Moving on in Single steps

“you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.” – poet Warsan Shire

Many years ago, I drove my grandmother home from the hospital after my grandfather died. She wept. “I don’t know who’s gonna fold my sheets now,” she cried. My grandfather had approached laundered sheets like they were wild animals in need of taming. As she cried, I reached over and put my hand on her shoulder, and accidentally swerved out of my lane.

“KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD, TRICIA!” my grandmother snapped, slapping away my hand. “YOU’RE GONNA KILL US.”  

When we arrived at their home a few minutes later, she grabbed a garbage bag from under the sink and walked to the back bathroom, the one my grandfather had used. She opened every drawer and medicine cabinet, and threw away all of his stuff – deodorant, comb, Vitalis hair tonic, razor, shaving cream, hand moisturizer, denture cleaner. Every damn thing. Then she went to the guest bathroom and began relocating all of her personal items into the back bathroom. Shower cap, bath powder, hair brush, blush, magnifying mirror, denture cleaner. 

My grandmother loved my grandfather dearly. They had been married for decades. But she was born of tough stock, and she approached adversity with a tiny bit of grief and a hefty dose of pragmatism. 

A few weeks ago, I asked my youngest daughter if she wanted to share my bathroom with me. I had already cleared out the drawers and cabinets so there would be room for her stuff. There are only four people living here now, so it makes sense that each bathroom be shared by two people. She likes having her very own shower – I only use the outdoor shower – and she loves having more than one drawer to fill with her own essentials. Hair ties, hair dye, more hair dye, charcoal toothpaste, jewelry. 

No one has died. But one less person sleeps under this roof. It’s still a bit crowded because we’re fostering two guinea pigs. Guinea pigs poop so much. It’s kind of amazing, actually. All they do is eat and poop. They’re a little bit cute.

I know you have no interest in hearing about the guinea pigs right now. You want to know why there’s one less person living in the house, or maybe why I’m willingly sharing my bathroom with a teenage girl. I’ll answer the latter question: because it makes for more peaceful mornings. But as for the former: I’m only going to respond in pithy cryptic phrases. The universe throws curveballs. Sometimes life gives you lemons. People change. It is what it is. C.S. Lewis: “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” 

So we’ve let go of the monkey bars, and now live in different playgrounds. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Don’t text me and ask me how I am. If you text me and ask me how I am, I’ll say, “I’ve gained five pounds. And guinea pigs poop so much.” 

I don’t care (too much) about the five pounds. So let’s talk about the guinea pigs. 

Guinea pigs, which are technically rodents, were domesticated thousands of years ago in South America and bred for food, though they don’t look too meaty to me. Eventually they were used as pets for children, too. 

My youngest daughter told me a few weeks ago a friend had learned about two guinea pigs needing a temporary home. She gave me a number to call and hounded me daily about it.  I honestly have no idea where she gets most of her information, and I was not particularly interested in fostering two rodents. So I kept putting her off.

Finally, she stood next to me and made me punch in the number while she watched. I had every intention of going in my room and closing the door to tell this person I absolutely could not foster any guinea pigs at this particular point in my newly single pandemic-y quarantined apocalyptic life. 

Someone answered and identified the number as belonging to a food bank. Something like the following conversation ensued:

Me: Oh! Hi! I’m calling about the guinea pigs? I’m just wondering –

E: Oh, yes! I’m so glad you called! We don’t know anything about guinea pigs and we really would like them to be where someone could pay attention to them? We think they’re bored? 

Me: Oh, well – I’m not sure I – I mean – what’s their story?

E: It’s really sad – their family lost their home and are living in a shelter, and they aren’t allowed to have pets there, and the kids really want them taken care of.


Me: {heavy, possibly audible sigh}

Me: Okay. How late will you be there this afternoon?

That’s how Cinderella and Cinnamon came to live in a cage on my dining room table. I don’t mind. We mostly eat at the counter, anyway, and their poop doesn’t really smell. The hard truth is that my pain takes up a tiny minute sliver of the pain in the universe right now, and the world is spinning too quickly for me to slow it down. I mean, I want to press pause and make everything stop so I can lay in a hammock for a month or three and look at the trees and figure out this new set of circumstances. But I can’t. My beautiful amazing children need to be fed and nurtured. Two homeless guinea pigs need to be fed and nurtured. The whole fucking world needs to be fed and nurtured. So I’m going to clean out the drawers and cabinets of my mind and restock it with the stuff I need to fed and nurtured myself so I can keep doing what needs to be done. 

