Posts Tagged ‘family’

There was that year
when my mother
turned used ribbons,
thin paper plates
and gold-painted plastic grapes
into a celebration.
Our small family sat
around an old oak table
and made hats
from the strange collection.
How festive it was,
so much more than enough.
Fifty years later
I remember the joy
when we tied those plates
onto our heads.
They were scraps, trash—
the miraculous kind
that needs only love
to make it shine—
scraps like this day, like words,
like ribbons of memory.

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I already know Indy will be trapped
in an ancient room full of snakes
and survive, but I watch again, anyway,
though I wince, because my husband
is on my left and my daughter is on my right
and the cat curls under the blanket
on my lap, and though I hate
how my heartrate skyrockets
when Indy is dragged on a rope
behind a military jeep, I would
watch it all again another thousand times
for just that moment when
my girl snuggles deeper into my side
and rests her head on my shoulder,
yes I would watch any night
the melting flesh when the ark is opened
just to hear beneath the soaring theme
the quiet soundtrack of her breath.

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Tonight at dinner my daughter and husband
bicker over who will get my plus one ticket
to the Grammys next year. We plan
what we’ll wear to walk the red carpet—
blue for my daughter, no tie for my husband.
I’ll borrow a friend’s green dress and tall boots.
So much to plan already. Where will stay?
Hair down? Rent a car? I wouldn’t want
to meet the moment ill-equipped—
not like this moment in which I am fully prepared
to make an entrance in my slouchy gray sweater
and low, messy bun, prepared to show up
with my short nails and bare face and oud perfume.
I’m so ready for this moment at the dinner table
with its red placemats, homemade mac and cheese,
jazz in the air and quirky conversation.
I don’t even have an album, yet,
and already I know I’m a winner.

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This, too, is Christmas, the quiet
walk on the quiet road in the quiet air.
The only carol here—
unending verses of river.
The only gifts we brought—
our attention, our trust.
This feast is for the heart.
There is a generosity to the sunshine
no candle could equal.
It’s a deep sweetness
to be wrapped in blue sky,
a deep sweetness
to share heartache, exhaustion—
something I would never wish for anyone,
and yet, this Christmas day,
the sharing of it,
such a beautiful present.

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Every Christmas Eve


            for Diane
surrounded by bows
and ribbons, we sit on the floor
and wrap into the small hours—
all the while we unwrap our hearts
and give them again and again to each other  

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I am so glad to be it,
even if my role as chaser
lasts over an hour.
I want these boys
to  know I will run
for them forever,
will chase them up
and down stairwells,
will follow them
through halls and alleys,
through exhaustion,
through decades
to find them.
I want them to be certain
I will show up for them,
especially when they least expect it,
leaping toward them
shouting “got you,”
and meaning
I will be there for you
if you let me,
meaning, You are
beloved to me,
meaning I choose you,
then wrapping my arms
around them and whispering,
you’re it.

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from our birth … to our death … the wonderment …
             —Dr. Charles Henry Wahtola, Jr., November 19, 2021

And so as the priest leads us
in the litany for the time of death,
and though we are sincere
as we pray, Have mercy on your servant,
we laugh as my father tells Father Keith
the sermon can only be as long
as the pole at the entrance to the building.
We pray, Grant him your peace,
and I weep for the impending loss,
and then we laugh as I tell Dad
for the first time he has a front-row seat
for the service (he strongly
prefers the back row).
And mom delivers an impromptu sermon
and the priest steps back and listens.
And we fondly remember how my childhood priest
would sing the longest rite in the book,
and my brother and I look at each other
and recite in unison, this fragile earth our island home,
and we break into irrational joy.
We pray The Sursum Corda, The Sanctus,
The Lord’s Prayer, my voice
barely a whisper through tears,
then we’re laughing again as we remember
how Dad and my brother would escape
the service as fast as they could to go cast
in the river behind the church, and
there in the hospice room, we keep the feast,
Alleluia, alleluia. And all day long,
though perhaps we speak of football
or grilling or ducks, with every word, every tear,
every laugh, we are saying, Peace be with you.
With every hug, every kiss, every
touch, every breath, we respond,
And also with you.

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walking in chill air
beside the frozen creek
warm words

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The first year I won the Slush Mush contest
I was shocked as my grandfather read a long, official letter
to everyone else around the Christmas tree
about how my entry into the Slush Mush Breakfast Cereal contest
had been the best one received that year.
I didn’t remember entering.
In fact, I was sure I had not.
Yet I won a puzzle.
Another year my brother won.
Or my mother. Or my cousin.
And each Christmas morning, my grandfather read
the long official letter
which always ended “Eat more Slush Mush.”
It was many years before I understood
how the contest worked.
And for the last twenty years
since he’s been gone,
I carry on, buying puzzles, writing letters,
appointing unsuspecting winners.
Part of me thrills in this annual ruse
because it reminds me of him.
Part of me thrills in remembering
how strange and wonderful it felt
to be chosen not because of how hard
I had tried, but because I was part
of a circle of love. It’s a malnourished world,
he would write every year. Thank you, Papa,
for the Slush Mush.

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Playing Family

for Grace

I’m too grown up now to play family,

says the six-year-old girl. But I hear

in her voice that part of her

still loves the game.

I long to tell her that now,

at fifty, playing family is still

one of my favorites.

I’m less wild about the version

where I’m the mom telling the kid

no, they can’t get the toy they want.

But I like the game when I sit on the couch

and say to my son or daughter,

Hey, come snuggle in, and they do.

I like it when we stand around the kitchen counter

laughing at whatever we’re laughing at.

I like when we’re driving in the car

and I say, Hey, sweetie, how was your day?

Sometimes, I play dress up in my own clothes

and wear what a mother would wear.

I even make breakfasts and lunches

and hide the M&Ms.

And I laugh to hear my own voice say

what a mother might say:

Clean up your room, please.

Time for bed now. Now.

You have got to be kidding me.

I love you. Oh my, how you’ve grown.

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