Consume Only When Ripe

The kids are losing teeth around the house; Ava lost two baby teeth a couple days after Christmas, and a week later Amir lost his first molar. There isn't a more symbolic marker of maturity for a little kid than a tooth that’s fallen out of her head and landed, bloodied at the root, on the living room floor. Ava freaked out. Amir was at school when his tooth came out and he went to see the school nurse who gave him a plastic container shaped like a tooth in which he stored his molar.

I’m maturing, but it’s not as cute on me as it is on the kids. I chose not to color my hair the last time I went to the salon and now silver strands glitter at my hairline like cheap tinsel and I’m having second thoughts about being dye-free.

In our family garden, vegetables have broken ground as evidence of the planters’ hard work, patience and luck. Last November, Paul and Ava planted tomatoes, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and basil in our backyard. We had a feral cat, we think, that nibbled the lettuce for a while and because of that we didn’t believe the lettuce would ever grow. I’m not really sure what “we” did to remedy that, but today there are beautiful heads of lettuce above ground.

The lettuce is not quite mature, but it’s getting there.

Who knew that broccoli had such proud stature as it grew?

Our tomato and basil plants didn’t make it, although I remember Ava pulling off leaves of basil in December and munching on them near the swing set, so I think it was growing for a while. I asked Paul what happened to those plants and he said the weather got too cold. In a classroom, two out of four would be a failing grade, but in the garden it feels like our effort deserves a B+.

My manuscript is maturing. I’m 80% there, working on the last three stories before I send it to friends for review and feedback. I’ve had most of the stories published and recently sent another story out to find a home. I started the first stories in the collection some ten years ago, think about that! Over those ten years I’ve written a dozen stories, a novel, a poetry collection, had two children, completed an MFA… and I still don’t have a book. Believe me when I say that this writing thing ain’t for everybody.

Even without a book, I’m pleased with how my writing has evolved. The stories in my collection feel like everything I’ve thought about over the years and I’ll be proud to copy this manuscript and stand on street corners to pass it out if it comes to that. Unlike the novel and poetry--which I rushed to finish for school or because someone asked if I had a manuscript--this collection has been a labor of love like the garden. I’ve been slowly growing these characters over time. The stories really weren't ready before now. Sometimes I flip through the pages simply admiring how it looks.

There’s something satisfying about well-told short fiction. A story is not an entire world, not like a novel, but it’s a slice of life that reaffirms our daily experience. I re-read one of my favorite stories last week: “Real Estate” by Lorrie Moore. Those pages with Ruth’s laughter….well, it just doesn’t get any better.


  1. A full and beautiful life...I wish I was there to share a meal of your vegetables -- I'm impressed they look really good-- and see your kids grow up. Send me stories to read. Post pix, always thinking of you..xosteph

  2. I love readding, and thanks for your artical.........................................