This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

January 22, 2010

Reporting from the mean streets of the cul-de-sac

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MOMMY! DADDY!” Daughter comes running into the family room the other day, shouting and panting hard. “We just saw a family looking at the house for sale across the street and they have two kids—a boy and a girl—and guess what else? They’re BLACK!

The Mister and I go running into the dining room to look out of the big picture window that looks out on the house across the street with the “For Sale” sign in the lawn. We strain, we peer, we jockey for position. The family comes out and stands in the driveway, apparently reviewing the visit with their realtor. They are just as Daughter described them. The Daughters and I move away, me fearing How We Must Look. The Mister stands there for a while. (Later he tells me he wanted to make sure they saw him.)

Later, away from the kids, we two adults confer. Was the relatively short length of time they were in there a No-this-is-definitely-not-what-we-were-looking-for amount of time? Or was it a This-is-perfect-write-the-offer amount of time?

We hope it was the latter…

*****

"School Bus Coming" PPR_Scribe

We were excited about moving to the quiet cul-de-sac. The house was perfect for us, and we were tired of looking. Our Black realtor told us there was another Black family living in the subdivision, as well as two Black families in the subdivision across the major road from us, and several in the one down the road. I worried just a tad at this news that, I am sure, she meant to deliver comfortingly or even bragging-ly. Was there a list kept of all the African American families in this suburb? Would we be required to submit Papers or keep the authorities of some kind or another updated on our whereabouts?

But the thought soon passed. I was not worried. There would be nothing so dramatic as cross burnings next to our mailbox. Maybe some sideways glances, but nothing more, right?

*****

It was just my luck that when the first neighbors came to our door to welcome us to the neighborhood shortly after we moved in, I just happened to be blasting Lil Wayne on our whole-house audio system. There I was trying to chat with a husband, wife, teenaged girl and pre-teen boy who all looked like they stepped out of an L. L. Bean catalog, there standing with a plate of homemade cupcakes and bottle of wine, all the while Wayne Carter quipped about Masarati dancin and bridge pu**y-poppin. Efforts to figure out how to turn down the volume of the high tech controls failed so we all stood there screaming (over Weezie) about moving here from Minnesota (…Sicilian bi*** with long hair…) though we were originally from this area back in the 80s (“...open the Lamborghini hopin’ them crackers see me…”) and what school did you say your kids would be attending (“…And I be the shit now you got loose bowels...”).

After they left I closed the door, cupcakes in hand, certain we’d never see our new neighbors again. But still, no drama, right?

*****

I will never forget the first time I did see our realtor-registered Black neighbors. I was driving out of the subdivision and she was driving in. We both almost lost control of our cars for trying to glance back to see each other. I hoped I managed a friendly wave and smile before righting my front wheels. That Halloween my kids and I trick-or-treated at these neighbors’ house. The Black woman from the car opened the door with her basket of candy treats. The two of us made eye contact and smiled at each other goofily over the heads of the waiting ghosts and ghouls, princesses and pirates. The other parents trick-or-treating with me probably wondered if we two were OK.

*****

We had this one neighbor who visited us early on while we were working in our garage, our garage door open. “Visited” is not quite the right word, and neither would it be quite correct to say we had a “conversation” or “chat.” He pretty much interviewed us: where each of us (my husband and me) went to college, what each of us did for a living. At one point he appeared satisfied. He then went into an extended riff on our fellow neighbors: which families were part of the original cohort that built these homes, who was retired, the one woman who was a single mom… Slowly I had a sense that I should try to bring the conversation to a close. But I was too late. The man started talking about the subdivision’s two Asian families: The one was OK, they were both university professors, but the other one “from Japan or something” couldn’t speak a lick of English and—he “wasn’t racist or anything”—but it’s just so hard to understand them—“though they seem really nice, polite”—so he just tries not to have to interact with them at all.

The Mister, who is less tactful than I am, got up and abruptly walked into the house. Leaving me to say, “__________.” (I leave that blank in the hopes that I come up with a sufficiently appropriate anti-racist come-back to insert later.)

That neighbor left our garage with me knowing I would never speak to him again.

*****

Finally, I thought, some drama.

