So I’m sobbing by the side of the street just west of her house, remembering
that late night I drove her home and we saw the streets and businesses flood. The windshield was submerged and the world inundated, and we all leaned forward in our seats to better view the spectacle, and there was a sweetness in the car. The two older girls--Zoe and my daughter, Julia—laughed about work stuff, and my younger daughter fangirled over Zoe’s husky voice and vibrant kindness, and as Nature humbled us together, we lived in this weird moment of an impeccable Now—weary-travelers united, safe and warm; almost grateful for the storm’s ferocity--and when we get to her house, she dashed out of the car and I watched her retreat, and could see exhilaration as she ran through the squall towards her front door. Like she was a kid again.
And I know pain and desperation, so, most days when I pass their house, I utter a blessing for them, because she’s 16, in high school, and rides her bike (in all weather)—2 miles to school, 1 to work, then 2 back home—to a full-time job because her mom struggles with alcoholism and often needs money for rent, and her deadbeat dad yells at her for being irresponsible and she can barely keep up with her schoolwork, and the thing that makes her totally freak out was the time her mom couldn’t pay court costs and she feared her little brother would be taken away because the thing that makes Zoe the happiest in the world is when her little brother runs and jumps into her arms when she comes home for the night.
And most days I feel hopeless to help them, so I say the blessing (my wish) as I quickly pass, hoping to the God or the Universe or whatever freaking energy is out there that they succeed, and that their hardship can be eased and lessons learned quickly, and strength acquired and anxieties culled, because I want to protect this little family, and would give anything to make it so that their struggle can subside long enough for them to craft something beautiful.
Most times I pass quickly because pain is so palpable. But not this night.
I see the white lights of their Christmas tree sparkling through the window. And there is something there, inside me, as I pass, that makes me slow and consider my own little family’s razors edge--depression and suicide, cruelty and betrayal—culminating now in my youngest still happy and alive, and with me no longer afraid of hardship, and, all at once, I’m stopped on the street and I can’t hold it in and my breath catches in short gasps.
Because pushed up to the front window, curtains parted, white lights perfectly spaced and sparkling was that tree saying, “Come home to me,” and I could almost see her little brother run into her arms, and feel her mother fighting the good fight, and sense Zoe’s strength and humor, and even hear her palpable kindness as she generously chatted in the car with Julia’s younger sister.
And it was all just so fucking beautiful.
And, alone in my car, in the dark stillness of winter, the air smelling of snow, parked to the side of the road, I covered my face with my hands and sobbed, and felt so much joy.
Because hardship is potent and obvious and feels as if it will never end, but that night, next to their wood-frame house in Marmalade—reliving a moment of ironic gratitude for a rainstorm’s ferocity--I felt maybe my wish had come true, because as I sobbed in the car, my breath heaving, we all became weary-travelers, humbled together, and there was nothing more triumphant and beautiful than seeing us all try so hard to make a better life for one another.