If you ever want to juggle fire on the beach, and you're hoping for a crowd, just park yourself next to a bonfire with many many teenagers standing around it. They will not be able to contain themselves, and you'll find yourself surrounded by awed, cheering fans who will either shriek and scream in delight (OH MY GOOOOOD!!!!), if they're female, or say, "Oh dude, that's sweet. Check that OUT," if they're bros. Teenagers are so great. They almost always make me tear up, partly because I remember what it felt like to be a teenager, how I was almost coming out of my skin with ideas and humiliation and the wonder of the universe, and also because there is nothing quite like the paradox of a teenager, how self-conscious and free they are. They're all like, ohmygod, someone's looking at me, and then screaming in exhilaration as my superstar husband catches the fire torch by the flame (ouch!).
Seriously, though, Chinua is amazing, and he did gather quite a crowd. It was really fun. And the great thing about Southern California is that everyone is so laid back. The fire department showed up to keep an eye on things, but no one asked him to stop.
My son, while trying to eat a hot potsticker, said very seriously, "It's not hot on my white teeth, only on my gum teeth." These are the moments when I am very proud to be his mother.
Yesterday we went to Mexico, and it was a combination of being the best experience that I've had in a long, long, time, and being a day of me trying to get away from myself. Like that Innocence Mission song, Going Away
"I hope some other time/
I won't care so much about/
being understood as I do now/
I would leave myself and go away/
I would like to follow you away."
I was looking around and loving where I was, loving my beautiful family, loving Mexico, loving the beach and the taco stand and my husband who can get along well enough in Spanish with a good enough accent that people take him to know it fluently, and the train of conversation takes off, with him clinging to the sides. I loved Mexico from the first day I was there, seven years ago, and my innocent, pre-India self was amazed and intrigued by the messiness of the streets and the pinned-together houses. Chinua and I, longing to leave America for a while and travel, drank it in like thirsty sailors.
But there it was, the anxiety, that knot in my gut that never left, the tension in my neck that curled around my spine and yanked, the sick feeling that had me in tears a few times. I hate myself like this. I don't know how to love myself like this, and even worse, I don't know how to believe that God loves me like this.
And then I went swimming, by myself, while the kids and their superstar dad made a sandcastle on the beach. And I stood in the waves and was knocked off of my feet again and again, and I thought, yes, this is how it feels, this is why I never catch my breath. I pretended that the waves were my fear and my loneliness, pretended that if I could just stay standing I would beat all this, that I would feel like Rae again, like that teenage self who can scream and shriek in delight. And then I let myself be carried for a while, and I was tired, and I wondered if I could let go enough to let the waves of this great fear hit me, yet still see the sunset, like I was seeing it around me, the sherbet colors, the sparkly horizon. And I rested, and watched the silhouetted fishing boats with their circles of birds.