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Tag: a year in cambridge

over the river, through the woods, and off to storybook land…

images

dispatch en route to 05091 (in which the little black mobile swoops by a snow-covered campus quad, picks up a firstborn child and dashes away to snowier vermont for a short sweet spell of make-believe and pinch-me…)

once upon a time, there must have been a curly-haired lass whose prized position was little legs dangling over the edge of the armchair, storybook sprawled wide across her lap.

i imagine her big gray-blue eyes dancing. i imagine the gleam as she pored over the page. i imagine, most of all, the faraway look that must have set in, as her heart soared away to never-never land.

this little girl, you see, was a storybook dreamer. always was, always will be.

charmed by the intricacies of early-on picture books (surely tasha tudor framed many a dream), lulled by tales set in english walled gardens, abandoned castles, thatched-roof cottages and little cabins in big woods, she stumbled hard — and from the beginning — into that indescribable realm called the world of the imagination.

she found out that, plonked on a fat armchair, or tucked under the bedcovers, or curled up under the swishing strands of the weeping willow beside her bubbling brook, she could set sail to faraway places, weave long and winding stories that continued, chapter after chapter, night after night — for years, sometimes.

once, on a winter’s day she still remembers, she spent hours behind her locked bedroom door, hunched on the hardwood floor between the patchwork-covered twin beds, just beneath the paned windows that looked out through the trees and into the thick of the woods.

for nearly the whole of that day, she worked. put colored pencils to paper, scrawled a table of contents, prettified the fat first letter of each and every chapter. and, when all was just as she wanted it to be, she proudly penned her name onto the cover, just below her chapter-book title. “the adventures of joHo, by barbara ann theresa mahany,” she wrote, aiming for that authorial stretch that comes from employing all available monikers.

and so it’s ever been.

that little girl grew up. her blah-brown locks are now silvery with streaks of snow (how’s that for storybook stretch?). but quick as you can say “rumplestiltskin,” she can switch on the magic loop, and sail away on a pea green pod to the place where stories grow, and imagination sprinkles every garden bed.

and so it is that as we pack for a weekend’s jaunt to the woodstock inn in snowy vermont, i am beside myself with what bambi long ago called “twitterpation.”

soon as i saw that snap up above, the storybook inn with the glowing windows spread all across its face, soon as i got a whiff of that white picket fence, and read about teatime at four in the library, i started dreaming of four-poster beds, and threadbare oriental rugs. i heard the crackle of the fireplace, and spent a few delicious minutes chewing on the choice of which fat books to lug along with my lanz flannel nightgown and my holey haflinger boiled-wool slippers.

i imagine we’ll take long walks in the snow, through the sleepy vermont woods. and, if the moment is right, is sublimely sacred, i’ll take the hand of one of my boys. all three — tall, taller, and not-yet-tall — are signed up for the adventure. it feels like something of a miracle within the miracle, to be motoring up the back roads, leaving behind this cobbled city, stopping to grab the college kid in emily dickinson’s amherst before wending our way to woodstock.

but so it is. in this year of living sumptuously, this might be the sumptuousest (to make up a word, for the moment deserves its own home-grown vocabulary). we’re not a little clan who gets to take vacations terribly often (the price of being newsrakers in a dying industry), so each and every one is a sweet bit of miracle.

and this one, more than most.

it’s spring break for three of us — the two now entrenched at veritas U, and the one up amherst way. the little one’s spring break is not till april, so, alas, we’ve been here driving him back and forth to school through ice and snow all week. but at the crack of dawn tomorrow, i’m calling that school and reporting the child absent. and then we’re packing up the road food, stuffing ourselves into the woodstock-mobile, and heading out on massachusetts state highway 2.

all my life i’ve wanted to set a foot in vermont, a state of mind that brings to mind dappled cows bedecked in daisy chains. and covered bridges coursing over gurgling rivers. and woods aglow with lefty politics. my kinda state, i’m telling you.

it might be the epicenter of storybook landscapes, so off we go to fill my head with picture frames to last a lifetime. and for two full days, i’ll be bookended by my deeply beloved boys.

i can’t imagine — hard as i tax my storybook brain — a dreamier way to spend a gilt-edged chapter tucked amid these  blessed holy days.

are you a storybook soul? and if you could pick one storybook place to tuck away for a sweet short spell, where might it be, and why? 

what matters most

what matters most

dispatch from 02139 (in which the script turns from sorrow to triumph, and from across the western hills, the cavalry gallops in, just in the nick of time…)

ever since we got the word way last spring that we were headed to veritas U. for this year of living sumptuously, the bespectacled fellow with whom we live, the one now known as “the professor,” had but one shining dream:

that, on the evening when he was called upon to stand before the crowd and unspool the whole of his lifework, a moment known in nieman vernacular as “the sounding,” his first newspaper hero — his papa, a longtime editor and lifelong newshound — would be in the room.

that his papa would be upfront and center glowing in that way he so often glows. that his deep soulful laugh would echo round the chamber. that the tears that stream so easily from his eyes would, indeed, be streaming. filled with knowing that in his grasp was a life of dreams come true.

it was not to be.

two weeks ago, an ambulance carried our beloved longtime newspaper editor to the hospital. he spent a few days in ICU, and now is growing sturdier. he’ll go home soon.

but not soon enough to take the trip from the jersey shore up to the city nestled along the charles river. not soon enough to be in the room last tuesday night, when “the professor” rose, clipped on the microphone and began to unspool the tale of why he does what he does. why his job as the architecture critic of the chicago tribune, in one of the world’s great architectural meccas, has for all these years held his imagination and his passions, why he lives the life of what he calls an “activist critic,” meaning he tries to avert disaster before it strikes its wrecking ball or sinks its pylons, or, conversely, why he uses his column inches to set an agenda of enlightened civic discourse when it comes to public space and edifice.

alas, there were heavy hearts here in the aerie. we all knew this moment swept by but once.

a videocamera filled in a piece of the gap. but the blank space in the equation could not, in fact, be filled. instead of treating the professor’s mama and papa to a couple nights at the inn on harvard square, instead of introducing them to the bevy of glorious fellows, we had to settle for follow-up phone calls to new jersey to recount the eve. we dispatched photos over the computer wires. and soon enough we will hand over a copy of “the sounding” as recorded on DVD.

but that is not the whole of the story.

other scripts were unspooling as that one stalled to its sorry close.

