Nauseous

I’m supposed to be doing something else right now: sending out my first query letter for my children’s chapter book. And it seems so unimportant. I have tears in my eyes and I am nauseous. A man’s car broke down and he was shot. Another was reading a book and he was shot. And yes, I’m going to assume it was a book until proven otherwise. What ever did happen to innocent until proven guilty, anyways?

Broken taillights, walking in the wrong neighborhood, playing with a toy gun, being black. And what makes it worse and shameful for me is that this isn’t new. It’s not as if all of a sudden police are mowing down people of color. That twenty, thirty years ago police and people of color had a wonderful relationship and only now has it turned ugly. This has been going on and we, I, have been ignorant. How many other black families wanted to or did tell the world that their son or daughter would never have drugs or a gun or fight with police? But there were no cell phones, no body cameras. It was their word against those in blue.

When someone doesn’t obey a command and walks away, or has his arms raised, where is the danger except to an officer’s pride, their need to hold power over the black man? Is that what this is?   Why the rush to shoot? I am a parent and I wonder if those that shoot so fast are parents too. What do they do when their child doesn’t obey them immediately?

My son is black and my mind has gone to thoughts of moving to Paris. We were there in the spring. Now I know there are issues there, but the racial tension was not noticeable. The idea that a white person’s life is more valuable than a black one, that black people are somehow dangerous is not their code.

My son is at the age where everyone thinks he is cute. And he is. Actually he’s the cutest kid you’ll ever meet. You should see him dancing on the bed as he pretends to do karate while “shaking my bootie.”   Those people, those white people, who think my son is so cute. What will they think in ten years? When he walks through their neighborhood with a hood over his head and a bag of skittles? Or god forbid his car breaks down in the wrong neighborhood, say two blocks over from our house. Or he gets pulled over for a broken taillight and forgets to not ask questions? Or he gets pulled over and in the injustice of it all forgets to raise his arms high enough or he reaches for his ID. Which picture will they show of my son on the news when he’s dead. Probably not the one from when he was six.

Bumper Stickers

I saw the car after it went past, but I sensed the driver to be young, white and male. The car was large and old, perhaps an oldsmobile. It had the first “White Lives Matter” and pro Trump stickers I’ve seen. I had a visceral reaction, my stomach felt sick. For behind those stickers, I believe, was a person who didn’t understand the privilege he already enjoyed. Seeing those stickers I felt the weight of how far this country still has to go until all of us are free from the chains of bigotry, racism and discrimination. I sensed the challenges and danger my six year old son would have to face as a teenager and black man in this country.

I saw these stickers one day after the mass shooting in Orlando; the worst mass shooting in US history; guns pointed and discharged at the gay and lesbian community, a community I am not all that much engaged in but to which I belong. That people could hate so much that they’d massacre an entire group of people based on whom they love. Love. Guns fired because the shooter couldn’t understand love.

I’ve been slightly sick to my stomach for the last two days, but not really talking about it. What is there to say? Bumper stickers, guns, hatred, ignorance. Of course all lives matter. Of course white lives matter. But that’s engraved in the foundation of our society, the underlying truth of our country. From the moment the first white Europeans came to this country, white lives have been deemed more valuable. From the evisceration of native peoples, slavery, discrimination, black slaves considered 2/3 a person, mass incarceration, black men shot at disproportional rates by law enforcement, discrepancies in sentencing, white men holding positions of power and making most of the decisions in this country, on and on and on. White lives have always been considered more worthy. Straight lives have been considered the norm. So damn right we need to be told or reminded or informed that Black Lives Matter; and LGBT ones too.

Changing Dreams

I’ve come to realize that the dreams I thought were mine no longer belong to me. They’ve changed, like life and I’m coming to peace with the idea that what I was so excited about isn’t what I thought. I am tired. We are tired. We are not enjoying ourselves all that much and making connections has proven much harder than expected. Would it be different if we hadn’t come to Greece? Of if I had planned our time in Greece differently? Perhaps. But we did and I did. The frustrating thing about hindsight is that its lessons cannot be learned earlier. But I can listen to myself, my heart and my son. And we are tired.

