Many of you may be aware of the wildfires that have been burning out of control here in my home state of North Carolina. This is a rare occurrence for North Carolina folks. This is a blissfully drama-free area. The impact of hurricanes is usually too far off, there is a scarcity of tornadoes, and earthquakes are very, very few and far between.
There had been a “code red” air quality alert this past week in our area. To the point where my children’s preschool didn’t allow the kids out on the playground every day. There was a haze that would frequent the horizon and a smell of burning wood ranging from faint to quite apparent. The decrease in the number of people who would typically walk their dogs around the neighborhood was noticeable. Of the people I did spot, several wore masks. My husband and I had gone out to dinner with our 4-year-old twins one night. Upon arriving back home, I noticed that the smoky smell had migrated into the house.
I am not one who jumps to panic mode – regarding nearly everything. However, I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me and if that haze had actually made its way inside. I made a comment about this to my husband, then uncharacteristically brought it up a second time. Jed replied this was no different than having a fire in the fireplace.
Well, this comment shook me back to reality.
I am lucky.
In fact, I began to reflect on how insanely fortunate I have been throughout my life in about a million different ways.
- I was born during the Vietnam War era, but was too young to have been aware of the threat of death hanging over my father, who was an Army lieutenant in the infantry.
- My earliest memory of turmoil affecting Americans was during the hostage crisis in the late 70s, after innocently asking my mother why so many trees had yellow ribbons tied around them. My mom’s response was surely vague and non-alarmist enough that I dismissed the issue and happily went about my business.
- Most distressing for me as a very young girl was being caught off guard by the images of the singing group Kiss, which were splattered all over the TV, arcades and teenagers’ t-shirts, among other unexpected places. (These pictures would inevitably result in me flinging my face into the legs of the closest family member.)
- The only thing to my recollection that caused me anxiety in elementary school was participating in the occasional tornado drill (or watching The Wizard of Oz) and the subsequent preoccupation with the prospect of an ACTUAL twister. I have now been on this planet for 42 years and have never heard the sound described as reminiscent of a train roaring down the tracks.
- In fact, the first major natural disaster that impacted my home state during my years growing up was not until I was a stone’s throw away from age 15. Hurricane Hugo came blustering in, wreaking havoc on the Carolinas and causing over $6 billion of damages. This was the costliest hurricane up to that point to ever hit the US mainland and is still widely considered to be the worst hurricane in modern South Carolina history. For us in the upper Northwestern corner of the state, we were comparatively unaffected.
- I went my entire childhood without fearing terrorist attacks. Most threats of terrorism were directed at countries outside of the U.S. For the most part, I simply was not aware of them.
- Throughout all of my years as a student, I never feared for my safety. There were occasional “bomb threats” at my high school during which the students would be escorted out onto the lawn while the school was inspected. We all assumed (correctly) that the phony scares were called in by burnouts who wanted class to be interrupted at a time when a test was to be administered.
- I had no worries as a teenager about going to shopping malls or movie theaters because nothing ever happened there.
- As a young woman in my early 20s, I would often go out to bars with girlfriends. We would sometimes go to gay bars. These establishments were often more fun and we could dance our fannies off without the element of unwanted advances from men. Never once did I worry that someone would open fire in places like those for the purpose of killing as many people as possible.
- 9/11 came and marked the end of innocence for so many, including myself. However, I was a grown woman, a month away from my 27th birthday, with no children at home to whom I would have to explain the senselessness of these attacks.
Essentially, I was able to move through my childhood and young adulthood blissfully unaffected by disasters or the evils of the world. I mention this not to bemoan the state of the world today, although I certainly have moments where I need to disconnect from news media to retain a healthy mental and emotional balance.
The world today is so very different from the world I grew up in. It is unlikely that I will be able to shelter my children from the realities of terrorism around the world, random acts of violence or even the worriment over cyberbullying.
BUT, the remembrance of my unblemished younger years have shaped me into the woman I am today. I intend to let that wide-eyed girl inside of me emerge in how I parent my very young children. Optimism is my choice. Little ones deserve the opportunity for unbridled joy and innocence as long as we can allow it.
So I resolve to turn off the primetime news when my children are playing downstairs. There is much good left in this world to celebrate, despite the horrors and conflicts that exist. On this Thanksgiving Day, we have each other, our health and peace in our homes and communities.
We are lucky.