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Top Ten things 
worth remembering from 2018

by Ruth LeFaive

As this fastest, longest Gregorian calendar year polluted with a thousand things we’d like to forget scuttles toward an end, I crave intentionality about who and what I will remember. I’m writing at home in Los Angeles where, over 400 years before the 405 Freeway became a blocked artery lit in red on dark December afternoons, and for thousands of years before that, the Tongva people lived. I acknowledge the Tongva land I’m on now, not to appropriate their name, but to honor it. My own indigenous roots are lost. I’ve heard that one of my great-grandfather’s parents, I don’t know which, was a Blackfoot person. Their story wasn’t told in our home. The remembering stopped. Maybe lists like this can be virtual ceremony spaces where people and peoples, shared images and instances are planted, cultivated, carried forward. Remembering is envisioning, conjuring, a way to build anew. As 2018 ends, I choose to remember:

  1. 1.The Truth Tellers

I can still see Emma González behind that knot of microphones, the way she raised her AP Gov notes over her head and initiated another moment of silence to make up for the one the U.S. House of Representatives had thus far failed to offer. During the quiet, she pressed her palm to her forehead and wiped her eyes. Then she exhaled and gave a fierce and vital speech that wet my face and gave me hope and made me ask Who is this? and never forget the answer.

A month earlier in a Michigan courtroom over the course of days, 156 brave women also spoke into a microphone—directly confronting their attacker. And months later, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford followed the brave example of Anita Hill, who continues to speak out. Meanwhile, in Southern California hundreds of brave women filed testimonies that would stop a doctor from perpetrating new crimes. Still, somewhere there are people who haven’t yet spoken of their suffering, maybe they never will. But their truth is in their living, each time they catch or miss a bus, open an envelope or heat a can of soup. Thank you, brave ones who grapple with the hardest truths; we remember you.

  1. 2.Work Companions

The afternoon three of my dear flash-fiction-writing friends and I all discovered our stories were selected to appear in Best Small Fictions, I paced barefoot in my apartment tweeting gifs and laughing and texting. It’s for real, I wrote to my husband and parents. I’m hyperventilating, I wrote to my closest “sisters of the pen.” I’m stunned, I wrote to the story’s editors.

While that afternoon stands out, I also cling to a blur of supportive exchanges regarding rejections and acceptances, line edits and semicolons, drafts completed and manuscripts sold (not mine, not yet). There’s the reading I organized that almost never was, because finding a venue in Los Angeles is harder than it looks. There are the people who showed up and the people who attended in spirit. There’s the time, just a couple weeks ago, when my big brother and I holed up in our parents’ house collaborating on our father’s eulogy and I discovered that, for a non-writer, the guy’s got chops. My inky-calloused friends and family are loving and generous, with interminable drive to write our way into a better existence.  

  1. 3.The People Who Should be Alive and the Activists Who Protest their Deaths

The students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Never Again MSD. Stephon Clark, who was unarmed when shot 8 times by police, mostly in his back. Black Lives Matter. Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a transgender woman beaten in ICE custody before her death. The Transgender Law Center. The workers at the offices of The Capital. Everytown for Gun Safety. Botham Shem Jean, who was killed in his home by an invading off-duty police officer. Campaign ZERO. Crystle Galloway, who died after paramedics refused her care. Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Jamal Khashoggi, whose last words matched Eric Garner’s. PEN America. The eleven worshipers at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Jemel Roberson, shot by police after he rescued others from a gunman. Mapping Police Violence. Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin, who was only 7 years old when she died while detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The ACLU. We remember the named and those whose names are missing. And we will work for justice.

  1. 4.The Courage of Immigrants

The dusk I stood downtown on Aliso Street in the shadow of the Metropolitan Detention Center with a crowd of fellow protesters, we chanted No están solos, No están solos, No están solos for 10 minutes or more. I wanted to record, but my cell battery was drained, so I turned up the volume on my senses as you do when you’ve got no back up. 10 minutes is a meager duration compared to how long it takes to cross a desert or apply for asylum or die of dehydration, but that night, 10 minutes of chanting felt long enough to approximate something holy. We couldn’t see the people detained up high behind slits of windows, but we saw lights flickering from within. It was as if the people inside were letting us know they could hear us. Estamos aquí, Estamos aquí. It was almost as if they were consoling us in our helplessness to help them. Damn the words: us and them. And we aren’t helpless, are we? It’s that flicker I hold on to, not the audio recording that became public the next week of very young children crying for their parents. Not the phrase that made Rachel Maddow cry on camera, Tender Age Shelters. I will remember the flicker. The urgent work we have to do.

