As illusive and fleeting as youth, summer days come rippling through our lives, but we panic. What to do with a sunny Saturday? That one long weekend in July? Quickly, family gatherings, backyard barbecues, tasks only completed in warm weather, and much more, fill our calendar. Can I request we all collectively push the pause button? Stop for a moment? Take a look at green? And blue? Listen to the cardinal’s song and walk along the water’s edge? Exhale America, here comes our Independence Day. A time to feel the freedom.
Maybe it’s the hundreds of poetry essays moving in red folders across my table in the AP Literature scoring room, or the company of hundreds of English teachers, all equally obsessed over words, but as soon as I saw this morning’s headline on a discarded newspaper on the conference center cafeteria table, my mind flooded with questions and outrage about gun violence. I don’t want to minimize this latest shooting (prayers to all involved) but… this is what will cause Washington to become stunned over the epidemic that has been spreading like wildfire in our communities?
A few years ago I wrote about graduates. In the ensuing years I thought that was all I ever wanted to say about that topic, that edge of time, that walking off process, that bravery. Until now. Because as wonderful as the notion of moving on is, it is also terrifying. Often impossible. Sometimes only accomplished by crawling. And stopping. And being nudged until you crawl forward again. As we applaud those who boldly walk and do so with ease, there are many who can not. Theirs is a walk of anxiety and missteps. Of not showing up. Of hanging back. Of not joining in. Of fearing what lies ahead far more than driving on. Their achievements seem to pale in those celebratory moments. What of them? I wondered as I sat in the packed gymnasium filled with graduates and their families.
After hearing about Trump’s latest fuck-up today I felt like running away. How can one stand for such ignorance? Such foolhardiness? Such lack of foresight? There are no sensible responses to these rhetorical questions, except to stay vigilant, and keep shouting them. #resist his #ignorance. My history with running away runs deep… and days like today don’t make it easy.
There was a stretch in my younger years when I actively ran away, like a few times a week, or maybe it was only once. Let’s face it, memory, at least mine, is porous and malleable. But for now, let’s say that running away was something I did with regularity. I’d pack a few items, like pj’s and my toothbrush, and walk around the block to our back-fence neighbor’s house. I have no idea why that household seemed like a respite, for they too had plenty of children scampering about with two parents faded in the background, but it was there I always went.
As much as I want to start every morning ready to face whatever comes my way, there are those days that knock me down, saw off my legs, and leave me to crawl through the mire; those days I curse change, especially unasked for ch-ch-ch-changes, and feel stuck. Helpless. During those moments I wrestle desperately with myself. You know that feeling? It’s two steps forward and one back, until you are either worn down by the whole affair, or you move yourself into the light.
First of all, a big thank you to all of you who hang in there. Who continue to show up for those noisy crazy little beings. Perhaps a special shout out for those of you who learn to grow along side them too. (In this area I was fortunate, in that just about every roundabout loony or otherwise twist and turn my siblings and I took, at least one of our parents understood, or learned to).
But what I really want to suggest today, is to be adventuresome with your kids. I know you’re tired. I know too many of you are between jobs or down on your luck, and working with all your inner resolve just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Regardless, those little ones need to see the shiny side of life. They need movement to exert themselves and they need art to be uplifted. At the end of each day they need all the light you can provide.
As we approach this Sunday in May when families sing the praise of the woman who brought them into this world, or the woman who adopted them, those mothers and step-mothers or aunts and grandmothers, let us also remember the mentors and caregivers, for there are many ways to mother after all; let us collectively nod our heads to those who nursed through feverous nights or cheered during wet soccer games and heralded us along with a nudge and even a song. Mother’s Day celebrates the cycle of love spiraling down the generations, from those who mother to all the rest. Honor her, in her multitude of forms, indeed.