Our theme for the month of September is Alphabet Soup. Each writer was assigned a letter and will title their post “___ is for ___.”

And the tut, tut, tut of rain on the flat deck roof the summer the desert soaked in tears and thunder, and we lay on our tummies on the wool rug that tickled and itched as we traced its thinning flowers and listened to Mr. Tumnus offer Lucy his umbrella. 

“How would it be if you came and had tea with me?” 

We had tea every night. Sleepy Time tea, with the bear on the box. It went cold and leafy as we stalled for just one more chapter and our tongues reached for honey sunk to the bottom of the mug.

T is for “taste.” For icing, grainy with sugar and chalky with cornstarch, or something like it, that we used when we ran out of powdered sugar and needed something to balance a too-generous splash of milk. Stolen icing, forbidden icing, we weren’t supposed to lick it sneakily from double-dipped fingers. 

“I licked these,” you said protecting a paper plate of gingerbread in a hug. You thought a little saliva would keep me or mom or dad off your dribbling stars and dinosaurs. How naive. Do you remember the year the power shut off practically the instant the last cookie sheet was removed from the oven, and we held hands to stumble around the ladder in the hall and go upstairs to bed? What was Dad building? That ladder was more up than down. That house more apart than together. And so were we. Did we have many traditions? It seems like things were always changing. “Can’t step in the same river twice,” I guess. 

Do you remember we always wanted to “dip our toes in?” Every Memorial Day, and Labor Day, and 4th of July we’d beg to go up to the mountains, even though every pair of cargo shorts, canvas fishing hat, and mosquito in a hundred-mile radius would be there. We were obsessed with water, the little streams and lakes that seem mere ponds to me now that I live in Michigan. Swimming was such a novelty. T should be for “toes.” 

Or T could be for “tapping,” the way my foot is dancing off without me as I listen to the thump, ta tump, ta ta of the Bodhran drum, the heartbeat of the green island we’ve never been to and whose songs we’ve sung since we were little, mimicking the tumbling sounds of Gaelic from CDs because they were the words of magic. This music makes me think of you. I miss you. If traditions are things which happen always, I miss the traditions of you. I miss you always racing me down the lawn from the cherry tree to where the holly climbed up the fence. I miss how you were always faster, faster to learn the steps of a dance, faster to make a language at home in your head. 

T is for “tiny” and for “tender,” and “tissue boxes” you lined up on the heater vent for the baby creatures—hamsters and hedgehog—you raised and watched through the cold nights, keeping warm. What tradition made you that way? Did you see if somewhere? 

T is for “tweed” and the jackets everyone wore on All Creatures Great and Small, the show about the rural, British veterinarians in the 1930’s. Before we read of Narnia, do you remember Dad reading those stories to us? Reading books counts as a tradition. 

T is for “thyme,” and how I’m swaying now that the bodhran is still in the low-hanging stars of a few hundred lit phone cameras in this tent at the Michigan Irish Music Festival. “Will You Go Lassie Go,” is the song. And the invitation is to go to “go pluck wild mountain thyme.” But we could “dip our toes in.” 

We’re so close to the stage, and it is so loud I can’t hear all the words. I hear mostly the feeling of moving, missing, and rebellion. I can still remember the Gaelic we learned, but I don’t know what the words mean. 

Do you think T has to be for “truth”? I thought about writing about that. I don’t think you were there in the unfinished basement when Dad pulled a shoebox out from behind the unfinished lamp-building project and the unfinished model ship (the one we scavenged pieces of our dollhouse for). He showed me a small wooden cherub and a floral decoration. He said Grandpa Ed said our ancestors carved them in the Black Forest of Germany. The lacquer looked shinier than that to me. 

Do you think people’ll mind if I write something that doesn’t mean anything except maybe moving, missing, and rebellion? Or just making things, and leaving things undone?

How about T is for “theme” as in variations on one. I’ve always kind of liked the “variations on” titles in music because most of the time I don’t know the original tune. The theme isn’t there holding it together. It’s like how we always tried to suck the soft amaretto and orange cream out of the special chocolate our aunt sends at Christmas. Sometimes we’d do it, too. And there’d just be a little sticky chocolate shell in our hands.

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