Cats were dying. This happens, of course. But in this case they were dying in a gory way, one after another, and my nieces, who were six and seven years old, were witnessing the deaths, and it was Christmas, the most magical, horrible, spiritual, dark, and stressful time of the year, so we—my older sister and her husband, my younger twin brothers, my sister’s in-laws, our mother and our uncle, and the other relatives who were gathered at my sister’s house in Revelstoke for the holiday—were trying to prevent more cat deaths. My sister had had five cats. She’d adopted them from the pound, because they were going to be killed. She wanted every living being to be happy. I am telling this story to you, K, even though you are a Russian Communist and a Jewish person who doesn’t believe Jesus was the son of God, and even though Christmas is an obnoxious holiday when millions of people decapitate pine trees and watch them slowly die in their living rooms, because miracles can happen on any day, and as long as man has existed he’s celebrated this weirdest time of year, the shortest stretch of sunlight, the winter solstice, as a time of fear, change, courage, and passion. I’m going to tell you the story of a miracle that happened at Christmas.
I was not at a great point in my life leading up to the miracle. I was teaching creative-writing classes, but I hadn’t managed to think clearly enough to write and publish anything in years. I had Lyme disease and some co-infections that I was treating with intravenous antibiotics: babesiosis, a malaria-like virus that drains red blood cells and causes fatigue; and bartonellosis, a bacterial infection common among homeless men, which causes vascular inflammation in the brain and bouts of madness, fantastical visions, and frank or rude speech, usually set off by eating carbohydrates. I’d completed my degree in nutrition, and had luck helping clients overcome ailments, especially infertile women who wanted to conceive, so I knew which foods I should eat and which I shouldn’t. But if cake was nearby I wasn’t always able to prevent myself from having one bite; then the sugar fed the Bartonella bacteria, which commanded me to eat more, and I would, and then I’d go insane.
With this in mind, I’d asked my sister to cancel the traditions of: 1) baking, frosting, and decorating forty dozen sugar cookies; 2) constructing a ginger-bread mansion; 3) baking eight pecan pies; 4) stuffing everyone’s stocking full of milk chocolate. My sister had replied that these traditions were integral to the joy of Christmas. I knew that her response was reasonable. But I was literally unable to control myself around sugar, and I worried about containing my fits of madness. I was also concerned about our family’s ability to prevent the remaining cats from dying, though my sister assured me she’d implemented a system to achieve this; I was worried, too, that no one would like the cheap, ugly Christmas presents I’d got them; I’d also become aware of my strong urge to inform my sister’s sister-in-law Kunda, a shy, forty-four-year-old neurosurgeon and Canadian Medical Officer of Health, that I knew she’d been trying to get pregnant, and that if she’d accept my help I could make it happen, despite my sister’s warning that no one was supposed to know Kunda was “trying” and that I must not accost her; finally, I was concerned, as always during family visits, about the safety and comfort of my nieces around our uncle, who was a pedophile, especially since the previous Christmas, when my sister and I weren’t vigilant enough, I’d caught him rubbing the butt of the elder girl, then six years old, in a dark, empty room. That, too, my sister assured me, was under control: the girls would never be left alone with him, and at night they’d sleep on cots in her room. Everyone in our family meant well and wanted to be a family.
I know too, K, that you cringe whenever I mention the pedophile thing, and feel that it should not be placed in any story, because it overwhelms it and is too terrible for words. But I’d like to point out that my nieces are two beautiful, talented, and privileged girls, who see their grand-uncle only a few days a year; and that our uncle is not a bad man, just a sick one. So please quell any squeamishness or horror and bear in mind that it could be worse.
I’d also like to say—regarding the Christmas miracle—that it was my elder niece who instigated the Kamikaze Cat Training, not me. I have two nieces but only one goddaughter. And though I’ve abandoned Catholicism, the cult that I was born into, and am one of about eight godmothers, I take my duty seriously. Perhaps I can be forgiven at least one mistake I made that holiday.
Clara died first. She was eaten by a coyote. She was a nice cat. I don’t expect you to care about the cats. Clara was a long-haired Maine coon mix who loved to be petted. She went outside to use the bathroom, or frolic, or whatever cats do, around sunset, and never came back.
The problem was an influx of hungry coyotes into the development where my sister lived. As the town crawled up the mountain, coyotes, bears, and lynxes were displaced from their habitats and wandered down the mountain, where they discovered the delicious new food, cat. In September, when my sister’s family barbecued on their back deck, they saw coyotes trot through the pines at their yard’s edge.
Clara was eaten in October. Afterward, my nieces cried, blahblahblah. My sister, too; Clara had been her first cat. And through the years, whenever my sister felt sad about anything—fight, failed test, car accident, etc.—Clara sensed it, came to her, and sat in her lap.
My sister instituted a lockdown. The cats got one outing, at dusk, to use the bathroom in the yard. They were let out for five minutes, watched, and lured back in with cooked shrimp.
The other cats were Chocolate, a diabetic brown male with postnasal drip who made stinky farts and loved all people, but especially loved to sit on the chest of my brother-in-law (who once spent five thousand dollars on an operation to save Chocolate’s pancreas and life); Patches, a brindle who loved playing in the bathroom sink; Simmy, a bony Siamese loner who fought other cats and never purred; and Crow, a black cat. Crow was fit, above average size, and a mouser. She left dead mice in my sister’s bed, which displeased my sister, because Crow first bit out the eyes. Crow did not curl up in anyone’s lap. But she slept on my elder niece’s bed most nights.
Wildfires burned throughout the Monashee Mountains that fall; though it was now December, there’d been no snow. Rather than disappearing, bears, lynxes, and coyotes foraged in the developments, thinking it still time to fatten up. Patches was eaten next. One evening, she sneaked past the yard’s edge when no one was looking, probably to investigate a mouse smell, and never came back.
My sister made a new rule: no cats outside.
But two weeks later Simmy, the Siamese who fought other cats, sped past my brother-in-law one night as he opened the door to the deck. When he lunged for her, she slipped into the forest. My sister’s family walked the woods until midnight, calling her name.
When I arrived in Revelstoke for the holiday, everyone was still shell-shocked about the cat deaths. My elder niece, Adira, a pale, black-haired tomboy, would occasionally mutter, “We shouldn’t have let her out”—about Clara or Patches, I guess—and my sister would say that if she hadn’t been able to go out at all she wouldn’t have been happy; and my niece would say, “But she’d be alive”; and so forth.
