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parenting

A page of Jacob’s travel diary during a trip to India, 1996. Photo by Sarah Blesener.

Mira Jacob’s Notes to Self

It began, as so many cultural inquiries do, with some confusion about Michael Jackson. The summer of 2014, Mira Jacob’s son (we’ll call him Z) was obsessed with the singer, which is to be expected of a six-year-old who knows what’s what. But any path into Jackson’s story, especially for a child of color (Jacob is Indian American; her husband is Jewish) invariably ends up in the territory of disconnect, the before and after of his complexion, making the pop star’s story, like the larger American one, a bit difficult to explain. What began with an obsessive imitation of the backstep from “Beat It” led to heavy rotation on the family turntable, with albums strewn across the room. “And then it was obvious,” Jacob recalls, “because Michael’s face is so big on those albums. You can see his skin get lighter. So of course Z begins to ask: Who is this person? How did this thing happen? Will it happen to us?”

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Holding

This is how it is with my mind, heading out over the ocean, tipping one way so I see only water, shades of blue and green and cloud-shadow slate; tipping the other, all sky and complication of cloud. Ruckus of glinting refracted light. Some days, just empty gray, in both directions.

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Renovation

Water, I learned, was the most abundant element in nature whose only value came from controlled and measured distribution. Our lives invariably revolved around its input and output, and the same rules which governed the natural world were also true for our family’s own ecosystem.

Illustration by Gosia Herba

Other People’s Birthdays

Whatever it took to make it an arduous trip, and of course you couldn’t say the obvious, you had to smile and say there were worse problems blah blah blah. The mediocre glass of wine for thirteen dollars at the airport bar was one of them. The candy bar she ate on top of that, an hour later, made her sick. 

The Jesters

They had never seen these neighbors. Whoever lived on the far side of the wooded area were strangers to them. There was no occasion for the husband and the wife to drive on West Crescent Drive, which wasn’t easily accessible from the cul-​de-​sac at the end of East Crescent Drive, where they lived: This would involve a circuitous twisting route to Juniper Road, which traversed the rural-​suburban “gated community” called Crescent Lake Farms, an approximate half mile north on that road, and then a turn into the interior of the development and, by way of smaller, curving roads, onto West Crescent Drive.

Smother

She was very young then. It had to be 1974 because she was in second grade at Buhr Elementary School, which was the faded-red-brick building set back from the busy street; she has forgotten the name of the street and much of her life at that time, but she remembers the school, she remembers a teacher who was kind to her, she remembers Rock Basin Park, where the child was smothered.