expansion

There’s an indulgence to this little stretch of time. This time when my family is holding steady: me and the boys. My mom. When my work is solid and beloved. I am not restless. I love my home, and the labors to which I set myself. My children. My city. And my friends! Good Lord, my friends. This morning – on my little drive to the church – I counted some twenty humans who saved my life this year. Who saved my life. They did.

I spend time alone. When the boys aren’t with me – when I let myself sink into that – I choose who to be with. Where to go. I explore. I read when I want. I drink cheap wine and listen to music I adore. I stretch out in bed. I wake up slowly. I listen to the coffee as it brews. I miss the boys and feel out of sorts. I long for them, and then just walk with that. Is is okay.

I date when I want, and find pleasure in it. I don’t need it. I sit in our little chapel during the Eucharist on Wednesdays and love everyone so much I ache. I stand at the threshold between church and chapel on Sundays and take in all those faces. All those stories I’ve come to care about. All those stories now entwined in mine. I love them all with perfect madness. I am dizzy from loving them. I say, “it might kill me, all this love.” And friends say, “Thank God we’re not called to survival.” It is okay to die for love. There is resurrection.

And in this fertile space – when I let it feel fertile and not barren, which is all in the looking – I have learned some things about me. And I like that too. New discoveries. It feels indulgent even to be breathe deeply enough to make those.

Like: here’s one secret this year has taught me.

I still love cities. The anonymity of a crowded sidewalk. The voices. The coffee cups, and alleyways, and sharp buzzing air. But now I can be charmed by wide open countryside. And also by small towns with rundown two-block-long Main Streets. These spaces all have gifts to offer, and I can see those gifts now with grateful eyes.

And they call to me. Maybe I’ll stay in this solid, old house. It is sweet and stable and never showy. It is two miles from my beloved downtown. I could finish the basement some day; put in a second bathroom. Restore the fireplace. Lay tile. When it needs a new roof, I could put metal up there. I could love it that long; offer myself to it that fully. It is good and it is enough.

But maybe, too, these boys and I will land in a smaller town somewhere nearby. A town with a little grocery a block away where I could send the boys on their bikes to grab butter or lemons.

Or on some stretch of land: a barn with old rafters, tall trees to explore, winds that spring up and startle. With farmers for neighbors, and pitch black nights, and stars all over the place.

Those landscapes surround this beloved city, and I’ve ventured out into them, and I like what I see. They sing to me quietly, and I find myself open to their songs.

Isn’t that lovely? The invitation to feel open to possibility? I have so few answers these days, and I’m learning to settle down in the face of that.

Here’s a pretty prayer I pray sometimes.

May I open my heart and mind to continuous growth, unexpected change, and the perpetual unsettling, liberating expansion of being alive. May I have the courage to name and sanctify this moment that is shaping me into the image of the ever-evolving Divine. Blessed are you, our God, the Renewing One of the world, who has allowed me to reach this time of transformation.

Amen.

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courage and a little autumn easter

My little downtown is buzzing on this last hot day of autumn. The humans are everywhere: in the park, in cafes, outside the library. Full sidewalks and busy streets.

I love working downtown. I walk these streets everyday. I bring lunch back to my pretty, historic church in a paper bag, or eat outside at a little public table, alone or with friends. I can hear our bells for a full square mile: from the medical college, and the big movie theater, and the hospital, whose halls I sometimes walk to escape the elements.

Today I lingered out there. Walked longer than I meant to, stepping left or right to make space on the sidewalk for others. I listened to Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell in one ear, and the sounds of community happening in the other. Today will be the end of this late-season heat. Tomorrow will be cool. It’s easy to love something when it’s going away.

This is an Easter post. It has taken me a long time to be willing to come back to life. Being happy again meant accepting a life in which my children live in two homes. A life in which I can’t always look at (or look after) them. All that time lost. All that mothering to somehow do from afar. It has been suffocating to accept. It has been death. These words are not too strong. They barely even begin.

And the pain remains. I will carry it for all my days. But new things are arising alongside it. A new willingness to find pleasure. To revel sometimes. To live again. To leave the desert and stay out on those same city streets past midnight, seeing this town that I love from new angles and new heights. Different lights and shadows.

