Maybe it’s pure folktale that says we think of our photos during a fire. But a few weeks ago, they did not cross my mind. Neither did every single print resource or the rows of books and fully developed unit plans perfectly shelved into subject areas. Nor did I consider this lovely laptop and it’s digital copies of those resources, or all the lovely categorized links. I did not think about my wallet or our passports or about the only copy of my father’s novel that I’m in the middle of editing. I did not think about the box of love letters from my daughter’s father that I’ve saved to share with her when she’s older, or the journals I’ve kept every year since I was a twelve. I didn’t think of the sole ultrasound picture of Jess. And, I did not think about the cat. In that moment, that stuff wasn’t what I thought about…
Being the reflective blogger that I am, I’ve realized that over the last month I’ve been hesitant to blog. I’ve been wondering if I allow for a space for intimacy with others in my digital world? Does the relentless reflecting (fancy words for stalling) force others to stay only as voyeurs in my digital world? Since the fire, what I think, is that it’s like most relationships, intimacy is choice.
What I do care about is to make deeper connections, to ask, can you know me even though your listening is not participatory? Here’s what I mean…
A few days after the fire, my daughter, Jessy Lee, mused about her life (she’s just turned thirteen, so, you know, there’s much to mull over), “You know Mom, my life has been magic.” Later that evening, she called me over to her lap-top and shared this video.
Well, her musings are magic. Real, steadfast, beautiful magic. I know this truth not because I know her, not because I read about her or because she may choose to share with me, and not because I love her. I know because I have made the decision to listen to her. I can’t know her without choice. I choose not to be a voyeur in her life.
If you take a quick look at Jess on paper, you might be inclined to label her, say she’s just a kid, like so many youth, who are considered at-risk. How about this: she is a youth whom I know to be resilient. How do I know? Remember the magic? Well, let’s go back to the fire a couple of days before…
Jess had decided to make hot chocolate for the two of us. The making involved warming milk. And the warming, she decided, required metal and thick plastic travel mugs, and the microwave.
“Mom! I need you!” By the time I reached the kitchen the flames coming from the microwave were big enough to roast hotdogs. What surprised me most was the reaction of friends and family who responded to my story with, “How’s the microwave?”
How’s the microwave!
Making my way through the grey smoke, I first thought to unplug the microwave, which because it was on fire, wickedly heavy and plugged in above my head and behind the machine, I quickly knew I could not accomplish. I looked at Jessy Lee and understood: she was terrified. She was swaying on the spot, her face red and her eyes wide. My daughter needed a hug. I realized then that if the house burned down, she would blame herself. I realized then that if I were angry at all, she would blame herself. And that blame I would never be able to replace. What else mattered? I turned back toward the microwave and blew – I blew like my daughter’s world, and thus my world, the whole world, depended on it.
When the flames were out she collapsed to the floor, sobbing. I collapsed alongside her, scooping my 13 year old, 5 ½ foot daughter, into my arms. I can recall moments in my life collapsing into tears, but not like those, and never at 13. Jessy Lee is a child of loss, a person with anxiety disorder, a youth of thirteen, an avid soccer player, an imaginative writer, a middle-years learner, and a youth who needs security. My daughter is aware.
What’s my identity? Well, it’s the magic that Jessy spoke of. The magic of knowing that not a moment goes by where ‘How’s Jessy Lee?’ is my choice. The choice is my identity, and it’s also my life philosophy.
How is Jess?…
Listen, engage, it’s magic.