When the Rodriguez family moved into the little white house one block over, I felt an instant kinship with them. Both of our houses had parking lots on the north side, which made an instant thoroughfare for delivery trucks during the day and drunken college students at night, weaving their way home from the bars downtown. Before they moved in, I fought against and then had to watch the type of development that pushes out families in favor of business (white business). One caualty of a rezoning battle I did not win was that the backyard of that little white house was raised and made into a parking lot. Trees fell to be replaced by hot asphalt, the long ago memory of a solstice fire in that backyard when a friend and her son lived there no longer prompted by the sunken shady yard. At the time of the rezoning, one of Mike’s skateboarding friends and his Mom rented it, and I’d sometimes wave to the mom soaking her feet in a little wading pool under the tree. But after the rezoning they moved out, and, of course, my most cynical self surmised, the owners rented it to the Rodriquez family, who were too busy working to enjoy the luxury of a backyard they hadn’t known was there before, and probably for the same rent.

So I made it a point to wave to anyone who was outside and to introduce myself to Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez, who at the time, both worked at the Mexican restaurant a couple more blocks away downtown, a common destination of those walking through the corridor of asphalt next to our houses. They didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Spanish, but Mrs. Rodriguez and I were able to determine we had the same first name, which brought an instant familiarity and easy smile.

The Rodriguez family had 3 children. We’ll call them Alicia, Roberto, and Tommy. Alicia was a beautiful girl already headed to high school, who had her own set of friends and goals. Then came Roberto, about nine at the time, and his little brother Tommy, about 4 years old. I would stop and talk to the kids, too, if they were out in the yard. I introduced them to Romeo and showed them which house I lived in.

One fall day there was a knock on my front door. Roberto was there, asking me if he could have a job raking my leaves (which definitely needed to be raked). That was the beginning of a years long friendship in which I got to watch him grow up into a young man. But that afternoon, he was a little boy trying hard to rake a mountain of leaves, who also needed someone to talk to. I told him he did not need to do a job to come over, he could visit any time he wanted, and if I was tired or busy, I would let him know, and he could come back another time.

So he would come over, and tell me about school, about his life, how he didn’t have many friends yet, what video games he liked to play and that he wanted to be a professional basketball player or join the army. I would question him about how he was doing in school and the teacher part of me would push him to do better at reading. Sometimes I’d offer to help him with a homework assignment if he asked or let him look something up on my computer if he needed to. Sometimes he would have Tommy in tow, and sometimes, later on, he would bring his cousin Jose, who was already in high school and came to stay with them from Arizona.

The three of them would sometimes sit on the couch and I would sit in the rocking chair and we would chat (well, mostly Roberto would chat, he was the extrovert of the family) and then I would say, well, I need to take a nap now, so I’m going to kick you out, in my good natured way, and we’d all giggle, because they always knew they could come back.

One of my fondest memories of the three of them and maybe another cousin is the summer day I invited them all over to pick from my profusion of raspberry bushes. Tommy in particular had been waiting and waiting until the berries were ripe, because I had shown him how they needed to be red first and then they would come right off without pulling. I still can see them all there at the back fence with their containers and me, crazy garden lady, reminding them “to think like a berry,” and how delighted Tommy was when he saw that what I said was true about how easy they were to pick when they were ripe.

Over the years, Roberto came to confide in me about his life at school and at home, and I got to be a happy witness to his social blossoming when he decided to try out and join the wrestling team– and witness to how he was accepted and encouraged by the coach and the other boys, who became his set of friends, and went to tournaments and began winning matches. This became an impetus for him to finish assignments and read assignments so he could stay on the team. Every once in a while if I was about to eat he’d stay for dinner. I remember one time he was fascinated and delighted to try a completely vegan meal with me. He confided in me when his parents split. He confided in me that though his older sister Alicia and Tommy were born in the US, he had been born in Mexico.

