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Rivers and Streams

6 Jun

 Waitresses

Britta Seaton, née Slaughterback, was born in 1888.  She lived in a little house in Lawrenceville, Illinois with a Mynah bird that could talk.  A small man with an outsize temper, her husband was both an alcoholic and a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Her life could not have been easy.

Rebecca Bell came from Wales at the turn of the last century, building a life in a new country and raising a pack of boys in the process, one of whom married Merle Ball of Brazil, Indiana, turning her, as she always liked to say, from a Ball to a Bell.

Merle’s father was a section boss on the Indiana railroad.  He had beautiful handwriting, and he drank too much.  She left home at fifteen, taking with her a strain of bitterness that would run through the rest of her life.  The anger in her voice was undiminished as she described, eighty years on, standing in the cold outside the local tavern, waiting for her father, as man after man stepped outside to relieve himself in the snow.  She outlived her husband, she outlived her children, and as things unraveled she lost much of herself.  But she never lost that memory.

Gladys Seaton, daughter of Britta, also fled a drunken father, only to flee again from the abusive uncle who had taken her in.  The eventual mother to six daughters, she ran a string of diners and coffee shops.  She smoked like a chimney and drank coffee in much the same manner.  Born in 1909, she wrote a letter to her children and grandchildren on the night of the first moon landing in which she marveled at all she had seen.  Outgoing and vivacious, she never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  And in the end, even death couldn’t stop her.  A great believer in the afterlife, for a year or so after her passing she would occasionally appear as a shadow, a scent, or a bit of mischief-making, whether checking on her grand-babies, or teasing and terrifying the daughters she had left behind.

One of whom was Barbara “Bobby” Stressman.  A beautiful, playful woman, she started dating my father when she was fifteen, lost him when she was thirty-eight, and was left to raise four children alone.  She remarried, taking in her mother-in-law, Merle Bell, as well as her second husband’s grandson.  Her children grown, she continues to care for others.  It seems to be her mission.  She told me once that as a very young girl she was taken by friends to a revival meeting downtown, where, with a certainty belying her age, she walked down the aisle and accepted Jesus as her savior.  I’d never heard  that story before, but when I see her now, volunteering at the hospital, or caring for a dying friend, I can’t help but see that same little girl, all by herself, taking the first steps on a journey that would last a lifetime.

From these women came my daughter, who tomorrow turns six.

They are, of course, but one tributary, for flowing north out of Oklahoma and Texas comes another just as beautiful, and certainly just as strong.  But this is the stream I know, for it also flows through me.  And on this day it is good to remember that despite all the obstacles that have stood in its way, it continues to rise anew, cold and clean, bubbling forth in the early morning light.

 

hallie attitude

 

Grand Haven, Summer 2013

16 Oct

Grand Haven Postcard

The week has almost passed and I have yet to see a sunset.  I’ve missed them all.  Every single one.  I love my family, but moving all four of us in any specific direction can be a bit like turning an ocean liner.  And as our vacation draws to a close, my patience has worn thin.

“I need to get out.  Just for an hour or so.”

Thankfully, Amy agrees.  As I head for the door, I add, “Hey Heath, do you want to go for a walk on the beach?”  And miraculously, he says yes.

Walking beneath the planks of the porch above, and then climbing the wooden stairs, we leave behind the cool green world of our cozy apartment, tucked down the side of a wooded dune, hidden in the trees which surround The Khardomah, a ramshackle 1870 hunting lodge turned boarding house where we’ve been spending our week.  Heath and I cross the quiet street, and as we head down the gently curving road we pass the original Highland Park cottages; the Loch Hame, the Bonnaire, and others, built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when this land was nothing but forest and sand, and far enough from town that, for a time, it had its own trolley line. 

