Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Glass

We live on a hill above a high school. On weekends the all-American cheer of football games rises, the coach's whistle, a brass band. At night sometimes music gropes its way up our hill, songs that I am no longer familiar with, voices I have never heard. I sit in our backyard with my eyes closed, remembering slow dancing.
In the past six years five students from that school have committed suicide.

This is not a post about depression. Nor is it yet another post about how my life sucks right now, the economy, my house, unemployment, the last Oreo cookie. Or at least not in the usual sense. This is a post about hope.
If I leave my house at just the right time in the morning, or just the wrong time depending on perspective, I get caught in the traffic of these kids. BMW's, Audi's, awkward girls in tight jeans with even tighter asses making a twelve point turnabout to park a tank of an SUV. The boys, they look so serious in their studied disregard.
What do I think the world owes me anyhow? A good job, a house, nice car, cute clothes. This is my birthright, right? The daughter of a middleclass family raised in a county renowned for its affluence. I was born with brown eyes and brown hair, the keys to a mortgage I cannot pay clenched tight in one baby fist.
For the past few weeks we have been sitting on the floor in front of our fireplace at night, refugees of a lifestyle we can no longer afford. Zoey sits in my lap, her fat fingers playing in the pool of my clavicle. Over her head Bryan and I discuss what to do next. What to do at all, the fire warming our faces.
Last week my town held a forum dedicated to the families of the children lost to suicide. Eat dinner with your children. Avoid overscheduling. Define expectations for success. Parents leaned in closer for the answers. But what do we do?
Soon it will be lacrosse season, the noisiest season of them all. The clack of the sticks resonates up the hill all afternoon during the week, on weekends. Cars line the street like shiny tin soldiers, parents watching the games, watching practice, watching.
I watch Zoey play pirate. Argh! she says to Nacho, her small voice full of gravel. Argh! she says to her mermaid, making a muscle with one arm. Argh! to Elmo, to daddy, to nobody. Argh. The curve of her cheek pitches me forward, plump skin and wet shining eyes. Tonight my dad is coming over and we will eat dinner with her. Tomorrow together we will do nothing. Argh. It is not too late for us, for me. To define our expectations of success. We are 72.8% water, and yet we are born full.
"The Person You Love" poster found here.
I am going to check this book out of the library.


beachbungalow8 said...

and it all seems like such a no brainer. be 'with' your children more, require them to be accountable, give them a source of pride in themselves. you know why I think more parents don't do these things? because it requires more effort. It's so much easier to make yourself feel like the good parent because you can afford certain trappings. Even if you can afford to give your child a new SUV, what happened to making them work for a clunker that they buy out of the paper? I really hope I can remember all of these things when my girls get to that age.

Claire said...

Yet another brilliant piece of prose... I look forward to your posts every day. As a mom AND a high school teacher, I feel extremely challenged to find that perfect balance of encouraging autonomy while being protective. And although the economy hasn't affected me as much as others (I don't own a house or have any investments... or savings...), I do struggle everyday to eke out a living on a teaching salary, after I pay over half of it to daycare so that I can work...

So maybe it's true that "money can't buy happiness"? Maybe it's the beauty in our daughters (and sons, for those that have them) that makes a life truly worth living and enjoying. Since I've become a mom, everything I do has new purpose because I'm doing it for someone else too. I kinda like that pressure.

Claire said...

Oh, and thanks for the book recommendation. I teach at a private high school, so this is completely our demographic.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the book recommendation. I live in Wellesley, MA and we have had a lot of teenage suicides in the 5 years I've lived here. One thanksgiving weekend there were three between Wellesley and Needham (town next door).

Jules said...

Great post, Sus.

Minxy Mimi said...

I dont know what to say, I stumbled on you via another blog.
I know how it is to be living in the shadow of better times. We lost our American Dream this year... your family is what you still have and cherish them.

You have a beautiful way of writing and evoking emotions... I wanted to read more.

Maggie May said...

great post. that's all i can think of to say :)

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the lady who wrote that book lives in Marin?

Richie Designs said...

what happens when you have everything you ever wanted and it doesn't make you feel any better? and it still isn't ENOUGH? Where does one go to fill that void?

beautiful things are lovely and fun but they don't make the bad feelings go away as those kids have said out loud 6 times over.

I don't have kids, but I have to wonder out loud to what we're doing as a whole, when we have to be reminded as adults to have dinner with our children.

There is a lot more that is broken here besides our economy.

Robin said...

Brilliant and beautiful post. I love the way you write.