Alternate Histories: 6/13, 6/24


Mom: Warming in general. Typical stuff that you hear all the time. We’re connected together, so once one thing gets out of sync, the whole thing falls apart. I live in Pennsylvania, and this past winter was so cold, and a lot of people in the neighborhood suffered–they lost plants or trees. Nobody has any time to do anything. I just keep on going. But–I know how it sounds to say this, but I have faith in the next generation coming up.

Daughter: They say you’ve already screwed it for us.

Mom: Anything they tell me to do, I would do.

Daughter: We learn the limitations of humanity. In Rochester, the winter there every year is like this winter tenfold. I live up here, and this winter, we had federal emergency aid, we ran out of sand twice–if something actually catastrophic happens, we’re hosed. We’re not ready. We’re comfortable.

How can we get better at being ready?

Daughter: We’ve been conditioned out of it. It’s not an education issue, it’s an agility issue. “Here are the things that are in my capacity to do.” … And the media hype–I was at the grocery store before one of the big snowstorms, not because of that, I was just like, “I need some food, let’s go to the grocery store,” and there was someone from ABC in the parking lot asking me, “So, are you terrified of the big snowstorm?” We have the tools we need, it’s a mental thing.

Mom: I turn off lights, I do those kinds of things. It’s just the scientific things–now this is approaching, what am I gonna do? Now they’re saying that ethanol is not the solution because they may not want to use corn for fuel if they can use it for food–

Daughter: What, because you read one article? We’re really uninformed, and there’s not somewhere to get informed about this stuff clearly. We’re being slackers.

Mom: I’m being serious, I’m not being funny.



The next day, T said to her daughter: I love you, and I’m so afraid for you. When you were small, I told you we’d be safe, I’d keep you safe. Before you understood words, before you breathed air even, my body was telling you I would protect you. I loved you then, I love who you’ve become. How carefully I chose the books we read together! How hard I bit back everything I’d learned that would make it harder for you to be who you are! I don’t blame you for blaming me for not keeping that promise. I’m proud of you for challenging me, for asking questions, for being angry instead of sad. I feel I’ve failed you, and now I’m asking for your comfort.

The next day, Y said to her mother: I love you too, and I’m so scared. That’s why I’m angry. I want you to be like, It’s not your problem. I want you to be like, You’ll be okay. But it is and I won’t, and if you’re there with me, that’ll be bad because I’ll want to look out for you and I’ll want you to look out for me, and if you’re not there with me, that’ll be bad because what’ll I do without you? A lot of why I’m smart and brave is because of me, but a lot of it is because of you. I’m so grateful for what you’ve given me and what you’ve asked of me. It’s saved me before. But being smart and brave isn’t helping me know what to do, how to save myself and everybody and everything.

T said: Maybe we can learn some things together. We’re all babies in the face of this. We don’t know what comes next. We can show each other things, not to scare or shame each other, but to learn more of what we need to know.

Y said: Babies die all the time, Ma.

T said: Not my baby. And then, quickly: I was joking.

Y said: You were not. It could happen. We have to really, really know that it could happen. It will happen, I mean, like, eventually. But not today. Probably. But I think if we know that, we can do it, whatever it is. We can actually hear what it might be.


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