Friday, December 22, 2017

Light the World

Freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Matthew 25:35
Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath day. Matthew 12:12
Thou shalt love thy neighbors as thyself. Matthew 22:39

There are few taken from Mark, but, overall, the scripture passages given by our church for the December advent are taken from the gospel of Matthew. Matthew, a convert from Judaism, is writing for a predominantly Jewish audience, his own people, with the hopes of convincing them that Jesus Christ is the hoped-for Messiah. And, to do so, he speaks of service. His intention is to persuade, but his message is not of persuasion, but a call to action. A proving, through this action, of the authenticity of Christ’s mission on earth and sacrifice for us.
We have been asked to light the world. To walk into darkened spaces, bearing light. That light—the love of Christ. Christ himself. But, we have not been asked to stand beside the giver of light, we have been asked to carry the light ourselves. We must, ourselves, do well on the sabbath day. We must freely give. We must give drink. We must do good to those who hate us. We must love our neighbors as ourselves.

To say that we live in perilous times is so apparent that it’s nearly redundant. We live in perilous times. But, not perilous alone. Perilous, exciting, harrowing, clarifying times.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .
In chapter 12 of Ether, Moroni tells us that “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” This is often quoted, but, most frequently out of context.

Moroni does indeed hope for a better world, but he says this after a lifetime spent in peril, combating evil from within his people and without. This was during a time where the Nephites became as wicked as the Lamanites. They turned away from God. But Moroni never gave up. He fought in the battles against the Lamanites, but, like Matthew, he also spent his life preaching, like Matthew, reviled by his own people, like Matthew, desperate to save their souls. It was unsuccessful, and the Lord ceased to protect them, and Moroni lived to see the destruction of his people. It is then, after this perilous lifetime spent in service, that he contents himself with hope alone for a better world.
We believe in God, and we hope, too. But there must be more than only hope. There must be action, service both large and small. Matthew, who knew something of sacrifice, exhorts us, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.” Our light is charity, the pure love of Christ, and it is sparked through action. To light the world, we must light ourselves from within.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Good Tidings

I wrote this last year, for a Christmas program. The program itself was entitled Good Tidings, and, because I was stumped for a topic, I borrowed the name when the woman organizing asked for one. The fact was, I couldn't write. It was a month after the election, and I was in a dark place. I was sad, and I wondered if I would always be sad. I wondered if I could come back from this. If I could find a way to be hopeful and optimistic again.

I can say without hyperbole that 2016 changed me. I'm glad it changed me. I would be disturbed if I had remained unchanged by the outcome and the conclusions we were forced to draw as a result of that election. There is no unlearning what we learned about gender, about race, and about fear.

This was written then, in the midst of these changes. It came from a dark place, but, through it, I found light.

Good Tidings
It was 1863 when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote Christmas Bells, the poem from which the Christmas carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day takes its lyrics. He wrote it on Christmas morning, as the Civil War raged. His wife, Fanny Longfellow, had just died, very suddenly. The month before, personal tragedy crossed paths with the national one when his oldest son, Charles, a member of the Union force, was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia. So, that December morning, Longfellow had much to contemplate when he wrote the poem we know so well.
With the advantage of time we know that things worked out, but the war would thunder on another year and a half after that December morning. There was no precedent for the severity of division that America faced, and whether America would ever be united again—in idea or actuality— was far from certain. At this moment, December 25, 1863, America was truly a nation divided.
In a stanza of the poem not included in the hymn, it reads,
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
We, too, live in a world that feels divided. You can’t swing a holly wreath these days without coming upon a news story that demonstrates that hate is, indeed, very strong.
My daughter and I were singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas the other day, and I explained that when we sing Good tidings we bring, it means good news. Good news we bring. She liked that idea, and asked for some good news. 
And in despair I bowed my head. 
At this time of year, when the decorations are up and the lights are lit—when I should feel the most joyful—I earnestly felt that I had no good news to give her.
To some degree, that’s true. Good news of the standard variety can be hard to come by. But as I really thought about it, I realized that there is a fundamental flaw to my fear. No matter how bleak life sometimes feels, there is always good news to be had. It is the Savior. It is His birth, which we celebrate this month. And it is the totality of his life and message. Jesus Christ lived his whole earthly life in the shadow of fear and the hate that fear engendered, disagreement and willful misunderstanding. His sacrifice made, it ended in the same way. 
And yet, the Roman empire fell, the Union remained intact, and here we stand, on this day, two thousand and six years after the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrating that very miracle. We sit here tonight as living proof of Longfellow’s words,
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
Belief in the Savior does not mean that we can abdicate the responsibility of caring about the world around us. Henry and Fanny Longfellow were abolitionists and agitators for change, and Longfellow continued to hope for unity for the United States. In 1878, he wrote in his journal, “I have only one desire, and that is for harmony, and a frank and honest understanding between the North and South.” 
What our belief in Jesus Christ allows us is relief from despair. To look upon the cares of the world with hope in our hearts. With true charity, which is the love of Christ, in our hearts. In this way, no matter how grave the times, there will always have good news to share.

