The case of the missing peach

I first notice the peach on the railing before we leave for the movies. I don’t ask my grandmother about it because she’s not in the room and I think about taking a picture, but even I realize this is only funny to me. Obviously she put it out there to ripen in the sun, even if this still strikes me as funny and a little reckless. Like putting a pie on the sill to cool and leaving for vacation.

The next morning the peach isn’t there but I don’t notice right away. I go outside to drink coffee and soak in the peace and cool of early morning. Right away, I realize it is not quiet and it is hot and I’m not sure where to sit. I remember her mentioning one (or more) chairs being broken and wish I’d asked which one (or ones). None of the chairs look particularly broken. They all have overstuffed and obviously not original cushions and I flashback to the one garage sale we had growing up where my parents sold an easy chair that was missing the elastic straps underneath the cushion. I guess the straps broke at some point and my dad, being relatively handy, cut a square board to fit against the frame, thus supporting the cushion and anyone’s backside who plopped down, devil may care.

Well for reasons not known to me now, though my parents were always thrifty and practical and may have thought up some need for that exact sized square of plywood, they removed the board and hauled the chair out to the yard to sell. Now if you were going to pay $10 (I’m just guessing, I don’t actually remember how much we asked) for a chair, wouldn’t you want to sit on it first? Test it out? Of course you would.

I remember a nice woman came along. I’m picturing her now with dark, possibly permed and close cropped hair and a barrel purse of light tan resting midpoint between her armpit and waist. She eyed up the chair shyly and then backed up carefully like one would into a parking spot but then lowered herself a bit too eagerly, certainly for anyone over 40 pounds onto an unsupported cushion base. The chair cushion swallowed her up and her arms were suddenly waving helplessly like an overturned bug, her legs rendered useless by the unfortunate angle and gravity. The barrel purse only wedged her in tighter. 

I of course ran off to find my brother and tell him the good news but was laughing too hard to explain and lost precious time. By the time we got back, the woman was gone and the chair still there, silently waiting, cushion back in place for the next potential customer.

This morning I pick the chair closest to the door and sit tentatively, gingerly, and I’m sorry to report nothing bad happens. It is not the broken chair. I drink coffee and listen to a family of crows argue and wish I’d brought my journal or something to read, but if I had my eyes might not have fixed on the peach pit sitting on the railing in front of me. Wait, was that where the peach was last night? Wasn’t it down about two feet, to the right? Yes, I’m pretty sure of that because it was centered through the picture window in her kitchen. If I was going to put a peach out to sun ripen, that would be the best spot to keep an eye on it.

Upon closer inspection, there are faint peach slime trails traversing about two feet from the center origination point and the pit itself is picked clean. I like to think I know how to eat stone fruit with little waste – corn on the cob too – but I can tell you I’ve never come anywhere near as clean as this job. Whoever ate this peach had a lot of practice or keen hunger and patience. 

This begged the next question of who ate the peach? My immediate thought is raccoon, but why wouldn’t it take the peach away to its raccoon lair? My second guess is that maybe my grandmother ate the peach, though hastily, and put the pit out to be picked over by birds. I’m embarrassed to write this now, as this makes my grandmother seem a little nutty, perhaps, but it does seem like something she would do. She fills plastic bowls with water for birds. She scatters seeds across the railing in winter. I just thought perhaps she did the same with peach pits not picked perfectly clean.

Later that morning I ask her if she’d left a peach out on the railing.

Oh yes, she says, obviously just remembering. (Would she do the same with pies if she baked?)

Well, I say, it’s not there anymore.

Oh? she says, looking anyway.

Yes, just the pit is left, I say. I try to deliver this news somberly but my tone is more delighted. My grandmother clicks her tongue.

Oh well, she says. I put it out yesterday to get soft. I was going to give it to your girls.

I picture them fighting over a lone peach, lunging at one another, hair and arms flailing. Only one of them likes stone fruit so this would probably never happen.  