My sister’s house was large—its kitchen opened to a dining area and a “circle room” with a fifty-foot solar-panelled glass dome—but contained few rooms. So I was given my elder niece’s second-floor bedroom, my brothers shared my younger niece’s room, and our mother and our uncle took the sleeper couch in the library, on whose carpet Crow often peed.
Because we were aware of the traumatic cat deaths, we all behaved well, even me, and when our uncle knelt down and spread his arms wide and said to my nieces, “Come give Uncle D a kiss!” and I had to watch my nieces tense up, walk stiffly toward him, and let him grab their faces and kiss their lips, I didn’t say anything. I just smiled widely and continued to behave, that afternoon, by not eating any gumdrops while my family spent several hours baking and constructing the gingerbread mansion, and we all felt, I think, good after the mansion was completed. It was late afternoon on December 23rd, and I probably never would have instituted the Kamikaze Training if it hadn’t been for what happened after the gingerbread mansion was finished, which was that we all went for a walk in the woods.
The fires hadn’t reached Revelstoke. The ground in the forest was a soft red-and-bronze carpet of pine needles, and the fields around the forest were gold brush. Revelstoke is set beside a river formed by glaciers circled by six-thousand-foot-high craggy mountains, and the sky above was velveteen blue. We were all breathing hard, laughing, running along the forest path when my younger niece giggled, pointed to an opening in the pines, and said, “What’s that thing?” and ran off the path, and my mother said, “Lily, be careful, don’t touch it,” but she was touching it, and it turned out to be Simmy. The cat’s mouth was open, her gums shrunk, her teeth exposed, her tan torso gutted. My brother-in-law wrapped the cat remainder in dead leaves and carried it home, and then he and my uncle worked for an hour to dig a hole in the frozen back yard.
We all felt, I think, eager to bring calm back to Christmas, so after dinner my brother-in-law went to bathe, as did my mother; my sister took refuge in doing dishes; my brothers and my younger niece played Super Mario Kart together on one living-room couch; and, on the other, my elder niece, Adira, read a book, one of her easy-readers, “Ramona Quimby, Age 8.” My uncle entered the room, still dirty from digging the cat-hole, and said kindly, “Adira, would you like a foot rub?” and the girl tensed and a small “Nnnneh” sound came out of her mouth, and my uncle sat down next to her and began rubbing her feet. [cartoon id="A17925"]
I felt the Bartonella bacteria in my head move. They had been fed when I ate my dinner of chicken and broccoli. I’d been careful not to eat a speck of sugar, but even the carbohydrates in broccoli could feed them. I felt them grow strong and say to me, “There’s a gingerbread house on the counter. Its frosting is sugar and cream, it’s soft and warm, you can eat some!”
Meanwhile, Adira sat stiffly, staring at her book but not reading; my uncle had pulled her legs onto his lap and was kneading her calves. I sat in a leather chair nearby, not reading, either, because I heard the Bartonella bacteria yelling, “Sugar! Sugar!” I don’t know how many minutes passed before my sister asked our uncle, from the kitchen, whether Adira had said that she wanted a foot rub. Our uncle answered, in a soothing, asset-management-specialist’s voice, Yes, she had; my sister responded in a clipped voice that she thought she’d heard my niece say, “Nnnneh.” Our uncle continued to rub my niece’s feet, and then my sister said angrily to my niece that she needed help in the kitchen, and Adira put her book down and walked into the kitchen without looking right or left and said quietly, “What do you want me to do?”
My sister said, “Dry these dishes.”
Our uncle went downstairs to shower, and I helped do dishes, too, because sugar was in the kitchen—and not just the gingerbread house. In the cupboards, I knew, there were Mint Milano cookies. Full dark pulsed outside the sliding glass doors to the deck, and a coyote yip-yip-yip-yipped in the woods. When my sister looked over her shoulder through the dark glass, I just dipped my finger into the gingerbread mansion’s white trim. From the living room, my brothers saw me do it, and one told me loudly not to eat the mansion with my fingers, because that was gross and others would get my germs, but Bartonella said, “Ignore him. Do again.” And so I finger-dipped again, and the other twin yelled that I was disgusting and was destroying the mansion, and that hurt my feelings and made me angry, so that before my sister went to bed I cornered her in the empty kitchen and told her that I did not think my nieces felt comfortable when our uncle kissed their lips, and that we should stop it. My sister, in a stretched voice, reminded me that grand-uncles kissing grand-nieces was normal, and that she’d spoken to a professional family counsellor about correct procedures in these cases, and the real me said, “O.K.,” but Bartonella me, who was larger than me and lived outside me, said, “Not O.K.”
My sister added that she was the mother.
The real me said, “I know.”
But Bartonella me said, “You are the mother. Big deal. I am the _god_mother!”
The counsellor had warned her, my sister said, that telling her daughters our concerns would damage their psychological development, and that the issue must never be addressed.
My sister said, “Promise you won’t say anything about Uncle D to the girls,” and the real me said, “O.K.,” and she said, “Also, don’t bring up the fact that Kunda’s trying to conceive when Kunda comes over—it’s secret,” and I said, “I won’t,” but Bartonella said, “Eat sugar.”
The only notable thing about Kunda, besides that she was a hot, nice, Hindi immigrant who had put herself through college by waitressing, is that she worshipped her husband, a pimply blond government secretary in her department. She met him when she was thirty-seven, and after they started dating she told me, “I love him.” I said, “Really? He’s so ugly, pink-faced, and blond,” and she said, “He’s a good one, a keeper.” She always worked the same schedule as he, so that no other female official could “get him.” For the past five years, apparently, she’d been failing to have his baby, owing to “mystery infertility,” and was racked by shame.
At 3 A.M. I woke and ate half the gingerbread mansion. I’m not proud of that, but I do blame it for the rest of the story.
At 7 A.M., I awakened dizzy, wanting more sugar, already tasting it in my mouth. When I entered the barely lit circle room and found Adira alone, playing Super Mario Kart on a couch, it was Bartonella who said, “Kamikaze Training.”
On the loft stairs, the large black cat, Crow, curled and watched. Beside my niece, the fat brown cat, Chocolate, licked its rear.
My niece paused her game and said, “What?” and Bartonella explained that I’d pay her to say a few phrases. The real me remembered my sister’s warning, but Bartonella said, “The therapist’s wrong.”
