I’ve had this Ry Cooder song in my head for days and it’s driving me crazy. “Little sister don’t you kiss me once or twice, say it’s very nice and then run/Oh, little sister don’t you do what your big sister done.” I didn’t know why it was in my head – maybe from my Saturday evening listening to Pandora while I painted the laundry room? It could have come up on my Steve Earle/Mark Knopfler station, or maybe on my Patty Griffin station. I painted late into the night, and now the more accurately named laundry nook is a detergent-friendly blend of Fancy Free (walls) and Surfin’ USA (trim).
But the next day on the dog walk I noticed once again a dirty bib that says “Little Sister,” hanging on a fence post for its owner to notice, and realized I had been seeing it the past few dog walks. I hoped this would make the song go away but no, it’s still there, playing the same two lines again in an overlapping loop, every time my mind is quiet enough to hear it. There have been a lot of signs in the neighborhood lately. The bib, and a sign written in chalk on someone’s front walk, “Small white dog found.” Also a post-it note stuck to a carefully wrapped object in the alley, “Car seat for free, in good shape.” Double underscore on the good.
The car seat note is one I’d write. I’d want to make sure that whoever saw it understood its precise value. I like to have as much control as possible over the things I discard, maybe because I don’t really want to part with anything. I had to write a breakup note to my meditation group – well, actually, I didn’t have to write a note, I could have just not gone back, or not gone as often, but because I need control, I had to write a note explaining in great detail, how much I loved the group and how difficult a decision this was, but how “the social butterfly in me” needed more time on Sunday mornings for brunch dates, and how “my heart” responds better to 15-minute meditations than to 60-minute ones. Dave read the note before I hit Send and said, “You can delete most of this.”
“Too much information?”
“You don’t need to apologize. You don’t need to explain yourself.”
“I thought about saying maybe I’d be back in the Fall, but then I don’t want to be committed. But I don’t know, maybe I’ll want to go back.”
“Just thank them and keep it short. You don’t have to weigh them down with your every thought.”
After more deliberation, I shortened the note to three lines. I realized that I was trying to leave the group and keep it too. Like when my parents sold the house we’d grown up in, and left post-it notes everywhere for the new owners, “Do not overload washing machine” and “This window sticks” and “Original doorknob from linen closet – spindle bad.” We try to hang on with our intentions, our words. Because if we don’t hang on, we’ve lost a set of choices, a possible future, possibly the road we should have taken.
“People can make things harder than they need to,” observed Kismet, to whom I’d confided my weeks of meditation deliberation. You can wrap a car seat in plastic and attach a note, hoping it will go to a good home, where the new owner will take good care of it. You don’t want it to get ruined, or too casually taken, or passed over because the new potential owner assumes it doesn’t work. Or you can just set out a carved wooden potty seat with TP roll and magazine rack in the alley, shut the gate, and move on to the next thing. We see it all on the morning dog walk. And those of us who need to hang on to everything have the pictures to prove it.
I love the way your stories always interweave so much of your daily experience without seeming muddled at all. The way you touch on so many things and yet tell a cohesive story using such an economy of words is fantastic.
This is powerful and beautiful in its simplicity. Thank you for expressing so eloquently … the significance in these moments. L
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