Archive | April, 2011

Ninja Dog

21 Apr

Me: Uh, WTH? You’re in the car?

Ninja Dog: Oh, yeah — hi.

Me: I specifically recall telling you “stay.” Also, the phrase “no, Bailey,” may have been gently uttered.

Ninja Dog: Ninja Dog does not “stay.” Ninja dog slips out the door in a blur of awesome. Ninja dog gets in the car before you even notice.  I’m a Jackie Chan Russell.

Me: Jackie Chan Russell? SERIOUSLY???

Ninja Dog: I’m done talking now. Ninja dog is looking for cats.

Chasing Airplanes

19 Apr

As I drive to college in the early evening, I pass along the back side of our city’s airport, down a road that parallels the runways.  Between the landing strip and the fence is a grassy meadow, home to training equipment for airport firefighters, a pile of broken concrete and twisted rebar.

It’s also home to a group of rabbits who have made their warren in the shadow of the incoming planes.

I have watched them now, for three springs,  as I wait at the traffic light. They emerge from the rubble to nibble at wildflowers, chase their baby rabbits away from the pavement.

And they race the planes.

Under the shadow of  everything from 747s to Cessnas, the rabbits run, blurs of fur as they speed alongside the runway.

I don’t know if they think the planes are some kind of rabbit nightmare — giant mechanical hawks ready to pluck them from the grass , or if they just like to run.

I suspect the latter.

In three years, I’ve never seen those rabbits beat an airplane. But I dare any hawk to try and catch them.

I think a lot about those rabbits these days, with just a few short weeks before graduation.

I’ve been blessed in these years with my own planes to chase.

They came in the form of professors that challenged the ideas I had, pushed me to learn more that I thought I could, set goals for me higher than the ones I would have set myself. Academics who gunned their engines and dared me to keep up. Joked with me about running for the state board of education, recommended graduate schools, asked “have you thought about teaching college?”

Airplanes. That soared overhead and flew much higher and faster than I had my sights set on.

I still don’t know about any of those ideas. Right now, I just want a chance — despite budget cuts and standardized tests and the pervasive policy silliness — to step into a classroom in the fall and be a teacher.

But I do know this. I am stronger and better for the chase.

And grateful.

Not That Great

14 Apr

How was your day?

“Not that great.”

I could tell. She hadn’t come out of her room when I got home. I had to seek her out, her purple-painted toenails peeking out from a pile of coverss.

I asked what was wrong, she said a boy had said mean things to her at school in the hall.

A boy you know? No, just a kid walking down the hall.

What did he say?

She paused. “Words I don’t want to say.”

Tell me.

“Can I write it?”

I reminded her, words only have evil when we use them to hurt people. She could say them, tell me, give voice to the hurt.

So she said, barely above a whisper, “he said I was an ugly little faggot.”

She is none of those things, this blue-eyed girl of mine. Neither little or ugly or gay.

And I told her that. But I wish I hadn’t.

Because if she were, why would it matter? Would it be ok then, to snarl insults at her in the hall?

I told her, shrug it off. Who is he, anyway, this angry boy in the hall telling lies to her?

I’m not happy with my answer.

Because I don’t  want to settle for a child who can just let it go. I want to raise a woman who stands up for herself, and others.

So tonight, I will tell her, I know the words hurt. Right or wrong, true or false. They hurt. And for the teenagers struggling with questions of beauty, of self-worth, of sexuality, they cut even deeper. Remember how it hurt, I will tell her. And turn those tears under the comforter into anger, then courage. Not just for yourself, but for any time you hear those words thrown like daggers.

My answer, I will tell her, was not that great.

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