ma noce

I’ll never forget that red light.  

I sat next to my maid of honor in my teal Ford Escort, laughing about the Teeny Beanie Baby in the McDonald’s Happy Meal.  There was really nothing too funny about that little ladybug filled with tiny plastic “beans”.  In my head, I felt the eyes of all the passengers and drivers sitting in the lanes around us, peeping into the windows at the young bride driving down the road in her veil, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  “What a sight I must be.”

Much of that night is lost to me forever, wrapped up a blur of faces, emotions and a lovely, antique white French bustle.  Only a handful of moments from that day have stained my mind like spilled red wine.

(null)

July 1, 2000 — my père et moi


Walking arm-in-arm with my Daddy. Popping up onto my toes for our first kiss as man and wife. Standing alone with my groom, after it was all said and done, and feeling — for just an instant — like we’d just met again for the first time. First dances, hugs from favorite relatives, a stream of toasts, and smiling till my face hurt.

In the honeymoon suite, bird seed rained down as I hunted and picked for all the hidden pins, my deep brown hair spilling below my shoulders. Even in those moments, the memory of the night we’d lived was fuzzy. How was it possible that it had only been one day since the rehearsal?

Now, thirteen years later, my memories of that day have hardly changed, though our lives certainly have.  When you’re just a few weeks shy of twenty-three, it’s all so vague.  “Marriage” seems entirely abstract, despite the fact that you’ve witnessed marriages succeed, and marriages fail, all around you for your entire life.  At thirty-six though, marriage is more real than the wedding day.  Mortgages, jobs, laundry, grocery shopping, health and family.  It is the air we breathe each day, from the moment we wake to the moment we wake again.  

The wedding?  It’s all so vague, with only pictures to prove it ever really was at all.  

Mais, il m’aime encore, et je l’aime un peu plus fort.

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un petit moment avec deux visages

Squinting into the sun, for a moment she remembered how temporary all of this was.  This amazing day alone on the water would be over before they knew it. 

Pulling a blanket over her shoulders, she leaned into his chest.  If she closed her eyes and concentrated, maybe she could remember exactly how it felt to touch him so freely. 

Breathing deeply, she wanted to remember how he smelled, salty and sweet. 

She wove her fingers into his right hand as he pulled her tighter.  She stared at his hand in hers, taking mental photos of his fingers, the scar near his knuckle, the vein climbing up into his sleeve.

 


He watched her reach for the blanket and carefully twirl it up and over her shoulders like a choreographed dance. 

Reaching one hand out of the cape of warmth, she slid her long hair out, revealing glimpses of the fair skin of her neck.  He imagined pressing his lips against that smooth skin, feeling her bones just beneath the surface, breathing in the scent of her hair.

She sat back, resting her shoulder against him, but not close enough.  Wrapping both arms around her, he scooped her in closer.  Her hand emerged from beneath the blanket and laced its tiny fingers into his with a gentle squeeze. 

He closed his eyes, willing this moment to last.  The salty air forced itself into his lungs as their boat cut through the water.  He remembered her clear eyes looking into his as he smiled down at her. 

“This isn’t enough time,” he thought, cursing reality.

He begged his memory not to fail him.  He wanted to remember how she felt in his arms.  He wanted to remember her chin, her hands, the way her eyes glinted in the sun like the waves. 

For a moment, he thought of sailing away from everything.  Just keep right on going.  Run away and hide her from the world, tuck her away in a quiet corner of the world for only himself.  He saw the two of them sitting alone in a tiny cabin, warming each other from gray winter weather with hot baths, mugs of hot coffee, and quilts for two.

But the world said no, and he knew it.

Looking ahead towards the sun, he didn’t want to speak.  Just breathe.  And try to remember everything.

****

Dusted off a little fiction work tonight.

à la prochaine

l’apéritif

At a writing training today, I scratched out this little scene as a response to A Quiet Place, by Douglas Wood.  The exercise led me to discover two things.  First, I miss sharing the writing with people….people other than 4th graders, that is.  (Who, by the way, are great for any writer’s ego.)  Second, “sharing” my writing is MUCH easier on my nerves when done virtually through a blog, rather than read aloud to a room of your peers.  That’s much harder than it sounds!  (A good lesson for this teacher to remember.)

I’ll have to push myself to write to publish more frequently soon, rather than only writing for myself.  Relight the fire.

* * * * * * * * * *

When I was younger, I used to bury myself in the depths of my hanging clothes and between my stacks of shoes.  I’d shut out the world with a “click”, and feel the silence fall from between the hangers and hug my ears like muffs.  I might cry, or write beneath the light of a 60-watt bulb, or lay on my back and find images in the popcorn ceiling, hiding my legs beneath the cool of long dresses.  Some days, I would open my eyes to find red creases and itchy carpet marks on my cheeks, drool puddles on the top of my hand.  I’d hear my mother softly open my bedroom door.  “Jenny?”  She’d ask my empty room where I was.  Maybe I’d sit still, frozen like a rabbit in a bush, fearing my discovery.   Maybe I’d emerge, with a shy smile and blurry eyes.  Whichever I decided, I knew I’d return one day, for one reason or another, to my quiet place.

DSC_0038

 

À la prochaine, chère écrivain

Softly-ing

Slice of LifeI know I’ve written about sleeplessness before, but that was my own.  You know a mother’s work is never done.  Like most mommies and daddies, I’ve helped my daughters through their own dark nights many times.

When you were little, I would rock you.  We would rock and rock and rock in the dark until your breath was slow and calm.  I would hold my breath and press you into my body, leaning deep into your crib to cushion your little self from the release.

Somehow, you grew too big to rock.  At bedtime each night, I lay beside you on the floor and “softly you” till you slept.  My fingers, barely touching your skin, traced invisible lines on your arms, your back, your forehead.  Once again, I listened for the signal in your breath before I stole one more kiss and slowly tiptoed away.

At times, bad dreams waited outside your door for their turn to visit.  You were afraid to sleep and needed me.  Side by side, we planned a better dream together.  “Where shall we go tonight?”

“Hawaii,” we agreed.

In the dark, we sat in our beach cabana, watching the dolphins jump and play in the ocean.  We’d walk down to the water’s edge and feel the sand soften beneath our toes as the waves rolled past us.  The birds talked to us as they loitered on the sand.  Shielding our eyes from the warm sun, we jealously watched the people on horseback in the distance.  “Let’s do that tomorrow,” we planned.

Other nights, we would picnic in the park.  The blanket was soft beneath us as we napped on full bellies.  I taught you how to make a chain from the clover blossoms; we wore them till they fell apart.

One time, we went to the zoo.  You were the luckiest girl there – you rode the giraffe.  You were so tall sitting atop that beautiful creature, hugging his neck.

Some nights, I just quietly held your hand.

In the morning, you come to me, smiling through your sleep-filled eyes.  You tell me about your night of dreamland adventures, familiar in such a good way.

“Good morning, my beautiful baby.  How did you sleep?”

“Mommy,” you say each day as you curl up with your blankie in my lap, stealing just a moment more.  “I got good sleep.”