Current Events

by jkatejohnston

1 May 2016

Dear Max,

I’m depressed about my blog. Because of my grudging respect for Enzo’s privacy, I have to leave out the parts of my diary with the most life, so what’s left are my opinions and my fat. It’s a misrepresentation. I’m actually living a lot more than that.

Anyway, I have some notes here that have to do with Time and Justice. So that’s classy.

Around Easter, Enzo and I were at a playground near the airport in San Jose. Every ten minutes or so, a huge jet would come in for a landing—low and slow, right overhead, filling up the sky. It reminded me of my grandma Clara’s story about the first time she ever saw an airplane. She was buying an ice cream cone from a man who came around with a horse-drawn wagon, and there it was! An airplane! It was a marvel. Still is.

I asked grandma what kind of ice cream she got. She said, the only kind they had—vanilla.

Anyway, sitting in that park smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley, I thought, it’s been quite a century. And maybe one of the things that makes recent life seem remote is the way technology has changed in the last hundred years—or the last twenty-five. Enzo can hardly believe that when Teresa and I met, we didn’t even have email, let alone cell phones or texting or Skype. It confirms our ancient-ness.

But when you think about people instead of the tools in their hands, history comes right up close. Teresa and I were talking today—how did it even come up?—about slavery. She said something like, “It just happened. You can see why black people are still upset about it.”

I thought about my friend Danyelle and her grandparents in Detroit. How after her grandma died, her grandfather had to move into an old folks home with almost all white people and how uneasy he felt there. And—I’m not sure if this was the same conversation—but around the same time she said, about her grandparents, “Their grandparents were slaves.” Oh.

At the time (Danyelle and I would have been in our early twenties) the grandparents of grandparents seemed like the definition of the olden days. Now I think about how the generations are connected, and how time flashes past, and I know that just happened, so recently that it’s almost still happening.

My grandma and the airplane and the ice cream cone. Or—another story—grandma’s grandma baking an angel food cake when grandma was a little girl. How her grandma scolded everyone, don’t slam the door, the cake might fall! Don’t run in the house—the cake might fall! Then the chimney caught on fire—people running in and out, firemen, water, emergency, but the house didn’t burn down, and when it was all over someone said, “The cake!” And it came out perfect.

I’ve told that story to Enzo a few times. He could tell it to you. So the generations are connected. It’s comforting and disturbing how the past is with us.

I’m a little reluctant to bring this down to an opinion. It goes almost without saying that we have to make reparations for slavery and its aftermath. It’s with us. It’s in our lives right now.