Things that she used to believe, including a few that she still might believe


That a person could spontaneously combust. That the word “absurd” was spelled and pronounced “absurb.” That the circular file referred to an actual file that went around and around, similar to the revolving spice rack in her sister Oatie’s cupboard. That she could write the beautiful book she dreamed of writing. That she could one day repeat that once-in-a-lifetime night in her childhood, when she closed her eyes at bedtime and opened them again to morning. That Phoebe was pronounced Foe-Eeb. That she would take her children on long road trips and they would all sing rounds in the car. That she would one day encounter Cindy S., magnificent companion of her childhood, in an airport. That she would have a 50-year marriage. That she would one day iron the green and brown shirt that for many years she had been meaning to iron. That she would overcome her fear of headstands.  That she would host a potluck gathering on the second Sunday of every month. That she would live in the country. That she would live among mountains. That she would live on the ocean. That she would never yell at her children. That she would buy an around-the-globe plane ticket good for an entire year. That she would have a signature dish or three. That she would speak fluent Spanish. That she could get over it. That she could get through it. That she could get past it. That heavy cream with her coffee was bad for her. That her sisters would remember the time all that water spilled down from the maple tree onto David C. That the piece of broken-off lead in the palm of her hand would fade away and disappear. That she would someday be good enough. That she would learn to appreciate wine. That she could live across the street from her best friend. That the next time she traveled alone, she would take photos of her shadow wherever she went. That she would always be able to comfort her children. That she would always be able to cheer them up. That the squirrels living in her eaves would move away of their own volition. That she would have a car with heated seats. That she could make others happy. That if only she tried hard enough.


  1. oreo · August 1, 2009

    Wait, I’m confused. Phoebe isn’t pronounced Fee-Bee? How the hell is it pronounced then? Count me a fellow believer, then, in Fee-Bee and a whole bunch of the above. I’m especially still holding out on the plane ticket and the idea that I will someday iron something, anything. How about you use the plane ticket to stop in and visit me, living for awhile among mountains, in the country, near the ocean, across from a friend, putting heavy cream in your coffee and learning fluent enough Spanish to explain why you’re taking pictures of your shadow. That would knock a handful off the list, and who knows–maybe you’d even run into whatsherface in the airport.

    I don’t think the wine appreciation’s happening, though. Or the voluntary squirrel exodus.


  2. alison · August 1, 2009

    Oops! I meant to write Pho-eeb. Fo-eeb? Foe-eeb? You get the picture. I better go back in and change it.

    And Yes, to everything you suggest.


  3. Joe Sherry · August 1, 2009

    That’s very nice, Alison. I think I wish to believe most of that, too, in my own way.


  4. alison · August 2, 2009

    Joe, I would be interested in hearing one used-to-believe from everyone I know. Including you.


  5. Jennifer Bostwick Owens · August 2, 2009

    Love this writing topic. Headstands–nothing to worry about. It’s handstands that are truly scary! A yoga teacher tried to get us 40-something mothers to throw ourselves up against the wall with our hands and arms as supports, and my legs did not get very far off the mat….


  6. alison · August 2, 2009

    Don’t even get me started on the horrors of handstands! Anything that has me upside down scares the bejesus out of me. In yoga class, where everyone else is placidly gazing about with their feet up in the air, I assume the child’s pose and close my eyes.


  7. Lucy · August 8, 2009

    Headstands are more worrying from the point of view that you’re putting all that weight on your head and squashing your neck up like that. I don’t do them any more.

    Foe-eeb made me laugh and not being good enough made my eyes sting. You clearly do make people happy.

    I can’t believe you do all this fantastic writing for nothing…


  8. Lucy · August 10, 2009

    Alison, I picked this up, I hope that’s OK… it’s here.


  9. Pepper · August 10, 2009

    Don’t you know that you have Always been good enough? Let go, let God. I share your fear of upsidedownness, by the way. You are a beautiful writer, and beautiful person.

    I used to believe that I could break the chain of unhappiness in my family, and make my children be always happy. I guess we all hope for that. Usually we can’t. But. I have decided to believe it anyway.

    So there.


  10. herhimnbryn · August 10, 2009

    here via lucy’s blog. What a wonderful list. Made me laugh and sigh and gaze into space and think. Thankyou.


  11. Zhoen · August 10, 2009



  12. Beryl Singleton Bissell · August 12, 2009

    I didn’t realize how much I missed going online, until I checked my favorite bloggers and felt a burgeoning of delight on reading this amazing list. What fun beliefs. In going over my old journals I see how many dreams I expressed on paper became realities. May it be so with yours.


  13. alison · August 13, 2009

    Lucy, I’m honored that you added me to your blog, and I love your list. Zhoen, you’ve taught me something new with that (o) – and what a great blog you have. Herhimnbryn, such peace and serenity on your site. And Beryl, your site is one of my regular visits – and I share a birthday with your daughter.


  14. Joe Sherry · August 21, 2009


    If I just had to come up with one, this would be mine: That college was where everything became easier.

    But the longer I thought about the list, the more I started to come up with.

    And I could never do a handstand. Generally couldn’t do a headstand, either.

    The acceptance thing? Yeah.


  15. Ann Melrose · August 22, 2009

    Yours is the first blog I read when I occasionally check in with my Google Reader which miraculously saves all the blogs I intend to read. I’m always looking for something, yet I never know exactly what it is, when I go blog-reading.

    It’s comforting to know you are yearning, remembering, and wondering, too. Eloquently.


  16. alison · August 28, 2009

    Joe, I’d be a rich woman if I had a dime for every time I’ve thought something along the lines of “When. . . then things will be easier.” I’m with you.

    And Ann, it’s good to know that neither of us is alone in the remembering and wondering and longing.


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