I wake up this morning to an email with some difficult news about a relative who is going through some tumultuous growing pains into adulthood. I feel all kinds of emotions all at once upon reading what this person is going through: sadness, anger, protectiveness, among other things.
I then see that the garbage hadn't been taken out to the curb last night, and I hear the trucks barreling down the street. I feel too much heartache to rush my barely-awake self outside in my pajamas to do the job.
So I take a shower instead, hoping it will clear my head and improve my mood. It doesn't.
We get dressed and go to visit our African grandparents. Because of my mood, I'd just sort of thrown myself together, putting a hat over my unbrushed hair which still smells smoky from last night's bonfire at my friend's farm. We walk into the room and M, the most outspoken member of our group, greets me with a huge smile and wave.
I sit down next to him, and he says, "Lori, today you look like a man."
I could only laugh because it sort of made me want to cry. He said it was the hat. Okay then.
I move to another table to talk with T, a woman who I may have found a childcare job for. We've been trying to find her a job for a few weeks now. In our conversation, out of the blue, she says, "Why you not birthed?" (meaning: why have I not given birth to a child).
I am crouched down beside her chair as we talk, and I smile up at her and say, "I don't know why." She furrows her eyebrows, shakes her head side to side (in what I interpret as pity) and tells me, "You need to birth. All woman should birthed."
Surprised both by the turn in the conversation and the emotions rising in my chest, I manage to respond by pointing upwards and saying, "Well, it's all up to God. He gives what He wants, and I am very happy that He gave me Abe." As soon as I said the word, "God," she started nodding furiously, agreeing that children are a gift.
She patted my hand, and I went to a bathroom stall to cry.
On a day when I wake up feeling fat and greeted with sad news about someone I love, I think I prefer not being told I look like a man and that I should really get on that whole giving birth thing.
When I came back, M apologized for telling me that I look like a man today. I tell him that it is okay, and he says he never meant to say anything hurtful. This is the same man who every week bluntly tells me everything I'm doing wrong in my parenting. So I take him with a grain of salt. I let it go.
T calls me over to her. I sit down in the chair next to her, and she looks me in the eyes. She says she "is very sorry for our conversation before." I ask her why, telling her she didn't say anything wrong, that she was just expressing her belief. She says she didn't know I believed in God. She also believes that God is in charge of our lives, and she was sorry for what she said. We then sit together talking for a long time with her mother, who leaves next week to go back to Ethiopia for six months to visit family. T's mother held my hand in both of hers, stroking the top of my hand the whole time we talked.
Lunch is now over and we get up to leave. T hugs me, the first time she has done so. Her mother does as well, tightly.
Abe runs headlong into M to hug him goodbye. He doesn't give me even one parenting mandate today. He just smiles and waves, tipping his hat to me.
My heart is heavy, but I still believe in a benevolent God, just like T.