2

It’s a Bling Spring Thing

Gabe's Personal Motto

“It’s so hot!”

My 5-year-old, Gabe flopped into the back row of our minivan, arms splayed dramatically across his car seat.

“Whew! I need to cool down!!” He stripped off his dark blue DINOSAURS RULE t-shirt to reveal the fuchsia t-shirt he had chosen that morning. His deliberations had almost cost us an on-time arrival to school, since he’d had tangerine, lime, and sky blue to choose from as well.

After stretching every inch of his lanky torso, he smiled gloriously until he caught a look of himself in the reviewer mirror. In an instant, he collapsed, shrinking into himself.

“Oh…”

“Gabe, what’s wrong, buddy?” I was accustomed to the whiplash mood changes that characterized the preschool set, but this was out of character…even for him.

“Jasmine said I looked weird because I had pink on.”

“Well you tell that little b-“

Wait! Was I really about to say that to a 5 year old…about another 5 year old? Nana Bear needs to chill out. Just take a deep breath and be the equanimous parent – not the Equalizer.

“How did that make you feel?”

“Sad,” he sniffed. “It hurt my feelings.”

“Well, Gabe,” Nick shrugged with the all-knowing, world-weariness that characterized the 3rd grade set, “maybe you shouldn’t wear pink to school.”

Parenting fail #574. Who was this kid? Hadn’t we instilled in him unwavering acceptance of anyone who fell a little outside the norm since this was the place he regularly lived?! Had he not worn all manner of clothing on out-of-uniform days with nary a concern for what others thought of him?

There was the 1st grade dashiki shirt and matching pants courtesy his globetrotting aunt, the 2nd grade Hello Kitty shirt he’d worn until its $5 Target stitching fell apart after daily washings, and – his most recent obsession – the bright yellow rainboots that he wore…with shorts.

What happened to the independent thinker who was simultaneously inspiring and impossible? Ignoring Nick’s detour into conformity, I zeroed in on Gabe.

“What did Miss Yeltzer say?”

“Um, she asked Jasmine how she would feel if someone told her she looked weird.”

“And what did she say?”

“She said it would make her sad. And maybe mad after that. Really mad.”

Yes, that described Jasmine perfectly. If there was going to be a future leader of the Queen Bee Society, this kid was it.

Fortunately, Gabe found the Spider Man stickers plastered on the window remarkably fascinating, which gave me a moment to collect my thought.

Do I advocate being:

Revengeful – where he tells Jasmine to find a brush before she comes to school and actually use it?

Resourceful – where he explains that “pink” isn’t really a color, since it doesn’t appear on the electromagnetic spectrum so perhaps she is hallucinating?

Resolute – where he simply states that she’s entitled to her opinion and it isn’t his job to change it?

Or do I just play Free to Be You and Me and call it a day?

I opted for Reflective.

“How does wearing the shirt make you feel?”

“I like it.”

“I like it too!” Oh! Hello, Olivia. You’re in the car as well, aren’t you? I knew that…really, I did.

“Thank you, Olivia. Why do you like it, Gabe?”

“Because it’s bright and it make me feel happy.”

Olivia, our budding chanteuse, took this as her cue to launch into the pitch-talk, up-to-11, 3-year-old version of “Happy.”

Because I’m happy, clap along if you feel like a room without a tooth
Because I’m happy, clap along if you feel like happiness is a fruit.
Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy (repeat and don’t fade…ever.)

“So Gabe,” I shouted over Olivia’s record-skip singing, “that’s all that matters. Do you think you look good?”

“I think I look FABULOUS!”

I see we’re back to arms-flung-over-the-head voguing. It’s good to have you back, Gabe. We air high-fived, Nick gave a restrained thumbs-up, and Olivia – finally – took a break from her Pharrell homage to agree.

“Hey!” Her eyes got that Norma-Desmond-ready-for-my-closeup look that defined her AHA moments. “WE BOTH LIKE PINK!”

Why are my children so dramatic?

