The Elite Hall Publishing House is an international publisher since 2006.
The Elite Hall Publishing House is an international publisher since 2006.
A brief introduction to some of the ways animals sleep.
The book starts off with the titular phrase, “Hello animals! How do you sleep?” On each double-page spread, two beautiful and realistic illustrations provide the answer. The text is spare: “Warm in the hay” (a calf and a foal); “Tucked in my tail” (a squirrel and a fox); “Cozy on cushions” (a dog and a cat); “Curled in nests” (a hedgehog and a gerbil); “Deep in dens” (a rabbit and a bear); and “Snuggled in straw” (two ducklings and a hen). The animals are not named, but most will be familiar to adult readers if not children. Author/illustrator Botman is from the Netherlands, and it shows in the choices of some of the animals illustrated, such as a hedgehog and a red squirrel, which are not native to North America. By keeping the text spare, Botman allows readers to focus on the illustrations, which are quite lovely. They appear to have been done with pastel crayons or some other smudgy medium, as they have a comforting, mottled look.
A charming and very simple introduction to animals and their sleeping habits for babies and toddlers. (Board book. 1-3)
To choruses of electronic roars, shrieks, and gabbles, licensed aliens take on licensed beasts.
Along with brief introductions and fighting-skills rating charts, Hidalgo supplies perfunctory scenarios for matchups between a Wookiee and a Sarlacc, a Tusken raider and a tauntaun, and three other pairings—inviting readers to press on designated spots to activate snatches of sound and to pick winners for each dust-up. His descriptions (“These rolling meatballs of teeth and tentacles are considered one of the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy,” he says of rathtars) are generally more colorful than Park’s recognizable but bland, flattened, cartoony figures. The tinny hoots and calls issuing from the rear cover’s tiny speaker are likewise generic, mostly interchangeable, and sound as if they were recorded in a cardboard box. The scenarios and the art are free of explicit gore or violence, but there’s a streak of cruelty in evidence, as the Ewoks are sent to saw off a wampa’s horn “for a mystical ceremony,” and the Geonosian’s task is to egg a reluctant rancor out into an arena to fight droids for the purpose of “impressing some visiting Hutts.”
The Force is definitely not with this one. (replaceable batteries, on/off switch) (Novelty. 6-8)
In honor of World Book Day 2019, Airbnb announced a sweet deal for book lovers: you can book a dream literary escape to one of several bookish places for a mere $17 (plus taxes and fees). Ten hosts have offered up the deal, with stays available May, June, and July.
Check out the incredible home options for your dream literary trip. If any of these catches your fancy and you’ve got flexible travel in the next three months, book it immediately. The deal lasts today only. Click through to the listing to find the specific date ranges the deal is good for, as each home has a different availability.
If you love . . .
Try out the home in Bridgehampton, New York, where you’ll not only be on Long Island, but you’ll have access to a heated salt water pool and more.
You’ll want to plan for a trip to Palm Beach, Australia and luxuriate in the beautiful beach views and the lighthouses.
This one is for the kid in every adult, as well as every kid, period. Head to Älmeshult, Sweden, and soak in the area that inspired the setting for Pippi’s story.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway and cannot get enough of stories like those of Nicholas Sparks, this beach-set cottage in New Bern, North Carolina, is calling your name.
For Austenines, this getaway in Chawton, England, the setting that inspired the classic Pride and Prejudice would be a dream come true. Although not Austen’s personal home, legend has it she did visit it. But author-connection to the home or not, the setting is the real sell.
Another childhood favorite you can throw yourself into comes with this home in Cherryfield, Maine, where you’ll get to chill in an old but charming barn. This is one for those who really want to connect with nature, as there are orchards, fruit bushes, and plenty of wildlife.
Naturally, this one is in New Orleans. This house was originally built for free women of color and has an incredible history attached to it beyond its literary similarity.
Maybe you don’t want to live in Gilead, but this unique stay in Newton, Massachusetts, would make for a grand place to catch up on your Atwood reading and/or the Hulu adaptation of her classic.
