When James Caan died several days ago, social media memorialized him as Sonny in The Godfather. The NYT reminded us that he had first shown up in the TV tearjerker, Brian’s Song, long before Sonny beat the crap out of his sister’s faithless husband in a scene of righteous violence. Other movies followed but I can’t remember seeing any of them, except for the one that made him unforgettable, the one that nobody mentioned, not even the Times. For me James Caan will forever be Marvin, the aging grifter in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

I was living in Bangkok when a local magazine did a feature on Matt Dillon arriving in Phnom Penh with a film crew and a small budget. There were a few photos of him juxtaposed against that city’s dilapidated but still graceful colonial buildings, riding in a cyclo, and standing behind a camera. Unimpressed, I hoped the film had a budget large enough to make an impact on Phnom Penh’s struggling economy and that the movie didn’t insult Cambodia. I didn’t think about it again until several years later when I was living in Seattle, desperately homesick for SE Asia. When I saw it in a video rental shop, I grabbed it, as I had Brokedown Palace, Two Brothers, Indochine, The Lover–any movie that would give me the feeling of a languid tropical afternoon with its fierce unending sunlight.

City of Ghosts did much better than that. Beginning with jangled moments in Bangkok, it caught the blurred first impressions of that place bred by the city’s kinetic speed. It captured what could well be the mantra of the region’s Western expat men, drawled with enough irony to keep its truth from being absurd, “I am not what I was, nor shall I ever be again.” In Phnom Penh it found the undercurrent of menace that lay beneath the irresistible charm of this place at the turn of the last century. It took a cyclo driver out of the realm of stereotype and made him the movie’s hero. It showed the US-bestowed killing fields that continue to maim and murder with buried war souvenirs–unexploded ordnance and land mines. 

And it gave James Caan a role that he seemed born to play–Marvin the con artist who found a new frontier of opportunity in Cambodia. He’s a guy who’s eager to impose garish vulgarity on crumbling colonial splendor just so long as he comes out with suitcases of cash, a man without a conscience but with a love of life that’s positively incandescent. Whether he’s trying to master the grace of Cambodia’s traditional dance steps while dressed in a sarong or singing karaoke in what has to be lip-synched flawless Khmer, Marvin exudes careless, infectious joy and inexhaustible optimism. He’s the embodiment of capitalism, at its worst and at its tawdry best.

There’s an unexpected wealth of good acting in City of Ghosts. The cyclo driver isn’t the only character who goes beyond stereotype into a marvelous surprise. Even the founder of the Phnom Penh Post shows up in Gerard Depardieu’s sleazy bar, looking elegant, imperturbable, and amused. 

Like the time-worn expat in Bangkok, Phnom Penh now is “not what it was, nor shall it ever be again.” But enough truth from its recent past is preserved in a low-budget movie made by a B-list pretty boy–with much of its charm coming from James Caan. I watched him a few nights after he died, as he once again rollicked his way through his portrayal of a gleeful buccaneer, fearless, predatory, and somehow lovable. Rest well, Marvin.

It’s not going to surprise anyone who knows me that my typical household purchase is one that’s going to eventually rest on a bookshelf. But every five years or so, my thoughts become more utilitarian  and I veer off into the arena of cleaning supplies, grabbing whatever’s cheapest. 

Unfortunately “cheapest” is seldom the most aesthetically pleasing option. For years I’ve hated the plastic-bristled brooms that have come home with me, not because they don’t get the job done, but because they’re so irredeemably ugly. Occasionally I’d look for the brooms of my childhood, the kind that witches ride upon, made of wood and straw, but without a lot of perseverance. Why waste time in the household sections when there were bookstores waiting for me?

The other day I found a broom in the classical mode and decided now was the time. While I was at it, a mop would be a fine idea too–but every mop I saw was made of microfiber or a sponge of dubious origins. Every last one of them came with operating instructions and a couple of moving parts–not my idea of a good time.  

I came home with my new broom, rather surprised that it cost me over twenty dollars, with tax. Next time, I decided, I’d go to a hardware store. Certainly that would be the sort of place that understood the need for a simple cotton mop with no weird mechanisms attached and with a reasonable price tag.

