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Category: old house

heartbeat home

heartbeat home clock

it’s quiet here this morning, too quiet. it’s been that way for 10 long weeks.

the only sound is the susurration of the furnace. poor overtaxed furnace. burning kilowatts to try to keep us warm, to keep the goosebumps at bay.

the missing sound is the tick that follows the tock that follows the tick. and on and on and on.

there’s a clock, an old old clock, one once packed up in a florida house, laid carefully atop a formica-slabbed kitchen table, not unlike a baby after a bath, wrapped in towels, slipped in a box, and carefully carefully sent from west palm beach to chicago. where, once it arrived, we lifted it, hung it, wound it, and listened.

i’ve been listening ever since.

i’ve aligned my heart to the tick and tock of that old clock — a clock whose provenance we have only guessed at. i thought dutch. a clocksmith told me “mexican.” what i do know of its provenance is that my beloved, that tall bespectacled fellow, had a grandpa who loved clocks. and that grandpa’s pride and joy — or the ticking one, anyway — was his wall of clocks from across the time line and the world map. that wall, in that house down florida way, it clanged and squawked and chimed, a ticking-tocking  quarter-hour reverie.

i never met that grandpa, but the grandma to whom he’d long been paired, she became, in one fell swoop, the dearest grandma i ever knew. i might have spent the rest of my happy days bopping around as the irish catholic granddaughter of a teeny, wrinkled, jewish fireball, but she died 11 years ago this week, far too soon even though she was pushing 93 and change. they called her the “teaneck tornado,” my jewish grandma, the one who took college classes into her eighties, the one who once threatened to fly a slab of cow in her suitcase so she could teach me how to make a brisket. the one whose squeaky “barb!” — a puncturing pronunciation that launched every long-distance rapid-fire tete-a-tete — i still can hear, without even closing my eyes to crank the long-gone volume.

that grandma — her name was syl — she shipped off the clock, and twice a week for 23 years, i wound it. the rest of the time, i counted on it to keep the rhythms of my hours, to be the heartbeat of our house. it moved, in the back seat of the station wagon, from our city house to this old house out where lanes are leafy and the lake is near enough that, on a windy day, i can make out the rhythms of the waves shooshing against the shore.

and there’s no sound that says “i’m home” more certainly than the tick and tock and quarter-hour chime of that old timekeeper.

so when it slowed to the silence that follows the tick, when i realized the tock was not coming, we all stared wide-eyed at the wall. as if there’d been a death in the family. certainly, there’d been a silencing. the heartbeat of the house was gone, erased, snuffed out. and in a house where these days most every purchase is weighed, is considered, we didn’t take lightly the news that this clock’s stay in the timekeeper’s infirmary would tally quite a bill.

but, not unlike the ancient cat who prowls the soft spots of the house, the house’s heartbeat is beyond domestic calculation, outside the accountant’s domain. if your striped old cat is ailing, you wrap the furry fellow in a towel and you ferry him to the vet. so, too, the clock.

i swallowed hard as i lifted the old clock from the wall. and, yes, i wrapped it in old bath towels. i parked as close to the door of the timekeeper’s shop as i could get — anything to slash the chance of me and the clock skittering to the sidewalk, in a thousand irreparable pieces. and i turned it over with all the solemnity of a mother sending off her little boy for a tonsillectomy (okay, maybe minus the tears, but trembling nonetheless).

we endured a christmas without a clock, and the new year too slid in without the ceremonial clang-clang-clang (our old clock never has been aligned with the hours). heck, we bumbled right through ground hog day without the metronome of time passing audibly. and here we are, the clock is coming home today. any hour now, i’ll strap on my snow boots, maybe even add the yaxtrax to keep from slipping on the ice, and i’ll plow through mounds and glide on icy patches to fetch my clock and bring it back where it belongs — home, hanging on the red-red wall that’s been achingly absent its old, old ticker.

all this, of course, has got me to thinking. thinking about how it is that humans are hard-wired to the song of the heartbeat. how it’s the first of the sensory awakenings in the unborn child. long before the eyes have anything to see, the human eardrum begins its lifelong percussive beat (if, God willing, the auditory system is developing as hoped and prayed). somewhere between the 17th and 19th week in a mama’s womb, the unborn baby’s world is wakened to the sound of breath and heartbeat, rhythm and vibration at their most elemental, most soothing i’d imagine.

the wonderful scientists who study these things have found, among other pulse-quickening wonders, that the baby’s heart echoes the mother’s response to music. when the mama hears soothing dulcet tones, her baby’s heart settles into slow steady intervals. when the mama is jarred by cacophony, by dissonant screeching, the baby’s heart rate accelerates, startles.

hearing, we know, is the last of the earthly threads to be severed when death is but a breath or two away.

so is it any wonder that in the blessed interval between in utero and death, we humans turn to heartbeat — be it of a clock, or the drip of rain, or our own ear pressed against the chest of whoever it is we love deeply enough, tenderly enough, to be invited to the chest wall’s quiet ticking?

and is it any wonder that some of us are soothed by whatever brings us back in time and rhythm to that one first murmuring, that percussive pounding, that told us we were safe, enwombed, nestled up against a mama’s ever-pulsing heart?

what are some of your favorite soothing sounds? 

long ago, back in 2007, on the jewish “new year of the trees,” known as tu b’shevat, which we marked this week, i wrote a meander called vernal whisperings. because it’s a moment of the jewish calendar that i find especially breathtaking, i’m offering it back here at the table.

here’s a bit of tu b’shevat’s deliciousness, as taught by 16th century mystics:

“known as the kabbalists, these deeply spiritual thinkers believed that we elevate ourselves by the eating of certain fruits on tu b’shevat. if done with holy intention, they taught, sparks of light hidden in the fruit could be broken open from their shells, freed to float up to heaven, to the great divine, completing the circle of the renewal of life.

