Mother Noise.

Summer study…

In the middle of the night, I read Cindy House’s memoir Mother Noise. House struggled with a heroin addiction. Eventually, I turned off the light and lay awake, listening to the cricket song through the open window. It was the deepest, loneliest part of the night, somewhere in the stretch from midnight to four a.m. Four a.m. is the hour that seems reasonable to rise and get the coffee brewing. For years, I dreaded this time of night. One of the great pleasures of sobriety is that the nether world of dreaming has returned to me.

For days, the trifecta of my daughter’s 17th birthday, her junior prom, and the anniversary date I was married 28 years ago has soured my mood. Here’s the thing about being a solo parent: you’re forever cut in half, wondering why the hell the other parenting half of the children is attending a party elsewhere.

But in those hours, thinking of Cindy Noise, I began wondering about what else might have happened rather than the story I keep telling myself of a father still parenting his daughters. The thing is, my life — like anyone’s — might have turned out entirely differently. I became sober. But I could have become a heroin addict. Given a different set of circumstances, sure, why not? I loved inebriation, as long as it was good. For the first time, the real possibility of this looms before me.

The crickets chirp on. I begin to sense my life shifting, just a little, just the smallest way out of sour.

Later that afternoon, I’m driving with my daughter. She parks at an empty storefront beside the run-down laundromat in town. On the granite steps of that former bank building, a little girl, about five or so, is sitting beside a large stuffed giraffe. The giraffe is hard-worn, well-loved. The little girl holds a picture book between the two of them, her lips moving. She stops when she sees me standing on the sidewalk. I glance down at her pink sandals, her purse open with a memo notebook inside. Then I nod and hurry along, leaving this child to what she’s doing.

Oh, sweet world. So much harshness. So much to cherish.

Girl on a Bicycle.

Walking to mail a package, I hear pebbles grinding under bike tires and step back to let a girl on a bicycle pass by. She’s about ten or so, and she shakes her head and slows. I step back on the grass and tell her to go ahead. She swoops around me, wordlessly, then cuts out from the sidewalk to the road.

We’re along a busy road, but for this moment, there’s no traffic. She heads down the center of the road, crossing back and forth over those the double yellow lines. She doesn’t wear a helmet on her dark curls, and she’s riding a beat up old bicycle. She pedals quickly down the hill, the wind lifting her hair.

In a world so burdened by fear, encumbered by care, this girl flies down the pavement, heads into the parking lot of a storage facility, and disappears.

Self Portrait.

My daughter turns 17. On our way home from dinner in Montpelier, she drives my car with her friend in the passenger seat. The girls have known each other since they were eight-years-old and their legs dangled from chairs. The girls take the long way home, passing an estate on a dirt road with a stunning view of the mountains and sky. Cows graze in the fields. One girl plans to be a lawyer, the other a doctor, and they scheme to buy a house like this. In their pretty sundresses, the girls are laughing.

At dinner, the server spilled a Shirley Temple on my daughter, splashing her with cranberry juice and ice. Both girls have stickiness up and down their bare legs. Someday, years away maybe, they’ll still laugh about that birthday drink and splash. Meanwhile, I keep looking through windows, seeking stories, seeing pieces of myself.

Here’s a review of Unstitched that made my heart sing.

Brief Interlude.

17 years ago, I was at the end of my second pregnancy. The apple blossoms hadn’t bloomed yet. The month of May had been especially rainy and cold.

My second child was born via caesarian. The morning she was born, I walked down to our sugarhouse and closed the front doors we had left open the night before. My oldest daughter who was six was eating breakfast at the house with her father. She was wild with excitement. Baby sister? Baby brother? What was going to happen?

Rain had fallen the night before, and the path to the sugarhouse was slick. I was huge, an unwieldy ball of a woman who was so ready to finish this pregnancy and meet this baby. I had waited years to have this second child. It was early in the morning, and friends were already on their way to meet us at the hospital. I lingered in the open front doors, breathing in the scent of mud and that particular sweetness of new leaves. We’re always leaving and arriving, aren’t we, in this transient life. This year, the lilacs have already faded, the earliest I remember.

I stood there just a few moments before I locked the door and took the longer path back to the house. My six-year-old was in the driveway looking for me. Ready.

Somewhere in the Pandemic.

A colleague and I discuss our somewhere-in-the-pandemic plans: gardening and creativity and as much outdoor time as possible. We’re somewhere in the pandemic; that’s our determination. This somewhere might extend for a very long time yet.

This week, I was invited to a FB event where people all over the country signed in. I began by talking a little about my own dear state — tiny Vermont — whose entire population of 650,00 souls is less than many cities in this country. Some villages have a post office and a single paved road, a scattering of houses, streams and trees, gardens and swing sets. Since I was talking about my book and addiction, I spoke about how the wide world seeps into the most hidden places in my world, too. And yet, our lives go on. That same, age-old question — how to find meaning in our lives?

Memorial Day in Vermont is a big deal. The town cemetery beside my house is freshly mowed. New flags wave near stones. All week long, families have been tending gravestones. May is the season of lilacs and green. I make notes for the weekend: tend my garden. Make friends with the new neighbor and the scary dog.

Odd Call.

My phone rings with a number I don’t recognize. On the other end, the caller and I begin to piece together a message I may or may not have left, tracing an odd connection between two people with the same common name.

It’s late afternoon. I’m home from work, bacon sizzling in the oven, my daughter washing her hands at the sink. The cats are pawing their bowls, finishing their early dinner, wondering what might be next.

For a moment, I’m suspended in this interesting conversation with a pleasant voice, remarking on the strange coincidences in our small town world.

It seems to be nothing more. Afterwards, when I’ve hung up and headed out to my garden to cover against possible frost, I keep thinking about that call. In an odd way, the pandemic suspended the once normal world. There’s plenty of just lousy stuff that’s happening and still happening in our world (and likely always will). Then, this: random bits of politeness. Sunshine in May. Blossoms.