Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Not the Worst Blog Post

When my youngest was maybe four years old he slumped down the stairs one morning, head hanging low on his chest, and announced in that weird nasally accent he had as a kid:  DIS IS DOT MY BEST DAY. 

It made us laugh.  It still makes us laugh.  We've teased him countless times over the last fifteen years about his persistent penchant for melodrama.  Whenever something goes less-than-perfectly for Brian, we remind him it is “dot his best day.”

Flash forward to December 2021.  Let's be's been a long time since many of us have had a “best day.”

We’re living in proverbially dark times.  It isn't just about a lethal and ever-evolving pandemic.  It’s racial division. It's political toxicity.  It's climate change and a mental health crisis and global injustice and has anyone stopped to consider Billy Joel may NOT live forever???

This is not our best day.

But consider this:
There’s a moment in King Lear, arguably the darkest and most depressing of all Shakespearean tragedies, when a distraught Edgar observes, "The worst is not / So long as we can say / This is the worst."

I never gave much thought to the line before I steeled myself to face the third year of a plague. Today, after a heart-wrenching conversation with a friend who lost her children's father to COVID, I remembered the "we" in Edgar's aside.

It is dark, no doubt.  It may grow darker still.  But this is not the worst, because we are still here.  

And that “we” is everything, isn’t it?  That “we” includes doctors and nurses and teachers and preachers and family and friends who keep showing up.  That "we" includes every single human being who keeps helping and hoping--and healing.

No, these are not our best days.  They are heavy and sad and relentless. It can be hard to believe it will get better.  It can be downright hard to breathe.

But we are here. And in the words of a much lesser poet than Shakespeare, in the words of the immortal and imperfect Dr. Seuss: "Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we."

Happy holidays.  Here's to brighter days ahead, for us all.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Black Lives Matter More

About a week ago, I got my first COVID shot.  Immediately afterward, I sat in a folding chair, as instructed, in the back aisle of a drugstore in Windsor, CT.  It’s been over 30 years since I lived in Windsor, and while I waited for the clipboard-wielding woman to give me the all-clear to leave, I couldn’t help but think how right it felt to have come “home” to be vaccinated. 

I had fifteen minutes to kill, so I spent the first minute texting my husband the requisite pic of my vaccination card.  While I waited for his response, I glanced up at the display in front of me.  Turns out I was in the health and beauty section.  And suddenly, my hometown didn’t feel quite so familiar anymore.  Before me were row after row of smiling Black models.  They sported du-rags, satin wraps, wide edge bonnets, turbans, and something called a pineapple cap.  I didn’t know what most of these hair accessories were, but I knew I’d never need any of them.  I looked to the right and found “silicone cover ups” and “no-show concealers” (for breasts, I realized after squinting at them for a few moments), offered here in “dark skin tones” only.  I swiveled to my left to check out the hairbrushes.  Unlike every drugstore I’ve frequented for the past 30 years, my go-to blowout brush wasn’t at eye-level.  In its place were picks, rake combs, and edge brushes.  The message was clear:  welcome as I was to receive a vaccine at the pharmacy, in this drugstore, black shoppers matter more. 

And that’s when it dawned on me, belated and gradually (as epiphanies tend to dawn on the not-very-bright): I was experiencing in a temporal and trivial and utterly harmless way what Black people have experienced—are experiencing—in pervasive and complex and often lethal ways every day in this country.  They are told, explicitly and implicitly, that here, white lives matter more.  And it’s not just about space on store shelves.  (Though I did imagine, in that moment, what it would be like to be a young Black girl staring at a row of white dolls in another aisle, in another store.  To know that if I wanted to pretend, I had to pretend with a baby that looked nothing like me, or with the single black doll I had to stoop to reach at the bottom of the display because in this store, white girls matter more.) 

Of course, one might argue it makes good sense for a store to market to its largest demographic.  But what if we’re not talking about a drugstore?  What if we're talking about our country?  And what if the market isn’t hair products or baby dolls?  What if it’s employment?  Housing?  Political representation?  What if it’s education? Health care?  Human dignity?

All of my life, I will shamefully admit, I’ve walked into stores expecting to find what I need.  Expecting that what I’m looking for will be at eye level.  Within easy reach.  Easy access.   

White lives do not matter more.  And of course, Black lives don’t, either.  But my white friends, that’s not what the yard signs say.  They state simply that “Black Lives Matter.”  So let's check the defensive posturing.  Let's stop responding that All Lives Matter.  It’s not about any group mattering more.  It’s about basic human dignity.  At eye level, within easy reach, and easy access.  No stooping required.