Q finished our new bench. I christened it with Morning Prayer and a dish of vanilla ice cream for breakfast. Then we sat together on it for a while, for the first time: a Memorial Day weekend, overlooking the front garden.
We talked of moving a plant from the back to the front, and of moving three grasses that will grow very tall. We talked of black spot and how quickly it attacks a rose, how stubborn a foe it is. We talked of setting the stones in the new part of the stone walk -- we have both tripped and fallen there, so it is time.
"We're not talking about Noodle," I said. Q nodded.
"No," he said, "we're not."
Noodle is missing. It is not unusual for her to maraud at night, she and What's-Her-Name. Its not even unsusual for her to be gone for a couple of days. But she always comes back, waiting at the door when I open it in the early morning, shooting in for her breakfast. And she's been gone for five days now.
Noodle is not dead. She never goes near the road -- none of them do. She visits the neighbors' children, often -- I will enlist their aid in the search later on, after school. And I will pass out notes along the street behind the house. And perhaps we will visit the pound.
I know she is not dead.
But we do not talk about her, all the same. We don't have the freewheeling right grief confers to talk about very aspect of her little body, her funny ways. We don't have the right to treasure her in our imaginations, not yet -- we are afraid to speak of her, as if speaking of her might make something terrible turn terribly real.
A little animal. Not a beloved son. Not a missing daughter, dreamed of in the night, looked for year after year. Not a prisoner of war, remembered with a tattered black and white flag for decades after any hope remained of ever finding him alive, long after it became clear that there really never had been any hope. Just a funny little cat tugs at our hearts -- how she stetched to make herself seem tall, how she nipped at us in play, how she drank from, a pitcher of water on the dining table and we hadn't the heart to stop her, how she played "Noodle of the Jungle" amid the ground cover when she was tiny, her tail held high like a periscope,betraying her presence as she crept along. How quickly we grew to love her.
We have had other, larger losses in our family. We weep for the war dead when we hear the news on the radio, weep and wonder how much more we can stand. A silly question: you can stand as much as you need to.
But every time, all the others flood back. The large ones and the small ones. Love is love, whoever its object, and it confers all the worth it needs.
This Thursday, June 1st at noon:
A brownbag lunch with Barbara Crafton at beautiful St. John's Episcopal Church, Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, an easy train ride from Penn Station. Dessert and beverage provided -- bring your own lunch. The topics range far afield! For directions and info, call(516) 692-6368.