My dad surprised us with Sno Balls, chocolate cakes filled with a marshmallow goo and covered with pink dyed coconut flakes. He brought them home from the 7-Eleven. He came home with two 2-packs for our family to share. My mom, my dad, my brother, and myself. I didn’t really like them–so sweet they were too sweet–but I joined in because they were his favorite treat and it made him happy to share them with us. I wanted to like them for him and would try to eat them in three sloppy bites, same as he could do.
Family change is a strange thing. Whether the change happens from separation or divorce or the tragedy of death. Or the act of slipping apart and away from each other over time. We went from an even numbered family to an odd. Dinner meant four place settings at the table. Then it didn’t, even though I sometimes forgot at first and put a fourth plate on the table–an extra plate I’d awkwardly try to remove before it made my mom cry.
One lonely time I brought Sno Balls home from the convenience store. Some attempt to taste normal again. But then there was the outcast leftover Sno Ball in the torn wrapper that made us feel more pointedly the absence of being left behind.
And then eventually with hard change comes renewal and happy and better. All good. But always the quick shot of lonesome pangs whenever I pay for my gas at the station and pass by forsaken 2-packs.
“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us,” Iris Murdoch
HHhH is a strange marvel of a book that’s difficult to fully describe. Its genius is reflecting our own process of understanding history–the names we remember and those we do not; the facts we include and those we exclude; the things we can know and the things we can never–while making the reader feel the heart stopping pressure and sadness and tragedy and cold bloodedness of violent oppression. I’d give it 5 stars if it gave me a bit more vivid description of people and places than it does. But then, I suppose, that’s part of the point the narrator makes–that to do so is to fictionalize story past the point of remaining historical.
I couldn’t put it down, though. It’s a fascinating deconstruction of the process of writing a historical novel and yet it never loses the stories of the main players. It’s unlike any novel I’ve read before. Its bold heart will stay with me.
But what we have lived
comes back to us.
We see more.
From “A Tree Telling of Orpheus” by Denise Levertov
There’s a pond just ten minutes from my office. I’ve been past it so many times without stopping. It’s on a dirt road. It’s that little bit inconvenient. And I’m busy. Heck, we’re all busy, all the time, every day it seems. My car will get dirty, I tell myself.
I took the dirt road today. I pulled over and parked and let my car get dusty. Got out and walked the shoreline. The ducks preened in the sun while turkey vultures circled prey on the far side. There’s a boat tipped over with a huge hole in the bottom. It reminded me of Grandma Alice teaching me how to catch sunfish for fish fries. Bobbers and bib overalls. Oily rainbows reflecting off sunfish scales. Grandma as giddy as me with each catch.
It’s good to get off the paved roads and pull over–good to cast lines.