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// maya kanwal

They say, in the early days,

paths emerged under the footfalls of human seekers,

widening into roads that swerved alongside streams

and rolled by rivers.

They say, as humans

lifted off the ground

propelled by their steeds,

then tore across

the landscape

on trains,

cut from sea to sea,

automobile engines aflame,

our speeds surpassed the natural,

our rocket-straight routes now

hewed for least resistance,

for minimal risk,

for instant


Odysseys, blessedly, are a thing of antiquity.

Today, the children disappeared from school buses in Houston. Lunchboxes vanished from the sidewalks of Seattle, and the subways of Boston were devoid of backpacks. This was expected, yet absolutely thrilling.

It started with the Stop-Death-Shaming movement which began as a niche thing on Tumblr. Medea Muller, the eighteen-year-old originator of S-D-S, got famous for a social-instant, then disappeared after her first TED talk. But S-D-S was bigger than Muller. LA-based NextToLast™ swept into the vacuum she left for her followers and coopted the movement for haute funereal fashions, which spilled onto the streets as funeralcore.

Things truly snowballed once the S-D-S trend hit the suburbs. Parents and teachers took notice, as did candidates for office. Lesson plans and political platforms transformed to recognize the need to put end-of-life within every child's reach. Updated Kindle versions of parenting books boasted a chapter on "a balanced approach to enabling your child's vision of their final rites."

As this enlightened mindset settled in, no one was surprised to see the usual inequities surface. Families in historically underserved communities distrusted the discourse and could not be convinced to pay heed to their children's inevitable end or stretch their resources to plan for it. The middle class opened NextToLast™-branded savings accounts and bought coffin-shaped money boxes for their kindergartners. The environmentally-conscious invested in funeral chests that would grow with the child and double as a coffin. To general relief, designer coffins came to be seen as gauche, and inherited coffins too impractical. Now, there were the inevitable some who thought all this ridiculous. These were the curmudgeons such as Wallace Wright still endeavoring to make college accessible. But the national sentiment had moved on.

Little did we know how large the college lobby's ambitions were, how small their hearts.

The viral article, "What is School for, Anyway?", first opened the discourse on our inefficient, wasteful ways when it came to raising children. Remember the days when we used to move every few years, so our kids were zoned to the right school? Remember how the ultra-rich among us bribed our teenagers' way to college?

One by one, we cast our old prejudices out of the window and let youthful thinking in. Homework went first. Science fairs became a quaint joke, as did achievement badges and participation trophies. Our children relaxed. None of that mattered.

The one thing that stands now between our kids and their eventuality, is those die-hards led by Wright. They held the WiSfA Act hostage until an actual college degree was required as a funereal condition. We were saved by the heroics of Senator Dina Khan (I-MI) who stole our hearts on late night comedy shows as she recalled her own traumatic upbringing by education-obsessed immigrant parents, identified a loophole in the college lobby's demand and amended the WiSfA Act to force colleges to drop all admission and degree qualifications other than four cumulative years of attendance. Admittedly, the cost of college continues to rise. But at least families are now free to get their children through those four years at their convenience. And in most cities, the new community college playgrounds have become the heart and soul of their neighborhoods.

Today, we finally woke to the vision of millions of our smallest children materializing onto college campuses. Cable news presenters breathlessly panned the streets for signs of kids; we stood in grocery store lines to buy the first physical newspaper of our lives, to cut out black and white photographs of small people with large bookbags winding through ivy-choked brick-walled alleys. Instagram was resplendent with shots of contemporary glass and steel student centers bursting with prepubescent newcomers; parenting-Twitter was a font of wisdom on cutting the apron strings. Facebook, though, was a hot mess of tears and faith-based quotes for parents who might be having second thoughts.

Grandparents took screenshots of these sentiments and texted them to their progeny, because the progeny stopped being on Facebook decades ago. They were too busy preparing their funeral chests.

The truth is,

our forebears adopted

embalming fluid,

so, we one-upped them

with life support and Botox —

lifetimes and lifesavings expended

on delusions of eternity.

The kids have accepted

nay, embraced


We may be gone

before they will,

but we can be sure

that their deaths

will be more welcomed

than ours; and for that

we are grateful.