the professor’s firstborn, a college kid who seems to keep only scant attention on the doings back home,  seemed to divine the significance of the evening, and despite the fact that it was midterm week — and a tuesday night, no less — he and i set about scheming how to get his lanky self two hours east so he could amply fill one of the seats in the room.

while we set about searching bus and train departure and arrival times, the little one in this house set sail a scheme all his own.

he’d long thought it would be a hoot to introduce the chicago architecture critic with a resounding re-enactment of the chicago bulls pyrotechnic theme song, an anthem that shakes the rafters of the united center back in michael jordan’s home cathedral on the near west side of the windy city. what was particularly amusing about that scenario was how counter to the professor’s culture that might be. our beloved professor is not exactly the pyrotechnic type. rather, he might be more instantly equated with a gentle brahms suite, or a soundtrack in which the hushed turning of pages was considered plenty percussive.

as would be the case in any suspense tale worth telling, the college kid could not find bus nor train nor automobile that aligned with his midterm exams. he and i even got to wondering how much it would cost to hire a car. or, might there be a friend — heck, a stranger would suffice — willing to earn cold hard cash, say 100 easy bucks, to drive the kid in for the evening?

as of 10:30 the morning of the talk (aka “the sounding”), there was no such solution to be had. we’d reached the dead end of this scheme. and it was clearer than clear that there’d now be yet another empty seat in that seminar hall.

yet all the while, as the college kid scrounged for rides, the 11-year-old (the one who no longer can justifiably be called “the little one,” much as i’ve come to love that name) busied himself with his self-appointed role in this unfolding family drama.

never mind that just a few years ago no one would have imagined that kid with the gumption to get up in front of a crowd and read hand-crafted words (let alone craft the darn words). he had it in his head that he — and he alone — should be the one to unfurl the red carpet for his papa’s shining moment in the nieman sun.

he wasn’t daunted by size of crowd, nor reputation of those esteemed and mighty nieman fellows. nay, he kept his eyes trained on one and only one sure thing: he loved his papa, and he would usher his papa to the podium in fitting form.

so, wasting no time, he perched himself on his typing chair, and pounded out his script. (a script, i tell you, no  rambling mumbling from the hip.) he closed and locked his bedroom door, and practiced over and over, declaiming to his empty bunk bed. he gave it a run-through. he melted into smile. he liked it, his words of introduction.

but then, the afternoon of the big talk, he hurdled in from the school bus, popped a piece of chewing gum in his mouth (“i like to chew when i’m nervous,” he reported), then plopped back into typing chair, and revised his words. much better, he decided.

with no fanfare, he folded and tucked his script into the front pocket of his jeans. he slipped on his snow coat, and off we headed in the rain.

once inside the white clapboard nieman house, the beehive where all this speechifying was to unfold, we set about the business of transforming the joint into our favorite jewish deli on chicago’s near west side. while setting out the manny’s mustard and the “welcome to chicago. mayor rahm emanuel” signs, the professor’s cell phone jingled.

the next words i heard were these: “willie? where are you? you’re in harvard square?!?”

and so, the cavalry came through. the trumpet sounded from the crest of triumph hill.

at the very last minute, after white flags had been waved, the college kid’s roommate mentioned he was heading into cambridge for the eve, to take in a lecture and dinner just down the block from where all glory — and mounds of chicago brisket, and latkes, and half-sour pickles — would soon be dolloped.

the kid, resplendent in j. press fair isle sweater, barreled through the door and into the grand foyer. his mama let out a yelp that might echo in those halls for years to come. no sweeter sound than the sound of arms enfolding arms, the embrace that will not loosen.

not quite an hour later, the little one, in a magnificent demonstration of the heart that pounds beneath that skinny chest, rose to the microphone, and let loose his poetry of charm and pride and introduction.

said the little one:

“Hi. I’m Teddy.

My Dad is the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune. He’s a good guy, and he’s pretty awesome.

But I have to be honest: I don’t always agree with his reviews.

Anyway, my dad and I have lots of fun together.

We play cards. I beat him.

We play basketball. I beat him.

And we always hang out together on weekends.

Okay, so maybe I have a little more fun – just because I beat him pretty much.

But if we had a game on who would have a better sounding, he would win.

I hope you enjoy his bodaciously awesome sounding.”

and with that, the architecture critic took it away.

but all i heard, most of the next two hours, was the sound of my heart thumping as i looked a few inches to my left and right, and saw both our boys circled tight, in hands-squeeze reach.

there are moments in our lives when all that matters, really, is that we breathe in and exhale the very same specks of air. that, in real time, we hear the same sounds at the same moment. that we catch the glimmers in each other’s eyes.

that we know, through and through, we’ve climbed mountains, forded streams, and dodged near bullets — just to be together.

because, as the professor always says, 98 percent of life is just showin’ up. especially when what you’re showing is the full power of your heart.

twas a night to remember, the night the boys came through for papa. and i was right there to be blessed by it all.

why i do what i do sounding

this one’s for the family journal. for my faraway beloved mama and papa-in-law. and for anyone teetering on the brink of should i jump through hoops just to be there….the answer: a resounding yes. 

do you have a tale to tell of a time someone you love made the impossible possible, and came across the horizon to the tune of triumphant trumpet call? or a time when you were the one who decided the impossible must be slayed, and you were going to make it, come heck or high water?

the barefoot monk and his God of pots & pans

the tale of brother lawrence

dispatch from 02139 (in which we meet a 17th-century monk with wisdom for the ages….)

the snows have been tumbling since the cloak of twilight fell last eve. a short pause here and there, but mostly tumbling, tumbling. with little sound but the shooshing of slush as it spits out from under thirsty tires on the street below, i’m tucked inside, home alone, curled up with a tiny blue slip of a book.

i’d not heard of the book, nor its author, until just a week or so ago, when a wise woman of letters likened something i’d written to the musings of brother lawrence, he with his God of pots and pans.

she mentioned this in passing, as if of course i knew the fellow. i did not.

no more need be whispered. i stood intrigued. and i set out to unearth this humble fellow who stumbled on the Holy amid the clangings of his monastery kitchen, not long after the pilgrims pulled ashore at plymouth.

i marched straight to the nearest epicenter of literary procurement — aka, the cambridge public library — and there i found the shelves were hollowed of brother lawrence and his sole literary offering, “practice of the presence of God,” a line i’d heard over the years — been struck by, really — though i never knew its origins. nor ever thought to wonder.

