “exorcist voice” and later felt ashamed
  3. Cried so hard you’ve thrown up
  4. Experienced an actual hallucination from lack of sleep
  5. Missed your child so much when they are with a caregiver you spent all your “me time” crying
  6. Walked the dog, taken the children to school, done all the household chores and worked a full day–all with a fever of 102 or higher
  7. Caught your child’s vomit in your hands while driving
  8. Wanted to scratch out the eyes of any number of women who post this on Facebook: “Hubby is taking me for a much needed getaway this weekend. Beach and spa, here we come!!!!!!!”
  9. Been at a loss for words when a friend says, “I don’t know know how you do it!  My husband went away for the weekend and I had to do everything myself!”
  10. Have built shelves, haggled with a mechanic, taught your son how to pee in the toilet, and received Father’s Day cards.

One time I went to a parenting class at my church.  And as I sat there hearing advice that did not apply at all to single parent families or children with special needs I began to realize that I didn’t belong there.  I needed to be able to talk with people who had problems bigger than Little Johnny Is Not Obeying His Parents or How To Carve Out More Time To Have Family Dinners Together.  The subject of children’s anger came up and as people shared anxiously about the (relatively mild) scenarios they were dealing with I thought, “My God. I don’t think you would last one day with my child.”

 

One day my best friend Libby and I were at the beach with Rahul.  He had just come through a particularly bad patch, and I spent the day telling her all the latest.  It was pretty “life or death” and she is one of the few people on the planet who knows some of the most excruciating details.  As we left the beach we passed a family bargaining with their toddler to let go of their beach towel because she was dragging it on the ground.  Something like, “Betty, if you let go of Mommy’s towel you can hold the sand pail!  Come on Betty, let go!  Betty, do you want an ice cream?  I’ll buy you one if you stop dragging the towel!”  Libby and I rolled our eyes at each other I said, “I look at families like that and wonder how long they would last with my child.”  She laughed and created a quick shorthand I have used many times since:

LESS THAN”      
“TWO”

 

Less than two minutes.  That’s how long they would last.

 

 

I am in Maine right now with one of my best friends and we are totally serious about starting our club.  She is a widow with 3 young children and helped me create the above list from her own experiences.  Her children are extraordinary–one is in the gifted and talented program, one has special needs and the third is an Indigo Child.  She lost her own father when she was a young girl and is now helping her children navigate the same situation.  She is the most amazing mother.  Another friend who I asked to join our club is a divorced mother of three young children who recently had to sit at a court hearing and hear a judge tell her the upside of her new 50/50 custody agreement (which my friend had spent years fighting to prevent) is that “Mom will finally get some ‘me time’!”  She is working 3 jobs and has to regularly hand her children over to a man who I wouldn’t let in the same state as my child.

 

We need each other.  Every once in a while we need to be able to talk about our lives, say “You know what I mean?” and hear someone say, “Yes.  Actually, I do.”

 

You know what I mean?

 

 

 

Let me start by saying, I never had any intention of going to Disney.  Ever.  I’m just not a “Disney Person” if you know what I mean.  But then last Thanksgiving, as my niece and nephew were talking about their trips to Disney with Rahul I saw the look in his eyes.  He wanted to go.  He would never say so, but I could tell.  My mom saw it too.  She looked at me sternly and said, “You know you have to take him.” And so I began concocting a plan.

 

By Christmas I had enlisted my cousin Kathy to come also, with her daughter Gabby.  We could share a room and cut down expenses and the kids could ride all the roller coasters together!  I am severely motion sensitive, as is Kathy, but our kids are daredevils.   And I have enough friends who LOVE Disney to know I wouldn’t have to plan anything.  I would just do what they did!  My sister and brother-in-law had taken their kids 2 years in a row during the last week of August and had found Disney to be low on crowds and less expensive.  Its off-peak since kids in the South are back to school by then.  So Kathy and I settled on traveling down there the same week and staying only 4 days (for my sanity).

 

 

The cost of the whole package was a lot less than I thought it would be, but it was still a stretch for me. Between paying for Rahul’s day camp at the beginning of summer and Disney at the end of it, I worked my butt off all year.  I finally paid for the last piece of the trip about a week before we left, leaving just enough money for us to spend on vacation.

