On my hopes for the next stage in an inspiring American life.
The oft-quoted, and perhaps misquoted, F. Scott Fitzgerald line that “there are no second acts in American lives” is totally, utterly inaccurate. Many of the inspiring Americans I’ve written about in this space had multi-act lives, full of distinct and equally meaningful stages. And high on that list would be my Mom, Ilene Railton, whose multi-act American life has included, among many other stages: a childhood in Malden, Mass. as the daughter of second-generation Jewish American immigrants; an undergraduate major in Anthropology at Barnard College; a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education; numerous jobs in the field as a preschool teacher, day care center director, child care resource and referral officer, and more; marriage and motherhood and grandmotherhood; and, most recently, a decade of work with Virginia’s Bright Stars program.
Last week my Mom retired from that job with Bright Stars, her last full-time gig in that forty-year career in early childhood education. It’s been, as she’s said many times, a perfect last job, incredibly exhausting and incredibly rewarding, tied to all her prior jobs and experiences in the field but also linked to numerous new and evolving American communities, issues, and pressing questions. I know for a fact that she has impacted hundreds (at least) of young children and their families, and that they have all likewise impacted her. And I know that she won’t ever entirely disconnect from this kind of work and these communities and issues, that she will always find ways to volunteer, to offer her time and energy, to make a difference in the lives of the families and kids for whom she has worked so consistently throughout these four decades.
But on the other hand, it’s time for what’s next! So, AmericanStudies Elves, my final wish for this holiday season is that my Mom find next stages and steps that challenge her, enrich her, give her new horizons and opportunities and possibilities. She’s already signed up for a writing class in the spring, and I can’t wait to read more of her work, and to get to share it in this space when it makes its way out into the world. But whatever her next act holds, I wish it be everything she deserves, and I know it’ll be as inspiring as all that’s come before.
December Recap this weekend,
BenPS. Wishes you’d share?
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