A Bundle of Thanks

Dear Apple,

Thank you for building a very sturdy Mac Book.  I discovered just how sturdy mine is when I was happily typing away on my couch and a big, black spider crawled across my bare arm.  Naturally I shrieked, jumped up, and inadvertently threw my Mac Book to the floor.  After I’d finished shrieking and doing the heebeejeebee dance, I picked up my computer and was delighted to find it was none the worse for wear.  Job well done, Apple.

Sincerely,

The girl who will try not to throw her computer again

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Dear Terry,

Thank you for shaking out my couch blanket until the monstrous spider revealed itself.  Thanks for only saying once how tiny it really was and for not arguing with me when I insisted it looked much bigger close up.  And thank you for stomping the spider into oblivion.  I was only a little grossed out that you stomped it with your bare foot.  Your chivalry is much appreciated.

Love,

The girl who will try not to be so shrieky

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Dear Spider,

Thank you for crawling on me when I was awake instead of crawling in my mouth when I was asleep.  I’m sorry your trip did not end well.

Cordially,

The girl who is not that sorry

Going Bananas

I am not a morning person.  Like, at all.  As I stumble out of the shower, it’s all I can do to brush my teeth and deodorize my pits and not the reverse.  So when it comes to breakfast, I need something easy enough for a monkey to manage.

Enter the banana, possibly the most perfect fruit of all.

Earlier today I was caught in a conversation with other people who actually cook.  Like with pans and stuff.  One person made scrambled eggs and chorizo for breakfast.  Another whipped up pumpkin pancakes.  Their breakfasts sounded awesome and I’m sure they tasted great, but I cannot even begin to fathom being coherent enough to operate a stove safely in the morning.  I’m 98.976% sure the smoke detector would be involved.  It’s just a bad idea.

As my friends talked about their breakfasts, I began to feel a bit embarrassed that I’d run out the door and scarfed down a lonely banana in the car.  Even more embarrassed that I do this all the time.

Then this afternoon I read another blog and the topic was what people eat for breakfast.  People posted tales of homemade maple syrup drizzled over French toast, steaming bowls of steel-cut oats with fresh fruit, and waffles hot from the press.  My banana and I were shamed.  Again.

Well, let me tell you, friends, I love bananas.  And it’s not just because they don’t require any cooking, although that is a major plus for those of us who are cooking challenged.

Bananas are a wonderful breakfast food no matter what mode of transport I’m taking.  Walking or driving?  I just crack that baby open and toss the peel in field near my house.  Actually, most days I aim for the field and somehow manage to land it in the bushes lining the front of the field.  Riding my bike?  I shove that yellow treat in my jersey pocket and scarf it down at a stop light.  And then throw the peel in the field.  Or the bushes.  Whatever.

Did you know bananas have three sections each with a distinct flavor?  You didn’t?  Oh that’s right, you have a life.  Anyway, the next time you’re eating a banana and nobody else is around, press your tongue down on the tip of a banana.  It will split into thirds and each third has a unique flavor.  One section is sweeter, one section is more bitter, etc.  It’s true.  Here’s another fun fact.  The scientific name for a bunch of bananas is a “hand” and each fruit is called a “finger”.  Cool, right?  No?  Oh well.

The point is, the next time I’m trapped in a conversation about breakfast masterpieces, I’m going to tout the simple beauty of the banana.

Or maybe I’ll just get a life.

Dear Sore Throat,

Dear Sore Throat,

Thank you for arriving in full force today.  Yesterday you were just an aggravating tickle, meaning that I ignored you while I cleaned the house, did laundry, went to a birthday party, ate dinner out, and went to the movies.

But today you will not be ignored.  And while I prefer that you not visit at all, thank you for arriving today, a day when I had nothing on the books.  I bundled up in my bathrobe and sent Terry on an emergency Kleenex run.  I transformed the couch into a Fortress of Sickitude, complete with throat lozenges, blanket, tissue, teddy bear, and sole possession of the remote control.  Then I hunkered down for a day of napping, reading, and watching Sixteen Candles for the infinitillionth time.

Having said that, Sore Throat, I would really appreciate it if you’d pack up and leave today.  Let’s face it, you are not all that helpful when I’m trying to teach a roomful of little ones.

Sincerely,

Alicia, Queen of the Fortress

Black & White

A long time ago in a space that seems fuzzy and far away, before I owned a road bike or called myself a cyclist, my step-dad, Chris, used to take me mountain biking.  I use that term loosely because it’s not like I was hopping up boulders or screaming downhill, whipping through singletrack or anything.  I was riding mostly flat dirt trails on my mountain bike.

Often Chris would bring along his dog, Jack.  Jack was the blackest dog I’ve ever seen.  His coat was a glossy obsidian color and as he ran alongside us, his pink tongue would hang out.  His tongue had one black spot right in the middle.  In his more nimble days, Jack would get so excited about riding bikes that he would bite at our tires.  I would nudge him away with my foot, half smiling at his mischievous side.  Not that I could relate or anything.

As I tootled along the dusty trails, I tried, with varying amounts of success, not to get lost and not to crash.  Quite often I got separated from Chris and he’d send Jack to find me.  I was never afraid of being lost when I rode with Chris because I knew Jack would always come back for me.  As I stood befuddled as to which way to turn on a trail, Jack would lope up to me, his polka dot tongue waggling at me.  I would say “Hi, Jack.  Thanks for coming to get me.  Take me to Chris.”  And sure enough, Jack led me to Chris every time.  He was my own personal rescue dog.

