Saturday, November 21, 2015

NaBloPoMo #21: The weight of the world on the shoulders of little girls

I've got pumpkin bread and muffins in the oven tonight at 1:45 am, but I can't say I've got a blog post in my head. On day 21 of the challenge though, I'm not going to quit, so I'm just going to tell you what I'm thinking about.

When I was a little girl growing up in a small town in Iowa, I dreamed about the things I would do when I was old enough to get away and go to the big city. I have to admit, my dreams were vague, because I didn't even know anybody who had done those things I thought were out there, and what did I know of the world anyway except what I'd seen on TV and in the movies? I just knew there was something better, and I was going to experience it. Which means satisfying that little girl's dreams is more a matter of retrospective thinking than a fulfillment of any actual plan she had other than getting out and going .... somewhere.

This weekend -- and it's only half over -- has been one of those weekends when I can say to that now imaginary little girl, "Hey, I'm doing it. I'm doing those things you dreamed about doing. What do you think of us now?"

Maybe those things I offer her in retrospect aren't exactly what was on her mind. She wanted to go to college -- something that she was actively discouraged from doing -- and now she has a master's degree that isn't really worth much except the pride she takes in it. She was going to have a career, and so far .... well, she didn't really know what it would be like to be a military wife and mother, which is not considered a career, so that dream was deferred. But she knew there was music and theatre and food and people who loved books and music and theatre. And those things ..... we're doing pretty good with those things.

Last night I took Coraline to her first real, full-length play. We saw James and the Giant Peach at the school for the arts where I taught creative writing for a while. She loved it, especially when she got to meet some of the kids who were in the play out in the lobby afterwards. Then we came home, popped some popcorn and watched Monsters Inc. Hey, when I was a little girl we had 3 channels in black and white. Even watching a DVD is kind of cool to Little Reticula. Then this morning we got up and ate chocolate-banana pancakes with Elvira when she came to pick up Coraline.

The actual cast we saw
In the afternoon, I went with 3 girlfriends to see the touring show of Menopause, the Musical. It was hilarious, relevant (to many of us), uplifting, kind of depressing sometimes, but still uplifting -- if you think fucking hot flashes, night sweats, foggy brains, weight gain, and  all that other shit is funny, that is. We did. We laughed out loud for most of the performance, and then a couple of us even got on stage at the end. (Don't worry. We were invited.) Good times.

After the play, 3 of us went to a coffee shop to wait for the nearby Thai restaurant to open. The shop wasn't really open, but the owner let us come in while they were getting ready for a private party there later in the evening, and she made us hot chocolate and coffee.

Once we were seated at our little table on the balcony at the Thai restaurant, we ate coconut milk soup and spring rolls, tangy mango salad, warm, salty edamame, and sauteed vegetables with tofu. Zero heat, thank you. We drank hot sake and tea. We told stories, and laughed some more.

Finally, after a stop off at home to let my dog out and eat a couple of designer cupcakes, 2 of us went on to a local night market where we ate absinthe cotton candy, sampled Haitian chocolate, shared a piece of frozen banana chocolate pie, and visited with various friends who were there either shopping or selling.

In spite of the rain and plunging temperatures, it was a practically perfect day, and now I'm sitting in my kitchen surrounded by the smell of pumpkin bread, drinking a glass of chardonnay and writing my words that some people will even read. I'm a fucking writer, you guys! Little Reticula is thrilled. This! This is what she knew was out there in the world. Theatre, music, great friends, food adventures .... 

And then I started thinking .... I grew up in a poor family (money-wise), in a relatively poor town, in the middle of corn country. I had no reason to believe I'd ever leave there. In fact, I was told I never would, and that I might as well stop acting like I was better than everybody else and find that farm boy I was going to marry, because that was my future. Well, I did marry a farm boy, but he didn't want to stay on the farm any more than I did. So there.

We have so many choices in this country even when it seems like we don't have any. If we can dream, we can choose where to live based on whether the temperature is hot or cold or a mixture; whether the climate is humid or dry; whether the population is dense or sparse, urban or suburban or rural; near the mountains, desert, valleys, oceans, farms, tundra, or rivers; near people of our own ideology -- liberal, conservative, hands-off. In my own family one sister lives in a college town and works as a manager of a plant that makes electronic components, one brother lives in Minneapolis and the other in Alaska, and my youngest sister stayed close to home. That's just my one little family. When you consider that 319 million people live in this country and they all have dreams and aspirations ..... The possibilities are staggering.

What a privilege. What a blessing. I'm ashamed I don't give thanks every day for all that I have. I take it for granted too often.

I can't imagine what it's like to be a child who lives here .... 

.... What does she dream of doing when she grows up? What does she even dream for the next day? The next hour?

I wish I had the one perfect right answer. I don't. I understand why people want to help. I understand why people are scared to help. Don't hate. I live in the gray areas where we're all in this fucking mess together. There are no easy answers in a world that has become so very small, with problems that are so overwhelmingly large.

When I was a little girl dreaming about the big world that was out there, I couldn't have known there was also .... this.

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