Meanwhile, Bram started kindergarten. He is struggling to make his way. Courage is so, so beautiful when you know how much work it takes. He sometimes thinks his fears define him. What he can’t see is his willingness to grapple with them. What that means. He is a thousand times braver than he knows.

And Lou started his second year of preschool. He is a fierce and intense creature. His anger comes when it will, and it is a force. His love comes spilling out too, and it is even wilder.

They are present, passionate, invested, and joyful. They are curious. They have not gotten out of this unscathed, but they are strong and well loved. Spending so much time alone with them has been a shimmering gift.

We spent the summer grieving Nemesis.

We might get kittens on Thursday.

Our home is a sanctuary. It is our little world, and it is holy.

And I am here. Praying a lot. Noticing.

Some days, I doubt my ability to meet someone I even want around for however long I’m blessed to be here. Year after year. For all of it. Feeling so compelled by someone that I let them into this bubble that I share with these angel-boys. 

But then I remember what it is to surrender to the work of loving another human. Choosing that. And I also know some things about love. Like how good it is at sweeping away our resistances. And how possible it makes impossible things.

I smile now at the freedom of dating. That’s new. And some of the things I want surprise me, and that is a nice feeling too. It’s also lovely to have the space to look for those things: to privilege them. To wait and trust and be open.

Like kindness, of course. I never knew to prioritize that before. And gratitude. A foundational sense that this is all just gift. To hold it both that seriously and with that much lightness.

And open-mindedness. An ability to imagine why folks think and feel as they do, however much it differs. A natural ability to hold space for that, and not judge it.

Tomorrow will be cooler out there. Sweaters will come out again, and boots. Color will wrap itself around us: richness before the barrenness of white snow and bare branches. And I welcome it all. The quiet closeness of my home with the boys and, for the first time, the brave adventures to which I’m called when they aren’t with me.

 

may it not, therefore, dry up and blow away

I am home now, in a quiet house where my boys are resting. They are sick today: fitful sleeping and too-fast fever breathing. I’m staying near to their warm bodies. We have candles lit for their healing; we have prayed. We will read today, and touch, and wait for health to come. This stillness is a gift. There is coffee and the house is clean.

In the last couple of weeks, we watched our girl-cat die. We spent days and nights with her as her body shut down. The boys held bowls of water to her mouth once she could no longer get up to drink. They laid a favorite blanket on the floor for her once she could no longer stay safely in the bed when, for brief stretches, we had to leave. They whispered into her fur and kissed her head and diminishing body. She slept so close to them until the very end. Nearness to us was her final comfort, and we gave it. I hope they remember this: the love they offered and accepted, how unafraid they were to face the truth of her leaving. I hope they carry it into the losses they will go on to meet.

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She died stretched out next to me, taking up more space in death than she ever had in life. J came over in the night to help me move her body into a box and prepare it for the boys to see. I was overwhelmed; coming was a kindness. Later my friend Matt helped me dig a hole three feet deep, stopping to cut thick tree roots and unearth rocks. Matt is no stranger to grave-digging – deeper graves, and for much heavier reasons – having offered what he could in the face of injustice, preparing space for death row inmates who would be lowered into Georgia red clay. This was not that. Not state-sanctioned evil. Not Georgia heat. Just a beloved nineteen-year-old cat who died in my bed. A small three-foot grave and two boys watching.

And then, of course, we taught my sons how to lower a body they love into the ground.

I already understood myself to have made promises to this house. It is a century old. I am its fifth owner. We belong to one another. But digging so deeply into the earth has changed my relationship to the land. Surrendering beloved flesh to it. Using sharp shovels to tear it apart. Small-boy-handfuls of dirt to put it back together again. The land is changed. My sons are changed. I am changed. It took thirty-eight years of living to lay down such roots. It took grief and the fragmentation of loss.

I am made weary by the events of this year. I am still stunned by all that has taken place. But I am sturdier than I knew. I think a lot now about women of the past. My mothers as far back as they go. All our mothers as far back. Brave. Resilient. I feel myself lengthen into their untold stories.

These words by Kathleen Norris have stayed with me.

The Plains are not forgiving. Anything that is shallow – the easy optimism of a homesteader; the false hope that denies geography, climate, history; the tree whose roots don’t reach ground water – will dry up and blow away.