“oh my.”

the nesty girl’s guide to real estate

when you grow up curled into armchairs, with your nose pressed to the pages of fairy-tale storybooks, absorbed by the drawings of magic cottages tucked in the woods…

when you grow up meandering about the pond across the lane from your growing-up house, poking around in the woods you call your own, making logs into beds, and the seed pods of wildflowers into your make-believe kitchen…

when you grow up with a grandma who lives in an old fine house, with secret stairs and itty-bitty passageways, and an upstairs porch with creaking wicker chairs and fireflies dotting the summer night’s air…

when your idea of a heavenly summer as a 10-year-old girl is to spend it with cardboard boxes and your very best friend, cutting out fabric bits, and gluing and dabbing on paint, building a dollhouse that stretches from june straight into august’s last hours…

when all of those synapses have been connected somewhere along the way, when all of that cozy-cottage DNA courses through your chromosomes, well, you don’t look for a place to lay your head quite like the rest of the world. you don’t get wowed by granite countertops or showers that look as if they might lift off and whirl to outer space.

nope, you tend to poke around in peculiar uncharted ways. you know when you’re home when you hear the ping go off somewhere deep inside your noggin. you wait to feel the pounding there in your chest. matter of fact, you must have a light meter tucked back behind your eyeballs, because you always, always pay attention to the way the sunbeams filter in through the windowpanes.

you become over the years a decidedly undeniably nesty girl.

you turn into a someone who draws oxygen from dappled light dancing on old floor boards, who finds herself charmed by the newel post at the bend in the staircase, who spies clawed feet peeking out from under the victorian bathtub and you can’t wait to climb in.

you, very much so, find places to live by heart.

and you are over the moon when along with all of those lumber and glass particulars, you discover the person who owns the place is clearly a kindred spirit, a brand-new lifelong friend, the soulmate you’ve been searching for, without ever asking.

and so it was that we stumbled upon a charmed treetop aerie the other afternoon, one that will be our home for a year, the holy sacred place we’ll come back to night after night, as soon as we launch our big back-to-college adventure in cambridge, massachusetts, 02139.

as much as, just a few weeks ago, i could barely imagine leaving this old house that owns a piece of my soul, i discovered this week what i’ve always known: four walls and a roof are only the beginning.

what makes a place home are the whispers you hear when you tiptoe in through the doorway. what makes a place home is the way some invisible hand reaches out and cradles the tenderest parts of you.

and as we motored about the twisty winding streets of old cambridge, i knew, soon as we turned around the corner of putnam and franklin, that suddenly something felt familiar, not foreign, even though i’d never been there before. maybe it was the pie bakery & cafe we passed just before taking a left turn at the white picket fence. maybe it was the cobblestone sidewalks. or the victorian laciness of the woodwork out front.

as soon as the front door opened, and a gentle man ushered us in, as soon as we passed the statue of st. jude tucked in one of the bends in the three-story staircase, i found myself sighing deep down inside.

once we walked in, once i saw the way the sunlight fluttered on the old floor boards, dancing through the leaves of the trees that harbored most of the many, many windows, once i noticed the old brick column, a chimney from the downstairs fireplace, once i saw the cherry dining table with room for all of us and a few of our friends, i was starting to cross all my fingers and toes.

then, i tiptoed into the book-lined office of the very kind man who had opened the door, who had shaken our hands and left us alone to look about in quiet.

i spied there on his desk the covers of books with titles that gave me goosebumps, each one some combination of poetry and divinity, the two subjects i’ve long said i was heading east to study. i felt tears welling up in my eyes.

i hadn’t expected any of this. i’d more or less abandoned the hope that my long string of real-estate magic could take yet another miraculous turn. real estate, they tell you, is all about hard cold numbers: dollar signs and square feet. it’s about making the deal, signing the contracts.

except when it’s not. except when you’re a soulful spirit and you don’t work in worldly ways. you wait for the tears to spring in your eyes. you wait to feel that thumping thing there in your chest.

you don’t need dotted lines, on which to scribble your name. you don’t need security deposits to promise you will keep from banging holes in the walls.

you, an A-number-1 nesty girl, you know when you’ve stepped into a hallowed chamber.

you know, right away, when the fellow offering you two kayaks and a canoe, along with passes to all of boston’s museums, and 11 months in this treetop two-bedroom, two-study apartment, complete with bird feeders at two of the windows, you know he’s the saint and the spiritual guide you’ve been secretly waiting for for so many years. (especially when he starts to list for you the monastery in walking distance, should you be inclined toward “smells and bells,” as he joked, meaning the incense and vespers, and then goes on to tell you about the abbey not so far away, along the south boston shore, where you can rent a hermitage for the night, should you care to be holed up with your pen and your prayers in utter silence.)

you didn’t need all the running around to the bank and the notary public. all you needed was to stand there and shake hands, a deal is a deal — when it’s of the heart, that is.

you didn’t need some 10-page typed contract. you simply accepted the invitation of the lovely fellow and his lovely wife to come back that evening for a glass of wine at the candlelit table on the back deck where the mockingbird kept up his night song, and all of you began the unspooling of your life’s story, and the very first threads that would stitch you together for years to come.

and so it is that we now know where we’ll hang our hearts this coming school year, when all of us go back to school in cambridge.

and so it is that once again i am witness to the truth that if you never extinguish the pilot light of faith in undying old-fashioned goodness, it will up and surprise you, surround you, and illuminate your path in pure unfiltered luminescence.

and that’s how nesty girls do real estate.

if i were to write up the real estate ad for the lovely place we’ll call our home, it would go something like this:

2 bdrm, 1 w/ skylight where you can absorb the lullaby of gentle summer’s rain. kitchen w/ bird feeders at 2 windows. windowseat tucked into corner. back deck tucked into the tops of trees, looking out on a flock of gabled roofs where mockingbirds and robins perch for evening song. bookshelves stocked with every cookbook you could dream of. complete, chronologically-catalogued case of sacred music. old quilts on beds. hardwood floors that glow in sunlight. birdsong from 4 a.m. till sunset. church bells, 2 blks. away, chime on the hour. herb garden. climbing roses. lifelong friendship included. floorboards and ceiling beams appear to have absorbed years of poetry.

how would you write the real estate ad for the place you call home?

illustration above is the frontispiece from “the tasha tudor cookbook: recipes and reminiscences from corgi cottage.”

apartment hunting and the hurdle of the three-dot plates

in all the years that we’ve been pulling up chairs, it’s become more than cloudy clear, i’m certain, that i tend to be a nesty girl, a girl who sinks her roots down deep, and doesn’t yank them lightly.

so bear with me while i tell you the tale of why it is i am apartment hunting nowadays, and what in the world three-dot plates have to do with that far-flung adventure.

i suppose the time has come, at last, to let you all in on what had been a secret, but now is seeping out, so it’s not a secret anymore. (i can imagine the pounding in your hearts as you worry where this is going; fear not, no need for worries.)

but let’s begin at the beginning, where most stories do begin, and turn the clock back to a dark december day.

