Thursday morning I didn’t have the car. The kids had driven it to school, and because I was leaving for the weekend, I wanted to do the shop. I took the cart Richard got me at a yard sale, much bigger than the one I was forced to buy on one of my first outings to the then new Stop and Shop, since I couldn’t carry home the groceries in my cart without one.

Walking up the hill, I came across a couch in front of a former day care family’s house. The couch looked just like the ones we have in our living room and tv room, not too big to fit in the upstairs of our tight stair cased, small roomed home. It was in fine shape, brown velvety microfiber, plump cushions, no tears or significant wear. Using my shopping cart, I wheeled the cushions home, no clear plan how I’d get the frame down the street.

As I was wondering a truck arrived in front of a neighbors house to deliver furniture. I wondered if the movers would loan me one of their rolling carts. They were happy to do that. As they moved furniture into the home using the other two from their truck. I wheeled the couch down the center of the street to the sidewalk beside the porch, making sure the wagon and carriage for the day care kids were out front as I was blocking the storage area under the porch.

That afternoon I e-mailed the day care family to see if they could find out from their tenants what was up with the couch. Good news! It was free of any critters or stains, and it had come to it’s owner and to me free. He had gotten it on a deal from Jordan Furniture which promised his purchase would be free if the Red Sox won the series. As he said, they did and I did!

Jen and I tried to drag it upstairs Thursday night, but it was more than we could do. We rearranged the day care front room and parked it there for the kids to explore on Friday. Jen tested it out and it was comfy. She connected me with the mover who came on Sunday to get it upstairs.

Sunday afternoon between a wreath making party with my daughter and a class at Cambridge Friends Meeting I found myself beginning what has been two days of moving the house around. First I moved all kinds of stuff out of the living room to make room for the couch. Then movers hauled the couch up over the back porch while I hauled stuff to the curb, an old AC from under the porch, bins of yard waste from the tree limbs the wildlife removal guy trimmed Wednesday afternoon, trash, recycling, a small table from under the porch. They hauled the old blue couch to the curb, but this morning when it was raining I dragged it back under the porch, hating to think of it going into the mouth of the trash truck and to the landfill if someone might still love it. I stripped the slipcover off it and that is in the drier now. The seat cushion is drying in the bathroom and the frame is under the porch. If you know of a place that takes used furniture and has home pickup, let me know.

All day today I’ve been in moving mode. I moved more furniture around the house than I have in years. I cleaned cupboards, a closet, and drawers. The house painter came to add a layer of joint compound to the patches he’s put on the ceiling to cover the holes left by the electricians when they removed our old fixtures. He’ll be back on Wednesday to paint the kitchen ceiling, so I’m clearing off the kitchen counters and shelves and fridge in anticipation.

While I was doing all that I found a leaky can of furniture restorer for oak, and a ton of furniture polish. Interspersed with moving and cleaning and decluttering, I polished furniture, lots of it, shelves, bureaus, tables, chairs, a desk and file cabinet, windows and sills. Everything got a coating of Howard’s wax and feed, a polish I’ve had for years and used once upon a time to restore shine and good health to our many wooden surfaces.

It’s after midnight. the house is dark except for candles I’ve lit in the cleared off windowsills in glass votive jars. One of my jobs was cleaning out the candle drawer. Another was clearing the kitchen windowsill. While I was doing that, removed the screens as my friend who hosted the wreath party had done. I’m hoping in the morning the light will shine in more brightly than it has in years.

Through all the moving, cleaning, and clearing, polishing and rearranging, I felt happy. For the last many years, taking care of this house has been a loaded proposition. It’s been hard to find the time and energy. Now I”m working only one job and working less and my kids are growing up, I’m finding time to take care of my house. It was hard to take of the house when my marriage was falling apart and after our separation and divorce. Emotions interfered. Now I feel clear. That stage of life is behind me. I’ve found a new love, and a new strength. I’m feeling less like a weak woman, less overwhelmed at the enormity of taking care of my home along, more competent and energized that I can do it.

I may not have the bucks to redo my kitchen, but I’ve got a closet full of old polishes to shine the kitchen table and I can clear off the windowsill over the sink, remove the screens, shine the glass and the wood, clear off the plants and knick knacks, and put a candle in each of the three window sections, reminiscent this evening of the plug in candles my mom used to put in our windows for the winter holidays when I was a kid. The dark calls for freshening up home, for battening down the hatches, for inviting in the light, whether sunshine during the day or candle and lamp light at night.