The people at Ace Hardware who asked if they could help me were close to my age bracket.  That’s why I was surprised when they looked a bit alarmed at my announcement, “I’m looking for a mop that’s just cotton attached to a wooden stick.” Sensing a case of looming madness, they turned me over to a strapping lad in his twenties. “If you want a cotton mop, you’re going to have to buy the head and the handle separately,” he told me, backing away as he spoke.

The mop handles all had forbidding bits of metal attached, things I wasn’t ready to tackle on my own. I made my selection and before the cashier took my money, I said, “I’ll buy this only if you put it together for me.” 

The younger man was doubtless cowering in a distant corner after his close encounter with a lunatic so it was the older gentleman who was stuck with this fresh outbreak of insanity. It took him more than a few minutes and I clutched my receipt menacingly in case he failed at the task. Finally he heaved an audible sigh of relief and muttered, “There. I wanted to be sure it was perfect for you.”

I may be the only person who’s ever carried a mop through downtown Seattle, judging by the stares that came my way. I was too busy trying  to avoid taking out a car window with the very long, very substantial wooden handle to pay much attention to the other pedestrians. It wasn’t until I got home that the cold hard truth hit me. My quest for the cleaning tools of my childhood had cost me almost fifty dollars. I could have bought a cheap vacuum cleaner for that amount of money.. But what the hell, what price do we put on past memories brought to life? 

I try not to think of the books I could have bought instead.

We’re all sick to death of covid. As the fatality rate goes down, so does our attention span–and who can blame us? It’s been around for over two years. We’ve worn our masks, made friends with people while having no idea of what the bottom half of their faces look like, foregone air travel,and discovered a whole new dimension to “eating out.” (The day a friend and I sipped wine on a terrace with a seaside view and were suddenly plunged into hypothermia when a squall blew in from the sound is my most cherished memory of this era. What’s yours?)

The worst part of all this, for me at least, has been the lack of information. “Maybe” this, “possibly” that–the data has been squishy. Scarred by the past president, we’ve disdained anecdotal evidence–we want the science. Unfortunately we’re all the subjects in a global petri dish. The plain truth is nobody knows where this is going.

Yes, I understand. This coronavirus is novel, in every sense of the word. But as we wait for hard facts from the scientific community, we’re overlooking information garnered from past experience. I don’t know about you but I could have used some of that in the past three weeks.

I won’t say I sailed through covid–there were more days than I care to remember when it took sheer grit and determination to make coffee in the morning. My symptoms were ones I’d had many times before in my seventy-plus years, a runny nose, a mean little cough, a slight elevation in temperature that made me feel as though I was underwater. They were easy to live with. What was tough was the physical exhaustion and the prevailing sense of malaise. I spent thirteen days sitting in an armchair, feet up, with no enthusiasm for anything at all. 

On the morning that I tested negative, I was thrilled. Time to get moving, I thought with a sense of honest-to-god glee. As a carrot to lure me out of the covid wasteland, I’d bought a plane ticket and I began thinking of what I had to do in the next ten days before getting the hell out of town. Then I discovered that although the virus was gone, the exhaustion wasn’t. Doing laundry had me taking to my bed as soon as I’d put it away. A walk of a few blocks made me so tired I was in bed before sundown. It’s been ten days since I was covid-free and my energy is still missing in action. Yesterday I postponed my trip. 

Friends twenty and thirty years younger than I who had covid before I got it told me recently that they were uncharacteristically tired for weeks after their tests were negative. One of them felt this way even though she had taken antivirals while she was sick. She eventually regained her energy as have other people whom I know but it wasn’t an instant process.

Here’s where covid stops being nothing more than a bad cold. It attacks the core, the part of us that makes us feel happy to be alive, and the recuperation process can be lengthy. I wish I’d known that before I bought a ticket and made plans to see distant friends. If nothing else, it would have saved me a lot of disappointment. 

So if you get this, be kind to yourself. Don’t try to gallop back into life as you know it because that’s probably not going to happen. Ease into it, one block, one mile, one lunch date at a time, and feel appreciative of each baby step you take. There’s no choice involved. For the time being and for god knows how long, covid’s still the boss.

A recent NYT article reported findings that, even when a DIY test comes up negative while the tester has symptoms, this may simply mean the virus hasn’t enough strength to make a T line. Although the article referred to people who had recently begun to feel unwell, it seems logical that the same might apply to those who are just beginning to feel better. It would certainly explain why twelve days after I am purportedly “over” this damned thing, I still cough and feel tired. What the article didn’t point out, and what I wish I knew, is whether or not we’re still contagious with these covid traces lingering on. Even more unsettling is the possibility that “long covid” might mean that some of us have become not only permanently infected but permanent carriers.

