Twelve years ago my son was stillborn.
His things are packed into an ancient Samsonite suitcase my grandmother used. Inside are his urn, a blanket, and I believe a crocheted hat and booties he wore. Clothing for premies is handmade and donated to the hospital. After my son’s birth I made many hats myself and gave them to the labor and delivery ward for future babies.
Every February I tell myself, “This is the year to open the suitcase.”
And this year was no exception. I was ready. I was good. I was telling myself a hundred times to move toward the case, to open the case, but I found a hundred ways to circumvent the case.
So Tuesday, his birthday, I went to work to stay busy.
And all morning, I was fine.
At noon, I sneaked away to buy Subway sandwiches and rescue my fifth-grader from the confines of gym so that he could hunker with me on the pickup tailgate in the school parking lot to eat lunch under a gorgeous, crystal-blue sky blanketing a breezy 75-degree day.
It was the perfect meal.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in complete normalcy, then endured the hated car line to gather my boy and head back to work until 8:00.
Long day, I was tired, but Tuesday television evenings offer my favorite show. I caught the last forty minutes, but that was okay, because it’s my favorite show. I’ll take forty minutes “live” and then Hulu the first twenty next day, no problem.
Except that my favorite character on my favorite show was killed off on Tuesday night.
All of the “okay” I’d had all day was gone in a wash and for two hours I mourned the loss of my boy, the video of that day twelve years ago playing over and over in my brain.
I needed that two hours, I know I did, and though I was weepy all of Wednesday, I was fine again; survivor’s guilt and a deep longing for things to be different, but still: Fine.
Then Thursday came along and I felt the need to Hulu, but instead of my favorite show, my second favorite had a new episode I hadn’t seen.
Whew! I thought, knowing I was delaying the inevitable repeat of maudlin behavior I’d exhibited Tuesday and yet no way to divert away from it because, dang it, I wanted to see the first twenty minutes!
So I blissfully pushed play on Second Favorite Show and do you know what the writers did? KILLED one of my OTHER favorite characters!
Then, on Friday, the real life cow in the pasture down the road birthed a beautiful calf, wobbly, confused, leaning at the side of his mama until he found footing.
It was the perfect ending to five tortuous days.
I tell you, people, the week tried to take me out, but I persevered.
And as for my son’s suitcase, well, it’s just fine as it it. Closed until next year.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

New Sheets

I got new sheets! And a new blanket! And ooooo, I’m not the best sleeper but I was gonna sleep RIGHT on that night.
First came the prep. Changed the bed into its new sheets, fluffed the pillows within their new cases, and lay the new blanket ever so lovingly across the top of the whole shebang, then covered the newness with the old comforter just so the moose-dog wouldn’t ruin that New Sheet Smell.
Then, I showered. And, people, I shaved my legs. Yup, four months of hard work at growing all that hair and it was gone with only twelve hundred strokes of a Lady Gillette.
I shaved my KNEES, people, this New Sheet Things is momentous, I tell you.
After the shower, I put on my newest, softest, most sleepy-best pants and top and my squooshiest, comfy-est-est-ever socks, and slid under my new sheet.
Aaaaaah, the luxury…
Nope. I did NOT feel that luxury. By the time I hit the bed I was EXHAUSTED and fell asleep before I got any luxuriating in! No “oh, ah” moment, not even a true appreciation for the way new sheets feel on newly hair-stripped legs, none of that! I was OUT.
PLUS my winter coat is gone! And the next day, when I went to feed the chickens, I tell you I could TELL my winter coat was gone. No sock in the world can make up for the missing half inch insulation I’d conserved since September.
It’s not fair, I tell you.
Stupid new sheets.

Mondays and Getting Stuff Done

Mondays are my days off of work.
I send the boy to school, then compile a list of To Do’s, like: fix the duck fence, repair the chicken coop, replace the heat bulb.
Then I list the house tasks: light bulb maintenance, get the window repaired, clean something, and list things to fix because things need fixing.
It’s a good list, week after week. I pour my brain onto the paper and revel at the beauty of the List.
And just before I get started completing the List, I punt the List.
I lounge. I lounge all day on Mondays. It’s fabulous.
But TODAY, THIS Monday, while I was deep into the heat of doing virtually nothing, my Dog Who Lived (another story) brought a treat to leave at my feet.
Weeks ago I found a clearance on dog toys, and knowing how much DWL (actually named Pug, in the interest of disclosure) enjoys chewing on things — he brings a rock or a bit of mulch inside the house with each and every potty trip he takes; no kidding, I have a mound of Things to Return to the Yard every evening — I bought one of the blue pigs (no squeaker — score!) for my beloved pup.
I guess once I gifted DWL with the pig, he took it and literally ran to bury it in a pile of something vile and rotted to sit for the two weeks since purchase.
What choice did I have but to spring like a gazelle to the List to see that indeed Laundry played a magnificent part on my “Accomplishments for Today — Woot!” notepad, the one I confer repeatedly each day as I check off each achievement.
Thus, against every Monday impulse, I have finished the laundry. The overly loved blue clearance sale pig is tumbling his warm way back to resale value.
Stupid dog, making me do stuff…ruining my lounge fest.
Worse, because I got started on the housecleaning junk, I’ve cleaned two more things.
Ruined my whole afternoon.
But one good thing: I actually get to check an item or three off of my Monday list and it’s not a lie!

The Southern Writer Challenge

I set myself up to read 18 books from Southern US writers this year. That’s 18 titles on top of the other 60 or so that I usually read because, hey, I want to be the librarian “in the know,” because I’m a geek and just that competitive and hate to be out of “the know.”
Plus, reading helps with my Compulsive Procrastination Disorder.
Need to clean? Oh, but there’s this book…
Need to work on my own “novel”? Oh, but the best research is reading other writers!
I can do put-stuff-off all day. And I do.

And today, at this moment, here and now, I was going to tell you about the first book I read from my self-imposed list, but here’s the deal…
In my internet meanderings — as part of my job, of course — I discovered there’s a new Backman book called “Bear Town” or “Beartown” — I can’t discern correctly if the title is one word or two, as though that matters, but it does because of course I want to get everything just right when it comes to a Backman book — coming in April! The 25th, to be exact, and the publishers better not let me down because doggone it, I’ve spread the word to 800 people that this book will be in stores on that date and there’s going to be a line at book sellers everywhere and holy crow the disappointment river will run deep if it doesn’t happen.
And I will be the one crying the river.
Since my favoritest author ever, ever, ever, Mr. Pat Conroy, passed away, I have put my displaced adoration for brilliant writing onto Mr. Fredrik Backman, who is Swedish. He’s lucky in that regard, because stalking in English is my only capability. I cannot speak Swedish and I’m too afraid of what Google Translate would do to my well-meaning words of exaltation for his characters and story lines.
So to update my Southern reading challenge: I’m on the third book of my list.
Maybe Backman is from Southern Sweden?

Until the 25th of two-and-a-half months from now, I’m begging for advanced reading copies from every source I can find.