When I moved to Miami my one worry was my grandmother.
All three of my remaining grandparents were early into their 80’s. But Stan and Vange had scale: they had each other, as well as six kids, their six partners and ten grandkids.
I don’t know how many years my grandmother had lived alone. Since I could remember she’d been in the same ground-floor, two-bedroom apartment. A concrete patio grew flowers in the summer, pots in the winter. There was beige carpet. The narrow galley kitchen had a brown 1970’s range. Her walls were hung with paintings of Navajo women and a black and white photograph of a weathered fish cache, an echo of her youth.
When I visited my grandmother to tell her the news, my eyes filled with tears. “I’m going to miss you,” I sniffed.
Then, “You are my soul mate.”
The words came out of my mouth.
“You come and see me, now,” she replied. It felt like I was her long ago neighbor, popped by for a visit, not her granddaughter, definitely not her soul mate.
Years later it came up that Seath was her favorite grandchild. My cousin and I joked about it, but to myself I wondered how I’d been so wrong about soul mate.
I spend the end of August working on a pitch with New York. I’m only available for the first half of the process – the first client meeting in New York. It is the usual new business grind – lots of differing opinions and limited availabilities. The team is spread out across the country. I am grumpy with the work. I have come out of the closet to my HR director that I want to move into coaching and have started to dream about an airier existence. This work is landlocked in my old area. But it is work I know how to do and I know it’s a chance to impress the guy who runs North America.
Plus, there is fresh air at the end of the month. I have a vacation planned at the Oregon Coast.
It is hot and sticky in the City. The day of the meeting I head to the office and after two blocks feel the sheen on my forehead even though I’d chosen the shady side of the block. The meeting goes well – it is a collaborative work session asking questions of clients. When we’re done and the clients have left the building, the head of North America says, “Guys, this is the agency I want to be working at.”
That night I go walk in Central Park. The jacket of dark on the streets has only added to the steaminess. There is not a hint of cool. My fingers swell into hot links. Just as I’m leaving the Park, I see multiple rats run brazenly across the road, undeterred by the swarms of bikers and runners. Jaywalking New Yorkers, like any others. When I get back to my miniature climatized hotel room I’m relieved to wedge myself into the tiny shower and crawl into the cool sheets. The temperature already feels like vacation.
At the beach, September is the sweet edge between summer and fall.
I’ve had a few days to myself at the beach, mostly walking and Instagramming: the gnarled beach pines and silver-green grass; the mottled sky reflected in the glossy tidal sheen on the sand; the low afternoon light and swooping seagulls on the river.
Barbie and Brian join a few days later. They are quiet company: Barbie reads in her chair in the window, her head tipped forward and mouth settled into a slight purse of the lips. Brian does Sudoku, his Costco glasses edging towards the tip of his nose. I am not feeling social yet, and spend the day upstairs in my room, sitting in the window and writing. The neighbors have multiple bird feeders and the doves and jays flit in and out of the beach pines. It makes for just enough activity.
The only real plan for the week is a day trip to Nehalem. We’re meeting my aunt Nurse Karen to see the art studio of one of her childhood friends.
I’ve always loved Nehalem. A mile up the road, it’s neighbor, Manzanita, is a perfect vacation town with a gentle cascade of second homes and upscale shops and galleries. By contrast, Nehalem, feels like a town where people live, albiet only a few. It eschews the drama of the ocean for a quaint bend in the river. A handful of small buildings cling to one side of the bank, a grassy expanse opens on the other. On the hillside: a steepled white church and a sign to a public pool. The highway does a full 180 degree turn in the middle of town – not asking you to stay, exactly, but demanding respect.
Mary Jo’s home and studio is on the hill. Even at first glimpse from the car window, I have a surge of excitement. There is an construction area in the lower driveway full of marble chunks, drills, sanders, hoses. Female torsos emerge from the debris.
The house is perched at the top of a stone walk and flanked by an apple tree and a huge minty hydrangea. Her garden is a riot of pumpkins.
Inside, a shelf over the kitchen sink teems with saintly idols: A Mexican Day of the Dead figurine with a flat skull face and toothy grin; a carved Greek goddess with flowing robes; a primitive wood figure with a blunt nose; the Virgin de Guadalupe. Romantic reverence for the female form is tempered by a puckish sense of humor: hanging by the back door, an owl has a plastic knife for a beak; a half-finished torso wears a life jacket around her neck.
MJ tours us through all of the corners. Her sculptures are everywhere – on tables, in closets, enshrouded in plastic sheeting in the entry of the back house.
It is sweet to see Karen with MJ. They’ve known each other since grade school. Between them is an invisible shorthand, like bees buzzing around the same set of flowers. MJ calls Karen “Karinina”– a sweet, floral name for an otherwise dauntingly efficient and spunky woman.
As all artists do, MJ sees straight into another side of my auntie.
I had seen a piece by MJ in a gallery a few years ago – a round full black marble torso. We look for an equivalent. Finally, in the light from the high window of the back house, my piece emerges. She is black marble with a white vein that wraps around her backside.
“Is that your girl?” asks MJ.
I think she is.
MJ wraps her up in a green towel and buckles the piece into my back seat like a baby. We stand in the sun, doors to the car open. I mention that I’m adopting and MJ animates into a story about how her son was conceived.
“We went home that night and you know, we’re making love and he says, ‘The only thing that is missing from my life is a son.’ And here we thought he was sterile! Then I find out that I’m pregnant. You’ve just got to ask for exactly what you want from Saint Anthony and it will come to you. It’s kismet.”
Karen and Barbie and I laugh that she’s said kismet, and Karinina says, “That’s the baby name.”
“Kismet would be a great name,” says MJ, not quite in on our joke.
When MJ heads in I tell Karen and Barbie how inspired I’ve been by our afternoon.
“Maybe I should move to Nehalem and be an artist,” I muse. Karen reminds me that it hasn’t always been fun and games. There have been lean years. But my heart isn’t interested in the family pragmatism. I want to be surrounded by dusty tools and a garden thick with pumpkins.
I want to be enveloped in purpose and creativity.
It is my true drug.
The week, I am back to work, the North American boss is in town. He grabs me at the end of the day on a Tuesday. I’m unsure what he wants to talk about. He’s a small, trim man, quick to a white smile, his hair gelled to a shiny black lacquer. His New York hustle is palpable.
When I sit down, in quick order he offers me a promotion.
The way he positions the job is, “I don’t know if you have an extra 15 or 20 hours a week to devote to doing this.”
Before my brain can even engage, I thank him and politely decline. I tell him I want to do something else. I’ve gotten started with coaching on my Fridays. I don’t want to do all that travel.
Plus I’m waiting for this baby.
It is not the answer he expects. In the corporate world, people don’t turn down promotions. But he takes it in stride and asks more about the coaching. I follow up with a note on how I could see doing that for the network, my observations on our challenges and how coaching can solve them. He says he needs time to think on it. Fair enough. So do I.
Later, I think of Sheryl Sandberg and her observation that women limit themselves. I have a nervous flutter that I have looked a gift horse in the mouth. But I’m reminded of another conversation where the words just spilled on their own out of my mouth. It was when I was leaving my agency in LA. “Look at all that came from that,” I remind myself.
My tenure as a trustee for Make A Wish finally starts. I attend my first board meeting. We are in a law office downtown, on the 26th floor. Reception has an unobstructed southern view, the glittering sound, the industrial cranes at the Port, Mt. Rainier. The conference room is all white with a huge, unmemorable painting on the wall. The tables are formed in a u shape with a lake of carpet between everyone. I try to just take it all in – what is said, how it is said. There has been a wish granted recently that is shared out on a slide show. The room gets misty-eyed. When the slides shift to another topic, many in the room, women and men alike, wipe their eyes.
The morning after the board meeting I fly to SF. A few of us have been loosely planning this trip for the last couple years – our mutual schedules finally conspire to make it happen.
We are staying in the outer Mission in an Airbnb – an apartment attached to a bigger house, no-doubt built by a tech millionaire ten or 15 years ago. Whereas the street is full of typical modest SF houses – lavender and pink stucco façades, street-level garages, bay windows overlooking the street – our place has the look of a battleship: muscular concrete construction and aggressive footprint up to the brink of the sidewalk. Inside there is a bathroom that is bigger than any of the bedrooms. A central control panel raises blinds and lowers the lighting. “You have to try the shower,” says Anna at one point. “I’ll just explain how it works.”
Driving through the streets of San Francisco I am reminded of a life past.
We go past familiar corners, haunts where in college my early set of friends, Mara, Faith and I would go to see hip hop and funk bands on the weekends. We would pack into Mara’s little blue Honda Civic and drive across the Bay Bridge. At Nikki’s BBQ in the Haight we’d shove in past the crowds and put our jackets in a corner. It was a small place with low ceilings and loud hip hop jams. I have glimmers of dancing with a hulking guy in a red and black checked shirt and a baseball cap – the height of 90’s hip hop glamor. When we finally spilled out into the cool open street, we were sweaty and tired. Inevitably young men would trickle out after Faith and her epic curves. “Yo, yo, lemme get your number,” they’d call. She would flirt coyly and throw her head back flashing white teeth. But ultimately, we’d wander back to the Civic, back to Berkeley for a slice of pizza and finally, bed.
There are still moments of what I have always loved about San Francisco: the funky alley with murals celebrating the Aztec tradition and a larger-than-life Cesar Chavez, fist in air. Bodegas and neighborhood bars greet the street with open windows. Inside, the flies circle and salsa music pours out into the street. At one point we stop at a piñata store – in the window they feature a Donald Trump piñata that you can “deport” to Mexico for $45. His hair, made of fringed yellow paper, looks strikingly accurate.
