If Only

What a difference if only a portion of hope expressed last week at the Democratic Convention could be realized. Of course, I’d rather achieve the whole array of positivity – inclusion, justice, decency, kindness, honesty, love, belief in science. We all know the litany of problems we face.

The convention both exhilarated and exhausted me. So many moments to tug at heartstrings – so much that was personal from the Bidens themselves, to the testimonials of ordinary Americans of all colors, religions, and sexual identities – healthcare workers, farmers, factory workers, small business owners, and lifelong Republicans. A young woman, who with barely contained fury, blamed her father’s death from COVID-19 on his only “pre-existing condition,” his trust in Donald Trump. A state roll call of American diversity like no other – and better – and because of the format, no balloons or interrupting cheers and applause, the speakers spoke directly to us.

Other democratic presidential candidates (the ones “voted off the island” according to Cory Booker) weighed in with good humor and camaraderie in a Zoom grid, and they made manifest the potential for a strong new administration. In his speech, Bernie vigorously warned of the danger we are in and the need to act together. Hillary quietly and ruefully addressed us, Nancy Pelosi asked what’s stopping us, then answered “Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump” (placing enabling Republicans atop the blame list), AOC reminded that there will be more to do, and Gabby Giffords showed the country what real resilience and perseverance look like. As always, Elizabeth Warren gave her all, smiling about hopeful plans. And, oh boy, the Obamas, and Kamala!

Even Joe Biden’s forceful acceptance speech seemed in the room with us. He called out Trump’s failed presidency, but articulated our yearning for normalcy. He enumerated the possibilities ahead if we tackle our problems with a return to American can-do – beginning with the virus. Can you imagine rapid testing, universal mask wearing – the containment of this plague!

Biden’s life story tells of devotion to this country and family. The speech was as a president’s should be, and perfectly preceded by the teenager who bravely described his encounter with Joe Biden (leaving no dry eye), and the importance of their commiseration about stuttering.

Commiserating – how do you feel about talking about the political side of what is happening – the rehash we do with friends and family? Sometimes we are weary of the whole thing, but often the fellow feeling is comforting.

A friend mentioned maybe feeling optimistic, another became energized by the selection of Kamala and by the convention, saying she’s ready to help change happen. One said while watching the convention she felt less alone, and realized how it might be different if everyone voted. And if our votes are protected, and somebody makes the replaced occupant leave the White House. Over and over people mention the strength that would come from being united.

If only.

(I’m hoping Sweet B would be OK with my addition to her drawing of the two of us riding a unicorn, because she made a Black Lives Matter sign to wave from her front yard after seeing a small protest in her neighborhood in LA. The unicorn with its kicked-up leg, looks energized!)

Put a Stamp on Your Letter

“Seven Little Postman,” by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd, was one of the many books scattered around our house after the departure of Sweet B and her family.

It tells the story of a little boy who writes a letter (with a secret) to his grandmother. Because he seals it with “red sealing wax,” we can follow the letter in Tibor Gergely’s illustrations as it’s slipped into a familiar letter box, arrives at “a big Post Office all built of rocks,” and moves through various modes of transportation (including a train where postal workers sort letters by hand “through gloom of night, in a mail car filled with electric light”). Finally, it reaches the seventh little postman who “carries letters and papers, chickens and fruit, to the people who live along his route.” At the last house is the little boy’s grandmother, who “had been wishing all day he would come to visit.”

The book dates from the 1950s, and I’ve been reading it aloud since the early 70s, but never have I cried. It was that kind of day. From teary farewells before the camper pulled out of our driveway, to the cleanup of toys, dollhouse, costumes, painting supplies, and crib – the sadness of a visit ending combined with grief over the crippling of our country’s beloved Postal Service.

Because of the fragility of nearly everything these days, no contact with distant loved ones gets taken for granted. Every single day held joy – the ordinary joy of children and grandchildren living nearby.

With wonderful weather we paid a last visit to the bluff, made meals using a huge store of tomatoes brought from the LA garden and ripened along the way, churned homemade ice cream to accompany blackberry pie from neighborhood berries, picked blueberries at a friend’s house, fed stubs of Romaine lettuce to the llamas at another’s. We kayaked and paddle boarded on Eagle Harbor, exploring coves I see daily from the shore. We visited new beaches and old, settling on a favorite and returning multiple times with sandwiches and beach chairs and plenty of opportunity to build castles and search for shells.

Sweet Brother began the visit limited to a quilt on the floor, often rocking back and forth on hands and knees but not moving. But by our last dinner – using an effective and endearing locomotion, a scooting combined with a hip hitch – he easily propelled himself past the table where we ate and into the kitchen or the living room. He’s a real person to us now – a sweet baby – ever fascinated with his sister. Her one set of tears brought a crumple of his little face into downturned mouth and empathetic tears.

And Sweet B – we ran out of time – so much done and so much more we could do. She drew and drew and drew – beginning every day at my worktable with some complicated picture or another. In a big step, she learned to operate the sewing machine with supervision, using the tricks learned from Lady B’s class last summer. She put together a little doll-size quilt – stitching around each square! She painted rocks for the garden, and with her dad painted a square of mural on a wall inside our garage.

We read so many books – old picture book favorites and chapter books, Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie” a hit. There we learned the word “melancholy” – just in time to use it to describe the last few days. It’s utterly greedy to want more, for the visit to last longer, to live closer together. But there you go.

When the letter with the red sealing wax is delivered, the granny finds out the grandson is “coming to visit on Saturday,” and that he is bringing one of his cat’s new kittens! (That’s too much to wish for.)

But I can wish we had a president with honesty, decency, and leadership – and wish that the Post Office could be like it’s always been in my mind (though now with mail carriers instead of just mailmen) – much as described in the poem ending the book:

                                           SEVEN LITTLE POSTMEN

                                Seven Little Postmen carried the mail

                                Through Rain and Snow and Wind and Hail

                                Through Snow and Rain and Gloom of Night

                                         Seven Little Postmen

                                         Out of sight

                                         Over Land and Sea  

                                         Through Air and Light

                                         Through Snow and Rain

                                         And Gloom of Night —   

                                        Put a stamp on your letter

                                        And seal it tight.