when I walked into your house

If my life were some kind of Wes Anderson twee film, every night I’d be doing what I’m doing now: standing in a near-empty Walmart, at 9 PM, when everyone else seems home.

It’s cold out. I stand in my scarf and holding my phone, passively waiting for my son to return from getting a cup of water. I feel a profound satisfaction, an entire peace with who I am and where I am. Soon, Nels returns and we begin passively shopping for the things we require. A humidifier (for my daughter’s mysterious and persistent cough). New eyeliner. A corn husk broom. Some junk food. Epsom salts.

My son cavorts alongside me. We move through the garishly-lit aisles and I’m perfectly happy. He helps me look for eyeliner. “Luscious eyeliner. Voluptuous.” His bright, matter-of-fact voice further ridicules the beauty miracle claims made on the bright parcels.

It’s twenty-eight degrees outside. My husband’s car heater works, though. Driving home Stevie Nicks and Don Henley croon, “Leather and Lace” off my iPhone and I get misty-eyed – it’s such a sweet ballad. My son puts his hand on mine and asks, “Mama, what movies did you watch when you were little?” Before I can remember, before I can answer, his voice drops a half octave and he asks, entirely seriously, “Were you as tender as you are now?”

Then: “Did you like junky pizza like you do now?”

Nightlights and to a warm home. I am tired, and happy. My son has joined me the last two days at yoga class – and I can’t get across how meaningful I find his presence, his small body on the mat joyfully finding the postures. Last night: while in Wheel of Life, I felt his hand touch my foot, gently squeezing my toes – a loving gesture he’s done since he was very small.

A hot shower, a bit of milk, and another day put to bed.

smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually

On the floor, on my yoga mat. Counting the burnt-out bulbs on the string of lights above me. Perhaps I will buy new ones for the studio – as a gift. However my count soon trails off – too many to easily track. My mind wanders.

The instructor speaks softly, comes along during savasana, and adjusts each of us. Touch is welcome to me; I have a hard time imagining someone not enjoying the pressure on the shoulders; firm hands on the neck. I settle into myself, my body.

My mind floats along – rehearsal in a few minutes. Ralph and Nels, home – cooking fried rice, gamboling with the cats (our two littlest kitties are off at the vet overnight, sadly).

My daughter and I, off to the theater. My car is cold; Phee and I balance a few costume pieces, a warm pan of homemade full-cream bread pudding, my purse, my water. On our short drive we play music and sing along and I pass through lights along the roadway. Winter is somber, a type of death, a cold stillness that even the cheeriest lights and holiday music cannot penetrate.

Rehearsal. Everyone is working hard. Tempers flare. Errands for the production; some small personal vendettas. Crowded dressing room and a familiarity with a few women. I am tired but so glad to be a part of this experience.

Home and it’s late; I commit to some small correspondence. We four finally retire to bed. My son up against my husband. The boy reaches his foot to me and I remove his sleepy little sock; this, then, was what he wanted. He sighs and returns back to position, curled up against his father.


day 5


E. and I pull up to where Nels is waiting for us, after his appointment. He’s on the side of the rather busy road, standing upright like a little reed – playing his new (to him) trumpet. The sight of him cheers me immensely. It’s been a hard few days. The kids are in school, and while it’s hardly the free time extravaganza people without children might guess it to be (for instance: in five days I’ve had to drive out to the school three times; I am also literally a soccer mom which is a big time-suck); all the same it is a change.

Later, on the yoga mat: lying prone, sweating into my kerchief, not looking so “pinup-cute” as I get called regularly. Rumpled and tired, my wrists a slight throbbing agony. I patiently wait to return back to flow. I’m so tired I’m pretty good at just being on the mat. In general, my mind doesn’t race like it used to.

Home: sewing a heavy, disagreeable vintage wool fabric. It’s hot. The kittens race around the room and Hutch follows me with his steady brown eyes, wishing with every fiber of his being for me to give him Nels’ lunch chicken bone. Ralph on his way, after getting groceries. Sunlight through the curtains, the sounds of children (not all of them mine) laughing in the living room. Preoccupation. Planning. And then: gently setting aside the plans. I’m here now. I can do now.

Night falls. Ralph and Phee are off on a run. Nels asks, “What is for dinner, mom?” I am longing for hot shower and a bed to fall into. Tomorrow: a meeting, more yoga, soccer. Tomorrow: fabrics in the mail; a new project.

But that – is tomorrow.

well, I’m a weak and lonely sort / though I’m not sailing just for sport

My father wrote it in his journal when he knew he was dying, the month before he was dying: “disappointed”. I’ve got a strong visceral reaction to that word. I don’t like it, I don’t like being there. Like self-pity; it’s fundamentally a dishonest place, really. The word reminds me of a friend telling me of her own upbringing, and how she never wanted to be “The Disappointed One”. Like, it was a role members of the family played at by turns. I didn’t find out more about what she meant but I think I have an inkling.

I don’t enjoy feeling Disappointed. Sometimes, it happens. Today is like that. So today I remind myself nothing is Bad News, it’s just News. Or like the story of the farmer and “Maybe” – a story I first heard, again – from my father. I don’t understand what is happening or why – so why get too troubled about any of it?

Errands, in the meantime.

Work found me. The washer died today – only a few days after the dryer did. By day’s end I manage to secure a washer but the parties responsible to deliver the dryer, do not. I’m shorter on cash than I’d hoped. Life Happens.

Paying bills. Picking up a prescription; groceries (coffee filters milk baking chocolate wax paper mint carrots rice noodles). Special garbage liners, two mailings at the UPS store, a deposit into my aunt’s account, securing rent, setting up bank accounts, arranging a volunteer commitment, buying Phee’s special hair dye, returning vases to the florist. Stopping at the (new-to-us) used record store; finding a Crosby, Stils, Nash & Young for $3 and putting that on tonight just before 11 o’clock when it’s time to fold my body into some yoga.

Tonight, asking for help. It took some guts. I’m waiting, now. To see.

The day brought other kinds of News. News that soothes my heart. A letter from someone dear. My own mother’s empathetic response to our laundry troubles (which, with one income, four humans, and five pets, is a bit of a pickle). The florist gifting my family five rather special carnations. A meal with family and a friend. The smell of my son’s hair as he walks alongside me, our arms around one another’s waist. My daughter’s laugh at something I said. Someone holding my hand in this really wonderfully firm way. My husband asking, more than once, “How can I help?”