Answering hard questions on the fly
Yesterday our 12 year old and her choir sang a beautiful concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a lucky coincidence for us that our family’s schedule was already set to double down on arts and music this week, since it’s exactly what we all — and I mean ALL, from the oldest to the youngest — need right now.
As parents of a night owl who sat on her bed close to midnight on election day trying hard to steady her ragged breathing, we didn’t even have a short grace period to reflect until Wednesday morning. We had to muster the clarity to answer hard questions on the fly. To explain why she’d be safe biking to school the next day even as we watched our collective existential fears come true. To decide that this was not the moment to emphasize the wild privilege that allows our particular family to assure even that much safety to our children. That emphasis had come before, and has since resumed.
“Oh look, there’s the Statue of Liberty.”
(I have to say, I was proud of myself for having instinctively summoned about 70% of the content of this thoughtful article, which I read the next morning and which may help you too, though I implore you, Do Not Read the Comments.)
On the way home from St. Patrick’s, driving down the NJ Turnpike extension, the 12 year old looked out the window and said, with a bemused chuckle and a weariness that doesn’t belong in the voice of someone so young, “Oh look, there’s the Statue of Liberty.”
Why we bother with monuments
One thing I’m grateful for this week is that teaching moments abound, and they’re real and meaningful because we’re all side by side in the trenches, learning together. After 40 years on earth, the vast majority spent in the greater NYC area, I realized at that moment that I’d never truly understood why we bother with monuments. Of course I’ve heard and repeated to the kids (as recently as last month, when we climbed to the Statue of Liberty crown on a school holiday) the significance to Ellis Island immigrants of lady liberty’s welcome as they made land in the United States. But for my own sake, I’d been too fortunate to need to be comforted by the sheer heft of stone and steel, concrete and copper.
It’s on us
At that moment, though, eyes on the road, foot on the accelerator, I felt a physical wave of relief and comfort course through me. This body of mine that’s been in grief mode since Tuesday night — a feeling I recognize from the period after my dad died six years ago — took respite in a glance at that statue. In her size, her solidness, her permanence. In the hulking physical representation of what we’ve built here and why. A tangible reminder that even if it feels all too easily reduced to dust at this moment, it isn’t. LOOK, she says, torch held high. It isn’t.
All I’ve got right now is this: It’s on us, as individuals and as communities, as parents and teachers, neighbors and friends, to make damn sure she’s right.
I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking this week, but time doesn’t stop to accommodate our feelings, and Thanksgiving, such as it is, is right around the corner. Here’s a little bit of love, light and nourishment for your table. I hope it feeds you in all the ways you need.