The moment I stir, there is a little black nose an inch from mine. Two loud sniffs determine if I am still alive, then the thud of two rescues leaping from the bed to the floor. The hurryup prebarking huffs begin the minute my own feet touch the floorboards. The countdown to fullscale arfing begins as I throw on many layers of clothes and race to the bathroom, which signals a dangerous escalation to yelping. The frenzied barking intensifies as I fumble the leashes and unlock the slider. The door opens. Squirrel! They bolt. I stumble after them, finally awake.
I found this picture of my Aunt Elena and Uncle Benny and had it blown up. Now it sits opposite our bed in a space where the light filters through. Appropriate, because Ellie and Benny always felt luminous to me, the love they had for each other an endless spring of joy and jokes and all the good things in life. I studied them without knowing I was taking this basic course on Love 101. After being married to Chris for over 38 years, I am glad I matriculated. I learned from them about mutual respect, the importance of the goal of laughing every day until you lost your breath, how to grieve together. Thank you, beloveds.
and, just as importantly, forty or so years later, still on the journey together, note where Ellie has her hand:
Jesse Lanier Cooper – October 15-January 3, 2005
Jesse’s favorite Greek myth was Perseus and Andromeda. He loved heroes, warriors, dragon slayers. A life-size cutout of Xena, Warrior Princess stood in the corner of his room. Some understood that his broken body contained a warrior soul. After Jesse died, his best friend dreamed that he came to him as a warrior. After death, Perseus and Andromeda became constellations. But I don’t look to the stars for Jesse. I read the annual report of the Jesse fund at the MA Federation for Children with Special Needs that has slain the dragons of educational obstruction for over three hundred families of kids with disabilities, and see my warrior boy.
As we look for
The perfect tree
We leave a piece of
Silver for the wood sprites
The decorations are in storage
We dust off all the ornaments
Dad spends an entire day stringing
Together popcorn and cranberries
I’m happy to have Dad home this Christmas
The tree’s spine is crooked like mine and Mom’s
Stan’s homemade ornaments are placed on the tree
They hang on the branches like rings on fingers
Colored lights beat out white lights this year
This is our Charlie Brown Blue Spruce Christmas Tree
I don’t think of the first fraught birth day, two-and-a half months early, the icy fear, the grim pronouncements. Now I remember sunny still-warm October days on our deck, my son surrounded by cousins and friends, laughter and cake, the marsh in hues of gold. I want to find the multiverse where this day exists and reside there forever.
We did this thing during quarantine….
I’m two years old and wailing, facing the camera in the black and white photo. Underneath the white curlicue edge, my Uncle Joe has written “I fall.” My fear of heights is deep-seated and so visceral it probably goes back to a life before this one, the result of a misstep on a cliff road or a sacrificial hurling into a fiery pit. In this life, it will be another’s fall from a tall building, the man that jumps from a window of the Hotel Warwick on Sixth Avenue that will cause me to go into labor after I walk through his scrambled brains. I deliver my son ten weeks early, like the fulfillment of an ancient, unfathomable decree.
“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself / In dark woods, the right road lost” –Dante Alighieri
Can’t believe I got lost in the woods I have known since moving here in 1994…but I took a wrong turn with Titi and Sugar straining the leash, and “found myself” wandering in a wood that was unrecognizable since winter’s deadfall! Meanwhile, my husband planned to surprise me at the bay farm. Usually you can see the vast expanse of meadow pretty easily–but I was wandering in the woods nearby, clambering over deadfall, lost. After making three circles, my husband became alarmed and suspicious of a guy he saw emerging alone from a different wooded area. With lurid pictures of finding me dead in the woods in his now terror-filled brain, he took down the guy’s license plate! I finally found my way out and stopped at the home of some neighbors. Our dogs played and her husband even gave me some “special” cookies! I looked at my phone and saw that my husband had been calling (this is very unusual–he considers a cell phone an electronic jail bracelet and never uses his). I called back and we met up at the entrance to the woods. Still laughing over the license plate takedown!
I kept a plague diary during the hideous year of 2020. Here’s a random August 31 entry:
“Chris made me laugh so hard tonight it felt like a multiple orgasm. Deo gratias.”
“Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.” -Rose Franken, author and playwright (28 Dec 1895-1988)