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I’ve Been Thinking … Redefining ‘Awesome’


I’ve Been Thinking … Redefining ‘Awesome’


Before the glossed, material girls of the San Fernando Valley became, like, so sure about what was grody and what was totally tubular, the word awesome was more likely to be heard describing waterfalls, arias and peacock feathers than leg warmers, Olivia Newton-John and perms.

I’m here to say, as of this minute, we take back awesome.

Think about it. If it’s true that the world is going to demand that we face the hard-to-accept (and it is), we’d be wise to reroute our attention to the hard-to-believe. In other words, we’re going to need some awe around here.

Fortunately, it abounds.

When my daughter Georgia was in third grade, our public school building was in such bad shape the kids were taking classes in trailers crowded around the blacktop. Learning was still happening, of course, it just wasn’t pretty and God bless the kids who needed space.

I generally liked picking up the girls, unless I was in a hurry, as was the case one afternoon when I was running late for a series of carefully timed errands that, if executed perfectly, would get us to Georgia’s piano lesson on time. I found parking and made my way into the maze of pods but Georgia was not on the bench out front where she usually waited.

“Hey Sadie, you seen G?” I asked her buddy.

“Over there!” Sadie pointed to one of the portables on the edge of the lot.

“Georgia’s in here!” a kid confirmed for me as he pulled open the door.  Georgia was centered in a dozen kids crowded around what looked like an empty fish tank. I leaned over nine third-graders to peer into a nest under a warming light where an egg moved very slightly on its own.

“Oh wow,” I said, seeing a tiny hole, a bit of firmament draped over the crack, and inside a greasy feather.

“Come on, buddy,” a boy in front of me whispered. “Come on…”

Nothing. The stillness worried us all. What if the kids had accidentally done something—touching, shaking—that killed the chick? The clock was loud behind us.

Finally, the slick-furred elbow of a wing punched a new crack in the shell. Then, stillness again.

“Don’t worry,” the teacher said. “He just needs to build up his energy between jabs. He’s using his joints and his muscles for the first time.”

“Good job, little guy,” said a boy who I had always thought of as a pill.

“Good one,” Georgia said, after a hardy poke that made the egg sway, looking up at me to be sure I was as impressed as she was.

We watched, spellbound, for almost ten minutes, errands be damned.

A foot was out but trapped in the crack it made. It would need that power to free itself from the shell.   Depending only on itself, hatching looked like more work than I’d done in years. Its breathing heavy, it threw its head back, finding a different way to fling off the egg. Then it just lay there, wet and spent. With the blackest eyes ringed with milky white and a chest cavity no bigger than a strawberry, the chick rocked to its feet, chirping and blinking against the sight of now a dozen kids, a teacher and a mom, waving, grinning, cooing.   It worked; life became in Pod 3.

“Awesome,” a kid whispered.

“Totally,” Georgia and Sadie agreed.

“Literally,” I said.

Kelly Corrigan is the author of the book “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say.” To learn more about Kelly, go to


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