This is all so dystopian that I feel as though I should be wearing a fetching little chapeau made of tin foil. But I just discovered yesterday that Alaska Airlines’ legendary customer service has been downgraded to a robotic voice over the phone with no option to speak to a human. Unbelievable, but true. Now I’ll believe anything.

I feel like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “wan and palely loitering.” Oh–that was the knight in thrall to La Belle Dame Sans Merci, not the poetess reclining day in, day out on a sofa with her little dog lying by her side. But to hell with accuracy. I feel like both of them rolled into one covid-wracked body and I hate it. 

If I’m going to feel this lackluster, I should at least be able to write poetry–or be the subject of a poem. However there’s nothing poetic about having to force myself to take a shower and brush my teeth every damned morning. Why bother when the high point of my day happens when I take a nap? 

Yesterday I took a nap at 4, woke up well after five, and still logged in a full night’s sleep. In the past eleven days, I’ve taken more naps than I have in my entire 70+-years. I feel as though I’m in training to become a coma patient. This is not my life.

Things were going well yesterday before I took to my bed. I grew restless. I wanted to go out. I took a walk that had me thinking of going home after the first four blocks. Instead I made it as far as the downtown library, came home, and felt drained. 

The last time I felt like this was when I had a kidney infection in Bangkok. “Why,” I asked my doctor over the phone,”don’t I have any energy?” “Give yourself time,” she told me, “You’re almost fifty.” Now I’m almost seventy-four so convalescence may take a while.

I’m usually a creature of appetites that verge on the voracious. I wake up eager for small adventures in the outside world, looking for something new to read, planning to meet a friend for a drink, making friends with other people’s dogs, buying new colors at the art supply store. Now it feels as though my world has shrunk to a do-it-yourself testing kit and its inexorable T line.

My ambitions have become humble affairs. I want to do my laundry, take a walk without wearing an N95 shield and feel the wind on my face, eat a meal without feeling as though it’s a chore. I want to go thorough an entire day without once going back to bed. I want to want again.

I know I’m lucky. I have all five of my senses, while covid has deprived others of the ability to smell or taste. I’m not kept awake by a racking cough or a sore throat. I’m not in a hospital room. And each time I take that test, the T line grows less emphatic. 

One of these days I’ll wake up with energy that will last all day. In the meantime this impatience that’s gnawing at me is a reassurance that I’m not cut out to be a languid, lethargic poetess, sipping a little port for medicinal purposes. There’s a glass of Pinot Noir and a plate of pommes frites waiting for me somewhere, along with a conversation with a good friend and I’ll be there soon. 

In 2022, here’s the thing about covid–it strips away all of your inner resources. Nothing is fun–not reading, not watching movies, not listening to music. Painting? Ha! Writing? Forget it. It even takes away your appetite, which is probably a good thing because you can’t go out into the world and buy something delicious to eat anyway. And even if you could, the Mucinex you take every four hours makes everything taste rather vile. Since you don’t have any booze in the house, there’s only one thing to do that’s remotely satisfying–kvetching.

Covid is such a sneaky little devil. One night you go to bed feeling as though a cold is coming on. The next day you go out to pick up a few things to tide you over until the sneezing stops and on the following day an at-home test immediately sports a hefty T-line. Within the next 24 hours you completely decimate the box of Kleenex that you bought the day before, which is impressive because for most of those hours you were asleep. 

Once your narcolepsy wears off, you begin to wish you were the sort of person who stockpiled dark chocolate, ice cream, and Mama noodles–or even better, had a liquor cabinet. Suddenly the aisles of Target seem like the gates of heaven and are equally impossible for you to enter. Welcome to confinement.

Grouchy isn’t the word for what you’re feeling right now. You retroactively hate everyone you saw on your light-rail trips who went unmasked–and there were a lot of them. Odd how bus passengers almost all covered their faces while riding conveyances with windows that opened–just another one of life’s little mysteries. You try to replace these ugly thoughts with Pollyanna truths–vaccinated people rarely are hospitalized with covid anymore and at least you still have the ability to taste and smell. But your grouchy side asserts itself immediately. The odor that predominates in your household comes from a miasma of Tiger Balm and your taste buds are bludgeoned every four hours by Mucinex. Yippee.

