It is a confusing time, more than the question of when to leave the windows open and what hat to squeeze on my daughter's head. The leaves turn and die. The wind slams doors shut like an angry ghost. September, and you can see your breath hang in the air at night sometimes.
I am not ready.
Children are back at school, but not E. We are waiting for a seat to open, a bed to sleep in at nap time. We are waiting for a phone call telling us one child left and she can take their place.
The living room is a forest of toys. Me, working all hours of the night making up for that lost week in New York. Soon the rent is due. Soon the snow will fall in tiny hard flakes.
A beautiful chunk of fresh cheese I bought has turned sour. It will be a plain egg omelette for breakfast today. N smiles anyway, dabbing her skin with tiny bits of cream at the kitchen table, putting her contacts in, pulsing a little perfume on her sweater. I have no idea how she learned such grace. I wish she could teach me how to hover instead of plod along, how to skim across and enjoy.
Maybe she does, and I am a slow learner.
After the rain, I am walking down Kutuzovsky with E. We pass a wedding party. I remember when she would shout from the stroller as we passed them, "Papa, etta princessa! Etta princessa!" Now, she just calls them brides. That stroller gave out one icy February afternoon and we left it there, wheels broken off, torn plastic flipping around in the wind as I hoisted her up and carried her home. Now, she picks up the hearts on the sidewalk by herself.
She pockets a few and gives me the rest to tuck into my wallet.
We will have her first guitar lesson today. The tiny instrument will be ferried along in one of my big cases. It is a Yamaha, like my first saxophone. We bought it on Saturday when the sky was full of clouds and the sun was shining. We wandered inside the dark store, as E ran her fingers along pink stratocasters, as we gazed on cases of shiny harmonicas.
Later she asked for chicken soup for lunch, and rested. The guitar stood across the room waiting for her.
I am restless. I have work to do before I can indulge. I am exhausted. There is a book to finish before I can dig into the new one. So long between the spark and the completion. I am always a different person by the time it is all over, a foreigner to the life that inspired that first page. Every rose loses its bloom. Every book feels like one mitten lost in the snow, half useless.
I pull my old guitar to my knee. The Gretsch. For every songwriter, there is the one you write on - that invisible instrument, the one no one hears but you. When it is time to record, another steps in. No, this is your secret sound, kind and forgiving. This is that myth about the strong woman behind the man. This is an old friend that knows you better than you know yourself. Tobacco stain as beautiful as ever, a crack growing under the bridge, it yields to me. This is the guitar I play for E when she takes a bath. This is the guitar I played softly in the kitchen for N when we met, with a few tiny candles showing me where to find the chords.
Maybe I do see the way now.