Coming a little closer to the fire

We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.

I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.

In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.

They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.

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It’d be all out of context, this future-knowing stuff

 

 

Louisa was hiding under a blanket on the couch. “Where’s my Weezy? Where’s Weezy?” I called from the kitchen. She giggled. I came in and tickled the foot that was sticking out. I scooped her up: “Weeza!” And in a moment, looking into her eyes, I remembered how impossible this moment seemed four years ago. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have this snapshot then? Wouldn’t I have slept better? My God …”

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The three thousand who learn somewhere else, and we who live here anyway

I lugged a ladder around my house Monday morning, spraying vinegar water on the windows and wiping them clean with newspaper. It was the Sunday paper, and that matters because it wasn’t just the paper in my hands that left its ink on my fingers. I kept the front section on the front stoop under a Read more about The three thousand who learn somewhere else, and we who live here anyway[…]

A litany of little things

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My grandma wrote down everything.

In calendars from funeral homes, she’d write whether anyone came to visit (“Phyllis trimmed shrub after dinner”), masses she attended, and names of people who died, with their ages behind their names. All these little things.

Grandma’s notebooks are inside a scrapbook now beside her bed in the nursing home. Sunday, her fingers gripped mine tightly. Her eyes bore into mine and her mouth was pursed tight, so I kept talking.

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We’re in so deep

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She stood stoically by the brick wall, a gaggle of giggly girls to her left. “Look at my new puppy backpack!” one girl shouted over and over to last year’s classmates as they walked by. Alice didn’t move much from the line Ms. W’s class was making outside the second-grade wing before their first day this morning.

She looked at her shiny new shoes, her yellow lunchbox with bicycles on it hanging by her knees. She sniffed. Her three-year-old sister sat at my feet.

 

Around the building stood Dave with Violet, outside the kindergarten wing.

We made it; we landed outside the school building today, sputtering and wiping the water from our brows.

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The start of a beautiful relationship (with a place)

 

“We’re home! We live here now!” my 5-year-old said as Dave and a friend hauled our couch into our new living room. Later, Dave read library books to wet-haired girls under blankets on that couch while I sat on the love seat, day-dreaming about the Oreos I was about to eat as soon as they were in bed. Later still, a lamp post outside made black-and-orange striped shadows on the bare walls as I ascended the red-shag-carpeted steps to our attic bedroom.

After midnight, the rain pit-patted above me. “Thank God: I’m home,” I thought.

Home. What’s different about this one, and why does any of this matter? Am I making more of this than necessary? How many Oreos are we talking?

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Owning a piece of earth

We found the house taking a long detour home from worship on Sunday. When we turned on the street I thought, “I could live here.” Maples, the first in leaves, lined the street.

When we stopped outside the house, I thought, “I feel as if I already live here.”

An hour later, as we waited for the realtor to unlock the door, I felt my heart beat in my throat. Louisa was on my hip; we’d woken her from a nap to see this place, and she was groggy and her fist clung to my shirt. And inside, I kept saying, “Dave. This is it.”

They flipped light switches and pushed garage door buttons, and banged the side door open and shut going in and out, claiming the house with their informality. “Are we going to live here?!” the girls asked as they ran around the back yard. Louisa’s grogginess morphed into hyperactivity.

“I think we are,” we said.

This place is going to be home, God willing. 

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Already and not yet, but the hummingbirds are coming back soon

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Earlier today, the girls and I pumped our legs on the swings under a mostly cloudless canopy of blue. Some trees hinted at turning green; others not at all yet. We startled a snake walking to a picnic table to set down our water bottles near the playground at the woods. We unzipped our coats in the sun; put them back on in the shade. Alice picked me a trout lily because I’m her “best mom.” I accepted it gratefully, but left it wilting on the picnic table because I’m not the best mom. I’m tired, grateful for siblings who’ll play when I want to sit.

For a while the playground was theirs alone, but two moms strolled over with toddlers. I busied myself at the table with a pen and a notebook. I tried not to hear their reviews of weight-loss shakes and gym memberships. I regretted not bringing a caffeinated tea, and my mind flitted from my notebook to the sky — the blue sky, obstructed by leafless trees. I want a big blue sky, I wrote in my notebook. A big blue sky. And I want to run. […]