Momma Look Sharp

Momma, hey momma, come lookin’ for me
I’m here in the meadow by the red maple tree
Momma, hey momma, look sharp, here I be
Hey, hey, momma look sharp

Those words are the first in a song from “1776” that is so sad, we usually just skip it when listening to the CD. For some reason we didn’t in the car last week, and as I posted below in the 51 questions meme, it started me crying. As the mother of boys who are 19 and almost 15, I have thought a lot in the past few years about war and the potential for the draft and what may happen to my sons and to other people’s sons, too. As we listen to the stories about Cindy Sheehan, this all seems raw, not academic.

And of course it has been raw for many, many families: fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, children are all grieving not for “troops” and not for “soldiers” but for Casey or John or Mary or Billy.

Them soldiers, they fired. Oh ma, did we run
But then we turned round and the battle begun
Then I went under, oh ma, am I done?
Hey, hey, momma look sharp

This war is taking place far away. We don’t hear it or smell it or feel its literal vibrations. At Lexington, mothers walked the battlefield, which is to say the Green, to look for their lost sons. As I listened to the song last week I imagined a battle taking place in Deering Oaks Park, where our greatest concern these days seems to be preserving the root structures of the aging oak trees. Suppose an enemy rolled into town and a battle were fought there by the duck pond? Suppose, just suppose, my boys were in it. We live about half a mile away. Suppose I could hear the sound of weapons and sat waiting anxiously for the world to grow silent again? Suppose the rumble of vehicles and the repeat of firearms shook the ground even here? Suppose when it was over I walked–no, ran! Suppose I ran to the Oaks to look for my boys, running with my neighbors, with an energy and a force I didn’t know existed within me, carrying whatever I thought might be needed to help.

My eyes are wide open, my face to the sky
Is that you I’m hearin’ in the tall grass nearby?
Momma come find me before I do die
Hey, hey, momma look sharp

I don’t know what that is like. My boys are lazing around the house just like our big, relaxed dogs, eating a late breakfast of leftover Sunday coffeecake. They are pondering whether to play Gamecube or look for friends on IM before going to their jobs this afternoon. Their biggest worry yesterday: they were both wearing “Area Man” t-shirts and felt they couldn’t go into the grocery store together. Their biggest news is getting their braces off (#1 Son a couple of weeks ago, #2 Son two weeks hence).

I’ll close your eyes, my Billy
Them eyes that cannot see
And I’ll bury you, my Billy
Beneath the maple tree

What Cindy Sheehan is doing is political, yes, but it is also personal. She is closing Casey’s eyes and burying him beneath the maple tree. She is taking us back in time to a place where death is not sanitized and distant but immediate and material. She insists, gently, that no one is merely a statistic and that this cause is no cause at all. Her soft voice and her solemn expression exude a power that this President does not. It is the power of love.

My boys are safe upstairs. They have their high-speed Internet and their video games and their books and their intramural squabbles and their similar taste in t-shirts. I don’t have to look sharp to find them. Not so far.

Cindy, I am praying for you. Whether or not the President ever talks with you, please keep talking to him and to all of us.

And never again will you whisper to me
Hey, hey, momma look sharp