my friendly librarian managed to scrounge up a solitary copy from the bowels of some far-flung college archives. she dispatched it swiftly, and it came into my possession just days ago.

this white-freckled morn of mounding drifts offered the perfect occasion for making its acquaintance.

so down i plopped. and here i share the tale.

no bigger than a folded-in-half index card, a mere 80 yellowed pages, the title etched in gold gothic letters across a navy canvas, it’s a wisp of a volume. weightless as the wing of a dove. a book that might get swallowed whole at the bottom of a satchel, where it nearly did get lost this week.

yet it packs a mighty wallop.

it’s a humble collection of conversations and letters of one barefoot monk who, back in 1666, spilled the wisdoms soaked up in its now fragile pages.

the gentle fellow took the name “brother lawrence” upon entering the monastery of the barefooted carmelites in paris, not long after an uncanny conversion that came one winter’s day, staring at a tree, dry and leafless. seems the good brother absorbed the stark emptiness, but in that way that saints and wise souls do, he saw beyond it.

he imagined the possible.

as is written in the six-itty-bitty-page preface: the soon-to-be brother lawrence stood before the naked tree “reflecting on what a change God would make in it with the returning spring.”

and thus he was hit, head-on. the surging sense of the immensity of the Holy One all but knocked him down, realizing the life force, the Beautiful that would burst from the Barren.

again, from the preface: “it may seem strange so affecting a sense of Divine attributes should have been occasioned by so common an incident as seeing a tree, dry and leafless in the winter, and by reflecting what a change God would make in it with the returning spring. this may seem strange; but, in fact, it is rather to be wondered at, that others are not affected as he was, and that the little miracles of nature make so little impression upon us.”

and so, a little miracle of nature led the man, born nicholas herman of lorraine, to the great stone monastery in paris around the year 1626, when he was but 18.

there, brother lawrence, who described himself as “a great awkward fellow who broke everything,” (indeed, so kindred a spirit is my newfound bumbling ally, ol’ larry) found himself dispatched to the kitchen, “to which he had naturally a great aversion.” for some 15 years, he was cook to the society of monks.

amid the pots and pans, he established a profound yet simple spiritual practice: “i began to live as if there was none but He and i in the world,” he writes in the first of 14 letters pressed into the pages of his book.

in his second letter, he writes: “i make it my business only to persevere in His holy Presence…an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God.”

in other words, imagine that God is always near, dangling over your shoulder, tucked in the pocket of your dungarees. no need for piety, or gilded cathedral walls. no need for practiced vespers, or slipping away from the cacophony of the everyday. brother lawrence’s is the God of the here and now, especially when it’s messy.

“it is not necessary for being with God to be always at church,” he says. “we make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love…”

from the tenth letter: “He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone, who came to visit you; why then must God be neglected? do not then forget Him.”

and in perhaps brother lawrence’s most oft-quoted line, and one which i’ll now carry to the cookstove, especially in the harried half-hour when tummies are growling, and what’s in the skillet spews coils of smoke:

“it was observed, that in the greatest hurry of the business of the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. he was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even composure and tranquility of spirit. ‘the time of business,’ said he, ‘does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, i possess God in as great tranquility as if i were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.’

surely, i was meant to know the barefooted brother. a fellow as likely to be thunderstruck by the lifeless silhouette of woods in winter, a good soul brought to bended knee by delphinium on the brink of brilliant blue. a reluctant cook who carries on heavenly discourse while the spaghetti scorches in the pot.

Brother_Lawrence_in_the_kitchen

who, pray tell, inspired you this week? 

and before i go, a few more lines from brother lawrence:

“…we ought not be weary of doing little things for the love of God, Who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

“our only business was to love and delight ourselves in God.”

“…his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God…”

this nook i’ve come to call home

nook i've come to lovedispatch from 02139 (in which, after 192 days, it makes me wince to think of leaving….)

really, i think, i’m part squirrel. or maybe fat-cheeked chipmunk. certainly from the mammalian order Rodentia. i know, i know. it’s not a pretty picture. those furry little critters that make so many yelp. leap high on stools. lurch for brooms.

but really.

i do exhibit many squirrel-like tendencies. i burrow. i conform whole-bodily to my confines. i’ve been known to overstuff my pantry with twos and threes of things i love — just in case! a squirrel does too. only they call it hoarding. stocking up for winter. i call it making sure i don’t have to dash to the grocery in the wee wee hours, when suddenly an urge for popcorn strikes (see! yet another link between me and the bushy-tailed kernel-loving kind!).

mostly, though, it’s about the burrowing. about boring in, carving tunnels in my cove. making cozy. is not the squirrel the queen of cozy comfy? heck, if you can make the insides of an old oak’s trunk the very place where you can’t wait to scurry at the end of a long day hauling acorns, you are one fine cozy-maker.

and so it is, here in the aerie. where 192 days into this experiment in third-floor living, i can barely consider packing up and leaving without scrunching up my countenance.

i’ve come to love this little place. love the pit-a-pat of soles against the shining planks of maple. love the sunshine streaming in by day, and the moonlight every cloudless night. love the sounds of the city down below, tucked away, not far from harvard square, where just now cardinal and blue jay are out the window carrying on a discourse above the din of all the thinkers strolling by.

i am particularly fond of this little breakfast nook, all bench and cushions, with steam heat pouring up from down below my bum. how fine a configuration is that? to have your undersides steamed like chinese buns?

i sit here by the hour, especially at the dawn. my earthen mug filled high. the morning birds flitting in for a nibble at the feeder. this morning it is particularly quiet. and quiet is a sound i love more than most. so hushed i hear the water drip-drip-dripping from the sink. every once in a while, the gurgle from the french-roast trough. the hum from the fridge.

i leap out of bed before the clock chimes “time to wake,” just so i can steal a few extra minutes — all alone, in cloak of morning light, before the rush begins.

and i can’t help but marvel at the human capacity for burrowing down to joy. for shirking off the parts that make us squirm. for honing in on finding where our hum comes. where comfort rises up, wraps round us, holds us tight.

we are a species — we and our bushy-tailed brethren, yes — who can’t help but toil toward equilibrium. and, hardly content to idle in the neutral zone, we burrow deeper still, down to where the glories bubble up. we find our hum, indeed.

