The Blue Pitcher

that which may be filled and emptied

Month: September, 2007

The Size of Heaven

When I think of heaven, I think of Mama Heaton. I don’t know where anybody else goes when they die, but when I close my eyes and picture it: it’s just her, taking up the whole sky, her skirt pulling at her knees and her lap full of string bean strings.

Today in yoga we had to hold our arms up in a V for eleven minutes. I was almost sure I would die, and of course I will, but I kept thinking I will die of holding my arms in the air, and then I started begging. Okay, Mama Heaton, I begged, please, please hold my arms up for me. I’ll do all the dishes and fill up your ice water and I won’t talk smart. I’ll just be really nice to everybody, be pretty is as pretty does and say yes ma’am and no ma’am, and please Mama Heaton, please, please with sugar on top, I’ll never ask you for anything else, please. And then the eleven minutes were up.

If she were alive, today she would celebrate what I can only imagone would be her thousandth birthday. In 1983, I took a bus with her from Hickory, North Carolina to Rapid City, South Dakota; it was a long bus ride. In 1987, we all went to a Shogun in southern Virginia for her birthday. In 1973, she wore black to my parents’ wedding.

I can’t believe she’s been dead for almost twenty years. I can still remember feeling the heat from her leg when we’d sit all summer night at the tent revival. In yoga, when we close our eyes in meditation, the dark I see is the Price-is-Right glow of her room.

Memory can be vexing. With Mama Heaton it is so large and bodily that it almost overwhelms me. It strikes me now that I can’t remember the sound of her voice; it’s as if the voice was too disembodied to last. I can, though, remember her smell, and I remember it so completely that sitting here, all these miles and years later, my throat closes, like she’s right here, lifting my fingers one by one. Please Mama Heaton, I say, just let me write today, just one more sentence, Mama Heaton, just one more phrase.

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A Field Guide to the North American Family


image by Deborah Bohnert

This just in: new bits on an online journal. (My) thumb-sized stories paired with (other people’s) bizarre photographs. See it now: here.

Health & Fitness Tip #19

Viactiv caramels are not candies. Do not treat them as such.

In French, it just means egg

It thrills me when people use the term ‘oeuf’ to signify mild despair; as in, “Oeuf,” she said while reaching for the towel, “Seems I’ve spilled a spot of coffee.”

A Call for Particulars

I’m often amazed by how little we know each other. Here I am with my blue pitcher of hot water, a Moroccan stew sitting in the slow-cooker, but across town friends are stuffing pinatas and flying back from Prague, debating the names of bones and buckling in their kids. Whadya do this weekend? we ask and shrug. Not too much. Just hung out.

I guess with Cody in London right now, I’m craving particulars. I’m used to getting his day while he hoses off the back patio and waters the plants, smokes a cigarette and lights the grill.

But the house is awfully quiet this morning. I want the mundane. Some one tell me what you ate for breakfast or about how you had to dig a splinter out with tweezers; tell me about the new dryer sheets and how good they smell or how you’re just amazed that they slice the pickles so you can just lay them right on the sandwich; just tell me something. Please?

Something Old

Speaking of little dollies…

Once upon a time my parents were married. No, not just married, married-married, married to each other. Once upon a time my parents were married to each other. They laughed; they loved; I think some things were thrown; they called it quits.

I’m guessing mom was packing some Honda to the gills, and we were getting ready to hit the road, but she has this wonderful story, a story that still makes her cry. I was very young, doll-size maybe, and just as we were about to pull away, dad spoke. You have to understand we were all so young: mom maybe not even 19; dad not much older.

Pointing to me, this is what he said: “She’s not a doll, Mary. You can’t just put her on a shelf and take her down when you want to play. You have to always love her.” When mom tells the story her voice cracks on “shelf,” and it feels like all the windows in the world are rolled up tight.

I guess what breaks my heart the most is thinking of the two of them–just kids–standing in the heat of the summer made hotter by the running engine, and him telling her this, and her memorizing it–learning it by heart, as they say–and carrying it with her all these years. “You can’t just put her,” she’ll repeat, and every time, her voice wavering, “on a shelf,” she’ll say. Then the engine hums, and we’re on the road, and maybe she looks back but maybe she doesn’t, and we’re heading somewhere–fast–but we won’t know where till we get there.

Something Blue


Ah the moon…
(and just one moon, by the way, until the wedding day).

To Carry a Pencil

A student in one of my classes, a young man from Korea, wrote a lovely composition about having chased David Beckham down for an autograph. The student, breathless but so pleased to finally be in the company of his hero, stood waiting. Beckham agreed to the autograph and asked for a pen, but the student was empty-handed. He had nothing. He remembered the sun beating down hot and heavy as he called out to anyone who passed in hopes of finding a pen, but eventually, he had to walk away, still empty-handed.

And so today in class, I read aloud a tiny story from Paul Auster’s The Red Notebook. In it, an eight year-old Auster stands in front of Willie Mays begging for an autograph only to find that he, too, is pencil-less. Auster claims that he hasn’t left home without a pencil since and that this is what made him a writer. What fascinates me is that as I read the story the students started reaching for their pens. By the end of it–by the time Auster announces himself a writer–they all sat, quite straight-backed I like to think now, their pens poised, ready, indeed, to write, to write as if their lives–or at very least their memorabilia–depended on it.

126,459,362:

Approximate number of seconds since my last cigarette.