Tag Archives: news

First grade, third year

Dash and Mabel in the airport

Three years and three days ago

It’s December 14th and I have a first-grader again, just like three years ago.

I remember picking Dash up from school on this day in 2012. I was trying hard not to think about the news that was still coming out, but already terrible, unthinkable, not to be thought of. I remember looking at the faces of the other parents waiting outside the school, wondering if they had also been glued to the news, the radio, the internet, before they left the house to come here. Wondering if I should tell them, in case they didn’t know.

There’s something about bad news. You have to pass it on. Not because you want to make other people miserable, but because it feels dishonest to let them keep going without knowing about it.

I didn’t say anything to anyone. I continued to try not to think about it. I waited for my little boy, my gap-toothed, tousled-haired, inventive, smart, mile-a-minute first-grader to run out the doors so that I could hug him and take him home and give him extra cookies and not tell him why.

I didn’t even know they were first-graders then. The news said they were kindergarteners. That’s okay, I thought, clutching at any straw I could to distance my life from the lives of those who were being torn apart that day. Mine is in first grade. It wouldn’t have been him.

It could have been him. It could have been anyone, but it was twenty first graders and four teachers in Connecticut, in a perfectly nice neighborhood, in a perfectly safe school, where terrible things never happened. Couldn’t possibly happen.

In the three years since, my children have heard about planes that crashed into skyscrapers, about people who have nowhere to live because of war, about shooters in Paris and bad people in other places. They’ve become used to emergency drills in school in case a bad guy ever comes and they have to hide in their classrooms. They think it’s normal; it doesn’t worry them unduly.

I’ve never told them about Sandy Hook.

It was a Friday, three years ago. The following Monday I didn’t have to send my children to school because we were flying to Ireland for Christmas. All the televisions at the airport were showing CNN, a nonstop news update on the victims, the shooter, the guns, what and where and how and why. I sat my two children directly below a pair of TVs, so that they couldn’t see them. I put headphones on their ears and movies on their little screen, and they were oblivious to the repeated words that might have caught their attention: first grade, teachers, elementary school, children, mother, son, dead.

This year I have a first grader again. I sent her to school this morning, just like every morning.

Mabel on a field trip

First grade on the march

I’m probably not going to publish this, I said, and kept it in Drafts for a month

… But then yesterday happened, showing that Planned Parenthood’s patrons now have to run the gauntlet not just of grumpy entitled protesters but also madmen with guns. So I pulled this out of my Drafts folder after all.

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There’s a business I drive by quite often locally, opposite the mall where our local Target is. I would never have noticed it, or its small sign that says Family Planning Clinic, if it weren’t for the people who loiter outside it. They loiter with intent, carrying placards and judgement. They saunter up and down outside, chatting to each other, pleased with their overt expression of what good people they are. They hang around, doing the right thing. I don’t know if they have a roster or a volunteerspot to make sure someone’s always there, or if they only show up on certain days, but lately whenever I go by I’ve noticed their presence.

I’m never there for long, just stopped at a traffic light now and then, so I’ve never seen anyone go in or come out of the medical establishment. But I can imagine how it goes. I can imagine a young woman – very young, or maybe not so young – with a friend for support or alone, unhappy and facing up to a difficult decision. It was hard enough to get to this point, to get time off work, to sneak away, to find out where and how and when and how much. To worry and wonder and buy the test and take the test and look at the two little pink lines and know what they mean for her life. To decide, or to have the decision made by circumstances beyond her control. Now she has to run the gauntlet of all these good people ostentatiously doing their right thing. Seven or eight of them, barring her way, or maybe just standing watching as she walks to the door: disapproving, feeling superior, shrouded in their smugness, proffering pamphlets and pointedly placarding.

I never saw myself as a crusader for abortion rights. But I long wondered how anyone who had never experienced a pregnancy could make a decision about it. Last week I posted about abortion rights on my personal Facebook page, because the longer I spend being a woman – that’s my whole life so far, if you weren’t paying attention – the angrier I get to see governments that are mostly made up of men thinking they get to make decisions about other people’s bodies.

In Ireland, abortion is still illegal. There’s a very tiny clause that talks about how “if the life of the mother is at stake” it may take place, but in practice, even when a woman is bleeding out on the operation table with a pregnancy that’s clearly not viable, doctors hesitate to do what needs to be done. Never mind trying to prove to a jury that you’re suicidal because you were raped and you’re a teenager in a foreign country and you just want to get this horrible nightmare over with.

