a is for activist

Age six, first grade. We lived in Denver and I took the bus an hour and a half across the city to my elementary school. Most of the kids I spent time with were not white. I was not aware of this, being only six-years-old and not knowing yet. One day I asked my mom to braid my hair like my friend Shannon’s. She obliged, making a bunch of tiny braids held with barrettes at the ends.

That morning at school a girl came up to me and said, “Why don’t you paint your face brown, too?”

I didn’t know that girl, and I didn’t understand what she said or why she was upset. She wasn’t any older than me, but she was aware of her color in a way that I was not. I was white and never had to be told it.

I told my mom what happened and asked her why the girl had reacted that way. I don’t remember what my mom said, I wish I did. But I do know that I came out of that moment knowing that I was white and that girl was black, and my friend Shannon was black, and it wasn’t appropriate for me to copy her hairstyle.

A couple years later we moved to a suburb called Broomfield. Something felt strange about the town, an unsettling vibe. When I expressed to my mom that something felt “off” in this new town she said, “That’s because everyone is white.” There really was something unnerving about being surrounded by almost 100% white people, even being white myself. I was the only Jewish kid in my class and I remember one day a girl came up to me and said:

“Isn’t it weird not celebrating your birthday?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Because you’re not allowed to celebrate any holidays.” she said.
“Do you think I’m Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. “I’m Jewish.”
“Oh. Same thing. They both start with a J.”

The following year, fourth grade, a bully in my class called me a “dirty little Jewish girl.” One day that bully let me use her markers and gave them to me afterwards. I thought it was a kindness, but she told me, “I had to give them to you because once you touched them I didn’t want them anymore.”

What I’m thinking about as I write this, the reason I’m writing it, is trying to figure out how to teach my white male child about his own privilege, about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, how our government/society values certain people above others and how that is wrong. About police brutality. About Black Lives Matter. About speaking up. Using his own brain. Standing up for what is right, for other people, in situations that are not easy.

I’m trying to remember being a kid myself, and how I learned about these things. When did I fail? When did I not speak up? When was I aware and kind and brave? I’m trying to be my best self and set a good example and be aware of my words and listen and give him the tools to make things better. To be a better person. To be kind. To help. To be an activist/advocate/ally. To love. To be angry when bad things happen. To use that anger to make positive change. To vote. To live his life in a way that creates the world as it should be.

 

 

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cat people

I have these two little cats, Ingrid and Galactus. They are still kittens, about seven months old and they are sisters. Every day I’m learning so much about life and love from these furry monsters.

The other day Ingrid took a giant shit right in the window alcove. She looked right at me while she was doing it, and I got so mad. After furiously cleaning up the mess I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and told her exactly how I felt about what she’d done. She looked at me with her cat face, and I was confronted with her non-human-ness. I let go and she ran under the couch. I don’t know what she understood from that moment, but I felt immediately bad for yelling at her. A few minutes later she was rubbing her little head under my hand and purring.

They teach me that they will still love me if I get mad at them. That as soon as one moment is over the next moment has begun. They are a handful, but there are ten thousand moments of joy at their existence to match each moment of “UGH WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

They love me all the time. They knock stuff over, jump into the sink while I’m washing dishes, run like crazy around the apartment, scratch things, jump into every bag they see, but also cuddle and purr and look at me with blinking eyes and sleep in my arms, on my shoulders, in my lap, curled against my side.

I texted Greg to tell him about the Ingrid pooping situation and he wrote back: Remember I love you and pretty soon we will have a actual human pooping everywhere so it’s just good practice.

No (calm down Grandma) I am not pregnant. But someday soon I will be. Cats are not practice for human children but maybe they are. They are making me more patient and expanding my sense of humor. So is Greg. So is life.

behind the wheel

It’s been about 7 years since I was behind the wheel of a car. 10 years since I drove on a regular basis, and even then I didn’t drive often or long enough to ever get comfortable. Today I got behind the wheel for a driving lesson with my boyfriend, Greg.

driving I expected to feel anxious and unnatural, like I was fighting my true inner self– which is how I felt at 16, 17 and 18 learning to drive, and how I’ve felt every time I’ve sat in the driver’s seat. I’ve been determined for 10 years to live as a non-driver, convinced that if I never got behind the wheel again I’d be content.

But today I felt fine. Confident. The parking lot loops went so well I took to the open road. Maybe it’s all the biking I’ve been doing, or just that my brain is different now, fully formed and adult. Maybe it’s my personal confidence in myself, or that Greg is incredibly patient and kind to me, and opens my heart in a million ways.

I felt jazzed. Independent. Empowered. In the special way that learning a new skill does to us.

There are buds on the tree outside my window. Greg is making cheeseburgers. I’m happy.