It’d been an exhausting week… Back in the 5th grade classroom. Dealing with excessive heat. Walking into a house without central air, a house that is just as hot inside as it is outside, with no relief. Not complaining, just stating. Weather in the triple digits is sure to zap anyone’s energy, so when I began to slide lower and lower into my favorite oversized chair, the one planted directly in front of the TV, I didn’t care that it was only 6pm. I was tired. Then, 5? 20? 45 minutes? later, all I remember, was Rudy saying “Hey,” as he walked in from work, rousing me from a light doze. “Oh, hey,” I responded, popping back into an upright position.
Several hours later, I lay down on my bed, ready for a much needed snooze-fest. And then there was a knock on the front door. For a minute I waited, assuming Rudy would answer but he didn’t. Maybe it was because he was in the garage and the knock was very light? Maybe he just didn’t hear it? But anyway, because it was after nine, I knew it must have been important, which meant I couldn’t ignore the knocking. I stood on tiptoe, looked out the small window in the upper portion of the door and saw a girl. I opened it, gingerly. Carefully.
“Yes?” I asked. She was young. Early to mid-twenties. Polite.
“May I speak with you?” she asked quietly, backing off a bit. I was confused.
“What is it?” I said.
“Please, can you come out here? I need to talk with you.” Now I was more confused, and becoming concerned, frustrated. Did something happen to one of my kids, and for whatever reason, she felt responsible?
“Who are you? What’s up? What do you need?” I questioned firmly. She walked toward me, holding her phone out, showing me a map, a white circle with a computer icon in it.
“Someone stole my computer and it’s showing that the computer is here, at your house.” She was so polite. So nervous, worried, concerned, and upset. I leaned in close to her phone and sure enough it was my address.
“I don’t want to press charges,” she continued, “I just want my computer back. I’m a student at Cal. State, Fullerton and I just bought the computer for school. I need it. Please.” Still confused about the situation, but understanding what she was asking me, I told her to hold on, that’d I look for the computer. I closed the front door.
I immediately walked into Bradford’s bedroom, pissed that my son could commit such an act. I called him. Yelled at him. Told him to tell me where the computer was. Not wanting to hear excuses or explanations I told him to “just tell me where it is!”
I handed it back to the girl, telling her I was sorry, that I didn’t know what was going on. I called Brad again, in front of her, did some more yelling then handed my phone to her and let her have her say.
“What the fuck!…” she began, then turned and looked at me saying “I’m sorry about the language…”
“No problem,” I responded.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” she admonished. Then she went on saying this and that, asking who, where, and why. When satisfied, she handed the phone back to me.
Turns out, it wasn’t Bradford who stole, not only her computer, but a backpack with her wallet in it along with all her expensive school books and other supplies. Turns out Brad happened to give the thief, a person he didn’t know aside from seeing him occasionally around town, a ride. The fact that the thief, sitting in the back seat, was holding a backpack, a computer, and an iPhone didn’t faze Brad. Until I “schooled” him, told him “No son of mine!” that he realized his mistake.
“Mom, this dude had that sh*! on him. He called me about 20 minutes after I dropped him off saying he had left it in the car and wanted me to take it out because it was so hot!”
I believed him.
Later that night, after giving a statement to the police, after learning the thief lived four doors down from the girl, she walked up to Brad and thanked him for helping her, that she was planning to “throw that guy’s ass in jail!” And then she looked at him, really eye-balled Brad and told him, like a parent would, that he needed to think about his choice in friends, about what he wanted in life, that he shouldn’t be around that kind of BS.
Brad nodded. “I definitely learned a lesson tonight. Thanks for believing me.”
“Thank you,” she said to me.
