The Story of my Life

I can’t write about all the things I wish to write about, but it has been HELL at work.

It’s not the kids (it is never the kids).

You know the burdens if you have carried them. Weights of national, state, and school district policies that bear down on our daily instruction. Weights of internal decisions that are never made with the voice of a teacher who sits each day with those kids. Weights of parents who sometimes don’t have any idea what it’s like to gather, with full attention, the love of thirty-two strangers. Every. Day.

And here we are, Friday Night Lights, chasing our peaks.

The sun is setting later now, and our ski seasons are coming to an end. I can’t even write the sentence without crying.

Because skiing is a luxury afforded to rich white people, which we have been for exactly four years and nine months.

Because this is our last little weekend getaway for a long time.

Because whenever we open our home, it seems like the world closes its doors.

But check out this sauna:

It comes at the very affordable $94 rate for the singular queen-size bed and free breakfast, just 47 minutes from the closest free parking lot (shuttle to the slopes).

It comes quickly and too hot and it feels amazing on my too-cold skin. My skin that has shivered for a week with news I don’t want to carry.

It is the story of every American. That, even with two raises, even after a teachers’ strike, even after committing seventeen years to a profession, I cannot afford to pay for my house or my bills on a singular salary.

It is the story of my husband who can fix anything you ever asked for with his hands, from laying a hardwood floor to replacing a toilet to connecting fiber optic wires to fully cleaning the impossibly-dirty grout in my parents’ bathroom… But who did not earn a degree, only four years of service to this God Bless America Country that has done nothing other than save us from down payments on properties.

It is the story of health insurance that we will either no longer have or can no longer pay for because I make too much to qualify for Medicaid but shouldn’t I provide shelter for the four children living under my roof?

It is the story of my life.

And we have less than three months to figure out exactly how to win these mountains back.

 

 

 

Inquilinos

My Rohingya refugee who could not read or write in Burmese (but learned somewhat decent verbal English from the militia who murdered his parents) had to quit school, after just three months, to work full time at a chocolate factory.

My Honduran and Salvadoran refugees live lives in limbo waiting for court hearings that are mostly clouded in misery with threats of deportation.

My son awaits the opportunity to work while his cousin, his only nearby family, has to move from state to state working roofing jobs with no options for permanency because of his lack of papers and English skills.

Meanwhile, 20,000 people stood in line in 8-degree weather this morning to support our president, just down the road from my house, claiming his stance on immigration is one of the most important policies they support.

These white people (it’s always fucking white people) are simply fulfilling their American dream: If it works for me, it’s fine. Fuck everyone else.

And he isn’t my son. I was reminded of this last night when DHS came and told me that we can’t send so much money home to his destitute family, that he cannot leave the state for more than seven days (forget our three-week family vacation), that he must take extra English classes and study a vocation and be an independent tenant.

Not an eighteen-year-old boy whose vision was so focused on running for a train to escape abuse and poverty that he couldn’t see much beyond that journey. He just knew that here was the goal, here with all the money in the world… here with all the opportunities in the world… and screaming, raging racists waiting behind every third door, anxious to keep those things from people like him.

I didn’t know the Spanish word for tenant, so after the meeting, when I was explaining all the depressing news to him, I pulled up Google Translate and couldn’t help but be immediately disturbed by its interpretation: inquilino.

The word sounds wrong to me, like a sour slice of lime in my mouth, a cottony accusation. So similar to inquietude. On the same list as inquiline: an animal that lives habitually in the nest or abode of some other species. Its origins in Chile speak of servitude… submission… slavery.

“We can’t have you taking our money for a vacation. This isn’t a handout.”

I’m not asking for a handout. I already had the entire trip booked and paid for, and he could easily fit in the backseat of my Honda Pilot and lay his eyes on Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Puget Sound, places he may never be able to see otherwise, but… OK.

I won’t use your fucking handout to take a sliver of his summer for three weeks of adventure and joy.

