Dang it, Darla.

She didn’t think twice about going to the family reunion where no one wore a mask and everyone scooped beans and potato salad with the same serving spoons. One hand after another, touching the cold metal until it was warm, holding in the heat from so many people with shared genetic make-up.

Family was everything to her, her moon, sun and stars.

She gave anything and everything to them, her beloved family.  As it turns out, they gave to her, as well.

At first, it was just a cough, a sniffle and an aching body. No more than a common cold that quickly progressed into respiratory distress and a trip to the ER.

She was admitted to a private room, where she privately admitted to the nurse in a double mask, face shield, gloves and a floor length gown, that she hadn’t felt well for a few days, since the reunion.  

Her husband of four decades begged and pleaded with the hospital administration to see her after she slipped away into a coma. Somehow, he was granted permission and was able to hold her hand from within a bubble of personal protective equipment.

And then she died a week later.

Her spouse mourned from the parking lot, the closest that he was able to get in her final moments. His world crashed down around his ears without his wife to hold it up. How would he live without his life?

The next time her family congregated, it was at her funeral, and still there were no masks.


Frustrated with the tiny fingers that kept wrapping around the rubber seal on the door of the dryer, I shut the door with a bang.

Little Legs jumped back in surprise.

I wasn’t mad, although it must have seemed that way, I was exasperated at never accomplishing anything aside from diaper changes and chasing crumbs.     

“You can’t help with laundry until you agree to stop trying to break the seal on the dryer.”

I took a deep breath. Lately, I found myself needing more and more of these.

“Can you agree to that?”

Little Legs didn’t need long to think, he absolutely could not agree to those terms.

He was set on breaking the rubber seal. It was too temptingly stretchy to leave it in place.

It was like leaving a block of cheese in front of a mouse and saying, “No nibbles while I turn my back.”

Nothing was going to stop him. Unless it was me, his terribly mean mother, picking him up and removing him from the laundry room, which I did while he kicked and screamed angry insults in Toddlerese.

Fat tears rolled down both cheeks as he continued his incoherent rant against the unfairness of life. The commotion brought Daddy Longlegs out of his office. He poked his head out of the door with concern.

“What’s going on out here?”  

Little Legs cried as ran down the hallway and grabbed his legs.

At last, his savior arrived.

He pulled at Daddy Longlegs’ hand and led him back to the laundry room and pointed to the dryer.

Instead of allowing Little Legs to continue with his destruction of the machine, he offered a distraction.

“Would you like a snack?”

Of course, he nodded and wiped his runny nose with the back of his hand.

While his meal stomach quickly filled after a few bites, his snack stomach was always open for business.  

Early Vote

As I stood in line to cast my vote, I felt a swell of emotion in my chest. I was a part of a movement, along with the other stay-at-home-moms, senior citizens, unemployed and otherwise disenfranchised people who could spend an hour or longer in line on a Monday morning.

There was an honest attempt at social distancing in the line that broke down every few people as they forgot the rule or grew impatient with the process and inched ever closer to the next person in line who then inched closer to the next person to escape hot breath on their neck. We were all a bunch of civic minded inchworms, waiting and inching, waiting and inching. 

A short man stood in the shadow of his tall wife. They lovingly embraced one another and whispered secret thoughts to one another while their young dark-eyed daughter buzzed in and out of the line with the careful precision of a bee between flowers.

On one of her dashes, the little girl ventured into the parking lot and bumped into an unmoving and unamused woman with a mask hanging from one ear as she stepped out of her van. Shocked at the unexpected human obstacle, the little girl squeaked and scampered back to her distracted parents.

They wagged a finger at her, and said something half-hearted, like, “No, no, naughty girl,” and released her to continue the important work of the young, gathering information to use later.

A grizzled man in a black Sturgis tee shirt with snow-white flakes of dandruff on his shoulders stood behind me watched the interrupted flight path of the bee-child. With raspy breathing, he leaned with both hands against the outdoor HVAC unit and gave a hacking cough that rattled his lungs and rang the COVID-19 alarm bells off to everyone within hearing distance.

I stepped out of line and held my breath, hopeful that the air would carry away the droplets before they reached my ears, eyes and masked nose and mouth. I imagined a thousand microscopic armed militia men with tiny MAGA hats escaped from his face with each cough, and ready for guerrilla warfare, they sought immediate hostages and hosts.

