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The Future is Now

NHT

At 2 years and 10-months he started school; Pre-k, 3-days a week. His first day was two days after 9/11. I’ll never forget the unsettling, hollow feeling that overwhelmed me as I dropped him off that day. He, seemingly had no idea that our lives had just changed forever. Smiling from ear-to-ear in excitement, he was ready. I was lost. I suspect we all were somewhat fragile at that time; young mothers and fathers just dipping their toes into this new phase of parenthood. How could you leave this totally-dependent, tiny human-being whom you are 100% responsible for, with strangers?

They don’t know him like I do. They don’t love him like I do.

Those thoughts alone are enough to rattle even the most confident among us when it comes to our kids but on the heels of 9/11, there was a much deeper sense of uncertainty that consumed me. For me, the fundamental definition of safety as I knew it, as an American and now, in the most important role of my life as a mother, was completely compromised.  There was little time to process or find any perspective in 9/11 when, like herds of deer caught in headlights all over the country, we took our children to school for the very first time.

It wasn’t long before it became clear to me that even though he may have been too young to understand exactly what was happening at the time, he too had obviously been effected. Maybe it was me or the vibe of all the other adults around him projecting this newfound fear & uncertainty but there was undoubtedly an emotional takeaway of that time period for my pre-schooler. It showed itself that December when he and his classmates made candles for their families right before the winter school break. Each child was asked what they wished for everybody.

I wish that everybody would be safe.

Next month that same curious, little, blond-haired boy who I was so afraid would be misunderstood and not seen in the same wonderful way in which I see him, graduates from college. All across the country, graduation ceremonies have been cancelled  because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Our 2020 graduates will not wear caps and gowns this year. They will not walk across a stage to receive their diplomas. There will be no celebratory dinners, gatherings or parties. For his and the health of our family, we won’t see my son that day. I’m not actually sure when we’ll see him next. He’s been distance-learning this last semester from his apartment in Pennsylvania near his school and we live in New York.

I can’t help but be struck by the parallels between these two pivotal times in his life. I’m reminded about the swirl of uncertainty that permeated the air when our children began their educational journeys and I think about how next month, so many of these children will leave their formal education amidst a similar, life-changing event, also riddled with an unrivaled uncertainty. These college grads were the pioneers of growing up, learning and living in a new America, never knowing a time when, “If you see something, say something.” wasn’t a household phrase. Now, almost 19 years later, that candle remains on my mantle, a subtle reminder of what has become an underlying mantra that has guided this boy’s life ever since, and I wonder. I wonder about these graduates all across our country. Those young adults full of hope and promise, on the verge of beginning their lives. What were their takeaways 19 years ago when they began school, full of hope and promise? What mantra has steered their lives ever since? What will become their driving force now, as a result of all of this? What will guide them through?

Perhaps it’s befitting that these people are, at a second crucial point in their lives, pioneers, again. This time, they’ll take the reigns in an unprecedented, unfamiliar way of living, in what will no doubt become a new America, again. It makes me wonder too, about the irony of these two critical times and whether or not there’s something bigger at play. Our children are our future and for many of us, the future is now.

I’m curious and feel hopeful that the future is in the hands of those who wish, everybody to be safe.

 

 

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