No matter what you do, never ever call a 10 year old would-be athlete who is flexing his muscles in a skin tight, two sizes small Under Armor undershirt, looking extremely skinny – a string bean. You will get an uproar of protest and you will be subjected to almost half an hour of persuasive […]String bean
Author Lesa Cline-Ransome tells us a story that incorporates not only the life of a displaced child from rural Alabama to urban Chicago during the Great Migration (I highly commend Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of the Other Suns to learn more about the Great Migration) but also so much history, art and Black heritage within a few pages of this amazing children’s fiction, Finding Langston. She tells the story in 104 short pages to be exact, and makes me feel all the ‘feels’ as I read on.
Langston and his father were among those 7 million African American families who migrated up north from rural areas of the Southern states of USA in search of a better life during the Great Migration. After his mother’s death, Langston’s father did not have any reason to stay in Alabama. He moved up to Chicago to work at a paper mill and send his son to school in Bronzeville, Chicago. But 11 year old Langston hated the city, longed to return back to Alabama and wanted his mama back. Friendless and lonely, in their noisy little apartment, where the heat was turned on only at landlord’s whim and one had to stand in a long line to use the bathroom, Langston was extremely unhappy. He was bullied at school because of his accent, had no friends or family to love him except his father but he had always been a mama’s boy while mama was alive. Langston and his dad barely had much conversation because mama was the glue who held the family together. So father and son, thrust together due to unfortunate circumstances, struggled to find the right rhythm in their relationship. One day, while trying to escape the bullies after school, Langston found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood and in front of the George Cleveland Hall branch library. Despite being unsure of his welcome into the institution because of his skin color, Langston ventured into the public library where the young boy was welcomed and where the librarian opened up a whole new world for him. He discovered poetry. Poetry written by his namesake, Langston Hughes, who experienced similar loneliness when he traveled north from his southern home. And he wrote about his feelings in poetry. Langston, our protagonist, found himself and his place in the world after he discovered Langston Hughes who gave words to the feelings that our hero was feeling but had no words to express them. Langston sets Langston free.
What a beautiful book this is where through Langston’s story, the author leaves crumbs of important historical events, names of prominent Black artists and activists, the great migration and the conditions of poor workers in mid 1940’s America. The story can encourage young readers to probe further and peek into the history of this time to get a better understanding of what Langston and thousands, if not millions, of children like Langston were going through as they dealt with poverty, separation from family and displacement.
I do not read too many children’s fiction and even if I do, I don’t write about them. I finished this book last night and wrote a short review right away. And I woke up this morning still thinking about Langston finding his purpose and sense in his turbulent life within the words of Langston Hughes. I am a lover of words. I am also in awe of the transformative power of words.
“I am convinced there is a ghost in our house!” Sahana proclaimed as one of our musical Christmas knick knacks on the coffee table started playing Christmas music without any assistance on our part.
We were having dinner. We all stopped chewing and looked at each other. How, on earth did that happen? After a few moments of silence, Sahana also said, “Well, I do believe there are ghosts and one lives in this house. I have felt a presence. And she likes me the least. She has smacked pies out of my hand!”
Ryan, who keeps a baseball bat with him (or a kitchen knife sometimes, much to my chagrin) when he is alone, silently looked at her for a few seconds. He said he too is a believer, his voice filled with awe and a little fear.
Then he looked up at the air on top of my head and pleaded with the ghost, “Well, you are welcome to stay. Just don’t cause us any harm.”
I said I also don’t NOT believe in ghost. There is a possibility that spirits linger but I advised the ghost to remember that only weak seek revenge, strong forgive and smart ignore so either be a strong ghost or a smart ghost but please don’t be a weak ghost and seek revenge on us.
That statement elicited a chorus of “MOM, DO NOT SAY SUCH THINGS TO THE GHOST!!! She might be provoked to harm us. What are you doing?” This outburst was followed by Ryan looking at the air on top my head again and saying, “Please forgive her. She does not know what she says. Hey Sahana, do you know if our parents killed anyone in this house when we were little?”