 

Then Hurricane Irene loomed.  We had tickets to fly out of NYC the Monday morning after it was supposed to hit (on Saturday and Sunday).  Saturday I had to drive up to the Catskills to pick up Rahul from sleep-away camp.  My Jeep has been breaking down all summer and I have been stranded more than once.  Honestly, I think it has spent more time with the mechanic than with me lately.  I plan on trading it in for a new, RELIABLE car, but just haven’t had the time between repairs to make it happen.  So I was just hoping it would keep running until I got Rahul back from camp.

 

(Oh. Sidestory that brings context to this whole tale: The week before Rahul’s camp I drove out to my parents’ house where he had been spending the first three weeks of August.  Its a 7 hour drive and when I was just past the halfway point in the drive the traffic slowed to a stop and black smoke drifted into the air ahead of me: a tractor trailer had caught fire and the section of the thruway I happened to be on was a parking lot for three hours while they put it out.

 

These are the kinds of things that frequently happen to me, especially when it comes to traveling.  Seriously, if I had been 15 minutes ahead or behind myself I would have avoided it completely.  But, of course, there I am peeing in a cup in my back seat while the contents of the Family Dollar truck burn to a crisp.)

 

 

So as Rahul and I were winding our way down the Catskills in the rain that Saturday before Irene, my main concern was making it home without incident.  We did, but as soon as I walked in the door I got a call from JetBlue informing me that our flight was cancelled.  My heart stopped and I settled in at the phone for what I knew would be a long call.  To their credit, the “on hold” music at JetBlue was “The Tide is High” by Blondie. They had a whole playlist of hurricane/flood related music, and believe me, I heard it all.  I spent six hours on the phone with various airlines, trying to find SOME way out of town.  The whole time, though, I saw our vacation slipping away.  My final game plan was to book a flight out of Rochester (6 hours away, but in the opposite direction from the path of Irene) departing Monday evening.  Rahul, Baby Fish Mouth (my dog) and I would drive up to Albany Monday morning and meet my parents (coming from the Rochester area) at my sister’s place.  I’d leave my Jeep there and drive to Rochester with my parents.  They would drop Rahul and I at the airport and take BFM back to their place for a few weeks.  (I’m a fiercely independent person, but I couldn’t be nearly so without the help of my family.)  I booked the flight out of Rochester on a Delta plane and got an Amtrak ticket to Albany for the Saturday we’d be back from Disney so I could pick up my car and drive it back home.  Rahul and I would arrive in Orlando one day late, but it would be better than nothing.  With that plan firmly in place, Rahul and I went to bed Saturday night and slept through the hurricane’s arrival.  In the 22 years that I have been going to my church it has never been cancelled before.  We had 26 inches of snow fall one Saturday night and the city was virtually shut down the following Sunday.  We still had church.  But for Hurricane Irene we cancelled our service.  So I slept until 9am–probably the latest I’ve slept in years.

 

 

I spent Sunday packing and when Monday morning arrived Rahul, Baby and I  got ready to set out.  I pulled up whatever traffic information I could, because I knew there was flooding.  The hurricane had hit, but had not impacted NYC as much as expected.  A lot of roads were closed and on our way out the door I learned that the NY State Thruway was shut down on both sides of Albany.  I called my sister and my parents, eventually deciding to bypass Albany altogether and head directly to Rochester across NJ and PA through Binghamton, NY.  I could not get reliable information about the condition of Route 80, but it seemed to be open, so I headed out, hoping I’d manage to get to Rochester at some point before 6pm.  We got about halfway across NJ and the traffic was bad, but the highway was open so we were feeling pretty good.  We stopped for gas and I pulled the car over to the side of the parking area so I could use the restroom.  And when I got back in to the car to leave, it didn’t start.

 

 

My heart sank.  Because of all the other trouble I’ve had with my car lately, I knew this would be a major repair, and because of all the flooding, I knew it would be hours before a tow truck would be able to get us to a mechanic.  There was nothing we could do, but sit and wait.

 

 

Three hours later, a tow truck came and took us down the road to the mechanic.  Everyone who looked at our car that day had been dealing so exclusively with flood-related issues that they didn’t beleive me when I told them my car had not been sitting in water.  One mechanic pulled me over to the side and threatened me, saying “You’ve got to be honest with me.  What really happened to your car?”  Somehow, I convinced him I wasn’t lying, and they went to work diagnosing my Jeep.  As Rahul and I sat there waiting I looked ahead of me at the gas pumps and started laughing.  We were supposed to be boarding a Delta plane right around that time…

Technically, God DID get me to Delta.  Then I asked to use the restroom.  The attendant gave me the key and I started laughing again.

