When my daughter heads to work yesterday morning, I stand on the kitchen step, listening to rain on the porch roof.
As a writer for a Vermont magazine, I’m ordered to stay home, and my intention is to drink coffee and work at the kitchen table. All day.
But my daughter, my 21-year-old, works on the front lines of this unknown illness. All day, she texts me periodically. Hours later, when I’m listening to the governor declare a state of emergency in Vermont, she walks in wearing jeans and a pretty blouse, her scrubs bundled in a plastic bag and left outside on the porch. While eating beef stew, she shares her day.
I’ve spent much of the afternoon reading about the history of poverty in Vermont, about Roosevelt’s relief programs and the story of social welfare, for an article I’m writing about wages in Vermont. Listening to my daughter who’s embraced this beginning of her working life with such gung-ho enthusiasm, doing difficult things, pulling her own weight with a busy medical team, I keep thinking about time and place. In the manuscript I just finished, I wrote that individual qualities of courage and cowardliness, of persistence and dishonesty, shape and alter our lives. But, likewise, so does our historical time and place.
Our conversation inevitably shifts to our family, as we figure out the possible economic pieces of our household, bracing for far harder days. This responsibility, too, this young woman steps into seamlessly, accepting her responsibility in her father’s absence as a given. Later, as we head out for a walk in the evening’s dark, I think back to that governor’s speech — so different from the current commander-in-chief’s remarks. I remind myself what I once believed was impossible — strength grows in vulnerability.
Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.