I won’t ever see my Rohingya refugee again because he will be working twelve-hour shifts for minimum wage for the rest of his life so that people can buy a box of chocolates for their Valentine.

My husband could lose his job at any moment because he works for a corporation, like all other corporations that are part of the white American dream, that overpays its CEOs and lays off its workers to cut costs.

But the economy is great, right? And with Democratic infighting led by billionaire Bloomberg, it sure feels like that crowd of 20,000 standing in the cold is going to win this election. So we are in for another four years of heartbreak.

We are all inquilinos. Tenants in houses not owned by us, in jobs not guaranteed to us, in a country that owns us because we are not allowed to own it.

Inquilinos. Inquietude. Indefinite. Inmigrantes.

And it would be nice if we could just be human.

 

 

 

 

Marriage. That Is What We Do.

He doesn’t tell me over the phone when I call him on Valentine’s night to ask for the wifi password for the cabin we’re staying at. Not after twenty minutes of Google-Siri-searching for how to share a password so our son can call his real parents at the appointed 8-o’clock time, something impossible to do without WhatsApp or wifi in this middle-of-nowhere mountain town.

He doesn’t make me a card or buy me flowers.

The next day, when three of us return from a bluebird ski day, he tells me he has started the taxes, but that he was tired, his back hurt, and he got discouraged and bored.

I make a list in my head of what he hasn’t done: thought of what to fix for dinner, gone to the store to buy the cheesecake ingredients for our daughter’s birthday, done the laundry, told the remaining-at-home-children to do some semblance of chores that would peel them away from their screens.

I take our son, alone, to the Honduran restaurant for our Valentine redo.

No one else wants to go.

On Sunday, I do all the things while Bruce visits his friend for hours. Walk the dog. Fight the weekend grocery store crowds to buy not only the cheesecake ingredients, but everything else on the list that’s accrued in the three days since we’ve visited, because with six people living under this roof, why the hell not? Start, fold, and finish three loads of laundry. Throw together the soon-to-be-cracked cheesecake and read, appallingly, that it is an eight-hour, not four-hour, cool time. Put raspberry compote on the stove to overflow for forty-five minutes. Scrub the shit out of the glass cooktop for another fifteen.

He won’t take the time to come with me to see Bernie because it took me thirteen years just to convince him to vote and another nine to push him farther left, but he still doesn’t have any faith in the future, let alone a singular politician who has spent his entire adult life fighting for people unlike himself.

He won’t come with me to waste all of our money on indoor skydiving, Izzy’s birthday gift, even though it would have been nice to have a second parent, like all the other families there, to take still shots while I took the video.

Instead he grumbles about how he wished we’d just bought the cheesecake from the New York deli instead of me making it because “You pay so that it’s perfect.”

Because mine is not.

Before he drops me at the light rail, he argues with me before reluctantly agreeing to apologize for the remark.

We go to bed with few words and wake throughout the night to the giggling screams of Izzy’s sleepover, each of us texting and yelling at her to stop.

We wake at the sound of his alarm set two hours too early.

I begin it all again. Walk the dog. Fix the breakfast. Put away the dishes.

Ten minutes before he needs to leave for work, I whimper as I say, “We only have one year left of her childhood,” and wipe tears to walk into the dining room. He follows me and pours out the brutal truth of his three-day grump.

“My boss told me on Friday that they’re going to cut four positions. No more voluntary cuts. Involuntary. Two of the positions include my job title.”

His voice cracks as he continues the long explanation of every possibility, and I see now that he has been carrying this load all weekend, fuck Valentine’s Day, fuck our daughter’s birthday, fuck all that is right with the world.

I think about what Bernie said last night, what I didn’t catch on video: “We all have families. And every family has problems. We are in this together. We are in this to think about and support everyone’s families, not just our own.”

And I know what Bruce carries is more than the likely possibility of him losing his job. It is the weight of this presidency, this evil presidency that plagues our society and keeps us from moving ahead just when we think we can move ahead.

