Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My December Girls

Many years ago, as a young pre-teen, my friends and I used to giggle inside of a tight-knit circle as we calculated—based on our birthdays—when each of us was conceived.

"Valentines Day baby, Valentines Day baby," we would squeal in delight and curiosity at one born in November. (After all, we likely didn't know how exactly a baby came to be.)

"Ooooh, New Years Eve, Oh la la," one would say to the other.

I sat here today at my desk quietly, half doing tasks, half eying the calendar, but mostly thinking that this year, for the first time since my own birth, you won't be here to celebrate your day. And as I scatter to plan for your daughter's (my mother's) birthday which falls tomorrow, just two days before yours, I couldn't help but strategize ways to keep her mind off of the fact that now hers is the only December birthday. Your mother, my great grandmother Honey, came first on the 19th, then you on the 17th and then my mother on the 15th. How amazing that three generations were born within 5 days of one another, only separated by the 20-year age differences between you. The closeness always felt special to me. I could easily group the three of you together: conceived in March, early springtime babies, all spring showers and lilacs, and roses. How fitting for the three of you, I thought, always with a song underfoot, a twinkle in your eyes, a little bit of something special on a tough day. Three peas in a pod, you grew from the same seed, the same attitude, hope, love (and poor planning).

My mother remains. Solitary, she is the lone December birth. I'm not surprised she's boarding a plane on the day that separates her day and yours to flee this coast, to hide out beneath the warm California sunlight for a few days, wearing a new face, an old dress and, undoubtedly, one of your scarves.

So, I guess I'm just here to say I'm missing you, and thinking of you on this windy December day. And I'll sing a little Happy Birthday tune every day this week to fill in the spaces and the new-found emptiness in this silly old month.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Grace.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Who's Got Spirit?

Here we stand, two weeks from Christmas, and while it's simply freezing out, it just doesn't feel like Christmastime. Maybe it came too fast, maybe it snuck up on me while I had my back turned; but after a long, stressful, sometimes heartbreaking year, it arrived and I am still standing, despite cold fingers and toes, but left reeling.

Christmas, this year, feels like heavy workbooks—my father's—that are too big. I've got th
em on though, I'm trudging, my feet sliding forward and back with each step. Something doesn't feel right, the fit is off. But I don't want him or anyone else to know it. I've got a smile on. This is fun, it's just a show. Everything's going to be all right. Falling is impossible. I guess I just wonder if someone can pick up on the traces of fear hidden on my face—fear of being found a fraud.

There are lights in my front window, and a colorfully decorated tree in the corner of my living room, but it all feels like a set dressing. Props inside of four walls that come apart at the corners, and can be packed away for next year's display.

I blame myself. I don't spend enough time with family. I don't plan fun,
festive activities on the weekends. I don't bake enough. I don't get outside enough. But no one's to blame, and I guess I'm realizing that now. The only thing to blame is the notion that Christmas has to mean the same thing for everyone. It doesn't have to be painted red and green, or be summed up in a few kitschy lines; it might not even be worn with a smile and a "ho ho ho." So, maybe I'm growing, or grown, now finding my fit. My Christmas. And I'm finding it's more of a bluish gray, but with an overwhelming warmth to it, too. Mine is less of a "party" and more of a time for reflection of the numbered days behind me, the memories of the year. What we've been through. Things gained, and lost.