NOT the Disney I had imagined.

 

 

Anyway, a while later they informed me that my car would need a part that they didn’t have in stock and wouldn’t be able to get until the following day.  I had heard them manually start my car once or twice so I proposed instead of trying to find a place to stay overnight with my kid and my dog in the middle of rural NJ during a major flood, that they manually start the car and let me drive it back to the Bronx.  They agreed to do that, warning me not to stall out (I drive a stick) and teaching me how to hot wire my car if I had to start it in an emergency.  Rahul and I held our breath all the way home, but we made it safe and sound.  I had been holding it together remarkably well all day, even as I was promising Rahul that I would take him to Disney someday and thinking about all the money I had worked so hard for going to waste.  But when I called my parents to tell them we made it home I lost it.  I didn’t have any food in the house and had no money left to buy any for the week, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how depressing our week was going to be, while Kathy and Gabby were having fun in sun without us.  I needed to get back on the phone with JetBlue to process my refund (thinking that was some money that might get us through the week) and when I spoke to the reservationist I cautiously asked if they had added any flights that we might be able to get on.  And yes they had.  And yes, they had seats.  My first instinct was to just let it go.  I was exhausted and didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment, but then she offered to change our returning flight for free so we could stay one day later.  That would give us the 4 day/4 night vacation we had booked and would only mean adding one more night to the hotel reservation.  I had JetBlue on one phone and AAA Travel on the other and was speaking to both at the same time (“JetBlue, how many seats are on that flight?” “AAA, does Disney have any rooms for Friday night?” The JetBlue lady thought it was adorable.  The AAA lady wanted to stab my eyes out with her pencil.)  Miraculously, it worked out.  We got one more night at the hotel and got the last 2 seats on both flights with JetBlue.  And Delta and Amtrak both refunded our money!

 

 

So, again we went to bed in the hopes of making it to Disney the next day.  Early Tuesday morning I got my mechanic to tow The Green Nightmare to the garage.  Then I got the kennel to let us bring Baby in (they had been flooded in the day before).  Then I got my neighbor to drive Baby and I to the kennel.  Then Rahul and I grabbed our bags and started out to the airport.  I had no money for a cab, and obviously no car to drive us there, so we took the subway.  Which meant we had to take the bus from Riverdale to Inwood, then catch the A train, literally, from one end of the city to the other.  It took a little over 2 hours.  Strangely, and admirably, Rahul was a perfect angel through this whole ordeal.  We even decided we would take the A train to JFK airport from now on!

 

 

Well, from there the story gets much happier.  The plane took off.  We were on it.  It went to Orlando.  And somehow, despite every element seeming to be against us ever arriving at Disney, we made it there.

 

 

And it was magical.

 

After a week with my parents at their house on Lake Ontario, Rahul and I are full of song.  Well, actually, just song titles.  I doubt we’ll ever get around to writing the lyrics, but I’m pretty sure we’ll always remember the subject matter.

Don’t Hook Your Mommy (This is what I kept saying to Rahul as I followed him various fishing holes.  I did actually have a couple verses of this in my head, about different friends who have had to go the emergency room after getting a fish hook stuck in various body parts.  Luckily–and probably because I kept repeating this title unendingly–no fish hooks got stuck in mommy.)

I’m Never Going Canoeing Again (This is what Rahul said after a rather eventful canoe trip he and I took over to a nearby harbor–for some fishing, of course–that nearly ended with a coastguard rescue.  The lake was fairly calm on our trip to the harbor, but by the time we were heading back home the waves had whitecaps and the wind was against us.  Rahul and I were heaving and hoeing with all of our might and literally staying in one place.  So I called it and we turned around, nearly capsized and headed for the shore of a private beach.  Later that day Rahul got introduced to a Smith family classic, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  Its a lovely song documenting the death of 29 boatmen on the Great Lakes.  Sample lyric: Superior, its said, never gives up her dead.  Lovely.)

Grandpop, What’s a Redneck? (One can only imagine the lyrics of this song and, believe me, its better that it not get written!  Rahul heard me say the word, and when he asked me I was so embarrassed/ashamed that I had used it that I told him it was a bad word.  So he asked my dad the next day, and I’m sure he told him ALL about it.)