I feel I was given a legacy of hope. That it was passed down in both blood and stories, despite or perhaps because of all the reasons that wouldn’t be true. And I’m thinking these days about the responsibility of passing down hope: of offering it while taking care that it isn’t shallow or light. I watched as these boys met with this close, intimate death. Watched their hands cradle her stiff body without fear. They kissed her goodbye again and again. They never looked away. They know she’s in the ground; they put her there. In that way, they have roots now too. This moment denied nothing that is. This moment was not shallow. May it not, therefore, dry up and blow away.

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A tiny epilogue: Days later, we dug once more to build a fire pit deep into this small bit of land. We used bricks that came from the house J and I brought these boys home to, our first home. Then my mom and cousin Linzie lovingly painted this mural on part of our fence: an offering, a gorgeous and powerful gift. Death and community and beauty and hope. Deep roots and blue poppies. Resilient mothers as far back as they go.

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five morning vignettes

Morning 1:

Bram calls from his room. “Mama!”
Me: “Yes, Bug?”
Bram: “Come here; I am lonely!”
Me: “Come to me, Baby. Your brother is asleep on my arm.”
Bram, after some silence: “Do you remember the tablets??”
Me: “Um, Moses’s tablets? Yes…”
Bram: “They say not to fight.”
Me: “They say to listen to your parents.”
Bram: “They also say to be kind.”
I go to him, smiling. We share the sweetest snuggle.
When Lou wakes up and stumbles in twenty minutes later, Bram looks up at him and says, “I got mama out of bed with the ten commandments.”

Morning 2:

I wake up to the feel of hard, cold metal hitting my head. It is Lou. He is hitting me over the head with the old-fashioned Winnie the Pooh alarm clock I bought for him. The irony of this is not immediately clear to me. As I rub my pounding head, he says sweetly, “Good morning, mama!”

Morning 3:

Bram calls from his room. “Mama!”
Me: “Yes, Bug?”
Bram: “Nothing. I just wanted to be sure of you.”
I go to him.

Morning 4:

Lou is laying behind me. He begins to trace his fingers up and down my back and side to side, in the shape of a cross. He says, “I am giving you a blessing.” Then he whispers, “The Universe Dances.”

Morning 5:

Bram comes in to my room in the early morning and crawls into bed.
After a minute, he asks: “Mama, when is your birthday?”
I say, “July 10th.”
He says, “Okay, what is your favorite animal?”
I think for a minute and say, “Maybe wolves? I like the way they are in community together.”
He says, “Okay. So for your birthday, I’m going to ask Pomo to help me buy you some wolf shorts. Black, fuzzy ones. Does that sound nice?”
“Yes, Bug. Fuzzy wolf shorts sound like the nicest.”

 

these boys

Today, like so many of us, I drove my big kid to school: in Bram’s case to his final year of Montessori preschool. He was nervous and reluctant, and also curious. He ran out the front door and kicked rocks around the driveway for awhile. He wanted to listen to Cloud Cult’s “Transistor Radio” on the way. He sang along, like always. I said, “That journey his grandpa sends him on? That’s like your journey, Bug.” I watched him gathering his nerve in the rearview mirror. I listened to him slow his breathing.

I’m writing this from a table in the coffee shop where I wrote a lot of my dissertation. Where we came after we lost E. Where we brought B the first time we left the house with him. That was a lifetime ago: two lifetimes, literally, for my kids. Not long ones, but of course we’d do well not to measure life by length.

At four-and-a-half, Bram is a firestorm of passion, focus, curiosity, and brave imagination. He is self-conscious about his physical abilities: nervous on playgrounds and critical of how he runs and bikes, as if someone has told him he isn’t good at those things (though to my knowledge no one has). He holds back nothing on the creative front, and is steady in his confidence in himself as an artist. If he asks you to describe some recent experience, to remind him of a detail from an encounter, it’s so he can go home and draw it. He’s a storyteller: he tells tales silently, with colored pencils, for hours; with Legos in deep concentration; in a loud, dizzying voice as he spins around the house. He is a careful and kind brother, son, grandson, and friend. He holds his fingers up in the shape of a square to tell me he loves me. I think he’d make eye contact for hours.

