Friday, October 30, 2015


Lately we've been making friends with lots of new babies. Some of Kamal's friends are welcoming new brothers or sisterrs,and some of my friends have recently become mothers for the first time. Kamal is so taken with these new little people, and I think in particular he's drawn to the idea of (finally) being bigger than somebody.

But I've also noticed his big, watchful eyes steady on me as I hold someone's newborn, as I stroke cornsilk baby hair or play peek-a-boo with a four-month-old. He likes the babies; he's a little unsure about how much I like them, though.

For reasons we can guess at but not really know, Kamal's been pretending to be a baby a lot lately. He crawls, he asks me to feed him, he speaks in piping, squeaky tones that I guess is his interpretation of a baby voice. And the other night he asked me to hold him like a baby as he was getting ready for bed. I pulled him up against me and he rested his head on my shoulder, just as he used to fall asleep when he was only a few months old. I patted his back, and, just like a baby, he actually burped--and then, moments later, fell fast asleep.

My sweet, strong, long-legged boy; my always-baby; my never-fall-asleep child was breathing deeply and restfully  against my heart. I stayed in the chair and didn't move except to rock and breathe, reluctant to break the spell. We traveled back in time together, he and I, for about fifteen blissful minutes before he sighed and shifted and I carefully lay him in his bed, where there is more room for all those limbs than in my lap.

There will come a time, maybe soon, certainly sooner than later, that will be the last time he falls asleep in my arms. Sometimes I feel eager for that day, because I'm sleep-deprived and I miss having grown-up time with Adam at night. But mostly I'm in no rush, because nothing in the world has ever felt as good and as right to me as my child's body close to my own.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Busker in training

Yesterday morning Kamal wanted to take his ukulele with him to the farmers' market. There's always a different band playing, and Kamal decided he wanted to play along with the band. Which sounded lovely, except for two things: 1) We didn't have any way of knowing whether the band would be amenable to Kamal playing along--and, really, I could see how having a three-year-old suddenly joining the lineup might cramp a band's style in a big way; and 2) we walk to the farmers' market, meaning if Kamal decided he was too tired to walk home, I'd end up carrying Kamal plus a ukulele.

But separating a boy from his instrument doesn't really fit with my parenting style. I figured if the band didn't want a tiny, imperious addition, we could always set him up somewhere away from the main stage and he would (I hoped) happily sing and play on himself, and I'd be the admiring audience. So off we strolled to the market, Kamal carrying his ukulele case and dressed in an oversized coat with lots of pockets looking very much like a proper busker.

When we got there there were a million things for Kamal to do before contemplating the music scene. He needed to direct me to the restroom and sit on the potty there--not because he needed to pee or anything, just experimentally. Then he needed to locate a "chocolate treat": I got him a slice of the incomparable chocolate babka from Goodman's Jewish Deli. Then he wanted to sit down in the shade to eat a little of it. Then he wanted to try to juggle some of the bouncy balls that the organizers of the market kindly put out for kiddos. Then there were hula hoops. Then his favorite babysitter showed up and while she and I chatted Kamal helped himself to his water bottle and more of his babka from inside my purse.

Then he took his ukulele out of  his case, a good twenty yards or so from the musicians, announced to the air in front of him, "This song called 'A, B, C Song' and bellowed the alphabet at unprecedented volume. This was immediately followed by "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," even louder.

A few people turned around and blinked at him. One man clapped at the end of the alphabet song. Then more people turned around. Then the band stopped playing. Then at the end of "Twinkle," about twenty people applauded for Kamal, who looked pleased but not surprised.

And this happened. The two musicians, Karl and Karla, were unbelievably great. They called Kamal up on stage and gamely played his choice of song, which was "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." He was excited but scared--he really wanted to go up, but wouldn't play unless I came up too. And up I went, dying a little inside from self-consciousness, but moved by mother-love, and sort of hid behind the speakers while Kamal did his thing.

He just shone. He is so shy in so many ways, but for whatever reason when there is a stage with musicians on it he feels like he belongs there. My mission as a parent is to not squash that thing, that confidence, that comfort with making beautiful and interesting sounds for other people. Whatever it takes to let him be his own wonderful, mysterious self, whenever it's in my power, I will do. Because then I get to see the spectacular gift that he is unfurl and bloom, expansive and delicately fragranced, nuanced and bright.

Anyways. It was a wonderful morning, mostly because of the generosity of those gorgeous musicians and the thoughtfulness of the market organizers. And I did end up carrying a happily exhausted K-small home on my shoulders with the ukulele case looped over my arm. And I didn't mind even a little bit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


This morning I was so tired that I fell asleep on the couch right after getting out of bed. Two hours later, after the foggy flurry that is every morning with a three-year-old, I was pedaling a cheerful Kamal to preschool, and I felt--happy. And not only happy, but that weird sense of full-body memory that you get sometimes when a set of conditions in your present matches a set of conditions from your past.

It took me a few minutes to remember, but the last time I'd felt like this was about a year after I'd graduated from college. I was working full-time as an assistant in a consulting firm in midtown Manhattan and also singing backup in a cover band that did play in Manhattan sometimes, and in Connecticut once a week, but mostly all over the Jersey Shore. So at least a couple of nights a week, I'd put on hot pants and heels, drive the two-plus hours to the Shore, sing along and shake my booty to top-40 songs, drive back to the shady garage I kept my car in next to the Hudson River, walk two long quiet blocks back to the apartment I shared with two roommates, roll into my futon, wake up two hours later, put on a skirt suit and take the train to the office.

I was so, so tired. And I don't know that I'd ever been that happy. Nights I didn't have a gig, I was out dancing, dating, drinking ridiculous cocktails with terrible names. Every morning I woke up and clipped into work. I rarely slept more than a few hours at a time; I developed an infatuation with coffee that has yet to lose its passion. I was doing wonderful things in a wonderful city, growing up, seeing and singing and being seen and being heard in a way I'd never been before. I felt like I was in the driver's seat for the first time, and I was intoxicated.

Nowadays, you know, Kamal doesn't really sleep. Or, well, he sleeps, but only for a few hours at a time, at best. Neither Adam nor I have gotten a full night's sleep in over three years. And our days and our nights are filled with Kamal: with the colors of his skin and hair and the inside of his mouth and the seashell of the inside of his ear; with the razor-sharp teeth that we watched grow in not very long ago; with the soft animal sounds he makes during those precious and rare hours of sleep; with the songs he teaches us and the elaborate nomenclature he devises around every new concept he learns; with his tears and boogers and paintings and rules. So many rules! He is in the driver's seat, undoubtedly, which is good, because I am intoxicated. I am so, so tired. And I don't know that I've ever been this happy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Kamal, what's your favorite color?"

"Red and blue. And gray. And yellow and purple and orange and green and pink and blue and yellow and green and purple and red and orange."