So here's to: starting gates and finish lines, jumping off porches and almost breaking your foot, hungover breakfasts with best friends, crowding in fo
r family pictures, Grandad Bill's "1, 2, 3," air conditioning and clean water, big screens, fireworks and flavored Sake, new acquisitions, losing someone you thought would always be around, thieving dogs, turkey trots, "Amazing Grace," marathon tears, spoiled brats, The Arcade Fire at Merriweather Post Pavillion, waist-high snow, shoveling, butt dials, weight loss, the South Beach diet, two weddings in a year, becoming a wife, rallies on the National Mall, Treme, 7-year-old break dancers, date nights at Hooked, Hilton Cancun, Lou's monthly visits, LOST, Mariah's soccer games, dinner dates with Callie, accomplishing goals, our Israeli HM friends, free Christmas trees, generous bosses, "kanye reupholstered my p*," getting wine wasted, Cullan getting too tall, wedding ring debacles, a Judge Idol star, The Social Network, becoming "old news" on facebook, dramatic readings of Kanye's tweets, "special time" with mom, no longer living in sin, calling Whit and once in a while having her answer, the knot obsession, business trips, internet friendships, shaun john and al, bridal showers, nail polish, turkey sandwiches, Donald Draper, bankrupt airlines, generous parents, "right in front of your eyes," having money again, stingy wedding guests, gay or straight?, human kindness, Williams Sonoma shopping sprees, utis, Win Butler's Air Force Ones, house-hunting, carpet stains, back rubs, "missing you," happy tears, 3 cups of coffee, polite 5-year-olds and "Roo Roo," married friends, cooking confidence, pre-wedding beach house, Michael Scott's last season, losing touch, letting people you love down, stoners, SP is an idiot, kissing for fun, running tights with a pee hole, masters theses, long-distance relationships, book clubs, work spouses, Marley and Me, "The Force is With You, Katie," dive kisses, gremlin dogs, breaking records, Cabanas Copal, Real Sports with Bryant Gumble, Ree Drummond/Pioneer Woman, recipes, fibromyalgia, Kanye on a stick, tinky Mar, rummy, jalapeno corn bread, the Biltmore, "Types of Bitches," radio mixes, Bibis, "the cars that go BOOM," having kitchen-table chairs.

And here's to a Merry Christmas, and to next year and all that it promises. And to everyone in my little life and this enormous world: wishing you more hope than you can even stand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Please Send: Paprika, Money and a Slotted Spoon

I wasn't raised among heaps of sticky dough on the counter, or pots of seasoned meat bubbling over on the stove. I wasn't raised with a stocked spice rack, or fresh produce in the crisper drawer. I was raised on simple comfort foods that could easily stretch to feed 10+ people. Things like tuna noodle casserole, mac & cheese, spaghetti, beef stroganoff, a keilbasa dish with spinach and potatoes. These foods filled us up—me and my sisters, and eventually my brother—and sent us on our way, out back to reconvene our jury trial on whether or not my younger sister deserved to be pushed off the trampoline for tattling, or another in an assorted line of games we made up to amuse ourselves.

It's obvious to most, the title of "cook" or "family cook" doesn't always belong to the woman anymore. This development is said to have sprung out of the last ten years, but for the sake of affection, let's say my mother was and always has been simply a modern woman.

It's constantly debated in our house who was the primary cook when we were children. In stories I've written, and memories my sisters have divulged, it seems we rob my mother of her title. We remember my father as the chef, not because he was there nightly, but perhaps because we looked forward to, longed for his meals—weekends when my mother was gone at trade shows, we were excited for his spaghetti with "doctored sauce." True, my mother cooked breakfasts and dinners and lunches for her small army, but while they was always plenty of food and a healthy balance, her food lacked wonder, excitement. It was clear even to our small, undeveloped palates that something was missing.

I never gave it much thought at the time. I never questioned the meals, always gobbled them down quietly and without complaint—my tall glass of milk sometimes difficult to polish off after stuffing myself with dinner.

We were happy children.

I began to notice the repetition, the sadness of it all, in high school, because by then I was making many of the meals myself. I knew the wash, rinse, repeat of a handful of salad, a cluster of popcorn chicken and potatoes or french fries. Under my mother's direction, I often made dinner for us who still lived at home. By then there was no back pasture, just the noise of cars out on the street. We were a different people then, my mother a different woman. Just a woman, no longer a saint. A single mom, not head of an army. There was almost no army left—just a broken and disbanded regime. The cooking didn't change, it just got simpler, and even still when I go home for visits, dinner is a predictable game, only switched up on occasion or in celebration.

I left home for college a woman, while slightly cynical, still able to watch out after a bunch of kids, straighten up the house before bed, get my work done on time, build my credit. I didn't know how to cook, though. Never learned, like someone missing that essential stage of life where riding a bike is taught, or swimming. College came and went and it wasn't a problem. No one cooked in college. Everyone spent their money (or their parents') crowding into cheap Mexican restaurants for all-you-can-eat tortilla chips and tacos.

And then suddenly, I arrived here. Present day. Twenty-three years old and unable to cook my husband an interesting (yes, interesting: not bland, boring, taste-less, cheap, easy) dinner. Well, at least until about a week ago.

Kitchen confidence isn't something most women ever even think about (I don't think). Their mothers and grandmothers raise them up in the kitchen, icing cakes, roasting chickens, stuffing peppers. I've seen them, friends of mine. Watched them in the kitchen as they reach for this and "oh why not, sprinkle a little of THAT in there." I didn't think I belonged in that crowd. I belonged in my own crowd. One where my father stops in for dinner out of the blue: We're having pasta...with sauce from a bottle. "Did you doctor it at all?" he asks. "No," I reply, a failure of a daughter.

