Essays

Arrivals and Departures

COMING INTO this world, we are welcomed by our family. They gather in the hospital waiting room, anxious and excited. They wait at home around the telephone, guessing at our sex, weight, and amount of hair. They reach into a mailbox, hundreds of miles away, open a note, squint at an out-of-focus picture of...

Bringing in the Sheaves

PERHAPS I SHOULD have done it six years ago, when he first left for college. Though I punctuated the summer weekends with nagging over how he ought to be systematically and thoroughly organizing, sorting, and discarding the middle- and high-school lifetime of memorabilia and clothing accumulated in his bedroom, it all, of course, happened in...

Playing Opossum

I AM NO LONGER as impressed with bloodhounds as I once was. Turns out their job of tracking opossum is hardly the challenge one might have expected—in the heady days before one actually smelled one’s first opossum. Opossums, as it turns out, really stink. Really really really. Like four-day-old fish dragged through a swamp. Like damp toes...

In the Hall

I DON'T LIKE group sensory experiences, as a rule. I’m a nice, Minnesota girl who wants her solitude during moments of extreme…well, extreme anything. If I must feel something intense, I’ll do it in the privacy of my own home, thank you very much. I don’t cry in front of the neighbors, I don’t sigh...

Your Product Here

I'M ALL GROWN up and pragmatic and everything, so I understand that product placement in television programming is de rigeur these days. Networks must make their money, and selling countertop space in sit com kitchens to Kellogg and doughnut bag logo spots in police shows to Krispy Kreme keeps those poor, struggling media companies from...

The Whittier Moose

ALL RIGHT, I agree with you. A moose doesn’t sound like the most romantic of anniversary gifts. If you’ve ever seen a moose in the wild and lived to tell the tale, you are both lucky and well aware that moose are ugly, ugly, ugly, and mean. A moose will chase you through the Grand...

Christmas Jell-O

IT JUST WOULDN'T be Christmas without Jell-O. Holiday traditions are built around this concoction of sweeteners, dyes, and stuff that hardens like amber to preserve the items that are lovingly placed in it. The lunch ladies at St. Raphael’s Elementary School were masters of suspending the four food groups in Jell-O. Carrots were an odd and particular...

Thanksgiving Jell-O

Past Thanksgiving Jell-O contest contenders: Diet Cherry Coke Jell-O; the Jell-O Cello; the Parting of the Red Sea in Jell-O.   SOME HOLIDAY TRADITIONS have noble roots, emerging from long-held cultural values or evolving out of time-honored family rituals. But now and then, a goofy tradition springs into being accidentally, a half-baked little casserole that ought to...

Eulogy for a Bridge

IT COULD HAVE happened to any of us, so in a sense, it happened to all of us. We were all on that bridge, some days, most days, many hours, often enough to know the bumps in the pavement, the view of the locks and the skyline and the river, the bank of trees, the river...

Hope is the Thing with Holes

I NEED A DONUT. I really, really, really need a donut. In fact, I need an entire shop filled with cases of them to be erected within walking distance of my house. A shop that stays open late and on national holidays would be ideal, but hey, I’m willing to organize my work, socializing, and...