all this from a girl who, just a year ago, was dizzy at the thought of leaving a place that had carved her in the palm of its hand. all this from a girl who 192 mornings ago was clicking snapshots of the old house she was leaving behind, as if she’d not breathe again till she returned. and here i am, humming. knowing my well-worn footpaths in the maple planks. having carved a whole new routine. morning coffee, followed by reading, followed by catching glimpse of sunrise, followed by clomp-clomp-clomp along the cobbled sidewalks, drawing me into lecture halls and classrooms where i nearly purr with pure contentment.

we adapt.

we find joy.

it’s what, as a species, we are wired to do.

i write this because i never cease to be amazed. at this capacity for comfort. at making home wherever we are plopped.

i write this because a friend i love — nay, adore — stands at the brink of just such a translocation. and she is trembling. wondering what she’s doing to her family, up and hauling them across the country, to a faraway place that right now feels oh-so foreign.

i write this because i was that trembling soul. but a wee small voice inside propelled me. whispered louder than all the others: don’t be afraid. just go!

and so, for all these days and weeks and months, we’ve been living the experiment. (and here’s the part where the hallelujahs come, rise up and bring on tears…) i’ve watched my boy become best friends with a kid who can’t afford the hot cocoa in the cafeteria. i’ve heard stories that might make your hairs stand on end. but he takes them in stride because he loves the kid who tells the stories, true stories from a life that’s short on lucky breaks. and i can’t help but know that to have your eyes wide-opened when you’re 11, when you’re smack dab in middle school, is to keep those eyes forever scanning the landscape in whole new ways.

that sweet boy will not go back to our leafy little village taking it for granted, taking anything for granted (so help me, Lord on high). he will not forget his friend who has to step over the drug-dealing in the staircase. or the other stories i can’t tell here.  he will remember how much he loved the street ball in the gym. how the big towering kids loved the scrappy little white boy, my boy. and how he woke up and realized he was truly color blind. and more than comfortable in a united nations classroom.

i write this because i live and breathe contentment these days. pure joy is an hourly intoxicant.

and i wouldn’t have gotten here if i’d let the demons hold me down.

i promise you, my friend, you will purr again. your babies will stretch and pull and some nights, at bedtime, break down in floods of tears. but the morning will come when you are all gathered round the breakfast table, and laughter will rise up. and you’ll all feel oh so deeply home. and you’ll look around at all the wonders that have come your way, and you won’t want to imagine what it would have been like to not know such particular life-defining joys.

i promise you, my friend. we’ve all got a dose of squirrel somewhere down inside.

what are the little joys that make for comfort zones in your long day?

 

turning the page on my little muse

goodbye little musedispatch from 02139 (in which my stretching-by-the-hour muse proclaims independence and right of first refusal…)

it was just a few weeks ago, one night after dinner, when my little fellow was nonchalantly clearing the table, and plopped his plate precipitously over the edge of the counter, threatening to wobble and crash to the depths of the dishwasher down below.

yes, half the plate was securely on the countertop. ah, but the other half, suspended on air and air alone.

seizing this moment of gravity instruction, i chimed: “sweetie, don’t leave the plate there. it could fall.”

to which my young isaac newton circled back, eyed the non-wobbling plate, and crisply replied: “well, it didn’t.”

“but it could,” i tried again, intent on cementing this lesson.

wherein the young thinker, once again, became the teacher.

said he, looking me straight in the eyeballs: “you don’t want to live your life in what-ifs!”

and then he scurried on. and i was left, alone in the kitchen, his words reverberating. making the walls shake. waking up sound-asleep brain cells.

“you don’t want to live your life in what-ifs.”

who is this 11-year-old buddha? is it not true that the heavens send us our teachers in soccer pants and sauce-stained T-shirts?

so struck was i by this kitchen-sink wisdom that i lurched to grab my trusty camera, to record the not-so-tipsy plate, just as he’d left it. so that, as i’ve so often done in the last six of his 11 years, i might etch the lesson here, on the pages of the chair.

but i was caught, mid-click.

he knew what i was up to. and there arose a gentle protest. a declaration of independence.

“mom, you can’t write about me without checking with me first.”

point taken.

so i didn’t write that week about the lesson of not living your life in what-ifs.

though it was a lesson that shot me through and through. because, yes, how often have i not crossed a threshold after ticking up the hundred ways that something might go wrong. because fear undercuts, boxes in, circumscribes, so very many blue highways in the landscape of our lives.

his claim to right of first refusal became an oft-returned-to point of discussion over days that followed. he’d deemed that if he could be first-reader, it might or might not pass the test. i might or might not get to click the “publish” button.

all wholly on the mark. all wholly admirable. and defensible.

and a policy to which i now subscribe.

and, yes, in that moment, i heard the crinkling of yet another page in my life as it turned, as i lifted up the fragile corner, arced it across time and space, and pressed it back, onto the growing stack of past.

my little muse had, for all these years, been the heartbeat of so many meanders here at the table. there was monster fighter, the one about how he armed himself for perilous nights in those fitful shadowed hours not long before he was swallowed up by first grade. there was the a-ha moment where the little black squiggles on the page suddenly, out of the blue, and after much trying, erupted into words, the likes of which he swallowed whole, in starter sentences and paragraphs. there was, most recently, stitching the homesick blanket, in which he wanted more than anything a plane ticket home. and the meander, in particular, that made him stand up and say, excuse me, i have a right to tell my own story of my own life.

it is a struggle many writers meet head on. there are sharp lines in our lives we do not cross. whole continents of heartland we do not explore in print.

it’s why there’s fiction.

being married to a writer, i’ve long known our unspoken pact: i don’t write about his private life, our private life, because it’s his as much as mine. being the mother of a college kid, i’ve known too just how close i can inch toward that tender, fragile, firm, border crossing. i’ve written less and less about him as he’s grown, claimed his own life story.

but my little one, until just now, has been the one whose heart, whose words, whose wonders i couldn’t help but capture.

like a lepidopterist, i’ve flailed my net, and here and there, in daisy fields and shaded coves, in kindergarten classrooms, and on little league playlots, i’ve netted bright-winged moments that were my sweet boy growing up.

moments that otherwise would have escaped, fluttered off to clouds, or tucked away behind a tree limb.

been lost to time and memory.

i’ve long said that more than anything, pull up a chair has been my truest snapshot album. has lassoed in times new roman (the font in which i type) a mother’s deepest felt moments, the charms of six-year-old and seven-year-old lexicon and logic. has been slow-release, unfurling love song.