Zadie Smith fans, check out this sweet little spot in North West London that’s rife with Victorian details, a gorgeous nearby park, and plenty of space to curl up with a delicious read.
Last, but certainly not least, indulge in your love of all things Outlander in this incredible lodge in Scotland. Seriously. This place is spectacular.
Want more great bookish stays? Check out these 10 literary themed hotels and book yourself your dream vacation.
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I think about the possibilities and implications of time travel way more than a normal human adult should. Let’s face it, though, filling your head with dreams of hypothetical sci-fi scenarios is more fun than filling up on the news cycle, so let’s roll with it. First off, before we go any further, if I had a time machine I would go back in time and see Roy Orbison live at his Black and White Night concert. Full stop, on the record. Sorry fam, sorry problems of the world, that’s where I’d be. Sound off on your dream time machine trip in the comments. Okay, now on to the time travel books.
There is one major ingredient I need in my time travel and that ingredient is angst. Get on board with me here. Characters that are out of their own time, loved ones left behind (or forward) in time, paradoxes. The angst goes on and on. I’m stopping myself from typing a stream of consciousness run-on sentence of angsty Doctor Who moments that had me crying my face off. I mean, there’s this one Twelve x Clara fanfic where she goes back to see him before he forgets her and I just can’t (sorry!). That being said, these next three books kinda had me crying my face off too.
Here’s the set up: there’s a deadly flu pandemic in America. Frank catches the virus and his girlfriend Polly is willing to do whatever it takes to save him. Time travel has been invented in the future in order to combat the virus. Big bad business is offering to pay for the expensive, life-saving medical treatment in exchange for a one-way trip to the future as a bonded laborer. Polly takes the job to save Frank and they plan to meet up on a specific date in the future. Problem is, Polly ends up an extra five years into the future. The America she finds herself in is very different from what she was expecting and she has to cope not only with the potential loss of Frank, but also with the loss of everything that she knows about the world.
Polly and Frank are living in some dark times. I mean not only are they living in a time travel novel, it’s also just a tiny bit dystopian too. Real talk though, I love this book so much. It’s got your classic stuck-in-time angst, but there’s also the added, super relevant angst of Polly’s journey as a time refugee.
Doctor Who angst level equivalent: Rose and Ten stuck on opposite sides of that (time and space) wall.
First off, here’s what you need to know: Kin Stewart is just your normal IT guy, he has a wife and daughter (both super sci-fi nerds btw), and his life is pretty normal. The only thing is, Kin used to be a time-traveling secret agent from the future. After a botched mission left him stranded in San Francisco in the 1990s, he had to make a new life. Then his rescue team shows up, 18 years too late.
I know, right, you already want to start reading and you don’t even know how emotional this one is going to get! Kin is quite literally torn between two lives and it gets angsty, people. I don’t want to give too much more away but there’s bootstrap paradoxes, good old ’90s hacking, time emails, and Doctor Who quotes. Get your hands on this ASAP.
Doctor Who angst level equivalent: “I’m changing history to save Clara.”
The set up: It’s 1967 and a group of four genius, flawed, badass women invent time travel. Now they have to live with it and all the consequences that follow. Time travel is revolutionary, but it also comes with its own everyday problems. They found the Conclave to deal with all of these new issues, like time government, time crime, and time administration. These ladies are like UNIT, the Doctor, the companion, and the Time Lords all in one. But with time travel becoming a huge business, what started out as a regulatory institution quickly becomes more like a secret society, complete with the hazing of rookies and their own book of terminology.
There’s so much to unpack with this one. It’s told from multiple characters’ points of view including the original inventors, some of their family members, and some time-adjacent folks. The most important plot point is that time travelers meet up with their future selves or “silvers” constantly, which makes for some really interesting scenes. The story begins with the breaking up of the original group and continues with a pretty crazy, locked-room mystery. And it really brings the angst when the multiple story lines begin to intertwine and overlap.
Doctor Who angst level equivalent: “We keep meeting in the wrong order.”
