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Nuala came home with a new toy. The main stairs were too wide for it to work properly, but the stairs to the third floor worked great. Delight for all!

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I’m guessing this is 1986 or 1987–me just a little older than Nuala is now. TJ was such a great little dude.

m and tj 001

Dad always said the best camera is the one you have. You can’t see much on an iPhone screen in bright sunlight; I inadvertently switched it to black-and-white mode and clicked blind for a few seconds on our trip to the fountain this morning. These are keepers!

Hide and seek

Summer beauties

Bebe’s sitter hosts an annual barbecue that also functions as a reunion for grown-up kids she used to take care of (let it never be said that she wasn’t the greatest sitter of all time). There were water balloons and a giant inflatable water slide for the bigger kids, a smaller inflatable pool for the bigger toddlers, and a teensy inflatable pool/sprinkler for the little toddlers and babies. There may be no better way to spend an afternoon with your kiddos than to have them run around completely ignoring you while you chat with other parents in the shade. We’re going to miss this sitter terribly when Bebe starts Montessori in the fall, but at least we get to come back and visit every summer from now on!

Dear kiddos,

If you’ve read anything I wrote in the first several years of this blog, you may have assumed that once upon a time, I lived neck-deep in politics, and then totally stopped paying attention when you were born. This is not the case, and let this be a lesson to you regarding the shortcomings of primary sources: not everything gets written down, especially when what is written is publicly shared.

The truth of the matter is that my attention has been very much divided for the last several years between parenting, academic work, real paid work, other life stuff, and news consumption. I try now more than ever to be selective about what I read and listen to, not only because I lack the time I used to have, but because there is so much garbage and outrage and outrage about the garbage. It overwhelms me and saddens me and raises my blood pressure and I want to be able to really see your bright, shining faces and really hear all your stories when I come home.

You may have assumed, therefore, that I was apolitical or purposefully uninformed for a certain period of my life, of your lives. I will say that my approach has changed and I’m not as much of a partisan as I used to be. As you probably know because you will have gone to the polls with me or Daddy at every election, I generally vote for Democrats, but that’s because they’re the closest approximation of acceptable candidates among the choices we’re given. I spend a lot more of my limited news time seeking out voices who talk about things I don’t know rather than those who preach to some choir I may or may not be part of.

This may have something to do with how, even in this small-ish town in a place generally regarded as inhospitable for various groups of people on the margins, whether non-religious, non-white, non-hetero or other, I have grown a small social circle that includes many who are somewhere in that jumble of letters LGBTQ. They’re my colleagues at work, standing dates for fried chicken sandwiches on Thursdays, the ones I ride with on weekends (if I can convince them that 6:30am is a reasonable start time), my neighbors, and so, so many of my students. I can’t bring myself to dive into the news and churning commentary on Facebook and Twitter because I can’t bear the thought of losing any of these precious, funny, conscientious, irreverent, lovely people. More to the point, I can’t bear the thought of others–kind, loving people under other circumstances–not understanding why my chest hurts thinking about Orlando, just because they haven’t had the benefit of knowing how great my friends are, and haven’t yet come to appreciate how alienating and unsafe the world has been–still is–for my friends even under “normal” circumstances. And here we are, in an “abnormal” moment, where the precise words and ideas my friends have had hurled at them for years are translated into unimaginable violence. It is an awfully narrow tipping point, and it feels closer than ever.

There are so many things I could be doing better to parent you responsibly into a community and world that needs so much help. We don’t connect enough with people of color, and I am thankful for our relative financial security but also worried that “poor” is becoming an unrelatable concept for you. But one thing I’m doing right is that I’ve become friends with LGBTQ folks and you’ve gotten to know many of them, their experiences, and their identities as normal variations on being human. Because you know them as real people, it has been (thus far) blissfully easy to explain why so-and-so has a girlfriend or wife rather than a boyfriend or husband or vice versa, or that even though we met X as X, he didn’t feel right as X and is now Y, so when we talk to him, we need to say Y instead of X. In the case of the latter, there was one quizzical eyebrow, an “okay,” and a fluid shift to the new name and new pronouns. It hardly even registered as a conversation, and we have continued on our way still knowing Y in the same way we knew X.

It can feel like a mere good deed to get these things right, but it feels especially urgent now. We always tend to think in superlatives regarding the time in which we find ourselves, but there are some good indications that this is a superlative time. Every era has its own bogeymen and epidemic fears. You will read a lot about the Islamic State and Donald Trump and maybe Ebola or Zika virus in twenty years, but probably not Orlando because how do you choose which mass shootings to highlight in a textbook when there are so many? If I had to identify the source of my superlative anxiety in the twenty-teens, however, I’d say it’s this. It’s the tipping point between hateful speech and violence made possible by the ease of purchasing weapons designed to kill people. It’s the apparent unpredictability of the tipping point that makes my chest hurt when someone shoots up a school, a movie theatre, a park, a church, a university, a nightclub. There but for the grace of God go us, our friends, our loved ones because someone didn’t get to learn that I and you and people are people and our lives are precious, but they did learn that they can and should kill many, quickly and easily.

Welcome the stranger. Let them be who they are and make their cares your own. And if we, your elders, haven’t found a way to restrict people’s access to high-powered killing machines by the time you read this, I just don’t know what to say about us except I’m sorry.

Love,
Mom

 

 

Summer project


Poorly maintained built-in gutters and aluminum wrap over dentil molding and everything below=rotted wood. But how gorgeous is this going to be one day? 

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