A number of years ago I saw this bumper sticker that said something like “Where are we going? And what are we doing in this handbasket?” And I chuckled. Let me tell you, it’s a little less funny now, because it rings so painfully true.
The good news is, we’ve stepped out of the handbasket, to some extent. And frankly, how we got here is too long to encapsulate into one somewhat brief blog post. It will come dribbling out, as I find my writing voice again.
That’s what I’m really doing here. Finding my voice. It’s been smothered under so many layers of fear and sadness and worry and anxiety and general busyness that I started to wonder if it would ever come back. I know blogs are so passe as to be practically obsolete, but that’s okay, even if I’m only writing for me, that’s a start.
I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the very first time. For one who supposedly loves books and reading as much as I do, it feels like an embarrassing thing to admit. But there it is. I of course knew of the book and many of the characters and the general plot and suchlike, and I even have an image in my head of a very 50’s looking man with glasses which is probably from the movie version, but it turns out that what I thought I knew I didn’t know all that well. As to why I’m suddenly feeling the need to fill this gap in my literary education, well, that’s because of Leah. She’s reading it for 9th grade English and so I am reading it “with” her. Did you see those quote marks there? That wasn’t a typo. It’s only in my head that I am reading this book alongside my daughter, because in the real world she is three states away and her schooling is no longer my responsibility. But I can’t seem to let go, and I love literature, and what if she wants to discuss it with me? What if she had an opinion about Scout or that Radley fellow and I could only say “mmm-hmmm” and pretend I knew what she was talking about? Let’s imagine that could happen, and not say that I’m doing this because it is the only way I can connect with my daughter right now, even inside my own head.
The thing about this book is, were I still in charge of choosing my daughter’s reading material, I probably wouldn’t have chosen it. Aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure things are going to take an ugly, violent turn in the new few chapters, there’s the matter of the Radley character and how he’s introduced. He clearly has mental problems. And is also apparently violent. And he hides in his house and everyone in town is afraid of him. I’m not saying these things describe my child, but they are a little close to home, and were I teaching her, I’d avoid books like that. But then I guess that’s one (of the many) reasons we are where we are now.
She’s also reading Where Have You Gone Charming Billy? By Tim O’Brien, and the short poem, I Like a Look of Agony by Emily Dickinson. Given my child’s almost pathological obsession with the Winter Soldier and all things WWII (especially Nazi stuff – said with an accompanying shudder), I most certainly would not have assigned her either of those. But were I to guess, I would venture that such assignments have a purpose that is at least partly therapeutic in nature. If nothing else, when (if?) she had a disturbing reaction to the readings, the people there would know how to handle it. And so I swallow back that all too familiar bile of anxiety and remind myself that I am out of the handbasket, for now at least.
I can breathe again. We can talk in normal voices again. We laugh, sometimes. Sometimes I laugh loudly, and marvel at it. I pray, all the time still. That has not changed. The tone and tenor might be slightly different, I’m not sure. There is still quite a bit of beseeching going on. But then, I’m a mom, so maybe that’s not all that unusual?