I need connection and I have found it almost impossible to do so here. Speaking with an Englishwoman who runs a business on an island, she has been here two years and hasn’t made any woman friends. The culture is just different. My son needs connection. He needs other kids to play with but unfortunately it has proven more difficult to do so than on other trips. My son misses home, misses his friends and is unable to connect with the kids here. That is not fair to him.

I liked the idea of seeing the world, traveling slow, home schooling and spending more time with my son. Unfortunately the part of the world we are seeing now, slowly, I don’t care for, almost every day is a fight to get school work done, with thirty minutes of work taking two hours and lots of tears from both of us. I’ve realized that as a single mom, with all the hats I have to wear, the teacher hat is too big, like a ten-gallon monstrosity that covers my eyes and has me walking into walls.

We are off to Paris tomorrow, having changed our flight to leave Greece early. I am excited about Paris of course. Yet I also wonder if I won’t get tired there too. I thought I would like slow travel, but three plus weeks in one place where I start to have a home away from home, has proven to actually make me miss my home more. We spend a lot of time inside our apartment as one activity a day is enough for a six year old. Then there are the days when he’s overwhelmed and needs to hang out and watch a movie or two. Those times I’d rather be in my own home, and there are a lot of those times. Yet moving around more is difficult and upsetting to Junior.

We are considering coming home after Paris. The funny thing is, if we cancel our trip and return to the States early, we can’t go home. I’ve rented the house and while there’s a chance we could move back in early, it still wouldn’t be for a while. But we could make our way back slowly, seeing dear friends and family along the way. We’d have connection and playmates.

If we return to the States early I would still have to home school my son. But perhaps some of his fighting is because he is scared and off balance, not being home.

I realize there has also been fear in the background, like static on the AM station that is low but incessant and forgotten until a clear channel comes on. I have been thinking that if I were to have another heart attack I’d sure as hell rather have it in Paris than Greece. Being back in the States would be even more comforting. I’m glad I was brave enough to go on this trip but those moments when my chest pain knocks ever so lightly, I think shit, why am I here? What risks am I taking?

So I’d still have to home school, live out of a suitcase, not be in my home and move around every week or so. But we’d be with friends and family. Connection. I’m tired of not having connection. I miss my friends. My community back home is small, but it’s mine. It’s funny because those closest to me, because of schedules and lifestyle and distance, I don’t see all that often back home. But they’re close enough and I didn’t realize how much comfort that gave me. And I’m building community through Junior’s school and those interactions at drop off and pick up are moments of connection that build relationships. And I miss that.

In asking my support network for guidance I’ve heard to not feel as if I have to push through this and I’ve heard it would be a shame to not continue because the rest of the trip sounds so amazing. Both are true. I don’t want to push though just to say I did it and the rest of the trip does sound amazing. If we get to Paris and it completely turns things around and is amazing and we feel rejuvenated we can keep going. If we find that it doesn’t, I’m not saying I won’t travel again. Budapest and London will still be there. I just might need to do the next trip a little differently.

 

 

 

Traveling to Greece As A Transracial Family

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At the Acropolis

I feel as if we are in a fishbowl. To say that we stand out is an understatement. My son is one of only a handful of people with brown skin I have seen in almost three weeks in Greece and I am white. Yes, I did know we would stand out when we went traveling but I didn’t realize just how people would respond and how it would feel to me.  There are so many stares and since we were harassed (that’s for another post) I wonder in a different way what is behind those looks. Are they just curious or are they judging us? Is that hatred I see behind those eyes?

Then there are the questions, the never ending, very personal questions about the obvious; as if my son does not have ears, as if he welcomes inquiries into his personal story.  Sometimes it’s just “Is he adopted?” Then there was this exchange, after I was already done with it all: “Is that your grandson?” “No, he’s my son.” “He’s not your grandson?” “No.” “Then his father is black.” “No.” “His father is not black?” “No.” “Then he’s adopt..” I change the subject thinking enough already. Can you not either mind your own business or just skip to the obvious and keep your questions to yourself?