I put the plants from the windowsill in my son’s room. Many of them were gifts from him, succulent loving guy that he is. I like having some life in his room. I also put three lamps there, shined the furniture, am leaving the doors open, adding his room to the living space we can all enjoy.

I took more of the after school stuff out of the dining room. There are still some children’s books that need to be culled from the shelves, but the big shelf of toys is gone, the art supplies are sorted, and the board games are in the newly cleared hall closet, sewing stuff that used to be there going upstairs to the newly cleared table there, in hopes I’ll get back go sewing this winter.

I moved the keyboard and it’s stand from the living room to the dining room to make room for the couch. I hung a Matisse print over it, and even sat down twice to play. This time I played scales and notes that pleased me, no song book or memorized music. I’m hoping gradually I’ll play music or sing again. It’s been a long time.

It’s bedtime but I’ve had a lot of coffee late in the day and I’m a little wound up from all the project work. Thursday morning I’m also off and I’m hoping to take on the upstairs again, sorting and clearing until the place is livable for guests, who may arrive in the next few weeks and need a place to sleep that isn’t full of boxes and children’s ancient art. Wish me luck in maintaining momentum.

My son crashed his dad’s car Friday night. I’ve loaned him mine for the week. Out of something bad came something good. He gets the car and I get more time at home. Rather than heading back to Northampton last night or running errands in the car today, I got the couch moved and ended up moving a whole lot more. When I woke up I thought I needed a vision of where I was headed before I could begin. Partway through the day I realized I often work best by following my energy, seeing what comes next step-by-step. That’s a good thing to know about myself. It makes it easier to take a lazy day when I need it and to use my energy for the things that call it rather than sticking to a plan.

T

Richard is here in my kitchen, just back from a movie, smiling and laughing. Life moves in the most mysterious of ways, sometimes into hard places, sometimes out.

This morning I’m at home. My kids are with their dad this week. My man has flown the coop. The projects I’m trying to tackle all seem to involve preparing for winter.

At 9:15, the man from the storm window company came to do the final measurements before placing my order. He noticed how quiet the day care was down below, allowing me to share with him that even small people can be calm and quiet when they are treated well and feeling right.

I’ve lined up gutter cleaning before the snow falls, called the painting company about estimates for the spring. I’m too late for AAA Sparkling to clean our windows this year. They are full and are looking ahead to next year. I’ll look to another company or live another winter with dust clouded windows, light more candles, turn on more lamps.

The electrical work in the kitchen is making me very happy. The electrician came last week to install the fixture over the kitchen table and it glows. That and the recessed lights over the counter and refrigerator are on dimmer switches, which I love. I’ve put candles on the table and the windowsills today, flickering flames reminding me I’m not alone.

I’ve gone back to the world of online dating, another winter preparation, in hopes of shared meals and walks and conversations, some dreaming in the dark. It’s hard to imagine holidays and weekends on my own, especially when my kids are with their dad. I wonder if this round may not go so well. I’m feeling protective of my time, selective in how I want to use my energy. So far, no one feels quite right even for a chat or coffee, but we’ll see. I hesitate to share this here, as it may be too private, and as a part of me hasn’t given up hope that life can continue on with Richard, but here it is, my secret self, posted for the world.

The Quaker Meeting is working for me, too. A community of kind people and good deeds, conversation and connection, interspersed with quiet and reflection suites my life right now.

My house is getting a bit of a take down. I’m sorting piles that have nagged me too long. I’m giving away things I had forgotten or no longer need or use. My daughter is helping me to sort the toys, now all three kids are grown. As I make space, I find I have the energy to imagine caring for what I’ve got, installing storm windows, keeping and gradually repairing and repainting the old windows, shining my kitchen table with mineral oil once it’s cleared, restoring the glow of wood, making space in the cupboards so putting things away isn’t such a chore. I have a long way to go on the road to an ideal of Quaker simplicity, but I’m starting and it feels good.

I have been sorting out how to manage a breakup. What I want is to live a life of meaning and happiness and joy, of connection and conversation, mutual kindness and support. I’m trying to figure that out. It’s a big experiment, life and living, every single day.

Here is a lovely poem from Writers’ Almanac that spoke to me this morning. Ah, the mystery of life.
LISTEN
In November
by Lisel Mueller

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

“In November” by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

And here’s Joni, singing Both Sides Now, in case a song is more your taste:

This weekend I did a whirlwind tour of New England. My younger son was here for Halloween to greet the trick or treaters and share a meal. Then he was off for teenage fun and I was in the house alone, first time in awhile, which I needed a great deal.