It was after midnight when I lay myself down to sleep. I closed my eyes but so many thoughts bounced inside my head. Thoughts about my child. My children. About lessons taught. Lessons learned. About me as a parent. I’m teaching the lessons and my children are learning the lessons, but how far do the lessons take them, to what extend? My only hope is that what I pass on to them instills the importance of thinking about their actions and how those actions effect others.
long ago, probably about five, six, maybe seven, eight years ago brad announced he knew someone, or talked to them in passing, or something, and mentioned that the person had told him about a cute, little, itty-bitty, barely-born, newly-arrived kitten.
he wondered if he could have it.
i have forever been opposed to pets because kids tend to think all they have to do is pretty much nothing. just occasionally (operative word here) engage with their newly obtained hobby. goldfish died due to an overload of food. while on the other hand, hamsters starved to death.
for me, it was too much to handle. little kids running around asking mommy this, mommy that, mommy, mommy mommy, which caused me to forget there was a pet in the house. i had tunnel vision. hence, supervised kids. unsupervised critters.
which meant no more pets. no. never. not on my watch.
until brad showed me, and roberto (a huge pet advocate), an adorable photo of the kitten he had mentioned. he caught me off guard. sly kid. the kitten’s big green eyes and fluffy fur was hard to resist, for all of us, apparently. please, please, please they both whispered, hands clasped into steeples, prayer-mode.
ok, i said.
say what? what did i say? i asked myself.
really?! they both screamed.
really, i mumbled.
as they were walking out the front door, i said, bring home two. (again, what the heck was going on with me?)
two? you sure?
yeah, you know, to play together.
within the hour they brought home Cassandra and Skyler (named later that afternoon by the boys). fraternal twins. one black, one multicolored. both with green eyes.
i was smitten.
roberto recently moved out and brad is a busy 17 year old. both engaged elsewhere, most of the time. so, aside from brad allowing them to sleep in his room, the girls belong to me. i tend to them 99% of the time, and i even renamed them. (the kids don’t know this, they’d probably think i’ve gone bonkers, but oh well, a caretaker’s got to do what a caretaker’s got to do, right?)
cassandra’s now-name is chicka-chicka-boom-boom (which, ironically, is the title of an adorable kid’s book about the lower case letters of the alphabet climbing a tree, thinking they know what’s what) because of her diva personality and i refer to skyler as skitter. so sweet, yet so nervous. she has never been able to fully relax.
ah, there she is. I can hear chicka-chicka-boom-boom’s deep guttural mew call me. she wants in the house for a quick nibble of chow and a full-on vigorous back rub. she likes her cheeks gently caressed as well.
spoiled. i know.
Nine years ago Rudy took a job offer in Honduras, Central America. He had been working there for several months when the Winter holidays arrived. It was December. The kids and I were beginning our school break so, rather than having Rudy come home to us in California, we decided to venture into his native land and explore the country where he spent his youth.
One place Rudy really wanted us to see was Roatan, one of the Islas de la Bahia, so we jumped aboard a charter boat off the mainland, anticipating an exciting trip that’d take us across the sea.
All I could think was,
Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Honduras.
The. Boat. Trip. Was. Awful.
For me, anyway!
I mean seriously, there I was, hardly ever sick, can handle pretty much anything… vomiting. It was so embarrassing! And I was so obvious, sitting in the front of the boat stumbling to the rear every 10 minutes, to the same bathroom, over and over, during the entire excursion.
Rudy and the kids? Oh, they were fine! …Okay, well, maybe Roberto had an issue as well. But he did a better job of holding himself together than I did.
Two and a half, three hours later, we stepped onto a wooden dock. I was feeling a bit shaken, but the solid ground helped ease my vertigo.
Our rental car was waiting for us curbside. We were off to our destination (for the next four days). The resort was an almost untouched paradise. Almost, because it was under construction. Once we got past stacks of plant-less planters, still needed painting stucco, and an empty not finished by any means manmade pool this is what we saw:
After we tossed our packed things onto the huge beds, checked out the supersized bathtub, opened and closed every single kitchen cupboard (stocked full of useful items), and turned on, then off, the big screen TV, we ran Outside. Our toes clinched the warm, finely-grained sand as we ran to the water’s edge, where we then frolicked in three versions of blue water. The Caribbean Sea was splashing into a private alcove, a place of complete serenity. Pure bliss!
We spent those several days enjoying the uninhabited land, on the far side of the island. Seriously, it felt as if we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, like it belonged to us.
Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Roatan.
As days always do, ours came to an end.