You know you’re getting better because you’re such a complete bitch. Today’s the first time you have enough energy to go beyond feeling miserable. Your cough has stopped being a dry and constant hacking and is actually beginning to clear your chest. Suddenly you want to order a pizza and get a manicure, two things you never long for in real life. 

Best of all, you’re typing again and you’re trying desperately to be funny in your own inept fashion. Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel well enough to maintain a coherent thought or two. Perhaps you’ll even rediscover your powers of concentration. Meanwhile you grumble and gretz and grouch and grump and gripe because feeling gloomy reassures you that you’re still alive.

The thing about getting older is everybody’s nice to me. Women who are much younger come up and say “I like your style,” or “Great outfit.” Young men smile when passing and tell me I have beautiful hair. Even in the building I live in, where most of us hover around the same age, we’re all relentlessly nice to each other.

After a while it becomes obvious that nice is just another form of invisibility. Compliment paid, courtesies exchanged, move on. I’d almost rather have a street person rail at me–at least that makes a good story. But when a mere slip of a girl remarks upon my “outfit,” she strolls off while I realize she has no conception of what an outfit really is–and that’s the end of it. I’ve been the beneficiary of “Pay it forward,” and I do. That’s what passes for social interaction when a woman gets older. 

My mother once told me she wanted to get old so she could be like Mrs. Hollister, an aristocratic old lady who lived on her block. Mrs. Hollister carried a cane and when cars stopped too close to her when she was crossing the street, she used it to strike their hoods with authority. Now there was a woman who still caused a public sensation by refusing to dabble in being nice. 

Sometimes I think of becoming Mrs. Hollister but unlike her, I live in the era of drive-by shootings. Instead I dabble with the idea of finding someone who would make me a lovely sword-cane, but I’m not quite the right age to carry that off properly. Instead I buy clothes.

We all greet each other in the building where I live, probably because meeting someone in the hallway is almost an event in this place that often feels like a ghost town hotel. Once in a while there’s even a spot of conversation involved, the oatmeal variety, bland and pallid. 

One day I walked through the door to the street and passed a man with whom I’d exchanged taciturn hellos. This time he was pushing something that resembled an infant’s stroller and without breaking stride I said “Nice baby you’ve got there.” 

Obviously he was another person drowning in nice because we’ve been talking in brief bursts of companionability ever since. His face lights up when he sees me and I’ve begun looking for him when I’m out in the world. It’s come to the point where I’m ready to ask him to have coffee.

It’s not easy breaking through niceness to find friends when you’re getting older. The people who nourish my life are ones I met in a past decade or three and few of them are men. I don’t want romance in my life but I long for the excitement and discovery that a new friendship brings. I want to move past platitudes into exchanges of sarcasm. I don’t know about you but I’m effing tired of being nice.

My apartment is finally doing what it was always intended to do–welcoming company. As it opens, so does my heart, inches at a time. Eager isn’t the right word for how I feel; this is like quenching a thirst.

It must be the Alaskan in me that hungers for other bodies to visit the spots where I live. The other night I watched Robin Penn in Land and understood why she began to accept another human within the isolation where she had locked herself. Company is a word that’s like a campfire in cold and lonely country and the need for it becomes more permanent than a tattoo.

It’s the one Alaskan trait that I acknowledge and foster. It isn’t part of New York or Seattle. Cafe society and street life have become art forms in New York, a city so studded with interactions between strangers that home is where you go to make sense of them all, alone. Seattle? I still don’t have a grip on its protectiveness of personal dwelling places. “Neighbor” is a word that’s tossed around a lot by residents who barely learn the names of the people who live next door. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I’ve been greeted with a hearty “Hello, Neighbor,” a salutation so unsettling to me that I start looking nervously over my shoulder for Mr. Rogers.

In my forty-plus years of coming and going in Seattle, I can count perhaps eight people who have invited me over for a visit. Three of those became my friends because we all lived on the same block and my cat was a feline Welcome Wagon in reverse who moved in and took over, refusing to recognize any sort of boundary. But now I can foster my own porous borders again and I feel a core of chill inside me begin to warm and melt. For me, meeting in cafes simply isn’t a substitute for being able to have people sit at my own table–and that’s Alaskan.