Jose would finish high school in Moscow. He was a quiet, languid and tall boy who loved animals and had a special connection to Romeo. He wanted to work for a vet. He was a dreamy kid, I liked him a lot, and he may also have been a Dreamer. For his graduation, I gave him the book Vatos, a collaboration between Pulitzer Prize winning photographer José Galvez and poet Luis Alberto Urrea that celebrates Chicano manhood, to show how proud I was of him. After that he went on to other relatives. The strength of that family network across miles and countries and states held all those kids–which always made my heart glad. It helped me to reassure myself they would stay safe and be able to live their lives here as the Americans they really were.

The last time I saw Roberto before I left Moscow, I had moved away from Asbury Street. But we ran into each other in the park near there while I was walking Romeo. He was about to graduate, all grown up, I think with a wrestling scholarship, and he introduced me to his girlfriend. It was a moment of happiness he wanted to share with me at his social and academic success as he entered adulthood. We parted with much love and gratitude between us.

By the time I moved away from Moscow, the term Dreamer had been coined, and I was acutely aware that Roberto was one, as the harsh inhumane policies about immigration were starting to ramp up more publicly. So always, as this current administration made senseless war on such a wonderful vibrant community of young people, and immigrants in general, one of my  prayers is always that wherever he is now may it be somewhere here in this country that’s safe for him, and that he’s living a good life. And that his family is too.

Today, when I read the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold DACA, I cheered out loud. I immediately thought of those days when these kids would come over, for friendship, for affirmation and conversation, for support and, in summer, for raspberries.  It made my life better that they were in it for that time.  It makes our life better as a country when we work to make sure they remain a vibrant healthy and equal part of it.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

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Back in the time when I went to the grocery store in person, one of my favorite things to do if I had been efficient with my time in the grocery aisles, would be to migrate over to the far end of the store where the plant nursery lives. I was reminded how much I loved being there when the rain bounces off the huge greenhouse roof a few weeks ago when the neighbor who now picks up our groceries had a few minutes to walk the greenhouse and put me on facetime so I could pick out a few plants. It was pouring rain outside and so I got to hear that wonderful timpani through her phone.

The other place on the far side of the store that used to summon me has now been discontinued. There used to be yarn in a craft aisle, and when I began to loom knit last year I would gravitate to that as well. They started to discontinue it around the time I started to learn how, so for a few weeks there was heavily discounted yarn for sale. Some of the first things I made I made with the yarn I found on clearance–little children’s hats and toys mostly to send to the migrant children seeking refuge at the border. But there was one buttery bright yellow, the one you see above, that I never used. I was drawn to the beautiful soft buttery texture and color, but also compelled to save it for something special, though I knew not what. I came across an easy pattern for something called a cocoon, which is basically a long body sock a baby can feel comfy in. I thought about knitting it to send to RAICES along with the hats and toys they ask for, but still, I waited.

A couple of weeks ago I learned that my son and daughter-in-law’s plans and training to become foster and hopefully some day adoptive parents came to fruition all in a flash. The training, the paperwork, the home visits, the vetting with more paperwork seemed interminable and in fact took almost two years. And then, when that was finally winding down, the pandemic hit full bore. They had provided respite care for school age kids and enjoyed it, but those kind of  temporary arrangements and outings were now out of the question.

Then, all at once, a very new little person needed care and love. I’m not able to give details about this little person for safety’s sake, but my heart is full to announce that my son and daughter-in-law have become foster parents. While I haven’t yet met Very New Little Person in person, I am enchanted and overcome with love each day by the photos, videos and facetime visits we now share, as I watch Very New Little Person thrive and grow under the loving care of two of my favorite people in the world. It is a blessing beyond words to have such a miracle unfold in our family at this time.

So I got out that yellow yarn. I found the cocoon pattern and I began to knit. I sang songs into the stitches. I took it outside when the sun was shining so I could knit the sunlight, the birdsong, and the breeze through the branches into it. And I spent a long time trying to figure out how to get the postal service to pick up a box with it and a few other loom knitted goodies inside to send to them.