there i was sitting at my typing pad in the newspaper tower, when i heard a ping ring out from the box that was my desk-top computer. i clicked and looked and saw there a missive from my lawful wedded mate.

seems he’d gotten a little email from some folks at a university in cambridge, massachusetts. they were asking him to apply for a fellowship, a journalism fellowship, one that gathers 24 fellows from around the globe, and one that would entail a one-year stint, thus lifting our whole little family out of our cozy chicago life and plopping us onto an unmapped one in cambridge.

kind fellow, decent fellow, my mate, he wrote back right away to say that he was deeply flattered but no thanks; we have a little fellow, a fifth-grade fellow, he explained, who could not be yanked from his life.

as a mere afterthought, this man i married, he sent this all along to me so i could smile and carry on with my otherwise ordinary day. or at least that’s what he thought i’d do.

but i did not.

i shot right back, “whoa, hold your horses there, buster. at least stop and think about it,” i implored. “is this not the manna from heaven that we’ve been praying for? peering skyward day after day, in search of sign of falling crumb?

“let’s at least ask the little guy, see what he has to say,” i begged, all but dropping to my knees.

and so we did: that night at dinner, we asked the 10-year-old lad what he’d think about moving away for just one year, moving, say, to massachusetts, so daddy and mommy might go back to college?

why, that brave old soul, he did not blink, nor flinch. he piped right up: “sounds great. i want to see the world.”

we explained every which way that this would mean he would not be here for sixth grade, nor for soccer on the team he loves, nor for spring baseball, nor friday night skate, his highlight of so many weeks.

no matter what we pitched his way, he batted it all away, stood fast to his determination that it was time to see the world.

so, as i scrubbed the dirty plates that night, it was my turn to come up with excuses why we shouldn’t leave. i wasted no time ticking off a long list of things i could not bear to leave behind: my three-dot plates, for instance. i’ve only four sets, and only scored them after tracking them down at a resale shop, after pining for them for 20 years. they’d been the plates i wanted back when we were getting married, but the architecture critic who would be my mate thought the dots got in the way. in the way of what, i’ve never quite determined. but the dotted plates went the way of the rose-covered bedsheets i’d once admired. one makes compromise when living with a design-steeped fellow, and i long ago realized our peaceful co-existence depended on my occasional surrender to his whims. so these plates, procured a full two decades post betrothal, they are the plates i pluck from the stack whene’er i need a ceramic boost.

and somehow, in that odd way my mind stumbles along, they came to represent the dividing line between the world i’d leave behind, and the one i just might dive into. what if they were cracked and broken while we were away? what if, whilst i was off in pilgrim land, they were accidentally expunged from the cupboard, and, upon return, i’d find myself without the proper spotted saucer to uphold my breakfast toast?

for more than a day or two, i weighed the choices here: go to harvard, play like a pig in mud, taking any class i could stuff into my braincells; or stay here in chicago, in the house i know and love, and eat off three-dot plates till the end of time.

in due time, i realized i was, frankly, an idiot to be debating such obstacles.

i surrendered to the adventure of it all, and cannot over-emphasize how that deep-down sense of grab-it-now-it-might-not-come-again has come to permeate, well, just about everything.

ever since, i’ve been living my days as if each one is a bit of a hallelujah christmas gift, a box wrapped up in shiny paper, with pretty bow and all.

it was, in fact, the rocket-booster oomph behind my thinking it was time to leave behind the newspaper life i had long loved. and right in here, with may and june and summertime swirling deliciously around us, it’s what propels me not to mind spending hours at the kitchen table, or perched on chairs outside, in the dappled light of the pine trees, chewing over a thousand ideas and stories with my college boy, now home for endless days and nights of sweetest-ever summer.

we had no idea, of course, whether embracing the adventure would lead to any sort of happy ending. had no idea, once the long and layered application was turned in, shipped off cambridge way, whether the deciding folks would pick the home-team architecture critic, slot him in the nieman class of journalism fellows for the school year 2012-2013. but, indeed, they did. he is the arts and culture fellow.

so here we are. poring over real estate ads, dialing up massachusetts realtors, searching high and low for a two-bedroom apartment in ZIP code 02138 or 02139. and before we’ve found a place to lay our sleepy heads, we’ve taken care of business and secured a slot on a cambridge soccer team for our little goalie. priorities, after all.

as for this old house we love, we have a beloved friend who will move in, hold down the fort here, watch over the three-dot plates, and the red-and-white checked chair, and the window seat i’ll miss.

and for one extraordinary year, i’ve come to deeply realize, i will make a new nest. i will come to know the rhythms of a new city, an extraordinary city, a city where i have always, always wanted to live. i will sit in classrooms, and stuff my brain with poetry and writing and divinity, and some of america’s great professors. i will tiptoe into the widener library, and deep breathe. i will walk home down cobbled streets, absorb the cacophony of a learned city.

and a week from today, we will board a plane, all four of us in our little adventure troupe, and we will pound the sidewalks, ring doorbells, and peek in cupboards and bathrooms till we find the place that we’ll call home for the next sweet year.

and maybe while away in far-off cambridge, i will stumble into yet another thrift shop, and lying there in stacks, i’ll spy a three-dot plate.

and i will know, through and through, that home is wherever you set the table. pull up a chair. and share your heartfelt stories.

so that’s the news of the week, and, fear not, you’ll all amble along with us on this fine adventure, as the chair will go on, and i’ll impart every week the finest things i’ve learned in all my college lecture halls. congratulations, we’re all going back to college. 

p.s. next week’s trek is merely the apartment-hunting expedition. we don’t pack the wagons and head east till round about early august….

old friend, home

looking back, it seems i always fall hard.

once it was the glimpse of the gingerbread moulding, peeking out from over the sidewalk. another time, the hardwood floors that stretched down the long narrow hallway. years later, it was an upstairs window, and the glow from inside on a moonlit night, and the outline of a woman bent over, painting the sill, a woman who called out to me and practically sealed the deal before i’d walked up the stoop. after that came the victorian, with the sunlight pouring in from wall-to-wall windows and skylights, with flying staircases, and leafy full branches that brushed by the glass, making it feel like you lived in the trees.

those are the places i’ve loved, the apartments and houses, the homes. places that held me for particular passages of the story that is my sweet life.

this old house, it called to me from the front walk, the way the bluestone meandered up to the stoop, did not take the straight route, the direct route. then, there’s the pause, the two steps up, the tucked-in cove where the sunbeams pour down, where sparrows, for years now, have made their fine home. seems i loved this old place before i even got to the door.

