Friday, November 25, 2011



Dear Andrea,

“Laughter is important.” Steve said, standing at my kitchen sink.  Placing both his hands on the rim of it, balancing all of his weight on them, leaning towards me with that special crinkle in his left eye.

“It is essential.” I respond.  I am on the other side of the counter sitting at the breakfast bar, head resting in the half-moon-cradle created where my palms meet my wrists--both hands together fingers bent around my face an offering.

We have just finished comedic verbal sparring--collapsing into each other--holding each other up--bouncing off one another in fits of laughter--tummy cramping--tears falling.

Steve is at my house tonight.  He still cannot tell me that he loves me.  He cannot bring himself to say those words, “I love you.”

He still misses his wife.  This is how he honors her.  I understand that now.

There are so many other ways to say I love you.

I am thankful for all of them. They are all I need now.

“Laughter is important.” he said.

The connection is essential, is what I mean.

This is our second Thanksgiving eve together. 

We live together apart.  Steve has his house.  I have mine.

I cannot stay seated on the stool--the breakfast bar, the sink, a reef between the energy in what is not spoken, those thoughts and feelings that pass between the two of us.

bon iver, bon iver fills the room with movement of music.  Steve reaches out, encircles me with his left arm, pulls me into him hip to hip as I approach him.  I steer him into me, exerting pressure with the tip of my hip bone.  He faces me, I rest my forehead on his shoulder. 

We dance.

When the music stops we collect each other’s articles of clothing from the kitchen floor.  Steve takes me by the hand.  Leads me up the stairs, into my bed where I turn away from him, press my back into his chest.  He puts his arm around me.  Draws me up against him.   

I am facing sleep, the journey into this night’s world of dreams safely protected.

Do you sleep?  Do you dream?  I wonder where you are.

There are so many ways to let someone know you love them.

Laughing together.

In this dance through days, I am glad Steve is my partner.

Thanksgiving morning 2011

Thirty years ago, exactly, I woke to the sound of rain pounding on the windows of the little house on Center Street in Kent.  Slowly coming into consciousness I felt the taunt roundness of my belly.  Waiting to feel knees, elbows, heels, your butt, your head rolling, pushing as you entered your eighth month of habitation inside of me.  Imagining you.  Naming you—though I did not know yet if you were a boy or a girl.

Names are important.

I your had been a boy, your name would have been Nicholas.  Or Alexander.

I rolled around girls names.  Katherine.  Elizabeth…

We name everything. 

With names, we define things. 

Close your eyes.  Think cake.  Your mind will form a mental image of a cake.  Four letters, but think of the complexity of everything that forms a cake.  The mixture of eggs, vanilla, sugar, flour, butter.  Batter in a bowl.  Two 8 inch round pans baking at 350 degrees in the oven, filling the house with the fragrance of its transformation.  Two 8 inch round objects cooling on a rack.  Two 8 inch round objects stacked on the other, frosting in the middle holding them together.

What kind of cake do you imagine when you think “cake”?

Andrea.  From the Greek word Andreas.  Feminine.  Warrior.

My daughter.

It’s a girl.

Seeing your black hair, as my body contracted, forced you into the world.

Your grimacing face at the first kiss of the room’s air.

Your glistening body as the doctor cut the cord.

Andrea Marcella.


Sorrow, this grief, it has a definition.



My eyes are closed.

Lady Gaga sings, her voice projecting through the speakers in the electric organ in Stephie’s living room.  Paparazzi.  The only song of hers I know and recognize. 

…I'm your biggest fan
I'll follow you until you love me, Papa-paparazzi
Baby there's no other superstar
you know that I'll be your
Promise I'll be kind but I won't stop until that boy is mine
Baby you'll be famous, chase you down until you love me

Real good, we dance in the studio
Snap snap, to that shit on the radio
Don't stop for anyone…

In the kitchen, standing at the sink, I close my eyes, move to the beat.  In this moment, I am the music.

In the living room, everyone scatters on chairs and sofas.  Claims a space before joining in a collective coma--full of turkey, garlic mashed  potatoes, giblet gravy, Parker House rolls, waiting for pumpkin pie.

Dishes need to be done.  Food put away.

I sort through my memories of my 55 Thanksgivings preceding  this one.  Mostly my memories are of Thanksgivings with you.  26 of them.  The last one Thanksgiving 2008. 

This is Stephie’s first Thanksgiving Dinner she is hostessing.  At first I was hesitant about surrendering the roasting of the turkey, the mashing potatoes, the menu, over to someone else.  But it is time.

You never got a chance to make Thanksgiving Dinner for me, though you were almost always a presence in my kitchen.  Except for those few years you were at sea, or living in Virginia. 

I sort all the dirty dishes by size and type to the right of the stainless steel double sink.  I fill the sink with Planet Earth lavender scented dish soap and hot water, the faucet handle turned to the left as far as it would go.  Water hot as I can get it.

I slip first the tips of my fingers into mounds of bubbles separating them. I wonder how many sinks of dishwater I have filled.  In how many places.  How many dishes I have washed. 

The rest of my hands follow, letting the water slightly scald skin.  When I pull my hands out they will be red.

Lady Gaga continues with the song.

I wrap my right hand around a glass.  Find the dishrag in the water.  Shove it in the glass, twist it cleaning all the way to the bottom, draw it out, wipe the rim, rinse it under hot clear water, put it in the rack to dry.  Watch the steam rise off it.

This is mindless work. 

I wash bowls, salad bowls, mixing bowls, serving bowls.  An old clear scratched Pyrex bowl catches my attention.  I hold it up to the window.  Search the etchings for a secret clue, a sign.  All I find are the tracks of pastry cutters, wire whisks, electric beaters.  I believe this bowl belonged to Stephie’s grandma.  And then to Stephie’s mother.  It is part of Stephie’s inheritance.  The memories, meanings of the etchings lost, carried by the women who made them as they mixed zucchini breads, birthday cakes, pie crusts, pea salads. 

I make a cradle of my hands around the third Pyrex bowl’s base.  Making an offering of it, I lower the bowl in the hot sudsy water.  When it is safely resting on the bottom of the sink, I put my right hand in and swirl it, making a whirlpool.  My hand becomes the force drawing a trail of water round and round the bowl.  I am mesmerized by fluidity.  The properties of motion.

I feel you there, in the swirling water, your hand brushing against mine.  And the presence of every woman who ever stood at this sink, looking out the window on a black Thanksgiving night while the guests gathered in the living room.  The presence of every woman who etched a little of her story in the clear Pyrex bowl now in the sink.  

Lady Gaga is no longer singing.

I stop.  Take my hand from the sink, watch the water calm itself.

This is my third Thanksgiving without you. 

Stephie comes into the kitchen.  Gives me a hug.  “Thank you for cleaning up.”  she says.

Last year she came to my kitchen, my table for the holidays. 

This year I have come to hers.


Steve sneaks up behind me as I stand at the sink rinsing forks and knives and spoons.  Startles me. 

The prankster, Stephie, me. 

We all dissolve into laughter.


                                    Miss you—Happy Thanksgiving,