I happened to address the ghost as “it” which was not acceptable to my children. “Don’t dehumanize her, mom. You will make her angry!” Sahana exclaimed.
“But this ghost is not human. It is former human!” I justified.
“You called her it again”. Stop doing that. She will get offended!”
“So what pronoun should I use? And how do you know it is a she?”
“Ugh, don’t use it!! Use they/them. Keep it non binary. That is the best option. But DO NOT dehumanize the ghost by calling them ‘it’. They may seek revenge.”
“Well, then they will be a weak ghost.” I shrugged.
“MOM!!! Don’t provoke them! What are you doing?”
The deed was done, though. I had provoked them. The Christmas music thing kept on playing at interval throughout the night as I gnashed my teeth at the ghost.
Next morning my husband said, “Jeez, that thing was playing at night. Let’s turn that off!” I did not find a turn off button on it, so I handed it over for him to try.
Sahana and Ryan are convinced it is our non binary ghost playing a prank. Another Christmas prank.
The music continues to play intermittently. Our non binary resident ghost continues with a prank of their own. Time to take the batteries out of that infernal Christmas toy! And if the music still continues, we will call an exorcist. Ghost, you have been warned…..
My most dedicated reader, my daughter said she reads all my blog posts but not necessarily my book reviews😅.
If any of YOU read my reviews, which I don’t write often, here is one I wrote for our library blog post.
I am not going to give you the recipe for Ryan’s perfect chocolate chip cheese cake because he simply looked up a recipe on the internet and followed it word by word. This blog is about Ryan in the kitchen and what all I heard – his monologues, exclamations and yes, a few expletives coming from there as he created his ‘perfect’ chocolate chip cheesecake. I was working from home that day so I tried to ignore his monologues, exclamations, hisses et all, I only yelled when I heard expletives. Ryan responded each time with, “oh sorry!”. Since I was otherwise occupied, I requested Sahana to write down his exclamations, proclamations and questions as he tried to find his way in the kitchen.
He started assembling his work of art by spreading Pam onto the cake pan with a fork! When Sahana laughingly came to me saying, “MOM!!! HAHAHA! RYAN IS SPREADING PAM ON THE CAKE PAN WITH A FORK INSTEAD OF SPRAYING!” He grumbled, “Oh, ok then! Sorry for being sanitary, guess next time I’ll just use dirt.”
Then we heard him yelling at the graham crackers to “just get IN there” as he tried to create his perfect graham cracker crust for his perfect cheesecake.
At one point, after asking for directions on how to work the food processor, he turned it on. I heard an unfamiliar noise coming from my beloved food processor in conjunction with Ryan’s yell, “NOTHING IS HAPPENING”. I jumped up from my chair and ran to rescue my machine from inexperienced and evil clutches of Ryan. He had turned on the food processor with no blade in it. 🤦🏽♀️
We educated him on how to insert a blade for the food processor to work. He inserted the necessary blade required to do the job, he turned on the machine and he….. JUMPED! “Man, that’s loud!” At this point, Sahana and I were laughing uncontrollably. I left him to his devices but Sahana reported that he FLINCHED every time he turned on the food processor.
After a few minutes of quiet humming, we heard, “WHERE’S THE HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM?”
“In the fridge.” Sahana, the fridge organizer replied..
He yelled back, “IT’S NOT WHERE IT ALWAYS IS!!
Sahana responded “It’s on the top shelf, you dummy!”
A few seconds later we heard:
“Jeez, who tightened this thing!!!” Followed by grunts and ah-oh’s.
All good things come to an end and so did our entertainment. The cheesecake went into the oven. It cooked beautifully and came out looking handsome.
The next step was to let it cool, wrap it with cling wrap and then refrigerate it. Ryan, however, had to leave for swim practice. So he gave clear instructions to his dad on the next steps and the last instruction was to “keep mom away from his perfect cheesecake.”
