Absolutely No Chill

It’s almost always too warm in the library where I work.

This is not usual. I’ve been told that schools and libraries present unique HVAC challenges. I’m not sure I buy that. In the United States, its rare to go into a Walmart or a grocery store or a mall or a bowling alley and find the temperature oppressive in either direction. It’s rare for the air to be completely stagnant in commercial spaces. By contrast, in public schools and public libraries, HVAC problems seem to be the norm.

I worked at one public library where we could keep the temperature at either 60F or 80F. Rain or shine, summer or winter, we could be cold or we could be hot. There was no in between.

We were told the HVAC system was so outmoded that a new system would require extreme custom retrofitting, and the county just couldn’t afford it. This library was built all the way back in 1991, after all.

At the last public school where I worked, some students did more than dress in layers, they carried fleece blankets in their backpacks because some classrooms were so much colder than others. Some teachers had loaner sweatshirts in their rooms.

Personally, I’d much prefer to work in a library that is too cold rather than one that is too hot. I find it easier to stay focused if I’m a little chilly than if I’m a bit too warm. I get sleepy when I’m too warm.

Like generations of librarians and teachers before me, I’ve kept a grey cardigan handy in case the heat stops working or the air conditioning is too much. After yesterday, I’ve decided I need have a plan for when the library is too hot.

Yesterday, when I opened the door, I noticed it was even warmer than usual, but I thought it would be manageable. My supervisor told me that a ticket had already been submitted.

As the day went on, the temperature marched upward. At the service desk, the indoor thermometer read 82. It felt hotter. I don’t have a measurement for the humidity—it was like being outside before a thunderstorm, except with no breeze.

I put my hair up with a pencil. I rolled up my sleeves. I found that the far side of the desk was less unbearable than the one closest to the door. I stayed over there as much as I could.

I became listless. I moved slowly. I became sweaty, and then sweatier. When I left work, I was sure I looked like I was on my way to a wet wrinkle-free blouse contest.

What I need to do is get some of those wicking shirts that golfers wear. Or maybe the kind that are made for frequent travelers? Just one or two reasonably professional looking shirts I can keep in my desk for when the building is super hot. Although, honestly, if it’s going to be 82 and sticky, “reasonably professional” seems like an unreasonably high standard.

Parasympathetic Sympathy

Today, I got my shot. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I snagged an appointment at a pop-up clinic provided by my employer. I had to drive 40 minutes to a faraway campus, but it was an easy drive and I arrived in plenty of time. As luck would have it, I fell in line behind one of my coworkers from the campus where I work. I was happy to have someone to talk to while I waited.

At the check in desk, I turned in my consent form, handed over my ID and insurance card to be copied, collected them back, sanitized my hands and went to sit at a desk with orange tape.

People were being sent to the next room for their shots in fairly quick succession. My coworker and I chatted for a just a minute or two, and then she was sent over. The coordinator told me I’d be next, but then the gentleman sitting behind me finished his consent form—that we were supposed to bring with us completed—and the coordinator told me she was going to send him in next.

I nodded. He went in.

I waited.

I waited some more.

And then I was told to stand in the hallway by the water fountain. The person behind the desk in the injection room was hurriedly sorting some supplies—needles and bandages and things. She told me I’d have to wait.

I nodded.

I waited.

When she was ready, she called me forward. I was so excited to get my record card from the CDC that I didn’t realize right away what had caused the slowdown. Someone had had a reaction. The college had contracted with an EMT service to provide the shots, and one of the EMTs was talking to the person. The other EMT had just resumed providing injections.

After my turn, I was told to have a seat and to wait until 10:43 to leave. I spent longer than I should have looking for a place with orange tape before realizing that there was no orange tape in this classroom. Odd.

I was trying not to listen to what was happening with the person who had had the reaction. I heard anyway. I understood that a relative had been reached and was on the way to pick the man up and take him to an emergency room to get checked out. I knew that it probably was not too serious, or else the other paramedic wouldn’t have started back with the injections and an ambulance would have been called.

I heard the EMT clearly when she used the radio. She was contacting emergency rooms. This was the part that startled me: The ER departments all said that his symptoms were not severe enough to warrant their attention.

I knew the healthcare system was struggling with the pandemic. Hearing an EMT be told, “No, don’t send him here,” snapped it into much shaper focus.

I am no doctor, but later I wondered if the man might have been having a vasovagal reaction. I only thought of this because I am prone to them. Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the condition here.

I can start to black out and I feel like I am going to throw up when I am extremely grossed out by something. It usually has to be medical, and it’s much worse if I have to hear about it than if I only have to read about it. Add pictures to a lecture, and I can be toast. I took human sexuality in college, and I spent most of the class out in the hall with my head between my knees.

Another time in college, I had to have surgery on my gums. They hadn’t healed properly after I had my wisdom teeth out. The doctor hooked up the IV, told me to relax, and then left me alone. I could feel the anesthesia rolling slowly through my veins. It was so gross. My vasovagal nerve reacted and my heart rate plummeted. The oral surgeon and the nurse came running back in. I wanted to tell them that I was just vagaling—but I couldn’t because of the anesthesia.

I had that feeling a little bit when the serum was injected today. Something thick in my veins and a slight tingling in the back of my head. I took a deep breath and it was gone. I am so much better than I used to be.

I hope the man is okay.

Fancy Pants Wrapping Paper

A day or two before Christmas, Ed came out from wrapping presents in the guest room. He said that he’d like to try some higher quality wrapping paper—not immediately, just eventually.

“But I gave you the “Premium” wrap,” I told him. “That’s the nicest paper Target carries.”

“I think,” he said, “I would like to try something nicer than what is carried Target. Do you know where I could get some?”

“Well, sure,” I stammered. “At a stationery store. But you won’t be able to get it for 75% off. And it’s more expensive to begin with.”

“I think that would be okay,” he said, and then he went back in the guest room to finish his wrapping.

On New Year’s Eve, I had some errands to run. I told Ed I was going to be near a stationery store, and asked if he wanted me to pick up some high quality wrapping paper. He said, “Yes, please.”

I first went to Target for the dental floss and whole wheat flour and whatever was on my list. While I was there, I decided to pop into the Christmas area. I had clearly missed the reduction of wrapping paper from 50% off to 75% off, as there was not a scrap anywhere.

I couldn’t help browsing the Wondershop detritus. Some of it was merely half price and some of it 90% off. It’s hard to maintain social distancing in the Christmas clearance though—the hardcore scavengers were willing to come closer than I wanted.

I shook my head to clear it, relocated my shopping cart, checked out, and then headed over to the stationery store. I’d taken a card making class there in February, just before the pandemic began. It was the most stressful afternoon of crafting I have ever faced. I was a little scared to return.

The store’s Winter Holiday section had only been reduced 50%, so there was more to choose from than at Target. Unfortunately, the only half priced paper left came in unwrapped sheets you had to ask a salesperson to retrieve for you from wooden files built into the wall. I wasn’t sure if I could get it home uncreased and unsmudged. Keeping it that way for a year seemed entirely unreasonable.

I browsed the rolls of multi-seasonal paper. I selected a roll of solid turquoise, a roll of variegated stripes in shades of blue and green, and a blue floral on a gold background.

Last night, I wrapped Ed’s birthday presents in the solid turquoise and in the striped paper. In terms of wrapping, neither was a revelation. The striped paper was in separate sheets, and so stubbornly curved that it was hard to get it around the box. The solid was easier to handle, but failed to conceal the Scotch tape. I knew there was a reason my mother always bought prints. Neither she nor I are the type to buy double sided tape.

Ed noticed the heft of the paper as he opened his gifts, and he commented on how attractive it was.

I suppose I am glad he liked it.

Exit Ramps

One Tuesday in the spring of 2019, my husband Ed came home and told me he was going to lose his job. The company he worked for had lost its biggest contract.

Wednesday, he came home in a unexpectedly good mood. It had been announced that the employees would have two more months of work, and then the other company—the one that had yanked the contract—would pay them six months’ salary as a bonus for working through the transition. He’d known his company had issues even before they lost the account, and now he was being offered an off-ramp paved with cash.

Thursday, Ed came home furious. He was not going to be laid off after all. He was one of three people his company planned keep. After the transition, he’d be transferred to a different account.

“Is that so terrible?” I asked.

“Yes!” he said. “I won’t get the bonus.”

Within a few days, he had decided that even without the bonus, he didn’t want to stay with his current employer. An employee from the other company, the one that was ending the contract, suggested that he apply for a job with them.

The job would require him to relocate. He asked me what I thought. I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of uprooting our lives, but I told him that it wouldn’t hurt to see what they had to say.

