Solid Streets

I travelled the land of tween-dom over 30 years ago. The roads were rough. Raw and tender, full of emotion. Details from junior high are impressed like a collage. White Ked sneakers, Hostess Ding Dongs at recess, and origami folded notes on lined paper, passed in the hallway between classes. The metallic clang of locker doors slamming. The beating of my heart as Whitney Houston warbled over cafeteria speakers. The hope that one boy would ask me to dance, the fear that different boy just might. The 45 single of Ah-ha’s “Take on Me” spinning on the record player in my room. The hot scent of a curling iron in the bathroom. My first frosted pink lipstick from Long’s Drug store.

Now at 43, I’m driving a hybrid station wagon with three post-school-day 12-year old boys. Backpacks are heavy, piled next to water bottles rolling with soccer balls in the back. Their bodies, damp and sweaty, have shed the morning’s excessive application of Axe or Old Spice deodorant. Hands are now free to pull out smart phones and swipe through text messages between friends. No more paper notes in penciled scrawl. That’s so 1900’s.

I’m so out of my element. I lived this age once, but everything is different now.

I contemplate the streets of Prague. The foreign territory I explored last year was so completely different from the place that I call home. Yet, in spite of another language, and the street signs I couldn’t read, the roads seemed easily familiar. There was comfort in ancient brick and mortar. Something solid that could hold me. Architecture held a promise that it wasn’t fleeting. Despite the time, this would stay.








Only Love

It’s not yet 7am, and you’re behind the wheel of the Toyota, coming out of a curve on a pot-holed, back road. Your road. The one you drive every morning at this time, your 12-year-old in the passenger seat beside you.

There’s more light in May, and the lifting sun’s rays now shine through the windows on your arms. The interior is quiet, but for the playlist shuffling on the stereo, soft but audible. You are both still waking up, each following the thoughts that stir and stretch.

You reflect on recent news. An acquaintance, not an intimate friend, but someone you’d known for years. You’d both seen Bruce Cockburn in concert. He’d turned you on to Patty Griffin. He’d moved from your small town many years ago, but sometimes your paths would cross during one of his return visits. Last time you saw him he gave you one of his own self-produced CDs. He asked, like always, “So, how old’s Jeb now?”

You’d say the age, your hands gesturing height in relation to your body. You’d both nod heads, affirming, “I know…time goes quickly.”

But he knew better than you. Two grown children in their twenties. He was long past pre-teen years.

You just learned he’s gone. You’d never known he had cancer. Never heard he passed away. That was two months ago. Was he even 50?

These are your early morning sunshine thoughts, as you drive your boy to the bus stop. Ben Howard’s “Only Love” is on the radio. The song is “our song” for you and your husband. And in this moment, this song is “the song” for the Now.

Your heart is flushed to bittersweet, full-capacity, as you click on the blinker for a right-hand turn at the stop sign. All of this is all there is, and all of this – you’re learning – will vanish.

You love your son. So deeply, you cannot touch the depths.
Does it matter if he does his homework?
These days will change, and you realize that you do not even know what this means.
How did you become this 42-year-old mother driving down a rural, island road?
You hope that you’ll remember these beautiful early rays making gold on shimmering tree tops, when you get home to a sink full of dirty dishes.

You feel the All of Everything welling up to fill your eyes. You reach over and pat the knee of your growing boy. He sees you. Squirms in his seat with your nostalgia. Knows you have these moments sometimes.

Ever so soft through the speakers, Ben Howard sings, “Darling you’re with me, always around me…Only love, only love…”

Driving with your son, your boy, in this moment, you feel only love. And that one-and-only, well, he can barely sit with it. He smiles, sheepishly, glancing at the radio dial with a respectful request.

“Mom, can we turn it down a little?”

2016-05-09_jeb sunlight


Free Write

~the following is part of “Prompted Prose,” a series of posts from the prompts I’m working with during my Spring 2016 online writing course


A baby is on my chest. My son. Our son.

Nothing meets expectation.

Like the fact that I am on my back. Or that my feet are still in the air. Or that I’m in a hospital room with bright lights and blue-donned strangers in puffy, white footwear.

Most certainly, I did not expect that nothing, really nothing, would be here. I had seen plenty of movies, read stacks of books. I had expected labor to be hard. I had expected myself to be pushed beyond my limit. And I’d expected that familiar, on-screen moment: joyful tears of euphoria when my child was placed, wet and fresh upon my heart. I did not ever expect to feel the weight of him (so fragile), see his fingers (so long), only to search inside and come up empty. I expected some emotion, any emotion, but I am holding my newborn baby and there is nothing that I sense but numb.

And there are more unmet expectations.

I had expected an ugly baby. Plenty of stories had been shared of slippery, reddened howlers, sliding in to the world, with pointy heads, and flattened faces. But what instinctively nuzzles down at my breast is golden-haired and perfect. His skin is smooth and flawless, nearly sun-kissed, to a tone the shade of ginger root. And his scent, wafting up through the silky hair of his crown, is the distinct aroma of butterscotch popcorn. I had not expected him to be pristine, immaculate.


2013-12-05_Baby pic