I had a bad baking day. My cookies came out looking ugly, I was dropping things, making a mess so I told the family I had bad energy that day. Ryan wanted none of that bad energy near his ‘perfect cheesecake.’
At the end of the day, delirious with happiness, Ryan clapped me on the shoulder which is his way of showing affection and said in his fog horn voice, “Mom, thank you!”
I thought he was thanking me for helping him in the kitchen, so I said, “You are welcome but what for?”
“For not spoiling my perfect cheesecake! For not going near it!”
Since yesterday, he has been strutting around cockily saying from time to time, “I really think I should take control of this kitchen from now on. Did you all see my perfect chocolate chip cheesecake?”
And here, friends, is perfection (according to our Ryan, of course). All I will say as I end the blog is this: the cheesecake tasted really good. 😃
There is a weariness in my soul which, sometimes, stops me from feeling hopeful. The learned people say the next few months will be darker. It will get worse before it gets better. That is hope I guess, those words, ‘it will get better’. The sentence that I desperately search in tweets and interviews of medical professionals is this – it will get better.
So I would like to urge you, my dear readers, hold on to your sanity. Cling on to that hope – it will get better.
It is hard to find a bright spot in this tumultuous year of loss and tears. However, if you think about it, 2020 did give us our heroes – the medical professionals, the scientists, the grocery store workers, the front line workers, our educators, the parents who continued to work while providing childcare and conducting home school, those living alone, battling loneliness. We persevered in our own unique ways. The heroes existed. 2020 shed a bright light on their heroism. And this year, we gave the most. We lost so much, materially, spiritually, emotionally, yet we gave to those who are more vulnerable than us. The charitable organizations received more donation this year than last year, both nationally and internationally. It is hard to be grateful for much in 2020, but I am grateful for this spirit of giving. I am grateful to witness resilience and empathy. Tragedy brought us close despite political rhetoric trying to tear us apart.
I sincerely wish you all a hopeful 2021. May our fellow humans all over the world, irrespective of the wealth of their nations, have equal access to vaccine so we ALL can heal together. That is a naive wish you may say. But aren’t we at the cusp of a new beginning? Isn’t this the time we feel everything is possible? Besides, I am a firm believer in positive energy. I send that energy to you and to the universe on this first day of 2021.
One day, right after Thanksgiving, I caught my husband smiling a Grinchy smile.
‘Why are you smiling like that?’
He said he had an idea. A wonderful idea. Just like the Grinch, he had “a wonderful, awful idea”. He told me his plan and I gave him a hearty clap on his back for being so deliciously evil. He came up with the plan and I executed it flawlessly. It was a perfect team work.
I bought gifts early this year, right after Thanksgiving because what else am I going to do during a pandemic? As the gifts started arriving to my doorstep, I scooped them up, wrapped them right away, and wrote Sean’s name on each one of them. That was the plan. Sean thought of the idea of addressing each gift in his name so the kids would wonder when their gifts were coming. As the pile of gifts under our Christmas tree grew, Ryan and Sahana grew increasingly perplexed. Why was not a single gift for them?
They did not say anything for a while hoping their gifts will arrive eventually. To make it believable I wrote Ryan’s name in one big package and couple had Sahana’s name on them. They gave each other gifts so Ryan’s gift totaled to 3 and Sahana’s 4. Sean’s name was on 17 gifts. A week before Christmas Ryan started mumbling, questioning if more gifts were coming still. I said I was done.
“What?? NO! Are you kidding me? You can not be done. Sahana and I hardly got any presents. Its all for dad!”
“Yes, I see that! You know, I bought impulsively this year. I did not keep count on how many I was buying for who and I got carried away with Dad’s presents.” I replied with an embarrassed smile. That threw him off guard – for the moment.
Sahana was confused like her brother but she is older now and did not verbalize her thoughts but silently supported her brother’s tirades.