more than anything, it’s holding up a life — my life, our life — to the light. it’s catching the rainbow shards distilled in every shaft of sunbeam. it’s turning a moment round and round, re-discovering a miracle or magic not seen in first-run.

and along the way, truth be always told, i fell more in love with one particular little fellow than i ever knew i could. it’s not that i didn’t love him through and through and through in real time. it’s just that in putting him on paper, in digging deep to find the words, to record his whims and whirling marvels, i fell in love all over and over and over again. it’s the prestidigitation of the pen.

just this morning, as i petitioned this very musing, as i inquired as we trudged through snow banks and skidded over ice patch en route to where the school bus stops, he generously offered more than compromise: “oh, you can write about me, mom. just not my private life.”

so no more snaps of little boy legs peeking out from under the covers. no more monster fighter garb, bare naked chest and legs. no more stories from the shadows and the aching vessels of his heart. not without assent — of the committee of one. not unless he lifts the “no trespassing” sign.

my little muse is growing up. and he’s the author of his life.

to which the corollary is: the life that’s mine is the one of which i’m allowed to write. and that alone, i’ll mine.

unless permission’s granted.

tipsy plate

for the writers and artists among you, do you too find places in your heart which you know not to trespass, at least not out loud and in public?

dashing to get to audio storytelling class. huge computer snafus this morning. will edit later. thanks, T, for letting me tell a story.

the sweet snap way above is my apple-cheeked boy, caught reading by the light of the double-d battery, long long ago. when he was five, and didn’t mind being the subject of a story.

nose pressed to the window pane

nose pressed to the window

dispatch from 02139 (in which “epic” — yes, epic, say the headline writers — hurri-blizzard blows in off the atlantic, and the winds begin to whistle their warning cry…)

it is a posture that pulls us back to long-ago days, days when you woke up to the cackle of a radio telling you school was closed, when you heard your mama down in the kitchen, not rustling the brown bags of school lunches in the making but rather cranking up the griddle for stay-home vittles.

it’s the posture of nose pressed to the window pane. it’s the posture of waiting. heart pumping. peering into the far-away-but-coming-closer.

it’s the posture of knowing adventure’s tucked behind the not-so-distant cloud. it’s awaiting mama nature. mama nature who, in the end and after all, rules over all her globe and sky, and every once in a while, reminds us of our humble place on earth.

so it is that i sit here, with windows east and south, keeping watch. the sky’s gone sooty gray. all shadow’s slipped away. the bird-seed tube that dangles just beyond the sill is rocking back and forth, making me a wee bit seasick if i stare too long.

this is the perfect perch for storm patrol, peering out beyond the rooftops, through the limbs of trees. i see smoke tendrils twirling up from chimney pots. i’ll soon gasp as tree trunks practice yoga bends.

winds at 85 miles per hour, the weatherman predicts. snows falling at the rate of four inches per hour. tumbling till they pile to three-feet-and-counting.

but, deary me, whooshing air at 85 m.p.h. up against flakes that weigh in at nothingness, it’s the equation for drifts the likes of which i’ve never seen. sounds like being a speck of milk inside a whirring blender. when someone clicks “puree.”

no wonder the sky-readers turned to their thesaurus to pull out a label for this blizzard. at last — after much office to and fro, i imagine — they decided to dub it “epic,” so epic it is, and epic we shall see.

it seems fitting, so fitting, that in this year of living sumptuously we — our little triangle of cambridge explorers — should endure spells of sumptuous weather. why, in just six months, there’s been one hurricane, one earthquake, and now this epic blizzard. good thing i packed my yellow rubber knee-high galoshes. i’ll be out trekking before this day is done.

for it’s one thing to inhale a storm from behind the glass, and wholly another what-the-heck to plant yourself amid the whirls and whoops.

why, you didn’t think life at veritas university would slow for any old avalanche of snow, did you? mais non! classes are marching on, clear through the morning. and at high noon, we’re being called to what promises to be a spine-tingling talk with a mexican journalist who risks her life — and aims to protect her compatriot periodistas — telling the truth about the drug wars that have torn apart her homeland.

for marcela turati, who dodges death threats and machine gun bullets on a daily basis, i can dodge a few flying snowflakes. even if they whirl at never-before-observed velocities.

other than that one arctic exposition, we’re hunkered down for the duration. we’ve all the essentials: popcorn, apples, soup. extra blankets, just in case. a fat cat who loves to curl beside our undulations. we’ve neighbors down below and just across the way, should we need to draw in the wagons — or trade one last drop of milk for one slab of vienna pastry (the doctor down below happens to be a fiendish baker, and the buttery vapors that slink up through the floorboards are enough to have me drooling at his door).

fact is, if you’re going to call yourself a bostonian for the year, you’d better weather a tried-and-true nor’easter’. i’d hate to amble home a pretender, head bowed in shame for having shirked a little tussle with the snow clouds that whirl in off the atlantic.

so far, with 14 minutes till the bewitching hour, there’s not a flake in sight. i’ll sit here for a few more hours, tomes piled to my left, eyes trained on the graying skies, waiting, waiting.

alert to what the heavens offer up today. and tuned in to how the human spirit pitches and dives along with all the whirling, swirling, dumping.

it’s front row to one celestial theatre. and right now, the players must be in the wings, clearing throats, slipping on their costumes. any moment, the curtain’s due to rise…

do you love snow days? odd weather days? what is it about the chance to draw in, simmer kettles of soup, slither into our snuggliest sweaters? three stories off the ground, i feel as if i’m in a tree fort, with the best seat in the house. if it gets outlandishly exciting here, i’ll be back to record the weather dramas. for now, be safe, be warm, and thanks for pulling up a chair.

in the spirit of my beloved helen vendler poetry class, perhaps i ought to dig for a poem to mark this snowy occasion……any submissions out there?

yellow snowy nightduring the night, under the street lamp out my office window….that little bump down there, that’s a car on its way to being buried…

snowy deckand come morning, here’s what befell the back deck. those chairs are hard-edged, with sharp corners. until the snow, they had no undulations. now they do….

one last fling

one last fling

dispatch from 02139 (in which….well, let’s not give away the whole story. not just yet anyway….)

