We called Dad “The Answerman.” He seemed to know the answer to every question. Mom accused him of thinking he knew more than God, which was funny since my father was agnostic. “I guess that makes me God’s wife,” she would say. She even went so far as to get a vanity license plate “GDSWF” (“God’s wife”). When she got it, she hadn’t considered any alternative meanings for “GDSWF,” like “Gay, Dominant, Single, White, Female.” When the honks and waves started coming, Mom laughed and waved back, celebrating the diversity of humankind, just as God’s wife would. — Caren Albers
Music in the Car, Then a Crash
“I liked him until he started acting Black,” she said, talking about me. “Acting Black? He is Black,” said my friend. Days prior: I had joined my friend’s Thanksgiving. Her cousin and I instantly connected, having deep conversations about e.e. cummings, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni. “I wish you could come talk to my students,” she said. Later, driving to a play, I put Big Sean on repeat. We sang along — screamed, actually — with the windows down. The next day I asked my friend about her cousin. Upon learning she considered listening to rap “acting Black,” I figured it best to move on. — Darian Lane
Cancer stole you, Mom, almost two decades ago. Or was it yesterday? Picnicking riverside, I watch a paddle boarder struggle against the strong current. You would worry about potato salad being too long in the sun. Remember when I swam in the Housatonic River on summer afternoons? You watched from the shore for sunburn and irregular currents. Now, there’s no one here to keep my head above water. Watching the paddle boarder, I wonder why anyone would willingly fight so hard just to stay upright. But you left me no choice. — Cynthia Gilmore
Over the Pacific
I was producing a Burger King commercial and meeting with the director when Barbara barged in, a striking, dark-eyed woman who spoke to the director in a powerful voice about her set design. Oddly, when she left the room, I missed her, though I didn’t even know her. Years later, while I was working on a United Airlines shoot, the director asked me to hire Barbara to join our production around the world. Somewhere over the Pacific, our colleagues asleep on our way to Japan, I went back to Barbara’s row, sat across her lap and kissed her, hard. — Lindsay Skutch
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