we’ve been here nearly nine years, and it’s come to be one of my dearest soulmates, an ally, a friend. a house needn’t speak words to speak to your heart. sometimes, it whispers. it beckons with light. it pulses with ticking and tocks, and creaks in the floorboards.

i’ve come to know and love all of its quirks. the way the back middle burner stubbornly takes its sweet time, when i try to crank up the flame. the way the upstairs hall light flickers and dims, as if there’s a hand at the switch that no one can see.

this is the place, no matter the hour, that nourishes, that sustains, that refuels me.

it is my quiet place, a cove for prayer and meditations. it is the launchpad for dreams, whether those dreams are spun staring out the window, finding myself charmed by a finch or a cardinal. or, tiptoeing down in the dark, somehow stumbling into the courage it takes to bravely and boldly hatch some new plan.

this old house holds the chairs and the nooks that call to me, come curl up here. too often, i ignore all those pleas. i run and i scurry most of the time.

but i like that the offering is there; i promise those places that some day the hour will come when i will find time for pausing, for sitting and thinking. instead of dashing and thinking.

but even mid-stride, as i bound up the stairs, my old house catches my attention, soothes on the run. i notice the way the morning light makes rainbows on the wall. i watch the leaf shadows dance on the pillow, there on the comfy old armchair.

i know it’s just walls and wood, slapped with layers of paint, but a house has a soul, i’m convinced. a house is a friend, an old friend, a knowing friend. one that welcomes your cold bare feet slapping against its planks. one that drenches you in sunlight, even on a bitter cold day. one whose windows let in the wind. let in the cool night’s breeze.

what other friend offers a bath, a good long soak in the tub, complete with bubbles?

what other friend begs you to fill up its rooms, with your friends and your dreams and your candlelit dinners?

where else can you plop on the bed for a good solid cry, and the walls won’t ever let on? won’t share your secret, your sorrow?

and that same old house, the very next morning, it’s the very place where the dawn’s pink glow pours back in, gives you the air, and the spark, that you need to try all over again.

this old house, among the great good souls who populate my most blessed life, it is among the most deeply essential.

tell me how your dwelling place has seeped into your soul…..
and before we go, time to whisper deep blessings for our very own beloved slj who birthed her sweet baby girl, night before last. she has been a brilliant light here at this table through the years, and longed to taste and to relish the calling of motherhood. she is now among us, the blessed who mother…….a lifetime of blessings, sweet friend.

dear jim, a thank you story

six years ago tomorrow, we packed the little one and the not-so-little one in the wagon and motored by this house we’d signed up for, but hadn’t yet sealed the deal for–at least not in that way where, wobbily, you slide the check across the table and sign your first, middle and last monikers on the million thousand sheaves they shove before you.

as we sat, motor idling that cold thanksgiving day, the architecture critic in the front seat, the driver’s seat, said nothing. just stared as the silence thickened.

so happens, when you live, day after day, with an architecture critic, you come to know that silence is a very big sound.

even the then-9-year-old knew that sound was not so good.

“so, mr. architecture critic,” the young one began, “what is it you don’t like?”

now mind you, the object of the critic’s silence was the house i’d fallen hard for.

it was a house he hadn’t seen, oh, since the one time we’d first walked through, some five weeks back, before the poor dear critic’s back went kerpluey, and he was hauled swiftly into surgery and then could not be taken for a drive, not even to see the house we had bumpily and not easily decided we’d move to.

mind you one other thing: there is, in the world of architecture, a maxim mouthed by one of the greats–just who it was i can’t recall nor does it matter now–and it goes like this, something about the ivy hiding all the sins of the fool architect.

of course i need to tell you that this house, when we first saw it, was covered thick in ivy. by the time we motored by that silent november day, the autumn’s dropping of the leaves fully finished, the house, like all the trees, was bare, exposed for all its faults.

even i had noticed a few odd spots there on the face of that poor house, but naive one that i am, ever hopeful, i assumed the spring would come and with it, the ivy leaves, and thus, the camouflage that perhaps our new old house required.

that whole long day, a day of wringing hands and walking out the kinks, was spent debating should we forfeit our down payment and ditch the deal, or forge ahead and double-plant the ivy.

in the short term, ivy won.

and, pretty much, it was a package deal: we took the house, as long as you, dear jim–builder, yes, but even more, big brother of a friend–were coming with.

we saw, even through the missing ivy, this old house’s possibility.

and you, strapped with tool belt, were the one tried-and-trusted ticket. long as you were at our side, a lopsided house wasn’t such a scary proposition.

thus began a six-year project that, truth be told, swallowed every extra penny, and all our get-aways besides. summer after summer, winter break after winter break, while all the other folks around jetted off to here or there, we stayed home and listened to the sound of hammers. and circle saws. and hand planes shaving boards.

i tell you, not once did i mind–okay, maybe in the fourth month of washing dishes in the basement, after stumbling, nearly every sudsing, on unavoidable evidence that a little flock of mice had assembled to gobble all the scrapings from the plates.

except for the mouse droppings that i decided–in one panicky spell–that i’d inhaled in noxious amounts, i was purring like a cat. watching room after room be tucked with all the nooks and crannies of my dreams.

granted, the architecture critic, perhaps, was not so much a purring cat. not always anyway. he can’t help it, really, that he believes in the art of the beautiful. and to his fine-trained eye, there’s no shrugging off a line or angle that isn’t where he thinks it ought to be.

trust me, he’s just as hard on calatrava or gehry or that german fellow, mr. jahn. and the ones who penned the sketches for this odd old house did not escape his scrutiny.

so, yes, once in a while–okay, twice in a while–he might have scratched his head, stood silent, and we all knew whatever was the object of his silence, it was coming down, only to be replaced by a something that made his eyes light up. twinkle, if you will.

ah, but here we are, dear jim, and you’ve just pounded in the stakes for the one last thing i’d dreamed of: a picket fence of white, complete with posts that just might be the perch for a birdhouse or two. or three.

it is, in many ways, the row of exclamation points to a job well done. a job drawing finally to the end.

as i walk from room to room, dear jim, you to whom we turned and trusted with this utter transformation, i feel that swelling in my chest that comes, yes, just before the tears spill.

it’s been long, and sometimes hard. but this house, which from the very instant i traipsed its bluestone path, up two steps and through the glass-paned door, has wrapped me in its arms, well, it now does the same to nearly anyone who comes here.

