A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 1, 2010 || 8:07 pm

This year for Christmas Maxim and I surprised the children with a trip to New York City. Don’t ask me how we afforded it, because I really couldn’t tell you except to say that we’ve been saving ever since about the time we moved into this house five Christmases ago: There was an oversized yellow envelope and there some dollars went. When the dollars got up to the one-kay range, I’d go invest in a Certificate of Deposit. Lather, rinse, repeat here and there, and a New York nest egg came to be. It was imperative that we go this year, Sam’s last year in high school, and I made reservations for our neat little bed and coffee in the East Village (Hiiii, Harrison, hiiii Anne!) long about last January, because the December oh-nine roster was already filling up. Back then, December two-thousand and nine seemed an eternity away.

Don’t ask me how we kept it from our children, either. It was a sheer miracle that the trip worked out to be a Christmas Eve surprise, with half the town and all of our family in the know. But they came home from Nana’s customary Christmas Eve gathering to find that Santa (*cough* Tess *cough*) had left them a set of luggage apiece and a fancy note instructing them to pack it post-haste, because they were leaving in the morning to catch a plane in Nashville.

I’m the only one in our family that’s ever been to NYC, so spirits were high and each of us had a specific way we met the town head-on. The best thing about the whole trip, when I reflect back on it, is recalling the way Sam and Scout and Mathias looked out for one another, all three jostling down the sidewalks, hyena-laughing, catcalling and being incredibly loving and respectful of each other’s feelings while doing it.

superior clowns
:: superior clowns ::

Those kids did not bicker one.single.time. while we were away, a full six days’ worth of peace and glee. If you have siblings or more than one child, you will likely realize the miracle of the non-fussing children that I have presented to you. I will pause my narrative here to allow the angels to sing on high.



Now then: There are quite a few really great anecdotes and a handful of vignette pieces I would like to open my hands and show to you, but most of them will have to wait until another time. The one that plays in the front of my mind –the one that I will tell you now– occurred on a bus (public transpo, w00t) late one evening. We tended to stay out for incredibly long days of stomping around, as we Superiors are crafted of fine and hardy stock all burrito’d up inside overgrown senses of adventure; we are rabbit-holers, to a man, and as this sort of thing often pays off we roll with it. So long days exploring Manhattan’s nooks and byways often ended with us at whatever market (hellooooo, Garden of Eden, come here and let me kiss you on the MOUTH) we found ourselves in front of just as we were about to fall out from exhaustion, then we’d hang a bus or train or bus-train-bus combo to the house, grocery-laden and ravenous.

We were waiting for a bus somewhere on fourteenth street, chatting it up and laughing when I noticed a man observing us. I liked the vibe he put out, so I didn’t think much of it and didn’t move to tighten up our circle any. He was just waiting for the bus, like us, and he was peoplewatching our family; we were the evening’s entertainment. As it happened, the only seats on the bus were six together, toward the front. He sat next to Sam and Scout, facing Maxim and Mathias and me. After a moment he asked where we were from, even picking up on the different dialects that Maxim and I carry.

It turned out that he was a physician, and he told us of trips he makes to lower Appalachia to help out the impoverished and medically wanting. He’s made these trips enough that he recognized Maxim’s accent as a softer, more educated version of the sharp mountain twang to which he has grown accustomed. We were afforded enough time to talk about the area, to discuss a couple of programs we have worked with as well, to bandy about our thoughts on need and the disgraceful presence of it in this land –one we mutually agreed that we love– so full of riches.

“You know,” he said, pointing his gaze directly at me, “I have friends that take blocks of time to go out internationally and do the same sort of work. I’ve just never been able to find it in myself to do so when we have so many places right here at home where people are virtually forgotten and receiving no medical attention whatsoever.”

Once upon a time, I felt the exact same way. Even now my feelings are quite mixed on the matter; I often feel a tug that manifests itself in frustration and anger. The U.S. has a horrible infant mortality ranking, especially when you take into account the technologies and services available to us; our elder care is pitiful to say the least. Drugs that cost pennies to make are sold at outrageous profit, causing a sizable chunk of our populace to choose groceries or heat over meds.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Maxim is a spokesperson for Compassion International. When we decided to sponsor a child (and now our family sponsors two) it was not without some horribly jarring internal battle on my part. WE were needed right here on this mountain, OUR duty lie with kids we could lay our hands on. Right, God?? RIGHT? LISTEN TO ME WHEN I AM TALKING TO YOU, MISTER ALMIGHTY ON HIGH. I demand ANSWERS!

