Sage: Seven Months

I had some weird issues with the site last night, and I was unable to post this. I’m not going to bother changing the word “today” to “yesterday” or anything like that. Just know that this one was meant for 7/24, not 7/25.


Sage —

You’re seven months old today. It feels like this last month has just flown by. You’re eating more and more solid food; you’re still so frustrated that you can’t crawl yet; and if a tooth doesn’t poke through soon, I think you’re going to be pretty upset.

You’re working on sitting up. As long as you’ve got supports pretty close to you on either side, you seem to do pretty well. And for feeding, we’ve mostly stopped using the Bumbo (because you constantly try to turn yourself around in it to see what’s just behind you) to an actual high-chair sort of setup (where you’re strapped in like in a car seat). You’re curious about everything, and you want to go everywhere.

In the past week, I’ve only gotten to hold you for less than two hours, because we’ve been too far apart for any more. What’s worse, I know that on the day you get home, I’m scheduled to be gone that evening for a few hours. I’m hoping I can spend that time doing what I’m supposed to be doing and not just constantly thinking about getting home, but I kind of doubt it.

I feel like you’re right on the verge of some big breakthroughs, although I don’t really know what they are. You’ve been working on various consonants, and a few times we think you’ve almost said “Hi,” or “Da” or “Ma,” but not with any regularity. Maybe it’ll be the tooth; maybe it’ll be small words; maybe it’ll be sitting up; maybe it’ll be crawling… but it’s so amazing watching your life unfold in front of us.

I haven’t been sure how exactly to approach issues like the news when I’m writing these notes to you. I assume, if you read them some day in the future, you’ll be old enough to make some sense out of things — even if it’s not all clear, because let’s face it — it’s not all clear to me either. But something happened yesterday that I wanted to talk to you about.

Sally Ride, the first American female to go into space, passed away.

When Ms. Ride first went into space, I was six years old. It was the summer of 1983, and the idea of women doing jobs that were traditionally men’s jobs was, surprisingly, still difficult for the majority of people to understand. (It was about 13 months later when Geraldine Ferraro was announced as the first Vice Presidential candidate for a major American political party.) Reporters asked her all sorts of insulting questions suggesting that perhaps she was too weak (emotionally and physically) to handle the job.

Sally Ride was an early hero of mine. I was fascinated by outer space. I still am, to a degree, although the more I’ve actually learned about it, the less hopeful I am that I’ll ever have a chance to go. But when I was six, I was sure that someday I’d be on some kind of spaceship, hopefully reaching the surface of another planet. I always imagined it would be populated, too. But to reach that point, we had to keep moving with the space program, and Sally Ride was a major step for NASA. Not only was she (gasp!) a woman, but she was also the youngest astronaut they ever sent up. She still is, as of this writing. And since I was six at the time she went into space, her age at the time — 32 — seemed ancient… but I still understood that it was surprising to send up someone that young.

Much of the public — the opinion-makers, the majority of society — saw her as someone who was weaker than her colleagues, because she was female and young. I, however, have always felt a kinship to those that society deems weak… and at age six, I realized something that has stuck with me ever since.

It doesn’t matter if most people think you’re weak. Prove yourself to yourself, and to the people who can help you get to where you want to go. Sally Ride proved to the people at NASA that she should go up into space. Nobody else’s opinion mattered. Your life is not up for a public vote.

Ms. Ride was a very private person. When she passed away, the public hadn’t known that she had been ill with pancreatic cancer for almost a year and a half. The public hadn’t known that she was in a relationship with another woman (which, these days, is still considered shocking in some circles, sinful in some circles, and even shameful in some circles). I wonder if some of that is because she just didn’t want to deal with the public thinking they had the right to judge her life.

I hope and pray that by the time you read this, the idea that we, as a society, judged females as probably incapable of being astronauts or Vice Presidents will seem surprising. History has a way of seeming further away than it really was. It was really only one or two generations back from me (depending on the age, of course), when America was fighting about the civil rights of African-Americans. Since my first best friend was African-American, that period of history seemed so ridiculously long ago, but when you consider that there are people my age whose mothers and fathers were abused by police and angry white people simply because they had the audacity to want equal rights, it helps to put it in context. If something like that had happened to my father, I’d be angry still. So if you’re reading this and we still haven’t had a woman President (or even a serious woman candidate), don’t despair. We’re moving in the right direction, but it takes time.

And it takes a willingness to do what Sally Ride did. Push. Risk. Fight.

Be who you are, Sage. Don’t settle for being who public opinion tells you to be. Your mother and I will support you. We’ll be there, pushing and risking and fighting, as much as you need us to.

I love you, Sage, so much that all of outer space could not contain it! Your mother and I both do. I can’t wait to hold you again.

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