Bartonella felt that our difference of opinion stemmed from the previous holiday, at our uncle’s Texas ranch, when my sister hadn’t seen what I had. Christmas night, she’d played backgammon with most of our family in the living room; I’d wandered the house looking for a quiet place to read, and gone into the dark den, where we’d all watched a movie earlier. She hadn’t seen my elder niece asleep on her belly on the couch—or feigning sleep—and our uncle seated behind her, massaging her ass. She hadn’t had to think, Christ, why me? or notice that my niece’s tiny hands were clenched. I’d told my niece I had a present for her upstairs, and she’d vaulted up and run with me to my bedroom, where I gave her an old rubber eraser; I’d got her out of there, but like a thousand-per-cent wuss I said nothing to my uncle. Later I told my sister what had happened, said we should do something, and she said we’d be more vigilant. But she hadn’t seen what I had.
So, about fifteen feet from the couch, I squatted down in the posture that our uncle always adopted when he spread his arms and said, “Come give Uncle D a kiss,” and I informed my niece that I was going to tell her to give me a kiss, and that she should respond by saying she didn’t feel like giving me one, and that if she followed my instructions I’d pay her a dollar.
My niece started playing her game again.
I said, “I’ll pay you a dollar!”
She smiled a little. She said, “Aunt D, do you know what my allowance is?”
I said, “Five dollars?”
She shook her head.
Her hand waved upward.
I said, “Is your allowance ten dollars?”
Guiltily, she nodded.
On the screen, she leaped over a mushroom.
She whispered, “I don’t want to say it.”
I knelt in his posture, I opened my arms the way he did, and I growled in his voice, being careful not to be so loud I’d wake everybody, “Come give me a kiss!”
Her eyes were wide.
I said, “Now you say, ‘I don’t feel kissy.’ I’ll pay you ten dollars.”
On the stairs, Crow got up. Her black pupils went large.
On the couch, my niece shook her head.
Bartonella exhorted my niece to say it. If she can’t say it she’s a sucker, Bartonella said. If she can’t say it she’s doomed.
My niece said she didn’t want to say it.
I kept exhorting. I offered her the choice of two phrases—“I don’t feel kissy right now” or “No thanks, I must go clean my room”—and was telling her again that I’d pay her ten dollars, when my niece started breathing as if she couldn’t get enough air. Her posture wasn’t good; she’d hunched.
She whispered, “It’s too scary.”
My real self said, Stop, you’re being a jerk, you made her cry, jerk; but Bartonella said, Someone’s gotta train her.
Bartonella said, “Adira, if you say it, I’ll buy you a ruby necklace.”
She looked at me.
I added, “And matching earrings.”
I knew from experience that one could buy a “real” ruby necklace and earrings on eBay for ten dollars.
My niece looked down. Wiped her cheek. Said, “O.K.”
Crow licked her right paw. She stared at me.
I squatted down and said in my uncle’s voice, “Come give me a kiss!”
She breathed shallowly, and whispered in a high, artificial voice, “I don’t feel—”; Chocolate farted, a smell of cheese/egg filled the room, and at that second my uncle walked in and yelled, “Hellooo! What’s everybody doing?”
He paused, sniffed.
Crow’s tail whipped.
I said, “Nothing”; Adira said, “Nothing.”
My sister entered behind my uncle and announced that she’d found a mouse by her bed. She held it up by the tail. Its paws dangled. Where its eyes had been were deep holes. She stared at Crow and said, “Crow, I don’t want you to do this again.” Crow’s head lifted. She closed and reopened her eyes, then stood, stretched, and padded up the loft stairs. My sister watched her go. Then she saw my niece’s face. She looked at me. Her brow furrowed. She asked my niece why she was crying. Was it something Aunt D had said? Bartonella said, “Ohnoooyourefucked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and my niece said calmly, “I was remembering Simmy.” Then my sister started crying, and I did, too—for fun and because I wanted sugar so bad—and my niece re-started her video game and my uncle baked us all cinnamon buns for breakfast.
That afternoon, in preparation for guests, we made forty dozen sugar cookies in the shape of jingle bells, angels, and snowmen. My sister watched me eat three, and said carefully, “Drip your I.V. yet?” and I said, “Yeah,” although I had not, and decorating cookies was so much fun that everyone got along well up until the tragedy. [cartoon id="A17897"]
It’s hard to describe one family frosting cookies, or maybe not worth the effort, but: picture bowls with colored frosting on a kitchen island. Picture my younger niece, a round-faced, brown-eyed six-year-old in a loose red dress sitting on a stool at the island; across from her was my mother, a plump sixty-something Swede with blond hair and a puffy, sad face, bent over giving directions like “Use pink for the bell, Lily,” and “Why don’t you put three Red Hots on the holly?” I was also frosting, beside my younger niece, only I was creating, using colored jimmies, bespoke snowmen who resembled family members; I’d secretly frosted an extra bump onto one and given it curly black licorice hair to make it represent a pregnant Kunda. Outside the kitchen’s sliding glass doors, the sun shone upon golden-brown grass; it was fifty degrees; everyone was happy. My sister laid wheat noodles in vats for lasagna; her husband dumped sixteen cans of corn syrup into four mixing bowls to make eight pecan pies; my elder niece sat across from me, cutting cookies into squares and icing them yellow to resemble SpongeBob; our uncle, a handsome, red-haired retired asset-management specialist in his mid-sixties who loved to ride horses, build furniture, and collect antique books, sat on my younger niece’s other side and frosted cookies as best he could, without particular imagination, slabbing pink on a heart and yellow on a bell, and holding it up for everyone and saying, “Hey, guys. I did a bell. See?” From time to time he dropped his butter knife, and when he did he’d say, “Whoops, I dropped my butter knife,” and get down and crawl around underneath my younger niece’s stool; at which my niece, whose bare legs dangled from her dress, giggled nervously. Then our uncle would pop over to the sink, near where my sister was working, and say, “Excuse me, my knife’s dirty. I’m going to wash it.” He dropped his knife five times, I guess.
I know, K, that you’ll protest that that’s not realistic: how can a man drop a butter knife five times? I’m sorry to say that it’s easy—the fingers spread, the knife drops. And you bet that part of me observed the proceedings and thought, This is crazy, I’m going to kill something, I’m gonna tear down walls or some shit! But the rational me thought, So he crawls under her stool, maybe sees panties, so what? Respect your sister’s wishes. Everybody wants a peaceful Christmas.
