Friday, September 05, 2008

Sour, then sweet

Days go by, sometimes many in a row, when the wisest, most self-protective course of action--perhaps a way of conserving one's energy--is to blinker down and simply tread the daily path through waking, coffee drinking, lunch packing, work-dressing, walking to the metro, and so on through the day.  If I start thinking, letting my thoughts wander, engaging, I think I fear that I'll lose track or control of the details of daily life, fall behind, never catch up.  I've been in that position before--the trap, the gut-check of responsibility creating walls in consciousness to keep daily life on track.  After the summer, after vacation, after the conventions, I felt an obligation to routine and sameness and steadiness.  Call it, perhaps, maternal guilt.  Call it mocking up stability for the kids.

Today, though, some internal sunshine cracked the gloom of routine.  Nothing special.  Just letting the mind roll a bit.  First, noting that the house on the corner by the fancy builder, the luxury house, the one they originally wanted over $2 million dollars, has been on the market for over a year.  This 6 bedroom house with four stories of living space on a quarter-acre lot was the product of a tear-down of a more reasonable 3 bedroom home original to the neighborhood.  However, the more modest 4 bedroom house on my street with about half the living space (yet still plenty) sold within a month.  This sort of thing is keeping the daily parade of heavy construction vehicles out of my neighborhood.  A small victory for humanity.  Don't ask, it really was bad.

The Obama "grassroots office" that opened on Wisconsin Ave in the storefront that seems perpetually empty except for political campaigns.  Ben Cardin's Senate campaign occupied that same storefront in '06, the year we took back the Senate and the House.  Good memories come back of walking by that office during that tense time, with so much for so many people, so many friends, hanging on the election, watching the campaign workers inside, trying to decide if they looked anxious or happy that evening.  Walking by before the polls closed that election night, the interior lit from within, the contest close with Michael Steele, deciding they looked tense but secure.  

The Obama office is much slicker, bigger budget than the Cardin office ever was.  They've put up an actual sign on the facade of the building space itself, not just a sign on the door.  It's professionally done.  Perfect.  Well-designed in that way that people like me, your basic over-educated professional who went to a good college, something that someone like me notices.  I decide this is a good sign: this is Bethesda/Chevy Chase, the heartland of the Democrats.  And inside the Beltway, though just barely.  Cardin was a local election, this is a presidential.  They never come to Maryland or advertise here.  We're their backyard.  What is there to organize among the faithful?  They must be doing well.  They must have money to burn.  

Walking home, thinking of reading Pamela Stone's book on the train.  How 80% of all women have been working, holding steady at that percentage since the 1980s.  How the figure is 70% for women with preschool children.  One in ten of all women work; one in six with preschool kids.  This just can't be right, I think, as I mentally count the houses with the stay-at-home moms.  Oh--I am right--at my income and education level, it's one in every four women who are staying home, opting out.  I am both reassured and unsettled.  I am moving away from the zeitgeist in my neighborhood, despite being pulled back in by the guilt.  I had never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, been forced into it by my son's disabilities and practicality and survival instincts in terms of protecting the family.  But I am inescapably part of the hyper-educated "elite," although there's got to be a less politically charged word for it than that.  The establishment?  No.  

Then I walk by a tree I'd walked by a thousand times, its limbs angling into the space just above my head on the sidewalk.  A crab apple tree--its small green and unevenly shaped knobs of fruit started to turn red.  My grandparents had a crab apple tree by the old mounting block--larger than this--and my grandmother and aunts (her five daughters) made crab apple jelly every year out of both pleasure and tradition.  My cousins and I (on that side, we totaled 19) dared each other to eat them, both ripe and green.  Always sour, but somehow sweet.

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