“And that is perfectly OK,” I underscored. “Some people are going to make fun of you for how you look, maybe even who you are.” I flashed back to my own grade school experiences – the dark face in a sea of white, the daily teasing, the constant trips made by parents made to the principal’s office, the weekly lectures from teachers about tolerance, inclusion and Jesus’ teachings…this was Catholic school after all. But that was my baggage to carry, not theirs. They’d be footloose and fancy free for as long as I could protect them.

“You are special. You are strong and no one is ever going to take that away from you.”

OK…skating a little to close to Stuart Smalley and The Help, but it’s the best I’ve got.

“Can I get an Amen!?”

A whoop of Amen’s filled the car, and I patted myself on the back for another self-esteem crisis averted.

“Tomorrow I’m going to wear my sparkle blue headband and sparkle blue nail polish!”

“And you’re gonna look great, sweetie.” I met his smile in the mirror, both of us grinning like fools. “Right, Nick,” I prodded.

He shook his head, laughing to himself before reaching back to grab Gabe’s foot affectionately. “Yeah, that’ll look awesome, buddy.”

“And I’m going to wear my headband, too!” Cue Sunset Boulevard flared nostrils in 3…2…1-

“WE’RE GONNA TO BE TWINS!”

No, Olivia. Not actually twins. That was a concept we’d have to work on. But what she did know – what they all did – was that we stood up for each other.

And no one – and nothing – was ever going to change that.

0

What’s the good word?

"Give me the children until they are seven, and anyone may have them afterwards." – attrib. St. Francis Xavier

“Give me the child until he is seven, and anyone may have them afterwards.” – attrib. St. Francis Xavier

“Crossword.”

“C-R-O-S-S-“ Nick’s voice falters as he tries to remember the next…word.

“Nick, hon, just sound it out.” We’re driving to school, running through our morning routine of reviewing the week’s spelling words.  Beside him, Gabe plays the TeachMe Preschool app that features a teaching mouse and lots of sticker rewards, while Olivia is happily reading her Elmo TouchAndLearn book, complete with song snippets.

The car is…loud.

I lift my eyes from the homework packet to catch his in the rearview mirror.  This is our 3rd time spelling this word in as many minutes, and for the life of me I cannot understand why 4 simple letters won’t sink into his wonderfully absorbent brain.

“Crossword, C-R-O-S-S-W-O-R-D, Crossword.” I say impatiently. “Just do it like that. Say the word first so you remember.  That’s how spelling bee kids learn their words.”

He matches my impatience with a healthy dose of his own. “Ug-GUH!” is his new favorite expression. “I know my words!”

“Well, clearly you don’t” – then I get that warning look from Lori who is navigating early-fall construction traffic to get us to school on time.

“Let me reframe my position, Nicholas.” Lori rolls her eyes at the formality. But really, I can’t let him think he’s gained any territory in this early-morning skirmish.  “This is one of the more efficient ways for you to get 100% on your spelling test on Friday.”

He sulks in silence, muttering the letters under his breath so I can’t hear him.

“If I don’t know what you’re saying, I won’t know if you’re right. So we’ll just have to keep doing this until you get it.”

“Find the…OVAL.”

The electronic voice – chirpier that Siri, but nevertheless insistent – chimes from Gabe’s iPad.  He is still trying to pick the oval, having already clicked on the octagon and trapezoid.  “Gabe, hon,” I try to keep exasperation from creeping into my voice. ”it’s an egg – look for something that looks like an egg.”

“An egg can look like a circle when Mommy poaches them,” Nick suggests, and I can’t tell if he’s really being helpful or just disruptive.

Gabe presses the screen.

That is the…CIRCLE.  Where is the…OVAL?”

By process of elimination, there’s only 1 option left, which he chooses.

Good job,” the mouse chirps.  “You found the…OVAL.”

“Crossword, Nick.” I raise my voice above the din.

“C-R-O-S-S….um….”

There has got to be a better way.

****

In yoga class, I purposely place my mat slightly askew from the straight grooves of the hardwood floor. As a recovering perfectionist, I have chosen to be “off center” so I can meditate on “imperfection”, even though I know it will drive me batty as I move from downward dog to plank, then cobra.

My yoga instructor breezes in, takes a quick survey of the room, then walks directly to me.

“Up,” she commands, then realigns my mat. “You have to start in alignment.” I sulk as I get back on.

“Namaste,” she greets the class.

I mutter in response.

“Namaste my a- ”

***

“Ask me if you have any questions, Nick, ok?”

Nick has spread his homework out on the coffee table, in clear defiance of our usual routine.  He’s hasn’t taken his backpack down to the distraction-free homework nook that we created for the kids, complete wall decorations chosen for their subliminal messages –

  • A Bucky Fuller Projection map (The world is not as we see it.)
  • A Spider Man poster (With great power comes great responsibility.)
  • An Iron Man poster (Make cool s&^% and save the world.)
  • The previous week’s school work (We know you can do it because you’ve done it before).

Nope.

Instead he’s in our front parlor looking through the picture window as he chews on the pencil’s eraser. I watch surreptitiously as he reads thru the spelling test words, then copies each one on the spelling test page.  It’s not the way we usually do it, where he has 5 minutes to look at the words before I give him a closed-book test. Any word he gets wrong he must write 3 times, saying the letters as he goes.

He presents his self-administered “test” to me a few minutes later. And I can clearly see where he has erased his errors.

“I got them all right,”

“Well, technically – “

A loud throat-clearing from the kitchen forces me reconsider my approach.  Why is Lori always one mouth-noise away from letting me make my VERY IMPORTANT POINT?!  “I see that you have written all of your words.” I choose to make an observation, rather than pass judgment. “How do you feel about your test tomorrow?”

“Great!  Can I go play outside now?”

I want to test him, to make sure those tricky words like kitchen and since are firmly in place, but instead I nod. The proof will come when he brings the test home, when he sees that my way is clearly the best –

****

“BEST TEST EVER!”

Nick waves the 13/10 test happily, gold start glinting in the sunlight.  Not only had he correctly spelled this week’s words, but he gotten the bonus words right too.

“That’s great, sweetie!”

“Ask me a word!  I know all of them!” And without waiting for my prompt, he runs through them.

Nick has his own way of learning, a style that works for him. No longer a malleable mass of random ideas and feelings – though, I doubt any of our kids are truly that – my son is a reflective, insightful, complex, sometimes exasperating, human being. I do my best to guide him, but have to remember that this is his journey to take.

I’m just along for the ride.

“I am so proud of you, kiddo. Do you know why?”

“Because I got them all right?”

“There’s that,” I concede. Then I pull him close, because I really want him to get this.  “You really know yourself. And I love who you are.”

We fist bump, miming an explosion in the air.

“I love you too, Nana.”

Word.

0

BFF’s…Right?

Remember when everyone had B&W photos in their dorm room?

Remember when everyone had B&W photos in their dorm room?

About a year ago, a good college friend called to tell me her husband had gotten a job transfer. Amelia was moving the family to Australia in two weeks.

Two weeks?!

What followed was a frantic exchange of emails and voicemails with proposed times to get together, but in the end, we couldn’t get our schedules in sync. I left a final goodbye on her soon-to-be-inactive cell phone wishing her the best and making her promise she’d be in touch once they got settled.

In the months that followed, I wondered how she was dealing with the challenges of moving your school-aged family to a new country.

Were the boys in an expat school or were they going native?
Where did they live – upscale condo, sprawling company compound, quaint local home?
How would she make new mom friends?

And I waited for that email – or Skype call – that said, “We’re doing great.”

It never came.

So I had to wonder whether my first instincts about her had been…wrong.

From the moment our eyes met in the locker room, I felt that we would know each other for the rest of our lives.

(And no, it’s not that kind of story!)

Perhaps we had known each other in a different life.  She was striking, yet shy. I was short, yet shy.  But driven by the knowledge that I knew her – or at least, would know her, I struck up a conversation about shin splints and Adidas.  We were on the track team together at our Div III school, which basically meant that labs, study sessions, and heck, even office hours, trumped practice. She was a mid-distance runner. I was a sprinter, and we met in the middle during our 4×200 relays. I kicked off the race; she closed the gap at the end. That’s just how we were on the track and off.

