Life Wellbeing and Family

My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.

Life Wellbeing and Family

Back-to-School Eve

Bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils. Tidy desks lining the walls. Fresh reams of paper neatly stacked, wondering what life as a tree was like.

This is how school lies in wait for us this late summer night. Mere yards from my bed where I write this. I feel a great many emotions. Joy because the start of a new year is flush with possibilities. Peace because we’ve done all we could do to set up success. Disbelief (is that an emotion?) because I never imagined 8 months ago that we’d be here doing this.

A family of five, living, working, and schooling all in the same square feet.

Early in the pandemic I encouraged my kids to do life the way it is. Not the way we want or think it must be but the way reality has unfolded it at our feet. It’s more true now than even then.

Yet for the first time on the eve of school I don’t fear a school shooting. I suppose you’ve got to gild whatever is available for the gilding.

I do still fear. Mostly my inadequacy as a go-between for my children in their education. Our elbow-to-elbow schedules. Our spending several hours together in one room on various conference calls and video meetings. Chemistry problems. Math I no longer remember. Lack of everyday friendship. The list grows longer the longer I ruminate.

We are not in a terrible position. Our kids are old enough to use a computer adeptly, make their own lunches, and read (which, honestly, is the only reason this could possibly work). My sympathies pour out to parents of lesser means, younger ages, and essential jobs.

I couldn’t send my children to brick-and-mortar school right now even if it were an option. Why? Because I’m privileged enough not to and willing enough to not add strain to the education system.

If anyone didn’t already know, this pandemic should have taught them by now that schools are heavily relied upon to make the world go ’round. Child care. Meals. Health care services. Front line combat of home violence. Socialization. Motor skills. And book learning to boot.

Teachers, administrators, and support staff are in an untenable situation. They know the needs. Many of them experience these needs. Many want to be where they long to be.

I cannot fix education. Or the social systems that entrench Americans in patterns that elevate few and shove down many. I cannot of my own will create a new way wherein people have plenty and can care for their children easily and have simple equity (were that a thing) and all the rest.

I cannot blame any parent for sending a healthy child to school when that is the best of too few options. I cannot blame any teacher for teaching through the risk to provide for themselves. And I cannot blame a teacher who refrains from teaching in an unsafe environment.

I can withhold judgment. I can do the best I can with what I have. I can reduce the educational strain by three students. I can demonstrate for my boys that a thing can be hard and done out of necessity and still be worthwhile, beneficial, and have at least spots of genuine fun.

So tomorrow’s supper sits in the fridge. And new notebooks sleep on fresh desks. Log-ins buzz with restraint, and the house settles into quietude. But the quiet doesn’t always herald a storm. Sometimes it’s just what it is, a slice of contentment exhaling softly. I’m living it as it is.

I hope you have quiet when you need it, fun when you want it, and the best possible, most successful school year ever!

Lights out.

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