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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

the year of the rabbit

I don't sleep well any more. When E is in my house, I jump from bed at the slightest sound to make sure she is not crying in the dark. When she is not with me, I lay in the darkness for hours, fighting my imagination, my thoughts that explore the avenues and possibilities of the coming day. Only when the ceiling grows pale and then white to do I nod off into something sleep-like, as I know the day is already here.

I celebrated New Year's Eve with N and her lovely mother in our warm little kitchen. I cooked and cooked, finding beauty in the tight pink curls of shrimp, the mahogany lacquer of a roast duck, the fragrance of country pate on fresh bread. Fine champagne crossed my lips. Kind toasts were made. The year of the rabbit was here and I looked to fill myself with great thoughts of safety and love.

After midnight we brought N's mother home and visited her cousin's party. A roasted pig's head sat in the center of the table staring at us. The glasses were filled and filled. Toasts splashed all around us, wishes of health and happiness, toasts to children, to money. Young women and children danced like mad, the tables pushed away from the sofa so they could wiggle around in funny hats for hours. I sat and watched it all, N next to me as beautiful as ever. I felt quiet.

Hours passed as more gifts were exchanged, as husbands and wives, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and sisters all laughed and joked and nudged each other with kisses and hugs and frequent shouts of "S'novim godom" (with the New Year). Over and over they wished each other happiness. The champagne was finally gone, and we shifted to great cups of black tea, plates and plates of homemade napoleons, dried persimmons, chocolates. The pig's face remained in the center of the table, a sort of anchor. N's cousin Michael would eat it when he woke up in the afternoon, the brains a delicacy as he explains it.

I could not finish the giant cognac in front of me. We ventured out into the cold and the eventual warmth of the covers waiting for us. The sun was coming up, and I saw myself nested against N's shoulders, smelling her new perfume. I was closing my eyes, my hands awkwardly stretched across the pillows. I was going to sleep.

The next day I would take E in the afternoon with any luck.


I missed getting E's letter to her. I will get it for your next trip to NYC..My gals and I are going up in February, for a little visit. I mail it out before then though..
I think of you and E often and wish I could help. Living so close to DC, I am going to do some research, can you write about what kind of help you may need?
Can you get E an American Passport?
Let me know the kind of help you need...
Omgrrrl said…
S'novim godom, m' dear! I am hoping that 2011 is going to be kind to you and your loves. Try to sleep.
Annie said…
Happy New Year! My Irish friend feels no one can celebrate like the Irish, but your party sounds splendid (minus, I think, the pig's head - at least the eating of it).
Mother Theresa said…
Just catching up. I'm glad to see that you have been able to see E again after the court day, and I hope someday you will have her with you all the time. From what I've read so far, it sounds as though E's mother neglects her, and you should document any evidence of that. Maybe that way the judge will see the truth. My best wishes for this year and that it may bring happiness for both you and E.

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