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Posts Tagged ‘family’

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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Family Woman

Such awkward dance partners,

this longing to follow my own pursuits,

this longing to be ever available to you.

Both want to lead.

They step on each other’s feet.

One waltzes, though the other

has put on rock and roll.

One loves eye contact, the other

loves closed eyes to better feel the music.

And yet they whirl and two step every day,

taking turns swinging and dipping and bowing.

I used to think they were rivals.

Now I know neither wants to dance alone.

Even now, they’re pushing back the furniture,

rolling up the rug. There’s gonna be a real

fine hoedown tonight.

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We ride on the rusty old bikes

in the swelter of June,

legs pumping, waving at strangers,

the wind making a kite

of our laughter—

 

The eight-year-old version of me

would never believe

about how happy we are—

she’s still ratting her brother out

to the recess guard.

 

But here we are, like two

young kids, playing in summer—

sticky hands and suntanned arms,

the years an ocean,

our love a boat.

 

 

 

 

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One Wild Ride

 

 

the ticket stub

I’ll cherish forever—

admission into this family

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And again tonight, despite injustice and hatred,

Jean Valjean learns to love. And again tonight,

in the face of fear and prejudice, he finds kindness.

And again tonight, I weep as he nears his death.

I couldn’t say for whom I am weeping—for him,

for the girl he adopted, for the mother who died,

for the empty chairs, for the whole cast

who remind me too much of the world we live in.

For myself, of course, and my longing to do

what is right. But more than anything, I weep

with the memory of watching this very same scene

thirty years ago, sitting beside my brother,

both of us baptized in tears as Fontine and Eponine

sing behind Valjean, reminding him it is no small miracle

to love someone. I couldn’t have known then

how this would be the memory I’d return to again

and again when I think of my brother. There we are,

young and full of competing ideals, holding each other,

laughing through our crying, ready to meet the world

and each other tear-stained and open to news of grace.

 

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We sat around the oval kitchen table

and made hats out of ribbons

and paper plates, and we piled them high

with golden grapes and fake flowers.

I remember thinking how great, how magic it was

that something we’d use for dinner

transformed into something so elegant.

 

Today I stared hard at a paper plate,

as if I could return to that state of delight

and easy grace. Was this how Cinderella felt

when she gazed at the pumpkin the day

after the ball? Wondering if the magic

happened at all? Weighing the shape

of reality against her dream?

 

Yes, I tell myself, it was real,

the glittering fruit, the beauty I felt,

the laughter around the table.

And it was a dream, the way my parents

made it seem as if we had it all.

And when the clock struck midnight,

none of the magic left at all.

 

 

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There was a time when I’d pull his hair out

if he sat too close to me on the couch.

Now, I curl into his right side,

lean my head on his shoulder,

feel the trembling of his chest

as he weeps. How good it feels

to be close to him as we grieve.

How familiar, the shape of his head,

the heft of his hand as he reaches for mine.

How deeply right, this leaning

into sorrow together.

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for Billy Miller, remembering events on January 4, 2012

 

 

When the man pulled my father

from the icy waters of Lake Michigan,

he did not know years later my step-daughter

would need someone to buy her a sweater

so she would feel nurtured, did not know

that my son would need someone

to make a mosaic with him so that he

could feel loved, did not know

that my daughter would need

someone to tell her that she

was beautiful. When the man

pulled my father out of the water—

my dad had been fishing alone—

that off-duty fireman couldn’t have known

that years later this very daughter

would sit beside her father and hold his hand

and weep at the simple gift

of being able to hold his hand.

The fireman was doing what he knew to do—

to rush to the person in need of help.

He didn’t think then of the other lives

blessed by the man. Did not think

of the other lives he blessed with his hands

when he chose to try, though the odds

of saving the man were low.

He knew only to reach.

Years later, my mother still sleeps

beside the man that was pulled

from the winter lake.

Give us hands that know to reach

for each other—stranger, neighbor,

friend. Give us hands that unthinkingly

choose to save the family

we’ve never met.

 

See the news story here.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Thanksgiving

 

 

 

for those not around

the table, setting

a place in the heart

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One Together

 

weeping under the weight

of the burden, still grateful

to help carry it

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