My dad and this one Thanksgiving
Two years ago, two Thanksgivings ago, my dad did something no one expected. He brought a wooden box to Watermill, New York.
To the house I grew up spending summers, where my mom’s massive sculptures hang across crisp white walls, poking into sun beams that shoot through endless windows at The Magic Hour. Where my dad lay marble in the bathrooms and grilled on the porch and taught me how to ride a bike on the dead end road that eventually wraps around a drip-castle-like house. Where he spent time finishing his dissertation on David Hume when I was just a baby. Where we adopted a frog and a rabbit and a cat. Where the concept of 10-hour beach days became a family philosophy. Where we’d come for quiet.
The tiny dark wooden box had layers and passageways. It was complicated and simple at the same time — like him. Inside the box was a ruby stone cast on a gold band. One he would propose to my mom with. One she would put on after saying yes, yes she would marry him, again.
They had divorced around six years before then, and had been dating, each other, for the five that followed a year of silence. The surprise proposal came a couple months after my dad was diagnosed and a little over a year since my mom had began recovering herself.
I was in my room watching the irritable swans on Mill Pond float along the surface at ease. I could feel winter in the sky.
My mom came in and sat on the bed next to me, unusually squirmy. She kept making spastic movements with her hands and smiling nervously. Then she said, like a teenager, “Do you notice anything different about me?” I was like, “No … why are you acting so weird?”
She showed me her hand and said, “Dad asked me to marry him. Do you think we’re crazy?”
We all got dressed and went to the Parish Museum in town. My parents, brother, grandma, and I starting making our way through the long hall of exhibits. My dad and brother with their long, strong arms pointed to canvases, shifting their bodies to one side, then the other.
It wasn’t a secret, but there wasn’t a big announcement, either. It seemed like no one knew except for me.
So, I cornered my dad, literally.
“Mom told me what you did,” I said, smiling. He looked at me with his typical childlike grin, like he was busted for swiping candy from the register. He ran his fingers deliberately through his full, peppered hair, and said, finally, “Yeaaah, so what do you think?”
I told him I was happy and he put his hand on my cheek and gave it a squeeze and then pulled me into his broad chest and his arm blanketed me. We looked over and saw my mom and he looked down at me and asked, “Do you think we’re crazy?”
In the middle of the room there was a box propped up on an easel with a black sheet hanging over it. We walked over to it and my mom, grandma and brother found their way there, too. We started putting our hands in this box and looked inside. When you did, these glowing colorful lines would bounce off our skin. We all put our hands inside at the same time.
My mom’s new ruby shined through neon and we lifted our heads to turn to each other. My brother raised his eyebrows, his face lighting up, and smiled.
“Are you guys crazy?” he said. And we made our way to the end.