Home Safe: An FAQ

31 Mar

For this week’s edition of “Kira’s Favorite Awesome Quotes,” I’m going the passage route. From Home Safe:

She thinks of the time Tessa was six and so ill with a violent flu she would not eat for days, and the pediatrician who called to check on her said that if she didn’t eat today, he was going to have to hospitalize her. Helen sat at the bed beside her feverish daughter and held up a spoonful of red Jell-O and told Tessa that her bear, Snugs, had come in the middle of the night to speak to Helen, and he had said he felt really bad that Tessa wouldn’t eat and in fact had had bad dreams on account of it, and he really hoped Tessa would eat some Jell-O so he wouldn’t have bad dreams like that again tonight, they were dreams of those flying monkeys that Tessa also once feared. Tessa looked closely into the face of the bear lying next to her and then picked him up and put him in her lap. And then she ate some Jell-O, one shuddering bite and then another and one more, and Helen thought, I will never know such gladness and relief again.  But of course she did, because that’s what children are capable of: creating freight train feelings in their parents with a bite of Jell-O, with a single glance, with a sigh that they make in sleep.  Helen stands in the darkened classroom and sees Tessa stirring mud puddles with a branch of blooming forsythia, pointing to a setting sun and saying, “The sky’s coming down.” She sees her posing in her first high school dance dress, her braces glinting, her corsage wildly off-kilter.

On a few occasions in her life, Helen has felt deep happiness as a kind of pain. The day she married Dan.  The day Tessa was born. Now comes another such time.  She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks.  Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have.  It seems to her that life is like gathering berries into an apron with a hole.  Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive.  We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.”

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