Have you ever read a book and just thought “everyone needs to read this?” I’m typically a fiction reader and often find it hard to get into nonfiction books. Lately, however, I’ve become obsessed with reading about issues inherent in the American political system. Thankfully, there are tons of incredible writers out there who aren’t content to just sit back and do nothing. They are conducting research to get to the bottom of some of our issues and present real solutions. Here are my top four books that you (and everyone else) needs to read right now.
The New Jim Crow presents a very compelling case for the way in which racism has been systematically incorporated into the United States government. It traces a line from slavery to the Jim Crow Laws right up through the modern prison industrial complex. It shows how, into the present day, we have found a way to oppress minorities through completely legal means.
This book blew my mind wide open. I was aware that our criminal justice system had issues, but I didn’t quite realize the extent of it. What really amazed me was just how calculated the inequality inherent in the system was. This book will call into question everything you thought you knew about criminality in this country. It really forced me to take a second look at the language our politicians use and the way that racism has been embedded in our culture.
I have always been struck by how much the European governments provide for their citizens during my travels. It seemed too good to be true. Surely the narrative that Americans tell you about Europe must be true—they are just “socialist nanny states” that coddle their people into complacency and hinder innovation.
This book, written by a Finnish woman who immigrated to America in 2010, will help you to reimagine this story. Partanen explains how, because Nordic countries provide free healthcare, education, and childcare to all their people, they actually facilitate a more free, content, and prosperous people. Contrary to the claim that these countries are socialistic, they are adamantly capitalistic. They help facilitate the growth of their economies by ensuring their people have the necessary resources to be productive members of society. This provides freedom from many economic worries. Even better, she provides insight on policy shifts that could help bring America into a more modern way of thinking about government.
Evicted paints a stark picture of poverty in America. Matthew Desmond is a sociologist who immersed himself in two communities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: a predominantly white trailer park and a black south side neighborhood. He follows a few families through the cycle of eviction and attempting to find housing for themselves and their families. They are working to get back on their feet but consistently struggling to overcome their eviction records. The book is utterly heartbreaking because the system seems completely stacked against these people.
Desmond details the challenges that the landlords face as well, to show how both sides fare poorly in the current system. He shows that the problem can’t be blamed on any one person or any single system or law, but is made up of a tapestry of issues that have been compounded over time. In addition to the evidence he presents, he offers real solutions to the problem. By explaining why previous efforts to address it have failed, he makes a compelling argument for policy changes that could actually create a real difference in the lives of Americans all across this country.
This book is a bit different than the other ones on the list, which present an issue, provide evidence of the issue in the United States, and then offer up solutions for ways to fix the problems. Coates wrote the book as a letter to his son. In this letter, he goes into great depth about the struggle of being a black man in this country. He talks about how the rules are different for them. How his son will have to conduct himself differently in order to not only succeed but simply survive. The book is beautifully written and heartbreaking, while offering an opportunity to really see the world from a different perspective. This, to me, is the real beauty of reading.
While these selections are just a few of the books that have recently come out in a wave to rethink and reimagine the way that America functions on a very large scale, they are all extremely important. I think that many Americans have started to feel that something in our system is broken, but feel at a loss of how to begin to make any change. These books provide a blueprint as to how to begin this fight and bring America into a new era.
After living in the DC area for almost five years, I finally got my act together and went to the Library of Congress to get a reader’s card. Many people don’t know it’s even possible to get a (free!) library card from the Library of Congress—but it is! The process is actually pretty easy and, once you have it, you can access reading rooms and materials at the Library of Congress beyond what’s available to the public online. The Library of Congress website gives a decent rundown of how to go about it, but sometimes instructions from the eyes of the customer can be helpful. So, how do you get a Library of Congress Reader’s Card?
First things first—you need to get yourself to the Library of Congress. Located in Washington, D.C., the Jefferson Building is directly across from the Capitol Building, so you can feasibly make a day of it. The best way to get to the area is by Metro. The Capitol South Metro station is accessible via the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines. Once you exit the station, you’ll walk about a third of a mile. Take a right onto C Street SE, then a left onto 2nd Street SE, a left onto Independence Avenue SE, and finally a right onto 1st Street SE. You can enter through the visitor entrance on 1st Street SE. An accessible entrance is available at this location as well as other sides of the building.
