I can’t remember whether we visited the old folks home to earn a Brownie Troop badge or to visit somebody. My mom told us old people were the same as we were and reminded us that they used to be young. She showed us photos of my Grandma as a girl. I wouldn’t have recognized her.
My brothers and I dressed in church clothes and brought drawings of crayon rainbows and flowers. One had a cat sitting on a milk box and a pot of gold with coins spilling onto the grass below. Today, we’re more PC and old folks homes are called senior living centers or retirement communities.
I remember talking to my Grandma when I was in my early 20’s. She told me about when she was a kid, and how her mom killed their yard chickens for dinner. She told me about growing up, meeting my grandpa and helping with the war efforts. That was the first time I really saw her. She was more like me than I’d realized.
“What do you want for Christmas, Mommy?” my son asks. “Anything you make,” I say. At first, I saved each of my son’s drawings, paintings and homework sheets. Today, I only keep the special ones. Before tossing them, I take a photo even of those that show the least of who he is today. I’m going to miss him being little someday. I already do.
When I was 14, I wanted the world to know me. I wanted the world to know about how unfair it was that people were in jail for crimes they did not commit. I wanted to be Clarence Darrow. Attorney for the Damned.
I was convinced that I’d become a criminal defense lawyer until a college professor took us to court with her, and no longer wanted that. I decided I wanted to be an artist, but it turned out that I wasn’t a good one. The word “writer” kept whispering. I shut her up for years because who can make money as a writer?
I still want to be a writer.
I wish the world knew that we’re all more alike than we are different. Kids are kids. They are not a diagnosis. Each is worthy of love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance. As are we. I wish we each remembered that whether we live in a car or a castle that we’re more alike than different.
I wish the world knew that we’re mostly in this whole messy beautiful place together.
Late at night, I go outside to remind myself of the bigger world. I breathe in, see a firefly. A car goes by in the distance and I wonder where it’s going. Where it’s been. I wonder about the other side of the planet, and how women more alike me than different are maybe sitting outside too. I imagine a young mother in Europe, grateful that her newborn sleeps while she sends an email to a friend.
I picture another woman in a remote village somewhere, caring for her children. She doesn’t use email. I think about how different our lives are. About how they’re the same, too.