To Look at Her

boots

You’d never think
she was the sort

to hide a flask away in her sock drawer

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Could you please pass the mustard?

I burned my finger taking a casserole out of the oven a while back. It was a Friday night, and some old friends were visiting. “Ouch!” I yelped, because I couldn’t help it; but I was in the kitchen all by myself, so no one heard me. It really hurt, but calling everyone’s attention to this newly burning pain was not my first response. Instead, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t been more careful, so I blamed myself rather than the hot oven. Also, since these were friends we hadn’t seen in a long time and I wanted to make a good impression, I chose not to interrupt the smooth flowing conversation in the other room. Instead, I made myself a glass of ice water to drink and held it so the tip of my finger was submerged in the cold liquid.

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A Sacred Quarantine

photo (6)

I sat in the room with the four white walls
and the pristine painted pews
and the cushion on the bench

worn through, but still
padded enough for comfort.

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On Becoming Real

ragamuffinWe mark the movement of time with rituals, naming the repetitions as they come: the first day of the work week is Monday, the first month of the year is January, the first meal of the morning is breakfast, and the first of three hundred and sixty five days is a New Year. Some names are more significant than others, so the rituals are more detailed. We count down the hours, we raise a glass at midnight, we make promises for the year to come, but more often than not, the changing over to a new set of numbers doesn’t feel any different. My daughter turned thirteen this week and I asked her, “So how does it feel to be a teenager?” Her answer was this: “Just like it felt to not be one.” And yet, I can look back at that year in my own life and say, “I remember what it felt like to be thirteen,” or better yet, “I know what life was like in 1989.” Why? Because we also mark time by important events that happen in our lives, and if an event is significant enough, it can tint the shade of an entire year.

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Homeless

watts drums

My Dad pastored several different churches when I was growing up, but we never stayed at any of them for very long. We moved often, from town to town, church to church, and house to house. Our average length in most places was only two years, so home always felt like a place I had just left but could never go back to.

Now that I’ve lived in the same house for over nine years, home feels more like a tangible object, something I can hold onto with both hands. Perhaps it is a small wooden drum that fits neatly into my palm. The bleached animal hide is stretched taught against its sturdy circular frame, and the sound it makes when I thump it is exactly the right pitch.

Most mornings my drum beats slowly, quiet and steady, while the children crawl out of bed and clamor to the kitchen for breakfast. The oldest one wants a bagel, the middle one likes cereal, and there’s warm oatmeal for my smallest. “Just coffee for me this morning, honey” says my husband, smiling as I refill his mug.

By the time everyone is dressed and fed and the sink is full of their dirty dishes, the drum is beating quickly and loudly. We hurry to the cars and drive away in opposite directions, like spokes on a wheel.

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