Living in Limericks

poetry and experiences of a multi-cultural family

When Life Gives You Lemons, March With Lemon Bars

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Feeling strong and feminine

We add the juice of a lemon in

A bowl of sweetness

And mix to completeness

Cause there IS room in the inn

Dear Maya,

One chilly January evening, as our salmon dinner was baking, and your Auntie was over for a visit, you proved, once again, to be quite perceptive.  At first, I failed to notice you removing all of your clothes in the middle of our living room, as my eyes were fixated on the TV. Barak Obama was giving his farewell speech, after eight years of presidency. It wasn’t until I heard the rip of your diaper being torn off that I turned my head. Slightly confused, I watched, as you galloped toward the TV, lifted your arms and shouted “Thank you so much!” I smiled, grateful for your spirit, as you gracefully turned and pranced toward the stairs, laying down on one side, staring at the floor in silence. You captured my mood perfectly. You have my heart.

Yesterday, someone new became president. There is a lot of confusion going on in many people’s hearts right now. I think that you are sensing that, although we are trying our best to be mindful of how much this all affects you, my sweet girl.  Instead of watching the TV that day, we baked. Lemon Bars. Ferociously, like wild women. I have a lot to learn myself, as your mama. How am I going to talk with you about race throughout your lifetime? How will I protect you from the discrimination many people are facing right now? What will I say, when all I want to do, should do, is listen? Knowing that I’ll never understand what it feels like to have your beautiful brown skin, how can I validate what you feel? How will I respond, when I witness prejudice, direct or indirect, happening because of the color of your skin? The questions every white mother of a black child is asking themselves right now. The questions we should all, as Americans, be asking ourselves right now. I am sitting still with this uncertainty, praying that I will have strength to always speak up, and to make good decisions about how to educate myself, in order to respond in ways that lift you up throughout your life.

Today, millions of women and men march peacefully for human rights, worldwide from Ghana to Germany to Antarctica!  Diaper bag stocked with fishy crackers and Elmo stickers, Nike’s laced up, we are out the door, ready to head to the Seattle March, when I notice the driveways of our richly diverse cul-de-sac are full of parked cars. I pause. Perhaps our day will have just as much meaning, if not more, if we pay visits to our neighborhood families instead. So, Maya, you and I proudly march  137th Place, with pink hats atop our heads, bringing smiles and lemon bars to our neighbors. You have no idea the impact of your smile. But I do, and proudly witness it today.

Paper plate of lemon bars in hand, you march right up to the home of Maria and Luis, a friendly Mexican couple with two daughters away at college. On their front porch, you say hello to a large statue of Mary, who is surrounded by bouquets of flowers. When Maria opens the door and sees you standing there holding the treats you made for them, her face lights up. The Golden Oldies are playing and the smell of bacon and eggs floats in the air, as we are invited in for coffee. It isn’t long before the conversation turns toward yesterday’s events, and our smiles straighten as the worry lines between our eyebrows define themselves. Luis finds it confusing how a person who speaks so cruelly about women, could become our president, as he glances towards a photo on the wall of his two daughters. Maria finds it confusing how a person with a history of bankruptcy and dishonest business practice, let alone no experience, could become president. But then you smile and wiggle on the sofa, and La Bamba plays, lifting our spirits. We talk about planning a Block Party this summer for everyone living on our fabulously diverse street, before marching onward to the next house.

He is outside with his brother-in-law, five cars in their small driveway, and another parked against the sidewalk nearby. It’s a side job, fixing up broken cars and selling them, so he can afford to give his family a decent home, food, education. Ali’s brother owns the house. We met him when we first moved here, as he ran across the cul-de-sac to help unload a refrigerator into our garage. But he’s in Iraq now to be with their father who is dying of cancer. Ali smiles and gratefully accepts the lemon bars you hand him. I’m just as grateful, that he is not afraid to discuss politics with me, an American blondie standing in his driveway with foreign baked goods. Ali finds it confusing how a person who defines all Muslims as terrorists, could become our president. His soft-spoken brother-in-law finally shares what is on his mind, that radical groups are killing his people too, and why don’t Americans realize who started the whole mess in the first place? I assure him that after living in the Middle East myself, and keeping myself educated with as much unbiased information as I can, I understand. His face relaxes a little bit and I get a smile. I explain the saying “When life hands you lemons..” as they nod in agreement, when suddenly the brother-in-law’s eyes light up. “Lemons? You like lemons? Wait here, I have for you.” He disappears behind the cars for a minute and returns with two orangey-lemoney- looking fruits. He’s not sure what they are called in English, but explains how to eat this Iraqi fruit, purchased at an Arabic shop in Everett. Cut it into small pieces and sprinkle some salt on top, he explains proudly with a toothy grin. You reach for the fruit and try to bite the peel, but we all tell you to wait until you get home to eat it. Happy with our lemon-exchange, we march on, a little more connected.