Irish women go to the UK for abortions. This, obviously, adds to the time it takes to arrange and the mental and economic strain to sort it out, leading to more dangerous later-term abortions for Irish women. The UN Human Rights Committee has called Ireland out on this and said the law must be amended, but nothing has changed yet.

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I stopped there, because I’d run out of indignant steam, and because I was talking in generalities and couldn’t find the news articles to back up my assertions. Then again, there are probably news articles to back up any assertions you want to make, in Ireland or America, about whatever your topic is. I’m sure Fox News has plenty of stories about how evil Planned Parenthood is, and the Iona Institute will tell you how much better off Irish women are because abortion isn’t an option in their country.

 

If you’d like to read more about the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland, or get involved, you can go to the Abortion Rights Campaign‘s website.

If you are experiencing a crisis pregnancy in Ireland, the Well Woman Centre is somewhere you can go for impartial advice covering all your options.

 

Things to worry about

About this time last week, my list of things to worry about looked like this

  • Being killed by terrorists.
  • ISIS expanding to take over all of Europe and then the USA.

and far down below those and everything related to them, quotidian things such as

  • Dying in a fiery car crash on the Beltway.
  • Being killed by a random gunman because I live in the USA, or having that happen to my husband at work or my children at school.
  • Having the house broken into (while B’s away).
  • Having the house broken into (while we’re all here).
  • B dropping dead while running, leaving me ignorant of passwords to online bill paying, so that as well as being bereft and lonely and bored with nobody to make up appropriate lyrics for any song at the drop of a hat, we would have our electricity cut off and freeze to death.
  • Getting stuck behind a fiery car crash on the Beltway so that I’m late to pick Dash up from school, and discovering that my phone refuses to hold any contact numbers any more so I couldn’t even call them to say why I’m not there.
  • Mabel refusing to open her mouth at her upcoming dental checkup.
  • Cancer.
  • Meningitis.
  • My turkey being dry on Thursday.

and so on, in descending order of terribleness or likeliness; you get the idea.

This week my sense of statistics has righted itself and those first two have dropped down to somewhere below the others. Climate change is in there somewhere too; I’m never quite sure where. And maybe the zombie apocalypse, sure, if I’m in the mood for fretting.

Of course, statistics are no comfort to all those families in Paris, in Mali, to a family not far from here who lost someone. To everyone who has died in car crashes or mass shootings or all the other terrible things that happen and continue to happen.

So, in conclusion, this isn’t a very comforting post, is it? But I really like how everyone’s tweeting cat pictures in Brussels. That seems like a very good way to deal with the tension. I’ll be over here trying to keep my worry weebles the right way up.

Asshole-proof

Mostly, my Facebook experience is a happy one, filled with other people’s amusing anecdotes, pictures of delicious food, heartwarming snippets, cute kids, and kittens. I carefully curate my friends list and those whose notifications I see to keep it this way. I know it’s a bubble, not representative of humanity as a whole – and that’s how I like it.

This week I’m seeing chinks in my bubble, if I may mix metaphors. Of course, my friends are all lovely right-thinking (that is, left-leaning) people; but some of them, through no fault of their own, have other friends or relations who are not. I’m also in a neighbourhood Facebook group that does not screen for membership on the basis of whether or not you’re an asshole.

So it’s disheartening to discover that there are actually lots of Americans out there who conform exactly to the stereotype of the closed-minded, ignorant, xenophobic American the rest of the world often thinks of. The type I never encounter, to my knowledge, in real life. And, because they conduct their Facebook business mostly in their own hate-filled bubbles of like-minded people and jingoistic militaristic gun-totin’ Fox-news-watching memes, I can’t tell whether there are in fact more of them out there than sane, decent people or not.

Which is worrying.

I don’t think Irish people are inherently better than Americans. I imagine the ratio of assholes to non-assholes is probably about the same everywhere, give or take a few culturally specific beliefs or practices. And Facebook assholes might even seem like perfectly nice people if I met them out and about, seeing as how I’m a non-threatening white soccermom type who doesn’t fly the flag of her feminist anti-gun tree-hugging liberal pro-equality leanings at the supermarket checkout. I don’t often even wade into the fray online, though I’m not above a little passive-aggressive point-scoring grammar/punctuation/spelling correction when moved.

A friend asked this morning whether things are getting worse or she’s just getting older. I have to confess to having the same thoughts myself lately. On the whole, to save our sanity, I believe we have to decide that there’s just as much good as bad out there. That sometimes, often, there’s more.