As we round the bend, Lake Michigan opens before us, a vast, inland ocean whose sudden appearance down these steep, curving roads, never fails to take my breath away.  We look out over the beach, windblown under dense gray clouds, extending north to the town’s most famous landmark, the South Pier, its dark candy red lighthouse temporarily shrouded in the gray primer and netting of a late summer paint job.  The green flag on the lifeguard stand flaps in the breeze, indicating it is safe to swim, but the water is largely empty due to its unseasonable chill.  There had been red flags earlier in the week, not for riptides, as is usually the case, but for hypothermia, and while I did not swim on those days, the water remained cold enough throughout the week to give me a chill that was hard to shake.  

From the top of the hill we make our way down four long flights of stairs, through the sand and dune grass, to the road, where we stop to check for cars, then skitter across and into the parking lot, before kicking off our shoes and stepping into the clean, white sand, cool now this late in the day. The water writhes beneath the overcast sky, a chaotic world of gray and white, and the sunset looks hopeless.  But as we approach the gentle roar of the shoreline, the evening breeze ruffles my son’s hair.

I ask him if he wants to walk down to the pier, and he says “Sure.”  And so we begin.  Walking easily.  Relaxing into each other.

A pair of jet skis scream from far out in the water, their noise, amplified by the open distance, seeming oddly loud to be coming from such small bouncing shadows.  Heath asks what they are, and I tell him that, basically, it’s a couple of guys flying around on floating jet engines, and that on a day like this it must be a pretty rough ride.  He asks why anyone would want to do that, and I tell him I haven’t a clue.

The water is cold against our feet, and Heath is timid at first, skipping awkwardly back up above the waterline every time a wave rushes in.  But slowly, he acclimates, growing bolder and stepping further out into the cold, reveling in his own courage. 

“Oh My God! I can’t believe how wet my pants are getting”

“Well, here.  You need to roll them up.”

I step out into the water and roll his long shorts up above his knees, soaking mine in the process, his laughter contagious.

Heath has Asperger’s Syndrome, and, as a result, so many things have been difficult to share.  His mind is sharp, and his passions are strong, but his palette is limited.  Going outdoors is troubling, exercise is not his friend, and moving him beyond a computer screen is a battle gently waged on a daily basis.  And yet here we are, on a whim, walking the waters of my childhood.  And with every step I can see something inside him ease.

The jet skiers call it a day, their sputtering, high-pitched whine fading into the distance, and as the light begins to retreat, we make our way down the beach, passing three boys who have built a small mound of sand, and are now wrestling about, each one struggling to be king of the hill.

At the pier I show Heath a shortcut up the rocks, and having reached the top, we follow the battered concrete out from the shore, walking beneath the catwalk, passing  the last few tourists as we make our way around the lighthouse and then out toward the foghorn, its deep, melancholy moan, one of my first memories, long ago replaced by a smooth sonic “ping “.  Stepping around its squat red bulk, we come to the end.  Three fisherman, their equipment scattered about, stand before an infinity of water and sky.  A reel hums as a one makes a cast.  His sinker plops as it hits the water and disappears into the darkness. 

As we head back toward shore, the lights are coming on in the cottages, stars among the hills.  Reaching the end, we scramble down to the sand, and Heath heads back to the water, greeting the waves as long lost friends, kicking at them, and delighting in the galaxies that explode off the ends of his feet.  Looking back, I see the pier lights come on, and notice, up above, in the northwest , a small opening in the clouds, it’s edges stained orange and red, the colors beginning to leak across the sky.  Heath continues on, wading up to his knees, smashing at the rushing water. 

Both brooding and vibrant, a vivid rose now dusts  the turbulent blue-gray clouds in every direction.  And then, with no visible movement, the gray is vanquished altogether, and everything above me goes pink.  Neon as far as the eye can see.

“Heath, look!”

Suddenly the lake ignites, the sky illuminating the water like fire on foil, blazes of pink dazzling the crests of the dark blue waves, mirroring the sky to the point that for one dizzying moment, I cannot tell them apart.  

“Heath!” I cried

“Yeah?”

“Are you seeing this?”

“Yes.”