Also, I was distracted by the fact that my sister was preparing wheat-based lasagna for dinner: my sister and my elder niece had both had Lyme disease, and were warned by doctors never to eat dairy (mucus-forming), soy (goitrogenic), or wheat, which spiked blood sugar, caused inflammation, and depressed the immune system. I knew that I was not supposed to criticize my sister’s food choices, because she’d told me not to, but the third time our uncle dropped his butter knife I felt my frustration surge, and said, “Nina, why can’t we make chicken stir-fry? You’re not supposed to eat wheat!” and my sister replied that guests were arriving, and everyone liked lasagna, and I said, “They might like gluten-free lasagna,” and she said that no one liked gluten-free lasagna, and added __that normally she did not eat lasagna, but today was Christmas Eve, she was making it, and I needed to lay off her food choices, and outside a V of fat geese floated through the slate sky, and I thought wistfully how, if I could muscle-test Kunda to identify the supplements that would best replenish her iodine and support her adrenals, I could get her pregnant, and our uncle’s butter knife clattered and he said, “Whoops! I’m clumsy!” and crawled under my younger niece’s chair and the kid’s legs kicked, and I knew I shouldn’t say anything, I knew I shouldn’t cause trouble, but I felt dizzy. I saw Crow, who was crouched on the loft stairs, shimmer and float above and beside herself, as if she were three cats, and I yelled, “But I see that you have wheat bread on your counter!” and my sister said coldly, “That’s for the girls,” and I said, “But they shouldn’t eat wheat either—it’s a Frankenfood!” and I was describing wheat’s thyroid-hampering properties when my sister turned to our mother, who was petting Chocolate, and said, “Mother, I said don’t pet Chocolate, stop!”
Our mother was allergic to most animals. But my sister’s reprimand probably hurt her feelings, so she ushered my nieces into the circle room and told them a Jesus story. One about his entering a town and healing a blind man by spitting on his eyes. As our mother spoke, my sister banged pots and pans. Our mother always loved Christ, but she probably loved him more after her husband died and she was left broke, not fully bipolar but not right in the head, with four kids age six and under. She prayed to Jesus for help, and later that week our father’s older brother, a confirmed bachelor and an asset-management specialist, offered to let her bring us all to his ranch and live with him, and to send her kids to college. To thank him, our mother cleaned and cooked for our uncle and the arrangement worked out, mostly. To thank God, she attended church twice weekly and spoke with Jesus for an hour every day.
From the kitchen, my sister ordered our mother to stop proselytizing; our mother kept speaking. Her voice was sweet in a way it rarely was. Our mother loved Jesus. I didn’t condemn her. Personally, I agreed that many Jewish guys were extra-talented, kind, and good with touch, and I’d had “relationships” with emotionally distant, mostly unavailable Jewish guys myself, so I sympathized; my older sister did not.
When my sister repeated her request, our mother yelled, “Then Jesus asked, ‘What do you see?’ and the blind man said, ‘I see people! They look like trees, walking around!’ ” and, temper shot, my sister ordered my nieces to play in their rooms.
Everyone slumped in the living room. Our uncle asked who wanted to go for a walk; no one did. Our mother sneezed. Our uncle said, “I guess I’ll go by myself, then!” and left. We all read—my siblings books, my mother a magazine called Real Simple. The bells’ carol played and the tree’s lights twinkled. I was reading a biography of my favorite writer, who at forty-five begged Stalin to be allowed to finish his work before he was shot by a firing squad, when we heard a thump thump thump in the hall.
“What’s that?” one of my brothers said.
“I don’t know,” my sister said.
We heard shrieks and giggles.
“Jump!” a voice cried.
We entered the hall and saw that my nieces had used their old tights to affix a coyote to the bannister. It was a donkey piñata, really; but they’d glued red-brown felt to it and taped coyote ears to its head. They’d cut holes where the donkey eyes had been, and in the holes they’d taped Doritos. My elder niece dangled a cat toy on a wire and made its attractive end bounce near the Doritos. Chocolate panted and lunged at the toy madly, fatly, his belly heaving. But each time he failed to reach it and fell with a thump. Crow watched from the top of the stairs.
Adira peered at her.
“Crow!” she urged. “Get it! Come!”
My sister asked what they were doing.
My sister said, “ ‘Kamikaze Cat Training’???”
“We’re teaching them to fight coyotes.”
Her blue-black hair flared, tangled, around her shoulders.
“We’d train Crow,” Adira said, “but she won’t come near Chocolate. He bullies her and she’s scared.”
“First of all,” my sister said, “that’s not a coyote. It’s a donkey. Chocolate does not see a coyote. He sees Doritos.” Cats were not smart, she said. Cats were dumb. Crow was not being trained. She was watching the girls act stupid. No cat could kill a coyote. Furthermore, no cat was in danger, because no cat was ever going outside.
My sister said that she needed help in the kitchen, and told my nieces to clean up their mess.
I’m sure other families have fallen into bad holiday moods over similarly trivial incidents.
But I felt a sadness. I couldn’t knock it; I don’t know why. At any rate, I had to contemplate the prospect of my family eating wheat lasagna, which had goitrogenic effects; though, regarding that, they didn’t believe me. My family found my health ideas absurd. My brothers, both dentists, had told me that my nutritionist work should be illegal, because only doctors are qualified to dispense supplements; my sister said that I’d never make rent as a nutritionist, and that I should give up. I was forbidden to offer Kunda the most common-sense advice. I considered, still with wonder, my clients who’d got pregnant: a dozen women in their mid-forties who had each had three failed I.V.F. treatments before they did protocols with me. Many had had repeat miscarriages, several had ovarian cysts, and all had tried unsuccessfully for years; but once we had replenished their minerals, supported their thyroid and adrenals, used herbs to balance their hormones, and changed their diets, they’d all conceived. They’d all had healthy, non-retarded babies. They’d sent me referrals, but not enough. My sister was right: I couldn’t pay my bills. I’d spent a few hundred bucks on Google AdWords, but I made bad ads and they didn’t work. My Web site was ugly. I’d had some unsatisfied clients, old ladies who’d gained weight instead of losing it, and they’d Yelped me, calling me a quack. I thought about how, if I helped Kunda, I’d have a district medical officer’s Yelp endorsement, and how many clients that’d get me. I didn’t give a fig about Kunda’s sensitivity; I was dizzy, from actual dizziness or from grandiosity; I thought, So what if my degree’s an Internet diploma?
I was slicing onions when I noticed, beyond the kitchen’s glass doors, my mother standing in the back yard, staring contemplatively into the distant pines, under that pale vast Shuswap sky.