Or maybe that’s Tucsonian, where I was so welcomed that over two years after I moved away it still feels like home. Maybe it’s a frontier survival tactic, a matter of pure necessity that was bred by harsh circumstances and became innate. 

“Come in. Sit down. Have a cup of coffee,” were words I learned to parrot soon after I learned to talk. They still make me happy, although now I’m much more likely to say, “Have a glass of wine.”

Who knows why some places claim us? It’s as inexplicable as any form of falling in love. “He has such marvelous eyes,” we tell our friends, while if we were truthful, we’d admit that we’ve seen better ones in many other faces. What actually attracts us is so undefinable that it’s enough to make a woman believe in the pull of unremembered memories from past lives. 

But while men come and go, briefly mourned and then forgotten as thoroughly as a bunch of lost earrings, an affinity for a place is there forever, resurfacing suddenly, prompting the purchase of an airline ticket. 

When Facebook tosses photos from the past in my direction, I realize my trips to those places are seasonal–Bangkok in the fall, Queens in early summer, Tucson at the end of winter. It’s as though I have an innate migratory pattern that I’m forced to follow. And so, obedient as a sandhill crane, I fly to Tucson at the same time every year, just when my home base in Seattle begins to lose its winter gloom.

It’s a quick flight but within 200 minutes or so, I walk into a whole other universe, under a bright and piercing sky. Gusts of wind blow sand under my fingernails and the punk-rock mountains, low-rising but full of attitude, tell me that I’m really back in this pared-down corner of the world.

I’m not always warm, although that’s what I’m looking for. One year I shivered under a sweater and my winter coat. That wind blows hot and cold, just like a bad boyfriend, and I pack for both possibilities. This year it moved air that was warmed to 100 degrees. Like a gigantic, invisible fan, it lightened the heat and let me walk for a couple of hours, acclimating to a landscape that’s always invigorating, always eerie, always comfortable.

Years ago my son took me to the Mission, San Xavier del Bac. I’d recently returned from living in Bangkok and this desert world was so unlike where I’d been for years that I couldn’t absorb any of it. Later, during the six months I’d spent in Tucson, I didn’t go there because I was looking for things that would become part of my daily life. On this trip I wanted to go outside of the city and the Mission seemed a good destination for a non-driver who travels on buses. What I didn’t expect, nor had I discovered earlier during my first glimpse of this place, was that it would engulf me in surrealism beyond anything imagined by Rene Magritte. 

The Mission is on the Tohono O’odham tribal lands which back right up next to a range of menacing jagged mountains. Poised against a cornea-scorching sky, the white walls and spires of the Mission are as sharp as a blade. Its baroque splendor is out of place in the severity that surrounds it, the way I imagine it would be to find the Eiffel Tower on the moon. The contrast is absurd and exhilarating, and although the interior of the church is a photographer’s paradise, I spent most of my time outside of it, loving that what I looked at made no sense at all.

That the Mission exists is bizarre– a tiny fragment of a Spanish city set down upon ground that is almost barren, surrounded by unadorned bushes and a scattering of dark and sinuous trees, as though it’s the last surviving structure in a post-apocalyptic world. 

If I were ever to live in this country again, I’d want to be here, a guest perched on the earth’s skeleton with nothing to soften it, only the sky and the crazy peaks and the flat, almost bare ground. Although usually color and moving water are essential features of my homes in the world, in this place, I tell myself, the sky would feed me. That would be enough.

I’ve been boarding planes since I was four. Take-offs and landings, buying magazines in unfamiliar airports, having a drink while staring down at the clouds (from that first orange juice when I was little to my customary bloody mary now), are delights so engrained in me that I never sleep on planes. Not even on the 15-hour flights across the Pacific am I able to take so much as a nap–I’m having too marvelous a time to waste it in sleep.

Preparing for a trip has become like yawning, an automatic action that takes no thought and very little time–until now.

I knew covid behavior would change me. The behavior that we all embraced in order to survive was like being forced into a bizarre social experiment that went on forever–avoiding other people, staying at home as much as possible, moving through the world with facial expressions hidden behind masks, smiling invisible smiles. But I believed that this would all stop with the advent of vaccines. That it didn’t stop made 2021 even more difficult than 2020. 

