Friday, May 28, 2010


Dearest You,

I have known you since before you were born. Since you were a big bump under your mama's chic maternity top. She rubbed her hands over her belly and told me your name. I rested my hands on my own big belly and introduced you to my boy. Neither of you born, but both already with a best friend. Such luck.

You are as fair as my boy is dark. You are steady where my boy is easily distracted. He bounces from toy to toy while you build long Lego bridges and stretch train track in tidy curves. You have a high, silly giggle that always makes me smile.

Before you could walk, we walked with you -- me and your mom trudging up the hills of Griffith Park. We pushed you boys in strollers or strapped you into slings and backpacks. At first, we stopped frequently, plopping down on the side of the trail to nurse you into sleep. With the city spread out at our feet, we fed our babies and shared stories of sleepless nights and endless crying. We wondered about the future though we couldn't imagine that you would ever be any bigger, any different than you were right at that moment.

When you began to walk, you still sat peacefully in the sand, surrounded by brightly colored shovels and buckets while my boy tested out his running legs. Around this time, your mom and I didn't get to talk nearly as much. I saw her (and you) from a distance while I chased down my boy. We started and stopped the same sentence a dozen times and often parted with only half of a story.

Like my boy, you were a late talker. When you did finally speak, your voice was deep as though it had been percolating inside you like coffee or a long steeped tea. You use this voice to report. When I want to know what's been going on, I always turn to you because you are a reliable source. You take a certain pride in being this source. You create a certain amount of order. My boy craves this order, but cannot seem to create it on his own. This is how you help him. He helps you by racing ahead into adventure, knowing that (however begrudgingly) you will follow. Each of you is ballast for the other.

Because you are inherently kind and sensitive, you play well with my daughter. This is a good thing because at some point, my son will abandon your quiet games to kick a ball into the planters or toss a frisbee into the trees. He will leave your carefully ordered world for his own sweatier and messier one and when he does, my daughter will gladly fill in. The two of you will line up plastic ponies and furnish a house for the toy hamsters. You will patiently sip tea from china cups. You are kind enough to try to include her when my son inevitably returns although she (also inevitably) will stomp off to her room.

Once there was a plan for you to spend the night, but you got cold feet and left my son in tears. Your blue eyes were cloudy with regret, but you were stubborn in your need to be in your own bed. Another time, you stayed all night, but I could tell it was hard and as bedtime grew near, your mouth tightened with worry and your eyes grew wide. We gave you a new toothbrush and my son offered his favorite glow in the dark pajamas and eventually you settled in. My son fell asleep leaving you feeling lonely and so you came to our bed and snuggled in between my husband and I. We waited until you began to snore and then we carried you to bed. I like that you did that. I like that you feel comfortable asking me for a snack or rummaging in my purse for change. You think nothing of handing me a half-eaten popsicle or chewing gum that's lost it's chew because I have always been around.

I am pleased to be around for you. I am proud of you and happy to call you a friend. It is good to watch you grow.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twenty One

Dearest You,

When we first met, you were living in Los Angeles. My Dad called you a "big Hollywood screenwriter." He might have also called you a "bullshitter," but then, that's what he called a lot of people. The Los Angeles where you lived is very different in my memory from the Los Angeles where I live (and have lived for nearly twenty years.) Your Los Angeles is dreamlike, quick visions of bougainvillea and poinsettias grown to magical proportions. I see leaded glass windows and curved Mediterranean walls. There might have been a window seat with a view out over the city.

When you visited our house in New Mexico, it was always in the company of a different woman. You had been married enough times to know the ceremony by heart. You proved this by joining my stuffed animals in holy matrimony with our dog and my brother. Something along the lines of "Will you, dog, take this bear and this boy and these stuffed bunnies..."

Your voice was and is the voice of a midnight disc jockey, intimate and flattering and a little naughty.

I remember a dinner at our local Mexican restaurant when all the adults were drinking margaritas and all the kids were amped on Shirley Temples. My dad was drawing cartoons on the paper placemat and when I came to lean against his shoulder, you stood and dipped me back as if you were going to kiss me. Everyone applauded and laughed and I was embarrassed, but a little thrilled. You had put your hand over my mouth and kissed your hand instead of my lips and when you pulled your hand away, I could still feel it there.

There are a lot of stories about you that I wasn't in. There are a lot of stories about you that Dad told me in the kind of confidence that Alzheimer's inspires (that is to say, the kind of confidence you have when you don't really know who you are talking to or what you are talking about...) You admit to having some stories that aren't fit to print. Don't we all?

You didn't come to Dad's memorial and so the first time I saw you after his death, it was as if your grief, postponed, was in full flood. You walked around the museum and the house and your eyes filled. You watched my children run around in the dirt and the weeds and I watched your eyes move from them to me and I could see the startlingly quick flow of time passing. You admitted to being recently married. You were the same and not the same as I remembered.

I would imagine that I am the same and not the same for you, too.