Monday, June 28, 2010

It Will be Different


Everything changes; nothing ever stays the same. That is the double edged sword of parenthood and life itself. When things are so good that you can’t even believe it, life will change; when things are so hard you feel like you can’t take another day of turmoil, life will change. Things get easier; things get harder; everything flows on in life like a river passing by.

In this analogy, I can never quite decide if we are in the river, flowing through life, or if we are the banks on the river and life is flowing past us. Rivers are constantly changing, the same water never passes by twice so in that way life is the river and we are dwelling on the banks, bathing in the river, touching it, using it, watching it flow on.

But we also change; each moment we’re different, a product in progress of our ever changing experience; constantly being molded, shaped and reshaped by each sight and sound and feeling. Each conflict we face makes us a little different, a little wiser, a little humbler, a little more compassionate. Each betrayal makes us more fearful, or more cautious, or wiser. So we’re like the river too, changing and growing, deepening and widening.

I saw two young boys down by the creek near our house last week. I was walking with my girls in the jogger and it was hot and humid. But down by the creek it was shaded and cool; a cool breeze blew off the water. And in the dark shade of the surrounding oaks and aspens, under a light shower of falling leaves and pollen, these two boys worked on a raft. Their raft was made of wide planks lashed with thick rope. It was late afternoon and it looked like they’d been working on this project all day.

With unshakable concentration they worked together, giving orders and cooperating in such a way young children can only do when they are both equally and stoically committed to the same goal. They were now painting the planks; the raft was propped against the bank of the creek which I knew lead to a small and winding river which would eventually open up into Egret Lake.

As they worked they talked about what they would do when finally they set sail: they would fish and pump water from the cool depths of the lake; they would camp out for nights on the islands; they would build fires and cook their fish, eating only what they caught. They worked vigorously as they talked, painting, tying their sail to the broken ore that would be their mast.

For a whole hour I watched them from the shady foot bridge stretching over the place where their raft would make birth, rooting for them. My daughters slept in the warm stillness of the afternoon, not knowing that one day they would know what it felt like to hang all your life’s joy on the success of completing a project like this.

As I stood watching the two boys work, I remembered the projects my younger sister, Heidi and I used to throw ourselves into. One afternoon we hung eight hammocks in the crab apple tree in our front yard. My mother’s old sheets littered the foliage and she rolled her eyes and sighed something about looking like white trash to the whole neighborhood.

We tied the knots so that not even the strength of the wind or the neighborhood boys would be able to pull them out; we whispered and giggled and agreed to live in these hammocks for the duration of our family’s lease. What, we lamented, would we do when it was time for the family to move? We’d probably stay, we decided, living on in these thin sheets, swaying coolly in the shade of the tree. We agreed to sleep here every night, gather food from the nearby woods, we’d eat nuts and apples—only things we can find in the woods, we agreed.

I stood in the shade of the wooded creek as the sun began to sink below the trees and thought of my younger sister, and of how life changes so much. We can’t even fathom the changes that will take shape in our lives, the way the current will wear on us and the people in our lives, causing them and us to do things we couldn’t have predicted we’d do.

After years of working on our friendship, trying to be better, more honest and authentic friends than we were as children, she has stopped talking to me. Just like that, the currents of our lives split, divided unexpectedly and in a way that feels irreparable right now.

But everything changes; nothing stays the same; not the good or the bad. So when things are good, I try to enjoy life, soak it up, revel in it knowing that it is finite and fleeting and will be gone or different too soon. And when things are hard like they seem to be for so many right now, I cling to the rock, the promise that all things will be different soon. For better or worse, it will be different.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fiction Friday

Chapter III: Pursued

Jackie and Wayne stood in the dimly lit dining room; side by side they stood frozen to the spot. Jackie’s hand slowly rose to cover her own mouth in the same manner Wayne was now standing, covering his.

Jackie’s breath caught in her throat, she felt a hard lump rising from her chest to the base of her esophagus where it threatened to choke her air off completely. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The limp body of the maid who had offered her coffee just seven hours before was now lying lifeless across the arms of Mr. Carson, the hotel concierge while one of the maintenance men cut her body down from the giant chandelier in the center of the dining room.

The moment stretched into what felt like an eternity as Jackie stood motionless, eyes unblinking, taking in the whole scene. Mr. Carson was apparently unaware of their presence, focused only on his task. He grunted under the full weight of the maid’s body as it was finally cut free and dropped into his arms.

