Something you would think but never say

Every other day or so, you drive up Irving Avenue and back again, a drive so familiar that most of the houses barely register. A few exceptions, notably the green one with the clerestory windows you’ve always admired.

Once, when this green house was for sale and you were walking by, you pulled one of the realtor sheets from the realtor mailbox and studied it carefully. It is a house designed by an architect with special attention paid to natural cooling. This intrigued you. You never could have afforded the house, then or now, but you still love it and gaze at it fondly every time you drive by.

If your older daughter is in the car with you, she will glance out the window toward a certain white house on a certain block of Irving Avenue. If you’re alert, and you cut your eyes over her way, you will see her hand lift in the tiniest of waves and her lips move soundlessly.

If she catches you looking at her during this little ritual, she will smile. You will smile back. One of her friends lives in that house, and for years now, ever since she found out that he lived there, she has waved at his house and said “Hi, T.”

At first her waves were open and big and she freely spoke the words aloud. These days, as the years pass on, no one who hadn’t been there in the beginning would know about the ritual.

Maybe next year, when this daughter returns from college for the holidays, and you and she are once again driving up Irving Avenue, the “Hi, T.” will be something she only thinks but no longer says.

A few weeks ago this daughter turned to you in the car and said, “I bet that fifty years from now, if I’m still living in Minneapolis, I will still be saying hello to T.’s house.”

That thought made you happy.

Fifty years from now, if you are still living –which isn’t likely– maybe you will still be saying “Rabbit rabbit” on the first day of every new month, the same way you do now. You wake in the middle of the night, usually in the 3 o’clock hour, and if it’s the dawn of a new month, you speak those words aloud, for luck.

Some people say Rabbits Rabbits, but you have always preferred the singular.

You taught your friend Peter B. to say Rabbit Rabbit way back when, when you were both still in college. Years later you received a letter from him cursing the day he learned to say it, because, as he put it, “I’ll be saying Rabbit f——- Rabbit till the day I die, and all because of you, McGhee.”

That thought made you happy.

Many years ago you had a friend who taught you to say “11:11. God will appear,” every time the digital clock showed 11:11. Every day since, twice a day if you’re still awake for it, you say those words. Neither you nor your friend were, or are, religious in a God-like way, but still, you say the words.

Years ago your younger daughter heard you muttering the ritualistic words and inquired what you were saying. So you told her the story and taught her the words, and now she, too, is an 11:11 aficionado.

This thought makes you happy.

Your long-ago next door neighbor’s mother, leaving the house after a visit, came upon you pale and exhausted in your front yard, trying to calm your firstborn, He Who Did Not Stop Crying.

“This too shall pass,” she said, reaching through the picket fence to touch his head.

And it did.

Now you’re thinking of your mother, who in times of stress tells you that All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

You have passed that one on to others, speaking it aloud or writing it down or merely sending it through time and space via thought waves. Some things are equally powerful whether spoken aloud or silently.


  1. Nicole · May 23, 2011

    I love this post. I love the tone, and feeling it evokes. Its a wonderful insight into the rituals that occur in life – those little things that are special to us – no matter how silly. We’ve come to love them. They make us smile.

    This post left a big smile on my face, making me think of these things in my own life.

    Beautiful written.


  2. alison · May 25, 2011

    Thank you, Nicole. It’s funny how something gets embedded, in an instant and on a whim almost, and then it’s with you forever.


  3. Judy Berna · June 3, 2011

    I think it’s a gift we give our children, these traditions. My dad loves the 11:11 on the clock. I think of him every time I see it, which is comforting, since he lives 1500 miles away from me and I rarely get to see him.

    We’ve always had a traveling tradition in our little family. As we approach a state line, and see the welcome sign ahead, someone in the car starts a slow, quiet chant – “hip……hip….hip….”

    Others hear it and join in, increasing the volume and speed. “hip..hip..Hip..Hip…HIP…”

    Momentum builds.

    Then as we pass the sign the whole car breaks into a loud “HOORAY!”

    We’ve done this since the kids were toddlers. Now two are legal adults. Yet just this weekend, as we drove through three states, traveling to NH from our home in NY to visit grandma, the kids still did it. Unprovoked.

    I like to think of them doing it, at least in their heads, as they go on their own travels some day. It’s like a piece of our family that will stay with them always.

    Great post, that dredged up great memories. 🙂



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