Posted by: alegra22 | April 3, 2011

Little Indian Girl

Sol has taken to ambushing me with hugs. Like one of those time-lapsed videos of a flower blossoming, he moves from static to a burst of welcome. His arms wrap around my waist. He smiles up at me and declares his love. I am used to the soft tumbling affection of my daughter and youngest, but Sol’s displays have always been reserved. A careful leg pressed against mine as I sing him to sleep. A request that I pat him on the back to settle his mind. A hug that feels more like a delicate cage of bone and soft skin surrounding me and then withdrawing. Not anymore. Several weeks before his sixth birthday Sol discovered affection. 

 Yesterday, he sat on my bed and watched me curl my hair for Dan’s graduation ceremony. Despite my attempts to explain to Sol that this was a Big Deal because “Daddy is now a teacher and he is very good at what he does” Sol was a tight fist of defiance, his entire body and spirit in revolt against a day out of his control. “This is a waste of my time!” he informed me, flicking the bed with his finger – a new habit of his. He walks through the house, like a little Adrian Monk touching parking meters, only Sol flicks walls, chairs, any surface within reach: thunk, thunk, thunk. I try to reason with him, I give him the other angles, but Sol remains unmoved. He understands, he just doesn’t agree. I see in his eyes he wants to please me, he wants to feel differently and change his attitude, but this, like being kind to his sister, he finds, “so very hard to do, mommy. It’s almost impossible.” When he says things like “I just hate the way God made Zaviera” I find myself scrambling up the smooth surface of his sense of order, his inability to feel anything other than the intensity of his outrage that his little sister is so different from him. Zaviera understands jokes. At four years old, she has comic timing and her comebacks sometimes have me taking note at the back of my mind – I’d like to use that one! She is charming. A natural speaker of the language of affection. She is generous. Easily distracted. Dramatic.

Sol needs to clarify whether or not the people around him are joking. He is tense until he knows what side of the joke he is standing on. He never really gets the punchline. He doesn’t feel comfortable with speculation or imagination. He likes the facts. He weighs his moments to make sure they are equal and if they are, he knows his life is good.

As I reached for a final strand of hair, Sol said to me, “When God made people, he thought he did it perfectly, but he was wrong. People aren’t perfect. They do all kinds of bad things. They hurt eachother and fight and there’s lots of bad people.” These are the moments I feel closest to my son. I know he trusts me with these thoughts. There is an understanding between us. I had these same sorts of thoughts when I was his age, but unlike Sol, I had a natural, emotional faith. I suspect my daughter will be the same. She will gladly open her arms to divinity and go tumbling into its grace, allowing it to carry her through her days.  “God did make us perfectly,” I say. “Just like you were created perfectly in my body. God gave us the ability to choose for ourselves and to learn. We don’t always choose the best things. Some people choose very bad things. I never stop loving you just because sometimes you make a choice that wasn’t so good, do I?” Sol shakes his head and flicks the bedspread. Thunk. Thunk.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: the way I’ve been made. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to support my children to thrive in their unique gifts and to feel confident in their purposes. I am watching my husband as he finds his stride as a teacher, a role that utilizes all of his natural talents. Several writer friends are now launching books and I know they are going to succeed because they are being true to themselves.  This last year, after a delirious ‘green light go’ on my novel – a manuscript that I had begun to have my doubts about – to a sudden ‘red light stop’, I’ve been doing some soul-searching. I’m glad that the novel didn’t go to market because it wasn’t me. It was a slimmed down Alegra with O% body fat prose and a plotline dressed up in the latest fashions.  

At a certain age, I began to realize that the world did not love people equally. I moved from Ithaca, N.Y. to Salt Lake City, Utah in the third grade. I discovered that I was a dark-haired, olive-skinned girl among a sea of blonde and blue-eyed beauties. In the fourth grade, we relocated again. My first day of school I was taunted with names like “Little Indian Girl” and “Mexican Burro”. These were the days before Jennifer Lopez and other celebrities gave value to being something other than blonde and blue-eyed. Girls walked by in the hall, shading their eyes as if I were something horrible to look at. Eventually the teasing faded and I was absorbed into the very group that had tortured me, but I had been changed. My transition from my childhood faith that the world would accept and support me had been completed, I began to look for ways to compromise in order to survive. I think on a certain level, I have never stopped believing that I have to disguise what I am whether this means physically, artistically, or spiritually. For the last few months, I have been putting down my ambitions before God and saying, “Show me what is true and meant for me, separate these things from my scrambling insecurity and tendency to compromise.” If I expect to help my children to inhabit their skins and harness their gifts with love and confidence, I need the courage to do the same.

On Sol’s birthday, we gave him a trampoline. Sol and Zaviera bounced for hours until it began to rain. Dan called them into the house. Sol asked, “Why? Why do we have to stop?” Dan replied, “Because it’s raining.” Sol’s shoulders slumped, “That doesn’t make sense.” I asked him, “Do you care that it is raining?” He shook his head, “No! I want to go jump!” “Go on then,” I said. My children’s eyes lit up and they were gone, their laughter tumbling out into the rain.

A few minutes later, Dan called me over to the window. “Did you see this?”

I look. Sol and Zaviera are bouncing in the rain, completely naked, their hair in wet tendrils, their smiles big.

“Should I call them in?” Dan asks.

“No,” I say. “This is their time in Eden. Let them enjoy it.”

Back in the room, I finish curling my hair. Sol has stopped flicking the bed. I can see he is at peace. Later, when he brings the subject up again, I will tell him, “Yes, Sol, the world can hurt us sometimes. We can be made to feel ugly or not good enough. But the world is also perfectly made in its imperfections, because we always have a choice. We can choose better, we can heal.”

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Responses

  1. Amen, and amen. Thank you for letting me look inside. ❤

    • My pleasure, Amy.

  2. Ah, Alegra. 🙂 Such a feeling piece and oh, so human, and oh, so you. At least, even though we’ve never met in person, it’s the you I see shining through the words about your children.

    • Thank you Deborah! (I like to think that if you’ve met me here, you’ve in a sense, met me in person – there’s just more wild hand waving and gesticulation in person!)

  3. I always say this, but beautiful writing!

    I love how serious he is. And I love how much you love and care deeply for your children and work so hard to understand them and see their joy. I laughed so hard about the graduation being a waste of his time though!

    Congratulations to both you on your book and Dan on his graduation.

    • Thank you. With Sol, there are so many Very Serious Things that leave me struggling to not have a good laugh over, or to just say, “Hey, I can’t really argue with you on that one, your feelings are your feelings!” I often say to my mother-in-law, he carries around such big thoughts in such a little body.

  4. ps that photo of you looks just like Zaviera.

    • I love that you think so! Sometimes I am so stunned by how beautiful she is to me, that it is hard for me to imagine she emerged from my body.

  5. Your writing is always inspiring :).

  6. I always get a smart of tears at the corner of my eyes reading your words. You nail it every single time. I love this description of Sol, and of them on the trampoline. You are MAGIC with words, Alegra.

    Also: I have to go on record as saying that when I first met you I thought you were by far the most beautiful girl I’d ever met. 🙂 xo,C

  7. […] Little Indian Girl ~ a must read for any mama with a quirky/different/special kid. Oh how I love the way Alegra writes. […]

  8. I enjoyed reading your post. What a challenge to teach our children the lessons of faith we are still learning!


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