13. or, if you’re feeling latin, xiii.
according to one of my encyclopedias, “13 (thirteen) is the natural number following 12 and preceding 14.” well, then. it is also the sixth prime number, the smallest emirp (yes, that’s a word, a mathematical word, and it means a prime number that is a different prime number when its digits are reversed, 13/31), and it’s a pair of digits with a whole load of baggage, both good and not-so-good. you’ve heard all about the unlucky; in fact some of you might be holding your breath all day today, seeing as it’s none other than friday the 13th. freighted with fears of misfortune, the number 13 was not used in the indy 500 from 1915 to 2002. nor, to this day, is it ever used in a triathlon.
but we are neither the indy 500 nor a triathlon, and — ta da! — the ol’ chair is 13 today, which in jewish tradition would mean it’s arrived at the age of reason, and in italy — where 13 is abounding with luck, and where fare tredici (literally, “to do 13”) amounts to “hit the jackpot” — it’s reason for joy. i’m going with the jews and italians.
13 for our purposes means we’ve traced the years, the undulations of seasons and soul, round and round and round again, pulling up a chair every friday for all of those, and mondays through thursdays as well for the first year of what was then a daily gathering (this happens to be the 945th chair posting).
13 means that i leapt into this mysterious black hole when my little one was a kindergartener, and tomorrow that same kid is riding a greyhound bus home from his first semester of college, where he will spend the next week writing three final papers. and that means this carved-out sacred space has become the place where i’ve most heartfully recorded his growing up, and his big brother’s as well (though by virtue of the fact that that kid was, hmm, 13 when i started the chair, i kept my musings about him closer to the vest and not nearly as frequent, and, truth be told, i fall to my knees in endless thanks for that miracle of having recorded priceless words and moments of both their lives before they slipped away, forever forgotten).
when i first set out on this adventure i was utterly uncertain where i was going, but i was led by an unshakable sense that the stories that unfolded in the quotidian — in the rare sacred hush, or the cacophony of chaos — were stories worth plumbing. i sensed that eternal questions loomed here where most of us live our lives. i believed that the simple act of rising before the dawn, wrapping myself in the sanctity of a new day beginning, and mining the landscape for moments and questions that begged deeper attention just might reveal a thing or two. a thing or two worth holding up to the light, worth pressing hard against my heart, maybe even pointing a new way forward.
what’s happened is nothing short of holiness, indeed. the circle of faithful readers (aka “the chairs”) has ebbed and flowed and buoyed my heart in a thousand thousand ways. always, always we’ve stayed true to the shared code of kindness, of deep consideration, of illumination through story, wit, or wallops of wisdom. there’ve been plenty of days where i was certain i hadn’t a single illumination to add to the planet, and days when i might have been wiser to say nothing at all. but i kept at it, committed in some deep down place to write to the close of the chapter. and if that chapter was the growing up of my second-born miracle child (there isn’t a child on the planet who isn’t a miracle), well then perhaps that chapter is all but written.
and so it’s uncanny that yesterday — the actual anniversary of the chair, started once upon a time on december 12, 2006 — a most breathtaking serendipity happened. what happened is that my once little one, the kid now in college, he had his very first byline, an op-ed column in his college newspaper. 13 years ago, he was a pink-cheeked sound-asleep angel curled under mounds and mounds of covers the first morning i tiptoed down the stairs to begin telling whatever story most captured my imagination and heart. now, all these stories later, he has a byline and he’s beginning to tell his own.
i can’t imagine waking up on a friday and not sitting down to type. but maybe i’ll be more apt to share the words of wiser more poetic souls i bump into along the way. maybe since i spend so many hours of my life inside the pages of other writers’ books, i’ll use this space as something of a commonplace book, a compendium of wit, wisdom and poetry snipped and culled from wherever it’s found. sometimes the stories might be mine. but maybe, now in certain adolescence, i ought to lean more on the wiser ones who surround us. and maybe i’ll ask the kid with the brand-new byline to bring one of his musings here to the table where at least one of us fell in love with him over and over again every time we put his story to the page.
with my whole heart, thank you to you who never fail to follow along, and those of you who amble by only by chance and only every once in a blue moon. a writer needn’t be read to be a writer, but when it’s a two-way street it’s all the holier. you’ve made this one of the holiest places, a living-breathing prayer in my life.
thanks for sticking around for all these years, and all these soulful meanderings.
the chair lady
just for the pure joy of it, here’s a series that pretty much captures the little one at the start of the chair. in action with my beloved beloved brother, the magnificent “uncle michael”….
I so enjoy all your lovely Friday musings. Happy anniversary!
thank you, dear mary!!!! thank YOU for pulling up a chair….
