It’s my wonderful husband’s birthday. Since the days of long ago when I homeschooled my two oldest daughters, I have done them the disservice of teaching them that all family birthdays are national holidays. We took those days off from school, started the morning with a special breakfast complete with a birthday crown, a decorated chair, flowers and a special balloon. We’d then venture out to explore the world in the fashion the celebrated one chose.
Our homeschooling adventure lasted three years, and two months into our life in “regular” school my daughter reported to her second grade “regular” teacher that she would not be there the following day—it was her mother’s birthday. Suffice it to say she did attend school the following day, but neither one of us was very happy that our tradition had been broken by the calls of, “the right thing to do.”
But school days are long over for our family and we’ve returned to the lovely birthday routine of days gone by. This morning I fixed a breakfast to be cringed at by any calorie-counting, carb-watching, fat-shaming adult and we headed out to see where the day would take us.
It was 88 degrees before noon, so we opted for an indoor, people-watching, coffee-sipping, Apple-store-drooling trip to the mall. As we drove the 5, we tuned in to NPR. We listened to an interview with a lovely, courageous woman at the helm of some city in the mid-west as she declared her city a safe place and her disdain for the hate that had been incited by a racist campaign. We listened to a report on the history of Steve Bannon until my husband turned it off with the gentle words, “It’s my birthday.” By the time we parked at the mall the lump in my throat was the size of a softball and I choked on my words to my beautiful soul of a husband.
“I want to be wrong, I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m the one apologizing one day because I’d overreacted and no one was hurt by the terrifying ideas that have been let loose.” I lost the battle with tears for a time, and he held my hand and quieted my heart with words that only love can manufacture.
When the skincare Kiosk guy offered to “fix” my eyes with his miracle cream, I politely refused and gave in to the idea that I was destined to walk around like a red-nosed raccoon for the rest of our day out. As they began to clear, not in small part from my husband’s generous humor, I took in the mall patrons. There were moms with baby strollers, wanderers, girlfriends on lunch breaks, ladies and men hurriedly hauling shopping bags of that last minute gift, that early holiday purchase, or that “had to have” item. What I noticed was the color of their skin, it was mostly a lovely shade of brown; black-brown, dark brown, light brown, golden. Their eyes were all kinds of shapes and shades, their hair was straight, curly, black, blonde, brown, pink, green, blue and sometimes I couldn’t tell, because it was covered.
I never had cause to notice the color of my country. This past week has brought it to the forefront, but today I was comforted by the many shades of America.
The Electoral College failed America. The idea of hate is doing exactly what we feared, it’s spurning incredibly scary times, but the thought that we’re still a beautiful melting pot of human consciousness gives me hope—I’m good with that, I look good in brown.
I noticed I take time off from writing here when all is well, it’s like one long birthday where I have nothing to do but celebrate life. Tuesday changed that—my tears are real, but so is my resolve to elevate my voice along with the rest who find the only truly intolerable thing is exclusion.
Silence nets us nothing.