Before the storm

Black & Tan

Today was one of those days I was grateful to have work to tether my mind to. Sometimes I think my brain might just float away on a river of nonsense, scattered distractions, unnamed worries, named worries, enticing memories. But work is there, calling the wandering mind to heel over and over.

Disobedient brain, here’s a cookie.

For instance, I went to bed last night thinking about Ferguson, Missouri and a community with a broken heart. And my brain reminded me how lucky I was for that bed, those clean flannel sheets, that thick wool comforter, that solid roof, my family intact and alive. And when I began to settle into sleep my brain scolded me for being too comfortable when there is protesting in the streets. Cars on fire. People without jobs. Lost children.

I woke up in the dark this morning, thinking about cranberries and turkeys and that my child was safe in her bed. And that a snowstorm, borne on a nor’easter, is headed our way. Should I pick up the turkey today instead of tomorrow when the roads might be stopped with snow? My brain reminded me that I hadn’t figured out dessert yet.

Snowy roads. Families packed into station wagons and mini vans, headed though those hills and woods to grandparents’ houses. Families with lost grandparents, lost parents, lost children. We should have scheduled a hay delivery for last week; now we’ll have to contend with the snow. We should have been kinder to each other. We should have filled the car with gas. We should have held on tighter.

When I was small, first and second grade, I went to a school where my sister and I were two in a handful of white children. My best friend was black. Most of my friends there were black. Except for Sharon who lived in the apartment above ours and who had a box type camera (the kind that you looked down into to take the photo) and who let me use it to take my very first picture (it was of her).

Work to do. There’s work to do. Bend your mind to it.

My teacher at that school was Ms. Hunter and she was a force. She was scary and loud and the kindest teacher I ever had. She had her hands full with a mixed class of first and second graders and when she had had enough of our rambunctiousness she’d tell us to sit down and button our lips because she was on the WAR PATH.

Outside the walls of our classroom, there was a little dirt path worn into the grass where we kids would scamper behind the bushes, playing hide and seek. I wasn’t sure what a war path was, but I pictured that path and Ms. Hunter pacing it back and forth, pretending to be angry when all she wanted to do was hug some sense into her unruly pupils.

Oh yes, Thanksgiving and the shopping list, and that email I was supposed to send last week. And a friend is coming over today with her three splendid dogs to walk the wooded path behind our house.

We left that school in the middle of a school year. At that age, you didn’t exchange addresses and phone numbers. I often wonder what happened to Ms. Hunter and my classmates. Did she have a happy life? What happened to my classmates? Did they end up in sunny suburban classrooms the way I did? Are they safe?

Okay, enough wandering. This project needs to get done today. Clients are waiting on me.

This evening we lingered after dinner and talked about Ferguson. The fifteen-year-old at the table feels injustice keenly and oh do I love her for that. I hope she holds on to that fire and does something good for this world. She knows for sure what we all knew as children: that fairness is worth demanding.

I finished that work somehow. And got the turkey and the cranberries and chestnuts. The coals in the fire are glowing blue, they’re so hot. “Uncle Albert” is on the stereo and my mind is speeding back to another time and another place, far from Ms. Hunter’s war path.

Snow’s expected tomorrow noon until night. The reports say we could get up to 16 inches.

Please, everyone, be safe.


  1. cindy says:

    I very much enjoyed how your writing reflected the wanderings of your mind. Just hoping that you realize that the non-issuance of the indictment has more to do with conflicting evidence and how the legal system works–which is a good thing if you are the person wrongly accused of an offense. The real injustice is the failure of most of our country to recognize the legitimacy of the outcries of black Americans in response–not the failure of the jury to indict. How could you not feel wronged if you watched the “process” from the perspective of someone who has to sit back and be without and watch the privileged world pass them by. But to destroy their neighbors’ businesses and lives in the process of that reactive protesting was horrible and those acts only serve to perpetuate the views on the other side that keep the two sides apart.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you, Cindy. Yes, much of our discussion last night was about the injustice and inequality of our economic and class system (not the indictment, or lack of it).

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