As I stand in the open doorway of our Brutalist temple, an elderly Mexican woman shuffles by with her grocery cart in tow. She sees me standing in the doorway and asks, “Es departamento? Nunca sabia, yo.” I explain to her that yes, it’s an apartment for rent. We’re here for the weekend. When she asks me how much her face pauses to take in the number. “Ooooh, ‘ta caro.” Si, ‘ta caro. I am touched by the encounter, a sign that not everyone lives a life obsessed with stock prices, dashboard lighting and barricaded living.
Gradually the bodegas and pastelerias cede way to preening modern furniture and tattooed arms serving coffee. We wander into a clothing store and poke around the jewelry and racks of dresses. One of the guys who works there asks how we know each other and we all pepper in our multiple points of contact: we all worked together at the same agency, we all lived in Portland and Europe; we’ve all been on countless vacations in countless countries. We’ve all played cards together. A complex strata of emotional geology.
“You all seem like so much fun,” he comments.
“We are pretty fun,” we all say, laughing because today it is particularly true.
This breezy otherworld existence is jarred by a text from Seath.
Evie is in the hospital.
She’d been having headaches. Her appointment had transmuted into CAT scans and MRIs. And the possibility of a brain tumor. They would be there late, until the tests were done.
When I think of Evie, her tiny body and long skinny limbs dwarfed by the sleek muscularity of the CAT scan machine, I burst into tears. A flutter of women descends around me, asking if I want to go home, if I want to skip dinner. But I just need to cry a minute.
Dinner is a quiet affair – the restaurant is a little to glitzy for our mood. I do my best to convince them I’m OK but the second I get home I call and change my flight home for something earlier.
It is a small palliative balm for the evening.
In the morning, I see Seath has sent a text at 2am saying they’ve sent Evie home and the scans had come back clean. Still, it is a relief to get home. Seath and Carina host a casual open house for people to pop by. We sit by the outdoor fireplace and laugh in the sun while the kids run around. Evie is at top speed and completely disinterested in the adults, which I take as a good sign.
But the window is short-lived. Wednesday night I get a call from Seath that Evie needs to go back into the hospital at 8am the next morning. They may need some help with Edison.
I tell Seathy whatever they need, of course. When I call Maevey she asks for details but I tell her I didn’t ask. S&C don’t need any additional asks of them right now, even if it’s for more information. Carina texts me details about the Edison for the next day – she’s going on a field trip so I need to drop her at school by 845.
The next morning I meditate on giving peace and support but I’m still swallowing my own tears.
When I get to S&C’s they are walking out of the house. Seath and Carina are grey with a contrasting veneer of forced chipperness. Evie has crazy bedhead and scuttles to the car with sideways smile like a wild rabbit. Even on a good day she doesn’t like being the center of attention.
On the surface, Edison is her normal self. She is chatty and excited about her trip. Her class is going to Yakima to meet migrant workers. “Maybe you can use some of your Spanish,” I suggest. As we near the school, she realizes she’s forgotten her lunch. I wonder if it is related to the emotion of the last few days. The wrinkle is easily remedied with a quick stop lox bagel and a juice – ever the gourmet. I drop her a block from school and wave to her as she makes her way down the block. Her sweet peachy face smiles in return as she adjusts her bags onto her shoulder.
Evie is admitted to the hospital for three days. I text S&C that I will pick up dinner. Evie’s special request is sushi – “is that doable?” asks Seath. I Google an option close to my work and order a heaping tray.
At Seattle Children’s the parking is packed – everyone here for visiting hours. Seath meets me in the front of the hospital and takes the heaving sushi tray. At the check in station, they ask me if I’ve had a cough or cold in the last week. They take my ID and print off a badge.
As we walk Seath gives me the update on more of the medical details of Evie’s condition. They are unsure of her final diagnosis, but it seems like it is a moment in time, not something chronic.
Evie looks tiny in a huge hospital bed. The lighting is dim. There is a child in the other half of the room, behind the curtain. I think it’s a girl but I can’t tell.
Carina sets the sushi tray on the small cabinet counter. We rip open the paper chopsticks and packets of soy sauce. Eating is something familiar and normal we can all do, even if we’re all perched precariously on the guest couch next to Evie’s bed.
Evie seems pretty happy with her bed – she adjusts it up and down to get to the exact right spot. She’s acquired some trinkets along the way – a coloring book and a new stuffie. At intervals the nurses come in, then the doctor, a baby-faced white guy with a mop of brown hair and dated square glasses. He looks like he a South Park character. He wades in tentatively, asking about vaccines and Evie’s broader medical history. Carina is a force to be reckoned with, batting back with doctor counter knowlege like a Williams sister on the court. Still, her eyes fill with tears when they talk about the further tests and treatment for her daughter. She is going to stay the night on the couch.
When I get back to my car to head home I text a friend, “What a privilege it is to care for a child.”
The next day I leave early from work – my schedule is empty and I am hoping to give Seath and Carina a break from the hospital. Evie has requested dumplings for dinner. She is fussy, unhappy about everything, kicking her feet out from the covers. Carina asks if she wants to go for a walk – there is a level with a deck that looks out to the trees. Evie emphatically does not. Eventually she covers her head with a blanket, sulking. Then starts to fall asleep. S&C sneak out to pick up dumplings and to down two much-needed martinis. They are in better spirits today, having moved beyond ambiguity into treatment, and fast approaching the end of their stay in the hospital.
I marvel at the coincidence of timing with Make A Wish. It is suddenly very viscerally easy to see the need for it. Even three days, even at my limited level of exposure, I already feel the claustrophobia setting in. The hospital is impressive – the different areas named Lake and Mountains, the hallways named for Frogs or Bears, the staff trained to interact with kids on their level. But it is still not a place that can be remedied by dumplings or sushi.
It is still not home.
Winter sets in and the days are dark. I finish up a meeting and realize I’ve missed a call from Barbie.
It’s unusual for her to call in the middle of the work day so I fight the flicker of worry. When I listen to her voicemail my worry is confirmed. My grandmother has been admitted into the hospital. They are worried that her rattle-y lung might be pneumonia. She also has an uncategorized infection that might be sepsis.
I walk around the corner to the far end of the building where there’s open real estate. The walls are littered with presentations in progress – skins shed as the conversation evolved and moved forward.
When I call Barbie back she doesn’t have much more detail.
“She was really uncomfortable when we were there the other day,” she says, “Tugging at her diaper and fidgeting.” The hospital was keeping her in for 24 hours and then would know more.
“Well, let me know how it goes, if I should plan on coming down this weekend,” I say.
But there is a snow storm due tomorrow in Portland and later in the day, Seattle. And Barbie thinks she may not survive even as long as the weekend. If she goes, it will be quickly.
My eyes well up with tears and I’m thankful for my glasses as one of my co-workers walks by.
When I hang up I sit alone for a minute in the open space. It’s bright with the overhead lights, but outside the sky is already bruising to a bluish purple of night.
There is so much wrapped up in the potential death of my grandmother. A freeing of sorts for my parents, who have been her primary family contact since she moved into her care facility. She is also in the world of dementia, a foggy parallel universe. And she’s 92.
I have been reading a book Barbie gave me years ago that had been sitting in the “must read one day” pile. It is a memoir of a woman who, along with her husband, lived in the Canadian wilderness on and off from 1937-1941. They build their own log cabin, stuffing the cracks with moss. They camp out in twenty below weather. They track bear, moose and dozens of bird species. They interact with the Indians of the area who occasionally appear as they follow their trap lines.
This was my grandmother’s childhood: snow, sled dogs, trees and cold. And alone-ness. One of the things the author is most happy about is the preservation of their isolation. But of course, she has her partner. She has her family back east to whom she is confident they will one day return.
In stark contrast my grandmother’s mother died of TB when she was seven. She was sent off to live at a boarding school for Indians run by missionaries. She told me once she was married to “the first man that was nice to her,” although he soon showed his true colors as a drinker and gambler who was never home and eventually abandoned the family. As a young mother of small children in Timber, Oregon, a tiny railway town where my grandfather was stationed, no one would talk to her because she was Indian. Once my father and his siblings had grown, she lived alone for the rest of her life, with brief hiatuses when my uncle or aunt moved in temporarily.
Now she was in a hospital bed by herself.
“She always loves the hospital,” says Barbie. “Sleeping in that nice bed.”
“I could see that,” I say. I am seeing Evie, adjusting her bed up and down, chatting with the attending nurses that pop in at the change of a shift. An instant doting community with you at the center.
Maybe to be in a clean, brightly-lit hospital room, to be served food on a tray, to be the object of the efficient care of an attending nurse could be a good end.
And snow. “It would just be so ironic if she did die in a snowstorm,” I observe to Maeve. “Full circle.”
Apparently the hospital stay is too good to depart for other existential planes. The next morning she is no worse. My parents manage to see her before the snow starts. Barbie texts me and Seath a picture: High regal cheekbones contrast with the tube up her nose.
“The Great One,” Seath texts back.
It is what she always called herself.
The election takes its cues from the fall – a bright optimistic start gradually dimming to grating piles of dead leaves and the graying light of winter.
Maevey and I are chatting on the phone a few days before the election and she quips, “this may be heresy but I’m a little curious to see what would happen in a Trump administration.” I have a feeling of a black wall coming down in front of me.
“It would feel like racial justice would have regressed 30 years,” I say darkly. “I just can’t feel cavalier about that outcome.”
