in spite of jack’s regretful absence our fourth annual gathering was a sweet success. we laughed that we’d finally found our groove in joy’s kitchen. sharing pieces of the months in between our last meeting as we measured, poured, stirred, and canned. nobody burned themselves and nobody (i) didn’t forget the sugar in the last batch of pomegranate jelly. we danced in between the stove, cutting board, and mixer (with an attachment i now covet, perfect for making applesauce or for all those tomatoes i plan to have at the end of next summer) passing the baby between hips and laughing at the stories our friends have gathered raising young children. i missed seeing my husband snickering over obscure internet videos with the others, playing poker and drinking beer, leaving together to pick up pizzas and asking ezra if he was okay being left with all the ladies. but i can see us all together again and again in the years to come. as we age and change. as our families grow. i look forward to always making this tradition a priority. i look forward seeing these people i’ve called friends for the better part of a decade hold my long awaited babies and i look forward to hosting! we were unable to follow through with our plan to this year, but i can’t think of a better way to break in the kitchen in our new home or better people with whom to do it.
photos 3,4,8 & 10 are credited to my dear friend michelle.
i have never minded being alone. these days i seem to prefer it. i don’t get bored. i keep myself busy. cutting vegetables for roasting in someone else’s oven. scrubbing someone else’s toilet for the fourth month in a row. i didn’t mind scrubbing our toilets. i’ll forget my coffee three or four times before finally giving up on reheating it. instead i’ll sip it cold while folding hot piles of laundry on someone else’s couch and attempt to fit all we own in two dresser drawers and one side of your old closet. there’s pictures of you stacked in boxes here. as a baby, red cheeked and smirking even then, your dark eyes watching your mother behind the camera. a small hand outstretched. as a boy, long and beautiful in a way i only thought boys in books could be. blonde hair swept over your eyes. this must be where you started to get shy, unsure. your tan skin in summer. legs bent over the peddles of a bike. nuzzling a kitten. wrestling your brother. as a teenager, beaming over a new skateboard in one frame, eyes averted and hands stuffed deep in denim pockets in the next. as a young man, all brawn, a proud arm around a pretty girlfriend’s shoulder. a million christmas mornings. a picture of every birthday cake your mother ever made her boys. happy birthday jack. happy birthday adam. i like to imagine you as them. all the people you were before i met you.
i’m aching for our home. the one that burned and the one that we will build. i’m aching for a closet for boxes full of photographs. but for now i keep trying to carve the word into corners of our current existence. home. i string lights and make tea and try to remember it while it’s still hot. i look at faucets and bedspreads and i pray our children inherit the kindness in your eyes.
“something’s burning” she said, her nose turned up at the end. “check the oven.” “there’s nothing cooking,” he replied “you’re always doing this.” “doing what?” thick silence. it all started the day she couldn’t find her way to work. nothing looked the same anymore. two yellow lines became three and the oaks in their fields seemed to move closer around every bend in the road. her boss called five times before she had the courage to tell her she was lost. “what on earth is wrong? this isn’t like you.” “i’ve had a lot on my mind. i must be more stressed than i thought. i am so sorry. this won’t happen again.” “take the day off, have a drink. or something.” or something. shaking, she punched her home address into her gps. at first it was easy to hide, paying cash to avoid having to admit she’d forgotten the pin to her debit card again, diligently marking everything in the small calendar she carried in her pocket, names, birthdays, phone numbers. she scattered post it notes everywhere. put gas in the car. you have a husband. eat. the dog food is in the blue trash can. but when she couldn’t remember to do that anymore even her own hands looked unfamiliar. like claws. and the burning smell would never leave her. every day or two she’d forget to remember not to notice it out loud. “i’m sorry” she said. not knowing how long she’d been closing her eyes, “i think something is really wrong.” she counted to thirty waiting for his response, but when she opened her eyes, she was alone.
last night i dreamt i was surrounded by water. it was clear and cool. not cold. i didn’t shiver. my legs didn’t ache, but i floated. and you floated too, just out of reach. i could see snow on the mountains in the distance and feel the lake’s wet as my fingers skimmed its surface. the dress i was wearing danced below and i held a book in one hand. you said it was time to go, your chest above the blue, but i hesitated and watched you walk away. i woke up wondering why i always leave water in between us.
if i’m honest most holiday joys for me are accompanied by a small ache in the very bottom of my stomach. a churning sadness. an unidentifiable longing. i felt it even as a child, somehow knowing before it ended that i would miss the being under one roof. that i would miss the magic and the tradition. i am only now starting to decide my own, but i am thankful for a family that comes together. i am thankful that inspite of all we’ve been through…all we are going through, we still love and protect each other fiercely. that we still belly laugh and sing along to each other’s songs. i am thankful that most of us are learning to be honest about the things that broke our hearts because it’s the only way to heal and i’m thankful for berry pie and haagen dazs vanilla ice cream.