Archive for June, 2005

On Again . . . ?

Two weeks had passed since Anna dumped me. We had not been in contact, which was not as I wanted it. I meant to follow through, to pursue some way of continuing a relationship—a “thing”—of some sort.

Even if we can’t find satisfactory common ground in a romantic relationship, I don’t want to lose her friendship.

But ugh, the prospect of once more having those long “what I want/what I need” conversations was tedious to contemplate.

Neither of us would have anything new to say. It would be agonizing to pass that ice-cold potato back and forth, hoping to feel some new heat.

I couldn’t escape the dread suspicion that it would be a waste of time.

And if we tried to find a way to continue, I suspected we would wind up back in bed—because the fun parts are fun!—only to be back at endgame in a few well-rehearsed moves.

So to my chagrin, two weeks passed without contact.

I was working when I received an instant message from Anna.

As we chatted, I tried to keep things cordial yet removed from romantic innuendo.

Anna: Hey baby. Just wondering how you’ve been.

Henry: Been better, been worse. I’m enjoying a very quiet weekend. I just showered and will soon go look at art.

Anna: Just had a shower myself. You have time for a drink later?

Henry: Today? No. Last night, yes, but that is unfortunately in the past.

Anna: Yes. Still working on the time travel thing. Haven’t gotten it solved yet.

Henry: When you figure it out, let me know. I want to give Hitler a piece of my mind.

Anna: Just thought I’d try to see you in a public setting, doing things like other people do . . . drinking, hanging out, talking, blah, blah, blah . . .

Henry: A fine idea.

Anna: Well, just a thought.

Henry: And a good one for another time.

Anna: So, any chance you’re free for a drink either Monday or Tuesday evening?

Henry: Tuesday, no. But Monday maybe—I have dinner plans at 8pm. Maybe before?

Anna: Monday it is. Too bad about tonight. I was feeling kind of horny and my evening plans fell through.

Henry: That is too bad.

Anna: I’ll manage.

Henry: Too bad you weren’t horny last night. Last night was just Bill de Kooning and me. I’m reading the recent bio.

Anna: Who says I wasn’t? If I had known you were free, I would have come over and done you and Bill simultaneously.

Henry: A necrophiliac threesome . That would be novel.

Anna: J?

Henry: Yes?

Anna: I’m sorry for the other night. I’d like for us to be better friends. Is that possible, given that we are so into the sex? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

Henry: Being better friends sure beats the hell out of not seeing one another at all.

Anna: D’accord. What can we do then, if the previous was an affirmative to my first question?

Henry: Umm . . . we could be better friends?

Anna: Yes, silly, of course. But how do we do that? Given everything we know.

Henry: Maybe we can sacrifice some of the time we spend having better sex than anyone deserves to have, in order to see the occasional movie or art show?

Anna: That’s a start.

Henry: So, once again, art trumps sex.

Anna: Listen (lol), we can always decide what to do with the time, whether it’s more movies or more sex or more laundry or more Scrabble or more Parcheesi or whatever. I just want more time. Perhaps a little, a wee tiny little itsy bitsy bit more effort. Though I’m not voting down more sex.

Henry: More movies, that depends on the film. Some of them really suck. I’d rather take you out for a slice. Most fresh pizzas are better than most fresh movies.

Anna: I can agree with that. What would you like? Pepperoni?

Henry: Well, you know, I am the adventurous sort.

Anna: Yeah.

Henry: Black olives. Green olives. Jalapenos. All available anchovies.

Anna: Will that just be for you?

Henry: I like to share.

Anna: “Yes,” she thinks as she types, mouth watering. The question is: do you want to share? Cos you can have the entire pie to yourself if you want. Freeze the leftovers for the kids. Eat the cold slices for breakfast.

Henry: This is not a pie I can share with the kids. And while cold pizza for breakfast is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I think that pleasure is surpassed by sharing it hot with an appreciative mouth.