Saturday morning I woke up early inspired to bake. From 6:30 to 9 I made cake for my sister’s birthday and chocolate chip cookies for my older son’s team.

Then I was on the road, nearly three hours to my son’s game at Yale, where I stood in the rain surrounded by the vigor of young men on the ultimate frisbee teams. Rain and cold didn’t keep us from having fun.

After three games, they were off to showers and dinner and I was off to sit by the fire with my good friends in Rhode Island, to conversation over dinner in a local restaurant til after nine.

Then on to Cape Cod, where I found my sister and my nephew by another fire, sat there with my sister and her husband when he got home til near one, glad for daylight savings time coming the next morning.

I slept in their basement guest room, cozy and well kept, woke early to the bustle of boys and men upstairs getting ready for more sports. My sister and I had coffee, talked. Two nephews and I sang her Happy Birthday, then we ate cake and I was on the road again.

This time I was headed for Cambridge Friends Meeting, where there was an afternoon session exploring the question, “Do you believe in Jesus?” which is something I’ve been wondering on a long time.

Then home for some food, a call, napping and reading a new book I found at Meeting, recommended by a woman who introduced herself to me, noticing she’d seen me around. Little by little, I’m becoming familiar.

The Friends Meeting House bustles.

Sunday evening I returned to join a large group learning about Quaker Fundamentals, first time in a long time I’ve been to a class where I was asked to listen, where so much material was new. Near the end we met in small groups to talk about what had brought us to Quakerism. A woman I’d come to wonder on for her wisdom in Meeting for Worship, who had chosen a seat beside me in the large group circle, talked about her experience being born to a mother who had recently discovered the Quakers, and about her childhood attending Meeting from about the age of seven, preferring it to the more traditional child’s world of First Day School. I loved this image and wondered aloud to her before we left that evening what sort of young girls she must have been.

Yesterday I put my house in order. I did the shop, washed the dishes and the laundry, tidied the house, sorted through piles of mail and loads of junk on the third floor, replaced a torn shade, all the small things that make a life more livable, in gratitude for the weekday at home to do them. I lit candles, alternated between listening to music and preferring silence, took breaks to rest and to read, again the book from Meeting, Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity. It was what I needed.

For the evening I chose to return to Cambridge Friends, this time for a meeting about a new initiative in Boston, a planned opening next summer of a group house for Quaker Voluntary Service. It was the first committee style meeting I’ve attended at Friends, first committee I’ve considered joining in awhile. I’m still considering, feeling protective of my time and energy, wanting to make sure I use both wisely, don’t wear myself out, make promises I can’t keep, walk too far along a path not meant for me..

Properly fed, I could be centered in the day care today. I started the day with the junk bins from upstairs and down, in search of batteries for some music block toys I had found on the third floor and wanted to share with the kids. In the junk bins, I fond only two C batteries, not enough for the toys. I organized lots of other things, extension chords, three prong adapters I hardly need with all the updated electrical outlets in the house, batteries in lots of other sizes, fuses, and many flash lights.

This made the kids curious, and happy. They love to explore junk, to handle real things, to talk about the mystery of electricity. In the sorting, I found exactly ten flashlights, one for each kid, got all but the two requiring C batteries to work. Then we had a flashlight meeting. We learned how to turn each one on and off. We learned how to shut them off when we’re done, how to handle them gently, how not to shine them into eyes. Some use batteries, one is rechargeable from a wall outlet, three hand crank. Then the kids tried each one, and some looked under couches to explore the dark. Later when it’s near dark we’ll enjoy the flashlights in the yard, something Anne suggested in anticipation of Daylight Savings Time.

Entering the darkness of fall and winter, I wonder how my future will unfold. I’m thinking a lot about snow and shoveling, wonder how I’ll cope this year. I’m on my own again, after a long while of being attached, and that is another unknown. The dark and cold has me in an introspective, get my own house in order kind of place. After years procrastinating about clearing out my house, stopping and starting, I’ve found the energy to begin again.

Yesterday I found not only the music blocks in the third floor piles, but a collection of photo albums on my son’s shelf. The children were small and lovely. We were two parents doing what parents do, visiting grandparents, celebrating holidays and birthdays, admiring our children tossing rocks in the creek, sitting around a fire, cuddling with their cousins. None of us had a clue how the last six years would unfold, how our lives would be ripped apart and put together, how the kids would grow up to be so fine. Here we are, all growing stronger, even as we are unsure of what comes next.

