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Step Into 2017

Bragger alert.

My husband and I were successful. The genius children, J and H, are, well, geniuses, and so much more. The genius children are kind, compassionate, and empathetic.

Allow me to shift into reverse, backing into the past—the time the genius children met their mom and dad, took that first big gulp of air outside the womb. When I held blob-like son J in my arms the first time, I was a novice. Lamaze classes had prepared me somewhat for labor and delivery…………….. but then what? My first thought, prior to wondering what to do with this crying THING I was desperately trying to placate with a nipple, was directed at the gods, “Please don’t ever let him go to war.” With H was born, eleven years later, I was calmer.

Anyway, when our son J was about seven, I made him watch Amityville Horror with me. What was I thinking? We’d moved to Baltimore from Lexington, KY. My husband Charles had finished his residency at the University of Kentucky and we were repaying thousands of dollars in medical school debt. We rented an apartment and decided to buy J a television for his room. It was a 13 inch black and white. One day, J said, “I’ve seen An Officer and a Gentleman 17 times. I think he was 9. When H was about six, I made him watch Chucky with me. What was I thinking?

When J was a teenager, he’d ask plaintively why I wasn’t more like Che. He wanted his mum to be a revolutionary. I’d say, “Because I’m your mother.” Emphasizing mother. Later, years later, when I’d been arrested for activism and was writing political opinion pieces, J suggested I had become too extreme. Charles was dead and J was worried about me. I’d mentioned I might self-immolate in front of the White House.

Back to the success, the genius children’s kindness, compassion, and empathy. This year for Christmas, John and his wife L gifted me with Kate Evans’ graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Red Rosa. Even though Rosa Luxemburg opposed violence, her life, her death, and today’s war lust and police state here in America make me want to blow up some stuff, but then I’ve just watched V For Vendetta again this week. Still, that’s not the point of my telling you about this particular present. It’s the genius child I’m focusing on here, his kindness, compassion, empathy, and the gift he chose for me—the story of a woman devoted to justice.

And the other one, H, younger by 11 years. H and his wife V were shopping for Christmas gifts two weeks ago. Among the crowds, H said he felt disgusted. He had an image in his head. A Syrian mother, holding her children. He said she was dazed, appeared to be in shock. One of her children was injured, bloody. He said to V, “I can’t do this.” They fled Consumerism, USA, sat and talked, accessed the Internet, and selected charities. These genius children—yes, V is also a genius child, as is J’s wife, based their decisions on the very personal. For me, they donated to Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. For my guy, the Innocence Project. For Laura and Erma, Paws4ever Animal Sanctuary, for J and L, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. For V’s family members, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Against DAPL.

Kindness, compassion, and empathy. The genius children have it. Despite or perhaps because (heh heh) I made them watch those movies with me, while also providing love, listening to them, believing them, believing in them, teaching them the Golden Rule. They were/are loved and have been nurtured well not only by me but also by their father, their grandparents, their friends, nurtured by heartbreak experiences as well as the joyous.

Today is Thursday. I must submit this little piece soon, but I’m not finished. Just need to add to each of you a hope for kindnesses, good health, good humor, love, and justice. Plus this advice: Live as if there’s no tomorrow, because there may not be, and prepare to step into 2017 frightened yet willing to throw your body on the gears.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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