Barb, maybe because her house is pink, or because she let you come in to see her Christmas village collection, or because she smiles a lot- you love her. Barb works for a trucking company, is easy to talk to, and enjoys getting to know her neighbors. She opens the door and invites us in right away. Her friend is sitting on the sofa, their weekly visit before they go to church together. The house smells sweet; she’s made a “practice cake” for her parents 60th anniversary party she will host in a couple of weeks.We talk about your cute outfit, Daisy the dog’s toy collection, my job teaching from home, and the amazing turnout of today’s marches. Barb and I find it confusing how someone who makes fun of a person with a disability, could become our president. You talk in an excited squeaky voice about all the little pieces of Pam’s Christmas village. A few more kisses from Daisy and we’re off.

Marching up a few steps, we knock on the door of our neighbors who have come to live here from Ethiopia, a mother and her son Abel. Abel answers the door wearing a shirt that says, “Someone who loves me very much went to Israel and brought me this t-shirt.” He immediately grins and holds your hand, scrunching his face toward you says, “you’re so cute!” You give him a little smirk. He takes the treats you’ve made, and tells us his mom is in the shower, so we trust he will share those lemon bars, and tell him we will see her later.

We march to the house of Herman, who you call Snowman. An African American man, he greets us with a jolly “hello!” and let’s us know he’s got to run to a meeting. I tell him, “We made you these, in light of recent events, because when life hands you lemons…” he interrupts in a loud voice with a big smile and a an even bigger wink, “You make lemonade!” I am awfully certain that Herman finds it confusing how someone who childishly dismisses the bravery of African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, could become our president. He thanks you, Maya, for the treat and we march on.

Our Vietnamese neighbors who live next door are not home, so we leave a note with their treats on the porch, and march home. When participating in such events, it’s important to rest. So, at home, we join Miyu and Sibyl, for some lemon bars of our own. As international students living with us from Japan and China, your “sisters” are hearing a lot in the news, at school, and their parents shake their heads as they talk about yesterday’s news over Skype. Their families are worried, because they don’t know what our new president will do. They explain how Obama met with Japanese leaders, to pray together at Pearl Harbor.  But they worry about what will happen now. You lounge on the living room floor with pillows and blankies, snuggled between your sisters, making their lives sweeter just by being there.

When Daddy gets home from work, you run to him for a hug and demand a game of “Set and Go!” where you race around the kitchen together. The kitchen. The place where you started a movement by simply turning lemons into lemon bars.

As you lay upstairs in your cozy bed dreaming of Maria’s laugh, Daisy the doggy, and Ali’s lemony-orangey-fruits of Iraq, I sit here at my computer feeling a teeny tiny bit of regret that we didn’t join the millions who marched in solidarity today. But then, I realize, that’s exactly what we did today, in our own little community. And I’m proud of us. And of all those who marched today. Thank you, Maya Lesedi, for bringing so much light into this world. You are our hope.

All My Love,

Mama

*Dear Reader: Thank you for being here, for engaging in this post, especially if it made you feel uncomfortable. I hope we begin to reflect on and ask ourselves, what it might feel like right now, for each individual person in our family, in our neighborhood, in our country and world. I welcome thoughtful discussion that seeks to learn and connect, rather than prove and divide. March on!

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One thought on “When Life Gives You Lemons, March With Lemon Bars

  1. Thank You, Heidi and Maya! This is a wonderful sharing. Which Auntie was ‘over for a sharing’ ? Love you all. Sr. Mary Ellen

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