Where do we sit today?

20 Jan

One of my earliest blog posts, Making the Bed, was featured on Mamapedia this week. I posted the link on Facebook, devoured a bagel, poured coffee into my travel mug and then walked my daughter to school.  I was the tickle tag monster and snow was “base.”

As I drove to work later that morning, I remembered the controversial TIME Magazine cover featuring Ellen DeGeneres with the bold caption, “Yep, I’m Gay” right before she flew publicly into the arms of Anne Heche (who I had the pleasure of sitting next to during an Oprah taping).  I remembered TV crews filming real gay people watching Ellen come out on national television – in their living rooms and neighborhood bars.  Not only was Ellen news, but we were, too, in 1997.  Lesbians had finally been discovered.  Now there are hundreds of lesbian mom blogs (or so I’m told, though I’ve found only three myself) and it’s a mark of pride for straight people to have gay friends.  Queer friends even, in certain crowds.

Ellen’s coming out has become part of our collective history.

It’s only the second time my blog has been featured on Mamapedia, so I’m still pretty starstruck by the whole thing – checking my stat’s every couple of hours, browsing the comments people have left in response to my post.  This puts me on Facebook a lot – my favorite news source – where I learned that shortly before our country celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tucson schools banned books by Chicano and Native American authors, including “Rethinking Columbus,” with works by Leonard Peltier and Rigoberta Menchu.  “Students said the banned books were seized from their classrooms and out of their hands, after Tucson schools banned Mexican American Studies, including a book of photos of Mexico. Crying, students said it was like Nazi Germany, and they were unable to sleep since it happened,” reports Brenda Norrell.  I find this news chilling.

Here in Illinois, I love my daughter’s principal, I love her school, and I love her second grade teacher. My heart goes out to the students in Tucson.  I don’t know exactly what my daughter’s learned in school about MLK – but in an act of defiance last weekend, she sat in the snow and refused to move.  When I asked, “What are you doing?” she said, “I’m holding a sit-in.”

The following night before falling asleep, she said to me, “Mom? I don’t like segregation.”

“Neither do I, sweetheart,” I replied.  I hold a deep and lasting respect for the people who sat and shouted and walked and marched and sang (and did plenty of other things for a very long time) to make things change.

When I arrive at Hepzibah’s after-school program to pick-up my daughter and her friend, the children are all in rows with red tablecloths over the lunch tables, and they’re tearing into cups of Chinese fried rice.  “Is it the Chinese New Year?” I ask, vaguely aware of the parade in January.  “Mmmm-hmmm,” a couple of the kids respond, mouths full.  “Every year, we have Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” my daughter’s friend explains, trying to shovel in a few more bites before I tell her to stand up and pack her things.  “And,” she continues with great glee, “It’s Bring-a-Thing day.”  She brought four stuffed animals.  Her favorite stuffed animals.  It’s a special treat to bring a thing to Hepzibah, because sometimes on other days, things from home are confiscated.  My daughter chose not to bring a thing today.  I don’t know why.

Finally I ask the girls to pack up so we can leave for YogaKids.

I feel especially grateful to live where we live right now, but I know it will get harder as she gets older.   I recall my stepdaughter sat in the middle school cafeteria once and counted the number of Latino students she and her friends were aware of.  There were seven, I think, including her.  So we have African drum lessons after school, yoga for all ages, and Chinese fried rice in a Hebrew-named after-school program for the Chinese New Year, but even in our little utopia, we don’t have Mexican history and we still have Columbus Day, and I don’t imagine my daughter’s classmates have ever heard of Rigoberta Menchu.

I’m curious about the future.

Where will our children – yours and mine – learn the history of people who’ve come together to create the United States?  Not just the old white guys I learned about in school, but all the movements and sit-ins and boycotts and culture shifts that brought us to where we are today?  Will they learn this in the lunchroom as they swap family stories?  In the living room with a few good books?  In the car, during snippets of conversation with their parents and adult friends?  In the classroom?

I will forever cherish the memory of my seven-year-old with her bum pressed into a snow bank, not yet aware that a sit-in is more effective when someone sits with you.  I regret that I didn’t sit down with her then.

Because for me it really comes down to this:  Who can we sit with safely, powerfully, and still be whole?

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One Response to “Where do we sit today?”

  1. sbaileyop January 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Really great post! Thank you so much. What a terrific writer you are.

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