Starting Stick Season

At the end of our dead-end road, my neighbor and I call to each other, checking in, seeking news.

Their 5-year-old loves kindergarten, cut his own hair, lost his first tooth, and is learning to read.

My neighbor laughs at all this, holding a giant box of diapers. When they came down with a cold, he and his wife had to get a Covid test — negative! hurray! — and daycare has been screwed up as their provider had to get her own Covid test.

The old lilac bushes surrounding our houses turned a particularly pretty shade of gold this year, but those little leaves have fallen now. Across the cemetery from our two houses, one sugar maple determinedly holds its leaves, a shimmering reflective pool for sunlight in the afternoon.

And so life goes on.

The kindergartner jumps down the front porch steps, sees me, and points into his mouth. See!

From my distance, I nod and cheer. And so Saturday goes.

Wilderness

On a humid Sunday, we walk into Peacham Bog. When I suggest this, my youngest clarifies, A bog? That’s your idea of fun?

It’s Class I wetlands, I answer — as if this is even the remotest tease of fun.

What does lure her is the car keys. Driving there, I mention, Hey, you should always check the gas gauge before you leave home.

What’s the point? she answers. I always drive with you.

We’re driving over a particularly lousy piece of pavement then, and she carefully avoids a pothole — diligent learner.

I answer, But you won’t always drive with me. Isn’t this the whole point here? Because before long you’ll be driving on your own?

She takes that in — thinking over what’s obvious but of course isn’t — that she won’t be a child forever, that even as we’re talking she’s hurtling toward adulthood — a glacial pace for her, a rocket pace for me.

All that hike into the bog and back — exquisitely beautiful, bordering ethereal with its wildness — she carries those keys in her backpack. I can imagine she’s thinking, and I won’t be driving to any flipping Class I wetlands, but she humors me.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.

— Hayden Carruth, The Cows at Night

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Photo by Molly S.

Car Keys

In the evenings, my daughter lifts the car keys from the hook on the wall, and we drive.

In the passenger seat, I laugh a little, and she looks at me from the edges of her eyes. What?

I haven’t accepted, yet, this switch from driver to passenger seat, and she says seriously, I got this, before smiling with utter pleasure. She no longer asks where we should go; she’s at the wheel.

In the midst of so much other upheaval, from global to personal — my teen has hit the summer of growing up. If I had my license, I’d drive across the country, she says. I have two more months before school starts.

A light rain falls. Neither of us know if school will start, or what her last few years of high school will look like. I’ve driven across country numerous times, but what will her trek look like?

My thirsty garden drinks up the rain. At our house, an enormous mock orange bush reaches our second-floor bedroom windows. For weeks now, I’ve wondered if this bush will bloom this year — here it is, madly blossoming, sprinkling the grass with its fallen white petals.

Such a moon —
the thief
pauses to sing.

— Buson

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu

This Woman, My Daughter

From seemingly out of nowhere, my youngest daughter asks me if Jesus really brought dead people back to life. I pause — there’s been no recent death in our family — before I say that might be possible.

What are miracles, anyway?

My daughters are two of the billions of people who have walked the planet. This morning, I woke thinking of my older daughter, 19 now, and the conversation she and I and my friend had last night, over dinner and knitting and the cats who played with the feathery toys my friend brought. My daughter is grown up now. Always headstrong, she’s plowed into passion and passion’s heartbreak.

The cliché for mothers is to mourn the loss of the tender, little years; this young woman and I share a whole remembered world together — just she and I — like the afternoon in her stroller when she was two and I pushed her through a thousand tedious errands in Montpelier, while she held three buttons in the shape of balloons — pink, yellow, blue — in her tiny fist. I had promised to sew those on her favorite dress. Her younger sister wore that same dress, with those same three balloon buttons.

Or the afternoon in a thunderstorm when she was four, wearing her favorite friend’s t-shirt with a frog on the front, she leaned over the porch and pulled out the neck of the t-shirt so a river of water from the roof poured down her face and body. Laughing: full of radiant joy.

Billions and billions. Over and over. There’s nothing simple about any of this. Not childhood, not growing up, not making a woman or a man’s life. And yet, here we are.

…. it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.

— Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

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