Last night, my ten-year-old daughter, her grandfather, and I played Hearts. New to this game, she was tentative for a few hands, fearful of losing. The third game in, she dropped a card that caught me entirely by surprise: a king of clubs who gobbled up my sloughed heart. The card was so precisely the right one I gasped aloud. She won this game on her own fine merit.
We had this moment, my grinning girl and I, of such sheer ten-year-old kid radiance, such pleasure in her own quickness, her success at navigating a difficult game and counting cards. She wore a shirt with red flowers and tiny lavender rose-blossom earrings. Sure, our life is chock-full of all kinds of things that are difficult and dark, that scrape right down to Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. When I sit down again tomorrow morning to rewrite my book, yes, I’ll aim to write deeper, and yes, again, even deeper into all the hardest and what appears to me most unknowable things, but our life also brims over with effervesence and joy–an evening of fifty-two cards, a grandfather, a mother, and two granddaughters–and I’ll wind that in, too.
Ann Sexton once remarked in an interview, when asked why she wrote such dark and painful poems, that pain engraves a deeper memory. Pain engraves a deeper memory. Think of a time in your own life when you have experienced a sudden shock, a betrayal, terrible news. Perhaps you remember the weather, the quality of the breeze, a half-full ashtray, a scratch on the wooden floor, the moth-eaten sweater you were wearing, the siren in the distance. Pain carves details into us, yes. I would wager, though, that great joy does as well.
–– Dani Shaprio