When I get into the kitchen I start to panic: I don't have the right spices, the refrigerator is always empty, no eggs, no milk, no olive oil. I get turned around, I have the wrong tools, too many of some and not enough of the most important things. But something has changed in me recently. It's my new life, maybe. My new me. I can learn, I will learn. I'm learning. I have to prop myself up on crutches with my kitchen handicap, but all it takes is effort and I've got plenty of it. I'm learning that cooking starts with TWO things. 1. A recipe. You will never ever run out of them. There are bagillions. And they breed. One or two recipes after repetitive use grow into a new recipe, which sparks an idea for..."Hm, yes, what if I DID add dijon mustard to lemon juice and..." You will never run out of them. 2. Planning: a sales paper & a shopping list. Planning meals, why didn't I think of that? I put in the hours, and it's all there. So Thursday night when the recipe calls for 2 cups of Parmesan cheese instead of 1, DON'T PANIC. Just reach in the back of the top shelf of the fridge, and there behind the salsa is another bag of Parm. Praise God.

Or maybe there's three things. 3.) Passion (for flavor). I think it comes from the shoulders, the whip of the wrist, the spinning turns from counter to stove-top. Joie de vivre in the kitchen. My first successful meal planted that warmth in my stomach, the longing for flavor, for aromas and tastes that make you scream and clap with delight. This passion, I now realize, is what was always missing for me. Passion gives even the simplest pasta salad a captivating flame. The YUM factor. The TO DIE FOR factor.

Husband is beside himself. "You can cook, baby!" he exclaimed to me one night, sinking his shoulders down in delight. You don't understand, this is AMAZING. I've made curry. I've made lasagna. I've made ADOBO, yes adobo. And they were all great! I am an international chef mastermind. I wisk with confidence, I spread splendidly.


I'm getting a big head, but that's because this is a BIG deal. Somewhere between a couple of food blogs, the encouragement of an e-friend and an everlasting desire to be more of "woman," I can cook. My days of frozen dinners, chicken tenders and scrambling once the clock gets to 6 p.m., are over. And with them, the endless openness and freedom of a hot summer day in our back field is over. Mama isn't in the kitchen anymore. Mama moved away, she's got a new house, more babies. Older sisters come home to their husbands, boyfriends, roommates, not that heavy round wooden table our family used to sit around at mealtimes. We've moved on from the past—hurt feelings, boring dinners and hidden treats from Dad in the pantry. We're grown women (and a man) now. And though we'll always been there, in person or deep within the caverns of our most cherished childhood memories, we've got to look out for own, now.

And so, amidst the steaming pot teeter tottering on my too-small burner and the sweat on my brow, amidst l'essence de onion that stings my eyes and several boxes of discounted pasta, I chant over and over to myself: I can cook, baby.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Settled Life

I feel like I just finished running an exhausting year-long race. Maybe even a life-long race. Before the dust began to settle, I was worried what I'd do with myself, what I'd do with "all that free time." David always says I don't know how to relax—so what would I do with nothing to do?

The leaves are beginning to change, slowly but I see it, and the dust, too, is settling around me—us—in our new life together. I've heard some say that getting married doesn't change much (especially if you were already living together), but I'd have to disagree. There is something different between us, something I can't quite put my finger on. I know the honeymoon period lasts a while, but I feel a new-found sense of respect, trust and responsibility. I've also never been happier, never felt more calm. Maybe this new, settled me is the best version of myself.

I learned early on in life to roll with the punches, to stay on my toes—whichever cliched expression you prefer—but I'm beginning to wonder if all of that is fading away as this new period of my life begins. For once, the constant moving, rolling, jumping, twisting to get out of the way, has ceased, and in its place a comfortable stasis has developed, one where I'm free. More than ever I feel like I have the power to figure out what I want to do with my life, not my career, but how I'd like to fill up my days. I think: dancing, baking, cooking, reading, writing, playing, traveling. I've already started planning trips up and down the coast.

I never considered the thought that once I was settled, feet firmly planted on the ground, I could finally begin to really move about and see what life has to offer me. I always considered any movement positive movement, a step in the right direction. But I think I was wrong. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with standing still, or taking a step back to really see what is in front of you, to take it all in. The stillness over these last few weeks has shown me more beauty than I've experience in a while. All I've seen for a long time is the whoosh of the trees as I go zipping by.