I had read that the Greek people love children and I’ve definitely found that to be true. He’s been given treats in stores and on the train. Everyone smiles at him. If only they’d stop touching his head.  I knew it was a thing, at least in the US, for white people to forget or purposely ignore personal boundaries, feeling they have the right to reach out and touch the hair of a black person.  It happens to adult friends and acquaintances I know who are black as well as their children. It happened quite a bit to Junior when we were in Portugal and I thought I was ready for it again. I tried to prepare myself, to be ready to speak up for him, to defend him. I haven’t been able to stop it. He’s learning to duck.

I joked with Junior that I should put a bunch of his coconut oil in his hair (except that I didn’t bring it) or perhaps some black paint so when someone touches his head, their hand gets all goopy. At least 10 people must have touched his head yesterday! He really doesn’t like it. I told him it was a good thing to do when he waved a woman’s arm away after she touched his head. Even if I spoke Greek, it would be hard to ask people not to touch him as it happens so fast and it’s a different person every time. While I’ve read that Greeks hold a special place in their heart for children, these aren’t love pats. People are curious as he looks different than everyone else. But damn. My kid is not here to satisfy anyone’s curiosity.

Maybe that shirt I wanted to have made that says, “Please don’t touch my hair,” could be made in multiple languages. A shirt for black people to wear when traveling, it could be written in English, Greek, French and Spanish. I could have it made in multiple colors, one for each day of the week.

Rules To Travel By Part 1

Traveling with kids rule number one: The amount of time spent at famous, ancient sites is inversely proportional to and then divided by three, take away two, the amount of time spent at nearby children’s museums and subsequent parks. But I got to see the Acropolis. Even as someone who isn’t a lover of Greek mythology and definitely not a history buff, it was amazing. I was staring at the Parthenon thinking, “How is it that I get to be here?” There was a lot of gratitude and wonder. I was also glad we are morning people.

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Rule number two: If you are a morning person get going early. If you’re not a morning person, consider becoming one. The extra long travel day from Oakland to Stockholm then to Athens after a 4 hour layover has been difficult to get over and we were both up quite early. The trip into Athens was only 40 minutes and quite easy and we were at the base of the Acropolis by 9 am. I was bummed there were two tour groups in front of us, until we came back down and there were about 6-8 school groups and that many tour groups as well waiting to go up. While we were up on the Acropolis it wasn’t really that crowded, nor hot yet. While the visit was short, we hit it just right.

Rule number 3: If I’m a bit overwhelmed, stressed and disoriented as an adult, my child is one hundred times more so. Junior is feeling quite overwhelmed. It ends up he was afraid of being up on the Acropolis as he thought he could fall off! He misses food from home, even though I brought a lot in my suitcase. When given a chance he’d rather stay in and watch a movie than do anything else. Back to rule number one. The Hellenic Children’s Museum followed by the local park after dinner where he found a friend to play with helped a lot.

 

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Rule number 4: Let kids eat what they want. Junior is not an adventurous eater and he’s been known to just not eat if he doesn’t like something. Even the sandwich he’s had the last couple of days was intolerable and actually made him gag. While some families may live by the rule of eat this or go hungry, for multiple reasons I can’t and won’t do that with Junior. So I’m letting him eat what he wants, even if it’s the same dinner every night. We did this on our last trip and it helped a lot. I’ve been determined not to have the same thing every night myself and realized I can bring something home or make two dinners if need be. Coming home on the bus we stopped at a kiosk and bought him orange soda and chips. Definitely not what I envisioned having my child eat when I became a parent. But my kid needs to eat. I am choosing my battles.

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Rule number 5: Everyone needs some down time. While traveling to a new place it can be easy to want to plan something everyday. And I’m a person who likes to get up and going early. But we’re gone for four months, It’s not a short trip. At home there are days Junior is in his PJs until 1 pm. I have to allow that to happen here, even if I’d rather be out and doing something.

