Wonder 27



Charlie seems to have no idea that he’s the type of guy that girls find cute.

I’m his mom, so of course I’ve always thought he was the cutest thing. I love to tease him just so I can see that lop-sided grin of his.


But I’m not the only one who thinks he’s cute. Since his club has been meeting at our place, I’ve been watching the kids in the club, one of them, in particular.

Miranda’s known Charlie since they were little. He met her one day when he took an adventure all by himself to the park. Later, she transferred to his school, and they’ve become good friends.

She lights up whenever Charlie’s around.

I hope she’s not picking up signals that aren’t really signals. Charlie’s so friendly with everyone that he makes people feel special when he talks to them. I can’t tell by watching them if he thinks she’s more special or if he feels she’s regular special.

Either way, it’s pretty clear that she feels he’s most special.


She’s a beautiful young woman.

When I watch Charlie, Yuki, and Miranda meditating together, I wonder what they’re feeling. Are they thinking of each other? Do they feel connected through a shared sense of peace? Charlie looks blissed-out.

I probably shouldn’t feel envious of my kid, but I do. There are times when I see him express a feeling of integration or wholeness, and I think what I wouldn’t give to feel like that.


“The energy of creativity is free,” he was telling Yuki and Hugo. I was drawn to his words, even though I didn’t agree. I’d been facing a writer’s block recently with a poetry collection I was preparing for publication. The form was fine–both on the individual level of each poem and on the composite level of the entire collection. But the essence was missing. My images were falling flat, and every symbol felt trite. I felt dry, and my words were sand.

“The energy of creativity is all around us!” Charlie continued. “In fact, it’s energy! Close your eyes, feel that movement–what is that? That’s life! That’s creativity!”


Yuki and Hugo didn’t look like they were buying it. I couldn’t seem to grasp it, either, though I wanted to.

I started thinking of objections: life flows around and through us, but how do we express it through our work? How do I sit down and write a poem that says something unique about the experience of being alive, without becoming trite?

What keeps Charlie’s insights from being common drivel, platitudes that express only emptiness?


Later, he and Miranda were talking. It’s Charlie’s sincerity that keeps his words from being empty, I saw. He may not have the vocabulary to express what he experiences, but everything he says comes from something he knows, something he’s discovered through feeling, intuition, sensing, being, or exploration.

Miranda seems to get him. I felt a sudden pang watching her smile in understanding as he was talking about patterns of movement that repeat through energetic pulse, music, color perception, breath, brain wave. The type of unity he described is so beyond anything I have ever experienced, let alone conceived of, and he described it as if it were his native language. Where has this boy come from? Has he always had these thoughts, and did he keep them inside of him until he met the right people that he could share them with? This boy, what universes exist within him that I will never be able to join?


Something shifted in me with that realization–it was as if the block slid aside, and words tumbled out. I knew where my poems wanted to go.



We started as one–
this I get.
That breath we shared, same pulse, same blood.
The pain is simply
the separation
of one into

Centrioles move to opposing poles.
The nucleolus disappears.

You will be moving soon,
somewhere away.
I am preparing.

Go, boy.
Leave me to steel myself
for the mitosis
of my heart.

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Wonder 15

“I think our Chazzie’s gifted,” Beryl said the other day.

We looked over to where he sat working on his homework.

“Charlie?” I asked. “He’s average, right? Middle of the Bell curve.”

“I don’t think so, Mae. He’s off the curve. In the very best way.”


“Whatcha working on, Charlie?” I asked him.

“It’s some kinda formula-thinger,” he said. “Like when you mix stuff, what do you get.”


And he dove right back into his work.

“He’s not,” I whispered to Beryl. “He just works hard. He knows how to apply himself.”


He closed his book when I joined him with my cup of tea.

“All done, sweetie?”

“I’m done with the first part. Now I get to do the extra part.”


“You want help?” I asked.

“Naw,” he said. “I like to do it myself. But can you hang out with me while I do it, and then after can I practice a joke on you?”

“Sure!” I said. “I’d love a joke!”


When Charlie finished his work, he said, “Ok. Joke time. So this goalie walks into a library. He goes up to the librarian and says ‘May I have a cheese burger and fries, please?’ The librarian scratches his head and says, ‘Sir, you are in a library.’ The goalie covers his mouth. ‘Oh, sorry. May I have a cheese burger and fries, please?’ whispers the goalie.”


While I was still chuckling, Charlie ran over to the old chemistry set that Mr. Fennis, the store owner, dropped off.

I watched him work. He maintained intense focus and concentration.


He pulled out a notebook and wrote down notes.

“What are you writing, Charlie?” I asked.

“The formula-thinger,” he said. “In case I want to make this tomorrow. Think it’ll explode?”


It didn’t explode, but it was combustible.

“What did you put in there?”

“Iron!” Charlie shouted.


I had to admit it was really cool.

“Be careful, spud,” I said.

