Update, November 21
Thanksgiving feels sort of scattered this year. On Thursday Wally and I will take a commuter train to New Haven, from there a bus to Hartford. My Uncle Billy and his family will pick us up and drive us the rest of the way to my parents’ house. Alex is staying in New York because long lost cousins from Spain announced last month they’d be visiting at Thanksgiving this year, making sure to add that the holiday “means nothing to them” but they know it’s important to us. A cousin in London and aunt in California jumped in on the plan. So they’ll all arrive tonight, converging in the rain on our house with Alex’s mom, sister, niece and nephew, for a family reunion, the link between them all--Alex’s dad—being in absentia, having died 91/2 years ago. Though, truth be told, Alex’s dad was in absentia for a good part of his childhood. When Alex was seven, his family moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Long Island, stayed for less than a year, then bounced back to Sao Paulo, minus the dad. Alex always expected one day he’d show up. Instead 7 years later, he hopped back with his mom and sister to North America and landed in the living room of an apartment in Queens with his dad again, an insta-family that lasted less than three years. Lots of back and forth in those days.
The continent hopping had begun a generation earlier. Alex’s dad was born in Spain, hence the long-lost cousins from Madrid, and moved to Brazil as a child. To complete the circle, I suppose, sometime in Junior High Wally should set his sights on Barcelona.
In other updates, the half marathon I was training for with my friend Eli turned into a Turkey Trot this coming Friday to support the Acton Food Coop. I don’t know how long it is exactly, but I think a Trot tends to max out at 5K. So, having committed to a 13-mile run together however many months ago, we’ve now resigned ourselves to 3.
The Turkey Trot supports the Acton Food Pantry. I didn’t even realize they had one, I was telling my mom the other day. She used to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Concord, the neighboring town. On occasion, the rest of us would join her. I thought that was nearest meals-for-poor-people apparatus going on in those affluent Boston suburbs, but all along there’d been one right in our own town.
But last night I was putting back those papers I’d dug up to find my letter about taxes to the Boston Globe from 1999, and I came across the artifacts of my brief journalism career (even briefer than my 6th month stint as a substitute teacher at MS 54) an article for Acton’s local paper about none other than the Acton Food Pantry. Not only have I heard of the food pantry, it turns out, I’d once interviewed the woman running it and then written an article about what she told me. So this is an update, I guess, not only for my loyal readers, but for myself and my own unreliable mind.
Training runs have taken on a new significance in light of the occupy movement. I tell myself endurance and speed are essential for a resistance fighter, as are the capacity to run when tired, cold, and wet. I have to run, no matter how much resistance I face. So I run in the cold fall rain. I run with headaches. I run when my legs hurt. Out by the river, listening to Richard Butler’s California. I know the idea that I’m training as a resistance fighter just because I’ve held a few cardboard signs down at Zuccotti Square is beyond ludicrous. But out there on the windy piers along the Hudson River my imagination drives me, as it does most of the time when I’m alone. It doesn’t hurt that from those piers I have a straight shot of the Freedom Tower going up downtown at the site of the World Trade Center. The tower calls to me, and with it, the promise of revolution in the air in the streets below.
It was that sight that drew me down last Thursday to the Wall Street rally two days after the occupiers were thrown out of Zuccotti Park in a midnight raid. I had planned to attend the rally that evening. And I did that too, meeting my friend Ivan Drucker at Foley Square then marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just a little ways into the march, people around us started pointing, jaws started dropping. On the side of the Verizon building a message was broadcast above us in an anonymous light show; it was a dream, a bat-signal revelation, a moment of childlike wonder, proof that we’re not only living by fiction, but science fiction as well.
Some powerful, mystery person was telling us to look around. That we were part of a global uprising, that we should occupy Wall St, Oakland, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, cities all over the world. Occupy Earth. The message ended with the words: Do not be afraid. Love.
It occurred to me that maybe I should write a separate OWS blog, but then the themes between OWS and LAC just had too much of an overlap. Like protecting childhood. Playing music as often as possible. Trying to be grateful. Trying to be fair. Spending lots of time outdoors. Valuing history, art and opposing ideas. Thinking it’s reasonable to start dancing where ever you are. Living simply. Not spending money on things that don’t matter. Not missing out on your life. Keeping things little for kids so the world can be big.
Wally goes to the preschool I mentioned back in June, a few blocks away now. That does feel small-town and is pretty incredible luck that he got in there. I can easily drop him off and pick him up, walking along quite possibly the ugliest, dirtiest 6 blocks in Manhattan, full of exhaust, massive trucks that force you to jut out into 10th ave to get by, and weird streets (to the tunnel?) that cut through the streets.
On his first day there, parents were allowed to stay for the first hour and then came the big goodbye. Wally was already involved in the train set and barely looked up when I left. “Bye mom. See you later.” Separation anxiety was not something we had to confront. Even the other day when he saw me at a volunteer meeting in the hall he simply said, “What are you doing here, Rachel?” and continued on his way.
His backpack comes home packed with paper crowns and apple tree paintings. I get notes on a regular basis about how he “won’t sit”, or “can’t sit still”, or is “having trouble sitting still”, but none of that comes as a surprise. Then after school we meet our neighborhood friends in the playground. No more awkward mingling, no more soul-deadening conversations about how to stop toddlers from chewing on board books.
Now that I have time, sometimes, to pause for a second, I ask myself: What just happened? The days used to be such a push for me –schlepping Wally uptown and downtown and around town to various therapies, meeting friends in faraway places, racing through errands without knocking over too many displays, always having to wake Wally up from his nap to get somewhere, then flying off while he’s in tears.
What just happened? It could apply to many things. From a baby to a preschooler, or the thirteen years from my college graduation, or the polar ice caps melting. Or even just the trees outside my window. Remember the pink trees from April? Here they are today.
My sister once told me that when you have kids, the days are long but the years go by fast. It’s nearly 8 in the morning, and Wally’s still asleep. He is on antibiotics, and has been staying up ‘til 10, but…still…it’s nearly 8 and he’s STILL ASLEEP. I feel semi-functional. These days I feel semi-not totally crazy.
It seemed like those 4 am winter mornings might never end. Maybe the craziest was the December trip to Massachusetts three years ago. Obama had just been elected, I was still working full-time and my parents new condo didn’t have much furniture. They had our pitbull, Sky, and Wally was—at 10 months—hurling himself through space. On these 4 am winter mornings he was not only awake, but bounding all over the house, running without holding on, climbing stairs, and crashing into Sky.
What on earth can I do? I would think in those strange hours. Even if my parents got up early, by 8 or so, I still had hours to go to keep quiet these two creatures who could not be confined.
Now Sky lives on a farm near New Hampshire with four other dogs. Wally is in preschool. Obama can no longer hope to run on change. Or, I think he can, but most of my comrades at OWS, it seems, no longer believe him. And I’m here at my kitchen table—my grandmother’s table—thinking I’ve got to find the letter the government wrote my grandmother to let her know how much her late husband had contributed to setting up social security. That would be fascinating, if I could find it and write about that. I’m here at the table in a quiet room, sorting through things and making them murkier, writing, like I have been, as the springtime turned slowly into autumn.