Maevey apologizes that she’s ruined my day, but of course it’s not Maevey, it’s a harbinger of what could be.
Election day I run into a few people in the parking garage and say, “Feels like a good day for a woman to become president!” I know there are a few Trump supporters at the agency, including one tall bearded developer who wears his Trump Pence t-shirt to work. I’m catching up in the hallway with someone when he walks between us saying lightly, “Am I causing trouble here?”
A bunch of us are at Seath and Carina’s to watch the results come in. Lenora’s made a lasagna. There is an ongoing joke about how the men are finally going to relinquish control of the remote now that HIllary will doubtlessly win. At some point, the temperature in the room drops. We all stand staring at the TV, incredulous. Bourbon is poured. When I hug Carina on the way out, we both start crying.
The next day, I see the plaid flannel back of the bearded dev at work. I want to give him a sportsman-like congratulatory hug, but I can’t muster it. Later, I find out he is wearing a “Deplorables” t-shirt which makes me glad I didn’t chase him down. I organize an informal gathering of mourners in our new bar at work. People pile in and stand around. It is a funeral, tinged with fear about the future.
That night I come home to a demolished front porch. The rebar is exposed in a metal grid and chunks of old concrete scattered like heavy breadcrumbs.
My plan is to extend it, adding a layer of flagstone to match the hallway and kitchen. But the metaphor is too much to pass up and I write a long post on Instagram about how insecure it feels to everyone I had talked to today, especially my friends of color.
As I’m writing, I realize this insecurity is something I’ve felt before. In college, a friend and I were attacked outside People’s Park. We had had a photography date in SF together. We were in the same French class, taught by a sexy chain-smoking French woman with big eyes and a messy bob. We wandered around the Mission and took pictures. We flirted, we took the BART home and wandered back the Berkeley streets in the dark.
As we walked past Peoples’ Park we crossed paths with two shadowy figures. We said, “hey,” and then just as we’d moved past them one of them said, “What did you say?” in an angry tone. Suddenly I was punched in the back. The punches and kicks rained down on us. I crouched down and put my hands over my head. One of them said, “I’ve got a gun.”
Then, as unexpectedly as it had started, it was over.
Shaken, we walked home to my house and climbed into my twin bed clutching each other. I never reported the assault. I didn’t know anything about it except that I was on the receiving end and didn’t want to be in the business of misidentifying someone. For days I was bruised and sore. For weeks I was terrified of walking in the dark.
Z and I had texted after the election but had not seen each other in person. We meet for brunch near her house. We barely start talking before we both start to cry.
“Seriously, JP, I’ve lived this already. I grew up in apartheid South Africa. I’ve lived this. I’m not going to raise my son in this climate. At first, I was just devastated. Now, I’m pissed off. And anger is a very useful emotion.” She puts her finger out for a moment, a mark of defiance, before it retreats behind her ear to twist her curls.
The restaurant is busy and we ask the waiter to bring us more bread. When he haphazardly tosses the basket on the table, Z gives him a glare.
“What was that about?” she asks.
“I think they’re just busy,” I tell her. “I don’t think it’s a comment on us.”
She tells me how in the days after the election she was feeling exposed in her local grocery store, wondering if every white man there had voted for Trump.
“I just feel so unseen by this country,” Z says. We grip each others’ hands, and I feel the tears spring to my eyes again.
I think about the young white male waiter and the basket of bread. Would he have tossed it wrecklessly on the table of two white women? It was impossible to know.
The agency also has a new President.
At first I am hopeful.
Lonnie sends me a note saying, “Tell me your hopes and dreams about north America.” and floats a coaching option for me with a senior exec. I forward her a note that I have sent the North America CEO, describing my observations about the agency, my philosophy about coaching, concrete things I could be doing.
“This is helpful,” she says.
Still, I notice myself with the same heavy dark energy I had about the election. I don’t know if it’s a hangover from the political situation, or if it’s about work.
Then, the slow attrition of optimism.
The coaching opportunity is taken back.
And finally a frank exchange.
“What I really need is an amazing planner. And you’re an amazing planner,” she states.
“Yes,” I say.
“But I don’t think that’s the job you want to do.”
“Yes,” I agree.
She says with “strong people” – “people who are strong at their jobs,” she clarifies, “we all have insecurities” – with strong people you can just come out and say the truth, and that’s what we’re doing here.
She suggests connecting me with a big coaching firm, she states the reason they are good is because they use all kinds of metrics and data points – “Otherwise you don’t make any progress.” When I tell this to Suzi, she laughs, as close to a scoff as Suzi has ever uttered. “I thought you’d like that,” I tell her. I think of my own massive progress over the last seven years of coaching without a single data point or metric.
Lonnie and I agree that I’m going to think about what I want over Christmas break – “You gotta let me know how much of you I can have,” she says.
In the dark wet streets on the drive home, I have the dizzying feeling of having shown my own truth before I was really ready. Again, the memory of the moment with my boss back at Deutsch where he’d asked me to spend more time in LA and I told him I didn’t have it for him, the words tumbling out of my mouth in spite of myself. LIke a magician pulling the endless scarf, I continued to say that this was working against everything I actually wanted in my life. That as much as I was disappointing him, I was disappointing myself.
His wise smile.
I remind myself that two days later I had a call on this Seattle job.
It’s the evening of our Christmas party. I consider not going but I decide to go for an hour. When I get there it is more or less in full swing, except the space is so big that everyone is spread out. I say hi to some people. James comes over and gives me a hug. When I see Lonnie she is carrying someone’s baby that has come to the party. I don’t talk to her. Instead, I escape at a party low where Lonnie has taken the stage for dull speech-making that momentarily snuffs everyone’s holiday cheer. You can almost hear the groan. It is no longer a party, or a company I feel comfortable at.
When I walk out, snow is just starting.
That weekend I breathe, write and meditate my way into calm. I try and corral all the times where I’ve taken a risk and been caught by the universe: moving to Seattle, leaving Deutsch, the final conversation with Juan before initiating our divorce paperwork.
That night I have a dream. I’m in my old college dorm. The lighting is bluish and soothing. In one room, Juan is on the lower bed of the bunk. There is enough room for both of us. I kiss him goodnight, and leave with another, younger man. I wrap my arm around the young man’s skinny waist. I feel young and free.
We walk down the corridor to the door to a huge indoor pool. A creative director I once worked with is there and we decide to race for fun. I know I am a good swimmer. But the pool is filled with people, it is a watery version of the plaza at the arch in Mumbai – lots of Indians there with their families in big groups.
The crowd clears a narrow path in the pool. People are cheering me on. Then suddenly the swim time ends and the pool empties out. We have the pool to ourselves for the race. My younger man is there smiling in a knowing, supportive way. The pool is the perfect temp of cool. I know the swim was going to wear me out to have a good sleep that night.
I wake up too early, already missing the dream. The dream has put me in a good mood, made me feel optimistic about my decision. The wide open pool and soothing light. The easy confidence in my abilities. The calm support of ex husband, future partner.
I have one more week before I’m on vacation and it’s all I can do to hold on for it. We have an offsite at the end of the week for two days. Every day I write and meditate. Slowly I feel the anxiety dissipate. I start a website on SquareSpace. I am happy to see how easily my articles and Instagram comes together to tell a story. It is a quilt that I have already sewn the squares for. As I assemble them, I see how they perfectly fit together.
In this time I rapidly jot notes about what my future will be. In one note I write, “I am creating a ministry in the workplace.” I think about my job as creating a new belief system that is spiritual, not merely skills based. I see myself as a preacher, preaching for more authenticity, creativity, collaboration, self-determination.
At Christmas I decide to head to Portland, in part to see my aunts and uncles and cousins, but also to see the Great One.
Unlike my last several visits, my grandmother is alert to the point of agitation. She keeps saying, “We’ve got to get out of here,” and wanting us to meet her old IRL boss. Over the course of the hour that we’re there, she slows down a little bit. I ask her what she wants for Christmas and she says simply, “my family.” It’s the same thing I want too.
Besides being toothpick thin, there isn’t much evidence of her recent illness. Her skin is smooth like it always has been. I hold her hand and tuck her white hair behind her ears. She’s almost small enough to pick up in my arms like a child and cradle.
Brian leans in and says, “It’s good to see you,” in a loud voice so she can hear him. For two life-long adversaries, it is so sweet to see them together now. All the fight has gone out of both of them.
Barbie has brought her a box of candied orange slices in bright colors. She takes a pinkish red slice and nibbles on it. A bright piece of jelly falls on her lavender sweatshirt and sparkles there like a jewel.
I wonder about her recent connection with her old boss and job. For many months she seemed to be roaming around in her childhood. I wonder if there is a timeline to her themes, like she’s slowly coming back to modern day, reaching the full circle.
I have a book of pictures from my grandmother’s youth – my grandmother and a few of her friends from boarding school. In most of the photos it is summer. They are dressed in homemade calico frocks. Their black hair done in the 40’s style. They are wearing mukluks despite the summer. My grandmother was no doubt learning the Shakespeare soliloquies she used to quote to my brother and I. I can still hear her saying, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
For being almost 93, it seems clearly that there was no question: Being is still the answer.
Christmas could not be better. I plan a lot of visits with friends – ex W+K people, Abby, my cousin’s wife who had read the blog and said, “I want to hang out with you!” Even staying at Barbie and Brian’s feels different. Because of the election, Brian has kept the TV off – he can’t stand to see Trump’s face anymore. I am struck by what a difference it makes to not have it on.
