Laura was up past 10:00, and the episode of the West Wing I was watching to wind down was hopelessly paused. Laura made herself a mug of warm milk and whisked it into a frothy state, then sat opposite me on the couch and recited for me the insights about harassment, consent, and assault she absorbed earlier by watching YouTube videos.
She is maturing. Almost every day she expands into an acute concern based on YouTube videos. Google’s algorithm has clearly pegged her with the “social justice” tag and is feeding her indignation about race, feminism, and LGBTQ issues. She works these concerns out in conversation with me, often past bedtime, where she stutters through assertions dotted with more “You know what I mean?”s than I can endure. But I listen. I am trying to affirm her emerging social conscience, so I sometimes insert a carefully phrased and strategically placed clarifying question, which she, in the most encouraging sign of maturity of all, receives without umbrage.
She is maturing, and the spectacle fills me with a cocktail of pride, relief, dread, and sadness. But as it approached 11:00 the lights flickered and then a massive crash like lightning erupted behind us. The place went pitch dark and Laura leapt from her seat into my lap, shrieking “What was that?!” Instincts I’d forgotten for comforting a child came back in the moment and I cooed, “Lightning, it’s just lightning.” She recovered in an instant, sliding nonchalantly onto the adjacent seat and breaking into laughter. We both turned to press our faces against the window and determined quickly that there was no lightning. A transformer in the alley across the street had blown while electrical crews worked on it. He face scrunched up at the explanation; she doesn’t know “transformer” as anything but a fictional human/robot hybrid.
No doubt, though, she is maturing.