An Open Letter to My Son’s Friends at the Prom After-Party Weekend
May 14, 2018
21 Days of Yoga
May 17, 2016
Where the Light Enters You
February 6, 2019
When Grace Walks in the Door
February 26, 2016
My neighbors had twins. At first, we didn't believe the news. "Twins? Wow! Are you sure?" we asked Ronald. If our thirteen-house-long dead-end street in the middle of a wooded Czech valley, occupied in the summertime by toads on the sidewalks and wild boar on the back hills, was a ship, Ronald would be its captain. Its passengers are Americans, Brits, Dutch, Czech (including two famous Czech National soccer stars), up until recently three Colombians and four Belgians. The guy down at the end owns a vineyard in Provence. The lovely Israeli across the street from me brings us baklava from home, wears fur, and feeds stray cats. The abandoned house on the hill, separated from view by a crumbling stone wall and a hedge of wild grapes, is a source of endless curiostiy and rumor. The neighbors in question have adopted a string of foster dogs. Their current ones are an enormous Hagrid-looking monster named, appropriately, Monster, and a deaf dog with zombie eyes who never makes a peep. I call her Ghost. When Ronald told us there were newborns in that house, I was convinced that Monster and Ghost had had puppies. I set out to investigate.
Everybody knows that a batch of chocolate chip cookies can indeed save the world, but I wasn't sure how they would be received in a culture that doesn't even sell chocolate chips, so I baked the next best thing, homemade bread. I wrapped it in a tea towel and rang the bell. A smiling stranger came to the door, spoke some broken English, shook my hand and accepted the bread.
Me, peering around her shoulder, trying to see in the house: Hi! I heard there was wonderful news here. How's everybody feeling?
Her: Oh. Fine. The little ones and the big ones.
Me, hmm. "Little ones" could still be puppies. I am not getting what I need here. I fished around for a little while longer until Karl came out. His eyes were red. Oh good, evidence. We're getting somewhere. . . Are you getting much sleep?
Him: Chuckle, chuckle, No.
Me: Okay, well if you need anyone to hold a "little guy", I'm just right over there. I point over my shoulder to my house. I pat myself on the back, congratulating myself on remaining vague and not committing any major faux-pas, then I walk back home, just as consternated as before I had gone, only now minus one delicious loaf of bread.
Yesterday, in the midst of baking another loaf of bread, the 9-y.o. calls me to the front door.
Him : Mom! The people! The bread!
Me: WHAT THE?
I dry my hands and walk to the front door, which he has left wide open in his wake, running out in the cold to hunt snipes. And there in their parkas, looking dazed and dazzled, with early evening winter light behind them and the warm incandescence of our brightly lit foyer overhead, stand two new parents with a baby in their arms.
When grace walks in the front door, you breathe in the grace and pray that it will infuse
your walls and couch and even the dog’s pantings and sniffings,
and your hands that hold the neighbor’s new baby,
with evanescence, with mercy, with the glisten of water and the warm comfort of tea.
When grace comes in from the cold, you make tea. You stop the afternoon.
You ask to hold its mere few kilos,
coo and sing to it in your own language, stare at its smooth seams, its lack of mars.
You pass it to your daughter who sits beside you and smiles a little, whispering,
I’ve never held anything this small. And fragile. And arresting.
His mother is Czech, and shy, and so tired she doesn’t know how much sugar she wants.
Father, German. I’m sure he must have ridden a bike once.
I’m sure as a child his mother sent him to the orchard to pick youthful, rosy apples.
Fifty years later, that’s where we met,
in the grove beyond our neighborhood. I was with my children,
and he was a white-haired man, free to go grazing of an evening,
wielding a long-handled contraption for grabbing fruit just out of reach,
a canvas bucket strapped to his back like a harbinger.
Now he is the white-haired father of twins, measuring sugar for his beauty,
measuring the strength of my hands, to see if there is enough there to hold his son,
no bigger than a warm loaf of bread.
They only brought one, the other home asleep with the day nurse
and the dogs on guard outside the door,
not allowed back inside the house since the birth.
And here was my dog and her curious snout, my voice and the smell of this baby
an instant sensation of every question I’d ever asked in those holding moments
on this green couch a world away, Will the babies breathe through the night?
Will I know how to keep the lights on? What if the clocks stop? Am I enough?
Is it ever too soon for what they need
to show up on their doorstep?
My neighbors came to me shy, shell-shocked, aware of this urgency of life,
as I am aware that the boule I baked was a bridge,
a lifeline in a laundered tea towel.
And in return, they brought me grace, folded and bundled as a present
they gave back to me in the form of a baby, a near silent hour, a stab at conversation,