Eddy Out

white-water-rafting-rapids_03I wasn’t at the Boston marathon this year.  Nor was I with my parents in my childhood home in Watertown.  But I watched, along with the rest of the world, a week’s worth of terror on my turf.  I wake each morning since April 15th feeling violated, as if my own home has been robbed.

During this week of evolving tragedy, husband and I checked in with our brood to allow for debriefing.  Nine year old Peach responded with a casual dismissiveness, leaving us to wonder if her detachment from fear was self-protective.  When she emerged from her bedroom in full-blown tears, we assumed it was bombing-related.  Instead we got this:  “Blubby (the goldfish) is dead!”

Stifling a smile, I offered my deepest sympathies.  As words of comfort flowed, it struck me that these same condolences are being uttered throughout our city.  Be it animal or human, when a loved one has passed, we are called to support each other.

I tried to disconnect these two incidents, assigning weight where it was due, but the two were entwined like the two sides of the ‘Best Friends’ necklace that Peach asked me to disentangle.  She wondered about her fish’s passing, “Why me?  Why are brother’s fish still alive?  What did I do wrong?”  To which I replied, “Death is not personal.  It happens to all living things.  It’s part of the deal.”

This detached truth is the tiny light that burns eternal.  Death, illness, loss…they are simply part of the risk of being alive.  We are no more immune to them than we are to joy and abundance.  When we engage in life, we are equally at risk of experiencing overwhelming love as we are at experiencing loss.  Life doesn’t play favorites.  When we try to assign reason to life, it makes us suffer and keeps us stuck in confusion.

At times like these, I am reminded of the instructions given at the start of a white water rafting trip.  If one falls out of the boat:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t try to swim – it’s futile to fight the river
  3. Put your feet up and let the river take you.  It may toss you around, but eventually it will spit you out.
  4. Look for the rescue rope.  Someone will throw it to you.

This week felt a lot like falling out of a boat – again.  There was panic and fear.  We scrambled underwater, searching for terrorists and demanding resolution, trying to stop the hurt and climb back to safety.  At last, the river of life spit us out, heads above water, and we could see hope.  All around us, ropes were thrown – expressions of solidarity and generosity coming from near and far.

I used to marvel at Anne Frank’s famous declaration that, “Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart.”  But now, witnessing the collective response to the Boston bombings, I too, am certain that there is more good in the world than evil.  There are more people trying to save the world than hurt it.

It is certain that life will toss us into the river again and we will lose precious possessions in the process.  But we can also be certain that we will be rescued.  We just need to stay centered, release our resistance, and reach for the ropes.

Boston is eddying-out after negotiating a wicked rapid. It still has a long stretch of river to travel before finding its footing on dry land.  Knowing Boston, it will take on the rest of this river with a vengence.  Then it will climb back in the boats, ready to show the river who’s boss.

April Fool’s Frenzy

april 1Three days after April Fool’s Day, the Dunhams are still decompressing from the annual frenzy that is generated by five pranksters under one roof.  April 1st ranks at the top of our list of major celebrations.

In the early years of marriage I was dragged through the April Fool’s tradition by husband, a career jokemaster.  It was no fun trying to compete with his level of expertise.  (As a child he put dog poop in a sibling’s pillow!) But when the kids came along and husband apprenticed them, I had to get in the game. I began modestly with the old standbys: books in the pillow, traps on the toilet, early morning alarm clocks under beds…and finally reached the big leagues the year I sewed husband’s underwear together.

The competition has gotten so fierce of late, that the formation of alliances is a must.  Husband and I began plotting against the children a month in advance.  Our biggest hit was a scheme that required a late night setup.  Giggling like schoolchildren, we snuck upstairs in darkness to cover bedroom doorways with newspaper and fill the space between paper and door with ping pong balls and popcorn.  Suspecting foul play, Beagle emerged from his room with paintball mask donned, armed for an attack.

He responded with flour in the hairdryer that blew into my face when I turned it on.  Principessa had a more subtle style.  She created a fake ‘Failure To Pay’ parking ticket notice to the tune of $200 which husband was chastised for.  Little Peach, a novice at nine, stole and hid everything she could – toothbrushes, curtains, socks – and toilet papered her sister’s room.  Husband likened her to a civilian with a water gun trying to fight experienced terrorists.

The house was like a war zone, destroyed within an hour of sunrise.  By day’s end, more than 200 pranks befell five Dunhams.  No living creatures were harmed and all were applauded for a high level of ingenuity and sportsmanship.  Cleaning up the fallout is a bear, but so worth it.

Please share your best pranks so I can begin my list for next year!  The stakes are getting higher every year and I need new material.


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