I forgot to say that another great thing happened last week--I cleaned my study, with invaluable assistance from Val Bowman, a friend and former housemate who has opened her own business called Space for Grace, helping creative messy people get some order into their lives so that they can let their love-light shine more effectively. The web site is www.spaceforgrace.net, and I highly recommend her services.
She is patient, non-judgemental, loving, flexible, practical, well-organized and well-supplied. I mean she actually brings file boxes and collapsible baskets to your house, and she also helped me out with the address for an electronics recycling center that will take your old dead or injured appliances and recycle them, free of charge.
So, the clean-out continues, and order starts to creep in. It's another gray morning, when I found it difficult to get out of bed. I love working with the kids, and I love teaching adults too, but I'm still feeling at loose ends. Not enough committed connection to the outside world. I know I should be working on various play projects, but haven't been disciplined enough to do that for a bit--instead some poems have come through, and I've honored that impulse.
Last night I went and revisited my old neighborhood in North oakland, the place where I lived when I was first separated from Alan. I went to the home of the family whom I befriended, who befriended me thirteen years ago. For three years, while I lived on that street, the kids Patty and Abraham, and sometimes their big sister Ulai and sometimes their cousins Ophelia and Sharon, would be over my house every day.
I took them to Tilden, to the petting zoo, to the beach, to the community garden a few blocks away. I bought them sodas and ice creams at the store. I played with them and cooked them mac and cheese, and read to them. Their childhood--that little piece of it--was the closest I've come to the kind of daily contact and relationship with children that I've always wanted but was afraid to go after for myself--afraid for economic reasons, principally, but also for energetic ones. Would I be able to sustain the kind of energy it takes to be a parent, when I come home from a half-day's teaching poetry in the schools too tired to get out of my car?
Patty and Abraham were five when I moved in, eight when I moved away. Now they're nineteen--Abraham is a strapping muscular young man, and Patty goes by Patricia now--she's shy and plump and beautiful, with tons of long hair extensions that fall in front of her face.
She's getting her GED, he's in some kind of job training program. Ulai, who was always so bright, a really good student, had a baby when she was fifteen and another one when she was eighteen. She's twenty-two now and looking for affordable housing and going to cosmetology school. She wants to open a chain of shops and be a haridresser to the stars one day.
She had a new puppy, a baby bulldog, three weeks old, whom she'd rescued. Typical. The living room floor was covered with newspapers because they were paper-training her. I cuddled the puppy and it fell asleep in my arms, leaking truly noxious farts. I loved the tiny weight of it, and the way it slept, wheezing, against my chest. Then when it woke up it peed and shat on the paper, and Patty folded it over.
The whole time I was there the TV was on, just like the old days. I watched most of a Disney channel program about twin black princess witches, called Twitches. Pretty good. Patty is so shy it's hard to talk with her, but Ulai remembered the potato latkes she ate at my house and I remembered when she tried to sell me Christmas wrapping paper when she was eight-years old.
"I'm Jewish, honey," I said, and without missing a beat she replied, "I have Chanukah paper." And she did--blue with gold stars, and I bought some, and that's how we became friends.
I found out that Ophelia has a year-old baby and is married and living in Hayward with her mother and sisters who also have babies. I wish her well, but don't want to see her. I feel a pang about the baby--they almost all have babies, and have them young--they are young mothers in their early twenties. And they're tired, even though they're young, and it's hard, especially in the Bay Area housing market. The babies are cute, but stunned into a kind of early overwhelm, maybe from all the TV and stress of being hauled around the city looking for work or housing or low-cost food or health care or all the things low-income parents have to constantly be seeking.
I don't know. I don't know. I love the feeling of a baby sleeping peacefully against my chest and belly. I know I'm good at that, good in the kind of way you can't learn, just instinctively good at having a relaxed and relaxing body to cuddle against. And I know there is so much more to it all than that.