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The oxcart is broken, and I love you

When the anxiety hamster wheel begins to spin there’s no telling what else might get broken, besides just the oxcart wheel. Hopefully not someone’s heart.

This week my family made traditional-oxcart-shaped lanterns to celebrate Costa Rican independence day this week, with the plan to do our own family parade on the evening of September 14 (see El mes de la patria post). Well, we did it! We turned out the lights and tried to tune in to the Costa Rican national anthem singing at 6 PM (Costa Rican time). The internet didn’t work and we saw about 2 seconds of the president and his wife in Cartago before they turned and went inside and that was the end. I did see Facebook live feeds of the independence torch being presented, after its journey all the way from Guatemala, to the chief medical officer in charge of the COVID units of the country.

My kids ran around the living room with their LED candles, imagining they were “fires” they had to put out with their toy fire trucks or their superhero alter-egos. I admit I’m not really sure what they were doing because I was so desperately trying to tune in to Costa Rica.

I took the eldest outside to try to have a little parade. He wanted to ride his balance bike like a motorcycle racer through the LED lights, which he set up like a track while I was talking with the neighbor. I ended up carrying both lanterns and he rode his bike as we made our way around the block (by ourselves, of course - there are no other Costa Ricans around here). Halfway around he said he was tired and wanted to go inside. We went inside, and the youngest soon ripped one wheel and two popsicle sticks off the lantern.

A little disappointing.

As I looked back, though, I remember that at the actual parades in Costa Rica, any 4-year-old that was there was not quietly and solemnly carrying his lantern. He was probably riding his bike and pretending to be a superhero. None of the kids’ lanterns in Costa Rica survived the evening intact. And I really can’t remember exactly if I ever watched the entire national anthem on TV, or at least I know I didn’t every year.

But this year I wanted things to go perfectly, of course. I wanted something to work out, a celebration to be full of light in the darkness, and I wanted my son, who is really starting to be able to remember things that he’s done, to remember and value his Costa Rican identity. And now the oxcart is broken. On top of everything else, it was kind of a last straw.

A few days earlier, we caught a cold in our family, which, in pandemic time has gone from being slightly annoying to nearly debilitating: is this COVID? Let’s go take a test. Let’s wait for the results in isolation. If it is COVID will we get very sick? How do I get work done when the babysitter can’t come over? Did my kid just eat a sucker instead of drink orange juice??!! Oh, the result is negative, great. But I still don’t feel well and we shouldn’t share even a cold with anyone. Let’s isolate anyway. OMG this is going to be how winter is like, and I won’t be able to go out in winter and sit in the sun. I guess this year we’re going to be doing winter hiking. That will be fun. Unless it’s terrible.

The anxiety hamster wheel begins to spin. And when that happens there’s no telling what else might get broken, besides just the oxcart wheel. Hopefully not someone’s heart.

I have spoken with a lot of other moms this week who are struggling. The transition to e-learning is over, and now it just stinks. Or, they tell me, they strip their at-risk child of clothing the minute he walks in the door from in-person school, and he goes straight to the shower. It was going to be better and easier than the spring, but it just stinks, actually. Or there are the moms whose kids aren’t old enough to be in school yet, but therefore still don’t sleep through the night or know how to get dressed or eat on their own, and moms are tired. And dads (I’m a mom so I know more about that). To my mom friends: this situation is broken and not nice, and I love you, and I’m glad that we have gotten to connect in these past days.

My teacher from my time studying abroad in Guatemala, Fidel Xinico Tum, died this week, of cancer. He was such a gentle and caring person but also extremely strong and brave. He took on the monumental task of translating Mayan spirituality to middle/upper class US undergraduates who thought they knew everything about the world. He was a bridge between real people in the Guatemalan countryside, and real people from the United States, no simple task. To all of my teachers and friends from my semester abroad in Central America: This week is sad, and I love you and I miss our time together, and I’m grateful for all that you brought to my life.

The only photo I have of my teacher Fidel (in red shirt), as he helps to prepare a ceremony we got to witness, outside of Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

I have seen a couple of articles this week that were just what I needed. Perhaps you’ve seen the piece on Medium that points out that our surge capacity is depleted. We all need to recharge, and it’s hard to know how, right now (but if you’re reading this and need to recharge, don’t wait, do something you love!).

The cover story of the Parents magazine which I didn’t request but somehow get (maybe from the time I bought maternity clothes and signed up for something?) is about listening to our kids, and how important and difficult that is. I needed to read that, and appreciated the humor they were able to use about how difficult it is sometimes to listen to a four-year-old.

My colleagues at Indiana University Northwest met in our Dream Big cohort to support each other and talk about confidence and vulnerability. We said that showing our humanity by being willing to be vulnerable is a good thing. And a fellow writer in a writer’s group I am in shared his latest blog post, which talks about being gracious, being gracious, being gracious during this pandemic and the inevitably difficult months to come. To these colleagues: this is a messy time without straightforward paths to any destination, and I love you and I’m glad that I get to share my work and life with you.

To my little family, my husband and my kids: the oxcart is broken, and I love you, and I’m glad we’re a family.

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