…they laughed/and fell in love all over again

Why I Believed, As A Child, that People Had Sex in Bathrooms
by Cecilia Woloch

Because they loved one another, I guessed.
Because they had seven kids and there wasn’t
a door in that house that was ever locked —
except for the bathroom door, that door
with the devil’s face, two horns like flame
flaring up in the grain of the wood
(or did we only imagine that shape?)
which meant the devil could watch you pee,
the devil could see you naked.
Because that’s where people took off their clothes
and you had to undress for sex, I’d heard,
whatever sex was — lots of kissing and other stuff
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
Because at night, when I was scared, I just
climbed into my parents’ bed. Sometimes
other kids were there, too, and we slept
in a tangle of sheets and bodies, breath;
a full ashtray on the nightstand; our father’s
work clothes hung over a chair; our mother’s
damp cotton nightgown twisted around her legs.
Because when I heard babies were made from sex
and sex was something that happened in bed,
I thought: No, the babies are already there
in the bed. And more babies came.
Because the only door that was ever locked
was the bathroom door — those two inside
in the steam of his bath, her hairspray’s mist,
because sometimes I knocked and was let in.
And my father lay in the tub, his whole dark body
under water, like some beautiful statue I’d seen.
And my mother stood at the mirror, fixing her hair,
or she’d put down the lid of the toilet
and perched there, talking to him.
Because maybe this was their refuge from us —
though they never tried to keep us away.
Because my mother told me once
that every time they came home from the hospital
with a brand new baby, they laughed
and fell in love all over again
and couldn’t wait to start making more.
Should this have confused me? It did not.
Because I saw how he kissed the back of her neck
and pulled her, giggling, into his lap;
how she tucked her chin and looked up at him
through her eyelashes, smiling, sly.
So I reasoned whatever sex they had, they had
in the bathroom — those steamy hours
when we heard them singing to one another
then whispering, and the door stayed locked.
Because I can still picture them, languid, there,
and beautiful and young — though I had no idea
how young they were — my mother
soaping my father’s back; her dark hair
slipping out of its pins.
Because what was sex, after that? I didn’t know
he would ever die, this god in a body, strong as god,
or that she would one day hang her head
over the bathroom sink to weep. I was a child,
only one of their children. Love was clean.
Babies came from singing. The devil was wood
and had no eyes.

Found here.

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June 24, 2013 · 2:04 pm

Group Hug

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer

What a terrible week.

Monday morning I tossed aside everything I should have been doing in the precious couple of hours alone while the bigger boys were in school and Henry was napping to watch the Internet broadcast of the Boston Marathon. I subscribe to Runners World and they’ve had a number of stories over the past few months about the Boston Marathon – specially devoted to two American female runners who were in contention to win Boston this year. So I spent two hours ironing (and not ironing) in front of my laptop in the kitchen. Boston is a special marathon – America’s meta marathon – because you either have to run a qualifying time to get in or raise a lot of money for a nonprofit to run as a charity runner.

The broadcast of the elite runners ended at noon and I went about my day. Then I popped on to Twitter three hours later and got the first news of the bombing.

It’s a terrible event in any circumstance but even more poignant for people in the running community. Whether you’ve run a 5K or a full marathon, you know what it means to have people cheering for you during a race. I’ve both cheered and been cheered during races. In 2009, I camped out just before the Mile 26 marker at the Chicago Marathon waiting for my sisters to stager up the final hill before the finish line. The next year I ran my first half marathon.

Monday I just felt dazed. And desperately in need of a good, hard run. I injured my knee two weeks before while training for my second half marathon, but later that night I got on a treadmill and ran half of an increasingly painful mile just because I could. We live in an active town as it is, but I swear I saw at least twice the normal runners out that evening.

And then West, Texas. And then more death in Boston.

And now it’s Sunday.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O merciful Father, who hast taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, life up your contenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Group hug, guys.

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What Was Lost

Six months ago we moved again. It was one of our most abrupt moves, executed in two and a half weeks from job offer to arrival. A combination of career choice and national economic factors have caused our family to move four times in five years. We were so fortunate that each new home brought with it new dear friends and church communities. Minnesota was one of those special places for our family, and as much as we love our new Iowa home, leaving was hard.  

I bought a beautiful wine glass at a thrift shop today. Then in the evening after the children went to bed, I opened a bottle of red that our new pastor brought over as a welcoming gift. I poured a drink for myself into the generous bowl and appreciated the elegance of the liquid in the glass.

I met April indirectly like we do these days. Michael was at a philosophy function she was attending with her husband and through them I managed to get her email address. I probably would have let the relationship develop more organically but I was seven weeks away from delivering my third baby and hundreds of miles away from even the most minor acquaintance. We had just moved to town and I didn’t know what I would do when the time came to go to the hospital. I was desperately seeking friendship.

A week or so later I waddled over to April’s house and we had tea while my boys were in school and three of her four children ran or rolled about. Her baby was only seven weeks old. I couldn’t get over how slim April already was and how together and serene she seemed.

The weeks leading up to my due date we would sometimes chat briefly on the phone. We talked rapidly and had numerous distractions in the background. We were both sorting laundry and preparing dinner while we tried to fit a 20-minute conversation into the five minutes we truly had. After my due date came and went, I told April of my despair and fear about my impending induction, and she was one of the most comforting voices I hear that week. It was then she offered to come over in the middle of the night if my uterus cooperated and decided to have a baby before my induction.

“It’s not a problem! I’ll just bring the baby and I can stay until your boys wake up and then they can just come over here,” she said reassuringly.

I felt deeply appreciative of her willingness to offer concrete help (and not “let me know if you need anything!” help) despite the fact that we would only be neighbors for the year of Michael’s fellowship. She gave generously and wholeheartedly and did so during a time when she had every reason not to.

After Henry was born, she sent over homemade vegetable soup and hallah bread and cookies within three days of my being home. I tore hunks of the bread off and wrapped them in sandwich bags to eat during the middle of night nursing sessions, sending sleep-deprived, inarticulate prayers of thanks in her direction while I stuffed my face.

We checked in with each other every other week or so via phone throughout the dark winter months. She had a health scare. I worked at overcoming my own self-centeredness by praying daily for her healing. We were all so sick – horrible viruses and pneumonia and lingering colds. For months she was a voice over the phone line that I would connect with occasionally from a non-communicable distance.

But then like the eye of the storm, we were all healthy on Epiphany so we gathered our seven children and ourselves for a celebratory tea party on a cold Friday afternoon.

Wisemen Worship

Spring came. About once a week the boys and I would walk up the street to knock on the door to see if April, her girls and baby James were available to play for an hour or so before it was time to head home to make dinner. We would talk about food since we both loved to cook. We would chat about our children; our struggles and frustrations with trying to find the best way to smooth out the rough edges of their most trying personality traits.

Inevitably we would talk about our faith. April was one of the few devout Catholics I’d ever known and I loved asking questions and learning about the church calendar and feast days and the saints and seeing what a Catholic home looked like. It was deeply refreshing to talk about something meaningful and interesting with another adult during a time when most of life revolved around little people.

Once school was out for the summer, we met at the pool with our brood and shared red and blue slushies from the gas station and occasionally our better working window air conditioning units during unseasonably hot days. One afternoon I tentatively offered April a “teeny-tiny gin and tonic” and hoped she wouldn’t think I was one of those women from the headlines who have drunken afternoon playdates. She said yes so enthusiastically like it was the best idea ever, which was one of the reasons I liked her so much.

She had tears in her eyes when I told her we were moving. We only had a week to pack our house before we left, but she and I carved out time to walk around the block to the Ole Store for a glass of wine after the kids were down for the night. We talked and talked and only left when they closed, then talked a bit more on the street in front of the Fellowship House while the ridiculous Minnesota mosquitoes bit us.

The night before we left, they had us all over for a family dinner. We shared delicious food and a pitcher of fresh margaritas and told stories of the people we were before we were the caretakers of small people while simultaneously wiping little faces and sopping up messes.

And when we left their house for the last time, April embraced our shared faith and joy in good refreshments for comfort in our parting. “We can look forward to drinking wine together in heaven!” she said.

It was one of those rare friendships where we brought out the best in each other. We were truthful and honest in a way that encouraged the other toward something better in ourselves; something nobler than what our rebellious hearts and tired bodies often felt. It was a friendship built on proximity as close neighbors who shared the same street, yet came to recognize a sisterhood grounded primarily in our faith.

It’s been a week since we left. I watched the wine falling into my glass and, for the first time since we arrived in our new home, in our new neighborhood, in our new town and state, allowed myself to think about what was lost. And wept.

For April. And Robyn. And Abby. I miss you guys.  

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Miss Ina’s Beef and Vegetable Stew

From January 2012

The weather is changing here in Iowa where we’ve found our new home, nomads that we are. The leaves are turning and the cold is settling in. We still spend a good bit of time outdoors raking leaves and when we come inside we want something hot, nutritious and meaty after all of our activity. This is a family favorite of ours.

Miss Ina’s Beef and Vegetable Stew

1.5 boneless tip roast
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt (this soup is as salty as the Dead Sea so you may need to adjust)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
celery leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 package onion soup mix*
5 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dry)
4 cups beef stock

Brown the meat and then add all the above to your stock pot and simmer for three hours. Fish out the celery leaves and bay leaves from the stock. Then add everything below and simmer for one hour:

1 quart green beans
8 potatoes cubed (I usually only do 3-4 medium potatoes)
10 oz peas, fresh or frozen
10 oz white corn, fresh or frozen
5 large carrots, sliced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
1 quart diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar (I usually omit)

*You could skip the soup mix by browning two large diced yellow onions and a couple of cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil before or while browning the meat.

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I Married You

I married you
for all the wrong reasons,
charmed by your
dangerous family history,
by the innocent muscles, bulging
like hidden weapons
under your shirt,
by your naive ties, the colors
of painted scraps of sunset.

I was charmed too
by your assumptions
about me: my serenity—
that mirror waiting to be cracked,
my flashy acrobatics with knives
in the kitchen.
How wrong we both were
about each other,
and how happy we have been.

by Linda Pastan

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10 Years: Fragments of a Tribute

Our wedding day seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Was there ever a time we didn’t share the same bed every night? Move in the same space? It’s funny how I could spend 23 years living and growing up with my family, yet somehow I feel like I did much more living and growing up in our 10 years together. I thought the part in The Social Animal where David Brooks talks about people not truly being adults until their 30s rang true, which makes me very grateful that I had you as an influence as I came into my own adulthood.

I have these moments sometimes where it almost feels like we live and breath within the same body. And other times when I look at you almost like I’ve never seen you before. It’s hard to label what you are to me. I know many marriages are without spiritual alignment or emotional support or physical comfort or laughter or fun, so I’m thankful we have those things. I’m glad that we’re friends and partners in this life, and hope we’ll continue to both love and like each other over the next many years.

When I think over defining moments of our marriage, they always include the birth of our children. Especially with Henry’s birth I appreciated what a perfect support you were to me. You really were incredible at anticipating my needs and were such a comfort to me. Which really was just a microcosm of your role as my husband throughout our marriage. Your ability to strengthen and encourage me was almost always (you taught me to qualify everything!) outstanding.

So thank you for these 10 years. Thank you for your tenderness and understanding. Thank you for your commiseration. Thank you for your frankness and instruction. Thank you for Denmark but especially England. Thank you for the many ways you melded yourself to me for the purpose of making a stronger ‘us.’ Thank you for our three beautiful, strong boys. Thank you for loving me always.

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Photographs

We’re in Texas for a family funeral this week. Exactly two years ago when I was training for my first 10K, I would get up as early as 5:00am to avoid running in the grueling Texas heat. I tend to run the same routes so I can compare my times thus each run took me by the same house where each morning I would see the same elderly couple. Texans of a certain age have a habit of sitting out in their garages or carports early in the morning before it gets too hot; drinking coffee, eating breakfast or simply taking the air. This tradition seems to be leftover from a time before central-air conditioning.

I started running again in February after a six month pregnancy/new baby leave, and Monday morning laced up my running shoes to do a 4-miler in my husband’s small Texas hometown. About three miles in I paused my podcast and my stopwatch, and walked up the driveway to say hello. His wife was inside cleaning up after breakfast, but the coffee carafe and two cups were still on the TV tray. Wearing new denim overalls and a short sleeve cotton tshirt, Mr. W and I exchanged greetings, notes on whom we were kin to and comments about the weather. He was one of those elderly men who seems to sweeten rather than sour with age. His short cropped hair was white and his soft plumpness was like Henry’s on the waning side of life. With his fingers laced over his stomach, he told me how he is living 6 miles from where he was born and how his wife almost died from a blood clot a few months ago.

“I’m 85 years old and it was the only time I’ve ever been scared in my life,” he told me solemnly.

This is one of the reason I love to run.

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Filed under culturific, dialogue, life happens, run white girl run