Showing posts from 2020

tops of 2020

Seeing year-end round-ups and reflections makes me feel as tired as just about everything else in 2020, but here's mine because hypocrisy, because tradition. No philosophizing, though. I've been scared, exhausted, grateful, irritable, and productive most days this year. My productivity has, at best, kept me sane, hopeful, and employed. At worst, it's contributed to my irritability and made me extremely unpleasant to live with for the two people who cannot escape me (and honestly the neighbor girls aren't big fans of me at this point either)...all while being futile! No baby, no book. Yet? I don't know whether it's optimism, entitlement, or pure Aries stubbornness that keeps me believing a baby and a book could still happen. And there are still six months without school ahead. But maybe "only" three or four without childcare of any sort?  Till then, I will keep my head down and stick with my mantra, which is I need more coffee.  With that preamble out o

iduna remembered

They tried shutting her away: their strange blue-eyed girl who brought ice to life, but they’d read enough fairy tales to know stone towers don’t hold. Agnarr erred  on the side of concealment. He had a kingdom to consider, not to mention  their younger daughter, not his heir, but always  his favorite. Iduna remembered the forest of her birth, how the leaves turned plum and rust each fall and the reindeer’s coats  grew thick and musky.  She knew the weight of carrying another world curled inside your cloak. Their strange girl belonged to neither fjord nor forest, and it frightened them.  How to prepare her to use her own power when Iduna herself scarcely understood it? How to prepare her  for the ways fear could curdle into cruelty? It was dangerous to sail in winter, Agnarr argued. It’s dangerous not to, Iduna said. She had a map, a song, a memory of nursing a young man from another land  back to health.  If it was so wrong  to choose the unfamiliar over the soft moss and dense furs 

what child is this

I understand a little better this year, when the air is thick with phlegm and desperation, the impulse to look up and ask for a miracle. Urgent case in California, begins the email from the adoption agency. A woman due two days before Christmas. I picture us racing up the coast guided by starlight playing the song our son danced to  last December, parents packed shoulder to shoulder in the auditorium. He'll nod along and then he'll nod off.  His eyes look more like his birthmom's  when he's sleepy. We'll talk giddily about TV shows, high on gas station coffee. None of this comes true.  Like the Christmas story, it has been tainted  by the teller. The woman chooses  different parents for her baby. Photo by Magnus Östberg on Unsplash This year our son is obsessed with his Christmas list: night vision goggles, L.O.L. dolls, a plastic waffle maker. He has discovered the power of wishing but not, yet, its limitations, which lurk at the edge of the frame. When he rages a

things i have smelled to prove to myself i don't have covid (knockonwood)

Redwood trees Camellias Chipotle bean dip Soap and water on my son's skin My own unshowered skin A veggie hot dog with onions Canola oil blistering in the pan Sheets, peed upon by aforementioned son A billow of kid-fart Mown grass A flurry of leaves, startled by a blower Exhaust, the start of someone's commute Bacon wafting from a Craftsman Unidentifiable flowers, the way perfume  is supposed to smell and never does Pasta water Shea butter shampoo, the good stuff I'd never buy myself My cat's fur when he comes home each night, having dodged cars and coyotes, having befriended new neighbors, his return as reassuring as the moon

the microclimate in our living room

It usually goes something like this: We do our morning things. Dash starts angling to see the girls next door . If it's after 11, we walk over and knock on the metal screen. They pop up or they mosey. Change out of their pajamas or don't. Gather up their homework and shoes and spend the next two or three or five hours at our house.  They are three amigos: small, medium, and not-quite-large, ages four, almost six, and newly eight. They play post office and pizza restaurant and school and family. They whiz around on scooters and beg me to push them on the swing.  They want things: raspados and cheddar cheese slices and trips to the beach and to Dollar Tree.  Lately, Jasmine's* wanting has felt like a current that's pushing us along and sometimes pulling us under. She gets upset if we don't all do things her way. This used to manifest mostly in the dynamics of play, typical older kid/younger kid stuff. It was frustrating, but reminiscent of how my childhood neighbor an

efficiency monster and her opposite

Earlier this month, AK's mom had a stroke. The good news is that she's recovered now to the point where you wouldn't know anything had happened, but we had/have some long-term stuff to figure out related to medication and the other complexities of getting old. In the weeks when AK was helping her sister care for their mom, I did a bunch of long days (even by pandemic standards) working and parenting simultaneously with no interludes.  I think about how this time is changing my brain. I've become an efficiency monster; I use the phrase "radical pragmatism" a lot. I bark at my kid, I sigh loudly at him, I spend more time with him than I ever did. If I sit still, I think about things like the election and death, so I do laundry and corral kids and write things. I don't know if I like the new me or not.  This is not the new me. This is Natalie Lima. On Saturday, I had the house to myself for an afternoon while I participated in a humor writing workshop led by

