My Husband

 

If I had written this morning, I would’ve told you about trying to write between morning tantrums, and then again amidst yogurt and blueberries and lots of chatter, while we watched the caterpillars in the container on the dining table, caterpillars the toddler found roaming the fennel fronds out in the garden. The garden now overgrown, jungle-like, tomato plants leaning on each other like drunk friends at the end of a long night. I would’ve forgotten to tell you that her dad took her outside to the garden, that in fact he was the one who spotted the caterpillars, who thought to get the little carrier from the garage and collect the fat critters carefully, fronds and all, a tiny, temporary habitat for her amusement and inspection. If we were a still life painting, we’d be called “Mother and Child Breakfast with Caterpillars.” You see, the father is not at the table. He’s already gone off to work, even on a holiday. Every day this man works. And yet, in the early morning hour before he goes, he finds a moment to walk to the garden with the bumbling, mercurial toddler, to spy a small creature, to gentle it into a container, to ask his daughter, what colors do you see? I don’t write enough about this man. All he does. All he is. Truest heart.

(Post 230 of 365)

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Family Reunion

Hot, sticky August. A family reunion on my mom’s side, up north on a lake lined with pines, rocky outcroppings with rope swings. My mother’s people are genuine and kind. It’s all easy conversation and laughter.

Today everyone was in the water, splashing, playing games, paddle boarding, jumping off the dock. I swam with my little fish, and then swam way out by myself, and then again with my cousin Grace. Later we went out on the boat. Early evening sun beating low and strong. Music playing. Wind whipping our hair. My beautiful sisters sitting across from me. Pure happiness. We jumped off the boat into the deep water. I was in heaven.

And now I’m dead tired in that wonderful waterlogged way. My favorite day of summer so far.

(Post 207 of 365)

Let It Go

The long weekend was an ongoing gathering that paused only while we slept. Everyone arrived early to the beach, staking umbrellas, lying on blankets, passing out strawberries and cherries while the kids played and swam.

The toddler who won’t wean settled her sandy body into my lap and tugged at my bathing suit. I nursed her to sleep, which bought me an uninterrupted stretch of time to talk with my cousin Kathy, writer, teacher and all-around incredible person. We are kin and we are kindred. Conversation flows the same way it did when we were kids, walking the double cul-de-sac near her house, talking endlessly.

Beneath the shade of the umbrella, we spoke of family dynamics and the bittersweetness of returning home, where the loss of her mom is felt more acutely. We talked about writing, about being brave and being vulnerable, about navigating boundaries, about all that’s left unsaid.

Later we gathered for the annual barbecue at my dad and stepmom’s house, once my grandparents’ house. This summer marks the 70th year. I’ve lost count of the little cousins running wild in the grass.

During dinner, my cousin Eileen came over to chat and I noticed her bracelet, a leather band with a silver plate engraved with the words “Let It Go.” I touched it and said, “Everyone should have those words tacked on their body.” She smiled and unsnapped the bracelet from her wrist. I began to protest, but she stopped me, saying, “This is how it works. You wear this as long as you need to. And when you feel like you no longer need it, pass it on.”

The bracelet hasn’t left my wrist since. There is so much I hold onto. So much outside of my control. Big and small. I hold on tight. The last two days, when I look down at my wrist, I feel myself exhale. My jaw relaxes, my shoulders drop, my palms open. And I just let go.

(Post 168 of 365)

 

 

 

The Garden

In the garden. Late afternoon sun. Shoveling, raking, leveling dirt until my hands blistered. While my stepdad staked the fence. He pointed to the poison ivy I can never seem to identify. He persisted with staking despite all the rock ledge, found the soft earth. And we laughed about a politician, you know the one. He wrapped the wire fence, joining it to each stake, but I never once looked up from shoveling to see how he’d done it. The sun sank into shade. And my mom put on her garden gloves and plotted out the plants and I dug with my daughter’s yellow plastic shovel because I couldn’t find the spade, which isn’t a spade but a trowel. And the spade made me think of A Tree for Peter. Then the trowel was found. And my mom and I planted tomatoes and eggplant and peppers and herbs, and my stepdad quietly persisted with the fence. Until he was finished and sat on a rock to rest. And I didn’t think to get him water. We were digging and patting down dirt. My mom in her straw hat, kneeling at the garden bed, separating the basil, saying, remember we come from pioneers, we have pioneer blood. I had underestimated all the work, but they knew exactly what they were getting into, happily, without complaint. I tromped around in my bare feet, hauling dirt and water, holding the afternoon like a smooth stone, the kind you pocket and find a special place for so you can come back to it again and again, turn it over, catch each fleck in the light.

(Post 149 of 365)