Saturday, November 29

He's Cute Enough to Eat

My household prepared for something even more exciting than Thanksgiving this week. Instead of shopping for turkeys, I priced inedible items like bedding, blankets, and toys. Proud parents educate me all the time, “Oh, but it’s different when you have your own.” It must be true because every person with child says so. It’s just not for me, I tell them. Recent circumstances, however, have helped me understand the attraction.

In hindsight, my empathy toward the doting parent rarely existed. Though I thought my heart open, it barely gave me the tolerance to listen. One might consider my decision to avoid parenthood as a lack of interest—if one were to consider. Regardless of my inattentiveness, people love to brag about their offspring. As hard as they try, their enthusiasm never transfers to me . . . until the other day.

My sweetie and I went to one of my favorite chocolate stores for a couple of truffles and espressos. We sat down at the only table the shop can accommodate to enjoy our treats and chat with Pierre, the owner. Pierre leaned against his side of the counter and asked, “So, you have any ideas on how to survive the RECESSION?”

“Are you saying sales are down? I would have thought chocolate a resilient product—especially now,” I said.

While shaking his head in a deliberate up and down fashion, Pierre rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, yeah.”

Between bites of truffle my companion asked Pierre about his marketing plan and online presence.

“Well, I don’t have a website. I should. People just call me when they want an order,” Pierre said. “My son, he’s 19, does well. Pays for everything in cash. Just bought a gorgeous Audi.”

The transition of topics was abrupt and I felt awkward. Frequent practice has allowed me to perfect the art of engaging in conversation while battling internal dialog: What did I say to bring up children? We sat patiently, attentively, sucking the droplets of espresso from our cups while Pierre launched into a fifteen minute dissertation about his son.

Previous conversations with Pierre had educated me on numerous details about his life; this was the first time he had launched into an epic rendition of his son’s accomplishments. The fact that I liked Pierre, and his shop, made it easier to listen. I actually enjoyed watching his smile grow as he spoke of his son.

Perhaps Pierre shifted from depressing topics like recession and the state of his business to that which brings him joy: his son. Had I not recently shifted my own priorities, I might have continued to grit my teeth at his mention of offspring. But I understand, now, what it’s like to have a living creature inject hope when you thought all was lost. The miracle is the same, I guess; they’re just wrapped differently for each of us.

Our miracle arrives next Wednesday in the form of a kitten. We are adopting him from the pound. He’s grey with white toes, and adorable. Sometimes when I go visit him he’ll put his tiny little paws on my chin and . . . Oh! look at me, I’m doting.

Tuesday, November 11

Apple Seeds

The window near my desk provides a view offering little more than offense. A marine-blue, two-story 4 plex blocks a natural expanse of canyon and its inhabitants. The structure embodies the character of a cardboard box—only blue, and interrupted methodically by windows. At night, when the tenants illuminate their dwellings and open their shades, a gigantic entertainment system comes alive and redefines "reality TV." Fortunately, I’m not one much for television.

Little separates my place from theirs. The six foot, wooden fence goes virtually unnoticed from the window near my desk. Further ignored is an anemic tree, part of a series intermittently planted along and inside the fence line. Though my tree appears miniature, adjacent trees stand tall and robust; their lustrous leaves hiding the eyesore that lies beyond.

From that tree, the little one between here and there, hung an apple—just one, the size of a ping pong and colored golden green. The tree in support of this apple is petite; its trunk no larger than a twig, two branches splay, spindly like that of a Willow. If I’d not seen proof, I’d doubt it to bear fruit. No matter, the apple clung to its wispy branch well into the frosted nights of fall and past the demise of its brethren.

I found myself cheering for the apple, eager each morning to confirm its survival of the night before. What strength, I’d mutter, inspired to face the day with the same demonstrated determination. If an apple of that size—from a tree that small—can hold on day after day, then surely I can succeed. Morning inspections multiplied; I’d frequent the window just to smile. Regardless of my own health, a day the apple conquered was extraordinary.

One morning, I looked to that strand atop the tree and did not find what I sought. The tree was barren, its limbs naked, cold. During the darkness, my apple had surrendered. Though I knew the hour inevitable, the process natural, my heart became heavy and threatened to let go my frame, to join its friend resting, now, in the dirt.

I look out my window still, though not as often. The adjacent trees, once a source of envy, resemble nothing more than a collection of vertical sticks, their leaves no longer bettering the view for my neighbors. Though my tree is bare and will be for months, it has gifted me a richer sight. Every time I look out the window near my desk and see that wisp of tree, it reminds me of the apple . . . and of what we all can be.