Mr. Carson shifted his weight on the table; his heel knocked into a wine glass, which clattered against several place settings as it spun across the flat linen.

“Alright there Mr. Carson?” the maintenance man called down from his precarious perch on the chandelier.

“Just get down here and help me!” he snapped, craning his neck away from the thick dark hair that now buried his chin and mouth.

The maintenance man reached out for the girder-like metal lattice that ran over the surface of the ceiling, painted black to blend in. It must have been for changing light bulbs or, cutting down the bodies of murdered maids, Jackie thought darkly. She was still utterly frozen in place and somewhat unaware of her surroundings. All she could focus on was the pale, lifeless face of the maid.

Suddenly Jackie felt dizzy, her body rocked forward and she caught herself against a chair. As Mr. Carson whipped around at the sound, Wayne caught Jackie’s arm and jerked her behind the dining room bar, which ran the length of the wall and ended at a service window to the kitchen.

Wayne pulled Jackie onto his lap as he landed hard on the floor; the two of them froze, unable to see what happened next. A scuffling of chairs and thumping told them that Mr. Carson had managed to get off the table. There were no voices which made Jackie think that Mr. Carson was on to them. She crawled off Wayne’s lap and began silently crawling on hands and knees towards the kitchen.

Jackie’s hands stuck in patches of dried, spilled drinks and what smelled like a mixture of bourbon and maraschino cherry juice; her bare knees pressed uncomfortably on the knobby surface of the floor matt she crawled over. She was moving as stealthily as she could on all fours.

Wayne must have followed suit because Jackie suddenly felt him lean onto the heel of one of her shoes. As she pulled that leg forward, the shoe slipped from her foot and clattered off the rubber bar matt and onto the tiled floor surrounding it.

Both Jackie and Wayne froze momentarily, and then began crawling toward the kitchen again, fast.

They reached the end of the bar just as they heard someone squeak open the swinging door they had crawled under. Jackie felt two open hands on her rear end and before she could react, Wayne had shoved her through the opening into the bright kitchen.

Jackie instinctively rolled to the side, turned to pull Wayne by the arm so they were both out of eye shot of whoever was behind them. Helping each other to their feet, they leapt to the left where they could conceal themselves behind a tall shelf of food.

For a moment, they froze, both silently scanning the room for where to go next. Jackie stepped out of her other high heel. Just then they heard men’s shoes step quietly into the room. Jackie peeked out from behind a giant box of baking soda to see the back of a man’s dark grey suite moving past the very shelf they were hiding behind. Jackie forced herself not to breathe.

Suddenly Wayne nudged her. Jackie looked where Wayne was silently pointing and saw a laundry chute where piles of dirty table linens and cloth napkins waited to go down. Jackie gave Wayne her best: you gotta be kidding face but he raised his eyebrows and lifted his shoulders and Jackie got the message. She didn’t know what else they were going to do either.

Suddenly all the lights in the kitchen went out. It was so dark Jackie couldn’t see her own hand in front of her face. There was only one reason someone would have turned the lights off, Jackie thought in a panic, he already knows where we are and he doesn’t want us to see him coming.

Jackie’s blood ran cold. She reached out desperately in the pitch dark and found Wayne’s fingers doing the same. They caught hands and Jackie felt herself being pulled forward in the darkness. A clatter of pots off to the side told Jackie that Wayne had run into something, giving their position away. They ran faster. From the darkness behind her, Jackie heard footsteps pursuing them.

A sharp piece of metal hit Jackie in the thighs; she reached out and felt Wayne’s back as he lifted one knee high. She couldn’t believe he was really climbing in the laundry chute. She opened her mouth to say something but had no idea what she might say, she felt his body disappear before her hands. Without thinking, Jackie lifted her leg to climb in.

Suddenly a strong, clammy hand closed around Jackie’s bicep.

A hoarse whisper spoke directly in Jackie’s ear, “Now just a minute, Ms. LaTour.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not Balanced


