Tuesday, November 18, 2008

letter to my future baby(ies)

Dear Wonderful You,

it's not raining now, but it has been. i was driving through the storm last night, could barely see five feet in any direction. terrified, i drove slowly in the slow lane, and listened to the sound of an ocean falling out of the sky. this will be an experience you never hear about. i want to apologize to you for all the things that you've had no control over ; for the bundled together experience of your inheritance. how could you know?, you weren't around to see what your mother was wearing that first time, or why i noticed her shoulders, or that she has an odd intonation when she says ye-ah. You're not to be blamed because one day i walked in and saw my mother (grandma) holding my sister (auntie Sahar) up to her chest in a pink room that was colored so brightly and happily and sobbing together - it was like a miracle i was never meant to see - one of those images you never quite sever off again ; and though you're not to be blamed for it, and though you never had a stake in our victories, and failures, and our pains, and our happinesses, here you are: with it all heaped upon your tiny fat-kneed lap. rings around eyes, unslept hands that hold each other and shiver out of fear, and your mother's still panting and can barely sit up in bed. An entire history that is yours and yours for the taking (but more hopefully: leaving), a heritage, a tradition ; that your father cannot listen to you if there's Brahms playing in the background, and that, even now, sometimes at night, he lays awake feeling more lonely than any stone or pebble or detached tree-branch anywhere. An entire history of the only reason your mother was even wearing that dress was because her mother had made her - she didn't even like that dress. Your eyes aren't even focussing yet, so you can't see our ravaged bodies. Your grandmother's (my mother) gained alot of weight. And Sahar is bent all out of shape by ever-patient-gravity. Me and my eyeglasses. and my hair-loss-prevention medication, and my weak ankle, and the dryness i feel when i hold my hands, like two pieces of paper rubbing, and you so fresh! so pink and rosy fingered! and your curious eyes that can't fathom it yet, can't fathom the harm we'll do to you, the oceanic burden of our memories that we'll unload... Stories about how your great aunt escaped Iran through a desert - and in the night, they were being chased by men with guns and huge-torch lights, and a baby escapee was crying and they forced the mother to smother her baby. About the things I saw in Africa as a 3-year-old that i won't forget - it was only a breadcart, and men with axes, for no reason at all, i still never will won't understand , and pink bedrooms and pink faces, and sobbs launched into chests, trying to shake past skin and fat and breasts and speak directly to heart : hear me? hear me? hear me?

hello in there? hi.

you won't understand for years, why your mother likes to sit and stare out the window for no reason when it rains, and your father likes to sit on the balcony with a cup of tea. you won't know where we are. you'll never know what happened for 28 months in a little mountain-town in northern Israel, and why there are a few extra stars in my sky than yours (but you'll catch up in time). You won't understand why, sometimes when i hold you i'll mumble strange words - prayers, and hopes and incantations into your ear, strange sounds ya Bahaulapa that will make you smile and you'll giggle in my neck. See, the thing is, it's not just your mother and i, you won't know about how your great-grandfather was almost arrested, and how he holds the record for 'longest time depressed, male-category' at just over 30 years, and how your great-grandmother is actually insane, and what i wore to his funeral, and that she taught me how to play chess. you won't know about what they would cook for me when i was sad, and the time i fell in a puddle that was deeper than an ocean and i ran home soaked and crying and what they said. the house i lived in for those years will be nothing to you. and other houses, with pink rooms, and highways where during a storm i saw out of the corner of my eye an apparition driving beside me, until i shouted: you freak your headlights are off! while high-beaming him incessantly till the fool realized. Or that your father doesn't sing, but in his BESS class today, a little girl said: i don't know this one either and the other said, Teacher-Michael, sing it with me for her, and so for the first time in my life, I sang 'Blessed Is the Spot' the way my father would sing to me for years without feeling like an out-of-tune cardboard box. And how three lines in, the other joined in, and in a little crack of space-time no one else could possible steal from me opened up, i remembered life is about moments and not seconds. moments and not details. moments and not oceans. moments and not histories. moments and not events. (i wonder how i feel when i sing it for you... )

and, i'm also sorry that you won't make it all better. you won't make it all better. your mother will still throw tissue boxes at me from the other side of the room when i say naughty things i shouldn't, and she'll still shout and be angry because i'm always late, and how even though you're the happiest little happiness ever ever (that ever was), you can't save me from the midnights that are reserved for us.me alone, and even your mom understands that too. you won't save me from all the mistakes i've made, people whose hearts have been harmed, and Time Time Time whose cut me gently and slowly from top to bottom like peeling an orange, you won't save me from that. You won't save me (or yourself) from the times i'm tired and worn thin, and fretted and don't have time to explain to you who Diomedes is, or why i make you write papers all the time and make you analyze your argument. i'm sorry for being older than the other dads. for not letting you take a sip of wine at the Christmas party i hate attending every year. I'm sorry i tell you you have a history to live up, why i tell you that who you are is the pinnacle of all who've shed blood, and shed time and tears and toil so that we can expand the borders of the universe large enough to fit you in it - i'm sorry. it's not your fault. your great-grandfather crying on the plane while men with big guns knocked on his door, and he almost had a heartattack thinking they'd turn the plane around. or your grandmother and i, walking around Congo-Brazaville alone, lost in mudded streets where no one would speak to us and maybe i was just born into loneliness and never learnt how not to be. maybe that's my lifetime's worth of history that you'll inherit, for that i am sorry.

for my own life, which you will pay the price to even, i am dreadfully sorry.
it should never have been this way.
(only that, simply put: there is no other way it could have been. ever. your history is an ocean, and you're the wave that made it to the shore, forgive the demons of your fathers that have landed you here: we have bled and lived this long only for you).

much love


Sholeh said...

beautiful and heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...