Walls are important. Whether made of stone or brick or cinder block, they make you think about one side, then the other. We had a wooden wall once, a fence, that I repaired, leaving one plank out so that neighbors could take the shortcut down the hill and back up again. They appreciated the gesture but then let me know it required at least three planks of open fence by kicking out two more. Apparently, they couldn’t get their fishing gear through. I left it that way.
Robert Frost writes in his poem, Mending Wall, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,” which is good advice. The Great Wall in China and Hadrian’s Wall kept undesirables out. The Berlin Wall kept desirables in. The wall in Gaza runs like a scar on the back of the land. The Wailing Wall draws people in. I am not sure what Trump’s wall would do, but it is interesting to think that Mexico would pay for it. I suppose I could have asked for a toll at my fence, but then I would have had to hire a toll collector.
There is another kind of wall, and its absence can cause considerable suffering for parents. I mean the wall that teenage children run into. It is a wall marking the boundary between civil and uncivil behavior. They need this wall, because they press against it to know their limits. It tells them who they are and measures their progress on the road to adulthood. Many parents do not get this, so they go to extremes, either tearing it down or turning it into a prison wall. Neither solution works.
My fifteen-year-old granddaughter had a true spring break this week. She snuck out of the house in the middle of the night on Easter Sunday to visit a friend. She stuffed pillows in her bed to make it look like a body and slipped out a window. Then she rode an all-night bus to her friend’s house. Clever, that, although I would expect no less. She has red hair and a quick wit. The family agrees that she is too smart for her own good. She believes she has no choice.
“What did you expect?” she said to her mother. “You don’t let me do anything.”
In addition to confiscating her phone and consigning her to forced labor at her aunt’s house, her mother, my daughter, has promised more dialogue. This is probably a good thing. After all, my daughter has been called “The Warden” at work. Maybe a family meeting from time to time would help.
It is a formality, of course. Why? Because the wall is there for a reason. It keeps my daughter sane and lets my granddaughter know how far she can go. They both need it. One day my granddaughter must scale it in search of wide-open spaces and freedom, just as my daughter must mend it. But for now it is best to keep the wall intact, replacing the stones that have fallen or been chiseled away (some have graffiti). You can speak over the wall if it is not too high, but someone is bound to step over it if too low.
In the meantime, I have suggested that my daughter keep a watchful eye on the sewer line to the street. It leads directly to a storm drain and, beyond, a bus stop.
Who knows? My granddaughter may have Zihuatanejo in mind.
Haven’t had enough? Join the email list above, leave a comment, go to Robert Brancatelli, or have a laugh with Nine Lives. Note to self: a cayuse is “a small Native American pony used by cowboys…” For top image, see, Ecorazzi; middle, Independent.