New Beginnings

For my firstborn, Kate…

I have this very distinct memory of being in the hospital, nine months pregnant with you and about to give birth. And I was, at that moment, both so very excited to hold you in my arms that I could barely breathe, and unsure that I was ready to be your mother (I believe I actually said “I’m not sure I’m quite ready for this…”).

Ah, but a babe cannot be kept inside, close and warm and protected forever, now can she? And so you were born on a beautiful day in November, nearly nineteen years ago. Today I find myself in a familiar place, these old familiar feelings bubbling to the surface as I prepare to launch you from your place here with me into a new, albeit somewhat familiar, world. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for this…my heart alternately springs up and plummets as I’ve watched your childhood draw to a close. I have been preparing for this moment for years now…ever since I read this awful little piece about how many summers remain that literally left me in a panic. Here I am with zero summers remaining, and I wonder why motherhood has to be filled with so many moments that knock the air from my lungs, so many new beginnings that really only feel like endings to the prettiest story I’ve ever read.

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis? A couple of days before she emerges, the chrysalis begins to change. The butterfly’s pattern and color are visible…you begin to see how beautiful she is. The butterfly may struggle but eventually, she will break free. She will warm herself in the sunshine, pump blood into her wings, and then she will fly.  She will catch the wind and float away and be a thing of beauty, a gift, for everyone that is lucky enough to glimpse her. And that is her beginning.

I meant it when I said I was proud of the beautiful human being you have become. I have little to do with that, and you have everything. You have been my gift all of these years. Now I will watch as you go, catch the wind and fly, Kathryn Sunshine. For this is your beginning…

I love you to a depth that words cannot express,


PS At this very moment you are in the room next to me, packing and organizing all of the things for your new life. I hear you say things like “Mom, I cannot get over how cute the pom pom basket is” and “I got  tissues!” and a wave of happiness laps at my heart. I could not be more thrilled for you.

Yet you have the unfortunate luck of being the first child.  I had that same luck. My mother cried, as she left me in the same little town in which I will leave you, in almost the same spot, exactly thirty years ago. I didn’t get it then…to me it didn’t feel like the end.

I get it now.

I will try really hard not to cry.

New Beginnings

There is Always Laundry

It’s the first full day of summer. I’m sitting alone listening to the rain quietly patter the roof and the windows in the kitchen. Sipping hot coffee in the dim light. Poppy is snoring. David is in the shower and the kids are all still asleep.

We don’t have any plans today but Ella is sick so that kind of limits things. They will probably watch movies all day. But they did that yesterday. And the day before. Summertime colds are the worst…

My mind is pregnant with ideas…things I should do…things I need to do…things that would be fun to do…but I feel a very distinct lack of direction. And a very distinct sense that the sand is pouring through the hourglass at an alarmingly fast pace. Only two summers left until Kate leaves…and then William. And then Henry. Poor Ella will be suffocated with my love and affection when she hits high school (which is coincidentally just about the time she’ll start rolling her eyes at me with a fervor that only a teenager can master.)


The rain is coming in more steadily now. I think I’ll sit and listen to it for a while and fold a load of laundry. No matter what, there is always laundry, isn’t there?

Every day is a gift…make it count.

There is Always Laundry

We were together.

I honestly don’t remember a day when I wasn’t in love with you, David Paul.  Some days I wake up and think

Oh my God, he is still here 

because I can’t even imagine why you would stick around with me…and yet there you are.

And for twenty years, you have come back home to me every night. I can believe there were times that it didn’t seem like an entirely desirable option. But you came home anyway, poured yourself a bourbon and walked straight into the fire. Sometimes I think I may have even heard you whistling…

I guess this means we’re really stuck with each other. We’re actually going to make it.

I guess I always knew we would.

Happiest anniversary David.  I would marry you all over again.  Every time, without fail, I would choose you.



We were together.

I forget the rest.

–Walt Whitman

We were together.

Silence Like a Boom

Kate Summer 2016 kjk

It rained last night. The trees bear that in their color…the trees, the grasses and the fields full of blue Chicory flowers and Queen Anne’s Lace.