When I told him that some people think we are all of the figures from our dreams – so he’s not just the little kid who’s scared; he’s also the beast chasing the little kid – a smile stretched across his face for whole minutes. When I asked him if he wanted to finish a drawing he had started earlier in the day, he said, “I don’t want to, mama, I need to. An artist needs to finish what he starts.” He told me on a walk to the library last week – out of the blue, at an intersection – that he wants to be a baker, a construction worker, and a priest when he grows up. This would surprise no one who knows him.

At two-and-a-half, Lou is a wild and beautiful creature. His will is fierce and seems to come from somewhere profoundly deep within him. He is built mostly of courage and curiosity, and he’s like a cat: capable of immense and startling acts of love and loyalty, but on his terms. Once while working together with Play-Doh, he said – without even looking up – “I miss you when you’re at work, mama. I love you too now.” We just kept working. He has a head full of blonde curls, lashes that go on forever, and the last vestiges of the skinny bird arms and legs he had at birth. We still call him Birdie, and it still fits.

He is maddened by any suggestion of passivity: he wants to push the stroller, cook the food, wash dishes together, turn all the pages, get himself dressed, put on his own shoes, and fasten his own seat belt: “not you, not you!” If you look away for a second, he’ll sneak off to the snack drawer and situate himself on one of the benches at our dining room table with an absurd number of pretzels or graham crackers. If you call him from another room, he’ll run to you full force, shouting “My am coming!!” He is rarely cautious, though he avoids deep water and new people, and he constantly asks me to drive more slowly. Like his brother, he loves teases and inside jokes, and his eyes light up when he’s in on something. His favorite song right now is Josh Ritter’s “Cumberland.” It is entirely possible to imagine him living happily in the country. If you pretend to forget song lyrics and sing them wrong, he’ll say, every time and with endless delight in his voice: “not like THAT! Like this!” and sing them the right way. He’ll repeat this as many times as you’re willing. If he’s sad and you offer him a diversion, he’ll often say, “Okay. That would cheer me up.” If you’re sad, he’ll offer you pretend strawberries until you smile. Strawberries, every time. His favorite game is the Run-Hug, which his Pomo invented. It is exactly like it sounds.

This is a picture Bram came home and drew after meeting a girl he found magical. She is seven, and a dancer. Those marks are the colors he’s decided are good for making skin tones. He is always working on craft. Those are her hands folded in front of her body. She’s Native American and was wearing traditional clothing: those are feathers, moccasins, and bells at the bottom of her dress.

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This is classic Lou.

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This is a drawing Bram did of our church awhile back. Every time he sees it (hanging in my office), he says quietly to himself: “I need to do a new one.”

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These are tombstones the boys made when – as is his way – Lou killed a fly and – as is his way – Bram cried over its smashed body and made us bury it. Lou gave this task the cursory attention that he sensed his brother would require. Bram wrote this on his: “Dear God, did the fly have a good life? Was it sick or was it not? [Something illegible to me.] In your name we pray. Amen.”

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And this is a typical market Saturday: Bram with his best friend, Clara, sure of their little world together; his brother following behind: ever curious about B & C’s activities, but also absolutely on his own quest.

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all hallows’ eve

The only sounds I hear right now are wind picking up outside and rain leaking through the roof and landing in a metal pot in my entryway. This relative quiet means that the rest of my family has fallen asleep together upstairs: a rare group nap in anticipation of a late Halloween night. I’m alone on the sofa with a thin blanket, and it’s cold in here. I could turn the heat up, but I’m struck by the not-unpleasant sense of porous boundaries, of the outside getting in. The rain, and the wind, and the cold. This is always true, I think. This fluidity. Walls don’t offer the kinds of division we pretend they do. But I’m not always as willing to see it as I am today.

I’m brewing a second small pot of coffee. The lunch dishes are still scattered on the table, and I’m trying just to notice this. Noticing is a big thing lately. Noticing how little I understand time, with its wild variations: fast, slow, racing by. Other wild variations are a big thing lately too: my mood, my wife’s kindness, all of our trust. I suspect that my awareness of these swings is an ironic product of being settled. We are all safe to feel the complexities. Of being a preschooler. Of being a toddler. Of being married (in happiness. in frustration. in resignation. in gratitude.). Of being parents of young people and all of the young-people needs. The too.many.things that we are, so that life is crowded even when it’s pared down and simple. And so we swing, all of us, right now. From euphoric love to resentment and resistance. From surety to restlessness. From desperate need to rejection. All of us, with the wild variations, and with time refusing to steady itself.