When Samuel the Laminite prophesied of the birth of Christ, he told the Nephites that it will occur in about five years. He told them that there would be a day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night. He told them that there will be a new star, one that they had never before seen. I imagine that, during those five years, true believers often looked heavenward, searching for that star, awaiting the day and the night and the day that would signal the birth of the long-awaited Savior of the World. The day we celebrate is marked on my calendar, but, when I truly stop to consider that the good tidings of Christ’s birth signify the most important event of human existence—the birth of the savior who would atone for my sins—I know in my heart that I should not approach that day with any less anticipation than those believers, looking heavenward. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Life and Death: A Critical Analysis of Twilight, Reimagined, Chapters 8-10

Chapters 1-3

Chapters 4 & 5

Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 8: Port Angeles

Summary: Bella/Beau go to Port Angeles with friends. Do some uneventful shopping. Depart from said friends to find a bookstore, and find themselves on the wrong side of Port Angeles. Bella is seen, then followed, then accosted by a rapist and his drunk cronies. Beau stumbles across--I don't know, something, a drug deal maybe? Diamond smugglers? Who even knows--and is recognized from an earlier encounter (airport) and mistaken (inexplicably) for an undercover cop. Both Bella and Beau escape mortal danger by the arrival of Edward/Edyth in the silver Volvo that launched a thousand Volvos. They all go to dinner (mushroom ravioli!) and Edward/Edyth reveal that they can kinda read minds.

