My Long-Ago Mentor

The children’s librarian in the town where I grew up — Goffstown, New Hampshire — not only offered me first dibs on brand-new books (I began reading Judy Blume’s Deenie while walking home), she also came to my wedding. Every summer, I fill the glass purple vase she gave me for a wedding present.

So, when we were talking about the Giving Back issue at Kids VT — the magazine where I’m on staff — I wanted to write about Betsy Elliott. We aspired to write particularly about a few of the many people who give so generously, so meaningfully, without any expectation of return — maybe a kind of antidote to our troubled world. Here’s my short essay.




This afternoon, driving home with my friend, our 12-year-olds in the backseat with their skis, sharing crackers, my friend remarked that the days were longer already. A few very cold days into 2018, and already the light — like a long-ago companion — returns. If I have time to reflect on a deathbed, I’m sure the evening’s crepuscular light is something I’ll miss when I pass out of this life.

This weekend had a suicide in town, a grief-soaked death, a death I can’t yet write about.

This weekend also had my library filled with new babies and mamas — one infant so little she was yet womb-sleepy. These mothers braved subzero temperatures, with their determination to meet, their pleasure in their new motherhood, the shared exchange of company and steaming tea.

These two pendulum swings of the human condition. How much grief, and how much milk-laced joy.

We’re one week into this new year. My daughters and I sat in our kitchen this morning, eating sausage, drinking coffee, talking and talking and talking… Savoring Sunday.

Perhaps there is after all nothing mysterious in Zen. Everything is open to your full view. If you eat your food and keep yourself cleanly dressed and work on the farm to raise your rice or vegetables, you are doing all that is required of you on this earth, and the infinite is realized in you.

— D. T. Suzuki