Excuse me are you listening? 7-2
Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dear Readers,

Having children is one of the greatest gifts in the world.  With each anniversary that I celebrate, I'll always celebrate my children, who have been a part of this newspaper journey as well.  My children have taught me to pay attention and to watch carefully.

Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968 at the former site of the Lorraine Motel, which is now the home to the National Civil Rights Museum.  On that fateful day, Dr. King was in Memphis to lead a march of        sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of his death, which my 6-year-old daughter, Anissa, told me while sitting at the kitchen table; still in her school uniform.

Amir, my 5-year-old, kept chanting, “We learned about “Arthur” Luther King, “Arthur” Luther King, “Arthur” Luther King….”

“His name is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Amir.  Get it right!”  she  sternly said.   Her voice was full of defiance and the volume.  I turned away from the pot on the stove to catch a glimpse of her facial expression. 

Anissa is a well-spoken and perceptive child.   On this day, the kitchen table had become her desk and she diligently worked on her homework as I prepared dinner.

“Mommy, I have something to tell you,” she said with a concerned look on her face.  She looked over her pink and black glasses; like a school  teacher does when she is trying to figure out who was talking during a test.

What could Anissa have to tell me?  I was sure that it was about someone at school or on the bus who said something that she thought was inappropriate.  But it wasn't.

She said, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died on a terrible day.  He died on April 4th, my birthday.  My birthday is a horrible day.”

I could see the tears brimming in her eyes when she took her glasses off to blink them away.  I really had nothing to say.   She threw me off.   Why didn't I know this already?  Why didn't I have a store bought prepared answer to tell my child who was obviously visibly upset by this historical fact.

I didn't say anything for a moment and went back to cooking.  Thoughts raced through my mind about giving her a response.  I was at a loss.  Seconds seemed like hours.

My husband, Frank, walked through the door. He could sense the awkward silence and asked what was going on.   He always seemed to be there at the right time.  He always senses when there is even the slightest imbalance in his daughter's emotional well-being.

Anissa was more than ready to repeat the whole story to him before he was able to take his coat off.  She regurgitated how she learned about what a great man Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was and added again that a terrible thing happened on her birthday.

My husband had a quizzical  “you had a great birthday last year” look on his face.
With her eyes wide open with an amazing amount of sadness she repeated to my husband, “He died on my birthday!!!”

Frank looked at her sternly and said, “April 4th is a special day and always will be.  It's the day that God allowed you to come into this world.  I waited a long time to have you and we love you with all of our hearts.  What happened to Dr. King was a tragedy but your birth was a miracle for Mommy and me.  You are a special part of our history and it will always be a joyous day, so don't you ever forget that.”

It's strange how children can take powerful words, mix them like a tonic, swallow and then feel better.  His words even cured my silence. 
I meekly announced that dinner was ready.

She smiled and hopped down from the chair and gave him a hug and said, “Thank you Daddy.  I love you.”

I smiled and thought, “Thank you Frank.  Thank you.”

They both made me realize that life is constantly changing and moving and celebration of life can make a rainbow more vibrant and living life more precious.


Rina Risper

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