I’ve been wanting and wanting to write. Writing, though, is a kind of standing still, and stillness seems to be what life is most unwilling to yield these days. And yet. There’s a lot to say. When I think about this space, I can’t really think about readers anymore. This isn’t because I don’t still love the sense of community, or crave it. I do. But I’m unsure of what I offer that is worth receiving by anyone who isn’t one of us. And I’m not even sure what I mean by one of us. Maybe I mean the kids one day. Maybe I just mean me. Anyway, I can only write here as a keeping of some kind of record. For later. For when there’s time to stand a little more still and listen to the way things were when there wasn’t time to really hear. And if this space is worth something outside of that, then that something can stand on its own.

So, for the record. And anything else this might be worth.

The house. We’ve been in this house for coming up on two months, and we were right. It is right. We’re getting to know it. It is a creaky old house. You can’t move around here without everybody knowing about it. It has other surprises too, of course. Beautiful morning light. An expansiveness that must be about something other than square footage. A kind, inviting feel that has kept people here through the ages: it’s almost a hundred years old and we’re only its fifth family. Our pathways here are far from worn, but they’re being created. The fact of living here is no longer startling. And I’m in no rush to learn the secrets this space holds. I understand marriage enough now to let the complexity of this new undertaking unfold.

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And the Birdie. Who is determined and willful and emotionally vast. Who is as physical as a high-speed train. And who is a nurturer: of me, of Bram, of his stuffed bunny, Henry. He has a sense of humor that the rest of us lack, and it sets him apart, and it makes us grateful. He is eager to please us. He delights in the world, and is every bit as watchful as his brother has always been, but less reluctant. He doesn’t love music yet, and he doesn’t always love books. He is affectionate as a cat is affectionate, which is to say: on his terms. For these reasons, he has made me work much harder than Bram ever did to figure out how he wants to be loved. But, oh, when he feels seen by one of us, he lights up. He is a small, radiant lighthouse. And he surprises me everyday.

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And Bram. Bram, who studies life. Who burrows into it: all depth, that kid. Who draws for hours without a break. The same creatures over and over. Who wants to read the same long books until he’s mastered them. He does not live on the surface, and so surfaces startle him. School is still hard: not the work of it, but the light relational part. He is discomforted by the presence of more than he can process at once. He is every bit the storyteller that he’s always been, and the same narratives still drive him: good vs. evil. Americana. Love and defeat. I can’t imagine he’ll ever be good at small talk.

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And happiness. Sometimes I think: this is what it feels like to live your values. To be happy, and exhausted, and bewildered, and broken, and flooded with grace. I think I’m happy because I’m made that way, and not everyone is, but I also work hard to live a life that is in keeping with what I sense to be true about the world. And that is work, but it also offers a contentment that I imagine (remember, even) is hard to come by otherwise. So: this class- and race-diverse neighborhood. A devotion to the mystery of liturgy. A commitment to using my spirituality in action. Food ethics. Marriage. Patient and positive parenting. Compassion. Grace. Love. Surrender. Surrender. Surrender. The rewards not of immediate pleasure, but of investment.

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And God. A couple of weeks ago, I sat at a downtown, outdoor cafe, only a couple of blocks from St. Luke’s, with the best staff imaginable. And the sun was shining down on us and there was easy camaraderie and good food. And someone mentioned that winter is coming. And someone else said that the town’s only real shelter can’t meet our need. And someone else looked around and said isn’t it a shame to have all these buildings down here and all of them shuttered. And then: a conversation about resources. And J just finished a month long diaper drive: gathering 24,000 diapers, which is enough for 500 families for a week. Because diapers are expensive, and necessary, and not covered by any of this nation’s fiscal safety nets. And Sara Miles started the food pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco fifteen years ago this week. So, God. And Jesus. Christianity, to me, is never about charity. Never. It is always about remembering that we are all welcome at the table, and that means coming to the table and bringing what we have. And that what we have isn’t a reflection of who we are. It just is. So we give. And we take. And none of that makes us better or worse. All it makes us is God’s. And blessed, of course. And under obligation to one another not because we are more or less fortunate, but because we’re what we have of God. We’re what we have. We are as porous as my house is today. I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to tell this story.