Catching up to him, I wrap my arms around his chest and gently turn him toward the light.    

“This is the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.”

But even as I say it, the color begins to recede; the pink melting to orange, the gray closing in.  I hold him for a moment.  We watch, and nothing seems to change.  But when I look away, and then back again, everything is different.

“Heath, have you ever heard the phrase ‘in the moment’?  Do you know what that means?”

“No.” He replies, slipping from my arms and returning the water.

Following, I do my best to explain: the past is gone, the future never arrives, so all we have is now.  How much he takes in, I can’t be sure.  But in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

He’s already there.

Grand Haven pier 

 
 

To Play in the Rain

26 Jul

This gift will last forever, This gift will never let you down… 

  –-Glen Hansard

Last night, at bedtime, I could feel the pull of the night air.  I stepped out onto the porch and looked out across the sky. Pale blue with hints of pink, and thin gentle clouds that rose into small,  fairy-tale mountains as I turned to the north.  A breeze on the warm side of cool brushed past the leaves as Hallie followed me out. “Wow,” she said, looking up at the sky, her hair dancing across her face.

Crawling out of the water that morning, rivulets coursing down my body, I rolled onto the catch basin, too tired to lift myself completely out of the pool.  Slowly standing,  breathing hard as drops of water hit the cement, I slowly made my way across the pavement and up the stairs to my t-shirt and towel, every movement intensely felt in my tired muscles, happy now only to walk, after swimming so far.  Is this, perhaps, why we left the oceans behind us? The sheer pleasure of moving in a different way?

The summer’s been lean.  After a couple years of abundant money and too little time, I’ve had to learn again how to live with the opposite.  And for the first time in ages I feel as if I’m having a summer.  My life is made of wind and water, heat and rain.  The sun rises and sets before my eyes, and as the days grow shorter, I am happy to sit on the porch with my little girl and say wow to the sky.

Swimming, biking, and eating ice cream; childhood pleasures that have always cheered me.  But this summer I long to add another.

I want to play in the rain.

I want to dance in puddles with my daughter, chase kayaking leaves with my son, and laugh with my wife as we both get soaked to the skin.  It’s been a while, and I’m sure I’ll look crazy.  But that’s okay.  Embarrassment holds little sway in my life these days, it’s just another enemy of joy.  And joy is what I’m after.  It is, of course, all around me:  in the motion of my body and in the air that I breathe,  in the clouds in the sky and the laugh of a friend, in the attention of my son, the touch of my wife,  and always, always, always in the eyes of my daughter, where the world never fails to inspire, befriend and renew; and where love abides for all she beholds.

 

When Time Hesitates

20 May

Some days are holy, some days are rough, but that’s alright…

  –-Patti Scialfa

Standing in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Amy smiles as she catches my glance, and asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” I say, and move on, still shy with her after all these years.

It’s her eyes I’m searching, taking a moment to plumb the depths I dance across from day to day.  Because while two children and nearly twenty years together has fostered the illusion that I know this woman, I know that’s not true.  I’ve  amassed a certain amount of knowledge, certainly.  But I don’t kid myself that it’s any more than the tip of the iceberg.

When I read a truly great novel for the first time, I figure I’m lucky  if I get ten percent of what it has to offer.  I read too quickly, my eyes racing faster than my thoughts.  I get the story, but I miss so much.  Rereading helps, but it is only in slowing down, in forcing myself to savor every moment, every thought, that I begin to fully appreciate what’s before me.  This is even more true of Amy, a creation of far greater complexity than any work of art, whose beauty I will never comprehend and whose mysteries will never be fully revealed.  Blending the outrageously comic with the heartbreakingly tender more effectively, and more honestly, than any piece of literature I have ever encountered, she is a wondrous work in progress, her final pages yet to be written, let alone read.

And that is why I’m standing in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while our daughter takes apart the house and my son yells at the computer, as darkness approaches and baths are delayed and the idea of making dinner grows more daunting by the second.  That is why I’m looking into her eyes, trying get behind her smile, and into the warm depths of the twinkle that comes with it.

“What?” she asks, and I’m almost there.

“Nothing,” I say, and move on.  Still shy with her after all these years.

 DSC_0205

Creation

28 Dec

It has been over a year since I’ve posted.   In an effort to begin again I’ve been going over some unposted drafts, and wondering why I held them so close.  Here’s an emotional postcard from February 2010.  Hopefully there’ll be more soon.

It’s a gray day here in the city and my mind is in a whirl.

My bathtub is draining slowly and my emotions are close to the surface.  It has something to do with creation.

My soul is open and grasping but highly selective.  Whoever or whatever is minding the gate knows me very well and is only allowing through those works which pierce my soul with their love, sadness, beauty and pain. 

It began with Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, the memoir of an English writer and naturalist who, inspired by John Cheever’s The Swimmer, one of my favorite short stories, decided to swim his way across his native land, striking a blow in the process for the right of all to access the simple joy of their native seas, lakes, rivers, ponds, moats and fens.  I’m a sucker for old hippies, and while I never met Roger, who recently passed, anybody who spent a good chunk of the seventies living in a van while rebuilding a Suffolk farmhouse, shared the house with whatever animals could find their way in, and frequently swam in his own moat, is close enough for me.  It is the story of a man with a great love for the natural world and the simple but valuable joys it provides.  There is an added poignance, for just as I stumbled across this mentor to my imagination, he passed, leaving me to find my own way.

From there, fighting the blues and craving the couch, I settled in for a re-watching of Slings and Arrows, which just grows richer on the second viewing.  The show itself is a sweet melange of Shakespeare and the lives of the people who perform him.  The second season plays the youthful passion of Romeo and Juliet and its cast against the struggle for love and validation amongst the aging cast of Macbeth.  In the episode where Jerry Appleby, the balding sad sack understudy to Macbeth, goes on at the last minute and succeeds, gloriously, I sat on the couch, feeding my daughter, and wept like a baby. 

 Since then I can’t get enough of the show, and today, having had my renewed sense of sexual vigor foiled by Hallie’s stubborn refusal to take her morning nap (she knew something was afoot), and having too small an amount of time to squeeze in another episode, I dug through my music looking for something that could sustain this odd, bittersweet openness.  Rodney Crowell’s songs about his own turbulent upbringing fed the need. 

And then there’s the wonderful dream I had last night where I introduced my family to my first love, who I haven’t seen in years, and it seemed to bring a peace to the world, and to further extend my family and the love I feel for them. 

In many ways it has been a horrific few months.  My mother and brother were in a car accident, a week later my mother’s sister had a stroke while standing over her stove and caught fire, burning without ever being able to call for help.  And then they found a spot on my mothers lung, two years after her double mastectomy.  Thankfully, we got the news yesterday that she is cancer free. 

I’ve never understood art.  After years of struggling to be an actor I just don’t know what it is.  And I know I need to write.  But what about?  Inspiration floods my body but doesn’t know where to go.

But  the landlady is supposed to come over this afternoon and snake out the bathtub drain.  Hopefully she’ll work her magic on the hidden blockage deep within the elderly plumbing of our little home.  The drain will clear, the water will flow, and, with thanks, and a little less water around my ankles, I will soldier on.

 

 

Listening to the Rain

20 May

We sat on the back steps and watched the lightning play across the sky.  Tim was with us for a time, but then he went inside, leaving Heath and I alone, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Heath has always  feared storms, demanding that blinds be closed at the lightning’s first flash, and burying himself beneath pillows when the thunder begins to roll.  But tonight I had a hunch.

“Heath, do you want to come watch the storm with us? ”

“No!” came the reply, muffled beneath the sofa cushions.

I let it go, stepping out into the darkness, only to return a few minutes later.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come outside?  It’s perfectly safe.  The storm is still miles away and we’ll come inside if it gets too close.”

“Really?” he asked doubtfully, peeking from beneath his shelter.

“Oh, yeah” his Uncle Tim replied. “I’m gonna come inside before I get rained on.”

And suddenly, surprisingly, he was at my side, a boy-sized bundle of curiousity and trust.  He stayed close as we walked out onto the back deck.

As a child, I would snuggle down as storms blew in off Lake Michigan and the freshwater wind whipped the sheer cotton curtains over my little double bed.  The thunder would crack, impossibly loud, and my heart would jump as I clenched my eyes shut; relaxing again only as I listened to the waves roaring in the distance, imagining them creeping across the sand, and up to our very door. 

A tornado once dropped a car into my grandparents’ front yard, it’s panicked driver bolting through their living room and into their basement, passing on the way my grandfather, calmly watching his beloved Detroit Tigers.  

And I remember the Fourth of July when lightning mingled with the fireworks.  Later that night the sirens sounded and we made our way to the basement with our pillows, blankets and portable radio, waiting sleepily until the storms had passed.  Mom was up early the next morning to visit dad in the hospital.  He was coming home in a few days.

We watched the dark clouds move in from the southwest.  I had told Heath that that if he counted the time between the lightning and thunder, he’d know how far off the storm was.  He loved this, and clung to the knowledge fervently, insisting that I begin to count out loud whenever the lightning crackled, and then nodding sagely when he heard the thunder.

“The center of the storm is four miles away.” he’d say.

“That’s right,” I said. And then we’d wait to start again.

My mom didn’t find my dad that morning.  She walked into an empty room.  He had died during the night.  While we were huddled in the basement, listening to the radio, and waiting for the world to calm, he had pulled aside his covers, gently stood up, and made his way to the window.  

“The center of the storm is nine miles away!

“Your right. It’s moving away from us now.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, the numbers are getting bigger, that means the storm is getting further away.”

I see him so clearly sometimes.

“Is there going to be any more thunder?”

“Just rumbles.  Nothing to worry about.”

Standing by that window, seeing his reflection in the darkness, and then looking beyond it. 

“You were so brave, Heath.”

“Yeah.”

Watching the storm, missing his family, and listening to the rain.

 

 

Crossing 9th Street

23 Feb

The air was cold when I stepped outside, but the sun was up, slowly revealing the quiet morning streets. 

I’m not good in the dark.  My vision’s not great, and the farthest reach of my run, south of the park, is a little sketchy.  So the light is welcome, and it combines with my new fleece hat to make the calm, seventeen degree air tolerable.  Stepping over a mound of crusted snow into the dry street, I start the timer on my watch, and slowly begin to lope, giving my stiff calves a chance to warm up as I head toward the corner.

Hallie’s white cell count is low.  Her pediatrician had us wait a month.  We redid the test.  Still low.  Children with Down’s Syndrome have an increased incidence of leukemia.  She has none of the symptoms and her pediatrician says it is not an immediate concern.  We have an appointment with a hematologist in a couple weeks.  Steps are being taken.  There is no need to worry.  Nevertheless, her white cell count is low.

The first stretch of the run down Ditmars Boulevard is the most tedious.  Narrow sidewalks, few businesses, no trees.  That’s the reason I head this way.  I like to do the hard part first.  I’ve been trying to teach this to Heath, but he’ll have none of it.  He much prefers to kick his troubles down the road.  I understand this, I used to be the same way.  But it’s so much better to save the best for last.  This hard won wisdom does nothing more than bounce off the wall that is my son.  But I keep trying.  Repetition is my friend.  That’s what  I tell myself.

I was hoping for a red sunrise, that rare gift of cold winter dawns.  A couple times a year I’ll catch one of these; the sanguine light silhouetting the trees and houses above the park.  But today was not my day.  Turning away, I followed the icy path down toward the East River.

