Friday, December 04, 2009


We packed 460 lunches for local school children in an hour and a half, assembly-line style: Pudding cup, juice box, apple, snack mix, cheese sandwich, bologna sandwich. Eliot was at the apple station, Ethan covered the snack mix.

As we left, the first snow was falling—wet pavement, white rooftops and lawns. “Oh, look at the snow!” I crooned to the boys. Ethan was already etching his name on the car window with a warm finger. This is the first winter he can write his name.

I let down my window; the snow clumped and stood four inches tall, where the glass had been. The boys found this spectacular. We rolled slowly down quiet city streets, held by the wonder of Christmas lights in the snow. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” Eliot said.

Depression is sometimes delineated as a negative schema the brain adopts, in response to childhood trauma or stress. There are other explanations: hormonal imbalance, insufficient levels of neurotransmitters. Cortisol, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine. I have my own theories—general theories, including the unique nature of modern alienation, the corrupting power of affluence and consumerism; and specific ones I’d dare not apply to anyone but me. The truth is probably what it usually is: intricate.

Last night a volunteer coordinator supervised our lunch-making, on her birthday. “What a perfect way to spend your birthday, isn’t it?” observed a fellow coordinator.

A few days ago I let my tongue loose while it was Under the Influence of Negative Schema and in the vicinity of my older children. I lied. I said I didn’t believe in change, didn’t believe that people could change, didn’t believe it mattered anyway, and I didn’t believe in joy.

I don’t need to tell you what the last decade of my life has been—how I’ve squandered my time, money, talent, health or that I’ve lived in pursuit of the Great Sop and become ornery, unkind, and aloof. Is it enough, instead, to say that I awoke crying this morning before I knew why, wearing a powder-blue volunteer shirt and remembering the snow?