Occasionally, I just need to acknowledge my privilege. Today, the fact of it struck me as Garth and I readied our kids for school. I shifted a client, and Garth went in to work later, so that we could walk with Luken to school, and then bike with Kami to her new school. After getting our kids settled, Garth and I said a lingering good-bye to each other, and then biked off in opposite directions to work.
Meanwhile, other parents of other school-aged Portland kids punched a time clock at the usual time, first dropping their kids at school early, leaving them to mill around the playground and hallways until school started, sans parents. I’m not even sure this milling around is a bad thing for kids. What I want to notice about it is that there is a new-ish standard, and this standard has some of us – a minority of us, I believe – marking various transitions in our children’s lives with our presence. Being able to do so is a matter of privilege. I want to never be unconscious of this fact.
I have been thinking about Garth lately. Friends of ours, Rob and Nancy, occasionally have the kids and me over when Garth isn’t able to join us. At these times, I enjoy myself, but I feel a little sorry for Rob and Nancy. I am not as interesting or funny a dinner guest as when Garth is there with me. I’m not saying I’m never funny or interesting when Garth’s not around. I’ve been known to hold my own in a lively conversation when flying solo. But something about him spurs me to reach inside and find my good qualities in a way I don’t always manage on my own.
Isn’t this why most of us want to be married, to find, through our association with this person, a self that is more ourselves?
Lest you accuse me of shining the apple, I’d like to add that in my years with Garth I have also been spurred to reach inside and find my darkest, slimiest, most hideous and unattractive qualities, too. But that, too, is a kind of opportunity.
17 years ago today, Garth and I walked through April Hill Park toward a large tent that sheltered a hundred or so of our friends and family, and got married. We will celebrate today by making a special breakfast for our parents as a thank you. “Thank you” not just for raising us, but also for the countless ways they make it possible for our marriage to survive and flourish. In our wedding ceremony, the minister mentioned the role that community plays in a marriage, and in a way, having our parents over this morning is a way to acknowledge our entire community by acknowledging them.
Which means, to everyone reading, there is a place at the table this morning for you, too.
Men’s flip-flops and sneakers; a hospital gown; several pink baby clothes; a photo of five dressed-up high school-aged girls; black faux fur-lined women’s winter boots; an Art Ltd. magazine; one silver shoe for a five-year-old girl; and a framed collage.
The collage says “Age” written in string and broken rubber bands shaped into the letters and glued on. A girl’s face looks out from inside the sort of cap that British toddlers wore circa 1926. The figure also wears a long winter coat from the same era. The cap covers the head and ears and ties under the chin, and the effect in this collage is of a face swimming in a space helmet. The space suit motif is completed by three threads that lead from the girl and attach to 1) a small map, 2) an image of variously-stacked blocks from a geometry textbook, and 3) an ultrasound picture of a uterus.
She is her own little Neil Armstrong, attached to lifelines to keep her safe in her universe.
How intentional is what I see, and how unconscious is it? What do the map, the blocks, and the uterus mean? Did the artist just cut them from a book because she/he thought they looked cool? Or are they specifically meaningful?
And are the threads lifelines or leashes? Is it, “I have a map to get me where I need to go, and I know how to build things, and these, along with my basic female-ness, keep me moving forward through the world?” Or is it, “I am constrained by maps that lull me into thinking they can show me the way; blocks are all rigidity and angles and do not brook the soft lines of the natural world; and my body is my destiny, a destiny I cannot escape even if I want to?”
Of course, that’s the point of art, right? To hold the possibility of both: life has its leashes and its lifelines, and sometimes one item can be both.