“We have one.”

“We have one.  I am teaching myself to say this.  Not, ‘We just have one child,’ but ‘We have one child.’  We wanted to have more, and it isn’t by choice that we are a family of three.  But if I use the word ‘just’, then it sounds like one isn’t enough.  And I don’t ever want my son to think he wasn’t enough.  So, I’m teaching myself to say it differently:  We have one child.”

We found each other at neighboring tables at the McDonald’s playland on a day when it was roughly 144 degrees outside.

My two played with her one, and we shared what we know about being content with what you have, knowing that yes, this is enough.

For today, this is enough.

The One Who Makes Decisions

“Are you the one who will be making the decisions?” he asks, before he tells me the plan to replace my roof.  He is my contractor.

(Insert applause for finding a contractor for such extensive home repairs.)

“I am.”

“Okay, ma’am.  I always like to ask.  I don’t know if you’re married… not married…”

He is studying me for clues.

“I’m a young widow.”  I give him the short version of my life’s heartache in two paragraphs or less.

“I can’t imagine losing my wife.  I can’t imagine…” He is choked up, unable to finish.  He excuses himself to his van parked in front of my house.  He wipes his eyes on the sleeve of his shirt.

“I’ll be right back,” he calls to me as he walks down my sidewalk.  “I’m sorry for being emotional.”

It’s okay, sir.  Take your time.

Something for Everyone

I walked into David’s Bridal in search of a dress for my brother’s wedding, where I will stand as his Best Man.

(I vacillated a bit on this title. Emily Post and wedding etiquette specialists suggest other options: The Groom’s Woman (no, that would be the bride), The Best Person (I choose not to proclaim myself the Best Person at my brother’s wedding), or the Groom’s Matron (um, ew.). So, I will be The Best Man. Since everyone knows the significance of that role, and everyone knows I’m not actually a man. At all.)

Anyway, I walked in just as several women were walking out; they carried bundled gowns over every arm, and they were decked out in burkas.

This implies two things:

a) David’s Bridal does indeed have something for everyone,

or

b) Somebody is marrying a free-thinking husband.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Write a brief essay about a piece of literature that changed your life.

I like to think I read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help before it swept the nation with irrepressible success, but I’m not sure that’s true.  I may have merely been the first in my circle to read it, and that made it no less gratifying.  The book changed my life, and I was delighted to proclaim myself the resource to share this great piece with my fellow lovers of literature.

I bought The Help days before my husband and I would leave for Mexico, a second honeymoon on our tenth anniversary.  Though the book beckoned to me and seemed to follow me around the house, I didn’t start reading until our flight left the ground.  Once I started, I didn’t stop, couldn’t stop.  In fact, I read so incessantly that Robb began to feel as though I’d forgotten that he had in fact joined me on the honeymoon vacation.  The book was an object of contempt for a pretty significant, midweek fight over who would win my attention: my husband or the book. Still, I couldn’t put it down.

There is actually a picture of me reading the book in bed, surrounded by satin sheets, fluffy pillows, and a dozen suggestions.  I wonder in retrospect if Robb snapped the picture to show me the degree of my utter distraction.  (I chose not to post this one.  Some things belong only to him, even now.)

I finished with The Help three days to spare.  I broke the marital tension by reading aloud the chapter about Hilly’s chocolate pie.  This earned me a few points toward restitution.

Stockett writes with such brilliance as she portrays the culture of Mississippi in the 1950s: the privileged, arrogant, ignorant, white women who carelessly employed the tireless, hardworking black women to maintain their homes for little money, less dignity, and no merit.  She depicts the chasm in society, the differences between the black women’s homes and their workplaces.  I especially fell in love with Skeeter – she stepped right into the corner of my heart that is reserved for smart girls who are willing to challenge the status quo, think differently from their peers, and defend ideas and causes.

But I was most struck by this pervasive question in my mind: would I have been willing to blow the whistle?  Would I have been so offended by the audacity of my community that I would be willing to light a fire of change?  Would I have been aware of the social dichotomy, even at all?  Hilly and her friends simply acted on what they had learned from their teachers, parents, and preachers: the belief that white people are superior.  They didn’t have the courage – or intelligence?  awareness? – to look objectively and think independently.  They were self-absorbed and sinking in their own shame.

I wondered if I would have recognized the social bias.  And I wonder even now what social biases I am unaware of, what injustices I should defend, that remain unnoticed and vulnerable while I am unaware, perhaps ignorant, and—God forbid—arrogant.  My copy of the book is stained with salt water and marred from sand since I took it with me everywhere on my Mexican vacation.  So many men and women served me as I vacationed on their island—I, the “rich” American, who basked in mindless hours, salt on the rim, and everything in excess.  I read their nametags and tipped them well, and I lied to myself to say this was enough.

Blue Dot

I might be a follower. At least in the physical sense.

I have discovered this self awareness: the extent to which I’m directionally challenged. I always assumed I was, but it didn’t really matter because I always had my marital compass nearby.

I was even known to call him. “Um, I’m here. Get me home.”

So when I am left to my own devices, faced with a Choose Your Own Adventure, I sort of wander in a perpetual rectangle.

Today, I set out to explore my city, to broaden my horizons, to applaud my independence, to find my way in the big city. I pictured sidewalk cafes and bookstores and lovely findings of the most charming variety.

Yeah, no dice. I’m pretty much following the blue dot on Google maps in that perpetual rectangle I mentioned.

I had lunch at Subway, and now I’m sitting, writing and reading at Starbucks. Well done, T. Way to branch out.

Google Maps says the bookstore I want is roughly 48 minutes by foot. And my parking spot is roughly 28 minutes the other way. But I intuitively turn the opposite way than the blue dot wants me to go, so really, it’s just best for me to sit here in this Starbucks and settle myself. Corner tables have no wrong direction.

I like a journey, not a destination. And it’s a darn good thing, since today seems to have none.

Except I did find a new Starbucks. And I found my way downtown. And I spotted the Cherry Blossom Festival, and – let me say, since it’s 144 degrees outside today – those little Japanese women know what they’re doing as they carry shade under their parasols everywhere they go.

It’s a tricky thing to delight in a day to myself and to simultaneously long for someone to show me where to be.

I’m trying to let that be a sentence and not a metaphor.