If I was to step way far to the back of the room, a big room and look at a painting of my life, my whole life-
There would be wrinkled toes and clenched fists, a brilliant green swimming pool littered with nicklels tossed as bribery to slip my face inside the water, my smile on the first day of school in the Simplicity pattern dress my mom sewed the night before. It fell around me like a gown, white and peach daisies, holding my brothers hand inside my own.
There would be Linda Weaver‘s impossibly long legs, tucked under her body while we lounged away the morning in our sleeping bag forts.
There would be birthday parties I wasn’t invited to, and flute music dancing across the canvas, all the way through.
School and homework led me to a lifelong love affair with procrastination,
I’d need to make room for a thousand assignments I started,
and even more space for all of the projects I wish I had begun.
There would be Mountain Lakes, and tan O’Sullivan girls, the Eveleth‘s kitchen ,
The Club would loom over a lake, you’d be able to smell the fried chicken from Sundays.There’d be an inch or two devoted to my red, white and blue sunfish and the time I took a boat out in a storm and didn’t tip. Everyone capsized that afternoon,
or maybe no one else went out that day.
There would be the bathroom at the Tourne,
 the floor would be littered with bottles of Colt 45.
There would be Oniko and Lisa, and a whole lot of boys. (Another canvas, another medium is needed for the boys of this life.)
There would be daddy saying goodbye outside of the Mountain lakes Club and again ten years later.
There was college, and nothing.
There was too much time in bathroom stalls, and not enough listening to the bands we were there to hear.
I love you, Rachel Cohen DeSario. Jeannette de Beauvoir and Paolo Palazzi-Xirinachs,
We’d be hiding in some smoke waiting for Paolo to move his turn in Scrabble. J and I’d be scowling, Paul would zipping Zima.
Fast forward, I’m running out of oil and it’s expensive- you’d see my babies.
My first, my boy, my Collie bear. He’d be high on a rock in back yard in Dorchester
Singing “Circle of Life” from Lion King.
He’d be fencing in gym class, catching snakes outside the pool, Staying awake worrying about where to sit at lunch,
Most of the time, he’d be holding a ball.
Next came Kate.
As an infant, she held onto me, for 2 years, she dangled or clung to wherever I had available flesh.
These days, she smells like milk, her blue eyes smile, her mind is a millions miles away.
When I call her back, she comes back. We hold hands, though these days, not when someone’s watching.
Someone’s always watching.
Blonde, fierce, smarter than all of us put together, Katy is the one in the middle. She speaks to all of us, for all of us.
I’d see the South Shore Y, Walden, Wollaston, Cape Cod, James Paul with a cocktail, a dented mini van, and most recently, Quincy college. Most days, I love to come to work.
In the corner, or behind a moonlit night from last September, you might see Colin, the Colin I will see tomorrow at breakfast. He’d look mad. You’d see me, reaching towards him, and his back, clenched, his fists, clenched.
You’d hesitate a moment at the scene
Then your eyes would take you back
to the sea of color surrounding
the two of us-
Lakes, city lights, bars, stadiums,
rocking chairs, tangled sheets,
Christmas trees and snowmen,
Mountains, oceans, miles of sand,
Stacks of books and record sleeves,
Kitchen tables, covered with platters and pitchers,
and wine and glasses of milk
Surrounded by chairs,
Filled with the people I love.
I am blessed. I am blessed even when I don’t know it.
It’s hard to see-
it’s impossible to step back when I’m bent over weeping
For all the things I don’t know
and all the things I think I know.
I need to find a way back to all the things I know.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to take a few steps to the back of a room,
get down on my knees, lift up my head,
Listen.
I have to find the right words for the prayers
and believe the quiet words
from deep inside my shaking heart.
I need to believe.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to step to the back of the room
and study the big, beautiful picture.

Missing

July 11, 2013

It was a tough day. Lost library book.  Hot. Fight with Colin, my son, about  what I know now was absolutely nothing. Three hours ago it seemed important while I sat on my stairs and weighed punishments.

Each disagreement we have now that he is heading toward his thirteen year is dark with danger – is this the moment he stops liking me? Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity to establish important policy. (There are repercussions for not leaving a note, for taking five dollars from my purse, for teasing his sister.) Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity for me to prove myself to be an inflexible ass. (He did call my cell, I’d told him I’d give him a few dollars, and what twelve year old boy doesn’t tease his sister.)

So I removed myself, and his sister, from the battlefield. It is July, there is a pool less than a mile away, and it is open from 6 until 7:45 every week night.

Katy and I swam. I did laps, she chased behind me and grabbed my toes when she could. I taught her the words to a song that begins “There once was a farmer who took a young miss”. I got irritated when she fell behind on our way to the car. She wasn’t happy when I denied her movie request. It was a wonderful, normal summertime night.

When we got home, the lights were out. I called for Colin. No answer. I fed the animals, I reminded Katy that we were not going to add a hamster to our menagerie until I was not the only one feeding the animals.

I called for Colin. It was dark. There wasn’t a note. Most nights, I would have just taken the dog to the park to remind him of the time. But he and I had been arguing. He wouldn’t have gone to the park.

I checked the phone for incoming calls, a telemarketer called from Seattle at 7:30. I checked the phone for outgoing calls. He’d called a friend at 5:15.

I went to the park. It was dark. It was quiet. There was a teenager smoking by the batting cage. The teenager said no one had been there for at least an hour.

I texted the moms of his friends. “Looking for Colin. Heard from him?” I didn’t want to panic anyone, or look like an idiot when he strolled in dribbling his basketball. I don’t like it when he bounces that damn ball in the house. I looked for the ball, couldn’t find it. No word from Colin

I called one of the moms, and kept my tone light. She volunteered to come pick me up, take me out so we could look for him together. I made a joke about not being ready to be “one of those moms”, but if I’d known her better, I would have said yes.

When he’s nervous, everything that he says sounds like it’s heading for a punchline. It’s why by the end of the school year, half of his teachers are in love with him and half of them want to give him detention in someone else’s classroom for the rest of his life.

That is my son. And right after I thought just that thought, it occurred to me. When he’s in trouble, he gets scared. When he gets scared, he gets tired.

He was in bed. Colin was tucked in, under four blankets, behind a door in a room sealed shut, like I told him to do, when he runs the air conditioner. The air conditioner must be ten years old. It is loud. It doesn’t have power saver or even a thermostat. Just high and low.

Colin had it on low. I guess he had heard my lecture on not wasting power and that other charming ditty of mine about not zoning out in front of the tv.  He’d even paid attention to that speech about reading more books; “The Chronicles of Captain Underpants” was just next to him, on top of his blankets, book mark placed towards the end.

He was missing and I missed him so much. And there he was, sleeping upstairs while I worried, cursed, wept and made stupid jokes so no one would know just how scared I was.

There is a lesson here, and I’m just not ready to learn it. I hope I have a little more time.