A Good Place


I drive around a lot, visiting people in their homes when they are dying. I get to see a lot of the state this way. It's not like having a commuter trek to the office every day, wearing a path in the same roads, to the same Dunkin' Donuts drive-up and then home again through the same stop-lights and past the same liquor stores. Nope. I drive through new places and see new things. I've lived in Vermont now for ... let's see ... Sam is 22 ... so, for about 24 years. I've lived in Vermont for 24 years and it's a small state, so you would think that there aren't that many new roads for me to find.


I look at the world when I'm driving on these new roads. It's interesting, this world. I love seeing how other people live in other places. You can kind of get the tenor of a town by what it has in its downtown, whether the shop spaces are occupied or empty, how many cars are parked at the general store, what kind of shape the churches are in. 

I started noticing this a long time ago, long before I became a housecalling chaplain: the names of hair salons. I have no idea why they get my attention, except perhaps that, as businesses go, the owners of hair salons seem to take great liberties with naming. I wish I had been keeping a list all of these years, I really do. I wish I had started writing them down a long time ago, when I was a kid cruising all over the country in my little truck. 

I saw one yesterday that led me to think ... do they not have a marketing class in cosmetology school? Because if they don't, if they don't ever sit in a classroom and talk about things like naming, with a Power Point presentation entitled Good Ideas/Bad Ideas, they need to start. 

Curl Up & Dye, I'll Cut You and Hair Force One are actual names of actual hair salons. I have seen them. I'm sure the people who work there are talented and I'm sure they have loyal customers who leave with hair that makes them happy, but Juliet was really only partially right.

Sure, a rose named anything else would still smell pretty good, but if it was called Curl Up & Dye, chances are I'd never bring my nose close enough to find out.



 - Sam got here in a snow storm, a good one, and was headed to his dad's house to sleep. I walked him and his dad over to the mini van and then watched as Sam skitched on the bumper, sneakers on his feet, cars behind them, through the snow that was covering the whole world with white. 

  Some of them, 2007, maybe.

Some of them, 2007, maybe.

 - We went sledding in the moonlight on New Year's Eve. I sat at the top of the hill, eating snow. I love to eat snow. And I watched the kids, teenagers now, having that kind of great playing in the snow fun. I was glad that they know how to have fun, even at their advanced ages.

 - Everyone kept saying that my sister sounds just like me, everywhere we went ... she sounds just like you! She looks like me, too, but apparently the sound of our voices is what hits people and links us to each other. For me, it was the moment when we were talking about cats and she said, no hesitation, I hate cats. Soul sister, I thought, that's my girl.


 - We were all sitting around the table on Dad's birthday. We had this great cake that Marley made, she's a cake artist. It was like a little snowy ski hill. We were celebrating a bunch of birthdays: Kristin and Quinn and Coco and Dad, but for a moment I said that we had to pay respects to Dad, for starting the whole thing rolling, with Mom. And when I was talking and giving a kind of cake toast, Mom moved her chair over closer to Dad and took his hand in hers. And then Dad, who is a quiet person, talked about his family, his grandkids in particular, how great they are. He was shining, talking about them.

 - We left way too late. It was snowing like crazy; it had been all day. We were trying to get to the Albany Airport in time for Sam's 5:17 flight. We had his dad's truck, with four-wheel drive and good snow tires, but the problem was all of the plow trucks going 20 mph and all of the accidents that were stopping traffic. It was harrowing, the drive, Sam's energy. He's a good driver, though. We kept checking to see if his flight was delayed. The one freaking day we needed, wanted a flight delay, but no, that plane was taking off in the snow and wind and freezing rain. We got there with about 10 minutes to spare and Sam grabbed his bags. I hugged him and kissed him and told him I love him and handed him my hat. I loved that hat. I bought in when I was in Lake Tahoe with him in October, one morning when we were just kind of wandering around after breakfast. He helped me pick it out, that was part of the reason why I loved it, the memory from that morning. Sam told me that he wanted that hat, one night when we were just hanging around. He said he needed a new hat because he was growing his hair and it was getting thick and long and none of his hats fit him. I had never heard of this idea, of a person outgrowing a knit cap, but still, I told him he couldn't have it, that it was my favorite hat. But then I handed it to him when he was leaving. You're giving me this? he asked. Yes, you can have it. I love you, Sam, is what I said. 

And he got on the plane. He checked his bag and made it through security in less than ten minutes and he got on the plane. He's back in Tahoe now, wearing our hat, I hope.

That's a good place to end. Amen.