Today Jack died.  And I am sad.  I know he was old and no longer spry enough to run rescue missions on the trails.  And I know he wasn’t even my dog.  But I am sad.  Sad that he will never nip at my tires or grin at me with his silly polka dot tongue.

I rode my bike to school today and in the late morning Terry dropped by my classroom with a bouquet of stark white roses.  When it came time to go home, I jimmied the bouquet into my backpack and strapped on my helmet.  The roses bumped against the back of my helmet as I pedaled up the hill home.  Every little bump seemed to release a new wave of fragrance into the air.  It was lovely.

As I inhaled the scent of the white roses, I thought of black Jack.  I thought of how grief is anything but black and white.  It is shades of gray, birthed from black sorrow and white joy stacked one upon the other, like crying and laughing in the same breath.

When I got home today, I plunged the roses into a vase of water.  A lone petal fell onto the counter.  I fingered its pale skin, grateful today for the juxtaposition of loss and love.  I stood in the kitchen and gave thanks that in my life there is more laughing than crying, more love than loss, more white than black.

Eggshells

Dear Little One,

You are so timid, so fragile, like you are made from hollowed eggshells.  The computer makes you cry.  The bathroom makes you cry.  Talking makes you cry.  You fog up your tiny glasses with rushes of hot tears.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  You dart your eyes away from mine and have never made eye contact.  I think your goal each day is to be invisible.

Our goodbye routine is always a high-five.  Never a hug.  Never a smile.  And when our palms meet, I can’t help but notice yours is trembling.  I think your tiny twig arms tremble like that all the time.

Yesterday, after our standard goodbye high-five, I asked you “Are we ever going to hug?”

You looked at the wall.

“I’ve got a hug waiting for you when you want it.”  I smiled.

“Tomorrow.”, you said, hurrying to the coat rack to retrieve your backpack.  You wear your backpack in front, like a shield, and I wonder what it is you’re protecting yourself from.

Today I thought all day long about how you’d choose to say goodbye.  Would you offer your wavering palm?  Or maybe, just maybe, would you drop your guard enough to let me hug you?

The end of the day arrived and you opened your arms and stretched them toward me.  They were shaking.  Your whole body was shaking.  I hugged you tight and undoubtedly too long.

I let you go and you took a step toward the coat rack.  And then you looked back at me.  You looked me in the eye and said “See you tomorrow, Mrs. McCauley.”

“See you tomorrow.” I replied, unsuccessfully fighting back tears.  Little one, I promise to see you, really see you, every day, especially on days when you are willing yourself into invisibility behind your glasses.

Let go of your fear.  Put down your shield.  I am safe.  I will not break you, sweet little one made of eggshells.  My arms are open to you.  Be brave, little one, brave enough to open yours again.

Love,

Mrs. McCauley

Dear Little One,

Dear Little One,

Today I sat down next to you to see how your writing was going.  You were writing a letter to a friend.  You winked at me and told me you’d put one in my mailbox, too.  Actually, you haven’t learned how to wink yet, but you blinked with purpose and I got your drift.

You stopped writing for a moment, cupped my face with both of your hands and said, “I just love you, Mrs. McCauley.”  And then you hugged my neck.  You smiled and I saw the window where you’d lost your first tooth.  I hugged you and left you to finish your letter.

After school I had to deal with an angry parent.  And then I had to deal with a student who is being untrustworthy.  I left school drained of all joy.

And then I thought of you.

I thought of your little smile, your little hands, and your big heart.  You are the reason I teach, little one.  Thank you for reminding me.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll teach you how to wink.

Love,

Mrs. McCauley

Goodbye, White

Labor Day is here, banishing white pants to the back of the closet for another season.  Well, I don’t own any white pants, ’cause my bottom half just doesn’t need that level of attention, so instead I’m writing about other white things that have come and gone.

Goodbye white lace on the baby pillow my mom stitched for me.  I loved you until you were dirty tatters framing the yellow gingham,  Come to think of it, goodbye white stuffing that filled the pillow and in the end came out in puffy lumps through the hole where I loved that pillow too thin.

Goodbye white stephanotis corsage that I wore to a junior prom.  You were so much more beautiful than the red roses all the other girls wore.  Good riddance to the boy that gave me that corsage and didn’t ever talk to me again because I wouldn’t smoke a joint and sleep with him.  Wait, not even good riddance to him.  Just riddance.

Goodbye Saturday morning sweetmilks with mounds of snowy powdered sugar spooned in the middle.  This isn’t so much a goodbye as it is a “See you later on a lazy winter morning.”  I will wipe powdered sugar from my lips and remember wiping my mouth on the corner of Grandpa’s “Kiss Me, I’m Norweigan” apron.

Goodbye white seashells washing ashore in the shadows of the pier.  I keep you in a jam jar on my night stand, remembering the day I last kissed my grandmother.  I can’t wait to walk barefoot in the sand and gather more shells for my jar.

Goodbye white wedding dress, all boxed up on the top shelf in my closet.  I take you down every now and then and blow the dust off the front of the box.  You made me feel like a princess on our wedding day.  You were spotless and new and so was I.  One day I will work up the nerve to free you from your box and wear you around the house.  Until then, wait for me with your satiny train all tucked in.

Goodbye blackberry blossoms, bursting white among the thorns.  It’s time for you to rest, time to pull fall’s burgundy blanket up to your chin as the earth breathes a sigh of relief.  It’s Labor Day and the laboring is done.  For now.