On taking care
It’ll rain today.
I know because the knuckles in my right hand ached as I pet Louisa, whose nose was at my nose a few moments before my husband’s alarm sang. I know it’ll rain because when I opened the front door to check if he’d need an umbrella the smell of worms hit my cheek. And as I stand now at the sink to rinse a butter knife, the clouds in the window are heavy and gray.
This is writers’ weather, people.
R E J O I C E and be G L A D .
He was finished showering. I could hear the water stop. I could hear him step out of the tub, the faucet turn on. He was brushing his teeth, which meant no coffee before he left. I’ll make a cup just for me.
He leaves the bathroom.
He enters our bedroom.
The footsteps stop.
He says, “Oh, good morning, Louisa.”
I listen for everything because I was raised by a woman who did plenty of talking, but listened intently to the habit-forming behaviors of her man and children.
Never quiet, never passive, but always listening because what she heard informed her care.
I listen for everything because writers must listen, too.
(Besides, in this crooked old Victorian house, you can’t help but listen. I remember the ad mentioned “with vintage appeal.” If accuracy was valued, it would’ve read: “Heavy brass sconces are affixed to paper-thin walls….”)
So I’m at the kitchen counter with the clean butter knife, about to slice his sandwich in two – chicken on wheat, last night’s dinner reincarnated, the entree of his comforting lunch that will interrupt his stressful day – and I picture them, THE WOMEN, the long line of caretakers washing all of the butter knives at all of the sinks, slicing all of the sandwiches at all of the kitchen counters.
They’re each linked, a construction paper chain drenched in Elmer’s and glitter, and I am the most recent addition, the last little loop, untested and unknowing and twisting to study them, still the recipient of their care, still in awe.
THEM: the crafty ones, the thrifty ones, the creative ones, the ones with the kisses, the ones with the wild hair, the ones with the slippers, the ones with the soapy hands and strong shoulders, the ones with the attention to detail, the ones people thank too late and too seldom but often through tears.
The ones who are made of STEEL, but happen to live inside, protected from the rain.
Mary Frances and
Maria Alicia and
Kate and Diane and a huddle of
aunts and teachers and principals
and neighbors and other women with such loving intentions:
Teresa and Betsy and Debby and Ruth and Cheryl.
How many sandwiches did they cut, for their man, their girl, their boy, and that little blonde one, too?
The thousands of sandwiches one consumes in a Midwestern childhood flush with cold cuts and leftovers and fat bakery bread.
The blessings, the wholesomeness, the care.
The dirty plates left on the coffee tables, the paper plates left on the patios, the Ziplock bags left in the backseats. So many, so often, so important, so banal.
I’ve heard we’re most profoundly in touch with ourselves when we feel connected to our ancestral pasts.
But it can also be an affliction – too tall an order for too short a day pulsing with a parade of uniquely modern to-dos. And, truth be told, I’m typically so very hell-bent in getting out in that rain myself.
But, today, this is not the case. Today I don’t feel the chain anchoring. Today, it lifts. It nudges, it reminds, it tugs, but only in the right direction – to listen better, to care softer, but most of all, to get on with what must be done.