Monday, May 2, 2011

The Personal and the Political

Osama Bin Laden was killed last night.

* * *

I had already gone to bed by the time it was announced. The only conversation I had later in the night was with my husband, who woke me up to ask why I always leave the unfolded laundry on his side of the bed. I mumbled something in response; I don't know what I said; I don't know why I always leave the unfolded laundry on his side of the bed. It may well be that I leave it on my side, snuggle in underneath it, and gradually kick it over to his side as I get overheated. Or maybe I pour it onto his side straight from the basket? I don't know. I don't pay much attention to the laundry, to tell you the truth, even though it's my chore and I do it. I do it quickly. Half-assed. It's how I'm doing almost everything these days.

* * *

So Osama is dead and the laundry is -again- unfolded.

* * *

I found out this morning. I was standing at the kitchen counter debating between peanut butter and jelly on a deli round versus chopped chicken breast and a slice of whole grain (for my son; I'm eating chicken quinoa soup this week), and all of a sudden my husband says: Osama Bin Laden is dead.

It's not even like it was the first thing he said to me! We had already talked about the water pressure in the shower and the whole unfolded laundry issue. I had semi-apologized, while at the same time noting that we really have no workable system for our laundry. He had simultaneously grumbled at my poor laundry-putting-away skills and grunted acknowledgement that Martha Stewart herself would battle with our poorly-developed laundry system.

And then it's pb&j versus grilled chicken and: Osama Bin Laden is dead.

* * *

Did I brag on this blog about how my two-month baby was sleeping through the night? I can't remember if I said it here or on facebook, but I knew -even as I typed each foolhardy letter- that bragging about your sleeping baby to the internets was just asking for trouble.

And sure enough, it hasn't lasted. My four month old could use some lessons from two months ago. Ah well, it'll come and it'll go. Sleep, that wily bastard. She's too busy chewing her hands and drooling enough to soak her tops straight through.

On the other hand, my daughter? The teething, awake-far-too-often one? She's a riot! She is the grinniest and giggliest thing I've ever met, but when she wants something she just goes ahead and yells out whatever it is in her loudest, most demanding voice, and the rest of us pretty much step to it. And then she laughs at us.

I adore her!

* * *

So Osama is dead, and the laundry's unfolded and my daughter's teeth are teasing us all with their elusive presence, and what she lacks in sleep she makes up for in magnificent smiles, looking coyly up at me from the breast and giggling that hoarse baby giggle that sounds like it should come from the lungs of a long-time smoker.

* * *

I wonder if Osama Bin Laden's mother breastfed, if he ever suckled, hungry and innocent at someone's breast, if he laughed. I wonder if someone held him, loved him beyond measure when he was just four months old.

Where is she now?

Can you imagine?

I don't think I can.

* * *

September 11, 2001 was my first day teaching preschool in conjunction with the local school district. All I could think of later was how much time, effort and energy had gone into planning and preparing for that first day of school. While I had been doing that, other people were planning and preparing for 9/11. It all seemed so incomprehensible.

We watched it on our neighbor's TV because we didn't have one. They had NASCAR decor in the dining room and made vaguely racist comments about their daughter's failure to win the public school talent show. Still, they seemed mostly goodhearted.

We lived above an African imports store, which was short-lived, and a long-time beauty shop. We were only blocks from one of the natural wonders of the world, but already neck-deep in poverty, crackheads in the alleys, unlocked cars picked over in minutes.

We lived in my hometown, which I loved and hated in equal measure. It was just over a year after we got married. The fall before I had walked to the Convention Center two blocks from our apartment to vote, early in the morning, before work. I walked the same direction to get to the local newspaper, where I stopped in on my lunch break one day to drop off our wedding announcement, that same fall as the election. The fall before the planes crashed on the first day of school.

* * *

I'm listening to the radio in the car in the morning. After a certain time it becomes clear that all the information they have has been imparted. Facts are repeated. This is what we do. We keep talking when there is nothing more to say.

My son says, from the backseat: I don't want any more talking on this radio, Mommy.

Do you want music? I ask, my hand hovering over the scan button, ready to run through stations until we find a song we like.

No, he says, I would like quiet, please.

I turn the radio off and we drive in silence through the rain. Trees are budding green all around us, and daffodils, crocuses and tulips are popping up in all the yards. My children are warm, dry, and safe with me for the time being.

I don't know the meaning of life and death. I don't imagine I ever will.

I know the washing sense of relief when your babies are safe. I know how to drive through the green and the rain. I know how to be silent.

And so that's what I do.


  1. I'm so tired and it's late. I want to respond in some super-deep way, but instead I offer: