When I work in downtown Minneapolis, I drive home past a boarded up store spray painted with: “RESTINPOWER, GEORGEFLOYD.” Invariably, I read it aloud to myself, alone in the car, and it gives me some hope. After the inhuman, brutal, cruel murder of Floyd in May, I was so relieved to see a national and then international series of protests. Judging by their duration, intensity, and organization, this could be what it looks like when the baton from the Civil Rights movement is taken up again to continue and escalate the fight against the inextricably intertwined institutions of United States racism and United States policing.
This is a picture of the smallest protester from a trio: Mykala, Essie, and the My Little Pony Pinkie Pie. When Mykala and Ess went to a Black Lives Matter rally in June, Essie wanted Pinkie Pie to come with and to hold a sign, so Mykala made this just wonderful little sign, a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. for her to hold. Notice she also wears a mask.
Living through history is exhausting. Mykala is making sure Ess knows which side we’re on.
My grandfather Emil Bartylla (we all always called him Bup) passed away this morning. I took this photo of him and my mom at a Father’s Day gathering almost fifteen years ago. Bup was such a fixture in my life — and this picture is at the house I would take the bus to occasionally when I was in kindergarten. It was the house where my mom grew up. The house Nannie and Bup built in the ’50s, when all of Woodbury was just potato and corn fields, an apple orchard, and some radio antennas.
I told Mykala it feels like the foundational bedrock-givens of our lives, those pieces of ground keep falling out from under us, and we land in a hole, and then the bottom of that hole once again falls out from under us. This pandemic means having a large get-together to hug and cry and remember Bup has to wait.
But I can remember a little on my own. I remember the coffee percolator always running at Nannie and Bup’s. I remember Wheel of Fortune on the TV in the evening, shortly after Nannie died, nearly thirty years ago. I remember when everyone came over to re-roof the house. I remember how Bup helped me build a school project in his wood shop. I remember his warm hugs on holidays. And I remember all of our families, all four of Nannie and Bup’s children and their kids on vacation at Wolf Lake… I must have been just four years old. I remember the Christmas when I got this huge Lego helicopter, and how Bup and I marveled at the mechanical winch on it. I remember the story Bup would tell, how he sailed on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific straight through a hurricane, engines on full speed on one direction for a day, then a day in the eye of the hurricane, then another day, engines on full speed in the opposite direction as they sailed out the other side of the storm.
I guess I don’t know where we are now, in the eye of a hurricane, on our way out, or just on our way in. Hard to say. We’ll miss you, Bup.
We got a Siberian Fir tree this year and the smell is SPECTACULAR. Mykala said the smell is slightly fruity, which is precisely what the articles online say. Essie is helping to trim it here. It’s our first Christmas season in the new house. More to say, more to write, more to post, but she’s sleeping soundly upstairs and we’re watching a Christmas movie down here and maybe it’ll all be alright.
I read a bit in The New Yorker today about how photographs “can freeze time, but never stop it.” To that end, we sold our townhouse, and this is one of the listing pictures we took.
Before putting in that wood floor, right in the middle of the pictured room, we scribbled a note: that two of us and a baby on the way moved there in 2014. That baby is four-and-a-half now.
I could write about how we’ve had disagreements, fights, Christmas trees, news of births, news of deaths, dancing, piano music, comedies, dramas, stuffed animal ballet shows, infants, toddlers, kids, popcorn, spills, sun, rain, fear, sadness, pain all in this room, but you already knew that. After all, what else is life made up of, exactly? Five years of it just happened to take place here.
Five years, precisely, as it turns out. We’ll close on our new place on the same day in 2019 we did in 2014.