That is the name of the baby a friend of mine is waiting to bring into the world at any moment. I have been thinking a lot about this lovely word, the Spanish for “island,” and have concluded that it’s the perfect name for a baby because birth sets us adrift. She comes and lifts your anchor and you are off to sea, just the parents and that baby in one little boat. Even among partners, within your family, there are times when you’re all in your own vessels, sailing close but separately, a wobbly fleet of love.
That is why no one can quite understand new mothers in those early days or weeks. That is why any and all advice you receive, and there is lots of it, is barely intelligible, as if it were being shouted across some vast space from a distant, unimaginable world. It is. It’s coming to you across the water. It can be comforting or even useful, but the fact remains that no one knows what’s going on in your own boat but you and the captain.
The captain is not you, by the way. Your baby has a plan for you, and you are along for the ride. In my view of things, parenthood doesn’t start with birth. Not all of it, at least. It phases in, like childproofing. Many, many months down the road, your child will do or say something that requires a stern retort, and you will come to as if out of a fog, and think, Oh, shit! It’s starting! But that’s later. For now, just ride. You are there to comfort and sing and feel your way in the dark and bail the ship out of the many fluids of newborn babydom, but you are not calling the shots. Not yet.
Every time I get to New York City, the first thing I want to do, right after I set down my suitcase, is run. It seems like the only appropriate response to a place with so much gorgeous ground to cover, so much energy steaming up through the grates. Twenty minutes after I got off the subway this time around, I was huffing and puffing my way through Central Park in the fresh, sunny sweetness of a spring I hadn’t earned, happy as a clam. The words bouncing through my head like a mantra as my feet slapped Stateside sidewalks were “juntos pero no revueltos. Juntos pero no revueltos.”
Juntos pero no revueltos is an egg-inspired expression: together, but not scrambled. Together, but still independent. It’s used to describe that need for breathing room and independence in a romantic relationship, friendship, or most any situation. It’s been on my mind because I’ve been dreading this trip, only my third of any kind away from you, and the longest. I’ve been dread our un-scrambling, however temporary. Continue reading Traveling while parenting (juntos pero no revueltos)
Woo-woo uh-oh hot wow tick-tock pat up hi ok shoes ¡gooooool!
Quack daddy moo cat cold shoes socks eyes shh!
No, that’s not a drunken, New Year’s Eve haiku. Those were your first twenty-five words, as faithfully recorded by yours truly in the back of the little black-and-gold notebook I kept on you this year. They are on my mind tonight as you watch Mickey Mouse, I drink my beloved afternoon coffee, and the last traces of sunlight die away on this last day of 2014, a year to which I hate to bid farewell. After all, this was the year in which you learned to walk, run, and wear a full, upside-down bowl of cheesy spaghetti as a hat. Most of all, it was the year you learned to talk. Continue reading Famous last words (hablando paja part II)
My dear daughter: I may be getting a little ahead of myself, since you haven’t yet learned how to put on socks, but here are a few thoughts on relationships – in case they still exist when you are an adult and have not yet become an app of some kind. (Here you’ll say, “App? Man, she is SO OLD.”)
At the heart of Costa Rican language and, in many ways, the heart of the way your father talks, is the word “mae.” A little like “man” (as in “hey, man”), a little like “dude” (in a certain time and place), with complex origins and rules of use I won’t get into here, it is the way many Costa Rican men – and, from what I’ve seen, some women in specific contexts – address each other. I call your dad El Mae, or El Mejor Mae que Hay. Before you were born, we called you “la maecilla.” It’s actually engraved inside my wedding ring, as a bit of a joke. I kept trying to think of something to put in there that would capture the feel of us in a few characters. When the woman told me to just put your dad’s initials, I smiled and gave them to her: M. A. E. Continue reading Of maes and men*
Our neighborhood is usually quiet on Sunday morning, but this past Sunday it was as solemn and still as a church. As I trotted down the hill to start my run, I could hear the hushed voices of the altar guild, the barmen of Garros Bar, who behind their barricaded doors were cleaning glasses and righting overturned bottles after an insanely prosperous evening. I huffed and puffed up the hill beyond, past houses of Ticos dreaming of Jesus Christ – the Cristo de Río de Janeiro, that is, to whose photo someone added a Costa Rican soccer jersey in an image circulated widely on Facebook the night before. As I settled into the rest of my usual route, I realized that on this Father’s Day, men all over the country were waking up, looking skywards, clasping their hands in prayer, and thanking God for the best gift they could possibly have imagined. Continue reading The Fearless Ones (futbolísticamente hablando)