Sunday, January 28, 2007

Passing Through

The first sound I heard this morning was the honking of the wild geese. I stood on the deck in bare feet, ignoring the cold. I watched them as they flew south along Mill Creek in their haphazard formation until they disappeared. They were just passing through.

When I got to the Creek House yesterday I was greeted by a layer of dust. There were carefully wrapped packets of unidentifiable foods in the refrigerator and some molded bread on the counter. It has been a couple of months since I found the time to get here. I cleared the dust. Cleaned the refrigerator. Even though I will only be here one day, I am a nester and I must have a tidy nest, even though I am just passing through.

The last time I talked to Aunt Kate she told me how anxious she was to get home. She was worried about her nest. She wanted to clean and cook and dust and do all the things I do to delude myself that there is permanence about my life. When I bury a bulb or plant a tree I am promising myself that I will be here to pick the flower or the fruit. The truth is I am may be making promises I can’t keep. Someone else may pick that fruit after I am gone. I am just passing through


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Write About Ordinary Things

It’s Saturday morning, a little after 8:00. John has taken the dogs to the park for their totally illegal off-leash romp with the other lawbreakers. On a typical Saturday there are 15 or 16 dogs having a wonderful time sniffing each other’s butts and chasing tennis balls. I have a cup of coffee within easy reach. I am drinking it from one of the cups Aunt Gladys gave me when we visited her last summer. It’s white with a silver band around the top. When I was a teenager, visiting her at her house on Norcova Drive in Norfolk, I ate breakfast in her sunny dining room and drank my morning coffee from this cup.

The phone rang as I was finishing the last sentence. It was John’s Uncle Bill calling to tell us that John’s Aunt Kate died this morning. Death is an ordinary thing, unless the woman you have been married to for 60 years is the one that has died. I heard the pain in Uncle Bill’s voice and groped for the right thing to say. Selfishly, I said how glad I was that I’d had a chance to talk to her last week. She had sounded so good then. After weeks in the hospital she had been moved to an assisted living facility and she talked about how she was looking forward to getting home. She complained about the food. “The fruit has no taste” She told me how her daughter Barbara was bringing her good coffee. She bought it at a 7-11. Uncle Bill was bringing her meatloaf. I didn’t know that would be the last time we talked. I ran out of things to say to her and handed the phone back to John so he could say goodbye. Goodbye


Friday, January 26, 2007

Aunt Gladys

Her visits were short. She usually arrived late on a Friday night and left before dark on Sunday. I tried stay awake for her arrival. Sometimes I could but I usually fell asleep on the sofa and awoke to the sound of Mama and Aunt Gladys laughing and talking together in the kitchen. Mama missed Aunt Gladys too. On Saturday mornings we had a big breakfast with cut-up eggs, ham, biscuits, red-eye gravy and quince preserves. In the evening I would sit in the kitchen and listen to Mama and Aunt Gladys talking and laughing. She would trim my bangs. I would breath in the Aunt Gladys smells as she leaned over me. There was Evening in Paris perfume. Max Factor pancake makeup. Hairspray. Coffee. Wrigley’s spearmint chewing gum. Aunt Gladys slept in my bed and I slept on the sofa. Her smell lingered on my sheets long after I stood in the middle of the dirt road and watched the back on Aunt Gladys’ Studebacker disappear in the dust.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Stephen was running away from the draft. I was running away from my self when we ran into each other under a tree in a churchyard in Washington DC. We were both crashing there. The good people at Grace Episcopal Church had opened their doors to the street children that had invaded Georgetown. It was the summer of 1970. We slept on the floor of the church using Stephen’s sheepskin vest as a pillow. We made a little money panhandling or selling Quicksilver Times. We walked and we walked. We met people…some were hippies and runaways like we were. We shared lies and secrets and cigarettes. We took naps in Montrose Park. We ate bite-sized burgers at the Little Tavern.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Twenty five years ago I sat with Mark in Colonel Brooks Tavern. The room was very warm. The bar was empty except for the two of us and the bartender. The lunch crowd had emptied out and the happy hour crowd hadn’t arrived. Mark had brought me to Colonel Brooks to take my mind off the laser surgery to repair a torn retina that I had just endured at nearby Washington Hospital Center . Our marriage was on its last legs. Mark wore a burgundy sweater and jeans. He had on a red baseball cap. His lips made a frown behind his full, black beard. His eyes were sad. He looked as though he might cry. One of my eyes was covered with gauze. It burned. I felt tears run down my left cheek but I wasn’t crying. Mark ordered red wine for me and a beer for himself. A Molson. When we first began dating we’d gone to Canada together to visit his sister. We’d brought back cases of Molson. The wine hit my stomach hard. I hadn’t eaten before the laser surgery. Mark asked me if I wanted a burger. I passed on the burger, but I nibbled his fries with a second glass of wine. I thought the wine would make my eye stop stinging but it didn’t. It made it worse. I had a third glass anyway. We said little. There was nothing more to say. We never fought. We only disappointed each other with our actions. My infidelity. His distraction. He didn’t have to say that Larry should have been the one to take me to the hospital. The one to sit across the table while I anesthetized myself. Larry was my lover. The one that had provoked me to move out of the house on Benton Street . The one that had kicked me in my eye in karate class. Larry was as exciting as Mark was boring. But he was not there with me in Colonel Brooks Tavern that afternoon and after our year of living dangerously, Larry disappeared from my life. Back to his wife. I could have gone back to Mark, I suppose. We could have spent the rest of our lives avoiding each other’s eyes. But I didn’t go back. When I remember Mark I don’t remember the details of our trips to Canada , or our honeymoon in Spain or hanging around his photo studio while he shot album covers – I remember that long, dreary winter afternoon in Colonel Brooks Tavern. A few years later when Joe called me to tell me that Mark had died from a brain tumor, I thought of that afternoon. His baseball cap. His lips. His hands on the bottle of Molson’s. His sad eyes.