Sunday, January 16, 2011


M proposed to me in front of our friends' house. It was the end of a lovely late Spring vacation in Vermont and we were just about ready to make the arduous trek back to Pennsylvania. I don't remember his exact words, but what does remain vivid in my memory is the way I closed my eyes to kiss him. My arms were wrapped round him and all I could see was golden sunlight. Afterwards we got into our two-seater, Bronte the dog in back, and drove home to the beginning of everything. To this day if I am sad or depressed, I often close my eyes to try and conjure up that image, that feeling of complete and utter joy.

It would be many years before we would be able to call Vermont home. First there was the attic apartment, which was too small to set up our kitchen table--we never unpacked several (40+) boxes. In Michigan we lived in an apartment complex. One night Toby and I had to evacuate due to the suspected bomber living next door to us. Fortunately M was busy with a bookstore inventory so we spent the night there with him. We finally made it back to Vermont in 2000. This is the third house we've lived in here. After seven years it's been the longest we've ever stayed in one place.

We've painted the walls of our bedroom yellow, in some ways an homage to the event of engagement. (With a name like Sunny Beach it might have been an attempt to recapture some of that old Cape Magic.) It took us several days to tear down the floral wallpaper in order to make-over the room. Each time we opened the can of paint I was reminded of cake batter pouring forth. I know it wouldn't have tasted sweet had I dipped my finger in to taste it, but it sure felt that way when we finally finished and moved the furniture back to its rightful place.

There are two kinds of yellow it seems to me. There is the kind that calls your attention in order to caution or warn: yellow lines dividing the road, SLOW Children at Play signs, or traffic lights. Then there is the brighter type that excites you and propels you forward: school buses, Ticonderoga pencils and boxes of brand new crayons with the tips still intact. It is this color I see before I go to sleep each night, my husband already deep in slumber. My lamp illuminates the walls, surrounding me in warmth. The glow is still with me even after I turn off the light and put my head to the pillow moving towards my dreams.

Winter here is gray. Gray snow, gray trees, gray sky. When we painted the interior of our house eight years ago, after gritting our teeth through six months of construction with the aim of enlarging our house to accommodate one wee baby, we put colors on our walls. Green, blue, lavender, brown - and in the hallway, a decent yellow trimmed with a dusky orange called "burnt pumpkin." There are days I barrel through the hallway, down the stairs, sharp turn on the landing and into the kitchen, usually carrying a load of something (dirty clothes, brimming trash cans, a child or two) and ignore the persistent cheer on the walls. Less frequently come the days I pause and notice the way the sun hits the upstairs corner in a silent explosion of light. If I were a kid in my house I'd spend long hours on the landing reading a book. I'd eat snacks there, drink cocoa, entice a dog to join me. I'd defeat long winter days with time spent surrounded by yellow walls. But I'm not a kid in my house, not usually. There are too few of us here able to light matches and assemble recipes longer than four ingredients, so I have to be one of the grownups. Until I get to be a kid again I have to use different methods of enduring the persistent gray: laughter, cozy books, endless cups of red rose tea, family hugs, the occasional hothouse yellow sunflower on my table. The hallway helps, too.

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