We were helping right here, I was reminded. There was family-done volunteer work, because I’ve never been one to just throw money at a problem. We were foster parents, because how dare I expect the next guy to take care of something were I not willing to stand the gap as well? My family and I applied ourselves, which to my way of thinking (having been raised by a Fine Southerin Momma) was far more credible than flinging money in hopes that it land somewhere and do something worthy.

Your bodies and hearts are doing what they can, said my internal voice, why not further your reach with your checkbook? So –and sullenly at first– I relented and followed my husband’s convictions and lead. He had, after all, trusted my instincts when we were asked to go through foster parent training so that Piper could be placed in our home. What he asked of me was infinitely easier: He would write a check each month and I would give him my tacit support, personal politics notwithstanding.

Now my husband travels around a bit from time to time, telling people about the work that Compassion does, about his experiences as a sponsor. Our daughter never misses one of these trips and often recruits her friends to come help work the table where she waits to assist people in selecting a child they can ‘connect’ with in order provide a chance at a better way of life. She would rather be there in those villages, hands-on herself, but as Scout has put it frankly to me, this is a good start.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I’ve always been involved with some sort of child advocacy, as far back as I can remember. This is largely due to the fact that I was raised by a woman very reminiscent of Marmee March, who impressed upon me my good fortune and made me aware that others weren’t as well-set as I was lucky enough to be. My mother came up in the fields, one of nine children, and by the age of five was dragging a cotton sack behind her. She sometimes looked at the tips of her fingers and told me that the worst days were the cold ones: When a boll snagged and cut a fingertip it stung all the worse for its frozen state.

I don’t often talk about any charitable efforts here, because I don’t want to sound self-congratulatory or -aggrandizing. To put it succinctly, though, my heart is stomped on by a child left wanting for what many take for granted. I can’t adequately explain without sounding all solopsistic and gross how passionately my heart rallies for kids to have good books and full bellies and safe environments. So I won’t. I will just tell you that it is my desire for every kid to be okay, and I don’t want to ever turn a blind eye to a child I can help.

To my way of thinking, children are these awesome little packages of wonder and mirth and potential. Magic.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

birthday lovin'
:: birthday lovin’ ::

Two weeks ago this Thursday, my boy turned eighteen. He went from this strong little squirming thing to this steady and judicious and humorous young man before I really had a handle on what was happening. The very minute the clock rounded the marker on his eighteenth birthday, he did not register for selective service, as all males his age are required to do.

He went and joined the Army, old enough to sign the line that I have –for six months now– staunchly refused to put my name to on his behalf. Eleven Bravo, attached to the Tenth Mountain Division. A grunt, fodder for the war machine that claims its stakes on the ground. He has orders to begin basic training on 6 August 2010 and has secured a spot in jump school to follow immediately thereafter. If we are fortunate and all goes as planned, he will graduate both schools in time to spend another Christmas at home with us this year.

Fortune. Plans. They seem such abstract concepts to a mother’s heart when all she can see in the reflection of the dragon’s tooth is her frightened heart leaping out of her eye sockets. This is my boy, the one I had persistent and unruly fears about losing at an early age while he was only eight months in my belly.

I have wrestled angels over his decision. I have beat back my rage and my fear and put on a calm face. Perspective, woman, I tell myself, he isn’t riddled with tumors, he isn’t lying in a gutter with a needle hanging from his arm. He has notions of service and nobility and testing his mettle. I have to let him walk his path, no matter the aching and groaning in the middle of me. He has explained and explained himself, calmly and reasonably. I have to trust. I have to step aside and let him step into himself.

:: embarkation ::

When the earthquakes rocked Haiti, I was devastated in a familiar way, the one that awakened the ‘fixer’ in me. I have to lay hands on a problem –to assert my humanity over its largeness– in order to feel effective. This is a very masculine trait, and one I can’t ever remember not possessing. It gets me into trouble sometimes, yes, but it gets shit done.

I am not in a position to go to Haiti at present, and that BOTHERS me. It is a splinter that I can’t work out. I have able hands, an able body, these people are so close geographically.

