NaPoWriMo #21

ode to being young

Photo by Amy Engelsman via ReShot

an oversized sweatshirt becomes
a playground–fun mornings
back to back.
big smiles are welcome mats
and seeking arms want
nothing more than to
embrace a body bigger than
the one they’re attached to;
for comfort–for safety.

a rough night is instantly
replaced with a morning
drenched in surprises
and covered with chocolate
chip pancakes–so much syrup,
no one says, “When!” to stop
its flow.

a day of outside fun turns
into weeks of delightful events.
all that’s missing is
the contract to sign to
do this over and over and
over again.

ad infinitum.

The Love Button

Flash Fiction

Photo by Jatin Purohit via ReShot

Lalina held up her new button proudly and shoved it in her big sister’s face. “Look what I got, Ndia! Auntie bought it for me today at the festival. You should have come. They had basketballs for sale.” Lalina’s older sister loved basketball — she would try out for her school’s junior varsity team in two weeks. Knowing this, Lalina did everything she could to make her sister feel bad about not coming with them to the festival. After all, isn’t this what a seven-year-old sister did?

“I don’t care about that festival, Lali. I had some rounds to do and layups and sprints. While you and Auntie were at the festival, I got those done. What else did you get besides some old tired button?”

Lalina adored her button. It said exactly what she felt everyone should do in life — “Do What You Love”. It amplified her feelings about swimming and ice skating. While her sister loved playing basketball, she had a gentler touch regarding sports. She wanted the button for their mother, who had been working double shifts for two months; an almost feeble attempt at making ends meet for the three of them.

“The button’s for Ma-mah, Ndia. She works so hard. She’s always tired. The button is for her. I don’t think she loves what she’s doing. I think she just has to — for us.”

The pressing thickness of the air between the two sisters got thicker. Ndia knew her kid sister had a big heart, but this moved her to a place she hadn’t connected with in a few years. After their parents’ divorce, the thirteen-year-old rebelled — fighting her mother’s rules and constantly bringing up their father’s absence. It wasn’t a peaceful time for any of them, but Ndia was a “Daddy’s Girl”, and everyone knew it.

“I’m sorry, Lali. That’s really sweet of you. Ma-mah will love it. She will. You’re a good kid, Lali.”

Melba plopped her beaten body onto the faux leather couch. She let out an exasperated sigh and kicked her right leg onto the couch’s head. She was just about to lasso sleep into her world when her youngest appeared before her weary eyes.

“Ma-mah, look what I got you!” Lalina flashed the button in front of her mom and waved it from side to side as if she was displaying the finest item one could ever lay their eyes upon. “Look what I got, Ma-mah!” Melba raised herself up on her elbows and steadied her shaky frame. She blinked twice before tears filled her eyes.

“What’s this you have here, Lali? Where’d you get this?” The tears filled again as soon as she wiped them — she had been overcome with so much emotion and overwhelmed by her baby girl’s gesture.

“It’s a Do What You Love button, Ma-mah! Auntie bought it for me at the festival so I could give it to you. Do you like it? I think you should do what you love, Ma-mah. You’re never happy. I can tell. And you’re always tired.”

Melba sighed a heavy sigh, wiped the spittle from her lips, and pulled her youngest daughter into the tightest bear hug her exhausted frame could muster up. She held on for what seemed like hours. Then she pushed Lalina in front of her gently and gave her little pajama’d body a thorough review.

“Lalina, what a sweet girl you are. Thank you, baby. Thank you so much. I will wear this every single day, okay? I will.”

She hugged her again, wiped the salty tears from her eyes, and patted Lalina’s head.

“I just want you to do what you love, Ma-mah.” And without missing a beat, Melba whispered into her youngest child’s ear, “I am, baby. I am.”

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt

Originally published via Simily.

