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Walking Beside Me
His freshman year of high school, my brother, Fred, walked out into a Massachusetts snowstorm with no shoes on. Tensions were too high at home for him to consider footwear. I ran after him with a pair of sports slides. We walked — first with me trailing behind, eventually arm in arm, and then finally back home. Twelve years later, we were grown. My husband left me when I was already depressed. As I sobbed in my car, unable to drive, my brother walked two miles to sit beside me in the passenger seat. Some people are siblings; we are co-pilots. — Gwendolyn Coburn
“Good luck with everything, pal.” That was the final text from the man I thought would be my final love. Five words bent into a flint dagger. My eyes welled and my lips blubbered; sweat soaked through my shirt. Opened and emptied, I stumbled downstairs, knocked on my roommate Adhitya’s door and asked for an invitation to his bed, where he held me as I choked back heartache. He did not disparage my ex or remind me of my worth. He only cuddled me until my heaving gave and kissed my cheek before I returned upstairs. A pal. — Skyler Gordon
A New Nest
Two couples sit on a Central Park bench to discuss an adoption. One of the pairs is seven months along in pregnancy. They watch a squirrel descend a tree and cross the lawn. “What’s it got in its mouth?” one asks. “A baby squirrel,” I reply. We watch the squirrel climb another tree, scamper down alone, then climb the first tree, descending with another squirrel in tow. We sit in silent awe as the squirrel brings her babies to a new nest. Our daughter is 16 now. — Pamela Gross
Last year, I asked my husband to participate in a gratitude challenge. Whenever we felt thankful, we’d add a note of gratitude to a jar. Matt took the task seriously; I less so. I began wondering if my gratitude “cog” was broken and grew worried. Is there anything worse than being married to an ingrate? This January, we reviewed the jar’s contents: a year’s worth of mostly Matt’s notes. “This is fun,” he said. “It’ll be our family tradition.” It seems he hasn’t noticed that he’s married to a curmudgeon, or maybe he doesn’t mind. Either way, I’m grateful. — Christina Wyman