The woman in the picture just posted one of the loveliest meditations on family I've read. Since I write themfrequently, I'm almost envious, but since it's Liz that's not possible. Read it. I promise my next post will NOT be about somebody else's post. This was just too good to keep quiet about.
We live in a community where many of our closest friends are well under 40 - several the ages of our sons. Because we are culturally united, age isn't such a big deal, which is strange. I've always identified very strongly as a Baby Boomer. Born in the first year of the cohort, I cherish the experiences and adventures and acknowledge the shared rages and disappointments that bind us. Even so, I'm struggling with my place.
I hate it. Hate it. I admire Ronni; I've always been OK with where I stand in age and presence but this is tough. I can't decide if I'm being immature and clinging to a world I don't belong in or I just don't have the same sensibility. I moved online in the early 90s, I read science fiction and love Harry Potter; I listen to all kinds of music; I cherish every experience. When my kids were little I often felt I had more in common with their teenage babysitters than with the parents of many of their friends.
It's not that I deny my age -- or my friends who are peers. Or my responsibilities. I've had a successful career raised great, honorable and capable kids. It's that I cherish the energy, openness and curiosity of those whose lives are more ahead of them than behind. I remember maybe 20 years ago when a friend of mine was about to take her youngest son to college. Eyes welling up, she said something over lunch that day that still haunts me. "It used to be that everything in my life was about beginnings, now it seems that most of it is about endings." It was a devastating moment. I swore I would never feel like that.
It's no battle really. It's my nature to be curious -- I have a short attention span and, as my blog header says, "There's always more." Remaining open is easy. Realizing that it's sometimes time to surrender some options is harder -- even, or maybe especially, stupid ones like clothes. I have a "style." It took years to develop - not on purpose just by trial and error. Often, I was in the fashion moment. I went through the 80s in leggings and tunics and arm-loads of black rubber bracelets. Oh and Reebok high-tops and thick saggy socks. And that was at work!
One day though, you begin looking at those cool of-the-moment clothes with the thought "I wish I were young enough to wear those" instead of "wow how much is that one?" It's never said out loud (or at least not by anyone you'd listen to) - you just kind of know it. A friend of mine with daughters says it happens to moms with girls much earlier because, as she put it "you don't want to look like you're competing.") I, however, resisted as long as I could, then surrendered (except for jewelry and shoes, of course.)
Music too. I was in the loop until hip hop, then got shoved pretty far into the margins. My kids send me music now - from Great Big Sea to Jack Johnson to Green Day and I'm grateful. But these days I don't even know who many of the Top Ten folks are -- and don't care.
That doesn't make me an elder though. Or a grown-up. Just a responsible adult, defined by nature and interests, not age. So Ronni - I'm with you with great admiration as you bring all of us together and continue to build the world's coolest Boomer+ blogroll. But the title -- the title -- not for me my girl. At least........not yet.
I have three half-finished posts saved as DRAFT right now but Saturday, all day, I read this book and I want to talk about it. You need to read it too. Matt Bai, the very smart political correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, and author of my favorite piece about the 2004 elections, WHO LOST OHIO? writes about the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the period after the 2004 election. He has a great narrative style - it's like reading a novel. There are real characters, and intrigues and hubris and everything.
I really care what happens to our country and am so often troubled by the way that those with whom I most agree chose to engage the rest of the nation (Yes Mr. Colbert, the nation.) There's so much at stake. Our choice of things we want to happen -- and how we propose and describe them - is critical to whether we earn the right to make them happen. Do we spend too much time thinking about the elections themselves-- and not enough about the policies to be implemented if we win? How do we talk to/with our fellow Americans and what do we say? What do we know about what they want - and do we care enough?
Matt has provocatively portrayed a political dialog that's doesn't deal with these questions nearly enough -- as well as the "adventure story" of how we got here. I'm being vague on purpose -- you really need to read this yourself. It's quick, fun, smart, useful and very important.
You have to love New England in the fall. This is Walden Pond, retreat of Henry David Thoreau, where I spent Friday morning. Morra Aarons of BlogHer and Women and Work and Joan Blades of Moms Rising let me tag along on their wanderings, including a walk all the way around the pond. It was a remarkably appropriate location, since Thoreau, pretty much a rebel in addition to his fame as a thinker, is an inspiration to so many. So are these two. I kept thinking about him as I listened to Morra and Joan talking about the future of women - and policy - and motherhood.
