Beauty will be a boy.

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Once, many years ago, a quiet doctor who always wore her hair in a bun helped me bring a little girl into this world.  It was a big job.  It was a big job because it was me.  I’m nervous.  I worry about everything.  I try to manage everything.  I vocalize everything.  I think I wore her out–that quiet little doctor with round glasses, a soft voice, and her hair in a bun. She had to work hard to get that little girl here.  The hours were long and there was no extra money for any extra thing.  I told her very passionately, “I have to have this baby on my due date and I have to do it without any pain meds.  She’s pre-paid and I can’t leave with a bill.  There’s no money for another bill.  It has to happen just so.”  My little bird-like doctor smiled her lost little smile and probably went home to complain to her husband.  She probably said, “This job is too much.  These women are crazy.  They think they can control everything.  This job is just too, too much.”  But, because she was a good doctor, she showed up on the day I needed her to.  It was my due date and I was in pain with no money for any extras and somehow she got me through the whole thing.  The seconds, the minutes, the hours until she laid my little girl on my stomach.  I cried.  I touched her little head. I looked around the room for this tiny treasure’s real Mommy.  I said over and over, “I can’t believe I have a baby. I can’t believe I have a baby.”  I sincerely, after nine months of pregnancy and approximately three-hundred peanut butter sandwiches whose only job it was to make my girl move in my tummy, could not believe I was a mommy.  So, my fading, nervous, ready to leave doctor shook her head at me.  “Where did you think this was headed if not to a baby?”  I knew she was right, but I simply could not make my heart believe that this little person was my daughter.  My girl.  My Boona.  I was a mommy.  How was that possible?  But, I bundled her up and took her home that December morning in the snow and pointed out Christmas lights along the way and the magic began in earnest.  I never saw my shy, reserved, slightly unapproachable doctor again.  This miracle was to be my only one, but it was ok because she was everything.  Her soul was sweet and her humor was wicked.  She grew up wonderful, and in the moments of the years to come, I would see her walking across a parking lot, or a stage or simply down the stairs and I would catch my breath.  I would look around for my friend the doctor so she could see the wonderful thing she had helped me bring into the world, but she was never there.  I was the witness to my beautiful girl.  My best thing.  My miracle.  And, now, all these years later, she is also scheduling weekly appointments with a doctor.  A bespectacled, close-talking, blunt doctor. I bet he doesn’t know that there is someone special waiting to be born. Another mommy waiting for that switch to flip. Another magnificent miracle.  Probably with a stubborn will and a wicked sense of humor.  Most likely, so tall I will have to reach up for hugs someday. Arriving in June.  Driving home in the early summer when people are packing for vacations and school-kids are watching cartoons.  The worries about money are the same. The demand for things to go easily are the same.  But this time, her time, it will be a boy.  My daughter’s son. My daughter’s miracle.  Her chance to ride the ride.  To feel the love.  To catch her breath as he walks across a stage or ambles down the stairs.  I hope she’s ready.  I hope she knows all of this ends in a baby.  I hope her doctor understands her like mine understood me.  I hope he gets that she’s scared and unsure and ready to bolt, but if he will just show up when she needs him to they will make it happen. She will rise to the occasion and fight hard. And, in the end, my own little girl will be this precious little boy’s mommy. She will love him fiercely and protect him and teach him to read great books. She will laugh with him and discipline him and pelt him with pillows when needed.  It will be magic. I will watch and cheer and love them both fiercely.  I like this passing of the torch.  I know where this is headed and I am ready.  This time, beauty will be a boy.

Growing up Biligaana.

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I’m a white kid that grew up on the reservation.  The Navajo Reservation, in Arizona and New Mexico, specifically.

It wasn’t always easy.  Sometimes, it was the exact opposite of easy.

Kids at school weren’t always welcoming.  They liked to call me names.  Biligaana was their favorite.  I guess I get it.  Biligaana is the Navajo word for white and I was definitely white.  Like totally.  Even my hair.

I’m sure to the girls in my class I made as little sense to them as they did to me.  They had long dark thick braids of shiny hair that I was enraptured with.  I remember holding up my fingers to measure the girl’s who sat in front of me.  It was three fingers wide.  Mine was barely one.  They would come to school sometimes in their native dress.  Beautiful deep colors and rich satins.  I didn’t have a native dress.  Unless cutoffs and Kool-aid  t-shirts count.

My dad was a teacher at our school.  My mom was a mom. There were five kids in our family and we weren’t exactly upwardly mobile. My brothers kept their beds in the closet.  I can seriously remember the day big boxes of clothes were delivered to our classroom for all the Navajo kids.  I went home that day crying and told my mom life wasn’t fair.  I wanted brand new jeans and plaid shirts.  I wanted white tennis shoes and socks that matched.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be included.