Anna: I think I know someone who would like that. She likes De Kooning, and would like to know more about him. And more about you—aside from your tastes in pizza and art.

Henry: Uh huh.

Anna: But I dunno, J. You got a lot of mouths to feed. She’s got a pretty big appetite.

Henry: Gulp.

Anna: Well, we can mix more metaphors if we meet on Monday. I should get going. As should you.

Henry: I should go. I have art to castigate. A meal to masticate. It will get late . . . I may masturbate.

Anna: You may? Oh, give me a break! Again, tant pis about tonight. I was in the mood for . . . well, you.

Henry: Serves you right for breaking up with me.

Anna: Taking a break. Not the same thing.

Henry: One of these times, I will be able to make that distinction as it occurs.

Anna: I think it’s better you’re not available tonight.

Henry: Less messy?

Anna: Yes, less messy. I think you once said that old habits die hard. Wheels often roll into the same familiar ruts.

Henry: I said that? I am so wise.

Anna: At times, yes. Talk to you tomorrow.

Henry: Have a good evening.


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Man About Town

On the Saturday after the track meet, Jason took a call from his best friend, David. “Dad?” He held the phone to his chest. “Can I go to David’s for a while?”

“Sure, hon. Let me talk to his mom, okay?”

David lives a block from us. We have known his family since David and Jason were in kindergarten together.

“Hey, Henry.”

“Good morning, Mariam. So you are cool with Jason coming over?”

“Yes, that’s fine, but here’s the thing—we won’t be home. David wants to take Jason to a street fair, and then to a magic store at One Hundred and Tentth Street.”

“One Hundred and Tenth? How will they get there?”

“They’ll take the subway. David does this every weekend on his own.”

I glanced at Jason. His legs are so long now. Same saucer-sized eyes he had as a baby. “David knows the way, huh?”

“Yes. But if you aren’t comfortable with this . . .”

“No, I suppose it will be okay.”

“Good. Let me give you David’s cell phone number.”

“I have it already. I’ll send Jason right over.”

I closed the phone. I went over the plan with Jason. He would be taking the subway alone with David. David would have his cell. I would be in the park with his siblings. I would have my cell. He could call for any reason.

He shrugged. No big deal.

He put on his shoes, took fifteen dollars from my wallet, and kissed me goodbye. I had made the right decision. Hadn’t I?

The cell rang as I packed a picnic. It was Richard, the brother of my ex, Lucy. He asked if Lucy had mentioned he would be in town. She had not. Well, he had a few hours available. Could he visit the kids? Of course, I said. We are just about to head to the park, I said; come join us.

Great, he said, adding that he was with Lucy. Would it be all right if she joined us?

I had not talked with Lucy since she hung up on me when Jason was missing. Now Jason and David were out on the town, with no adult supervision.

Sure, I said. By all means, bring Lucy.

Brother. This could complicate my resolve that I had made the right decision.

I had no idea why her mood was so mercurial of late. But I knew I did not want to spark her reaction. I didn’t want to be second-guessed about allowing Jason to take the subway with David. I decided I would not bring this up. Hopefully, it would not be a problem. Nothing to do but cross fingers.

Collie and Lillie were excited about picnicking with Mom and Uncle Richard. We found them in our usual spot at Sheep Meadow.

I kissed Richard hello, and waved to Lucy. She smiled at me as she lifted Lillie to a kiss. We ate our lunch and began to play games.

Richard and I caught up. He’s a very smart and funny man who inevitably makes me wish I had made a point of reading the entire New York Times that morning. Somehow I had missed gossip about Phoebe Cates’s mom.

Lucy was in fine spirits. The kids were delighted—down one brother and up two adults!

It was great to have some breathing space. Tending three kids alone is nonstop. This was much more relaxed. Just so long as the phone didn’t ring with reports that Jason and David had fallen into trouble.

Eventually, Lucy took her leave, off to see a concert with a date. Richard stayed with us until he also had to leave for a dinner appointment.

