Nelson Mandela, Hazel’s dentistry, cello teaching, babies screaming

RIP, Nelson Mandela. I don’t have anything unique or original to add to the reams published about him, but one thing that I find so astonishing and inspiring is his combination of a lifelong adherence to his philosophy and values with a willingness to learn, to change, to adapt to the demands of new circumstances and the appearance of new information.

In reading about him and various of his friends and family, I am also struck by the tiny Wikipedia article on Graca Machel, his third wife and widow. Despite its statement that, “She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and in 1997 was made a British dame for her humanitarian work,” it provides very little information or details on that work. This is one of the myriad ways in which the lives and contributions of women are reduced, disappeared, and distorted, to the profound detriment of all. Women are presented merely as adjuncts to their more important, influential, and interesting male relations.


This afternoon I took Hazel to the dentist. In the past year and a half she has suffered two significant blows to her upper two front teeth. In the first, she was pushing a kids’ sized grocery cart around during a neighborhood block party. It hit a bump, and she flew up in a spectacular parabola, over the cart and onto the concrete, busting her upper lip. Poor baby. I looked up when I heard her scream and saw my neighbor explode into an incredibly fast sprint, picking her up a couple of seconds after she hit the ground. With some TLC, a popsicle, and band aids offered by another neighbor, she recovered remarkably fast. But she’d hit her teeth hard. Then, last November when we were in the UK, she ran at top speed right into the open door of an oven. She hit the same teeth, and this time they became discolored. They weren’t sore, though, so we waited to see what would happen. At this dental appointment they did an x-ray, and it turned out that her teeth have stopped growing, and that there is an infection developing at their roots. They have to come out. It’s either that or a root canal or fake teeth. I have no desire to subject her to a root canal, and the fake teeth seem much more trouble than they’re worth. So, her teeth will be extracted next week. Ted and I are going to tell her sometime this weekend, after we’ve planned what to say and done the necessary internal work so that we’re not projecting our own sadness onto her. We’ll talk up the Tooth Fairy angle, and find ways to frame it to hopefully help her deal with it reasonably well. At the moment, I don’t feel equal to the task.

That’s partly because I’m super tired. Last night was awful, with both babies waking up screaming multiple times during the night. I’ve never heard Joanna scream that way.


Today I had my first seven-student Thursday. The afternoon began with a new adult student. That was a very enjoyable lesson. He’s got some musical background, is easy to work with, enjoyed the process, and did well. All of today’s lessons were productive, and I got to see a student who’s been gone for three months at the end of the night. Being able to help other people in their quest to improve and learn is something from which I derive a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. It’s grounding and interesting for me. I am so grateful for the work I love.

And now I’m home, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep. We haven’t secured the childcare we wanted for tomorrow, so we can’t have Mommy-Daddy-Hazel time in the way we planned, but we’ll figure out some solution in which Hazel gets as much time with us as we can manage.

Today during her appointment, Hazel opted to lie on me while I lay on the bench. I was struck by how beautiful, personable, strong, interesting, and vulnerable she is. She is powerful, but she is only 4.5, and she will always be my baby. I hope I can honor her commitment to life by learning and growing and changing in the ways I need to in order to serve her and me too. It’s a big task. I am grateful to have the opportunity.


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