One of my family’s favorite Christmastime traditions is venturing out from our comfortable college town into Kansas City to see Union Station decorated for the holidays. Like most Union Stations in this country, ours is massive inside, a gorgeous colossus of Beaux-Arts architecture dressed in polished marble and fancy architectural flourishes.
It’s magical to experience the gargantuan decorated Christmas trees, the oversized wreaths, and ribbons and ornaments. There’s an expansive model train exhibit to pore over, and there’s a child-sized electric train from the 1930s encircling one of the behemoth Christmas trees that’s large enough for little kids to take a complimentary ride on. Even for adults, it’s like walking through a winter wonderland. Usually, we make a day of it. …
There were three big influences in my growing up to become a writer: My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Richter, who gave me endless encouragement, my literary hero Mark Twain, and Harriet M. Welsch.
If you don’t know who Harriet M. Welsch is, she’s the precocious protagonist of the young adult novels Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhough.
Harriet was fearless. She literally spied on people. She didn’t just eavesdrop or play pretend spy. She carried a freaking notebook, snuck into people’s homes if she had too, and took down notes about them. She was a daring little weirdo, and I identified with her completely. I mean, I never snuck into anyone’s house, because I wasn’t half as brave as Harriet, but I wanted to be, and I lived vicariously through her. Harriet’s open embrace of her voyeurism was exciting. She was smart, and endlessly curious, and she was ashamed of neither of those things. She wanted to know what other people did and thought and talked about, so she sought out her own adventures. She wore blue jeans and sneakers and a hoodie, because that was her spy outfit. Along with her notebook in which she wrote down everything she saw, she’d carry a ball in her hoodie pocket whilst spying so that if she caught the attention of any adult, she could whip out the ball and bounce it, like she was just some regular, clueless kid. …
Like so many white progressive Americans, I assumed the election, and then re-election, of Barack Obama signaled a turning point for this nation. Racism was on the retreat. America was moving forward. The dream of the American melting pot was being realized.
We were progressing.
The smack of reality — not just when trump was elected, but in subsequent months when it became clear his vile conduct wasn’t a deal-breaker for thirty percent of Americans — was honestly shocking to many of us white folks.
I was never under any delusion racism was still a problem in the US. I knew the dipshits with the Confederate flags and their AR-15s were still out there, in numbers that have always made me uncomfortable. (Obviously they were never a direct threat to me, though.) What I didn’t understand were the sheer number of “normal,” “average,” suburban white Americans who either welcomed the open racism of the trump era with open arms, or shrugged their shoulders as though it was no big deal. …
Recently, The Week reported that Fox anchor and presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace is “Sad.” He is sad because President Trump didn’t adhere to the presidential debate rules as he promised he would.
“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” he told the Times, adding that, despite his lengthy journalism career, “I’ve never been through anything like this.”
You know who knew exactly how the first presidential debate would go? Every single person in this country who’s lived with an abuser.
Whether it was your partner, or an older sibling, a bully at school or work, or even your own parent, every single one of us who’s been trapped with our abuser knows that if the abuser doesn’t feel like behaving, they won’t. Even if they’ve promised you they’ll behave. Because abusers don’t care. They don’t care about what anyone else wants. They only care about what they want. And what they want is to be able to hurt other people without repercussion. …
No kid ever expects to grow up and an be a pothead. If you grow up like I did, with parents who had expectations for your success, a pothead is the last thing you expect to become. I was a decent student when I wanted to be, despite the ADHD I didn’t know I had, and the psychological stressors of growing up in a physically, mentally and emotionally abusive home.
People like to say kids are resilient, and that’s true. Kids are resilient. Kids will adapt to whatever environment they’re raised in, because they don’t know any different. The problem is, resilient kids don’t always grow into functional adults. The behaviors you learn to survive your abusive environment won’t help you out in the real world. (At least not the legal one.) …
There’s a lot of renewed conversation about reparations in the US, and as a white American, I am horrified by so many white American’s casual dismissal of reparations for our fellow Black citizens.
White Americans frequently make absurd comments like, “I never owned slaves.”Or “What about my reparations? The Romans oppressed my ancestors.” (So go talk to ancient Rome about your reparations, then, doofus. The United States of America doesn’t owe you reparations.)
When the US freed enslaved Black Americans, we promised each former enslaved American forty acres of land and a mule to farm it with. We never made good on that promise. We literally turned lose human beings with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no money in their pockets. Most of them had to return to the plantations they’d been enslaved on and continue to work for little to no pay as sharecroppers, just so they wouldn’t starve to death. Sometimes the former enslaved ended up owing landowners “lease payments” for use of the land, and could be arrested for leaving without paying their “debt.” …
Before the big quarantine, our Gen Zer — who drives and has her own car — was living the typical teenager life. School. Friends. A boyfriend. A part time job. Singing lessons. She was always busy and on the go and I was increasingly watching her transition to adulthood as nothing more than a helpful bystander, as she did more and more for herself, and needed me less and less.
Now, though, that’s all come to an abrupt end because of the quarantine, and we’re all in limbo at our house. I’ve become mom again. I’m whipping up smoothies and grilled cheese sandwiches upon request, not only because my kid is a picky eater, but also because she’s not out on her own, hanging with her friends and scarfing on fast food, the way teenagers do. …
I’ve written before about my narcissistic parents, and the challenges that trauma has left my brother and me to deal with. My brother and I spoke recently about the PTSD we both have, still, that we didn’t understand we had, for years.
One of the more serious mental health issues I inherited from my mother is Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD for short. My mom’s BPD is far worse than mine, though, and I’ve also written before about my rocky relationship with her.
People with BPD have trouble regulating our emotions, and are frequently “triggered” by situations and incidents that remind us of our traumas, much like someone suffering from PTSD. Though not every person with BPD was abused growing up, the field of psychiatry is beginning to realize there’s a strong correlation between childhood trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder. …
I took a walk today,
to celebrate being Alive.
I didn’t even wear sunscreen
because I didn’t want
to come between my skin
and the brilliant radiation
from our sun, the nearest star
illuminating our sky
— on this day —
to a shimmering azure.
The Kansas wind tickled my face
as Chaka Kahn and Janelle Monàe
tickled my ears
and powered the pistons
in my stiff legs.
I cut through a grove of
redbuds and crabapples
in full white-and-pink bloom,
breathing in their perfume
and expelling the stale,
indoor air trapped inside me.
I chugged past a