On the winding road back towards the wooden dock, to our departing boat, we made a quick stop for some Dramamine. You know, the anti-motion sickness pill. No way, no how was I going to let the extreme rocking of the boat ruin my trip back to the mainland. So, I popped a few pills, as did the kids. Rudy had no need for them.
The drug did the trick. We all felt energetic and content, happy even. The boat was bouncing up and down, sailing along. I took it in stride, observing what I missed on the ride out. I watched Brad as he stood outside the door, stood with some tall guys and just seemed to enjoy the water’s spray as it licked his face. His exhilarated expression told a story of its own. Liz and Roberto were playfully being sarcastic with each other, laughing.
At the same time, people were screaming every time the boat lifted its nose into the air. The kids and I laughed. We thought it was actually pretty fun. It seemed, to us non-Spanish-speaking foreigners, everyone was having fun on the amusement park kind of ride.
Suddenly, it started raining outside, lightly at first, then progressively harder. I began to notice the faces of the people, at least those nearby enough to observe. Their pained looks said they weren’t screaming for the fun-of-it, they were scared. I looked out the door, towards Brad. The ocean was getting out of control. Rudy grabbed him by the shirt sleeve, quickly yanking him inside.
We were no longer laughing, or joking. We were quiet. Rudy began listening to the people, to their panicked concerns. “It’s bad.” he said. They only thing we could do was watch the people’s expressions and wait for Rudy to explain what was happening. I stayed calm, hoping it would help calm Liz, Roberto, and Brad.
All of a sudden someone piped, “Land!” We breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realized… it was definitely land but not the mainland. The boat, for safety reasons, had returned to the island, to Roatan.
We, again, stepped onto the wooden dock.
The weather worsened. It was windy. It was rainy. It was stormy. It was loud. We had to stay in a bug-filled room for the night. Needless to say, none of us slept. Rudy found a local guy to drive us to the airport way before the sun rose, where we had to sit and wait out the storm before boarding a 12-15 seater plane. A plane that was old, small and loud. Water dripped from the ceiling. I found myself smirking at the entire situation. Part of me thought the whole adventure had been kind of cool, in a extreme way, while the reasonable part of me wondered if that was the day of our demise. It sure felt like it could have been. But, that was a thought I kept to myself.
Late into the afternoon, our wobbly old plane safely landed. We had made it back to La Cieba, the small town where our boat should have docked. And where the kids and I hugged and kissed Rudy goodbye before returning home to sunny California.
Chris had always been a person in my life, a sister who, no matter what, came through, was always there for me. Sitting here, thinking about her, how she was a part of my life, my relationship with Rudy and eventually the perfect aunt for my kids, I’m remembering when Elizabeth, was born, and how Chris needed to take charge because Rudy and I, both thirteen years younger than her, were very anxious about me giving birth, an unknown territory for the two of us.
Chris, the oldest of 11 children, knew exactly what was going on (not only because she was like a second mother growing up, but because I don’t even know how many times, she helped feline after feline, dogs too, give birth to their new offspring). You wouldn’t know it, but I’m telling you, those lessons she learned were a definite asset for anyone feeling the pains of labor. She could read the situation and help the process move along smoothly. Chris knew the signs of “It’s time!”
When I was in labor with Liz (yet didn’t realize it) and Rudy, assuming I was just a little uncomfortable (because that’s what I told him “Oh I’m just a little uncomfortable”) was grabbing his jacket and heading towards the front door just as Chris walked into our tiny apartment.
“What?! She looked at Rudy, stared him down. “You are leaving? Going to work? Why? She is going to pop this baby out any moment! You can not leave! I won’t allow it.”
My sister. My older sister. My only sister was the boss. At that moment, regardless of any reason, viable or not, she was not going to let him leave.
“I don’t think so! She’s in labor. Daphne is going to have this baby today,” my sister said, giving Rudy no other reason to dispute her. “You need to call work! Tell them you will not be in.”
“Alright,” Rudy mumbled, which is not an easy task, trying to sway Rudy to an opinion other than his own. But, I think like me, he sensed arguing was pointless. Chris seriously knew her stuff.
I suddenly felt a jab, a painful ache, something more defined than I’d experienced as the days of Lizzy’s birth grew closer.
Chris was right. Rudy needed to get me to the hospital.