Straightening up, he caught his breath and said, “Oh, to be that young again.”

He laughed and repeated himself, louder this time, dismayed that no one replied.

“Oh, to be that young again.”

I silently wondered what he would do if he could hit the rewind button and return to a more tender age, before his edges were brittle and fallen-leaf-brown, before Sturgis and dandruff and his COVID cough, when he was still soft and impressionable, curious and energized. There are so many like him, wishing for another time and forgetting how hard it was to be small.

Still holding my breath, we shuffled forward in a constant flow of people towards the ballot boxes that represented two different futures, one of peace and health and the other of chaos, sickness and war.

For me, it was an easy decision.

Toddler on the Loose

“Stay in here,” I yelled from the shower.

Through the glass door I watched Little Legs struggle to reach the door handle. He stood up on his tip toes and like a clumsy ballerina he fell to the side. He tried again, reaching as high as he could with both arms and hands and fingers extended to their max.

I guessed that I had just a few more minutes left to rinse and untangle my hair before Little Legs had a full meltdown, frustrated at being trapped in the bathroom with only his own creativity to keep him entertained.  He already pulled everything out from underneath of the sink, opened all the drawers, and then unrolled the toilet paper into a majestic pile of white squares.

Now, he was focused on escape.

Ha, ha, I laughed assuredly to myself as he jumped at the door. There would be no breaking out today.    

The water refreshed me as it washed away the stress and grime from the previous day. I dropped my shoulders and relaxed the muscles in my face with a few deep breaths. I closed my eyes to get the rest of the conditioner out of my hair and heard a click.

My eyes snapped open and through my bleary water world, I saw Little Legs slip away.

His perseverance paid off, surprising only his mother. Not that it happened, but that it happened so quickly. I knew in that moment, as I scrambled dripping wet out of the shower to grab a towel and to chase down the escapee, that doors would always open for that hard-working and determined boy.   

Meanwhile, Little Legs headed for the big bed, he had some jumping to do.


We pulled away from the curb with Baby Brother napping in back and Little Legs begging for a snack.

“Bar? Coo? Nana?”

(Translation for the lay person. I would like a fruit and grain bar, a cookie or a banana.)  

It was a devastating blow for the child to learn that we did not have any of these things in the car. To be clear, it was meant to be a quick trip to pick up a picture that was just framed. And the boy was not starving, by any means.  

With Daddy Longlegs at the helm steering us towards home, he asked, “How did it turn out?”

“Oh, it looks great, but you won’t be happy,” I explained.

“What do you mean?” Daddy Longlegs took the bait.

“Well, I think they did it backwards. The matting might be on the wrong side.”

I dug into my purse so Daddy Longlegs wouldn’t see my laughing face.

“I couldn’t bear to break it to Brenda. She was so proud of her work.”

“Brenda? Who is Brenda? Do I need to turn around and go back?”

“You might, but not right now, obviously.”

Baby Brother woke up and started making the sweet wah, wah, wah noises that usually led to full on squalling within a few minutes, while Little Legs kicked at the back of Daddy Longlegs’ seat, chanting demands for various snacks.

“Brenda showed me another project that she just finished so I know she worked hard on this one.”

It was a hand drawn, black and white, cross-eyed dog that stared out in two different directions from an off-centered picture on the wall.  She pointed it out after she found my order, tucked away in a stack of other pictures wrapped in brown paper.

“That’s one of mine, too,” she said proudly through her mask.   

“You did a fine job.”

I nodded at the picture on the wall with my eyes and then looked back down at the picture on the counter.

“Thanks, Brenda.”  

And she really did a fine job, but I was not going to let Daddy Longlegs know that until we got home.

It was my way of keeping him on his toes, as though the boys didn’t do it enough. This was our relationship after two babies.

Exciting, glamorous, and sexy.


A very long car ride

The car ride was lasting an eternity with Baby Brother screaming at the top of his lusty lungs. We were trapped with his sound waves ceaselessly battering our eardrums. I feared our tender membranes could only hold up so long before rupturing.

Little Legs groaned and kicked at the back of Daddy Longlegs’ seat, he narrated the scene, “Crying.”