I walked home with the kids. The sun set in our eyes.

I called Jason.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Yes, and I got this cool expanding lizard. It grows in a water bottle.”

“I have no idea what that is. Can you bring the lizard and your own bad self home now?”

The lizard was indeed cool.

You put it in water and it grows, so fast.

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Jason had a track meet. The school sent home a flyer noting that the track meet would probably go long, so arrangements should be made for students to be picked up between three thirty and four thirty.

Jason and I had a plan. I would pick up his younger siblings at the usual time. We would hang out at a pizza parlor within site of Jason’s school, waiting for him to arrive. Jason would borrow a chaperone’s cell phone to call us when he was on the way.

After school, Collie, Lillie and I killed time at the library. At three thirty, we walked to Jason’s school. “Let’s go in to see if there is any news from the track team,” I suggested. The security guards said the track team had been back since eighth period. The students had been dismissed at the usual time. “Really? The school sent home a flyer saying there were due back after school, between now and four thirty.”

“Let me see about that,” a guard suggested. She waved to someone down the hall. “Mister Poole, can you come over here, please?” Mister Poole, an assistant principal, joined us. He confirmed that the track team had returned at eighth period.

“But . . . the flyer sent to parents said it would go until after school.”

“I don’t understand this,” Mister Poole replied, putting his hands on his hips. He flagged a man coming down a stairway. “Jim, did your students come back from the track meet?”

“That’s right, they were back at eighth period.”

“Huh,” I said. “Well, I don’t know what to say. I wish I had brought the flyer. It was pretty clear about the time students would return.”

“Daddy?” Lillie asked. “Where’s Jason?”

“That’s what we are trying to figure out, sweetie. Don’t worry.”

Lillie and Collie both looked worried. Where was Jason?

Jason can be spacey, like any kid. I wouldn’t be surprised that he forgot to call after the track meet. If he had returned early, perhaps he had followed through with a usual routine for that day, and walked to his mother’s workplace. I called Lucy.


“It’s Henry.”

“I know. What is it?”

“I am at Jason’s school. His track meet was today, as you know, and he was supposed to be back between three thirty and four thirty. The office says the track team was back early. He’s not here. Is he with you?”


“Jason’s track meet apparently ended early.”

“He’s not with you?!”

I coughed. “I am at the school. Apparently the track meet ended early. He’s not here.”

Lucy sighed in profound exasperation. “He is not with me. This is your day to pick up the children, Henry. I can not deal with this now.”


“Hello?” No answer. She hung up on me.

“Dad . . .”

“Just sit over on the bench, Collie. We’ll figure this out.” I returned to the security desk, where Mister Poole and the guards were talking. “Okay, I’m a little concerned here. My son was at the track meet, and now we don’t know where he is. Can we find anyone who was at the meet who may have seen him?”

Mister Poole looked concerned. “Hmmm. Well, the faculty and students are gone for the day . . .”

My cell phone rang. Unidentified caller.


“Hey Dad.”

“Jason! Where are you?”

“We’re at Van Cortlandt Park, just about to get on the bus. We did really well today!”

“You are still at the meet?” I looked at Mister Poole. He looked confused. He picked up a phone and dialed.

“Yeah, we are just about to leave. So, are you at school?”

“Yes, we’ll see you when you get here. Bye baby, I love you.”

“Loveyoutoo. Bye.”

Mister Poole held up a finger as he completed his call. He returned the phone to the receiver.

“What grade is your son in?”


“That’s it, then. We were mistaken. The eighth grade came back early, but the sixth and seventh graders are still out.”

“Whew. Well, that’s resolved.”

“Sorry for the confusion.”

“It happens. Just glad it worked out.” I turned to the kids. “So, Jason is on his way here. You want to get some pizza?”

“Yes!” They were relieved. Thank God the grown ups got it right this time. As we walked down the sidewalk, I called Lucy to alleviate her worries.


