September 13, 2001


Are you wearing the little American flag pin on your lapel yet?

If you're not, you will be soon. That's my prediction.

I predict that within the next couple of days, a popular symbol will emerge -- a visible and emotionally-resonant emblem, intended to demonstrate solidarity and strength in this time of chaos and tragedy -- and that within days, hours maybe, everyone will be wearing it. It may not actually turn out to be an American flag, although that seems like the most logical choice: it may be a red, white & blue ribbon, instead ... or an upraised fist, or a miniature replica of The World Trade Center, or a dove of peace carrying a tiny nuclear warhead in its beak. But whatever it is, I predict that the stores will not be able to keep up with the demand: that patriotic Americans will be lining up four-deep, cash and credit cards in hand, patiently waiting to spend $9.98 for a tiny plastic lapel pin.

I further predict that *I* will be among them.

This is something brand-new for me. I'm not a joiner by nature: I tend to shun the organized uprising in favor of the private revolution. Groups make me feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable, as a rule. (The way I dealt with recovery is a good example. No A.A. for this alcoholic: I preferred to vomit my way through withdrawal, alone in my tiny apartment with the curtains drawn and the phone off the hook.) Furthermore, I tend to reject symbolism merely for the sake of symbolism ... especially trendy and obvious symbolism. Have you ever seen a yellow ribbon or a WWJT sticker on the *FootNotes* splash page?

There have been exceptions, of course. Somewhere in a remote, dusty corner of my ex-husband's attic in TicTac is my old P.O.W. bracelet ... probably stuffed into a shoebox, along with my Maranatha pendant and my mood ring and other embarrassing relics of my teen years. (Although wearing the P.O.W. bracelet had very little to do with patriotism, and everything to do with trying to look groovy during the Summer of '72.)

So why would I willingly follow the crowd now? Why should this situation be any different?

Because this situation is different, obviously. This situation is SO different that I don't even need to explain how different this situation IS. Ultimately everybody is going to have to make their own decisions about how they deal with the sudden and permanent end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it ... and decisions about the ways in which they choose to display their patriotism.

Especially those of us for whom 'patriotism' is a relatively new concept.

I can already tell that there are two things that will keep my head securely fastened to my shoulders in the days to come. One of them is routine: the sense that I have something to do and somewhere to go and someone to be, each and every day. (Even if the "somewhere I go" and the "something to do" is as loathsome and as enervating as spending nine hours at The Totem Pole Company every day.)

The other thing that will keep me glued together is connection. Connection to my husband, connection to my children and my family, connection to my friends, connection to my readers ... and connection to my fellow human beings.

The way I see it, the best way for me personally to maintain "routine" and "connection" is to continue getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m., every morning ... taking my shower, drinking my coffee, checking my e-mail, getting dressed and ready for work ... watching the news, talking to David, planning my *FootNotes* entry for that day ... and finally, heading out the door for the office, with my library book and my can of Slim Fast and my updated résumé on a floppy disk tucked into a secret hidden compartment of my purse ...

... and with a little American flag, proudly pinned to the lapel of my sweater set.

throw a rock