It’s been a hard year so far; not just for us but for many people I’ve spoken to, many mothers who have been willing to be honest about the struggles in their families and friendships. 2010 has been tough for many. Communication has been fragmented, relationships strained, businesses going under, projects falling apart, faith tested. If this has been your experience this year, you are not alone.
I for one have shouldered a tremendous amount of stress this year. Relationships have been work and balance has been an astronomical feat. When one aspect of my life is thriving, three others—it seems—begin to parish. When I am making time to write regularly, my friendships are suffering, when the house is clean, Twila is bored and feels neglected, when I’m in touch with my friends and maintaining healthy relationships, my novel sits on the hard drive untouched and the laundry piles up. And so it goes, unbalanced and stressful; the beauty and joy, sporadic and fleeting.
The key, I am finding, is to hold on to the moments of beauty that are inevitable in any life; focus on them and hold on to them like a tightrope walker holds that long pole they use to balance on the thin wire that gets them to the other side. It’s a delicate and difficult balance but take comfort in knowing that we’re all in the same boat.
We keep going, through the flying weeks, and sleepless nights; not feeling like we have a grasp on the day as it sifts through our hands. This becomes the norm and we are able to move forward anyway. Changing my expectations about what life should feel like has given me the ability to cope and keep going.
Maybe life doesn’t always have to feel organized, in control. Maybe we can just do the next right thing: playing with our kids, getting dressed, going for a walk, reading a book even if the dishes aren’t done and the house is a mess. Maybe we can even have fun first, before the to-do’s. And find joy in the beauty; in the beautiful moments.
My survival in 2010 has been about stopping and staying in those moments that are so good, so beautiful; not rushing out and on like I am wont to do. I stayed on the end of the dock yesterday as the storm rolled in; the cool breeze blew off the lake, washing away mosquitoes and humidity. Big fat drops of rain fell as the dark clouds blew in: low and tumultuous. I stayed until it was too wet to stay, soaking in the peace before the storm.
To stay in the moments of peace, gives us respite from the inevitable storms, battles that this year has ushered in. Rest in the moments of quiet, smell the flowers, pick fruit and lay in the grass, stay under the covers, sleep late, share back massages with friends, hug longer, tell the truth about how you are doing, find these means of balance and hang on to them until you get to the other side.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sleep, Sleep, My Kingdom for Some Sleep!


“Can we get a puppy?” Twila sighed from the backseat.

I gave her my canned answer, which she has heard three hundred times, “when its warm out and everyone is sleeping through the night.”

“I am sleeping through the night,” she countered.

Having picnic’s on the kitchen floor at 2am is not sleeping through the night, I think. But I don’t say this out loud. “Jada isn’t,” I say and she looks back out the car window.

She is temporarily satisfied and her mind is already onto something else. But I am taken back to that night just a few nights ago when Twila sleepily found her way into our bed. After the standard bathroom break, sip of water and cuddle, I could tell that she wasn’t going to be fading back out like she normally does in the middle of the night. She sighed. She flipped this way and that, she flopped. Finally she bent over my head and whispered in her too-loud-toddler whisper, “mom, I’m hungry! I need a snack!”

My bleary eyes squinted at the clock, 2:15 am. Ug. The worst. So far from first going to bed, so far from morning.

But trying to make a hungry toddler go back to sleep is a fruitless endeavor, every single time. We had just arrived back into town that afternoon so the fridge was virtually empty and 2:15 am is simply not my most creative time. Through good luck, persistence and grace, I found a few crackers and some kefir (drinkable yogurt) that was still within its “best by…” date. The kitchen was a mess, furniture moved around to make room for our luggage. In my stupor, all I could come up with was a makeshift picnic blanket (a drying towel) for her bare bottom on the hardwood floor. I sat heavily next to Twila, eyes half closed and waited for her to eat.

I looked sideways at her to see that she was as bright and alert as if it was eight thirty in the morning, big, round eyes, glowing glassily, as she delicately dipped the tiniest tip edges of her crackers into the yogurt and then nibbled the yogurt-covered pieces off with the tips of her front teeth.

But instead of being irritated by the tediousness of the process like I’m sure I would be ninety nine times out of one hundred, I laughed softly under my breath and patted her back, knowing that this would be one of those moments I remember when I am ancient and laying alone in my bed.

As I sit there, fighting sleep, I also think about the afternoon we spent just days before, sitting on the sun-warmed balcony of our hotel. I was typing while Twila was carefully looking over the edge of the railing, toes perched on the cement curb that supported the wrought iron, patterned railing. I went inside for a moment to retrieve my power cord and when I turned back around she was gone. Gone, utterly vanished. Out of a complete lack anything else to do, I ran to the balcony and screamed, “TWILA!”

And out she popped from behind the wide, wicker lounge chair, grinning from ear to ear. My legs shook and I sat heavily on the cement balcony floor, sick to my stomach. A cold sweat had formed over every square inch of my body. “We’re going inside,” I said weakly. Twila was thoroughly entertained with herself and didn’t understand why the fun was ending but came inside when she saw the desperate and peaked look on my face.