“It’s me. So the school made a mistake and Jason is on his way here now. It’s just as the flyer said.”

“Oh, thank God.”

“So, about before: I call about the kids and you hang up on me?”

“I really can not deal with this now.”



I pocketed the phone.

She had repeated that same phrase—“I really can not deal with this now”—in putting me off. A mantra. Does that indicate that she’s in therapy?

Jason showed up right on time, sporting a new personal best in the one hundred yard dash.

Jason is now at an age—eleven and a half—when many city kids use public transportation on their own. That was the dream of my suburban childhood: the liberty to go places independent of my parents and their cars. Yet now that I am on the parenting side of childhood, it is hard to let go.

Once Jason takes to the subways and bus lines, as most of his peers have done, the city is his for the price of a student Metro Card. He is a good kid, and a smart one. I am a vigilant parent. He will be fine once he is out there on his own.

Just . . . not now. Maybe next year.

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Anna instant messaged to ask if she could stop by that night, after I put the kids to bed.

She was going to be in my neighborhood for rehearsals, and wanted to retrieve utensils and a pan she had recently brought to my place to prepare dinner for me and the kids.

I teased her about this.

Henry: What, you are cleaning out my kitchen? Did we break up again? Why am I always the last to know?

Anna: No, silly. We are good. I’m just doing a lot of cooking lately and I miss my stuff.

The kids usually go to bed at nine or so. She planned to be at my place by a quarter to ten.

After the kids were fed, bathed and tucked away, I finished the dishes and gathered Anna’s things into a bag.

It was a warm night. I poured a bourbon and sat down for the first time since dinner. I was beat.

Anna knocked. I stood to answer the door. We kissed hello.

She was dressed in sweats, her hair wet with perspiration. She looked worn out from the exertions of rehearsing after eight hours at her day job. I offered her a drink. We sat heavily onto the couch.

“So how’s your week been?” I asked. We had seen each other a few days before.

“Good, fine. Rehearsals are good. Very physical, very challenging choreography. And your week?”

“Can’t complain. Lots of work, and I have the kids for five days, so there’s a lot to juggle. But, you know, the usual.”

“Yeah, you have a busy life.”

“We both do.”

“So, listen.” Anna adjusted her body to sit on one leg. She cupped her glass in one palm. “I really don’t think I can continue to see you.”

A wave of exhaustion passed over me. “No?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She sipped her bourbon and paused. “It’s just that . . . you know, I really want to think ahead to my future. I want to be married and make my parents into grandparents. This means I need to think about when I am going to be a mother, whether I am going to have kids or make myself a part of someone’s family. And that’s just not what you want.”

“No, right now it really isn’t. We’ve talked about that a lot . . .”

“I know. And here we sit, after seeing one another for over a year, and we are basically in the same place.”

“I suppose so.”

“So anyway . . .” she put her glass on the coffee table and reached into her bag. “I wrote something I would like you to read.”

“You prepared a statement?”

“Well, more of a . . . few thoughts.” She handed me a folded page.

“You want me to read this now?”

“Yes, please.”

I opened the page. It was full of text, single-spaced. My eyes scanned the phrases. I folded the page and put it down. “Very poetic.”

“That’s what you have to say?”

“You write very movingly.”

“Do you have anything else to say?”

I thought for a moment. “No, not really. I mean, you’ve evidently given this some thought and preparation. I just put the kids to bed, and fifteen minutes later, you are here breaking up with me.”

“I know.”

“So I don’t have anything new to say since the last time you broke up with me.”

We sat for a few moments.

“Well,” I said, standing. “Let me get your stuff from the kitchen.”

“Um, okay.”

We went into the kitchen. I opened the bag and inventoried the items. She asked about a pair of tongs. They were in my drawer. I retrieved them and added them to the bag. I walked her to the door. “Let’s talk when we aren’t exhausted,” I said.


We embraced for a long time. We kissed. She left. I locked the door.

