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the list

It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought…

podarok (the present)

E is curled up in her tiny bed, a swirl of sheets twisted around her. It rained briefly as the sun came up a few hours ago and now there is a soft wet air in the apartment. Her chin tucked into her shoulder, hands frozen like an Italian sculpture. I watch her like this for some time, drinking my coffee. There are few things in the world as perfect as watching someone you love while they sleep.

Her face is serene, as if she lives some perfect life.

We went to a birthday party on a boat for N's cousin Misha last night. The oppressive heat had just broken when we arrived, N's giant purse clanging around beside us as we brought her nephew and E across the astroturf landing.

E made fast friends with a girl her age, before we had even pulled away from the dock. Laughing, scarfing down cucumbers, the children wove their way around the long table. The sun flashed from between the great buildings and monuments we drifted past. Cold bottles of white wine were uncorked. Platters of thinly sliced fish and meat were spread out. One stretch of the river stank of god knows what, quickly replaced by the smell of fresh cut grass. Other boats cruised past us pumping disco music, the dancing crowds waving hysterically, thrilled when we waved back.

N stood at the railing in a sleeveless, backless top. Her giant sunglasses perched on the bridge of her nose, she was more quiet than usual today. N is a very private person, and I am always sharply reminded of this when we are out in a group as opposed to just the two of us. Later, I found out she was a bit sea sick. Well, river sick.

Birthday toasts were made. Countless snapshots clicked away. Toys were lost in the chairs, then found again. E asked for the extra shirt I brought for her as a low wind grew, throwing her hair around. She asked me to put her hair in braids and I did. She announced to the people around us that I am her mother as well as her father.

All too shortly, the sun set and it was time for coffee, tea. Time to polish off the open bottles. I felt like I had been sitting in this perfect chair for a short lifetime, my arm loose around N's shoulder.

As we made our way off the boat E hugged me, squeezing my cheeks.

"Pop." She said. "Everybody liked me!"

On the stairs by the road, I congratulated Misha again, explaining how I had forgotten his present. He touched E's hand gently and shook his head once.

"No, this is the present." He said.


Annie said…
Oh, my. Oh, my. What a lovely, lovely party.

Beautiful description of it. And I love the photos. N. looks so elegant,exquisitely so - until yu let us in on the secret....well, yes; she DOES look seasick. So, then I think "I would have been, too." and the lovely buffet isn't quite as attractive.

But your daughter is. And observant, it was clear to me; you are a Papa/Mama. Lucky daughter.

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