Love, Politics, Uncategorized

Thoughts on What Awaits Us

ugly-couchMy thoughts on what awaits us:

Not long after my dog and I set out on a late afternoon walk today, we strode past the home of the childcare provider who cared for each of my children in past years. It being around 5:00 and therefore pickup time, there were three cars in the driveway. Two of the moms engaged in a familiar ritual: standing with the car doors open while chatting. In the third car, I noticed a toddler buckled into her car seat. She was waving repeatedly, a low and anguished wave, moaning “Bye, bye, bye.” Her face was scrunched up in outrage.

Sigh. I can relate, little baby. I have felt like that for weeks, seeing story after story of farewell speeches from the Obamas, last gestures, that Medal of Freedom the president gave Biden. Now I’m buckled into my car seat and despondent and my hair is a mess and my nose is running and I’m just on autopilot saying bye, bye, bye. I opened my back patio door the night Obama first won in 2008 and screamed in joy. I freely acknowledge that I’ve been crushing on Michelle Obama for, what, a good nine years now. I know if she were a mom I met through our children of the same age, and we ended up chatting at a school function, I’d be grinning well past the time we parted. I might stop to think, gosh, I am still grinning. I have been grinning for a *while* now.

I’m still grinning. That woman is glorious. But times change. My 42 years of life have seen plenty of changes. My childhood photos now uniformly look a bit orange and grainy (was anything ever in focus?) and we’re all wearing huge and high collars and swooping lacy hems that now look ridiculous. My parents had two sofas in a row that may qualify for the ugliest piece of furniture ever produced, featuring big brown plant-like shapes with rust accents and then deep, fuzzy, stone-cold-serious plaid. When I was pregnant with my first child, we decided that we should probably go ahead and get a cell phone (!) for my husband. This prudent precautionary measure would ensure he could be reached if I had an emergency. Mark Zuckerberg was a high school kid at the time. The other day my son, always full of middle school silliness and possessing his own sharp sense of humor, joked that he hadn’t done something “Since ‘Nam.” What? Hey child, I was the one who grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam War era and made joking references to my ‘Nam years. Last week, a tiny but hardy PHONE BOOK was delivered to our driveway. This deeply aspirational offering made me stop and stare. Valuable coupons inside, it promised. I wanted to take selfies with it and cradle it like a baby but instead I left it on the driveway and my husband chucked it into the recycle bin. Times have changed. Apparently, not everyone gets all the memos.

Watching the changes on the sociopolitical scene unfold these past two months still seems like watching an entertaining but derivative movie in which the good guys are threatened by the sinister forces who want to do away with everything that seems, well, somehow not that controversial – low-cost healthcare clinics women can access, not coldly turning away cancer survivors and diabetics who want to purchase health insurance, keeping public schools open and thriving, supporting the arts, letting LGBT people snuggle into adorable urban lofts and plan weddings and put a ton of sunscreen on their toddler children. I’m expecting a scene soon in which a heartbreakingly precious baby owl is juuuuust starting to fall asleep in its nest and then some sort of bulldozer comes and the owlet’s eyes pop open and it flaps and flaps and flaps its little owlet wings while the bulldozer pushes the tree down. While watching this movie I might think, well this is a bit campy and over the top and, it now being 2017, unrealistic. Jabba the Hutt debuted decades ago and that oversexed gross villain thing has been done to death by now.

But here we are. Times change. Apparently the pendulum swings back. There’s been a lot of consternation among many people I hold dear. I don’t know what to say except that well, here we all go. Six and a half years ago I was on one of my rare solo travels, visiting my beloved Colorado like I am wont to do. I left a visit with one dear friend and headed south toward Denver to visit two other dear friends, Allison and Jill. Midway there, on the Boulder turnpike, suddenly I was braking and then I was actually spinning, turning the wrong way. I remember thinking, oh wow, so this is me having a car accident. This is real life happening right now.

My trajectory ended next to a concrete boundary on the side of the highway with me facing approximately northwest when I had been driving southeast. I didn’t really understand what had happened. I think I even explained that I had hit the concrete, except that I totally hadn’t. A witness pulled over and did not help the situation by becoming upset on my behalf and asking repeatedly if I was hurt. All that happened to me was that some water spilled and I broke a toenail. Then there was a traffic jam forming, and police officers and an ambulance and me assuring everyone everywhere that I was uninjured. Of course I cried. I apparently called Allison and Jill, because within what felt like a mere 17 seconds there they were. I can still feel my relief. My god. Familiar faces. Competent faces. One of them laughed at the fact that I had frosted mini wheats in the car. Thank you and thank you for teasing me for my frosted mini wheats.

