Not One Child—Ferguson & Michael Brown Are the US

Posted on November 24, 2014

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t feel incredibly comfortable writing about the verdict in the Michael Brown case, but I feel equally awkward not writing about it. A child died, ultimately, no one will be held accountable in the eyes of the law.

Let that sink in, a life gone and no one serving time, but his parents in a lifetime of “Why our son?”

 

Phtoo Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Photo Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters

I am in Orlando reminding my daughters not to touch every single surface because we are in one big, pulsing, germ dome. Other parents are teaching their sons not to look suspicious or be in an environment where they might be accidentally murdered, because they are in a giant, pulsing country of potential harm.

Here’s the thing, I’d throw rocks. I would throw batteries, hurl obscenities and demand justice. No doubt in my mind. I am not the grieving parent, so where does that leave me? I have the obscenities dancing in my head, but the layers between me and the fiery center of this grief are significant. I can hurt and rail, as we all should, because this is a fundamentally broken system. However, I can take my white privilege, or, if that term makes you uncomfortable, just look at it as a place in this world, world where young people are being killed, and say, “No more.”

Long after the networks are broadcasting carefully edited clips of teargas and looting, we can address the other kind of looting, the stealing of young lives in the name of law? Preserving the peace? We can say that we do in fact see race and that we see that it’s long since overdue to acknowledge that black people have been getting the short stick sideways.

Michael Brown is gone, our resolve should persist.

“Race is there. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.” 

Jon Stewart

 

Travel Travails Triumph

Posted on November 23, 2014

If it weren’t for suspicious luggage and whispers of a bomb scare and a subsequent lockdown in the baggage claim at Orlando’s airport, I’d have written a proper post. Instead, there is this: a post with two images that capture the most important things about today—the anticipation of an adventure as seen from the window seat and then, after so many hiccups…

Wing&APrayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a trip to the beach to do cartwheels and scream as they leapt in the surf hours after bedtime had passed.

 

BeachBliss

 

Sometimes dwelling on the goo in between isn’t worth the time.

Bench Seats and Marriage

Posted on November 21, 2014

I was driving into work, the defroster melting the last bits of frost from the windshield, and the sun shining from the east as if to further the process along. I rode in silence, the air so cold my eyes watered. My mind was blank, deliciously so. I watched the blur through the window, happy to be awake.

Quietly I began to think about setting an intention for the day. I felt sheepish, what good could setting an intention do anyway. I make lists all the time, the writing of the items doesn’t make them get done any quicker, if anything it just feels as if it puts my failure to finish in bold.

An intention, Amanda. What is my intention?

I licked my lips and drummed my fingers along the steering wheel. “My intention,” I whispered as I tapped the palm of my hand on the wheel. “My intention is to be positive. No. My intention is to start positive things. I mean, I will say things that will create new things. I will let the pessimistic commentary be removed from my thoughts.”

As I said the words, though I can’t recall if I said them aloud in the car or in my mind, I began to feel less awkward. I worked through setting an intention that was neither too vague nor to specific and reaching. I nodded and looked out toward the sun. I saw a truck coming.

It was a faded, old F-250. The original blue of the paint was so faded it was nearly white. As it came closer I saw that the passenger seat was empty. There was a person sitting next the driver. I squinted and saw that it was a woman sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the driver. She was in her late fifties or early sixties. The sun shone behind her, I could see her short hair had a slight bed-head quality. They both wore heavy work coats and flannels.

I wondered if they were listening to music, or maybe the news. As our cars came closer I leaned in to get more of the story, sitting so close I imagined they had to be a couple. They looked quiet, morning silence. Their heads both tilted slightly toward the driver side door. I’d guess he was the same age as she was. The truck passed over a bump in the road and they bobbled back and forth in unison. Just as our cars passed, she leaned her head lightly on his shoulder.

I tried looking back once, but all I saw were tail lights.

I drove into the sun thinking about bench seats and marriage; the middle seat gets relegated to overcrowded cars or lovesick teenagers. Marriage is pressed into an assumption of fading, the vibrant colors and passion of courtship muted like exterior paint unprotected from the elements. The dings and scratches we accumulate making us somehow less deserving of something candy apple red.

There’s nothing stopping us from sliding across the bench seat and sitting so close that our legs touch. No amount of years passing can erase the thrill of an unexpected touch, peeking at him in profile, or seeing the curve of bottom lip you’ve gently nipped at the end of a kiss. Feeling desired as his hand traces a circle on the upholstery next to him, “Come here, I want you close.”

Faded paint has an allure, as do the slightly different lines on the body of the truck, so distinct from the ubiquity of SUVs and crossovers. The stories it must have, the rules that have been broken, and the times that despite not being new, it’s done the job better than anything else around. Songs are written about old trucks and promises are made and kept in the,.

