Tiny Running Toddler

A very tall father and his nearly-one-year-old daughter live across the road from my library and often swing by. Yesterday while I’m in for a board meeting, not really open, they swing by, and the little girl runs to me.

Not even 7 days ago, the small curly-headed girl was tentatively taking steps, and here she is now, rushing across our worn carpet, her smile radiant.

When my daughters were babies, I was amazed how quickly their nearly translucent fingernails grew, how rapidly a scrape healed.

Babyhood’s quicksilver, sure, but adolescence mirrors that age. My 13-year-old has changed so mightily in the last six months, in face and body, that when I arrive at soccer games and can’t easily find her — idiotic, that I can’t immediately recognize my own daughter across a field — her sister says, Look for the green cleats.

Really? I think to myself. Identify my girl by her shoes?

When I was a mother of a toddler, I would have found this situation sad, maybe even just awful, but — and this may just be a combination of worn-down single mothering and that my daughter’s busied her life with all kinds of great kid projects and friends — I find her endlessly interesting, like a blossom whose name I don’t know, opening petal by petal. Where are you headed, I wonder. Where are you going?

Because he’s so good, here’s a few more lines from Andre Dubus:

But the writer who endures and keeps working will finally know that writing the book was something hard and glorious, for at the desk a writer must try to be free of prejudice, meanness of spirit, pettiness, and hatred; strive to be a better human being than the writer normally is, and to do this through concentration on a single word, and then another, and another.


Late Night Rambles

My daughters and I often wonder where our cat Acer sleeps at night. His brother takes turns tucking among our feet, or curling on our faces.

In the middle of the other night, I walked into our upstairs glassed-in porch, looking for a book. On the little couch there, Acer sprawled, wide awake in the moonlight. I bent down and rubbed his velvety pink nose, this little cat who needed his own private room.

Here’s a few lines from the late master, Andre Dubus.

So many of us fail: we divorce our wives and husbands, we leave the roofs of our lovers…. Yet still I believe in love’s possibility, in its presence on the earth…. in an ordinary kitchen with an ordinary woman and five eggs. The woman sets the table She watches me beat the eggs. I scramble them in a saucepan…. I take our plates, spoon eggs on them, we sit and eat. She and I and the kitchen have become extraordinary; we are not simply eating; we are pausing in the march to perform an act together, we are in love; and the meal offered and received is a sacrament which says: I know you will die; I am sharing food with you; it is all I can do, and it is everything.

— Andre Dubus, Broken Vessels



Rough Draft

The ten-year-olds are at their fort building again; odd pieces of plywood have been scavenged, a long 2×6″, silver spray paint glistens a joyous arc in this early morning dew. The project is all rough draft. No terminal point of placing Ma’s china shephardess over the mantle will ever occur. Lacking the need for a finished project, the kids’ creation is all joy and curiosity. Could these old pallets be used? A split hose?

At select moments, the daughter opens her door and invites me in for a tour. What do you think? she asks. What more can I do?

And then: Pull up that bench I made. Sit down and enjoy.

So many of us fail: we divorce our wives and husbands, we leave the roofs of our lovers, go once again into the lonely march, mustering our courage with work, friends, half pleasures which are not whole because they are not shared. Yet still I believe in love’s possibility, in its presence on the earth….

Andre Dubus, Broken Vessels


Photo by Molly S.


Last evening, walking along our dirt road with my daughter, she chattered about our shadows in the lingering daylight, how the sun had merged us into one person, and we appeared to be one being with four legs and a curious kind of goose neck she had made from her hands.

While we were standing there, I suddenly realized I had been listening to the robins singing in a nearby maple tree, without any particular consciousness – and yet on some level I must have been listening keenly. Just recently returned, a whole flock of red-chested couples are nesting in the maples around the garden.

When we first moved to this house, we had two bird-stalking cats and the field was wooded then: the songbirds are not prolific as they are now. But, as all things go, our terrain has changed, and one benefit is this spring melody. How funny is the human mind: winter and cold has now fled our immediate memory, and it’s spring and seeds and the garlic pushing up through a mulch of rotting leaves.

We don’t have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we’ve got.

– Andre Dubus



Marriage is a Rope

Writer Andre Dubus, master of dialogue, of marriage and its dissipations, pulled over years ago on an interstate as a good samaritan, was hit by a car and never walked again. Last night, I again reread his novella We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and I was thinking of this story at my child’s school this afternoon.

The afternoon was breezy and sunny. The children, from little kindergarteners to the big sixth-grade kids, were outside, chalking on the pavement, playing basketball, swinging, avoiding the wasps stirring in the heat.

One element of Dubus’s genius is to illuminate marriage as a unique configuration between two people with no cliches – all the loving, lust, resentment, frustrated dreams – woven into a particular rope of a marriage. Any rope put to use has its strength tested: will the material fray or snap? Or it is woven well and truly?

When I was a child, jump roping on a school playground, I imagined infinity was the  blue sky, never envisioning our interior worlds are as mysterious as the endless sky. On the way home, I bought my daughter her first cremee of the summer.

In a marriage there are all sorts of lies whose malignancy slowly kills everything, and that day I was running the gamut from the outright lie of adultery to the careful selectivity which comes when there are things that two people can no longer talk about. It is hard to say which kills faster but I would guess selectivity, because it is a surrender: you avoid touching wounds and therefore avoid touching the heart.

– Andre Dubus, We Don’t Live Here Anymore


Hardwick, Vermont