Tilson (A Poem)

Margaret asked,
“Do you want his letters?”
And my grandmother said no.
My grandmother’s memory
of her brother
never faded.
Year upon year
to her,
he remained crystal clear.
And one day,
his fiancé,
who’d kissed his coffin
when he came home,
asked if she should return the letters
he wrote to her.
“Those belong to you,”
my grandmother answered.
Letters and pictures –
these are the things we hold onto.
But it’s the memories
that keep our loved ones
with us
when they’re gone.
We –
not words or pictures
or gravestones –
we become their legacies.

Who’s afraid of the dark?

Not me! I swear! (And you can’t see whether or not I have my fingers crossed.)

If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I love a good ghost story. But I confess, I do feel a little disconcerted in the dark. I can’t sleep in a totally dark room. I don’t like walking alone at night, despite living in a very safe (and thankfully, relatively well-lit) village. I love night time, when everything’s quiet and it feels like you’ve got the world to yourself. But I’m just not a big fan of the dark.

Unless we’re talking 90s TV.

90s kids – know where I’m going?

One of my favorite shows growing up was called Are You Afraid of the Dark? It featured a cast of kids who came together around a campfire every week to tell spooky stories. And guys, some of the episodes were genuinely, and still are surprisingly, scary. I loved it. And I’ve been revisiting it lately in my downtime. I still love it, and despite the obvious 90s fashions (bright colors! plaid! baggy jeans!), it actually holds up pretty well! (If you want to check it out, it’s streaming on Paramount+.)

On top of that, watching some of the episodes today, I feel like it explains a lot about the adult I’ve become. I love old houses. I love antiques. I love creepy stories. I love telling them around the fire in my back garden.

I can’t walk into a magic shop – or really any curiosity shop – without hearing (in my head) “That’s Sard-O! No mister. Accent on the DO.” Isn’t that funny? These things we love when we’re children, they never really leave us. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever really, completely grown up.

I still love cartoons and kids’ books. I absolutely will look for fairies in the meadow on a foggy morning. I even laugh at fart jokes. (Not always. They have to be good fart jokes, if such a thing exists.) And yes, despite knowing that there’s nothing there that isn’t there in the light, I am still afraid of the dark. It’s okay. Everyone’s afraid of something.

And frankly, I hope I never lose my sense of silliness. I hope I always get a little shiver thinking about what might be lurking behind me in a dark hallway. I hope I continue, all my life, to seek out magic.

So, yeah, I’ve put it out there now: Who’s afraid of the dark? Me. It’s me. Hi. What about you?

Found Friday #47: A Very Good Gatsby Memory

This photo popped up in my memories earlier this week.

Apparently, I took it in May of 2007. I don’t remember the when, but I do remember the why. Graham had just come home from work, and Gatsby immediately curled up right beside him as soon as he sat down. And stayed there. It was just such a sweet moment I felt like I had to capture it, and now, all these years later, I’m so glad I did.

I look back now – at how young Graham looked, at how much Gatsby always loved us, at how lucky it was that I had a camera nearby – and I’m grateful. I’m also reminded that we are legacies for the people (and animals) that we love. Even when they’re no longer with us, we carry them in our hearts, and so they’re never really gone, as long as we’re still here to love them and remember them. How very powerful that is.  

Goodbye to the World’s Greatest Gatsby-cat

I’m meant to be posting a short story today, but 2022 – awful year that it’s been – had other plans for me, it seems. And 2022 – the worst year I think I’ve ever had – will just have to settle for eleven short stories. And this will be my last post of the year, because right now, I don’t have anything left in me. But also because Gatsby deserves this last reflection, this moment just for him.

Last night, we came home from dinner and found Gatsby on the bed. It looked like he’d fallen asleep and just not woken up. He looked peaceful and cozy. It was the best way I can I think of for him to go, comfy and safe in one of his very favorite spots, but I feel broken, and sad, and empty, and lost, because he’s gone.

I knew this day would come. Gatsby was an old man – sixteen, and a Maine Coon. I’ve been dreading it for the last couple of years, as he’d gotten sick and then better, and as we’d learned about some health issues that likely couldn’t be fixed. But you’re never ready, even when you know it’s inevitable, to say goodbye.

But today, I have to.

Gatsby was the world’s most wonderful cat. That tiny little kitten grew into a big, purring, fluffy sweetheart.

He was sweet, and loving, and floppy, and in his younger days, really playful. He loved watching birds through the window, and lately on TV, too, and he loved to snuggle up with us at night. He loved Graham, and me, and he loved us so well that his absence today feels acute and awful. But that doesn’t change that he lived a long happy life, and that he loved us, and that we loved him.

I will love him every day for the rest of my life. I never want to forget his meow, the way he purred, the softness of his fur, the glow in his golden eyes, his big rabbit back feet, and the way he’d latch on to me with one claw when he didn’t want me to leave. I never want to forget him.  

My sweetest boy: You’ll always be in my heart.

2022 really has been a terrible year for us, and to have it end this way is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. At this point, I’m honestly afraid of what comes next. I am so tired of being sad. But I hope 2023 is better, and brighter, and full of the kind of love Gatsby showed us every day.


