January 22, 2009


And this will be a sign for you.. (Luke 2:12)

"The America in which we were schooled had only two commandments: be nice and be cool...So, one day around 1983, I'm sitting in the smoking lounge of the Georgestown University library - remember when college libraries still had smoking rooms? - reading Tom Jones (education is nice, our teachers told us) while tendrils from my Marlboro (smoking is cool, the movies showed us) spiraled up in blue-gray swirls to break and pool on the stained acoustic tiles of the ceiling. And, growing tired at last of young Tom's long journey to reconcile with Squire Allworthy and the all-too-worthy Sophia, I let my eyes drift to the window.

Down on the sidewalk, across the street, was a woman with a toddler in a baby stroller and a small black dog on a bright red leash. April is Washington's best month, and the sun filtered in a glow through the leaves of the new-green trees as the overexcited, overhappy little dog bounced and yapped, weaving his tangled leash through the stroller's wheels while the mother stumbled after him and the toddler laughed and laughed, clapping her small hands at the slapstick world into which God and her parents had unexpectedly delivered her.

I wish that words could fully re-create that scene - the sharp blue of the stroller, the mother in her red jacked straining for the dog as her snarled purse spilled coins and baby wipes across the brick sidewalk - for it was at that moment I began to fail at the great American goal of niceness and coolness at which I had aimed since grade school. And it all started with the sudden, absolute conviction that babies are good." - Jody Bottum, from here.

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