“Yeah, we’re doing aqueous solutions next,” Charlie said. “Nothing combustible about those. You like blue? This is copper.”


“Where’d you learn that stuff?” I asked Charlie. “At school?”

“Sort of,” he replied. “I went to the library. First I asked for a cheeseburger,” he cracked up. “Then I said for reals, ‘Can I get a book about color stuff and chemistry?'”

It was hard for me to believe that this is the same little guy who insists on watching the Freezer Bunny Jump Show with breakfast every morning before school.

How much more is going on inside his mind that I haven’t a clue of?

It hit me then–how much of life happens outside of us. Here is my little boy, not so little anymore, growing up with his own interests, his own discoveries, his own adventures. They’re happening outside of me. There will be so much to him that I never know.


Before bed, Paolo called. “Can o menino come to visit before the bed?”

It was nearly nine.

“I will send him back before the half of the hour,” Paolo said. “He said he had the something to tell to me.”

“You could come here,” I said.

“No,” he replied. “I am making the supper for Jade and Eva. I have the caldo verde on the stove now.”

Charlie was eager to run over to his dad’s.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked.

“No!” said Charlie. “I mean, yeah, if you want to, but for me, no.”

I watched him run across the courtyard until he disappeared down the hill. I imagined him sharing news with his dad. Maybe he was telling him the goalie joke. Or maybe he was describing the color of iron sparks and copper solutions. Or maybe he had his own secrets that a boy wants to tell his father.


While he was gone I felt a pang. Oh, I understand my mother so much more now! When I was growing up, I always wondered why she felt she had a right to my thoughts and feelings. They were mine. What obligation was there to share them with her?  Sometimes I would share, and when I did, she lapped up every word greedily. Her eagerness made me less inclined to share the next time. I needed something of my own.

I decided that I wouldn’t ask Charlie what he had wanted to share with his father.


When Charlie came home, he pulled out his violin.

“Can I play before bed?” he asked.

“Of course,” I said.

I sat outside and listened. He played a Mozart violin concerto, and he played it with ease. I knew he’d been studying with someone at school, and he’s been practicing hours every day.

It was as if I were hearing him for the first time. Charlie is no longer my baby: he is an individual, with a curious mind and a full range of talents, ideas, and explorations.

And maybe Beryl is right about him.


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Wonder 6



“So? I was right?” asked Ulrike when I ran into her in the park.

“You were,” I told her. “We have a little boy.”

“A son for Paolo!” she laughed. “Will you raise him to be the artist or the player of futebol?”

I chuckled. “We will raise him to be Charlie Rocca Cups!”

Something in me has shifted, after Charlie’s birth. All my future-thought, planning facilities feel like they aren’t accessible. I can’t think about schools or colleges or child-rearing philosophies or anything like that.

All I can do is enjoy the sandwiches that Berry makes for me.


All I can think about is cleaning dishes.


All I can feel is this wash inside of colors I don’t even know how to describe. Yeah, I guess I’m still in love and drowning in oxytocin.

This biochemical cocktail of love is great for writing, though! I finished that book about our dad, and now I’m writing a book about bunnies. What? Oh, heavens. It’s true. I am drunk on the mommy-hormones of love.


Fortunately, Berry’s got herself together. She’s still taking over any projects that require concentration.


“What would I do without you?” I asked her the other day, when both the bathroom sink and the toilet broke.

“Marry Paolo, most likely,” she replied.


The whole time we’ve been here, Berry’s been painting every day. Her work’s masterful. She’s been painting a lot of landscapes. The scenes look like they’re from the Pacific Northwest, where our dad grew up, and where we spent most of our summers as kids, roaming around through mountains and along the coast with Frank and Sylvia, our dad’s parents.


I’ve spent a long time looking at her most recent painting.

I can’t really express what I see in it. Three trees in the foreground, and there’s something about the way that smaller of them inclines away from the other two that tugs at me.

It feels like family in some way, that dynamic of love, dependence, and individuation.


“Berry,” I said to her. “Thanks for being here with me while I’m this big puddle of emotion. I don’t feel like myself. I feel good, but I feel weird. Thanks for being here to keep everything going.”

She wrapped her arms around me and didn’t say anything, except she hummed this funny little song that our mom used to sing.


I heard her later that night singing the song to Charlie.

Mares eat oats
And does eat oats
And little lambs eat ivy,

A kid’ll eat ivy, too,
Wouldn’t you?


It’s just an old nonsense song that was popular when Mom and Dad were kids, but when I hear her sing it, all these marrow-deep memories come alive.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was so happy–so fiercely happy. It was a power beyond me–like in my genes. And I thought of Frank and Sylvia, Nonny and Papa, Mom and Dad. I thought of all this continuation of a gesture, a voice, an arch of an eyebrow.

I didn’t think about a song, and how one day, maybe little Charlie Rocca will sing this same song to a little baby in his arms.

But somehow Berry knew.


Somehow, Berry’s got this all figured out, this complicated dance of ties and love and independence.


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