Analysis: Meyer does a good job recreating the dynamics between Bella's friends with Beau's friends. Maybe I'm just speaking from my own naivete or gender assumptions, but I would think that it might be hard to get the tone quite right, and she does a nice job recreating the dynamic with boys without it being a send-up of the girls' dynamic.
But, to the real point of this chapter:
Bella is walking along, alone, in a lonely neighborhood. Mistake number one. She is noticed by a group of men. Mistake number two. After that, she's rounded up and accosted. The message that she's about to be sexually assaulted--and possibly then murdered--seems pretty clear, because she's a woman and they're a group of men, and quite frankly, that's how things go down. (If we're using Midnight Sun as reference, which, whatever, I am, the "gang" is lead by Lonny, serial rapist, which, if I'm being frank, is still way too much set up. I vastly prefer screenwriter Melissa Rosenburg's more organic townie-bros conceit).
What's really noteworthy is how much trouble Meyer is forced to go through to get Beau in a similarly dangerous situation. She sets it up at the airport, for crying out loud. Bumping into these "gangsters" (Beau's word, man, not mine. because I have too much dignity) is the very first thing that happens to him upon arrival in Washington. They somehow mistake him for an undercover cop. There's a drug deal, there are guns, there's a lead pipe--Meyer basically unleashes the entire game of Clue to create a situation as dangerous as one Bella can effortlessly find simply by walking while female. It's kind of . . . amazing. That doesn't feel like the word, but it is amazing. And, again, maybe it's my own baggage talking, but Beau still doesn't feel as threatened. There are three people when he's accosted: a woman with red lipstick, a short guy, and a not short guy. Beau is tall, sturdyish, so, unless they are really committed to shooting him, he still stands an okay chance of getting out of this situation. Bella, on the other hand, is a young girl, surrounded on all sides by four dudes. Though they're unarmed, barring the deus ex machina that is Edward's arrival, she's not getting out of there unscathed. It's interesting, and sad, to compare Bella's fundamental vulnerability to Beau's.
Secondly, dinner. It's an important step for all involved, because it represents the first conventionally romantic setting in which we see Bella/Beau and Edward/Edythe. It's also important because it demonstrated why the gender reversal fundamentally does not work for me. So, as a reader, I am inclined to identify with the person I feel most like, which, generally speaking, starts with the person of my own sex. So, when I read Twilight, I identify with Bella. When I read Life and Death, I identify with Edythe, because, if there's a female main character, I'm hardwired to identify with her. Which, gets me thinking. When I identify with Bella, what I have is a handsome and mysterious stranger interested in me. Which is fine.
When I identify with Edythe, what I'm dealing with is being interested in a 17-year-old boy, which is way less fine. Apart from the fact that it genuinely makes me feel like a creep, I am really, really wondering, why is Edythe interested in Beau? I am about 70 years younger than Edyth, an the idea of being attracted-in any way-to a 17 year old boy is, not only gross but, frankly, baffling. Why wouldn't she pretend to be in college? At least there she could date a grad student or something. I mean, do you remember 17-year-old boys? They are so awkward and weird. They smell weird and haven't read all the things you've read. What is she hoping to have in common with this kid? Beau seems like a really nice 17-year-old kid, which means that he'll probably be cooler and better looking in his mid-to-late-20s, so maybe Edythe should just give it a second.
And I know! It's the same questions we could ask about Edward and Bella (and should!), and did! I did, the second movie jokes about it. The question is there, but, I don't know, it just seems less important somehow.
And why is that? Is it because we're just socialized to feel like it's fine for an older man to be attracted to a younger woman (or, in this case, girl)? Is it because--as a society--we sexualize women at a very young age?  Is it because we're willing to believe that Edward is shallow enough to be attracted to Bella based entirely on her face, body, and scent, but Edythe wouldn't--or shouldn't--be that shallow? Is it because, when I identify with Bella in Twilight, I see myself as 17, and, even when I was only 17, I saw myself then as I see myself now--as a complex, interesting person with something to offer?
I don't know! Who even knows what the answer is here. All of the above, maybe?

Chapter 9: Theory

Summary: Right, this is where I describe the action in this chapter. However, in this chapter, there is none. They literally just drive in a car for twelve pages. I mean, okay, Bella/Beau asks some follow-up questions about the mind reading thing, and Edward/Edythe debunk basic vampire lore and then demand an explanation for Bella/Beau's latest theory about them. Spoiler alert, Bella and Beau both guess that Edward and Edythe are vampires. Then, Bella/Beau says that she/he doesn't care, and Edward/Edythe get real mad. There's that odd moment where Edward/Edythe kind of give in to their impulse to be around Bella/Beau, despite the fact that they feel they shouldn't.