I was the first to land a “serious” boyfriend. She followed a few months after.  Of course, her relationship lasted much longer than mine, which is unsurprising when you end many a makeout session by reaching for your watch as he’s fumbling for some condoms (I assume) and you cheerily wave that you’ll see him tomorrow or whenever because there’s a Jodie Foster/Greta Garbo/Ladies-We-Love retrospective at the student union and you already promised some friends from the girl’s rugby team that you would meet them there.

“How was your date,” I asked her, when we meet up later in our dorm’s basement snack joint.
“Good. He plays guitar,” she swooned, then recomposed herself to ask about my cinematic outing.
“Equally good. This one girl Marcela was there.  We’re in film class together.  She’s just so cool. We’re going to hang out again tomorrow.”

Amelia smiled to herself, but said nothing. It was a look she would give me over the next few years, any time I brought up “this one girl x” – the names changed with the season – “who is just so cool.”

She was my best friend, my confidante, my witness.

And I was hers.

I kept her anchored during her prolonged bouts with depression. She kept me afloat during my extended coming out.  I held her as she cried over the senseless jerk who had broken her heart…again. She shamed a drunk heckler who had attended my stage debut…in the stinky basement of a stinkier coffeehouse. And through homages to the porcelain god – where we swore to forsake all future drinks – and promises to our preferred gods – where we swore to forsake all future suitors – we were there for each other.

Always.

Last week, I emailed her husband’s work address – easy to find on the “interweb” considering Anthony’s big-shot corporate gig.

“How are Amelia, Austin and Aidan” I put in the subject line, hoping to make it past his gatekeeper with mention of his wife and kids in the subject line.  Then in the body I continued, “Hope Australia is treating you well!”  The family’s affection for the letter A always amused me.

“We’re good,” he wrote back. “But we’re in Chicago.  We never left.”

What the what what?!

All this time – she was just 10 miles away, not 10,000.

What hadn’t she called in all this time?
More important, why had it taken me a year to contact her?

It’s so easy to make excuses: we’re too busy with work, family and…well, life. And it’s easy to forget the people who knew you before you were an endless series of client meetings, basketball practices, homework sessions and yard work…

Back when you were still discovering who you were, still defining who you would become.

These friends – even soulmates – who have always been there.

Who you can call without guilt – no matter how much time has passed, and and say without judgment – no matter what has happened between you:

“I’m happy you’re still here.”

8

I Have A Need For Speed

I can't control how others see me. I just have a need for speed...

Yikes! Is this really how others see me?!

I’m not a procrastinator per se.

I’m more of a procramminator – I don’t leave things to the last minute; I just jam everything into the last minute.

This is why I found myself riding another car’s tail at 2:53pm on the way to a 3pm pickup. I do appreciate the rules of the road, like coming to a full stop at a 4-way intersection. But then, I also believe in momentum, you know, like starting the car up again by pushing the accelerator.

It’s not hard.
Really.

I do it frequently.
And – dare I say – enthusiastically.

Six blocks from the school, I’d had enough of the pokey pole position Prius. So I tapped the horn. Several times. In response, she took a break from her cellphone conversation to give me the finger before taking her sweet time to ease forward. If there hadn’t been another car approaching, I would have jerked my car around her and given her my DefCon 1 glare as I passed. Instead, I continued kissing her bumper as we both headed north.

While I strive for zen in many things, driving is not one of my more enlightened activities.

The first prickles of discomfort started about three blocks away from the school. Could we be going to the same place? Nah…what are the odds? Besides, she doesn’t even have a school bumper sticker. By the second block, I started to sweat, and eased off a bit. At the last block, I let out a string of curse words that were decidedly inappropriate for the Catholic school parking lot we were both turning into.

I chose the far corner of the lot, planning to camouflage my vehicle amongst the 5,000 other minivans also there for pickup. She opted for the center aisle – and stepped out of the car.