i hear it all the time now: this house soothes. it’s like climbing into someone’s ample lap. it does not, ever, hit you on the head. but, more, it eases out a sigh. shoulders soften, backbones lose their overarch. shoes come off. it’s a barefoot sort of place, a place where legs are curled and bottoms cozied on the couch and fine old chairs.

it’s the one thing, i suppose, that’s essential in a place worthy of the title, home.

i’ve only just realized quite what it was that drew me as we tucked and nipped and painted all those colors. as we pounded into walls, swapped out windows.

i was leaning toward that most sacred of sanctums, the inner chamber of all our hopes and heartaches.

i was leaning, wholly, toward a home that fed and wrapped and stoked and quaffed not only my soul, but that of each and every someone who walks beyond its transom.

home, if you’re really blessed, is the one place on the map where, like the mama or the papa we all yearn for, we can come to be swathed. we slough off our cares, drop down our worries with a thud. we slam the door on all cold winds. and light the logs waiting in the grate. we crank the kettle. open wide the fridge, and forage for that one queer thing we love to spoon straight from the carton.

it’s home, where we set the table, join hands and pray our deepest prayer. it’s where we pull on our socks, knot the tie, and breathe expansively before forging out again.

it’s where some of us could stay all day, and never feel the urge to leave. it’s where some of us stop by only for rest and sustenance–dipping deep if briefly into the well–before tilting at our windmills.

room by room, two-by-four by two-by-four, you, dear jim, you hauled your tools and your lumber piles and your capacity for leaving not a turn or knob ajar or askew or not quite the way you dreamed it ought to be.

you’ve left your handiwork here where i type, in the bookshelves that span the walls, upstairs where a window seat looks out on rising sun and snowfall, and in the kitchen where i glance out at windowbox of herbs or up into the underside of raindrops falling on the skylights’ panes of glass.

there is not a room, not a nook, where you’ve not built and wedged and hammered some grace-filled dream of ours.
and in this season when we gather thanks, when our hearts spill and our souls feel wholly stuffed for all the riches that surround us, that are ours to reach and wrap our arms around, i just want you to know, dear jim, that till my dying day this house to me will always be the finest gift one friend could have built for another.

love,

your friend who never stopped believing that a funny-looking house could someday be a holy blessed home…bless you, builder of our dearest dream

friends, as is always the case here, i write in the particular with the hopes that you can latch your dreams onto my story. so that it becomes our story. down below is where we start to sketch that out, as you tell me what it is–and who it is–who has built for you your deepest wildest dream. maybe yours is not a house. maybe it’s a love. or a family. or a parachute. or a windmill. this is storytelling season, so draw in, if you will, and tell your tale of thanks. and bless you for reading mine….
if all goes as planned i’ll be back tomorrow for a meander of great thanksgiving……

deconstruction

it’s what happens when you buy an old house, a house that hadn’t been loved in a while. a house that, like me some days, is a bit worn-out in obvious spots. a bit saggy and scuffed, and not so polished if you peek, say, under my sandals–i mean, er, under the rug, or rub your thumb down the cracks in the walls, cracks that run courses so long and so wobbly they rival the ol’ mississippi.

fact is, you move in with a list so long you think you might never really get to the end.

but trouble is, you–old stubborn goat that you are–you have every intention of getting there, to that place where all the walls are finally tucked and the roof isn’t oozing with each sloppy rain and the floors aren’t spotted with whatever it was someone’s lazy ol’ cat left behind.

it’s what happens when you aren’t like some who are deeply endowed and who do all these jobs–the ones that have you hanging out windows gasping for air, the ones that have you washing your dishes in a paint-splattered sink in the basement for so many months the mice come in, and feast every night on your scrapings–yup, i’ve seen it myself, the deeply endowed do all these jobs before hauling so much as one single rug into said ramshackle house.

nope, you never did grasp the math–or the magic–that allows for such dual domiciles, the one you do work in and the one that keeps you this side of sane.

so you, like me, you move in and you know that, pretty much, for the next century or so, you will be shuffling your this and your that into and out of one room, and right onto another. making like your house is a chessboard and your box after box is the front line of pawns, the rooks and the knights, all clanging and banging their way toward some other end of the chockablock maze.

you will be shoving the piano from one end of the house to the other. the rugs you’ll roll and you’ll lug, like a dead cobra, perhaps. one that swallowed an elephant just before gasping its last.

oh, you’ll be taking advil by the fistful for all the aches and pains that come with the heaving of trunks and, heck, the occasional two-ton stove. and you’ll stock up on those little white migraine pills that undoubtedly you’ll hungrily gulp to knock back the throbbers that come from the fumes you breathe in so deeply on the unending days when the satin-matte toxin wafts past your nose, wreaking who-knows-what havoc to the singular cell in your brain that’s not yet shriveled and forgotten its way.

but what really i need, in these days of deconstruction, is something far stronger than sedatives (though one or two of those might be swell, mixed in with my yogurt and berries, perhaps).

what i need, maybe, is a sense that life demands a breakdown once in a while. oh, i don’t mean one in the nervous department. i mean–be it a blood cell or an old dried leaf in the compost bin, or the parts of a house even–it must be written into the code of the universe that breaking apart, disordering what’s settled, is the first step in building back up. there’s no moving forward without a shake-up, a rattling, a walloping dose of disequilibrium.

if we lose hold of the long view, if we cling too mightily, too white-knuckley to the neat clean ledge of our life, well, then, won’t we just dangle, and eventually drop?

egad, i hear my own echo free-falling down through the canyon. was that a splat i just heard?

i’d best take a few deep cleansing breaths, and repeat after myself: it’ll all be over someday (now, there’s solace for ya).

maybe it’s all just a drill, a practice perhaps, to build-up my disequilibrium muscles, see if i’ve got what it takes to weather something so inconsequential as the fact that my couch and my keyboard are butt-up against what once was the one chair i cared to curl up in at the end of a long, long tiring day.

so it was that this week, once again, i rolled up my sleeves, yanked the hair from my eyes, and ripped all semblance of order from these rooms i call mine.

the floor man was coming. he with his army of buffers and sanders. his fumes and his colors.

his was the one last fix-it-up job–okay, the almost last job–the one i’d been loathing forever and ever.

