Wednesday, April 2, 2008

93/366: Mary Beth

She used to intimidate me because she seemed to be everything I was not: thin, beautiful, a talented rider. So naturally, I thought she was a dressage queen. Now that she has let me in, I am privileged to know her as straightforward, honest, loyal, and caring—and a true friend.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

92/366: Michael (2)

He married Roberta in 1990. Nine years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. He took care of her for ten years. It was what he did. Now she is gone. “There is no going around it,” I told him. “You just have to walk through the fire.” But he knows.

Monday, March 31, 2008

91/366: Anita

Forthright, outspoken, funny, Anita recently told me she didn’t think she “had any Fragomeni in her.” I was astonished. It’s not so much her energy, her enthusiasm, her determination, her accomplishments in life. It’s the way she takes care of those around her. She’s more like Nana than most of us.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

90/366: Betsy

She loved "Sex in the City," hated Love in the Time of Cholera. As the years pass, I feel more of the things we don't have in common, fewer of the ones we do. Yet we can't help but love each other; we're bound close, for reasons I will never understand.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

89/366: Joy Mappes

She and her husband both taught in the Philosophy Department. In that cold mountain town, she always wore pants and turtlenecks. She was tall, with short blond hair and an intensity that bordered on fierceness. In the mid-70s, her Women’s Studies course was breaking new ground. I was amazed by her.

Friday, March 28, 2008

88/366: Paul LaChance

Teaching the Romantic poets, Yeats, Joyce, the modern British novel, he showed us how together they formed an arc that spanned centuries, epitomizing Blake’s “Jerusalem.” From then to now, I still see the spiral of innocence to experience. As a person, he was spacey and self-centered. I adored him, of course.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

87/366: Tim (2)

Handsome, with an easy laugh; an amazing artist; passionate about fly fishing, strong coffee, the northern woods. Plays the recorder; gives great hugs; once took second place in a trout stamp competition. But it is his evident love for his wife, also a dear friend, that makes me smile the most.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

86/366: Sally

We laughed at the same jokes, shared coffee in the morning, traded nightgowns. We both liked Grape-Nuts, new stationery, old teacups. She was drily funny, a great dancer. And she was in love with my husband. I just didn’t know it. They’re still married, with two kids. Life goes on.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

85/366: Michael

We did the hard, honest work of a real marriage. In those years I was nearly drowning in depression. When I found a way to cut loose the weight, to swim free, things got worse. Then there came a day when he told me he was in love with someone else.

Monday, March 24, 2008

84/366: Diane

She has this prickly exterior, but I have seen her compassionate heart. She held me when I was falling apart after my husband left me. She reminded me of what I’d learned growing up, how it had taught me how to cope with the present: “Disasters were the way you lived.”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

83/366: Andy (2)

I thought he was everything I wanted: smart, funny, sweet, sexy, unafraid to talk about anything. We spent many hours confiding in each other. Unfortunately, it was about how unhappy our marriages were. Somehow he worked it out; he’s where he belongs, now. And though I’m now alone, so am I.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

82/366: Judy

As a child I was intimidated by my older cousin’s razor wit and sardonic humor. It wasn’t until she died that I found out about her kindness. But I remember, at my dad’s funeral, how I had nothing to wear. She took me shopping, spent hundreds of dollars, over my protests.

Friday, March 21, 2008

81/366: Becky (2)

Fun, infuriating, a master of diplomacy, a self-centered clod. In everything, my boss knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. Once she dreamed that she’d been given a baby to care for. She was terrified until she remembered that I was there, and everything would be all right.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

80/366: Cathy

Growing up, living on opposite coasts, we wrote letters constantly, reams of pages. My cousin was as blonde as I was dark; they called us “chocolate and vanilla.” When my dad died, she just happened to be in town with her husband and kids, their first trip East in 20-odd years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

79/366: Becky

My cousin Becky was my designated guardian one summer when my parents were traveling. She took me to my first R-rated movie: “The Godfather.” She gave me a book on astrology that ignited a lifelong interest. We got stoned in the evenings with my friends. It was the best summer ever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