I shook the thought from my head as I sat on the kitchen floor at what was now nearly 3am, patting my daughter’s back and waiting for her to finish her snack, I thought, there are worse things I could be doing at 3am.

She has been asking for pets a lot lately, dogs, cats, kittens, birds, mice, gerbils, chinchillas. I for one want fewer pets. We are down to two cats and they behave like a pack of twenty or so stray dogs. They circle the house in a continuous hunting pattern, looking for ways to irritate me. They vomit, they scratch the carpet and the couches, they eat plants and vomit more. But sin of sins, they wait until I am laying Jada down on the soft guest bed in the cool dark of the guest room and they hide outside the door and meow in the loudest, most alarming decibel one can imagine.

If you have ever been at a sporting event and accidentally sat in front of the nimrod with the blow horn, you have some idea of how loud these slight cats can make themselves sound. It is alarming. It makes me want to do things to them that I have never thought of doing to a living animal. Like sending them across the lake in a giant sling shot.

So it’s hard for me when Twila asks for pets, because I don’t particularly care for the ones we have. I know that it’s good to have pets, to care for animals, especially as a child. But I cannot fathom having them now with so much else going on in our lives. It seems that no one has slept all the way through the night in this house in over four years. This morning Ryan left and somehow, miraculously, Jada and I were still resting peacefully in the quiet, early dawn dimness. Twila, on the other hand was not. The girls take shifts, it seems, on sleeping in.

So Twila pranced in, whispered loudly that she was going to go play in her room. Pranced out for a moment then back in to ask for a snack, a glass of water, company to the potty. I suppose I can’t be surprised that my three year old doesn’t want to be alone in her room before she’s even had breakfast. So I ripped my limp body from the covers, eyes half closed, teeth sore from clenching my jaw, mouth dry and body begging for more rest; I staggered in to Twila’s room swearing to myself that we would not get a puppy until the girls want more sleep than I do.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fiction Friday


Jackie and Wayne hid behind the thick curtains which surrounded the wide wood doors leading to the dining room, where inside, they believed someone was hurt, possibly severely. It was hard to know exactly what was going on. Mr. Carson was withholding information from everyone, even Wayne, his wine sommelier. But hopefully, Jackie thought, with Wayne’s help, they could get some answers.

It hadn’t been easy to get behind the curtains, but they saw no other way to get close enough to the dining room doors to sneak in. It was Wayne’s idea to follow the long wall, which ran along behind the bar to the door, by taking turns ducking under the heavy seam of velvet. It had been awkward to get oriented together within the six or seven inch space between the curtain and the wall in pitch blackness, and there had been a fair amount of stumbling, elbowing and awkward groping before they could get lined up against the cold brick wall, bellies sucked in to avoid causing ripples in the curtains as they moved.

Jackie wound up in the front sliding her back against the bricks while Wayne pressed his right side against her left so they moved in some kind of synchrony. Jackie thought more than once as they moved that this was perhaps not the best idea and wondered if people were standing around the bar watching the two obvious lumps scaling the wall towards the heavily guarded doors. But they were committed now, Jackie thought.

She reached the end of the curtain and her breath caught as she realized her face was inches from one of the guard’s faces. He stood, his heavy, furrowed brow jutting severely out, casting a shadow over his beakish nose and thin lips. Suddenly Wayne’s hot breath was in her left ear.
“How are we going to get past him?” He breathed almost silently.

It made Jackie startle anyway and the guard turned toward her hiding place. She froze, closed her eyes hoping the blackness of the curtain would conceal her. For a moment she didn’t move. Praying that she wouldn’t be discovered, not that she had done anything wrong but simply because she was afraid of being humiliated. How would she explain being behind the decorative and dusty curtain with the wine sommelier? She waited for the heavy curtain to be drawn back.

After a moment, Jackie dared peak one eye open, then the other. The guard was looking forward. She breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly she felt Wayne’s hand rest on her hip bone. She froze, then ever so slowly turned her head to raise one eyebrow at him. Yes? She hoped her look said. His eyes were curious, trying to ask what the plan was. Jackie had to admit, she had no idea. They needed a distraction or they would never get past the two guards that stood like statues inches from the door.

Just then, the dining room door creaked open. From her hiding place she saw Mr. Carson poke his nose through the barely open space. Wayne’s finger began tapping Jackie’s sharp hipbone. Irritated, Jackie pushed it roughly from her side causing the long curtain to sway. A shower of dust fell from the ceiling. Jackie and Wayne froze.