“We know, buddy. Baby Brother is not very happy, is he?” 

“Crying, crying, crying.”

His words were few, but direct. His irritated tone filled in the gaps that his limited vocabulary left unaddressed.

Baby Brother demanded an immediate release from the restrictive car seat. He continued to scream and cry, but the tears stopped streaming down his cheeks as the seemingly bottomless well dried up.

With another twenty minutes to go, I was unsure if we would survive the trip.

Daddy Longlegs gripped the steering wheel tighter, focused only on the car and road in front of him and incapable of conversation.

“It’s like we are being waterboarded.”

What to say to the truth? Parenthood is painful and there are aspects that are tortuous. There is a constant worry about their health, well-being, development, socialization, education and future. Aside from the emotional and mental distress, there is also a physical component of pain from getting bitten or stepping on a metal tractor or a lost Lego. And sometimes my heart feels like it will break into a million pieces from loving them so hard.

However, it is also beautiful and funny and rewarding in ways that transcend words.

Instead of jumping out of the moving vehicle, as I briefly considered, I turned around in my seat to check on the sweet babe in his time of need. Thankfully, the crying stopped and he eased into an exhausted sleep. A calm settled in the car while my eardrums still buzzed. I let out a sigh of relief, suddenly realizing that I had been holding my breath.

Next to the sleeping baby, Little Legs held his hands out in front of him.  

His index finger was extended, “One.”

His middle finger refused to join the index without the rest of his fingers extending, so he moved onto his other hand.


He held out both index fingers.  


All his fingers were up now. It was the first time he made it past two on his own and never once on his own fingers. I couldn’t help but to laugh in the lightness that comes in the aftermath of a storm.

Little Legs wasn’t listening; he was recounting his fingers. He wasn’t looking for feedback, praise or direction. He was figuring out things on his own, one finger at a time.   

And I was so grateful for the entire ride.


Little Legs has a huge cache of toys and treasures. There is a combination of birthday presents, hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, and things meant for his brother that he has already claimed for his own. While I know we need downsize his horde, it is hard to decide what stays and what goes when he loves everything so dearly.

His most recent acquisition is a wooden puzzle of farm animals. It remains a bit advanced for him, but he gets the general idea. Interestingly, out of all the barnyard dwellers, he was drawn to one over the rest and has since adopted it as his special pet.

It is a pink, smiling pig with a splash of mud on its backside.

He carries it from room to room, feeds it from his dinner plate, and gives it rides on his monster truck around the house.

It is heart-warming to watch how he cares for the wooden creature and constantly sees to her inanimate well-being. He is a natural caregiver, something that I want to foster and continue to develop in my young son.

The only concerning aspect of this new development is his pig’s name which was made quite clear when the pig went missing.

“Mama,” he yelled running through the house.

“I’m right here, baby.”

He raised his hands in question, “Gone. Mama gone.”

He grabbed my hand and led me to the puzzle and pointed to the only missing piece, the pig.


“You named the pig?”

He nodded.

“You named it Mama?”

He nodded and smiled, pleased as a monkey with a peeled banana; finally, he was understood.

I laughed, feeling slightly jealous at my competition, “Ok, let’s go find Mama.”

High Beams and Hope

As I drive home from one my few trips out of the house, it is already chilly and dark, in what feels like a brutally sudden change from the nights of late summer.

It is October.

Obviously, this is not sudden nor is it more brutal than any other normal seasonal transition. It just feels that way during a time when it is hard to relax and when every change feels like rolling on a bed of nails. It hurts all over.

The trees melt into a solid mass of black that threaten to absorb me at the slightest veer from the twisty gravel road. My headlights are on, illuminating the path ahead a soft yellow, cutting through the thickness of the dark. I expect a deer to dash across the road at any second and am on guard, my hands at 10 and 2.

Suddenly, a monster truck appears from the opposite direction, flashing its high beams as it rumbles past.  

I am more on edge than I realize. It all scares me, the noise, the flashing lights and the speed; my heart pounds in my chest. Was he threatening me? Is there something wrong with my car or my driving? I am defensive as I consider the options.

Then it occurs to me that he is warning me about something, maybe a deer or a broken-down car.