had i had my druthers i would not have minded, not one little bit, the spots duly ensconced under the rug. i couldn’t be bothered, not hardly, by the odd gaps edging some of the walls. where the floor boards just stopped. a whole inch short of the wall in some of the spots–right where you stepped in the door, for instance. way i saw it, the absence of floor in those spots made for a fine well, a ditch if you will, where crumbs and odd hairballs could be brushed and disposed of at a mere moment’s notice.

ah, but the one whose ring i slipped on those many years ago, the one whose address is now always the same one as mine, well, he thought it high time–nearly six years, if you’re counting–to make like a grownup and spiff up the floors.

one ring-a-ding to the floor man, and, hmmm, seems the calendar’s sparse in the floor-buffing department of late, so without delay, he’d pencilled us in.

and i knew, without coaching, what had to be done.

with all the constructing that’s gone on around here, i’ve learned, oh i’ve learned, that with it–preceding it, accompanying it, joining in on each blessed chorus of hammers or buffers–there comes deconstruction.

i’ve come to loathe the stage in the game where what sits calm and serene–a lamp on a table, a rug minding its business under a chair–it’s up and upended.

rugs are rolled. lamps are stuffed in a shower that’s never turned on. saucers are tucked in a drawer that, hmm, i might not track down for days, weeks or months.

once one half of the house is slid into the other, i succumb to the challenge of coexisting with chaos. at breakfast, i shove boxes off the counter, to make way for cheerios and milk. after school, i make the little one suffer–or so he cries–because the box he so loves, for the baseball it brings him, it can’t be plugged in.

i tried, really i did, to give in to the madness. to not mind that we could barely squeeze through the kitchen. to not worry if i swallowed some dust with my coffee. heck, i just plugged my ears to block out the banging.

ah, but now as i type, tired and ragged from hours of fumes, from the long stretch without food, drink or bathroom when the floor by my office was sticky and wet and i couldn’t get out, the decon is ended.

the floors are mahogany now. the varnish is satin and smooth. the rug hides not a spot. and it rests, once again, under the couch and the slumbering chairs.

the house is restored. and soon i will be too.

a long night’s sleep, in a house that’s seeping its sorry old fumes straight out the windows, that’s all i need.

and when i awake, rub the dust from my eyes, i’m sure i will marvel at the uncanny fact that the boards under our feet are no longer pocked and pitted and rudely cut short of the walls.

and, as a matter of fact, i just might pat my old self on the back, proud, yes indeed, that i got in a round of disequilibrium practice.

but, wait, what’s that i see as i stumble to bed?

it’s floor stain splattered on walls. oh, Lord, could it mean what i think? the painter must pay me a housecall? and decon, again, is headed my way?

excuse me while i try a pencil eraser. anything, please, but no deconstruction.

it’s the disorder, people, that makes me nuts. anyone else go bonkers when your house is on end? how oh how do you cope? do you crave order in your life, and do you find it in the way you keep your house, or is that moot, (or pointless?) and do you opt instead for order of the interior psychic sort?

huff’n’ puff’n’ house

got new lungs around here this week. yup, ’s’true. this old house been wheezin’, coughin’, chillin’ too. so cold you went to bed in blankets, wrapped like wieners in a bun. slid your wiener self between sheets so cold even they had goosebumps.

then you pulled up covers–more and more feather down than on a flock of geese, so help me–and, what with all the layers, and the barely room for mouth, some nights you needed to insert a straw, bend it like a periscope, or maybe a chimney, so you could bellow in and out. or else the whole of you would be as blue as them there tootsy-toes.

well, heck, we just thought that was the way it was, when your house is old and it’s planted in the north. latitude 42, i think. means it is c-c-c-c-c-cold, come january nights.

turns out, our old furnace had gone and turned asthmatic. had cracks, besides, all over its coiled insides. poor thing couldn’t breathe another breath. made it through the coldest weekend yet, but then, come monday, it let out its last sad sigh.

i called the doctor, yes i did. they came and made a house call. (thank heaven, i would hate to be the one to load the furnace in the car, motor off to where the furnace clinic is, where they put up the stethoscope, listen close, then shake their sorry heads–hey lady, this ol’ bellows has breathed its very last).

mr. fix-it scurried down the stairs, black bag and muddy boots, besides, right there to where the gasping wasn’t, in the house’s stone-still underbelly.

and you know it’s not to show you something pretty when they call you down the stairs.

yoo-hoo, ma’am, can you come take a look? was what he said. more or less.

and then he showed me on the scope, five cracks, one bolder than the next.

gulp, said i, watching my tahitian fling go up in smoke and slither out the basement window.

he laid the news down straight and simple: you’ll need a new one, he said pointing to the house’s lungs deflated.

and so, we hemmed and hawed all day–make, model, power, price, they spun so many choices. everything but color (it came in only basic black; we now inhale in utter elegance). i tell you, i know more today about btu’s than i ever knew before.

and then, once they scared the dickens out of me, i tried real hard not to breathe (try that wheezy trick for 24 hours). told me, yes they did, carbon monoxide was surely leaking in the house.

but not to worry, they announced; until you hear the shriek from the alarm, you know it’s not too late. (to which the snide contractor–here to put in basement floor, of course; the timing could not have been much worse–he whispered: “by then it’ll be too late.” and then, i swear, he snickered.)

ahhh, but as i type today, i am nearly warm and toasty. as toasty as you can be when you are not a slice of rye.

we’ve all new lungs breathing in this house. and it is something very fine to know, at long last, that you stand a chance of sleeping through the night without awaking to pour hot water on your toes.

and all at once now, this old house feels rather, well, grownup, feels settled in its skin. as if, at last, we can lay claim to the whole of its pure essence.

you see, we’ve nipped and tucked since we moved in, but never really tinkered with the guts.

a house’s heart, of course, comes from all the ones who live there. its innards are the pipes and how they run, or don’t run. its lungs though–how it breathes–is pretty much the stuff of basic respiration. it’s windows cracked, doors swung open, and in the winter it is all that flows from what would’ve been, in days of old, a fine pot-bellied stove.

the days of stoves, i sadly note, are mostly too long gone. i do know a soul or two who heats her house with only logs. but me, i’ve succumbed to btu’s–i can now precisely tell you, 135,000 in every blessed hour.

like the pair of pillowed puffers buried in our chests, the breathing of our house is not something to which we pay much attention. until it’s no longer breathing in and out. or the breath is labored, cold as ice, i’m here to tell you.

but, as i’ve shivered in the frosty breath this week, i’ve come to know again: it is most essential, the moving in and out of air, the life that comes with oxygen exchanged, hardly noticed, wafting on the breeze.