I immediately think of two years ago when this loomed over our heads, and all the bitterness and anxiety entailed in those two months of stress and anticipation.

I think of the four years of ski passes. The six weeks in Spain. The three-four-week family vacations we have taken. The ski weekends. The going out to eat. The boy living in our basement.

And I know that all of those things combined might add up to a year of his salary if only we had saved the money.

Yet, for that one year of safety net, we had five years of living like kings after ten years of living paycheck to paycheck, and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.

I am so angry at him for not having hope. For trying to carry this weight for an entire weekend when I would have unloaded everything the moment I heard.

I am so in love with him for trying (quite pathetically) to protect me for two extra days because he knew that all I would do is spend most of the day up inside the bedroom trying to hide my tears from the girls.

Our good health insurance will be gone, and we can’t even begin to pay our mortgage on my salary, let alone everything else.

But it’s out there now. He’ll come home tonight to our magical Costco Caesar salad, wish our daughter happy birthday, and act like nothing is wrong.

And we will find a way to make this work. Because twenty-two years in, that is what we do.

Spain-exploring, childbearing, child-adopting, paycheck-to-paycheck, ski-trip, road-trip, voting-and-hoping, working-not-working, accruing-and-paying-debts…

That is what we do.

Tears or not. Silence or not. Apology or not.

That is what we do.

One year ago on Valentine's Day. We'll get there again.

Seventeen on the Seventeenth

You were born on Presidents’ Day, making me a mother. And now we celebrate seventeen years on the seventeenth, another February Monday that teases us with sun in the city, snow in the mountains, and just one year left of childhood.

Just one year left to relish your youth, be irresponsibly wild while simultaneously mastering physics and calculus.

Just one year left to argue with your mama about screen time limits, driving rules, homework completion.

Just one year left to be the stern at the front of your sisters’ ship, leading the way towards a future none of us can predict.

How can it be seventeen years after this moment in the sun, rocking you in your jaundiced stupor, my baby who would never wake?

Just one year left of your childhood, a childhood filled with formal dresses (of your choosing) every day until age seven; of trips across continents and oceans; of making, keeping, and losing friends; of an ever-tumultuous relationship with school; of dancing and skating and skiing and snowboarding, but never hiking; of a first love, gained and lost; of always wanting more and finding a way to get it.

Just one year left for your mama to be able to call you her girl… Because you are so fast becoming a woman.

A woman who wants her hair braided while completing calculus so that it’s curly for the dance team.

A woman who wants to be an aerospace engineer or an Air Force pilot, a mother, a wife, a keeper of all of beauty’s secrets.

A woman who woke from her jaundiced infancy to fight for everything she wants, whether it be a better part-time job, a new dance partner, a different class set for senior year, or a friendship that has lasted since kindergarten.

As you turn seventeen on the seventeenth, I just wanted you to know that I love you. That you have made me more than a mother. You have taught me how to listen. How to have a stronger voice. How to raise a girl in the twenty-first century (with patience, love, and technology all mixed up into a tumble of confusion and hope).

You have just one year left of childhood, Isabella. Lucky for you, you already know how to fly.

Fly high, my girl. Fly high.

Happy seventeenth.

Snowed Day

So Steamboat didn’t happen. They closed I-70 right after we bought chains, and closed 285 right when we’d gathered our courage to leave.

The roads are atrocious, the highways are closed, and it took so much planning and money and sub plans and my entire car packed for six people… And it’s heartbreaking.

And our Airbnb hostess tried to argue with me about going the Walden route and not refunding me.

Bitch, I’m a Taurus, and I WILL spend an hour on hold and send links to every damn CDOT warning ever made to get my money back.

So now I have a snowy weekend with this snow-loving Pomapoo, my money, and my family safe at home.

I love you snow, but you’re kind of killing me right now. Time to get out the Nordic skis.