The joke about Bath, Michigan, where my grandparents lived was that it was fifteen miles and fifty years outside of Lansing, the capital city. A wooden sign painted “Welcome to the Community of Bath, Michigan” with the moniker of a Boy Scout Troop from the early 1970s was the first indicator that one was leaving urban civilization.Read More
My grandmother’s teeth have been the lively topic of family jokes for many years. This is not cruel, but rather a kind of family shorthand, coded with her legacy of the need for levity during adversity. Even today, mention of my grandmother’s teeth prompts laughter and joy. Here’s why.Read More
For months after my abuelita died, I slept with the covers tucked around my six-year-old face. The breeze that blew in from the Caribbean, cooling along the way as it traveled across the mountains, through the concrete city of Caracas, past the iron bars of my bedroom window, entering my mouth, my nose, my ears, felt like something my grandmother had sent from above, just for me. It scared me.Read More
Grandma Helen was my fancy grandmother. Born in 1909, she was the firstborn child of Julius and Mary Nelson’s five children and her tall, blue-eyed father liked to tell her that her birth brought him luck. After Grandma arrived, Julius went from selling newspapers in Harlem to learning the trade in his wife’s family’s coat business. A quick study, he started his own successful women’s coat business using the profits to invest in real estate. Eventually, in 1931, Julius developed one of Manhattan’s first skyscrapers, a 46-story art deco tower designed by architect H. Craig Severance.Read More
I am standing in front of the microwave with its door open, ready to insert the bag of popcorn that I’ll have for dinner. As I reach for the bag, I hear the lush strains of the opening notes of “The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss. My body freezes, immobilized as if zapped by some 1950s, paralyzing ray gunRead More
My great-grandmother died before I was born, and it never occurred to me as a child she might be someone of note. But Mom knew she mattered, so a few years before I became a woman, and long before two small girls called me mother, she introduced her to me by telling me a simple story.Read More
She grabbed the goose by the beak, straddled it between her thighs, plucked the feathers from its neck, slit it, bled it into quietude, and continued to pluck the rest of the feathers. That night we had czernina and drumsticks.Read More
Summer bore down hard - distorting the asphalt along with my mood. I damned the weather as it must’ve been close to one hundred degrees. My dogs, trying to cool themselves unfurled their pink tongues and panted. “Almost home,” I said to them. I kneeled down under the shade of a tall flowering tree to stroke their fur, and noticed a familiar looking leaf on the sidewalk. Picking it up I rubbed it between my fingers. The smells of burnt charcoal, fruit rotting on hot asphalt, aromas of Double Delight and Mister Lincoln roses, twirling sprinklers watering yellowing lawns were nauseatingly intoxicating, and brought me right back to my grandmother’s house.Read More
A few years ago, I broke the top on my flour canister. Today, I compounded the error while making bread, having split the sugar canister’s lid as well. This may seem trivial, but the containers are pewter-colored metal and large enough to hold more than regular-sized containers each—the kind you can’t run to Home Goods or Belk and replace. More importantly, they belonged to my grandmother.Read More
I met my grandmother Angelay but I didn’t really know her. Over the years I’ve collected stories about her, stories told by others, and stories I tell myself, but I’m not really sure what is true and what isn’t. Only she could answer those questions, and she’s long gone.Read More
I’m a mother. And yet, I’m not.
My dream, years in the making, has and yet hasn’t come true. And even if I could ignore this and live as if my life is the way I want it to be, there are daily reminders everywhere I go that women the world over keep getting my dream for themselves while I am still left grasping for it.
Every pregnancy announcement I see on social media makes me sob.
Every pregnant belly I see, makes me sob.Read More
Your hands are shaking. When you squint at the street sign, your vision blurs. You stop in front of a subway station, interrupting the current of pedestrians moving downstream, into the underground. They divide around you with disgruntled murmurs. So many people—too many, you are biting your lip to keep your anxiety choked down. You tell yourself that instead of being caught in the swell of the subway, you will walk fifty-eight blocks and four avenues—distance seems less daunting than having to crush your body into a metal car, fitting into other people’s vacancies.Read More
I encountered pornography for the first time in sixth grade. The video, left up on my friend’s laptop, kissed my chin and invited me to observe. I wasn’t horrified, I didn’t mind that the actors were naked, I somehow expected it.Read More
I had to wait until I was fifty-seven to learn that something quite profound happens when we are given the opportunity to care for our own dead, to bury them in a way that is personal and meaningful and feels like a true labor of love.Read More
I answered no to all the key questions. No implants, no tattoos, no permanent makeup, no prosthetic knees, hips, or shoulders, no aneurysm clips. Still, they told me it was okay to keep my underwire bra on, and the snap and zipper on my pants didn’t present a problem.Read More
Not so long ago, the woman who was going to marry my brother called me, out of the blue. Not really a surprise because it was close to the anniversary of the day her fiancé, my brother, dropped dead from nothing.Read More
For the last decade, I have been preparing myself for the BIG death; the earth-shattering, life-changing, my world will never be the same, death. The type of event that hits so quickly, felt so deeply, that your entire body goes into auto-drive.Read More
Dear Younger Connie,
I’m sorry I tried to starve you.
I tried to starve you by “going on” diets. (“Going on” sounds like there’s actually an itinerary and a destination, but with diets, the finish line kept sliding out of reach.) I took you to weigh-ins, I made you write down every piece of food you ate, I made you go to bed hungry.Read More
It was never your fault.
When your mom left, you were a forgotten consequence but never the cause. She chose drugs because of her own weakness, not your self-described inadequacies. You were a toddler who lived every moment with a full heart and a pocket full of hope, but she was too far gone to bask in that light.Read More
I want to tell you not to go to the bar that night. I want to say, just stay in with a good book. But I know you, if I tell you not to you'll only be more determined to do it. So get dolled up, go to the bar, listen to the band and dance your heart out. But listen. Listen when your best friend tells you to stay away from him (they work together and there have been rumors).