Analysis: Because this chapter is so dialogue heavy, not much changes. Like, not much at all. There are huge blocks of text that are exactly the same. There are some differences, which, I think might have more to do with better writing in Life and Death than it has to do with gender analysis, but, it should be mentioned: Bella and Edward's conversation feels way more passive aggressive than the conversation Beau and Edythe have.
"Can I ask just one more?" I pleaded as Edward accelerated much too quickly down the quiet street. He didn't seem to be paying attention to the road.
He sighed.
"One," he agreed. His lips pressed together into a cautious line.
"Well . . . you said you knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I had gone south. I was just wondering how you knew that."
He looked away, deliberating.
"I thought we were past all the evasiveness," I grumbled.
Life and Death
"Can--can I ask just one more?" I stuttered quickly as she accelerated much too fast down the quiet street.
I was in no hurry to answer her question.
She shook her head. "We had a deal."
"It's not really a question," I argued. "Just a clarification of something you said before."
She rolled her eyes. "Make it quick."
"Well . . . you said you knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I had gone south. I was just wondering how you knew that."
She thought about it for a moment, deliberating.
"I thought we were past all the evasions," I said.
I said. I SAID. Again, I really think we can chalk a lot of this up to a more mature writer in Life and Death, realizing that she doesn't need to use quite so many adjectives and adverbs and that sometimes simplicity can be powerful, but the end result is that--especially when I compare them--Twilight sounds like a child is talking to an adult, and Life and Death sounds like two adults talking.
Add this to that thought: Bella stalls getting out of the car, doesn't want the moment to end. Beau does the same thing, though, he leans in, wanting to kiss Edythe. She puts a stop to it (presumably because she'll be forced to drink all his blood if she gets to close), but we have a more mature relationship with Beau and Edythe. Where Bella waits around for cues from Edward, Beau appears to exercise more agency, making the relationship appear more balanced.
Though, I have got to give Stephanie Meyer proper credit for sticking with the epitaph, "Holy crow!" that both Bella and Beau deliver when they realize the speed of Edward/Edythe's car. It appears, famously, in Twilight, and she stuck with it in Life and Death. And it sounds just as dumb the second time around. But, it took chutzpah to do it, so, good for you, Steph.
Also, a note: So, when Bella tells Edward that she doesn't care that he's a vampire, that it's too late, Edward gets all mad about it and Bella starts to cry. Which is fine, she's allowed to cry. When Beau tells Edythe the same thing, and she gets mad, he's "glad again for the scarf. My neck was a mass of crimson splotches, I was sure." This is a reference to my earlier point about how icky it is to be attracted to a 17-year-old boy. With women--and girls--a blush can bloom, a throat can flame, blood can rush into cheeks. Maybe that's part of the reason Edward's attraction to Bella feels more plausible: romantic and sensual language can be used to describe her. But, splotches? Yuck.

Chapter 10: Interrogations

Summary: Edward/Edythe picks up Bella/Beau for school, and tongues get to waggin'. Jessica/Jeremy confront Bella/Beau about the relationship with Edward/Edythe. Edward/Edythe waits outside trig for Bella/Beau, and they all go to lunch. During lunch Bella/Beau and Edward/Edythe have a real serious conversation about who likes who better.