About a week later, I received an envelope in the mail. It was from Anna. Inside was this poem.

Love After Love
By Derek Wolcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

The envelope had a stamp that read “Love. Thirty-seven cents.”

If the past is any guide, I would soon receive a CD of evocative songs.

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So Adult

On the morning after Anna dumped me—once more, yet again—I woke Jason and Collie, then shuffled to the kitchen to put on the kettle. I prepared lunches and poured coffee into a travel mug as the boys dressed.

Tall mug, long pour of sugar, two dollops of half and half. Top screwed down tight.

With my coffee at hand, I was ready to face the challenge of rousing Lillie.

My Lillie is a very heavy sleeper. Just like her Dad.

Collie helps.

“Wiwwie? Widdwe Wiwwie?” Collie sing-songed in gentle baby talk. “Time to wakey wakey!”

“Hurrrmnnh!” Lillie complained, tugging her knees to her chest, pulling her boo-boo closer.

Collie looked to me and shrugged. I sipped my mug.

Good cop volleys to bad cop.

“Lillie! Lillie! You need to wake up, baby. We don’t want to be late for school.”


“You teacher will be waiting.”

“Don’t care.”

“And Constance . . .”

“Don’t care.” She smiled, eyes tightly closed.

“Noah P. will be waiting . . .”

“Don’t care.” Her grin expanded.

Collie joined in. “Your bo-oo-oyfriend . . .”

“Shut up!” Lillie swung her arm, giggling.

“Baby,” I took charge. “We have to go. Let me find you some clothes to wear. Something really ugly . . .”

“No!” Lillie sat up. “I picked them out last night! I am wearing the pink cat shirt and my black shorts with the racing stripes. And my pink Hello Kitty underwears.”

“Okay, get dressed. We’re brushing teeth in a few minutes.”

We were out the door on schedule at seven-thirty.

The kids were to school early.

It was a splendid morning.

I sipped coffee as I strolled home through the park, past the familiar dog walkers, past the tourists on a morning outing, past Henry Winkler filming a movie.

I had to get home to clean up and work. I had a lunch date with Mitzi.

She wanted to talk.

We’ve done a lot of talking lately.

Mitzi has been fending with a shift in her feelings about how things are, and the way she would like them to be.

She signed on with me a few months ago, looking for fun and sexual adventure.

Things got a little complicated when her feelings kicked in.

So lately, we meet for sex, we meet to talk things over, we meet for meals. We both want to make this work.

But we are too stubborn to give in very much ground.

Mitzi was right on time.

We kissed. She smiled wanely.

“Henry . . . we need to talk.”

“I know. We often do.”

We sat on the couch. I was caffeinated, showered and alert, ready to listen.

“Henry,” she began slowly. “You know, I’m crazy for you.”

“Yes. It’s really great to be with you.” I touched her shoulder.

“I’m glad.” She tilted her head toward my hand in a gesture that simultaneously sought my touch and pulled from it. “But, Henry, this really isn’t working for me.”

“I know. I mean, I can see that.”

“I enjoy the fun sex,” she struggled, measuring her words. “Really, I do. The party is just great. The kinky stuff is fun. I enjoy it. And when it’s just you and me, it’s really really great.”

“I know.”

“But . . . it’s not what I need.”

“I know.”

“I really want someone who is more . . . devoted to me.”

“I know.”

“I mean, I deserve that.”

“You really do.”

“I do.”

“I know.”

Mitzi lowered her eyes. “Henry . . . I’m just not going to get that from you.”

“I know.”

She looked up at me. “So I need to . . . I just can’t do this.”

“I know.” I touched her shoulder. Her cheek moved to my hand.

She sighed.

“You aren’t going to stop me, are you?” She was half joking, half serious.

I smiled sadly. “I really can’t, Mitzi. I mean, we keep treading the same ground. I hear you when you say this isn’t working for you. You shouldn’t do what isn’t right for you.”