Best Cat

Spring, 2006 – December 29, 2022

Music and Family (and a Crowd-Pleasing Singalong!)

In my family, it’s not a reunion unless there’s music. There’s always a guitar or three, someone singing, a harmonica and a mandolin in the background – you get the picture. A family day just isn’t complete without some good noise. And now that Graham’s family is part of my family and vice versa, it seems only right to share the music. Which is exactly what we did this past weekend.

And of course, I want to share it with all of you, too. 😊

So, here’s a favorite of mine and my dad’s, written by Gillian Welch:

And here we are goofing off on a crowd-pleaser, Wagon Wheel, with a family singalong and a cute mash-up.

We had so much fun, and I think the family did, too. I hope we all get to come together again soon, but until then, I’m grateful for the time we had, and for the happy memories.

Erstwhile Horse Girl

When I was a little girl, I wanted a horse.

Wanted isn’t even really a strong enough word. I needed a horse. I needed a horse like I needed to breathe air, like I needed the blood circulating in my veins and the cells regenerating in my body. It was fundamental to me, a building block at the very core of my being. I would sit awake at night, imagining morning rides through dewy fields, just my horse and me. Wild, together, and utterly free.

My parents had no interest whatsoever in owning a horse, and it broke my almost-a-Horse-Girl heart. Money, to me, was no object when something so very important and vital to my happiness – nay, to my life – was on the line. Alas, these are lessons we learn with age. Money is always an object. And so as a consolation, my mom put me in riding lessons, where I learned the basics of care and maintenance, and the ins and outs of entry-level equestrianship.

This did not fill the void, though I enjoyed the lessons and learned a lot, most of which I have retained, I think, in some dusty, rarely used corner of my brain.

I never got a horse. And eventually, my interest in (read: obsession with) horses waned. I moved on to other hobbies, and for many, many years, I didn’t think much about horses at all.

Then, we moved to Hunt Country. Here, I am surrounded by horses.

Here, I live alongside hobby riders and polo players, foxhunters and trainers, jumpers, grooms, farriers, rescuers, and all manner of people who love their horses.  Here, I’ve met one of my very best friends, who is fierce, powerful, and astoundingly unbothered by the various injuries one can sustain when falling from a large, moving animal.

Her fearlessness inspires me on so many levels, but it doesn’t inspire me to own a horse. I find this curious, that I, who so desperately ached to be a Horse Girl all those years ago, should now be so unmoved by the prospect. That now, when it’s entirely accessible to me and imminently possible, I should think about it and decide, “Eh, no thanks.”

I guess we really do become our parents.

I can’t help but wonder, though, just where that little erstwhile Horse Girl went.

I do still love horses. I find them beautiful, strong, and smarter than some people would like to think. To my friends who care for them, they are devoted companions. When I see a horse galloping through the fields or resting under a tree on a warm day, I do still feel a little twinge, the smallest, tiniest tug on my heart. And so I know she’s still in there, somewhere, that almost Horse Girl. I carry her with me. I’m not that girl anymore, but I’m grateful to her, that spunky little wannabe daredevil. She taught me to be brave, patient, and kind, and to crave adventure, and to use my imagination.

She isn’t who I am today, but she helped me get here. And here – writing in my comfy chair on a rainy day, listening to the dog stir in the corner, making up stories from this lovely little corner of Virginia – is pretty darn good.

Just a little Flashback Friday

Around this time, back in 2019, we were enjoying a cool, rainy day in downtown Reykjavík.

As it turned out, Iceland was our last major trip before COVID. Had we known what would happen, we probably would have tried to squeeze a lot more travel into that year. But, hindsight and all that.

Today in Virginia it’s (once again) beautiful, warm, and mostly sunny. I hear birdsong. I see little blooms and buds. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But it will be nice to travel again, one of these days.  

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Dumpling Memories Edition

This photo popped up in my memories today.

On this day, which was a Saturday back in 2019, my friend Jessica came over for the weekend and graciously shared her family’s dumpling recipe with me. So, we invited over Graham’s brother and our sister-in-law, and together with Jessica, the five of us sat down and made dumplings.

200 dumplings.

I’d never folded dumplings before, and it was a really fun new skill to learn. And the end result was delicious.

Turns out, 200 dumplings isn’t really all that many when you’ve got five people and an entire weekend to eat them. They were well and truly gone by Sunday evening.

Maybe one day, we’ll all get together and do it again. That would be nice. And tasty, too.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Edition

This is Graham and I, dressed as each other for a Halloween party back in 2017. I have no idea how I fit all of my hair under that wig. And yes, I am wearing Graham’s actual clothes. (And also yes, I do still wear pajamas a vast majority of the time. No shame here.)

My only regret is that we didn’t get MORE photos.

Found Friday #36: Grandmother Memories

This picture popped up on my Facebook memories earlier this week.

I’ll admit it’s not a great photo. But I remember this day well, because I’m fairly certain it was the last time I had my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings.

I was visiting my parents in southwest Virginia, and my grandmother made a batch just for me. I insisted she didn’t need to do that, that I just wanted to see her and not to trouble herself over me, but stubbornness does run in the family, and she’d already made up her mind.

Looking back on it now, I’m glad I took the picture, and glad she did trouble herself. And very glad indeed that I ate almost the whole batch.