I write in my basement where puffy cotton clouds dangle from the ceiling along with lines of raindrops cut from paint chips.
Through the window, I see the backyard where buckets and rags mingle with sticks jammed into grass and a makeshift drying bench for washed and cleaned horse chestnuts. By the raspberry bushes stands a lean-to made of bamboo sticks and pieces of old Christmas tree.
I just returned from lunch with my papa, and my stomach is full. We ate flavorful Cuban food and laughed and talked about childhoods, under the bright-colored artwork that made my heart ache with the good of that place and the hunger for another one where air smells of coconut and salt.
The house is so quiet in the moments before school pick-up, and the still stirs up memories of the me before children, the me that was daughter, wife, sister, friend — the one who felt like she was doing big things in the world.
There was the me that listened to grizzled mentally ill men talk about their pains and interviewed the community that lived under the bridge. The me that mentored and counseled girls over bowling and homework and hot cocoa, and when they got older, mochas.
Yesterday at Baskin-Robbins, my girls and I ate scoops of ice cream too close to dinner, and I overheard the conversation next to us between the woman in the plaid trench and the slightly disheveled girl wearing a red poly/rayon top and jeans riding low on her back side.
I couldn’t help but listen to their conversation, and when I tried to reply to J in a way that showed I was paying attention to her, I mixed up the details of her story with the one of the girl in the red top talking excitedly with her mentor.
I looked around the table at my girls and thought about how I don’t have all those questions to ask like I once did because I’m living the questions with them, working this out as we go along. So I asked them what they were most looking forward to about their weeks, thinking I probably had a pretty good idea what they’d say.
I feel on the brink of tears so often lately, but it’s not sadness, really. The longing just won’t leave me be, and it’s sometimes a fire like my friend Dana describes and sometimes like a mournful beauty echo.
On Saturday, my mama and I sat in a cafe for five hours and spoke of dreams and visions and what God is up to, all kinds of rapid fire tangents, and we could hardly stop. Last night, I talked with my friend Barb over beers about those things you know you must do, even if it doesn’t make sense, and how I know that feeling.
Yesterday Angela and I walked in the cold morning air, and the sky filled with pink and orange juice, and we were saying, “Oh!” and “Wow!” — not able to find words to put to the otherworldly call of it. And then I just yelled and jumped up and down, and we squeezed each other’s arms because what else can you do?
The longing remains as I help my girls work through conflict and tell time and find states on a map, while I smile at them and scramble eggs and snip baby hairs into a bob with pink-handled scissors.
The longing’s not beckoning me to go elsewhere, but it’s more like a Deep calling out to deep, and so I find myself listening, always listening to the ga-gung, ga-gung beating as I go about life business.
It brings me through everyday and back to those days and somewhere out there, mingling in blond curls on the bathroom linoleum and the stretch of fuchsia over roof tops.