This is what we do now
Once upon a time, not long ago, my daughter and I lined up in crowds of people. We brushed each other shoulder to shoulder, sometimes wearing Christmas tinsel, sometimes wearing sunscreen. We waited excitedly to get moving.
We ran and ran. People urged us on, waving signs saying “go!”. And when we crossed the finish line, someone handed us a medal, and maybe a banana. They handed us these things with their hands.
These days we also line up in crowds of people. We scan across a sea of masks for the eyes of people we might know. We keep two arms lengths of distance.
We walk deliberately. We stop on purpose. We kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The signs this crowd holds up don’t say go, they say stop.
Some signs have three words. Some signs only have one. George. Breonna. Breonna who was feisty and loving like my daughter.
Walk deliberately. Stop. Walk carefully. Remember. Say their names together, like a chant.
The finish line’s elusive in this walk. We can’t quite see what it looks like. But the young people tell us they can take us there.
At my daughter’s school, the seniors have put together a finish line of their own imagining: a green and silver tinsel arch. A drive-through graduation. It is beautiful. It is something I never would have thought of.
My daughter’s eyes look different these days. Sunny and cloudy all at once. Complicated.
The crowd walks on silently in the dusk.
Like in crowds of the past, my daughter is ahead of me. She gets where she’s going faster than I do.
She’s the one who got me out here in the first place. I’m trying my best to keep up.
-Elizabeth Fitterer is a preceptor at the Puget Sound Zen Center