september 11, 2001: even living through the chaos and the shock and the drama downtown, didn't rock our lives in the same way my extended family managed to do it. this september, i kept thinking about that article in the new york times back in december, 2001. "ameena is celebrating the holidays with a cast of thousands..." even when the air outside was still hazy with smoke, we were a happy, layered family and i used to congratulate myself for getting it right.
then all of a sudden, my life is a rollercoaster like the emotional lives of my three teenagers in an apartment with huge leaky skylights that's as up-and-down as my financial life, cancer and unpredictable exhusbands and nothing happens quite the way i imagined it.
occasionally, parents of younger children who are getting divorced ask me advice. i say the same thing now, "i have no idea." even two years' ago, i could have told you how to manage a blissful blended family. i could have told you how my exhusbands come to sunday dinner or stay at my parents' house for christmas, how we bake cakes and give them parties on their birthdays. i could have told you why we never needed to make strict rules about who goes to whose house when because we were loving and civilized.
because we were always more concerned about what was good for the amazons than anything else.
i would have told you that once you were in love with someone you always still cared about them and wished them the best, even though you didn't want to stay together.
a few years ago, i could have told you how to raise girls so they had high self-esteem and no body image problems. how to teach them it was better to be smart than pretty. how to teach your kids to make wise decisions in adolescence.
excuse me while i collapse in laughter. or is it tears?
then again, some days, maybe just for the day, everything comes together. and we are our happy tribe again, the amazons prancing through the wilds of new york city. maybe it's the perfect trip to target. or dinner at mr. chow's during restaurant week.
other days, we are all still reeling. my answering machine is full of things i want to avoid and the newspapers are overflowing with rage and whooped-up rabble rousers. i feel myself and my beliefs slandered and libeled. i wonder if the anger - towards bankers, big business, immigrants, muslims, gay and lesbians, teachers, obama - roiling through this country will take us back to germany in 1920.
this morning, rain torrents threw themselves against the skylight (while i murmured prayers that they didn't break through). zarina yelled from downstairs, "mama, it's six o' clock!" (and went back to bed, i'm sorry to say) and i emerged from the beach resort of my dream life. i have the loveliest pillow.
after i sorted out the latest morning dramas and came close to feeding everyone breakfast, i stood perfectly still for a few seconds. i stood still and took it all in. the cool, smooth floor under my bare feet. the smell of the chocolate muffins in the air. i looked at sasha's leather jacket thrown on the back of the blue sofa (that i bought because it floated on the carpet like the sea on a summer day) and rara's battered keds. my fingers were still sticky with the juice of the melon i cut into slices at six-thirty. i breathed and felt the air move slowly down through my sternum into my belly. the apartment was silent, except for the rain, gentler now, against the glass and the occasional clank of cars moving in the parking lot outside.
i remembered that wherever i was was temporary.
life, the big catastrophes and the small historical events, is moving so fast that there is barely a moment to think that we've got it all wrong. or all right.
we just have to stop and be happy to be here.
(in our case, in the urban jungle).