alas, it’s not what you think. not here anyway. i know, i know. the more common usage of that flouncy noun, the “fling,” would be one in which all caution was hurled to the wind, and tumbling would occur.

like i said: not here.

for starters, the tall one is off being mr. professor this week, nowhere to be seen, for days and days on end. and when he trundles home, he’s bleary-eyed. or interested in talking only of the gates of harvard yard. not exactly pillow mumble.

and here, instead of silky sheets a la fling, there’s an afghan. a hand-crocheted one, mind you. and the cozy corner of a couch. and, most of all, a tall stack of pages to be turned.

alas, the fling of which i type is the one that lured me for months. seductive, yes. sexy, hardly. it springs upon that settled-in corner of the futon-couch, looking east toward the atlantic (though obscured by towers tall, a bumper crop sprouted across the hills of cambridge). the one where the lamp glows golden, and where the stack of books only grows and grows.

for the whole first semester, i dreamed of a day when nothing would call my name, nor insist on my appearance, nothing other than the corner of the couch.

and even though we’ve had a full six weeks away from lecture halls and seminar tables, it’s only been the last few days — days when the minus sign was hauled out of storage so thermometers could flash the bitter cold — that i’ve been nestling there where i so longed to be.

it’s taxing, this flinging. it goes like this: first, you shoosh everyone out the door quick as quick can be (so much so that they might wonder if there’s a toxic waste from which they’re being shielded), scrub the breakfast plates, pour the last of the coffee, then dive onto the couch, bottom first. unfurl the afghan, pull it tight around your chin. play eenie-meenie-minie-mo. with all the books. will it be a poet? a memoirist? or yet another poet?

fueled by pots of tea, and polished apples, it goes like this till sundown. all afternoon, i trace the disappearing light, as it trails from living room to dining room to kitchen, before slipping off the planet’s edge, making way for nightfall.

and here’s what i’ve discovered: i’m not so good at making like a lotus, knees akimbo, toes tucked under bum. i get the itches, oh, ’round half past 3. start looking up, thinking about popcorn. wondering if i should start to chop an onion, make like i’m the hausfrau fixing vittles for the clan.

like so many things in life that from afar look glorious, all sparkly on the shelf where we can’t reach, the fact is, once we’ve held them in our hands, we see the bumps and odd spots. a glorious afternoon’s reprieve is most glorious when it’s an interlude amid the madness.

when, instead, it’s the beginning and the end, when there’s no variegation in between, well, it all turns rather blah. even when the pages come in ooohs and ahhs.

and, whaddyaknow, like magic, i’ve come crashing to the end of this dalliance. i’ve only one last round, after this afternoon’s errands are wiped off the slate. and perhaps today, as the clouds come out to play, and the snowflakes start to tumble, i’ll savor that hallelujah romp under the afghan, me & all my books.

come monday, we’re back at it again, with a whole slate of classes filling up my days. i’d toyed with the idea of cutting back, of not carrying quite the load as fall semester. but then, i picked up the course catalog, and on and on, i clicked. carried on like a hungry girl in an ice cream shop, who couldn’t bear to pass up one more scoop.

sad truth is, in a mere four months, the sparkly shoes get kicked behind, the coach returns to pumpkin. this year of thinking sumptuously, it up and poofs! all gone! back to scrubbing chimneypots.

so, come round two of this exercise in fantasy academics, i’ve got my eye on this little roster:

monday mornings, i’ll get to work with noted historian henry louis gates, as i whirl through “intro to african-american studies.” then i’ll straddle two continents as i dive into “english 64 — diffusions: american renaissance and irish revival,” reading dickinson, emerson, hawthorne, melville, thoreau and whitman, alongside joyce, o’casey, synge and yeats. my cymbal crash will be mondays, wednesdays and fridays at noon when the northstar of poetry, helen vendler, waltzes into the lecture hall and barely takes a breath for the next 55 minutes, waxing poems, poets and poetry in a standing-room-only class titled (not so poetically) “aesthetic and interpretive understanding 20.”

on tuesdays, i’m dabbling in trees, forests and global change over at the science center. and washing that down with sacred and secular poetry. wednesdays i repeat monday but add a two-hour block of fairy tales and folklore with the jaw-dropping maria tatar (whose class i am already begging to enter). and so it’ll go, straight on through friday afternoons.

so my old couch will grow lonely. go cold. and i’m guessing, like any love that’s lost, i’ll soon enough hear that old stack of wood and cushion coo my name. it’ll sound sweet, seductive. and some rainy vernal afternoon, i might give in to the temptation, and curl up once again.

but for now, after two unbroken days of sitting and turning pages, i’m thinking a lecture hall, filled with laptops, and kids click-clicking away, that’s my new rendition of an afternoon’s fine fling.

silk sheets not included.

so, if you could pick one unencumbered afternoon to do wholly as you please, what might be on the list? and would you guess that it would ever, could ever, grow old? or have you found a tune that you could hum for a long long while? 

the reading list, in case you’re interested: 

“several short sentences about writing,” by verlyn klinkenborg. (heavenly!)

“on moving: a writer’s meditation on new houses, old haunts and finding home again,” by louise de salvo. (a gift; just diving in. looks quite heavenly.)

“birdology: adventures with a pack of hens, a peck of pigeons, cantankerous crows, fierce falcons, hip hop parrots, baby hummingbirds, and one murderously big living dinosaur,” by sy montgomery. (recommended right here at the table by our no. 1 turtle lover and aquarial expert.)

“good prose: the art of nonfiction,” by tracy kidder and richard todd.

“facts about the moon,” by dorianne laux. (a wild book of poetry.)

“magical journey: an apprenticeship in contentment,” by katrina kenison. (arrived in this week’s mail from a literary editor friend, who remembered that i liked kenison’s earlier works).

