Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nuthin' Doin'

Our family have just spent the better part of a month just hanging out together.

For the first week, it was just me and the people, getting used to our new, temporary life in Jamaica.  Then The Mister came along for the last three weeks.  And it was - every last minute of it - 100% perfection.

Know why?  Because we were just sharing time and space together mostly just having simple fun.  The importance of which cannot be overstated.

In this moment of reflection upon our time there in Jamaica, I am becoming keenly aware of what a luxury it is that we were afforded.  I mean - one whole month of just chilling in Jamaica?  We did that - together.  (Do I need the disclaimer about it being our choice of work that is a major factor?)

Of course we did "things", stuff, adventures.  We visited with family and long time friends.  I hung out with old high school friends in the new lives as parents and grownups (!).  We got to watch a THE Olympic event (as far as Jamaicans are concerned) surrounded by a room full of energized Jamaicans - the kids seeing the vibrant and colorful way that sporting achievement is celebrated.  We went zip-lining in the mountains, we went driving through my favorite part of the island and visited one of my very favorite childhood spots: Frenchman's Cove.  The we were swimming and playing in the very same spot where my father first started teaching me to swim almost 30 years ago.    How amazing was it to share all that with my own children?!
It's kind of the most amazing thing ever.  A little.

Exploring at Frenchman's Cove

And still, some of the most magical moments were when we were just being together.  Down by The River.   Playing with and parallel to each other.  And being.  Doing nothing.

The meaningfulness, the profound worth and value of the time we had together can never be overstated.  There are ways that is creating something in our lives that even I don't understand.

In the doing of a tremendous amount of 'nothing' together, I believe we created at least as much 'something' - together.  Something that will outlast jobs, houses, photos; and that will echo into generations to come.  I can't name it, but I know it's real and happening.

Not so much nothing after all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Successful Mistakes

Where we are staying, there is a 10 foot jump off into the river.  It looks pretty mild and easy from the water level, but when one ascends the staircase, walks out onto the edge of the platform and looks down, it's a whole other ballgame.  It now feels bone-threatening.

I have watched many a tourist walk up, out, look down and turn around and walk back down the stairs.  I, myself have to psyche myself up every.  single.  time.  I go to jump.  Even when it's immediately after the one I've just a spent Jeopardy! timer song working myself up to.

Enter my thrill-seeking, sensory-input enthusiast of a son.  On his first available opportunity (which was early yesterday morning), he climbed the stairs, walked to the edge and without so much as a second thought, leapt from the platform.

I was happily applauding his bravery as he splashed down only to have that short-lived when he came up crying.  Darling.  What happened?

The dreaded belly flop.  Ironically, he is as sensitive as he is adventurous and has a somewhat unbelievably low pain tolerance threshold.  We hugged, consoled, encouraged, reassured.

But he was done.

No more.  That hurt too much.

As it happened, I was hanging out up on the jumping platform, having coffee, feeding the fish and he was up and down intermittently after the bad jump.  We had some conversation about what happened and both his dad and I explained what caused him to get hurt and how he could jump more safely.  He agreed that it had been fun right up until the flop.  As the morning meandered, he ascended and descended, in and out of conversation.  He asked why it hurt and I explained the physics and we got  into some analogies until he was re-explaining it back to me.  I knew he'd gotten it.

A little later we wrapped it up with me encouraging him to jump again so that the bad one wouldn't be his last impression.  That he could learn from the mistake he made on the first go.

No more jumping, he said.  That really hurt too much.

I accepted this.  Didn't want to push too hard.

A few hours later a group of tourists were there milling about around the jump off and Ryan came down from the house having changed out of, and then back into his swim clothes.  He made a beeline to the platform, cutting right through all the people there and stood at the edge.  "Are you going to jump?!" I yelled up to him.

He shot me with his so-very-Ryan sparkle, said "Sure!" and in the next second was airborne and splashing down.

The assembled group and myself on the periphery were all sort of taken aback by his fast, easy matter-of-factness.  We seemed to be holding our breaths together waiting to see his little head pop up.  Only, I knew what kind of stakes were riding on his facial expression.

It was a huge, proud grin!

He did it!  And even though everyone was proud with him, I was the absolute proudest because he pushed past his fear and did it again and he gained the tremendous reward of knowing that about himself.

He came out and we high fived and high tenned (is it one N or two?) and I told him how proud I was for him.  He marched right back up those stairs and jumped again.  And again.  And again.  It was something like six times in a row.

And several more times throughout the remainder of the day.  Even when, in his words, he was starting to lose his confidence.

Even after another unfortunate belly-flop, from which he surfaced crying in pain.

This was the spark of another hours long, ebbing-flowing conversation about how we can learn from our mistakes.  The conclusion of which was late in the day - when the sun was that thick, rich golden yellow - and Ryan was on his tummy on the swing over the river, sparkling right alongside the water around us and saying to me:

"You know, mom? I think mistakes are probably better than success, because you learn so much more from them."

You know what, Ryan?  I think you're right.  

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Where did I come from?

When I was about nine, my father presented me with The Facts Of Life in the form of a book with the same title as this blog post.  I don't remember details, but I can tell you it's a story told by a sperm on it's way to fertilize an egg.  I think it may have even been wearing a bow tie, you know, to be gentleman-like and all that... I guess. (Here's the book on Amazon.)   I was left to conclude that a bow tie wearing sperm was exchanged between my parents (illustrated as two chubby-ish light skinned people making hearts escape from under the covers) and nine months later - voila! - here I was...

What's funny is that a few days ago in the middle of social time with my parents, temporarily living together in the same house* (as me!!!) - a true rarity (and I'm talking endangered species rare) - I found myself asking The Mister "Where did I come from?"  Me with my everything-opposite-to-everything-they're-about self.   There I was really looking at my parents, thinking about how different I feel from them, and their hopes and expectations of me.  It just doesn't add up.

You see, my mother is decidedly conservative and will likely vote as such - ;as90kP:znvae3[3asuf=m excuse me, I just had a shiver - in the upcoming election. Nothing against my mom.  It's Rrrr.... Rrrr... you know who I mean - that gives me the heebies.  Still, she was pretty non-conservative in her younger days: a party animal, a little bit of a thrill seeker, and pre-marriage conceiver of me.  So there's that.  It would ultimately be the Straight And Narrow road for her though.

My father?  He's what many in a previous generation would call "a real character".  He's the limelight guy:  life of the party, joke teller, friends with everyone everywhere and all that.  My father is the good times maker.

My love of adventure, jokes and laughing, parties and a good time: it's easy to see where I got those traits.  And, of course, the requisite looking "exactly" like whichever parent the observer happens to know very well.   The rest of it?  The challenge EVERYthingness?  The piercing, hair dyeing, feminist, humanist, animal rights advocate, pro-choice, left wing, everybody has a right to the opportunity for a good life, partially atheistic, would-be hippie me?  I tried the Straight and Narrow, but it didn't stick.  A bit like water off a duck's back, that was.  

Where in the holy gene pool did this whole me come from, exactly? 

I have a theory.  But it sounds pretty kooky so it's hard to say.  And I don't really care if you think I'm kooky so here it is.

My great grandmother, when she was about 15 years old, announced to her sisters one night that when they awoke the next morning, she'd be gone.  They didn't believe her.  But it didn't matter or change the fact that the next day, she was indeed gone - all the way to CUBA to elope with a man she was not supposed to love and definitely not marry - a black (non-Indian) man.  (The scandal!)  She lived there for a number of years, giving birth to my grandfather and grand uncle there and, a little later returning to Jamaica - all of her family fluent in Spanish.  

I believe that Estriana - maker of her own damn path thank you very much, passed her thatness on to me.  It makes me wish I could have really known her when she was young and rejecting the status quo.  It makes me feel like she lives on in me.  

It goes without saying that I love my parents very much.  It's kind of nice to get a sense, too, of how even their parents and grand parents have had an influence on who I am.

In this way, immortality comes alive.

* My parents were in the same house because my mom came for a visit to Jamaica at the same time as me and she also stayed at my dad's house.