There is a lot to do, and I have accidentally packed all my shoes in a giant storage unit that I won’t see until August. Yesterday, I had a job interview and my choices of shoes were a twelve year old pair of olive green peep hole heels that are made up of the same material that girls buying shoes for PROM pick up, or a blue and white striped pair of tennis shoes from Target.
I’m 99.9% sure I didn’t get the job, and it had nothing to do with the shoes I wore, but on the corner of Fourth and William here in Ann Arbor, there is a Fairy Village. No kidding, there’s houses, and a pond, a church, and sidewalks all contained behind this fence and the fairies live across from the public library.
“Mommy,” Harper whispered, “do you think this is where my Tooth Fairy lives?”
“Yes,” I said, “I do.”
“And do you think this is where my teeth go before they go to Gus?” (Gus is Harper’s cousin, and every time she loses a tooth, she is sure they’re all going to him. I told her one day when she was crying because she didn’t know where her teeth went, that they go to very special babies. “Well, there’s not a more special baby than Gus,” she said, and I can’t argue with that.)
“Yes, I think your teeth are stored here.”
“I think I know why the fairies are not out right now,” Harper said, her face pressed into the gate and her arms dangling far enough from the ground so she wouldn’t be accused of touching Fairy Property.
“Why?” I asked.
“They’re waiting for fireflies.”
Harper took my hand to begin walking, and I wondered how many days I have left when she won’t take my hand anymore. “Yes,” she said,” they’re waiting to dance and fly with the fireflies.”
“You’re probably right,” I said and the three of us walked down the street towards Literati. I wanted to show Hadley and Harper the children’s section, which is upstairs in the coffee shop. It’s the only section in the coffee shop, the rest are downstairs, and I guess I think there’s something generous and welcoming about a place voted best coffee in Ann Arbor that says, “C’mon kids! You’re welcome here. Grab a book and take a seat.” Harper read aloud, A Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak while Hadley and I laughed and laughed (parents, if you want to get your kids begging you to give them a chance to read a book out loud, get this book).
“…but I still want to remain faithful/to my first astonishments,” writes Anna Kamienska in her poem “A Path in the Woods.” I grabbed her book of selected poems, Astonishments and made sure it went in my work bag with my other writing things because I knew I would need poetry while I am transitioning from Maryland to Michigan. I am worried about getting a job. I am worried about Hadley and Harper starting school and fitting in. I am worried about fitting in, but there’s a Fairy Village on the corner of Fourth and William and it seems a shame not to be at least a little dazzled by that.
“Not a single poem has yet matured./The crossed-out words return with clamor./Light glitters in patches on mowed fields./This hour too will be more lovely in recollection,” Kamienska writes in “The Time of Harvest and the Time of Poems is Passing.”
I remember each beginning:
Room 231 in NVW on a Wednesday night, and there was a giant mosquito fluttering up and down the wall that I had to kill. I killed it, turned Beverly Hills 90210 on the TV my Uncle Greg and Aunt Julie gave me for high school graduation, and finished unpacking, admiring my clothes hanging nice and neat in my closet, and my pens and pencils stored in a Chicago Cubs cup.
Maple Lanes Apartments where Jesse and I first lived when we were married. We used plastic file crates to store our sweaters in, he built me a desk and I stenciled apples on it because I was going to be a teacher. Maple Lanes is where I first met Harry Potter, and where we had dial up. A fact I’ll never forget because one night, Jesse, asked me if it was OK if he used the computer and the phone line to do Fantasy Football. “Sure!” I said, “I’ll put on fake nails!” (If anyone was ever unsure, this should be proof that I am the real life Julie Cooper.) The minute he dialed in, I sprayed glue into my eye, thus sealing my contact to my eye ball, and Jesse had to call some hotline to see what it is we ought to do about this situation.
The Pointe Apartments on LaSalle that stood on a mini peninsula with the East Race and the St. Joseph River surrounding it. Our bedroom had this great bay window and I could hear the leaves swirling around on the pavement below, or the cheers from the Notre Dame football games. That window was the last thing I looked at before we left for Washington DC.
4600 Connecticut: The first night there was a cockroach on the slider and I wailed, “I want to go home!” Jesse said, “We are home,” and I took a walk outside and sat on a bench. I found Politics and Prose, Georgetown, the National Cathedral, 2 Amys, and the Bombay Club. I learned to take the Metro, and we get pizza from Vace on Friday nights. The cockroach I saw was on the outside, and we never saw another one again.
Our apartment on First: We moved in days before Katrina came and Jesse was at work until midnight. I became pregnant and then I wasn’t, and then I was again, my stomach grew and grew and I had salad with ranch dressing, and a bagel with cream cheese every night for dinner while watching The West Wing. Jesse would slice up watermelon for me and I ate it by the bucketful. “How can anyone not believe in God after eating watermelon?” is what I said, juice dripping down my arms and dropping on my belly.
Our condo in Germantown: Where we painted every room a different color: blue and yellow and green, and orange so bright it glowed. Jesse went to work and I walked to Safeway, got two donuts with sprinkles, and a grande half/caf, walked back and watched Gilmore Girls. Then, I would walk into the baby’s room and hold up a white onesie and wonder who it would be that I would hold in this.
The townhouse on Town Commons: Our friends in Germantown helped us move that day and we had pizza and beer and I was dizzy from all the space we were inhabiting. No more worry about bothering the lady downstairs with our stomping. The girls could play outside, we could walk down the street for ballet and books from the library, and coffee or sandwiches from Beers and Cheers. The sun came up early the next morning, shone brightly in our new bedroom. I went for a run that first day and considered taking a job teaching 8th grade English.
And now we are in Ann Arbor, and I don’t know what I will do with this one wild and precious life of mine, but there’s a Fairy Village on the corner of Fourth and William, and I think that I am going to look back on this time and see that something wonderful was going on. Work needs to be unearthed, it’s time to plant some seeds (such a risky business, planting seeds), but I will try to be astonished as I work, so that this time is lovely now and not just in recollection.