i could tell you the wildest of tales.

 |Soundtrack |

While I drive to work, I think of ways I can lie to my daughter.

It’s hard not to look back at her in the rear view mirror in the mornings during my arduous commute, watching her eyes drift off to places I wish I could go instead of driving through barren plains and highways. When she’s awake, from the opposite side of the car, we watch the dawn together – rays permeating up from low tree tops and misty hills. The sky is half midnight, half cotton candy. A gentle wave borders the cloud bank, rippled as if stopped by glass. Lightning etches the bottoms of the nimbostratus, whispering its arrival.

“Dragons,” I whisper, practicing my answers for the inevitable questions I hope she asks in the years to come. “In lands that mirror ours but don’t quite break through, there are dragons that fly freely. They hunt, they love, they play, they fight. When two young dragons play, their fire comes out in quick, thin bursts so bright, it lights up the sky in our world. When you hear loud thunder, the playing has turned sour.”

She stirs in the back, eyes dozing, her lips puckering as if to make the words she has yet to learn. She is beginning to slip into dreams.

“They come out for battles in the summer, flapping their giant wings and creating gusts so large they topple trees. They play and fight so much, there is not much life left. And when they leave, they take the warmth of the summer with them.”

At this point, I’m feeding my own ideas and talking to the air conditioning and squeaky brake pads. She’s asleep now, another 45 minutes still ahead on the drive. The best ideas come when my hands are holding steering wheels or baby appendages, never when I have a pen in hand. I make a mental note but will often forget – a hint, perhaps, that some of these stories are reserved for just us and the road and the sunrise. I continue to talk about the lesser known winter dragons, mermaids in pink lagoons, the fairy dust of stars and where the fairies go on cloudy nights (pester the dragons while they are trying to sleep, of course).

She’ll eventually know the right answers. When she is able to sit and speak on her own, speak to her friends more than her mother, speak with a voice I’ve heard echo in the back of my own mind, I hope she still remembers the summer dragons and their lightning storms. I hope she carries a bit of magic behind her eyes. Selfishly, I hope she becomes a liar of her own – a creator of worlds and fictions that would rival the greats.

I continue to drive. The cloud cover has passed now, sprinkles drying up on my windshield as the sun meets the periwinkle of the sky. I drop her off and think of a story for the afternoon. On the road, there is no word count to be met, no reviews, no red marks on paper. There is just asphalt and dreams and lightning in the distance.

 

 

The Struggles of Struggle

Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday. Yes, I’m one of THOSE people that listens to Christmas music all year round, I have my decorations up practically after Halloween, I go broke at the end of every year because I spend every penny I have so that people enjoy my gifts. I love everything about it.

The reason why I love Christmas so much is not because it was a season that provided the best gatherings and moments, but because it provided some of the worst.

As a child of two divorces, Christmas with a single and working mother and autistic brother was very tough. When my brother’s dad left, my mother barely had money for Christmas dinner and presents. I remember vividly that I only got a VHS movie and an off-brand board game on year. Earlier that year, I would go to school wearing old clothes that couldn’t fit but they were all that we had. All of our extended family lived in Puerto Rico, so it was only ever my mother, me, and two brothers. There were plenty of years that it was quiet – I kept to my books and we watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas on TV and even though she never said the words, I would look at my mother’s face and knew that she was praying, praying for the days and years to get better. Even as a pre-teen/teenager, in the midst of depression and anxiety already, there was no need to complain. To me, I saw it as  we made it through one year, we could surely make it through the next. That was a gift in itself.

Our family is in such a better place right now – we came up from the ashes and we thrived. Between us children, we’ve succeeded in education, careers and just keeping a level head. My mother is about to become a grandmother for the first time. My youngest brother is about to leave the nest.

To this day, between our immediate family, we still only ever get each other a couple of presents a year. The real gifts were, and still are, each other. The real gift was the struggle. Because in all of its wretchedness and wrongness and unfairness, it shed away to shape who we truly were and who we would become.

As a parent-to-be, I often wonder: we don’t want our children to struggle or go through the experiences that we have gone through. We want to give them everything we didn’t get a chance to have. But as a firm believer of struggle and empathy defining who you are, how do we shape our children to become well-rounded, compassionate and kind individuals who simply understand suffering? To help those that need it? Of course no child or family is perfect. I have known people on both sides of the spectrum – that had everything and not a care in the world but still managed to strive for a better community and love for one another, and the others who ended up being, well, very Trump-like.

So what are some ideas to help our future children grow to be model citizens who are equal in intellect and compassion? How do we get them to succeed in both life and love?