I turned off, onto the old winding road and drove slowly, trying to avoid holes and making my best attempt to find the smooth patches of dirt among the rippled gravel. She was beside me, but quiet.  The early morning sun flickered through the canopy of trees, and I could feel emotions swell within me.

We aren’t the way we used to be.

We aren’t the same.

When we got to the barn, she began to put her boots on.  I touched her hair, swept it behind her ear and said

“I miss how we used to be.”

And she said nothing.

There was silence that felt like a boom.

I remember once saying that she would outgrow me, but I would never outgrow her.

I think it is happening.

She is outgrowing me.

I didn’t know it would feel like this.

Silence Like a Boom


Kate 15 kjk

I remember those days, those halcyon days, wrapped warmly with you and that big, gentle dog…sitting by the fire…dreaming as you slept.

I remember them like they were yesterday…the sound of the fire…the smell of your downy hair…the way your fingers unfurled when I touched your cheek. The way my heart felt…as though cannons were fired from within.

You are almost grown now…it was not yesterday.

Today you are fifteen years old. You’re better than those dreams I dreamed, you know.

And the cannons…the cannons are still firing, Kate.

Happy fifteenth birthday baby girl…


The Lower Ring

“It will probably be the last lesson in the upper ring.  It’s getting too dark.”

“Oh” I said, a little inquisitively. “I’ve never been to the lower ring.”

“Me neither. It has lights.”

I hadn’t expected the contemplation in her voice. I had expected her to tell me what the lower ring was like, or where it was, or to say that she had been down there once or twice.  I had expected her to be happy about this new experience, however small the change might be. But always, with her, there is a hesitancy…a tentative posture, almost as though she is waiting for me to react before she does.

She left to tack up her horse.

I sat in the quiet, watching the wind ruffle itself through the trees.  Watching the leaves spin to the ground, catching flickers of the early evening sunlight. Watching her graceful figure walk to the upper ring for the last time, until the light shines in our favor again.

The Lower Ring

God Gave Me Today

I drove Kate to school today.  It was in the forties this morning but today it was sunny, so I opened the sun roof and let the sun warm my face as I drove home. Most Mondays I am full of a kind of joy that is hard to express in words…everything is beautiful — the rain, the sun, dead leaves swirling in the wind, the sound of the dryer, the finger prints on the windows…  

This morning didn’t feel like that, though.

I was a big fat meanie last night. It doesn’t really matter why. I was mean. I left. I drove around the neighborhood, up and down the streets, past warmly-lit houses. I drove to the plaza and sat in the parking lot at 8:30 watching people go in and out of the store. Watching their puffs of breath in the chilly air. Wondering what they were doing there…what they were buying…where they lived…what their life was like.  Watching a stray leaf fall here and there, making its slow spiral to the ground in the lamplight.  Wondering what just happened to me. Wondering what my family was doing. Wondering if my kids were worried about where I was. Remembering things that were said to me, and things that I said. 

I went home and Ella was already asleep. Her hair was still wet from the shower. She fell asleep with a pillow over her head because Kate was vacuuming at bedtime and it was too loud. I took the pillow off, and straightened her hair out with my fingers. She always looks so little when she sleeps…she and jellycat in a tangled knot of crimson tresses and nubby fur, fleece polka dots and freckles and loved-off whiskers. She brings me to my knees, the way her face is softly illuminated by the light of the stairway every night. I sat by her for a minute, just breathing.

I am lucky. 

God gave me another day. 

God gave me today.

God Gave Me Today

The Last, Loveliest Smile

Mums NST

It looks like rain outside, but there is no rain in the forecast. I could really use a beautifully rainy day today.  It is going to rain on Sunday…it will be cool and rainy and I think the perfect day to let a pot of chili simmer on the stove and watch football together.

I have a couple of errands to run today, and then I think I’ll spend some time in the garden. My poor, poor garden. Yesterday I realized there were about 100 tiny little cherry tomatoes ready to pick that I didn’t even know had grown.  I even picked a few strawberries.  Next year I promise to do better…

On my list today —  Chrysanthemums.  I think it’s time. Kate is going to be happy…she is very happy that autumn has arrived.  I don’t know why.  I asked her.  She doesn’t know why.  I’m glad she’s happy.