What do you think got it? I ask.

A squirrel, she says.

A squirrel? Do you think one could eat a whole peach? What about a raccoon?

No, no raccoon. It was a squirrel, she says.

I realize now a two-foot peach slime trail better fits the profile of a smaller animal unable to carry or even necessarily drag a sizeable piece of fruit to its lair. Squirrels  are also known to (over)stuff things into their cheeks. My grandmother is probably right. She should also probably get that broken chair (or chairs) fixed or maybe not.

On Deal Island

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Pop-Pop

Deal Island is a three mile finger of land and tide about 15 miles off the beaten path in eastern shore Maryland. It’s where my great-grandfather, who we called Pop-Pop, lived until the (and his) mid 80s, which is also the last time I’d visited. Even though he’s long gone and the first word that always comes to mind when I think of Deal Island is mosquitoes, I had to get back. It should have been a tough sell to my girls, but they’re always up for adventure or maybe the challenge of seeing ordinary stuff that way.

We picked a sunny day with low humidity for our trip. If we’d gone the day before, I’m convinced westerly winds would have carried in biting flies like those from a particularly vivid childhood memory. Sure, I remember that time my great-grandfather’s cat scratched a perfect circle of blood around my wrist or the way the massive vinyl swing on his front porch creaked and groaned though never in a way that made me feel uneasy. But I’ll never ever forget the 2 mile walk that felt like 200. My brother and I were nearly eaten alive by greenheads and mosquitoes as we took a fun family hike along the bay. Our parents tossed back helpful tips like “walk faster so they won’t bite you” and other things I’ve surely never said to my own children, who are now more delicious than I. Deal Island was originally called Devil’s Island, though I’m not sure there’s truth to the rumors it was once a hotbed of pirate activity. If so, those were some tough pirates.

Driving in that clear day with its delightfully low dew point, the first thing we noticed was a perfect stranger waving to us. In fact, he didn’t even look up so wouldn’t have known we were strangers, though I don’t guess it would have mattered. I’d remembered it as a kind of Mayberry on the water, and not much had changed.

The old bank building was still there. My great-grandfather worked there until the stock market collapse of 1929. When there was a run on the bank, a customer who was also a neighbor waved a gun at him. It was panic, nothing personal then or when the bank closed like many small town banks had to. It sat empty for years and then someone converted the inside to a machine shop. It sits empty again and for $24,900, anyone can buy it.

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Probably the most anticlimactic stop was in front of my great-grandfather’s old house. It’s been so lovingly renovated that I couldn’t recognize enough to tap into nostalgia. Instead we kept walking down the street, past an old gothic revival farmhouse that could only be suitable to vampires. Only on the walk back did we notice an identical gothic revival farmhouse right next door. I did not take pictures of either and deeply regret this, but you probably wouldn’t have either.

Our next stop was the final resting place of both great-grandparents and also Joshua Thomas, Parson of the Islands. He predicted the British fleet’s defeat in Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key and our national anthem. Also, he was born in a place called Potato Neck and his dad died from a dog bite and his stepfather was a drunken lout who forever turned young Joshua off alcohol. I now remember why book reports were such a challenge. It’s tough telling which facts are weeds because they all seem important.

I can tell you that cemetery was the biggest challenge of the day. My dad had provided a quaint hand drawn map to find the family plot but failed to warn us half the people buried on that island share the same last name.

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The eldest at least a half hour in

Three passes after I’d first given up, I found the plot and yelled so loud I probably woke Joshua Thomas of Potato Neck. We piled back in the car and drove until the road dead ended by crab shedding facilities at Wenona harbor. On the way back, I snapped this picture of a crumbling beauty an 1877 atlas designated the “Colored Church and School”.