  1. 5.Coach Ek, 12 Soccer Players, the Thai Navy Seals, and the 1,000 People Who Saved Them

One night in early July, Andy and I sat in the darkest booth at Mom’s, the darkest bar down the street, and talked about the unimaginable agony of being trapped in an underwater cave for any time at all. Let alone being children in a cave. Let alone being nine days and counting in a cave. We marveled at the impossibility that the soccer team had even been found, and we wept at the greater impossibility of their rescue.

Yet, a week later, we celebrated for having been wrong. We celebrated the most unlikely triumph fathomable. We celebrated what human beings can do when we focus together on what is good and right. 

  1. 6.Strength in Weakness

The curtains around my dad’s hospital bed were drawn when I returned from lunch that day. He’d been hospitalized for more than a month. Mom had asked me to fly out when his health hit a critical low. Within days of my arrival he began to improve, the slow dialysis in ICU strengthened him. Day after day, I explored the hospital, racking up steps on my pedometer. After more than a week, I took to wandering the perimeter and discovered a microbrewery with a respectable charcuterie selection was only ten minutes away by foot, well, my feet—not Dad’s or Mom’s or anyone else with difficulty walking. To get there meant passing a large dead cat just off the sidewalk, the flies swarming over her, and the row of lush silver maples along the train tracks. I hoped the good luck of crossing the tracks would cancel out the bad luck of not calling anyone to retrieve the cat. I guess it did because when I returned from lunch I heard Dad’s voice behind the drawn curtain. With consent, I poked my face through the gap in the fabric. He was with his physical therapist sitting on the edge of the bed. She asked him if he was ready to try standing. In high school he’d earned 16 varsity letters. As a golfer, he’d shot many holes-in-one. He put his head down and said, “Let’s go,” before bolting up, rising tall and stable with the therapist’s support. I’ll always remember the pride in his eyes, the relief of standing after weeks of nearly dying.

  1. 7.The Town of Paradise (Not “Pleasure”!),
    and Every Climate Change Emergency Responder and Disaster Survivor

Including the animals: the black-tailed deer and American black bears, the cows and gray foxes and horses and cougars. Bobcats and Roosevelt elk. Garter snakes and rattlesnakes, coyotes and rabbits.

  1. 8.“Sometimes Death is a Healing” and All the Other Wise Things My Mother Says

My niece was married on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay on November 3rd. I got to sit around a table with my husband and my brother and my parents. I got to hug every member of my family all on the same day—a rarity when you live on the other coast. And then 18 not-so-easy days later, on Thanksgiving after having two slices of his favorite pie, my father picked up his oxygen tank and his life vest monitor and walked his walker to the master bedroom and died. By a psychoanalyst’s clock, my grief is only few seconds old, so it’s probably too early to say, but this mourning is drenched in gratitude.

  1. 9.The Power of Art

Five days after Dad’s memorial, while I remained at my mother’s, still unsure about when I would or should return to Los Angeles, one of my writing friends DM’d just as I was sitting down to work on an essay. She’s one of those writers whose work I’d swoon over even if I didn’t have the outrageous luck of calling her a friend. After we chatted for a while, she sent me a video of her child singing, “A Million Dreams.” The absolutely magnificent voice from this young person transported me. No hyperbole. Plus, I’m not up on any pop culture, so I got to enjoy the song for the first time through her talent.

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it's gonna take

Maybe it was the amplification that comes with a recent death, but it seemed like kismet, an unexpected moment of inspiration. For too long with my writing, I’ve failed to hone in on whatever it is my art needs to say. What’s my role going to be in the larger conversation? Listening to this song sung with glorious precision, I felt a kind of faith. Art will show me the way. Art will deliver me to myself.

  1. 10.Neighbors

So I’m back in Los Angeles now. Mom is 2,767 miles away, and living alone for the first time in 54 years. The only thing keeping me from feeling like the worst daughter on earth is her neighbors. There are dozens of people surrounding her with crockpots of chili and sausages, and rides to luncheons (so many luncheons). Dad’s memorial service was packed with friends, all assuring me they were ready to help with anything we might need, not only now, but also in the months to come. My shoulder and neck are still sore from the hugs—this support is so robust.

On the flight back last week I watched the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You be My Neighbor? I cried when Mr. Rogers said, “There's something inside you that hasn't been lost.” My Blackfoot roots are here in my cells, my father’s cells. No estoy solo. I wrote in my journal in large letters: Mend. I drew a circle around it.

One of the things that is most worth remembering for me is FINALLY getting to work with Ruth this past year. You can find her story “The Sun Champ” in our 2018 flash fiction issue and without giving too much away (if you haven’t read it yet), it was worth the wait.

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