A Sad Picture

This post is part of The Write On Project
Topic: Extinction

picture courtesy of lightstalkers.org/jane hahn

“What’s that, daddy?”

The glow from the monitor lights their faces.

“Those are parts from old computers, Bug.”

“Why?”

“Well, computers break and then people throw them away.”

She sits silent for a moment.

“Why do they throw them away?”

“Because they can’t fix them anymore, or don’t try, and then they buy new ones.”

“So, they throw them away there?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Is that by our house?”

“No, that’s in Africa, in a country called Ghana.”

He picks her up and walks over to the map on the wall. Holding her on his hip, he points to a small vertical rectangle in West Africa. “That’s Ghana. It is very far away.”

“Are those computers theirs?”

“No. A lot of them are from here. Probably a lot from Europe, too.”

“Why do we throw our computers away there?”

“I guess we are running out of room here to throw them away.”

He pauses and thinks about talking to her about the differences between where they live and third world countries, about exploitation and economic inequality, about how the industrialized world is packaging up their trash and shipping it to Africa and calling it what it is not. He feels his chest rise and fall.

“It isn’t very pretty there, Daddy.”

“No, it’s not, Bug. I bet it used to be very pretty, though.”

“So, why did we make it look like that?”

His lips tighten around his teeth into a grimace as thoughts race through his head about all of this. How do you tell your four year old about the world that she is going to grow up in? How do you tell her that you aren’t sure if she’ll have the chance? Just that morning he was reading her “The Lorax” and talking to her about responsibility and respect and what could be. Now, as the afternoon sun quietly comes through the window above them, he is thinking about what is.

He wants to talk to her about capitalism and the consumer culture. He wants to tell her that the economy, the only imaginary monster that does exist, hinges upon people buying things that they really don’t need. He wants to explain the theory of planned obsolescence and how companies intentionally make products that will fail so that everyone is forced to keep buying new things. He wants to show her that we have burdened ourselves with a system that cannot be sustained, forsaking survival for money.

She stares into the screen, probably thinking of the shapes and the colors and the smoke. He thinks only of the consequences. He knows what he believes, but there was no way he is going to tell her that. There is an illusion that is perpetuated for the sake of children that the world is filled with nothing but beauty and good and justice, that people always try to do the right thing for the right reasons. He holds her close and tries not to think about how long the charade can be maintained. He tries not to think of how long he believes they all really have left. There will be a time for this conversation and it isn’t now. She isn’t ready. He isn’t sure he is even ready.

“Daddy, this picture’s sad. Can we watch that video of the boys playing tuba again?”

“Sure, Bug. I think that’s a great idea.”

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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17 Responses to A Sad Picture

  1. Maggie Batt says:

    And who doesn’t love a little tuba! So New Orleans brass! This is so sad, yet good that I’ll share it.

  2. holly h. says:

    Mitchell, EVERYONE should have or have had a Dad like you.

  3. badjeff says:

    Poignant, Moving and Disturbingly true.. Thanks again Pal.

  4. David says:

    As Dads we have the opportunity to instill the necessary values to overcome some of these abuses, or plant the seeds in hope they will grow as needed; but you, my brother father, are multiplying your opportunity, and hopefully your effect, by writing as you do. I admire, commend and encourage you and your good words. We all have the opportunity to make a difference, one way or another. Keep On!

    • Thank you once again, brother father. Now to get back on the pointed path of writing more regularly – not so much a matter of finding time, but making time. I shall keep on.

  5. talleygilly says:

    “She isn’t ready. He isn’t sure he is even ready.” –so true of so many things in parenting. Love how your daughter already knows how to cope when something gets too dark, too uncomfortable. Turn to the cheery tuba, it never fails!

  6. nicole kelly says:

    Wonderful writing! How poignant, how sad, how true! I really enjoy your entries. Thank you for always giving me some perspective!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Sorry it took me so long to respond – Thoughtful Pop has been woefully neglected of late, but will turn that around. Thanks again.

  7. How ironic that I should read this today just as I’m thinking about reading The Lorax (for the umpteenth time) to my nieces tonight at our sleepover. Not always an easy task to introduce the principles and routines to little ones without the scary explanations. Especially when I do everything “different than mommy.” Would you mind if I re-blogged this at some point next week?

    • I love the Lorax. My girls have heard it at least umpteen times now and it seems that every time I read it they understand the implications of the Once-ler’s actions – it is a powerful thing to watch. This piece was fictional, but it was inspired by both my feelings and the conversations that are now beginning to take shape with my daughters. There world is getting bigger all the time and the explanations for what they are discovering are, as you said, scary. This parenting (and aunt-ing) business is a complicated one, for sure.

      I would be honored if you re-blogged this (and thanks for teaching me a new verb 🙂 ). I am elated that you connected with it. Thank you for taking the time, Melissa.

  8. Pingback: A Sad Picture (via Thoughtful Pop) | Melissa's Meanderings

  9. Joss says:

    wandered here via Melissa’s blog which I follow. Parenting is filled with sobering and also joyful moments. You’ve captured that well here.
    walk in beauty.

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