Everyone who wanted to hear a story was outside on the porch when I got to the Mansion yesterday. Even though I wasn’t going inside and everyone was wearing masks, I still had to have a rapid covid test. Once the results came back negative, I too sat on the porch and Zinnia laid down next to Claudia.
Usually Jon reads at The Mansion on Tuesdays, but he had an appointment so I was taking his place.
Earlier in the morning, I scanned our books looking for something to read. I’ve noticed that most people like stories about animals, and they spark conversation. And I know I’ll read a story better if I’m interested in it too.
First I chose Helen MacDonald’s essay “Nothing Like A Pig“, about wild boars.
It had some interesting facts, was light and at times funny. After that I read Mary Oliver’s poem “Riprap“.
That was met with silence.
Maybe it was too long and winding, but it had a rhythm like a Walt Whitman poem which to me moves like a stream or a gentle wind so maybe people were at least lulled by it.
The story I read from “Pioneer Women” by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith about Mattie Silks, a Madame in the late 1800s in Colorado got the most response. Everyone had something to say when I read that she and another woman had a duel over a man and the man was the only one who ended up getting shot. He survived and then Mattie married him.
I’m not sure if these were the best choices of books to read. But Jon always says that what really matters is that someone shows up. That it means something to the people who live at The Mansion and don’t have families who visit. That we keep coming back.
I used to feel guilty about going to The Mansion but not visiting my own mother so often. I still feel the echoes of that sometimes. But mostly I believe that we all have to do what we can. I don’t go to The Mansion out of obligation, but because it’s a good thing to do and I enjoy it.
If I can show up for someone else’s mother when they can’t, maybe someone will show up for mine when I can’t.