If you prefer a less scenic option, the Madison Building also has an office to process new readers. I signed up for mine in the Jefferson Building, so the following describes that particular route. Folks working at the Library of Congress are very friendly and helpful, however, and you can always ask them for directions.
Once you’re inside the building and through security on the ground floor, you’ll need to check any bags. There are free coat checks available and the staff may remind you to hold onto your ID if you’re going to register for a card.
From the Information Desk in the center of the entrance area (still on the ground floor), you’ll walk straight back and through the “yellow tunnel” (really a yellow hallway). When I spoke to a woman for directions, she warned me I might think I was lost, but to keep walking and I would find my destination. You’ll pass lots of closed-door offices along the path, which curves around the center of the building. At the end of the tunnel, you’ll find an elevator to the left and right. Take one to the first floor.
On the first floor, you’ll land right next to LJ139. There is a sign-in sheet near the security desk where you’ll write your name and the date. Then, to the left of LJ139, you can join the line to register.
Know before you go: LJ139 is open 8:30 to 4:30 Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday and 8:30 to 9:00 Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. LM133 in the Madison Building (the Reader Registration Office) is open 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Saturday. Both offices are closed all federal holidays.
In the Jefferson Building, the Microform and Electronic Resources Center (where card registration happens) is also a research room, so you’ll want to keep the volume down.
Inside LJ139, you’ll first go to a small desk to the right where a staff member will ask whether you’ve pre-registered for a card. You can choose to do this prior to visiting the building; I opted to wait until I was there to fill out the application. If you decide to do it on-site, the staff member will direct you to a computer, which will walk you through adding your name, address, phone number, email address, and purpose of use (i.e. academic or personal/business). Once you’ve finished, you’ll rejoin the line to see the staff member at the desk, who will verify your information. Then you’ll go to another line to get your photo taken.
A staff member will request your ID, pull up your record, and prepare your card in a few seconds. Then, you’ll be asked to move to a stool in front of a blue sheet where they’ll take your photo. You can choose to smile or not.
Your card will process and print in a few seconds while the staff member assists the next person. You’ll then be handed your card and can merrily enter the Main Reading Room or any other of the rooms available with a reader’s card!
Reader’s cards are good for two years and must be renewed in-person with a valid ID. According to the site, acceptable ID may be a “valid driver’s license, state-issued identification card, or passport.”
Reader’s cards can be used to access reading rooms and request materials. You can find out more about how to use your card (aside from as a cool conversation piece/point of bragging) here.
Just want to visit the Library of Congress? Find our guide of how to visit the Library of Congress here. Get a little more oomph for your visit with these tips on making the most of your Library of Congress experience. And, check out our Library of Congress archives here.
I still have dreams where I’m in the bookstore past closing time, and customers are banging on the door or lining up as far as the eye can see. The dreams are often nightmarish, and I wake up feeling panicked. I worked for five years in a big bookstore, and I genuinely wonder why my subconscious has decided to use it as the setting for some of my most anxiety-inducing dreams.
I’m incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to be present for midnight Harry Potter and Hunger Games book launches. I cherish the moments where I was able to brighten someone’s day by recommending the perfect page-turner. There really is nothing like standing in a nearly empty bookstore and feeling the weight of all the pages around you.
But it’s not all fun, there are some downsides to working in a bookstore. Not convinced? Here are a few reasons you might want to slip your resume somewhere else.
You’ll spend your days wondering how in the world you’re going to be able to read all those books. You look at the tall shelves surrounding you and quickly realize that the truth is you’ll never read all the books, and you panic and fall into a hole of existential dread.
Okay. You’ll get a paycheck. I hope. But you’re not going to see much of it, because the urge to buy new books will overtake all of your senses. The logical part of your brain actually dies when you’re constantly surrounded by so many books. When there’s a sale, you’ll fly into a book-buying hysteria as if the paperbacks and mass markets won’t be there the next day—but they will, and you’ll feel ashamed the next day when you come in and see the nice stack still sitting there.
