the kitchen runway


a flash

Hank often sounds like a lawyer, speaking in the least straight-forward way possible. His language is not ornate but it is sometimes tortured, taking routes around and under what he means to say rather than just stating it outright.

I feel like I'm gonna be lopsided, since I only got growing pains in one leg last night.
I did wake up at 8:21 but I was trying to sleep 39 more minutes till 9 o'clock.
Can you measure me on the wall?

I try to explain that I'm thinking, that I'm working on something and need a minute, that I will be able to listen well in a little bit. That I'd like to finish my coffee.
He hears nothing but the absence of No, his voice like a speeding train, veering from left to right when confronted with a switch.

Do you know how to portal into books?

Why do people have to feed their souls? Do you think souls need protein?

You know the stripes that come up from girls' eyes in pictures? What are those called again?

Where do you see my stamina running out?

Settling himself on my lap while I take a few more sips of caffeine, studying a spot on my hand where a bandaid had been the day before: 
Your cut isn't bleeding anymore, now it's just like a blood cave.
Did it hurt? I don't think you cried. 
When I'm crying I usually sort of see a flash of rainbow through my tears. 

I feel like I could say a thousand things about him, a gathering storm, but somehow all the words seem used up.


mud season

It's like a fifth season around here, really.
Mud aside though, sunshine and a change of scenery and even a snake make family happiness feel a little less like a fragile thing.


mounting a response

It's spring now, the time of year when nature does not stand in opposition to things like hope.
I got a covid shot last week, the moment I was eligible. 
It rained on my drive home from the strip mall vaccination site.
I squinted to see through the windshield, to see the road and the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am trying to remember myself outside the context of stay-at-home
and out of sweatpants and topknots, in shoes and bras and stores.
For a year I've grasped through murky ideas for some measure of control 
wondering whether there might be relief in the details, 
realizing that it mostly boiled down to what any of us were doing, or not doing
underneath all the warnings and all the words, and how we could do it better.
It still does.

It turns out pandemics are personal and peculiar, 
we cannot expect our experiences and emotions to coordinate.
At our house, this year, we've suffered a series of small bereavements
but none that have stolen a load-bearing beam.
We've made messes and mistakes and progress and plans
and noted innumerable measures of great fortune.

I'd already built a very sturdy muscle around seeing loss and joy coexist.
I've binged shows and double masked, equally unexplainable to any former self.
All of this improvisation will end though, soon maybe
and when it does, what is our new assignment?
I hope to carry into the future some framework for slowing down, for growing in new ways
like spring, brutal and blossoming, a masterclass in the both/and of it all.


nothing more

I want nothing more for the boys than the proclivity to be forever possessed by wonder.


birthday week


a whole hand

Dear Hank,

You are such a sunny boy, bearing bad news with signature good humor (which we've all come to rely on a little too heavily this year, I'm afraid). You are like a prism, gathering and refracting all the best the rest of us don’t send directly to each other, the love and astonishment and delight. 
I tell people all the time: You are the most joyful human I know. 

Five years with you and we’ve smiled in so many new ways. Every word you speak comes individually wrapped. What a pleasure it's been, playing parental detective, noticing all the new things you've shown us and listening to you narrate so many successes. 

You learned to read this year, and I don't know why I felt surprised that it could never not be amazing to watch. You're learning to play the piano, too, picking out melodies on your own by ear and happily following facetime instruction.
If you're not counting by nines or adding thirty three plus forty four, you are adding to the grocery list: cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, the basics.
You list friends, many whom you haven't seen in months, on fingers that have begun to lean out. You wander the house on your tallest tiptoes, telling stories at pretty much constant full volume. Your body is almost always moving, up and down like a fiddler's elbow. 

My hope is that you forever refuse to diminish yourself, even if you sense that your impulses are not compatible with suburban niceties. Watching you blow out five candles today, I felt myself wishing right along, that you would be who you would be, that you would be happy.

You are like a rainbow incarnate, Hank, and I love you more than all the stars in the sky.


a dozen years

Dear Tucker,

This year, spots that should be bright have been masked by the knowledge that they might feel different in concrete and upsetting ways. You spent your eleventh birthday swimming at Shark's Cove, and the entire time since basically adjusting to the circumstances of a pandemic.

Twelve now, you've known for a number of years about navigating the edges of distance, about degrees and depth of separation. You understand that terrible and terrific spring from the same source, that we get to decide how to react either way. 

One of the things you wanted to do today was mix chemicals, to turn water blue with methylene and light manganese on fire. You have always, always been curious, the most powerful mechanism for learning. It's no wonder you know so much about so much - from how to construct a caltrop to which letter of the alphabet doesn't appear in a single state name. You consume books the way you consume food, with voracity. You also seem to know that it's hard to learn anything if you think you're right all the time.

You are fortunately not too deep in the sneer and loathing phase. Once in awhile you'll take a walk with me, and nearly every night you sit and visit with your dad, discussing things like D&D adventures and quantum physics. Please don't ever stop talking to us! 
The first thing you do when you come out of your room most mornings is offer me a hug, and the first thing I do is whisper a prayer of gratitude and then wonder when you snapped on a longer set of legs.

You are a young man of uncommon sensitivity and serious substance. It feels like holy work, attaching myself to someone like you, only to know my job will be to watch you go. I hope you always feel at home in yourself, and know that you'll always, no matter what, have a home with us.

I love all that you will be, Tucker, and everything you are.


reaching for the son

Tolliver shimmies around the kitchen and I acknowledge his footwork. It's not a dance, Mom, it's a tactical move. I watch as he continues to wiggle his way out the door, suddenly better able to match his wardrobe to the season, and worry less that he'll be an adult living in a cardboard shanty. I try to relax my own agenda and follow his lead, making room for more understanding. Tolliver tends to have a deep capacity for witness. In some ways he becomes the forest or the injured animal or the character in a book.
In addition to dance skills and increased ability to dress appropriately, he also has a very quick wit. Andy cautioned Tollie during a recent exchange, explaining he was on a slippery slope. Before missing a beat, Tollie locked eyes and lobbed back: Then I'm about to ski down it!

He's been studying plants, the way their stems defy gravity and instead reach for the sun. Last week he wondered aloud whether there's less oxygen in the air in the winter when most trees have lost their leaves. This week he's writing an essay about bioluminescence, originally titled Natural Light and revised to Natty Light.
What a gift to keep getting to know one of the boys I love best. He is funny and he is learning to be flexible in his ideas, beginning to understand that the world cannot always orient to his own desires. 
I want to be more like him.