Working up to taking the reins: 9, when she was 8. With Welsh brood mare and faithful friend Wee Chocolate.

This Wednesday, I was going down the rabbit hole. We all have days like that, when the world seems too grim, too colorless, too much. We become inert as we fall, making it all the more difficult to throw our arms and legs wide, brace our feet and hands on the sides of the tunnel and stop the fall. Inch by painful inch, we claw our way back up. On Wednesday, I expedited the braking and recovery process by metaphorically handing the reins over to Lily, my inner fourteen-year-old.


Hey, what about me?


Watch and learn, 9. You’ll pick up some serious emotional chops in the next five years.


You need to do this more often and sooner, you know.


I know, I know. Most of the time I do okay with what’s required of me to help contain the pandemic. Mask in public spaces. Social distancing. Stay at home as much as possible. I’ve internalized our COVID-19 world to the degree that when I read a crowd scene in a book I want to warn the characters not to shake hands, to touch, to aspirate. It could kill you!


Danger, Will Robinson. That’s rabbit hole-speak.


Thanks, Lily. And Happy Birthday, by the way. This Wednesday, July 1, marks one year since Lily peeked out, then burst out, grinning but not yet named. The trigger was dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen for 40-plus years. It reminded me for the first time in months that I was not just a widow: I was a whole person, with every person I’d ever been and every person I’d ever be within me.


Lily is the bold, confident part of me. She’s engaged with the whole wonderful world and eager to try new things. If, sometimes, she screws something up, she takes it in stride. There’s always the next minute, the next day, the entire future to find fresh sources of joy.


Dressing for the day, she selected a sequined, beaded peasant blouse, imagining we lived in a storybook time and place instead of a strange dystopian one. We had errands downtown. She nudged me a few times to keep me smiling under my mask.


It would be fun to wear a mask if it was like the one hanging on the office wall.

Taking the reins: now this is what I call a mask!

It would indeed. It would be crazy fun to twist the masking requirement and declare the indefinite future a masquerade ball every time we left the house. With a full skirt and smooth-soled shoes, we could waltz our way through the bank and the post office, and spin into the patisserie for a palmier and a nonfat latte when we were done.


That’s the spirit!


Even in our regular clothes we can create fun in these weird times. Yesterday, as I waited out front at the veterinarian’s while Hoosegow received his booster shots, the song “Pick up the Pieces” by Average White Band came over the satellite radio:


This song was HUGE when I was in junior high. There was no one else out front (social distancing, ya know) so I let the music pick me up and danced!


With abandon! See, you know how to do this. You’ve known since at least 1974.



You said it, 9. Just thinking about it makes me grin. Lily, I give you permission to take the reins and turn this pandemic horse around any time you want.


Great! 9, go get the Riverside Shakespeare and pick out a sonnet. Or maybe one of Helena’s monologues from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We can work it up and recite it the next time we go to the park.


Hey, this book is heavy.


I love it, Lily! We’ll be like the Book People in Fahrenheit 451. Hand me the book, 9. Wow, look at the print. I can’t believe I could read this without glasses when I was in college. . .


Time for your 175s.


What are 175s?


It can wait, 9. There’s such a thing as knowing too much, too soon.


Maybe that’s true of living in the pandemic age, too. There are so many twists to follow in the news and even the encouraging bits keep us guessing. It’s easy to project a dark future and unwittingly let that outlook color the present. The present, after all, is what we really have. Handing the reins to my more hopeful self helps keep me here.

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