A neighbor was telling me about the monthly parties the subdivision has. They’re called “Flamingo Parties,” she told me. You’ll know when and where we’re going to have one when you see the big, kitschy, plastic bright pink flamingo planted in someone’s yard, she said. Oh. And they’re adult-only.

Now at this point I must provide some background. I was a child of the seventies. My father was a psychology grad student, my mother a teacher and musician, and we lived on a college campus. My parents hosted a lot of “adult-only” parties. My sister and I often helped with the set-up: mixing the 7-Up/High-C/wine punch, setting the ashtrays out strategically, flipping through LPs and judging the album covers to decide which ones should be played. At one point I was tall enough to stand up in a chair and hang my parents’ favorite mobile from the ceiling of the hallway at the junction of the living room, dining room, and bedrooms. The mobile was a series of one-way signs, each hung vertically from one string so that the one way signs drifted slowly round and round. On each sign was a different word: straight, gay, bi, curious, observer…probably some others I cannot recall.

…Fun times.

I’d never heard back then of “flamingo parties,” but I imagined they just might be interesting. At any rate, I was about to find out!!!

Or, not. It was just a party. A bunch of adults standing around over small bits of food stuck through with thoothpicks and drinking imported beers and talking about plumbers and hardwood floor installation companies.

*****

No word yet about the house across the street and the Black family that visited it. We made an effort to try to get some friends of ours to look at the house. We’ve had fantasies about them moving across the street, registering with the proper authorities, and becoming our neighbors as well as our friends. I have known the woman in the family for years, since my first graduate school days. But quite miraculously, our husbands bonded, our kids bonded, and we re-bonded—and all of us bonded with each other. As hard as one-on-one relationships are, finding compatible family-on-family relationships are even harder. Trust.

But we all fell into deep friendship with each other.

I don’t think they are going to move into the house, however. I shouldn’t be so greedy, considering where they live now is only about 8 minutes away by car.

Whoever moves in I will try to be neighborly. I’ll bring a bottle of wine over and a box of store-bought cupcakes and make small-talk. If they ask me about the neighbors and the neighborhood I’ll be honest: On average everyone is pretty nice. And the cul-de-sac? Pretty quiet.

No drama.

January 18, 2010

#MLK

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As I have said here in the past, I am ambivalent about Twitter. I have been tweeting, and I even have a couple handsful of followers—who are not trying to sell me herbal v-eye-ah-grah and foolproof investment advice. But I would not yet say that I am committed to doing so long-term. We’ll just have to see.

But I am glad that I am at least familiar enough with the concept of Twitter to be able to get the humor of this Vanity Fair piece from Baratunde Thurston.

It was just the laugh I needed today while contemplating posting an angry, perhaps not-appropriate-for-MLK-Day post. I may still post it (working title: “Don’t Call It a Movement”). In the meantime while I try to get my heart and mind right I’ll leave you with this wonderful, hypothetical Tweet from Dr. King that pretty much sums that draft post quite nicely.

January 12, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why I am Blacker Than Barack Obama

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10. Though we both have government jobs, mine does not involve being the leader of the free world.

9. He is a “light skinned” Black; I am light skin-ded.

8. I personally grew and picked the cotton used to make the underpants you are at this moment wearing.

7. Unlike the White House garden, the only plants I grow in my organic garden are collard greens, yams, and grits.

6. I have the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” tattooed across my back.

5. I do, in fact, speak in Negro dialect.

4. I shine shoes. (Well, just my own, but I’m sure the President has someone who does his.)

3. My last name means “She of the Mothership Connection” in Swahili.

2. I am the real-life person on whom the Blaxploitation film character Cleopatra Jones was based.

And the number one reason why I am blacker than Barack Obama:

1. Because I know all the words to the theme song to “What’s Happening!!”

(With apologies to former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich.)

January 8, 2010

Images for No. 1 Ladies

I was very happy to see that the amazing HBO series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, has been nominated for three NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for Jill Scott, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Anika Noni Rose.

I first wrote about the show the night after its premier:

Last night, about halfway through The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I realized that I had been tense since the program began. It only took me a moment to figure out why. I had been so looking forward to it, so hopeful for it. But I feared that I would be let down.

But what I suddenly felt at that moment was…relief.

