Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Cri de coeur

     School begins this week, in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Kids battered by years of COVID lockdown and terrifying periodic slaughters — my colleagues Sophie Sherry and Ashlee Rezin had a heart-tugging front page story on Highland Park parents and kids facing the traditional back-to-school excitement with fear — packed off to classrooms while their parents argue over what they should be taught.
     My neighbor, who has an energetic brood of kids and a tendency to express her frustrations on chalk in the sidewalk in front of her bright blue house, left this message a few days ago: "Go back to school NOW. I'm so tired."
     I saw it and thought, "Now there's a cri de coeur."
     French for "cry of the heart," I'm not sure why the sentiment works better in French, but it does. "Passionate outcry' just isn't the same. My "World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions" calls it "A profound utterance of anguish."
     To me it implies a certain flayed candor. No hedging, no soft-pedalling, the soul's very vibration. Most mothers feel this sort of thing; few announce it on the sidewalk.
     There is a poem of that name, "Cri de Coeur" by C. Dale Young. Nothing to write home about, with a single line worth chewing: "Sleeping god in an age of plagues." Take a look and argue if you like. "Age of Plagues" is available for a title for anyone writing about our current day.
     As it happens, I passed my chalk-wielding neighbor the next night, setting up a lawn display wishing her oldest, a 19-year-old daughter, a happy birthday. We talked a bit, and I almost said, "If you want heartache, wait until they leave and the echoes die down and the horizon is a flat line without hope of a smokestack."
     But that seemed an even more dire message and, besides, she'll find out soon enough.


  1. The saddest two days of my life were the days my sons left for college and the house was empty of their youthful energy.

    The only thing sadder is considering my friends whose children still live at home in their thirties.

  2. Yes this is an age of plagues but hasn't all of human history been plagued by greed? When were the "Good ol' days"? Certainly there were many very good times even while the plague continued to wreak havoc. Lot's of fond memories of the fifties but there was still plenty of greed and hate and war going around.
    In spite of the horrors we are experiencing now, there is still much that can be categorized as good times.
    We should enjoy them as we maintain our awareness of the world around us.
    I'll enjoy my bike ride today as it keeps my mind off the the daily missives Desantis sends to his sheep. (His latest: Orders the Florida Retirement System not to invest in any company that is "woke". https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article263882222.html)

  3. That damn paradox again; you have to love to get your heart broken but that's how it opens for you.

  4. As much as I joke about how tiring or frustrating parenting is, I am fully aware that very soon, I will long for these smokestack moments. I will miss the noise and my kids telling me things like, "mom, you just don't understand..." But for now, I fully enjoy embarrassing my children by writing about them on the sidewalk!

    1. And I appreciate you not minding me occasionally sharing it with the public. Someday, you might just be glad that a few were saved and put in a place where you can find them.


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