Forbidden fruit

I think of this story around this time of year, when our bushes hang heavy with berries.

Once upon a time

when I was a little girl,

we went to stay in the home of some friends in Virginia. When we arrived, our hosts showed us around and made us comfortable, in true Valley style. Then they warned us about the berries on the edge of the woods.

They look delicious, like blueberries, they said, but please don’t taste them. We think they are poisonous.

Very well, my parents agreed. Children, do you hear? Leave the berries by the woods alone.


I was only five years old. What do you think happened when I found myself alone?

The next thing I remember was that I stood in the open doorway of the house, looking up a flight of unfamiliar stairs at my mother. My very displeased mother.

Shari, she said. Did you eat those berries?

I hunched my shoulders and pressed my hands against the door frame. No, mom.

Shari. Look at me. I know you ate those berries; don’t lie to me.

No, mom.

Well, I got my rear end spanked for it and afterwards, I sat on the kitchen counter sniffling and eating cookie dough while our kind hostess cheered me up. It’s the only deliberate lie I remember telling in childhood.

When I was an adult, I asked my mother How were you so sure?


So. No use blaming the world’s sins on Eve; I am an original sinner. Ate the forbidden fruit and lied about it. Didn’t even see the snake.

I wonder what died inside me?

To the forgotten one

I do not often pretend to have His words, but – This is for you.

I am the light you cannot see, searching, piercing – not the mild sunlight of a summer day or the glimmer of candle and firelight, but the unescapable blaze of a streetlight on a deserted parking lot when all around is darkness.

I love you.

I saw the look on your face when it happened again, the thing you feared. It was only there for a second before you hid it, but I saw. You were not alone.

When you look around, you see the smiling Others whose lives seem to work – their bodies, their faces, their families. They seem to skip over the hard bits, or laugh them off, or overcome them. They seem so on top of things, and in the darkness you wonder why you are the odd one out.

I know the grief you carry, the tightening of your heart when the subject comes up, the dread of insensitive questions and curious glances. I know how you cry when people move in to care, and cry when they do not.

I know you worry that it will be too much for you, that this thing will make you crack if you face it, that the price is too high. I know exhaustion. I see it in your eyes. I know what you have sacrificed, and though you wonder, I am the one who knows it is not in vain. It will never be in vain.

I see you.

I know you.

You are not the only one.

I know the things you hold close to the chest, the horrors you cannot share lest your world cave in around you. In scores of stripes across my bleeding back I carried them for you. I carry you still.

In your loneliness I am there. When the night closes in, you are held in my light. When everyone else has someone, when the silence of the people who matter the most screams at you, when you’ve forgotten how to be the person you were, when the radiant ship sails without you, I am there.

I know what lies beneath your frustration and your turmoil, I know the palpable midnight of your fear. I am there when it yawns beneath you, when frantically you flail your way to solid ground, panting, shrieking.

Darling, you could fall all the way down and I would be there.

You are mine.


The culprit

We have no house pets at all.

But you guys are too good at guessing. I was all set for the Ghost of Christmas Past, or an angel, as Sharon suggested!


One of our harum-scarum sons was apparently in too much of a hurry to meet the school bus, and left the laundry room door flapping open for the wind and the snow and—the cat.

Scared me good.

A real life riddle


We sat on the couch in the late winter, 7:45 am, the boys just out the door for school.

Kelly was still sleeping upstairs. One twin sat on my husband’s lap, and the other hung out on the floor nearby. Ryan savored his coffee. I savored the precious moments of quiet, with Baby snuggled against me.

Suddenly we heard piano keys being played in the office, tink-tink-tinga-ding. We looked at each other. What in the world?! With every family member accounted for, who was in there playing? It sounded for all the world like Kelly goofing off, but she would have had to pass through the living room to get in there—and the playing went on. Tinga-tink-tink-ting.

Ryan went to look. I waited, trying not to breathe so I could hear.

What do you think he saw?

Summer motto


It’s more aspirational than strictly true about any of us at the moment, but the children and I say it aloud together on Monday mornings when we have our powwow to discuss plans for the week.

I am a responsible, joyful person who shares ownership of this home.

I am in charge of my own body and I clean up after myself.

I can be calm in disappointment, happy in work or play, and kind to everyone I meet.

Let’s just say we trust it’s formative.

My ten-year-old son was pleased to learn that I wrote it, and he is harder to impress than he used to be.

These are the things we work on. What would you write in your motto?