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.