My sister said, “What’s she doing?”
We wandered toward the glass—my sister and I, her husband, my nieces behind him—and saw that my mother was watching Chocolate, who was hunched privately at yard’s edge, depositing number twos into the grass; as we observed, a handsome coyote the size of a large dog, but more yellow-gray and with a long narrow snout, strolled into the yard, bent down to Chocolate as if to whisper in his ear, and bit his throat. It pulled, ripping flesh, and the cat convulsed. The coyote plucked up Chocolate’s body and trotted into the trees.
All I remember of the ensuing chaos is my sister’s husband shouting in a high, almost teen-age voice, “You weren’t supposed to let the cat out! Why’d you let the cat out? You weren’t supposed to do that!”
Apparently, our mother had thought the cats were still allowed outside to use the bathroom at dusk. She was watching Chocolate, she explained. “I was right there,” she said.
We had thirty minutes until our guests arrived.
I dripped medicine in my room. I’d put it off because there’s a thing called a Herxheimer reaction: when you kill thousands of bacteria the remaining billions heighten their activity. I often hallucinated after dripping. I disliked feeling cold fluid slide through my veins. Also, inserting tubes into my arm-port was embarrassing and I tried to do it privately, so as not to repulse my family. Now I had to make a sixty-minute I.V. drip in thirty, so the pressure was high. I was lying on my bed, feeling logy, when the door swung open. A second later, Crow jumped onto the bed. A minute later, a hand tapped the door; Adira asked to enter.
I said it was her room. [cartoon id="A17429"]
She was wearing her gray track pants and a SpongeBob T-shirt. She hopped onto the bed and lay to my left. She asked what I was doing; I said I was dripping; she nodded. She’d been “tick sick,” so she knew what it was. She reached across me to pet Crow; Crow let her. She read her book, then said, “I don’t want Crow to die,” into the pillow. I told her not to be stupid; she said, “Someone will let her outside, I know it,” and I said, “You’re being stupid” and she said, “You’re stupid,” and I said, “You’re stupid like SpongeBob” and she said, “SpongeBob’s awesome, I love SpongeBob!” and I swore that no one would let Crow out. Then I looked to my right and saw an old woman, as dark as night, bent and withered but still strong and smiling grimly. She had sharp teeth and yellow eyes, and was crouching. I jumped. My niece asked why I’d jumped. I explained that I’d dripped too fast. My niece said reasonably, “Why don’t you slow it down?” and I said because we had guests coming. I wiped my eyes, gook came out; I looked at my fingers, they’d puffed like sausages. My niece asked what I’d got her for Christmas, and I said something cheap and small, which was true.
She smiled and said, “I bet I like it.”
I said, “Listen, tardface, no one’s letting Crow outside.”
The thing with nieces, K, is that they just happen. You may be a broke, semi-jobless loser who’s never loved, hates kids, and is repelled by marriage, and suddenly your successful sibling may have these things: babies that look like you and know your name. And there’s nothing you can do. I remember this one time, the year I took a job in Vancouver (the worst place on earth) to be near my sister, and she drove down to visit with her husband and my nieces, Lily still a baby, Adira then two, this wild fast skinny thing with an elf face and ebony hair, and we hiked through Lighthouse Park, along a trail that wound two miles through thousand-year-old cedars and descended steeply to an inlet called Starboat Cove, and my niece ran its length but on the way back got tired, and I asked if she wanted a piggy-back ride. I probably said, “Smellface, want a ride?” and she said, “Yes!” and my older sister got an odd look and asked my niece, “Do you want me to give you a piggy-back ride?”; there was a pause, these white clouds moved in the perfect sky above the cove, the ocean smacked saltily, fishily on the rocks below our feet, and my niece composed her face as if contemplating how to put things; I knew my sister would always be her one love—we all knew that—but she said, in her breathy two-year-old voice, “Sometimes when your heart is big, all you really want is Aunt D,” and I was, like, “Great, I’m fucked, I’m going to like this kid, this niece thing, forever.”
We’d slept through dinner. I was glad, because I’d decided to starve myself in order to starve the Bartonella. My sister offered me food and I declined, though ravenous. I saw by the remnants on the counter that my family had consumed ten pans of buttered squash, twelve loaves of bread, and eight vats of lasagna. I was surprised but didn’t dwell on it. Holidays make people hungry. My relatives are fit and they exercise and have good metabolisms. However, the sight of ricotta droppings made me nauseous, and when I pulled the trash compactor out from the counter I saw thousands of silverfish sliding atop squash peels. My stomach rolled; they sparkled and slithered. I closed the drawer. My sister asked what was wrong; I said nothing, opened the trash, saw only squash rinds. I helped carry eight pecan pies into the circle room, where relatives were settling into couches, and a strange thing happened, or I guess not so strange, when you consider that I’d dripped my I.V. too fast; instead of my beloved family and pleasant in-laws gathered around the tree, sitting on the circle room’s several couches, I saw animals. My sister’s father-in-law, a witty, retired postal worker who was now making well-deserved cash selling disaster insurance, was a wily wild boar, wearing plaid pants, a blue polo, and a bow tie, with a bald boar’s head and bristles coming out of his large tan ears. He was telling my brother-in-law—a timid giraffe in a blue T-shirt, with two hooves poking out of each jean leg—about some fire/tornado/hurricane packages he’d sold in new developments, and his snout nodded as his maw said, “Went like hotcakes.”
My sister’s mother-in-law, in real life a beautiful textile designer, was a kangaroo, her soft brown legs splayed on the couch, knitting next to my younger niece, who looked up at her adoringly; my sister, I’m sorry to say—don’t think badly of me, blame the Bartonella—was a Chihuahua who went yipping around the room bringing everyone a slice of pie by carrying each plate in her mouth, and whenever her mouth was free she’d yip, “How are you? We have mulled wine!” Everyone was talking happily. The kangaroo told my sister in a warbly voice, while stroking her pelt with one paw, that she and her husband had coyotes in their back yard, too, and had kept their cats inside for years now; she looked over to the boar, who was adjusting his bow tie, and said, “Greg’s thinking of shooting some! Good money for the pelts!” and my sister panted and yipped, “Let’s not talk about that right now! I don’t want to upset the girls! It’s Christmas!” and the kangaroo said, “Of course!” and my mother, a flushed potbellied pig who wore a pink velour dress and was seated next to a hairy gentleman with dark fur and a fedora, snorted, “Marianne, how are your fair-trade scarves doing? Are your scarves in a department store?” and all these people—or animals, I have no idea—were eating pecan pie. I knew I was hallucinating, but the part I felt sure was real was that they were consuming eight pies, and the Chihuahua yipped, “Cassandra! Do you want a piece, maybe a small one?”