The path had been clear the night before, but this morning small drifts, a few inches  deep, covered the asphalt.  I bounced through them, hare-like, moving quickly to keep the snow out of my shoes.  Fully warmed, the running came easy now, and, despite my lack of exercise over the past weeks, I moved through the shadow of the bridge with a grace I had not earned. 

Hallie was up late last night, climbing repeatedly out of our bed, scooting into the living room, planting herself in front of the T.V. and complaining loudly for more Elmo.  I awoke to find her there, having worn her mother out, all quiet innocence as it approached midnight.  I scooped her up and took her into bed, where  I turned off the lights and laid her on my chest.  She was still for a moment, but then lifted her head and tried once again to climb down. 

“No,” I said, pulling her back, “You need to sleep.” 

She rested for a moment, and then rolled over into the crook of my arm.  I pulled her close and began, softly, to sing.  Slowly, she relaxed, rolling onto her side.  I rolled too, gently patting her bottom in time to the song.  We watched each other.  Her eyes began to flutter, then close, and soon she was asleep.

I crossed 9th street, stepped up onto the sidewalk and turned left, running south along the river.  A battered DEP ship was riding low as it made it’s way upstream, and I thought, “That would be a good life, sitting inside a warm cabin, drinking coffee on a cold winter morning.”  Beyond I could see Manhattan, it’s buildings just beginning to warm. 

When life overwhelms me, my focus narrows.  It’s imperceptible at first, but then it dawns on me, as I hunch my way through the day, that I am seeing little more than pavement, feet, and whatever is going on inside my head.  Running is the antidote.  The cold air in my face, the deep, chest-expanding breaths, the alertness needed to move quickly through a slippery world; all combine until suddenly I can see it all: sun, water, and sky; the whole gorgeous 360 degree panorama that is my world.

At some point during the night Amy moved Hallie to her crib.  Shortly thereafter she was replaced by her brother, who, god love him, seems to be nothing but elbows and knees and is about as easy to cuddle as a cinder block.  So when 5:30 rolled around, it was remarkably easy to get up, put on my running clothes, and step out into the cold.  

I know where I’m going when I run; the route is set.  Thirty minutes takes me through varied terrain and at the end of that time a journey has been made.  It is both well defined and wholly unpredictable.  I never regret it.  And it always brings me home.

 

 

The New Normal

23 Dec

It’s been an odd week. 

Stumbling into Monday morning, I attempted to prop myself up with what turned out to be the highly volatile combination of yerba mate and Grooveshark.  As a result, I spent much of the next two days ecstatic over the recent recordings of Glen Campbell. 

Heath, who, for those of you playing along at home, has now been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (begging the question, does one family really need to be this special?  Can we not spread it around a bit?), has been charming the pants off the various and sundry psychologists, counselors, and therapists who’ve been mentally poking and prodding him over the last several weeks.  Which is saying something for a school-hating six-year-old famous for both the volume and frequency of his meltdowns, and who, when asked by his teacher to write down his homework, recently told her to “stir it with her nose.” 

But with his diagnosis has come an unexpected outpouring of support, especially from his school.  And as with Hallie’s birth, I am reminded that we are not alone, and that any walls between myself and the larger community are largely self-built. 

And speaking of Hallie, she took her first steps!  Two wobbly lunging steps from her therapist’s arms to mine, grinning from ear to ear the whole time.  A year and a half after most children walk, and a good six months after those with Down syndrome, she is, as always, happily doing things in her own time, and redefining “normal” for us all.  I believe she see’s this as her job. 

As for Amy, we don’t see much of each other these days.  Any time we have is filtered through the needs of these two raucous beings who have hijacked our lives.  But she is good at Christmas, and preparations are afoot.  Hopefully, sometime soon, we’ll find some time alone.  That would be the best present of all.

So deck the hall’s, roast some chestnuts, jingle your bells, and hark those herald angels.  

And if you get a chance, check out the most recent Glen Campbell album.  It is awesome!

 

 

Ruby & Pam

13 Aug

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.

