Five days in Oakland

I was supposed to be landing in Phoenix right about now on my way home from Oakland, CA, where I came to meet my newborn niece and kick it with my soul sister, who is also my sister by blood. But because of a giant Midwest ice-storm, instead of breathing stale airport air and hustling from one terminal to another, I’m lounging on the bed in the spare room with the sun streaming onto me from the window, open to the sounds of the street just a few feet below. From my perch I can see the trees surrounding Lake Merritt and the bus stop equipped with the belongings of the mute homeless guy who calls it home. When the breeze blows just right I can hear drumming from a large group of men playing not far from here, and in the span of a few minutes I can hear a multitude of languages spoken by the passersby below. I can smell the inside scents of a 100 year old building and the outside scents of the sea and the Mediterranean restaurant next door.I am completely content. For five days I have been filled with nostalgia and love. I am nostalgic for both Oakland (where I too lived for a very impressionable and exciting year), and for my first baby’s newborn days. I am both happy for and jealous of my sister and her baby girl. But it’s not the bad kind of jealous. It’s the stuff yogis and Buddhists call mudita, or sympathetic joy.

I am so very happy that this bundle of sweetness is born to two extremely sensitive and communicative parents who found each other in their thirties, both of them having much world- and self-exploration under their belts. I am happy she gets to spend all of her first six moths with her wise and chill mother who is acutely and intuitively attuned to her every need. I am happy that her father is compassionately aware of the needs of his partner and just as in awe of her ability as a mother. I am happy this sweet babe will grow up in a vibrant community where within a twelve block radius she will get to see, smell, hear and taste the whole world. She will hear joyous and sweet words coming from the man who walks by her window singing show tunes. She will hear slurring words from the drunk who is talking to her invisible foe. She will get to chat with the man who finished his 100th book on the couch in the coffee shop down the street, and she will get to share a quarter with his brother on the corner in need of a morning coffee. She will get to play on the playground with children of every color imaginable and interact with humans of every age, IQ and socio-economic class. For her, getting to see the effects of political policy won’t be a foreign concept. Her education, without stepping foot in a school, will already be rich and vibrant.

I feel love, gratitude and happiness for my sister and her expanded family. I feel joy in baby Anna’s smiles and coos. The great thing about being a big sister is that I can watch my little sister pick and choose how she wants to both follow in my footsteps and forge her own road. I am so proud of her and the life she has created. I am completely honored that she so graciously invites me to share it.

Thank you, sister.

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