I heard the tires on the gravel driveway and called Dan to hurry! We rushed out the door and we greeted four year-old Grace and I swiftly rushed to the other side of the car and unbuckled five-week old Parker Anne for the first time! I gently held her in my arms and helped Grace out of her car seat quite aware that there might be a feeling of displacement with a new baby sister coming to our home for the first time.
Amanda had caught an earlier ferry and I was caught off guard. The vacuum cleaner was still out and the house half vacuumed. Lunch was half prepared and everything was screaming at me to finish. It was hard to sit still. I scurried around trying to make everyone comfortable and tried to get the house in order.
I am a nine on the Enneagram, which means that I want everyone to feel seen and cared for. Often that brings exhaustion. A number of times Amanda would say, “Mom, please stop and sit and watch Parker. Mom, you can do that later, please come here and be with Parker.”
It was a plea that I remember saying to my mother who was distracted and couldn’t sit still with my babies. Every mother desires their mother to see the stunning beauty of their baby. I finally did sit stop and took Parker to the living room away from distractions. I propped her on my knees and took over fifty photos of her face in a few minutes.
It’s remarkable how a baby can move their forty-three facial muscles in ways I never see children or adults do. Each photo is incredibly different: One eyebrow up. One side of their mouth down or one eye open and one eye closed. We are utterly captivated by the human face, especially a new granddaughter.
The visit ended way too soon. After they departed I wrestled with the question why I couldn’t sit on the quilt the entire visit and just hold Parker the whole time. Little did I know COVID-19 was about to erupt in a matter of days. Parker is over six months old and I have not held her since that visit.
The loss of being with my grandchildren and family has been torturous. I miss Parker’s countless facial transitions and staring into her curious, gorgeous eyes. I miss holding her, feeling her body next to mine. But I have also been forced on many levels to address how easy it is for me to be distracted and not look long and well into the face of others.
That ended for me on the day I watched George Floyd die. I watched, as did most of America if not the world, a policeman (I will not write his name) snuff out the life of a black man as he stared into a bystander’s camera with impunity. I felt sick, incensed, and grieved. How could a human being keep his knee on a man’s neck as he is begging to be able to breathe for 8 minutes and 46 seconds?
I looked into the face of George Floyd as he died and I looked away. I realized after trying to do so for several times that I needed to address my sense of horror and rage and watch the entire process. His face is turned to the camera and he cries out for his Mama. How often have I been distracted, too afraid or helpless to see what is right in front of my face? How often have I kept myself busy, thinking I am doing well, when a glorious face is calling out for me to respond?
We never know when a pandemic like COVID-19 will arrive, but we do know a pandemic of racism has existed in America for over four hundred years. I fooled myself thinking it is better than it was and even if there are pockets of prejudice it is outside of my control. I distracted myself and failed to see that even one white woman can sit and take in a beautiful black face and cry and shout.
Distraction is the fluff of white privilege.
I am as bound to the face of George Floyd as I am to Parker Anne. I am a grandmother. I am a Mama. And no child or grandchild of mine is going to cry out for care and not be heard. There is simply no justification for any more distractions to take my eyes away now from Parker or from George.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 42 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!