Marchiano Diablos Caca Poopoo Means I Love You (Marchiano Diablos Caca Poopoo is Rahul’s latest catchphrase.  He usually has a new one each week, usually a random line from a cartoon, and throughout any given day will insert it in different types of sentences.  This is the first time his catchphrase has had an Italian accent.)

Pickup Trucks Don’t Float (This would be quite a song.  Every year my parents put a dock in the water at the beginning of the summer and take it out again at the end by attaching it to their pickup truck and driving down their right-of-way.  This year Rahul was sitting on said dock as it was being loaded into the water, and when my dad stopped the truck to adjust something, I had Rahul get off. While my dad held his foot on the brake I adjusted the ramps that fit behind the large iron wheels of the dock. When I was finished, I moved aside and as my dad prepared for the final descent into the water the truck’s brakes gave out and the dock and the entire truck went crashing into the water.  The back end of the truck landed on the front end of the dock, where Rahul had just been sitting.  Nightmares have been had by all, imagining all the possible outcomes of that scenario.  This would definitely be a Country song.)

 

By All Means, Bring Your Coffee! (After we learned that pickup trucks don’t float, we also learned that AAA doesn’t cover towing vehicles that are in the water, even if they are only 18 inches from shore.  So emergency recovery vehicles had to be brought in.  And while extremely helpful, they are not discreet.  My parents live on a dirt road.  Until a few years ago, it was only known as Fire Lane 44.  3 or 4 huge towing vehicles, covered in flashing lights, parked in my parents’ front yard at midnight caused quite a stir in the neighborhood.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of many of my parents’ neighbors.  Much to my peace-at-all-costs mother I have had words with several ill mannered people in her neighborhood who have crossed the line in various ways over the years.  I know it upsets her, so I REALLY made an effort to hold my tongue while scads of neighbors she has never met flocked over to see what all the hubbub was about.  Most of them began with, “Is there a fire?”, which would have been fine if it was uttered with concern, not hopeful glee.  And I noticed that all of them except the one neighbor who is actually a dear friend were holding travel coffee mugs.  In case they needed a little refreshment while they watched tragedy unfolding.  I was inside the house watching all these people flock around my mom and her friend, while I knew she was holding back tears thinking of all the money they were losing by the minute.  Finally I had to emerge and join them and my icy stares shushed them right back to their homes. )

 

 

While creatively inspired by the events of the week, I am also feeling like I need a vacation!

 

Album Cover? Baby Fish Mouth is standing in the spot where the dock eventually was placed.

 

The Boy Who Lived

March 9, 2011

Last month, Rahul and I finished reading the Harry Potter series together.  We just started it in November, so basically I was reading at least 2 hours to him a day for about four months.  And we had a BLAST reading it!  Oh my gosh, those books are good.

 

Harry is a hero everybody can relate to, but Rahul has a LOT in common with him: birthparents gone, suffered as a young child, suddenly as a tween whisked away to a new place by a big hairy creature (seriously, I tweeze a LOT)…  He is known from Book One, Chapter One as The Boy Who Lived because he was the only person to every survive a “killing curse”.  And Rahul, also, has survived against incredible odds.  Aside from the fact that he was one of about 20 million orphans in India, he also survived a physical accident as a young child that could have killed him.  When he refers to it, he often follows with, “I wonder why God saved me?” (In other words, he has a bit a hero complex and I am happy to say that I encourage it.)

 

I also found myself identifying with Harry.  So much was asked of him and he was often so alone in feeling the weight of the challenges on his shoulders.  Single parenting a child with special needs can feel like that.  The themes in the books were very deep and I found it interesting to talk with Rahul about which characters were his favorite and why.  We talked about fear, death, evil and friendship and so many times I found myself enlightened by what he shared with me and surprised by what he drew from the text.

 

Reading is such a huge part of my life, and I was anticipating the day when Rahul would love it as much as I do.  I have always read to him, but lately he has just devoured books.  Last Fall we were reading The Secret Garden  (another orphan who moves–from India, no less–to a new world as a tween!!) when he said the words I had been waiting to hear, “Keep reading!”  I love when he begs me to read one more chapter.  And honestly, what better thing is there to do with your child?  Toward the end of the Harry Potter books we were reading 4 hours a day and he preferred to sit a listen to me read over watching TV and playing video games.  And we laughed and cried together (sometimes I cried a bit TOO much and he had to ask me to pull myself together) and even the dog joined in as we would snuggle on the couch every night before bed to read.