So Sam and I were watching footage of relief efforts a couple nights ago, and he saw the 82nd Airborne in action, tending to people. Just me and him on the couch, and he said to me, “See mother? I will be doing things like that, too. That is every bit as important to me as anything else we’ve talked about.” He gestured, palm-upward, long fingers on those hands I’ve always thought so beautiful, toward the television. Man hands. When did this happen? I nodded, swallowing. “I know, son. I know this.” I had to leave the room.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My friend Kate and a lovely artist-lady named René have paired up to help the people of Haiti. I’m lucky enough to be included in this help, because they put out a call for donations and I got to respond. Several others responded too, and now for the duration of this week there is an amazing arts and fine goods auction by the name of ‘To Haiti With Love’ going on. You can bid on and potentially win some really great stuff and all the proceeds go to a children’s-based charity (you can read more about this on the auction site). The best part, though, is the fact that these two ladies live in Canada, whose government is presently offering up matching funds for all donations made to registered charities for Haiti. Dollars! Doubled! At no extra effort to bidders!

I try to not abuse your trust, loyal Muffinasses, and I try not to go begging your kindnesses often, but I’m asking you to go over and look, maybe bid, maybe consider posting on your sites the official auction banner. I’m asking you to social media –we are the digital noisemakers! bang those facebook/twitter/voyeurnal pots and pans!– the fuck out of this auction, because there are children suffering and hurting and doing without in a place that was already miserable with violence and want. While I can’t lay hands on them directly, I can lend the hands I’ve laid to another passion –creating art that moves me– to effect some relief and hopefully some change. I would love it if you’d help me in doing so.

12 worked it out »

  1. René 2.2.2010

    beautiful. Thank you for rousing the troops, Jett.

    I love the way your brain works.

  2. Jettomatika 2.2.2010

    Thank YOU for allowing me some sense of Doing Something. All the items I have promised have bids, and that’s exciting to me!

    I’m really, really amazed that in the very short time between when this idea sparked you and when the auction began, it was whipped together so beautifully!

    You done good, Rene. I find myself wildly wanting to cheer for people like you.

  3. TwoBusy 2.2.2010

    Holy hell… that was about six different posts, all squeezed into one. I don’t know where to even begin commenting, so I’ll just say “Dear Jett: ur teh awesome. Sincerely, TwoBusy” and leave it at that.

  4. sweetsalty kate 2.2.2010

    You’re as sweet as you are indispensable. Thank you, Jett. xo

  5. Chris Robinson 2.3.2010

    Once again you’ve shown why you are my very favorite writer in the whole blog world. I’d much rather read you than the novel (by a big name) that I just finished for a review. Ever think about a poetry collection, novel, short story in any formal way? I wish I knew an agent to send your way.

  6. Jettomatika 2.3.2010

    Chris: You have, over the years, become a loyal and trusted voice in the wilderness. You are probably the one person who could say, “It’s time to shut ‘er down” and I’d immediately throw my hands up, agree, and turn off the lights here. Maybe you should just be my agent. I’d send you a sloppy shoebox full of poems and you could wave a wand over it and we’d all come away with a chapbook.

    TB: I want to do the thing you always do in e-mails, but I won’t. I will just say thank you and mean it without twitching uncomfortably.

    Kate: Thank you for letting me come along for the ride!

  7. Jason 2.4.2010

    I adored this post. It was all light and life.

  8. Bejewell 2.5.2010

    So I read and read and then go away for a while to absorb. And then I come back and read a little more, absorb again. And now I’m back, and I still don’t REALLY know what to say, I just have all these random words that keep flashing through my mind — faith, love, service, truth.

    You’re spectacular.

  9. Bejewell 2.5.2010

    P.S. I want a Tacky Pack so bad I can taste it.

  10. Seaweed 2.7.2010

    I’ve just seen this this AM . . . Oh, I know exactly how your stomach and heart and head feel about your son. Mine intends to sign on as a Marine in June.

  11. Jettomatika 2.8.2010

    Jason: The way you worded that comment, well…it just made me dang happy.

    Beej: OMG OUT OF MY HEAD. I have been thinking in the last month or so about bringing back an updated version of the Tackypack(TM!). Watch this voyuernalspace for updates.

    MissWeed: Two of my nephews just graduated from Parris Island not long ago. I begged and begged Sam to be a jarhead or a squid if he must serve. I would have signed for any other service besides the Army. I trust the training he would get elsewhere much more. I’ll try to give a ring real soon, you can tell me all about it.

    But I will say, though….I don’t have a bad feeling about what you just told me. I’ll expound when we discuss, but I think you are just supposed to Trust.


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