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I almost drove past another (mystery) beauty, but if you only get to a place once in 30 years, you find yourself doing asinine road maneuvers so you can go back and take pictures while your kid swats at bugs only kids can feel because adults are old and taste terrible

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The next to last stop was at the public beach, where someone else had already written Pop-Pop in the sand and we collected a generous handful of tumbled sea glass. The funny thing about that is I’d had in mind to treat myself to something at the 5 year sober mark, but nothing seemed right and then I found it.

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The final stop of the day was a bait and sundry shop where I purchased candy bars for the drive back. I picked a Whatchamacallit, which I also hadn’t experienced in about 30 years and my kids thought I’d forgotten the name and was just calling it that. Some days you look back and find yourself feeling lost and disappointed. This wasn’t one of those days.

 

 

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The sweetest 5 years

Summer tumbled in a little bit like how I literally tumbled out of bed this morning. Our bed had an extra guest (no more ghost hunting shows before bedtime) along with her patented sideways-sleeping method, and in my effort to not disturb anyone, I woke everyone with a clamor and made the cat flee in a panic of terror, which was easily the best part. On my way down to the floor, I had enough time to wonder how I might explain this in an ER room. No, I wasn’t drinking, I’d say. I haven’t had a drink in over five years, though I’m still hitting the cupcakes pretty hard. 

Write about what you know, they say. Recently I had two pieces featured elsewhere. The first is about my love-hate relationship with sugar in sobriety on Ruby Pipes. Ruby is a very talented writer and I hope to see more from her in the year ahead.

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Side note: I wrote it back in January, and the “very bad day” I referred to was this one.

I also celebrated 5 years sober this week and wrote about it for AfterPartyMagazine. I’m not saying the last 1,825 days has been a cake walk – unless that means there was cake every day because clearly there was – but time flew by. I am reporting from the other side to anyone new to sobriety and saying life just keeps getting better or feeling better (who am I to question it?) the longer I’m sober. I know this won’t keep happening to the same degree, but life is good and I’m grateful. I’m going to disable comments here and hope you’ll go read. Thank you so very much for being here.

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From Addict to Entrepeneur, A Guest Post by Andy

The other day, I got an email from a reader named Andy who asked if I would share his personal story of recovery. I found it compelling and empowering and think you will too.

As I close in on five years sober later this month, the last part of his story rings especially true. I initially stopped drinking for myself because I couldn’t stand the hangovers and personal pain anymore. Now I see pretty clearly how much better my life is without alcohol, but it’s truly exciting to feel the ripple effect of sobriety. It extends well beyond myself. Anyway, he explains it much better so please read and leave a comment for him, if you please.


From Addict/Alcoholic to Workaholic to Entrepreneur, A Guest Post by Andy

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”- Zig Ziglar

I would have to say that this quote by Zig Ziglar is pretty accurate, but he forgot to mention that the stairs are not straight and they do not always go up. The stairway to recovery success is a topsy-turvy one that has no actual end. It just sort of straightens up and levels out a little. Regardless, you are always going to be taking it a step at a time. In this post I’m going to take you through my personal sobriety journey.

The Addict/Alcoholic

I was only four years old when my parents decided to move from Colombia to California in 1986. I had a really good childhood and my parents worked hard to always provide for me and my siblings.

If you have Latino friends or family, you know how we party, let alone Colombians. Alcohol is a MUST at a Colombian party. The alcoholic drink of choice by most Colombians is an anise-flavored drink called Aguardiente. Not that all Latinos are drunks, it’s just simply something they enjoy once in a while, when there’s a good excuse to celebrate.

I remember the first time I got drunk. I was nine years old and it was at a family friend’s house party. The adults were all passing around a bottle of Aguardiente and taking shots. I was curious and asked if I could have a shot. Of course I was stopped cold in my tracks and scolded. After a few hours when the adults were tipsy enough to be distracted by the loud music and conversation amongst themselves, I stole a sip from a bottle. I hated it, but it was like a game to have a sip without being caught, so I had another one, then another.