Joan has done something remarkable: she's launched Mom's Rising to obliterate policy inequities toward mothers. Much of what Moms Rising seeks is built upon an acknowledgment of the special requirements that working moms face: the freedom to stay home with a sick child, to have equal access to jobs whether parents or not, and to live integrated lives. According to Joan - in the past decade or so we Americans have added 500 hours a year to our working days. That makes it harder than ever to integrate being a decent mothers and with the responsibility to support our families.
My generation was often either skeptical about motherhood or terrified to advocate for these issues because they could give men reasons to deny us equality in work, salary, promotions and benefits. Now, through the vision of Moms Rising, these issues are moving toward unabashed prominence -- no apologies necessary. It's difficult to describe the gratitude I feel -- both for what they're doing and for the fact that they can. When my kids were little, asking for time off to care for a sick kid was scary; what would they say not only in the front offices but also around the water cooler? We had to be so circumspect. Today's advocates are brave and skillful as they work to move policy forward; it's a good feeling to know that the battles we fought then have advanced the argument and legitimized advocacy by moms for moms.
It was a day for thinking, I guess. I met Morra at the Harvard Square subway station. As I stood waiting for her there, I felt such a rush of nostalgia and -- almost -- sadness. Cambridge to a young student is a place full of promise -- a chance to become excellent in a community of excellence. I used to come in from my own college in western Massachusetts and just revel in it all. Today I hit an ambush moment - I saw that young woman (me) running around in big scarves and wild hats and colored tights and antiwar buttons -- making trouble and having a blast. I'm grateful for that. But I also know now that for everything we achieve - we miss something else. Part of growing up is coming to terms with what we've accomplished -- and what we haven't. And emerging from a subway station to a youthful landmark seldom visited can bring it all back at once.
That's another reason for my gratitude about Moms Rising -- another generation of activism pushing the boundaries my friends and I pushed out so far ourselves.
So thanks and hats off - to my sisters who came before, to Morra and to Joan for a wonderful morning, to Joan for launching this very inspiring crusade and to all the mothers who've joined the fight.
I was taking notes, so I
headed the page with the date - and was stunned. It was a memorable day,
at least for me.
Remember the Vietnam
War? Or at least all the stories you've been told about it? Today, October 15th, is the 38th
anniversary of one of the major demonstrations against that war -- after the
chaos of 1968 and the election of Richard Nixon: the Vietnam
Described as the largest demonstration
in US history, it was quite a day. Astonishingly, Richard Nixon went to the
Lincoln Memorial -- in secret, in the middle of the night -- to talk to
the demonstrators camping out on the grounds there. Not astonishingly,
hundreds were tear-gassed and rounded up -- many on the way to class at George Washington University, and some, like
my now-husband, on the way from his office to lunch. This website from
SMU quotes Steven
Ambrose:"Tens of thousands of
protesters marched around the White House on October 15th; across the country,
in every major city, tens of thousands attended antiwar rallies. It was,
by far, the largest antiwar protest in US history.Altogether,
millions were involved. There was little or no violence. Most disturbing to
Nixon and his supporters, the Moratorium brought out the middle class and
the middle-aged in in very large numbers".
Yeah the middle class was there - and people even older than I am now. It made a lot
of noise and got a remarkable amount of attention. Jerry Rubin and
Abbie Hoffman showed up, on bail from the Chicago Seven trial, and pulled
off wigs to show that their hair had been shorn, like Sampson, by their Chicago jailers.
Of course the
war didn't end. Years later an alleged Soviet spy told an interviewer
that the demonstrations had been a dead give-away to the Russians that the US could not sustain the effort. Who knows? It was just one more huge event in
many efforts to make the war go away. I have just read that one of the leaders of SDS and one of my
favorite thinkers, Todd Gitlin, in his new book, has urged today's activists to
learn from what went wrong then. They'd better. For all we tried to
do, we never got where we wanted to go and we left a legacy of polarization
that still provides fodder for opponents in the culture wars. It was a noble effort and probably helped demonstrate anti-war sentiment but now, in these times, we need a new way to do that. It's intriguing that two highly-regarded thinkers like Bai and Gitlin are both looking at the future of Progressives at the same time -- just a year before the next presidential election.
What do you think? What should we have learned from the battles of the 60s -- and of the early years of this century? What do we still have left to find out?
