April 1/365 My Hero

I called Dad about the letter he received from the French Ambassador. He was proud to read it to me, and crashed right through the foreign words without any hesitation. He needed to get the letter “in plastic” to keep it clean. I cried, but he didn’t know, because crying would have made him cut our conversation short.

April 2/365 KDBV

She was the only person I knew with four initials, none because of marriage. Cancer stalked her every move, and so she was always a blur of motion. I found her faith in alternative cures, foods, exercise plans, and spiritual paths exhausting. “Just eat a sandwich!” I wanted to shake her. She stayed true, and so did cancer.

April 3/365 Houses

M tells me that fifty years ago she hid in the bushes between our homes, looking at our bright windows, and wishing that she could come inside. Scary things happened in her house – drugs, sex, strangers passed out in the basement. She survived. Now an earth mother, her house in the woods echoes with music and children laughing.

 

 

April 4/365 Agnes

Little girls need old women. Agnes lived across the street, catty-corner, from our house. She served as the neighborhood watch, peering out her window, keeping track of potential criminal activity. But when I visited, she opened her door, poured glasses of milk, set out the cookies, and listened. Every May Day, I left wild flowers at her door.

April 5/365 Annie

She lived her entire life in the family home, a baby sister to Paul and Hank. She grew old with them, helping raise Hank’s two children, then keeping house until her death. She was, when people were feeling charitable, “weak minded.” I remember her as strangely boisterous toward children, which scared us. Poor Annie was our boogie woman.

April 6/365 Everyone knows his name

Toddler. Whiner. Garbler. Leaking gas bag. Pudgy sack of decaying McDonald’s patties. Piggedy-eyed lumpen mole rat. Small-fingered sniggering gotcha guy. The worst. (No, there’s more.) Mewling beef-witted mushfungus. That blob of goo floating in the storm sewers. (Not a fuckwit – he’s not worth the fuck, nor deserving of wit.) A rotting vain pompion braying nonsense. Worth nothing, whatsoever.

April 7/365 The Queen of Bethesda

In Dorchester, Mavis dreamed of being that other kind of Boston girl, the Kennedy kind. Pretty enough, ambitious enough, she fell for a smart Jewish boy, one of the White boys. He bought her a nice house in the Washington suburbs, while he worked for the Kennedys. His brother dined with them. Perhaps she married the wrong one?

Mavis and Bob
Mavis and Robert, in route to Nan Madol (1987)

April 8/365 A Mensch

RW taught me where to find the best corned beef brisket in the suburbs, to savor single-malt scotch, and the correct ratio of whitefish to bagel. I was never his ideal daughter-in-law — wrong faith, wrong class, wrong aspirations — but he didn’t let it show. This smart, funny mensch of a man died of complications from dementia.

April 9/365 Suzanne

1976. Wellsville Central High School. Mandatory test day for emergency systems. Female staff were allowed to wear slacks. SD wore a form fitting black pantsuit, with wide bell-bottom legs. Heavy gold jewelry. Her hair pulled back into a sleek pony tail. Face tanned, makeup perfect. Her signature cologne, like a breeze from a distant Caribbean island, intoxicated us.

April 10/365 My Titania

Do not be deceived by her size. A slender reed of a woman, or in another light, a serious little gray bird. Under all that, an intellect, lethally sharp and well-exercised. Linda was my professor, my mentor, my confidante. And once, in her kitchen, we vanquished a huge black beetle, that had crawled out of a spinach bag.


Note: I first saw Linda in a college production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when I visited my sister at college. I was probably 13 years old at the time. Years later, she appeared, as if by magic, as my freshman English Literature professor at a different college. In truth, her husband, who had spent his childhood in Africa, did most of the vanquishing. The beetle was mythic in size and glossy blackness.

April 11/365 The Young Pups

A gaggle of young men worked at Rich’s office outside of Pittsburgh. None were married. In fact, only one had a sometimes girlfriend. And they were always hungry and thirsty – as Jane Austen might have noted, they were in need of the steadying influence of womenkind. So I cooked for them; they, in turn, brought beer and silliness.

April 12/365 A Family

He lived in a large sedan behind the Steak and Egg with his three dogs. The car windows were covered with newsprint and cardboard to give their little family some privacy. Every day they walked to the Safeway, and the dogs patiently waited for him outside the doors. The big one, the medium one, and the little one.

April 13/365 Richard, The First

A bantam rooster of a man, back when tight jeans were a thing. We spent a summer having sex, and pretending we didn’t. Then he rejoined the fold, repentant, reborn. Now as Senior Director of National Media Relations for the Alliance Defense Fund, he battles supposed anti-Christian bias. I preferred the sinful strutter, tasting of wine and cigarettes.

April 14/365 Richard, The Second

A Jewish, Marxist, almost Maoist boy from Bethesda. Who knew that such a person could exist? We shouldn’t have met, given that he graduated from JHU before I transferred in, but there he was, sleeping on our couch. We shouldn’t have married, but radicals can be very traditional. His proletariat wife broke her chains, leaving him in Micronesia.

April 17/365 Paradise Lost

Cates asked Gayle about me.

“Your roommate, with the long hair, is she seeing someone?”