My mom  didn’t nurture my drama.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she rolled her eyes.  The speech probably went something like this.  “These kids are going to face hard times you’ll never know young lady.  Dry it up and get over it.” I got that a lot from my mom.  The get over it speech.  Funny thing was, she was usually right.

As the years passed on the reservation, I got to share in a lot of the joys of being raised in that beautiful, lonesome place.

There were long walks to the trading post with a quarter in our pockets.  Cherry Mash you will always be my first choice.  There were afternoons watching  quiet ladies make fry bread in clearings.  There were horny toads under cattle guards begging to be caught and there was always the feeling that something unexplained was in every sunset and every sunrise.  The reservation was a magic place with a great sadness around every corner.

I remember a summer we stopped sitting out on our porch at night because our parents didn’t want us to hear the young man across the street get drunk and destroy his grandmother’s home.  I remember the kids, whose parents didn’t show up to get them on a Friday afternoon, huddled on cement steps waiting for my Dad to make the seventy mile trip on dirt roads to get them home to their families. I remember knowing if a knock came in the middle of the night it was probably someone who had drank too much and needed a ride somewhere. Sometimes another seventy miles down another dirt road.

The reservation wasn’t perfect, but somewhere along the way we started to belong.  The Navajo people took care of us.  They made gifts for us.  They loved us.  I might not have had a three-finger braid or a silk skirt but I was theirs and, in return, they were mine.  To this day, there is a piece of my heart there.  The reservation taught me some of the best lessons I know about people.  The main one being; learn to see people’s heart and not their race.   If you can do this, you might find family you didn’t start with, but that you were always meant to have.

This week something horrible happened on the reservation. A precious little girl was taken and murdered. The story of Ashlynne Mike has shattered my heart.  I feel like I know her even though we never met.  She could have been my best friend Charlene Begay who befriended me when no one else did.  I might have gone with her and her family up into the mountains to camp and check on the flocks.  Her mom might have made my mom a turquoise ring as a sign of friendship. We might have spent hours playing in the wash and climbing  on butane tanks.  Her family would have showed up to my dad’s funeral and given us soft hand shakes and gentle smiles to help us through our grief.

Even though I never met Ashlynne Mike, she is family.  She is mine.  This Biligaana will grieve her and pray for her loved ones and all who still live there.  I am, humbly and thankfully, from out on the reservation and  I know  the toll this tragedy will take on my Navajo family and their gentle spirits.

Two adults, on the floor, ugly crying.

When my husband and I got the official word we were being transferred to Houston from New Mexico eleven years ago we both sat down in the floor and cried.  Really.  We did.

Two grownups, on the floor, ugly crying.

I repeatedly implored my Texas-hating husband not to judge my beloved home state by Houston.  Tearfully, I would tell him, “Everyone knows Houston isn’t really part of Texas.  It’s even worse than Dallas.”

We worried.  We stressed.  We looked for a way out. But, our paycheck was waiting, so eventually we moved.

Our first night in our new neighborhood a lady shot her husband and our street filled with flashing blue lights.

Two grownups, on the floor, ugly crying.

Gradually though, something began to happen.

It probably started the first time we went to get our oil changed and the guy running the shop, Dave,  befriended us.

“If you folks ever need anything just give us a call.  Somewhere to eat Sunday dinner-anything at all.”

Was Dave crazy? A big city maniac we should fear? A danger we needed to avoid?  We thought all of this while smiling politely and positioning ourselves between him and our daughter.

It turns out he wasn’t.  He was just a typical Houstonian.  Friendly and big hearted.  Always willing to help and always looking out for those around him.

We have met many, many “Daves” in the eleven years we have been here.  The neighbors who folded us into their own holidays when we were too far away to spend them with family.  The random man who stopped and helped us carry a new stove into our house. I’m especially thankful for him because our marriage was about to end over how to get that darn thing out of the truck bed. The sweet lady down the street who remembers my husband every year when she makes Gumbo and sends him huge tupperware containers of golden, savory goodness.

Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is populated with good folks and we love them.

In fact,  we are smitten with our entire city.

We love the air that drips and the first signs of Magnolia trees blooming every year. We love warm palm-tree Christmases and that we can go five minutes in any direction and find “slap yo’ mama” good food.  We love our Texans and our brown water beaches.  We love the guys on air-boats rescuing people from flooded homes and we love being surrounded by folks willing to risk their own lives to save horses caught in the water.

We are, in every way that matters, Houstonians.  May we always, always live up to the name and may we never ever be transferred.

I have no problem imagining what it would look like if we were.

Two adults, on the floor, ugly crying.