Over the course of the week, discussions during dinner were dominated by different thoughts on the inequality of the number of gifts, questioning my love for certain family members, quantifying Sean’s good deeds to have deserved so many gifts. Sean simply smiled while I said things like, “my love for you is not measured by materialistic gifts, my darling.” I do not believe that placated my son. To be fair to Sahana, she smiled and laughed mostly and said, yeah, yeah’ as Ryan carried on about how few gifts the ‘children’ got. I continued to look shame faced.
“Sorry guys! It does seem a little unfair. I guess I just got carried away!” That continued to be my refrain.
On the night before Christmas eve, when all hope of arrival of more gifts were extinguished, Ryan forlornly looked at his 3 gifts and said,
“I guess I am considered the scum of the family. Only 3 gifts while dad has 18. Even Sahana has 4 and mom has 7! What kind of family is this where parents get more gifts than kids?”
I said his gift was expensive and he will be happy. He was quick to show his gratitude.
“Mom, I thank you for that. But why did dad get so many gifts? How good was he this year?”
Sean and I laughed till we had tears in our eyes in the privacy of our bedroom. Ryan is absolutely hilarious without even trying. And his laments about lack of gifts were in good humor. I laughed helplessly at his funny quips and he laughed loudly too with his broken, teenage voice. It was truly entertaining last 10 days or so before Christmas. Laments and funny quips got more desperate and hence funnier as the big day approached.
Christmas morning dawned. We decided to take photos with our gifts in front of us. Here are the initial photos as I handed out the gifts.
Right before we were about to open the presents, I pretended to look at the number disparity and shook my head.
“I went a little crazy with dad’s gifts and it looks bad for the photos. Here, why don’t we reallocate them and you two help him open presents.”
“No, no! Let all your friends know what you did this Christmas. Make sure you post them on Facebook. Why will we open dad’s gifts? Let him open his. We will wait. I have only 3 anyway.” Ryan said in his fog horn voice.
“Nah! Let’s redo this.” Amid protests from both brother and sister, I redistributed the packages. And then accompanied by unadulterated laughter, we told them about our naughtiness.
I had written Sean’s name in all caps for Ryan’s gifts. Printed his name for those meant for Sahana and wrote Sean’s name in cursive for the ones that were actually his. After reallocating the packages, the story changed, Ryan’s smile returned, Sahana’s weak smile brightened, Sean and I laughed till we cried!
Since he had no idea we had played a trick on them, Ryan wrapped an empty box for Sean with this note in it:
He looked peevish when Sean opened the package with this note, “Jeez, I feel kinda mean now!”
At the end, it was indeed a holly, jolly Christmas. There was laughter, there were exclamations, there were squeals of joy and thank you’s. There was acknowledgement that ‘we got them’. They never guessed what we were up to and ultimately it ended up being a fun prank. What we got out of it? Days of endless mirth at their bafflement, the fact that our son is very materialistic, our daughter has matured enough to not harangue us with questions about her gifts.
It was, after all, a joyful Christmas. And if you charge us with bad parenting, we plead guilty. But the laughter and evil planning behind their backs were oh so worth it. 😀
At the beginning of pandemic, we spent more time together than we do now. When work and schools closed, when Sahana returned home from her junior year abroad, we naively thought the crisis was going to be over soon. We played board games, cooked, listened to music and even danced together once in a while. Then the pandemic and isolation dragged on and we slowly retreated into our rooms, our books/emails/trainings/school work…… ourselves. Whenever possible though, we still try to eat a meal together or even if we were not eating we come out of our respective rooms to gather around. And we have conversations on several topics. Without sharing our private conversations, I thought it might be fun to document the topics that feature regularly as we break bread during pandemic or just sit together in our living room. This post will also be a reminder of 15 year old Ryan’s and 21 year old Sahana’s topics of interest at their respective ages. This is what we converse about (or the two siblings discuss, Sean and I mainly listen).
