Dear Elsie, I need to tell you why I wanted to live. As 1951 surrenders to the first breath of 1952, these are the only words Albert Burton can summon. He sits hunched at his kitchen table, spelling truths for his wife with a near-invisible hand. How he is able to grip the pen, to touch it to the paper, he does not understand ... Because Albert has been dead for exactly seven days.
Why did I want a child? I just did. My cells did. Like the writer Maggie Nelson says, “the muteness of the desire stood in inverse proportion to its size”. For all my concern about bringing another carbon footprint into the world, I couldn’t hush the yearning. It was my sehnsucht, as the Germans would say, my life-longing.
Mind Old Ginger the gamekeeper. Myths abound where he’s concerned. Famous through the Borderlands, was Old Ginger; a legend to some, a purpling, heather-lurking menace to many more. Pheasants and pleasant folk stopping in their weekend homes feared him equally, as well they should have. For the wee man wasn’t entirely right.
In the spring of 1980, when I was three years old, my father took me to my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Our family would be moving to Canada later that year, and my dad wanted my first baseball game to be a Cubs game in Chicago at Wrigley, not a Blue Jays game in Toronto at Exhibition Stadium.
Not long before leaving, she’d begun forgetting the words that produced her life. Simple words like saucepan, obelisk, masquerade and most recently, cufflinks, which she’d called wrist links, her mind toddler-fumbling with the picture-sounds till her husband corrected her with an unconcerned look on his face.
Years ago, someone told me that the best way to get through a crowd at a nightclub or concert is to dance your way through. The bodies around you will have more sympathy for a dancer – they’ll shift and accommodate, flex and bend – than for someone simply pushing.
I am, in the purest sense, a lunatic... Given the ancient mythological connection between the menstrual cycle and the moon, I can think of no better word to describe the lurching fear in my stomach as I lie by the pool on the first day of my holiday.
“In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage.” – John Muir
A failed rock star first made me really think about them. Until then, they’d just been there, a looming wall of jagged green blocking off the skyline to the north. Silent and a little foreboding, preventing the city’s careless sprawl from creeping any further.
‘Soppy’, she said, teasing me about the mother of pearl box filled with baby teeth, the lacy blanket we wrapped her in to bring her home from the hospital, her school reports, her first shoes, her favourite doll – all safe and sound in a trunk in the spare room.