Monday, January 29, 2007


My father and his bride stopped by the Billy pad on an extended road trip. They carried with them boxes of Things. Things, like my dad's Depression-era toy collection. Like my mother's hats, shoes, purses. I was encouraged to paw through the boxes and choose what Things I want to keep.

Dad and the bride are starting a new life together, one that involves years of travel, so they are shedding excess weight. I picture them moving from offspring to offspring, sloughing off heavy layers of memory, leaving the glistening shells in our hands.

They don't need any of it anymore. Lightened, nearly naked, they will lift up and out of our world.

I dug through the box of my mother's things. I chose one hat, one evening bag. As I plunged deeper, stranger things emerged. This is what I kept:

- Her wallet, from when we lived in London. It contains her Tube pass, other ID. A tiny notebook full of her wobbly handwriting. Notes for stories or poems. Ragged narratives of her brain's increasingly convoluted journeys.
- Her eyeglass case.
- The screws from when she broke her ankle. She had them framed after they were removed. Mom had an odd sense of humor.
- A tiny pair of moccasins. When my mother was born, her feet were too small for shoes, so the neighboring tribe -- or as Dad puts it, "the Indians" -- made these for her.
- Wrapped in tissue in two boxes: Her bridal veil, the bride and groom from the wedding cake, the marzipan roses from the wedding cake. This last astonishes me. I never knew she kept any of these things, and I have no idea how, in the chaos of our house, she was able to preserve them so perfectly.

The last thing I pulled out of the depths of the box was a bundle wrapped in plastic. Inside, a hairbrush, a mouth guard, and several vials labeled with my mother's name.

I held up one of the vials. There was a substance in it. It had separated. Dark red, nearly black, at the bottom. Whitish and almost solid - like fat - in the middle. Yellowish and liquid at the top.

"Dad," I said, hesitating, not sure I wanted to know the answer, "Is this...blood?"

"Oh, yeah," said Dad, "For a DNA test. Turned out they couldn't use the blood, though. The hair from the hairbrush did the trick."

Dad is interested in genealogy, so I understood the impulse.

But I can't forget about the blood. About my Dad and his bride driving across the country with vials of my mother's blood rolling around in the car.

I wonder, if I sprinkle three drops on a handkerchief, will they protect me, like the goose girl?

Or would she haunt me, instead?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Those few of you who still visit this cobweb-strewn corner of the Internets will not be surprised to learn I've been suffering from blog burnout.

This is my attempt at repentance. I gain a great deal from this dialogue with you, so if you will give me another chance, I will pay you back with new content.


Monday, January 01, 2007

It wasn't even New Year's Eve, and I wasn't the one smashed

There are three separate, distinct sounds. One, a sliding, like something rubbing against the wall. Two, a dull impact. Three, shattering glass. Just like that: one, two, three. Mr. Billy sits up in time to see the cat streaking out of the room at light speed. I'm still working it out, my eyes closed. Shattering glass. Shit. It was the mirror, the full-length mirror leaning against the wall. Or, not leaning anymore. In pieces on the bedroom floor. I haven't opened my eyes yet, but I can picture exactly where it landed, I could hear it spreading out across the floor.

The cat knocked over the mirror

Mr. Billy turns on the light, hops out of bed. "Don't do that," I say.

"No, no, my shoes are right here," Mr. Billy says, slipping them on. "I'll be okay."

I'm holding onto the footboard, looking down at the broken glass. I put my hands over my face. It creeps me out, a broken mirror. I know it's ridiculous, but I can't help it. Seven years' bad luck.

"What is it?" asks Mr. Billy.

I laugh through my fingers, nervously. "I'm trying not to be superstitious," I say.

The last time I broke a mirror was during a move nearly fifteen years ago. It was a big, old wooden framed thing that sat in my bedroom since I was a little girl. A curved top. It was gorgeous.

This mirror was just a cheap Ikea jobbie, nothing to get upset about.

I take my hands away from my face and look down. It's lovely, the pieces of mirror sparkling in the light, reflecting back shards of the room.

"While you're getting the broom," I say to Mr. Billy, "bring me the camera."