trump, and our job as ants

worm pic 2
Today, heading out on one of my periodic hoofs around the neighborhood, I found this on the sidewalk: a mob of ants clotting around an earthworm. I leaned over for a moment, considering the industry and anonymity of the army at work, wondering why We Humans can’t join forces and shoulder away — for storage, safekeeping or disposal — whatever blessed gifts or toxic burdens come our way. Donald Trump and his hateful and divisive rhetoric sprang to mind. Surely, if we all came together, we could solve that nagging problem. How about everyone who’d rather not see him as our 45th President just assemble on a square of pavement at his feet and peacefully, diligently, carry him off the sidewalk?

I considered the logistics of this as I pressed on with my afternoon constitutional. In short order I passed a black man in a skull cap, swapping quick hellos. A few minutes later, inside a pharmacy, a young woman with a South-Asian accent chit-chatted agreeably as she rang up my chocolate and greeting cards. She smiled. I smiled. Nice gal.

Down the street, I encountered two men leaving an Orthodox shtiebel, deep in conversation in some language I didn’t immediately recognize (Yiddish? Russian?).  I said hi. They looked up, nodded quickly but politely, then returned to their discourse, walking lightly in heavy black suits on this far-too-muggy Sabbath.

Barely half a block down the street, I stopped and tried on a leather jacket (sleeves too long) at a yard sale, gassing a bit with the African-American family gathered out front.

On the rest of my stroll home, I passed a new Mormon church and my old Catholic church, lately transformed into a hip media company. I exchanged smiles, greetings and pleasantries with an Italian friend at an import store, a black woman who accidentally knocked into me with her Stewart’s bag — she apologized profusely, and I assured her I survived — and an old white fellow that I scared the bejesus out of when I walked up beside him and bleated out hello.

“Ahhh!,” he yelped, laughing. “You startled me!”

My turn to apologize profusely. He grinned and regained his bearing, and as he did, I thought: We are a horde of ants going about our business together, aren’t we? This rainbow bunch of people milling around my neighborhood, my country and my cosmos are living, bustling proof that no one is in it alone, that all of us share the burden and shoulder the weight of everyday life. Much of the time, from our microscopic solipsistic egotistical perspectives, we’re focused on our own tiny errands, our own tiny selves — and we only see the differences between us, the variations in skin, religion, party, perspective and language that build fear and walls. We like to think we’re all that different, but we’re not.

What would the ants think, if they could? If you could pluck one from the crowd and stick a microphone in its face, what would it say? Would it see only differences? Would it go on a bigoted rant against its neighbors? Would it claim superiority based on the length of its antennae and the sharpness of its mandibles? Would it express stubborn individualism? Small-minded parochialism? Lockstep partisanism? Would it gripe, “Dude, the other ants don’t pull their weight. They complain too much. Takers.” Would it go on social media to bully, insult, demonize (hashtag #LoserAnts)?

Okay, so I’m reading way too much into a worm. But still. If all of us are ants already, then the Trump thing is straightforward business, isn’t it? We should give it a shot. We’re all in it together. We can carry him off the sidewalk, I’m sure.




Barry Manilow, meet my sister Betsy

Barry, meet your biggest fan: my sister Betsy. She’s developmentally disabled, but there is nothing incomplete about her. She is beautiful and wise and whole, full of insight and joy, compassion for all and passion for all that she loves: her family; butterflies; the color purple; jigsaw puzzles; word searches; rocks; animals; nature shows; and you, you, you.

She first fell in love with you at age 6, maybe 7. It might have been “Could It Be Magic.” Whatever the song, “I fell in love with him and became his fan immediately.” Aside from owning, and memorizing, every CD you ever recorded, she has books, posters, photos, you name it.

I asked her what she loves so much about her Barry. Her reply:

“I like the way he sings, and I think he is handsome. I like everything about him. I like his eyes, nose, and hair. I like the way he dresses — very fancy clothes. I love the way he plays piano. I like it when he sings with the piano, and when he does not. . . . His music makes me happy and cheers me up when I am sad. I think he is sexy—I was disappointed when he got married, as I dreamed he would marry me.”

If you want to know just how happy you make her, watch the video.

Betsy is 49 and works at a bakery. She hasn’t been my sister the whole time (I’m a latecomer to the family), but I could not love her more. I could not admire her more. Betsy is the person I want to be: caring, honest, accepting, warm, with a delight in everyday pleasures and a willingness to take things as they come. She has a shy smile, a gutsy laugh and a great sense of humor.

In short, you need to know her. Why?

1) It would make her life.
2) It would make her life.
3) Everyone should know Betsy. She’s one of the sweetest, dearest, kindest, purest souls to ever walk the earth. To be with her is to be happy, because her loving nature and joy in living are both infectious.
4) It would make her life.

“I do love him to death, for sure,” she told me, adding: “I would like to meet Barry Manilow, if you can do that, Amy.”

So Barry, meet Betsy. If this finds you – if enough people share this, snagging your attention – then please contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with her.

You won’t regret it, I promise. It would make your life, too.


the view from here

view from hadley

Today, for Mother’s Day, my two youngest and I hiked up Hadley in the lower Adirondacks. It’s not a big mountain, not a long hike, not at all difficult or dangerous. But it was enough of an expedition to make us feel as though we’d gotten out into fresh air and sunshine, and it was enough of an exertion to work up a decent sweat. It was also plenty windy. At the summit, buffeted by wild, chilly gusts, we stayed just long enough to snap a few photos and peer up the fire tower (nope, no climbing that, not today, not without flying away like gum wrappers in the wind) before skedaddling back down the trail.

We last hiked Hadley as a family of five several years ago, back when my youngest was wee, my oldest was home and my husband was still among the living. To say I recalled him — and the family we once were — as I hoofed up and down today is to state the obvious. Of course I remembered him. I see him everywhere we ever went together. And of course I remembered our children in their younger days. How could I not? Being a parent means seeing children with eyes that view the past as well as the present, flashing back through earlier incarnations (baby, toddler, kindergartner, middle schooler) while regarding the fully formed creatures before us with love, admiration, worry, gratitude and something close to shock. How the heck did that happen?

My oldest daughter couldn’t hike with us today, because she’s about to graduate from college. That statement is so outrageous, I have to re-type it in all caps. SHE’S ABOUT TO GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE. How the heck did that happen? My younger daughter just came back from volunteering in Australia. How the heck did that happen? How the heck is my son about to finish his second year of high school? How the heck did I give birth to three such colossally spirited, resilient, interesting, good, compassionate, loving, intrepid souls?

It’s a mystery, just as every gift is a mystery. So is every loss. God only knows why anything happens to anybody, and I mean that literally.  All I know is this: I loved their father. Because I loved their father, these three people sprang into being. Because they sprang into being, the mother I am sprang into being. Every fumbling step I’ve made through parenthood sprang into being, too. Every decision I’ve made. Every mistake. Every moment of pain, frustration, insight, joy. Every piece of who I am now, who they are now, who they might be next week or next month or next year. All of that transcends time, transcends space, transcends any comprehension of the cosmos as finite or linear or in any way confined by my puny capacity to understand it.

My kids embody all of that. They give shape and sense to things too misty to grasp: the love of God, the looping movement of days, the sense of blindly hiking through a thickening fog to an unknown summit. I can’t and don’t know squat, really. Who does? What can we know in this life beyond the value of the people walking beside us?

Looking out from the top of Hadley, I saw the rolling peaks, the bundling clouds, the elbowing curves of the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Looking over at my children, I saw love.