We Are the Village

And we must protect it

Photo by Heather Wilson via ReShot

I live on the third floor of a building with old, young, and the in-between gathered up to call this place our home. A neighbor of mine, who lives on the first floor, has three children — all under the age of five. She has been blessed with two handsome little boys and a precocious little girl with big, bright gray-green eyes. I know all of them. I’ve watched the boys grow over the last two years and while the oldest has calmed down, the middle son is still hyperactive, escapes his mother’s grip, and makes the area in front and behind our building his hiding places.

I have seen her chase after him with the youngest bouncing gingerly on her hip and the oldest advancing toward her van, attempting to open it as if he has no patience for his younger brother’s shenanigans. I have watched her load them all into the vehicle on her own, with a lovely smile plastered across her face as I yell out, “Hey there! Y’all good?”

She always responds with, “Morning. Yes, ma’am. Have a great day.” She doesn’t ask for help, doesn’t look for it, but I am a part of this village, so I help when I see the seams tearing. She has my attention.

On a cold winter’s day, with snow falling down in thick, beautiful flakes, I was coming up the stairs leading to the front of our building to gain access to the street. My morning and afternoon walk with my dog is when I see her most. She had the youngest on her hip, had already strapped the oldest in his car seat, and was calling out to the middle son to direct his little body to where she and his siblings had been.

Undeterred and happy to dance around in the snow, running from one end of the length of our building to the other, I called to him — he ran to me. With Jernee scooped up and carefully placed in my left arm, I guided him toward his mom. He is not vocal — not by much. He utters a few words here and there but is still developing his voice in this world. His energy, though, is undeniably sound. My mother would venture to call him mischievous — not bad, but curious and willing to test the waters.

Their lives are orchestrated by her.

I used to say to myself when I saw her, “She has her hands full.” But I realized after more time looking out for all four of them when they’re outside and I am approaching — she will direct the oldest to get the youngest while she chases after the middle son, and does it all in stride.

This is a never-ending job, one she has perfected. You may read this and wonder, “Where is the father?” When they first moved in, it was her, the two boys, and her boyfriend (their father). This is a quiet space and his presence was certainly heard. Whatever their reasons, they split up, but he comes to get his children or she takes them to him like clockwork every other week.

They’re making it work.

At first, when the young man left, I noticed how hard it was for her. With only the boys to look after, she would have them up, fed, dressed, and ready to venture out for their day. As her belly began to mound, chasing after the two of them was not a task, I could tell, she wanted to endure.

As the eldest of seven, with five brothers and a younger sister, I know the exhaustion of running behind and attempting to catch toddlers. It’s not something I wanted to do much of when I was younger and I was just their sister. I cannot imagine attempting to gather the energy while with-child to corral two quick little ones to do what you need them to do.

She did it, though — day after day.

As time passed, I noticed a pattern — a design, or rather a life-plan for her as she raises her children. The oldest is now four and runs to me to say a quick “Hello” or to dote on my dog, Jernee. He is better at helping with the younger ones and has his “listening ears” on most days now. The middle son still carries on without a care in this world, but I can tell he is protective of his younger sister, who is walking now and getting into everything. She has a fear of dogs, so she waves shyly in my direction if Jernee is in tow. However, when I am alone, she races toward me to hug me at my knees.

She is instilling in her children proper manners, love, empathy, protection of one another, and endurance. This has all been orchestrated by her, and it is working. The beauty of watching its progress is not beyond me — I get to witness it daily upon my interactions with them.

This is my village, and I will protect it.

Being the unit that we are here in this building and in much of my neighborhood, we look out for each other. My neighbor, upon unloading the kids and groceries from the van one night, dropped her debit card and receipt onto the pavement leading up to our building. I spotted it that night while walking Jernee. I rapped at her door. The young man (the children’s father) answered as he was caring for them while she was away. I let him know where I found it and he gave it to her when she returned later that night.

