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...]

Cutting the Cord: An Observation from The Way of Saint James, Part 2

JanVallone2Continued from yesterday. 

The Way of Saint James—El Camino de Santiago—is a pilgrimage that began in the Middle Ages and remains popular today. Each year pilgrims from all around the world walk from points throughout Europe to visit the tomb of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Some pilgrims make the journey for sport, some to pray for miracles, others for contemplation. Heads swathed from blazing sun, blisters bursting in boots, backs bent under packs dangling emblematic scallop shells, many trek hundreds of miles, spending a month or more on the road, but most walk about sixty miles, taking less than a week.

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Cutting the Cord: An Observation from The Way of Saint James, Part 1

JanVallone1Sean was not an easy child to raise. My husband and I became his parents through adoption and met his birthmother prior to his birth. Young, freckled, and sweet, Janet decided to have a C-section and asked me to be present although she’d be unconscious herself.

On the scheduled day, I stood in an operating room wearing surgical scrubs. Nurses buzzed around, readying forceps and scalpels. An anesthesiologist worked Janet’s IV and checked the electrocardiograph. Janet drifted off, breathing slowly and steadily, her bare belly bulging from a sea of deep blue cloth.

[Read more...]

The Power of Twelve

taniarunyanYou won’t want to do it, but I’ll ask just the same: imagine being twelve again.

I was a mess: glasses, braces, and a wardrobe straight out of Little House on the Prairie. At five-foot-eight or so, I was not as skinny as a string bean but as a bean’s string.

Worse, I had just one friend that year, Rachel, so if she missed school, I had to eat lunch alone. On one of these occasions, a boy sauntered by, pointed at me, and sang, “Tania Po-o-o-ol-ner’s a lo-o-o-o-ner!”

I want to disappear, I thought. Also, that rhyme is a stretch.

[Read more...]


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