On Saturday, before we left for Puerto Rico, I walked Penelope to the vet to drop her off for boarding. Then, I walked to the bank and the bakery, about a mile from home. On my way back, I stopped for some Sriracha hot sauce, a special request from our friends in Puerto Rico.
I had the bag of Sriracha bottles on one arm and the bag with a pastry box on the other. As I waited for the light to change so I could shuffle across the street and haul myself up the stairs to our apartment, I contemplated my ankles, wondering which comparison was more appropriate: doughnuts or sausages.
I was deep in thought about this subject when a kind faced woman tapped me on the shoulder. She was dressed in her Sunday finest and was accompanied by a small bevy of other women. “Would you like some inspirational reading for your afternoon?” she asked, extending her hand toward me.
I don’t like to accept items I know are destined for the trash or even the recycling bin, but I also don’t like to be mean. And somehow this lady just seemed way too earnest and good for any response other than “Yes, yes I would.” When I said just that, she smiled broadly with her pink lipstick, handed me the tract, told me to have a blessed day, and went on her way.
The light changed. I shuffled. To take my mind off my ankles, I glanced at the tract: “Enjoy Family Life” in bold italics, all caps. Underneath, the provocative questions: “Can families really be happy?” and “How is it possible?”
I hauled myself up the stairs, dropped the bags, and flopped into a chair. I glanced at the tract again and then went to bug Francisco, who was shaving. “Do you want to be a part of this family?” I asked him. “I mean, look at these people!” There’s a father, dressed in pressed khakis and a blue Oxford button down, holding (of all things) a blue and yellow macaw on his finger. His son, smiling up at him (or the bird?) admiringly, is clean and fresh in some Osh Kosh B’gosh overalls and spotless tennis shoes and socks. The mom, in a dress of course, is sitting on the grass, legs tucked appropriately beneath her, wedding band visible. And the daughter, though perhaps a bit too plump, is in pink and she has a headband that keeps any potential unruliness at bay. She’s at the mother’s side, captivated by the smiling faces of the family’s two dogs, both of which, of course, are wearing collars, surely engraved with identification should they be disobedient and run away from home.
“Gag me,” I said to Francisco. “What family do you know that has a macaw? You know those dogs are yappy. And besides, these people don’t look anything like the women who gave me this tract.”
But don’t you know I read the damn thing? And I was pretty surprised at what I found: some words that we already live by, as ambivalent as we both are about organized religion, and which I hope will always guide us:
“Better to eat vegetables with people you love than to eat the finest meat where there is hate.”
“Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than have a banquet in a house full of trouble.”
Sure, the tract had its moments of doomsday hyperbole– “In this lawless world,” for example– but somehow, I really did feel a little bit better after I read it.
And I wasn’t even thinking about my ankles anymore.