A mother knows what her child's gone through, even if she didn't see it herself.
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A mother knows what her child’s gone through, even if she didn’t see it herself.

-Pramoedya Ananta

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From my college courses and my reading I knew the various names that came at the end of a line of questions or were placed as periods to bafflement: the First Cause, the First Mover, the Life Force, the Universal Mind, the First Principle, the Unmoved Mover, even Providence. I too had used those names in arguing with others, and with myself, trying to explain the world to myself. And now I saw that those names explained nothing. They were of no more use than Evolution or Natural Selection or Nature or The Big Bang of these later days. All such names do is catch us within the length and breadth of our own thoughts and our own bewilderment. Though I knew the temptation of simple reason, to know nothing that can't be proved, still I supposed that those were not the right names.I imagined that the right name might be Father, and I imagined all that that name would imply: the love, the compassion, the taking offense, the disappointment, the anger, the bearing of wounds, the weeping of tears, the forgiveness, the suffering unto death. If love could force my own thoughts over the edge of the world and out of time, then could I not see how even divine omnipotence might by the force of its own love be swayed down into the world? Could I not see how it might, because it could know its creatures only by compassion, put on mortal flesh, become a man, and walk among us, assume our nature and our fate, suffer our faults and our death?Yes. I could imagine a Father who is yet like a mother hen spreading her wings before the storm or in the dusk before the dark night for the little ones of Port William to come in under, some of whom do, and some do not. I could imagine Port William riding its humble wave through time under the sky, its little flames of wakefulness lighting and going out, its lives passing through birth, pleasure, sufferning, and death. I could imagine God looking down upon it, its lives living by His spirit, breathing by His breath, knowing by His light, but each life living also (inescapably) by its own will--His own body given to be broken.

-Wendell Berry

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The central fact of biblical history, the birth of the Messiah, more than any other, presupposes the design of Providence in the selecting and uniting of successive producers, and the real, paramount interest of the biblical narratives is concentrated on the various and wondrous fates, by which are arranged the births and combinations of the 'fathers of God.' But in all this complicated system of means, having determined in the order of historical phenomena the birth of the Messiah, there was no room for love in the proper meaning of the word. Love is, of course, encountered in the Bible, but only as an independent fact and not as an instrument in the process of the genealogy of Christ. The sacred book does not say that Abram took Sarai to wife by force of an ardent love, and in any case Providence must have waited until this love had grown completely cool for the centenarian progenitors to produce a child of faith, not of love. Isaac married Rebekah not for love but in accordance with an earlier formed resolution and the design of his father. Jacob loved Rachel, but this love turned out to be unnecessary for the origin of the Messiah. He was indeed to be born of a son of Jacob - Judah - but the latter was the offspring, not of Rachel but of the unloved wife, Leah. For the production in the given generation of the ancestor of the Messiah, what was necessary was the union of Jacob precisely with Leah; but to attain this union Providence did not awaken in Jacob any powerful passion of love for the future mother of the 'father of God' - Judah. Not infringing the liberty of Jacob's heartfelt feeling, the higher power permitted him to love Rachel, but for his necessary union with Leah it made use of means of quite a different kind: the mercenary cunning of a third person - devoted to his own domestic and economic interests - Laban. Judah himself, for the production of the remote ancestors of the Messiah, besides his legitimate posterity, had in his old age to marry his daughter-in-law Tamar. Seeing that such a union was not at all in the natural order of things, and indeed could not take place under ordinary conditions, that end was attained by means of an extremely strange occurrence very seductive to superficial readers of the Bible. Nor in such an occurrence could there be any talk of love. It was not love which combined the priestly harlot Rahab with the Hebrew stranger; she yielded herself to him at first in the course of her profession, and afterwards the casual bond was strengthened by her faith in the power of the new God and in the desire for his patronage for herself and her family. It was not love which united David's great-grandfather, the aged Boaz, with the youthful Moabitess Ruth, and Solomon was begotten not from genuine, profound love, but only from the casual, sinful caprice of a sovereign who was growing old.

-Vladimir S.

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But then something happened, Ray, something amazing. Something..."That white cop sitting next to me? He took a long look at my mother when she came in, just like, absorbed her, and then without even turning to me, he just put his hand on my back, up between my neck and shoulder..."And all he did was squeeze. Give me a little squeeze of sympathy, then rubbed that same spot with his palm for maybe two, three seconds, and that was it."But I swear to you, nobody, in my entire life up to that point had ever touched me with that kind of tenderness. I had never experienced a sympathetic hand like that, and Ray, it felt like lightning."I mean, the guy did it without thinking, I'm sure. And when dinnertime rolled around he had probably forgotten all about it. Forgot about me, too, for that matter... But I didn't forget."I didn't walk around thinking about it nonstop either, but something like seven years later when I was at community college? The recruiting officer for the PD came on campus for Career Day, and I didn't really like college all that much to begin with, so I took the test for the academy, scored high, quit school and never looked back."And usually when I tell people why I became a cop I say because it would keep Butchie and Antoine out of my life, and there's some truth in that."But I think the real reason was because that recruiting officer on campus that day reminded me, in some way, you know, conscious or not, of that housing cop who had sat on the bench with me when I was thirteen."In fact, I don't think it, I know it. As sure as I'm standing here, I know I became a cop because of him. For him. To be like him. God as my witness, Ray. The man put his hand on my back for three seconds and it rerouted my life for the next twenty-nine years."It's the enormity of small things... Adults, grown-ups, us, we have so much power... And sometimes when we find ourselves coming into contact with certain kinds of kids? Needy kids? We have to be ever so careful...

