Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Leaving a Mark

A few nights ago I stumbled out of my high-waisted jeans, apparently unable to lift my right knee high enough to extricate that leg from pants. Dancing around on my left foot, I finally toppled over and caught myself with my left hand, leaving a nighttime application, anti-aging, avocado-oil handprint on the cold tile.  Rob called from the other room, "Are you OK in there?"

I looked down at the handprint and felt a wave of hysterical laughter rise - alongside a sinking feeling of loss. Insert hysterically laughing/crying emoji here. A strangled response emerged, "Yep. just fine. I couldn't get out of my jeans, but I will recover."

Later that night I slept too hard on my left side and temporarily pinched a nerve behind my shoulder blade, rendering me incapable of turning my head in either direction.  Injured while sleeping - a common occurrence. I've suddenly lost my smooth neck, gained a million more freckles and gray hairs, and now require pillows to box me in on both sides at night to prevent shoulder injury.

The years have left a few marks on me, even as my smile lines (and magical photo frame) note that most of those marks have been happy. The impacts are accelerating, too, just like the days and months that whirl by (how is it already March?)

Our house also records history - different notes from the different family members. Black grease marks in the master bedroom wall from the years Rob had an elliptical machine up there, current Peloton towels, fans and sweat marks on the bike.  A broken stair-rail pillar from Daniel's hasty grab as he whirled down the stairs, hallway art from Aden's prolific period. Senior photos, William's bedroom holding his trophies and occasional closet resources for Daniel. The cats, too, share their marks; cat hair drifting into the corners, claw marks down the leather couch.

After almost twenty years in the house it's time to re-paint, re-finish the wood floors, update the kitchen. I'm sometimes excited by the possibilities and sometimes reluctant to contemplate the loss of our visual history. The same principle goes for my face... sometimes I want to investigate youthful promises of various skin care professionals, start wearing makeup again, use eyebrow serum, etc. But then I waver, detained by either exhaustion or resignation. This is who I am, and I'm grateful for the life I've lived.

But I may sit down before taking off the next pair of high-waisted jeans.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Sting of Message in a Bottle

I used to do a lot of work with immigrants and on the immigration issue. As long-time readers of this blog might know, I have been to the Arizona/Mexico border six times and deep into Mexico once (where we drank tequila out of Pope shot glasses with a Catholic priest). My old social justice group from church had immigration reform as one of our top priorities and we volunteered in detention centers and in various immigrant support organizations throughout the Denver area. 

That work has receded from my working memory, buried by COVID and the post-pandemic anxiety over the mental health of my children and my friend's children. I got busy working with young people through coaching, and though we still give to the organizations I formed relationships with back in the 20 aughts and 2010's, I had in large part buried those experiences under the busy-ness of the present.

The musical production "Message in a Bottle" brought the memories back on Friday night. Rob and I went to see this brilliant dance performance (choreographed and directed by Kate Prince), sponsored by the music of Sting, with his co-worker and her husband. Seated next to the co-worker, I didn't want to burst into the tears that threatened throughout the first act but instead clasped my hands together until the knuckles glowed ivory.

In the words of Lolita Chakrabarti's synopsis, "we live in a world where one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution. In 2022 statistics show that over 100 million people around the globe had been forced from their homes." She goes on to summarize the story of "Message in a Bottle": "We follow the fortunes of a father, mother and their three teenage children who face this brutal reality (of civil war) together."

The dancers' moves were magical, the versions of Sting's songs poetic and moving. The first act showed trauma of war, separation, abuse, abduction. As I watched and clenched my hands I kept thinking "this is happening, this is happening now."  In Ukraine, in Gaza, in Lebanon, Syria, Venezuela, in so many places around the world families are being broken by forces outside of their control and it's just dumb luck that my family and I are safe and together.

Why did I stop my work? Is it a post-pandemic selfishness that cares only for myself, my own family, the children of my community? The only interactions I have now with the immigrant community are postings on social media and twice-yearly donations. Nearly forgotten are the days of teaching English in the Aurora detention center behind bars with men and women from around the world, the days of washing feet at the border and of pushing for reform.

The issue of immigration will only get more pressing, as we can see in the news everyday. We currently have no good answers for the issues that come with climate change and global destabilization that will surely contribute more and more people on the move, desperate for someplace safe to raise their families. I think I need to go back, to do something more, and I owe this discomfort and sorrow to Kate Prince, the dancers, and Sting.