Oh my, this is beautiful as always. I remember when my son Dan’s rather hippie English teacher told me that one of her greatest pleasures was to return home after a day of teaching, curl up in her rocking chair with an old soft coverlet, and read something Dan had created. I feel the same way when you send me your penned thoughts! With fond thoughts, I wish you and yours a lovely holiday season. Much Love, Laurie
Sent from my iPhone
oh, heart melting laurie! to see you writing a sentence that finds DB Weiss and me not too many words apart is an astounding thing! i laugh all the time about how when i first saw the posters of the NEW series hanging at your house, i always misread them as Crown of Thorns instead of Game of Thrones! god bless the hippie teachers of yore! isn’t that a beautiful thing to imagine LOVING to come home and sit down to discover what one of her students had penned that day?! can you imagine how much i love knowing that you, teddy’s beloved teacher of wit and innuendo and all things subtle and fine, that you too have watched him grow up here, and now you’ve seen his byline.
we love you, laurie. forever will. xoxoxox
We chair people are lucky to have had this table to pull up to for 13 years! Looking forward to encountering more wit and wisdom from you or some other sages here. I’m pretty sure I discovered the beauty of Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose here which was a most wonderful gift. Warmest thanks to you and the others around your table. xoxoxo
if you found mary oliver here then miracles DID happen here. she is a miracle, and reading her is a miracle, isn’t it?
you’ve been such a glorious faithful chair sister, through sooooooo many years. bless you much, beautiful soul. xoxoxo
Dear “Chair Lady”,
Happy Anniversary on this “lucky” day and multiple thank you’s for the years of sharing. I have not had the pleasure for that long but am soooo grateful I found a place at the table. You touch my heart and soul deeply each week. You are truly a gift to me and so many. Here’s to many more years at the table. ❤️ Jackie
doesn’t matter how long, only matters that you do, and do so heart fully, and that along the way we’ve melded into friends who share tales not only here but at real live kitchen (and dining) tables! tables are just the very best places, furniture for the heart and soul.
What Heather said!! You’re almost at 1,000 postings! Wow! Whatever you post ’round this table will be gratefully accepted. Getting to know the chairs and having this safe, sacred space is such a blessing. THANK YOU! And woohoo for Tedd’s byline! Read it last night. Following in some big footsteps. Happy blogiversary, dearest bam!!🙌🏽❤️
xoxoxo! when i saw that it was 945, the compulsive part of me was rather too tempted to get to an even 1000. who knows?!?!?! you are certainly one of the dearest miracles to unfold from this old chair. imagine that we wouldn’t even know each other if not for the words that spilled onto the chair, and then sometimes into the tribune, and somehow into your morning train ride downtown, where you — beautiful soul! — saw fit to send a note to the tribune, and thus two hearts entwined.
love that you saw t’s byline. i was too shy to post the link here, but being a citizen of the twittersphere, and because that’s the drill in journalism, i shared it there, where bylines are broadcast by twitter.xoxox
While I don’t always comment here, my heart is always here. I remember that first year – it was such a labor of love to write every day – and I remember a son (the taller of the two at that time) encouraged you to get out of of the boat and walk out onto the water. You did, you survived, you thrived, you soared and we have had the utter joy of going along for the ride lo these 13 years (13 years??!!!).
To call you, and Uncle Michael, my friend is a blessing to my life.
Raising my glass to you, beautiful Chair Lady and Happy Birthday #13 to this, your magnificent creation. As I’ve always said, you’re a wonder, dearest bam. You’ve enriched my life in immeasurable ways and I love you forever.
Ohhhhh honey! The Original Chair Reader!!! You just took my breath away, the way you so beautifully put it. Best part is that these words know nothing of distance and make the faraway feel righthere. You are my heartmelter like no other! I love that your heart is always here. You’re indispensable to me in every way, spoken and unspoken. I’ll never forgot that you came for the very first anniversary❤️❤️
Love you forever…
The first Chairversary, as I’d like to think and boy oh boy, WHAT a weekend that was!! It was a time I will never, ever, EVER forget. Yes, I remember when we talked just before your launch … cannot fathom 13 years would fly so quickly. Always your biggest fan and long distance cheerleader. Love you more than you’ll ever know. Congratulations darling. xoxo
love you, my sweetie! been thinking of you all day, ever since i saw this love note and then saw you cradling your sweetheart over on FB, where i happened to pop in. giant love. xoxox
Congratulations to the new college writer AND his mother! Thank you for bringing my hometown closer to me, for reminding me of old family traditions and how we were raised in Chicago, for recipes and pure poetry every Friday, BAM. You bring not only words, but comfort and joy the year ’round. Love to all.
oh, honey, i love that you stay in touch with sweet chicago, and you bring me to DC through every one of your missives, whether it’s a photo without words or an action-packed post. i love the symmetries between us with our gaggle of boys, and our lawmen in the making. i love that your lawman in the making was the dearest friend to my T on tuesday nights during our Nieman year. and i love that we find blessing in poetry and blooms, and kindness and goodness. i love knowing you are out there lighting up your corner of the world with your inimitable, inimitable radiance.
giant hug. thank you for making this a friday pausing place….xxoxo
Thank YOU for sharing so much of the ordinary and extraordinary miracles that happen every day. Some weeks it has seemed that you Laur my own heart down on your pages.
