Unfinished

My daughters’ gentle-pawed cats cry in the night, dragging a toy mouse around the hall and looking for company. Nearly 20 years a mother, the nether realms of nights are my familiars. I lie listening to wind chimes singing in the nighttime wind.

At the solstice, the darkness is no stranger to us now. The afterschool children ski around my library in the utter darkness.

While waiting for pasta water to boil, my 13-year-old and I slice and eat wedges of cheese — a Christmas gift. Around our little house, I imagine the moon making her steady, slow rise into the starry sky above our metal roof, the unbroken night pooling through this village, with its lit-up twinkling strings of white and colored Christmas lights.

So, the day funnels down into the night, this year into the next. She talks about our old house — unfinished was the word we always used for the house, and she says it again, unfinished. I push aside my stack of work papers. Between us is a little bonsai plant, a gift from her friend.

I keep listening to this girl — just her and me and the cats beginning for crumbles of cheese. Goodness, adolescence — clear and mysterious as the rising full moon. She stirs the boiling water.

You can contemplate existence all you want, at the end of the day someone needs to blow their nose and hand you a dirty tissue.

— Sarah Ruhl & Max Ritko, Letters From Max: a book of friendship

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By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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