78/366: Aunt Marian

Dick’s wife was a stunning beauty in her youth. When I was sixteen, she took me aside and said she knew what was happening in my house. “If you need to get out,” she said, “don’t just run off. You call me collect, anytime, and I’ll send you a plane ticket.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

77/366: Uncle Dick

A hot summer night in downtown Tucson. Music playing everywhere; storefronts open to catch any breeze. “Follow me,” he said. Winding through throngs, he led me into a punk bar where the sound would make your ears bleed. He turned to me with a wide grin and said, “Isn’t this GREAT??!!”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

76/366: Chuck

My dad’s brother’s son has that dry, Midwestern wit, baby-blue eyes, and an eternally boyish face. He might seem aloof, but if he cares about you, he will rally to you in any time of need. I had a crush on him when we were little; I think I still do.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

75/366: Dr. Adams

Fifty-something, with shoulder-length, white hair, he sat down facing us and said eagerly, “Let’s talk about sex.” What followed was a glorious exploration of John Donne’s erotic sonnets. His love of literature, of language, of life and human nature, he imparted with a passion that is now ingrained for a lifetime.

Friday, March 14, 2008

74/366: Annamarie

Dancing. Dogs. Politics. Literature. Music. Long discussions on her front porch on warm June evenings, lit only by fireflies (and the occasional illicit cigarette). She and her sweetheart became part of the Vermont diaspora after the ’04 election. She says she misses the fireflies, but she’s a New Englander at heart.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

73/366: Margot

Before I ever met her, I worshipped her from afar on the dance floor. Up close, she is every bit as beautiful and magical as she seemed. We joke that, when we’re forgetful, we keep the other half of each other’s brain. But she keeps a part of my heart, too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

72/366: Charmaine

Vince was the first of Nana’s children to marry. Nana was not happy that he didn’t pick an Italian girl, but Charmaine won her over. How could she not, with that sparkling-eyed laughter? My dear Aunt Charmaine: I loved her like my own mother. Another breast cancer victim. I miss her.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

71/366: Mary Lou

I loved staying with her family when we visited the relatives in South Bend. She lives where I want to live: in Tucson, in an old adobe house that she and her husband remodeled. Mary has her mom’s laugh and bright eyes. She’s more than a cousin to me: a sister.

Monday, March 10, 2008

70/366: Gina

Vince’s youngest was constantly in trouble as a teenager—skipping school, running away. When she came out at age 16, no one took her seriously, but I did. I love her for her humor, her laugh like her mother’s, her courage in insisting on living her own life in her own way.

I have so many stories about my cousins that it’s hard to write just one entry for each of them. I can’t let Gina go by without passing on this bit of family lore: When she was in high school, she’d stop by Nana’s house every day for lunch. So, whenever we were out with Nana, she wouldn’t let us throw any of our food away. She’d insist that we take everything home, because it could be “Gina’s lunch.” She’d make us wrap up extra rolls, leftover sandwiches, even sausages, and she’d put them in her purse—or worse, make us put them in ours. To this day, my sister and I still joke about leftovers at restaurant meals: “Don’t throw that away! That’s Gina’s lunch!” Someday we’ll have to send Gina all the leftovers we’ve amassed over the years...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

69/366: Vicki

Always short-shrifted by her dad for not being her brother, Vic resents her twin to this day, but I know she can’t help but love him. I admire the hard path she chose, working with abused kids. When we travel to Italy together, we both feel like we have come home.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

68/366: Vince

Growing up, Vince was the bad boy who never got caught. He made good by becoming a surgeon. The story goes that, not to be outdone by his sister Mary, Uncle Vince announced the birth of his first kids to Nana: “We had twins too! And one of them’s a BOY!”