-Richard Price

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So what's your doll's name?" Boo asked me."Barbie," I said. "All their names are Barbie.""I see," she said. "Well, I'd think that would get boring, everyone having the samename."I thought about this, then said, "Okay, then her name is Sabrina.""Well, that's a very nice name," Boo said. I remember she was baking bread,kneading the doughbetween her thick fingers. "What does she do?""Do?" I said."Yes." She flipped the dough over and started in on it from the other side. "Whatdoes she do?""She goes out with Ken," I said."And what else?""She goes to parties," I said slowly. "And shopping.""Oh," Boo said, nodding."She can't work?""She doesn't have to work," I said."Why not?""Because she's Barbie.""I hate to tell you, Caitlin, but somebody has to make payments on that town houseand the Corvette,"Boo said cheerfully. "Unless Barbie has a lot of family money."I considered this while I put on Ken's pants.Boo started pushing the dough into a pan, smoothing it with her hand over the top."You know what Ithink, Caitlin?" Her voice was soft and nice, the way she always spoke to me."What?""I think your Barbie can go shopping, and go out with Ken, and also have aproductive and satisfyingcareer of her own." She opened the oven and slid in the bread pan, adjusting itsposition on the rack."But what can she do?" My mother didn't work and spent her time cleaning thehouse and going to PTA.I couldn't imagine Barbie, whose most casual outfit had sequins and go-go boots,doing s.uch things.Boo came over and plopped right down beside me. I always rememberher being on my level; she'd siton the edge of the sandbox, or lie across her bed with me and Cass as we listened tothe radio."Well," she said thoughtfully, picking up Ken and examining his perfect physique."What do you want todo when you grow up?"I remember this moment so well; I can still see Boo sitting there on the floor, cross-legged, holding myKen and watching my face as she tried to make me see that between my mother'sPTA and Boo'sstrange ways there was a middle ground that began here with my Barbie, Sab-rina,and led right to me."Well," I said abruptly, "I want to be in advertising." I have no idea where this camefrom."Advertising," Boo repeated, nodding. "Okay. Advertising it is. So Sabrina has to goto work every day,coming up with ideas for commercialsand things like that.""She works in an office," I went on. "Sometimes she has to work late.""Sure she does," Boo said. "It's hard to get ahead. Even if you're Barbie.""Because she wants to get promoted," I added. "So she can pay off the town house.And the Corvette.""Very responsible of her," Boo said."Can she be divorced?" I asked. "And famous for her commercialsand ideas?""She can be anything," Boo told me, and this is what I remember most, her freckledface so solemn, as ifshe knew she was the first to tell me. "And so can you.

-Sarah Dessen

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and I looked and looked at her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else. She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the brink of a russet ravine, with a far wood under a white sky, and brown leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds... but thank God it was not that echo alone that I worshipped. What I used to pamper among the tangled vines of my heart, mon grand pch radieux, had dwindled to its essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I cancelled and cursed. You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and halfthrottled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changeons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque, part o nous ne serons jamais spars; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torneven then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.

-Vladimir Nabokov

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Yes,' he said, 'a list. That way, I figure, we'll have a written record of what we've agreed upon as our goals for our relationship. So if problems arise, we'll be able to consult the lists, see which issue it corresponds to, and work out a solution from there.'I could still hear my sister talking, but her voice was fading as she led her group around the house. I said, 'But what if that doesn't work?'Jason blinked at me. Then he said, 'Why wouldn't it?' 'Because,' I said.He just looked at me. 'Because...''Because,' I repeated, as a breeze blew over us,' sometimes things just happen. That aren't expected. Or on the list.''Such as?' he asked.'I don't know,' I said, frustrated. 'That's the point. It would be out of the blue, taking us by surprise. Something we might not be prepared for.''But we will be prepared,' he said, confused. 'We'll have the list.' I rolled my eyes. 'Jason,' I said.'Macy, I'm sorry.' He stepped back, looking at me. 'I just don't understand what you're trying to say.'And then it hit me: he didn't. He had no idea. And this thought was so ludicrous, so completely unreal, that I knew it just had to be true. For Jason, there was no unexpected, no surprises. His whole life was outlined carefully, in lists and sublists, just like the ones I'd helped him go through all those weeks ago. 'It's just...' I said and stopped, shaking my head.'It's just what?' He was waiting, genuinely wanting to know. 'Explain it to me.'But I couldn't. I'd had to learn it my own way, and so had my mother. Jason would eventually, as well. No one could tell you: you just had to go through it on your own. If you were lucky, you came out on the other side and understood. If you didn't, you kept getting thrust back, retracing those steps, until you finally got it right.

-Sarah Dessen

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