Thank you is the perfect prayer so I say it again for you.
“Laid my own heart ❤️ “ 🙂
Congratulations to you for 13 years! Your Friday post provide a respite from this weary and chaotic world, always emphasizing what is most important to me. I look forward to reading every week. And congrats to your second miracle! That’s quite an accomplishment, a byline in his first semester of college. Enjoy your time with him!
ah, dear jack, thank you! i love how this day all my errands are being joyfully punctuated with beautiful notes let on the table! thank you for the sweet boy’s byline congrats — i will pass along soon as i see him tomorrow. i love hearing that this place offers a respite. a respite is what we all so desperately need. i won’t stop believing that if we live with a beacon of love lighting our way, breaking through the noise and the bitterness, maybe maybe we can at least soften the path we travel. and, oh, to know we can and will always find it here. thank you for letting me know what we do here resonates. xoxoxo i am so grateful for you.
*the boy asked if we could bake christmas cookies whenever he takes a writing break next week, so i just stocked up on plenty of sticks of butter and sparkly sprinkly supplies.
Barbara, how auspicious! I love it that your anniversary falls on such an important ‘feast’ in our lives! THANK YOU for your fidelity to the sacred chair and the opportunities for us to pull up a chair and drink deeply from your living water!
I look forward to however this unfolds and to being at your table once again with our dear Jackie!
Much love, MJ
thank you, beautiful MJ, beautiful writer and responder. no one’s ever called my compulsiveness a “fidelity” before, so it makes me chuckle and makes me happy to know there are upsides to these odd wirings i’ve come to call my own. be it fidelity or crazy can’t-stop-ness, i love that the chair found you through its mystical ways. your presence here matters. i love hearing voices when i write, hearing the voices of those i love who i have a hunch might be reading, or will read sooner or later. and yours is one of the voices i often hear…..(now you’re REALLY gonna think i’m crazy, i’ve mentioned hearing voices and compulsive odd wiring, all in one comment! must be the friday the 13th!)
all this makes me wish we could have a chair open house cookie baking gathering, and you could all squeeze in the kitchen with me and the boy as i teach him each of my grandma’s cookie recipes. side by side is the very best way to pass along her tricks with the rolling pin……
Oh, bam, WE are the lucky ones on this 13th anniversary. I can definitely trace regularly finding my way to the table to 2009–even saw a comment I wrote–although I think I dropped by once in a while a little earlier. I can’t remember what led me to your door, but it was a revelation. I shared the link with a friend and wrote something like, you will LOVE this woman. Your words resonate with people. You are the mom, the sister, the daughter, the neighbor (I wish), the confidante. We read (literally and figuratively) our life experiences through yours, and you inspire us to more fully experience our own lives, from trying to bake Irish soda bread to PAYING ATTENTION. You bring us joy and laughter (especially thinking of umpteenth-cousin Paddy), and you move us to tears. Was it last year, or the year before, when you advised us that you wanted to ease up on the weekly posts? I am grateful that it didn’t come to pass. You are a font of goodness and wisdom, tapping deep into the aquifer of holiness. And while the authors and articles you choose to share with us spark curiosity and send us to our independent booksellers, we come for your words each week. I guess it’s expecting a lot of you to keep pouring out the “meanderings” week after week, year after year. But I want you to know how much pulling up a chair each Friday means to me and, I’m sure, to everyone else around your glorious old worn-smooth table. All that said, congrats on this enormous accomplishment to date and lots of love.
ohhhhh, beautiful karen, i stopped midway through mopping the kitchen floor (do we really think a freshman in college will notice??) to stop by my little clamshell of a computer, and i read this, and i am melting allllllllll over. bless you for saying these words hold meaning, and let me say in return that the words YOU bring here always, always reverberate through me in the moment and hours and hours after. i can only call it holy blessing that those who’ve found the chair have found it. there always seems to be a whisper of a reason. my prayer is that those who fill this place with love always find a place here.
i vow to always bring what’s biggest in my heart to this friday moment. i only worry that i blather on too much. and on the days when i don’t feel filled with something to say, i will find you someone who has more than enough.
i will see if i can search the comments to see if there’s one before 2009, but that’s still 10 blessed years. a decade. a mighty beautiful thing.