“prayers of a young poet: rainer maria rilke,” translated by mark s. burrows. (my beloved landlord and guiding light, in preparation for a rilke retreat next weekend at glastonbury abbey on boston’s south shore.)

fresh start

fresh start

dispatch from 02139 (in which the calendar page flips anew, and we all stare at the great white slate…)

another friday, another kitchen table. this one back in the land of cobblestone sidewalks and echoes of history. ones that pre-date the great chicago fire.

i awoke — late — to my definition of a heaven-plucked day: the sky is gauzy gray, as if soot-soaked cotton balls are plugging holes between the clouds. the little apartment is bathed in quiet. everyone’s gone away. just me and the tip-tap-tap of keyboard. a lulling sort of sound, and one that today is lulling me.

by accident of birth, i came onto the planet on the third day of a new year, and so all my life — and especially of late — i dwell in my own personal calendar of time delay. my january second comes on the fourth. today’s the day i call the Big After, when no one i love is trying to make a fuss, when i don’t hold my breath all day, hoping to extract the essence of a divinely choreographed day of grace. when i awake to laundry loads, and empty cupboard shelves. when to-do’s threaten to gallop cross my chest, pummel me in dust.

but the beauty of this time delay, this stalled beginning, is that i’ve extra hours to contemplate the fresh start. to consider hard and deep just how i might aim to live this year.

i am never short on aims. (from this point on, thanks to our flaky, flimsy internet connection, an hour of writing went down the tube….and in my mad-scrambled brain, i can barely cobble the words back together again. why does that happen when you actually felt sated by the words that had first fallen on the page? and why can’t you pluck those words back from the ether that has zapped them away? from here on in, a feeble attempt at re-cobbling. given the subject at hand, i ought to consider this a fresh start but, egad, that isn’t working….)

i am fueled by aims — a walking, talking i’ll-do-better machine.

and on this gray morning, this morning laced in shadow, my humble vows begin with these: to not dwell so often in clipped-time staccato, weekday after weekday, as i try to foist my little fellow from bed sheet to school bus, with mandatory pit stop at the breakfast trough. to not so often feel quite so shy, especially in a crowd, when all i really want to do is pull one great soul off to a corner for a heartfelt and satisfying tete-a-tete. to not whittle away so many hours, breath held hard and lost in worry that, at any given moment, geez, the plane could go down, the car might slide into a ditch, and the ones i love won’t shuffle back.

deep in the truth of all of us lies the rough draft that demands edit after edit.

and so we are blessed, those of us who keep time (and last i checked, that was most of us), who trace the day, the week, the year in spiral.

it is, at heart, a geometry of promise, hope and, most of all, ascension. it offers us the chance, over and over, to come back to that sacred moment when we stand at the crest of the hill, cast arms wide, salute the heavens, shake off dirt and dust, re-map our route, and see if this time round we might inch higher toward the summit.

i don’t know a world religion that doesn’t devote a chapter, at least, to absolution, cleansing, rinsing. it is as if we are hard-wired for holy resurrection. to rise from our brokenness. to seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. to come back to the fresh start, the blank slate, to try and try again. to believe in the almighty “take two.”

and so it is this morning that i come on bended knee. i stand here praying, hoping, promising that my next go-around on this old globe might be one that draws me closer to the unfettered essence i was meant to be. the one not weighted down with doubt and double-guessing. the one that drinks in all the holy waters all around me.

it is, i hope and pray and believe, by little and by little — by little dose of courage, by little kindness, by little gentleness — that we inhale the promise: to shake off our wobbles, stand tall, and launch the climb again.

at the start of this new year, it’s what i whisper. and what sets me on my way….

how do you practice the art of starting fresh?

dear chair people, i lost an entire post here, hit publish, and POOF!, the whole thing vanished, and i don’t know where it’s gone. photo up above is from my not-so-secret garden back in 60091, where the snows fell thick and soft last week, and out my kitchen window, i beheld the wonder of the freshest start.

whispering in the new year…

prayer for new year

might as well call this the front pew of my best church: i am home (as in home home) and sitting at my kitchen table, a pot of paperwhites tumbling its potent perfume, my old blue calico coffee mug a fist’s reach away.

it is hushed here, save for the tick and tock of the old clock i wound the other night when i found it stilled. the world beyond my window panes is blanketed in that rare snowy-morning quiet, so cotton-covered you could hear the flutter of a blue jay’s wing. which i hope to do, any moment now, now that i’ve scattered peanuts in the shell, and suet balls, and corn dried on the cob.

the morning light is bathed in the blue rinse of just past dawn. and dawn, i realize now, comes later here than back in cambridge, where the old faithful orb rising over the atlantic signals to the whole continent that the globe has spun again, and shadows soon will fall again. i slept without alarm and was surprised to wake up and see it was nearly seven bells. i slept in my old bed, between my old sheets, looking out on my nighttime tableau, the one i thought i knew by heart. but a couple mornings here, i’ve been all confused when i awoke. where am i? whose bed is this?

my little one said it best: christmas night all he wanted was a bubbly bath back in the old tub at the top of the stairs. so i went up to help him stir the froth. while he slipped into bathing gear (aka the stark nakedness of a boy), i spied a candy bar wrapper in the bathroom waste basket, and asked (since we’d just finished christmas dinner) if he’d eaten a candy bar before dinner (mothers ask these things, especially when the evidence is blatantly before their eyes).

“yeah,” he said. “i was sad.”

why were you sad? i asked, my breath sucked away by his candor, his capacity for unembellished zing straight to the core of his heart.

“because we’re home but it doesn’t feel like home.”

it’s like that when you sprout roots for a new place, but you come back to the old place. even when the place you come back to is the place you’ve been longing, aching, to be. even when the place you come back to was all dressed up for christmas by the elf who is living here while you’re away.

it takes some wobble time, till you figure out just where you are. till you catch your rhythm once again.

life, when you’re paying attention, isn’t often straight lines. rarely is. is rarely simple, pure, unfettered. it’s textured and shadowed, and full of zigs and zags. and therein lies the glory and the struggle.

that little fellow is far away right now, far away as i sit in my front row pew, keeping watch on the skittering about the backyard, now that squirrel and sparrow have sniffed out the morning’s repast. that little fellow is, for a few sweet days, up in the northwoods of wisconsin with one of his best best buddies, one he’s missed so much.

so i’m home alone with the college kid, and we’ve had long hours for conversations right here in the kitchen where so many have unfolded, going back 10 years (we moved into this old house 10 years ago, yesterday), going back to the heartaches of middle school, and straight on through to college quandaries, puzzles, and lessons learned.

because college kids are in the business of sleeping till dusk (we were scrambling breakfast eggs at 4 the other afternoon, i kid you not), i’ve the whole morning to myself. a holier launch to the new year, i can’t conjure up.

there’s been much that’s unfolded since last i was here, much that still is working its way into the depths of me, that i won’t fully understand for years most likely. you don’t try to catch mouthfuls from a firehose too many times in one sweet life, and when you are standing before the spigot all you do is swallow, swallow, swallow.