 

And we’re still going!  After reading a few “rebound” books (It’s hard to follow Harry Potter!) we are now reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.  It’s nice to read a series that is true and features a healthy, happy family.  Last night we got laughing so hard over one part of it (where Pa beats down a stump that he thought was a bear) and Rahul kept telling me that part over and over as I put him to bed and the first thing he said this morning was, “Mom, remember that part where Pa…”

 

I hope that Harry and Laura and Mary Lennox and many others will continue to live inside Rahul as walks though life, and that they will always remind my Boy Who Lived what living’s all about.

On Becoming an American

January 31, 2011

Last week, my son became an American.  Honestly, I didn’t attach much meaning to the event, other than celebrating the fact that I would now be able to properly claim him on my taxes and travel outside of the country together.  It was only when I told my friends about it and witnessed their huge positive reactions that I realized what a great thing it was.  Part of me had been feeling sad and guilty about Rahul becoming an American, because it meant he had to give up his Indian citizenship (India doesn’t grant dual citizenship).  I started the day with him by saying that he would always be Indian, no matter what any piece of paper says.  But now he would also officially become American.

 

And immigrating to America is hard work. let me tell you!  International adoption involves more paperwork than a graduate thesis, and in my case I had to have every document triple notarized, which meant standing in line over and over again at the notary’s office, the police station, the county clerk’s office, the apostille’s office, and several federal buildings.  And most of that time in line I was waiting alongside people who were at some point along in the process of immigrating to America.  It was disheartening.   Security guards wrangled us like cattle, shouting orders at the crowd of us, containing mostly non-English speakers.  People who were supposed to be guiding and serving us never looked us in the eyes, and I often startled them by looking straight at them and speaking to them in perfect English.  They clearly were used to pushing people around, and if there’s anything you can say (however stereotypically) about white, New York women–we DON’T like to be pushed around.  I often wondered how anyone, especially those who didn’t understand English could understand where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do, the instructions often being implied and assumed.  Many times I found myself nearly in tears, hurting for the people who were confused and trying their best to follow the proper procedures–totally at the mercy of people who were bored and bitter-hearted in their jobs.  One horrifying encounter with the nastiest of the New York county clerks (they seemed to hate their jobs more than any other people encountered on this journey) had me facing off with her while she insisted that the document I was asking to her to verify was improperly notarized–it was the original and only copy of Rahul’s orphanage record.  She held it in her hands seething with anger at me for having had it notarized contrary to her standards and I thought she was going to throw it back in my face or rip it into pieces as she went on and on about how wrong it was.  And when she completed her lecture, I stared back at her, speechless, with tears in my eyes, and finally said, “OK…So, are you going to verify it or not?” She paused for a moment then without taking her eyes off me, she stamped the document and shoved it across the counter at me without saying another word.

 

Once Rahul’s adoption was officially complete, almost 2 years ago, he should have automatically become a US citizen.  But the law has not caught up with the relatively new phenomena of international adoption, so we adoptive parents have to shell out another $450 to apply for our children’s citizenship.  And I didn’t have $450.  So the papers sat on my desk in a folder awaiting the day when I had the money to spare to start the process.  Then one day, a friend of mine pulled me over in church.  She handed me an envelope and I was confused.  Her father had just passed away very unexpectedly and she had just returned from his funeral days before.  She was so young to be losing a parent and I had been praying for her for weeks.  I couldn’t understand why she was giving ME a card.  After church I opened it.  Rahul and I were buying a brownie in a coffee shop and I embarrassed him immensely by blubbering like a baby as money poured out of the card which described how she and her siblings had had some money donated to them at the funeral and her siblings were giving their money to their children.  She however didn’t have any children yet, so she thought of me and Rahul and decided to give it to us.  She thought her dad would be happy to know that’s where it was going.  I decided right away that it would go towards Rahul’s citizenship.  Within days of hearing this story my sister called me and offered to donate the remainder of what I would need to process the paperwork from some extra money she had earned.  And so, like so many pieces of Rahul’s story–amazing, generous people got us where we needed to go.