 

Thoughts on a Trump Presidency

“It could happen, you know. He could become President.” There was so much I wanted to say but in the moment I had difficulty articulating the ideas spinning around in my brain. The thoughts I had were selfish ones as they were of my family.

I remember the image of a woman of color being pushed out of the rally, hatred spewing from the mouths of those around her who were also encouraged by this man who could be President. I saw the video of a black man sucker punched by a white man he was walking past as he was escorted out of another rally. People are feeling free to spew their hatred for people of color, to wear their racism proudly. “Donald Trump could get elected,” she said. There appears to be so many people who have felt threatened by having a black President, who feel threatened that they will soon be a minority in this country. Their blood must have been simmering just under the surface for these past eight years, allowing many to say we were in a post racial society. But then someone started fueling the fire, turned up the heat, took the lid off and gave them permission to make explicit what was always there.

“Make America Great Again.” To me that reads, take us back to a time when “we,” meaning “whites,” were a majority; to a time when a President couldn’t be black, blacks couldn’t just be somewhere, but were forcibly removed as their presence was threatening or at least suspect; to a time when there weren’t so many coming north across our borders but by boat and planes instead; to a time we could claim that people were free to exercise their religion because through our ignorance we thought most of the world was Christian.

My son will be ages 7-11 during the next Presidency. To think he could have a President who “loves the blacks” and who can’t even understand the racism implicit in that statement. He could have a President who at times condones and encourages others to violence against people with views different from their own. We already have stand your ground laws that get young black men killed without the killer having to fear reprisal. We already have racism learned and breathed over a lifetime that leads to young black men being suspected, feared and unnecessarily killed. My cute six year old at age 11 will be suspected of being years older than he is and may still want to wear a hoodie over his head. What if we have a President who stokes the fires of racism even more, whether he’s aware of it or not?

My son who will be in such formative years, trying to discover who he is and wrestling with his identity as a black son of a white woman, what will he learn from all of this? He’ll have a President who at least for a brief time pretended he didn’t know David Duke and wouldn’t condemn nor refuse his endorsement. Either Trump is an outright racist or extremely ignorant of the history of this country. Both are unacceptable.

So I’m a white mother of a black son. When someone said, “It could happen,” this is what I was thinking.

Of course, I’m also gay but then we know where Trump stands on that. I’m kind of glad he didn’t say, “I love the gays.” I don’t want his kind of love.

A Changing Dream

What happens when a dream you’ve had is on the cusp of coming true and then you doubt that very dream? That’s what is happening to me. I have always had a dream of traveling the world, just taking off and going. Since being a mother I have devoured blogs dealing with open ended travel and world schooling. Sites that speak of the benefits of long term travel to kids. How they keep up on their school work with far less time committed than if they had to sit in a classroom all day. I’ve read stories of kids who study for two hours in the morning and then they’re off to explore Paris. I wanted that for my family. For my son who must have difficulty sitting in a classroom as he comes home and becomes a human ping pong ball, pacing, running back and forth through the house for twenty, thirty minutes at a time. And for my son who has such difficulty concentrating that he must miss half of what goes on in the classroom, at least.

My son and I did not start on day one of his life together. We missed quite a bit of time. We still have catching up to do and I want to give us the gift of time. Yes quality is important, but so is quantity. My son spends quite a bit of energy during his school day wondering if I am picking him up after school. I can’t help but wonder how that affects his ability to concentrate and learn.

I have my plane tickets, four months of Airbnb lodging and we leave in a month. Yet I doubt everything. I am scared of getting lost and putting us in danger, of not liking where we’re going, of missing the community I am just starting to build, of it being too scary for my son, for me. I’m worried I might want to come home but so much is prepaid and I have renters in my home. Pre-trip jitters? Perhaps. I’m going to ride the wave of fear and doubt and see where I land.