Amazing Grace


Sometimes, it’s Saturday, and you go into the kitchen thinking you’ll bake pumpkin scones, but there is someone there who asks you how your days have been and when you say, a few things have been difficult, he says, “But you know, you can take that as an instruction, a way to grow,” and you say, “I do know” and then you walk out the door before he or you can say anything else, because sometimes it’s better that way.


Sometimes you stay up late, go to a chateau, drink mulled wine, and try to dance your sadness away. But it doesn’t go, and the wine doesn’t help, nor the truffles, nor the pumpkin flan, nor the smiles of the boys who are in fact men, who are your friends, your family now, who would help if they could but they can’t. So you take yourself away and sing Amazing Grace on your knees in the tiny old chapel next door where the sound of your voice resounds like a bell, a plea, a supplication, but there is no one to hear you but yourself.


Sometimes you are an adult and your parents decide to divorce and you feel like a child even though you have told yourself it will be a relief after all of these years of unspoken indecision. Sometimes you want a thing to hold you solid and secure, and you want that thing to be your family, the one you knew when you were a child, the one that made you, body and bones and tears and sweat and sadness. And even though you know that nothing lasts, and that this is the most amazing grace of life, as much as its biggest burden, you want this thing to last.


But it is no thing, and it never was. A collection of pieces cobbled together and held in place for a certain time by a certain stickiness of needs and wants and loves and histories and hopes. But the glue comes undone and the cobwebs fall down and all of the spiders have new homes or are dead and dry in the corners of the house where no one now lives. And your family is still your family, but you are not together; you are pieces, and in pieces, because each of you has pieces of the others, but you have taken them with you, and they have taken theirs with them, and now they are scattered the world over and snagged on broken phone lines of miscommunication and disappointed expectations, and you do not expect to get them back, but you do not know, either, what to do with the spaces left behind.


So you take pictures of the living room in a house that you don’t live but you do run. And you make jokes with a new family, a different kind, about the mulled wine and the broken couch, and the bag of flour spilled on the floor. And you don’t forsake your old family, but you don’t know what to call it anymore either. So you call them on the phone, and sometimes you let your sadness show and sometimes you don’t, and you tell yourself you will make pumpkin scones tomorrow, and maybe that will help. And maybe it will, and maybe it won’t, but nothing lasts after all and this is the most amazing grace of life as much as its biggest burden and you will live with it and let yourself learn to grow, because this is what there is to do.