Masha stood quietly in my living room, hesitant to use even the handful of English words she knew. “Yes. Yes.” and “I love Ballet” was all she said. Her big, dark eyes never met mine. She was just 9. Her little sister, Anya, stood close by her, sometimes taking Masha’s hand as if to make sure she was still there. “Do you love Ballet too?” I asked her.
“I love Ballet.” Masha insisted again. Her mother had sent her little girls halfway around the world, into the arms of an Aunt and Uncle they hardly knew, to escape from a difficult life in the Ukraine. They had most graciously trusted me to help their beautiful niece achieve what she dreamed of, what she loved. I watched her grow up in my classes, I shared her difficulties and her happiness. Letting her go when it was time was so very hard.
My friend Naveen was sent away as a child. British boarding school. JJ was too, when he was not much older than Kai. I can imagine those frightened little boys, in cold rooms away from the warm swaddle of their mothers arms, away from a reassuring hand from their fathers’. In my minds eye, I can see their little bodies trembling with tears and hear their quiet crying as night just as easily if it were my son crying in the next room. The thought of it breaks my heart into a million pieces.
Being a parent means making some painfully hard choices. It’s often true that the hardest person to protect your children from is you. All of the difficulties you bear, all of the tragic circumstances that are out of your control, all of the moments you couldn’t be there to help your child through, they may resent you for. We make choices for our children that are hard for us too. I can only imagine the heartbreak of a mother who had to send their child away. It’s hard enough to hear the hurt from a normal day at school, or the crying my work colleague has to endure when he wants his adopted son to eat his vegetables. Such minor stuff. I realize with awe that most of the time I don’t even have to bare that.
“What would you like for dinner?” I asked my son tonight.
“Ummmm, carrots, apples, radishes, cheese and crackers.” How did I get so lucky?
“Time to turn off Lego Ninjago and get your jammies on…” I wait for the whining, a high pitched lament that starts low and builds, like a tsunami warning siren. Instead I get, “Ok, mama.”
“May I have some more Kale chips, please mom?”
May I…? Please…? Kale chips…!? Should I take his temperature? “They are all gone, sweet pea. But I will make some more.”
“No, not now. I have to go to the store tomorrow.”
“mmmmmmMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!” The siren screeches. “I want them now! They are so good. Can’t you just go to the store now?”
Wait! Is my child crying, not because I asked him to turn off his favorite show or get ready for bed, but because I won’t go out to the store at 9pm and get him Kale? I am feeling like a excellent mother.
I won’t fool myself. I know the hard choices will come. Children challenge us to be better people. It doesn’t really matter if they are yours or not. They draw us in to participate in this great link of humanity. A link that binds us all and, without which, we are left feeling very lost and alone. I look at my son lying in his warm bed. I stroke his forehead to make sure he is not too hot, not too cold. Then I press my hand gently into his back to feel his breathing. I wonder if Masha knows yet how hard it must have been for her mother to entrust her children to someone else. I wonder if JJ knows that his mother stroked his forehead and listened to his breathing when ever he got to come home and sleep in his big, warm bed.
Kale Chips (GF, VG, V)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Garam Masala
I have to warn you, these are really, really good with Garam Masala. They will take away at least one hard choice in life – whether to snack on something good or something good for you. So, start by tearing your Kale into smaller pieces, removing the center stem and arranging it on a cookie sheet.
Sprinkle it with olive oil, salt and pepper and LOTS of Garam Masala. This is what makes these great. Don’t be shy about it. Bake it at 375 degrees until the edges of the Kale start to brown or about 10-15 minutes.
They should be crisp and flaky when they are done. Make a lot because this is a fantastic snack for a movie night or if you are stoned.