and on this frigid freezing day, i blow a ring of holy smoke to the breathing all around: to lungs inside my chest, and big black sturdy new one huffin’ and puffin’ down in dingy cellar.

may all who enter here breathe deeply, wholly, warmly, this frosty winter’s day.

just a little tale today. nothin’ deep. unless of course you are stirred by stories of the thermal sort. have you ever been sans heat in the place you call your home sweet home? doesn’t take too long to thank God for simple things, like toes and fingertips that wiggle. by the way, God bless tony and bernie whose blessed hands got us warmth again, and breath-filled house.
p.s. since everyone likes to show their travel slides, i am showing you up above, the only snapshot i’ve got of what would’ve been my tahitian fling. it’s a furnace guaranteed for the next 10 years. come on over and warm your toes with mine. maybe we can play some beach songs and pretend we’re on the sands.

nook by nook

cranny by cranny, we are tucking bits of our soul into this old house. first time i pointed my shoes down the winding walk that leads to the blue-slate stoop that leads to the glass-paned door and into this humble house, i felt a chill run down my spine.

i felt like i’d been here before. i felt like this was home, this place i’d never been. i felt like i knew not only the essence behind the walls, but all its secrets, too.

most of my life i’ve found the places i’ve lived quite by accident, often with a shiver down my neck. i just know, as i knew here, that these are rooms to spread my soul.

it is often the oddest things. things that don’t add up, not by ordinary math. a laundry chute. a magic place, a place for elves or little children, tucked beneath the boughs of spruce out back. the way the light slants through the front bay window. the narrow planks of oak. the wider planks of pine.

never mind square feet. or mstr suites. couldn’t care less for granite counters. or 3-car garage. like i said, i’m no mathematician. the numbers never add. it’s just a sense, a knowing. it’s a place that calls my name.

besides the oddest things, the don’t-add-up things, there are two essentials i cannot do without: light and flow. i need rooms with light that pours and light that dances, casts its shadows, hour by hour. louis kahn, the great architect and thinker, calls light “the divine animator.” this house has light.

what it didn’t have was lots of nooks and crannies. it was a house built in 1941, a time when efficiency and getting to the point was high on the agenda. it was built by a doctor, a doctor who delivered babies. and i’m guessing he meant business. not one to dilly-dally around the delivery room, he wanted his deliveries, his day, his path from bed to bath unencumbered.

he, unlike me, might have prided himself on a direct route from a to b. not me. i like meandering. i like the route least direct. i’m a dreamer, not a driver. i like stops along the way. i like the possibility of pulling over, unfurling blanket under tree, counting clouds.

nooks and crannies in a house are for those who savor pulling over. nooks beckon. they call your name. they are little places that invite you in. come here, they say, curl up. be harbored. tuck your secrets here.

a nook and cranny in a house is like a jacket full of pockets. like a sentence that rolls with clauses. it makes for texture, layer upon layer of possibility.

and so, one nook or cranny at a time, we’ve filled this house with place to pause, with room enough for wisps of dreams.

up in the room where we lay our heads there is now a window seat, looking out into limbs that any week now might be sprouting tiny shoots of green. i’ll get to watch from just inches away. and if a mama bird settles on a branch, i’ll keep a careful eye on the hatchery.

one whole wall in the room where i type is row upon row of bookshelves. four tall sentries, filled with pages, keeping watch over my shoulder as i channel words to screen.

in the kitchen, there’s a narrow nook for hanging coats. and across the way, a built-in bench beneath a window garden. it’s all a bit of heaven, if your idea of heaven is one with nooks at every turn.

each nook, each cranny, has come to our house courtesy of jim, the grilled-cheese builder. not a one is anything fancy. not a one the stuff that steals the cover of some shelter slick or glossy.

each one is rather quiet. but each one makes me sigh. long as i’ve been dreaming, i’ve dreamed of nooks and crannies tucked in little corners. maybe i read too many fairy tales. maybe i stared too long into drawings of magic cottages in the woods where all was old and quaint.

jim was here day before last, tucking two last nooks in two more corners. they are nooks for plates and cups. very old plates and cups. the ones i had in boxes for the last four years, and before that, stacked so high on a shelf, i needed a step ladder to reach them. i don’t know about you, but i’m less inclined to use for dinner when a ladder is required.

since this is, i swear, the house where i’ll grow old, the last house i’ll call my own, i thought it might be rather nice to actually start to use those dishes. a cupboard is an old idea, not a radical idea, a place to hold your cups. a cupboard tucked in corner, even better. a fine old idea; one the doctor, bless him, didn’t think of. he was thinking straight lines, i am thinking not.

alas, on the long list of things this old house needed, i assure you, nooks for plates and cups, especially old ones, was hardly up there. even if it meant years of dinners, christmas, seders, passed without the fine old plates.

as jim & co. banged the nooks into their place, i heard the old room sigh. it’s been waiting 66 years for that little bit of angle-changing. i sighed too. knowing that we were ticking off nearly the last nook on the list.

this old house has been hammered plenty since we moved in. the rafters might well be shaking. it’s time at last to settle in, to settle deep into these floorboards.

a wise friend and architect once told me, “a house bends toward its inhabitants.”

our house has bent, all right. our house, once hard angles everywhere, is now a house of nooks and crannies. it’s a place where i can dream. curl up and wonder. stretch out and ponder.
we are blessed to call this home. more blessed still to have tucked in nooks and crannies.

do you have a nook? one inside your house? one somewhere out in the woods? a nook of the world? a nook beside your bed? where in your house do you feel your dreams best stoked?

the grilled cheese that launched a kitchen

phone rang yesterday mornin’. it was jim, the man who built our kitchen, builds our dreams, i always say. he needed to stop by, pick up some hinges, make sure they fit the corner cabinet he’s building for my dishes, the ones stacked in moving boxes in the dark corner of the basement for four years now.

i am nearly certain plates and cups are broken. it would defy all of newton’s laws for that fine old china not to be broken, what with all that’s been dumped on its head.

but, like an ostrich, i’m not looking. and then, when i unearth a chunk of plate, a half a saucer, i will put on my best zen, and say i’m lucky for what’s left, for they all came to me the easy way, from folks cleaning closets pretty much, knowing i’d be trusted guardian to their treasures. gulp. (did you hear me swallowing my chagrin?)