This pudgy, brilliant man sat at the Milton seminar table across from me. Gayle invited him to our Christmas party. High and brave, he whispered Milton to me. I, heartless, said, “But would it be paradise lost or gained?” And laughing, walked away.

cates
Cates and Katie, Christmas Party, 1979

NOTE: Needed so many more words than my restrictive 58! So much more to explain about the sexual politics of a campus that was 80% male – tales of desperation and foolishness abound. Important to say, if my internet stalking is correct (and pretty certain it is since Cates had a unique name), he’s done impressive things. Milton was not wasted on him.

April 18/365 JHB, II

Jomills Henry Braddock, II.*

He handed me a mountain of NFL materials, and smiled when I told him I really did not like football.** Jomills defined a southern gentleman to me. His words were careful, softened by his drawl. He brought me a piece of sugar cane,*** and I brought him a maple sugar bunny. Two noses wrinkled.

 

*NOTE: Because it’s a wonderful name, in full. A glorious name.

**I was his work-study assistant in compiling data for a study about institutionalized racism in the NFL in 1980. Here’s what he’s been up to since: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY45uAzzMH0

***In truth, we were talking about favorite sweets, and he brought me pralines also. Neither compared to maple sugar, no matter what he said!

 

April 19/365 O.T.

Owen loves to roar. When he’s older, I’ll check to see if this has translated into a life of activism or a culture of complaint. (Right now, it can go either way.) He’s enthralled with dinosaurs, Sox-the-cat, and saying “no” to almost any request. His parents constantly film him, but sometimes that only reinforces what we are missing.

April 20/365 Ivy

My son loves a woman with a heart-shaped face. Her mother named her after a persistent, vining plant. In truth, she has worked away at me, over these four years, burrowing tendrils into my heart. I marvel at the delicacy of her – those graceful fingers, the wasp-thin waist. I fear for her, and me. Love can be dangerous.

 

ivy and conor
Conor and Ivy, May 2016

 

April 21/365 Jack

I do not know if he survived the 1980s. Jack was a pocket-sized man, with a very club-kid style. Washington night-life lured him into seedy neighborhoods; once he was mugged by some 12-year-olds, he said. But he still went out, almost every night. I lost track of him about the time that the-disease-with-no-name began to scourge the city.

April 22/365 Shari

It took a lot of work and insecurity to be Shari. Her lovely body was tanned, polished, painted, sprayed, pushed in, and shoved up, until she looked like a mafia bimbo. She drove a red Firebird and dated an Italian guy name Joe, who had business in Atlantic City and Reno. We knew he would never marry her.

April 23/365 Jim

We drove to Rehoboth on a grim day in April, listening to Springsteen the entire way. Jim’s jawline was so sharp, I ran a finger along it from ear to chin. That was all. We were no longer lovers, you see, and this was our last day, watching waves foam over the dead beach. The drinking came later.

April 24/365 Who Loved Her

Kathleen’s memorable beaus-who-failed:

  1. The Cadillac Man, the high-school stalker who scared us all.
  2. The Sweetest Boy, who was not enough, no matter how much he tried.
  3. Mr. Arrogant, the jazz trumpeter who found us lacking, even while he slept under our roof.
  4. The Silence, who never spoke, but somehow left a Wii avatar behind.

 

April 25/365 Who She Loved

We weren’t to tell him. That was completely clear. She showed us the video – Charlie singing “Duetto buffo di due gatti” with his friend Kyle. So when we later gathered around the table, and Charlie said, “Meow!” to Kathleen, the rest of us dissolved into hooting. The poor man wondered at this crazy family he would marry into.

NOTE: In case you’d like to see the silly video: watch it here. Charlie is the thin fellow on the left.

This happened on the his first visit to our home, and his first meeting of his future in-laws, Stan and Pam. Trial by fire and laughter.

April 26/365 The Communist in the Attic, #1

Salvador had a face like Diego Rivera – heavy-lidded eyes and the beginnings of jowls. He downplayed his bourgeois background, preferring his student disguise as a peasant revolutionary. Initially he charmed me, until I realized that his American girlfriend would be cleaning and cooking for him every day. Comrade had to save his energy for the revolution, after all.

April 27/365 The Communist in the Attic, #2

It’s hard for me to trust people who don’t like food. Nancy lived for the People’s Revolution, eating only to keep her bone-thin body going. Everything about her translated down into Maoist truths, and apparently my appetites were corrupt. Fiercely egalitarian, she completed exactly her portion of the household tasks; then she checked that we did the same.

April 28/365 Forty-two

His flaws are legion. But between intermittent downpours, the man showed he still can raise the people up, even ones beaten down by the incessant noise and the grammarless stupidity of the current White House resident. He eloquently called the graduates to public service, to hard work, and to lives of possibility – all without using a single notecard.

“As long as we believe our common humanity is most important, as long as we understand that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones or lone geniuses, as long as we realize the great thing about life is not final victories and the great tragedy is not final defeats—there aren’t any final victories or final defeats…but a life of permanent possibility.” HWS graduation, May 2017

April 29/365 Ken

At first, I couldn’t understand what she saw in him. Ken was twenty-five years older than her, and his one-time leading-man good looks had given way to obesity. But Mary is much wiser than me. The man was charm incarnate, a dance with the Devil, and the best damn story-teller I’ve ever known. (Except for Mary, of course.)

April 30/365 Vara

Vara created me. She pried open my small-town mind with her long, strong fingers. Artist’s hands. She cooked for me, and poured good wine. She explained the sacred and the mundane; she told me secrets so I would not have to travel some hard roads. When I took them anyway, she held me, until the bitter tears ceased.