There are accidental decorations, too. A black cat has met its fate on 7th East. A young married couple have giddily painted “It’s a Girl” in red lettering on their living room window. I pass the house the day after a rain storm, the careful letters running like blood, the happy news made unintentionally horrific.
Mid-week I haul my son down the street for a playdate. Our neighborhood is lousy with three-year-old boys, and it is something of a joy to watch them play, to witness the buoyancy that comes with innocence. “You’re the only one without a baby,” my friend says as she pulls her infant daughter from her car seat. This observation is simultaneously painful and comforting. We talk about preschools and diets and grocery shopping. I am thankful for the beneficence of geography—that we women are not only neighbors, but friends.
On Friday the street a few blocks down from us is cordoned off by emergency vehicles. Police swarm the home of a retired couple—parents who have recently taken in their thirty-something son. Rumors fly about the son, and I gather slivered gossip that includes words like explosive devices and teenaged girls and abuse. The retired couple, by all accounts, are not to blame. "Good people," my neighbor says of the parents. "At church every Sunday."That night I can’t sleep. There are reports of stolen cars and egged houses on the neighborhood Facebook page. The wind howls outside my window. It seems the world itself is ill at ease; a world where adult children masquerade as clowns and take things that don't belong to them and seek the presidency. I think of my own babies, asleep in their beds, and try to console myself with the thought that most children grow up to be just people. I try to reassure myself that we are safe, here in our home; that the walls are solid, the foundation sure.
And then comes morning, calm and bright and blue. There is nothing like a brilliant autumn day. I am thankful for the mercy of the equinox, that the bitter is balanced by the sweet.
A few days later, I drive past the house of the retired couple. The father is on a ladder, caught up in the arms of an apple tree. He reaches up and plucks an apple from a branch, and perhaps it is just wistful thinking on my part, but the motion seems exceptionally tender, as if he is sparing the fruit from its otherwise inevitable fall.