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In the meantime, Bram will be Robin Hood tonight. Which is perfect for him, my small prince of thieves. And Lou will be Little John: his brother’s devoted fellow. And I will be Maid Marian. And J will be the Sheriff of Nottingham: no justice without the unjust. And our block will filled with trick-or-treaters from the neighboring streets, which aren’t so safe, and some of the neighbors here will bemoan this, and I will give thanks, once more, for the failures of boundaries. How they make us all more human. And tomorrow, guided by our liturgical calendar, we will celebrate the saints: sing their names in a litany that will take my breath away. And Monday we will honor the dead. We’ll put Emmett Ever’s ashes in the columbarium at St. Luke’s: at once a gesture of honor and of release. Her name will be etched in gold in a room whose smell I cannot describe but cannot stop loving.

And we’ll go on praying, and questioning, and misunderstanding, and being misunderstood. I am well over a third of the way through reading the Bible in a year. And I can’t be one of those people who wishes for my children’s growth to slow down because their growth is the most viscerally sacred thing I know. And I will keep wanting more stillness. And keep not making choices that would bring it to me. And I will stay grateful for this good and pretty life full of complex, beautiful, frail humanity.

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a small mile

One week from tomorrow, we will leave our little cottage behind. We will drive away from the place that both J and I have lived longer than we’ve ever lived anywhere else, and we won’t live here anymore. We will leave without a puppy-cat who moved in here with us, but with his sister. We will leave with two boys who were conceived of, conceived (mostly), and brought home here, and whose entire conception of home is these walls and floors and smells and colors, and this air quality. And this view. We’ll take E’s ashes with us, and the boy who isn’t Saul will still be turning three somewhere, and it will never matter to him that we’ve left the house that was once his home. After packing up with a good half dozen generous parishioners helping, we’ll drive our rented U-Haul one small mile away, to a modest and lovely house in a working- to middle-class neighborhood that has beauty, and that speaks to our values.

And then we’ll live there instead. With one chalkboard wall in the kitchen for meal planning and family notes and boysie creations. With the color of saffron on the other kitchen walls, and a mostly working fireplace, and original wood floors, and a finished attic with wide pine floor planks. With double the square feet we have now, and double the bedrooms, but nothing grand except that it will be ours, and we will be privileged to have it, and that alone is grand. We’ll paint the door the slate color of my wife’s eyes, and we’ll finally buy a sofa, and a low bed frame. And a college kid and his dad are making us a farmhouse table and two three-seat benches. Bram will find a big box of real Legos (given to us by another generous parishioner) waiting for him in his room: his first foray away from Duplos and into big-kid-ness. Big-kid-ness in a room that, I pray, he’ll get big in. The driveway has an old basketball hoop, so someday we’ll go to a store and come home with a basketball and that will be countless hours of our lives. Some other day we’ll have saved up enough money to finish the basement and buy a pool table, and that will be other hours. There’s a deep freeze in the basement, and a small canning room with perfect rows of glass jars, all of which is lovely in its simplicity, and its pragmatism, and the care that it implies. The people we’re buying the house from ran a small neighborhood church in the living room for five years, and though some of our perception of Christianity differs from theirs, the house seems to carry with it those hours and years of praise, and dedication to service, and love of God and community, and that feels like a gift to inherit. Today my mom texted to say that she’d picked up the first season of Life Goes On at a garage sale and did we want to borrow it. So maybe J and I will watch some of that as we muddle through whatever it means to leave and mourn – as four individuals and also as the animal that is one family – a set of walls that is jam-packed with memories. To let time pass. To get to know a house to whom we are strangers.

This little cottage knows heartbreak. Probably the new house does too. Certainly it does. Like this cottage, it was built in 1927. I like to imagine the family who built it. Their laughter and their failures and their frustrations. They loved this city of mine. Of theirs. I like to imagine the other ways in which our lives collide in spite of the years. The house holds all of those secrets, and I respect it for knowing what I never will. But I never imagined heartbreak when we moved in here, and that’s not true now. Instead, letting myself fall in love with a new home feels like a way of accepting what we’ll face inside of it. The suffering and the joy. The firsts and the lasts.

This cottage and this blog have been homes of mine for all these years, so it seemed necessary to honor the one I’ll leave behind in the one I’ll carry with me. Thanks for granting me the space to do that. Here are some photos of our cottage-dwelling boys by way of tribute.

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