16 December, 2008

so beautiful, so cold...

Dear Daughter,
Winter, and the snow is fresh and light.
It sparkles like the sunlight dancing 
on Lake Harriet in the summer.
But now the lake is solidly frozen, 
and covered with snpwdrifts.

In the midst of this frigid beauty
I am haunted by the descriptions of your students:
their poverty and neglect.
It resonates with that phrase JK Rowling used at Harvard:
"as impoverished as one can be without being homeless."
I think of England as the civilized world,
and so the idea of rotting teeth, mal-nourishment
and open sores which do not heal are disturbing to imagine.

I look at your brother and remember a time in Krakow
when I was told he would not survive his respiratory infection.
We had traveled so far, while homeless, and unemployed,
and I felt a failure.
I lived on dreams and empty promises.
Words spoken to seduce me into compliance.
A fantasy and an illusion built of smoke and sand.

This is the anniversary of that time of  moving to Poland.
And our struggle to endure in spite of poverty and illness.
You refused to be left behind with your Babcia.
Walking everywhere, you accompanied me
first to nearly empty stores with rude sales staff.
Then to cafes with menus filled with items 
that were "sold out" or "unavailable"

Still we were wealthy by comparison with our American dollars
and knew we would never starve.
Cold, yes...but never hungry.
The black market was designed for people like us...
And we used it. 

Slowly we repaired the decaying apartment
and by the time Spring came
your brother was healthy
And you were eavesdropping 
and translating the conversations of the strangers around us
who survived their initial shock 
of seeing Americans living in their midst, as Poles,
and apparently by choice.

So much has changed since that time,
and we live in a new world.
Yet children are still under-nourished,
and sick.
I believe 
you are making a difference 
in the lives of the children you meet each day
simply by showing up for work,
and giving them your loving, compassionate attention.
Your sense of humor
and curiosity.
Remember: all it takes is one person.
One little starfish.
Only one to make a difference:
(or Alex)
Sweet dreams, my super-heros,
Your Mum

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