Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another quote I love

"On the day I die, I want to have had dessert."
from Anne Lamott in the book "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To astronauts and miners

Why is it that the news stories we remember, the one that shape us and our youth are mostly stories of sadness—of death, of destruction? For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For the high school students I sometimes teach it is the falling of two towers on a sunny day in September.
I still remember sitting on the hard carpeted floor of my elementary school, watching a TV strapped to a rolling cart. We’d all gathered in a common area, the place we called “the pod” to watch Christa McAuliffe become the first American teacher in space. We watched as the Challenger Shuttle took off and then exploded in the bluest sky I’ve ever seen. I don’t need a picture to remember what the explosion looked like: a trail of white that bulged at the top and then split in two directions. We’d watched the launch live and we sat there, staring at the screen until someone—a teacher—turned it off. We didn’t talk. We knew that they were gone—those people on board. They’d just been smiling at us.

They’d been waving.

My oldest daughter was only a year and half on September 11th. Although she’s seen footage and knows about what happened that day, she doesn’t understand it. It may shape the world she lives in and the policy and political decisions of her generation, but it’s not a day that’s hers.

I’m glad that the news story that marks her, that first affected her, the one where she began to see the world differently, was a day when 33 miners rose one by one after 69 days underground. I’m glad that hers is a story of hope. A triumph.

My 10-year old daughter watched all she could of the Chilean mine rescue. She called me asking me for updates on her way to and from school. She knew and understood that there were more than just miners down there, underground. That paramedics and rescue workers had gone down too. She had questions and she had empathy. She wanted to watch every moment, but there was homework to do, piano to practice, a room to clean.

“Let her watch,” I told my husband.

I sat next to her. We watched as the last miner climbed out of something that NASA helped to build. It looked remarkably similar to a space shuttle, like a small, wire rocket.

It rose out of the ground. I heard cheers and there were smiles. Then the door opened.

And there was waving.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I remember being at my Grandma's house listening to my sister backtalk. She'd never done it before, it wasn't something we did. I sat still and watched open-mouthed as my sister talked back to my mother. I was shocked, sitting on the olive green brocade couch, that she dared. My sister was reckless and brave. I wondered what would happen.

I didn't have to wait long. My mother marched her, or maybe pulled her into the bathroom where she washed her mouth out with a bar of soap. I followed and watched from the hallway. My sister was in trouble. Big trouble. My mom was a kind and gentle parent. I'd never seen her do anything like this. It did the trick, though. My sister emerged apologetic and sputtering.

I, however, was curious. How bad had the punishment been? What did soap taste like, exactly? I'd never thought to taste it. And maybe, most importantly, did I dare risk it myself? (Back talking, that is). It looked empowering. It could be useful. So I went into the bathroom and put my tongue, ever so barely, on the soap bar.

Nope. I knew then, that talking back would never be worth it.