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The Hill We Climb

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

“I want to grow up and be like Kamala Harris,” Emily said.

“I want to be Amanda Gorman,” Tessa shouted over her sister. “She’s kind of more like us, half grown-up.”

“You’re fourteen,” Clay said rolling his eyes. “Hardly grown-up… I’m watching the Warriors. Talk somewhere else, you guys.” Clay had been home doing online classes. Definitely not his plan for college.

“I’m only five years younger than Amanda,” Emily said ignoring Clay. “She’s twenty-two, I’m seventeen, but I can’t imagine reciting a poem in public the way she did at the Biden-Harris Inauguration…”

Tessa jumped off the couch where she’d been sitting and stood all five feet three inches tall in the middle of the living room. “Okay, I’m Amanda Gorman….

“‘For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.’”

Clay stopped watching the game and stared at his little sister.

“I memorized the lines from her poem at the inauguration.” Tessa beamed. “They’re my favorite ones.”

Emily looked closely at her sister. “Did you memorize any others?”

Tessa nodded, her face flushed. She didn’t want to seem like a show-off.

“Go on, I want to hear more,” Clay said. “It’s almost half-time.” He actually did want to hear his little sister, especially reciting Amanda Gorman’s poem.

Tessa straightened her posture and closed her eyes like Amanda did before speaking.

She began:

The Hill We Climb

When day comes we ask ourselves

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

Tessa began moving her hands around in rhythm to the words like Amanda did when reciting a poem.

We’ve learned that quest isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one….

Tessa abruptly stopped.

“It’s just Mom, go on,” Clay said looking over at their mom standing in the doorway.

Tessa didn’t feel so adult now, but then she thought of Amanda and the millions of people who had listened to her at President Biden’s inauguration. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and skipped a few lines ahead anyway.

“’…We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another…’”

Tessa stopped again. “Mom, why are you crying?”

“I’m just so moved by this poem and you reading it. I never thought I’d walk into this living room and find the three of you reciting and listening to poetry!”

“Amanda’s the teacher here, Mom,” Emily said. “We’re listening to her.”

“Yeah, but Tessa ’s the one who brought Amanda’s poem into the living room,” Clay said with pride he couldn’t hide.

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