Mid-September, my husband falls from the lowest branch of the hemlock tree beside the kitchen – twenty feet! – and breaks his leg. Beastly tree! Beastly ladder. The latter splayed where it has fallen, the unnatural diagonal, the beastly orange of it all – until my brother in law disposes of it. The ladder is chekhov’s gun where suburban dads are concerned, a truth so predictable it became something of a joke. At night, I tell the boys scary stories. I make them up on the spot, or weave spooky elements to existing skeins of stories. Once upon a time, there were two boys who lived with their parents in an old white house on the top of a hill. Perry, ever the anticipator, writhes, twists his blanket, tenses, moans. “Should I stop?” “Keep going.” “The house overlooked a lake – ” “What does overlooked mean?” “The house was at the top of the hill; at the bottom lay a large lake that was always exactly the color of the sky above.”
The other week, an old friend texted me a link to a story in one of the local papers. The pool where we’d spent so much of our childhood would be closing, permanently, at the end of the summer. The engineer who’d been called to do the evaluation determined that the structure was, essentially, irredeemable. “I wonder if they’ll fix it or let it fester,” my friend wrote. “100% fester,” I replied. The other scenarios – that the five towns whose budgets fed into the technical school would come up with the five million needed to bring the pool up to code, or that it would be drained, filled in, turned into something low maintenance, like a rock garden, or a handball court – were not so much unlikely as they were impossible to imagine.
Easter, 2014. I put on a chartreuse dress and lilac suede sandals and Brady and I go uptown to my great aunt’s where we eat mille feuille from Lady M and drink probably too much white wine out of small, weighty hock glasses. On the way home I get off the subway two stops early and walk through Boerum Hill. It’s one of those slightly hard-edged robin’s egg spring days and I’m cloudy from the wine and a dread more existential than the standard sunday scaries. There’s a Quaker meeting house on the corner of Shermahorn and Boerum Place, a handsome red brick affair I’ve walked by countless times without registering its purpose but on this day I do. It cheers me immensely because Quakers don’t believe in god but they do believe in good and I think that if I concentrate more on trying to be good I won’t feel as bad about not liking my job and not knowing where and if my writing is going.
One of the great, enjoyable mysteries of any pregnancy is what the baby will look like. How strange, then, to know my daughter’s interior so intimately months before I saw her face.