Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Living In The Past

This week's Newsweek cites Faulkner's famous phrase, the past is never dead; it's not even past, in exploring the roots which brought fellow Mississippian Trent Lott to his current about-to-be-ostracized status as a public embarrassment. It's a PR disaster, and everyone is horrified, but I just feel bad for the esteemed Senate majority leader. No knee-jerk liberal I, I think Lott isn't evil, just a smart guy in a dumb moment, a southern gentleman of an outdated age with a seriously dated moral code and cultural outlook who let his mouth run away from him while cameras rolled and journalists scribbled around him.

I was more struck, in the end, by the fit between Faulkner's words and my own life than I was with the story of Lott's villany and villification. There's a wonderful sense that every moment is now, a condensed and holistic view of history, in much of Faulkner; to call it timelessness is both plumb wrong (for how can a story of the Great Depression, such as Grapes of Wrath, be anything but a historically grounded moment) and not focused enough. In Faulkner and in my life, overlaid upon the sequence of events which we call life is a kind of everpresent now, one inclusive of every moment to be and every moment past.

For this is the week that the past haunts us here at NMH, when the students we have recently sent to college come home for the holidays long before we are free to celebrate ourselves.

And tonight is the night I finally got to spend a good amount of time with my daughter, a good three hours between arriving home after work and her bedtime just a moment ago, bathing and laughing, playing and watching each other in the zen silence, the still moments of the infant/parent bond. Saying goodnight to Willow this evening before her mother curled around her in our communal bed, I realized that she's only been laughing for a few weeks now, and smiling for a couple of months. But when I first saw her, when she was still only a head coming out of the C-section slit, her lungs filled with new air, and she screamed a scream so robust it would call me in at a run if I heard it now. Only parents truly know: although we are born crying, we must learn how to laugh.

I'm so grateful, I thought, for the gift of my daughter's laughter, and for the friends I have made of just a very select few students, Meg and Ashley and Tom who visited this season; Brian and Dan who call occasionally to let me know how things are; Molly, mark, Kiernan, and the rest of the rising generation of pre-graduates. I know each of us, as teachers, have our crowds, our friends, our proudest moments in youth, in our own children in these students. I will go forward into tomorrow and the next day, into the new year, resolved to keep those friendships strong, and to engender new friendships this year and every year I teach and live.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:18 PM |

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