Old Posts-death and your four year old, obama, ferns

February 17, 2009 at 11:33 pm
Death and Your Four Year Old

This is not a picture I took (obviously) but I love it because this little girl, who we’ll call…umm…C! was running towards me so we could play the classic childhood game Knock The Babysitter Down.
The other night, I had quite the conversation with this little girl and her brother. I’d like to write a proper essay about it but in the meantime:
It’s eight thirty and I’ve turned out the lights for the little kids, sent the nine-year-old to his room with the book of Greek myths, and gone to help the preteen with homework. It’s always strange, with somebody else’s kids: I’ve been babysitting since I was younger than their eldest daughter, and mostly I am used to this funny relationship, this being so close and yet so far apart. But tonight I go back in to check on the younger ones and see C., who is four and very small in stature, sitting up, face against the window.
“What are you doing?” I ask her. “Are you waiting for Mommy and Daddy?”
She nods, and from the top bunk I hear J., who is six, ask, “Vanessa? What would happen if our mommy and daddy got shot?”
I take a breath, sit down on C’s bed. “What would happen, J” I am being Socratic, here.
C. says solemley “we would have to walk to the orphanage and get adopted.”
I manage to stifle a laugh just in time. “Oh, C” I say, and pull her away from the window to draw her into my arms. She leans her head against my shoulder and I rock her gently, back and forth, smoothing her hair and kissing the top of her head, soft and gentle in the dark.
I remember that the kids have been watching Annie a lot lately. I ask them if they know how many people care about them. “There are lots of people who would take care of you if Mommy and Daddy died,” I say. “Aunt J, Aunt A, Grandma and Grandpa, all your other aunts and uncles…”
“What if there is a car accident?” C. asks.
I tell her that her parents are careful drivers, but she remembers—of course she does—a car accident they were in. “What about {name of car redacted},” she mummers into my chest.
I ask her if anyone got hurt when te car crashed, and we remember together how W. almost had to go to the hospital. I ask what they do at the hospital, and all three of us agree that hospitals are where they make people better. If there is a car accident, I suppose I am telling them, Mommy and Daddy will go to the hospital and get better.
J. reminds me that they could still get shot.
I say, yes, you’re right, J. They could get shot. But we hope they will not die for a long, long time. Most people don’t die, I tell them, until their kids are very old. Grown-ups.
“Do you know how to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” he asks, and I say that they do. “Good,” he says. “You can drive us.”
I sit in C’s bed, stroke her hair, and think of the versions of this conversation I’ve had. The nearly five-year-old who asked me, with great intensity, why medicine hadn’t been able to fix Mommy’s friend, and what this weird sickness, this cancer was. “Did they try all the medicine in the world,” she wanted to know, and I pictured the researchers in the rain forest looking for the next great thing and told her that yes, the doctors tried all the medicine they could think of. And there was the boy, eight, who wanted to know if his mother was going to get killed, and then what would happen? Who would take care of him?
I wonder if I am doing them a disservice, telling them the truth. I believe that kids deserve the truth, that their parents will die, and I believe, too, that what they mostly want to know is that they will cared for and that somebody will still be there to feed the and wash them and play with them.

Posted in Uncategorized
Ferns (with a suprise!)

Outside of the yurt we stayed in on Grand Manan, New Brunsiwck, last summer. Look carefully, see if you can spot my favorite nonhuman in the picture. She would dart outside and vanish into the brush, and we’d be left calling and calling her. Finally, she’d manage to trample through the brush and show her face.

February 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm
Posted in Uncategorized
Barack Obama.

This photo was taken at a rally with Obama and Biden at the University of Mary Washington in October.

The open letter was written on November 5th. I don’t have anything to add, except this: it has been an extraordinary week. The speech was amazing, striking all the right notes, and Obama is right. The time has come to put aside childish things and begin the work of rebuilding America.

Dear Barack (Can I call you Barack?)
CONGRATULATIONS. You did it. We did it. I know you said last night that this election is not about you, and you were right, it is about all of it. It is about everyone who voted yesterday, everyone who braved long lines and rain and missed work so that they could cast a ballot for the skinny man with the funny name.
But it is also about you. I cannot imagine another candidate who would have inspired people this way. You, Barack, are an amazing man. I have heard you speak, stood not thirty feet from you, and I know your power. Your magic.
I know that your presidency will not be perfect. People will be angry, and you will not go as far as I would like. But I believe that you will protect this country. I believe that you will help secure further rights for women and LGBT people. I believe that you will help end these wars.
Barack, I will listen to you. I am proud to call you my president. I hope that you will ask the American people to do some tough things. I hope that you mean it when you say you will listen to us, and I hope you mean it when you say you need our help. Because I’m here. I want to help. What we need now, in America, is a man who can tell us what sacrifices we can make, who can help us fulfill the legacy of JFK and ask what we can do for our country–and for our world.
I trust that you will be a global leader, the first non-white leader in a majority white country. I hope that multicultural families all over the world see you, and Michelle, and your beautiful daughters, and feel better about America.
I feel like I have been holding my breath for two years (or, hell, eight years!) and only now can I breathe deeply and inhale what is good about America. I have been angry at this country for a long time. I have been furious at Republicans and McCain and Bush supporters. I have said some things that were not very nice. I have flicked off a lot of McCain/Palin signs.
But watching John McCain concede last night, and watching GWB speak this morning, I felt something new. Something like relief. Something like forgiveness. Something like hope.
God bless you, Barack Obama. May you live up to all of your promise.


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