Stability of Y chromosomes…
Matrilineal DNA and height…
World history. A lot of world history. Here is a debate that Ryan wants to have with the world – the great wall of China is a reason for Western imperialism. Have a go at it. It is an ongoing debate in our household, no resolution has been reached.
Paradise lost. And Milton…
Politics, Donald Trump, democrats, republicans…
Race, equity, inclusiveness. A lot, I mean a real lot of conversations on this topic…
“In one of my anthro classes, we learnt….” some esoteric theory from Sahana about anthropology (I admit I tuned out sometimes).
More chromosome talk, DNA, heredity…
Astronomy….lot of discussions about astronomy, which includes getting energy from black hole, anti matter and other topics which escape me..
Food, recipe – a whole lot of food and recipe discussion…
Tik tok – l am made to watch cat and dog videos by both siblings on this forum. They make me laugh.
Pop culture, artists new and old…
Humanitarian assistance work – Sean loves to talk about this topic. I wonder why?
“When I traveled in Europe………” Sahana often begins her story of adventure or her lecture about a certain sight she saw or experience she had in Europe during her solo trip there last year. Ryan rolls his eyes…
Library classes…..and yes, customer experiences..
How long is human race going to last…
How is Ryan still single despite being so good looking (according to him) and our collective eye rolls.
There are other topics which I don’t recall now….
The senior in college who will graduate with double major in English and Anthropology has a LOT of facts/thoughts/knowledge to share. And she shares them freely, primarily to educate her brother but also her parents.
The sophomore in high school is VERY interested in world history, heredity, time travel, animals, politics, slapstick comedy, tik tok and conspiracy theories. He also has the compulsive desire to share his thoughts on those subjects and more. It almost bothers him physically if he can not verbalize his thoughts. He can not seem to hold his thoughts for he fears they will be gone from his head and how awful will that be? If we interrupt his monologs on Ghengis Khan or time travel or….any other topic of interest he says (almost vehemently) “Please…let me talk!”
I realize now that in life before pandemic, I got my kids in installments after they left their toddlerhood. There were school, work, extra curricular activities, sports, dinner, homework, sleep. We came together on weekends for occasional chats however most weekends were taken up with sports, music, homework and then getting ready for the following week. Most of our meaningful conversations happened during car rides from point A to point B. Thinking back on how busy our life was exhausts me. During the pandemic and enforced isolation when we were locked together without sports, activities, regular school, I got to peek into my children’s thoughts and interests. And I realized that while I was not looking their interests, depth of perception and comprehension, their ability to think critically, their debating prowess and ability to cite sources have all changed. They are adults…well, almost, and capable of holding stimulating conversations. This realization is bitter sweet (mostly sweet because they are interesting to listen to when I pay attention).
There is nothing positive about this pandemic however if I have to see a silver lining in all this, I would say I got this opportunity to ‘see’ and ‘hear ‘ my children without distraction. I got the time. A lot of it.
I was going through my blogs yesterday on my day off to find something funny instead of thoughts and observations. I found this blog. And I laughed. Hopefully you will laugh too.
Once upon a time….not really that long ago there was a big, yellow mutt who loved the snow. Since he was an itty bitty puppy he simply loved the white, fluffy stuff that accumulated on the ground on a cold winter’s day. He would run out to the fenced in area, dig his nose into the snow and come up with snow on his nose. When we laughed at his snow covered nose, he gave a ‘what are you laughing at?’ look and went right back in it. He play bowed and rolled, he romped with bundled up Ryan and Sahana. He took his time to finish his business and did not care at all that I was freezing and needed to get inside.
The snow in our yard was never left untrampled in all these 10 years. This year is different. The snow in our yard remains pristine. The snow digger is resting in my heart. In his last winter in 2019 he did not get any snow to play with. He bid adieu on January 31st, 2020 and although I don’t much think of what comes after death, I like to think Sage is playing in snow somewhere today.
We had our first snow storm without Sage and all through it I thought of him. I felt the raw pain of losing him all over again.