Friday, March 7, 2008

67/366: Tina

At our reunion, the cousins exchanged gifts of jewelry. I got Tina’s silver oyster shell pendant. One of the “big kids,” she intimidated me in childhood. Now it is a privilege to know her strength, her delicate beauty, her wide smile, her black eyes. And now I see the pearl inside.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

66/366: Anthony

Even his sisters had a crush on Tony’s smoldering Italian sexiness. The family’s black sheep eschewed academia, owned a popular bar in town. His first troubled marriage produced a troubled daughter who became a teenaged mother. One night he drove to the hospital with chest pains. He died two days later.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

65/366: Roberta

As kids, it was Roberta whom I played with in the Lukes family. She played viola, studied ethnomusicology, painted beautiful watercolors. She may have died from the cancer, but she didn’t lose the battle. She faced both life and death with more courage and grace than most people can even imagine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

64/366: Marguerite

Mary’s youngest child is as beautiful as a movie star, speaks three languages, and originated one of my favorite life sayings. Referring to the futility of expecting what some people (such as a mother or a boyfriend) just cannot give you, she said, “You can’t buy cabbages in a shoe store.”

Monday, March 3, 2008

63/366: Stephanie

The family lore is that she and my sister looked so much alike, they could have been twins. Mary’s third daughter taught piano, played the organ for a synagogue, and died at 46 of colon cancer. She left a daughter, Carolyn, and a son, David, who studies piano and plays brilliantly.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

62/366: Kathleen

Once, discussing our mutual desire to remain childless, she said, “You can love things and not want to have them. I love monkeys, but I wouldn’t want one in my house.” Like all of her observations, spot-on, and dispensed with wit. (And did I mention her beauty?) Happy Birthday, sweetie.

[Tried to post a pic here of you and Gwen, but Blogger isn't cooperating!!!]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

61/366: Mary Ellen

The youngest of Nana’s grandchildren is gorgeous, like all of Ro’s kids. Diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, she is recovering from the surgery. "Taking care of myself has become my full-time job," she says. But she remains one of the the most loving, generous, sweet-spirited people I've ever known.

Friday, February 29, 2008

60/366: Kicks

Golden girl. My lifetime dog, for whom I waited a lifetime. Every single day with her brought me a lifetime’s worth of joy and love. I can’t believe it’s over, but I try to trust that she will continue to take care of me. And that I will see her again.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

59/366: Tere

Named after Nana, Tere inherited her dad’s Irish red hair and freckles but Ro’s Italian eyes. Because of the age gap, we didn’t really become friends until adulthood. She has an English degree, so we could talk a lot about literature, but we’re always more interested in dissecting our family’s dynamics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

58/366: Andy

Ro’s youngest son, a huge, handsome jock with a charming grin. Until you start talking to him, you might not realize how smart he is, and how perceptive. His skill at the Vegas gaming tables has gotten him thrown out of more than a few casinos. He tends to attract crowds.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

57/366: Reed

Closest to my age of all the Fragomeni cousins, he is funny and sexy. We played and sang together at Nana’s 85th birthday party. When we were little kids, he teased and tormented me mercilessly. He claims not to remember any of it. Now, of course, I love him to pieces.

Monday, February 25, 2008

56/366: Domenico

Nonno never learned English, so I never talked with him. Back when he was raising his family in Ohio, he scabbed during a union strike. That earned him a shotgun blast through the bedroom window one night. They say he died of a broken heart after his brother stole from him.
[This is the flag of the commune of Siderno, my Nonno's home town in Calabria.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

55/366: Terese

Nana would serve us fried squash blossoms, homemade pasta with sauce made from her garden’s tomatoes, wine from Nonno’s cellar, and always, the incredible bread that no one could duplicate. The smells in her kitchen were intoxicating. She ruled South Bend/Mishawaka. Four hundred people, including the mayor, attended her funeral.

