You say Rolls, I say Royce
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.