so it’s been in cambridge, 02138 and 02139.

now back in 60091, even for this too-short interlude, i’m too much in the midst of it, still asking too many unanswered questions, still finding my way too much to know just how it will all re-shape me. all i know is that it will, it has.

and, open vessel to what comes, i say: bring it on.

but here, on the cusp of this new year, this next chance to whirl around again, i am arms outstretched, head bowed, knees bent. i am walking in a veil of prayer.

i am seeking the unannounced tap on the shoulder, those moments when you realize you’ve just witnessed something holy. you’ve been brushed by the goodness of a stranger — or, better yet, the dearest sort of friend. you’ve felt a window in your mind slide open. you’ve beheld the pure and beautiful.

i am praying for protection, for white light to surround the ones i love, wherever they roam. whatever rivers they barrel down. whatever mountains they climb, or clouds they pierce through, on their way to faraway places.

i am praying, madly, for peace to settle in the turbulent hearts that populate the land. too many lands.

i am beseeching the Holy to plunge once again into the reserves of mercy, to forgive us all our sins and shortcomings, to bolster us in the places where we wobble, can’t catch our breath.

i am promising to marvel, to pay acute attention, and to be gentle — to myself, perhaps, most of all.

and my highest-launched prayer would be the one in which i remember to behold each morning as if a freshly-opened gift, and all day long i aim to stitch it with the majesty due another slice of being here. which simply put means being wholly, intently, alive.

to which i whisper, softly, amen, amen.

what do you pray for as this new year inches toward us? 

comin’ home….

coming home garland

dispatch from 02139 (but not for long as a temporary return to roots is upon us…..)

oh, lordy, i miss that place. miss that ol’ stove. miss the oven that merely vaguely cranks the heat you so politely request.

i miss the creaking old planks at the top of the stairs. i miss the stairs, and the wall of family pictures that always slows my climbing so i can blow a kiss to one of the heroes that hang there in frames.

truth is, i miss everything about it. home, that is. i ache deep inside to be back inside my own four walls, to be under the roof that shelters me, and the skylights that let me in on the ping-ping-ping of the rain, or the hush and the shadow of snow as it drifts.

i’ve had to keep it corked all these months, had to keep it bottled inside, for fear i’d burst open with the heartache of missing a place that is as much a part of me as my right or my left arm, really.

i’m a little bit scared to come home, knowing that it’ll wrench off the nice safe scab that’s grown over the hurt place, the part of me that misses my old familiar house, the one we’ve stitched and embroidered, hammered and tweaked, to make it the very reflection of our deep down insides.

it’ll be hard as heck to leave again, just a few short days after i get there. much as i love it here. much as i’ve come to feel a bit like this, too, is home — of sorts. though it will always be home away from home. not home, the real thing.

i can barely stand to picture my garden trail, and the bench that sits in just the right spot, at just the right angle, so i can keep watch on the kitchen herbs, on the window box, on the hydrangea and fern, and my old-fashioned country mailbox, where i store all my garden tools and a fat ball of twine.

i wonder if my red bird has missed me.

i’ve surely missed him. i’ve not seen a red bird since i got here. score one for the midlands of the country.

anyone who’s rustled around here at the table for any short bit of a while knows that i am pretty much a through-and-through nesty girl. one who’s not so inclined to be yanked at the roots, settle in a thousand miles from home.

oh, this veritas university has its delights. and i’ve sucked the sweet marrow out of each and every one of them. and i’ve made friends i’ll keep for forever. and i’ve swallowed ideas that will spark a lifetime of stretching. so there is not one iota of complaint, not one dash of wishing we’d not taken this sumptuous adventure. it’s just that it’s hard to be away from a place that pumps life in your veins.

i miss my lane, i miss my chock-a-block alley, and the dear souls who dwell there. you find out, when you’re far away, just whom you miss, who pops into your daydreams, who stirs your soul.

i picture myself rolling around on the living room rug. and jumping up and down on the bed, on my knees, a pose that might kill me. or cripple me.

but it does capture the joy, the effervescence of being back home. though just for a little short while.

being an all-or-nothing sort of girl, i’d probably stay here in new england if given my druthers. only because it would be easier, in a deep down sort of a way, to not have to lock up and leave again. i’d rather settle in for good. be home, home at last. and not ever leave.

but my little fellow has been quite a brave soldier all these months, throwing himself headfirst into the glories of cambridge. and he is aching to get back to his dearly beloved sixth-grade pals. he’s already told me that he will spend the days bouncing from house to house, rarely home. i shouldn’t plan on seeing much of his sweet little face, he warned.

and the college fellow, too, he’s itching to be back in his very own room, the one halfway up the stairs. at thanksgiving, when here in the aerie, he mentioned how it was all fine, and a lovely place to sink into, but not really home home.

he, too, is requesting a dose of the real deal.

so it seems i’m tagging along as chief chaperone. their papa is staying behind — here to nestle the cat, but also for a stiff dose of quiet study time, as he has a class to teach come january and a book to write, and nothing serves those masters better than unencumbered, uninterrupted days of pure quiet.

we’ll fly in on christmas morn, a magical inbound flight if ever there was.

i picture my weepy ol’ eyes, craning over the boys who always claim the window seat, peering down on the itty-bitty houses as they come into view, as we soar in over the edge of the lake, as we catch the first glimmer of shimmering stacks rising up from the prairie.

i’ll be scanning the landscape for the dots and the treetops that signal my house.

i’ll be knowing that far down below, christmas unfolds all across the metropolis. and at my old shingled abode, not far from the shore of that great roiling lake, just there under the locust, i’ll imagine the old place warming up, purring again. even though there won’t be a stick of christmas inside.

but it’d better watch out, that unadorned cottage, for the mop-top crew of three homesick hearts just might be tempted to leap from the plane, drop from the sky, and slide down the chimney.

best ho-ho-ho christmas i can deeply imagine.

coming home

so it goes from here on a rainy, windy cambridge morn, as i wait for a bus from collegeville to pull into the station, as i wait to be four of us, instead of just three of us. it hardly feels christmasy here. but maybe back home it’s all frothy and white. 

big news of the week was that my old newspaper, the chicago tribune, asked me to write an essay for christmas, so it’ll be online any hour now, and in the sunday paper. an essay on coming home for christmas. 

so what’s the best ho-ho-ho christmas you can deeply imagine?