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You say Rolls, I say Royce

May 10, 2012

It is 6:25 a.m. and a 14-year-old boy, wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt with a stuffed backpack strapped to his back has just ridden his bicycle down the street in front of my house. It is 43 degrees out, my furnace has just kicked on, and it looks like it will be a sunny day, for a while at least.

I am thinking about this boy because it would never occur to me to wear shorts when it is 43 degrees out, even if it is May, even if it is sunny. But I know I will soon be arguing with AJ about this. He wants to wear shorts because it is May. I want him to wear pants because it is cold. I am thinking that this is the reverse of the New York phenomenon of people wearing parkas because it is winter, even when it happens to be 70 degrees out. We can’t control the weather, but with careful wardrobe calibration, we can pretend we can.

Other things I can’t control: the deer that nearly ran me down on my walk last night, the airplane seat in front of me, when AJ gets up in the morning and slams his door, Mr. Spy’s snoring, voters in North Carolina.

I don’t always respond well to things I can’t control. That last one had me discouraged for much of the day until Joy offered some much needed perspective. And after The President’s speech yesterday, I’m choosing to dwell on how far we’ve come rather than what appears to me to be an increasing institutionalization and glorification of ignorance and intolerance.

I think of the boy riding his bicycle down the street and wonder where he was headed so early. Swim team? Soccer practice? I remember that feeling of taking myself off on my bike alone. Before driving was an option, that ability to go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go there felt precious. The freedom of no one (but nosy neighbors looking out their windows early in the morning) watching me, the freedom from having to make the million tiny decisions and concessions required when traveling with others, the feeling– for a few minutes, anyway — of total autonomy. As an adult, I am thinking that total autonomy is not always all it’s cracked up to be. But at that moment when you push off from your driveway in the morning, you have direction an purpose and also the ability to throw it out the window and do something completely unexpected. You know that you won’t, say, ride that bike to the candy store instead of to school, but you also know that you could. Having the opportunity to make the right choice all by yourself is something you can feel good about as you pull up to the bike rack in the schoolyard and try to remember the combination to your lock.

And so North Carolina, I choose to forgive you. We all need the chance to make mistakes, to feel the consequences for our actions. We all need to be a kid on a bike and unfortunately, not all of us will ride in the right direction. It’s the job of the rest of us to show you the way.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2012 7:47 am

    Walker thought it was silly that I teared up a little bit watching the president say he thinks all people ought to be allowed to get married, but he was kind enough not to say so. He knows I’m old, and that old people are kind of irrational about that sort of thing.

    In middle and high school, it is terribly uncool for a boy to wear a winter coat. And shorts are worn all year round, partly because various sports are played all year round and all boys play sports, or look like they do.

  2. May 10, 2012 8:03 am

    Person wearing shorts has their own drummer?

  3. May 10, 2012 8:38 am

    I do miss being able to ride a bike. I find that autonomy, though, by taking walks now.

  4. May 10, 2012 8:42 am

    When our older two were that age, I declared it the developmental stage of being insufficiently protected from the weather. They never wore coats, loathed umbrellas (while complaining loud and long about getting wet in the rain), insisted on flip flops in May even when it snowed.

    It was never the teenaged moodswings that got to me, even now that our youngest is 15. It’s the refusal to dress in a way that takes the weather into account. I try to keep my mouth shut now, but it’s difficult. And I don’t know why this particular issue hooks me, but it always has.

  5. eleanorio permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:52 am

    I have taken to wearing earplugs at night because I, too, have no control over the Hubby’s snoring. Separate bedrooms do not appeal to me, but I can’t fall asleep while the buzz saw is going next to me.

  6. May 10, 2012 1:41 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed the way you tie in a simple event such as the boy on his bike in shorts to a current issue on your mind, like the NC vote. Your writing is wonderful.

    Joy’s perspective is good. This was a battle lost, but no one can ignore that the war is gradually being won. I see it as a last ditch effort by some of the old guard to cling to “what has always been” whether they had on rose colored glasses for that hindsight or not.

  7. May 11, 2012 7:17 pm

    Thanks, all and especially to MKM for the unexpected compliment. Joy, my husband is similarly bothered by the clothes thing. I am trying to get him to let it go because there are so many things left to fight about and sooner or later he will realize he is cold. Eleanorio, I sleep with earplugs too: snoring in Chicago, street noise in NY. And I do think I need to remember battle vs. war. But it can be hard sometimes when there are so damn many battles.

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