Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Moon!

“What is that up in the sky?” asked my mother.  I was driving her home from an evening visit that we’ve come to enjoy on Fridays. I looked through the window silently acknowledging the tightness in my chest as I answered as casually as possible, “that’s the moon.” These kind of questions are becoming more and more frequent.

I wasn’t clear if she forgot the word for moon or forgot what the moon is.  How would I ask that?  Mom, do remember what the moon is?  Mom, did you forget the word for the moon?  Or perhaps more discretely, what do you think about the stages of the moon?  Jesus!  Any of these inquiries sound so condescending to ask a 71-year-old woman.  I just couldn't ask. I simply said, isn’t it beautiful tonight in all of its full, luminous glory?  She gazed and shook her head up and down all the while not taking her eyes off of it, a silent yes.

I then unbuckled her seatbelt waited and watched as she walked to the elevator, emerged onto the third floor balcony and let herself into her apartment, relieved as she crossed the threshold into her cozy sanctuary.  I drove away thinking.

The moon.  The forgetfulness of this beautiful, orbiting rock has taken the memory issue to an entire new level.  Its significance in our history is grand.  We were the first generation to watch rockets orbit it, men walk on it, people dream of what’s on the other side of it and then to find out. The moon is memorable. 

My mom watched these historical events.  I remember her sense of awe and wonder while she gathered us around the TV to take vicarious part in the experience. She read us stories about the moon and how it lit the path for Hansel and Gretle to find their way back home only to be lost in the woods as the birds ate the crumbs that marked the path.  I loved the stories she read to us. My mom’s story telling voice, rich with inflection mesmerized me. And that’s what upsets me.  She is unable to retrieve the words for these significant memories. Will she one day ask,"who are you"?

It took me about 3 minutes to drive home as these thoughts were racing through my mind, praying that it was the word moon and not the concept that was forgotten. And then, I thought about her reaction when she saw it hanging low in the sky.  She found the words to ask me about it.  That was a good thing. She was curious enough to inquire.  I’m happy about that. And she was again awed by it like it was the first time she had witnessed something so outrageously beautiful. 

So, two nights ago, I saw the moon in a different light. I saw it from the eyes of innocence, from the eyes of experiences long forgotten and from the eyes of someone who continues to acknowledge beauty in everything.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

52 going on 13!

I had the opportunity to chaperone a trip with 33 thirteen year olds to Washington DC and New York.  My non-teacher friends thought I was nuts.  My teacher friends wished me well with a wink and a nod.  My family blessed me and asked if my Living Trust was finalized! 

After the first day with a 3:50 AM departure I had my doubts.  We met the kids and took a bus to the airport.  We weren’t out of town 2 minutes before the first teen reached in his pants for a handful of candy. Gross. You’d think the early morning flight would find kids tired, not so, they were bouncing off the narrow walls of the plane, talking, laughing, and being silly as only 13 year olds can. 

On the bus from the airport to the sights of the first Memorials of the trip, I couldn’t conceal my annoyance at the kids who were singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall while others were burping to the beat.  At the Memorials, the kids were more interested in playing in the snow than paying tribute to the men and women who have served our country.  My mantra was “they’re only 13, they’re only 13, they’re only 13”. 

My challenge: Keep my own mercurial hormones in check and not go head to ever-pounding head with them.  The mantra helped.  Day 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were better.  In fact, sometimes I was downright impressed with their insights.

I enjoyed the trip immensely and felt privileged to receive such individual attention from our tour guide.  Every “attraction” from the Capitol to the Holocaust Museum to the Broadway production will never be forgotten.  Despite my duties of herding teens from place to place, I learned a lot, which was my original intent for going in the first place.

But the learning for me that I did not expect came from being around the kids.  It was an exercise in patience that hadn’t been tested to that extent, ever. I tried to remember the angst at wondering what others thought of me when I was a gangly, not too pretty 13 year old.  I forced the memories of this age to come flooding back to me. It was uncomfortable.  Was I kind to others, including the “have-nots” of the world?  I think I was. Was I thoughtful?  Probably to adults, but not to my mom and stepfather. Was I interested in anything other than my own social status?  Good God, no.

I vaguely remember the trip to our own State Capitol in 1971.  I can’t recall much of the details about the trip, just that I wanted to sit on the bus by the cutest 8th grade boy.  So shallow. 

It’s not easy being 13.  It’s not easy being around 13 year olds.  And it is certainly not easy to admit our own narcissistic behaviors past or present.  I discovered, through this trip that I had my own memories to attend to and my own self-absorbed sins to atone for. Perhaps it’s karma that I find myself working with this age group.  I can live with that.  Glad I’m no longer 13 though. Pass the aspirin.