I think I like this new, settled life—whether it means I am flying above thick, wet clouds or slouching into our soft, comfortable couch. It's a happier life, a lighter load to carry and, so far, a better me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

Well, almost six months later, I'm back. Hopefully to stay, hopefully for regular visits. It's been hard—given the craziness of the last year—to feel sane enough to sit for a moment and collect my thoughts on a page. To be honest, I feel like I've been a writer in hiding. I even scrapped the idea of writing my own wedding vows. I sometimes find myself scared to sit down and write, afraid of what might rear its ugly head on the page.

It all started last September, in a mad-dash to wedding planning, that was quickly stunted by my grandmother's upsetting diagnosis in early October. Then it was the praying, the praying, the planning, the waiting, the listening, the confusion, the payments, the tears, the guilt—all the while the guilt for spending even an ounce of my time planning a joyous event while the minutes ticked by and it became evident we were losing her. But, then suddenly she was gone. And we let her go, whether or not we have fully accepted it yet. I'm not sure what I'm here to say, I didn't intend on touching the subject, but, alas, she comes up. She always does—my missingness of her, the lack of her, the lack of color in a room.

Despite it all, I am so thankful that now, she is always around. Always in earshot. I know she was there in the front row as I said my vows and David said his. I know she appreciated each and every flower—its intricate design—at each table at the reception. I could imagine the twinkling reflection of the sparklers in her eyes as we made our final exit that evening. I felt her wrapped around me, her arms like a blanket, warm, almost smotheringly so. At times, I could barely breathe. She was not there, but I felt like her presence was filled. Like that number of bodies gathered together, tied together with so much love, made the absence far less noticeable. I heard her laughter echoed in theirs, I saw her proud smile in their faces. I felt her shining within me.

Her pride has become my pride. I haven't always been the most positive, the most loving person. I have been quick to judge, quick to criticize, but lately I just feel aglow. For the first time in a long time, I feel a profound sense of joy in my heart. I feel joy in being who I am, and in doing what I do. And I know she taught me joy, so perhaps part of it is seeing a bit of her in myself. But I have to say, I feel so much genuine happiness when I think of the people I love, and I think it comes from pride.

Through our pasts, through struggle, disapointment, disaster, look at what we've become. My friends are brilliant, fresh, following their passions and their skills, working towards the goal of a masters, a degree. They don't know where they'll end up, but it doesn't scare them. They keep pushing, and despite deadlines and papers and endless tasks, they still make time for me. They still reach out to make me feel special, appreciated, like a celebrity. My family is an astonishing army. My sibblings are these little soldiers, shaped and buffed, willing to take on anything. So adaptable to what life throws their way, without complaint. Always willing to serve, to console, to support, to text, to pose, to LEAP. For me. My husband is the hardest worker I know. Whether he puts in 12-13 hour days, or takes on a whole other set of responsibilities on top of the ones he already has, he never complains, he learns fast and excels at everything. And he pursues me with the same level of tenacity that he does his job—always willing to step up, always willing to fix things, to take the fall, to scoop me up when I need it.

My cup runneth over with joy and thankfulness for this confidence, for these people who have grown this confidence, my person, into what I am today. The ability to live life without regard to the judgement of others, the worry of what someone might be thinking, is the most freeing feeling. I finally feel myself letting those old concerns go. I am open to what life has to offer me, open to let myself relax (for once), because of the support system I have. If I slip, slack, I won't make a crash landing, I will land gently in welcoming arms. And I know her arms and her hands—glistening with colorful jewels—will be Gracefully weaved into that web, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We Shouldn't, But We Shall

I am going to do that horrible, horrible thing of making myself write a blog today. I have run out of every idea for killing time at work, my boss is gone for the day. What's a gal (with a fake job) to do?!

I'm bored at work, not challenged, not stimulated, and so I often sit myself down and ask myself: self, what do you really want to do? Where do you really want to be? Until very recently, I had my answer down pat. I want to start out entry level at a book publishing firm and work my way up in the editorial team. It's general, but yet specific. I know I want to be FORCED to read with my red pen all day. I want to be inundated with 500-page novels that carry on and on, without a likable character. While I know that that's still what I want to do, I'm left to wonder if that will ever happen (unless I'm willing to pick up and move to NYC). Reality plays a big role in all of this. Dream all you want, dream beautiful, magical dreams and work to make them a reality. But these dreams must fit into the scheme of your life, the capacity of your career, your mind. (Unless of course you're someone annoying who wins the lottery, or gets picked up to be Ronnie's new love interest on Season 2 of The Jersey Shore... I could go on, but I won't.)

