Tag Archives: essay

How to have a Sunday

It starts with sleeping late, only not too late, or you’ll miss out. Wait until you hear tires crunching on the driveway’s crackled pavement to hop in the shower. Be quick; the hot water only lasts so long, and your father will be back any minute now.

Go into the kitchen. By now your father is waiting there with the Sunday paper, a box of Entenmann’s donuts, and real coffee in a paper cup. He had to go all the way to Trumbull to get it, a ten-minute drive. The donuts are a treat, but not a surprise. You like plain and powdered; your brother likes cinnamon. With four of each, everyone gets what they want. You can even have two.

Make yourself a cup of coffee: two tablespoons of Taster’s Choice, a spoonful of sugar, and blend with milk until the color matches your skin. Someday you’ll learn what real coffee is; for now, just feel grown-up.

Snag the comics and the Parade magazine, quick, before your brother finishes his donuts. He can start with the sports page instead. You don’t know what your Dad reads, so hand him the rest of the paper: the news, the classifieds, the obituaries, and all those circulars. He’ll sort through them, recycle the stuff no-one wants. He’ll save the coupons for your mother.

If it’s cold, spread the paper out on the living room carpet. Lie on your belly, kick your feet up. Try not to touch the paper; you hate the feel of newsprint on your hands. But if it’s warm and the morning is bright, take the paper out to table on the back deck. That’s the best way.

Break your powdered donut in half and in half again. Take small bites, tapping the excess sugar onto your plate. Repeat with the plain donut, using the broken ends to blot up the white powder, and when the donuts are gone, lick your finger and use that instead. Leave no crumb behind.

Sip your grown-up coffee; listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. Let the sun dry your hair. Hand the comics to your father when you’re done reading.


Monsters and what they teach us

When I was nine I was afraid of ghosts. Monsters. E.T. I slept with my hands tucked firmly inside the edges of my mattress and with my closet door shut. I was afraid of the shadows cast by moonlight on my closet door: Mother Mary come to judge me in the night. Continue reading

Lace

We got the kids’ school pictures yesterday. We send them to the grandparents every year for Christmas: four different addresses. Our mothers, our fathers. My wife shook the pictures out of the envelope, showed them to me: N’s goofy grin, Z’s untamable hair. Three sets of photos. Three sets, not four.

My mother’s death did not leave a gaping hole in our lives. She wasn’t woven into the fabric of my everyday. Instead, my mother’s absence is a series of tiny voids: eyelet lace. One less person to tag on the photo of the kids’ Halloween costumes. One less phone call on Thanksgiving. I decorated our house this weekend with the garlands and lights and red velvet bows that she brought me for the first Christmas after N was born. I snapped a picture on my phone, and didn’t know who to send it to.


Punctuation

“I have one favor to ask. Just one. Please?”

We were standing by the river’s edge, waiting for a small barge to take us across to Camp Westwind, where we planned to spend the weekend in rustic cabins without internet or cell service with a hundred strangers – all families of children in our kids’ school program. The ground by the pier was a complete bog.

Please don’t get mud all over your shoes. Can you do that?” I asked my 8-year-old, N.

“Yes, Mama.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Continue reading

Fashion forward

diva dress

Image credit: Pinup Darling

Last week I bought a new dress.

It took me a long time to make up my mind to buy it. It’s not my usual thing. It’s red and fitted – no, downright snug – and cut alarmingly low in the front. It’s sophisticated and sexy. The fabric has just enough give that it’s comfortable, not confining, and I loved it from the moment I put it on.

Still I hesitated. I stared at myself in the mirror, turning to see myself from every angle. Every curve, every panty line. When I finally peeled it off, I forced myself to take a deep breath and bring it to the counter. Three days later I’m still wavering about whether I will have the guts to wear it when I get up on stage next month to speak in front of hundreds of people.

A friend accused me gently of having body image issues. I didn’t know how to respond without sounding defensive. The thing is, I don’t have body image issues. I like the way I look. I’m not perfect but I have killer legs from biking and plenty of honest curves elsewhere. I like the way this dress looks. It shows off the best parts of me. I look like Mad Men’s Joan Holloway in this dress. I feel absolutely fabulous in it.

I don’t have body image issues; I have confidence issues. This is a dress that says, “Look at me.” Eyes will be on me, and that’s scary. Not because of how I look, but because of how I’m afraid people will see me.

Poser.

She’s trying too hard.

What was she thinking?

What were they thinking?

Next month I’m going to be up on a stage reading a thing I wrote. A thing I’m pretty proud of. And I want people to know I’m proud of it. I want the woman at the center of it to elbow her neighbors and say, “Hey, that’s my wife up there” because she knows best of anyone how hard it is for me to put myself out there. It’s not my usual thing, this dress or this attitude.

A woman I met in the park one day asked me if I was a writer. She’d seen my yellow satchel printed with a Ray Bradbury quote about writing.

“I like to write,” I hedged. It was a cop-out, I admit, and one of my favorites. I use it all the time.

This dress won’t let me cop out.

This is not a dress for fading into the background. For self-deprecation. For claiming not to be a writer. When I’m making the rounds and talking to strangers, when they ask me what I do, what I’m all about, this dress won’t let me shrug and glance down at my feet and mumble something about luck and hobbies and I-dunno-really. People are going to ask about my blog. They’re going to expect things, whatever I’m wearing. I want to deliver.

I do have a backup dress. It’s lovely. It’s sweet and feminine and it makes me feel young and pretty. It doesn’t make me feel kick-ass fabulous, though. My new dress won’t let me defer. It won’t let me be mansplained to. This dress won’t let me second-guess myself. There’s no room for it – literally and figuratively. I mean, it’s so snug, where would I hide a first guess, let alone a second one?

All right. I bought the dress; now I just need to own it.