[This is the Ardore castello, the 12th-century castle in the town of Ardore Superiore,
where my Nana was born and raised. When we visited it in 2001,
one of my cousins promptly dubbed it "our castle."]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

54/366: Zio Vincenzo (Uncle Vince)

At the lake house, he’d take us out in the boat and let us steer. We’d ride in his convertible with the top down, burn sparklers on summer evenings. I liked their house best. But if you play cards with him, be careful. My mom says, “Vince gioca per il sangue.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

53/366: Zia Maria (Aunt Mary)

Her bread is the closest to Nana’s of all the aunts’. Her lasagne is made with homemade noodles. She makes gorgeous quilts, and she still calls my mom every week. She has lost two of her six children: one to cancer, one to heart disease. A third has metastatic breast cancer.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

52/366: Tom

Once he said to me, “You are voluptuous.” And, “If I were straight, I’d be attracted to you.” We started riding lessons together, but after six months the AIDS made him stop. He’d be 49 today. I still miss him. But I think sometimes he still watches me when I ride.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

51/366: Elena (Helen)

Raised during the Depression by Italian immigrants, she was too proud to let the boys be the only ones who served during the War. These days, her sweet, seemingly frail exterior hides a will of iron. She is 85 today. I love my mom more than anyone else in the world.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

50/366: Zio Guiseppe (Uncle Joe)

Some years before his death, he vanity-published a badly printed, ghost-written autobiography titled Padrone. He talked and dressed loud, had "connections," stepped on toes, insulted people without realizing it. Shot in the heel in WWII, he called himself a “wounded veteran.” The type of Italian who gives Italians a bad name.

Monday, February 18, 2008

49/366: Zia Rosalie (Aunt Ro)

The youngest Fragomeni girl married the high-school football star. In later years, she began to dig deep into her family’s past, facing the secrets no one wanted to acknowledge. For that, she was pegged as “the nutty one.” Yet she was the most centered and self-aware of all her siblings.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

48/366: Karen (2)

Best dressage instructor I’ve ever had. Knows how to get the best riding out of me. Typical Cancer: tough as nails on the outside, soft as puppy fur on the inside. She has cried for every single horse or dog who’s died. I feel honored when she lets me hug her.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

47/366: Fred

So smart he may be a genius. Does algebra in his head, but can’t seem to perform the simplest tasks. As first child, he was given first choice of bedrooms. The message was clear: born last, I was least important. Yet (of course) I’m the one caring for our aging mother.

Friday, February 15, 2008

46/366: Tim (1)

In college, he was with the bitch-on-wheels history teacher. I always wanted to steal him away from her. His razor wit was hysterically funny, but I wouldn’t want to be its target. When he came out, it all made perfect sense, and now his sweetness has risen to the surface.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

45/366: Perry (2)

For as long as I’d known him, Tim had lived in a loft or a warehouse. Never a house, an apartment, any “conventional” living space. Then the redhead showed up. They restored a Baltimore townhouse, adopted two greyhounds. When they put up curtains, I knew this one was here to stay.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

44/366: Perry (1)

Funny as hell. Smart as a whip. Of secretive sexual orientation, not that it mattered. As a co-worker, he drew firm boundaries. But when I left the job, we finally became friends, or so I thought. We had some great times together, but one day he just stopped taking my calls.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

43/366: John Harrison

We had the same birthday—same day, same year. I had a huge, lustful crush on him, of which he was completely oblivious. When he got caught with some pot, his attorney father stepped aside and let him go to prison. John was so beautiful. I still shudder to think about that.

Monday, February 11, 2008

42/366: Cooter

My Mac guru, my moral compass, my fellow riffraff at the worst job I’ve ever had. We fell in love at the same time, announcing it to my family, who’d always hoped see us together, and watching their eyes light up just before we added, “Oh—but not with each other.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

41/366: Peter

After my husband had left, I ran into him at a concert. He told me he’d heard, asked how I was. I was dumbstruck when he told me to call; he had his pick of women. I will never regret the six months I spent in his bed, restoring my self-esteem.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

40/366: Howard

Such a nice Jewish boy, with such a wicked wit. We shared music, laughter, theater, pranks, advice on girlfriends and boyfriends. My confidant, my sidekick, my pal. We lived close enough to walk to each other’s houses. We both sang in the choir, but he was good enough to make madrigals.

