I get emotional when I remember the faces of the children I used to teach, who are now young adults. Their formerly round and babyish faces have thinned out to resemble those of young adults. They provide concrete evidence of the passage of time. My nieces, nephews, and students are now in college, studying a trade, dating, and even starting families.
It serves as a sobering and bittersweet reminder of how fleeting life is. How quickly the years fly by. I see their bodies as proof and imagine all the years tucked inside them. I cry happy and sorrowful tears as I watch them grow. I weep both for the lovely persons they are, and for the perilous and cruel world they must endure as they grow up.
I will be thirty-six next month, and after two ectopic pregnancies, a miscarriage, and the removal of my right Fallopian tube, I may not have any children of my own. I have come to both accept and mourn this. I experience thanksgiving and contentment for my life and everything I’ve accomplished, with no sense of the need for anything more. And also a sense of loss for what never was and possibly, could never be.
But then, I look out into the world, see the children wilding in downtown Chicago (I find it interesting the usage of this term by the media, “wilding.” It is the same term used against the five young black boys on this day in 1989 accused and charged with raping the white woman jogger in New York’s Central Park), and see the protests over the shooting of Ralph Yarl, who though he lives, has become yet another hashtag.
And I ask myself, which is better, giving birth to a son or watching that son heal in the hospital after being shot in the head for ringing the wrong doorbell?
Which is better, knowing what it’s like to give birth or knowing what it’s like to mourn the death of a child?
And I dance between these sentiments as I look into the faces of these little ones. I remember them as children, full of innocence, and now see them as young adults, wide-eyed and excited to live in a cruel world.