Sarah and Rachael both had bad days. But Eliza’s takes the cake. Literally.
When I was raising my children, I shielded them from certain harsh truths. I wanted them to be happy, and selfishly I wanted to avoid being the messenger they’d want to shoot. As a result, they’ve had to learn stuff the hard way, from life, which does not dole out hugs or chocolate chip cookies. Maybe this was a mistake, so Hurwitz kids, I’m sorry, and I’m ready to come clean.
Here, in no particular order, are my maternal motivational myths, debunked.
- People get what they deserve. Then how do you explain Michael Vick?
- What matters is who you are on the inside. This is true, technically, but tragically, lacks real-life application.
- Success is a matter of effort. Third in line after connections and being in the right place at the right time.
- You can do anything, if you set your mind to it. Only sometimes, you can’t.
- It gets easier.
Again, I apologize for all the years of sugar-coating, but I know you can handle the truth. That said, I am confident you will continue to do good, cultivate character, work hard at what you love, live your dreams, and even though #5 is the biggest lie of all, never, ever give up.
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken
From “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams
My mother loved lilacs. Five years ago, as she was dying, the lilacs were beginning to bloom. I found this unbearably sad, that she was leaving the world as the lilacs were entering it. But when we planted this tree for her, it helped me realize that even as the blossoms fade, the lilacs remain. The roots work their magic. Spring comes. Everything rises.
The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes
They inhabit or move through.
Words, on the other hand,
Are so abstract—they’re
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter
Poised in the middle, aware
Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words
Could save them.
They deserve it?
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.
And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing—
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.
I was telling poetry-loving progeny, Sarah and Jake, how I’d been searching for the perfect poem but nothing was turning up. It was like scrolling through static on a car radio. Then I came across this by Gregory Orr.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been criticized for letting their 7 year old daughter Shiloh dress like a boy. It seems some think their refusal to discourage Shiloh’s predilection for cropped hair and traditionally masculine garb makes them unfit parents.
I was once in their shoes. My youngest by one minute daughter Eliza spent her childhood dressed in boys’ clothes, specifically, her older brother’s hand-me-downs. Like Jolie and Pitt, I felt that if this made her happy and comfortable, it was fine by me.
People had a tendency to lump the triplets together. As erroneous and annoying as this was, I figured that if we just raised them as individuals things would work out. Occasionally I’d dress them in matching stuff but most of the time they wore whatever they wanted. Rachael liked the color pink, along with a red turtleneck worn inside-out on her head so she could pretend she was Ariel, the Little Mermaid. Sarah liked sparkly jelly sandals and leggings. Eliza liked Jake’s cast-offs: his Ninja Turtles T-shirt, his cargo shorts, and his ratty Converse hi-tops. The times I did dress the girls for special occasions it would be only a matter of time before Eliza whipped off her dress and was running around in tights or underpants.
She also liked her hair short and uncombed, and was often mistaken for a boy. She didn’t care. But I caught a lot of grief from people I knew and complete strangers because I didn’t intercede. She’ll be confused when she grows up, people would say. Or, as one elderly woman in line at the grocery store said, “She should be wearing girls’ clothes. You don’t want her to turn gay”. Eliza, who was around four at the time, said, “That lady is dumb.” “Yes, honey, she sure is,” I replied.
Today, Eliza lives in Brooklyn. She does stand-up comedy several nights a week and works two jobs. With her waist-length ringlets and love of crop tops, no one would mistake her for a boy now. Her metamorphosis has been cool to watch from the sidelines, purely organic, like watching a flower bloom, only in this case, a flower holding nun chucks and the middle school record for push-ups.
I look at photos of Shiloh I see the same feisty jaw-set, the same spunk and confidence I saw in seven-year-old Eliza. This is what self-knowledge looks like. It’s a force to be reckoned with, and by reckoned, I don’t mean judged or manipulated. I mean celebrated.
According to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruellest month, but if you ask me, November’s got April beat.
Eliot talks about April mixing memory and desire, which is what I would describe as existentially bittersweet, while November’s brutal slide into winter, which I would classify not as a wonderland but an actual legit waste land, offers no sweetness at all, especially for those of us with poor circulation.
Basically, April is more annoying than cruel. It’s a tease. There’s the rain, the sun, the summer-like warmth, and suddenly the mercury takes a nosedive and you’re running to the attic for your down coat. But maybe that is cruel. After this sucky winter, even trademark whimsicality feels like more than any of us should have to bear.
But April can only hold out for so long. Eventually May will get the upper hand, and here’s where I think Eliot’s wrong. As cruel as April might seem, watching that wintry waste land recede in the rear view mirror feels a whole lot less cruel than seeing it looming before you. That is, unless you’re into skiing.
- Thigh rolls.
- Saggy diapers.
- An overturned bowl of spaghetti on the head.
- Chortling and/or gurgling.
- Bibs (unless they are disposable plastic with a picture of a lobster).
- Exposed protuberant or “outie” belly buttons.
- Sailor outfits.
- Small plastic barrettes.
- Waddling around comically then falling down.
And then some mornings you wake up at 5 from a dream of a tiger to find snow on the ground, knowing you slept through a lunar eclipse, and it’s time to pry your license plates from your car with a wrench, and it’s still National Poetry Month so all is not lost but some people are involved in hate…
Damn, this girl can write.
I am not active on Facebook because I am vulnerable to time-sucks, plus I don’t understand exactly how the site operates and tend to embarrass myself, but a friend of mine put something on her Facebook page about creating your band name. Remember that thing about your porn star name, which combines your first childhood pet and street name? That made me Lassie Gilbert, which wasn’t half bad.
Anyway, you get your band name by combining the color of the pants you’re wearing and what you had for breakfast, which made my band Beige Oatmeal. Terrible, I know, and super annoying, because I’d just gotten back from my run, changed, and had started eating my breakfast, causing me to miss being Black Nothing by less than five minutes.
Coachella. Music and Arts Festival, Indio, California. Micah told me last Tuesday that he was thinking of going. He wondered how I felt about it.
“I don’t know. I’ve heard it gets pretty crazy.”
Micah laughed. “I think it’s as crazy as you want it to be.”
“I also heard it’s expensive. And isn’t it, like, soon?”
“Actually, it starts Friday. I bought a ticket from a friend for $460. I know that sounds like a lot but it’s a good deal and I can pay for it. And Tyler’s flying in from Connecticut.”
“Okay, Micah. It’s three days from now, you bought a ticket, Tyler’s flying in, and you’re thinking of going?”
Pause. “If you and Dad really have a problem with it, I could sell my ticket.”
I would never play that card, and Micah knew it, but I appreciated the symbolic generosity of the offer.
So I told him to use good judgment. He promised he would. I was moved, deeply, that he pretended to hand me the rope so I could pretend to cut him some slack.
Then I got this video. When your kids share your faith in the implicit yes, you’re long past reclaiming the no. So this is what happens.