Tuesday, November 17, 2009

turn and face the strange

Sometimes I think I'm walking around, living my normal life, but I find myself catching my breath as if I'd just been punched in the stomach. That's how I've felt these past couple weeks, doing the same whirl of parties and classes and work and adventures and, all the while, grinding my teeth and waking up with crashing headaches.

Geni's teacher at school does not seem to get her, does not seem to want her and, in fact, may actively dislike her. It's a shock when, the last two years, her teachers loved her deeply and she them, but I try to remember how very few teachers understood or even noticed me. It was part of my mission as a teacher, to look the traditionally overlooked students in the eye, to get to know them so I could recommend a book at the library to them or remember their birthdays.

Geni's just four, after all, this is preschool, it should all be games and songs and happiness. And the funny thing is I think it is, a lot of the time, happy days at school for Geni. Just not for her teacher. Geni has speech delays and motor skill delays. She's also mischievous, this I know. But can't her teacher see all the love she has, and the joy and the creativity? It sucks the air out of me to think about this.

I tell myself it is better to know the situation and move forward, so I am. I've found a lovely school for Geni and am hoping Geni and her teachers will find common ground.

I'm too tangled in emotions to dwell on this now but, someday, I'll write about this with some order and some insight, and hopefully I will sound wise instead of lost.

It's times like these where a sister could come in handy, to remind me not to sit in my soup and moan about it, to remember that it is Geni's perspective, not mine, that truly, deeply matters in situations like this.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's a thin line between

Dia de los Muertos has come and gone. My third one here in Oaxaca, but it felt so different this time around. I understood more, for one thing, particularly some of the symbolism behind the altar objects and the stories behind the folkloric figures.

But there's something else, too, and it has to do with how terribly slow I am to feel part of what's around me. I watch and watch and definitely enjoy describing what I see and hear, but fully participating requires another leap.

So it was somewhere in the midst of the calenda processional with the brass band and my dear friend Liz hissing dance instructions to me that I realized I had become what I typically observe. We were jumping and spinning, with kids dressed as death, devils and skeletons winding around us, and I saw the cameras pointed at us.

Max noticed it, too, while playing and dancing at the San Felipe cemetery. "Mommy, the people took movies of me!"

There's always a kind of limbo in being here, stretched between two cultures, really not fully immersed in either one, and it takes something as beautiful and enveloping as Day of the Dead to make me forget to be an outsider.

Perhaps it was Alba welcoming me to sit at his ofrenda, a gravesite he and his family decorated with symbols representing fire, water, earth, the living and the dead, and the narrow lines between all of them. Maybe it was the red wine! The swirl of goings-on and the constant music and flowers and candles and copal incense began to feel like something out of a painting, or maybe a dream. It reminded me of an Aztec belief that life is just a dream and only upon death do we awake.

If so, I imagine Jenny on the other side of that thin line of flower petals, a line that a puff of wind or a bit of water could blur or break, even if it's just for one night.