Driving there, a 20 minute trek, seemed to take forever. And the fact that the pains grew stronger didn’t help.
We were both anxious.
“It will be okay. You will do fine,” I heard Chris’ voice tell me. She was in my head.
“We are going to be fine. This is it!” I told Rudy, cringing as another contraction surged through me.
Within the next several hours, three to be exact, our dark-hard baby girl was born, using every inch of her lungs to cry out, as if telling us, you did good.
And there was Chris, waiting in the lobby, waiting for the news. Is the baby a boy? A girl? Is Daphne OK? Rudy walked up to her and hugged her. Tight.
“Thanks for making me stay home, for making me call into work to say I couldn’t go in.”
She hugged him just as tight.
He walked with Chris to the baby window, arm around her shoulders. They both smiled. Gazing at Elizabeth, a wee child that Chris would spend a lifetime adoring.
I was sitting behind the reception desk, filing papers, answering the phone, and rubbing my pregnant belly when I decided to leave the workforce and return to school. Without consulting Rudy, I walked into the head-honcho’s office and verbally resigned, giving him two weeks to find my replacement.
Back then, I had allowed myself to somewhat give up on my education because combining a fulltime job and being a fulltime student had become overwhelming. Rudy and I needed me to work more than I needed school, so I temporarily dropped out.
Which meant, I soon discovered, that I was working for the sake of working. Simply showing up day-after-day, earning a bi-weekly paycheck. What I really was seeking, besides a monetary compensation, was the feeling of making a positive difference in someone’s life. I was six months pregnant, with our first child, when I quit the receptionist job, and found myself joyfully walking onto the local university’s campus, ready to fulfill my goals of earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree.
My daughter was born the day after my first semester ended and on occasion, she continued to tag along, sitting in on lectures with me, quietly coloring or pretending to take notes, absorbing the value of an education. As a transfer student, it should have taken me two years to meet my goal but, being a new mother, I needed to balance my homelife with my academic one, so I cut back on my courseload, in order to accommodate both.
Ironically, after graduating, Rudy and I decided I needed to, once again, return to work. More focused, and determined not to give up, or give in, I found employment working with young children, which filled my days with satisfaction. Fulfilling my dreams of working with impressionable youth.
After three years of involving myself with preschool children, I once again gave my resignation notice, knowing that once-and-for-all I was going to complete the necessary steps it took to earn a Clear Professional Teaching Credential. I returned, to a different college campus, with my second-born, a son, holding my hand, as I walked him to the onsite children’s center, while his sister attended second grade at the near our home local public school.
A year of daytime, and nighttime classes, resulted in my receiving a credential. Finally, I would be able to structure a classroom not only filled with academics, but also a safe haven to instill a belief in all children that they are valuable.
Several years later, I became a student once again. Yet, this time, I was a student simply enhancing my skills as an educator. I had another personal goal to meet. I earned a Masters of Science degree, while attending to not only child 1 and child 2, but also while caring for my third, and final, child.
Not only am I happy that I pursued, and met, three major educational goals for myself, my hope is that I have instilled in my children to never let any obstacles block their way and that they live life the way they choose, regardless.
He was born with an abundant amount of hair. From the beginning I knew this small boy-child of mine was, and is, mine. He definitely possesses my looks, so I say. Everyone else seems to think he looks more like his dad. “Think what they want,” I tell myself. “He’s me.” Not only was the dark, newborn hair like mine, except for the fact that Roberto’s would stick up straight like blades of grass, but as the years passed, more and more of me – shrug it off-one day at a time-go with the flow-if it can’t be changed then move along-attitude flowed out of him. The way he thinks. About the world, and the people in it. Of course, his eyes match mine, only his somehow look more brilliant, and the shape of his face is definitely inherited from me.
Aside from Roberto’s mostly not completely predetermined mom’s DNA personality, he is himself. His own unique person.
