A moment stands out to me from my early forties, possibly my late thirties. I had just gotten pictures back from development — it was pre-digital days — and I was sorting through them to decide which to put in our album. My husband pointed to one he liked of me, one I did not like very much at all. I can’t remember now exactly why I didn’t like it, only that I appeared not at all like my “ideal self.” Suddenly, a thought came to me: My appearance was not likely to improve. This was as good as it…


LIVED THROUGH THIS

Living with ALS has changed the way people perceive me, and it’s disconcerting

Back when I was in elementary school, there were always kids who were pariahs. Kids with certain kinds of deformities, or speech impediments, or habits of drooling. We knew we were not supposed to mock these kids, and so we didn’t taunt them openly, but we shunned them in subtle ways nonetheless. We would avoid them, or whisper about them, or choose them last for our teams, thinking our behavior would go unnoticed. But of course it was noticed. Noticed by the poor kid herself, noticed by the other students, noticed even by the teachers. …


When I was a kid and my family was driving back from our annual August vacation in New Hampshire, my mother would always break into song. “On the browning fields the spider spins, and the lambs no longer play, and the cricket now his chirp begins, sweet summer’s gone away. Sweet summer, sweet summer, sweet summer’s gone away…”

“No!” my sisters and I would yell. “Stop singing!”

We couldn’t stand saying goodbye to summer, and I still have trouble doing so. Doesn’t everyone love summer, the relaxed outdoor season, the time of vacations, water play, and backyard barbeques? …


The crackle and pop, its sensuous mercurial dance, its shifting colors — red, orange, white, blue, purple, green — the mysterious glow of the embers, the impossibility of grasping it in your hand. Fire galvanizes our attention as few other natural forces do. I have been obsessed with fire since I was a young girl. When we had candles at the dinner table, I loved poking at the melting wax. I learned that I could pass my finger through the candle’s flame, and it would emerge unscathed. For my sixth grade, science project I made candles in different diameters using…


THIS IS US

I was obsessed with silence long before I began losing my voice to ALS

An image has been coming to me repeatedly of late: falling snow seen through a window. It’s an image I associate with my New England childhood when snow often fell in great enough quantities to keep us home from school for a day or more. The exciting freedom of such a day included sleeping late, reading non-school books, tobogganing, and hot cocoa.

These associations will never go away, but my current thoughts about falling snow are less attached to the excitement than to the peace of it, the way snow can fall at a furious pace and still be silent…


I learned recently that my niece will be giving birth to a girl in February. This is not surprising. Our family has been giving birth to women for going on four generations. My sisters and nieces and I adore each other’s company. We love to sing together, and groom each other’s hair and toes, and talk about our lives, and dance and laugh. So, I am ecstatic about the imminent arrival of a girl baby, and I’m already picturing myself cradling this grandniece of mine, crooning to her, and appreciating all her girl-ness.

Most of the writing I have done…


I am in college, traversing the campus, wearing a pink wool sweater, an aberration for me as I have always eschewed the color pink as too girlie. But this sweater was a gift from my father, and so I’m giving it a chance, noticing how different it makes me feel: softer and, dare-I-say feminine, which is not a bad way to feel at this moment when I am thinking about a boy. I have a crush on this boy, a desire to lose my virginity with him and, as I think of him, I am also thinking about the beautiful…


My family of Boomers and Millennials is just concluding a week-long reunion. We have matured and ripened over the years so this recent gathering was rife with laughter and devoid of the tensions from gatherings in the past. The twenty-and-thirty-something cousins all get along now, respecting each other’s differences, and embracing each other’s partners, and my sisters and I have never been closer. I’m happy to have left behind the sniping, brooding days of yore.

A big source of laughter over the past week has been the repetition of old family memes, as well as the spinning of new memes…


I hate to contemplate the number of hours I have devoted over the years to trying to beautify myself. Preening is a part of the lives of numerous animals, but the human species, especially females of the human species, have taken the practice to extremes. I wore dungarees from childhood through my twenties, never wore makeup until well into my thirties, and to this day I have never had a manicure or owned a pair of real high heels, so I sometimes pretend that I have not succumbed to the cultural pressure that encourages women to pay unhealthy attention to…


I have been thinking a lot about mortality these days, not morbidly, but with curiosity about what it means to live a life with the uncomfortable, sometimes scary, knowledge that it will certainly come to an end. A recent interview in The Sun with Sheldon Solomon, a psychologist who researches death denial, led me to the work of Ernest Becker, author of, most famously, The Denial of Death. Becker believed that the fear of death is the “mainspring of human activity,” in that it shapes, mostly unconsciously, much of what we choose to do in our lives. …

Cai Emmons

Cai Emmons is the author of 5 books of fiction, most recently the novel, SINKING ISLANDS. Two more of her novels will be published in 2022.

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