All of my fears and insecurities magically disappeared. I felt confident and capable of anything. I danced salsa with my sister and cousins all night long. I wasn’t shy anymore. That’s how I learned that alcohol made me feel better and more confident, therefore I drank whenever I got the chance.

A few years later, at the age of 15, I was introduced to marijuana. I was a little afraid at the beginning, but all of the cool older kids were doing it, so I had to give it a shot. I fell in love and never looked back. At 19, I was introduced to meth at a party and so began the downward spiral. At 23 I was incarcerated in Idaho on drug related charges for two years.

What happened? Why did I jump over the juiciest parts of my story? Well, I’m not here to recount war stories. You and I both know where that may lead. Reminiscing doesn’t interest me at all and for many it can be a trigger. So let’s just move on to the important part of THIS story.

AA and NA

The first time I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous I was in jail. At first it was something I would do just to spend some time out of my cell. It was better to hear what I thought was bullshit, than to be in my shoe box. I had zero interest in the meetings and I would never contribute or assume any responsibilities.

After attending for months, some of the stories started to resonate. One of them was really special because it made me reflect on my own life. A fellow inmate told the story of how he hit rock bottom. He had been off abusing alcohol and drugs and one day he came back home and got into a very heated argument with his wife, took off, and bulldozed through a wall. The next day he woke up in jail. He shared that he was a psychologist by profession, but an alcoholic by nature. He told us that he also had an anger management issue and concluded that “rage spawns from anger, anger spawns from hurt, hurt spawns from getting your feelings hurt.”

I had convinced myself that I didn’t have a problem; that I was in control; that everyone else had a problem not me. I was so self-absorbed that I could not even look an inch under my current situation to understand that I had a drinking problem, a drug problem, a personality problem…a life problem.

The Workaholic

AA and NA helped me a lot during my incarceration, yet my life after prison was everything but easy. I struggled a lot to find a job, and even though I was attending AA and NA meetings on a regular basis, I had a few relapses. I lost my job and life seemed unbearable and that is why I checked into a rehab center in Idaho.

After I was released, I felt great and thought I was ready to take life on sober, but I was mistaken and I relapsed after a few months. Again I was broke, unemployed, alone and feeling like life made no sense at all. I had no other choice but to focus my energy on something else to avoid going back to drugs or alcohol.

I moved back to California where I landed a job selling knock-off cologne. I would go out at 5am to gas stations, shopping center parking lots, flea markets, etc. to sell perfume out of the trunk of my car. I learned how to approach strangers, to get their attention and make a successful sale. Making some money really helped with my confidence, so I was feeling positive, focusing on becoming a better salesman.

Next thing I know I was training other people on how to sell the products and a few months later and 10 pounds lighter (still sober), I had my own office and was pushing quite a bit of perfume per day. I had become obsessed with the business and had let every other aspect of my life deteriorate including my physique. Like byebyebeer said in a blog post, “The thing about addicts is we’re always addicted to something.” I had traded drugs and alcohol for work.

In 2007 I was introduced to a book that helped change my life, Jeffery Combs’ Psychologically Unemployable (Jeffery is also a recovering addict). One of the most important things he said in his book is that you should never confuse obsession with passion. A workaholic and a passionate entrepreneur are very different things. That’s when I realized my addictive personality was ruling my life again, but this time with work. After a few months I sold the business and decided to spend some time at my parent’s house in southern California.

The Entrepreneur

Moving in with my parents was a very good decision at the beginning because they gave me the support I needed and that helped me get over my rut. After a month I found a job at Target, a job for which I had no passion. It was just a way to help pay the bills. I also found an AA/NA community close by, and I acquired a really good sponsor.

What happened while I was working with him on my personal issues is something I will always be grateful for. He told me he would only keep working with me if I took a class at the local community college.

I was not interested at all in doing that because I felt at that point in my life it did not make sense. I just needed to stay sober, go to work and do my job so I could make money to pay the bills. I forced myself to go to the nearest community college campus and enroll in the only class that really caught my eye. It was a course called Introduction to Website Development (HTML). I liked computers and websites, so I thought why not give it a shot?