Analysis: The most significant thing about this chapter is the way in which Jessica and Jeremy each talk about Edward and Edythe, respectively. Jessica's inquiry is nosy, though comparatively toothless. She asks if the date with Edward was planned, wonders why he picked Bella up for school, and finally if Edward has kissed her. Everything that she goes on to say after that is pretty flattering to Edward (how he's such a hottie, etc, etc), and then she finally asks Bella if she really likes Edward.
But Beau, poor, poor Beau, has to deal with Jeremy, who, as it turns out, is a real jackass. His first question (that Edythe can hear because of the mind reading) is exactly to which base Beau has gotten himself with Edythe. Gross, Jeremy. Then, in trig, he gets down to brass tacks. He is, at first, highly congratulatory of Beau, until he learns that Beau is not crowing his sexual victory. Then things take an ugly turn. Even the mean-spirited Jessica is civil enough to conceal her apparent shock that Edward has found Bella attractive, but Jeremy does Beau no such favors:
"Because, you know, it's not a secret that you've been, like, obsessed with her since you got here . . . So, I have to wonder how you turned that around. Do you have a genie in a lamp? Did you find some blackmail on her? Or did you trade your soul to the devil or something?"
He then asks, "Exactly how much did you get out of the bargain? Bet it was a pretty wild night, eh?"
Again, Jeremy. So gross.
Where Jessica reasonably assumes that Edward simply picked Bella up that morning for school, Jeremy (grossly) assumes that Beau and Edythe spent the night together (where though, man? they both live with their parents. think it out, Jeremy) and that's how they ended up carpooling that morning. And when Beau admits it was an early night, free of sexual conquests, Jeremy drops the hammer, "Obviously, it's just some pity thing." And then, "It won't take her long to get bored with you, I bet."
Ouch, man.
THEN, where Jessica was like, 'well, Edward doesn't like me, but, I don't think that makes him a bad person because I'm not a loser psychopath who thinks like that", Jeremy leans over to tell Beau that, really, he (Jeremy) is better off without a girl like Edythe. "You know what, though? . . . I think I'd rather be with a normal girl."
Beau intuits that Jeremy is implying that there is something "off or wrong" about Edythe*.
Classic Jeremy.
This is a fictional exchange, written by a woman who might not necessarily have her finger on the pulse of how 17-year-old boys talk (though, maybe she does, I don't know her life), so it might be wise not to try to learn too much from it, but, I do think the assumption from Jeremy of Edythe as a fundamentally sexual being (because he finds her sexually attractive) seems accurate, as does Jeremy's complete dismissal of her after it turns out that she's not, and, more damningly, now appears more out of his reach than ever.
So, score one very rare win in the depiction of girls vs. boys.
Also, while eating lunch in the cafeteria, there's a decently funny run between Beau and Edythe about vans trying to kill Beau. It's nice that enough time has passed that they can laugh about it. Actually, it's just nice that they can laugh together at all. Bella and Edward never laugh about anything. Like, sometimes they almost laugh at a private joke, or a mouth turns up in a half-smile, but they never laugh together. That bums me out.

Okay, up next: there's a VCR! And VCR-related sexual tension! And badminton! This chapter has it all!

*for the record, I actually think this is a stronger choice, narratively, because it adds to the tonal danger that should surround both Edythe and Edward.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I'm With Her

Why #imwithher

The fact is, I've always been with her. Even before the hashtag. Check out that photo; that's vintage 2008 Primaries. I was disappointed that she didn't get the nomination, because I thought she was amply qualified, but, in the end, I was really happy with the way things turned out. Not only because I've been happy with President Obama's two terms in office, but also, because it allowed me to gain a greater measure of who Hillary Clinton is. She didn't get the nomination, and, instead of packing up her (undoubtedly) tasteful leather briefcase and heading off to do whatever rich and powerful people do when they don't get what they've gone after, she looked around and asked:

Where can you put me to work?

She did what she's done her whole life: she looked around and found something else she could do in service to the people of this country. I'm not a big believer in destiny, but for her, I make an exception. This presidency is her destiny. She's the most qualified candidate, ever. Not in this election. Ever. Her crowded resume certainly speaks for itself (first lady, first lady, senator, senator, secretary of state, democratic nominee, etc . . .), but what never ceases to amaze me is how dedicated she is to a public that constantly underestimates and under-appreciates her.

She scares people. I get that. As first lady people had no idea what to do with her. She threw the dinners and welcomed the guests, but she also personally lobbied congress to pass a bill benefiting children aging out of foster care. She introduced the idea that health care should not be a privilege reserved for the wealthy. She said, in a place that didn't want to hear what she had to say, that women's rights are human rights. Her message has been clear from the beginning, when she saw that the role of the first lady was a political one, and treated it as such, and worked to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. And worked to do it from the inside of a political system programmed to devalue them. And her.

And she. just. kept. working.

She wants what we want. She wants racial and social justice. She wants gender equality. She has a radical proposal to tackle deep poverty. And she can do it. She can do it all. She has the skills. The has the knowledge. She has the experience. She has the institutional memory. She has the fire. And she has the heart. I firmly believe, in my heart, that she is a good and decent person. A person stronger and more dedicated than I could ever hope to be, who cares enough to endure decades of irrelevant personal attacks, unfounded professional attacks, and can just keep moving.

Election day is on Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to casting my vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States. It's a moment that I've been looking forward to for a long time.