I shook my head. I knew she didn’t want me to eat it, even when she offered me the plate in her mouth, because her tail flattened and her mouth growled, so I declined and the Chihuahua said, “Adira? Pie?” and my niece, beside me on the couch, accepted. As she ate, a hairy orangutan with a big pink nose and beady eyes, who in real life was her uncle, the secretary, gnashed his teeth from across the room and said, “Adira, you’ve gotten taller! If you eat another bite of pie, you’ll be taller than your mother!” and the Chihuahua jumped up and down angrily and said, “Nononono, not yet!” and a beautiful gray-skinned elephant wearing a purple sari, seated on the couch beside the orangutan, touched his shoulder with her trunk, and her gray lips said, “She’s got another year before she’ll catch her mother,” and, beside me, my niece grinned.
I don’t know, K, why my inflamed brain turned my district medical officer sister-in-law, a tall Hindi woman with wide cheeks and curly black hair, into an elephant—I think it was the association of elephants and Hinduism, plus I’m racist. At any rate, all was well. I’d accepted that I was hallucinating and decided to retire, pleading illness, when the Chihuahua declared it time for the most important Christmas Eve tradition: everyone must open one gift from under the tree; both my nieces exclaimed “Yay!” and in the ensuing pause the hairy gentleman across the room, who wore a fedora and a gray suit and had gray fur on his chin, appraised my elder niece and said, “Adira, you look very attractive this evening.”
No one spoke. The kangaroo frowned and her needles paused; the potbellied pig turned pinker. I felt my niece push backward, into the couch. I thought, Ah well, it’s done. I don’t know why I thought that, except that suddenly I tasted corn syrup, lard, and stale pecans in my mouth; I don’t know who put them there. The Chihuahua yipped, “Uncle D! You should compliment Lily! Lily has a new dress on and a bow in her hair! Adira’s wearing old track pants and a dirty T-shirt! Lily is the one who looks pretty!” The distinguished gentleman turned to my younger niece, who was now admiring her own dress, and said, “Lily, you also look very pretty.”
Everyone observed my nieces.
As the pie sugar hit my blood I felt a surge of—adrenaline? neuron death? It was true about the track pants—for the last year, my elder niece had worn nothing but nylon track pants, because anything else bothered her skin. The word “skin” flashed through my mind as I considered this, and I felt wired, alert, crazed, and I saw the elephant across the room. Her gray skin was wrinkled, and as she peered at the grandfather clock in the hall I remembered that wrinkles indicate iodine deficiency, and that the elephant was trying to get pregnant, and I yelled, “Kunda, do you think lately you have wrinkles?”
The kangaroo frowned and said, “Everyone has wrinkles!”
The Chihuahua jumped up and down and said, “Yes, that was rude! Everyone has wrinkles!”
I was implementing a business strategy from a book called “How to Master the Art of Selling,” whereby you ask your potential clients questions they’re bound to say “yes” to. You start with something easy, like “It’s a nice day out, isn’t it?” and keep going. Once they get in the pattern of saying “Yes,” they can’t stop—that’s the idea. I knew certain things about Kunda, because she was a woman suffering from infertility, plus she was an elephant, so I said, “Kunda, I suspect your body temperature’s low. Do you often feel cold?”
The elephant stared at me. Her trunk curled down. She said, “I do feel cold often. Why?”
I looked at her gray, bald head and sad brown eyes. I said, “Kunda, your eyebrows are thinning at the outer edges, aren’t they? In fact, I don’t think you have eyebrows at all! Are you losing hair in the shower drain?”
The elephant’s hooves went to her forehead. Her mouth dropped open.
The orangutan next to her frowned.
Everyone stared at me.
I thought, Yes!
I said, “Kunda, do you crave sugar in the afternoon? Salt? Caffeine?”
The elephant peered at me. Slowly she said, “Yes. Why?”
“Ignore her!” the Chihuahua yipped. “She’s tick sick! She has Lyme disease!”
Beside me, my older niece said, “Aunt D, what are you doing?”
The kangaroo said that she didn’t think this was a nice conversation.
I peered at the elephant, on the couch. “Kunda,” I said. “You look big to me. Do you have belly fat? Are you having trouble losing weight?”
In reality, K, Kunda was slender. But I knew that women in their forties are paranoid about everything, and for no reason that I understand I was intent on showing Kunda that she was suffering from iodine deficiency.
I said, “You’re cold and fat around your middle, right?”
The elephant nodded.
The orangutan yelled, “I won’t stand for this! You’re saying things that are totally inappropriate!” It came at me from across the room; I was afraid, in fact terrified, and my niece whispered, “Aunt D, stop,” and I yelled, “Too bad, Kunda. Those are all symptoms of a deficiency in iodine, the mineral most essential for fertility. That’s why you can’t conceive!”
The orangutan stopped inches from me. “That’s enough!” he said.
The elephant turned mauve. She rose clumsily and headed toward the kitchen.
I struggled to frame my closer as a “Yes” question. I yelled, “Kunda, if a cheap nutritionist in-law who charges cheap rates could help you fix these problems cheaply, you’d want help, wouldn’t you?” [cartoon id="A17922"]
Suddenly it was done. Instead of an elephant I saw a lithe, forty-something Indian woman striding toward my sister’s back door. She opened the door, closed it carefully behind her, and walked into the dark yard. My sister, not a Chihuahua but a tallish blond investment banker with great skin and runner’s legs, twisted my right wrist. She said, “Everything you said is unacceptable.”
Some of our relatives—our gray-suited uncle, his mouth curled as if a friend had told him a joke; our mother, in her pink velour dress; my sister’s husband’s parents, the ex-postal worker with his bald head and bristly black brows and his slope-faced, brown-eyed wife—stared at me, appalled, from a couch; on a love seat, one of my brothers leaned toward the other and whispered, “We might commit her; Nina will pay.”
Beyond the glass dome of the circle room was clear black sky; under the Christmas tree sat mounds of gifts decked in sparkling gold-and-red paper and tied with organza ribbons.
I said, “I apologize.”
I kept saying it.
