Friday, July 24, 2015

1989


Before 1989 was the Cold War. There was also no grace.

I remember when my daughter Grace was born the summer of 1989. In the middle of the night I’d get up and feed her. I kept a little radio playing by her bed for white noise, so that every little noise didn’t wake her up. It was just she and I and WGN or WBBM in the wee hours of the night.

Then one night while I was nursing her within the glow of the radio dial I heard the most fabulous news. I use this word because it sounded like a fable. Often I dozed while feeding her. The announcer said the Wall had fallen.

There had been tremors, rumblings leading up to this earthquake that brought down the Berlin Wall. Czech citizens were being issued passes to go to the West for holidays—once a rarity—and in Poland, Solidarity had made headway in their fight for workers and nationalistic rights. Ultimately Solidarity saw the end of Soviet rule and helped move Poland toward democracy. In my dream-like state I thought I heard the news reader say the Wall had come down.

This was confusing. Because when I went to bed there had been a Soviet Union and now it sounded like things were falling apart. And I hadn’t even been asleep that long.

I waited until a faint light entered the room and then I woke up my husband, whispering because the baby had finally gone back to bed. “Hey, the Wall has come down.”

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Together we both listened to the radio as we were TV-less. We were astonished at how quickly the world had changed. By Christmas 1989 we were viewing images of the bodies of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, former dictator of Romania. Indeed, it was a new world.

But it didn’t last long. This summer Grace will turn 26 and she is now living in a post-cold war, post 9/11 world where more than ever we feel unsafe. Russia has ambitions; ISIS (as well as other forms of extremism) is threatening the pan-Middle East, plus polemic politics here in the US make us feel once again the chill of a Cold War.

For one brief space of time, in the middle of the night, while nursing my newborn there was this thing called hope. Every once in a while I like to revisit that moment. Happy Birthday Grace.


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