I kept that truck, and its cozy passengers, in my mind. I stuck to my intention. Just like the initials I found carved on a playground, I would accept the invite of bench seats, and remember that what we began more than 15 years ago was not a fade to black. It was the first, bold brush stroke and the colors are, forevermore, ours to choose.

 

WritingOnTheWall

 

Hopscotch across the keyboard, heal the hurt.

Posted on November 20, 2014

Books. I love them and the different roles they’ve played in my life. Even writing these words I’m recalling the spines of books I stared at as a child; the one with dark green fabric and frayed edges, the thick brown book with the deep emboss, and the navy with gold, raised letters. I would cradle them like baby dolls as I rearranged the long shelves of books before I was even ready for the words between the covers. I simply wanted to be near them, knowing at some primal level that they were thick with treasure.

I remember story books, the anticipation as I waited for mom to get to the next the page. Her fingers as familiar as my own, the sound of her licking a fingertip to turn the page, and the warmth of her body all a part of my greatest comfort. There were flutters in my tummy as the page would turn and Little Bear, Frog & Toad, or Francis would appear. The reliability and intoxicating combination of connection and escape set me on fire. There were times when a bad book in my hands was better than no book. When I wasn’t reading books, I was collecting them. Hand-me-downs from friends, gifts from my mom, and the steady trickle of books being passed down to me from my grandmother, and later, my grandfather.

Watching my girls embark on their own odyssey of what is magic has been humbling. For every time I’ve tried to construct a scenario or impart a certain thing, it’s failed. There is no choreography to passion, which is why the way they have come into book love has pleased me on a level I can’t explain.

Briar now loses herself in books, Finley has favorites, some of which are books she reads, others are simply books that she adores, stories be damned. Avery is following the path she’s always preferred, picking books with black protagonists, or Asian, or Hispanic, the recurring theme being a skin color darker than her own and stories never told by Barbie, My Little Pony, or Disney.

I have a daughter almost in middle school, a daughter almost out of elementary school, and a first grade in hot pursuit of her sisters. We are making it up as we go. Thursday nights Briar takes a sewing class, while she is there I hang out at the library with her sisters.Last week Finley had a book called Akiak, it was about a ten-year old dog participating in the Iditarod. I wept openly as we read the book.

They know that Library Lion makes me weep. So does Otis, so does, City Dog, Country Frog, so does Little Bear and the Robin. Ok, as Sean says, they all make me cry. After Akiak I said to Fin, “You sure know how to pick the books that go straight to my heart.” They watch me with every book , waiting to see if I’ll cry, if there will be tears that they can catch. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to embarrass them, but there is another part that wants them to know how close to the surface they make my heart exists.

Tonight Ave picked a book and said, “I hope you’ll read it to me.”

“Of course, honey. I am here to be able to do this and this looks like a great pick.”

She settled into a chair next to mine, Fin sidled up in one of her own. We began. The illustrations were simple. Having a dad working in design with a degree in illustration, sometimes the books choices are based as much on visuals as they are on content. We started getting to know Mary, with her brown skin, bare feet and new, harsh neighborhood. Mary played piano, remembering songs after one listen, and instinct guided her fingers across the keys. The girls never looked for “white skin” or asked about how she didn’t have shoes. They wanted to know more about her. Their faces scrunched in pain as Mary was taunted and ridiculed by a neighbor with pale skin and long curls.

 

Girls

 

I followed Mary’s story and did my best to keep pace in such a way that they weren’t impatiently waiting for me to turn the page. I found that I was getting lost in they story. Mary moved to Pittsburgh and a few of the geographic names tested me, but we made it through.

 

 

Spirit

 

As I read about Mary referring to the teasing and slurs as “bad sounds” I felt a lump in my throat. We ave talked about kids being mean, but we have only lightly broached race. I read the words, “She crooned and whispered and shouted out until her spirit was lifted free.” As they story went on the girls heard the tell-tale sound of the tightening of my throat. They turned to watch me, Avery raking her scarf gently along the tops of my cheeks, “I’ll catch your tears, Mama.” Finley looked at me, never saying a word, rather measuring the effect of their choices through my tears, the more, the better they’d chosen.

“You hear that girls? She fought the hurt from school with music.” I wasn’t trying to suggest that everything can be fixed, rather we all have something and the ways in which we each deal with our pain is different. Mary’s music became a part of her neighborhood, with adults finding ways to encourage her playing. She grew up and continued playing.

As we got to the end of the book, I read the afterword. Our Mary was in fact a major player in the music industry. The word feminism leapt from the page. I crinkled m eyes and thought, “No sense trying to navigate someone’s passion when they can do just fine by themselves.”

Feminism. Barrier. Talent. Spirit. Soul. Childhood.

Sitting there in the library, the world outside dark and cold, I was reminded once again of the way books can soothe and connect us.

 

Feminist

 

*The book is called The Little Piano Girl and is about the story of Mary Lou Williams.