A decade ago, I was the mother of an eleven, eight and five year old, all three attending the same school (the only year that happened) in 6th, 3rd and Kindergarten respectively. Our old cat was still alive, new cats not yet born, and our dog who now qualifies for a senior citizen discount was young and shiny. It was an icy winter, as evidenced by the severe car accident we had a week from ten years ago, and I’m sure I was more than a little sleep-deprived.
20 years ago, Daniel was a toddler, the other kids were yet unimaginable, and we lived in a house in North Lawrence that was an old general store (we lived downstairs and rented out the upstairs to a couple that is now long divorced). Although people told me before Daniel was born that I would have to change my night owl ways to morning embracing ones, they were wrong: I trained Daniel to stay up late watching old episodes of “Roseanne” with me, and then to sleep until 10-ish most mornings. I was teaching adjunct English at K.U., writing poetry in coffee shops while pushing the stroller back and forth to keep the baby sleeping, and doing various freelance gigs. One day in Pywacket’s (now Z’s Divine Espresso), Jeff, the owner, brought me out a strange vertical glass of hot coffee substance. “Try this. It’s called a Latte, and I think it’s gonna be big,” he said.
Thirty years ago, I was a senior at the University of Missouri, having recently been thrown out of the journalism school for political activism, and currently immersed in writing a senior thesis on the Coalition of Labor Union Women, for which I had done dozens of interviews the previous year. I had no idea how to put together all the information I had, and I spent a lot of time at KOPN, the community radio station in Columbia, MO., where I did a radio show with my friend Joel called “Saturday’s Children” (as in the old poem that says “Saturday’s children must work for a living”). I shared a house with one woman and two guys, but since my room was the back porch, and it was winter, I often slept on the floor of Gary’s room while talking with him about where we might be in, say, ten years.
Forty years ago, I was in 6th grade, which was taught by two men we’ll call Mr. X and Mr. Y. Mr. X was charming, funny and vivacious. Mr. Y was stern and serious. My esteem for Mr. X and dislike of Mr. Y changed on a dime when, one day, Mr. X read aloud from the letter-writing exercise we did in class. He chose a letter from a supposed friend of mine who wrote to me, “I heard you like….” and instead of saying the boy’s name (a boy who planned to be a priest and a football player, and who I did like), he said “Blip blip.” The future priest/football player knew that was him and went red, I wanted to die, and the whole class stared at us. Mr. Y later showed us footage of the Holocaust and talked about the importance of history. Hearing what had happened in Mr. X’s class, he also told me privately that what Mr. X did was wrong and how sorry he was.
Fifty years ago, I was a fast moving lizard of a girl, climbing and speeding across various surfaces, not sleeping at night and driving my mother crazy. Although I can’t remember this time, I’m sure I spent much of it on my paternal grandpa’s lap while he watched Bonanza and drank hot tea with milk, and I’m sure I helped him dip his butter cookies in the tea (and probably helped him eat them too). We lived in Brooklyn, center of the universe and all I knew aside from my dad and grandpa’s stamp collecting store in the subway arcade of lower Manhattan. I probably was talking a lot too by that time, naming and making stories up for whatever the amazing world kept presenting me, and singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” over and over.
Now where were you ten, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago?