A couple of nights ago, while Abbott was at camp for the week and Cal and Alexi were at hockey, I made a meal to take and share with a friend who has a newborn baby. Beef stroganoff. I had planned to roast a chicken, but started craving the combination of noodles, meat and mushrooms as soon as I took in the mood of the day. After grinning at the beautiful baby girl until she got hungry, I plated the food while my friend nursed her baby. There was a pleasure in inhabiting her kitchen. Rummaging through the vintage china, each piece unique, choosing just the right one for each of us. For the first time, I noticed her husband’s old college ID held in place on the fridge with a magnet; studied the picture of him looking so young. I stood barefoot, as I do, just as I had in my kitchen an hour earlier.
As we ate, we caught up on what had happened - the mundane and the startling - since we’d seen each other the week before. Our time at the table was brief, as it is in any house with a newborn. After the table was cleared, we bundled up for a walk. We strolled the quiet streets illuminated by the occasional streetlight. One home we passed had skeleton bone shaped lights outlining the front door. There were cartoonishly thick cottony cobwebs draped over ornamental shrubs and through tree branches, as there are in every neighborhood in America the weeks before Halloween. One window displayed a crayon drawing of a cat and a witch on a broom. As we walked, we exchanged stories of times before we were friends. I tried to describe how I found out I had breast cancer as a 28 year old, so many years ago, and the first thing that came to mind was how little I remember about that moment. I can smell the plastic of the receiver next to my face as I was on the phone with my surgeon, and picture the shoes I was wearing, that I stared at as we talked, and feel the texture of the beige formica counter I leaned against. All that remains of the conversation, however, is the melodic Southern drawl of my surgeon uttering the word ‘cancer’ and then the phrase ‘this is not a death sentence.’ I don’t remember the subsequent phone calls I must have made to family and friends.
When I think back to this night, I’ll remember the friendship, the way the baby slept the second we were out the door, and the complexity of personal archaeology.