Friday, February 8, 2008

39/366: Prentice

We’d take long walks in the woods. His hero was Thoreau, his music Days of Future Passed. His Army colonel father went beyond strict, to sadistic. He left Lise before the baby was born. Now he runs a pagan retreat in the mountains, but the damage has left its own legacy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

38/366: Paul

A local minister’s son, he’d take me into the church at night to sit on the altar and get stoned. Laughing, he’d regale me with lies about the virgins he’d deflowered there. Unlike mine, his rebellion never took violent or bitter turns. Despite his father’s best efforts, he was always joyful.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

37/366: Mr. MacKenzie

What he taught me about music and singing has lasted the rest of my life. I heard he was diagnosed with MS and had a religious epiphany, convinced that a miracle would save him. I don’t know whether he realized that, as our music teacher, he'd made miracles happen every day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

36/366: Cheryl

As college housemates, we shared jokes no one else seemed to get. She’s the best storyteller I’ve ever known, and one of the best writers. She can pull me back to earth when I feel unmoored. She loves me no matter what. And even after thirty years, we are still laughing.

Monday, February 4, 2008

35/366: Ed

In college, we’d debate philosophical questions into the wee hours. Later, he’d always manage to drop by whenever he was in town, even if only for a drive-by hug. Later still, becoming a couple seemed natural, considering all the love between us. The timing wasn’t right, but the love’s still there.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

34/366: Jon

My brother-in-law and I never liked each other, but one thing we always shared: butting heads with my dad. After his death, we began to see how alike we are. Now we share private jokes. I love him for being my sister’s rock. And he is the brother I never had.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

33/366: Mark

Just after high school, before either of us had moved out of our parents’ houses, we’d spend hours in his basement room, amid his dad’s Cornell-like art boxes, getting stoned, setting things on fire, thinking up hysterically funny ideas. To this day, when I make him laugh, I feel so proud.

Friday, February 1, 2008

32/366: Dan

We worked together in a head shop, back when such things still existed. At twenty-one, both his parents were dead, their families nowhere in sight. He worshipped George Thorogood. When he was dying from cancer, we smuggled cocaine into the hospital, for his pain. At the funeral, the relatives suddenly appeared.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

31/366: Lise

Wicked funny, stupendously creative, relentlessly cynical. More than a seminal influence, a lifeline in my abused adolescence. Introduced me to Jung, Summerhill, Ochs. At eighteen, she disappeared without a word. Now that she’s back, I see her demons more clearly. I can’t help but love her, but I can’t save her.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

30/366: Janine

In high school, she was a Christian when it wasn’t cool, but she never made a big deal about it. We shared a passion for rock-and-roll. Several years ago, after her husband had died, she moved back to Michigan with her son. We still have faith in the perfect guitar solo.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

29/366: Rosa

She comprises a lovely potpourri of black, white, and American Indian. In high school, we’d sit in a stairwell to practice the Kyrie from Fauré’s Requiem; she, tenor; I, alto. The guidance counselor advised her, upon graduation, to seek work as a “domestic.” She earned her Ph.D. a few years ago.

Ch Golly G's Kicks Sky Hi: June 28, 1994–January 29, 2008

Kicks died in my arms this morning at 6:25 a.m.

She had started feeling poorly yesterday afternoon, and when I took her to the vet, an x-ray showed a new growth in her abdomen and other signs that the cancer had spread. She did not seem to be in distress, just generally less enthisiastic about the world than usual. The vet took some blood, and the plan was to wait to see what those tests showed and to see how she was feeling the next day before making any decisions.

We went to bed early (she hopped up on the bed like she always does), and during the night I heard her occasionally waking, breathing heavily, and then falling back asleep. At around 5:00, her breathing became more labored, and I began to realize that I would probably have to euthanize her soon. Over the next hour, she became increasingly weak, and I made plans for a friend to come over so I could take her to an emergency vet (I didn't even want to wait until my vet's office opened).

I sat with her on the bed and pulled her into my lap. I stroked her and told her how incredibly grateful I am to have had her in my life for the past five and a half years. I told her that it was okay to go, that I would be all right and that she wasn't really leaving me because we would always be together. I thanked her over and over for giving me all the joy and happiness and love she has shown me in our brief time together.