Her smile was just as sad. “That’s not the right thing to say.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“I know, it is.”

There were long exchanges of meaningful glances.

Mitzi’s eyes reached to mine.

Break-up sex was not on the agenda. My body was numb.

She left.

I worked for a bit, very distracted.

I had been dumped twice in less that twenty-four hours.

At two, I walked across the park and brought my children home.

Lillie was on my lap talking about her day when I got an instant message.

Mitzi: Thank you for being so adult.

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Noah P.

“Noah P. is very mean! I hate him!”

Lillie was agitated when I picked her up from school.

“I thought Noah P. was your friend. What happened?”

“He calls me names. He said I am stupid, he says I stink, he says red hair is weird.”

Lillie ticked off each complaint by counting her fingers. She walked so that each step was a stomp of her sandals to the sidewalk.

I reached to hold her hand. “But those things aren’t true, sweet. Why would he say them?”

“Because he is mean. He makes me mad. Constance is mad too. He made us both mad—in one day!” She held out her hands in disbelief. “Can you believe it?”

Constance is Lillie’s best friend.

I reached to hold her hand.

Lillie has been talking about Noah P. quite a bit of late, so I recently made a point of meeting him.

Dropping Lillie at school one morning, I asked her and Constance to introduce me to Noah P.

“That’s me!” said the boy just behind me. I turned to find Noah P., smiling.

Noah P. was very cute. His blond hair was parted and combed back with gel. He wore a short sleeve white shirt over a wife beater.

“How do you do, Noah P.? I’m Henry, Lillie’s dad.” I offered my hand.

He grinned at Lillie and Constance, then shook my hand.

The girls giggled.

“Show him your muscle,” Lillie said. She was giggling so hard she could barely finish the sentence. Constance laughed all the harder at that.

“You want to see my muscle?” Noah P. asked me.

“Sure pal, show it.”

Noah P. began to take off his shirt.

“Can you do it with your shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s okay, I have two shirts!” He stripped to a wife beater, throwing his outer shirt to a nearby table with exaggerated aplomb.

He flexed a bicep. “See?”

“Very nice!” I admired.

The girls leaned on one another, laughing uncontrollably.

Lillie sat up and drew a breath. “We’re going to marry him,” she confessed.

“Yes!” Constance agreed. The girls gave themselves over to guffaws.

Noah P. joined in the laughter. A grown up was in on the secret!

“Oh, you are both going to marry Noah P.? At the same time?”

“Yes,” Lillie said. She pointed to her friend. “First Constance, then me, at the same time.”

“Well, well! That should be some wedding!”

This had them in stitches. I know when to leave an audience wanting more; I kissed Lillie, took my bows and exited, stage left.

The three conferred before lining up for class.

But now, after school, there was trouble brewing at the engagement party.

Noah P. had turned mean. Lillie and Constance were mad.

I listened to Lillie’s complaints as we walked home.

“Well, you know, Lillie,” I offered by way of fatherly wisdom. “Sometimes when boys like girls, they can say or do things that seem mean. It’s dumb, but that can be one way a boy shows that he like a girl—by doing things to get her attention. Even if those things seem mean, he might just want you to notice him. Does that make sense?”


“I know. It probably never will.”

My ex, Lucy, took the more direct approach.

She heard Lillie’s tale of woe. She then took her questions to the source—Noah P. himself. Lucy was never one to hesitate in reprimanding other people’s children. She took Lillie by the hand and approached Noah P. in the school cafeteria. “Noah P., can I have a word with you?”

“Uh huh.” They sat.

“Noah P., I understand you have been saying unkind words to Lillie and Constance. Is that true?”

Lillie tucked down her chin and watched Noah P. He looked panicked. He was cornered, caught dead to rights. “No! No! I didn’t mean to do that!”

