As I write, my daughter sits on the sofa beside me, pretending to be a bus, a ‘snuggle-puppy’ book in her hand. Beside her sits her mom, my wife. Together they count to twenty. Twenty seconds later, our daughter scampers to the floor, takes me by the hand and leads me to her hobby horse. It sits in our living room, which we’re pretending is a barn. The horse becomes a unicorn.
Reality meets fantasy. Learning, growing and imagination collide every second of every day. A tiny life, full of life.
I struggle for a transition to the next sentence. As if on cue, now wearing sparkly shoes and a glittering dress, my daughter tries to clamber up next to me. “I can’t climb it,” she says. “My shoe.” I offer my hand, she grabs it and I hoist her up.
Climbing. I’m reading about climbing. “Into the Silence,” by Wade Davis. Gripping. Riveting. The story of the first attempts to conquer Mount Everest. The story of men whose lives were defined by the First World War.
The story of millions of lives. Obliterated. Sometimes instantaneously by a shell. Sometimes, slowly, dying in agony. Burnt alive, lungs gassed, bodies pierced with shrapnel. Survivors scarred forever. Physically and mentally. Some sought solace in the Himalayas. Risking death to reaffirm life.
That war seems so long ago. Over a hundred years since it ended. A significant anniversary just passed that changes World War I. Relegates it to the history books with the Napoleonic Wars and the Boer War.
And yet its legacy is ever present.
We had dinner with my in-laws last night. My wife’s mother is Scottish, her father German. Opposite sides of that terrible conflict. Opposite sides of the trenches. A Scottish piper leading his comrades into battle, armed with only his bagpipes. A German soldier, shot in the arm. The randomness of death spared them both. Because they lived, my mother-in law exists. Because they lived my father-in law exists. My wife was born. My daughter sits in the kitchen now, eating pancakes.
Our lives are so interconnected. All of them.
We live in unsettling times. Trump has been President long enough to begin to begin to define an era. It’s understandable that we would find our times perilous and precarious. Because they are.
But I’m not sure they are unique. Our parents, our great-grandparents, their parents are not historical figures. They are with us still. They are living memory. They are present in our children. Our lives are so interconnected. All of them.
In a world that is often dark, I find solace in a little girl, pretending to be a bus, petting a unicorn and eating pancakes.