Wishing and Wanting


this shelf is history

Urgency Day 189

500 Things Item #310: Tatty Wicker Shelf

  • History: We think it conveyed.
  • Value: We think it should go away.
  • Parting Pain: That would be none.
  • Un-possessing: Donation (I’m so sorry.)

Where were you when?

It’s become almost cliché, like adding –gate to the end of a scandal. And like other clichés, it’s a useful shortcut, a quick start to a conversation in which you place yourself at a pivotal, iconic moment. I think of Woody Allen’s character, Zelig—“Oh he was there, too!”

At the most macro-level, we are all present at every event. But some events and certain moments, you wish you could be there to witness, to be part. To be there.

Today, I wish I wanted to be in Cairo.

I will always remember where I was when I heard the news from Cairo.

I had just returned from having a coffee with my friend Melanie. I turned on the radio in my kitchen and started slicing an avocado for lunch. The exultant cheers had returned to Tahrir Square, and I will forever more associate guacamole with Egyptian liberation.

When I was young, around ten years old, I wanted to be an archeologist specializing in ancient Egypt. I drew color-coded maps of the Nile basin and constructed models of the pyramids out of my father’s dental-impression cement. I set up a museum in my basement and would have charged my friends 25 cents for a tour, if any of them had been willing to pay to listen to my insufferable pedantry. I was hopelessly unpopular, but I didn’t care. I was passionate about Egypt.

I wanted to be there.

There have been other moments.

In 1989, Paul and I were living in our crazy, fabulously cheap apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia when we heard the news from Berlin: “The Wall has fallen!” We were riveted by the images of the joyous crowds hammering at the graffitied rubble. We cried and cheered and yearned to have enough money to hop on a plane to go to Berlin.

We longed to be there.

Twelve years after Berlin, Paul and I had added the nascent Self-Contained Unit to our family and were living in a much less crazy, ridiculously expensive house. That Morning, I had climbed fully-clothed into the bathtub—it was the only place from which to adjust the antennae on the small bathroom TV— and was getting ready to take a shower, when it became clear from the voices that something was very wrong in Lower Manhattan. “You should come look at this,” I called to Paul.

We cried and worried and called our family and friends; to hear their voices and know they were safe, and to find out where they were when they had heard about the towers in New York.

But we didn’t want to be there.

As I get older, I am less often swept up by the desire to have a front row seat, whether to history, a movement or even to a concert. A cautious distance seems to be more my comfort zone now. It’s not a very passionate place, the comfort zone. But it is certainly safe.

Today, I am in awe of what the Egyptian people have accomplished. Revolution is a large word, trivialized through overuse in marketing campaigns and at sporting events. Today, there was a paradigm shift, a true revolution.

And today, I desperately wish I wanted to be there.


One Response to “Wishing and Wanting”

  1. melanie Says:

    You had passion about Egypt at age 10? I would have definitely given you 25 cents for a tour of your museum. It’s not too late!!

    You convey such awe, appreciation, and unity with the people undergoing upheaval. You might not want a front row seat anymore, but at least your empathy is front and center.

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