Also, a sort of a feeling of revelation. It is actually possible to depict Black people (and, more specifically, Black African people) without having the required one good White person? Perhaps the White school teacher from Britain with a heart of gold…. Or a White American missionary who begins the tale with ambivalent feelings about the dark people but, through a series of heartwarming interactions and growth-inducing traumatic experiences, comes to terms with both his underlying racism against Blacks and his disappointment with his God…. Or a White female Australian there to save the apes from the ravages of a changing global ecosystem and the bias and ignorance of the natives who have lived amongst the apes for generations….

No? None of these obligatory White characters are present? Just Black Africans going about their daily business and lives? Africans who are proud of and happy in their country (Botswana, in this case) and are not looking to escape to somewhere else? Africans who have the capacity for tremendous good, tremendous bad, and all levels of complexity in between? Africans who face plagues and violence and the tug-of-war of the old and the new with bravery and grace?

The very notion of such a program appearing on my television set is almost too much to comprehend….

I did comprehend the program. And wrote about it regularly. (My posts on the program can be found here.) Sadly, the series is not currently filming a second season and it does not appear as if it will any time soon—although the show’s producers and HBO are said to be “in conversations” to figure out a way to bring it back. I really do miss The No. 1 Ladies and hope that these discussions will be fruitful. Until then, I know what I will be rooting for if I watch the Image Awards.

January 5, 2010

I got 666 comments but a superstition ain’t one

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…or something like that. The other day I posted the most recent comment to my own blog—the six hundred and sixty sixth comment. Actually I am not all that superstitious, nor do I fear that the apocolyptic events from the Old Testament will ever come to pass. So 666 blog comments should not bother me in the least. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

So I am making a plea for someone to comment and break the evilness that may be, as I type, descending upon this online space. Actually, I will even approve a spam comment just to stay on the right side of good.

Just in case.

Racism: A Love Story

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In the beginning, Dear Beloved, there was a lack of knowing, an absence of seeing. You were but a fanciful tale told to me in the kitchen over morning grits and cheese by my Elders, read about in tattered self-published paperbacks with yellow and brittle pages that I found on my radical Uncle’s bookshelf, and witnessed in herky-jerky black and white news reels from years Before I Was Born. I had not (yet) met you, known you, experienced your hot embrace.

But you knew me.

You longed for me, secretly. You saw me striding through my child’s life with confidence (or arrogance?) and singing my child’s song with gusto (or greed?)—yet I strode and I sang alone, without your companionship. You saw me in my childish flirtations with others: Altruism and Kindness and Empathy. You knew these relationships would be short-lived and fastened by tenuous bonds. You  knew what I really needed to be whole was you.

Your first introductions to me were tentative. First I did not want to recognize you: Surely you were still the myth, the story, the fable. You were Misunderstanding in costume, Ignorance in drag. It really couldn’t be you, I thought. You did not exist.

But eventually you made your feelings known more vocally to me and I had no choice but to believe it was, really and truly, you. You had arrived to court me formally. And you have been pursuing me ever since.

You are strong beyond any strength that Mighty can muster. You sustain my rebukes and fend off my attempts to lose you. I condemn you and curse you and still you declare your everlasting love for me. I mock you and attempt to maim you, and still you stand—ready to walk proudly by my side when my fit is over. I am indifferent to you, I am dispassionate to the point where I can turn soup fresh off the stove to ice in a bowl. But still you wait in the wings, ready to woo me over in wild and dramatic fashion when I least expect it.

I know you have other objects of your affection. I am often, quite inexplicably, incensed by this: I do not want your attentions, so why should I care if your eyes behold others? Yet I do care. I do not want you for them. I do not want you for me—but not for them either. Instead, I wish for Loneliness, Obsolescence, and Isolation to be your only friends.

Even this does not bother you. You have enough capacity to love me and many, many others at once. In fact, your love grows stronger the more lovers you have.

You know me. You do not understand me. Otherwise why would you continue to woo me when I have not returned your heart? Why would you stalk me, attend to me, try to dazzle me with blinding displays of your prowess? Why do you continue to call me your pet names when you know I will not answer to them?

I have sometimes, during very quiet moments, asked myself if I do, in fact, love you in return? I search my face in the mirror…my hair…my choices in music or clothing…my address…other things…and I wonder if I have not accepted you into my life after all. Do I, possibly, love you in return, crave this partnering? By my very actions am I performing a predetermined role in a twisted affaire de coeur?

Currently you have left me. You are attending to your other lovers, or perhaps resting up for your next attempt at seduction of me. I know you will be back and I know I will, again, push you away. I refuse to submit; You refuse to surrender.

This is what we do, you and I.

I tell my children about you. In the kitchen over granola and yogurt, via the pages of glossy full-color award-winning picture books, with YouTube clips and cable movies. They listen dutifully, but still their strides are confident and their songs are strong. Some days I think they may never grow to be loved by you. I think they are sure to never know you as their would-be lover and personal pursuer. But you are strong. You’ll be there to catch them when they rise. Just as you have been there for me.

If I have my way, they will rebuke you—just as I have and will continue to do.

January 1, 2010

Me and My (Blog) Ego

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Happy 2010 to all! I have been thinking about what, if any, changes I want to make to this blog during the new year. Should I change my profile picture and/or the blog design? Abandon the black-and-white-only photo posting policy? Should I “come out” as myself here on the blog? I don’t feel any huge need to change my picture. I kind of like the garden of Eden look of that black stone statue amongst the tropical foliage that I now use. I also like the blog design, though I do need to update my blogroll. I may or may not start posting color photographs. Mainly I need to get back into taking photographs, period.

As for “outing” myself, most regular commenters already know me from other environments, whether “real” life, the old blog, or other on-line forums. So I don’t feel a real need to blog here under my real name. At least not at this point.

But this last issue has been on my mind lately. As much as I resisted it, I have begun to Twitter. So far, the experience is still new to me. And still a little odd. I am continually shocked about what, on Twitter, people will reveal about themselves. I have heard of families airing all their dirty laundry via Tweets for each other and all the Twitterverse to see. Some people I follow have begun using a program where they will entertain the most intimate questions about themselves, promising to answer any and all queries honestly.

All of this, I do not quite get, nor do I expect (with my personality) I ever will. This has made me think of the following post from my old blog. “Egocasting” has gone warp speed since I wrote these words. There are now so many potential on-line selves to coordinate, so many potential worlds and audiences to collide. I think Twitter might be the end of the technological personalization line for me. If folks want to know anything more than what I already share they’ll just have to get to know me face to face.

(Also related: this BlogHer post from Nordette Adams.)

**********************************

I have been rather busy lately…a little friend called a dissertation. But I also enjoy keeping this blog. As I have said before, this is an extension of the journaling—personal and academic—that I have always done. My compromise has been to largely post brief entries of things I have read elsewhere, with perhaps a little commentary from me. Lists also seem to be a quick, enjoyable way to keep a blog going—and, a main initial feature of [this blog] was my making lists of things that I seemed to not be able to get to.

In this vein, a while back I thought I might post a list of the summer reading I wanted to do. But while I was compiling in my head what I would post here to the blog, I found myself excising a few of books from the list.

What was that about?

Well, these books were “light reading”—what some would even call “trash.” As this blog is, in large part, about my PhD journey, posting such non-intellectual fare would have been like admitting to the world that I planned to spend the summer on the couch watching “Three’s Company” re-runs on one of the nostalgia TV channels.

Blogger as Product

“I am so hip even my errors are correct.”
~Nikki Giovanni, “Ego Tripping”*

My being loathe to make such an admission was the first I had realized that I was intentionally and strategically using this forum as a way to reveal some things about myself—and, more interesting—to cloak others.

I have heard this kind of on-line self-presentation called egocasting. And it appears that blogging could be part of the realm of technologies of personalization. Just as I can use my iPod to listen to my own personalized 24-hour radio station full of only those songs I like, just as I can use my television and remote and DVR to view only those programs I like, I can use my blog to “broadcast” only those aspects of my graduate school experience that I like.

Even if I reveal my frustrations and errors, I can wait to craft a post until I have successfully overcome and corrected them. Even if I reveal my shortcomings, I can spin them in such a way that procrastination appears to be reflection, lack of divergent thinking becomes focus, pathological perseveration becomes dedication.

I can be a product of my own production.

Same Broadcast, Different Station

You ain’t ridin/
You ain’t bumpin like I’m bumpin/
You ain’t sayin nuthin homie/
You ain’t fresh az I’m iz…
~Bow Wow, “Fresh Azimiz”

It just so happens that while I was having this summer reading/egocasting epiphany, I was also updating my CV (or, resume, for you non-academics). In a stroke of convergent thinking (or, in a sure sign of being mired in a mental rut) it occurred to me that a CV is a much older and much more widespread type of “egocasting.” In my CV I broadcast the professional self that I hope will be pleasing to my “audience”—prospective employers. I do not (purposefully) reveal my negative qualities, perhaps hoping to give the impression that I am in possession of none.

Not only do I try hard to broadcast myself in the best possible light (evident, for example, by spending inordinate amounts of time deciding between “developed” and “designed”) but I implicitly try to convey that I am better—muchmuchmuch better—than any other egocast my audience may be tuning into on their prospective employee dial.

Again, I am a product. Plus I am a better/fresher/tastier/faster product than the others.

“Become the Boast…”

Well, anyone who has ever sent themselves off to faceless others in the form of a multi-page listing of awards, accomplishments, and action words knows that such an endeavor can be pretty rough on the ego. You’re supposed to be confidently tooting your own horn, but just as often you feel as if you may be sounding discordant notes. The act of egocasting via plain old CV-writing can be undermining to one’s ego.

In true spin-making form, though, I have decided to look upon both my blog writing and my more formal professional presentations of myself not as occasions for doubt and worry, but as opportunities for goal attainment. My CV is a catalog of my proudest moments for others; But for me it can be a “how-to” manual for even more proud moments to come.

And no, I can no longer claim that this blog is “just an on-line journal”—It is also a digital representation of a (somewhat/some times) carefully crafted on-line self. But it does not have to turn into a forum for private self-guessing and self-authentication—It, like my CV, can be part of the road map to my personal mission.

In that spirit, I just may post that summer reading list. And think what you may if it is not packed with great classics or deep literary prize winners. I will likely list a few of those in the hopes that my seeing those titles here will serve as motivation to actually read (not just purchase) them. I like to think of it as having a healthy balance between work and play, seriousness and fun. (Though I could also think of it as my being shallow and frivolous.)

Whichever way you slice it: Both my CV and my blog are me—or at least a part of me that I decide is ready for public consumption. Whatever perfection contained herein is true even when it doesn’t tell the complete story. And of course, any lack of perfection is part of the story, too. But at least a part of the rest of the story is my intention to reach higher…

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal.
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission.
I mean…I…can fly
like a bird in the sky…

~Nikki Giovanni, “Ego Tripping”*

*(Recorded spoken word available on iTunes and here on Amazon)

December 31, 2009

“Seize the promise of tomorrow”

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Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. This is a joyous time of year when African Americans and all Americans come together to celebrate our blessings and the richness of our cultural traditions. This is also a time of reflection and renewal as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another. The Kwanzaa message tells us that we should recall the lessons of the past even as we seize the promise of tomorrow.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa – Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith – express the values that have inspired us as individuals and families; communities and country. These same principles have sustained us as a nation during our darkest hours and provided hope for better days to come. Michelle and I know the challenges facing many African American families and families in all communities at this time, but we also know the spirit of perseverance and hope that is ever present in the community. It is in this spirit that our family extends our prayers and best wishes during this season and for the New Year to come.

~Statement by the President and First Lady on Kwanzaa

December 30, 2009

“Find the life that brings joy to your heart”

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As your elder, I support you in your effort to try to crash out of a life that you had outgrown. And I feel compassion for your loved ones who must be as confused and hurt as you feel yourself. It is easy to see how hurt you are feeling by looking into your eyes, which I have recently done (via You Tube) in an effort to see how you, on a soul level, a heart level, are. Sometimes we feel crashing out of a life, by any means necessary, means we are done with life itself. The truth is that we’re only done with the life that no longer feels worth living. That is why we must bear the suffering until it begins to ease, and life shows us the possibility of a new direction.

~Alice Walker

(Her words are to Tiger Woods, but they are good words for anyone.)

