To the class of 2018, the eagles flying towards the sun.
Please, don’t forget us
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the story when you give a mouse a cookie. A small mouse with enough force to destroy a house and everything in it. I don’t think it was intended to be this dark. To convey a silent killer that sucks up all the possessions you’ve ever carried in your life. Reading this book to school children, I know their mind must be a Kaleidoscope of ideas that my mind has drifted away from. How easily we lose imagination and dreams when we become older.
Now reading this story, I can’t help but think of one thing. The mouse. It reminds me of this system, of my school, my city. What it is like trying to find a space in a system that was never meant for you. Battered books and broken ceilings, walking miles for education. It’s slipping through the cracks like every other person that looks like you.
It feels like prison school pipeline and low graduation rates. No food at home and food too expensive at school. My graduating class learned alot from books like this, from this system, how to close our mouths and keep our heads forward, cross the line and enter an entirely new world. Too afraid that if went against the norms we would be swallowed up too. Because if we fed this system won’t we just make it bigger?
It’s really not about the mouse. The mouse is just a pawn, a heartbeat connected to an even bigger organism. We don’t notice that this little girl is feeding a rat and probably many others and now her parents have to deal with rat infestation because their daughter keeps trying to be friends with rodents. As kids, we see the problem as small but now I see it as a crisis. This system has been spitting kids like us out for generations. I’m not the first kid to write a poem. But I think I’m the first to talk about the real problem.
The problem of a small mouse, overcrowded by hundreds of things, and eating them with every bite but never full. I found my own copy of this book in the closet, the first couple of pages were ripped out and the date on the cover said 2001.
My graduating class are survivors, no the children of survivors. The September 1st, 2001 survivors, the two planes, twin towers down survivors. On the mark of our first year alive, we became the beginning of a long stretch of red blue and white violence.
We were the children that came with ammunition already packed in our lunchboxes for the next war. Our first words were liberty and patriotism and we learned to draw pictures of a far away freedom. We were the kids left behind when the world shifted to find justice. As my ripped and beaten book cover suggests in 2001 we were named the children of tragedy. Wrapped in the arms of self-discovery, we marched on through the battle. When the explosion sounded around the world we learned to breathe in silence like it was a tablespoon of cough syrup for the sickly.
Forgotten in the background noise, we fought to even touch something as soft as peace. A tornado of a city always overshadowed by another hurricane, Our school in the middle of a battleground but our pencils never wavered. We did what we were told was best until no one was there to guide us anymore. My class was moved away until the world we lived in became an entirely different place.
The outside world consisted of surviving off WIC and a strong stomach. The line for welfare was always longer than the line to pick up schedules for college. We learned to choke down our hopes and dreams, doing whatever we were told without questioning the curriculum. Following orders like good soldiers do. We learned to save our voices for better use and ask permission before we talked.
For so long, we kept our true feelings undercover, waited till we got to our broken homes to cry. We thought the only way to escape this system is to do what it wanted. The only way to make a monster move is if you feed it. If you give a mouse a cookie he will eventually want more.
I realize now that me and my classmates became so good at being soldiers we forgot we were kids. And we wonder why now as adults we can’t stop feeding into it even when it crumbles beneath our feet. Because it was never about the mouse but about the system and the dark towers it built in its shadow.
My generation were survivors of war, this one a pandemic. Obstacles that change but demand to be climbed. Losing prom nights and first days of school, education through a keyboard. There will always be another mouse, another tragedy, another war. But It is what we make out of the wreckage that matters.
I hope this next generation raises their voice, stomps their feet until they get what they want. Send this system crashing to the ground and build a better one. We are all big fish in a small pond so let’s make it bigger and better. Let us not leave behind the kids that struggle or aren’t from the best neighborhoods. We cannot keep feeding this mouse with unaccomplished dreams in hopes it will never get hungry again. Calling the job too hard without even taking the first step.
There are hardships ahead, ones that we were never prepared for but we must endure. We are hurting in ways that could have never been imagined, but we always move forward. We give it our best shot and we continue, for the millions like us. Times have changed and we must do our best to be the shoulder, the hand, and the guide. The one that was not always there for us.
We cannot keep making soldiers out of children, turning lessons into hard love. I want children to have joy in the simple things, in the mouse and the little girl who become friends. A lifetime of memories that started with just one cookie. Not infestation, poverty, and low wages. I want them to dream in their schools without thinking about what is outside the next door. To imagine a place where they can exist without the restraints of skin color, the obstacles of dollar figures, or worry about where their next meal will come from. I hope that we can give students, a childhood they can remember.
If there is one thing that we have learned, it is that we cannot go on how we did before. Things will not be the same and with it comes a chance, to restart and renew, together. Young and old, a new beginning for all of us. A lifetime of stories to pass on to eager ears, dreams to fulfill. My graduating class and yours, will ensure that they won’t be like us.
They will be the sweet melodies passed down to the next generation, skyscrapers and giants who tackled the world even when it went quiet. We will sow into them and watch the tree that blossoms, the lightning that strikes upon the sky. Let them be big and bright and beautiful. The world has changed and us too, but we will not lose what matters most. When the going gets tough don’t let them- don’t let us…slip away.