After a little bit, her breathing became lighter and shallower, until it just quietly stopped and I saw the light fade from her eyes.

I looked up into the air above the bed and said, "Goodbye, my girl."

I have known for some months now that this was imminent, and although I have been saying over and over that I didn't know how I was going to get through it, I began to realize that Kicks herself has been showing me how all along: wag your tail, be happy, and make the most of today. When you don't feel so great any more, lie down in someone's arms. When it's time to go, go knowing that those you have left behind have been enriched by your love.

Monday, January 28, 2008

28/366: Marnelle

In high school, she would quietly find me to give me the notebook, the lunch bag, the wallet I’d carelessly left somewhere. I was scattered; she was contained. Next to her tranquil grace, I felt large, clumsy, noisy. A continent away now, she is still in my life, noticing the details.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

27/366: Allen

I was seventeen, he sixteen. I picked him for his laconic intensity, his athletic body, his eternally boyish good looks, his sexual passion. Shortly after we graduated, his younger brother killed himself with his dad’s shotgun. He always felt he should have saved him. His anger still burns those around him.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

26/366: John

In the sweat lodge, I find myself sobbing uncontrollably, the hurt so deep it anneals, changing me into something else. Afterward, he smudges me with smoke from the fire. “These Grandfather rocks can hold anything that you have brought here. Leave it with them.” I still have the wild turkey feather.

Friday, January 25, 2008

25/366: Mary Begay

She brought us to a Healing Way. We sat in the hogan, dusk to dawn. At sunrise, she led us outside, showed us the lightening sky. “You call it the Milky Way,” she said. “We call it the Corn Road. The Corn Man and the Corn Woman walk there, scattering pollen.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

24/366: Hilary

After months of flirting, the moment came. He admonished me about not bringing birth control. “You should take care of yourself,” he said. I got up and dressed without a word. “What are you doing?” The answer was so obvious, I had to laugh as I closed the door behind me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

23/366: George

1977. Antigua, Guatemala. After a rainstorm, a gorgeous black man, 10 years older, falls into step beside me. He accompanies me to the post office. After three days and nights together, he follows me to Guatemala City. Back in New York, everything is different. He won’t hold my hand in public.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

22/366: Jean-Paul

He showed me how to eat an overripe mango: cut off the end, slurp out the ambrosia. One sunset, we dangled our legs over the edge of the Grand Canyon. “This flute is a spirit catcher.” How corny, I thought. But below us, a hawk soared, reflecting the last golden rays.

Monday, January 21, 2008

21/366: Teresa Natoni

She made the spider-shaped turquoise pin on my denim jacket. She told me the story of Spider Woman, how she brought weaving to the Diné long ago. I helped cull her Churro, vaccinating the lambs over their deafening protests. The pin wasn’t a gift. I am belagana, and she’s no fool.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

20/366: Gary Henry

I watched as he carefully wrapped a tiny, serrated sliver of metal around the brilliant blue stone. The turquoise in my ring keeps company with little silver feathers. In Canyon de Chelly, some of the Diné, like the ancestors, still farm the bottom. He signs his work with just his initials.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

19/366: Robert

A have-not from inner-city Detroit, he’s doing yard work now, getting what he can. Robert’s from the ’hood, where there are no trees. He says, “Trees are a hundred feet high, a hundred feet deep, and have ten thousand children.” He might be a player, but he always leaves me smiling.

Friday, January 18, 2008

18/366: Rick

I dreamed that he was the man of my dreams, but I think he might be something better. Sometimes the puzzle pieces that look like a perfect match in the box don’t fit when you try to put them together. I’ll never know for sure, but I’d rather keep him close.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

17/366: Jani

Moving with grace, always understanding, drawing in love and warmth and giving it out again. She’s your favorite spot under your warmest quilt, the fire in the fireplace on a cold, rainy day. No secret is too dark for her to bear, hold close. And she makes a mean puff pastry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

15/366: Greg Goodwin

The neighborhood ringleader, he’d collect other boys, follow me home from the bus stop, throwing pebbles that stung my legs. I ignored them, tears springing, kept walking without turning around. Twenty years later, I ran into him on a city street. He confessed his crush, though not in so many words.

