Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I believe that I will be happy again.
Because I have to.
I believe in making things and hanging them up, in saving roses and handwritten letters, in well-earned dirty fingernails, and miniature candy bars.
I believe that someone who can make you laugh should know how much it matters.
I believe in candles, and rescuing bugs, and that people who hurt animals are going to hell, which I don’t believe in, although maybe I actually do.
I believe in poems, even though so many of them are terrible, and in the way hot sand and hot pavement feel under bare feet, the way the sun warms things all the way through.
I believe that people who aren’t loved will never recover, and in children, all of them, and in movie theaters, kindred spirits, full moons, and driving around with the radio blasting with nowhere to go, which unfortunately is one of those things only teenagers do, although it shouldn’t have to be that way; it’s our own fault.
I believe that kindness is character, that air-conditioning is mostly unnecessary, in ferries, and dancing, and making people feel heard.
I believe that gardens are miracles, that my parents would die for me, that humans are myopic, that dogs know how to love.
I believe in convertibles, and public transportation, which is allowed—both, I mean—and in libraries and champagne and that sometimes it’s okay to clean up by throwing things in closets and slamming the doors.
I believe in catching snowflakes on your tongue, and swing sets, and newspapers with coffee, and watching your team win, and doing the dishes a certain way, which is not one of my best qualities, but still.
I believe in words, and holding hands, and unmistakable chemistry, that it’s true you only regret the things you didn’t do but not true that what goes around comes around, which would make life a little too easy, I guess, but more fair.
I believe in islands, and bathtubs, and yellow rain boots, and that your heart can actually hurt.
I believe in getting up each morning, however reluctantly, and telling yourself you will get through the day.
I believe that falling asleep with your arms around someone is one of the best feelings, and in looking up, and in lying on the floor or ground or grass or carpet, which I do all the time, even when it isn’t appropriate.
I believe most people want to be good, because I have to, but that some people just don’t know how.
I believe that naps are important, although I never take them, and in finding furniture on the street, and in writing in pencil, and black ink over blue.
I believe in singing, that my children love me for all the reasons I most want to be loved, and that this makes me lucky.

I believe the story is always in flux. And somehow, for some reason, I still believe in happy endings.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014. A Beginning.

Not till we are lost….do we begin to find ourselves….    --Thoreau

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What We See

It was a topsy-turvy twelve hours or so for me—roiling evening, some peace at sleep—and I woke up twisted in the comforter with wild hair and the unfamiliar sense of being rested. Half-sat, rubbed my eyes, extricated myself from the bedding. Pushed aside enormous cat, rearranged the pillows, pulled up the bedspread, and felt something hard underneath, near the end on the side away from the wall. Lifted it to find my glasses, prim little package, smug as though resting on burgundy velvet in a long glass case. I picked them up, contemplated them briefly, and set them on the kitchen counter, where they remain.
            This doesn’t mean anything unless you know that they’ve been gone for over a week, and for 18 years or so I’ve worn them almost every day. I looked in the bed, of course; it was the obvious place. It’s so rare you can pinpoint when and where something is lost, rarer still that knowing so, the thing stays lost. I had been lying in bed with my little one, in that half-awake state you get when you put your child to sleep, intending to roll out when she’s out and find yourself hours later opening your own eyes wondering if it’s day or night. My glasses were pinned to the pillow by my face, and I picked them up and, as I’ve inadvisably done so many times before, tossed them to the end of the bed. I didn’t hear them hit the ground, so assumed all fine, until the actual morning, when I searched through and under the bedding, enlisted a search crew with better eyesight and, irritated, decided I’d find them later. Where could they have gone? The trajectory arc had been six feet long.
            But somehow, at the end of that day, after a cursory pat down and quick peer around the baseboards, I didn’t look anymore. And the day after that, and the day after that, and even yesterday evening, as I walked alone up Park Avenue, just past rush hour as the sky turned milky and the lights came on around me up to the sky like stubborn fireflies, blinking, one by one, I reached up and stroked my own cheek to feel their absence. Grand Central loomed larger in the foreground as I walked, the street signs unintelligible, the light exquisite, nothing clear around me but my own hands, in focus and distinct, like the pavement under each step forward.
            All week I’ve been aware of this contrast, the sharpness of my immediate surroundings, the silvery-white of my nail beds, the yellow streaks in my eyes in the mirror, the dust dancing in the faded light through the Madison Avenue side windows, and then the vast, soft, vagueness of everything else. I’ve been walking the streets looking up—skyscrapers with rounded edges, watercolor trees and storefronts, no brushstrokes, no primary colors, even, the whole wide world through a filter of silvery-grey.
            And I, pushing through the weighted light half-seeing, have felt unseen, in a strange and even glorious way. Not anonymous, or one of the teeming masses, or whatever people say about being an ant speck in a city of millions, but unseen, and the relief has somehow changed everything. Where are you? a friend I’m meeting asks on the phone, and I look up, first, and then around me. I can see the green, the vertical lines of the poles, but no numbers or words, not even the existence of numbers or words. It’s midtown, so suits, shinier shoes, briefcases like a forties movie—nobody’s young, even out of focus. I stop on a corner and look at my arms, still brown, fine etched lines, golden hairs glinting a little in the dying light.
Where exactly? she asks again, and I cross the street, music playing in my head for the first time in a long time, teeth not clenched, shoulders not tight, eyes ahead on a chalk-rubbed horizon. I don’t know, I finally say, although I know of course I have to stop up close to answer, close enough to see the 36th or 38th, or 39th Street sign, stop because we’re meeting, stop because I have to, because even in this iridescent bubble I’ve been moving in I know that everybody isn’t in there with me. But in that instant—that single shard—I don’t know where I am and I don’t care where I am and I can see that in not knowing, not seeing, letting things recede, accepting the lack of clarity, I have somehow found myself again.
And when my little one—soft-focus, pink and tan, no edges, inside or out—looks at me this morning when life starts up again, after spotting the found glasses on the countertop, and asks me if I’m never going to wear them again, I am startled. Why would she ask that? I think, squinting at her hard, although she always asks the questions you would never think of, forcing me, so literal, to circle back and wonder how she ever got there. And I look at her, and see her very clearly, see the white webs in the black countertop, the fly on the lid of the sugar bowl, my own lined hand reaching out to stroke her soft, soft hair. The glasses rest on the counter, neutral.
I don’t know, I say, which is the truth, and she walks off, satisfied, always, with the indefinite response. And I look at the glasses again, and pick up my lukewarm coffee cup, and follow her out of the room. Without looking back. For right now anyway, I can see enough.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What You Do

