One time, too late, I tried to ask my grandmother with dementia what it was like to live during WWII. Either because of her imperfect memory or mine, I don’t remember her having much to say about it, except, “oh well, times were tough.”
The world isn’t quite as it was when she was young and living history. There’s a deluge of information nowadays. But by the time our grandchildren are learning history, I envision them being in classrooms with 3D walls that place them in the middle of the action. So maybe one day, they’ll feel the sound bites that we’re experiencing through scrolling? Maybe they’ll be so overrun with video clips that they’ll think they just know about Covid, that they know about Ukraine, that they just know about Trump and his weird hands.
They probably won’t need to ask grandma. After all, she wasn’t a statesman or a soldier or a doctor.
But maybe, they won’t be either. And maybe, they’ll face history in their present so intense that they’ll wonder what THIS moment looks like for an average person like them, and I’ll tell them the moment, or one of those moments, looks like this:
Your husband trying not to curse as he Rug Doctors the carpet to get them clean for an impending baby. Loud noises scaring the the dog, who is ping-ponging back and forth between the couch and under the table. A three year old with super hero action figures—one who is Black and assuming the role of the bad guy, and one who is masked and is attempting to beat up the bad guy. And it’s a me, the mom, at the table, comforting the dog with the loud sounds, holding the baby uncomfortably in her tummy, putting in an order of online groceries, eyes widening at the headline that Vladimir Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons, carrying out a text thread with her teacher friends about how to respond to the news, whether Putin cares that if he goes nuclear, he too shall surely die along with everyone he’s killed, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to broach a conversation with said three year old about why he decided to make the Black super hero “the bad guy” in his role play once the Rug Doctor turns off, because the oppression in Ukraine and the oppression happening at home are linked and systemic whether we’re willing to acknowledge it or not.
What it’s like right now is to hold all of that, here and now, with the relentless noise of a metaphorical Rug Doctor, adding chaos to the space and making it hard to focus fully on any of the above.
It’s a noisy time. Where family life feels both normal and amplified. Where homes have been bunkers for 2 years exactly, but the second we try to tiptoe out, we’re impelled to move back in.
Where there’s no such thing as not feeling the weight of the world, because of the weight of the posts on your phone.
I imagine that we’re feeling the bigness of history happening with the smallness of family life, and weighing—constantly weighing—how the bigness of the former will affect smallness of the latter. Or how maybe just maybe, if you get this mini-lesson on oppression right with your three-year-old, and if we all get these lessons right with our three-year-olds, how the smallness of the latter might affect the bigness of the former.
But you worry about each, separately and intersectionally, and you clean the damn rug anyway because a baby’s coming into the world, and you want it to be better than it was before she got here.