Monday, January 14, 2008

14/366: John Ratigan

The kid next door picked on me relentlessly, egged on by his older friend. One day, I’d had enough. I got up, walked toward him. He continued to taunt. I decked him. Clocked him good, bloodied his nose. His mother’s complaints stung him more than the blow. I had my justice.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

13/366: Sue Salta

One summer, we met at the pool every day, made forts in the woods. I was hoping for another best friend, like the ones whom I’d lost when we’d moved. Then we entered junior high school, parted ways. Last memory of her: 12th grade, front row in class, seven months pregnant.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

12/366: Kyle

Horse-crazy tweens, we collected equine figurines and held jumping shows, spending hours making the tiny ribbons we awarded to each other’s mounts. We never got near a horse, but still we dreamed. Then she discovered boys, cigarettes, beer. I saw her at her mom’s funeral last year. Now her daughter rides.

Friday, January 11, 2008

11/366: Kathy Davis

My sister’s best friend was first to notice me as a person. She would spend hours brushing my hair, talking to me. Now she remains my spiritual guide, a second sister. We will always be related, if not by blood, then by history, and by love. To this day, she understands.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

10/366: Frederick

Coming after me, up the stairs. I back away on hands and feet, trying to kick. Grabs me, tries to turn me over his knee. My brother puts him in a Marine headlock. My sister yells at him. Usually, though, they’re not there, and I am alone, to fight for myself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

9/366: Billy Smith

First boyfriend. Second grade. The bluest eyes, the curliest black hair. Billy Smith was a catch, and as a couple we were notorious. We sat under the big tree on the playground and kissed. On the lips. Our classmates squealed and giggled. In those days of innocence, this was high romance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

8/366: Carmel Lamp

Because of her, I thought best friends were always supposed to live next door. Her father grew blue irises that smelled like grape candy. She was a fascinating mix of American, Dutch, Latin, German, and possibly American Indian. Summer or winter, we were always together. “Thick as thieves,” said my dad.

Monday, January 7, 2008

7/366: Mrs. Milstead

After twenty years, I went back to the old neighborhood and knocked on her door. She came to the porch and paused briefly, raised a hand to her face. "Oh, honey," she said, once she'd regained her composure, "for a moment, seeing you standing there, I thought you were your mother."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

6/366: Mr. Milstead

He called me “fussbudget.” He handmade his kids’ Halloween costumes. Polly’s green witch nose, fashioned from putty and paint, both captivated and unnerved us. Hanging over their mantle was a painting of a big man with a small child in a boat, the rower’s rough hands wrapped protectively around the oar.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

5/366: Mrs. MacMillan

She thought I was Jewish, so I was passed over for bus monitor, picked on for not cleaning up fast enough, humiliated in class. She met with my parents because I had “reading problems”: I was reading two grades ahead. One Sunday, she saw my mother at Mass, and everything changed.

Friday, January 4, 2008

4/366: Aunt Bea

Unlike the TV character, a hard-bitten New Yorker. Moved in next door with her four kids once she learned her brother’s wife would die from the cancer. Brusque. Talked fast. But she held that house together when it seemed it would fall apart, brick by brick, because of the sadness inside.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

3/366: Father Yanoni

Maybe because he was Italian, this particular priest was like family. One afternoon he watched me draw in the rec room. The usual child’s landscape: green grass, blue sky, yellow sun. “See how precise she is,” he said, “careful to draw each ray, long and then short, just so.” I beamed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2/366: Emily

My best friend lived next door. We were six, seven, eight together. One day we swapped our winter coats, pulled the hoods over our heads, and went into each other’s kitchens to see if we could trick our mothers. They might even have been fooled. We were thrilled with our subterfuge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

1/366: Marianne

During a calamitous week of arrangements for our father’s funeral, amid a grief we have no time to recognize, she faces me in our parents’ living room: “I’ve always thought of you as just my little sister, but now I realize that you have grown into a very cool, capable woman.”