“Well, Noah P., you need to consider how the words you use can affect other people. If you call someone ‘stupid’ or ‘stinky,’ it can hurt that person’s feelings. It can make that person wonder if you are a good friend. Do you understand?”

“Uh huh.”

“Do you want to be good friends with Lillie?”

Lillie watched closely for the answer.

“Uh huh.”

“I thought so. Well then, try to be aware of what you say. Now, shake my hand.” Lucy extended her hand. Noah took it. They shook. “I’m glad we had this talk. Now both of you need to join your group for class. Bye, Noah P. Bye, Lillie.” Lucy stood and kissed Lillie. Lillie hugged her mother’s hips.

Man, I thought. I sure miss having that ballbuster on my side.

That afternoon, I asked Lillie about school. “School was good. And Noah P. is my friend again!”

“Really? Oh that’s splendid news. Why is that?”

“He is being nice again! Constance is his friend too.”

“All’s well that ends well, Lillie.”

That night, Lillie wrote a note to Noah P.:

To Noah P.

I lov you

Noah P.

We ur good!

Bast + boyfnd


She added a happy face to the “o” in his name, and drew a heart next to her name.

Sweet Lillie. Dear Constance. I am so glad that Noah P. is being nice. I am so glad that you are no longer mad at Noah P. And I know you adore his moussed blond hair, his cherubic smile, his tough boy clothes and his awesome muscles. It’s nice that such a cool boy wants to hang with two great girls.

But girls, how can you miss the clues?

Don’t you see?

Sweeties, Noah P. is gay.

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A few months ago, Lillie served as flower girl in her aunt’s wedding. (I was conspicuously not invited; despite my good relations with my ex’s sister, Lucy had blackballed me from the joyous occasion.) Since then, wedding bells have been ringing in Lillie’s ears.

She recently arrayed her dolls and stuffed animals on a picnic blanket, each matched to a suitable partner. Kitty joined Rabbit, Barbie joined Woody, Bear joined Beary, among many couples, in a large circle. In front of each couple, she placed an index card on which she had carefully enclosed the word “love” in a hand-drawn heart.

She went from pair to pair, conducting a mass wedding. Reverend Moon would have been impressed with her efficiency. “Do you, Kitty, take Rabbit to be your lovely wedding husband? I do. Do you, Rabbit, take Kitty to be your lovely wedding wife? I do. You may kiss the bride.”

When the assembled menagerie was hitched one to the other, she sent them all on honeymoon by ignoring them until dinner.

The other day, she brought me a jar of dill pickles to open. As she took a pickle, she wet her hand in brine and sucked it clean. She stuck her fingers back in the jar for more “pickle juice.”

“Lillie! Please don’t put your yucky fingers in the pickle jar!”

“I can’t help it,” she giggled. “I love pickles so much!” She bit into her pickle and ran off a few steps. She stopped in her tracks and looked back at me. “I know what you are going to say,” she grinned. “’If you love pickles so much, why don’t you marry them?’ Well, maybe I will!”

She walked back to the pickle jar. “Do you, pickle jar, take me to be your lovely wedding wife?” She nodded. “I do. And do I, Lillie, take you, pickle jar, to be my lovely wedding husband? I do. You may kiss the bride.”

She kissed the jar. “I’m married to the pickle jar!” she giggled, racing off.

Later, she found me reading on the terrace.

“You know, when say ‘I do’ in a wedding, you are really saying ‘I do’ to fighting. And to kissing! You and Mom said ‘I do,’ and you fighted. Aunt Jill and Uncle Aaron said ‘I do,’ and they fighted. When we see them this summer, I am going to watch them. And if they fight, I will tell them they said ‘I do’ to fighting. And if they kiss, well, I am going to look in the other direction!”

I sat with my book lowered to my lap.

“Lillie, do you remember your mom and dad fighting often?”

“Okay, I am outta here!” She ran back inside. She was in a mood for pithy observations, not extended conversation.

I went back to my book.

Heck. We had thought were doing a good job of hiding our fights.

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