Posted by: alegra22 | June 28, 2011


Sol paces himself a few strides ahead of us. He steps quickly as the street light passes over him. One hand shoved in his pocket, the other points at the bush ahead of us lumbering against an old picket fence. Zaviera tightens her grip and shrieks, “It’s a monster!” I am aware of her delicate bones nestled in my palm and how I can never escape this way that my children pass through me, constantly transforming me.

Last night I lay in bed, Joaquin’s arm resting against my back, his breathing in my ear. I couldn’t move away from him. Thoughts of my thesis and my commitment to blog hung out on the floor next to my slippers, resigned to another night of neglect. I was mesmerized by that small strip of contact along my spine, my child’s skeleton whispering to mine, an ancient language of bones, family, and blood.

“No, that’s not a monster,” Sol says. He points at the bush again and repeats, “Am-bush.” Even in the dark, I don’t miss the sly little smile. His walk gets a little taller. His shoulders broader. He begins pointing at the bushes, “Ambush! Ambush! Ambush!

He turns to face me, walking a few steps backwards. He has the same tone his father uses when he’s convinced he’s springing a good joke on me or a bit of knowledge. “Ambush,” Sol informs me, “is when a group of people hide somewhere and then jump out to attack.” With his father’s timing, he turns away and continues to walk, as if I can’t see how pleased he is with himself. His satisfaction lights up the footpath ahead of us.

“Wow! Where’d you learn that word?”

Sol shrugs. “I’ve just always known it. There’s a lot of things I’ve just always known.” He points at a cluster of small trees, “Ambush!”

Two strangers round the corner and I tighten my grip on Pepita’s leash. Zaviera presses up against my side. When the strangers are a few feet in front of us, Zaviera points and yells, “ALIENS!”

The strangers emerge from the shadows, a couple of hoodlums unconcerned with me, my daughter’s wild imagination, or our Very Big Dog. When they are swallowed by the sweep of bus headlights, the smoky fragrance of marijuana spreading from one of the dark homes, when they disappear into the night, Sol turns around and informs Zaviera that there is no such thing as aliens. She stares down her big brother, her fist clenched at her side, “You’re WRONG.”

Sol points at a bush and says casually, “Ambush.”

When he has turned his back to her, Zaviera looks up at me, “Those were aliens, aye? He’s wrong. He doesn’t know everything. I’m right.”

I nod and whisper, “Those were definitely aliens.”

Pepita yanks us both forward trying to close the gap between us and Sol. He has been making a case for why it good that we’ve brought him on our new, special walk. We obviously need someone to protect us.

“Yes,” I say, thinking this is one of those parenting moments where I should reinforce the positive. I spent the weekend deep-cleaning the house. I sorted through broken toys, things we haven’t used in at least a year. I found new homes for our belongings. Systems for our small living space. I didn’t stop moving until midnight each night. On Monday, I told the children we were having a family meeting. Sol grabbed his notebook, a pen, and sat down, prepared to take notes. I explained that we would be following a family schedule to try to make things easier for all of us. I listed the activities. Sol wrote down each item in his notebook. Zaviera drew beautiful people with big smiles. Joaquin parked himself in my lap, babbling away, the self-appointed Mommy Translator. Afterwards, we went through each item on the list. I had the children act the activities while I took pictures of them. I explained we would print out the photos and turn them into a chart so that every day they could see exactly what they needed to do. It has been two days. The chart isn’t finished yet, but already, there’s been a change in Sol’s behavior.

“Isn’t walking Pepita at night a great adventure?” I never like when I can hear the false cheerfulness in my voice. I remember being a small child and being able to sense the effort of adults in the same way an animal senses fear. But there is truth to what I’m saying, I’m just saying it a little too loud, with a little too much hopefulness in my voice.

Zaviera nods her head so hard she makes her hair fling back and forth. Her eyes are bright, her smile big. This is our second night walk together. She loves the fear, the possibility of monsters in every shadow. She sees possibility in the flickering stars. A plane in the sky becomes a creature trying to find its way home.

“Nah,” says Sol. “This isn’t much of an adventure. There aren’t any bullies to fight.”

“So you want to stay home tomorrow night?”

He shrugs, his back to us again.

I look down at Zaviera and put my finger to my lips. She gets my plan immediately.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!” I yell. Sol jumps, his hands up in defense, a smile on his face before he can contain it. “Ambush!” I say, rubbing Sol’s head. He doesn’t pull away. He laughs. I wasn’t sure it would work. I never know whether my actions will bring laughter or anger.

Zaviera gives me the thumbs-up.

The rest of the walk home, Sol attempts to even the score. We laugh. There are no arguments. I give him a few wins, just enough to keep that broad-shouldered stride in his body.

Lately it has felt like the shadows are full of fears waiting to leap out at me.

Tonight, I feel ambushed by hope.



  1. May you be ambushed each and every day. 🙂

  2. I love this word, it’s so fitting for parents and children alike! And the more children we have it’s as if we never stop getting ambushed, but then it’s like tidal wave of love pounding down on us and how hard can that be 🙂 I just have to remind myself in those moments, that if I’m feeling ambushed my children are probably just at the brink of feeling ambushed by the world, with all of its changes, responsibilities, pressures, and distractions!

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