We were sitting around in our pajamas, this attire requested by the three-year-old birthday boy. He loves pjs. In fact he wanted pink pjs, in his three-year-old glory, but his older brother whom I’m ready to call the “jock” protested mightily. The parents of these two are unfazzed. Pink pjs, a real-sized coffee pot, a rather large toy kitchen–give the kid whatever he enjoys as long as it’s not addictive, dangerous, or obscene. One grandparent made noises earlier about the long blond curls being let grow, but his daughter, the kid’s mom, would have none of it. No cutting the glorious locks.
Being only an amused attendant–they’re my sons’ grandchildren “from the first marriage”–I slipped gleefully into the celebration, holding my ears as hordes of youngsters stampeded from family room to living room and around the dining room to start all over again. But otherwise, unfazzed myself, even sitting in relative comfort with the “first marriage wife” and her long-time current husband, whose own mother I adore, this Australian who spent months interned in the Philippines during World War II. She reads the most interesting books, recently, Robert Hughes’ ROME. “He’s another Australian,” she commented, “and has that off-hand humor and outsider’s ‘call it what it is.’ He’s not at all impressed by most of the popes.”
Since it’s Minnesota and winter, talk turns eventually to the weather. No one is complaining that we’ve had probably the mildest winter in the last 150 years–a quarter of the snow that usually falls and temps, well balmy. Yet this deviance unsettles us: “Europe is being smashed with cold and snow. Old people dying in Paris apartment of the cold,” someone mentions. We shake our heads in that alarm that also includes relief that it’s not us. Still….
“It’s global warming, for sure,” I pipe up. Heads nod. Then I hear myself say, “But there’s nothing I can do about it.” No one challenges me. But I instantly feel remorse and even shock. What’s this slacker’s attitude? I’ve spent a good portion of the last 25 years working to protect endangered animals–elephants got me going, learning how to compost, trim electrical usage, turn down the thermostat. I contribute to many environmental organizations–the Gulf oil spill enraged me so much I tried to launch an anthology of poetry written in protest.
I don’t really believe there’s nothing I can do about it. Many daily actions fly in the face of that assertion. I sign almost daily petitions (made easy via the internet) to protest fracking, the Keystone pipeline. I monitor household water and electricity use, I just bought our first large LED light, I pick up trash because it’s unsightly and because I don’t want it going down the sewer holes to the river, OUR RIVER. I feel connected to orangutangs in Africa and pandas in Asia, to polar bears in the Arctic and penguins in the Antarctic.
So what’s up with me? Perhaps at that moment, the enormity of the job overwhelmed me. Perhaps among this company of young and younger relations, I recognized my position in the last tier, recognized that whatever change happens must also be supported by the parents of the children racing around the house. Ultimately by the golden-haired cherub who wants (and receives) a play kitchen for his birthday and his older brother who’s fascinated by sea creatures, shells and now dinosaurs. To help them fall in love with life, lived first hand, not via a screen is our job as parents and quasi or real grandparents. I’m heartened because the older boy found in the fence between the house feathers from a hawk and was excited. Sorry indeed for the hawk, then glad for the child who recognized a beginning link between his world and the other creatures who share it.
We going with this family to Florida beaches in March. The goal is fun, but also exploration. A bit of environmental education. Sanibal Island has the earliest and one of the best National Wildlife Refuges: The J. Ding Darling NWF with its host of sea birds and wide mud flats and mangrove swamps. I’m looking forward to question and answer time with the younger set. I’m sure I’ll have something to say, and do, about protecting the beach, the dolphins, the sea birds. I’m sure I’ll say, “It’s up to us. It’s up to me.” Back on track after a lapse. Sometimes it takes a shock like this to reassert a commitment.
I’m going outside to feed the birds, give them clean warm water, and do as much as I can where I can, when I can to help save our world. I have my eye on a huge oak that might be in the way of the Hamline Bridge renovation come spring. Make a mental note to call our city councilman. Determine to do what I can to save it.