When I loved playdates

Flick up, Flick down,

Flick up, Flick down,

Chik

Chik

Chik

“Would you stop playing with the window? You’re gonna break it”

My mom lowers her car mirror, waits for eye contact

Locking eyes, she asks “Do you know Jill? Do you want a playdate with Jill?”

Eyes spark, I feel thrilling anticipation 

The same anticipation I feel seconds before teachers release 30 children to an empty playground

Knowing we’ll squeeze out every possibility in every one of those 20 minutes

A playdate, time unmonitored, unwatched by the school’s draconian eyes

A playdate, time free from the heavy cloud of schoolwork, hovering over our free minds

A playdate, time away from home

Well, we never host the playdate

Unspeakable, unimaginable

Jill has the backyard with the gate

Jill has her own room, with the newest toys

Jill has the two parents to control the noise

Jill has a nanny plating the goldfish with the grapes

No child wants to play in a room that feels like a tomb

No child wants to wait until midnight for dinner

No child wants to fear running, shouting

The walls and patience growing thinner

So, of course, I say,

Yes!

Dropped off, I gaze at their long staircase

Speedily stomping through each wooden step,

Dragging my fingers along their slate gray colored walls

Head thrown back, staring at an untouchable ceiling, endless halls,

Bare feet grasping the fresh cut grass,

A family summer dinner before sundown,

I loved playdates.

When I stand up, readying to wash,

“What are you doing?” Her parents confused

Dropping the fork in the sink, “I’m cleaning what I used”

At Jill’s, “we use others for that

That, the nasty work, the invisible job.

Work inconceivable for a playdate, 

to scrub one’s own plate

For 2 hours, maybe 3,

I forget there’s somewhere to return to

I embrace the hanging chandelier 

I remember each room I sprint to

3 hours turn into 4, and then into 5

They begin probing me for pick up time

How stupid am I?

I was never at Tristan’s

I was at Jill’s.

Every playdate will end

The magical spell of time will lift

The fanciful illusion will disperse

leaving a child, in an unknown, cold home

Arrived, my mom presses her finger against the doorbell

Inside, she inspects a picture on their silver fridge

Turned, she points to the family photo to tell,

“This picture, this child, rings a bell”

without another thought, she recalls

walking through those double doors,

Not to pick up her kid,

Not as an equal,

Not as a friend,

She recalls what she did.

For as long as my playdate, she was in this same house

Relentlessly combing through Jill’s golden hair,

she arrived at Jill’s not to play but to delouse

By her side, a bag with combs, detangler, product

Hair ties here and there, Jill put a purple one in pocket

Jill’s mom seeing this coincidence, surprised yet remembers

Her husband, pulling her aside, whispers

He whispers, his repulsion increasing his volume

Soon any shame does not hold back this whisper

Enraged, 

Disgusted,

Unclean,

His whisper disintegrates into a statement he never intended to be so loud

“I don’t want my daughter on playdates with the Help’s child”

When do you first remember your childhood defiled?

Friendships defiled by the swollen disgust a father feels

Memories defiled by the words adults usually conceal

When did you learn to look down on labor you won’t do?

Labor you can’t do.

Parasites crawling on your child’s head

You look at us like we are injected with disease instead.

Clearly,

Your 8 year old Jill deserves only the best

She can pick out the clean from the dirty

When she fails, there’s an ache in your chest

Do you worry your 8 year old Jill will be poor at thirty?

Or do your eyes itch seeing an immigrant invasion of the rich?

As I first stepped in this home,

I was a child, a guest, life equal to yours

As my mom first stepped in this home,

she was a worker, oppressed, life below yours.

Holding my mom’s soft, brown hands,

we both pass through those doors for the last time.

In the back of the car, my hands gravitate again

I seek to play with a familiar chime —

Flick up, Flick Down

Flick up, Flick Down

Chik 

Chik

Chik

A Nostalgic Echo

A Nostalgic Echo

I stand across the room, people shoulder to shoulder

I hear gasps, laughs and shouts, yet none compare

The buzzing, uniform noise turns my ears colder,

Blending together until each syllable tears 

Lights dim, laughter dwindles into chuckles

But one transcends, outshines the rest

Unlike any other this one doubles

It melts the cold nerves of any guest

It unfurls through the capricious crowd, sparking smiles

Gently charming all that are lucky to hear

A genuine laughter, beaming for miles

It invites, it incites, it dissolves lingering fear

This nostalgic echo will never hurt my ears

In a crowd, in a dorm, in a pair, it always sweetens

Through the thick, gloomy mood, it always perseveres

Infectious and precious, our delight always deepens