My sister sighed and said that someone should go to Kunda; her husband said that he would, but my sister said, “No, let me.” She walked through the kitchen, slid the heavy glass door open, and strode out. Behind her, the black cat sauntered across the kitchen tiles and out the door and into the grass. It padded left, past the swing set, and headed into the trees.
That’s how we reëntered the forest, now frigid and pitch black. Though it was late, all of us lurched through the woods, calling the cat’s name. My sister didn’t own enough flashlights for everyone, so we searched in clusters and pairs. The trees were dark, still shapes; I heard twigs crack and people in distant places call the cat’s name. It was terrible and no one spoke much, but at one point my sister ended up next to me, and said, “I don’t want to discuss this evening right now, because I’m too upset, but . . .” She’d worked hard to make the holiday nice for everyone, she said, and to enable everyone to get along. She’d worked hard to make me happy, too, and it seemed that all I wanted to do was criticize her and make people upset; I wasn’t myself, and she was curious—what had she done to me, to deserve this? And I was, like, Christ. I felt terrible. I knew she’d spent days shopping for gifts, party favors, groceries, stocking stuffers; she’d bought us all snow boards and ski passes—time she barely had, since she worked eighty hours a week at her banking job. She tried so hard and no one thanked her. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to, I’m sick—” and she said, “Don’t use that excuse.” She’d had Lyme disease, too, she said. Maybe she hadn’t had Bartonella, but she’d had spirochetes in her nervous system, they’d affected her neurologically, and she hadn’t acted like I was now; her throat caught. The real me felt ashamed and said, “You’re right, I’m so sorry,” but Bartonella heard her say, “Bartonella,” and awakened. Bartonella me yelled, “You want to know why? Because I’m pissed at you, bitch!” and she gasped and asked how dare I call her that? And added that, truthfully, she was angry at me, too; I heard branches rustle and, distantly, someone call, “Who’s there?” but, out of my head, I said, “Bring it on, bitch! Here’s my chin!” I saw my sister frown and rear back. Then an immense fist like a sledgehammer punched my jaw.
I fell on my butt on the trail. An orange pain was my jaw and also the world. I had three faces and saw three sisters. It wasn’t she who’d hit me—it was the orangutan. Rather, the secretary, Kunda’s husband; I heard him say, “I’ve never punched anyone before, I was just so mad about what she said to Kunda,” and my sister muttered, “Done is done,” and the willowy black shadow of one of my brothers said, “She sort of . . .” and the other’s said, “Deserved it,” and the secretary touched my face and said, “No worries, it’s not dislocated”; the others showed up, my nieces asked what happened, my sister’s mouth opened and closed, as did the secretary’s, and I said, “I fell and hit my jaw on a stone.” My sister announced that we weren’t finding Crow tonight and should go home. My nieces protested that we couldn’t leave Crow, so my sister told them that she was probably hiding in a safe place in the forest, just waiting for daylight to come home.
Adira begged us to leave the sliding door open for the cat. My sister didn’t want to wake up to raccoons in the kitchen, but my niece insisted. So my sister—who couldn’t deny her daughters anything—said O.K.
The weird thing about blood-sugar issues is that they don’t go away just because you’ve had a bad Christmas. I woke up at 3 A.M
Editor’s note: I love this essay for many reasons, not the least of which is that I appreciate getting to know more about Elder L. Tom Perry and his love of baseball, and feeling of the love within his family. As a mother, I’m moved by the message about the power of the love of a mother, and how such love can connect generations, sometimes in unexpected ways. This essay was written by L. Tom Perry’s son, Lee Tom Perry.
Heaven Sent: Encore to a Christmas Miracle*
~By Lee Tom Perry
There is a memorial brick in Boston’s Fenway Park with three lines of text:
L. Tom Perry
Lee & Linda Gay
8 May 2004
The brick commemorates the day my [now] 89-year old father, L. Tom Perry, threw out the first pitch at a game between the Red Sox and Kansas City Royals, while Linda, my sister, and I applauded his inside strike.
The three of us love the Red Sox. I usually explain that my loyalty dates back to 1967, the “Impossible Dream” year, when the Red Sox almost defied 100-1 odds by taking the St. Louis Cardinals to the seventh-game of the World Series before losing 7-2. The Fall Classic the three of us remember best, however, was in 1975 between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. Watching all seven memorable games together re-cemented our family bonds as we faced the approaching holidays without our wife and mother, who died of cancer on December 14, 1974.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, our family’s Christmas was orchestrated by my mother. My father worked in the retail industry, and Christmas was his busiest time of the year. We rarely saw him between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, which was also my mother’s birthday. During the first few years after my mother’s death the holidays seemed to bring more emptiness than joy as my father, Linda, and I struggled to revive what we all knew to be the deeper meaning of Christmas.
For me these struggles were mostly in vain until the holidays of 1978, when I witnessed a Christmas miracle. By then, my wife, Carolyn, and I had moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and were expecting our first child. Initially, the due date for our baby was December 14th, the same day my mother had died. The link between these two events caught my immediate attention. It made me anxious, and I had a difficult time reconciling past sadness with anticipated joy.
After months of what proved to be wasted worry and concern, December 14, 1978 arrived, and in the afternoon Carolyn began to feel some contractions. They started fairly regularly, but became sporadic and finally stopped. It was false labor.
Once December 14th had passed, I began to wish that somehow our baby could be born on Christmas Eve—my mother’s birthday. As the countdown to the Christmas of 1978 continued, my count was always one day less than everyone else’s. I talked myself into believing that if our baby could be born on Christmas Eve, it would assure me that everything was well with my mother—that she was happy and aware of our blessed event. The birth of our baby on Christmas Eve, I felt, would be the closest I would come to sharing one more holiday season with my mother.
December 24th also came. It was a Sunday, and throughout the day I waited and hoped for Carolyn to tell me she was beginning to feel contractions. We attended church in the evening, and even after returning home Carolyn did not feel anything resembling a contraction. There was a disappointing moment when the realization finally hit me that it was now too late for our baby to be born on Christmas Eve. I had built myself up for something that wasn’t going to happen, but for Carolyn’s sake I tried to hide my feelings and exude holiday cheer.
About 11 o’clock that night, however, someone began to stir inside Carolyn, and I didn’t have to worry anymore about pretending to be excited for Christmas. By 2 AM, Carolyn’s contractions were coming longer, harder, and more frequently. We called our obstetrician, and he told us to go to the hospital, and he would meet us there. After hours of labor, during which I gained a whole new level of appreciation for my wife’s strength and courage, a 9 pound 9 ½ ounce baby girl was born at 1:32 PM on Christmas Day. We named her Audrey Lee Perry. We gave Audrey her middle name to connect her to my mother, whose surname was Lee.