When a trendy book gets a sequel, you’ll inevitably be asked to work late for a midnight book launch. There will be crowds. There will be shrieking teens and probably a few people in costume. You’ll go home past your bedtime and then you’ll be up even later because you need to start the damn book that you just bought at the launch.
They’ll heave under the weight of all the books you’re bringing home. You could buy another bookshelf, but why not live dangerously? You stack and re-stack like you’re in the DaVinci Code and there’s only one possible configuration that will make sense. Eventually, you re-organize the books by spine color, because let’s face it, you’re only organizing so you can look at and admire your collection.
Customers will flock to you as if they’re Princess Leia and you’re Obi-Wan. You’re the only one who can give them what they need. Their stay stay-up-late read, the book they’ve been searching for all day, the perfect book for mom’s birthday. Sometimes they only know what the author’s name sounds like. Often, they provide you with a vague description of a book they’ve never read but saw recommended in a magazine. The hunt becomes a puzzle and you are the puzzle master. It feels good to dole out recs with confidence and slapping your “recommended by” sticker on a book is incredibly satisfying, but sometimes it’s tough to be in a position of so much power.
Gosh! Working in a bookstore sure is tough 😉
Some comic book characters who have been around for decades have iconic costumes that have stood the test of time. Some have progressed through a series of stylish ensembles to reflect their ever-changing time periods.
And some, apparently, get dressed in the dark.
Here on Fashion Disasters, we’ll showcase those poor slobs who just can’t seem to get it right. Today: Power Girl! (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?)
Power Girl has long had a controversial costume, with her iconic look shrouded in rumor and apocrypha (if not shrouded in much else). The sad truth is that that costume? The one you’re thinking of? That’s probably the best look she’s ever had. But let’s take it from the top!
Power Girl debuted in All Star Comics #58 (February 1976), as a new member of the Justice Society of America, which at the time was operating on Earth-2, a parallel world to the more familiar Earth-1. Power Girl—also known as Kara Zor-L, or Karen Starr—was Earth-2’s answer to Supergirl. Like Supergirl, she was Superman’s cousin and a Kryptonian refugee. Unlike Supergirl, she debuted not in the demure ‘50s but the swingin’ ‘70s, and so came complete with a more adult costume, a kicky short haircut, and a proud Women’s Lib attitude.
Also, that costume.
The apocryphal story about the costume is that Wally Wood, the artist who designed Power Girl, kept making her breasts—and the hole in her costume, commonly known as a “boob window”—bigger with every issue, waiting to see if his editor would stop him. Supposedly, the story goes, no one ever did, and Peej quickly became known as one of the most stacked heroines in comics. I’ve read Power Girl’s time in the JSA and haven’t been able to trace any kind of steady increase in cup size, but that story is a great example of the kind of slobbery “hur hur” humor that Power Girl is almost constantly subjected to. The fact that she was introduced as an outspoken feminist probably didn’t help; in fact, it seems to have increased the glee male creators and critics take in mocking her body.
And actually, Peej rotated through three slight variations on that original costume in the late ’70s. One covered up the boob window; the other traded it for a simpler scoop neck.
In fact, for all the boob window’s infamy, the scoop neck probably had more appearances in the Bronze Age than any other version.
In 1985, however, DC eradicated Earth-2—and all Kryptonians but Superman—with Crisis on Infinite Earths. By rights, Power Girl would have been doubly gone. But someone up there liked her, and so she stuck around, with a revamped origin. Instead of being an alternate universe Superman’s cousin, she was the granddaughter of an ancient Atlantean sorcerer who had been kept in magical stasis for millennia to protect her from his enemies. Also, she was vulnerable to “natural objects,” so you couldn’t shoot her with a gun, but you could hit her with a tree branch. Comics!
This new origin required a new look, and so we got…this…
I mean, it’s…different. And the cowl neck is…cozy? Honestly, this costume is a great example of how more fabric doesn’t necessarily mean less objectification, considering how hard it works to make it look like her boobs and butt are hanging out even though she’s fully clothed.
