Commonplace

seeking the story in the ordinary

You come from the hill by the lake.

It’s dotted with wooden huts that overlook the water.

On long Saturdays, campers sit on towels stretched below the summer sun—barefooted, knees bent. Or toss frisbees, rest on the rise and fall of a kindred’s chest, seek shade.

Come nightfall, heads tilt toward every star in a midsummer sky. Then they tuck behind bunks where, swallowed by shadows, they share a young kiss.

This is the hill where you trade secrets, wage war against waning memory, bear witness to time’s steady passage. To sunrises. To moonfalls.

You will stand at the edge of this hill, sunscreened and teeth-clenched, determined to swim the length of the lake outstretched beyond it.

You will skinny-dip and dance. Wonder and sing.

This is the hill that will watch you grow.

It sits atop a winding path off Upper Woods Road. You can go the back way if you like. Take the second left onto the dirt road that leads to Equinunk Creek. If you reach the cemetery by the church, you’ve gone too far.

Twenty years ago, I met your father there.

~

That April morning you were born, we rose before the sun. Walked in crisp dark air from the parking lot to the hospital doors. “Feels like camp weather,” I said.

Maybe I should tell you about the night before. We went out for Mexican, cleaned the car. We tucked your brothers into bed. Do you know my favorite days are the ordinary ones? Your Dad’s too.

Now I wait in front of the steely doors of the Operating Room, hair netted and IV-poled, haunted that I can’t see the end of our story. Can anyone? With Paul Kalanithi’s book by my hospital bedside, I wonder: what makes a life? And how does one make it last?

On other floors in this building, people are leaving this world, and here you’ve just arrived. The sunlight has yet to touch your skin. There’s something about hospitals, I think. All manner of humans gather, reduced to their most basic needs, to getting another day, to caring for each other. A hospital is a melting pot of humans helping humans.

That day, the world narrowed to a single hallway—industrial carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows; my only goal to walk it up and then back down.

All else fell away.

On one of your first nights—the specific smell of the postpartum ward sitting in my nostrils—the melody for “Taps” slips past my lips as I sway to soothe you.

Where we’re from is woven into our words, our world. It is the sounds we start with, the notes we forever hum by heart…

~

Our life was like a song, even before you came along.

You come from the park bench drenched in lamplight in lower Manhattan where I said yes. From dancing in the little apartment on 12th Street and no phone calls till morning.

You come from late nights cruising a hand-me-down Camry along the New Jersey Turnpike, road trips through Western New York, diner coffee, living by the water.

You come from summer camp romances, train platform farewells, mix tapes.

You come from under the boardwalk, R.E.M. concerts in the pouring rain, and New Year’s Eve on the beach.

You come from Old Friends and Bleecker Street, Feelin’ Groovy and April Come She Will.

Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’ and the only truth I know is you.

You come from two apartments and then a house on the south side of Philadelphia, with a stoop to sit on and a park across the street.

You come from Magnolia cupcakes, study lounges off dim hallways, long dinners with old friends, port wine.

You come from fireflies and 4 AM.

You come from Bunk 53, second to last room on the right.

You come from three sons in quick succession followed by a pause.

And then you came.

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~

On our way home, we wheeled past the recovery room, retracing our steps from days—decades?—ago. You come from there too.

And while we were inside, the seasons changed. The chill was gone from the air and spring had settled in its stead. Get used to it, my girl. Everything will move just a bit faster than you might like.

We left that room behind, where we first uttered your name. Lane Marlowe.

Lane for where we’ve been, what lies ahead.

And Marlowe means “from the hill by the lake.”

We’re all from somewhere.
Where we’re going, no one can know.

But you, my girl. You come from the hill by the lake.

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30 thoughts on “From the Hill by the Lake

  1. Such beauty. Welcome, Lane Marlowe. I love her name and I love all of these details. xox

    1. Thank you so much! xox

    2. Margaret says:

      I read your beautiful story. I want to share the I have the most beautiful granddaughter named Aiven. My son was searching for a beautiful Irish name when she was born. She has traveled worldwide as a little girl and now as a young adult and has never met another girl named Aiven. She has a unique name and she is a unique person. Thank you for letting me share my story.

  2. Alisa says:

    This is so beautiful. Just wow, what a welcome to your baby girl.

    1. Aww…thank you. xox

  3. grelles@cox.net says:

    Dina,

    One your best! What a wonderful gift to your family…and generations to come.

    Best wishes.

    1. Thank you for reading, as always, and for the kind words. Sending love…and I think Danny and I owe you an email for your incredible one just after her birth! We loved it. And you.

  4. samandliv says:

    This is so beautiful:)

  5. So beautiful – writing, baby & you, all three! Huge congratulations on her safe arrival. Wishing you all a wonderful few weeks as you get to know one another x

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. xox

  6. Susan Rand-Lakritz says:

    Oh, Dina. So beautiful. I’m sitting here in Ben Gurion Airport, headed off to that hill by the lake, reading your letter to your daughter. Somehow so fitting.

    1. Oh wow, what a wonderful coincidence! Thank you for reading…sending love! xo

  7. Madalena Campos says:

    Welcome to your baby girl and to being mom to a girl! Such beautiful words! Love your writings, they always touch my heart, deeply.

    1. Thank you!! That means the world to me. xo

  8. bam says:

    i thought that maybe if i pushed down the “like” button long enough, it would turn into love. or something beyond. i am sitting here swooned, and melted, and with a lump in my throat. when i scrolled down to the picture of the two of you, nuzzled soft head to soft neck, i nearly slid off my chair. and i heard a deep sigh. bellowed from deep down. i love the refrain, “you come from,” and the litany of love that tumbles toward lane. a hundred thousand blessings. infinite blessings. this is glorious. your girl is blessed beyond words — and WITH words. bless you both. sending love from this old house by the shores of lake michigan. xoxoxox

    1. Oh how I love your words wherever they are, and I always, always look forward to your comments. Thank you, thank you…and wherever we’re from, I’m grateful our paths have found their way to each other. xox

  9. Tracy says:

    Absolutely beautiful.

    1. Thanks so much, Tracy!

  10. rudrip says:

    Beautiful. xo

  11. This is beautiful. 💕 All of it. Welcome, baby girl.

    1. Aw…thanks, Sarah. xoxo

  12. Amy says:

    Congratulations on the arrival of your precious little Lane! She’s just lovely, and so are you. This post is a time capsule, a gift Lane will treasure someday. It’s a gift for your readers, as well. This essay is so lyrical, it reminds me of a lullaby, swaddled with love… Simply exquisite! Thank you for sharing your gift of words and your heart’s treasures with us. Blessings~ xxoo

    1. Thank you, Amy, for this gift of a comment—truly, it made my heart swell. I’m always so grateful to you for reading & your kind words filled me up. Wishing you all the best. xoxo

  13. Nina Badzin says:

    What a treasure these words are and will be always.

    1. Thank you for saying so, Nina. xoxo

  14. Dina, when my little girl came to this world I wished to tell her this way as you did..but is not to late I will do it now after 6 years. So touching your post. Thanks you and God bless you and your family.

  15. I’m breathless after reading these words Dina. All so beautiful just like little Lane Marlowe. xo

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