One evening I’m standing in the doorway, talking about my exit plan for work. Brian is sitting in the chair with his usual appendage of clipboard with today’s Sudoku printed out and clipped to it, his glasses on. He gives out a sound that is somewhere between a huff and a “sheesh” and then says, “I’m not going to say anything” which is of course saying something. I prod him and he expels, “I mean, I just don’t see how you’re thinking about leaving your job when you have this baby coming.”
I get choked up, but I do not take on his fear. Instead I see his worry and protection of me. Barbie stands neutrally, then when she sees me tear up comes over to give me a hug.
“I appreciate that you’re worried about me,” I tell him. “I’m scared too. But I’m more scared about working another 20 years in a job I don’t love than of taking a risk right now. Besides, companies aren’t safe, you don’t know what it’s like out there.”
“I’m 45 years old,” I tell him. “I might know a thing or two about how to make money.” It feels good to say it, like I am getting up above myself and looking down, marking the time and experience I’ve logged in over the last 20+ years of working.
Later, Barbie reminds me that Brian has been out of the workforce almost as long as I’ve been in it.
When I recount the conversation to Seath he says wryly, “Oh, you mean Brian talked to you like you were 20 years old?” We both start laughing.
When I tell Suzi, she observes in a magical lateral jag, “You know this means the baby is coming, because it is in your dad’s consciousness.”
The next morning, after what feels like a cordial avoidance of each other Brian comes over to me in the kitchen and says, “I still worry about you, you’re still my little girl,” and gives me a hug.
For months S&C keep asking me what I’m going to do for my birthday. It’s an iconic date this year, 1-17-17 and for a second I think I should really celebrate. But I never can gear up for a big do. Instead, I decide to go to the beach for some walking and writing and meditation. And I decide to mostly go on my own.
It has snowed in Portland the weekend before. As I drive down 1-5 there is a point after Olympia where the fields become powdered with white. At one stretch the sun streams through the fog and it is breathtakingly beautiful, the sparkle off the snow, the trees still cloaked in white, the fog insinuating itself in the pockets between.
I stop in Astoria for lunch. The snow has dissipated and Astoria is almost balmy with sea air. I situate myself at a table in the high windows at the co-operatively owned bakery. They have cloth napkins and a full bulletin board of the local goings on. There is a pile of pamphlets in Spanish advertising what to do if you’re stopped by the policia. They may have been there before the election but as I pick one up I silently thank whoever put it together, thinking of my past and current undocumented friends.
When I get to the house it is dark.
It isn’t until morning when I make it to the beach. I walk down the beach to the trail access to a state park. The sand is crunchy with the cold, easier to ascend the various dunes but more difficult to come down as the sand has less give. The park has trails that wind in amongst the beach pines. There are frozen ponds, the ice locking in bubbles. I finally emerge at the river. Seagulls float in a clump of white where the water ruffles with the tide coming in.
As I always do at the beach, I feel alive.
Barbie and Brian come down the second day. I hide out upstairs, working on the blog from my perch but I know come evening I will be happy for the company.
By late afternoon we are all ready to get out of the house. We stop at the gallery in town. The owner’s husband is there and no dog, so it’s not as fun as it normally is. When we’re done we pop by my uncle Matt and aunt Holly’s place, Brian having spotted their car.
Matt is in a new, multicolored shirt and Holly is wrapped in a bright turquoise afghan she found at a garage sale. She went fishing for steelhead the day before and says her bones haven’t warmed up. We sit in the light of their living room and chat. Matt is thinking about becoming the councilman for Pacific City. It has no representative on the county board and he’s concerned that the recent development in PC is going unchecked.
I start calling him the Commish (for Commissioner) and take interest that Matt, who has always struck me as a bit of a libertarian, feels compelled to be part of government. On the floor, Hope, the new puppy brought home as antidote to the election, wrestles with Tanky their full grown pit bull. Hope is skinny and black with long-limbs and a white heart on her chest, in every way the opposite to white, tan and muscle-bound Tanky. Hope tackles and tugs and nips and gnaws. I ask Holly if Tank ever puts Hope in her place. Holly says no, and points out all the places where Tanky has pink teeth marks on her belly. At one point, having had enough of the scuffle, Tank lays her huge muscled jaw on my knee. As I pet her, she closes her eyes.
We invite Matt and Holly to dinner at Los Caporales for my birthday. It is an unexpected treat, since I don’t spend any time with them on their own. Holly runs home because she’s forgotten a present for me – a sea urchin shell with an air plant dangling from inside. “It’s a jelly fish,” she says. I am touched by the gesture and as always, so impressed by Holly’s crafty creativity.
Over chips and Coronas I ask Matt to expand more on his vision for Pacific City (“It’s not a city,” he says. “What a great tagline,” I quip – ‘Pacific City – it’s not a city’.”) He talks about water and sewer, about the rights to the parking lot at Cape Kiwanda (the non-city owns the parking lot, but the state owns the beach, making charging for parking tricky.) I love hearing his vision play out – keeping Pacific City accessible for working people, checking the gentrification.
Holly perks up and says, “What’s your new thing? I want to hear.”
So I start talking about what work is like now: How in the recession, there was increased emphasis on productivity – fewer people in the workforce, doing all of that work that everyone else who was no longer working used to do. Then, as the workforce rebounded, that productivity culture remained. We became tied to the idea that our only value at work is in this hyperproductivity. But you can never make it through your to-do list, so the endeavor is soulless.
“People have forgotten WHO they are in the context of work. They have forgotten that they can figure out what is in it for them, what they want to create – that is where real meaning comes from.”
Holly is filling in my sentences, tracking along with the mission around creativity and authenticity mission.
When I finally pause, Matt says, “Sounds like important work.”
“And it’s work I’ve been doing for 20 years, I’ve just been doing it for brands instead of people.”
Brian, a slow convert comments, “Now THAT is something you should tell people.”
Carina organizes us to go to the Women’s March. We meet at S&C’s in the morning. Ben and Lenora, fresh off the MLK march with the kids roll in with expertly made signs. Evie has made a sign that says “Girls are future.” I make her hold it up and take a picture with it. We troop with the kids down to the busline. The stop is packed for a Saturday. I chat with a couple from Tacoma who are waiting with their girls. “We’re in her charge,” I say pointing to Carina. “She’s a doctor, but I think her true calling is tourguide.” The woman says, “You know, I don’t know her but I totally trust her,” and we both laugh. It takes only as long as the bus ride to start plying the kids with snacks. Evie comes and takes my hand and we trudge up the hill merging with the swarms of people already congregated.
The hill of the park is a glut of people. There are some amazing signs on display, my favorite of which is “Too much injustice for one fucking sign.” I snap pictures and text back and forth with Z who I’m hoping to run into despite the insanity. The weather is uncertain which side it wants to take. After some minor spitting the sun comes out.
After over an hour we finally make it out of the park and wind through the neighborhood. At an upstairs window a woman has arranged her speakers to point out to the street. She dances with her drink in a plastic cup and occasionally shouts out something that causes the crowd to erupt in cheers. On our side of the street, an older woman waves from a low window.
I wave back and call to her, “Thanks for sharing your sidewalk with us today!” She raises a supportive fist.
There is a moment where we open up onto Jackson, a straightaway down to the water and we can see the masses of people stretched out in front of us. My eyes get teary at this, the throng of humanity there in support of common values.
The highlight is when there is a log jam in the march progress and a disembodied voice on the loud speaker asks for patience. She then points out two eagles floating overhead. “They’ve been following the march!” says the voice. The crowd explodes into cheers.
The next day another pair of eagles is at the lake. One dive-bombs a raft of ducks in the water. The action is so close to the shore it feels like I could wade out into the middle. The eagle flaps its huge wings and dives in to separate the group, resumes a hover and dives in again. The ducks scatter to avoid but remain close. On the third dive some real space is made and the prey is exposed. The eagle swoops in and takes the straggler in its talons and flies out into the lake. Suddenly a second eagle appears. While the first eagle drops the duck and returns to a perch, the second eagle takes over, picking up the duck from the water and dropping it again into the lake, then resting over it almost like a water bird. Finally, the eagle flies off with its catch down the lake and the second eagle follows.
There are three humans standing witness to this beautiful and horrible act. One says, “Wow that was the most brutal thing I’ve seen in a long time.” He’s been filming with his camera.
“I’ve never seen them hunt together,” I remark.
The third human, a runner in a bright green shirt agrees. “Eagles are monogamous, I think,” he says.
I can’t help but think of the march. I feel energized about the future.
Lenora has a close friend who is dying. She is our age. It’s been less than a year since her cancer diagnosis, and it comes downs to this week for the end. My phone buzzes with a series of texts, updates from Lenora on her condition and then the resounding words and emoji hearts sent in support.
By Friday she still has not passed, hanging on despite her dismal vitals. I text Carina to see if they have dinner plans and she says that Lenora and Ben are coming over with the kids. “We’re thinking something boisterous,” says Carina. “You in?”
I am in.
When I get there Lenora is in a multi-colored dress and black tights, in contrast to the bedside vigil she’s been holding. We debate on options: BBQ? Indian?
“I want urban,” states Lenora. “People. Energy.”
We decide to take the light rail to Capitol Hill and take our chances on a dinner place.
The train is busy. As we congregate in the middle and eye our options for seats, a young white guy with a beard comes over and says we may want to avoid one side of the train, there’s a drunk guy spewing language inappropriate for the kids.
We’re not sure what way we’re supposed to go to avoid said distraction so we scatter across the length of the car. I sit in the middle next to Seath. At one point a woman and her husband get on with rolling carts full of groceries and I pull Seath over and motion to her that there are seats for herself and her “friend.”
