26 August 2011

the end of the day

it’s late summer, near the end of the month, the end of the day on the last day of the week. a family comes in, just before closing-- a mom and her two small children. i hear them speaking french to one another, softly. the toddler boy is in his underwear and a t-shirt. he has ruddy cheeks, and a sweaty brow. he and his slightly older sister are at the kid’s cubby, near my desk, looking at books, doing puzzles. the mom has finished the shopping, and i look up from my work to see her squatting down, opening the wrapper on a granola bar-the most ready-to-eat food we have in the pantry at that time, breaking off bite size pieces, and offering them to her son. he studies the food in her hand, she reassures him, and pushes a bite into his mouth. then she opens a small can of kern's apricot nectar, and gives him a drink. the girl is distracted- her attention on a coloring book, when her mother offers her the juice. the mother practically pours the liquid into her child’s mouth.

maybe it is because her kids look kind of like my son…maybe it is because it’s the end of a long week, and a full moon—i’m emotional… but i look at that blonde, french woman in her early thirties, and i feel like i know her. i know what that feels like. and yet, i don’t know what that feels like. as a mother, that urge to nourish your child is nearly instinctual. the pressing need to get food into the body of the one who is dependent upon you—that need is so familiar to me. and yet, i don’t know what it feels like to not know that you have access to the food your child needs. i don’t know what it is like to not have enough, to run out and not have the means to go get more. to witness this woman- engaged in the everyday act of feeding her young, of nourishing her family, this ordinary gesture, in that moment was so touching, and so heart breaking.

lately, i have been putting myself through the ringer over my career situation, future prospects, ambitions, and lack thereof. here i am, with this post-graduate degree from a prestigious architecture school, where i devoted many years of study, and accumulated mountains of debt. and i find myself in an income bracket significantly lower than expected, in a field completely unrelated to architecture. i see my cohorts with high paying jobs as architects in big cities, or with successful design firms of their own, professors and winners of high-profile competitions, nationally recognized artists…and i ask myself…have i failed?

today though, on my walk home from the food pantry, where i help people nourish themselves and their loved ones, i’m thinking about that woman putting food in her child’s mouth. and i know i am right where i need to be, that my work is meaningful and fulfilling—that my talents are not wasted, and that i truly love my job. i love my job, i love my life, and there is nowhere else i’d rather be