Hitched, united, tied, coupled, bound, wedded and joined in Holy Matrimony.  It makes me happy just to think about it, which is odd, because I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always taken marriage for granted. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Amy is the best thing that ever happened to me and I’d be a very lost soul without her.  But I’ve never been sure that we actually needed the marriage.  

You see, I have a great relationship with my heart.  It speaks the truth very clearly and I, for the most part, listen.  Shortly after meeting Amy it grabbed me by the front of the shirt and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that I would be an idiot to let her go.  Luckily, she agreed, and we’ve been together ever since.  I’ve never been sure we needed anything more than that. 

And yet, and yet…Our wedding was one of the most joyous moments of my life. 

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.  For I know few people who more richly deserve such a moment than Ruby and Pam.  After more than a decade of building a life together, of raising a son, of doing good work and being great friends, they are what a marriage should be.   And now they have traveled half way across the country to honor that commitment. 

So in away, it matters little that they’ll be returning to a state which, like a child who closes his eyes against something he doesn’t wish to see, will refuse to recognize their union.  The union exists.  It always has.  And the joy of this day will be theirs forever.  No willful blindness can ever take that away.

So that’s why I’m happy.

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.

 

 

Chrysalis

3 Jun

Caterpillars are becoming butterflies.  Five little cocoons hang from the side of a mesh cage in Heath’s bedroom, and we are counting the days until they emerge.

Arriving in the mail in a small plastic cup loaded with enough food to sustain this transformation, the five larvae grew rapidly over the past week before attaching themselves to the lid, assuming the much-anticipated J shape, and, in a matter of hours, encasing themselves in a dense brown shell of their own making.  Having moved them to the larger butterfly cage, we wait. 

Patience is not a word that leaps to mind when I think of my son.  But his imagination, so tightly coiled around all things celestial for the past year,  has begun to expand, and as the school year ends and he moves beyond a teacher who never appreciated all that makes him special, he has begun to relax.  With the addition of a new pair of glasses and a daily squirt of Nasonex, the world is regaining its clarity and my little boy is finding the sweetness and vulnerability he has buried beneath anger for much of the year. 

And his sister senses this. 

Hallie Jake.  We loved the idea of a little girl with such a rakish name, redolent of wise-cracking 1930’s aviatrixes, Amelia Earhart & Kate Hepburn rolled into one.  The kind of woman who could hold her whiskey, throw a good punch, and stand toe to toe with any man.  A woman who was smart, independent and, above all, strong.  Which I have no doubt Hallie will be.  For she is fast becoming a spunky, resilient little girl whose buoyant spirit has become a mainstay in all our lives. 

My own feelings for her are, at times, so fierce as to be bewildering.  

I had heard somewhere that in times past Downs children, considered imbeciles, were often abandoned to orphanages where their heads were shaved and they languished under the minimal care such institutions offered.  What haunted me about this story was the lack of love, horrible for any child, but somehow more so for a child who has a greater struggle to understand.  They must have felt unloveable, as if they deserved their loneliness. 

So in those first confusing hours, when I had no idea what else to do,  I vowed that Hallie would feel loved.  And to this day, when I hold her close as she’s falling asleep, I whisper in her ear, so she’ll never forget, “You are much loved, Hallie Jake.  You are much loved.”  This simple invocation, and the feelings it inspires, has lead to places in my soul I never knew existed.  It’s as if, after living my entire life in a small apartment, I’ve opened a door to discover a palace.

And now, days away from her second birthday, the love she’s received has begun to blossom.  I can see it in her eyes, especially when she looks at Heath: her hero, her brother, and her best friend.

As we move into the early heat of summer, Heath is keeping an eye on his five little charges, waiting for them to begin their gentle struggle toward a new life.  He’s not going to want to let them go.  I can see it coming.  And although I remind him daily that all creatures long to be free and that if he keeps them too long, they will die, I know he doesn’t believes me. 

But, we’ll see how it goes.  That’s a battle for another day. 

In the meantime we await the beating of newfound wings.