One of the most obvious stand-out physical attributes he has are his eyes. His blue, blue eyes. The stops and stares began way before he could understand the compliments people tossed his way, admiration of his Paul Newman eyes. “He has the most beautiful eyes…,” they’d say. I agreed with all those wow compliments, yet I always made sure to tailgate them. “He also is such a nice boy, and so smart, too.” I didn’t want him to grow up thinking it was his handsome face, his pretty eyes that would take him safely through life. No. I wanted to ensure he knew how to stand strong. As a person. Less so as a look. As he grew, began to understand what people were saying to him, he also began to roll those baby blues. He’d heard enough. He wished he could paint them brown. Just to stop people from saying anything.
When he was about four and a half years old, I would drag him along with me to watch his only sis cheer for the local pee-wee football team. I soon realized that it wasn’t a drag for him, it was the beginning of a booming talent. Entertaining people, without trying to.
While the little girls were dressed to the tee in their white and dark blue cheerleading outfits, standing in front of all the adoring parents, he stood off to the side. Far enough away so that the crowd didn’t spend their time confused wondering if he was part of the cheer squad yet, close enough to copy exactly what moves the girls made, the shouts they cheered.
Roberto stood there. Or, no he didn’t. He really moved to the music. He never just stood. It was the girls who should have been pumping up the crowd but it really was him who brought smiles and laughter to the field on those fall mornings. The cheerleaders spun, bent, jumped, shouted, tossed, ran, raised arms, clapped. They did what cheerleaders do. Cheer.
So did he. He cheered. Wearing his jeans and a neatly tucked in t-shirt. Little did anyone realize that during practices, before the big game, he was watching every move. Every must do it right move. He practiced. And practiced some more.
He was the entertainment. Sometimes even more entertaining than the game itself.
Not much later as a group of girls danced to the Spice Girls in the garage, he would take over the show. Steal the limelight. Not intentionally, he just did. He was Mr. Personality. When the youngsters decided to perform for the other families in the neighborhood he was center stage, singing and dancing. The girls dancing and singing behind him joyfully laughed along with everyone else.
I remember once upon a time, Roberto was just a young 6 or 7 year old, when he decided it would be cool to shred the bottom portion of his jeans. Let his personality take over, I believed. Creative, artistic, funky jeans were all the rage for him that year. So creative. So cool. So him. He wore them everywhere. I thought it was fantastic. His ingenious idea.
The garage bathroom door needed to be painted. “Let me do it,” he said, the lilt in his words told me it was really a question. I took the door off its hinges. Removed the doorknob. Lay it flat on the ground. After I painted the background an ocean blue and let it dry he began drawing using a pencil. For whatever reason, I never asked, he drew a picture of his dad and his sister holding hands. He wrote the word el baño on the top portion. For his dad. He speaks Spanish.
Roberto has always been an interesting character. A unique one. Someone everyone should be so lucky to share their life with. I watch him. Admire him. Am proud of him.
As a young adult now, he truly does appreciate his good looks, his big blue eyes yet it’s his kindness, his spark for life, his energy, his personality that he really likes about himself. I do too. While he is lovely to look at, it’s his concern for everything that I am most content with.
“Who are you looking for?” the unfamiliar preschool teacher asked me. “Elizabeth,” I responded. Miss I can’t remember her name checked me out, looked me up and down, and stated rather bluntly, “Are you her babysitter?” Surely, you pale-skinned and overly-done blond-haired person belong to some other kid, she seemed to be thinking. “I’m her mom,” I said, with a smile. “She’s mine. Definitely my daughter.” Elizabeth ran toward me wearing clothes full of dirt, her dark hair dangling into her face, her small hands pushing it away. Elizabeth’s olive-toned skin glistened in the sunshine.
The first time I took Liz out into the world it was her spirit and her happy smile that caused people, generally women and young kids, to claim “She’s so beautiful” and “She must resemble her dad”. I laughed and wrapped those compliments around my expanding heart and admitted that, Yes, she got her father’s Honduran looks. Little girls and boys would hold Elizabeth’s hands, touched her baby-soft skin and coo to her. All she had to do was smile and the people fell in love.
When Liz grew into a toddling child I had purchased a variety of my style clothing. 6 outfits in all. I figured if she didn’t look like me, maybe she could at least dress like me. I put one outfit on her after another. And click click went the camera. There was something dark-purple with polka dots and lime green tights, pin-striped blue-and-white overalls, a light pink like cotton candy sweatshirt dress, a barely there pink jumpsuit, a second jumpsuit, this time green, and turquoise shorts topped with a tie-dyed all the rage t-shirt.
