The Little One in the form of an Owl...(but don't tell her I said that!)

February 29, 2012

Spell "Constipated"

         My child is Pollyanna  incarnate: her glass is always half-full, even when it's empty; she usually answers my scoldings/reminders with a "Ooops!" followed by a "O-Kayyy" and there tends to be skipping involved; this is the girl who has turned my impromptu relaxation technique for night-fears (Relaxed Body, Easy Mind) into a meditative ritual which includes angelic improvised signing, praying for the "Europeans who are suffering" (during the cold snap some weeks back), and, of course, her storytelling* that reminds me this Pollyanna comes with her own lessons; this is also a girl who will begin most mornings with a gentle request, "Can you please help me to not suck my finger today, please?"   
         To say she has an amazing propensity for adaptation is an understatement given all she's been through since I've met her. She has adopted the cultural norms of our quirky family with enthusiasm "Ohhhh, today our plates are verrry colorful!" Yet has retained the most endearing lessons and habits of her past as seen this past Christmas when she single handedly swept and rearranged my father's bachelor-pad house, even sweeping cobwebs out of the corners, all the while affirming, "I'm cleaning because it's CHRIST-MAS!!" as if this was the natural inclination of all eight year old kids.  

         I will admit, though, her spirited embrace of the new and the old is when it comes to academics.  And it has slowly dawned on me that the inexplicable pattern of radically mood shifts I've come to notice are in fact associated with a particular kind of learning: ESLReading and Spelling make my Pretty Little Pollyanna turn into the dreaded Mute Zombie Child (making Mondays and Wednesdays kind of.....horrific).
         The Mute Zombie Child is a girl whose gravitational pull leaves her spending hours lying in a fetal position on the living room rug, her finger thrust deeply in her mouth, and her eyes dilated with apathy staring off into nothingness; this girl responds to any and all external stimuli with just further eye dilation; this girl is mute and will shudder with such ferocity when forced to speak on threat of punishment; this girl forces me to get up, get a glass of water and literally spoon feed her, her eye medication pills (she is supposed to have some freaky medicine fetish so you can see how this would be worrisome); her only exceptions to her apathy are during mealtimes, when, for the brief period required to chew and swallow, she will once again take on the form of an active, engaged human being.

         Well Monday, I awoke to the sound of rain! Real, clickity-clack against the roof, rushing down the gutter, fills the air with a crisp chill RAIN!! I have never lived in a coastal city (oh wait-Miami...L.A...New York-never mind) my point is this: in Dar it never rains, like, NEVER. And people seem to think this is pretty normal.  Well, I haven't done a survey or anything, but no one's making any offerings to the Gods in supplication, no rain dances are happening that I can see, no dismal shrieks of DROUGHT, no locusts swarming in clouds, you get? It seems that no rain = business as usual here. For the Little One and I, this is beyond weird.  We come from a country where the clouds are like Powerful Gods, morphing themselves into shapes and creations that defy simple physics, and to walk below them is to walk in understanding that at any moment they can choose to unleash a deluge that will make you and your fellow countrymen rush for the nearest overhang and stand there stupefied at the wondrousness of falling water.  

          Rain, in Uganda, is a legitimate reason to not show up to your destination, and should you attempt to brave this phenomenon people will reflexively assume you are mad and shout abusive things at you believing you do not understand them anyhow.  Rain is a frequent occurrence that holds the extraordinary weight of a volcanic eruption in Polynesia, a tornado in Utah, and so forth.  We miss the rain! Don't get us wrong, blue, grey skies and hot, sandy beaches are cool and such, but it is a bit......stifling to not have the heavens shout at us and unify us in bowed heads of humility and surrender. It is a relief to have ones thoughts drowned out by Mother Nature every now and again (this is a new term for Ms V and her favorite question of late is to point to something and say, "Is this Motha Nay-chah?".....sweet).

         Despite my mother having not turned up when she was supposed to and the rain having already stopped leaving behind bulging grey clouds (both of which put us in that awkward limbo of suspense), we managed a relatively normal breakfast in which there seemed to be all signs of normal life coming from the Little One, including voluntary speech. I then set myself up in the living room trying to get my mind clear and ready for some creative flow. Not soon after I caught Ms. V, out of the corner of my eye, quietly slip from her chair, finger in mouth, and glide herself down to the floor, as her eyes grew large and empty ("Ah, God!! It's not even 11am!” I mentally hollered). Sometimes this is just from boredom so I said casually, "you have English today so why don't you go over your homework and your spelling?".....several silent minutes passed with no recognition that I even existed let alone had spoken, finally she crawled to her bedroom, her finger still protruding from her lips. This began what would ultimately be an excruciating morning trying to get Vannesa to read and practice spelling all of 8 vocab words, with total failure.   Meanwhile I desperately struggled to pierce the fog in my own brain while sending dagger looks at the fat, grey, lazy clouds outside which mocked the futility of my attempts (even the Sun was failing to find a clear path, why should I think I would have better luck).  

         Some days, no matter how hard you long for flow, resistance is all you get and on Monday, Ms V, the Sun, and I had no good luck trying to overcome our individual stagnancies.  My relief when she was finally whisked away to class was tempered by the fact that I still found my brain incapable of any clear, original thought, though it was exhausted from trying to pull any sort of active response from Ms. V.  Meanwhile, the Sun continued to fart moist streams of heat into the atmosphere, an embarrassment to its usual, direct and unabashed rays.

         When she returned from class, V was revived enough for me to confirm it was the class itself, hanging over her head like those fat, grey, lazy clouds, that put her in such a foul mood in the first place.  She was not her old self, exactly, but the evening did move by with a little more ease for both of us.  The hidden sun finally surrendered its fight as evening approached and gave me reason enough to do the same. All three of us went to bed happily rejecting any further claims to the day.

         Yesterday, the rain repeated itself but with much more vigor. It actually seeped the ground and the air in a crisp freshness that still lingers today and will likely surprise the sun by the need for a little more effort on its part to make the ground hard and dry and dusty again. It was a soothing sight to watch the rain do what we couldn't do the day before: flow. It was inspiring, if for no other reason as it was a reminder of how natural and effortless flow is supposed to be (Relaxed Body, Easy Mind).  It helped that my mother had finally shown up the night before and the morning was filled with the distraction of her offerings scattered here and there, treats and trinkets from a far off world.  My mother is a tornado, all by herself, and for once, her invasion into the home was not a disruption to peace but a clearing away of the dust and static fog.  

         And once that fog was cleared, a gem of triumph re-merged that had been forgotten in the previous day's miasmic mood: 

         She calls me Mama now. 

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