Recently, she thought she’d dropped her keys on the ground after getting them all settled inside one night before a heavy snowfall. The next morning, with the iced-over inches of snow covering our breezeways and every inch of grass in front of our building, she stated to me, “I think I dropped my keys out here. This is going to be a mess to get through.”

Envisioning her out there trying to dig through the hardened snow with her gloves, overcoat, and body triple-layered in warm clothing, I said to her, “If you can’t find them, let me know.” I was racing to get back upstairs to start my workday, but all I could think about was her finding those keys.

That evening after work, I saw her coming toward the building and asked after the keys to which she responded, “Oh my goodness! They were in my purse the whole time!”

We laughed and I said to her, “Thank goodness, because I was going to come back down here with the shovel and we were just going to dig for them.” I have no doubt, if she could, she’d do the same for me.

The village is supposed to rise up and make sure everyone has what they need. It is supposed to provide care, comfort, love, and discipline (whenever necessary) to ensure each of us can endure. It is not within me to stand idly by when my neighbors need help — never has been. I hope to get to see two more years of these little ones growing up before I leave this apartment complex. And until then, this is my village — I must protect it.

Shouldn’t we all do the same?

Originally published in Age of Empathy via Medium.

What About Love? Is There Anymore Left in the World?

3 Micro-stories about 3 LGBTQ children

Photo by Daniel TrutaI via ReShot

It is my birthday. I am five. Mommy throws a big party for me. No one comes. I eat my cake in one of the corners of our living room — tears fall. I don’t care, anymore. I don’t care. Mommy says she’ll always love me — she’ll always be there. I know the love of my mommy. I don’t of anyone else. I want to. I really, really want to. Right now would be a good time.

Photo by Monica G via ReShot

I cherish this picture of my brother and me. It was so long ago. We were inseparable. I remember the day I told him I was bisexual just like it was yesterday. The look on his face crushed me — the words that left his mouth soon after will always haunt me . . . “You’re no sister of mine.” It is a reminder of the love I had and the love I lost. I didn’t know one’s heart could break more than once. And now, I know.

Photo by Mohmmad Hilmi via ReShot

I am “It” to people. “Is it a boy?” or “Is it a girl?” No one thinks about me as a person. My family is ashamed of me. I hate feeling what I feel, but I feel what I feel, and I can’t stop it. I love my sister’s clothes. I love my mother’s dresses. I like having my hair teased and feathered. My brother kicked me in my stomach the other day — that was followed by a swift punch to my nose. I’m gaining thick skin from all of this — thick skin. It’s the reason I can still smile.

“Young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) enter the child welfare system for reasons similar to those of other children and youth — that is, their birth families cannot provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home. In some cases, families reject, neglect, or abuse young people when they learn that they identify as LGBT or are questioning their romantic/sexual orientation or gender identity. According to one study,1 about 26 percent of LGBT 2 youth are forced from their homes because of conflicts with their families of origin over sexual orientation or gender identity. Physical violence is also a concern for LGBTQ youth.”

Author’s Note: We must come together as one — if not for ourselves, for the children of this world. They need us. But we are often too blind to see this. I pray this will change one day soon.

Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

World Read Aloud Day, 2022

Educators, Librarians, and Parents/Guardians of the little ones . . . Lend me your eyes . . .

Space, Time, and Raspberries

Cover credit: Turine Tran

Kate Allen Fox, has written a beautiful treasure of a children’s book, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees. I own it and I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who reads to children or spends time with children who read. (It’s available from Leopard Print Books, Barnes and Noble, your local bookseller, and Amazon.

On February 2, 2022, children’s authors will be offering FREE virtual readings to students everywhere through World Read Aloud Day (WRAD).

Kate is thrilled to participate this year and is offering six 20-minute slots to read her science-based, nonfiction picture book, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees, which has been named one of the best books of the year by School Library Journal and Chicago Public Library.

If you are a teacher or a librarian and would like to sign up for one of Kate’s…

View original post 93 more words