You have got to be effin’ kidding me.

Stephanie Miller, room parent extraordinaire and a near-permanent fixture at the school. Since when did she drive a hybrid?! She had greeted us on our 1st day at the school with donuts and a smile. And she had emailed pictures of Nick’s school mass reading last year which I had missed because of a client meeting.

We weren’t close friends by any means, but we pitched in for each other when needed – like the time she had sent me a frantic text asking if I could pick her daughter up from aftercare because she was stuck in traffic and wouldn’t make it by the 6:30pm cutoff.

I obliged, of course, because we were part of the same community – same neighborhood, shared school. But I couldn’t tell you her husband’s name. I had no idea what her “day job” was. And we would never be a part of each other’s inner circle.

But we would be there for one another.

That’s the funny thing about community, the thing that keeps it intact.

Presence.

We were present in one another’s life, sharing the same universe. At the grocery store, at the beach, even on the street, our orbits ran parallel, overlapped and sometimes, even collided.

“Hey Steph,” I called. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, the usual. Some bee-yatch was practically in my trunk on the way here.”
“No kidding,” I commiserated. “I had a Sunday driver in front of me.”
“People,” she laughed.
“Yup. People,” I echoed.

The bell rang, and our kids came running out.

“Big plans this weekend,” she asked.
“The usual. You?”
“Same.”

We smiled awkwardly at one another, each ignoring the growing silence that distinguishes friends from acquaintances.

“Well, have a good weekend.” She led her daughter to their car.
“Thanks. You too.” I waved, then took Nick’s hand. “C’mon, kiddo. We gotta jet.”

I don’t want to be stuck behind her on the way home.

3

What Did You Learn In School Today…

marian-wright-edelman-55755

Lori and I ad such great plans for Nick’s 1st day of 2nd grade.  She would make the breakfast of champions – waffles, poached eggs, and spam with almond butter and flax smoothies.  We would pump the kids up with Schoolhouse Rock “knowledge is power” music. And we would be in the car by 7:30 so we had enough time for the entire family to see Nick off before we dropped our younger ones off at daycare.

HA!

At 7:45, we were in 2 different cars – Lori had Gabe and Olivia – at least one of them was screaming; the other was whimpering. And I had Nick. After quick “I love you’s” we headed our separate ways.

What happened?

Hadn’t we pre-packed the car the night before, set the breakfast table and placed backpacks and shoes by the door?

Well, Olivia fell into the wire fence that protects our garden when she tried to grab a few tomatoes before school. Gabe suddenly realized that he did not have a haircut like his brother, and needed one this instant. And Nick, upon seeing an ant carrying a Cheerio, made us stop our frantic “We gotta go, people!” chant to move said ant off the parking pad lest we inadvertently step on it.

This was not what I had envisioned.

We had spent the summer prepping Nick for this day – cramming word problems, double-digit addition, and basic multiplication into our afternoons. And of course, we had worked on paying attention and listening the first time because these were skills that kept you out of the principal’s office, a place we knew a little too well.

“OK, Nick. This year is gonna to be awesome!  But we need to stay focused, OK?  We’re going to listen with our whole body. That means no interrupting and no talking about beluga whales just because that’s what you want to talk about.  OK, kiddo?”

Nick stared out the window.

“Hey, Nick,” I said a little more insistently.  “Did you hear what I said?”
“What, Nana?”
“Can you tell me what I just said to you?”
“Uh…”

Yeah, this was going to be great.  Sigh.

The school parking lot was a mess of school supply boxes, anxious parents and nervous kids. As I parked the car, I felt the first prick of tears, but willed myself not to cry.  After all, this was old hat – this drop off that at first was a long goodbye, but by June would be a cursory “see ya” as he raced to his buddies, not once looking back at the car.

I almost made it through the next 15 minutes with nary a tear.
Almost.