 

 

The morning of the citizenship hearing was one of those crazy rain/ice storms and the traffic was terrible.  When I finally found a place to park I stepped out of the car onto pavement covered in ice covered in rain and the parking attendant jumped out of my way so I could slip and rip my knee open.  With a hole in my tights and blood pouring from my leg, I muttered under my breath something about not being aware a blood sacrifice was required for US citizenship.  When Rahul and I got to the building our appointment was in, we saw a line wrapped around the building, standing in the rain that was now pouring sideways, and I recognized them immediately–the huddled masses.  We took our place in line and entered the building a half hour later, soaked to the bone (so much for the cute outfits I insisted we wear).  An hour of waiting later we were ushered into an office, sworn in, we signed a few papers, then we waited for another hour.  Then someone brought out Rahul’s certificate. And that was it.  No confetti, no flag waving.  I think what Rahul will always remember about the day is that he got to watch Monsters vs. Aliens in the waiting room.

 

 

But I think when you have to work hard for something, the earning is sweeter.  And knowing that Rahul and I, and all those people who stood along side me, endured the process, I feel victorious.  God bless America.

 

My little American

They Are Special

October 1, 2010

Today was the 4th Grade “Get Aquainted” day at Rahul’s school.  That’s the PS 24 version of an Open House–each teacher prepares a short presentation for the parents of their students outlining curriculum and expectations for the year.  For the last two years Rahul has been in General Ed classes with students of some of the most dynamic and involved parents in the school.  Every time parents were invited into his class for an event the room was packed with parents, grandparents, and tons of food!  And I have tried to learn from them what it means to be an “involved parent”.

 

This year I moved Rahul to a Special Ed class and it has so far seemed to be a great move.  I was really looking forward to this morning’s meeting, so I could get to know his teacher a little better and see where Rahul sits.  He told me the other day that the class had all written notes to their parents and they were going to leave them on their desks for us to read today.  I love that stuff!

 

So this morning, I trudged (2 blocks) through the wind and rain to the meeting, and when I walked into the classroom only one other parent was there.  The class is small, there are only 13 students, but I couldn’t believe we were the only two people there!  The notes the kids had written to us were laid out on their desks, along with a guide from the teacher and a bookmark she had made up for us.  We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else was coming, but finally Ms. Vedevino began her presentation.  She opened by reading the poem that was printed on the bookmark, called “Unity” (Author Unknown).

 

I dreamed I stood in a studio

And watched two sculptors there.

The clay they used was a young child’s mind.

And they finished it with care.

 

One was a teacher; the tools he used

Were books and music and art.

One a parent with a guiding hand

And a gentle and loving heart.

 

Day after day the teacher toiled

With a touch that was deft and sure,

While the parent labored by his side

And polished and smoothed it over.

 

And when at last their task was done

They were proud of what they had wrought,

For the thing they had molded into the child

Could neither be sold or bought.

 

And each agreed he would have failed

If he had worked alone.

From behind the parent stood the school

And behind the teacher, the home.

 

 

By the time she finished reading the poem I was choking back a major crying situation because my heart just ACHED for the kids who’s parents weren’t able to be there.  Of all the kids in the school, these kids need their parents there.  But many of them don’t speak English, or don’t live nearby, or have to work, and maybe some of them just don’t care.  Or believe that they could make any difference.  But as I looked around the room at all the notes these kids had written with the expectation that their parents would be sitting in their seats and learning about their class, and looked up at the presentation Ms. Vedovino had prepared for us, I just wanted to weep.  I wanted to go around and read all the kids’ notes and write them a little one back, like I did for Rahul.  I wanted to go to all their homes and talk with their parents and learn what had kept them away today.  I wanted to invite them all over for a playdate.  Except Jose, who Rahul gave a wedgie to yesterday because he was bullying him…oh, OK, Jose, too!

 

I have already experienced the second rate attention parents of ESL students and Special Ed students receive from the school.  I know we are the quiet wheel and without a little squeak we won’t get anything we want for our kids.  And I know that without the unity of parent and teacher described in the poem, our kids won’t make it.  I feel prepared to fight the crusade (because if Special Ed in public schools is not a crusade, I don’t know what is) and I hope I can drag a few others along with me.  I have become BFF with Manny, the vice-principal in charge of Special Ed, have emailed the PTA presidents, cozied up with the looney school psychologist, I do the ESL teacher’s hair (and her daughters’)…I’m trying to engage a strong team of people to help my son get through this year.

 

And I also volunteered to be the room mother.

Rahul with his grandparents in his class last year

 

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