Yesterday was a very strange day.
First, of course, was the date. It was September 11th, and the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. I didn’t lose anyone in the attacks. I didn’t know anyone close to me who worked in the World Trade Center. But I was in New York City that day, and I was affected.
So as I thought about the date and what I wanted to do (suck down all the news? Avoid reality altogether? Attend a commemoration?) I sighed. “What?” Asked the Kid. “It’s 9/11,” I replied. “So?”
Now we were at a crossroads. Up until now, we haven’t talked with the Kid much about 9/11. She knew there had been buildings that fell down. She has been watching the Freedom Tower go up over the years. We drive past the WTC whenever we visit my brother, and other times too, so she’s been aware of that for a long time. She’s seen various memorials around where we live. In the NYC suburbs, there’s at least one in every town. But we never went into details.
Seeing as the Kid is now almost 13, and considering that she was judging me for feeling an emotion, I thought it was time to fill her in a bit. So I answered, “So I was there when it happened and I have feelings about it.”
“What do you mean you were there?”
“I was in New York City.”
“So were a lot of people, mom!”
“That’s true, but it doesn’t make my experience any less scary.”
This actually caught her attention, and throughout the day, she came out with questions.
- Why did the buildings fall down? Was something wrong with them?
- There were people on the airplanes?
- How did they take over the airplanes from the people who were supposed to be flying them?
- Why couldn’t you and daddy call each other that day?
I think we did a good job answering–we told her the facts, but tempered them with reassurances (i.e. They took over the planes using razor blades as weapons, and that’s why they check us so thoroughly at the airport now, so that can’t happen again.) and we gave her our personal stories of what it was like to be teachers in New York City on that day.
It was also the first Sunday after Labor Day, so we went to Ethical Culture for the start of Sunday School. It was nice reconnecting with friends, but the Platform presentation was about what has happened to US politics since 9/11, which was not very pleasant to listen to. It all made me really, really tired, so I went home, watched some Glee, and took a nap.
Then we went to my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah, way out in Brooklyn. I haven’t seen my cousin in 11 years, though we keep in touch on Facebook. I was a little bit shocked at how happy I was to see her. The Kid was shocked that there’s someone in the family who’s louder and more ridiculous than I am. And when my cousin wanted to get the dancing started, I jumped up and we danced. We jumped around like idiots and posed for pictures and it was so much fun. I thought, “Why didn’t I invite her to Elsie Fest? She knows more show tunes than I do!”
After a while, I got tired and sat down with my family, but then “American Boy” came on, and I couldn’t believe it. The Kid and I were singing along, and I got up and danced by myself. KPD had been outside and he came back in and was confused by my excitement until he realized what song it was. He had never heard Estelle’s version of the song, only the Glee version. (And me singing it around the house.) Then my cousin came up and was pleased that I enjoyed the song so much, and that’s when I found out that she’s a Gleek AND a Klaine-er! I’ve already sent her a link to the Elsie Fest website.
On the way home, more questions.
- Why did our cousin have a bat mitzvah at 12 years old, instead of 13?
- Why did I have to wear a dress?
- Why don’t most girls in my cousin’s neighborhood have bat mitzvas?
And then she saw Tribute in Light. She was fascinated. As an artist, she loved the idea. And as an artist, she wanted to know how it was done.
- How big are the lights?
- Are they hot? Could someone get seriously hurt if they touched them?
- How high do they go?
- How far can they be seen?
- Why are they there?
We drove directly underneath the lights, and she was excited to see that they are, in fact, two arrays of lights. Then they went out of view as we first went under the overpass they are on, then further uptown so that our view was blocked by buildings. She watched for them to reappear, and was stunned that we could see them from Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey.
The whole day was such a mix of emotions, of past and present, of hope for the future and fear, too. It was nice to share my experiences with the Kid, and to have her really listen and reflect in a way that she couldn’t do when she was younger. It was comforting to be with our friends from Ethical Culture, even while discussing some of the more fearful aspects of our country at the moment. It was great to dance and be crazy with my cousin like we weren’t middle-aged moms. It is always exciting to see familiar works of art through the Kid’s eyes, and I feel like in some ways, the whole day prepared her for her first real viewing of Tribute in Light. It is always an uncomfortable struggle for me to discuss fundamentalist religions with the Kid, but I was reassured by her feminist assumptions.
So here we are: on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, on the brink of an election that will either be historic or disastrous, and with our daughters on the brink of (in the throes of?) adolescence.