But it’s not her fault. It was the ’90s. Everyone in comics looked like that, even Batman. (Especially Batman.)
(No, I don’t know why she’s on fire. That’s not an Atlantean power. They’re too damp.)
A couple years later, she returned to her typical color pattern—and to inexplicable combat cleavage—with this:
Is it easier to look at this if I promise you this is as bad as it gets? I mean. The boots. The piping. The diamond boob window. The epaulets. The HEADBAND.
Hmm, what does this remind me of?
When even Olivia Newton-John is judging you, you know it’s bad.
(Terribleness of the costume aside, this cover is legit amazing. More superheroes should fight living statues while their teammates are like “Uh…?”)
Thankfully, the ’90s couldn’t last forever, and in the early aughts, Power Girl returned to her classic look (as well as her classic origin story). Somewhere over the course of the ’80s and ’90s, however, comic book art became less anatomically correct and more stylized, which meant that the old look had a new…intensity:
It was reclaimed a bit when Amanda Conner started drawing the character, so much so that I think that when most people think about Power Girl, they think of Conner’s version:
And really, that’s well-deserved. There’s a personality to Conner’s Peej, a joyfulness and a solidity and a genuinely fashionable sensibility. Sure, the boob window is bigger than ever, with no visible means of support underneath it, but the seaming of the costume, the redesigned boots, and the stylish haircut (hard to tell in this windblown image, but Conner gives great hair) all contributed to make this Power Girl feel like a person and not just angry cleavage.
This was…not the case for every artist around this time:
But! As with so many other characters, Peej got a new look courtesy of the 2011 New 52 reboot. Unfortunately, again as with so many other characters, it was a really really bad look. Two looks, technically:
In the front is her new Power Girl costume, which…well, styling a P around one breast is certainly a choice. As is all the detailing. And making the whole thing very obviously footie pajamas. And the weird Farrah Fawcett hair.
In the back is…wait, does that cape have cap sleeves? Why is this costume so weird???
Anyway, yeah, in the back is the costume this version of Peej wore as Supergirl back on Earth-2 before popping over to Earth-1:
I included this in my Supergirl costume rankings where I put it at #35 (out of 49) and declared it a mess, but a charmingly specific-to-Supergirl’s-1970s-aesthetic mess. I stand by that.
After a few issues in the P-boob costume, Power Girl’s new look got…literally torn off of her in a fight with Supergirl. Yeah. I know. Supergirl’s underwater version of the Fortress of Solitude generated a new look for Karen that was awfully familiar…
Like the Amanda Conner redesign, this look (by Mahmud Asrar) is a thoughtful reexamination of Power Girl’s classic look, this time answering the question: “What would that costume look like if it was generated by a sentient underwater robot house?” (A question we’ve all asked ourselves in many contexts.) I like the collar and the belt, and the detailing on the boots and gloves and seaming on the suit is science-y without being too fiddly.
After a few years, though, Power Girl returned to Earth-2 and a more Supergirl-branded costume:
This is legitimately Very Good, sartorially speaking. It evokes her classic look while gracefully sidestepping the boob window issue; it’s clean but not boring; there’s a nice balance of blue and red; the gloves and cape are interesting without being overly busy. I genuinely love it, as a costume.
The problem is, it’s a Supergirl costume, and this is Power Girl. From her very first appearance, she declared herself to be independent of his name, his iconography, and his legacy. As much as I love Superman and the whole Superfamily, slapping an S-shield on a grown-up Karen Starr feels disrespectful.
But without the shield, what do you do with the elephant in the room? And here’s where I confess that I truly, legitimately like Power Girl’s classic look, complete with boob window. I like the crispness of the white. I like the silhouette. I like the gold epaulet, when she’s got it. When drawn by Wally Wood or Amanda Conner, the cheesecakery is secondary to the craftsmanship and character, and it’s a look that’s uniquely hers, which is difficult to find in our superhero-saturated culture.