It turns out Very New Little person feels snug as a bug in a rug in that buttery yellow cocoon. It helps them back to sleep when they need to be snuggled in. I can’t be there to hold Very New Little Person myself yet, so for now I think of it like a continuous knitted yellow hug to be nestled in and I look at the pictures of said very little person doing just that with my heart deep in wonder and love.

So much is in unpredictable and often dangerous yet creative flux right now, as we stand up for justice and peace for black people so at last we can truly have justice for all; that no one will be harmed or degraded or brutalized for who they are. We must strive to be the best humans we can learn to be, and wake up to what we have ignored or misunderstood or simply looked away from because we could. Throughout my life I have committed myself to that learning curve, and I recommit myself to it in these times. In the midst of all the change in process, the safe harbor our family is giving this very little person is a powerful reminder of the triumphant strength of love and tenderness and care and its unfailing commitment to ensure we thrive and grow. It’s a well I am ever grateful to be able to give to and to drink from.

I share what I can here to remind you to look, as Mr. Roger’s Mother once told him to do in frightening times, for the helpers. They are there, all around us, and inside us, too, out on the front lines of protest, and in the spaces where people move in to help after, and the places where the police and the protestors come together. In every kind gesture we find the courage to love,  and we become the true beings of love that we are. Let’s be helpers birthing a better world. There are a lot of very new little people depending on that.

Maria (moonwatcher)

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Becoming an Agate

May 5, 2020

I would have walked right past it, but just as I was stepping into a patch of early morning sun on the still mostly shaded beach, I happened to look down and see a somewhat ordinary pocked gray rock look as if it had a galaxy on the top of it. OOOooo! I breathed in […]

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Vegan No Oil Lemon Cake (for Rachel)

April 10, 2020

Maybe it was in response to the surprise of a large organic lemon inside the box of organic produce I ordered from Gathering Together Farm a couple of weeks ago, or maybe it was the approach of the Easter Holiday. Maybe it was the kind of memory my thoughts turn to when I spend a […]

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Homage To My Hands

April 6, 2020

The other day I was washing my hands for the umpteenth time when a tenderness came over me. Instead of trying to sing the 20 second song I came across in the New York Times or bitching to myself about the revolving door I can get into (hands in warm water cue the bladder which […]

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Where Love Abides (and Spilled Stars)

March 24, 2020

Last night right before turning off my lap top I came across this article, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” which resonated deeply with what I’d been grappling with earlier in the day and hashing out with a wise friend of mine. It put me in mind, too, of this very fine skeleton of a […]

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Until We Meet Again

March 14, 2020

For the last couple of weeks we have been planning to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday out here on the coast. A few days ago I finished her a loom knit gift (no spoilers beyond that allowed) and shopped for the ingredients for the decadent dessert you see above. (Go to Cherry Chocolate Mousse Pie  at […]

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The Hope of Poppies (and Orange Almond No Oil Granola)

March 13, 2020

As most of you know, I make my meals by the seat of my pants these days, and my recipe posts are usually guided by tasty epiphanies and not carefully remade and tested over and over again to make sure of consistency. But this granola is different. After having to buy some over the holidays […]

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Two Ways To Look At A Rainbow

February 24, 2020

Last Sunday Cotton and I went down to the beach in the late afternoon to play for a bit in the wind, next to the rising tide. We had a spirited few minutes down on the sand playing with Cotton’s “toy” (a twisted rope knotted at both ends that he treats like prey) and made […]

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Anniversary Note: To The Ones I Love

February 14, 2020

Today, February 14, 2020, is my “twin” MS anniversary: 24 years ago today, I received the diagnosis of MS, and 12 years ago today, I began my official start on a low fat whole food plant-based lifestyle. I wanted to “remake” the anniversary of the diagnosis into something positive, transformative, and life giving. To make […]

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