Greatest Love of All
“I believe the children are our future.”
Grandpa and Whitney told me that every single day, “Greatest Love of All” playing on repeat as I learned and wrote.
“Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Every afternoon, Grandma would sit me down and say, “Now bubbeleh, explain.” She wasn’t Jewish, but Yiddish was part of her childhood, and I was always her bubbeleh, her little grandmother. As she checked my homework, I would teach her my lessons. We learned together.
She grew up in the Bronx with an alcoholic father and an absent mother, taking care of her younger brother. She never went to college, started working in her family’s thermometer plant out of high school. Always working.
“Show them all the beauty they possess inside.”
Grandpa tutored me during the summer. Before I could play, I had to sit with him and do pages in a workbook to help me get ahead. He always wanted me to be on top of things.
Youngest of 12 children from newly arrived Silician immigrants in the Bronx, he dropped out of high school at 16. He lost his mother at 14. He always regretted leaving school, showing me how important my education was. Even without a diploma, he was brilliant; he was an exterminator, a restaurant owner, a mathematician and a mortgage broker. He always had his head up.
“Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier.”
They raised my mother, a valedictorian who worked her way through Cornell on scholarships and no sleep. She saw their work ethic her whole life, no matter where they lived; she tells me about how in high school, she had three jobs: one at school, one locally, and one in New Jersey on the weekends at her parents’ restaurant the next state over.
“Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
Now, I see their example. I see their sacrifice.
They raised me. I’m trying to make them proud.
the world was a girl.
disaster became her,
tornadoes danced across her skin.
hurricanes formed in the seas of her eyes.
drought made her brittle, like sandpaper.
oh, earthquakes made fault lines on her body,
created caverns and valleys of her skin,
scars of nature.
until she was ground down.
ground down by the wind and the water,
refined, yes, but still keeping her edges,
created so that every star she passed
every planet, every galaxy, every supernova
would see her, and KNOW.
view from the top:
suddenly, you are a bird.
a bird in freefall.
wingless and young,
separated from your mother,
questioning all you’ve ever known
in the face of such perspective.
if the skyscrapers are ants,
are you even an atom?