Go Ahead and Have the Damn Children!

3724627479_62ac89a307_mI was working from home a few days ago, on a day when both of my children were sick, a day that teetered back and forth between writing memos and proposals at the dining room table and wielding the digital thermometer aloft as I re-tucked the covers around hot little bodies.

It was the end of the day and I had turned to random housecleaning when I happened to hear, on the public radio program Marketplace, the latest installment of the show’s series on “first jobs,” pegged to a new book out called First Jobs: True Tales of Bad Jobs, Quirky Coworkers, Big Breaks, and Small Paychecks. In it, a young man named Jesse Kovalcik talked about his first job as a gravedigger at the South Florida pet cemetery where his father was working.

Aside from the built-in oddity of the job he described, the story was compelling for the family portrait it provided: The reason the family was in South Florida in the first place was that the father had gone there to enter a rehab program, and the pet cemetery job was the position he was given on release. [Read more...]

My Mother, My Daughter, Myself

6091832360_c140db4ca7_mMy daughter Anna Maria was born on Orthodox Easter Sunday—Pascha—six years ago. That year, the date fell on April 19. While her brother had blasted his way into the world at the very bottom of the night, in a delivery that was swift and surreal and un-medicated, my daughter arrived in the late afternoon as the sunlight was just beginning to dim. I latched her to my breast and asked my husband to run go get me a hamburger, fries, and a gin and tonic, as well as a big cup of coffee.

I was forty years old. Among the number of reasons we named our daughter Anna Maria was the teaching of Holy Tradition that the Virgin Mary’s mother was named Anna, and that she and her husband Joachim had long prayed for the little daughter who had been born to her when she was of an advanced age for the era. [Read more...]

Resisting My Inner Columba Bush

9250603381_054a467525_nPoor Columba Bush: On top of the doubtlessly-endless-hassle it must be to have your husband effectively running for president when you are known as a “low key sort,” it’s even worse to have Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post go digging through your disclosure forms to find out that—as goes the stock phrase that has now been repeated over and over like a bad penny—you “took out a loan to buy $42,311.70 worth of jewelry on a single day” in 2000. As well as to bring up, yet again, the old story about how you were held by customs officials, coming back from Paris, for lying about how much shopping you did, because you were trying to hide the $19,000 bill from your husband. [Read more...]

Mama and The Help

7261678144_86dcaa47b6_zIn memory of my mother

 “How come we don’t have a maid?” I asked my mother. It was the summer of 1973 and I was five.

Across the street at the neighbor’s, Lula wore men’s white cotton socks with sandals and came outside to greet the mailman every afternoon. She was slow moving and wide, with skin the color of wood varnish.

“Come and let me love on you,” she’d say, but Mama always stiffened a bit, as though she were not quite comfortable. [Read more...]

The Collision

deerAll I saw of the deer at first was the eye: domed, amber and pellucid, set in a pallid furry temple. I saw that, and the briefest flash of a muscled flank as the deer charged from the trees and straight into the front right fender of my car.

If this were a short story, or a scene in a movie, this would be the moment when time would suddenly lengthen, stretch into slow motion: I’d have some kind of clarifying and revelatory last-minute realization. That’s not merely a literary conceit: I have experienced those moments when experience seems literally toculminate, the universe to distill to a point.

[Read more...]


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