At night I think about my mother and hope she’s asleep. She’s all alone now in the little town of Golden, Colorado in a house high up on a hill. She and my father had it custom-built after my brother died. It was supposed to be their dream home, a place for just the two of them to fill with new happy memories. Now my mom lives there alone.Read More
I wait ‘til his car door slams and he’s over by the kitchen door, where I can see him, so he’ll hear me when I call -- “We’re making s’mores! Would you like to join us?”
“Sure,” he answers. “I’ll get the matches,” and before I can say anything, he’s disappeared inside the house. I don’t start the gas so he won't feel he’s missing out on anything. Best just to wait. I watch my daughter through the corner of my eyes, wondering what’s going through her head: Impatience? Irritation? Dread?Read More
In the afternoon, I imagine the version of myself I’ll be when she steps off the bus—smiling, serene—an oasis of calm at the end of her exhausting day. I’ll give her a hug and not barrage her with questions. Just something like, “Hello! I’m happy to see you,”especially now that she’s started middle school and comes home so late.
Instead, when she gets off the bus, staggering under the weight of that Volkswagen-sized backpack—snack bag in one hand, dance bag in the other—I forget about hugging her and make to help her with all that stuff. Then I remember I’d meant to hug her, but now she’s wearing that backpack, so I stroke her hair instead. And when I touch her hair I feel how straggly it is because she insists on letting it grow, and I say, “Do you need to take a shower?” in place of the I love you I’d intended.Read More
While Beyoncé was secretly recording what would become her sixth consecutive number-one album, Lemonade, I was making a secret recording of my own -- nearly 10 minutes of my husband raging at me as he drove us home from couples counseling, the engine revving in the background, me repeating, “I’m sorry, so sorry,” and begging him to slow down.Read More
I jump at the sound of my husband’s voice, am doubly startled when I turn to encounter the unblinking eyes of our daughter’s puppet peeking around the kitchen doorway. “Totoro’s sad,” Puppet says.
My heart, bruised and swollen shut, relaxes slightly at what I assume is my husband’s gesture of reconciliation after a weekend when the prospect of divorce had been broached by each of us, more than once. I cross the kitchen and step into the hallway where I find him, his eyes moist with tears.Read More
Arms crossed and mouth set in a tight line, he sat less than a foot away from me on the therapist’s couch, but the gulf between us felt unbridgeable. He gave no indication he wished to speak, so I continued. “After all these years, I’m on a hair-trigger, watching your moods, absorbing your sarcasm, your shouting, always wondering how I could say things differently, explain things just so—all so you’ll understand. But nothing I do, nothing I say makes any difference!” I was really sobbing now. “I don’t want a divorce! I don’t want a divorce! But I just don’t know what to do!” My nose was running and my mascara was too, and I didn’t care. “Our daughter is growing up with this!” I wailed. “She sees it! And I tell her, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this.’ I say, ‘My parents weren’t like this. Most marriages aren’t like this.’ And she says, ‘I know, Mommy. I know. It’s different with my friends’ parents.” Tears rolled down my cheeks. I swiped my nose with the back of my hand. My husband plucked a tissue from a box and handed it to me.Read More
From the blue spruce tree in front of Holly Hills Elementary, I could see the big yellow school buses lined up around the traffic circle. The shouts and laughter of children boarding the buses drifted on the thin, crisp air of a Denver winter to where I waited for my ride, Elaine Krakauer, Josh’s mom. I felt unsettled when school let out, and her blue Volvo wasn’t there.Read More
My mother and I were leaning over her bed folding laundry. I was 12 years old. “Weren’t you worried when you were pregnant with me?” I tried to sound casual, keeping my eyes on the socks I was sorting. Mom tossed aside my question like another folded towel. “Oh, I knew you’d be fine.” The way she said it, the decision to have me had been the easiest one in the world.
Moth Story Slams are live story-telling events where ten members of the audience are chosen to tell a true story without notes on the night's theme. At a recent Moth in Los Angeles, the theme of the evening was "The Darkside," and I told a story about the time my mom hired a call girl for my brother.Read More
I stagger down the stairs toward the landing. In all the excitement, I’ve forgotten my robe, and as my husband and I reunite before the giant window overlooking the street, I have only the poodle to cover my nakedness.Read More
Under her lime green sunhat, my daughter was easy to spot. Standing at the far end of the play yard, her tiny clenched fists were pressed tight against her ears in a futile attempt to drown out the terrifying sound. . . . the jarring clang as the forked claws grasped the enormous iron dumpster, hoisting it aloft with a fearsome screeching and straining then pouring the rattling, clattering contents down inside the beast’s belly for mashing and grinding while those mighty arms slammed the emptied bin back to the pavement.Read More
He undid the latches of the case with an authoritative snap-snap. It was an impressive sound, one that telegraphed Quality. Integrity. The Dependability of the Fuller Brush brand. I sat up a little straighter at the sound of those latches, proud to be in this lady’s living room, proud to assist my big brother as his “Free Gift Girl,” proud just to be Danny's little sister. Snap-snap!
My husband hadn't complained, but the warning signs were clear. Internet shopping one night after dinner, I came across a multi-volume encyclopedia of gastronomy he'd placed in our Amazon cart. More and more often, he'd call to say things were crazy at the office and wouldn't be home in time for dinner. I guess both of us were bored with the same thing night after night.Read More
On my brother’s first day of kindergarten, the teacher called our mother. "Daniel needn’t attend school tomorrow," the teacher coolly informed her. “But don’t worry. The principal has already arranged for Daniel to attend a special school for the mentally retarded.”
To be sure, my brother wasn’t a typical kindergartner. He was smaller and less coordinated than the other kids. His gait was stiff and unsteady and his diction a little garbled. Sometimes he drooled, and sometimes he wet his pants.
Danny had health problems and physical impediments, but mentally retarded he was not.Read More
My brother Danny lost his virginity at age 25. To a call girl named Monique. Hired by our mother. By the time my mother got the go-ahead from Danny, she’d already made the arrangement with Monique. She pushed ahead despite my father’s objections. She wasn’t troubled by social mores or laws against solicitation. There was a reason for my mother’s taboo-busting parenting.Read More
Something primal within me had been awakened. Suddenly, I didn't care what animal parts I was consuming or whether nitrates cause cancer. My jeans felt tight, but frankly I didn't give a damn. I held my manicured fingernails to my nostrils and inhaled the pungent perfume of mustard. But even as I rose to go, casually brushing crumbs from my pants, I couldn't escape the undeniable conclusion. I was a woman possessed.
Jack Barrios, 25, knows a thing or two about war. He is an Iraq war veteran, who suffered brain damage and back and joint injuries while defending his homeland. At home in Los Angeles with his wife and two small children, Barrios is now on the front lines of a new battle.Read More
Franciso and Maria Sanchez figured they had achieved the American dream when they bought their home. But the family budget unraveled under mounting medical bills for Maria's elderly mother and cutbacks at work. That's when their monthly house payments shot to almost $5,000.The couple now owe far more on their mortgage than their modest Pacoima house is worth.
Wendy Estrada had occasional work cleaning houses when organizers at her church helped her enroll in Los Angeles community college. Within a few months, the 30-year-old mother of two had brushed up on her English and math, and earned her accreditation as a certified nursing assistant. Estrada just landed her first job as a home health aid, pulling in $15 an hour.Read More