A Menace Miasmic

When you become a parent, there is no more decorum. Your clothes will invariably be stained with some of your offspring's excrement, which you will indubitably discover right before a meeting and a few seconds after you've checked yourself out in the mirror and adjudged your sleep deprived aspect somewhat decent. Forget savouring the sweet sapour of your meals, your eating habits will be perfect training for Coney Island hot dog competitions. Your alarm will be shrill and will repeatedly pounce on you and pull at your hair (the "sun camed up!" "the sun came up" (grumble, turn) "OK! the sun CAME up mama! Get up!"(bellyflop, hair pull). Concerts, galleries and films will be swiftly colonized by swim classes, music lessons and soccer/football games. You will become extremely adept at undertaking one-armed activities while holding thirty squirming pounds in the other.You will spend so much time in the local park (at least for us urbanites) that you will start to wonder whether you should just pitch a tent and save on rent (or taxes). If you have multiple offspring, you will spend hours in conflict resolution, negotiating the boundaries of toys and games. You will be scolded by your own offspring for indiscretions of your sanctioned etiquette and routine, with a calculating but forgiving eye. Your children's view of the world will seep into yours just as your vision will instruct them, enriching your joint mosaic with an incandescent glint and weaving vibrancy into its colours.

The other night, my elder son sitting happily criss-cross apple sauce in his PJs on his bed, before book time, began to gargle out a story with a gregarious tone than ensnared me and my husband into its picaresque plot. There were dump trucks. Tow trucks. Rockets. Money. You need money for the tow truck (otherwise it won't come - for some reason this logic did not follow with respect to dump trucks nor for that matter rockets - if only someone told Space X that they were free! D'uh). There was Uranus. And there was his injury. We inquired further. You were hurt? We asked. Where is your boo boo? No, he clarified and clutched his heart. We all have an injury, close to our heart and we must keep our injuries safe so they don't crack, he explained with a sombre tone. Everyone has an injury? We asked. Yes, he asserted with the glint of a glare that expressed his irritation at having to explain something twice that was so rudimentary.

The next morning, I asked his teacher if she could discern what "injury" was, my husband and I concluding from its use that L was mispronouncing a concept he must have learnt at school (possibly during a Kimochi instruction). She started at me flabbergasted for a second and then said she had explained she had a chest injury to the kids a few days ago. Could that be it?

I couldn't help but ruminate on this concept. We all have injuries close to our heart. L may not have known how true that testament was. We become who we are because of our injuries, our emotional experiences, from which we learn - learning the most from those that have produced conflict, apprehension, melancholy. We are all walking, breathing injuries in search of healing. A line from Pasolini struck me, l'anima malata, santa - are we not all souls, saintly and sick? We must keep them safe, my son had declared. Was he speaking about life? Is life not a fatal injury? A chronic illness pronounced upon our first breath, as our constructed piece of the cosmos experiences separation and pain from the whole?

The Bay Area was plagued by a miasmic menace this week. On Sunday night, I was convinced our building was on fire as the smoke was so patent and pungent that when it was discovered it had drifted to the city from Napa, we remained somewhat incredulous. Migraines, sore throats and nausea affected the whole family. I was too late in seeking filtration masks - the more diligent had already bought the lot when I sought them out and we lacked any for a few days. I made a makeshift mask from my scarves and told L that we were travelling in masquerade home from preschool.

M, our intrepid adventurer, was dismayed that he could not run out on the grass and hurriedly walked to the door when anyone was bracing to leave as if gearing for an escape to the park. On Friday, he stole my keys and made for the door, as if he had calculated his previous failed attempts were due to their absence. I watched him in stupefied fascination as he tried to uncover the lock to no avail. Dejected, he accepted defeat and languidly retreated into the living room, where he climbed up on the armchair and resumed his watch over the traffic below. Every so often he would catch sight of a plane and erupt in excitement. "Plane!" "Plane!" he would shout (apart from members of the family and the ubiquitous chameleon "this", this is M's first word - L's was "car")and then jump down and run around the room in circles pretending to be one, mimicking the whirr of its engines (the Blue Angels had mesmerized both boys last week).

L's reading is progressing exponentially. Our one hindrance is the fact that I had foolishly not taught him lowercase until a few weeks ago - albeit, he is picking it up fast - as most words are of course, in lowercase. Learning from my mistake, I am teaching M both concomitantly.

M is using the potty! He has been notifying us for weeks now of needed diaper changes by clear gesticulations and for the last week has been using the potty a few times a day. After every potty triumph, he emanates an ebullient, victorious smile. Soon, soon, I will be free of diapers... I cannot wait! Woohoo! Invariably at this first stage of potty training, the Persian rugs, which cause us no harm, are cruelly disgraced. They appear to be forgiving.

The boys have been having fun with felt projectiles. They were learning to aim. I had what I thought was the bright idea of utilizing their aiming to enhance their alphabetic and then geographical knowledge. After each letter had been targeted, we began on the continents. Australia was an easy hit, North America not so much. The more my elder son missed a continent, the more he repeated it and remembered where it was. I was thoroughly pleased with my endeavour, until I later reminisced on my ill advised cartographic exercise, in which I encouraged my young Americans to plague the planet with their projectiles.


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