Harmonic convergence after the fight

My friend Vi came to librarianship after a primary career working for Berkeley’s Health Department and raising several kids. She’s altruistic, wise, energetic, and translates her own experiences to teens in a manner that is transformative to them, herself, and her coworkers. She runs book groups for pregnant teens, weaves collaborations with her old buds at the health department, and looks out for the rights of rambunctious tweens. Vi is a grown up is a way that makes being adult an admirable status, not because it has political power but because it has substantial presence.

I miss Vi in my professional, as well as personal, life so it’s a delight to be rooming with her in Philadelphia. We aren’t getting much sleep, however, because each of us has so many stories to tell of magic events that have happened (we think) in our now dual librarylands, since we were last together.

Last night, Vi told me this story:

Shortly before winter break in the school district, she was walking between City Hall and her office at the library. It was just after the high school’s lunch period and not many people were out on Milvia Street. She became vaguely aware of a couple of kids hanging out on one corner, by an entrance to Berkeley High, and of another kid exiting the school. That vague awareness sharpened quickly when one of the pair of boys crossed over and began beating the loner. Before Vi had time to process and respond directly to the action, everyone had scattered and staff was emerging from the school.

Turning, she found another woman, coming from the library, who had just witnessed the same event. The two of them, strangers, immediately bound themselves in conversation, as witnesses to trauma often do in the very moments following the rip in their solitude created by such a scene.

Vi’s new acquaintance was a middle aged white woman who immediately spoke of her anxiety about sending her son to such a school. Vi immediately shared with her Vi’s own situation: her grandchild, an African American boy, would not be going to that school. For both women, the violence, the racial overtones of what they had just witnessed, their families’ situations all came spilling forth. And, miraculously, each of them was able to hear each other even in the emotional stew of that some moment. They paused and exchanged viewpoints, saw the mirrors of their fears, recognized the portrait of politics reflected in their dual experiences. Vi is amazed, telling this story a month later, at the total honesty of the conversation.

The other woman asked Vi if she worked at the high school and Vi told her no, the library, and indicated her name badge. And here is where the story takes a twist from the experience of political science into the cosmic.

Last year, one of Vi’s book groups had become engaged in a book about the experiences of other teen moms and Vi had carefully tracked down the author and become engaged in lengthy correspondence that, both author and librarian hope, will set the stage for a local project involving the girls. But the author and Vi had never met. Until that day on the sidewalk, where both had been shocked into revealing to a total stranger their hopes and fears for their boys.

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One Response to “Harmonic convergence after the fight”

  1. Pam Holley Says:

    Wow–that’s an amazing “small world” story–my favorite kind! Pam

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