So now here we all are, and stepping into this new era feels like the brake and spin of that moment of my life. We’ve all together been hit by an unlicensed driver in a Ford F250 while driving a tiny rental car and now we’re spinning and this direction is for sure not the direction we were just going in. I take solace in the fact that on my 300-degree spin, I managed to hit no other vehicle. That still seems implausible – there had been a fair amount of traffic heading into Denver at rush hour. And while I was a confused and tearful mess, soon my friends were there. I don’t know at all how they drove up from the south and turned around and navigated the traffic jam and were there to hug me within 17 seconds and then handled everything while I pretty much contemplated clouds and the sun setting. I was okay. That poor rental KIA only had about 700 miles on it before it was totaled but I was okay.

So I think, while we all wave dolefully at the outgoing administration and murmur bye, bye, bye, bye, that we really are going to be okay. The mama owls are going to get enraged and even the owlets are gonna be plucky and put on goggles and come back at the bulldozers. We’re all talking. We’re realizing some stuff. We’re marching. The background music is starting to take on a triumphant tone and the montage is coming in which the diabetics and the gay dads and the little girls and the disenfranchised and the people fielding the threats at the JCCs are all going to join the righteous owl mamas and turn again in the direction every heart knows is right, where there is equality and voice and respect and access and kindness. First the Ford F250 with the unlicensed driver was tailgating us, and today it hit and we spin. Here we all go. We spin together.

Advertisements
Standard
Grief, Love, Uncategorized

Requiem for the year

Today the sky here is gray. There has been no sun. Although I grimace when the forecast calls for soaring high temperatures, I am a Colorado girl and expect my sunshine. But clouds always do make me think, as if they alone can ease the pace of a day. The verb here is beautiful: slow.

This is a year I will always remember. It is pinned: orphan. But it is also pinned: care. I have seen more friends and family in this most memorable year than I have for a long time. I have enjoyed the company of cousins, of childhood playmates I’ve known my entire life, of my godparents and my brother and dear friends from all eras. I’ve been warmly welcomed into backyards, shared meals, received kind messages and laughed. Even this last week of the year, I have been lavished with time with friends, and this morning a truck arrived to deliver a bouquet of flowers from two friends I have known since elementary school.

Two weeks ago in Denver I stood alone on a hill beside my beloved natural history museum. My parents took me to that museum often. We went to the big traveling Ramses exhibit and to planetarium shows and stood in a tedious long line to see gem carvings one year. I volunteered there as a teenager and wrote about my experiences on college application essays. My mom and I took my two eldest children there when they were wee people with chirpy high voices, and we stood chatting as my babies pretended to be astronauts.

When I was a child the museum had a sculpture of the head of a saber tooth tiger, mouth wide open, where one could drop a coin and make the tiger growl. I was a little afraid of dropping a coin in, just like I was a little afraid of the creepy elevators amid the animal dioramas, but I could do it. I was brave enough to make a saber tooth tiger growl.

The museum still has that saber tooth tiger. I walked into the lobby this month and I could hear that sound again, imprinted as it is, as if it came from some stalwart neuron devoted to only it. There must have been an eager child that December day with a cupped hand full of coins, because the growls continued. I took it all in, slow that day too, playing another track in my life’s soundtrack. Then I walked outside to the old familiar hill.

There are always geese in Denver’s City Park. My mother loved birds. On my wall, I display one of my father’s paintings, depicting the ash tree in their backyard of 33 years. Within the tree is a birdhouse I decorated for my mom one year: “Barb’s Birds.”

The sound of my mom’s longtime friend drawing a bath for her granddaughter in July was a visceral and sensory reminder of my mom doing the same for my child ten years earlier. The way my college friend’s husband spoke for a puppet in December was gut-punch similar to what my dad would do. So I stood outside that museum in City Park, the saber tooth growl renewed in mind, and I forgave the wild geese I found there.

I forgave them for giving and then for taking away. I forgave them for the goodbyes after the goodbyes, the many reminders, the over and over work it takes to let go.

They are sorry, the wild geese. And I’m sorry too. I am not without gratitude: thank you to Mother Earth and to God and chance and the wild geese for conspiring to give me this life that I wanted more of. Thank you for my belief that it wasn’t enough time.

The year is over. When I look up from it I realize that I am within a circle of my parents’ making. I turn, and turn, and turn, and the circle is unbroken. It was both the year of orphanhood and the year of the most abundant and tender care.

I was too young for this. I wasn’t ready. But standing in my parents’ circle, the year they died now ending, I am certain of something only the snow in City Park knew before me: I am brave enough for forward. I am brave enough to make a saber tooth tiger growl. I am encircled by mighty things.

Standard