You need passion to make it, they say. Along with hard-work, dedication. But aside from all of that, I still ask, what do you really want to do, self? Is it books? I can dive into the books that I WANT to everyday after work, everyday on the weekends. I can print out manuscripts and comb through them on my lunch break. What really matters to me? People.

My love for writing is undeniable, but I can't help but wonder, is it the people I get to (and have gotten to) write about what I love about it? Do I love writing oh-so-much when I'm writing a review of an Outdoor Shooting game for work, or a short piece on the 5 Best Purses for Your iPhone? I don't love it then. I run from it then. I avoid emails from my editor then. I love it when I'm learning who Maggie is as I create her. As I learn she is a recently-deceased but eternally beloved mother of two little girls, an amazingly captivating and passionate wife to a man who is struggling with her death, with the concept of moving on to raise his two little girls without her. That's when I'm enamored with the craft, with the placement of the words, the movement of the language, the image of a daughter's small fingers tracing the veins on her father's wrists. I love the people, the characters, and I don't even need to create them. They're all around: quirky and awkward and loveable yet disgusting and intriguing: John, the director of the Indoor Tanning Association of America; Henrietta Lacks whose "immortal cell line" has served as the foundation of most medical research done over the last 50 years; Hugo, the man arrested in Dupont Circle for jogging naked one Spring morning.

So whether I get where I "want" to be or not, I will make it with people around me to learn about and laugh with. There's no limit to what I can be and where I can go if my biggest expectation is that they'll be people there with interesting stories who need someone to listen and to love them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More of Life Lately

February 19, 2010...she closed her eyes, gathered herself and floated up into heaven. Here my mom, aunts, sisters and I wore some of her many colorful rings in celebration of a life well-lived, her breathtakingly beautiful life. I find myself missing her everywhere, standing in a crowded bar, someone pushes by me abruptly, coldly, and my mind tricks me. She's still here, it says to me. Just there, down 495 a ways...go see for yourself. But I don't, knowing the voice is wrong. Knowing she's gone for good. And anyway, it's too late, I'm already standing in sun blinding, tears streaming into my watered-down drink.

The weekend of her funeral, all of my sisters (except Eliza) slept under the same roof...as if we were once again little girls, crowding into one over-sized bed in her house for some holiday, or some weekend when my mother needed to get away. Herkimer stories and the smell of her books, and nightgowns and fresh flowers lulling us to sleep.

We've been having fun. Relaxing, sleeping a lot. Making mixed drinks for the fun of it. Watching the Oscars and catching up on all the movies we've missed. We are planning for the future. Planning our wedding. Looking for houses. Wanting adventure--a new city?! I feel so confident and happy when we're together...nothing can touch us, hinder us, knock us down. Together we are tough to beat. So proud of how far we've come!

So proud of my bebe girl for getting into grad school at Texas State outside of Austin, Texas. I just wish it wasn't so far away. I am proud beyond words, happy for her beyond words. I know one day I will be begging to be her book tour manager or something, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. Loss has taken on new meaning for me lately. I don't want to lose anything. Not a receipt. Not an old photograph. Especially not my best friend. I'm afraid to. Afraid of the disappearing act. But it's not just fear, it's regret. Guilt. Of time wasted. Of not taking the time to appreciate what you had when it lived right across the living room. I will never get that time back and I have to live with that. As I grown up, I will learn to be content with a friendship held together by trust from years of friendship, hard laughter (even when we wanted to cry) and good old Skype. :)

Me...lately. Stretched thin and anxious, but facing forward, sun on my face, a smile. Looking to the future, trying not to miss everything that whizzes by me: Rye's soccer games, "Fishing trips" with 'Liza, sitting in the sun with my Mom, talking to my sisters, hugging my Dad, holding David's face between my hands, snuggling with my puppy, listening to Cullan play the piano, visiting my grandfathers, writing poetry, hearing about a friend's day, the politics, the tears, the moments, the fights, the jokes, the movies, the sunshine, the sunshine... In, then out. I take deep breaths and say a prayer for the people I love, for the days, the life ahead of me. For the wisdom to take the best path and to stay on it. For the joy to make the best of every situation. For the faith to walk--with purpose--into what is unknown and figure it all out as I go along.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Self, Lately

