March 21, 2016

Their Paul's Pharmacy

As a kid growing up in the Maplewood neighborhood of Holland, MI in the 80's, the place to go for candy was Paul's Pharmacy. And what else was there to spend our money on than candy? I didn't receive an allowance, but my friend Lindsay and I were always scheming ways to fill our pockets. And just as quickly as the coins were earned, they were spent.

At Paul's Pharmacy.
Low-quality picture taken from the Internet. Actual Paul's Pharmacy.
It was a five-minute bike ride from my house. Half a block east to Central Avenue, where the road jogged, and then three more blocks through College and Columbia avenues to Lincoln, where a quick left and a quick right brought us to Paul's.

We would stand in that candy aisle forever, blinking as our pupils adjusted, shivering as the air-conditioning sucked the sweat from our limbs. One dime bought an Airhead, a nickel bought a Bazooka or a Tootsie Pop. It was $.40 for a Snicker bar, $.80 for a Symphony bar, and a quarter would buy you a whole bag of Brach's.

Those. Were the days.

And now I am seeing the whole thing played out again in the lives my kids. Only they don't live in the Maplewood neighborhood of Holland, MI. They live in a neighborhood called Tong Zi Lin, in a city of 12-million people, in the middle of East Asia.
The walk to their "Paul's Pharmacy" takes them through 'concrete park'

That is a kite.
The fruit stand they pass every time they walk to their "Paul's Pharmacy."
The road they walk beside on their way.
Sabrina's, which is their "Paul's Pharmacy"

March 11, 2016

Full bloom

Comparing my lifespan to that of a flower, now is when I am in full bloom (albeit the edges of my petals are curling ever so slightly with age).

Now is the colorful and fragrant season of life. The time when all is well.

Now is when my kids are old enough to feed themselves from their own airline trays, wipe their own bums, and read their own instructions. And yet, they are young enough to go berserk over Thursday morning show-and-tell!

Now is when Legos litter the rug like grains of sand upon the seashore.

Now the zhoooommmm of battery-operated light sabers slice through the silence of our seventh-floor afternoons.

This is the era of black coffee, popped into the microwave each time it cools, on account of my having to discipline a child, cuddle a child, or wash honey from a child's hair.

Now is when we build forts together in the living room when Daddy is out of town, and then we sleep in them, even though our beds are just around the corner.

Now is the season in which the kids are in bed by 9, and I am left to relax with a bowl of wok-popped popcorn and the company of the world's most wonderful man.

Now is when I get looks like this from my precious Jubilee.

Yes this is the time I will cherish for the rest of my life. Walking in to kiss Zion goodnight while he looks down at me from the top bunk, his little arms holding Beary the bear, begging me from behind blue glasses for more reading time. And my heart melts.

Or Gene, coming to me with a look of total dismay on his face, which has been sharpening of late with the angles and muscle of a preteen. And me, bracing myself for whatever he is about to say. Did he see something disturbing online? Did he get in a fight? Was he having girl problems?

And he says to me, in a shaky voice, "Mom?"

"What is it, Babe?" I say with a smile. I'm trying to play it cool.

"It's just that...well..."


"Well, you see, I finally found Ned my stuffed sawfish, and now I can't find my stuffed stingray."

And my heart squeezes with gratitude that the petals haven't fallen from the flower just yet.