Yesterday I was outside for a few hours working in the garden. There was a breeze that blew through the hickory and oak trees in our yard, scattering hundreds of acorns and nuts with each gentle gust. It sounded like hail. Poppy just loved that.  She flew around the yard picking up acorns and hickory nuts and flinging them around, then chasing after them and zipping to the other end of the yard all by herself. She stopped to bark at the deer behind the fence (who were not scared of her), or to watch the geese overhead, flying in their uneven V. Their flight call mingled with the rustling of leaves in the breeze. I stopped to watch them for a moment, before they disappeared behind the trees. The sun was warm on my face.

Acorns NSTOne year David had a brilliant idea to pay the kids to pick up the acorns.  $5 per bucket or something like that.  He was broke after about an hour.  Henry mentioned the bucket idea to me earlier in the week. I told him to go ask his father.

This year it took a long while for me to be ready for autumn.  I don’t know why.  I have always loved the season, I could list a thousand reasons why, but I guess this year my heart clung tightly to summer and it’s late dinners, it’s schedule-less delight, it’s sleepy-headed, lazy mornings. It’s hard to walk away from such a beautiful place as summer, with it’s sunshine and wildflowers and it’s beaches, seashells, ice cream and bare feet.

But as the days have cooled, the pumpkins and chrysanthemums have begun popping up on doorsteps around town…acorns are falling and leaves will be changing colors soon. Boots and sweaters and wool blankets have been pulled out, and I’ve even begun dreaming of cocoa and mulled wine by a warm fire in the evenings.

And my sentiment toward leaving summer behind is changing.  Autumn is, afterall, “the year’s last, loveliest smile…”

–John Howard Bryant, “Indian Summer”

Wool Blanket NST

The Last, Loveliest Smile

What I Do Remember

I can’t remember every detail of every child…every first word spoken…every first step…every favorite food…

They ask. They want to know. They want to know the little details of their lives…the little things they did when they were too young to remember. But I don’t remember, either.

I don’t remember Henry’s first word. Partly because we were so confused about his speech. It would seem to develop, and then it would disappear, and we wondered if it was ever really there at all.

I don’t remember Ella’s first word either. Kate said “Coco.” William said “quack quack.”

I don’t remember anyone’s first steps except Ella’s. Mostly I remember how all five of us were watching her; how all of us were together in one little corner of our house.

I remember that Kate would eat anything. Except broccoli. I don’t remember what anyone else liked. I do remember that William would throw his plate when he was done eating.

It bothers me. It bothers me that some of those memories are missing. I have them written down somewhere, I’m sure. In a baby book or on a slip of paper or an old calendar somewhere. But I can’t remember them. I can’t call to mind what it was they were wearing, or where we were or how they sounded.

But I do remember other things.

I remember the first time Henry said “horse” and the first time he heard a bird sing.

I remember how quiet and thoughtful Kate was, always, and how she sucked her thumb when she was uncertain. I remember how the smell of her was intoxicating.

I remember the first time William smiled after his stroke, and how many eggs he ate when they finally cleared him for food.

I remember how Henry and I would curl up together in his toddler bed at night…how he would stretch out and how round his belly was. I remember his profile…that cute button nose and his soft cheeks. And how there was always music playing even though he couldn’t hear it…I refused to stop playing his music. I remember how he would twirl his hair around his finger.

I remember rocking Kate at night, in her tiny little room in our old house. Looking out across the square at the Christmas lights and singing Silent Night to her while she slept. How warm and perfect she felt cradled in my arms.

I remember what William used to say to us, every single night before bed. I love you night-night sit in the chair up here the one by the door I love you night night in one long, run-on sentence.

I remember the day we told the kids about Ella, and how we were going to have a new baby in the house, and how they all screamed and jumped around and how I felt so overwhelmed with joy that I cried. I remember how that baby girl used to strip down to her undies every single day and fall asleep on the couch. And how her favorite word was “no” for a little longer than I appreciated.

I used to dream about what our children would be like…what our life would be like. My dreams were like a fantasy — there was never as much heartache in my dreams.

Nor was there near as much beauty, nor splendor in my dreams, as there is now in my memories.

What I Do Remember