I have been in hiding, deep in my cave, finishing the new book, THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS, which will be coming your way next May. I finally mailed a second pass back to my editor on Monday, which felt like delivering a very large, overdue baby. It’s alive and well.
Some readers here know that I post twice a month at The Lipstick Chronicles, with a group of very entertaining and interesting women writers. I am posting there the first and third Friday of every month, and here are the opening paragraphs of the most recent three. Stop by!
Three women, ranging in age from senior to ancient, are settled in a half circle at the end of the dock. The chairs have been dragged down to the pond from the main house, metal lawn chairs with green and white woven seats. My young son and I sit on the wooden slats of the dock. A little while ago, there were some bigger boys, young teenagers in baggy shorts and skinny chests, daring each other to swim in the murky water with snapping turtles and water snakes, but they’re gone now.
The old women wear cotton skirts and sensible shoes and soft cotton hats to protect their good complexions. Gnarled fingers fix bait. Fishing lines trail lazily in the water of the small pond. The air
is thick and still, so hot I find it hard to breathe, and my son’s pale cheeks are flushed. We are Colorado natives, and this is the countryside of the border between Missouri and Illinois.
I’d rather be almost anywhere else.
I hate fishing. I hate humidity. I hate the heat. Before we arrived, I’d been excited about this gathering with my husband’s family, but the reality is daunting. It’s hard to understand some of their deep south accents, and I don’t understand references to times and people I don’t know. And maybe they’re notpatronizing me, the much-younger, blond wife of an older African-American man, but all the usual in-law negotiations seem particularly exaggerated.
Have you ever lived with a ghost? I have. In fact, I’m pretty sure she wanted me to save her house.
My eldest son was in kindergarten when I first saw this house. It was a narrow, two story brick, with a bay window on the top floor, and deep porch. It was well over a hundred years old, and looked it—the yard was bare dirt, baked by the southwestern sun to absolute sterility, the paint on the old wood was peeling. There was a crack in the brick over one window. It was empty. Abandoned.
But every day, as I passed by with my son’s five-year-old hand in mine, the house caught my eye. A pair of windows faced east, illuminating a staircase with a beautiful old banister, and spilling sunshine into the open front rooms. The light was so inviting, so peaceful, that often I would pause on the way back home and peer in the windows to see what else I could see. That inviting upstairs bedroom with the bay window. The enormous front windows overlooking the street, arched and ancient, the glass thin and wavery. One of them had a tiny bb hole in it. The kitchen was horrific—a single bank of cupboards made of tin, covered with wood-grain contact paper.
This is not the simple transition I imagined it would be. For one thing, the son who got married is my mama’s boy, a child so devoted to me as a baby that I called him my joey. He was two weeks late emerging from the womb, and then I carried him on my hip for the next ten months because he wouldn’t allow anyone else to so much as change a sock. He’d howl piteously even if it was his father.
He’s grown into a strapping man who towers over me and has tattoos all over his arms and shoulders
(including, natch, one for “Mom” (please note the quill)). His bride is a serious, level-headed Air Force sergeant who looks at him with enough love in her eyes to make any mother happy. He’s an exuberant character, and worships the ground she walks on. I liked her immediately and have only grown to love her more