To all of you in swing states (including you, Utah--the swing state none of us saw coming), if you'd like to talk more about my firm belief in this candidate, message me directly; I'd love to have a face to face or phone to phone conversation.

And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle
For all those myths and oddments
Which oddly we have acquired
And from which we would become unburdened
To create a newer world
To translate the future into the past.
We have no need of false revolutions
In a world where categories tend to tyrannize our minds
And hang our wills up on narrow pegs.
It is well at every given moment to seek the limits in our lives.
And once those limits are understood
To understand that limitations no longer exist.
Earth could be fair. And you and I must be free
Not to save the world in a glorious crusade
Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain
But to practice with all the skill of our being
The art of making possible.
-Nancy Scheibner
quoted by Hillary Rodham in her commencement speech at graduation from Wellesley, 1969. Because: Destiny

(emphasis is my own)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Garrison Keillor, on Hillary

I saw Hillary once working a rope line for more than an hour, a Secret Service man holding her firmly by the hips as she leaned over the rope and reached into the mass of arms and hands reaching out to her. She had learned the art of encountering the crowd and making it look personal. It was not glamorous work, more like picking fruit, and it took the sort of discipline your mother instills in you: those people waited to see you so by gosh you can treat them right.
So it’s no surprise she pushed herself to the point of collapse the other day. What’s odd is the perspective, expressed in several stories, that her determination to keep going reveals a “lack of transparency” ---- that she should’ve announced she had pneumonia and gone home and crawled into bed.
I’ve never gone fishing with her, which is how you really get to know someone, but I did sit next to her at dinner once, one of those stiff dinners that is nobody’s idea of a wild good time, the conversation tends to be stilted, everybody’s beat, you worry about spilling soup down your shirtfront. She being First Lady led the way and she being a Wellesley girl, the way led upward. We talked about my infant daughter and schools and about Justice Blackmun, and I said how inspiring it was to sit and watch the Court in session, and she laughed and said, “I don’t think it’d be a good idea for me to show up in a courtroom where a member of my family might be a defendant.” A succinct and witty retort. And she turned and bestowed her attention on Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was sitting to her right. She focused on him and even made him chuckle a few times. I was impressed by her smarts, even more by her discipline.
I don’t have that discipline. Most people don’t. Politics didn’t appeal to me back in my youth, the rhetoric (“Ask not what your country can do for you”) was so wooden compared to “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” so I walked dark rainy streets imagining the great novel I wouldn’t write and was still trying to be cool and indifferent well into my thirties, when other people were making a difference in the world.
Hillary didn’t have a prolonged adolescence and fiction was not her ambition. She doesn’t do dreaminess. What some people see as a relentless quest for power strikes me as the good habits of a serious Methodist. Be steady. Don’t give up. It’s not about you. Work for the night is coming.
The woman who does not conceal her own intelligence is a fine American tradition, going back to Anne Bradstreet and Harriet Beecher Stowe and my ancestor Prudence Crandall, but none has been subjected to the steady hectoring that Mrs. Clinton has. She is the first major-party nominee to be pictured in prison stripes by the opposition. She is the first cabinet officer ever to be held personally responsible for her own email server, something ordinarily delegated to anonymous nerds in I.T. The fact that terrorists attacked an American compound in Libya under cover of darkness when Secretary Clinton presumably got some sleep has been held against her, as if she personally was in command of the defense of the compound, a walkie-talkie in her hand, calling in air strikes.
Extremism has poked its head into the mainstream, aided by the Internet. Back in the day, you occasionally saw cranks on a street corner handing out mimeographed handbills arguing that FDR was responsible for Pearl Harbor, but you saw their bad haircuts, the bitterness in their eyes, and you turned away. Now they’re in your computer, whispering that the economy is on the verge of collapse and for a few bucks they’ll tell you how to protect your savings. But lacking clear evidence, we proceed forward. We don’t operate on the basis of lurid conjecture.
Someday historians will get this right and look back at the steady pitter-pat of scandals that turned out to be nothing, nada, zero and ixnay and will conclude that, almost a century after women’s suffrage, almost 50 years after Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, a woman was required to run for office wearing concrete shoes. Check back fifty years from now and if I’m wrong, go ahead and dance on my grave.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Exit from Babyland*

I sing a song to Edie and Posy called To Babyland. It goes like this:

How many miles to Babyland? 
Anyone can tell.
Up one flight,
To the right,
Please to ring the bell.

