Last Wednesday morning, sometime between the time I heard Charlotte say, “Mom, I’m ready for cereal!” and the time I came out to the living room, she had figured it out. Her election map, half colored in from the night before, was torn into pieces and lay crumpled on the floor. She was, likewise, crumpled up on the couch, chin to chest, trying to process. Maggie was consoling her.
I will never, ever forget this feeling. What do you say?
After all of this, what can you possibly say? How do you help your daughter — 7 years old, quite perceptive, and increasingly aware of how the world works — understand that the bad guy who finished second actually won?
Everyone I’ve met since has struggled to put this into words. Our family has looked outward to help make sense of the loss and sadness and disbelief. A father at the playground. A comedian singing a Leonard Cohen song. E. B. White, who suffered years far worse than 2016. And for me, most stirringly, a poet, whose voice reached me through a colleague on Instagram, of all places, and whose words I’m passing on to you. Take the wisdom wherever you find it, and use it.
“Good Bones,” Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.