Then Jackie heard Mr. Carson’s voice whisper to one of the guards, “If anyone asks, tell them we have her resting in the sick bay, it was just a sprain, and a helicopter is on its way.”

The guard cleared his throat and whispered back, “And how is it going, really?”

Mr. Carson blinked rapidly, “We almost have her down.”

Jackie squinted her eyes and scrunched her nose as the dust began to make her eyes water. Just then, a loud slam drew the attention of Mr. Carson and both the guards toward the other end of the room.

The room seemed to fall silent as the sound of woman’s heals clacked across the mezzanine. Jackie watched the color in Mr. Carson’s face drain. She thought his lower lip may have quivered ever so slightly. The guard closest to Jackie spoke again, “Do you want me to hold her off?”

Mr. Carson was silent.

“Sir?” the guard pressed.

“Yes,” Mr. Carson mouthed, “tell her I’ll be right out.”

The door closed hiding Mr. Carson once again. The first guard made a gesture to the other guard and walked out of Jackie’s eye shot. She thought she saw the second guard, a taller, thinner man with light, cinnamon colored skin shudder slightly as he watched his coworker walk off.

“Where is he?” a woman’s voice spoke sharply from directly on the other side of the curtain from Wayne. Both Wayne and Jackie turned their heads together in surprise.

The guard spoke in a low whisper, “We’ll get him for you right now, Mrs. Carson.”

Jackie raised her eyebrows. Mrs. Carson? This can’t be good, she thought.

Just then a loud shattering sound from across the room caused the second guard to look up in surprise touching his holstered walkie-talkie. Then Jackie heard Susan’s voice, clear as a bell, above the din of the cocktail hour. “It’s alright, I’m fine,” then she laughed and Jackie could tell she had finished those two drinks she had been holding. “Really, I’m okay,” she laughed. Then Jackie heard someone slip. A loud thud caused the crowd to buzz and Jackie and her gentleman friend to laugh a little harder than they should have.

And just like that the second guard was walking toward the scene, away from his post at the door.

“Now,” breathed Wayne, “now may be our only chance.”

Jackie felt cold ice run through the length of her body, it felt good, she felt like a child. With a rush of adrenaline, she slid out from the curtain. Jackie was relieved to see that all the guests’ backs were to her and the first guard was maintaining the perimeter of guests crowding around an elderly man who looked irritated but otherwise fine, sitting in a pool of what must have been at one time, Susan’s cocktail. The second guard was helping him up. The first was making his way to Susan.

Wayne gave Jackie a pointed shove towards the heavy doors. The two moved quickly and silently and each grasped a wide silver handle. Together they pulled, just enough to slip inside.

The room was dark; it took a moment for their eyes to adjust. Wayne’s did first and before Jackie could see anything she was aware of Wayne covering his open mouth. There across the room, Jackie could see a man she did not recognize, cutting a thick rope from the arm of one of the chandeliers. Below him, Mr. Carson was reaching up, as high as his arms could reach, standing on one of the many formally set tables, straining to hold the weight of the maid who Jackie had seen hours before kissing Mr. Carson in the kitchen. Her body hung limply in his arms.
***

Monday, June 14, 2010

Life, Death, and Mothering


As we drove onto the onramp of interstate 35W several weeks ago, I saw one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. The sun was beating down on the hard back of giant turtle, front legs on top of the median, back legs on the pavement of the onramp. He was facing four lanes of traffic ahead. A swarm of flies buzzed around the air over his head.

I felt sick as my car sped onto the freeway. I racked my brain for what I could do; how could I rescue him? No matter how many scenarios I ran through my head, I couldn’t think of a way to get to him without severely endangering my family. I thought about the giant turtle the rest of the day. Why was he heading toward the freeway? I wondered furiously. How had he gotten so utterly turned around?

I continue to feel like I am in deeper and deeper water with parenting—out of my depth, in fact. Twila is growing more resistant by the day. The very act of asking her to do something is enough to spark an all-out war of the wills. Literally nothing is easy. I used to think that was an expression too, like feeling like my head is going to explode, but parenting a three year old has taught me that those expressions come from very real feelings.

Each night Ryan and I shake our heads and hug in the kitchen, hiding in each other like a door jam in a hurricane. We pick apart our mistakes that day, sharing war stories from the moments when we weren’t together. The conclusion we come to each night, when the house is finally quiet, is that parenting is hard. It just really and truly is. We didn’t think it would be this hard, not for us. We spent hours, days talking about how we would parent, what techniques and tactics would set us apart from all other parents throughout history. But here we are.