My son is 32 years old. The first two weeks of his life he lost a pound and a half. I just didn't seem to have enough milk and there was no one - no lactation consultant or nurse-practitioner or even another other mom to ask for help. (This was Manhattan in the 70s; there was a lot of anti-natalism and many of my friends literally asked "Do you really want to be pregnant?" ) When I finally went to to the pediatrician he told me I had to supplement the nursing with formula. It felt like such a humiliating sign of maternal failure before I had even begun. Soon after, the milk ran out altogether.
I wish I could describe the tears, the guilt, the sense that I'd damaged this lovely, lovely child for life. I was, after all, hurting his development and immune system. And bonding. And who knew what else?
So when I read about the breast-feeding explosions on Facebook (and I have a Facebook page and admit I really like it, which makes it worse) or Delta Airlines, all these years later and still happening, I'm doubly sad. These attitudes add to the stress that inhibits milk production and I know how stressful nursing can be, especially in the beginning. I know the devastation when it fails. I know the almost unanimous research about the advantage of breast-feeding these new little people, and I believe the "it takes a village" theory enough to feel that it's everybody's responsibility to help kids grow up healthy and secure. That's why I'm here among the nursing moms my kids' ages. They're strong and inspired and right on the money. The capacity to nourish an infant is a privilege and a right. And natural. And in no way anything but lovely. I mourned for so long the loss of it for my own children. I still do.
Life is complicated. One day things are great; the next day someone you love breaks an ankle and faces weeks on crutches; another battles heartbreak and demons. One day you're lifted high in celebration; the next, angry and resentful. One day you're lost in silence - the next you're listening to Bruce Springsteen warn you to "carry only what you fear" then enchant you with a wistful "Girls in Their Summer Clothes."
I would have bought Magic sooner or later -- if it has Bruce's name on it, it's on my iPod. But my son's endorsement sent me straight to Amazon right after its release. When The Seeger Sessions came out I played it for hours - over and over. It just lifted you up out of your chair (or the driver's seat.) Magic needs more attention; it's got a lot to say. No courting froggies or underpaid sailors here. What there is instead is a mournful, painful set of stories: political and personal. They describe feelings I've struggled to express: anger, disappointment, anxiety over the future.
Not much more to say except that I once saw Springsteen tell Bob Dylan "You were the brother that I never had." He is the diary I never had. In Bruce's real-life anthems, you can find huge parts of my life. I was a lawyer's daughter in a steel town. The football heroes and Dairy Queen cowboys of my teen years were the boys of Springsteen's New Jersey. All so familiar: the longings of Thunder Road, the nostalgia of No Surrender .
Every time I hear the lines "Now I'm ready to grow young again, And hear your sister's voice calling us home, Across the open yards" I can see it. The yard outside our house, the hill up to the neighbors and their tire swing, dusk in the summer when my sister really did call and we tore down the hill, sweaty, dirty and happy as hell.
I don't want to feel just as connected to these angry, disappointed words, but I do. It's not just aging, knowing that childhood summers are long gone. It's the reality of the times he's describing - so much the way I've experienced them without the capacity to express what I feel. Not the only thing I feel -- but as usual he's speaking for a part of me. This time though, instead of being grateful, I'm just so so sad.
I heard this song on a Charmed rerun - the guilty pleasure that seems to be taking over my mind. I listened again on iTunes (the link at the beginning) - and felt my throat tighten and my heart pull. I had to turn it off -- too sad. Why? No idea.
Song lyrics often do that to me. Thunder Road,Scarlett Begonias, Peaceable Kingdom -- I just have to skip the iPod to the next thing. Lately this is a more frequent occurrence. Either I'm far more open to emotion than usual or something is making me really sad. Im struggling to figure out what's up but suspect I'm avoiding the figuring too. Sigh.
I thought this was going to be a long pensive post but I think I'm just gonna shut up, get ready for the end of Sukkot and listen to the new Bruce when it gets here today from Amazon. Besides, I've written about music and my moods before so I'm beginning to sound a little repetitive, even to myself. This was written before sundown Wednesday and will show up on its own Friday morning; I'll be back after the holiday.
My mother always used to tell me that it was better leave a party before you wanted to. "Leave while it's still fun" she would say, "and you'll have loved every minute you were there." I always thought that was a rationalization for wanting me home at a decent hour, but I think, as in many things, she was right. We are now awaiting the last three days of what will be, in September and this week of October, ELEVEN days of limited activity and expected entertaining. OH - and religious services, of course: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the first and then final days of Sukkot. All of which fell on Thursday and Friday. Leading into Saturday. Which is the Sabbath. SO. No TV. No phones. No computers. No e-mail even. No cooking for many of those days and ONLY for the day in question the rest of those days.
