Seven Year Olds Make Trenchant Observations

FrancescaThe seven year-old niece sits on the couch with wet hair, a puppy dog smirk swaddled in a blanket. Mother and I talk about my plans, the future.

“So, you got a job. How long will you be there?” she asks.

“Six months, maybe ten, depends on how much I can save.”

“And where are you going next?”

“I don’t know, Mom, it’s really a terrible dilemma,” I tell her.

“Sure, terrible indeed,” she smiles. Mom and I have grown into a mutually supporting friendship over the last two years. And it certainly has been timely. We spent several years not speaking to each other, both too stubborn to admit that we were remotely more similar in our temperaments than either cared to admit. Mom stood on principle and I stood on petulance. But even as a thirty-something I learned a great deal from her example. Never the touchy-feeley type, her actions proved love and support. Mom always taught by example. Would that I had seen this sooner. But now, she’s more supportive of my endeavors than I ever imagined.

“It’s your life,” she always says, “live it and enjoy it.” Her actions back up her words.

“I keep thinking I need to go see penguins. Head down through Central America, then South America and finally Antarctica. But you know what Mom? My heart just isn’t in it. Sure, I need to hit below the equator. But Latin America isn’t for me.”

“But you had fun in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, right? And as I recall, surfing in Mexico was a blast,” she says.

“No doubt. But my internal compass just points East, hard East, too. Not necessarily the Far East,” I said, waving off her next comment, “but just East. Somewhere between Istanbul and Beijing, or Java in the South to Mongolia in the North. Something keeps dragging my heart that way, my thoughts, my ideas,” I say.

“You and the East,” she nods her head up and down. “That complicates things doesn’t it?”

“You’ve always been good with the understatement, Mom, haven’t you?”

“You remember how much I cried the day you flew off to South Korea?” she asks.

“Yeah, I remember. I was really surprised.”

“I felt like I was watching Paul leave for Vietnam. He had something in him about Asia as well. And so did your grandfather. He fought in the Korean War. I was scared. Nibbi men tend to get shot up or killed in Asia like your Uncle Paul,” she tells me.

“I can’t explain it, Mom, there is just something there for me. I feel more alive there than anywhere else. I’m engaged. I’m always fascinated. And I wake up in the morning never knowing what is going to happen that day,” I told her.

“Ghosts,” she whispers as the shadow of an old grief walks across her face. I fumble, uncomfortably, in my cigarette box for a smoke. The seven year old scowls at me.

“What are you looking at, little one?” I asked.

“I want to know when you are going to buy a house. Get a wife. Be normal!” she says.

“Gigi!” she says to my Mom, all a-smirk, “Grandpa says he’s irresponsible.”

I shake my head. And poke her.

“Chessa!” my mom says, “you’re uncle is a traveler. What’s normal for him is not normal for others.”

Elise, the nine-year old walks into the room, rubbing her eyes.

“Nothing about Uncle Sean Paul is normal,” she blurts as she slams the door to the bathroom.

Who could disagree with that assessment?

A True Story; Or When My Little Sister Renounced Her Faith At Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving“We’ve renounced Catholicism,” said my little sister, arms around my nieces. The family, congregating for Thanksgiving Dinner, was astonished. Used to outbursts like this from my little sister, this one surprised us all. And she was serious.

My mom just shook her head back and forth.

Her cousin, the current patriarch of the family put his head in his hands.

“Cool,” said his renegade quasi-reformed hippy wife. “It’s all downhill with Benedict anyway.”

My nieces both smiled. The youngest, Francesca, sat up straight and said proudly, “we’re Pastafarians now.”

“You’re devoted to the God of noodles now?” I asked her.

“No,” said my sister, “Rastafarian.”

“That makes me feel sooo much better,” said my bewildered mom.

“Mom,” she said in a defensive tone, “Rastafarians believe in the Trinity. And that god, whom we call Jah, will provide.”

Our ninety year-old matriarch chimed in.

“But what about Baptism for the girls?”

“Oh, we do that,” my sister said.

“What, with bong water?”