I spoke to a friend at around 5:30 this evening and realized, when she asked me point blank, that I had not left the apartment in over twenty-four hours. Why? Sick baby, that's why. The routine is familiar to me now, in a dreamlike way--sharply defined behind a veil of haze--perhaps because it so often launches itself in the middle of the night. Like most people, I suppose, I loathe being wakened from a deep sleep, but when a hot face presents itself to you with a wail of utter despair, you are suddenly so awake that it's as though you never were asleep, as though night never actually happened--it is in these moments, at 3 a.m. with a sick little girl in my arms, that I can really believe the world has stopped, that only she and I exist, that only her suffering and my desire to alleviate it exist, and that I was given this child, put on this earth, for precisely this reason, to be the source of some, of any, relief.

We spent all day like this, once the long night finally turned itself over, and all day, we lay beside each other, her eyes hot with tears each time she sat up over the pot I was carting around with us from room to room. She knew the sips of liquid she was drinking were making her sick, but she is two, after all, and she couldn't quite get over the emptiness in her stomach, and we tried, again and again, my teeth clenched as I waited: a popsicle, a cracker, some Gatorade, a rice cake, some seltzer. It all came up, and I held her head each time, and then she sank back into me each time, collapsed, almost, in a rare submission, saying, over and over, "Me not better, Mama. Me not."

"You will be soon," I said, holding her, pushing her damp hair off of her forehead, my own mind flashing a surreal sideshow of my own sick memories, as they always do when they are sick: the antennae on the small TV carted into our sick rooms and the static on the screen, such an anachronism now, my father in the doorway with a coffee Fribble from Friendly's, my mother's face, a face I never imagined wearing until the first of these night wakenings, the cool cloths she always brought, just before you needed to ask her, poking those chalky orange-flavored baby aspirin into the soil of a plant in the living room, a story I have not told my girls, maybe won't.

The rise and fall of a day with a fever, the sobbing at the worst of it, the hot flushed skin, the bright eyes, and then the cooling off, the euphoria, the padding around holding hands--"I like to walk with you inside, Mama," making me mad at myself for tiring of it. "Now I better. I hungry," and then the rise again. And the fall. And the inevitable turn to the favorite game, the way I will remember my littlest girl over the course of this remarkable year of her life: Tiny Mama, in which she turns to me with no warning, no introduction, and announces, "Now you baby," and I am meant to immediately assume my role, no dress rehearsal, no allowances for timing. This time, though, when I complied, when I asked for my blanket and for her to make me some soup in her kitchen, she shook her head, forgetting, in that instant, that the whole thing had been her idea, initiated not by me. "No," she says, climbing onto the couch and nestling into me, her skin, I can sense through her shirt and through mine, hot and dry again. "You Mama."

"Why?" I say, curious about the unprecedented pivot, unexpected change-back.

"I need you take care of me," she says, matter-of-factly, aptly, so sweetly that I almost cannot bear it.

And the day continues. The rise and fall of it.

And I do.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Things have been turning up: the ladybug towel, just today.
And the silver ice tongs, and the puzzle piece.
And I wonder if this is the way it is: that nothing is ever actually lost?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Heart Cake Day

Yesterday, Lily, Annika and I made a cake for a just-four-year-old we love, and today we presented it to her at her birthday party. We made the cake because the birthday girl's mother had expressed dismay at her daughter's very specific yet frustratingly vague vision and wasn't sure if she could take it on or if a bakery could be hired to create it. I liked the idea of the challenge: how do you make something look the way it looks in someone else's imagination?

This is what the birthday girl wanted: a large heart-shaped cake that was the color of raspberries and covered with glitter. We mixed the batter, which I had thought would be white but which Lily and Annika insisted be pink. We baked it, and made the frosting, which came pretty close to raspberries, perhaps a little more pink. We covered the entire cake with silvery translucent glitter sugar crystals, and Lily and I wrote the words "Happy Birthday Amelia" in "fancy" lettering with a glittery, silvery icing tube.

Annika and I walked to the party carrying this enormous cake, as Lily was meeting us at the party spot from the school bus. It is amazing how much attention you get when walking that many blocks with a giant raspberry-colored sparkly birthday cake and an Annika. The cake itself suffered only one relatively minor smushing, into my sweater button, and arrived at the party before most of the guests. It was set in a place of honor, tilted up for maximum viewing potential, and after about five minutes the birthday girl realized it had arrived. She ran across the room, hair flying, eyes enormous, skidding to a stop in front of her cake. She climbed up on a stool for a closer look. She closed her eyes, then opened them again, as though to see if the cake had remained in place. She shook her head slightly.

"It's EXACTLY what I was hoping for," she said.

Sometimes, this actually happens.