Soon after my vaccinations last spring, I made two trips to see friends in Tucson. They felt like a prelude to my former life but then the variants arrived. The glimmer of freedom that I anticipated when taking those two flights turned out to be a mirage and like all mirages it vanished before I could grab it. Fear set in as it hadn’t the year before because now I wasn’t sure if my vaccine would protect me. I lost hope.

Yes. There were things I did in the past year that were unthinkable in 2020–meeting friends, visiting my sons, going to a movie, seeing art in museums. But those little miracles were all rigidly planned and masks were still a key feature of everyone’s wardrobe. Plastic shields at customer service counters made communication even more irksome. Not only was spontaneity a thing of the past, so was small talk and random chat. We all lived in a world that held no stories.

For most of last year, I stayed home. I had to force myself out of my apartment to take walks. I stuck to familiar routes. I stopped exploring. I stopped writing, except for long whines to myself.

This spring I found I had just enough mileage to make another trip to Tucson and I knew I had to do this, if only to improve my mental health. I bought my ticket well in advance and waited for the excitement to kick in. It did–and then the changes locked within me took over. 

Never has it taken me so long to pack a suitcase. Then there’s the burning question: check it or carry it on? I’ve been mulling over that one for days. But by far the worst qualm is a four-block trek to the nearest light rail station. My flight is an early one and usually I give myself a two-hour window. This time in order to do that, I have to be on the street at first light. I’m apprehensive about that.

Downtown has a substantial population of people whom I dislike seeing in broad daylight. If they hold a degree of menace at high noon, how are they going to look at 5:30 in the morning? I reactivated Lyft on my phone but it seems absurd when I have mass transit only a few minutes away. Besides this is my city. I live here. It’s a place where I’ve exercised reasonable caution but I’ve never been frightened. 

I tell myself I’m not afraid now but when I add up all of my niggling concerns, they amount to a ration of fear. I’m afraid to leave my cat for four days, even though someone will be checking in to give him food and water. I’m afraid that I haven’t packed enough clothing. I’m afraid I’ve packed too much. I’m afraid there will be a majority of unmasked people on the plane. I’m afraid I’ll spend three hours underneath one of my free N-95 masks. I’m afraid of who I’ll encounter on my walk to the light rail. I’m afraid I’ll make the trip to the airport in the company of passengers who use the train as a shelter. I’m afraid.

But damn it. That is not who I am–at least it’s not who I was nor who I want to be. The only way out of fear is to face it down and I’m going to do that. I’m leaving my cat a generous food reserve. I’m checking the damned bag, no matter if it holds too little or too much. I’m carrying my usual mask as well as a back-up N-95. And at 5:30 on Tuesday morning I’ll be walking down Pine Street to catch a train to the airport. 

I hope I’ll be able to have a bloody mary once the plane hits cruising altitude, but even if there’s no beverage service, I’ll still have my view of the clouds. It’s time for me to reclaim that pleasure and so many others, without fear.  Hello, life.

The firstborn gets it all. For too brief a time, because there’s never time enough for this, she has all the love, all the attention that he’ll seek for the rest of his life. She gets the raw fear and uncertainty, the parenting theories, the failed experiments. During that crucial time when infants soak up the information they need in order to to become children, he has only adults to observe and learns their behavior long before they realize they’re being watched.

She’s the one who’s eaten her parents’ freedom, the one who absorbs the unspoken rage and frustration that her birth spawned, as well as that first joy and the unexplored realms of tenderness. He’s the one who had his parents’ own childhood bring pain to his own, as they passed on what had been taught to them, what crawls out of them like poisonous insects whose bites don’t kill but leave scars that never heal.

She learns the weapons that she’s seen her parents use–the shouts, the invective, the violence of an ashtray shattered against a wall. He learns that sarcasm can bring attention, sometimes laughter, sometimes punishment.

The firstborn is hybrid, part child, part adult. He lives under scrutiny that never wavers. She grows under the beam of a ferocious and untutored love. He breaks ground for the younger children in the family, forging a path they’ll walk in more easily than he ever did. She is forced to follow rules that her parents will later abandon out of absolute exhaustion. He will, in some inner corner of his secret self, hunch under the expectations that his parents placed upon him. She learns ways to break her parents’ hearts.

She tells herself she will never be like them. He makes lists of the things he won’t say to his own children. She does her best when she becomes a mother, just as her parents did. He learns that each generation of parents improves over the previous one but never quickly enough to satisfy their children. 

And the beat goes on.