“Poof.” That’s what we call it in our home. My son learned to “poof” when he was five years old. I could see how he was worrying about things that he wished he had not done. I recognized the same in myself. So, I decided that after we talk through and allow our mistakes, as well as make our amends, we put our fingers up to our temples and count: “One, two, three, poof.” Then our jazz hands make it all go away.
His mom was once homeless, but you would never know. In a blue Superman t-shirt with a tiny red cape Velcro-ed to his shoulders, he races back and forth across the lecture hall, tirelessly, his giggle trailing behind him. The wonder in his two-year old eyes is contagious.
My dream came back, the one where I am drowning. How it happens keeps changing. The first time, I was both on land and in the water (as only in dreams), watching myself sink and disappear out of view. I remember feeling terribly helpless. The next time I went under, I stared out into the…
“Wait for it,” was what that voice deep inside of me said. “Just wait for it.” I was sitting with my ten-year old nephew at a Chicago Bulls game some time ago. I’d gotten the tickets for free and was feeling like the super-cool aunt when I offered to take him with me. He was…
“Mama?” my six-year-old son asked, turning toward me. “Why don’t we just give him money to buy a house?” Solid reasoning, I thought, having just tiptoed across a browning lawn to a man who lay bundled in blankets. He was asleep on a large circular air vent in the shadows of one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. My son did not want to wake him. Neither did I.
“Mama, when are we going home?” he whispered, his eyes glued to the car window. I didn’t know how to answer him. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go home. “You miss being home,” I said as a way of deflection.
“Yes,” my son said, quietly, not averting his gaze. My heart sank. The silence between us grew.
I went to the willows today. And found God. I slipped the long, leafy tendrils in between my fingers. I’d set out for a short hike, hoping to take my mind off my worries before picking up my son, when a field of tall yellow wildflowers yielded to a cluster of willow trees on the bank of a wide pond. A nearby heron sunned itself in the still waters.
I drive past the same man in his drab olive coat. He’s standing on a thin slice of cement in the middle of the road near the entrance to the freeway. He’s a young man with a goatee. In the summer his dark wavy hair brushes against his shoulders. In the winter it’s hidden under his hat. His cardboard sign remains the same: Homeless. Need help. Thanks.
Years ago I attended the first eighth grade graduation for a charter school I helped open. That morning, pressed for time, I raced right past a sea of navy blue caps and gowns flanked with Kente cloth. Everyone was so dressed up, high heels and suits, bow ties and up-dos. I couldn’t believe they were my kids.
“It will show up,” is my standard line after something has gone missing in our home. My favorite baseball cap, my son’s action figure, my cell phone. Some things require a bit more intense intervention, like, well, my phone. But for others, I have learned to stop searching and trust that one day, without any effort at all, we will stumble upon the hidden treasure.