We’ve been having some tough conversations at our house lately. It started a couple of weeks ago when Simon checked out a book from the library. I glanced at the title before we took it to the check-out desk: “If a Bus Could Talk.” Great, I thought. Oliver loves buses. This will be a fun read for us. Turns out, it was the Rosa Parks story. A great story, but not necessarily subject matter I was ready to discuss with a four-year-old. Since then we’ve been talking about why black people couldn’t sit next to white people on the bus. All I can think to say is that the white people thought that they black people weren’t as good as they were, but that they were wrong, very wrong, that white people and black people are good people.
I know Simon hears what I’m saying, and I hope he understands. But it’s hard to know. I do know that it will be many years before he has any concept of the importance of that bus ride, or until he has anything in his own experience that will give him a reference point for the enormity of what Rosa Parks did. I feel inadequate to discuss it with him, but I want to answer his questions as best I can anyway. I just have to trust that it will all make sense someday, on an emotional level as well as on an intellectual level.
Then there was the situation that came up while we were at the Cherry Blossom festival at the botanic gardens. Simon came across a plaque that was dedicated to the memory of some woman. She had died on September 11th, 2001. From that ensued a conversation about September 11th, about the buildings that are no longer standing lower Manhattan, about what a sad day that was. And then the next week Osama bin Laden was killed and as I was telling Micah about it, Simon overheard. We talked a little bit more about September 11th, about the buildings, about how sad that day was.
Simon is more interested in why he wasn’t born yet when that happened than in anything else. The fact that I was still in high school doesn’t seem to mean much to him. Part of me wishes that he had been born, that he would remember it and that we would have that shared experience. But then, there will be something else that will define and shape his generation in ways that will be different from my own. I’m sure there will be. For better or worse.
I have a longer version of this brewing in my head — something I’d like to develop a little bit more deeply and possibly publish somewhere. In my mind it includes elements of my own childhood memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the news of bin Laden’s death. This is just a small, underdone scrap of a thought, but I needed to get it started and out there so I can move forward with it.