They offered him the job. He was, as he would say later, dazzled by the offer. Moreover, he thought he would like the work.

At that point in time, I was well aware that school librarians were becoming rarer and rarer around the country. My state legislature had only narrowly defeated a bill to reduce certified and support staff in school libraries the previous year.

Why, exactly, it didn’t occur to be concerned about conditions in the state we would move to, I am not sure. I suppose I was dazzled by the offer too. Maybe I figured that if I couldn’t get a job in a secondary setting, I would be able to get one elsewhere.

Once we decided he would take the offer, I started looking for work. There were two multi-district teacher job fairs in the area coming up, both on the same day, and we hastily made plans so that I could attend both of them.

I was early to the first one, but I didn’t beat the crowds. I had to present my out-of-state teaching license at the door to be admitted. The HR rep checked me in, found my name tag, and handed me a map. One table on the map had been circled. She pointed to it.

“That’s the school with the media specialist vacancy.”

“The school?” I repeated. I tried to keep the horror off my face.

The rep had already moved on to the next candidate.

I found the table. A chalkboard listed the available positions. There were a few besides the media specialist, which I took as a good sign. The administrators were doing on-the-spot interviews.

I joined the line and used my phone to research the school and its priorities as I waited. I realized I had much on my resume they would like, and I began to relax a little.

The candidate in front of me turned around. “You here for the media specialist?”

I nodded.

“We all are.”

I looked to the the three younger teachers in front of her. They nodded. I looked at the teacher being interviewed. I heard her say something about an increase in circulation numbers. Crud.

While I had been on my phone, three more young candidates had fallen in line behind me. They all indicated that they were interested in the media specialist position.

I thought about bolting. The candidate immediately in front of me eventually did. I stuck it out and eventually had my turn. I talked about SIOP and the Coretta Scott King award books and collaboration and relationships. Apart from a persistent tremble in my hands, it went pretty well, but I knew competition was fierce.

At the next fair, there were zero media specialist positions. One recruiter explained to me that there was only one media specialist position in her entire district. That person worked in the central office and planned lessons for ESPs to conduct in the schools’ libraries. She suggested I consider a private school.

There was a position open at private, I mean, independent school. I was hesitant. I was working at a Title I school with many EL students, and I liked it there. I was aware that my school was unique in that it was the only Title l school in an otherwise wealthy county, one that funded its schools well. My students had many challenges, but we could often help them meet those challenges.

About a dozen years prior, I had worked one year at a Title l elementary school in a different state, in a district that seemed to support its libraries primarily through the PTA. I went to a meeting on the other side of town and was amazed to see five volunteers shelving books and helping with checkout, lots of new books on display, and beautiful furniture. I sat in the car and cried for 20 minutes before I went home.

I have written about that year previously, and I know I am incapable of summing it up nearly, so I’m not going try. You’ll just have to believe me that I worked incredibly hard and didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. At the high school I worked hard, but not to the point of exhaustion, and I did not have the same crushing despair.

I applied for the private school job. I had two phone interviews, and then I flew down for a campus visit. I had two more interviews and lunch and a tour. The campus was like a small college. I was glad I had worn flats.

In the afternoon, I was dropped off at a lab for a drug test. I had said I could find my way back to my hotel. I was desperate to get out of interview mode. I just wanted to sit in the waiting room and read a book on my phone. After my hair sample was taken, I requested a Lyft. The call came while I was still in the car.

It was a good offer. I took it. I had some reservations, but it was late June, and I wanted a job. It wasn’t a great fit. I worked well with a number of faculty members and started a formal volunteer program which the students enjoyed. A few international students told me I taught in a way that worked well for them. Mostly, it was the existing library culture that I banged my head against repeatedly.

I had never reported to another librarian in a K-12 setting. I don’t think I will again. It wasn’t a shock when my position was eliminated in June of 2020—in some ways it was almost a Get Out of Jail Free card. I hadn’t been fired, and I hadn’t flaked out by quitting after a year. It was coronavirus.

There were few openings that late in the school year. I took a part time job at a technical/community college in July. It’s good experience, and I know I’m lucky that my husband makes enough that my not having a full time job isn’t a crisis. I just don’t know where I go next.

CPAP Dependence

Early Saturday morning, my CPAP machine woke me up. It was making a high-pitched whirring noise. Groggily, I unplugged it so it would reboot.

When it was ready, I turned it back on. Still noisy. I took the air hose out and plugged it back in. No improvement. I slid the water tank out and slid it back in. Slight improvement. I tried it again, and the slight improvement vanished. I gave up and went back to sleep, without the CPAP.

I estimate I’d had four to five hours with the fully functional CPAP. It was a little harder to wake up than usual but I felt more or less ok.

I work from 8:30-1:00 on Saturdays. I didn’t feel quite as sharp at work, and I was tired when I came home. I fell asleep reading in the afternoon.

Later in the evening, I was writing. Ed asked me If I’d figured out what was wrong with the CPAP. I said I’d look at it when I finished what I was working on.

When I finally gave it my attention, I discovered the whirring was louder. For a moment, I thought I’d solved the problem when I took a coaster and an earplug out from underneath the machine. The newly level surface seemed to reduce the whirring for a few seconds but then it was loud again.

I decided I wasn’t going to be able to fix it, and went to sleep without it. Boy, now I feel awful. I struggled to wake up. I’m groggy and my eye is twitching. I need to call the company that provides the machine. I need to figure out if they are open on Sundays. I need to find the paperwork with my account information.

Mostly, I want to go back to sleep.

On Murder

I live in Atlanta. We moved here in August of 2019. It took us a while to get settled in our apartment and in our jobs. We’d been to a number of the big sights but hadn’t really explored the city before lockdown.

On Tuesday, I was in North Carolina helping my parents prepare to move. I didn’t learn about the murders until Wednesday. Two of the spas are less than four miles from where I live.

I had graduated from Virginia Tech nearly a decade before the April 2007 massacre there. I was teaching in an elementary school, and I didn’t learn about it until evening. Back then, before widespread smartphones, school could be inside a bubble. We had internet access, but fewer devices, and we were discouraged from checking the news during the school day, lest we inadvertently share something that would upset the children.

That night I was at home. I was trying to print out some paperwork and my printer wouldn’t work, so I went to the public library. When I logged into the computer, I was directed to a news page, where the headline grabbed my eye.

It was painful to read about. It was painful to see pictures of bodies being wheeled out of Norris, a building where I’d had classes, and to see students shellshocked and weeping in places I knew well. I emailed several professors—people who had nurtured me and with whom I kept in touch—expressing my sorrow and outrage. I wanted them to know how much I cared about them.

On December 14, 2012, I had worked late. Ed was working even later. I stopped at a Macaroni Grill on the way home to eat a quick dinner. I learned of the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School from the TV behind the bar. The bartender turned up the volume and we watched together in horrified silence.

The station cut to an interview with a gun rights lobbyist. My memory is that he indicated that tragedies like this one were an unfortunate but inevitable event in a free society. I had to stop myself from throwing my fork at the screen.

On September 4, 2015, I was standing in the hallway outside the library welcoming students as they walked down the main hall on the first Friday of the school year. An AP walked by. “We’re going into lockdown as soon as the bell rings,” she whispered. “Don’t let anyone in the library. Tell them to go straight to class.”

A minute later, another AP walked by. He told me to be ready to take all the students who were waiting for their buses to special programs into the library for the lockdown. He entered the library and spoke to the library assistant. I could see them through the windows. They separated and walked from table to table dispersing the morning crowd and sending them straight to class.

A teacher came up to me. “What have you heard?”

“Just that we are going into lockdown.”

“I think there’s been a shooting,” she said. “A robbery at the Safeway.”

She disappeared down the hallway. The office staff were all in the hallway, directing students to get right to class. The bell rang and one of the assistant principals escorted all the kids waiting for their buses to other programs into the library. I directed them into the lockdown hiding places, and another teacher, who had planning that block, helped to keep them calm.

There were about fifty students. I remember that only one student resisted. He was incensed that he would miss any of his time at the science magnet school.

We didn’t know what had happened, and we would sit, frightened and in the dark for some amount of hours—two or three, I think. The students were mostly in the back room and some were in the office. Eventually, I crawled from the workroom to the office, grabbed my laptop off my desk, and then crawled under my desk to check my email.

I knew this was a violation of lockdown procedure, but I had also never known a lockdown to last for hours. There were several emails from administration. There was no active shooter in the building, but they wanted us to keep the kids in place. Admin staff would be coming around to let us know we could turn on the lights, but no one was to leave any classroom for any reason. As I was reading this message, I heard screams from the workroom.

The bookkeeper had unlocked the back door to the workroom. She came through the workroom into the library, walked to the office and—this time—knocked and identified herself before unlocking the office door. We could get up and turn on the lights, but we could not leave the library.

After another hour, I learned what had happened. A sophomore had been shot on his way to the bus stop. The killer shot him in the back as he fled, and he collapsed trying to open his front door. He was rushed to the hospital and died during surgery.

The police located the suspects quickly, and found the murder weapon hidden in a bag of frozen chicken in their apartment. The paper reported that my student had been shot because he was a member of a rival gang.

I don’t know if he was or if he wasn’t. An investigative journalist would later determine that this information came from the gunman and his accomplices and was not corroborated. The police presented it as fact, with no indication of its source, to the news media.

I thought of this a few days ago when I saw a clip of Trevor Noah addressing the carnage in Atlanta. He said something to the effect of, “Why would you believe the suspect’s explanation of his motive? He’s a murderer.”

I was talking to a friend on the other side of the country last night. He asked me, “Is it a known fact on the east coast that Asian massage places sell sex?”

I said I didn’t know. I said I didn’t think so. I told him I had read that some spa workers do sex work to boost their income. I told him I had read that some spa workers—typically women— do sex work when asked because they fear violence from the customers. I said I didn’t know what kind of services the killer had received at any of the spas, but no matter what, his explanation did not engender any sympathy from me.

I mentioned the gunman’s church to my friend, and said I thought it had instilled a sense of shame in him that was dangerous, especially in combination with racism, misogyny, and lax gun laws.

The New York Times published a piece today on the same topic. The author also explored how in many churches, women’s bodies are considered the problem and that women are responsible for preventing men from acting on their desires. I sent my friend the article.

I told my friend it was what I had been trying to explain on the phone—that purity culture could lead a man to have contempt for women who did what he asked them to do.

We All Fall Down

I fell down on the job today.

I was working the service desk, and the heat kicked on. It was already close to 80. My coworker had said something to me about the air conditioning malfunctioning, but it didn’t seem like it was warm enough outside for the A/C to be running. Based on the scorching hot air being forced from the ceiling onto my head—the vent is directly over where I have to stand to use the computer—I was pretty there was a problem with the heat.

The library had been extremely quiet all day. A few phone calls and two students using computers. I was working on other projects at the service desk, but I decided to see what my coworker had experienced heat-wise during his shift at the service desk.

I walked toward the back of the library and positioned myself so that I could talk to my coworker, who was in his cube in the office, while still keeping an eye on the front desk in case someone walked in. We talked about the HVAC as you do, and then he started talking to me about something else.

I do not remember what my coworker was telling me. After a moment, I realized that while I had been looking in his direction, a woman and her small boy had walked in the doors and were waiting at the desk.

My coworker couldn’t see them. I was trying to interrupt my coworker so I could tell him that there was a student at the desk, while simultaneously indicating to the student and her child that I was hurrying to help them.

I’m not entirely sure what happened next. I think I was trying to walk in two directions at once and the sole of my shoe snagged on the carpet. My foot seemed to keep moving within the shoe, and then I knew I was going over.

There’s that sense, once you know you are going to fall, that time slows down. I managed to shift my weight and hit the floor first with the right side of my bottom. Momentum kept me going and I rolled to the outside of my right thigh. The inside of my left knee struck the ground and then the base of my right hand.

I knew I’d have a bruise where I’d first landed, but basically I was fine. I’d fallen just a few feet from the library’s one and only Mac, and I was glad I hadn’t taken it down with me.

My coworker came running. I said, “I’m fine, but would you help the student at the desk for me?”

He did, and I picked myself up off the floor, took a second to collect myself, and went up to the desk to relieve my coworker. He and the student were engaged in some kind of renewal conversation, so I stood six feet back and waited.

I was still breathing just a little harder than usual. I noticed the little boy was staring at me and that he looked scared. It didn’t occur to me in that moment that I’d frightened him by falling. I just smiled at him behind my mask, said hi, and gave the supplementary wave that is part of my looking-friendly-behind-a-mask routine. He looked a little more relaxed and waved back.

When the student and my coworker had finished, I said, “Excuse, M’am?”

She turned toward me.

“We have a lot of great children’s books, if you’d like to check anything out.”

We have a barely-used collection of wonderful picture books. They are purchased primarily for the students in the early childhood program, but any student can check them out. They are in a sort of wing behind the office, and many students have no idea they are there.

The student said, “No, he’ll just ruin them.” She wasn’t annoyed, just matter of fact. She put her books into one arm and took her child’s hand. As she walked him to the door, he turned looked back at me over his shoulder. We locked eyes one more time.

I wish I knew what he was thinking.

The Procrastinator’s Dilemma

It’s late here, and I should go to sleep. I’m presenting in a (Teams) meeting at 2pm and I need to finish up my slides in the first few hours of my rapidly approaching workday. Barring anything unforeseen, it won’t be a problem. But that’s the tricky part, isn’t it? The unforeseen.

Inclement weather is predicted. Perhaps campus will close. I hope campus does not close. As a part-timer, I don’t get paid when it is closed, even when the closure is unanticipated. I can work some of my hours from home on other days, but I can never WFH when campus is closed. The worst case scenario would be a delayed opening. I’d still have to do the presentation, but I’d have no time to work on it in the morning.

Oh, yikes. Perhaps I have just foreseen what was previously unforeseen.

I am contemplating finishing the presentation now———I stopped writing to consider it deeply for a good 15-20 seconds.

I won’t. I’m not supposed to work off the clock. Working off the clock now would be just as much of a violation as working off the clock due to a delayed opening during my normal working hours. Right?

I need to sleep. I hope I can sleep.

The inclement weather is underway.

Nana’s Desk

I grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Unlike most of the kids in the neighborhood, neither of my parents were military officers, nor did they work in the federal government. Other families rotated in and out, and occasionally back in. We stayed in place.

I was in college when they decided to move to the beach. The house I grew up was not a mansion, Mc or otherwise, but it had substantially more space than the duplex unit they would move to.

My dad and his best friend Charlie had bought the duplex at the beach together some years prior. The units were rented out most of the time, which helped to pay the mortgage, and both families also used it for our own vacations.

The units had been furnished when Dad and Charlie had purchased the property. My parents decided that there wasn’t much they would take from the suburban house to the beach. The furniture, most of which they’d purchased in the 1960’s, wouldn’t fit in the new house, and some of it wasn’t worth moving anyway. The couch at the beach house was actually nicer than the couch in our family room.

My brother Greg took the twin bedroom set in what had once been Mark and Jamie’s room, and the long kitchen table and chairs. That table could seat all seven of us, but once my siblings started bringing people home, we had to either eat in shifts or in the dining room.

Maria, my sister, took my parents’ bedroom furniture, which had been a wedding present to my parents from my Mom’s parents. She also took the intricately carved liquor cabinet with the fold out bar that my mother’s cousin had purchased while she lived in Japan. She’d already taken the twin beds and dresser from the room we once shared.

The IKEA furniture I’d picked out to replace it was given away, except for a large square mirror, which I managed to keep. It is hanging by the door in the apartment I share with my husband today.

My parents had declined to buy me an IKEA bed, which was probably smart. The basic bed frame, and the mattress and box spring found a new home in Mark’s guest room. I feel like he must have taken something else, but maybe not. His wife has very specific taste.

My brother Jamie took the dining room set that my parents had traveled to High Point to buy. He took pink a mid century modern chair that his wife liked. It was out of fashion then, but would be totally on-trend today. He also took the living room sofa, end tables, and coffee table, and the bed from what had been Greg’s room.

You may be concerned about me, that I have this inventory in my head some twenty-odd years later. I actually don’t begrudge my siblings the things. I was living with my parents in the months before the move, and it was disconcerting to come home and find the living room emptied or a card table and lawn chairs where the kitchen table had been, and eventually a sleeping bag where my bed had been.

The one thing my mother wanted to take to the beach was her mother’s fold out desk. We called my grandmother Nana, and my whole childhood that desk stood in the entryway closed up and with no chair.

We invariably referred to it as Nana’s desk. Whenever one of us said “Mom, can I have a stamp?” or “Where’s the Scotch tape?,” she’d say, “Look in Nana’s desk.”

Five years ago, my mother was deciding who would get her most treasured possessions. One of the items was Nana’s desk. She was trying to decide who should get it. I played the card I had never played before, I had never played before, and that I have never played since.

Today, I brought the desk home.