All night I’ve been leaning against the windowsill, knowing you will leave before the sun comes to drive away this darkness. For hours I’ve studied abandoned spider webs, each thin filament spun by a creature that repulses me. I’ve climbed the curves of each smudged fingerprint, those phantoms of your touch. You have been my redemption; tethered to you I have not failed completely. By 4 a.m. the Marines will arrive to claim you. The gravel drive will sigh beneath the weight of tires, and you will disappear into adulthood. I think of the day you arrived, unceremonious as it was when they dropped you on my doorstep, a toddler still battling his mother’s demons. How she’d pumped them through you while you weren’t aware. You were my broken boy, full of rage and joy, in love with every breath. How the years have healed you. From you I learned belief. In the darkness, crickets call to no one in particular. Cool August air slips through faulty seals. I ask the night so many questions, but the house is heavy with silence.
Bridget Gage-Dixon spends her days cajoling other people’s teenagers to read great books and utilize proper grammar and her nights cajoling her own teens to pick up after themselves. She lives in a small house in the woods where she can often be found at her computer agonizing over word choice. Her work has appeared in several journals including Poet Lore, The New York Quarterly, and Cortland Review.
Chantal Walvoord has a M.A. in Literature, University of Kentucky and MLS from Louisiana State University. She has two daughters. She has published reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and other book-related journals.
I look out at the huge grey world and silently cry.
My daughter comes in and pauses in the shadow.
I imagine she is wondering why Mumma is crying for no reason again,
But when I look at her
She is only a little girl, looking down,
Wondering if her hands are clean.
Jennie Robertson is mother to two small children, writing out of her New Hampshire home or while on the road with her handsome submarine-fixing husband. While writing this short biographical statement, an earnest four-year-old, now in “outer space,” interrupted several times to inquire at the “police station,” ie Jennie’s desk. And so it goes…
I pulled into the car wash, past the wet bays, straight to the coin op vacuum station. Three round stainless steel cylinders caught the morning sun, glorious, promising. Quarters jingled in my pocket.
I opened all four doors, flushing the inside of my filthy car with cold morning air. I could see my breath, but the briskness was worth it. I hadn’t vacuumed my car for over a year, since before my diagnosis. The filth was disgusting, a year’s worth of candy wrappers, pebbles, errant buttons and screws, a marble or two, some legos, plastic spoons, dirt, an armless Barbie doll. Stuff that had once smelled bad but whose odor had eventually dissipated. It was all going to be vacuumed clean.
Fourteen months ago, my husband found a lump on my right breast. “What’s this?” he said in the darkness of our bedroom. I put my fingers over his, pressing down on the almond-shaped lump that was hiding just beneath the softness of my skin.
“I’ll make an appointment in the morning,” I whispered back, the air between us suddenly heavy, somber.
It was the moment that set wheels in motion, the moment that led us to the dreaded diagnosis. Triple negative breast cancer is the most aggressive form out there. It spreads fast, begets a grim prognosis. Within a few days of finding the lump, our lives were sucked into a medical vortex. Terms we had never heard of, machines we had never seen. Diagnoses I couldn’t understand, even after they were explained over and over again, gently, but with unwavering constancy.
Meanwhile, the mail piled up. And the laundry piled up. The refrigerator started to smell. A crack in our windshield went unprepared. Our air conditioner broke. The yard needed to be mowed. And, the filth in our car mirrored the new level of chaos in our lives every time we ran out for a gallon of milk.
At the car wash, I started piling the big stuff on the leather upholstery, throwing trash into a plastic grocery bag I found on the floor.
Tentatively, I reached my hand underneath the back seat, the “black hole,” as we call it in our family because so many lost items land there mysteriously. A can of corn. Colored pencils. Lots of crayons. And then, a tiara, emerald green and sparkly. A tiara from before the almond, before the chaos hit.
Was it really that long ago? Had it already been over a year? I remembered the brilliant green dress, the slicked back hair, the shiny belt and the little slippers, my precious Lauren all dressed up to perform a scene from the Wizard of Oz, this sparkly green tiara the crowning jewel of her labored-over costume. Sparkles showered her hair, brought out the green in her eyes, the excitement of the moment glowing on rosy cheeks. For weeks before the performance, she had pranced around the house like the tiny ballerina she is, pirouetting, tiptoeing, springing, giggling.
When the day finally came to perform, my husband bought her a pink rose, and she posed with it, smiling into the camera, grabbing her dad by the neck and pulling him close. I recall the image, two faces smooched together, hers framed in the green glow of her costume and his with the unabashed love of this little child.
Chemo is over now, as is the lumpectomy and the weeks of daily radiation. The windshield is still cracked, but the laundry is mostly caught up and the refrigerator smells reasonable.
I tossed the debris into the trash but placed the tiara on the front seat. Glitter showered the leather, more fodder for the vacuum.
But the glitter shined that glorious morning in the coin op vacuum stall, shined like confetti in a ticker tape parade, celebrating my recovery.
Nancy Brier is a writer, entrepreneur and coach. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their eleven-year-old daughter, Lauren. To see more of Nancy’s work, visit www.NancyBrier.com.