the most colorful species

I called my Aunt Vanessa a couple of weeks ago after learning her husband had passed away. Linus was in his early nineties and his health had been deteriorating for a few years. He was Vanessa's fourth husband, a Danish dairy farmer who built their house on an expanse of rolling green hills outside Eureka. He was a curmudgeon who sometimes made rude jokes to Vanessa while babying his parrot, Baby. Aunt Vanessa was a little jealous of Baby, but she liked birds and drew detailed colored-pencil illustrations of the most colorful species. "Baby was so good when I took her to see Linus in hospice," she said. "She didn't squawk at all. I told Linus to give me a sign from the other side, and this morning I was out in the front yard and I found one of Baby's feathers. I've never found one of her feathers so far from the house. So I knew it was Linus." After my mom died, Vanessa told my sister about a painting that was hanging in the other house on their prop


My son lost his front tooth when he bit my arm  and I jerked it away. Every afternoon he spirals  into a fit of exhausted rage.  My midlife version is coiled but I pulled back a little too hard and the tooth went flying.  It was his third tooth of the pandemic, the second in a week.  Like those dreams  where my teeth splinter and crumble,  like the walls of a Berkeley wreck purchased by friends  back when two young teachers  could afford such a thing.  The husband put his hand  through drywall like bread dough. The wife patted it back in place: No, we need that.  We believed we could save things with our hands, though even then, we smelled our own desperation. This morning an earthquake hit, the single-jolt variety, the sound of wood creaking, old bones stretching. When our house stood foreclosed  three residents ago it became a party spot. The evicted owner's teenage son invited his friends.  There was beer and a yard, but no electricity. Have you ever seen a small child's sku

at five and a half

Yesterday you turned five and a half. You woke up in our bed and I relayed the news, this number clutched from the air. You said, "It's my birthday?" Half birthday, I said. Halfway between five and six, between the first COVID cases in Los Angeles and, if we are extremely lucky, the first vaccines needled into an upper arm. "Will we have cake?" you wanted to know. Time, at five and a half, is a torturous trip from popsicle to popsicle; there is so much waiting for all of us . Numbers are tricksters: the days since you were born, the days I've been in remission, the days in a row I've unrolled a yoga mat, the anniversaries that sideswipe me, a hit and run. I promised I would write you letters every month, and I haven't. I've written about myself instead, though you write me into new shapes every day. Today I am a net, full of holes, lightly shimmering. I tried to run a science lesson for you and the girls next door. We poured water in empty sp

dozens of narrow fault lines

Denise's mother flip-flopped onto campus in a white tennis skirt each afternoon. Smoker's cough, sun-browned legs heels a jigsaw of fissures. Her feet were a wonder to my shade-grown, eight-year-old self. Perhaps Denise's mother made a choice: tennis over moisturizer and a pumice stone. Perhaps in the hours between work and ferrying Denise to gymnastics, she had time for just one luxury. In the months between March and the relentless now, I became reacquainted with my feet. Saw them emerge from boots to meet air and driveway dirt. Was the nail on my second toe always so thick? Dozens of narrow fault lines spread across my soles, and I was helpless to stop them. I always think that knowing should save me. I knew about time and it happened anyway. It was a place where anything was possible I told someone yesterday, through my cotton face mask, referring to my work with former gang members. There was the guy who started a solar panel installation comp

what would finn do?

Among the celebrities lending their voices to the movement for Black lives, John Boyega has stood out. Not just because he’s put his body on the front lines at protests and because he’s shut down Twitter trolls with delightful wit, but because—in our house—he is Finn. You know: the ex-Stormtrooper stolen from his family and raised as FN-2187. When he refuses to kill for the First Order, he defects and eventually joins the Resistance. It’s not the subtlest metaphor, and I’m not the first to say “Yes, this guy! The guy who took off his blood-smeared Stormtrooper helmet and refused to be a cop for the last gasp of the Empire!” But at this moment in history, I am especially grateful for how much Dash, at age 5.5, adores him. Before schools closed in March, I had never seen a Star Wars movie all the way through, although AK, Dash’s other mom, flew her toy Millennium Falcon around her childhood living room and, as a forty-something adult, has been known to read Star Wars fan ficti