A few days ago, along with the usual letters and magazines and used-book deliveries, we received a notice: $0.61 postage due on a package. No time in the last few days to get to the post office. So, this morning, Jesse stopped in for me, paid the two quarters, one dime and one penny, and brought home a padded envelope, covered in stamps, with a New York return address. I peeled back the sticky closure and pulled out a tissue-wrapped package enclosed in a typed note. Inside the tissue paper, a Timex watch, the hands frozen at 1:50, a thin red band, worn at the third-to-last hole where the small golden buckle rubbed against the leather. The note from my cousin Peg explained that it was a small token, a much-loved watch belonging to my cousin, Peg’s sister, Barb. A memento. 

Even though my sisters had received similar keepsakes in the mail, I was still caught off guard. (Anticipation is never the preparation we’d wish.) When the kids came in the room to ask me what I’d received in the mail, the words were trapped, burning, in my throat. It’s been almost a year since Barb died. She’d outlived her initial prognosis by a long shot, but she still died quickly and entirely too young. 

Barb was a gift. She bridged a gap of many years and many miles, connecting two parts of our family that had been relatively separate for decades. We malign social media, but it brought our family together in a way that I never could have expected. About six or seven years ago, Barb reached out on Facebook, curious about our lives, marveling at our children, supporting our endeavors, sending small tokens, celebrating our wins and commiserating in our losses. We spoke on the phone occasionally: sometimes to catch up, but often about her mother’s–my aunt’s–declining health. It was one of those instantly intimate connections even though we never knew one another well before. I’d say we skipped over the small talk, but we didn’t — mostly because there was a recognition that the important things resided in the small moments: stories of meals out with her father (my uncle and godfather), pictures exchanged of “Grandma’s brown cookies” from the recipe that we’d inherited, thoughtful gifts in recognition of an art show that my sister and I took part in. 

Even when she was sick, and she was incredibly sick, she remained positive and open. She shared all that she experienced, and she always asked about everyone else. She possessed a generosity and curiosity and love that knit our family together. Her legacy is one of love. What more can one hope to accomplish?

I miss her comments on Facebook posts (always loving, always joyful), I miss our long text exchanges that ended, every single time with “I love you more,” I miss her enormous heart. 

Now, every time I see a clock at 1:50, I will think of her.

Bradbury Challenge (2)

Essay: Rainer Maria Rilke, “Paris, February 17, 1903” from Letters to a Young Poet

You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”

Poem: May Swenson, “Waterbird,”

Part otter, part snake, part bird the bird Anhinga,
jalousie* wings, draped open, dry. When slack-
hinged, the wind flips them shut. Her cry,
a slatted clatter

Short Story: Edwidge Danticat, “Night Women,” from Krik? Krak!

For a brief second, I almost mistake him for the ghost of his father, an old lover who disappeared with the night’s shadows a long time ago. My son’s bed stays nestled against the corner, far from the peeking jalousies*.

*What are the chances of coming across this word that I have never heard (or, at least noticed), in two completely unrelated pieces within the span of ten minutes?!

jalousie (n.)

A blind or shutter having adjustable horizontal slats for regulating the passage of air and light. (

1766, French, literally “jealousy” (see jealousy), from notion of spying through blinds without being seen. (

7 thoughts on “Barb

  1. Dear Jenny,

    Barb sounds like a beautiful person – and one who recognized your own luminescence as she was drawn to the light that so clearly emanated from you. My heart aches with your loss – a place with which I am very familiar – but the warmth that is woven throughout this post will touch others for a lifetime. I love most that every instance of 1:50 will summon her sentiments to mind. Thank you so much for sharing. I won’t soon forget it.

    ~Carla Michelle


  2. What a unique writing strategy to link your own story with those of other writers. You encapsulated her essence through your carefully chosen words. What a blessing to have known someone with such a lasting legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been interesting to think about the writings of others as part of the larger conversations I am having (with myself and others). It’s so enriching and connecting.


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