None of that changes the fact that it’s ridiculous, or that it’s the source of so much sophomoric humor and polarizing debate that it’s become a distraction. Or that the comics themselves have twisted themselves into ever more agonized contortions to justify it. See, for example, this scene from JSA: Classified #2 by Conner and Geoff Johns, where Karen explains her wardrobe choices to Superman:
You heard it here, folks: Power Girl has a hole in her costume because she’s not as good as Superman. Looking at her weeping as her breasts attempt to annex her neck, and reading dialogue that even Shakespeare would think was leaning a little hard on the genitalia metaphor, I have to conclude that there’s no salvaging this ensemble, whether I like it or not. The costume’s got to go.
Power Girl is back in the classic look, but she’s also, as near as I can tell, trapped in some kind of realm between worlds, and has been for over a year. Still, if she survived the original Crisis, she can survive anything, so she’s sure to be back soon. For all our sakes, let’s hope it’s in a different costume.
Previously in this series:
Content note: this post discusses death and dying. Please proceed with caution, and take care of your heart and mental health.
I got the call on a Wednesday. My father had a stroke. There was no chance he’d survive. Could I come?
He was in San Miguel de Allende. I was in Los Angeles with no passport. I made a phone call. I got an emergency appointment the next morning. I booked a flight. I had my picture taken, red-cheeked from tears and walking fast. I went to Staples three times to print and copy the different forms I needed. On Thursday I took a Lyft to the Federal building and sat in the gardens with the migrating butterflies, reading a zine called Hope in this Timeline from Fireside Magazine and the Mexicanx Initiative.
I got on the plane on Friday, passport in hand. All the way to Guanajuato I thought about Laura Ingalls Wilder, remembering the biography I’d read of her as a young adult. It was the first time I’d realized that her books were not the whole truth. Written in the 1970s, it is far from a perfect biography, but the brief passage describing Laura desperately trying to get back to De Smet before Pa died stuck with me all these years.
But in the spring of 1902 came a change that Laura did not expect. From the far-off prairies of Dakota came a message she did not want to hear. Pa was sick. Pa was going to die.
Laura left Rocky Ridge in a rush. She made her way from one train to another across Kansas and Nebraska and Dakota to De Smet. It was a long way to go, and she didn’t have much time. Now she hurried, she hurried home, as though across the prairie she could hear—ever so faintly—the last fading song of a honey-brown fiddle, a word, a bright whistle in the night.
—from Laura by Donald Zochert
Laura made it to De Smet before Pa died, and I made it to San Miguel before my Poppy died.
I sat with him for about six hours on Saturday. His partner played his favorite Vivaldi and I read to him from a book of his favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
—Poem #632 from The Essential Emily Dickinson
I felt surprisingly okay after he went. I think being with him helped tremendously, but I also thought of all the times I had imagined losing him—it has been my biggest dread for as long as I can remember—and I thought of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, who raised 11 children after her husband’s sudden and unexpected death.
While Dad lived, Mother was afraid of fast driving, of airplanes, of walking alone at night. When there was lightning, she went in a dark closet and held her ears. When things went wrong at dinner, she sometimes burst into tears and had to leave the table. She made public speeches, but she dreaded them.
Now, suddenly, she wasn’t afraid anymore, because there was nothing to be afraid of. Now nothing could upset her, because the thing that mattered most had been upset.
—from Cheaper by the Dozen by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.
Gilbreth’s children wrote a second memoir, Belles on Their Toes, that is largely about Mother, while Cheaper By The Dozen is about Dad. (And in case you are wondering, they did have 12 children; the second, Mary, died of diphtheria in 1912.)
I stayed in Mexico for eight days after his death, spending time with his partner and going through his things. I had trouble sleeping, and when I couldn’t sleep I read the only book I’d brought with me (unless everything else on my Kindle counts), Figuring by Maria Popova. It is a book that is almost impossible to describe; it is a book that is about what it is that makes us human, and it answers that question through the lives of scientists and poets. It is 545 pages long in hard cover, not including the index (which is why I bought the Kindle version at the last minute), and I am only perhaps a quarter of the way through; it’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. Rather than attempting to choose a passage to quote, I will leave you with this bit from a W.H. Auden poem that is the epigraph:
How should we like it were the stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.