Two Dried Mangos
When the kids are dawdling I bribe them to get out the door for school with a piece or two of dried mango. This morning I slip four into my pocket and tell them I have two pieces for each of them when we get shoes on, backpacks on, coats on, and out the door. Between the front door and getting outside, somehow two pieces fall out of my pocket. I tell the kids I only have one left for each of them.
Julian wails. “YOU SAID THERE WERE TWOOOOOOO,” and dramatically falls to his knees on the sidewalk. In a moment of generosity, and not wanting to be late for school, Ada offers Julian her slightly bitten piece. “It’s small and wet,” he moans, not wrong, but still annoying.
I urge him to keep moving. “I’ll bring you two after school,” I say, because I have little other leverage and we really need to go. “No, he says. I want two TOTAL so bring me ONE more. That is what is fair.”
The Toy Store
Ada wants to stop at the toy store en route to pottery class after school. We have twenty minutes but I remind her we are just looking, not buying. She considers this offer, and considers what she can negotiate. “How about instead of having dessert tonight I get a small toy? They are both treats so that would be fair.”
“No,” I say. I tell her she can put it on her Xmas list. She mills around the store, somewhat frantic. Her current obsession is jewels and jewelry so she gravitates to the chintzy fake jewelry and headbands on a rotating stand in the front of the shop. There’s a bracelet with large faux gems. There are glitter covered headbands. There’s a jewelry kit in a plastic bag with faux fur. There are plastic stick on earrings with emoji graphics on them. Her mouth is agape. I am aghast and imagining the accumulation of useless, junky, plastic stuff.
“Can you take a picture and text it to Santa,” she asks? I agree to this absurd plan but also know her photographic memory will recall this exact moment and these objects on Christmas morning. I take pictures of the eight items she’s identified. “Now text them,” she says. “What did he say?” I pretend to text them and explain that he’s probably pretty busy. I guess we’re doing the Santa thing now.
She follows up, “I mean….I don’t even think he’s real. But I still think you should text him.”
A Magnatile to the head
When we’re not looking, Julian throws a Magnatile at Ada’s head, which doesn’t hit her, but the intention is there. Ada throws one back, which smacks Julian in the forehead. We hear the wailing, and see the red mark, and the tears streaming down his cheeks. Ada is defiant: “He did it first!” She is full of rage. “I HATE HIM.”
She’s naked because she was about to get in the bath. She wants me to read her a book while she bathes, but because of The Incident, this isn’t going to happen. “It’s NOT fair. He did it first!” I tell her this is not the point.
Julian comes into the bathroom to brush his teeth, now recovered, and looks deep into Ada’s eyes and says, “You know, I still really love you.” His compassion is overwhelming. She isn’t ready. She runs into our bed and dives under the covers, still naked. “Julian is the cutest boy I know,” she wails over and over again. “And he won’t like me anymore,” she claims, despite what he just said. “And that is not fair.”
It takes an hour, but eventually she jumps out, still naked and runs into their room and gives him a hug. “Julian, I’m so sorry” she says before pausing to add on, “Let’s never talk about this again.”
The Bottom Bunk
Julian was excited about his bottom bunk bed until, that is, we asked him to start sleeping in it. “I always hit my head,” he says, which is not untrue. “I can’t see the ceiling and it’s just not as cozy as the top. It’s not fair.” Ada doesn’t help this situation as she describes to him all the ways her bed is in fact superior. “I can jump on it, I can touch the ceiling, and I am higher up which means it is better.”
We talk about the difference between facts and opinions and that these are also, just where their beds are and so it’s where they will sleep.
Last weekend I’m doing the laundry and washing a light quilt that I’m about to put away for the winter. It comes out of the dryer slightly damp so I hang it off the top bunk, creating a dark cave inside the bottom bunk. That night, once it’s dry, I go to fold it, but Julian insists it stays. “My bed is a secret fort now,” he gloats. Ada hears this and turns a frown. “It’s so unfair, she says, that you can’t make my bed into a fort. I wish I had the bottom bunk.”
Some Books I Read (and Recommend) in 2021:
Goodbye, again by Jonny Sun (wonderful vignettes and drawings from an anxious, artistic, introspective person)
Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner (I’m sure you’ve heard of this but it’s as good as everyone says and inspired me to learn to cook more Korean food.)
A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet (Like a modern take on Lord of the Flies meets Children of Men—kids gone rogue, useless adults, chaos and power struggles.)
Autumn by Ali Smith (The beautiful first book in a four-part series that hits on themes of aging and love and friendship).
Luster by Raven Leilani (Irreverent and cynical, sexy, raunchy, and racially charged, this book lays all out to bare).
Beautiful World, Where are You by Sally Rooney (Extremely binge-able in a perfectly enjoyable way)
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (A book that feels nostalgic even as you read it, full of the dappled light of summer, and the beautiful relationship between grandparent and grandchild.)
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (I loved this book so much. Written in Italian and translated by Lahiri itself, this book is about noticing, feeling like an outsider, fitting in, and finding your place.)
A Separation by Katie Kitamura (A powerful book about the secrets of people you think you know. Kitamura also wrote Intimacies, which the NYTimes recommends as one of the top books of the year and I’m excited to read).
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (An exploration of companionship and how we interact with each other in the world—often awkwardly, and with misunderstanding).
Spilt Milk by Courtney Zoffness (Motherhood, trauma, relationship history, bodies, memories, anxiety. Zoffness explores what we pass to our children in this debut.)
That’s it for this week. Let me know what’s on your reading list, how you’re combatting an overabundance of stuff this holiday season, and what your favorite xmas cookie recipe is.