I sat in my backyard reading Becoming by Michelle Obama on a hot Saturday afternoon. It was the 4th of July, and I had pages to go before I slept. During the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, I resolved to read more about the life of minorities, racism, civil disobedience, and much more. The children & I had painstakingly collated a list after reading several lists online, suggestions from friends, teachers, colleagues, and the companies we worked for:
- Becoming – by Michelle Obama
- Civil Disobedience – by Henry David Thoreau
- Sneetches and Other Stories – By Dr. Seuss
- A Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela – Abridged by Chris Van Wyk
- Black Panther – by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- XVIII – 13th Netflix Documentary
- Hidden Figures movie
- The Moment of Lift – Melinda Gates
- Unbowed – Wangari Maathai
- Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
While I sat reading, there was faint niggling guilt to the apparent normalcy of it all. Was it alright to be sitting calmly and reading in one’s backyard while the world around us was still reeling?
I read as the sun overhead appeared to move towards the west and finally got up to take a long walk. If anything, I had several things to think about in the book. There was a section in the book where Michelle Obama writes about failure being a feeling that sets in long before the failure itself. She writes about this in the context to the South Side in Chicago, and how the ‘ghetto’ label slowly portended its decline long before the city did. Families fled the place in search of suburbs, the neighborhood changed in small, but perceptible ways at first, and then at an accelerated pace. Doubt is a potent potion, and when fed in small portions can quickly shadow everything.
The limitations of dreams are seeds planted in our subconscious slowly and surely so that we may fulfill what society thinks we ought to do, no more and no less. Minorities the world over know the feeling well enough.
Trevor Noah, in his book, Born a Crime, writes about the ability to dream being limited to what a person knows. If all people know is the ghetto, they can truly not think beyond that.
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” – Trevor Noah, Born a Crime
The largest section of the population to know these limitations must be women.
In the Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates writes in her very first introductory chapter, “All we need to uplift women is to stop pulling them down.”
It was, therefore, in a somber mood that I set out for the walk.
I walked on taking in the setting sun at a fast pace. My mask was hoisted on my face and I felt sweaty. Every now and then on the trail when there weren’t people nearby, I slipped it down to take a deep breath of the summer air. I was walking by the waterside, and feeling the calm strength of the waters. My thoughts were slowly lifting as the sun was setting, and the full moon rose in the opposite direction. Out in the distance, the sound of Fourth of July fireworks was providing an orchestra of sorts to the accompanying bird sounds, and the sound of water sloshing gently against the shores of the lake.
“Bring the kids – sunset and moonrise marvelous and fireworks everywhere!” I texted the husband, and off we went in the approximate direction of the fireworks. We parked on a side road to take in the revels of the night. To stand there with the full moon behind us, and an array of fireworks going off in front of us in a largely residential neighborhood was marvelous.
Later, as we drove on, we listened to songs chosen with special regard to the 4th of July. The children had aced the list, and we drove on through the moonlight, lilting and dancing to the tunes.
“Behind the Clouds, the sun is shi—ii—ning. “ – What has to be one of our favorite Disney songs, rang through the car, as we pulled into the garage.
I read the final section of Michelle Obama’s Becoming later that night, I found the audacity of hope (pun intended) stirring and this too felt different; worth examining. Politics is a dirty game, but Barack & Michelle Obama have shown us what is possible.
Dare we hope?
Maybe hopes can translate to positive outcomes long before they happen…
Saumya Balasubramanian writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. Some of her articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hindu, and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.