Praying and reading Mother Goose


“Thank you for Jeff, and thank you that I would have a blue motorcycle.  Amen!” – Emeth

“I pray that we would be able to move to Philadelphia, and that we would have a garden, and that we would have enough sunlight.  Amen.” – Micaela

“Tan-tu mommy, tan-tu daddy.  Meh!” – Annie

* * * * *

“Humpty Goose had a great fall!” – Emeth

“How is your garden little Mary?  It has lots of flowers!” – Emeth

“Porridge is hot, and some porridge is cold, and some people like to have porridge when they’re nine years old.” – Micaela

“Oh, little Mary, how ever did you make your garden so pretty?” – Micaela

I do


Part seven.

“I do.”  The curtain is torn in two.  It is finished.  We are torn from our former lives, and thrust naked onto the stage for Act One.  I was one, and somehow I will remain one, hypostatically joined to another.  I stare into her eyes.  They always said my heart would flutter as I stood here.

We are making a Covenant.  I feel like a child, dressed in my father’s suit, and I sink under its folds.  Face clean shaven.  No gray hairs yet.  Making promises I cannot keep.  That is, without the help of Another.

A simple ceremony at the church my bride grew up in.  The pews are packed with 200 guests.  Family and friends, who came to hold us to this promise.  Before God and these witnesses.

We kiss.  They celebrate.  We smile.  I always imagined I would feel completely different at this moment.  It’s the most glorious day of your life, they’d tell me.  Next to the day I was Saved, my wedding was the greatest day of my life, I’d hear from the pulpit.

We walk down the aisle, toward the double doors.  They swing open and we are let in to the lobby to thank and greet our guests.  Why do I feel the same as I did ten minutes ago?  We shake their hands or hug those dearest to us.  They have travelled from far away places, just to be with us on this day.  And we will not get to say more than a few words to most of them. 

The guests are getting hungry.  They get in their cars and head over to the Fire Hall.  We retreat into the chapel for photographs.  My dad’s side of the family.  Mom’s side.  Her dad’s side.  Her mom’s side.  Bridesmaids.  Groomsmen.  Best friend.  Brothers.  Sister.  Us.

The limousine arrives, and we shimmy down the long, leather seat.

When we arrive, the guests are all snacking on their salt and pepper potato chips, sipping soda and water.  (This budget didn’t allow for much more.)  The music kicks up, and we all make our grand entrance into the Hall. 

We sit alone at a table, in the center, with windows behind us, warming up the room on this hot August day.  We barely eat our Whole Foods wraps and handmade sides.  They said I should eat, even if I don’t feel hungry.  Did I eat enough?  We are partly nervous, but also wanting to touch the hand of each guest, and say a word of thanks.  Thank you for traveling all that long distance you did to let me touch your hand and say thank you. 

We hold one another’s hand and float around the room, sitting for a minute with those who we have the deepest history with. 

Time for white-iced chocolate cake.  Cut.  Click, flash.  Click, click, flash, click.  What did we say we were going to do?  Before I can answer my own question, cake is gently smeared across my cheek, and halfway on my lips.  I return the gentle favor.  They cheer. 

Bridesmaid speech.  Best Man speech.  Music.  Dancing.  We try to let loose, with so many unfinished thoughts.

People begin to leave, to travel their long distance back to their far away places.

Time continues to clip, and before we know it, tables are being swept and cleared off. 

The limosine driver is looking nervously at his watch.

Rachel is getting changed.  Something is taking longer than expected.  The driver has difficulty hiding his anxiety.  Finally, Rachel arrives.  Some snag with the dress.  More kisses and hugs.  Is there any food left?  Too late.

He shoves our bags in the trunk, and we are off to the Airport Hotel.

We race down the highway, and within the hour we arrive.  The concrete infrastructure seems more ominous than usual.  We will be here, alone.  We’ve never really been alone before.

