From the mid-80s to the mid-90s, I had a weekly newspaper column entitled HOMEFRONT. It was mostly about family life with five sons and a little about being a high school teacher. Once in a while I tackled the big issues of the day. Recently, a friend and former reader asked me to find a particular column that she had saved all these years and recently lost. The hunt for this column led me down a nostalgic path. As I skimmed through my enormous pile of columns, I remembered so many of the feelings that I had when I was raising my sons who are now ages 29 to 37.
Now I am a grandmother of four boys - ages 1 to 5 and one girl who is 6 months. My heart is filled with love for them, just as it was (and always will be!) for my sons. I find that my desire to protect my grandchildren is almost exactly the same as it was for my children. So I am going to share a column that I wrote in 1986:
The other night my youngest son told me he couldn't go to sleep because, "when I close my eyes they have monsters in them." I told him he was just imagining the monsters, but he would not be convinced. As I sat on his bed, keeping him company so that the monsters "will go away" I thought of all the things my children have taught me about monsters. A lot of is sounds vaguely familiar, like something I knew about a long time ago, but have since forgotten.
- Monsters are hard to see with open eyes; appearing only as shadowy figures and bulges behind curtains, but they can be seen in great horrific detail with closed eyes.
- Monsters are afraid of light and they sneak up on you at night, unless you sleep with a light on.
- Monsters don't care if you believe in them or not.
- Monsters are crafty and hide behind furniture, in closets, and most often, under beds. They have long arms and ugly hands and can reach out and grab an unsuspecting victim from the other side of a room.
- Monsters also like to hide in basements, lurking under the steps while eagerly waiting for anyone to be dumb enough to go downstairs alone.
- Monsters DO make noises. Kids hear them frequently, but the monsters slyly stop making the noises when a grown-up enters the room.
- The best protection against monsters is having another person in bed with you. If that isn't possible, stuffed animals are a good defense. Even blankets and pillows can be arranged as protection.
- Monsters like to hang around after you watch a scary movie or even talk about scary things.
- Monsters are not afraid of children - no matter how tough the children act. But they are afraid of grown-ups.
- You can't fool monsters. They know when you are asleep and they wait until then to get to you.(No one has been able to tell me what happens when they get you)
- Monsters can go through closed windows and doors, but they can not follow you into your parents room.
- You can trick monsters into thinking your brother is the only one in the bed. This is why it is important not to sleep alone.
- Monsters hide in bathrooms, especially behind shower curtains.
- Monsters have been known to do terrible things to poor little children whose parents didn't believe them when they said there were monsters in their room at night.
- The only way to be 100 percent safe from monsters is to sleep in your parents' bed, snuggled in, safe and sound, between them.
- All of the things grown-ups tell you about monsters being make-believe and just-pretend don't do any good when you are alone in the dark with one.
As I pick up the little boy with monsters in his eyes and carry him to our room, I feel a little sad, knowing that in a few years I won't be able to save him from his monsters anymore.
That was written more than 25 years ago. I knew then that eventually my boys would grow up and I would not be able to protect them from the real "monsters" they would encounter - the various really difficult and heart-breaking things that we all encounter as we go through life. I know this is true for my grandchildren too. There will come a time when the loving arms of their parents won't be able to take away their problems. This is the way life is meant to unfold. When we are young, our parents fortify us and we gather strength for the hard times that may come as we get older. All people experience struggles and challenges, and most of us manage to survive them and live fulfilling lives. This is as it should be.
But, now, 25 years later, I am forced to admit that there are very real monsters in my grandchildren's future. Monsters that they will not be able to protect themselves from unless we, their parents and grandparents, do something now.
Mother Earth is in serious trouble. She needs us to take care of her. The ecosystems that have sustained us are in jeopardy. Our oceans and waterways are seriously threatened from pollution. Air quality is getting worse and worse. Much of the planet is already experiencing a severe water crisis in the form of scarcity of usable water. Farmlands are less and less fertile. I could go on and on. The problems are many and complex.
But, here's the thing. There are solutions. Here's the other thing. Nothing is going to get better if we don't decide to do something. Now.
Most of the western world lives with such a high degree of ease and comfort that we don't even bother to learn about what is happening all around us. We don't understand the impact of our reliance on fossil fuels or the dominance of agribusiness. We don't think about the enormous islands of plastic - including one that is bigger than the state of Texas - floating in our oceans. We have all but forgotten about the hole in the ozone layer and we continue to argue about the reality of the greenhouse effect.
As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. But do we really want our bliss to be responsible for a life of extreme hardship for our grandchildren and future generations? I realize that when you understand the enormity of the environmental crisis there is a tendency to ignore it because it seems to big and complicated. But if each of us learned about one aspect and educated others about it, well, that could help.
If each one of us chose one or two ways to lessen our own personal negative impact on the environment, well, hey, that could help to.
If each one of us decided to become informed and then to inform decision-makers at the local, state and federal level, well, heck yeah, that could make a difference too.
If nothing else, start with a simple search of the internet. You will be amazed at what you find. I have included a few links for you. Not because they are the best, or the ones I trust the most, but because they were so easy to find. Check them out.
I know once you start you won't stop looking, because this earth is your home, your only home and when you really think about it, it matters more to you than almost anything.