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A “Love of Learning” Angel

This week my daughter’s thesis was officially published, as first author in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. It’s a huge achievement, a culmination of the most ardent efforts and eschewing of typical lifestyle I have ever seen or could have ever imagined. I recognize her will and discipline from strains of my own, but I dropped out of the study of psychology when the third or fourth graduate course I took, Statistics, helped me realize my left brain was crying out for rescue and my right brain ran over it and quit the first of several things in my life I painfully learned to chalk up for experience.

So I can more than appreciate the tenacity behind this accomplishment. My daughter will often express her gratitude for the model of following your heart’s purpose, something I expressed in my first CD, A Spirited Mother. I am beginning to appreciate that those seeds planted played only a very small part of what my daughter is capable of. We did spend a lot of time with my nephew who is on the spectrum, and our family’s devotion to his well being has been heartening. Today I celebrate the confluence of these experiences mixed with my daughter’s formidible drive, focused and fierce intelligence, and her beautifully simple love of learning.

The “Love of Learning” angel pictured helps make a point I’d like to bring out and ties some things together. As not only do I celebrate this huge milestone, I see an opportunity to share an insight about the angel.You see it was a recent gift from a sister by choice, whose father is a pure embodiment of love, the last remaining of our parents who became lifelong buddies when my dad and he were military policemen in the Korean War. She had never met my daughter before, partially because the commitment Melody has made to herself and her career has kept her from many if not most family gatherings. At the opportunity to finally meet her, this woman chose a gift that captured what she felt was Melody’s essence as she came to understand her through me.

This angel represents the best and brightest parts of my daughter and captures the sweetest most tender part of her, the part I’ve tried to protect and find places for her to realize. It was sometimes disguised as, shall we say, other things, yet it was unmistakable that her passion for learning came from a deeper source than I was aware of. She was mocked in elementary school for her drive that even brought with it strains of anti-semitism when we first moved to the Connecticut shoreline. Her hunger for learning carried us through the journey of finding the right places for her to thrive, and ultimately she found her educational homes with an intuition that seemed to be led by an angelic love of learning. I had my heart set on other colleges, but her laser sharp drive cut through any notions I had of what I thought was best for her.

So the angel gift from my recent houseguests held special meaning on many levels. Here is an opportunity to look more deeply at the people I broke bread with, shared our broken hearts with when we buried our beloved friends and parents together, and grown to love dearly. If I am truly to embrace the spirit of the love of learning, then I must bore into the realization that these loved ones are politically conservative and see the world through a lens and prism that I and many who share my liberal leanings, simply do not understand. Especially now as I am shaking in my boots at the prospect of a Supreme Court perilously close to shifting some deeply important policies that have taken the blood and guts of our culture by storm.

I implored myself to delve to find the common threads below the surface. We spoke of faith and what it means outside of politics, often in the context of the beauty and mystery of nature and the love that sustains more than divides. I dove deeply into my own love of learning to understand how it could be that we would be together by choice, when many liberals would put a hand up against the idea.

So the question I raise is how to build the bridges? How do we begin to heal the deeper wounds of our divided country and our world. As a writer, artist, and a mother bursting with pride, I begin to look at how we can do this, and for now I have set out to let the dialogue begin. In celebrating that my daughter Melody, the most beautiful song I’ve had a hand in creating, is on her way to solving the autism puzzle, I have come to believe that if she can accomplish this from her natural love of learning, then anything is possible if we look at it from the source of all there is … love.

In honor of my daughter’s remarkable achievement, let this be a gentle call to action to pierce the divisive walls with compassion and the will to build on common ground. The “Love of Learning” angel is rooting for us.

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