Happiness is spying a couple on Day 1 of their vow ’til death do us part.
This was the last day of our first Smith College Family Weekend Sunday brunch. We had just left a string quartet performance and finished stuffing our faces with pancakes and grapefruit. I was standing beneath these glorious trees on a pleasantly warm autumn day. Three years later and it’s almost that time of year again. I can’t wait. Hotel already booked.
1. My name is misspelled on my birth certificate.
2. I’m a descendant of Jean Toomer.
3. I booked a week-long stay in a Bed and Breakfast and the innkeeper offered me the attached cottage as a permanent residence. I live there now.
4. I see numbers, letters, days of the week, and months of the year in a specific graphical sequence in my mind that never changes.
5. I won a belching contest when I was 16.
My mother loves to laugh. Not quips, but ache-with-joy bouts of woman howling. Her giggle is a siren song that ripples out and grabs you. This is a foto of her last year in October the day after my first round of chemo. I drove her to the lighthouse. She’d arrived the week before and had no time for sightseeing, unless you consider daily trips to the cancer center a tourist activity. I shuffled around the beachfront, but she climbed right up on the rocks and walked along the jetty. When a man offered to help her down safely, she started to laugh. And then he laughed and I laughed and his wife laughed and the sound swelled around us and broke open the sky.
Day 5: Crush
I stood at the beach a day ago watching the lifeguards. I was drawn to the young woman in the photo. I wasn’t really drawn to her as much as I was drawn to what she represented- the exuberance of youth. After a few minutes of them laughing and climbing onto and off of the guard tower, I was again 19 ditching morning classes with my boyfriend to make love and eat peanut butter and cracker sandwiches on the beach. Sun and sand white hot on my skin, I felt unencumbered so I tossed my walking cane into the trunk and took a stroll indulging the nostalgia. I remembered it all: musky and sweet cologne, the rough seam of his jogging shorts as we struggled to remove them, his hands cradling my neck against the hot sand, the expanse of sky and tide ebbing closer. Everyhing illuminated. Each small joy more intense than the one before it. And then I slipped. My feet against the wood ramp that leads from the concrete seawall to the sand below gave way and I gripped the rail just in time to avoid falling shocking me back to the present day. I returned to my car that was parked in the Handicapped lane and grabbed my walking cane. My 19-year-old self would have taken the fall, picked herself up, and ran into the arms of the ocean, not even stopping to pull seaweed off her legs. Maybe I return to the beach now just to catch a glimpse of her, to warn her of all the things she will someday come to fear. That list is long.
I miss her.