I’ve got to keep my eyes on the road. 

41 responses to Moving on in Single steps

  1. Paula Horvath says:

    I’ve eaten guinea pigs and have learned how to let go of monkey bars without injuring myself. Everything is possible.

  2. Tony Flaris says:

    Find your animal spirit.
    The term comes from the Latin spiritus animalis, which means “the breath that awakens the human mind.”

      • Karen says:

        We have really nice trees here in California…some of the oldest and wisest. They grow tall and strong…for hundreds of years. They have great stories to tell. You’d be a great addition. Just sayin’. 🙂

  3. Carolyn says:

    Beautiful writing, as always. Now, tell me about this “charcoal toothpaste”?? Is this new and do my kids need it? They are (as am I) tired of toothpaste with flavors. Also,they would love guinea pigs, but the dog would eat them. Sending you live and hugs, cuz.

    • tricia says:

      Charcoal toothpaste is supposed to whiten your teeth, but real benefit: smiling at yourself in the mirror with gray foamy teeth.
      Love you, cousin! xo

  4. Carolyn says:

    Keep on track and make sure you are taking care of yourself plus kids, dogs, and guinea pigs!

  5. Karen Becker says:

    Beautifully written as always, Tricia. My favorite part is the whole ending, beginning with “The whole fucking world needs to be fed and nurtured.”

  6. Mary Goldenberg says:

    “Keep your eyes on the road Tricia”!!! Love you and sending a hand slap to you. Steamboat strong my dear friend.

  7. Margaret Booker says:

    I killed the class guinea pig after leaving on front porch for fresh air.
    Boiling glass chamber of death, my bad.
    So my only advice is do not set them outside.

    • tricia says:

      YIKES! That is horrid. I will take that advice. xoxo

  8. Lili Dwight says:

    When the 3 a.m. gut punch knocks you to your knees, it’s your kids, dogs, and guinea pigs that make you rise. Thank you, Cinderella and Cinnamon, for keeping our Tricia on the road. Sending you love.

    • tricia says:

      I love my Western Mass family so much. Thank you, dear Lili. xoxo

  9. Sarah says:

    Tricia, You are so right that the whole fucking world needs to be nurtured. I’ll always remember those chocolate chip cookies you fed us when our world had fallen apart. XO

  10. Nancy Massey says:

    You never cease to amaze…and I have no doubt you will keep it all securely between the ditches~XO

  11. Amy says:

    Tricia, you know we’ve been through the ringer with the entire spectrum of “top life stressors”, so if ya need an ear or perspective or pretty much anything, we are here. Love, peace and forward motion! 💪❤️

  12. Fran says:

    Love u Tricia! You are such a strong woman! Glad I still see your beautiful face everyday even if it’s only for a few minutes…😘😘😘

  13. Kelly Dotsikas says:

    I have been where you are several times and it is weird. I would love to say it’s easy but it is not. However, I have found that I can devote more time & energy to new things which can be very healing and refreshing!

    • tricia says:

      Miss seeing your face, friend. Thanks for reading. xoxo

  14. Donna says:

    Single steps and the right meds have put me back into the driver’s seat of a car of my own choosing. You are in the parking lot looking for your car as we all do, You’ll find it. Let the healing process begin. YOU are part of the world that needs to be fed and nurtured too. So sit in the damn hammock each day, if only for a few minutes, and look at the trees and dream again…

  15. DLynn Phelps says:

    Tricia, It is so important to have good role models in our lives. It helps us navigate the challenges that come our way. I see that your grandmother is clearly one of them! You are blessed. xoxo

  16. Tricia, I just finished your book that I should have read almost three years ago when I met you at that funky reading. I came here to follow your blog and found this post. With your book so close to my mind I feel like I know the characters in the story… except it’s not a story, it’s your life, and my heart aches for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *