Do not let bitterness build up within you. Let it flow out in your tears, flowing out of you and down and around, becoming lakes and ponds, rivers meeting with the sea and supporting creatures, evaporating and feeding life, becoming rain that quenches fire and thirst, renewing, refreshing, sustaining, gentling.
Granny’s housekeeper Maimie plucked the chickens and wrung their necks. There once was a chicken running around with its head backward because Maimie let go too early. You had to be first at the table first for Maimie’s legendary fried chicken or you were SOL.
The homeless lady we hosted for Thanksgiving brought all her stuff. The best was her dog. She had him do tricks. She also gave us each a trinket. At some point she pocketed some silver and a few of Daddy’s coins. We couldn’t believe Mama and Daddy just laughed.
She wore a red dress to the bank. When she was young the doctor said of the cinnamon candy stain on her tongue: “Now she will grow outward.” He and her mother had laughed. She would not get the loan. In the bathroom mirror she noticed the fraying neckline.
I started to smoke when I was thirty eight and away at graduate school. It was the exact opposite of my world. I accepted hand rolled cigarettes from a man not my then husband. When I see someone else making these seemingly innocuous decisions, I want to tell them: Don’t.
I will miss Aunt Maureen’s Thanksgiving oilcloths, wreaths of fake fall leaves, tablescapes of pilgrims and Indians sitting down to carve a huge, disproportionate, anachronistic cranberry jelly complete with the rings of the can. She forgot to wear a bra last year and we had to resort to plan b.
I had no truck with Granny’s warning fairy tale of the red shoes. I insisted on wearing the fire red cowgirl boots to church, danced in the narthex, stood up when the congregation sat down, rolled up my bulletin and pretended to smoke. Daddy preached while Mama ’bout died.
The onset of bipolar was that night in her dorm room, a split from all of the slow sad suicidal days before until that moment she heard a voice she thought was God. Next day: euphoria, religious elation, creativity. She graduated, went home, told her parents. “Take Benadryl” they advised.
Jacinda and her tiny people lived in the mushrooms of Muir Woods. It was very dry. Her house was decaying prematurely. When she came home from foraging she tried to slam the door to show her frustration but the dehydrated stalk meant the nice arched door no longer fit.
North Carolina summer night at Mama’s, with Jeff playing with the boa as it arcs and stretches toward the chandelier, the sweet scent of mountain laurel wafting through the window, Jeff and I doubled in fits of laughter, high. Mama turning on the light, glares. Party over.
He did exactly what I wanted him to do: Show at the chemo ward with no shirt except cuffs, a pilgrim hat, big buckled shoes. Rent-a-friends comes handy when holidays see you with no family and undergoing treatment. The nurses were a little flustered. It was perfect.