We, the fortunate ones

There are things you know on a theoretical basis, they are like a background, just part of your general view of the world. But sometimes, the reality of them hits you in an instant. I just had one of these moments.

Husband and I were sitting in the kitchen and enjoying the laziness of a Saturday morning. We had just finished breakfast, but lingered on, with a last cup of tea and the morning paper. Entrance Older Boy, telling us about some science news he heard – the theory how the moon used to be a part of Earth and was “born” when another planet hit Earth. As we talked about it, the word “isotopes” fell and needed to be explained. When I got up from the table, Husband and Older Boy were bent over a picture of the periodic table. I left the kitchen smiling.

And then the thoughts came: How fortunate we are. I mean, between Husband and me, we got the world pretty much covered. At least the world that needs to be explained to children up to teenage level. Very cliché, Husband will do better with mathematical and scientific topics (although I am not a complete loser in that area either), while I can provide a lot of info about things like literature, history and art (and fairness commands to add that Husband does know his share here too). Issues of current politics and society we try to do together.

My point is: our children can come to us with their questions. We are fortunate enough to have the knowledge and the urge to explain, to show and to teach. What we do not know (loads of things, of course), we can look up in an instant. In this house, ordinary homework often sparks discussions growing wider and wider circles.

But how many children are left alone with their questions? How many, if they don’t understand what they read in their school books, can only ask their teacher (which does not mean that asking your teacher is a bad thing!)? Even in our privileged world I can sometimes see it in the homework projects other children bring to school. You can tell it where the parents are involved and where the children plod on their own. (Not that I mean the parents should do their kids homework, or even help too much. But you can see in which families the whole project was discussed broadly, ideas shared, alternatives offered. You just see it.)

I am happy and grateful we have the means and the time to do this. I love to explain the world to my kids. But today I am also very aware that we are living in a bubble. I love my bubble – but oh would it be wonderful to let it expand over the whole world.

 

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Everyone out there in the snowstorm – hang on!

This is really weird: I walked around in sunshine and mild temperatures today – the little bit of “winter” we had in the Netherlands (meaning a few degrees below 0 Celsius) was washed away by the rain yesterday. The birds are singing, there are loads of green buds in my garden, and I have the feeling that spring is on its way.

And then I switch on my laptop and look at the news: snowstorm in the US…. definitely not looking like spring over there.

So, everyone across the Atlantic, hang on tight! If I could, I would sent you some warm weather to make all that snow melt… but as it is I can only send some warm thoughts.

Take care and be save!

Here it is – 2016

Yesterday shortly after 11 pm, Husband and I set out for the beach. We walked there – taking the car would have been outright silly and we thought it would be too crowed to sensibly bike there (in the end, I guess biking would have been ok, but walking was still nicer). Even though it was an hour before midnight, we could already see at lot of fireworks. (What happened to the idea of actually greeting the new year with fireworks when it was really there, not hours before? But ok, it did look cool and it gave us something to watch on our way.) On the beach they had erected a huge bonfire over the last few days (actually there were two – one one either side of the harbour entrance). At midnight, the real fireworks started (meaning it got really loud and really colourful) and then the bonfire got lit. It looked good, with a very showy flame, helped along by the right amount of wind. Shortly after that a faint drizzle started that sort of spoiled the whole thing a bit – you could see many people starting to head home, us included, me having made the same mistake I always make at these occasions: dressing too lightly. I had thought, oh, it is so mild anyway, without thinking of a) the wind b) the fact we would be standing still for some time. So I already was slightly cold and did not need to add being completely wet. When we arrived home, Granny had already tugged the boys in (who had watched the fireworks from the big windows upstairs). We stayed a bit longer, as you cannot really sleep before 2 a.m. anyway, when noise from all those fire crackers starts to fade.

I got up this morning with my usual first-of-January-feeling: very tired (did not manage to fall asleep until long after 3 a.m.), slightly grumpy about being tired, slightly feeling strange because it is supposed to be a new year but really only is a new day, but with a new way to write the date. Usually it takes some time until I can write the proper year without flinching. (So, let’s practice: 2016, 2016, 2016….) But the sun was shining, which was good, and the boys were reasonably friendly with each other, which always helps.

After lunch I decided it was time for a Zen moment, took my bike and headed off for the beach again. It had gotten colder, like it often does after new year (funny, does the weather have a calendar too?), but this time I had dressed more sensibly. The first thing I noticed was how empty the streets around our house were. Everyone seemed to be either still having lunch or taking a nap. The second thing I noticed was the dirt that was lying around in front of many houses: the remnants of the fireworks, sticks and paper wrappers and stuff. Some spots were covered with red cracker wrappers. Normally I would not describe our area as dirty, but today many streets were outright filthy. What happened to cleaning up after yourself? I mean, even if you are too tired in the evening or claim it is too dark, why can’t people pick up a broom in the morning and clean up the mess they made? Fireworks are not really environment friendly anyway, but at least you could try to limit the damage. Oh well.

When I came closer to the beach, I realised where all the people where: there. The beach is still big enough that it did not look crowded, but the streets were. It always amazes me how many people still try to take their car to the beach on days like this. I mean: public holiday, clear sky, sunshine… not a good idea to take the car there. There are enough parking spots now I guess, but the streets leading to and from the area had sprouted traffic jams. I weaved through them with my bike, locked it next to loads of other bikes on the boulevard and started my walk on the sand.

The big bonfire had burned down to a big heap of ashes, still producing smoke. Some diggers were busy transferring the ashes on trucks. Every time they dug into the ashes, thick dark smoke came out, twice I could even still see a flame. It must still have been very hot in there.

People were walking on the beach, alone, in pairs, in groups, with children or dogs or both. Quite a lot of surfers where out too. I could feel the sun in my face, amazing that it has some strength even in January. In spite of all the people, I still managed to keep my feeling of being on my own. My beach, my sea, my sky. Briefly I considered dropping in at one of the cafes for coffee, but I did not feel like speaking. Plus when I passed them I saw how crowded they where, so I just enjoyed the smell of fresh coffee coming from there and walked on.

When I pedalled home on my bike later, a saw a girl, maybe thirteen, fourteen years old, blond hair, cleaning the street in front of her house with a broom. I smiled at her, but she was too busy to notice me. She had a look of serious concentration on her face.

Faith in humankind restored. We can do this. 🙂

Welcome, 2016. We may have greeted you in a way that was showy but messy, but we can still make it good.