I hit the brakes and slow down in time to see the sheriff’s car, parked off the road in a gas station parking lot, clocking speeders.

“Whew,” I let out a sigh of relief.

It is this moment of connection, this pure desire that is unmotivated by greed or gain to help another person, that informs me the world is not all bad. Strangers are not all dangerous. And the future is not as bleak as it seems with the looming election, global warming and the ongoing pandemic.

I can relax, a little. There is hope.

Glimmers of it are everywhere.

In high beams and low beams.

The Throw Away Vote(r)

Three women sat around a small, metal table on the patio of a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. They were given a single bowl of chips and another single smaller dish of salsa to be shared between them. It was a surprising defiance to the other measures meant to slow the spread of the on-going pandemic.

At least the server still wore a face covering, in spite of the war on masks.    

“Hand sanitizer, anyone?”

The blonde pulled out a bottle from her oversized purse and offered it to her companions after she flipped the top and squirted out a dime size amount into her palm.  The women each followed in suit, rubbing the cold alcohol-based sanitizer between their fingers and around their rings.

There was a collective sense that they were safe from the virus, or as safe as they could be, practicing hand hygiene while sitting a few feet from one another, outside on a cool, early fall night.   

“Can we just be real for a minute? Do you think he even has it?” the older brunette asked.

“Has what?” the blonde woman asked with a genuinely blank face.

During a time when ignorance was more deadly than blissful, it was not to be accepted at this dinner.

“The virus, Trump tweeted that he tested positive.”

Thoughtfully crunching on a tortilla chip, the younger brunette said, “It’s hard to know what to believe.”

She dropped her voice to a loud whisper and confessed, “Did you know that I’ve never voted in an election, but I think I will in this one.”

The older brunette held in a gasp of horror. It was a pattern that she found amongst the younger generations. Either they were hypervigilant in their civic duty or completely checked out. Apparently, her new friends were of the latter group.

“Not me,” the blonde stated as she stabbed at her taco with a fork.

“I can’t vote for either candidate for the same reason that I couldn’t vote for Hilary in the last election. The politicians are all corrupt and I can’t support any of them to lead our country.”

“You could always write in a third party,” the younger brunette suggested.

The older brunette choked down a bite of shredded chicken, as she tried to process how these women rationalized wasting their hard-earned right and civic duty to vote, to participate in government, to determine the type of country in which they live and what of it will be left for their children.

She added, “Right, you could always put Ross Perot out there.”

They both turned to look at the woman and asked in disgusted unison, “Who?”

The older woman sighed, already anxious to leave.

“Please, just vote. It matters.”



Lymph Nodes

“Babe, don’t freak out.”

This was not a good way to start a conversation with an anxious person.

“Seriously, just listen.”

My husband tried to reassure me ahead of time, as though his words could act as a soothing balm to whatever painful or irritating information he was about to impart.

“Did you notice the lumps on the back of Little Legs’ head?”

“What are you talking about?”

I stood at the sink without turning and scrubbed harder at the burned macaroni and cheese.

“The mosquito bites?” I asked over my shoulder.

“No, they are on the back of his head, on his occipital lobe.”

Occipital lobe? Who talks like that, I thought.

He had Little Legs in tow and led him over to me.

“Show Mommy your truck,” he nudged the boy in my direction and whispered, “Go ahead, feel the back of his head.”

Turning off the water, I sighed in acceptance of the interruption and dried my hands on a damp dishtowel. I had one more pan to wash and I would be done with the kitchen for the night.

“Come here, buster.”  

He shuffled over to me in his one-piece footy pajamas holding a monster truck out for my inspection.

I knelt down and ran my hands over his fuzzy hair, still wet and smelling of Johnson’s and Johnson’s baby shampoo. I let my fingers explore his scalp, skeptical that anything missed my watchful eye. Then I found what my husband already discovered, two symmetrically placed lumps on either side of the back of my son’s head.

Little Legs jerked away from my loving hands as I pushed in on the aberrations on his perfect head.  

“Does it hurt when I push there?”

“Hurt,” he mimicked.

I asked again and received the same answer, surprising no one.  


“We have to call the doctor.”

We both looked at the clock on the wall, the office was obviously closed.

“I told you not to freak out.”