We are different from all other people and we are the same, our experience is unique, I’m sure, in so many ways but it’s also the same. I’m sure the woman in Byerly’s who offered to buy the floral arrangement that my daughter was throwing a fit for, represents hundreds of employees the world over who have stepped out to try and offer help where nothing will really help. And my exasperation is a drop in the bucket of motherhood exasperation the world over.

And all there is to do is keep going, try to make the right decision for each situation that arises, try to be more patient than we were the day before and keep holding our ground. And take breaks. This past Saturday, I gathered with a small group of friends to go out to a movie. It was freeing just to get out without either of my wonderful children for just a few hours. As I drove home that night, I got a message from Ryan asking me to get home in short order. When I came in, both girls were awake and crying.

Ryan told me later, when the girls had finally crashed, that Twila kept coming into the room where he was trying to put Jada to sleep, the squeaky door waking her each time, a game I am very familiar with. A vexing game that Twila chooses to play each and every day which leaves me livid and feeling like my head might explode. The reason Twila is scary right now is that there seems to be no limit to what she will do to test and push us. Not even the act of laying the sleeping baby down is sacred. Twila will squeal outside the door, kick the closet, clear her throat. She doesn’t seem intimidated by the range of facial contortions I launch silently from the bed.

She is tough right now. She is amazing and beautiful and smart and asks the most mind-blowing questions about God and life and existence; she watches Jada when I gave to go to the bathroom, cuddling and giggling with her until I get back; she is wonderful in so many ways, but she is tough. She argues and digs her heals in. She never just says okay. We love that she is a negotiator, but God, some days I just don’t want to debate everything from getting in the tub to letting the toad go that she caught in our yard. She is strong willed.

She is strong willed and that’s how we like her. We don’t want our girls to be shrinking violets. We raised her to make her voice heard and stand up to people, we just didn’t know what it would look like when she stood up to us, made her voice heard in every scenario throughout each and every day. I find myself wanting to say, just stop talking for a minute! The cardinal sin; the poison pill to dole out to any developing girl; it doesn’t take many of those requests before your preteen daughter will heed them; often right around junior high. I don’t want Twila to ever stop talking; I just want her to let me win a fight once in a while.

It was after dusk the other night when I remembered the fight we had taken an armed truce on three hours earlier when it was time for dinner and Twila couldn’t—wouldn’t—let her toad go. We have a deal in our house that any creatures we catch during the day, we release that night so they can find food and their way home. It’s my attempt at teaching ecological responsibility. And I don’t want dead creatures all over our yard. The toad was special and Twila loved him. Loved his squishy sides and his bumpy skin and flat head. She was attached. But she promised to let him go after dinner (later, later, always later).

But then it was dark, Twila was asleep and it struck me that Mr. Toad was still in the grass-filled bucket that Twila had fashioned as a little home, and I faced a dilemma. On the one hand, it felt like a betrayal to release Twila’s toad when she was asleep. On the other hand it felt like a bigger betrayal to the toad to make him sleep in a bucket with no food all through a very chilly night. And I thought of the turtle.

Even weeks later, I thought of the turtle, pathetically stuck, front legs up, back legs at the edge of a lane of traffic, frozen in time, flies buzzing over head waiting for the hot sun to finish him off. His body remained there like a statue for days, otherwise altruistic humans helpless to do anything but drive by.

I snuck out into the cool night air. The sky was dark, without city lights creating an ever-glowing din. I haven’t gone out after dark since we’ve lived here and the evening was still, almost mysterious. I crept in bare feet through the already moist grass to where Twila had left Mr. Toad’s bucket. As I gently lifted it, I felt him scuttle around under the thick layer of grass he had burrowed under.

I tiptoed across the wide expanse of our yard out to the lilac bush where he had been scooped up in the late afternoon. With one glance back to the house where inside I knew Twila slept, deeply, resting from the non-stop day of running, arguing, negotiating, toad-hunting, and constant questioning, I tipped the bucket on its side. I breathed and felt the cool air refresh my lungs, enlivening my senses. The damp night was waking up as I stepped lightly though the tall grass back to the light of the house. Crickets sang and raccoons slowly woke from a long day’s rest and somewhere behind me, the toad that Twila loved left the bucket and rejoined the yard and surrounding woods, teaming with life.