ahem. back to jim, and his stopping by. last thing i said before we hung up was, “i’ll crank the griddle.” he laughed. he knows that the griddle is synonymous with grilled cheese, and grilled cheese around here is synonymous with jim, fueling jim, fueling him for years, in fact.

in the latest installment of jim’s-grilled-bread-with-cheese, during the 12 months that was supposed to have been three that it took to build our farmhouse kitchen, i musta slapped, slathered, sizzled some 1,000 grilled cheese. gone through 500 loaves of hearty wheat, nearly as many bright orange blocks of cheddar, enough butter to charm a cow.

every day, round lunchtime, even on the days when we were inhaling dust or ducking under dripping wires, i cranked the firehouse stove i call my own, and i sizzled up at least three if not more grilled cheese. then, on paper plates some days, jim & crew shoved aside just enough saw dust not to get more crunch with their cheese, and sat down to lunch. many a day, i sat down too.

and the grilled cheese always sealed the deal. always said the thing unspoken, though i’ve told it to his face plenty of times, and in print in the newspaper, too. the grilled cheese told jim & crew that they were not some hired workers, they were integral, essential, pretty much part of the family.

if they could build me my dream, hammer through headaches and near frostbite, for cryin out loud, jigsaw through knicked thumbs and delayed orders, powerdrill through the hassles of a stolen van and a lifetime’s lost tools, i could slap cheese on bread; butter; grill.

to be honest, not every day was a happy day on the long road to the farmhouse kitchen. at least one or two days jim wanted to kill me (like the day we discovered that the cabinet doors i’d described and the ones he ordered–and was starting to hang–were decidedly not the same).

but through it all the cheese was grilled, the apples were sliced, and in the end, the jim who walked in yesterday, pulled out a stool, sat down and bit off a corner of my grilled cheese, he’s one of the dearest hearts in my life. we endured, fueled, in good measure, on that oozy cheese.

it just seems right to me, and food for more thought for another day, perhaps, that the souls you invite into your home, to build your home, to wire your home, to get the toilet flushing, they are part and parcel of the woodwork, the wiring, the very innards of what makes your house not just a house but a very live theater with all sorts of characters who fill the stage with their charms, their quirks, their persistence and their considerable capabilities.

it is a bond not paid in dollars. it is far beyond obligation. it is, far as i can tell, a kind of love best served crunchy on the outside, oozing in the middle.

i’m curious, have you too forged bonds with folks who make your house keep ticking? or, if you’re a soul who does keep houses ticking, how’s it feel when you’re made to know, in no uncertain terms, that you are, simply, indispensable and far beyond just another worker hired for the job?

p.s. those are, obviously, jim’s hands up above, holding that grilled cheese. i love those hands, working hands. as i kept clicking, while he chewed, i was raving about the hands–knicks, calluses, rough spots, the whole shebang. he chuckled. said that was a first. said i oughta go watch seinfeld, some episode where someone–i should know who–becomes a hand model. oh well, in the comedy i call my life, jim’s hands will do. just fine.

every time i turn a knob…

which, as you might imagine, is a hundred times a day in a working kitchen, with two boys, a fat cat, a hungry husband and me. and every single time, since i found out, i think of danny. danny screwed in every one of those ice box catches, as they are called in hardware speak. there are 17 of them in the farmhouse kitchen, and another 23 drawer pulls.

danny, who is no longer, sweated over every last one of all of them.

on a july day so hot he was licking away sweat from his upper lip before the third catch was on, danny and his power driver had at it. during a chapter in the kitchen construction that was nearly a stand-still, they called in danny. to come to our rescue. danny was the kind of guy who comes to your rescue: solid, quiet, get-the-job-done.

danny killed himself exactly three weeks ago today. leaving behind a wife he loved, and three kids, 5, 3, and newborn.
hung himself, danny did.

despondent over lord knows how many things. but one of the things was that he’d been rehabbing his own house, trying to make it stretch for his stretching family. he’d dug a new foundation, right up against the old one. and the rains came one september spell. literally washed his foundation out. the house caved in. danny, 38, wore the weight of it on his taut, slim shoulders.

and every time i turn a knob, i see danny. see a hundred frames of danny getting the job done.

a house, a house lived in by souls who love it, who honor it, who keep an ear open to its many whisperings, is, as any archeologist would tell you, an artifact layered with history and meaning, heartbreak and miracle.

the knobs for me will forever be danny, danny’s heartbreaking story.

besides the fact that we were finally getting knobs on cabinets that had hung naked for weeks, the drama of the week that danny came was that danny had a baby coming any minute. his third baby.

see, danny had grown up on our watch. back at our old house, he was the smart, young kid on the job. the carpenter with the degree in economics from lawrence university, one of those really fine midwest liberal arts schools that pull in really smart kids who might not look toward the coasts. danny could push a pencil, but he thrilled at banging a hammer.

they were a team of four, the builders, our builders, jim&friends. and we loved them. i don’t know how you have a house filled with men hammering and sawing and building your dreams and not love them. each one had a role, a schtick, a something you could count on. characters on the stage of your life for however long the job takes, you await their coming in from the wings each morning, you stand and applaud when they have just sung their hearts out–even when they sing with a hand plane or a power driver.

not long after wrapping up our job in the city, danny decided he needed to hang up his tool belt and become something of which his wife would be proud: an accountant. he took the tests, passed on his first try. danny was always a smart kid. he tried crunching numbers for awhile. but he just didn’t get the buzz that comes from building houses for a living. so he went out on his own, his little family growing right along with his business.

but we needed him this summer. the building had, for a number of reasons, gotten way behind.

the day he showed up, everyone knew we were back on track. he stayed late the night he put the knobs on. we came home to a dark house, but a house with polished-nickel knobs shining.

danny kept coming all week, getting the job done. his wife had the baby the next tuesday. he didn’t come to our house that day. but he came back soon after. he was beaming. he talked about kathy, the kids, he was beaming.

i never talked to him after his house caved in in september. i should have. i was dreaming up some kind of benefit concert, something that would get some cash in his hands. i never got past dreaming.

then jim called one dreary november morn, right before thanksgiving. jim who had worked beside danny since danny was a 15-year-old kid looking to make money during summers in high school. jim who said he cried like a baby when he got the call.

“you remember danny,” he started, oddly. as if. as if i wouldn’t remember.

“he took his life.”

it’s been three weeks. and every time i reach for the knob….i think of those kids, this christmas. i run my fingers slowly over the polished-nickel knob. bless you, danny. bless you.