Lately, I find myself missing the people from my past that I never took the time to get to know. The handsome, popular boys that I ignored in high school, but that I often thought of as I laid awake in the darkness, sleepless my in bed on school nights. Wrapped in my sheets, I orchestrated outlandish situations in my mind that this one and that one was in love with me, but couldn't bring himself to reveal love for a girl who was too tall, with hair too long and too little make up. I would image that somewhere, within walking distance of my own window, they, too laid awake in their mothers' houses, thinking of ways to get my attention, to start a pointless conversation. Perhaps I was foolish--and still am--in thinking they were as self-conscious, as neurotic as I was. They already had the attention, the looks, the allowance that I lacked--and secretly longed for.

Now I wonder, would it be absurd to drop them a line? I'm sorry we never talked more, how are you? To offer my congrats at finding that one is getting married or going to be an uncle? So happy for you... as if I were an old friend. But I am not. Would they instantly long to make a connection, ask me to tell them about my life, day by day since we donned maroon gowns and caps and climbed the stairs of our school for the last time? Or would they take my words, my overdue effort with the rest of the congratulations, conversations and confrontations of the day, and rinse them off with gentle soap in an early evening shower. Again, would they wonder about me? Do they, like me, ever wonder: what is she doing now? Why was she always so cold?

I am foolish to think that such a missed connection could ever be patched back together. Two sets of arms strained to reach behind them, like a driver's blind hands reaching for some object in the back seat--just out of reach. Not with all the passing of time, the states, continents, the pressure, the lovers with names we've never heard that have come and gone.

I am foolish to think that such a missed connection could be addressed when such a thing isn't even allowed with an old love. Someone who knew you, who laid next to you on other sleepless nights when you weren't thinking about boys in your high school class or anyone else for that matter. You cannot contact this person to say, "I'm sorry. You were right. I hope you meet someone. I hope you're happy." All of the things you meant to say when you had the chance but did not, cannot be said now, just to ease your own mind. Just to quell your selfish desires for ultimate "rightness" or "kindness" or some version of karma in reverse.

So I guess it's time to, as Sally from When Harry Met Sally would say, "just let it lie." Except I think this, type this, say this without the scowl on my face that she wore. Instead my face shows an assurance and a small hint of sadness--for a sense of youthfulness lost, for the idea of missed opportunities: for a time when I was a small fish in a pond of 300-or-so others. With fins pressed closely together, we swam through the waters, dodged (or tripped over) the same rocks and obstacles. We mourned our super stars and huddled together to watch those buildings fall. Will I ever belong to such a pack again? Experience such strength in such numbers? A small body surrounded by a sea of faces and personalities, a sea of walls on either side of me. Shelter. Odd, but I suddenly feel overcome with the need to thank them, stop hating them for those four short years we suffered through together.

And I make a mental note to think more highly of them (and myself) the next time, and to watch more closely for the connections that are slipping by me each day and to remember that sometimes it's all right to just miss and miss and miss.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mother Bird

Wandering an empty aisle,
crowded with items, I pause,
spotting a box with a small bird perched,
its eyes fixed on mine. Metal eyes twinkling.
In an instant, I see her there in her living room
scattered with colored glass birds,
rainbows cascading down the walls.

Will we think of her, mother,
Each and every time we see a bird?
Is it on purpose, do you think?
Hand-picked in her youth?
An assurance that she will never be forgotten?

“She is all the beauty I have ever known,” you say,
my face strained before you.
And I nod, understanding, but say nothing in reply.

Mother, you are mine, not your own,
who fades so quickly, so soundlessly (almost)
with the passing of days and the change
of seasons. You are cold, now. Numb, now.
Worried, as I am, of what’s to come.
Of a lull in laughter.
Of a lack of color in a room.

Now we know, after our many years of wondering:
death comes, not in a flash,
not in a moment of quick tragedy.
Death moves quiet and calculated,
lives multiplied, divided, taken away.
We often try to guess and fall short.
God sets the date.

I feel your fear, overwhelmingly.
Of needing an answer but having no one to ask.
Of finding your childhood home empty.
Of running out of time to say many things.
Of having to fly alone.

But, Mother, you have raised your own eggs.
From infancy, we rose sturdy, to float alongside you.


Birds, earth’s beaked angels, take flight
tracing our footsteps—as she will. A bread crumb here,
another there. Then—nothing.
Nothing but falling feathers,
and off in the distance, the sound of flapping wings.