The City · The Home · The Soul

Half-Mast

I went into Manhattan today to take my computer into Tekserve and visit the Customs House for a Global Entry interview. As the ferry pulled into the dock on the Staten Island side, I noticed the flags were at half-mast.

Shortly thereafter, when I boarded the subway in Manhattan, a herd of 3rd graders (the teacher’s badge said “3rd Grade Spanish”) crowded on with me. I was sitting at the end of a bench – two boys scuffled for a space next to me, and finally out of sheer determination not to lose to the other boy, they both squeezed in with loud arguments over whose bottom touched the seat first.

A man on the next bench rolled his eyes and got up to move to another car. And I suppose I might have as well, on any other day. Probably because I am a mother, the sounds of shrieking children spike my blood pressure. When two children are shrieking, generally that means I have to do something about it, and more shrieking will inevitably ensue from one party or another (probably both).

But today, as the two little boys squeezed into the seat, I didn’t get up. Their shrieking subsided, and they both apologized to me – but continued emphatically and silently to cram and wiggle their way in. I could have gotten up to give them more space, but of course you don’t want to give kids the idea that if they are obnoxious, they win something. So I stayed put. And eventually they calmed down – we remained tightly packed, but they smiled at me and stopped wiggling.

It was a small moment, amidst plenty of other hubbub; the class was about 30 students. But I’ll hold onto it the way I held onto my Scamp last Friday. Kids are making their way in a brutal world the same way their adults are. We can all accommodate one another with some grace, and the least we can do as adults is throw some appreciation their way. They are so small, and they are trying so hard.

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