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Otherwise

March 7, 2014

This week is spring break at Kenyon, so I flew to St. Louis on Monday morning in the aftermath of an ice storm and my brother picked me up at the airport and drove me down to Cape Girardeau, the town where we grew up, to see my mother.

It was emergency time in Cape, where snow is rare and ice means you stay inside until it melts. My brother currently lives in Chicago, though, so Monday night he drove us around on a tour of closed restaurants until we found a chain one that was open and we had dinner and talked about where all we’d like to travel.

The next day, my brother left and my mother and I went out shopping. She gets around with a cane and still drives pretty well, and we managed to find parking places that were largely ice-free, although on one I had to scrape the slush away with the side of my shoe so she could get out with better footing.

On my last day there, we decided we wanted to go eat barbecue at a place down by the Mississippi river, but we couldn’t find any parking places that had been cleared enough for her to get out safely. Finally she pulled up into a place right in front of the floodwall and I did the slush/shoe thing so I could get out and came around to her side to help hold her in case of slipping. The ice had some texture, though, so we made it in and out of the restaurant, laughing about our Day of Living Dangerously.

The day after I got back after visiting my mother, I read “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon, from a link at So Many Books, and thought it captured something of the precarious pleasure of my visit to my mother–thinking of places she still might be able to go, missing my father, and looking for spring clothes as a way of reassuring ourselves that spring is coming.

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Neither of us have two strong legs, but we do have legs that work, and I’m afraid one day it will be otherwise. For now, we can still have a good time together and plan other days.

We are planning several trips, in fact. There’s nothing that says spring and summer to us like going somewhere. Are you going anywhere?

Oh, I almost forgot. Here is a photo of “The Bar” in Cape where part of the movie Gone, Girl was filmed.  photo-275

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2014 11:16 am

    Boy does that poem hit close to home for me right now.

    • March 9, 2014 10:19 pm

      The lines “planned another day/ just like this day” are powerful, aren’t they?

  2. March 7, 2014 11:47 am

    I’m glad you liked the poem so much, I love Jane Kenyon. And it sounds like you had a lovely visit with your mom.

    • March 9, 2014 10:19 pm

      It was a good visit. I’d read that poem before, but it didn’t strike me the same way.

  3. March 7, 2014 12:24 pm

    We went to one of our favorite restaurants last night for their happy hour (the entrees are crazy cheap at the bar during happy hour) and I had a lemon bar for dessert. Their lemon bars are so light and creamy, with a couple of blueberries sprinkled around. To me, it was like a promise and reminder that summer is coming.

    • March 9, 2014 10:20 pm

      Yes, lemons and blueberries are a good way to remember what summer was like!

      • March 10, 2014 9:20 am

        And what summer WILL be like. I am thinking ahead.

  4. March 28, 2014 9:34 am

    There’s something incredible about reading a book that unexpectedly aligns with something in your life. I love it when that happens.

  5. April 7, 2014 9:50 pm

    I’m super excited for at least ONE of your summer trips! I am not going anywhere this summer — too much to do! — but I’m planning another New York trip in the fall so I can see The Real Thing and Indian Ink. I refuse to miss Indian Ink.

    • April 8, 2014 9:23 am

      We’re super excited to meet an imaginary friend for the first time by staying the night at her house! That trip is actually Ron’s birthday present from my mother.
      New York in the fall is always fun, and a new Tom Stoppard play? I can see why you have to check it out.

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