It took me just three months to fill my bedroom at my parents’ house with books related to HTML and website design. I found myself at the computer for hours, coding, creating, and learning. Finally, one day I thought to myself that it would be great if I could make a business out of my newly acquired skill.

To not make a long story even longer…today, after nine years of hard work, I co-own a successful digital marketing agency. I have a great team that feels like family and, in fact, my brother is part of it. We are based in Medellin, Colombia, which means my life has taken a 180 degree turn. 30 years ago my parents left Colombia to give my siblings and I a better life, and now I am back with that better life.

Although I’ve been sober for eight years, I still go to meetings. Being sober becomes something you get used to; it’s part of your life and with time it gets easier. Regarding my business, I didn’t let myself get lost while pursuing success. The entire point of being successful is to be who you are and love what you do without getting buried under a ton of work. I went out and found something I was passionate about, put my skills and knowledge to work and built a business. Sobriety, just like building a business, does not happen overnight, and one has to commit to it and work hard.

It’s Not All About You

When you are in the process of recovering, every single thing you do to maintain sobriety seems like it’s about you. Every one of the 12 steps you complete, every single task or piece of homework your sponsor gives you, every book or article you read is all about you and your recovery.

But after months or even years of working on your sobriety, you start to realize that there is a bigger reason for it, a reason beyond yourself. It might be to be a great provider for your family and to watch your children grow; working at a job that you love that becomes your career; helping your aging parents during retirement; or like me, building a business and helping people around you grow. It may not seem clear right now, but every action and step you take in this process brings you closer to your personal success.

Good luck and thank you for reading my story.

-Andy

Swing

The last time we were at this park my youngest child lost her water ice at the bottom of the slide. I don’t remember the exact physics, only how cherry slush looked like blood in the mud and that there were tears and how I somewhat begrudgingly gave her my own water ice because this is what it means to be a parent. (Also: no sleep and dirty clothes and car interiors so basically disheveledness, but also bone deep contentedness and the feeling of falling in love, only better because it doesn’t go away.) 

For awhile, I’d had a mental block about this park. This is where the story gets dark, so you might want to look away (but you probably won’t).

 One morning in late winter, I got a disturbing text from my teenaged daughter. Her bus had gone its usual route by the park and the driver noticed too late that a body was hanging from the swings. It was barely dawn, that tricky time of light when your eyes can’t be sure what they’re seeing, so she might have thought at first it was someone’s idea of a sick joke. The driver told the kids on the bus not to look – she even said don’t look to the right, a clarity that impressed me when my daughter recounted this – but you tell a group of kids or anyone for that matter not to look somewhere, they will need to see for themselves what someone is warning them they will never be able to unsee.

 The hanged body was ruled a suicide, though rumors and general fear swirled for a day or two. I don’t care to speculate here, but it was an ugly, awful thing she witnessed and my heart broke a dozen times over for pretty much everyone involved, though my daughter bounced back quick enough. The bus ride the next morning was a little white knuckle, but with continued routine there was no time to develop a real phobia of the place, though she said to me last night when I dropped her off nearby for a school event that she still has no desire to go back to the park. It haunts her a little.

 I’d felt that way myself, but I still have a little kid that doesn’t know the ugliness of the world. At first I naively thought officials might take the swings down, but when I saw the massive steel arch last night, probably installed in the sixties, I got it. It’s as solid as the trees around it, one of which I kept staring up at after my youngest hopped up on one swing and I gave her a big push to get started. All the other trees nearby were already heavy with buds and blooms, but this one tree – and I have no idea what kind it was – didn’t appear to have any. Otherwise its trunk and branches looked healthy and ready to go, so eventually I stopped staring up and faced the swings.