It wasn’t the sight of my firstborn looking so grownup in his pressed khaki shorts, crisp white shirt and smart navy vest that made the tears fall. It seemed like just yesterday he was bounding off to preschool in his fire truck shirt and misshapen green crocs…

It wasn’t the fidgety excitement of the kindergartners, nor the feigned indifference of the 8th-graders that nearly set me off.  No matter the age, they all greeted their teachers with shy smiles and heartfelt hugs…

And it wasn’t the fellow parents who busied themselves with imagined stray hairs from back-to-school haircuts. They wiped sleep from the eyes of their children as they held back tears in their own…

No, it was none of these things.

It was watching Nick peel off from his left-foot-right-foot-single-line class march to the front door to check on Oliver, a 3rd grader, who clung desperately to his mother. Two figures paralyzed as the sea of students parted around them, nevertheless flowing past them.

“Oliver,” Nick called, as he pushed his way through the crowd.

“Nick, come back!”

If he heard me, he gave no indication. He was polite, but insistent, making his way toward a child I didn’t even know.

“IdontwanttogoIdontwanttogoPleasedontmakemego.” The child’s chant rose above the din. His mother rubbed his back, and I saw the first stirrings of doubt in her watery eyes.  Perhaps they could try again tomorrow…when there is less commotion…but it’s the first day of school…

 “Oliver?” Nick craned his neck to meet the boy’s downcast eyes. “It’ll be OK. It’s just like last year, but now you get to learn more.” It’s funny to hear your own words echoed in your child’s mouth.

“I-I-I-I’m scared,” Oliver whispered.

Nick drew a little closer. “I’m a little nervous too. But then Mommy and Nana reminded me about my friends, and my new desk and – “ He whipped out the highlight of out last-minute Target run – “A new water bottle!”

That’s when I lost it, seeing Nick comfort his friend, despite all of the excitement around him.

“Nick, sweetie,” I prodded gently, dabbing at my eyes.  “The 1st bell is about to ring.”

Nick touched Oliver’s hand. “I’ll see you at lunch, OK?”

“OK,” Oliver replied, still clinging, still unsure.

I don’t know how Oliver did on his first day of school.  I do know that he made it from the parking lot to the hallway, his mom on one side, the principal on the other, both promising that the next 7 hours would be just fine.

As for Nick?  Well, I think he did fine, though getting a 7-year-old to share anything past a single word is almost impossible.

I don’t know what he’ll learn this year, and I don’t know how much our prep over the summer will help him.  But I do know that he teaches me something every day – about being compassionate, and present and infinitely patient when he sees somebody in need.

Nicholas – victory of the people

Always seeing.
Always listening.
Always remembering the things we forget are important.

My dear, sweet boy.
You got me, kid.
I’m listening.

6

If You See Me Walking Down the Street…

Yup - That's me again. Making a point.

Yup – That’s me again. Making a point.

(Photo by: Matt Altstiel)

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at Potluck 7.0. Great fun with a really smart group of people.

Enjoy!

*****

I write stories about my life, things I see in order to figure out, how to be a good person, and I hope, a better parent for my kids. I titled this piece, Walk on By.

I am 22, on a bus – the 147 – with a backpack slung over one arm, a sleeping back tucked under the other. My body shifts automatically with the city’s uneven streets as my mind drifts elsewhere…

“It’s too soon to move in together.”
“But we were practically living together at school.”
“Nadine, If I do, my mom will know.”
“And what would be so wrong with that?!”

Our argument is escalating into dangerous territory, and though I don’t want to know the answer, the question still comes tumbling from my mouth.

“Do you even want to be with me?”

Her eyes look away, and I instantly regret what I have asked. I should have kept the question tucked away with all of the other insecurities that have plagued this relationship over the past year.

“You know I do, but…”

Whatever her next words are, I don’t hear them. I grab my bags, and walk out her front door. Have fun explaining that fight to your mom, who was no doubt listening from her upstairs bedroom.

I dig through my pockets for a Kleenex, and, finding none, launch into a series of not-so-discrete sniffles. The people around me shift uncomfortably, drawing into themselves as my emotions threaten to spill out. I will myself not to let those tears fall, the ones that are pooling in my eyes. I mean, God, how embarrassing, crying on the bus. But as other riders pass me in the aisle, one bump, then another, my tears are set free…the first landing on my cheek, the next on my backpack strap.

