Friday, December 28, 2012

One Voice

I have an old friend who I love dearly. She lives pretty far away, so we do not see each other on a regular basis. But it is one of those friendships where, no matter what happens, no matter how much time and distance separates us, we remain connected in an important and organic way.

Sylvia is a school teacher and the excellent mother of five. Four of these she raised herself, with constant affection and attention. The fifth was conceived over 20 years ago, and given to friends who could not have children of their own. This beautiful daughter has retained constant ties to Sylvia and her four biological siblings over the years.

Sylvia and I were best friends even before we married and had kids. After our oldest sons were born we decided to share a house together so our (then) kids could grow up together like cousins. And we did. Our house in Flushing, Queens became a mecca of activity and toddler fun. My two sons (now 26 and 24) remember that time, and fondly, and recall their Aunt Sylvia with affection. They shared high chairs, changing tables and Raffi videos with Sylvia's kids.

At one point, Sylvia had a raging breast infection. She was nursing her third daughter at the time (a 3-month-old) and could not breastfeed. At the time, I was still nursing my 13-month-old son and had plenty of milk to spare. So, every day, while Syl was sick, I took her baby, and my son and plugged them in together. There is a photo somewhere in the world of this, but (perhaps, thankfully) I do not have it.

So, why am I writing this entry now? Since Sandy Hook, I have been thinking about children, their lives and their needs. I have been thinking about the school system and how those who work within are trying so hard to respond to acts that bely understanding. About vibrant young people, so much like my own kids, who will never get the chance to throw down their own gauntlet to the world.

I am but one voice. The voice of a mother. Of a friend. Of a member of a community.

One voice. Does this help? I do not know.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Saviors in Sleeping Bags

Last night they were everywhere. On the couch, the chairs, the sofa bed, in the upstairs bedrooms, even in the basement.

But this was no heinous infestation. It was was 20 California college students (my daughter included) who had traveled east to spend the first week of their winter break cleaning out houses in Atlantic City which were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. When they arrived late in the night exhausted from their labors, piling suitcases and shoes wherever, they pretty quickly found their spots, curled up in sleeping bags and went to sleep.

They had spent the past few days pulling up ruined flooring and rotted wallboard, stacking mountains of rubbish at curbs and going back for more, while grateful homeowners and supervising AmeriCorp people directed the action.

This morning, when I came downstairs, most of them were just rising, sweetly sleepy and tousled. A bagel run was made and a large pot of coffee brewed. My two dogs were in heaven for all the attention and petting they got! I listened to their stories -- from their remarkable week in New Jersey, to more familiar renderings of family, pets and passions.

None of them had ever been to New York and they were excited to spend their last day -- today -- sightseeing in Manhattan, guided by their savvy native guide (my daughter).

Then, just as quickly as they had come, they were gone. Off to explore the Big Apple. Off to home and hearth and holiday.

Off to save the world.