 I heard them too, the terrible groaning, that shrieky metal on metal that seemed almost comically human, but then terribly so. My girl eventually grew bored and hopped off and we took a walk around the park, checking out a fountain under repair and the massive gazebo with its graffiti-carvings, plus all the dogs around the park. Little flitty dogs, one puffed up like a dandelion, another crouched down playfully as we walked past, and one freaking out at absolutely nothing. Once we’d made a satisfyingly leisurely lap, my daughter found a friend on the climbing structure and so leaving involved the usual bit of bargaining that makes me think all kids start out as potentially good lawyers.  

My youngest remembers coming to the park with camp last summer and how a boy shimmied up the arch of the swing to the center, an impressive and dangerous feat. My other daughter remembers something worse and I remember something in between. We all remember the fallen water ice because it was funny and sad and agreed we will come back soon with more water ice to see how the massive canopy of trees looks again in late spring. It will all be here long after we’re gone.
  

an old photo and come to think of it, might have been taken after the water ice incident

Gray hair don’t care

Gray hair is not actually gray but silver or white or pewter or salt. It only appears gray from a distance against a backdrop of pepper. Gray hair (that is not really gray) can be coarse and wiry but is also shiny and healthier than any dyed hair I’ve known. Some mornings I catch my reflection in the mirror and realize gray hair don’t care.

It has been 15 months since my last dye but only 11 months since highlights, which helped the transition or prolonged the inevitable. Either way those months are a blip in time. I finally got so sick of the demarcation line betwen new and old color that I had a big haircut. I got compliments and didn’t hate it. In typical fashion I thought well if short is good, shorter must be gooder and I got more cut off next time. I spent the next 6 weeks hating my short gray hair. In typical fashion I thought well if feeling bad about yourself is what you’re into you might as well gain 7 pounds too. It was around this time my husband put a family photo from  3 Christmases ago directly in my line of sight when I watch movies on the couch. We had a wall painted so I don’t think he did it to trigger my breakdown, but I not only had to stare longingly at people on the TV with normal hair but now a previous version of myself. Between you and me, I think my old color looked brassy, though maybe it was more Tawny.

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Not really me. In case you were wondering.

And one night we were watching a movie and I saw someone who reminded me of, well, me in the mornings. If you don’t recognize the image below, sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion and if you still don’t know what the hell I’m on about, just know my husband and I are in an unspoken competition to use our most favorite-forgotten phrase because after two decades of living together, we forget things but still know how to party. But I’m pretty sure I’m the only one of us who feels like this.

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Not really me. But much closer.

I hadn’t counted on it taking this long to decide if I like gray hair on me. I don’t recall loving my brown or Tawny hair so maybe it’s just a case of me still being me. Gray definitely makes me feel older, especially in those moments when I’m already feeling insecure. I keep thinking to myself just wait til summer, I assume because my hair will be longer by then and because there will be ice cream and I’m easy to distract that way. Mostly this waiting thing reminds me a lot of sobriety and how long that took to feel natural and comfortable, and finally like Home.

I did not love being sober in my first year. I did it anyway and loved bits and pieces, but still drooled over everybody else’s ability to drink normally or abnormally but without all the pain and obsession. Sometimes I felt like a freak and a failure. But I kept doing it because I am not a quitter except when it comes to drinking.

And over the months and years, my not drinking became not only something I did quite well on the outside but inside as well. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and one day looked up and wondered when was the last time I missed drinking anyway. The next week I missed drinking because that’s how it works, but the pang left just as quickly as it came and stayed away even longer. Here I am today so full of love and zest for life that I have the mental energy to grow out my natural hair color and obsess over it.

I said something to my husband about the picture of me and my old Tawny hair and he joked “it’s like Dorian Gray in reverse” and I laughed but then said “hey wait, aren’t all portraits like that?” We’re supposed to get older and get gray hair and crows feet and laugh lines and other adorably named things that mean we’re dying. What I did was super-accelerate the ageing process and all the insecurities that come with it, especially for a woman.

