The table is set. Fine china and crystal at all four place settings. I quickly replace my son’s glass with a less-breakable one. My mom, at 84, is bustling around a tiny kitchen. My dad, reading the paper. My eyes scan their new retirement apartment. The china cabinet of my childhood stands firm, unchanged. The buffet table too.
This time of year is hard. So much expectation. So much pain. The contradictions of the season abound. Just the other day, I was sitting in Starbucks working on a self-imposed deadline. A young woman wearing several layers of clothing and torn boots wandered in and approached my table. I barely acknowledged her.
I am addicted to Snickers bars. It started as a tribute to my aunt. She died not long after Thanksgiving last year. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, the doctors suggested she might have five years. She lived fourteen more. I am still in awe of her fortitude. I envied her sense of place.
I kill plants. I don’t set out to do this. I doubt anyone does. But still they die. To my surprise, this summer my son and I decided to turn a patch of weeds in front of our building into a garden. I let him pick flowers to honor his birth-mama and his birth-papa.
I am running hard down the sidewalk. Street after street after street. Desperately searching for my car so much so that my heart is pounding when I wake up. In my dream, I am running away. From what I do not know. I have a plan, but it gets foiled somehow. I understand, in only…
Once as I was listening to a homeless woman tell me her story, I felt the walls start to close in on me. We were sitting in a tiny windowless office at the social service agency where I volunteered to serve breakfast. Claire washed dishes for them. She was petite, not more than five feet…
I believe in mystery, especially the everyday variety that opens our hearts. Right before I went into business for myself, I took a position at an institution of higher learning renowned for its cutting edge research and Nobel laureates. More than a few people suggested that by accepting this job I had somehow reached the pinnacle of my career (at the ripe age of 32).
I said good-bye to the home I grew up in. I cleaned out every closet. I threw out my high school planners and parted ways with paper after paper from undergrad. I laughed out loud as I read the notes my best friend and I passed back and forth in eighth grade—then I tossed them…
“Poof.” That’s what we call it in our home. My son learned to “poof” when he was five years old. I could see how he was worrying about things that he wished he had not done. I recognized the same in myself. So, I decided that after we talk through and allow our mistakes, as well as make our amends, we put our fingers up to our temples and count: “One, two, three, poof.” Then our jazz hands make it all go away.
His mom was once homeless, but you would never know. In a blue Superman t-shirt with a tiny red cape Velcro-ed to his shoulders, he races back and forth across the lecture hall, tirelessly, his giggle trailing behind him. The wonder in his two-year old eyes is contagious.