“We’ll squish up, we’re siblings so we’re OK with it.”
She chuckles gently at “friend.” “Friend. Husband,” she clarifies.
“He looks friendly,” I say with a smile to him. He wont take the seat but she does. She has a kind face that has something soulful to it. Her skin is dark with a purple-ish undertone.
“Gotta have a seat on a Friday,” I say. “Long week.”
Over by Ben and Lenora, voices are raised. Two men are arguing about something. I see Edison and Delilah in a seat together, Edison’s head tilted slightly in confusion, her cheeks splotchy. Ben stands up, a head taller than the man in the aisle. It’s hard to tell what’s happening until one of rabble rousers throws a punch. It’s a slow punch, but a punch nonetheless. The other man retaliates. Ben inserts himself and with the calm of a bouncer and pulls one guy off the other. Seath stands up and heads in. Lenora calls out to the girls to stay in their seat since the aisle is where the fracas is happening.
The train stops and a large man with a white beard and a blue and green blanket wrapped over his shoulders says, “You! Off the train!” Ben shoves him down the aisle and I can see the man is cut under his left eye. Two men in security uniforms board the train and escort both men off. I am relieved they are men of color and calm. A man in a wheelchair boards on the other side and Seath and I have to move. I put my hand on the shoulder of the grocery shopper asking if she’s OK. We move to another bench and sit beside each other. Seath heads up front with Carina and the girls.
“So many people living such hard lives,” I say to the grocery shopper, my eyes filling with tears.
She asks me if the kids are mine and I explain what’s happening, Lenora’s vigil, the boisterous night out. “I don’t think this is exactly what we had in mind,” I joke.
She and her “friend” are new arrivals from Cincinnati. Her husband has been transferred for his job with Delta Airlines. They’re both in Delta sweatshirts. I tell her about my many trips to Minneapolis, and how well I know that Delta flight. She says she likes Seattle but that people aren’t very friendly. “You’re the first friendly person I’ve met,” she says. I tell her my strategy, that I just barrel on through with people.
When she gets up to exit, she asks my name and if I’m on Facebook. I wave them out and then head to sit with Ben and Lenora.
“So sad, how that fight started two years ago when that guy became homeless,” I say. “Or ten years ago.” I’m thinking of the political situation, I’m thinking of the rising homeless rate in Seattle, I’m thinking about the pain and frustration of being an economically-challenged black man in America.
Rocco is distraught because the guy called Lenora a “white-ass bitch.” Lenora in full witty genius tips her head and scrunches up her nose to say, “…Which is kinda true,” and we all erupt in laughter.
Later I think about how the fight served to draw a line between the emotion of before, the emotion of the vigil, and the emotion of now. We are bonded together by the moment. When we exit, Carina is her smiley self except for having to pee. I link with Edison’s arm and ask if she’s OK. “It’s strange to see a fight, isn’t it?” I ask. “Not like the movies at all.”
Though it’s Friday night and we are 9, we’re seated almost immediately at Oddfellows. We order deviled eggs and fries. The kids get blackberry sodas with pink and white striped straws. By the time we’re ready for dessert Rocco and Evie want to get out, so I take them to run on the street and then into the book store. Then we pick up Edison and Delilah and I take them next door for ice cream, leaving the parents to order more drinks and dessert. Ben waves cash at me but I deflect, saying, “Let their auntie buy them ice cream.” It is as much a treat for me as the kids, their excitement and thank you’s filling the night air as we turn the corner.
It is busy in Molly Moon’s with a line to the door. Edison and D stand shoulder to shoulder and talk with their heads turned towards each other, tall and still like adult women. Evie and Rocco race to the little low window that peeks back into the kitchen where the vats of ice cream are being churned. They are still puppies, unable to contain their energy.
Our ice cream scooper’s name is Cheyenne and his apron is tacked with a button that says he/she/they. He has a beautiful long face and square jaw and bare muscular arms that seem somehow at odds with ice cream. He/she/they fills three of the kids’ orders and then say, “Well, that will do!” despite Edison not having ordered. Seeing her confused face he issues a peal of high-pitched laughter and says, “Just kidding!” and takes Edison’s order last.
We take scoops back to the table where the adults are eating flourless chocolate cake and lemon tart. They pass plates to me as if I’ve been in a war zone, deprived of all comfort or sustenance. We walk back through the park and the kids run across the dark field playing a loose form of tag and grabbing parents as base.
The next day, Lenora’s friend dies. Lenora sends a beautiful group text that makes me tear up for her. I have met her friend a few times over the years, the last time at her birthday where she had what I can only describe as an angelic glow as she came into the dark back room of the bar we were at.
My conscious uncoupling with work continues in a swirl of confusion and anxiety. When I come back after the break with a proposal for my exit, Lonnie asks me to stay longer. I feel neutral about this – I’m not on a timeline, and frankly I’m still wrestling with my own fears about leaving.
Plus, I am trying to figure her out. She is a woman of formidable energy and experience. But she is not without her own insecurities. In a moment in front of the agency she talks about creating a protective symbol with her fingers before her speech. I find it interesting that the optics could be read that she is looking to be protected from her own staff. She starts out in a big open space instead of an office but eventually retreats to an appropriated conference room at the far side of the agency removed from the fray. Slowly, I come to terms with the idea that even if I wasn’t leaving, I may be looking for a job.
Our interactions trend towards her lecturing me. At one point she informs me that there are people who are “trained” to moderate focus groups – that we can hire for money. Then she goes on to say that she is so trained, and that I “might be as well,” she didn’t know.
It is a bizarre recounting of the obvious. I find myself confused for a moment, wondering if I’m misunderstanding her, trying in vain to find a message in there. I realize there is no room for collaboration around ideas. She needs an executor of her ideas.
The rest of the day I feel an airless deflation in my chest. I try to breathe deep but it doesn’t help me expand the feeling. It is the darkness, the same darkness I felt on that day before election day.
What is clear is that Lonnie doesn’t get who I am: That I am skilled, good at what I do, and valuable to the agency. It itches like a mosquito bite, throbbing away no matter how much I try not to scratch. In hindsight, however, I think she did get exactly who I am – unsure about her vision of the agency.
Through my break up angst, Maevey texts me an Instagram photo of Barack and Michelle Obama, jet-skiing with Richard Branson at his private island. “Dude, the jet skis. You’re on your way.”
I start to wonder if I can make it the six months she’s suggested.
“It’s really hard if you and the CEO don’t get along,” says my New York equivalent who has stepped into the North America job. “It just makes things impossible.” I can see he is all in, energized and motivated in a way I am not. He spent 5 years out on his own and has a fearlessness about him that I like.
He makes me realize how much I am hanging onto something wrong.
I have a moment where I realize everything is up in the air – my work, the adoption, my future man. A dog! So many placeholders. I tell Suzi I feel like I’m in limbo, but then I realize that the place in between is where everything happens. “Yes,” says Suzi, “The invisible world is so active.”
The next morning I am walking at the lake. It is cool and grey out but I am too lost in my thoughts to worry about the weather. Then I have a thought about myself: that I cannot fit in the box Lonnie is trying to put me in. I am a visionary, not an executor. Immediately I feel my lungs fill up with air. It is an expansion beyond the walls of the agency, beyond the current confines of the role I’ve been playing. It is literally beyond.
And of course, the wide wingspan of an eagle swoops in front of me.
My last few weeks of full-time work my schedule fills in with people wanting to do whiteboarding sessions at work.
Multiple people tell me their sessions “changed their lives.”
Someone sends me a bouquet of flowers in thanks.
I feel more sure of myself. I clean out my desk and head out for vacation before coming back to a new, diminished capacity at the agency.
I transform my painting studio into a whiteboard room at my house. I move my heavy easel with its half finished painting into the laundry room, taking apart the pieces that prevent it from fitting through the door. I buy large easel sheets of paper and cover the wall with them. I take large black bowl from upstairs and fill it with colorful Sharpies like candy. I put a bud vase of flowers, a sand dollar, a sage smudge on the table. People come on Sundays for sessions. Friends from work. My architect. I scribble on the wall.
I do a Mindfulness session for the staff of Make A Wish. When I finish, I think with excited satisfaction, “My work can always feel this way.”
Out of the blue, Juan calls. “I need some advice on work and unfortunately you are one of the smartest people I know.” We catch up on life first. He is living in Venice in a little house with his baby boy and his girlfriend. He shares a nanny with another friend from work. He says “we.”
When he launches into his work problem, it is beautifully mundane. I give him three thoughts, of which he likes two. I don’t hear how it all goes. I note, this is a mirror of my transformation.
There are still ambient doubts that nick. Seath surprises me with a skeptical remark that “Now you’ll just have to see if people will pay for your coaching.”
It is Carina that gives me the biggest gift: “You will really have your dream job,” she says.
Something about these words stick in a way I had never considered before.
In my definition I’d been wandering out on my own into the wilderness, like the book I’d been reading. I’d been seeing the effort of building my own log cabin, hauling water, chopping wood. Instead with these words from Carina, I realized this is the work I want to do. It was not work on the way of something.
It was a new way to live, an alternate existence.
Nurse Karen who has just retired observes, “You’re actually retiring too, retiring from the corporate world.”
The first week I’m in my new, tapered schedule I get a call for a freelance project with my old agency.
I meet Celine, my adoption counselor, at a café to check in. I give her a heads-up about my work transition. For now, I still have consistent employment so don’t need to change anything.