Well, in the end, dressing like me didn’t pan out too well because as she grew older, I quickly discovered, for the most part, Liz’s choice of clothing is the opposite of mine. I wear jeans, t-shirts, and either a sweatshirt or a cardigan all the time. My hair is always pulled back. She prefers dresses. She allows her hair to flow gracefully over her shoulder.
I like the comfort of tennis shoes. Elizabeth? Heels.
How about when it comes to exercise? I love, and I mean love, to wear baggy too big for me workout gear. Liz? Well, of course, everything is fitted nicely and looks so modern. So hip.
So, it may seem that Elizabeth and I are different. In looks, sure. Clothing, yeah. Mostly. But in how we feel about each other. We are equals. I love her. More deeply than she will ever know. She loves me, unconditionally. Faithfully. This world is a better place because Liz is in it. Her smile enhances life as we know it daily. Elizabeth is my daughter. Elizabeth is my friend.
I brought you home with me, 27 years and seven months ago. I held you in my arms while you slept. Fed you when you cried. Bathed you, soothed you. Your smile has grown with you, never wavering. You have maintained a kindness I wish the whole world could embrace and make their own. When you were a young girl, you would hold my hand – knowing I would always be by your side, guiding you. You looked up at me with a love I had never known before, a love only a child can give. So innocent, yet full of life. As you grew into your teens, you continued to open up to me, let me be a part of your life. You trusted me, I trusted you. I cherished the fact that you would come to me, talk to me, tell me everything knowing I would help you figure things out. You, Elizabeth, have made mothering a wonderful experience for me. I am very proud of the road you travel. The calmness you possess. The friendships you hold close. The love you share. Everyone should have an Elizabeth in their life.
I Love You truly,
P.S. Hug me all you want. Warmth is a wonderful feeling.
Bradford Ramon Antonio, age 11
There he sleeps, that child of mine. I’m sure he’s dreaming about all the things he wants to do in his young life. His innocent life. His right-now life.
Sunrise to sunset, that kid is on-the-go either physically, or mentally, or (of course) both those things at once.
The minute he hops out of bed, he puts on his favorite baseball cap. Angels! At the same time his feet begin to shuffle. Swish! He slides his left foot across the wooden floor, kicking it straight out in front of him. While that foot dangles in the air he quickly raises his knee, and just as quick he stomps that foot back down. The other foot takes its turn and begins to also stamp. Now both feet are shuffling back and forth. He spins his body, grabs the brim of his cap and twirls it backward, then forward again in a rapid, smoothly-planned motion. His whole body is moving. His feet are gliding, stamping, and being raised high off the ground. The techno music in his head eventually stops, so then does his dancing.
He settles on the couch, waiting for a hot cup of tea. While he waits, his fingers, all ten of them, begin to intertwine. His hands move as if they are dancing. A hand dance. His arms shoot out as his hands continue to twirl, round and round. His arms twist around each other, like slithering snakes; his fingers continue to lace loosely together, then apart, and his arms maintain their own motions, to ensure that the fluidity of the dance is just right. The hand ballet stops when he reaches for the sugar-and-milk-filled cup of tea.
He’s a DJ. He uses the computer to spin a record, to jumble the original music in an interesting way. He adds voice overtones to create definition, character to the song. The techno music adds a certain flavor to the whole effect. He works it, over and over, in various ways. Both his hands are moving rapidly, spinning up, spinning down, spinning to the right, spinning to the left. Then his feet begin to shuffle. All his skills are joined together into one fantastic show. His motions don’t stop until the music does yet, his heart still sings. He knows his skills are working, working the crowd. He knows because they all scream for more.
So sleep well, my son, sleep well. Dream your dreams. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is another day you can move. Another day to perfect your real-life ambitions.
today, on this stagnant CA day, a day weighed down by extreme heat
i was reminded of 2012
when brad and i took a walk, on a stagnant arkansas day, a day weighed down by extreme heat
when we were
red faced and sweating
trotting along, in plus 100 degrees, hiking up a trail, trudging down again