December 29, 2009

The War on the New Years

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Forget the so-called war on Christmas. The real war is on all things New Year. As evidence:

1) We see images of Santa Claus, Frosty, and Rudolph—as well as religious icons from Christianity and Judaism during this holiday season. But rarely do we see images of Baby New Year to the same degree. Abortion may be to blame. In which case this is a liberal plot against the new year. Or a conservative bias against nudity, because most often Baby New Year is butt nekkid. In either case, I bet that both the old man in the red suit and the little baby in swaddling blankets get more image time than the little guy with the top hat.

2) All these “best of” and other ending year lists unduly elevate the year that will soon be no more at the expense of the year that is not yet quite here. There seems to be a list for all things ending-year. And people argue over the lists—what should have been included that was not, what was not included that should have been, what should have been higher or lower than something else—as if these rankings had any meaning.

3) The mad rush of celebrities passing away in the latter days of December is a clear bid for attention from a year-ending-obsessed media. In any given year, about a half of these deaths are of celebrities most people had assumed had already left this earthly plane, while nearly a half were of people who once were famous but who need “of…fame” after their names to let us know why their death is news. Most years there are only a handful of truly famous, truly unexpected celebrity deaths to close out the year.

4) There are numerous day-after-Christmas sales, but few (if any) high profile January 2nd sales. In years where January 2 falls on a weekday, most people just grudgingly return to work. There are no consumerist efforts to, say, get a jump on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday gift-giving season. True, at this point on the calendar a lot of stores begin putting out Valentine’s Day decoration and merchandise. But who, truly, starts planning for V-Day in January?

5) Many people make resolutions for the new year. Few keep them—for example, as evidenced by the vast drop off in gym attendance, smoking cessation sessions, etc. People may have good intentions, but somehow these good intentions are never enough. This is due, I believe, to the lack of true commitment to the new year. A lack of commitment that gives aid and comfort to those who are trying to destroy new years.

6) Although many make predictions for what the new year will bring, most seem to make them for the satisfaction of seeing at the end of the year which things have come to pass. No one makes predictions that are that much truly unexpected or that would really be something come December should they come true. Like, say, that this will be the year we learn to clone the gene for human flight. That would be a prediction worth reaching for all year long.

I submit that this neglect of the New Year is an organized and evil effort to keep us focused on the past instead of looking forward to the future; to keep us stuck on what was instead of oriented to what could be. This is an all-out attack. A war. And we must fight it. I’ll volunteer to be one of the foot soldiers on the front lines of this battle. I will not blog these next couple days about all that was in 2009. I will not compile any “best of” lists. I will not lament any high (or low) profile celebrity passings.

My eyes are on the new year: 2010.

Which is, to be correct (and despite the frequent statements to the contrary), the last year of this current decade. Not the first year of the next.

December 25, 2009

Santa Claus is a Black Man—and a Black Woman

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We do not do Santa Claus in our home. We never have. Our children—from day one—knew that any gifts they received under the decorated tree were from me, their father, and family and friends from far and wide.

Before we had children, my husband and I talked about this. I had nothing but fond memories about believing in Santa Claus and in our family we went the full nine yards: taking pictures in the mall sitting on his lap, compiling our massive wish lists, leaving cookies and milk out for him to consume before leaving our gifts and flying off to the next house. My Point of No Longer Believing was pretty unmemorable. No major trauma of, say, an impossible wish followed by a glaring disappointment that showed me the folly of my faith. Rather, I just sort of gradually didn’t believe, until one day I felt sure enough to broach the subject with my parents. They confirmed what I knew, and I felt fine being “in” on the story for the sake of my younger sister and cousins.

My husband’s experience with Santa was quite different from mine. He was the son of working class parents who wanted to make sure he knew that his parents—not some bearded White man—were the ones who sacrificed all year long so that he could have a chemistry set or a 10-speed bicycle.

When we compared our Santa histories, my husband and I decided we would just never start the Santa myth with our then-future children. Not that we would rail against it or anything. And since our kids have been old enough to understand, we never delivered an anti-Santa speech to our kids. For them, the jolly heavy-set man is a character—much like SpongeBob Square Pants or Harry Potter. He seems to be as “real” to my daughters as these two much-beloved-by-them figures.

We have told our daughters that some children “believe” in Santa in a different way, and that they are not to spoil this fun for those kids by saying that he is not really real. I sometimes can’t hep thinking that this must set up some sort of logic chain for my kids: belief in Santa is fun for other children; We do not believe in Santa; We must be missing out on some sort of fun.