After that I lose count.

I feel a light touch on my hand, followed by gentle pressure.

“Are you alright?”

**
I am 33, young urban professional, waiting to cross at the corner of Fairbanks and Ohio. A disheveled man holds a crumpled piece of paper out of to passersby. In their rush to grab something to eat in that 45-minute window for lunch, they surge around him, focused, indifferent.

I make the mistake of meeting his eyes. They are watery…pleading.

“Por favor…” he begins.
I shake my head. “Sorry,” I mumble as I walk past.
“Por favor…” he says to a woman behind me.
She stops, squints to read the paper. “Northwestern Hospital?”
“Si, senora.”
“Oh. You’re really close. Just walk 2 blocks – “ But her voice trails off as he starts sobbing.
“Are you alright?”

**

I am 41, one of the oldest parents in the parking lot as I pick my 6-year-old up from school. While other kids his age stroll coolly to meet their parents, Nick still lets out a WHOOP of joy, and races towards me with his arms outstretched.

But today, his eyes are red, streaming with tears.

“Sweetie, what happened?”

From his backpack, he produces his pride and joy from the weekend – a solid hour of concentration in our basement to put together Jay’s Storm Fighter from Lego’s Ninjago series.

Well, he shows me what’s left of it.

“I dropped it, and I can’t find all of the pieces.” His wails escalate into anguished screams as we walk towards the car.

His classmate, Henry, walking in front of us, turns around, trying to catch Nick’s eye

“Are you alright?”

But before Nick can answer, Henry’s father shushes him, tugging him back to his side.

“Just keep walking.” Henry looks back at Nick, then at his father, drops his head, and falls in step beside him.

**

It’s simpler, I think, to just keep walking? We see a stranger crying and we are embarrassed by their vulnerability, the rawness of their emotion. We fear that whatever the cause of distress in their lives, it might infect our own, that we could be drawn into that circle of misery, even called upon to help.

So we walk on by.

The thing is, we’re not asked to solve every problem. But we can bear witness to their pain. When tears appear, the spirit is near. This is the spirit of the world, the spiritus mundi that connects us all, speaking to us, and quite often through us.

**
I am almost 43, standing in a room of strangers, thanking each one of you for being here.

For taking a moment to listen.

0

Pride Is…

The 21st century Alt-American Family: Created by Love. Sustained by Love.

The 21st century Alt-American Family: Created by Love. Sustained by Love.

Pride is…

  • Sitting on the couch when you were 9 and asking why it’s such a big deal that some boys like boys and some girls like girls and your mom shrugging her shoulders and saying, “love is love.”
  • Watching highlights from the 1993 March on Washington with a group of college friends, noting that one of them has a really cute smile.
  • Scream-singing “Closer I Am To Fine” later than night at an Indigo Girls Concert and realizing that cute smile is directed at you.
  • Buying your first rainbow necklace at We’re Everywhere, convinced that hidden cameras would somehow alert your parents.
  • Buying your first mountain bike at Outspok’n, slapping a rainbow flag on the frame and riding along Belmont with that girl with the cute smile.
  • Directing your first play – a lesbian romantic comedy – because you saw it at Bailiwick and are inspired to recreate it in Chambana.
  • Buying a condo with cute-smile girl, then a house which you would later fill with children.
  • Hearing your first son answer the question “who’s the other lady” with “my other mom” without skipping a beat.
  • Watching your second son forgive as easily as he smiles, whether it’s an errant soccer ball or a bite from his sister. His smile is cute, just like his mom’s.
  • Noting that your daughter’s fierce ability to hold her own with 2 older brothers is both inspiring and terrifying when you consider what her teenage years will be like.
  • Being a part of this beautiful, wonderful, crazy family, created and sustained by love.

I am so grateful for the path that has led us this far, and exited for the journey ahead.

Happy Pride!