November 24, 2011

Letter #63


Hey kid. I started referring to you as M from time to time, which I think sounds kind of endearing and wonderful. I like to draw little pictures of the lowercase m. I stamp it in my little journal and doodle it at work while I'm thinking through a project. Truth is, I'd like to scatter little m's and m phrases all over the city; on trees and sidewalks, on concrete walls, in the front cover of books, with stones in the river, with shells at the beach.

m was here.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have called you this if had you lived. Way to go M, I might have said. Or, happy Thanksgiving M. I always wanted a hip nickname when I was a kid, but unfortunately, all I got was juicy jackson. Hey juicy, pass me the ball! Ain't nothing hip about it. And then in dreaded middle school, one guy started calling me jacksypads. That was a long month.

Your big sister has been calling your mom and I "sweetie" lately. Sometimes when I call her name, she'll say, yeah sweetie? as if it's a completely normal way to respond to someone. I'm pretty sure you would have been added to her selective sweetie list. And I think she would have called you M sometimes too.

Well, today - on the eight month anniversary of your death - would have been your first Thanksgiving. I can just imagine you nibbling on a tiny piece of turkey, and posing for pictures with your buddy Lyla, or getting sideswiped by the older kiddos. If you were going to be anything like your parents, I think you would have had a grand time.

I normally spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving thinking about what I'm grateful for. It's a habit I got from your sentimental Papa Dennis, who always wanted us to share what we were thankful for. And even though you're not here, I couldn't help but to do the same this year.

I'm certainly thankful for you. I know this is complicated, but I'm so glad you're a part of my story, even if I can't always see it. For now, it seems missing you is mostly where I'm at. I'm thankful for your mama. I still can't believe she is all mine. I count my great fortune every single day. Her beauty and intelligence and strength is something that I see every day in your sister and miss every day in you. And your sister, of course, whose very existence feels like a miracle. She is simply perfect. I'm thankful for those family and friends who talk about you openly, for those who ask how we're doing, for those who don't ingnore or diminish what we have lost, for those we can be our whole selves with. I'm thankful for our new friends, who feel like a gift from you. The first of many, I hope. And I'm thankful for less important things like the movies and a job that allows me to work with my hands.

Even without you in my arms, even with the brokenness that I feel, there is much to be grateful for. Thanks for helping me remember.

Sometimes in the quiet mornings, before the sun has come up, when it's just the two of us, these little chats bring me comfort. I like to imagine the world consisting of just you and I, that I'm the only person on earth in these moments that is thinking of you, talking with you, picturing your face. There is a sacredness in this space my dear. Don't worry baby, your memory is safe with me.


November 13, 2011

For George

I built this little box for our friends, Leif and Brianna, and for their son George, who died on March 31, 2010 after twenty-four short minutes of life. They wanted something to hold his precious belongings, so I crafted this box out of reclaimed doug fir wall paneling. 

We never got to meet George, but the impact he has had on my family through his Dad and Mom is tremendous. I don't know where we would be without the love, tenderness and understanding that their friendship has brought to us since meeting them shortly after Margot died. The very existence of our friendship, the profoundness of it, the sadness behind why we met, the source of joy it brings us, is still a complicated mystery to me.

To George Ellsworth Hanson. Thanks for all you have given us.

November 8, 2011

We got dropped on Friday around 11pm. It was in the 30's, the moon high, three quarters full. The four of us zip up our respective wintery gear and start walking, climbing to 6855' and then 6680' and so on. The night views catch us off guard around a certain bend and we stare out over the landscape, the mountain behind casting a shadow on the valley below.

This is the Pacific Crest Trail. It runs from the Mexico border fence straight into Canada, some 2600 miles all said and done. Yes, if you can imagine it, there is a trail that stretches across the entire United States. And ever since I heard of such a miraculous thing, I wanted to walk on it, all the way. Or attempt to anyway, over the decades. This little weekend jaunt started where I left off in 2009, at mile 265 out of 2663.

My tent partner and I swallowed a benadryl and we were off to dreams. We woke up to the sun and food and many miles in our immediate future. At 8am I won a bet about snow, and scored seventeen pringles.

As we climbed up, the temperatures dropped down, almost secretly, like it wanted to catch us off guard. The snow fell lightly, and then fell all damn day, inch after inch, covering the place magically. It looked exactly like something fabricated you might see at Disneyland, except it was real and hard to walk through. And it made everything wet, which created a nice entry point for potential frostbite.

One of us, the partner of this friend, took pictures from time to time, lucky for us.

By 4:30, we had stepped through 17 miles of forest. Night was rising. We were freezing. And despite the fact that being in our tents for the next fifteen boring hours seemed like torture, it also seemed like a smart idea considering the elements. So we pitched some tents and shrugged off the concern. Let's get warm, we all said to each other.

Then we heard some guys running, literally running, in shorts and stocking caps. And they stopped and offered help. And Bob and Micky came back with a truck an hour later to pick us up, and fed us homemade cookies and spaghetti, and let us display our wet gear all over the living room and staircase and bathroom, and cleared off the ping pong table so we could play, and brought out blankets and pillows, and let us crash on the couches and mattresses, and then went to the store in the morning to buy orange juice and syrup so we could have home made waffles. And then said, "thanks for coming" on our way out the door, as if our whole misadventure and rescue had all been planned.

The next morning, from the comfort of Bob's living room.

November 3, 2011

I'm writing over at Glow In the Woods today, telling a story from a recent trip to Whole Foods. Please feel free to stop by Glow and read my post, signs, and join the discussion.