What The Living Do

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[“Whitewashed”: lawn ornament, Somerville, MA, 2016]

Every Monday my husband and I care for our three-year-old granddaughter who arrived yesterday not feeling well. So the three of us spent as-quiet-as-it-can-get-with-a-three-year-old day. Although she never napped, much of the day she created cozy spots for herself and her toys to snuggle under various “blankets”; at lunchtime she even carefully tucked her pomegranate-pear squeeze food pouch under her napkin!

But by 5:00 even cuddly pleasures and rereading favorite books and . . . had lost their charm—so sitting on the couch together and perusing that day’s mail proved an excellent alternative. After scouring a couple of catalogs, she decided Grandma’s “Vanity Fair” (I know!) pretty intriguing. (Can you imagine what a three-year-old makes of a Gucci ad?!)

“Why is that woman smiling?” she asked when we turned another glossy page to discover a full-page Chopard (a jeweler) ad. “Because she’s happy that she’s wearing those fancy diamond earrings and that fancy diamond ring,” I tiredly replied.

Good God! What did I just do? I thought. Bad Grandma! Bad Grandma!

“No, sweetie,” I quickly amended. “That’s not why. She’s happy because she got—” I was about to say “. . . to spend the whole day with her granddaughter.” But the precious creature beside me was way ahead of me, already leaning close and reaching up to give me the most tender, loving kiss on my cheek. “Yes!” I affirmed. “You guessed it! She’s so happy because she just got a kiss from her wonderful granddaughter.”

“We can do no great things; only small things with great love,” Mother Teresa (reportedly) said. In the spirit of racial harmony we whitewash a lawn ornament. We vote. We leave our cans and bottles next to our recycle bin so that the people who rely on “redeemables” to survive don’t have to paw through our trash. We cherish.

WHAT THE LIVING DO

by Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Patricia,

    HI, there, Patricia, my so, so very dearly precious and dearly special sister and friend who you are For Always so, so very much!!!!!!! Sister, wow, wow, wow and wow and wow and a zillion wows here, Patricia!!!!!!!!! I so, so very much love and like this absolutely amazing blog post article of yours, sisterfriend, and it has filled me so with even more cheer and I feel just so, so very inspired, uplifted, and energized by this, my so, so very dearest friend!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so, so very blessed and honored, and so are all of your very, very many other grateful and appreciative readers to so joyfully read about this so fun and loving interaction you and your husband David had with your superbly super granddaughter, sister! She sounds just so, so very cute and adorable, and such a joy she is for sure!!!!!!!!!!! What fun the three of you had for certain!!!!!!! I so pray, hope, and wish that she’s feeling much better, my sisterfriend!!!!!!!

    It is my very honor and blessing, and such joyous fun for me to For Always pray for and think of daily and very often YOU, my precious sisterfriend, Patricia, for your dearest and darling husband, David, for your very special Loved One in the long term care facility, for your beloved granddaughter and other special grandchildren, for all of the rest of your so,so very precious, special and beloved family, and for your very special and blessedly pure in heart friendsfamily at your Friends Meeting at Cambridge, Patricia, and in fact, for all of your other friends as well, my so, so very special and precious friend and sister who you are For Always so, so very much!!!!!!!!! I can feel the Holy Spirit, and all of your so, so very heartfelt and lovingly caring prayers and thoughts for me with positive energy coming from each and every one of you for me and I, too, send positive energy to each and every one of you with all of my very, very heart and spirit, and my very, very heart, mind, soul, and spirit with all that I have with all of my very strength within me!!!!!!!!!

    Sister, I have For Always loved so and liked so this absolutely fantastic quote reportedly attributed to our absolutely loving and caring late Mother Teresa, sisterfriend!!!!!!! Wow, I love our Mother Teresa so, so very much, and what a powerful example of God’s Love she for sure bore witness to in her very deeply blessed and spiritual life, and with her For Always steadfast service to our Sweet Jesus and to other people!!!!!!! I so want to follow this grandly great example which she set for certain in her very blessedly holy life, Patricia. I so ,so very much appreciate the very poignant picture which you have very graciously and generously featured of the notorious whitewashed ornament. Wow, this is a good effort and attempt at erasing the racism involved with that infamous ornament before it was painted over with white paint, and more very much indeed must be done for certain here, sister. You are so right on here, Patricia! People try to do the right thing and to be good citizens by voting. I so, so very much appreciate how you my so, so very supportive sisterfriend, Patricia, and how the wondrously wonderful others both in your beautiful area and in my Iowa City, Iowa sometimes leave the redeemables next to the recycling because indigent people like me and so, so very many others rely on redeeming those pop cans and bottles in order to supplement our very low, and fixed incomes, and for those who have no income at all and/or are homeless. It helps me a whole bunch as an indigent disabled woman receiving my low, fixed income in with my disability benefits being a disabled woman who has multiple physical disabilities and even other disabilities, sister!!!!!! I thank-you thank-you, thank-you so, sister, and in fact I thank-you all so, so very much and so, so very profusely, and so, so very kindly, dearly, and deeply for thinking of and caring so for your indigent sisters and brothers, and YOU, Patricia my special and precious friend and sister, and this just mean so, so very much to me!!!!!!!! People can be so good inside, and cherish other people just as I so, so very much love YOU, Patricia, and cherish you, and also so, so very much love and cherish others, sister!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!

    I’m so, so very thrilled and overjoyed that you’ve revisited this marvelous short story by our astounding Marie Howe. I remember that awhile back, Patricia, you very graciously and generously featured this remarkable short story which perfectly complements this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful blog post article to perfection just as it did so very well for your earlier blog post article, my friend! Wow, it is such fun for me and such a sheer and joyful fun and pleasure for me reading your very fine and excellent blog post articles and other great writings, and so, so very joyously responding to them with my very heartfelt, detailed, and very thorough comments, my friend!!!!!! YOU, my friend Patricia, are my very, very joy and blessing, too!!!!!!! Yay my sister yay my sisterfriend yay my friend Patricia yay!!!!!!!! Yay for YOU, Patricia!!!!!! Yay for our sisterhood and friendship, Patricia!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!

    Sister, please have a totally terrific and a very thrilling Tuesday, and may all of your days be so, so very especially blessed, sisterfriend!!!!!! Wow, Patricia, I feel just great and so very energized by this absolutely fantastic blog post article here!!!!!! yay!!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very special and precious sisterfriend Christian white woman who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia, with such Peace and Love To You For Always, my so, so very dearest friend, with such Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always my so, so very dearest sister,

    Your sisterfriend Christian lesbian black woman For Always in the very spirit and solidarity, Sherry Gordon

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