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November 11, 2022

A squirrel bites my thumb

7 :45 a.m. at the coffee shop
Dear Lise S., go ahead! Grab your pencil and your notebook and write. Scribble down anything that comes to mind. Empty your mind and take a break afterwards. Notice how good it feels, how much lighter you feel, just like we do after putting our kitchen drawers, closets or the library’s bookshelves in order.

Why do think I write? To put my life in order before I close up shop, to leave empty-handed and with a clear conscience. It’s been a while since I began fading away in small doses. I started writing these letters at the beginning of the pandemic, when we were threatened with having to close our restaurants to customers. We were totally distraught.

How would we keep in touch with our customers who meant the world to us? How would we continue to show them our love, be near them, serving them delicious breakfasts? And that is how, dear Lise S., we came up with the idea of serving up nicely presented words every Sunday morning, just for you. Of course, I became the lucky one appointed to undertake this sublime mission. Today is my 144th dish of lovely words. And believe me or not, my fountain of inspiration still bubbles with ideas.

It’s hard to admit that a nasty virus has given me such an enormous gift. I humbly admit: writing these SUNDAY LETTERS saved my life. Retirement had already slowed me down quite a bit and the global pandemic had imprisoned me in my own home. I really wasn’t doing so well. I would sit and reflect upon life, but my well of inspiration was drying up, nothing was coming out. Each morning, I decided it was a good day to start cleaning up this big old house of mine, but instead of getting my cleaning rags and buckets out, I would drink one cup of coffee after another as I sat on the couch reading.

Suddenly, a miracle happened. I wrote my first letter entitled “It’s going to be ok.” I remember it like it was yesterday. It was so easy for me to type one sentence after another, stringing them together into paragraphs. The words came naturally as I wrote to people who already knew and loved me, the very same people who had tasted my delicious food.

Everything turned out well and I never stopped writing. Every Sunday, I pen a letter to you shaped by my aches and pains, my ups and downs, my fears and joys. My long life put into words. My true passion, in my youth and as a young woman, had been to become a writer. A dream sabotaged again and again. And now these SUNDAY LETTERS have turned my lifelong dream into a reality.

Dear Lise S., you’re telling me that we must empty our minds before leaving for our final and longest journey. You are absolutely right. WRITING allows us to do just that; it soothes our overburdened hearts. Let us fly away, liberated and light as orange-breasted robins. Let’s rid ourselves of all the bad memories that we grew in the flower beds of our lives. Let’s empty our pockets from all the remorse that we carry around so easily wherever we go. Let us scream, at the top of our lungs, the burning phrases that we never dared to utter. Let’s escape, let us free ourselves from our shackles. We have time.

11:10 a.m.
A small black squirrel comes to tell me a tale on the other side of the window. He comes closer, bumps his nose against the glass, takes a step backward and then forward again, as if he’d known me all my life. Perhaps he’s right. Would he remember biting my thumb some 45 years ago? I was a young mother then, sitting on the balcony of our third-floor apartment. It was a miserable place to raise my three children. I didn’t have to imagine the worst at that time because it transpired every day with no warning.

Will I ever be able to forgive that horrible man for treating us as awfully as he would have a family of alley cats? Thank goodness, we also had nine lives, but we still didn’t know it then. The area we were restricted to was very limited: four streets north to the children’s school. Three streets to the west to the Greek grocery store where we shopped. Two streets south to my cantankerous sister-in-law’s house. And some 12 streets to the east side to the El Dorado of all distractions: McDonald’s, where we’d go for a soft ice cream cone. We only went occasionally, but each time was a real treat. We would return home with the youngest one sitting on my shoulders, ice cream often trickling down my neck.

I would have done anything to make my poor kittens believe they were lions. With age, they have, one by one, all become capable of helping others. I was often tempted by the thought of plucking the evil bird they had for a father, especially after I had regained my self-confidence. But I resisted. I remained calm and placid during all those years of tireless work.

My anger subsided with the years, soothed by the few ounces of wisdom that time gradually provided. I have even come to thank him, not in person yet, but a little bit, in my mind. The misery he put me through forged an incredible strength in me, and I had to mature to finally appreciate it. That man shamelessly and unscrupulously destroyed many of my dreams, including that of becoming a writer. Low and behold, I did not waste my time. I created a great company and my children learned the value of a job well done.

Today the words pour out like maple water flowing in the spring without pause. Wherever I am, I simply have to turn on the magic screen and the sentences appear at my fingertips. And thanks to the awful husband, I have tons of stories to tell.

1:47 p.m.
As hungry as a tiger chasing a gazelle, I turn off my iPad. Will my lentil soup satisfy my appetite? I’m hypnotized by the round loaf of cheese bread. I buy the biggest one I can spot on the shelf. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach!