Root medicine 1

Undeveloped rolls of film, under my bed. Faces emerge from the liquid dark. Memories I forgot I had remember me. Jet lag pushes now into the past, the past into the now. I am here. India rising indeed.

The children are with me this time. Where did they come from? The seven years between this visit and the last are soft drinks fizzing and cutting the sweet scented jolt of whiskey I have been longing for. The India I have been keeping in my heart looks back at the real self she is the reflection of, and is pleased, “The years have been good to you.”

3am silence has begun to crumble as four year old and six year old tummies remember that it’s dinner time half a world away. As I pad quietly into foreign yet familiar kitchen to forage for pre-dawn here/evening there sustenance, memories of awakenings past prickle across my brow. I used to keep quiet, tell no one, wake no one, brain whirling, stomach howling, when it was I who was American grandchild come home. No close in age sibling to share my ravenous insomnia.

Already this is different for them, because they have each other. And because I am here. I know what this is like, the fear–love pull of roots on far flung branchlets. They are emboldened because I am here to anchor. Already they have giggled, snuggled, checkered, ribboned, and serenaded their ways into my Indian family’s loving embrace. Fed by hand, carried on tall uncle shoulders-newly anointed Prince and Princess.

Whether or not they remember, they will never forget. I never did.


He Feeds Her

He loves his babies. Always has. His hands perfect for holding small heads. His long flat chest a place to rest and hear the thump-tha- thump just like it was in mommy’s tummy.

I hated breastfeeding. Never enough milk. What did come was so often vomited back onto those bags I lugged heavily on my frame. She’d scream with acid pain and empty belly.

He’d soothe her patiently.  Rocking, and shushing and swaying. Cooing, and patting, and humming.  Loving her with every inch of himself.  She’d sleep fitfully. Reluctantly convinced into rest.

Midnight feedings were hazy nightmares. He wanted to help.  But the best milk was in me.

Breast is best. Breast is best.  Breasts are beasts. Breasts are beasts.

After each feeding, I’d wake him, saying, “Take her.  I can’t do this anymore.”  He’d rouse himself. Sweep her up in the darkness. Pour sweet nectar into her ears.

Delirium twisted mother’s milk into mother’s bane.  But the shame, the shame seemed worse than this.  The shame and the failure:

A stay-at-home mom who does not breast feed.

Unspoken damnation whispered into my mind’s eye. “You’re a bad mother. Selfish. Weak. She will suffer forever. It’s all your fault.”

He said, “You don’t have to. It’s OK.  Don’t listen. I love you. You’re good. You’re good.”

No. You’re good. I am bad.

He said, “I want to help. Let me help. Let me feed her. You can rest. You can sleep. No more pumping. No more soreness. Let me help.”

Every day for months, we three danced this way.  And I felt myself pushing away from the child so waited for. Now, so hungry, always so hungry.

And me with nothing left to give.

So I let him help.  Knowing I was bad. She would suffer. He would leave me.  All good things, as they say, would come to an end.

But instead.

When the clock struck 10 I’d be fast asleep. A night-owl, he stayed up for the midnight feed.  And I, the early bird, took the 4 am, happy to be with my girl.

So rested, body mine, no pumping, no resentment.  Just the everyday trials of new parenthood – shared equally by two.

My burden had lifted.  And his was increased? Would his baby love stay so strong in the face of the feeds?

When I asked,  he said, “You don’t understand. You have given me a gift.”

“I hold her in my arms, bottle in hand, and she looks at me.  I see in her eyes something different, something new, something real.”

“‘You feed me.’ she says, without words.”

“I am her father, and I feed her. Don’t you see? We men are not supposed to feed. But I want to feed her. I need to feed her.”

He feeds her. To this day, he feeds her.  And she knows it.

And we are all free.




Queen’s Daughter

Your mother once saved me

from a fearsome beast.

We traveled to new lands,

and laughed in the face of danger.

We marched into battle

on fields of green grass.

She bested champions

with the pounding of her mighty hands.

And when it was time

to celebrate season’s end,

she wore a flowing gown of sky blue

Remember this always

you are the queen’s daughter

Walk tall, ride free, be Queen.

soft, and light, and filled with dreams.

He sings

Little brother can’t get a word in edgewise.
Big sister is a talker, a performer, a deep thinker, a sly joker, a tantrum thrower.
His words are still mumbled, all jumbled, and soft.
When he wants something he whispers, “I wan dat one. Please.”

But if you ask him to, he sings.
He sings about pumpkins and apples and sheep.
He sings abcd (but gets lost in lmnop).
He sings happy birthday, he sings little star.
He sings if you let him, if there’s space,
if there’s silence to fill.
He sings words he can’t say yet.

He sings
and the words matter less
than the feeling inside them,
than the message they send,
than the stories they tell.
He sings.

Rest. Rant.

Riding through Italian Market on my bike, watching vendors lay out winter squash and imported lychees,  a red-lettered sign catches my eye.


Early morning brain prevents me from getting the joke for a solid minute and in that time I try to follow this new rule set forth by this unknown guru.


I begin to breathe deeply,  clear my mind.  Relax my muscles, feel the damp fall air lick my skin.




A wrinkled, crisp leaf circles in a wind swirl and my mind follows its delicate dance.




I imagine my son’s third birthday candles glowing in front of his face. Maybe we should decorate it with the left over Halloween candy.

Forests of lollipops on fields of kit-kat crumbs, a three-year olds heaven.





Now I get it.

We went to the temple today

This place did not exist when I was a kid. The White stone crown crusted with statuettes juts out from the golden tinged fire of the midatlantic fall foliage. Heart skips. This. Is. Here.

We walk up to the entrance- four in splendid festival finery. My mom and I both have been eager to take the kids for their first visit. Diwali seemed the perfect time.

Shoes come off. Bare feet touch cool marble. Amplified sounds of temple chanting cause three- year old boy hands to clap over three-year old boy ears.
Daughter five clasps Patti’s hands. Time to meet stone deities in fine silks.

Time to press foreheads to earth in obeisance. Time to tell priests of lineage and stars. Time to eat temple fare, simple and hot and abundant.

Time to run giggling through grownups legs breathing in incense soaked air. Time for flame-warmed hand to hairline and holy water in hand.

Time to remember that stone and fruit and water and words and food and family all hold the divine.

This is what I wished I’d had. This is what I hope they feel. This is why we went. This is why, to the temple.


Gender play

Eli with transformer



“A surprise for me!!!”

Little Brother third birthday

and the first present arrives.

“Cool!  It’s a robot!!”

“Open for me!”

Big sister five lingers nearby.


Her two-months-passed birthday

still fresh in her mind.


Can I play with it too?”

She sits close to her brother, with watchful eyes


Eventually,  Almost Three loses interest in his prize.

He says, “I want to cook with Mommy!!”

Runs to the kitchen. Clambers up the stool.

“Bowl please! Want some water please!

Want spoon please! Man spoon!”


Alone on the floor now,

Sister works the cast off prize.

She has figured it out.

Put on the wings.

Make him fly.


Little Brother wants Man spoon.

I pull out a teaspoon.

“Nooooo!” silly mommy!”

I pull out a tablespoon.

“Noooo.”  He rolls eyes.


I pull out a long-handled ladle.

“Yes!! That’s a man spoon.


He growls as he stirs .

She sings as robot flies.


The next morning

Big Sister’s sighs.

“Mommy, are there any

princess transformers?”

“I don’t think so.” I say.

She is unsatisfied.


“I know!

A Cinderella robot…

that transforms…

into a carriage!”

Her idea makes her smile.


And that same morning,

Little Brother carries

robot into school.

On his right hip,

gently cradling him,

Just like mommy

used to do.





Too soon

Does this dress make me look fat?

(No. It’s too soon for this.)

It poofs out in front.

(But, you’re only five.)

And I want to look pretty.

(Is this my fault? Is this me?)

You’re cheeks are so round.

(That still stings, but just smile.)

And your belly’s so big.

(And so it’s begun.)

And so it’s begun.

And so it’s begun.

Has the damage been done?

No, my work’s just begun.



A Mother’s Survival Shanty

Swimming lessons are first

to prepare for the worst.

I guess sailing could be useful too.

Some kind of marshal art.

When things fall apart.

Self-defense in a world gone cuckoo.


Perhaps building a fire,

or recognizing a liar.

Who knows what will keep them alive?

Building shelter by hand,

coaxing food from the land.

When I’m gone what will help them survive?


The world’s begun cooking

and so I am looking

for ways to build skills and plant seeds,

to help my kids weather

well, weather the weather

in the new world we made with our greed.


The Dance of the Gods

“Mommy, why can’t we see the gods?”

A sudden question in the moments

before the bedtime forehead kiss

that shields her from dark dreams.


She is laid out on her bed.

Arms and legs spread wide,

berry black curls splayed

beneath her head.

Her old-young eyes

are moonlit night.


I grasp for an elusive truth.

“Some people think

they live up in the sky.

Some people think

they live in our



“What do you think mommy?”


What do I think?

What DO I think?

“I think they live

in our imaginations,

and in our hearts.”


My truth lands with

a thud and stumbles.

Her truth rings

clear and high

as a glass bell.


“I think they are

high, high, up in the sky,

through space

out in space.

And if you go

to outer space

you will see them.”


She wants to be

an astronaut mommy.

And now, I see

that she and her children

will meet the gods,

see them there

touch them,

know them

and dance.

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