What I No Longer See
Finding meaning in the overlooked smudges of life.
I no longer see the mirrored medicine cabinet with the crystal doorknob that was on the wall in my daughter’s room. It is sitting in the hall where I put it the last time we redid the kids’ rooms. I am supposed to be taking it down to the basement for use in the bathroom that will never be finished.
I am also no longer seeing the unfinished bathroom. Not because I have gotten used to it. I just avoid going down there. We started building the bathroom out because my brother in law and his wife were going to be living with us for an extended period of time (which they did), and we needed a bathroom for them. Only it turns out we don’t really know how to build a bathroom, and they already moved out. So, that project is waiting for inspiration, expertise, or a couple thousand dollars to be finished.
I no longer see the handprints on the walls of the stairwell. There will be a time when I paint the walls, pulling a curtain down over the tableaux of my early parenthood — isn’t that sad? I am sorry to be the kind of human who will paint over handprints. Shouldn’t they be precious? Aren’t they a kind of timeline tattooed on plasterboard? Already there aren’t any hands that fit the lowermost prints. Maybe I will buy empty frames to put around them so that I never forget the gorgeousness of having children ping-ponging around my house. Oh, my heart aches as it bends and adjusts for these growing hands. It is delightful that their jokes are actually funny now. It startles me. Not long ago the jokes made no sense. I would force a confused laugh as my little ones tried combinations of knock-knocks and puns. Where did those babies go? Should I mourn them? The terrible joke tellers have receded or burst like shells of cicadas leaving me with witty enlarged versions. Now I laugh for real, but there is a catch in my throat.
I no longer see the stains on my carpet. Jessie, my dog, is aging. She can’t help that she leaks. I wore out my first carpet shampooer, and I’m working on the second one, but shampooing isn’t making my carpet look less worn and the stains are—stains. I thought about getting new carpet, but Jessie is still with me. Thank God.
She came to me through a friend nine years ago. She is an undersized Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: black and tan, curly ears, age-fogged brown eyes, and content to be a lap-adjacent dog, which suits us both. She is quiet and spunky and loyal enough to fuel a revolution or get a exhausted woman through eight very hard years.
About a year after we adopted Jessie, Gwyneth was still-born. At five in the morning, hours before we knew what had happened, Jessie woke me up barking. Jessie doesn’t bark. I will never know why she barked, but I wonder if she knew something had happened. Perhaps she could hear the tiny heartbeat quiet.
Marooned in grief, I wrapped Jessie’s furry little body in the baby yellow prayer shawl I was given. She licked the tears off my face.
It really sucks to get a prayer shawl instead of a baby blanket.
Hour after hour Jessie sat with me as I put my life back together, one broken heartbeat at a time.
Jessie has shadowed me through the birth of our fifth child, a move, four surgeries, hours and hours of writing, and, last April, two cancer diagnoses. We both have breast cancer. She is my dog, and I am her human. Down to our uncontrolled rapidly dividing cells.
I don’t begrudge her the stained carpet.