At 4:30 the next morning, we awake from our sleepless night to pack up our few belongings.  We must make the 5:30 boarding.  Once we pass through security, we grab a scone and coffee from Starbucks.  At E6, we are left a few moments to sit before the boarding begins.

6:00.  “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, my name is Sarah and I’ll be your chief flight attendant. On behalf of Captain Schmitt and the entire crew, welcome aboard Airlines flight…”  We taxi toward the runway, and Rachel begins to doze.

Seattle.  We grab our baggage and head down to the Hertz.  We reserved a small sedan, with just enough room for our bags, the floor so thin the road rumbles beneath us.

We taste our first bit of calm as we drive north toward the Canadian border, the city fading behind us.  The landscape begins to roll, as small hills turn to big hills. 

We pull off at a rest stop.  The antithesis of an east coast stop.  A little hut, and a bathroom on either side.  There are hiking trails leading away from the small parking lot.  We can hear birds singing for the first time that day.  An older couple occupying the hut window serves us coffee and baked cookies, wishing us the best as we travel to destination honeymoon.

The border is crossed after waiting in a long row of cars as Security checks passports and baggage.  We begin to see mountains in the distance.  I’ve never seen mountains this majestic.  My heart flutters.

We reach Vancouver.  Thankfully our ferry has not left without us.  Eighty Canadian dollars are paid to the man in the booth, and we drive our little sedan onto the lower deck.  We are one of the last cars to make it on.

The ferry churns a deep wake over to Victoria Island.  And we finally begin to unwind from the events of the last forty-eight hours.  Rachel is exhausted, and goes inside the cabin to curl up on a cushioned chair.  I stand over the edge, watching the island pass by.

We drive North on the Patricia Bay Highway.  Now we are not thinking of time.  We arrive in a small town called Brentwood Bay.  It is dinner time.  We check in to our Boathouse on the Bay, then drive back to the small grocer at the center of town.  Surprisingly, he is still open, as well as the wine shop.  Back to the Boathouse.

It is 8pm.  The evening is crisp, cooling as the sun drops.  We open the window overlooking the Bay, and sit out on the deck.   Olives, sharp provolone, tzatziki dip, and pita bread.  Sipping our red, we watch the sun burrow into the mountains on the horizon.  The wine begins to take effect, and we fall into a peaceful, dreamless rest, as the water gently laps underneath the dock and Boathouse, onto the rocky shore.

Part six.



Part six.

I sit down in the middle of a sea of chairs, sparsely populated.  Still ten or fifteen minutes until the band starts.  Up ahead, a few rows out from the stage, I see Rachel talking with my friend, Andrew.  Guttural electronic tones swim from a web of speakers overhead, and I settle in to a trance like state, staring at the jumbo screens.  This minimalist scene complimenting the music to perfection.

As I watch, I am looking down at the top of an earth-toned mug filled with black coffee, sitting on an olive green, wooden table.  After a moment, a hand sweeps in from the top of the screen, grasping the small handle with the slip of a finger, pulling the cup to lips out of sight.  After an imagined sip, the cup is replaced, a bit emptier.  Then again, the hand takes it away, sips, and returns.  The same scene repeated, until the cup is drained.  A carafe comes to the rescue from the left, filling the mug to it’s brim.  A drop spills onto the table as the carafe pulls away.  In comes the hand…

I bring my plastic lidded paper cup to my lips.

This is day three of the Christian Conference.  We traveled here, to Louisville, through the night.  Rachel decided to come with my friends and me, even though we haven’t been dating for two months.

I don’t know what it was.  It seems like a distant memory now, thinking of our silence on the phone.  The long distance relationship was taking it’s toll on us.  But now, here we are, enjoying ourselves like old friends.  Like there was never any tension or difficulty between us.

A few minutes to go till the band starts.  The flood gates seem to have opened, as hormonally charged twenty somethings wash through this massive room, filling every last corner, trying to save a row of seats here and there, or a few seats in the front.

We sing.  We sit.  We listen.  We are filled.

