Fire in the Lawn
Originally published in Voices & Viewpoints: Writers Respond to September 11th and Beyond.
After watching the firefighters run into the core of Manhattan, my son puts on his firefighter outfit, complete with a dust mask and pretend air talk, and steps out into the yard to spray the garden hose on imaginary fires. I am helpless as I watch my 3 ½ year old son who is capable of doing more than I can.
Later I watch a concert on television. My favorite band from my youth, U2 performs “Walk On.” The deep creases in Bono’s face show the passage of time. There was a time when I thought music could change the world. In 1985 I woke up early and sat glued to MTV all day watching the first Live Aid broadcast. Bob Geldof and other musicians came together to raise money for the starving in Africa. I went to a Amnesty International concert and watched Bono, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and other perform; they stood up against the wrongfully imprisoned individuals of the world. While zooming down Los Angeles freeways on my way to college, I sang along with Bono.
How long must we sing this song?
Determined to save the world with my writing, I studied journalism. I would have the power to disclose the evil deeds committed by those who wanted to tyrannize others. I would provide the language and the forum for those who needed a voice. I would be a poet with the power to heal the wounds of the soul. I was convinced of the infallible power of words.
Fifteen years later, I wonder where I lost my idealism. Being a journalist left me hopeless. I grew tired of wading through the mire of injustice and turned to the cleaner task of analyzing literature and teaching college freshmen to write essays. The poetry also sits idle as I look for more lucrative ways to pay my mortgage and keep my children fed. I will not deny I am jaded and my cynicism has its roots in my experiences. I am no longer a young, single woman rising up against the evil of the world. Now I am a mother, yet that is all the more reason why I need to find my lost source of hope.
I watch my son douse the fallen leaves on the autumn lawn. He is putting out the fires of Manhattan, the fires of hate, the fires of injustice. It doesn’t matter that it is only in his imagination. It doesn’t matter at all because he is wholly involved in making a difference the only way he can. Like the real firefighters in New York, he cannot do otherwise.
I step outside and wander around the yard. The season for growing is almost over, but I kick aside the yellow leaves looking for a patch of green. I find myself singing the words of the songs I once sang. I know the grass will return in the spring; it always does. I return to my house with my son’s hand in mine to find some sort of hope in the rubble of this world.