Been wishing to write here, but my heart has been awfully heavy, and the aching feels too private for the blog. For now, here’s a song I’ve been craving, even tried to teach my young ones today, who must know things aren’t right. We tried to sing along with my phone, but it was too hard. Instead, we sang You Are My Sunshine, for which we know the tune, first along with Elizabeth Mitchell and then with Johnny Cash. Misery loves company, and these songs know the deal.

I’m hoping to be back in the swing sometime soon, for now will sort out my thoughts in other ways. Enjoy the tune.

Laura Cortese singing Train on the Island with her band of four. Richard and I saw them play at The Parlor Room, saw Laura Cortese with another band or two. This morning at breakfast the  kids loved watching and listening to her and her team play and sing on my iPhone. Life won’t be the same without my true love and listening to music at The Parlor Room.

Here are a link to a profile of Laura Cortese talking about the song and a you tube video of her playing it with the group. Lovely images and performance. The song is moving me today in many ways.

http://www.hearthmusic.com/blog/inside-the-songs-laura-cortese-moves-way-beyond-the-fiddle.html

Yesterday I met with a realtor to help me understand the value of my house, to consider work I might do on it, and options going forward in this real estate market. I was on my own for the evening, and spent much of it getting my books in order, entering data from checking and credit card accounts to help me know where I stand in terms of cash balances and flow. I pay my bills when they come in, deposit the checks as they arrive. The money comes and goes. I pass out cash to my kids for allowance, gas, spending money, clothes. We don’t live high on the hog, but we have what we need to get by.

Nearly six years since I realized I was going to be a single woman, I still am. Finances are a big deal. They were a big deal when I considered splitting up with my ex and they’ve been a big deal ever since as I’ve relied more on myself than I have since grad school, when I didn’t have kids or a home or a business to take care of or employees counting on me for wages. Six years later, I’ve kept the business alive, put shoes on my kids’ feet, sent one boy off to college, paid private school tuition for all three. We’ve had some meals out, travelled a bit, made small improvements to the house, here and there, painted half of it, or more like a third, added a few storm windows, repaired old windows, added two new ones in the basement, in anticipation of a renovation that never happened. Our appliances are old..twenty to forty years for fridges, stoves, dishwasher, washer and dryer. The furnaces are oil, nearly twenty years old. The water heater is tankless, now almost ten years old. The electrical is improving slowly, still needs work. Same with the plumbing and the fixtures, new faucets, newer toilets, old tubs and tile in both lower baths, new vanities in those baths, old kitchen cabinets with wobbly hinges and drawers, layers of paint to disguise the old fashioned fake brown underneath, contact paper to cheer up the inside view.

So, I’m looking at this house, worth more money than I’d like to know, and I’m looking at my bank balances, my budget and my projections for the future, and I’m wondering if and how things will play out. Can we do the kitchens and the baths, take down a wall or two, finally do something with the mud pit, weed-filled driveway, finish adding storms and/or replacement windows, convert the furnace to gas, remove the remaining wallpaper and paneling, repaint, with the day care showing wear from lots of kids down there and the upstairs needing painting, with most of it fourteen to twenty years old, take up the last of the linoleum in the day care kitchens, freshen the place up?

This year I borrowed money to buy a new car, after spending thousands on my old van to keep it running. I hadn’t expected to do that. I thought for years I’d never have a new car, that I’d always drive a junker, because saving enough cash was out of reach. The loan made it happen. My credit is good, the car is great, the payments are manageable enough, and my college boy gets an old minivan to drive until it dies.

I could sell this gold mine of a house. A developer could buy it and snazzy it up, sell it for much more. An investor could buy it and rent it to lots of working stiffs, more or less as is. A wealthier person could buy it and invest the money to make it the place they’d like it to be, converting it to a single family or renting the half they choose. I could move out and move on, look for a smaller place nearby in better shape, with new kitchens and baths, a tidy yard and drive, gas heat, but the chances of me finding a place like that where the day care and my kids and I would thrive feels very, very slim. It’s not a buyers’ market, and so not only would I need to scramble to get my house cleaned out to sell and move, I’d need to be in a competitive place to get a home nearby in time to make a move for my family and the day care, not something I can easily do.

The value of this real estate is scary. It’s great to own a place worth this much. It’s also a weird dilemma, to live in a place I couldn’t afford to buy, ever, if I were starting out now, and which I could rent out for much more than I could afford to pay if I were renting. The work I do is so poorly paid in so many places that if I were to move, I don’t know what kind of living I would make. Folks in this part of the world pay so much for child care that I can afford to live above the poverty line. If I moved to a place where housing was cheaper I’m not so sure that would be true. And I’ve got teens and one car. They need to drive to school and I need not to be trapped at home when they have the car. If I moved to a place where we didn’t have access to public transportation or nearby shops and friends, that scheme might not work.  Plus, my day care families walk and bike and take the bus and t to get to us, and many of them have only one car. If I moved away from my neighborhood, I don’t know if they would follow. Plus, I love where we are and the parks we visit. I’ve know the other providers in the neighborhood nineteen years. I’ve followed their lives and they’ve followed mine. Friends like that are a gold mine, too.

So, I think I’m here..but it’s a lot to sort out. I’m glad to have quiet this weekend to get the numbers in order, to talk with the realtor, to exchange e-mails with my accountant, to give the mortgage brokers a call, to think, and tomorrow to meet with a contractor to get his sense of things.

The good thing is my house is solid. The appliances work, if the fridge is roaring at me now and the dishwasher will be soon, and the stove knobs are mostly missing and the old laundry machines are in the grubby basement down three flights of stairs from the bedrooms. We have a squirrel in the attic, trees overhanging the roof from my neighbor’s yard which need to be cut back, untrimmed hedges, and snow coming before long..I’m one person, with two teens who are here part time, and helpers in the day care, but it’s a lot. Some days I think I can do it. Some days not. Don’t ask me which is today. I’m still deciding, numbers, heart, head, doing their best to help me out. I’m off to Quaker Meeting as soon as the banana bread is out of the oven. I’m hoping that, too, will help.

Yesterday as we walked to and from the park on a day which was unseasonably warm due to the hurricane off the coast, we talked for the second day about the weather. One three said, “I looked out the window this morning and the weather tomorrow is going to be very rainy.”

Another three replied, grinning widely, “Yes, and we will wear our rain boots, our rain pants, and our rain coats!”

Before long, another three exclaimed, “I wish it was winter!”

A woman alone with a long driveway and many feet of sidewalk to shovel, this had not been my wish. “What will you do when winter comes?” I asked.

“Make one hundred snowballs!” exclaimed the three with the winter wish.

“Yeah! We will make snow men!” called the fourth three with glee.

“We can make snow people, and balls and throw them!” chanted the group.

“Yes, we can make all kinds of things out of snow,” mused my three who started this conversation. “We can even make…snow mushrooms!” And this girl, these children remind me that yes, each day this world is born anew.

***

This morning I wake up in the quiet house, two of my three children sleeping here. The light outside my windows is an orange I am not sure I’ve ever seen. i wonder if its the hurricane making that light, check the weather, see indeed it will be a rainy day, worry about my son and daughter driving through he worst of it, think of my other son and his gal, parted ways yesterday, and the hard day they must both be having. In the Writers’ Almanac, there is a poem about prayer, and I’ve been thinking about prayer, again, since my beau and I’ve been struggling all this past month, and worked it over in my mind all this past weekend, throughout my Silent Retreat for Quaker Women, through the night I thought my love and I were bound to part. So this  morning, I feel differently about those in the women’s circle and in the weekly Sharing Circle I attend every other week at best, who offer prayers when the suffering is deep, when a hard decision looms, when a baby is born. I imagine doing the same myself, thinking I could offer a “prayer” rather than “good thoughts.” We’ll see.

This same morning, when I check my phone for the poem, I try to update my apps, as my battery is low, and I think that might help. Instead I end up with a Pandora channel singing to me, first Halllujah by Kd Lang, then something else that feels modestly religious, and I wonder on the word divinity, offered to me several years ago at retreat, as a way back in, I think, when god and religion and most words with spiritual meaning felt loaded, off-putting, not for me. Divinity I could wonder on. Mystery, too. Grace. Transcendence. Spirit. Even Soul, to some extent. There I found the surprise of childhood prayers coming back to me as I walked the paths, rhythm of the prayers in sync with my own steps, with my breathing, with my heartbeat. I spent time in a small hand built chapel, wondering on the meaning of the cross, found the heart shaped stones left there, the heart shaped hole in the acorn on the path more relatable, but still, the cross was everywhere, challenging.

******

Later yesterday on our walk home, the children held out their arms and began to wonder if they would get a sunburn because their parents had not applied sunscreen to their delicate skin. One child who told us her parents had put the sunscreen on walked in confidence. I realized aloud that we were in that same spot where the sun strikes our arms so strongly when this conversation happened the day before, walking home from the park, around the corner from the tree shaded lot where we play, beside the tall cement buildings which are home to the elderly and disabled people who bless us each day as we pass. On the other side of that same building is where the children remembered winter. i realize now as I write that in winter that side is where we always pause to put on the extra clothes, the wind and cold there is so strong. Winter side and summer side of that building never struck me so clearly as now. The children are sensors. I was once reminded that they are windows to the divine. something like that. The wonder of them does amaze.

******

After talking about the sunscreen, my small three said she was going to invite me and her other small three friend to her birthday party. It is dawning on me in stages that these people who I’ve known since they were one or two will soon be four, and that is a different place, four, where most of us begin the lives we can remember. But for now they are three, and talking so much more than last year, and I’m invited to the birthday party, where, my three tells me we will make apple dolls, and her family will save them to dry for one or two days, then give them to us to keep at home. My other three, who was also invited, says, “Yeah, because we love Maria” and I think about the other three who asked me why I didn’t come to her birthday party, who told me she would have liked the teachers to be there. A compliment and a burden to be thought of that way.

At forty seven, with teenage kids and a long distance beau, and a whole adult life to live outside my day care life I rarely accept the invitation to a child’s or a family’s party. Its not that I don’t feel welcome, but that I feel I have permission not to go.

*****

The same three who told me gleefully they would all wear their rain gear and who asked me why I didn’t come to her birthday party also asked me, early yesterday morning over breakfast, “Maria, why it isn’t it a Richard day?”

We were sitting in the kitchen, in the same place where last week, over lunch, my four turned to me out of the blue and asked, “Maria, do you have a partner?”

These kids know how to make me stop and think. I answer the best I can. “Richard has a home in Northampton” “I don’t know if I have a partner. I guess Richard. Who is your mom’s partner?”

The conversations move on quickly. “Today is Wednesday. Wednesday is a T— day. My sister comes for after school today.” “C– is my mom’s partner.” C— is his dad.

***

Friday afternoon my new three told me she has two moms. “So do my kids, sort of,” I replied. “They have me and a stepmom.”

“What?” she wanted to know.

“They live here with me and also with their dad and stepmom in another house.”

“Why?” she wanted to know. Harder question.

“That is the way our family is.” and she was happy enough with that, though puzzled if I had to guess. Turns out divorce and remarriage is less on the radar of these kids than two mom families.

Later, as I was helping her with her shoes, this same girl asked why it was Z–‘s day that day. “Its a Friday,” I replied. “That’s a Z– day.” and I realized they had connected that day, Friday being their only overlapping day. She had fallen at the park and needed a cuddle, was crying in my lap on the bench when he came over to talk.

“Why doesn’t she talk?” he had asked me.

“Oh, she does,” I replied. “Once you get to know her you’ll see.”

Then we had talked quite a bit. She had stopped crying and soon they went off to play.

It is a surprising window into their little selves, into their little souls, if I may, when they begin to talk.

My new one has begun to say my name. “Ria” I carry her on my hip to check the pasta on the stove, talk to her about our meals, ask her what she likes, cut her apples when she says, “Cut it up!”, offer her pieces as I work at the counter and she watches and talks to me from the high chair.

Later, when I’m changing her diaper, another three comes to visit and the one says my name, causing the three to remark. “She says your name.”

“She’s learning how to talk. She’s learning who we are.” And I think, it does feel good for a child to learn our names.

Later, in the yard, the baby calls to Liana over the gate where Liana is emptying the compost in the side yard, baby calling Liana “Ria”. “I’m Liana,” greets Liana. I recall out loud how our other one calls Liana by name, and uses Liana sometimes for other adults here, realize that the kids attach a name to us as caregivers and may universalize it until we all become more real. At the park, the one had come to me calling, “Ria” and my friend Macky had said, “Yes, that’s Maria. Is she your person?” And I had been pleased to confirm that “Yes, I am her person.” Attachment happens that way, small steps.

Here’s today’s Writer’s Almanac poem, in case you, too, are musing over prayer, or meaning, or transcendence or grace, or any of those other thoughts that are so hard to put into words. I can’t say I understand the poem, but that in a way, is what I like. More mystery. More to figure out.

LISTEN
Prayer
by Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer—
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

“Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy, from Mean Time. © Anvil Press, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

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