What I did to soften the blow of getting old (not really) super fast is I started working out again and cancelled my last haircut. In order to celebrate my real hair color (which, how insane is it to feel the need to hide the natural color of our hair? think about that for a second), we picked new vinyl siding for our house and went with the color swatch named silver-gray. Just kidding – pebblestone-gray cost extra – but in the end it’s just siding and it’s just hair. Gray hair don’t care and hopefully I’ll get there myself some day.

 

 

 

Radiant (or how not to give a spider a bath)

  It’s Wednesday night, just me and my 7 year-old daughter, and I’m having a hard time settling into the play time I promised earlier when I wasn’t thinking about dinner or checking and signing off on homework, which will probably require a Notary by the time she is a parent. The thought of Candyland exhausts even her, so we browse an extensive movie library of mostly crap and stream Charlotte’s Web, which my daughter tells me they’re reading in class.

This is the live-action remake, not the funky 70s cartoon, which I think we can all agree had a jazzier take on Templeton’s fair binge, but it’s very hard to get kids to watch old stuff without being reminded how boring it is to new people. About an hour in, I realize my daughter has no idea how it ends. We’re heading to heartbreak at breakneck speed.

She innocently asks what radiant means and I offer a rushed definition that does not clarify how radiant could possibly apply to a pig because I’m not sure, and then I casually warn her the movie has a sad ending. Then I wind up spoiling the whole thing because I don’t want her to think the pig dies, which I think would be sadder. When the (spoiler alert!) deathbed scene happens and Wilbur pulls away in the back of a truck while Charlotte takes her last spider breaths, I realize I’m wrong.

In real life, a spider is a terrifying thing you might see in your washing machine after you already added water and the costume clothes you bought at Goodwill and left in a bag in the garage to quarantine for several days (because the only insect scarier than spiders are bedbugs) and you scream a scream even you don’t recognize as coming from yourself and slam down the lid, and later you will make your husband switch out the laundry but will not ask about the limp, spindly carcass the size of a small rodent he must have pulled out and had to bury in the backyard. You do not inform the children their hobo costumes are now haunted by a spider. This is all hypothetical, of course.

The movie version of a spider has fur that looks soft and inviting and pretty eyelashes and a voice like Julia Roberts’, and she has just died poignantly, heartbreakingly.

My daughter crumbles and tells me she needs a hug and I hold her while trying to hide my own tears. She says “I don’t want you to die” and breaks into fresh sobs and I tell her I don’t plan to anytime soon and make a weak joke about being compared to a spider but she forces me to stay with her grief. She says “At least we’ll get to see each other again in heaven” and I wonder when she came up with that because we only recently discussed heaven as one possibility. I like that she thought about it more and made it her own.

This makes me think of my own mother, who is presumably up in heaven waiting for her mother to join her and later, if all goes well, my brother and I. The mother I barely know is a collage of outfits and happy poses from photographs I’ve seen and stories my grandmother told over the years, and yet I’ve felt her love my whole life, especially in the last year, which is interesting but not surprising because I wasn’t looking as hard before.

I start to think about how it might work in heaven, like at what age are we preserved and how do family members find us, presumably not all at the same time since who wants tense family dinners in the afterlife. And what about the cats I’d love to see again, plus my aunt’s golden retriever that used to let us lie on her like a pillow. I don’t care how peaceful heaven is, my old cats won’t put up with other cats, much less a dog. Plus there are possibly spiders in heaven. 

I say to my daughter that when someone dies, their spirit lives on in our hearts and memories and they never leave us. I think to myself that her and I are making a memory right now because we are both 100% in the moment together and crying on the couch (me silently). It reminds me of how I used to hold her in this same spot and stare at her tiny perfect face in the weeks after she was born in an effort to make maternity leave feel as long as possible. Heartbreak is everywhere, but instead of waiting to possibly see someone in heaven again, we get to love the ones we have right now and create and savor new memories, each more delicious than the last.