The tide begins to withdraw from the room.  I gather up my few belongings from underneath my chair and walk out into the lobby, looking for Rachel.  Instead, I see Andrew coming toward me, parting the sea, eyes wide and locked on my person.  He grabs my shoulder.

“Joe.  I was talking to Rachel before the session, and you know what?  She’s a pretty nice girl.  I’m starting to see her in a new light.  I think you made a mistake in breaking up with her.”  I wasn’t expecting him to say this.  “I really think you should reconsider.”  A visible weight is lifted from his face.

That’s it.  Nothing more.  A seed planted.  Up until this point, I had not been thinking that Rachel and I should start dating again.  Things seemed to be going just fine as friends.  Why complicate it?  I try with all my strength to ignore what he said.

But I can’t.  What if he’s right?  What if I did make a mistake in breaking up with her?  I am thrown into turmoil for the remainder of the afternoon.  A group of us go out to a local restaurant for dinner, since it is our last night here.  I remain absorbed in my thoughts.

After dinner I pull aside another friend, Josh, to explain to him my turmoil.  His only advice: go for it.

What am I to do?  This is our last night here.  What will people think if we come back, dating.  I see Rachel.  “Rache.  Do you want to take a walk down by the river?”  Will they think I’m fickle?  Maybe I should sleep on this for a few days.  We walk past the hotel where we’d all been staying, and up onto the levee.

The evening is perfect.  A cool breeze flows gently in from the east.  A barge travels past slowly from the west.

“I’ve been thinking…”  This time the air doesn’t die so quickly.  The fresh air probably helping.  What am I getting myself into?  Should I sleep on this?  “When we were dating, I made things hard for us.  I’m sorry.  I made it hard for us to talk.  I’ve been wondering if maybe we broke up for the wrong reasons.”  Her cheeks rise, and a smile slips over her face.

“It’s been fun to be here together.”

“It has,” she says.

“Maybe what’s been different about it is that we aren’t under the pressure of time.  We haven’t been focussing on having a ‘good conversation,’ but instead, just enjoying being together.  Maybe things could be different for us…”

We sit down on a bench, overlooking the water.

“You’ll be home for the summer.  Maybe… maybe things could be better for us this summer… if we were able to see each other more.  What would you think about if… we were to start dating again?”

That night, she became my girl.  Again.

Part five.  Part seven.

Better Than Archeology


Part five.

I was back east for winter break.  We walked in the brisk air to the Imperial Inn in Chinatown.  We held hands and sipped a cup of steaming chrysanthemum tea.

We sat in the Imperial Inn in Chinatown
You took me there after a day after a few hours
With your family at the Museum
Of Archeology of the millennium-old debris of dead
People from the Nile neighborhood
Of punctured drums of the Bougarabou stretching baked cow skin.

Inside a case of glass a glass tomb undignified royal tomb
Bandaged in layers of layers of moth-eaten linen
A dried-out relic man shriveled after thousands of years
Long before this Common Era as if his
Were uncommon is unknown mysterious to us
But death is real and the man and his dog had lost
Their brains through their noses
That beating banging heart machine broke
And red crusted those streets of one-way traffic
One-way life halted one day in a traffic jam.

But your traffic races two millimeters under my own
You were real too you seemed more real
Than gritty Sahara linen death man and dog
And I held you heart beating my soft skin mute drum.


Part four.  Part six.

Two pounds of butter


“I was thinking I could have two pounds of butter melted in a cup and I could drink that, ’cause I would like that.” – Emeth

“Are there animals that make pickles from around the world?” – Emeth, as he observed the pickle jar

“Are we not having salwad a-night?” – Emeth’s daily question before dinner

“I can’t wait climb when I’m as five as Caela.” – Emeth, commenting on Micaela’s climbing skills

“This is how clophs hang.” – Emeth, imitating a sloth

Hanging like a sloth

Hanging like a sloth

“I remember a long, long time ago, like when I was three, mommy made me a turkey sandwich with pickles on it.” – Micaela, age 5


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