Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Stories, Ourselves

The birch tree impatiently taps against my window, her summer clothes in a brittle pile at her feet. What are you doing sitting in there? she chides. This golden slant of sun and blue October sky is fleeting. Last night, we gathered around a fire in the back yard, eating chili and listening to Dylan -- the boy's pick -- remind us that times they are a changin'. As if we need the reminder. Pumpkins congregate, waiting; squirrels squirrel away; and I grudgingly make room for more sweaters. Oliver spends large chunks of time flipping through family photos on his iPad, nostalgic as I am for the things that have come before.

For the second year, Fall is making followers of us. We follow the schedule, follow the rules, follow rhythms not our own. But in the quiet, in-between moments, we make room for the making of our narrative. We tell each other what we remember, what it means, how we felt about it. Remember Christmas Eve last year when we didn't know the tent leaked? I was already angry because you were hiding out in the car reading the newspaper and eating the cheese I was saving for later. Then, racing against the departing sun, I took up my spot at the Coleman stove making fish tacos for our Christmas Eve meal and the skies opened up. Everyone looked to me. Hurry up, I said. Eat! Soon even I could see that it was ridiculous to eat in a downpour and we picked up our plates, rushed into the tent, laughing. Then we discovered that our borrowed tent leaked and we laughed some more. What else could we do? As the storm raged on, we sat in the only dry spot, drinking sparkling cider and eating cheese and crackers. I didn't mention that half the cheese was gone already and we spent the rest of Christmas Eve using the dryer in the bathroom shelter and hoping our quarters would last. Earlier, when we were using beach towels to catch the rain that was falling inside the tent, Sami, you very magically and with great love said: This is the best Christmas ever.  And it was because that was the story we told ourselves.

I was at the grocery store early Sunday morning. A rare trip without The Boy Who Loves To Shop. I found myself wondering what it will be like when Oliver has a life of his own, one that doesn't involve weekly grocery shopping with his mother. Remember when we used to practice tossing the groceries to each other? How it felt like we were doing something wrong but I told you boys that it was OK because we intended to buy those items anyway? And then it got out of hand because Sami started throwing things to me when I wasn't looking and I feared we really would get kicked out so I said Let's not do that anymore. For the first time yesterday I could see how others might not find grocery shopping to be the adventure we always make it.

Standing in line I watched an indigenous woman -- from where? Peru? Ecuador? Guatemala? She navigated from one aisle to the next, her tiny daughter pirouetting in a wide circumference around her. Her own private moon. Their orbiting a primordial truth on display right there next to the Libby's canned pumpkin. I squinted at them as I learned to do when I was in love with the painter and he was trying to teach me how to see the shape of things more clearly. Adjusting my gaze, I wondered if I would see my own reflection, a tiny boy by my side, in their journey past the cakes. No, we had been something different altogether. Oliver was a comet, not a moon. Their neatly prescribed orbit was never part of our story, I told myself.

Or maybe, I sometimes wonder, it simply wasn't part of the story I told myself.

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