What do they do in Babyland?
Dream and wake and play.
Laugh and grow,
Fonder grow, 
Jolly times have they.

What do they say in Babyland?
Why the oddest things.
Might as well
Try to tell
What the birdie sings.

Who is the queen of Babyland?
Mother kind and sweet.
And her love,
Born above,
Guides the little feet.

I learned it because I like memorizing text heavy songs (it helps me keep my wits about me), and Edie liked it when I sang it out of a book. I've grown to like it because it makes me think of a time and circumstance where children lived in "the nursery" exclusively, until they hit a certain age, which both frightens and delights me. And it also reminds me that early childhood has always been an isolationist undertaking. It's just the nature of it. First it has to do with nursing, then with napping, then with eating, then, before you know it, your world is--for all intents and purposes--"the nursery". And it becomes a kingdom of childhood.

And tomorrow, Edie, for what feels like the first time, departs it. She starts kindergarten tomorrow, and, while she's not exactly going away to college, it's full day, and feels very much like from now on, she's got her own schedule to keep.

And I'm so excited for her, because I know she'll love it. Edie was born for this. Her greatest gift is that she sees everyone as a friend. And I'm excited for me, too. For the increased flexibility of only having one child to cart around, and for the solitude while Posy naps. I've been waiting for this moment too.

But, tonight--and I'm sorry to say that this is all about to become about me--I was singing the last verse:

Who is the queen of Babyland?
Mother kind and sweet.

And I kind of lost it. Because, whether I like it or not, I am the queen of Babyland. I am that presence in her life. I am THE presence in her life. I am the queen of Babyland. And, while I have my failings, I am kind and sweet. And as I sang I started thinking about how my love has guided her little feet. And, again, I know it's just kindergarten, and I don't think I would care as much if she were a little bit bad. But, she's not. She's not a bit bad. She's so good. So purely good. And the idea of sending her into an environment I can't control makes me quake. I feel really certain that she's going to be fine, great even, but, a part of me can't help but wish that she could stay in Babyland. Maybe forever.

So I couldn't sing past

And her love, born above

So Edie's little voice chimed in, finishing the song

Guides the little feet.

Then she held up her foot for me to tickle, like we always do.

*I think it goes without saying that I have never been good with change.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


1. Why are we not talking about those weird sculptures they're giving the athletes instead of flowers? Are we? Have I missed the articles about them? I hate them. They're awkward, no one knows what to do with them on the medal stand, and you know they're just going to be collecting dust within two months (if not sooner). Besides that, Michael Phelps has no flowers to give his mom. BRING BACK THE FLOWERS (or, remember the lauren crowns from the Athens games? How about those?)!

2. It's always this point in the games when I'm like "USA! USA! WE WIN EVERYTHING!" because it's been swimming and gymnastics and judo, apparently. But then we move into track and field and "I'm like, oh, never mind. Look at all those flags I don't immediately recognize."

3. I never knew it before, but I'm really, really into women's rugby. If you haven't watched a game, check to see if they're still playing and watch a match. It's amazing. It's like football, but the game never stops. Someone gets tackled (which happens a lot), and they just push the ball out from under them to another teammate and keep going. I love it.

4. So, everyone has seen that the diving pool has turned green, right? And that the pool next to it, the water polo pool is also starting to turn green. Which is awful, because the last thing that sport needs is less visibility. I mean, we're talking hunger games territory here.

You guys, it's only a few days in and I've already learned so much. So much about the human spirit. And by extension, myself.

Also, USA! USA! USA!