Posts tagged "childhood/family"
Good Faith

Good Faith

A house wren is making a nest in the wreath on our front door. When my wife and I want to go out on the porch, we make sure to knock on the inside of the door just in case the wren is there—just a little knock to warn her. We’re only six months married,...
Wishbone

Wishbone

We traveled cross-country by car every year. From New York to Utah, from Utah back to upstate New York. Every summer, the drive took days, endless scorching hot summer days. Our mother made sandwiches before we left and put them in an icebox underneath our feet. She placed a large round thermos with lemonade in...
Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage

My mother claims it was my brother’s bris that made her turn from Judaism. This was August 1965, at my grandparents’ place in Westport, Connecticut, where I spent each summer until I was eight. I was present that day, although I don’t remember: It is the back-and-forth where memory begins. What I have seen are...
The Salmon

The Salmon

Before today, I’ve been my sister’s helper. Last summer, I’d helped Cindy clean the Leggett Motel cabins scattered in the redwood grove just off the highway. The buildings are run down, porches sag, and the floors inside not exactly plumb. While the cleaning solutions burned our eyes, we’d scoured the bathtubs, the showers, and the...
From There to Here

From There to Here

Things you should know: Before my mother was the world’s best lesbian, she was the world’s best Jehovah’s Witness. She quit one to become the other; the two are not compatible. Before my mother was the world’s best Jehovah’s Witness, she was the world’s best stay-at-home mother. She quit one to become the other; the...
Roots

Roots

I’m sorry I couldn’t pull up those roots. The ones twisting under the pine tree that you and Mom planted when the two of you first bought the land and decided to build a house on it. The ones that, on a blurry August afternoon over a decade later, I tugged at desperately, really I...
Solstice

Solstice

On hot summer Sundays after church, my dad packed the Buick with a cooler, charcoal, and his scratchy old Army blanket. We left the badminton birdies on the lawn next to the racquets, left our bikes in the garage, left the garage door open. Those were the days before our bikes were stolen, before we...
Safety

Safety

I’ve lived my life in safe places, not at risk except for boredom and its associated disorders. The farm was safe, my room upstairs with my brother, the pale kitchen where we ate, maple cupboards my dad built, and the plastic table we inherited and still fold our clothes on today. I have no tales...
The Woods Are Going to Close

The Woods Are Going to Close

Mother unzipped our snow pants and clumps of sawdust fell to the floor. Before that, the bloodhounds sniffed us, and their handlers asked us where we had been. The police needed to retrace our tracks, to know that the hounds had been on our heels. Before that, the man offered us a ride in his...
Snapshot

Snapshot

I still cannot descend a steep flight of stairs or sit while someone leaves the table to fetch a camera without thinking of that Christmas fifty years ago, right after Great Uncle Earl had said the blessing in his Baptist deacon’s voice, when Great Aunt Velma (seventy-two at the time, my mother’s mother’s sister) got...
Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Like this. They drop this girl off at school after a visit to the dentist. Midway through the day when all we do is throw stones at the rain. Her gums are numb, so incredibly numb; she opens her mouth wide and digs her finger nails into them, swearing all the while that she does...

Review of Blake Bailey’s The Splendid Things We Planned

That brother. You know the one. Conversations about him start with a sigh. He’s last on the list when relatives are discussed, the pause long before his name is mentioned. I refer to mine as the “Drunk Brother in a Cabin.” The response, “You’ve got one, too?” Blake Bailey, known for his biographies of Charles...
One Hundred Days in India

One Hundred Days in India

In India, a dog, a monkey, and a cow attacked me. My husband would say the cow nudged me, but he didn’t feel the horn in his hip. The monkey left marks. As we exited the airport, we watched the slums of Mumbai unroll for miles in all directions. Each home, constructed from cardboard, tarps,...
I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did to the Little Black Kitten

I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did to the Little Black Kitten

I remain very sorry for what I did to the little black kitten. The woman who lived at the end of the cul-de-sac had a litter of cats, and she was looking for people to take them. She said that they would be dead in five days because she was going to take the unclaimed...
Falling

Falling

He was a smart-mouthed, cocky little boy, that fall they entered the fourth grade. She was shy, awkward, with the early beginnings of adolescent acne and a jumble of overlapping teeth still three years from braces. She had never liked a boy before. Her mother, a third grade teacher, called the boy a hood. You...

Lag Time

It doesn’t thunderstorm in California. Not like those from my memory of home. I listen for them at night when the sky half-promises, but it rarely delivers the noise I need. This I know: If you count the time it takes between the flash of a Kansas lightning bolt and the crack before the roll...

The Drowning

In July a boy drowns in the lake. * There is a picture window above our kitchen table and through it a view of the lake.  At noon, when we sit to eat sandwiches, the water is glassy and green, fracturing only when unseen fish rise and retreat.  The sand on the shore is pale. ...

Cherry Red

John Gravely was our neighborhood house painter. He was never John, or Mr. Gravely. Just John-Gravely.  He was always cheerful and whistled when he worked. Sometimes, while he scraped and painted,  I’d climb the creaky wood stairs to the attic, where my parents kept an old office typewriter on an old metal stand that made...