The Two Lists

imageSeven-year old Isaiah found a small desk in the back of our garage and claimed it. “I want to paint it red,” he said. So we prepped it with a hand-sander, and I bought him a can of paint. Familiar with Tom Sawyer and being no fool, he recruited two of his brothers. Determined to let this be Isaiah’s project, I left them to their labor. Soon the desk was drying in the sun, and I was preoccupied with cleaning brushes along with whatever boy flesh I could lay hold of long enough to scrub it with mineral spirits.

Isaiah returned to the scene of the crime to survey his work. It was a damned atrocity. Paint ran haphazardly against the grain, tacky pools of it collected on the surface, and thick rivulets had crawled down the sides and hardened.

“Look at it,” the boy said, his arms spread wide. “It’s beautiful!” [Read more…]

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 Rainbow Connection, Disconnected

By Chad Thomas Johnston

2067021449_5fea38708a_mIt was a Saturday night and my wife, Becki, wanted to stream the documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, on Netflix. As a new father, I protested. Our seven-month-old daughter Evie carried with her the promise that Elmo would invade our house soon enough—but this was too soon.

I also protested because I lost much of my enthusiasm for puppets when Jim Henson died on May 16, 1990. When Henson’s silver cord was severed—a phrase the writer of Ecclesiastes uses to refer to death—the rainbow connection Henson sang about as Kermit the Frog was disconnected for me.

People said Henson’s death could have been prevented if only he had gone to the hospital earlier. In my eleven-year-old mind, I thought this meant he had given up on living, much as people give up on hobbies they no longer love. [Read more…]

Fever

By Dyana Herron

4074609498_a8fdf21388_mWhen well, it’s easy to forget how utterly miserable it feels to have a fever.

In fact, the moment the fever breaks, already the memory recedes—we may feel exhausted, wiped out, laid low, but also relieved, no longer at war with our own body. Even if we try to remember, can intellectually recall and describe what it is like, the immediate feeling is gone, and so is our most intimate experiential knowledge. [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…]


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