Once it was clear that everything was well with both Carolyn and baby Audrey, I returned home to get some much needed food and rest. In a quiet moment of thankful prayer and reflection, the events of the previous hours spoke to me. There came a clear message surrounding Audrey’s birth. Everything was well with my mother. She was very much aware of my love for her, and my desire to include, even connect with her at the birth of her granddaughter. I could see her smiling down from heaven, and I whispered under my breath, “I love you, Mom.” At that precise moment, before the image of my mother began to fade, the full significance of the miracle I had just witnessed struck me. Audrey, my first-born, was born on Christmas day to remind me to focus not on the death of my mother, but on the birth of the First-Born of the Father, even Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
The 2009 postseason ended early for the Red Sox—swept in the American League Division Series by the Los Angeles Angels. My sister, Linda’s and my disappointment, however, didn’t sting like it once did. It never could after 2004. The 86-year drought ended miraculously that year when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games and were crowned World Series Champions. Linda and I, who adore our father, like to think he single-handedly removed the “Curse of the Bambino” with his inside strike near the beginning of that title run. Perhaps it was him, someone, or something else, but the narrative definitely changed in the 2004 American League Championship Series when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat their nemesis, the New York Yankees in seven games. This year, after Boston’s crushing 7-6 loss to the Angels, Linda and I could say, “Wait ‘til next year” with real conviction.
Still, it seemed like the right moment to lift Linda’s spirits by sharing some good news.
“Audrey’s expecting,” I said, “and due on March 3, the same day as Cami.”
Cami is Linda’s oldest daughter, and we had learned she was expecting a baby several months earlier. I had known for some time Audrey was going to have a baby but had been sworn to secrecy until now.
I’m usually the most competitive member of our family, but this time Linda took the prize with her surprising response. “I’m going to be a grandparent first!” she proclaimed. “You’re not going to win this time!”
“Game on!” I responded.
We received news that Cami was in labor on February 14, 2010.
“The 14th? I wonder what that means?” I thought, as I focused more on the day of the month that my mother died than it being Valentine’s Day. I did not have to wonder for very long. An e-mail arrived only a few hours later announcing the birth of baby Jane. Upon receiving the news, I called Linda and conceded defeat. I can’t recall what I said to her, but the only thing I felt was an overwhelming sense of joy for her and her family. I also felt joy for my mother. In my mind’s eye, I saw her, just as I did at the time of Audrey’s birth, smiling down from heaven.
My moment of reflection was interrupted by a startling impression. I won’t say I knew for sure, but I couldn’t shake the belief that Audrey’s baby would be born on March 9th, Linda’s 52nd birthday. If it happened, not only would Audrey deliver her first baby on the same day of the year as my mother delivered her last baby, it would be in the same city—Sacramento, California.
The impression felt like a special delivery sent from heaven by my mother. Why the need for such a message? I don’t really know, and I don’t claim to have special insight into how heaven works. I believe my mother does have such insight, however, and that’s all I need to know to listen for messages that are heaven sent.
The impressions I had following Baby Jane’s birth were deeply etched in my mind as March 3rd, Audrey’s due date, passed without incident. It was at this point that I shared what I had felt with Carolyn. But I also admitted to her that, as I ultimately learned surrounding Audrey’s birth, my impressions might only be the preview to a deeper, more meaningful lesson.
More days passed, and Audrey called from Sacramento to tell us that her doctors had decided if she didn’t deliver the baby by March 9th, they would likely induce her. Upon hearing this news, Carolyn and I decided to drive to Sacramento. During the 600-mile trip I had time to think about how I would feel if Audrey were induced on March 9th. In one respect, it was reassuring. Considering both Audrey’s and the baby’s safety, it was important not to let the pregnancy go too long. Still, I vastly preferred the idea of Audrey going into labor on her own, mostly because I knew that was my daughter’s wish.
Carolyn and I arrived in Sacramento late at night on March 7th. The next morning, Carolyn went with Audrey to a doctor’s appointment, and on the way to the doctor Audrey began to feel contractions. Audrey’s doctor checked her, determined Audrey’s contractions were the real thing, and recommended she immediately go to the hospital. When Carolyn called from the hospital to tell me the news I felt an immediate surge of excitement. I was trying to work when Carolyn’s call came, but all I could do after the call was pace the floor and pray.
All of us had our faith severely tested over the next day and night, especially Audrey. Her baby was in a posterior-transverse position, and she could not be turned. Audrey was in labor for nearly 24 hours when it was finally decided that the only option was a Caesarian delivery. Elizabeth Claire, an 8 pound, 7 ounce, and 20 ½ inch baby girl, was born at 7 AM, March 9, 2010. My mother’s middle name was Claire.
A few hours later, as I reported our joyous news to Linda, I, again, saw, in my mind’s eye, my mother smiling, as if she were standing next to me rejoicing in the birth of another great-granddaughter. It was not her voice, but another voice that said to Linda and me: “When you join together the meaning of your granddaughters’ birthdays, there is a clear message—an expression of your mother’s love, but more importantly God’s love. As you look into Jane’s and Elizabeth Claire’s faces, always remember that the miracle of birth is a gift from God. Love them as God loves you for all God’s children are heaven sent.”
My father and I attended a Red Sox game together on May 16, 2011, and the Red Sox were down 6-0 to the Baltimore Orioles when they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning. It was a rainy, gloomy night, and I entertained the thought that this might be my father’s last game at Fenway. I hoped the Red Sox could rally for him—or at least make a game of it. They did by scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and eventually won 8-7 on a walk-off double off the Green Monster by Adrian Gonzalez.
As my father and I walked out of Fenway that night, pushed along in the meandering stream of elated fans, I hoped there would be at least one more trip to Fenway for us. Wait until next year, I thought. Linda can come, too, and we’ll bring Jane and Elizabeth Claire. We’ll take them to Fenway to see their great-grandfather’s brick and tell them the story of how, before they were born, he removed the Curse of the Bambino. Bricks are formed from clay, and family stories and traditions are the clay from which lasting bonds of love are formed.
– – – – –
*The “Christmas miracle” of Audrey’s birth was originally published in the following essay: “Another Christmas Story” in This People, Holiday 1997, pp. 47-48.
This post was edited slightly from the original to include the editor’s note.