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The boxes are incredibly dusty; they haven’t been touched in years. We pull them down and wipe them off just in case we feel like playing.
Minutes later we are on the floor, and Pop-pop is teaching me how to play a game of dice. We bet pennies. Dad joins in, and it starts to get competitive, but we are all grinning. It’s a game of chance; we can’t control our fate, and somehow that free us to laugh.
Pop-pop’s pile of pennies grows. Knees young and old start to ache, so we move to the table. I suggest we pool the pennies; they all go to the final winner. Amazingly, I break my loosing streak and claim the jackpot. My promised pennies are poured back into a jar, but the time together is worth more than any money.
Nani joins us and we turn to a word game. Pop-pop agrees to referee. It requires all our concentration, but the laughs come afterward as we look at our words. Many don’t fit, some are made up. Nani repeatedly adds an S to words when there is no S available. I unsuccessfully try to use British slang words like ‘telly’.
It doesn’t matter who won or lost, only that we were together.
Looking out on clouds below me, watching the setting sun turn them from white puffs to rosey streaks, flying.
The huge noise of nighttime bugs, so loud I laugh in astonishment as I step into the darkness.
A warm shower and lovely bed after a long day of traveling.
Wearing a dress that makes me feel simultaneously comfortable and beautiful so much so that I forget to think about it.
The hot, misty smell of damp asphalt.
Exploring my grandparents’ basement and discovering, among other things, a 1967 bottle of wine, old photographs of my mother, a rusted wok set, a Bible of a girl now dead, and a harness of sleighbells.
A camera that allows me, in a small way, to capture the things I love and and take them with me.
Smiling at the over-worked waitress serving us dinner.
Rolling around on the carpet, playing with cats.
Soft, wet grass made for barefoot walking.
Talks with my grandmother in the half dark, revisiting memories with each other until we almost fall asleep.
The quiet feeling of my soul when it is full of good things.
If only I could learn to see myself the way I see the world.
We turn the bend and unexpected splendor meets the eye. The setting sun is a firey giant in the rainbow sky.
I stare, quite literally open-mouthed, struck dumb by glory. I forget all else and just breathe, and be.
The sight of one orange star burning 93 million miles away awakens my mind to bliss. I remember that there is so much more than this.
We talk about time travel as though it’s impossible, but we experience it every day. A touch, a taste, a sight, a sound, a smell sends me spinning back into the past. My mind is a time machine, and these are the controls that allow me to walk among my memories.
We are always recalling what has been, for the sake of gossip or a story, for information to help us understand, or to relive what is now gone, but we are equally obsessed with the future. Both we can access, if only in our mind. Our time machine is not perfect. It can only project, not create. Perhaps it is better this way.
We talk about time travel as though it’s glorious, but it’s dangerous. With a real time machine, we could magnify the mistakes we make now, returning to the same memory over and over or dwelling in the exciting reality of the future, all this to escape the struggle of everyday life, the tedious progression of time.
A wise man once said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.” I’m glad time travel is impossible. I’m glad for the slow path. I am glad I must live.
I needed to move, so I grabbed the leash, fitted the harness on the dog, and walked down the path.
The day was clear, warm with just enough of a breeze to keep cool. To my surprise, the dog park was empty when we arrived.
Not being particularly social, my dog was happy enough to wander through the bushes and woodchips on his own, while I sat under the shade of the trellis to read.
They came sometime later – one can never really tell time when one is reading – the tan, weathered couple and their equally weathered dog. Allie, I learned her name was. She lumbered over and looked at me with sweet, round brown eyes. I scratched her coarse black fur, and we were friends.
I remarked on the weather, the strange emptiness of the dog park, and set my book down. The woman sat across from me and we talked dogs. Her husband faced out into the park, quiet, only turning round when the woman mentioned that he was always alpha to the dogs, not her.
The conversation evolved, casually mentioned details provoking questions and growing into stories. I told her about school, my love of storytelling, my half-formed dreams for the future. She told me of her past, studying Psychology, teaching. Somehow, I was at ease with this stranger.
When Allie laid down, that was the cue to leave. The woman shook my hand, asking my name, and introduced her husband, Chuck. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I didn’t catch your name.”
“Oh, I’m Gail,” she said, and they left the dog park.
I sit cross-legged on the floor, braiding the oldest girl’s hair, admiring the myriad colors. Diego’s peppy voice occupies the attention of the youngest; he has forgotten his bowl of popcorn.
I’m still in shorts and a t shirt, hair pulled into a pony tail, slightly damp from a run. The middle child, a shy little four-year-old girl, watches me in admiration.
“You’re pretty,” she says, as if it’s a fact.
The wonderful thing about children is that they are frank. They say what they think, and tell what they see.
And so, perhaps for the first time, I believe. I am pretty.
“Breakfast is served!” I declare, busing two plates of hash browns, fried peppers, eggs, and a bottle of ketchup onto the back patio.
Daddy looks at the food in anticipation. “Thanks for cooking,” he says. We hold hands and pray, briefly, but with joyful sincerity.
I dip the first forkful of crispy brown potato into the golden yolk of my fried egg, and taste bliss.
“When you were cooking, I noticed how comforting the smell of breakfast is,” Daddy says. “It’s different than other meals.”
I take a sip of my tea, which is always conducive to good thoughts.
“Well, normally we don’t cook breakfast, because we have places to go. Maybe the smell is comforting because it implies that we have time to relax and enjoy our meal.”
Later, I realize there is another reason. In my family, we cook breakfast when we are together. On a morning when Daddy’s working at home. In a familiar cabin on our vacation in Yosemite. To uphold my Pop-pop’s Christmas tradition of chipped beef on toast. While we sing, “Good morning breakfast lovers, and how are you!” at our east coast reunions.
Breakfast runs in the family.
God bless America.
Every day he sits on the corner, on the red paint of the fire zone at the edge of the neighborhood. Black and white, the little tuxedo bird.
I wonder what he’s waiting for. Why does he sit on the curb when he could be flying?
How strange it is that a bird and a girl have so much in common.
The hum of the stadium lights fills the night. The switch turns back with a loud click. Sudden darkness. Crickets sing, and the distant stars shine in ancient luminescence.