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old place, new dog

Ten things:


There are facts, and there are the stories we tell about the facts. I don’t know who said that.


I recently emptied every drawer, basket, bucket, box, and shelf in Fisher’s room, including his closet. The guts of his childhood are piled in the hallway, the living room, and across the dining room table. I made him sort piles of toys and books into things he wants to keep at-the-ready, things he wants to keep in storage for posterity, and things he wants to give away.

I’m especially interested in the things in the posterity pile. I imagine Fisher opening a storage bin at the age of 40 and pulling out Bey Blades and Captain Underpants books. Who will he be then, and how will his travels shape-shift memories of inanimate objects? The objects don’t change; we do.


I think a lot about stories, how we tell them, remember them, and re-tell them. Whether it’s the story of something you lived, a story that you read, or a made-up story that you’re writing, we tend to revisit the ones that feel the most complex. We turn them over and over like river flint in hand – against this light and that one, from this angle and the other one, at morning then at dusk – either looking for the new glint or trying to wear the edges smooth so they’re more comfortable to hold.

Sometimes we notice trends – repeated patterns – and we say, “Here again? When will I learn?” But maybe we are never “here again”. Maybe we are only ever here. And we are everywhere new – with new learnings, new strengths, new needs, new tricks. Old place, new dog.


Stories move. We never tell stories about the one time we went to the one place and did the one thing until we died. The stories of our lives that we keep retelling are about motion and change – whether it’s a big one with flashing lights or it’s a quiet one that slips in through the backdoor. Stories have choreography.


Rites and rituals – even the ones where we blast the ozone and scare the shit out of the dog all day every day for a week – among other things, connect us to bigger story arcs -- usually ones that aren't quite finished. They mark time and season. We don't know who or what is moving faster. It probably changes, depending.

Every August we snap pictures of school kids standing in front of front doors holding backpacks. We track the inches between the tops of their heads and the doorknobs and marvel at how they’ve grown.


This brings me to Independence Day.


Over 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced to state legislatures across the country this year. Women and girls in many states lost the right to make their own reproductive decisions. Misguided parent groups are muscling books off of library shelves. It’s hard not to feel ironic about a day celebrating "freedom" if you’re paying attention.


But it's never been perfect. It's never lined up. Hypocrisy is baked in, because we're humans and we don't know how to be anything else. Trying to outrun it would likely make you faint. American Indian Boarding Schools (1879-1969); Slavery (Emancipation didn't come until 1863/1865); The rights of women (to vote: 1920; to open bank accounts: 1974, the year I was born); Japanese Internment Camps (1942-1945); Racial segregation (through the 1960s, but you could argue it still happens systemically).

Has "independence" always been a little ironic?


Every Independence Day, I go to a backyard and eat chips and a brat and try to act like the whole thing doesn't feel batshit crazy. There has to be another way.


I think I found one today: Stories.

I think if we view “freedom” and “independence” as a collective story to revisit and retell year after year - a stone to turn over and over until we've seen all the complexities and the edges are smooth -- it might be easier to hold. Each July 4, when the sparkler parade rolls through shout-singing Lee Greenwood, we can reflect on our progress. Are we there, yet? How much further? What have we learned? And: What is the next right move?


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