Yet they have never shown any hints that they have come to this conclusion.

For a while, my confidence in Santa-less parenting faltered. When my daughters started loosing their baby teeth, I did the whole Tooth Fairy thing with them: having them put their tooth under their pillows and placing four new quarters under their pillows over night as they slept right before removing the tooth. At one point one daughter asked, “Mommy, are you the tooth fairy?” Why do you want to know? I asked. “Because if you are, can you leave us $2.00 instead of $1.00?”

It will be interesting to see what my daughters do with regard to Santa if they someday raise children. I won’t be surprised if one of them does pretty much what she has experienced as a child, while the other goes all-out, full-tilt Santa immersion. But so far, from what I can discern, Christmas is no less magical, no less special, because of our lack of participation in the yearly Santa mythology. Of course, I could be wrong. In that case, at least my children will have something interesting to discuss with a therapist later in life.

December 23, 2009

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 3:35 pm

So asks the song. As I listen to it this year (Ledisi’s wonderful version) I am alarmed that it has been years since I have “done” anything special to ring in the new year.

There was a time when I would plan for weeks in advance for the event.

One year, when my and the now-spouse’s relationship was young, we went out partying at a swanky hotel with several other couples. Before going out, we gathered at one couple’s house and everyone made a toast. One guy made a particularly moving toast to his then-girlfriend. Something is up with those two, I told my husband. I think he’s going to propose to her tonight. My husband poo-poo’ed that notion—“Nah, he’s not that type of brother.” What “type” would that be, I demanded. “Umm, another glass of champagne, dear?”

Later that night at some point the two of them disappeared. We later found them by the huge Christmas tree in the lobby—him looking relieved, and her crying her eyes out with a giant rock on the fourth finger of her left hand. He had hidden the ring in an ornament hanging on the tree. I do not know if he was more relieved that she said yes or that the ornament with ring had not been been swiped.

Another year my husband and I, strapped for plans, went to a fraternity party. It was…interesting. This was the party hosted by the older, not younger, members of the fraternity. Besides seeing my aunt and uncle there, we also got a chance to sip champagne and dance the night away with our high school advanced placement English teacher. Seeing the woman who taught me how to diagram sentences tipsy and doing some combination of the Hustle and Richard Simmons work out is not something I wish to see again. Ever.

One year when I was home for the holiday break from college in Boston, some friends and I drove up to Chicago to party. I was looking cuter than I ever had looked in my life. Normally not a fashionista, I had actually taken time to carefully choose an outfit that revealed enough to say “Maybe…” while at the same time declaring “…but not so fast.” I was ready: dressed to impress and ready to mingle. We went to two parties, each time having to walk in the frigid night from the car to the locale. My pump-clad feet were killing me. The wind was whipping my body in its lightweight (but very cute) coat to shreds. At the second party, around elevenish, we got a tip about where we just absolutely had to go. I was outvoted 4 to 1. We went back outside, walked a couple of miles, piled into the car, and—through a series of mistaken routes in this pre-GPS era—finally made it. I elected to stay inside the car. I rang in the new year with the radio—and the car heater—on full blast.

Many years later when the kids were small, the Mister gave up his New Year’s Eve to work in the hospital so that the single folks could go out and party. In return, he had been home with us Christmas Eve. An hour before midnight, I strapped the girls into the car and we drove to the hospital. The kids were so excited to hear their Daddy’s name over the loudspeaker. He came into the waiting era, completely surprised, and gave us all big hugs. I got a midnight kiss from him right there in front of everyone. Which is something because my spouse is not, generally speaking, that “type” of brother.

Most other years recently we have just spent time together as a family. Those years that nothing “special” happened are just a timeless montage in my memory. Playing board games or watching movies…The novelty, for my young daughters, of staying up until midnight…Their joy at sipping sparkling apple juice from our wedding champagne flutes…My husband and I reminiscing together over the aging acts performing on one televised New Year’s Eve special or another….

I guess I take it back. Every year when the evening of December 31 rolls around I am “doing” something. Something very “special.” Granted, my younger self in the sexy dress, high heels, and non-sensible coat would probably be appalled to see what my New Year’s Eve festivities have come to.

But the today me—I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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