I realize now what I’m doing here, on this planet, at this time, in the glorious and crushing moments, through uphill slogs and downhill slides, amid merciful solitude and exhuberant crowds …
It sounds so trite I hesitate, and yet it is true: I am a mother. But what is important is not my motherhood. It is the gift motherhood brings: my child.
This past month and a half have been among the saddest and most hopeful of my life. I have witnessed my father struggling to breathe from a hospital bed, then come through surgery with rousing success. I have watched another bloody massacre become a wave of youthful voices so passionate, so articulate, so tireless that my cynicism cracks a bit.
And I see my daughter, this human that my body grew, this person that our village raised, this glowing, compassionate being who cares about social justice, the environment, and the happiness of people around her. Her voice is one of a diverse, aware, and empowered generation, and, as Chloe and Halle sing to us, appropriating the words of the Who: “The kids are alright.” In an interview with Trevor Noah, these poised young women assured us that their generation is doing fine, that their parents didn’t fail them. I am struck by their words, and therein lies my truth.
Last weekend I marched behind a group of student protesters from the school where I teach, my daughter among them. As they led us down the tourist-lined streets, chanting their rage over the deaths of their peers, outlining gun policy demands that no sane person should oppose, my love and pride for these young people overwhelmed me. My body felt heavy with the poignant words of Briar Goldberg, a survivor of Columbine, who watched our country do nothing to protect us from what she went through. And I felt buoyed by the cadence and messaging of a middle-school girl, who far outshone any public speaker I’ve heard since the last presidential election. One by one, other teens spoke, with intelligence, with compassion, with the very present pain of what they experience daily because of guns in their communities. Their voices are clearer and louder than my feeble cries into the void have ever been. Now I can say that my fight was not in vain: it was an opening act, which is perhaps as it should be. The main stage is set for the real action, coming soon to a voting booth near you.
With renewed clarity, I see my life in a different way. My commitment to child-rearing takes on a greater meaning, as I envision the future that my child will help create. And I know that throughout the physical and mental exhaustion, the paycheck-to-paycheck existence, the struggles to hide despair and desperation from the gentle soul who kept me motivated, who shared my laughter, who makes me proud … she is why I’m here. She is my finest contribution to this time, to this planet, to these glorious moments and more yet to come.
[photo: afp 2018]