Yesterday, my neighbor sent her granddaughter to summon me. My neighbor is 84 years old and doesn’t move around easily. I walked over to her house to see what she wanted.

Someone had died. Two people. Make that three. She’d had a bad year. Yesterday was a bad day.

I think we talked for about an hour, and in the course of our conversation something made her laugh. As I watched her, I realized in the 13 years I’ve known her I had never seen her smile. Her face was completely changed, so soft. I can’t stop thinking about it.

 

Epiphany

My mother was responsible for grocery shopping, but for some reason my dad was the designated purchaser of toiletries. One of his favorites was Alberto V05 shampoo in ‘jojoba’ or ‘extra body.’ This explains, I guess, why I’ve always considered Alberto V05 default shampoo, it’s what we always had. Anything cheaper, which is almost impossible since V05 is 75 cents a bottle, is bad shampoo, while anything more expensive is fancy shampoo. It makes no sense. Pantene is not fancy, but those things from childhood tend to stick.

This morning while I was having a wash, surrounded by the same smell that meant ‘hair washing’ from my earliest memories, I heard the voice of my parents saying the name of the shampoo: Alberto Veal 5. That’s how they say it. You can maybe see how, if someone is saying it quickly and with a certain accent, the words can sound that way. Veal 5.

Younger me spent actual hours of life wondering about why a shampoo would be named after a meat. Was it a convention left over from the early days of the shampoo? Perhaps.

I was confronted with the problem every day, so I thought about it quite a bit: the shampoo, the label which very specifically did not refer to meat, the parents who knew–in the way adults often do, it’s magic to someone so young–what the shampoo was really called, despite the fact the label said something completely different. I couldn’t imagine ever being an adult. How do you KNOW things?

I can easily revisit the moment when I put it all together. I was still small, alone, mostly submerged and peering out of the water at the bottles lined up on the bath. The room was drenched in light from the window, it was too bright for shadows, and finally, FINALLY, I realized what was happening. A strange pronunciation. That was all.

Its own kind of magic, epiphany.

How many moments like that have I had since then? I want more. We need more. That’s what I hope for us this year.