She has some ideas about loosening up on some of the specs for my adoption. Some of the places where I’ve drawn lines on medication might rule out relatively minor things – Ritalin use, e.g. My adoption agency holds seminars on a monthly basis and I tell Celine that I keep trying to attend one but can never make the schedule works. She gives me the next few dates and I put them on my calendar. They are conveniently right by my house.
It is a small group of attendees with a lot of food. There is a crock pot of slow-cooked pork and another of mac n’ cheese, sodas, cookies, fruit. I marvel at the people who have whipped up something for an event at 630 on a Thursday night. I have only managed to bring myself.
We’re supposed to tune into a seminar put on by an adoption and child support organization in Chicago but we can’t get the technology to work. The counselor who is there reminds me of Celine – white, thin, brunette, earthy. There are three couples there besides me. One is foreign – maybe Eastern European of some sort. Another sits by me, which makes me both happy and uncomfortable. She is very excited about the mac n’ cheese and keeps talking about it. The final couple is a slightly jittery, bobbing in their seats. The counselor starts going through the notes she has from the day – there are books and movies that are suggested resources on a variety of topics. The jittery couple chimes in on every section with what they’re reading from that topic area.
At one point I exclaim, “Wow, you guys are serious readers!”
“We’re just nerds,” she says.
I ask them how long they’ve been in the pool. “Only two weeks,” she says.
I have a momentary passing judgement on myself for all the books I haven’t been reading. But then I catch myself and get back on the rails – my way of being in this is to actually BE – to meditate, write – not do. I share this story with Jess, my adoption mentor. She suggests I write letters to Kismet.
It is finally spring, and my yard fills with rabbits. I wonder if this is a fertility sign and watch with amusement as the mother and baby hop around the back yard. I email about a dog that Lacey, my old dog walker has found online. His profile is “house-trained couch potato.” “He looks perfect!” says Nurse Karen. He looks like Tanky. After a week of not hearing back, I call the agency. She says they emailed me back, but the dog is now gone. Not meant to be, I guess.
The week after I put up my website I get an email from someone who has found me on LinkedIn. She is interested in a career shift – moving from accounting into creative strategy. We meet for a coffee.
I am surprised taking her in that she worked in such a staid profession. Mona is young and pretty with fresh red lipstick – agency ready from outward appearance.
When we get talking though, I hear her inner excel spreadsheets come out. I can feel how her creative energy is trapped. She has done some coaching before and we look at the pieces she’s put together – a statement of purpose for her LinkedIn. When I ask her to read it she takes in a big sigh before she starts, like she’s gearing up for something intense.
“Let me just reflect something back to you,” I say. “I’m not sure if you were excited about any of that.”
She starts to defend it, and I ask her, “What’s your favorite part?”
She reads me a single line, buried in the middle of the paragraph.
“I love that,” I tell her. “And you light up when you talk about that line. What’s the rest of this for though, if that line is the only thing you care about?”
I can see her unfolding her thought process, like she’s a crumpled piece of paper that is filling back out it’s tight creases.
I tell her I think her biggest challenge isn’t connecting into more people, or getting more resumes out, it is becoming a creative thinker. I give her an example of what I mean – a call I’d done with another woman, a similar type actually – who wanted to get into more creative strategy. “We talked for 30 minutes and there was no soul in anything she said, even her questions. All I could feel was her duty. Then I asked her to talk about something she loved. She told me this great story about becoming a triathlete. Within the story there was one thing that I thought, “Aha, that’s interesting.” I pulled it out and told her, ‘This is what you need to be more in. Lead with your creativity.’” I can see Mona’s face, her red lips slightly open, but her expression is inscrutable.
Even when she says she’d like to move forward and do a whiteboard session, I can’t feel her interest.
Still, I am excited. I can exactly see how to help her.
Mona inspires me to recreate my studio. I’ve moved out my painting easel and half-finished canvas. I go to City People’s and buy a large jade plant and beautiful pot that I set in the window. I take a bowl of red tulips from upstairs and set it on the table. I order a fluffy white rug and pillows. I smudge the space and meditate downstairs one morning, filling it with positive energy.
The morning of her session I am downstairs, prepping things in the studio. I decide to burn a pine-scented candle in the room. I jog upstairs and pull it down from its niche in the fireplace and there is a white flash as a piece of paper flutters down to the floor. It is a drawing I did as a young child for my grandma Vangie that says “Happy Mother’s Day.” When my grandma was still alive she told me once she wanted me to write her letters and leave them on the mantle when she was dead. When my aunt gave me the drawing, I folded it up and put it up there, as a memory of my grandma.
I stand for a minute holding the paper, knowing that Vangie is there with me. Vangie who raised six kids, who loved the piano and art and Ella Fitzgerald. Vangie who loved red lipstick. I stand in my living room and cry for a few minutes, sad to have lost her, happy to have refound her in this inaugural moment.
Mona comes and we spend two hours on her session. The wall is filled with observations about where she is wants to expand, where she has created limits. When we take our tea mugs upstairs I tell her about my grandma being there. She puts her hand to her heart and says, “I’m so honored.”
I am touched that she gets it.
I’m on a work trip for the freelance project when I finally write my potential baby a letter:
I am caught right now between wanting and trying to be at peace if you never find me. I can see us standing at the window, standing on the deck that hasn’t yet been built. I can see you being held by your adoptive father. He is pointing out to the lake, maybe at one of the many birds that fly over the water. I see your fat dimpled hand and tiny finger point too.
One of the things I’m learning right now is how to be outside the corporate world. I’m tapering down on my job, I’ve taken on some freelance advertising work and have had one coaching client. Of course, the coaching is what I really want to be growing. I’m trying to invite space for it to become. Suzi said once that I was having twins – you and my book, although I could consider my new practice in the same way. I can feel in my heart how great it will be when it’s bigger and taking up all of my work time. The meaningful relationships that are built, the conversations that are shared are filling and not depleting.
The reason this all pertains to you is that I am building freedom into my life. I am trying to attract money. I am doing what I love and what my gift is to the world. And allowing these two things to be – to channel these two things, work and money, is allowing me time with you. I am trying to be in receipt of gifts from the universe, and that includes you.
Even writing this letter I can’t help but cry a little as I type. I feel a pang for you in my heart. I am knowing that all this time that you are not here yet is time for me to be learning something about myself.
I’m trying to hear all the lessons.”
Those balmy early days start to wane into a nagging, low-level anxiety. I feel like I’m constantly scraping together work in order to meet my 20 hour/week obligation at the agency. My new coaching business has stalled out. Mona hasn’t called back, nor have any of my early leads turned into anything. My freelance project starts with a lovefest and dims to a quagmire of frustration and one client saying she doubted my “strategic chops.”
Maevey supportively says, “Oh dude, there is no taking away the Jen magic.”
I have a memory of those days of the Make-A-Wish brainstorm and my first session with Mona, like a long-past vacation where I’m still trying to conjure up the feeling of the sun on my face.
My Friday night is co-opted by my freelance project. I feel deflated by the commentary from the client and the increased body count on the project – more voices, more opinions. I fall asleep watching the new season of House of Cards. I wake up at 3am and it has run through a few episodes and then paused itself. The dark, dastardly plot taints the air in my room. My head aches.
When I finally make it out of bed, there are texts and emails about what needs to happen on the freelance project. I text back that I want to go for a walk and meditate. Then I’ll be ready to get back in the slog.
On my walk I have a low of loneliness. Maevey, my usual go-to is sick with a stomach bug and not answering her phone. It is a grey cool morning, like the weather is still asleep too. I listen to my vision statement over and over.
I start to perk up when I see Carina running toward of me, cheered by the sheer joy of running apparent on her pink face. Roxie grins and wags her tail, also excited by the encounter. Then I get a text from Maeve. It is doom and gloom about her stomach bug, but still I am cheered. I realize the universe is sending me a wink about my support. Later, when I set up shop at a cafe to finish up the work, the slog is gone. I reframe the barrage of comments as a learning opportunity rather than a way to self-flagellate.
I think of one of Poorna’s friends who said to me that getting on stage was easy because everyone in the audience just wants you to succeed. Two girls ride by on pink bikes. One has a handful of large black feathers tied to her bike, as if it were a totem.
I breathe in and try to see this moment through that same lens, stepping onto the stage, the universe wanting me to succeed.
I pull the plug on my freelance project. It’s time for me to move on. We end on a good meeting, flying in on Sunday and meeting on Monday. As an additional boon, my critic on the client side does not attend. Afterwards, we sit at a cheesy bar at the airport, drinking beers and eating fried pickles. It feels anticlimactic as an end, maybe because it isn’t one for them, it only is for me.
My only thought is to go to Portland to see my grandmother.
I arrive just after lunch. When I get there, my parents are with her in the living room. It’s a minty green with a tall glass case of porcelain figurines in one corner. My grandmother is tiny, her cheekbones jutting out of her face and twig legs swimming in green corduroy. Her irises are ringed with blue cataracts. I take her hand and it is cold. She’s not quite coherent today. Barbie says she was just starting to doze after lunch when they got there.
She mumbles along, nearly at a whisper. There’s no thread to follow, so I smooth her white hair back behind her ear and rub her scalp. Her eyes get heavy for a moment. I think about how many days I’ve gone through the last seven years with no hug, no physical contact and then see my grandmother through this same lens – not just now, her back obscured by her wheelchair, but years and years before where she lived on her own, tending a few geraniums and marigolds on her front patio and puttering around her apartment. And the years as a child in Indian boarding school.
She’s still talking a bit with Barbie interjecting here and there. Once in a while some of her signature expressions slip in, an “Oh god!” and a chuckle. I think about Poorna and how it is to see her act – there are trace elements of the person I know, but it’s encased in something altogether different.
I decide to abandon the conversation and fully commit to the massage, standing up behind her wheelchair and seeing her pink scalp peek through her white hair, still thick at the back. At one point I lean down and kiss her cheek over and over like I would a baby and she says, “Oh that feels good” and then, “It burns.” Just like Loli who would let me kiss him, his mouth and floppy ears and then would get up and shake it off.
I meander my way home through the east side of Portland, driving through old neighborhoods and seeing how the city has changed. I’m listening to Fresh Air – Terri Gross is interviewing Sherman Alexi on his new book about growing up on the reservation. At one point he says that his mother never told him she loved him – that he couldn’t think of one time when she hugged him. And now how he showers his own sons with affection.
Then he says he sometimes wishes he could go back and be the parent his mom deserved, an adoring parent, and give her all the love she should have had.
The tears stream down my face as I think of my grandmother, essentially an orphan who was never adored as she should have been. How she passed this down to my father, who was never adored as he should have been.
How like Sherman Alexi, my dad adored his own children.
I have a clear vision of why I am meant to adopt: To heal this cycle within my own family.
It’s like a bleed of color, from lighter to darker to the fullest saturation where the color is complete.
This is why I called my grandmother my soul mate: I am tied to her soul’s journey.
I am sobbing as I drive. It is a particular kind of release, one that evokes another bout of sobbing, the time I drove back from Sedona.
I didn’t know it then, but it was the winter I would decide to move to Seattle. The divorce paperwork had been submitted. I had told my family I wasn’t coming home for the holidays. I booked a beautiful room on a creek with a luxe four poster bed and a fireplace. I thought I would spent my week journaling and doing inner work. Instead, I hiked, I read People magazine in the tub and ate Chinese food.
I drove back to LA on December 26, leaving early in the morning. It had snowed and as I followed the road along a creek to Flagstaff and the trees were dusted white. When I hit the Interstate, the roads were empty, everyone still asleep from their holiday revelling. At a point in the road I could see the straight clear path open, the high desert hills ceding way to the flat road. In that moment I had a flood of ahas about my divorce, truths about myself that were finally ready to come out – how I’d let myself be displaced and devalued. How I was going to be OK without my life before. I was crying so hard I had a pragmatic thought that I should pull over, but the road was silent. It was just me. I remember thinking it was like being reborn, that road was a transition from one world to another, the tears, the clear, inevitable canal leading to my future.
Two weeks later, I found my Seattle house online.
Here, winding through the back roads to my parents house is a parallel moment, the swarm of insight settling into a clear inexorable picture for myself. This is a birth, I think through my tears.
This is a birth.
Two weeks later it is a Tuesday, like any other Tuesday.
I’m at Starbucks writing the blog, writing the very words in the paragraph above -writing “this is a birth” – when I get an email from my adoption counselor.
There is a last-minute placement happening. They are inducing the birth mother today. She needs a yes or no within the hour if I want to be part of the pool for this baby. My heart flutters for a minute.
I’ve gotten other emails of this kind over the last year and a half. A month back I had passed on a similar email. It sat in my inbox for days and just never spoke to me. I had emailed the agency back past the three day deadline and said I was going to pass on it.
But here, my heart flutters.
I text Carina. There are some medical questions I want some advice on if I can get it within the time parameters. The birth mom only just found out she was pregnant, near full term. She reported occasional drinking and cocaine use over the course of the pregnancy.
Though it is Tuesday afternoon, by a stroke of luck, Carina is free. I send her the email and we go through it. “There’s nothing in here that I’m worried about,” she says confidently as Dr. Carina.
Then, as my sister-in-law she says, “Oh my god, what if this is IT?”
We hang up. I email my counselor saying “Yes. IN.” It is 2:22.
I get a text from Carina saying: “Today’s date, all 1’s and 7’s!”
I think, this is a sign. There is no way this is not happening.
This is happening.
C asks if she can tell Seath (of course!) and then she says, “Let’s get some work up on this.”
I text a bunch of people asking them to hold space for this baby.
Among the many responses I get are Amy telling me that she and the girls had done a visioning that past weekend, thinking “it was time for this baby.” Neha reminds me she had a dream with me and a baby that past week. I get hearts and pregnant women emoji’s. Ashley says, “C’mon little Crab!”
I never run into Jill, but I catch her in the Starbucks parking lot, along with her son. I flag her down, an anchor as I settle into the jitters about the email.
When I talk to Maevey she says, “Dude, how are you going to handle the disappointment if it doesn’t happen?”
I think for a second. “I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. Then it wasn’t meant to be,” I say.
The girls are out of town at Barbie and Brian’s house and Seath texts me do I want to join him and Carina for dinner at la Medusa. I do. I’m all buzzy inside and need a drink. I feel calmed by being with my beloved family. We eat pasta. Carina talks for 20 minutes about how cute babies are with hair and she hopes the baby has hair. Seath has to cut her off with an, “OK, OK, that’s enough.” Carina only smiles her twinkly smile.
The next morning I walk at Seward Park. As I leave the trail and exit the park, my grandpa’s car, a 1968 blue El Camino is parked at the mouth of the park. I take a picture and post on Instagram, “Hey Kinnes, Stan is at Seward Park.”
Part of my day is spent at the doctor’s – I have to renew my health certification for the adoption. It’s the last piece – I’ve already redone my fingerprints and other details. My doctor comes in and says, “I felt kind of bad having you come in for a paperwork visit but I was excited to see you!” She is a lovely earthy woman who I’d love to be friends with were she not my doctor. I tell her about the email and that my sister-in-law and I are excited and let’s see what happens.
“You’ll have to let me know,” she says with a smile. She says they’ll fax the form to the agency.
After the appointment, I’m on Beacon Hill so I park myself at Victrola rather than go home. I get an iced chocolate hemp milk and spend 20 minutes on the blog. Then I have a work call at 530. I move my things out front. There are a few cafe tables on the street that I park myself at.
As I’m on my work call, Celine’s name pops up on my phone. For a second I’m confused, thinking I’ve somehow dialed her accidently since the email has been on my mind. They train you to expect a call from an unknown number when you get “the call” so I know it’s not that. I decline the call, and am texting her “Sorry, didn’t mean to call you” when she calls back.
I ask my co-worker to hold a minute and click over.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to call you!” I say to her in a cheery rush, thinking I’ll pop back to my other call.
“No Jen, I’m calling YOU,” she says.
I am in a state of complete confusion. Celine’s tone is neutral. There is nothing to belie that there might be something ecstatic in the information she transmits. In her calm tone says the birth mom wants to meet me. The baby is a boy. Born that afternoon at 2:29.
Later I realize it one day and seven minutes from when I sent my email.
It is one month to the day since I quit my freelance project.
He is seven pounds.
Ones and sevens.
The mother is Mexican, the father is white. She chose me because she connected with a part of my letter that said I was from a big Catholic family. She is also from a big Catholic family. I immediately think of my grandpa’s car. Thank you Stan, thank you thank you.
There are some additional medical things to consider – i should take my time and think about it.
My brain and heart are flooded with exclamation points.
I ask her to hold on – I still have work on the other line. I click over and say, “I can’t talk, they’re calling me about the baby!”
When I click back I say slowly, “Celine, i need you to be really clear with me, are you saying I’m picking up a baby tomorrow?”
“You’d better get a car seat,” answers Celine.
Finally, I can hear her smile.
The rush hour traffic is clogging up the street in front of me. I am reeling with the news and can’t stop crying and laughing at the same time. I definitely am not safe to drive.
Instead, I pile into my car and turn on the air conditioning and call Seath with the news.
“Oh my god,” he says. “Congratulations – hey, I’m just getting on the light rail, I will call you when I get home.”
But when I call Carina next, she is right there with me. We both just laugh and cry and say “Oh my god” and “I can’t believe it” over and over.
I call my parents. I call Suzi and Maevey but neither pick up.
I call Z and she says, “JP, you have a baby!” about a hundred times. Words can’t match the emotion.
While I’m on the phone with Z, I stop and roll down my window to give a man asking for change a $20.
“Wow, really?” he says, registering the amount.
“I just found out I’m adopting a baby tomorrow!” I tell him.
“Now you’ve got me crying,” he says.
“What’s your name? I need boys names,” I ask him.
“Boomer,” he says. And then he corrects, “Thomas Alan, that’s my real name,” as if Boomer weren’t shiny enough for a new baby boy, as if this occasion pulled him back from his street persona to who he really was for just a minute. We both wipe our eyes. He is the first person I tell in person.
When I finally get to Seath and Carina’s, Jill calls as I’m parking. “Can I call you back,” I say, seeing Carina coming out to meet me. “I’m sorry but no!” Jill insists. I have to laugh. I give her the quick story. C meets me in the driveway with teary eyes and a squeeze. I can only sob into her shoulder. Seath meets me with a Paloma. We sit out in the shade of their patio and sip our drinks. There never was a more important time for tequila, to celebrate a brand new Mexican baby boy.
Then we go to Target.
I am lost, standing in the aisles as Carina picks things off the shelf. Seath pushes the two carts and provides comic relief, holding up Boudreaux’s Butt Cream and asking if we need it. We ask a woman to help us with a car seat. We tell her the story and she says she was a labor and delivery nurse for many years.
“Now I’m crying!” she says, and rubs my arm. Her last name is Love.
On the way back I am telling S&C that one of the reasons the birth mom picked me is that we come from a big Catholic family. “That’s why I saw Stan’s car, he’s the Catholic patriarch.” Then I muse, “Now I just need a sign from Vange.”
We eat Vietnamese at our normal place but to add to my existential confusion, it’s been taken over by new owners and had a paint job. The ordinary now looks completely different.
We eat egg rolls and discuss the middle name. I had been wanting a name in honor of my grandmother, the orphan, my soul mate, and was thinking of Turner, her father’s last name. When we text Barbie, she comes back with another option: Cutter. “Turner was her father’s last name but she didn’t take it until she was 18. And she’s kind of mad at the Turners right now,” comments Barbie. Cutter was my grandmother’s mother’s last name.
“Even better,” I text Barbie. A name from when a little Indian girl named Priscilla was still adored.
Thursday morning, I wake in the liminal grey of pre-dawn and head down to the lake. I haven’t gotten much sleep. It feels calming to be out in the fresh air and quiet. At one point a log on a small pebbly beach catches my eye. It looks remarkably like an owl. I walk past it, then turn back, wanting to get a better look.
The log is an owl. She is sitting in the shallows, preening her feathers. I stand and marvel. I’ve never seen an owl at Seward Park, and certainly not one sitting in water. After a moment the owl extends her wings and floats up into a tree overlooking the inlet.
I know this is my grandma Vangie, giving me my sign.
It isn’t until Kismet is seven weeks old when I realize my grandmother also gave me a sign. Months ago, maybe even a few years ago she told me she was adopting a little Mexican boy.
Of course, it was obscured by the Pope adopting President Obama as well. But there it was, the diamond. The sign.
At 730 Thursday morning, Seath drives me to the hospital. I have a bag for an overnight stay. A friend calls as we’re on the road. She hasn’t seen the post on social media and bursts into tears when I tell her where I’m headed. “When you’re settled, call me back about a work thing,” she says. I note the universe sending me flares even now that it’s all going to be fine, that work will work out.
Seath and I sit in a lobby with a view of a meagre garden. It is a grey day and cool, meant for staying inside and cuddling a new baby. Celine pops out to say she’s waiting on the mobile notary for the paperwork. Did we have any questions.
“Does he have hair?” I ask, thinking of Carina.
“He does have hair,” says Celine measuredly, not in on the joke.
“You’d better text Carina,” I tell Seath.
“Let’s not start all that,” says Seath with a mock eye roll.
Earlier, Celine had told me the birth mom didn’t want to see the baby or even know its gender. But that morning she’d changed her mind and spent time with him, telling Celine, “I just thought of all the people I never had closure with.”
“Um, that’s kind of amazing,” I say to Celine.
Finally, the mobile notary has come and gone. I follow Celine down the hallway to meet the birth mom.
I am flustered with what to say and make an inane comment about how beautiful it is that all the grandkids in our family are part Mexican. Then, thank you thank you thank you.
She is brown, with big almond eyes and black hair with subtle blonde highlights. She’s wearing a black spaghetti strap top and white jean shorts. She does not look like she’s just had a baby.
“You’re so beautiful,” I tell her. “You look like you’re just missing your cocktail.”
“Trust me, I cannot wait,” she replies.
It is not a conversation exactly, more of an exchange of questions. At first I offer stories about me and my family, but i realize she isn’t interested in bonding. So i change my tactic and ask her questions for the baby: what was her favorite food (mac n’ cheese – truly anything with cheese. By contrast, birth dad apparently hates cheese); what was her favorite children’s book (The Giving Tree, Ferdinand).
She tells me the thing that stood out for her in my letter was that I was from a big Catholic family. I have a slight cringe when I tell her, “Just so you know, I’m not really Catholic. I’m not even baptized.” I don’t want to enter into this relationship with any false pretensions. She says not to worry, it was just something that stood out, she’s also from a big Catholic family. Her mother is one of 12.
At one point Celine steps out of the room and birth mom says to me, “It just didn’t feel like time to start a family.” Her eyes are teary. She had just moved to Seattle a few years ago from California. She’d just been abroad for the first time in her life. Piecing the story together, I can see why she’d chosen me.
I give her what I have to give: “You know, society has all these ideas about how women should live their lives, but don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something before its time. If this is something you want, you will have time. You have made me proof of this.”
We are both sniff and stare at each other.
There is a point where she says, “Well, you must be wanting to meet the baby.”
We chat for a few more minutes, then we both stand up to give each other a hug. She is unexpectedly tiny.
Then, the room. Carina has arrived, and she and Seath and I fidgit waiting for the baby to arrive. Eventually Seath has to leave for an interview at work. I sit on the hospital bed, not sick, but in a strange way the only place I’m supposed to sit somehow. As I adjust it, I think of Evie and her momentary joy and that “big bed” she had during her hospital stay.
Then, sound in the empty corridor.
A cart with a transparent box on the top of it, like a terrarium enters the room.
A black head of hair.
Like his birth mother, he is unexpectedly tiny.
I can only delicately pick him up and say “Ooooh oooh sweet baby” and cry.
He opens his tiny animal eyes. When he looks at me I’m struck: this tiny being, who I’ve been trying to connect to for years on a spiritual plane, is a real-life complete stranger.
Carina is doing her best to capture the moment on camera but keeps saying, “I’m not a very good picture-taker!”
Auntie Carina, the midwife takes him and it is almost a relief to see his tiny body in her capable hands. She is used to meeting tiny strangers. She unwraps him from his swaddling and looks him over.
Like Lolo, he has faint black fuzz on his ears and a cold nose.
To go with the black head of hair he has tiny dark eyebrows and a pronounced nose. An Aztec face.
Celine comes in to confirm the name: Kismet Cutter.
“Some feminine power in that name,” I say. “Just like his coming into the world, all that female intuition.”
Seath comes back with champagne and snacks and a big grin on his face. When he holds Kismet, the baby gets the hiccups. “Your mom may have given you your first bottle, but I gave you the hiccups,” he says.
We three sit and marvel at new life.
After Seath and Carina leave, we are alone for the first time. I say to Kismet, “Thank you for choosing me, thank you, thank you little baby.”
A tinny cry.
The tiny stranger is someone who needs a bottle.
The next three days are a steady stream of bottles, diapers, nurses and visitors. My parents finally arrive. I can hear them coming down the hall and pop out to meet them and burst into tears. Brian tells the nurse, “She always cries,” and launches into how I cried when I picked them up at Heathrow when they visited me in London. Lenora later remarks, “Well, you did compress 9 months of emotion into two days!” and I feel thankful someone doesn’t see my tears as a deficiency to be explained, just a natural result of the big emotion of the day.
The next morning, the ward is quiet and they’ve closed the nursery so the only way I can step outside is to leave baby Kismet with the nurses if they have time. I wheel him down the warren-like halls and park him behind the desk. I tell them I’ll be back in 15 minutes.
After two days inside, outside is even more magical. The hospital campus is filled with trees. I find a fountain and sit beside it for a few minutes. As I walk back to the room i call Suzi. The call goes to voicemail and as I leave the message I am flooded with emotion.
I tell her, “I am blown away by the universe.” I can’t get over the synchronicities. I can’t get over being chosen.
Back at the nurses’ station a short-haired nurse is holding Kismet. Another says to me, “She was having a bad day so I told her to hold the baby.”
“You want him back?” Bad Day asks.
“No, no, you enjoy,” I say.
They ask me about how I’m doing and I tell them how I’m still blown away by the magic of the whole thing. I recount the story – the ones and sevens, the owl, the El Camino. By the time I’m done, there are six or seven nurses and doctors standing around, rapt with attention, tears in their eyes.
“Kismet, how perfect,” says a nurse, wiping her eyes.
Later, Jill tells me, “I think we all just needed a little bit of that magic, don’t you?”
When I get back to my room, a few visitors show up and Suzi calls back.
“I won’t keep you, but I have to tell you about getting your voicemail.”
She’d been at brunch with her spiritual mentor, Reverend Michael, oft quoted in our sessions and founder of an influential non-denominational church in LA. Suzi had been telling him and the rest of the party the story of the adoption, how it all fell together.
“‘And she named him Kismet?’ said Reverend Michael. And then he led a blessing for Kismet with us at the table, and it was right when you called!”
Carina has been gently wrestling with the attending doctor to see about and early release of Baby K. Instead of staying one night, I’m now supposed to stay three. She has determined he needs to be in the hospital because of the drug exposure during the pregnancy. If there were any addiction signs they would have shown up within 96 hours.
The doctor is intransigent until the very end, Sunday morning when she makes an effort to come in early and set us free. K is free of any withdrawal symptoms. Seath and Carina and the girls come to pick us up. Kismet is wearing a onsie that Carina picked out that says, “Hi, I’m new here.” The sleeves hang off his tiny hands. The nurse who discharges us is Bad Day. I give her a huge hug.
While Carina drives their car home, Seath and the girls and I pile in my car with Seath driving. Evie wants to sit in back right next to Kismet.
“What should his first song be?” I ask the car. “I feel like it should be a Beatles song.”
Seath and I grew up on the Beatles. We knew every word to every song. Brian had controversially insisted that since the Beatles there had been no good music. They had hours of Beatles on reel to reel. For that fleeting perfect summer when I lived with Seath and Carina, Seath would play the guitar and Edison and I would sing Beatle songs as part of our family band practice.
Edison’s bright face pops around the corner of the front seat to suggest “Here Comes The Sun.”
I pull it up on my phone.
We all start to sing but I can’t hold the words. Instead I sob and sob. Little Evie, her eyes big, reaches out and squeezes my hand. I squeeze hers back for the remainder of the song.
“This is a pretty special moment,” says Seath, reaching back to pat my knee.
Sun sun sun
Here it comes.
Sun sun sun
Here it comes.