Words with Strangers.

The girls were “scootering,” they said as they coasted on wheels to the park. I pushed Abe in the stroller closely behind them.   

An old man in a red hat rode by on a bicycle. “Great job, girls.” He told my scootering children.

I gave him a grin but my heart sank as I read the words across his cap: Make America Great Again.

They were empty words. And I didn’t believe him.

A night or two later, we took the kids to Grand Central Market in Los Angeles for dinner. It is like a large gourmet food court/farmers market with restaurants and food stands. There were a lot of people standing in lines, eating at bar tops and tables with their family and/or friends.

Mark stood in line for the best carnitas tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. The kids and I stood nearby at a lowered bar for handicapped customers. There was a man with dark curly hair sitting next to us at a table with his large dog in his lap. I felt anxious as I positioned the stroller and Abe came face to face with the dog. “Is your dog friendly?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said.

I gave Abe some rice cakes to keep him happy while we waited. I relaxed, no longer worrying over the dog attacking him or his snacks.

“I ordered to-go.” The man said, “You can have this table once my order is up.”

“Thank you.” I said. “Did you order from Sticky Rice?”

Sticky Rice was the restaurant directly in front of us. Mark mentioned it prior to our trip. I wanted to order something but didn’t know what to order.

“Yes.” He said.

“What did you order?” I asked.

“The first item. The Thai barbeque chicken.”

The Thai barbeque chicken included a papaya salad and sticky rice (I forget the proper name for the order).

I had Alana ask Mark, who was not too far from us and still in line for tacos, what he wanted from Sticky Rice. She returned and said he wanted the beef dish. I walked up to order it but they had sold out.

The man and his dog left. There were two chairs at the table. I let the kids sit while I continued to stand. Another woman stood close by awaiting her order from Sticky Rice. She wore a mustard colored sleeveless blouse. “What did you order?” I asked her.

“Thai barbeque chicken.” She said.

I walked back to the counter and ordered the Thai barbeque chicken and a coconut (Mia asked for the coconut to drink from).

Mark finally returned with the tacos. The tortillas were barely visible under the mountains of carnitas. We all ate them with pleasure. Even Abe enjoyed the carnitas. I gave him a plastic fork to eat with and Mark gasped every time Abe would raise the fork near his face.

Once we finished the tacos, our Thai chicken was delivered to our table along with the coconut. The girls drank from the coconut out of two straws. They loved the coconut water and said it was much better than any other kind they’ve tried.

Alana always jokes about Harmless Harvest (our favorite coconut water). She says they aren’t “harmless” because they harm coconuts.

The food from Sticky Rice was excellent. The chicken was flavorful and juicy. I loved the papaya salad; it had a pickled taste to it. And the sticky rice was sticky, as was the sauce that came with the dish – an orange sweet sticky sauce.

We then headed to the Tostaderia where they served ceviche on top of tostadas – a fried crunchy tortilla. As we arrived there was a customer arguing with the staff at the restaurant across the way. He cursed loudly and people in the area shifted their attention to the scene. Mark pushed the girls back. I grabbed them and pulled them off to the side along with Abe in the stroller. We were afraid a fight would ensue. Luckily, someone had notified security and they arrived to escort the man out of the area. But first, he had a server box up his food for him.

Mark ordered fish ceviche. The girls sat at the bar and we stood behind them. Mark held Abe and we all shared a delicious lime infused fish tostada.

We then headed to McConnell’s Ice Cream for dessert. We decided on two flavors: Earl Gray Tea and Shortbread Cookies and Eureka Lemon and Marionberries. Mark stood in line with Abe for the ice cream. The girls and I stood in front of a Jewish deli whose barstools were upside down on top of the bar. I took a moment to observe the environment: the bright lights and restaurant signs; all kinds of people coming and going; couples sitting and drinking together; and families sharing food.

Mark brought over two cups of ice cream and four spoons. We huddled together and ate the delicious ice cream. I was surprised the kids enjoyed the Earl Gray Tea as much as they did. It was my first choice. 

 

The street was dark when we left Grand Central Market. All the lights were off at Blue Bottle Coffee across the way. We were disappointed because we had planned to buy coffee there before heading home. We walked as a unit, closely together, on the unfamiliar road. A man walked down the sidewalk perpendicular to us. He shouted: “That’s a beautiful family, man!”

Mark said, “Thanks man.” Or something like that.

I smiled and looked at Mark. He turned to me and said, “See, now that was real.” 

The Swell.

A swell of self-pity swallowed me whole as my husband shut the door behind them. He took our girls shopping and left me alone in a silent home with our baby clung to my chest. 

Helpless, I lied still like a mattress staring out the window. The pressure from the swell burst through the damn behind my eyes. And I spiraled down 32 years to the root of my needs. I need. And I need. And I need. I knew, I always would. 

I cried and I wondered, who will come hold me? I cried and I thought, I can’t do this. I need more arms to hold us, to hold me, to help lift this weight off my chest. 

Before the panic could fully set in, I shook my head in refusal. I knew what to do. I remembered I knew how to breathe and give thanks. I recited, I’m thankful for…

I’m thankful for my baby, my family, our health and home, helpful hands and sunny days. Time. Life. Love. Smiles.

It could be worse. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it. I’ve read it. It could be worse. I could be worse. I reminded myself. And I picked up a book and dove into someone else’s story. 

Minutes later, there was a knock on the door. A key turned the lock and it opened. A mother appeared. She took the baby into her arms, oohing and awwing over him. 

I was relieved. And so, I went to bathe in warmth and let my insecurities dissipate into steam. It felt easier to breathe. 

Again, I was thankful. I had what I needed. And I didn’t have to do it alone. 

The String Around My Wrist.

The string around my wrist binds me to a tribe of women. One, our loving teacher, and eight fertile feminine warriors.

We sat in a circle with our ankles crossed and our bulging bellies resting gently in our laps. We passed one long continuous thread from one woman to the next. Each one pausing to loop the thread around her wrist, connecting us all along the way. We sat for a few moments this way soaking up our last minutes as a group of pregnant mothers.

In six weeks this group grew, not only in circumference but also in heart. There was comfort in meeting with these couples each week. No judgements were passed. There was no talk of “you should do this” or “don’t do that.” Our minds were open for learning more about this miracle of child bearing and birthing. And each week there was an abundance of love in the room. The most surprising and greatest source came from the partners, the soon to be fathers, with questions first and foremost, for how to care for their women. I had never witnessed such loving and attentive men in my entire life. My husband, who’s always been loving and attentive, grew even more affectionate. He became gentler and kinder towards me. And we’ve done this all before. But there was something about this experience, being there with other couples and learning techniques to get through the pain of child birth together. It took our relationship to a higher level of intimacy.

And the level of respect everyone had for the life growing inside the womb was inspiring and reassuring. It reassured me that it is safe to bring another child into this world. Even at a time where things feel very uncertain and unsettled, there is still so much love and hope spreading from father to father, father to child, father to mother, mother to father, mother to child, mother to mother, belly to belly. There is so much love and kindness here. It is worth the all of the worries and obstacles that lie ahead. There is so much more love to give this world. And that is exactly what each child brings.

We cut our strings and put a small crystal on each one. One tiny bead of light to represent the balls of light protruding from our mid-sections.

We helped each other tie our strings snug against our wrists. The string will remain until the last child is born. When the final mother gives birth we will cut our strings releasing the old and welcoming the transformation of motherhood and life.

This simple bracelet I wear with pride and when I enter the hospital, I will know, I am not alone. My tribe is here, wrapped around my wrist, holding on through the pain as I push my way into euphoria.