Saturday, January 2, 2010

So we bid farewell to the 00’s. The decade in which I became a mom. The decade in which I became an orphan.

The momentous events of the decade will always be classified in my mind into three categories. Before my dad died. Before my mom died. After I adopted Liana. There was a painfully blurry time in the middle of my adoption process in which I was dealing with my mom’s sudden, unexpected death, and unexpected bureaucratic delays in my ability to complete my adoption. But that time will forever remain an uncategorizable blur in my mind.

I rang in the year 2000 on a suburban driveway in Cabo Rojo Puerto Rico, in what seems like another lifetime. The pre-teen boys who were setting off firecrackers in that driveway had never heard of ipods or blogs or youtube or social networking. And neither had I. No one, other than my father, talked about global warming. He was also obsessed with the dangers of religious fundamentalism. My sweet gentle father lived long enough to see some of his bizarre and quirky fears become part of the mainstream consciousness.

September 11 will be the defining moment of the decade for most. Then there was the blackout. The president who was not elected by the majority of voters. The wars here and there. Both of my parents died during the Bush years. I mourn that they did not live to see the election that was to follow. My daughter may be a tween the last year of the Obama administration. Maybe not. But maybe.

The ouster of Aristide in Haiti went almost unnoticed by the mainstream. As did the comically failed ouster of Chavez in Venezuela. Weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize. Genocide on Darfur got some attention.

On a personal note, the decade started as my beloved Adult Education Program (affectionately know my thousands as “The English School”) was deemed to fall outside of my agency’s strategic plan. But I fought hard for the program’s survival. My mom was begging me to send off resumes. My staff kept asking me if they should be sending off their resumes, and I kept answering honestly “I’m not sending off mine.” We did more than survive. A decade later, we are thriving. We serve 650-700 adult immigrants per day, as a proud program of the Queens Community House.

I lost two peers. Alexandra and Abby. Amazing women who died ridiculously young.

I lived in Guatemala for two months. Liana and I spent our days in the company of humming birds under the shadow of volcanoes spewing ash and smoke, speaking Spanish together while those around us often spoke in Mayan languages that may not survive a generation or two. Then we came home together to live in the nation’s most diverse zip code, surrounded by more languages than even I can name.

I became a mom. Later in life than most. Baby bottles replaced pool cues. Late nights in bars were replaced by early morning trips to museums and zoos. Kim Stanley Robinson was replaced by nostalgic Dr. Seuss and colorful board books with soft and bumpy things to touch. Early morning phone chats with mom were replaced with frantic attempts to create morning routines involving putting on socks and getting out the door with a dry diaper. Extensive potty training rituals replaced gaming. Ridiculously long work hours gave way to “learning how to delegate.” And a full night’s sleep became a thing of the past.

The decade ahead, I imagine, will be filled with dance and music and art and star gazing and chapter books. And the incomparable joy of watching beautiful Liana grow and learn and experience the world around her. Holograms? Check points at which we need to show our national ID cards? Space Tourism? I think the next decade will offer a small window of opportunity to bring Liana to see glaciers while they are still grand, and coral reefs before they are bleached beyond repair. Perhaps the Obama years will usher in a renaissance of sorts. Or perhaps the damage is already so deep that the decline of the empire in inevitable.

The one thing I can predict with certainty is that any predictions I make here today will look ridiculously naïve a decade from now.