I think I would have been a beat poet
Or a protest singer
Soul rubbed raw by reality scraping against idealism and truth.
Sharing in verse hope and pain. Not just mine —
Others may need a beat poet or a protest singer
To use the pen or the pick as a mirror and balm.
And we would sing or read or rap or march or plan or reaffirm,
Upsetting status quo gently or roughly by the shoulders with Art Revolution.
Meeting, laughing, growling
Gathering new friends or the merely curious
in coffee shops or untidy close apartments or even someone’s unironically beautiful beach home.
We would mark these times with great output and remember them decades later looking at black and white photos of ourselves that no one remembers being taken while we sang and spoke of change.
But I am not a beat poet
Or a protest singer.
Are there such things anymore, or are we post-beat?
I sit in coffee shops, though, and beautiful homes, calling out an occasional verse
hoping to hear the response of another raw soul.
I always thought middle age would be softer.
I thought my hair would be poofy, my body would be poofy, everything would have an easy-to-sink-into quality to it, like an overstuffed chair.
With the exception of my body, I’m finding middle age to be hard and sometimes sharp – and that’s when I acknowledge that I’m in middle age in the first place. I am edgier. My opinions are strong. Getting through the day can be hard. I feel increasingly unsure about the world as I grow surer of who I am. It is a great reversal, as I used to be confident about what the world was all about and have a tenuous sense of self.
That crisscrossing of certainty and uncertainty, of confidence and grasping, of hard and soft runs throughout the new anthology Here in the Middle, which was released yesterday and to which I am a proud contributor.
A mishmash of emotions always accompanies releases of new art. Pride and excitement, certainly. There is also worry that it won’t be received as it was intended, that the circle of audience and performer will not be closed. That worry is unfounded with Here in the Middle. This collection of stories already resonates with many people who are in the so-called sandwich generation. And while it’s not necessarily a bad place to be (who doesn’t like sandwiches?), it can be tough. It’s surprising to find yourself in a time when we all watch our children venture out into the world to various degrees, and then need to turn a watchful, caring eye to our parents.
It is a book of transitions, of moments where time stands still just long enough for us to realize not only how fast it’s all going but how much we change. How much we need to change. That we sometimes are forced to change be it under volcanic pressure or gentle yet persistent buffing.
My story, “Grandparent Privilege,” is a humorous look at one of these moments in my life. My role as “caregiver” is tenuous at best: my parents are healthy and active, my children run away from any of my attempts at caregiving, which mostly involves my asking if they washed their hands with soap. I wrote about being the odd man out in the relationship between my children and my parents. It is a love note to my parents, my children, and my steadfast husband who wishes we would drop them off at my parents much more often than we do.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the book!