Remember, these are very holy days, too. You have to be sure to keep that in your mind; go to services and try to connect. Our services are very uplifting and moving; we're there all day and there's lots of singing and shared emotion. You really know you've been praying and it's a time when it's easier to connect with one's faith (at least for me.)
It also means, however, that on Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) there was dinner Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night and lunch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Yom Kippur, a fast day, there was just preparation of a meal the night before. That's 7 meals. We got through this fine - hosting three meals; and going to others for the other four. It was a lot of cooking and enormous anxiety but it all was in the service of sharing and honoring these remarkable holidays with those we care about; our older son and his girl friend were even there for part of it; all worked out well.
So where's the BUT? You know there's one coming. Well, five days later we hit Sukkot -- the holiday where you have to eat outside in a "booth" (you can see the commandment here and an explanation at the bottom of this post)-- to commemorate the Jewish people's time living in booths in the desert during the Exodus. That's ours in the photo (undecorated because I can't take photos on the holidays when it IS all set up.) Again, two meals for two days at the beginning running into the Sabbath and two more at the end next week running into ANOTHER Sabbath. AND you have people over the in the days in between too, at least a little bit.
Most people I think are exhausted - hardly any have issued meal invitations although I hosted one lunch last Friday and we went to another family for dinner. That still left three of the five uninvited. That's as stressful as cooking for the ones we host. Where were we going - who was going where we weren't? Why did it matter? What about praying - why is this temporal stuff on our minds at all?
I have to admit it bothers me a little; others I know are supremely troubled by it. I feel like such a whiny little brat. Here we are just celebrating our
third year as active participants in this life and almost into our
third living in this community - having gained and learned so much -
and I'm complaining. It's so not what faith is supposed to be about but it's still a real issue - especially when you haven't been doing this long.
This is the first year we've really hosted people in our Sukkah and so we wanted all to be just right; mostly we have done great except for those invitation gaps. I'm disappointed about that. And I'm ashamed of us for caring at all. These holidays are supposed to bring us closer to God but after seven days with three more coming all I feel close to is exhaustion. I've spoken to many friends about this; the women, upon whom the cooking seems to fall, are more pissed but the guys are also tired. Everyone is a little cranky. (My husband suggests that he is both tired AND cranky and the one doing most of the "taking inventory.") That's probably true but it's contagious!
Worst of all, it's so anticlimactic. I wish you could have been with us on Yom Kippur. This holy day, which I had always experienced as solemn and sad, is, in our synagogue, a day of happiness. We are there because of the gift of repentance, we are participating in a service that is thousands of years old, the music is just extraordinary and the ritual moving and humbling. The young doctor who leads our service is profoundly spiritual and an amazing musician - here's a sample of my favorite.
; I call him the Bruce Springsteen of prayer because of the energy and depth he offers us, and we leave uplifted and inspired.
So maybe the rapid slide into STILL MORE holiday after something so profound robs us of the full celebration of our Yom Kippur prayers - cutting off our feelings from that day but, as I write this, perhaps reminding us that one day's repentance isn't going to carry us through the year - or even the week - and that we must continue to try to find ways to follow our faith each moment, not just revel in past moments of spiritual ascendance. And I guess each emotion is a brick in the road to where ever we're bound - this though is certainly not one I'm proud of.
***One rabbi explains:
THE SUKKA reminds us of Israel's honeymoon with God in the hostile desert (of
cruel history-- there must be more shade than sun in the sukka), and of Divine
clouds hovering over them (= eventual redemption; stars must be visible thru
the sukka roof-- Rav Riskin); God's protection against forces of evil, when the
Jews seem most vulnerable (e.g. 1948, 1991 and Purim), climaxes in the pre-
Messianic battles of our Haftarot. Then God will raise up David's fallen
"sukka"-- the 3rd Temple, preceded by the rediscovered tabernacle. Discomfort,
e.g. rain, exempts one from Sukka-- but those truly great stay, experiencing
no discomfort when surrounded by God's glory (The Berditchever). The sukka is
a symbol of peace, for it is open-- to the elements of nature, to the heavens
above and, foremost, to guests, far and near (Rav Avigdor Hacohen). As we
invite guests to our sukka, not only do we do a good deed of kindness and
spread holiday cheer, but we also imitate God Himself, the Ultimate Model Host,
Who constantly feeds, clothes and houses all His creatures; we thus develop our
own Divine Image.