Today my daughter, the youngest of our four children, turns 14.
The only girl, she is tough, funny, smart, caring, thoughtful and beautiful. As I do with all my kids, I worry about her. She will be in high school in the fall, and kids are mean. She’s going to be exposed to things and people and feelings there I have to close my mind to or I’ll go crazy.
She needs me less and less for the everyday things like shuttling to and from activities, but the truth is, she’s been leaving me since she learned to walk. And I’ve had 13 years to come to terms with that and practice in letting go with her three brothers. It doesn’t make it easier. Today’s poem by Linda Pastan lets me know I’m not alone in this feeling.
Because it’s February and because, apparently, I am trite, I will dedicate this month’s poetry posts to work by black writers.
Several years ago when I was fairly newly married, had a child and a full-time job, I decided I thought it made sense to get a master’s degree in English. Because I had an odd work schedule — daily newspapers have lots of those for those willing to take them — I could only take classes on Mondays. My choices were limited and because of that, I took an odd collection that, I think, was good for me.
My favorite was my first, a class on the Harlem Renaissance, a movement I’d heard of, but didn’t know much about. I learned so much about the African-American experience through literature written by black Americans that my fascination with it has continued to this day. It’s a crime so many of these gifted writers with something important to say are unknown to most Americans, and their work is rarely read outside of survey courses on African American literature.
I’m often accused of being judgmental, but what do those bastards know, amIrite?
I can be grumpy and testy and, well, just like the grumpy, testy people I come across every freaking day. Perhaps I get a bad rap because I don’t suffer fools easily and patience is not one of my virtues.
But I’m trying to be better — I will need people around in my old age to wipe my bum — and this poem, by St. Teresa of Calcutta (better known as Mother Teresa) is a place to start. I printed it out a couple months ago and taped it up on the wall next to my desk at work. I find myself turning to it regularly throughout the day when incompetent idiots think I will drop everything I’m doing to solve their stupid problems. I mean, of course, when I find myself mildly vexed by the questions of coworkers.
Hey, no one said this would be easy or quick.
It has been exactly six months since my last post.
That’s pathetic. But, as usually happens, vanity projects like these get put aside when every day is filled with necessary projects.
But, to coin a phrase, new year, new you, right? So I’m back. I’d like to say it was due to popular demand, but only three people asked if I had given this up, so it’s not as though there was a groundswell.
On Father’s Day, I was at my in-laws’ when someone suggested we all go to the park. Because most people were going to be swimming and I was not, and finding myself without my book (horrors!), I picked up a volume of Houseman poetry to read at the park.
My father-in-law, always generous with his books, said he had another volume of Houseman I could have, but he’d have to go find it. He couldn’t, but in the search, he came across another gem he pressed into my hands with the strict order that I was not to give it back to him.
I could see why: The dust jacket, even decades after it was printed, contained one of the most garish photos of roses I’d ever seen and, it was out-of-focus to boot. The title was “Best Loved Poems of All Time: Treasured Verses Everyone Enjoys.”
Well, not everyone, it would seem.
I recently finished another project at work in which my grand intentions and clever plans came face to face with reality. As expected, reality won.
The project is still strong, but wow, what it could have been!
Which brings me to this week’s poem, it’s by Lebanese writer and thinker Kahlil Gibran, best known for “The Prophet,” which is likely on your bookshelf, a gift from a well-meaning friend or relative, and just as likely unread.