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Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 10 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed in the past decade. Our world has changed. My family has changed. And yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world right now. Here’s wishing all of you, all of us a future of peace — peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Noah plopped down on the floor next to me the other day and asked me to read one of his favorite books, “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed,” by Mercer Mayer. As we turned the pages and followed the little boy on his quest to capture the elusive alligator that kept him up at night, I had an eerie feeling that the story was an allegory for what I’d been feeling since that terrible morning a few days before.

The night after the World Trade Center attack, I lay awake in my bed staring at the ceiling, filled with a sense of dread that I could not quite put my finger on. I was scared, but not by the images of horror that had flashed before my eyes for hours that day. Instead my fears seemed frivolous, not at all unlike the little boy’s alligator: Had I left the dryer on in the basement? Was the window over the kitchen sink still open? Were the kids’ pajamas warm enough? I felt a childlike fear of the dark, of things no one else can see, things we parents usually try to hush with a goodnight kiss and a night-light.

When morning finally arrived, I realized that my sleeplessness wasn’t really about what might go wrong within my four walls. It was about what had gone wrong in our world. Long after I had wiped away the tears of sadness that fell as I watched the World Trade Center collapse over and over again on television’s seemingly endless loop of horror, I fought back tears of a different kind — as I rocked Olivia to sleep for her nap, as I kissed Noah good-bye at preschool, as I hugged my husband, Dennis, at the end of a long day. Those were tears borne of fear, tears for tomorrow, tears for a world we don’t yet know. And I didn’t like how they felt.

Despite the fact that I have spent almost two years writing a book on how to help children deal with grief, the events of the past weeks left me in the unusual position of struggling for words. On the day of the attack, when Noah, asked if “bad people” might knock down our house, I reassured him that they would not. When he made a logical leap – at least for a 4-year-old – and worried that they might knock down his grandmother’s apartment building in New York City, I told him he was safe, that no one was going to hurt him or the people he loved. All the while I found myself wondering if I was telling him a lie.

But that kind of thinking leads to hopelessness, and when we lose hope, we leave a void just waiting to be filled by fear and despair and alligators of every kind. Through stories on television and in newspapers, I had seen unbelievable hopefulness in the face of utter destruction. How could I not believe in the power of the human spirit and the ultimate goodness of humanity and a better world for our children?

That night, as a soft rain fell, our house seemed wrapped in a comforting quiet that was interrupted only by the reassuring hum of the dishwasher. With Noah and Olivia asleep in their rooms, I lay down and looked up. For the first time in days I didn’t notice the enveloping darkness but saw instead the tiny glowing stars that dot our bedroom ceiling, a “gift” left behind by the previous owners. As I finally closed my eyes to sleep, I whispered a prayer of hope, a prayer for a world where the only thing our children have to fear are the imaginary monsters hiding under their beds.

Copyright 2001, Mary DeTurris Poust

Summer vacation. It’s official now.

We kicked off summer officially today, with a short hike around Beaver Trail at Five Rivers Environmental Center and a picnic lunch. I thought that meant we could check two things off our Beach Bucket List (hiking and picnic), but I was informed that today’s outing doesn’t count because Dennis wasn’t with us.

I never tire of visiting Five Rivers, which is just a few miles from our house. Come along for a hike and see what’s out there…

Obviously the trails were not icy, despite what the warning sign says. Muddy, yes. Icy, no.

The pond was full and the waterfall rushing, thanks to the recent rains.

Checking out the water chestnut that is taking over the pond, and hoping to spy a frog or turtle.

If you look closely, you can see the wings in motion on this bright blue darning needle. Is it a darning needle or a dragon fly? I’m going with the former.

My favorite view, no matter what the season.

Seeing the world upside down.

Up through the trees.

Half the trail was closed due to flooding. We circled back around and came at it from the other direction.

And we were glad we did because we spotted this little guy from the bridge. A much bigger version was too deep in the water to capture in a photo.

A mama turkey and three babies. She let us get so close, unnervingly close.

Chiara in what has been labeled the “sleeping chair,” courtesy of her godfather on a previous visit. I guess the chair only works on him.

Lily pond.

It’s not easy being green.


Why I live in – and love – the northeast

When we decided to move back to New York from Texas 10 years ago, there were a couple of reasons. First, all of the grandparents live in New York and New Jersey, but not far behind was the fact that New York has the beauty of four distinct seasons. In Texas, the seasons are pretty much hot and hotter. But here, just when you think you’re tired of a season (especially a long, cold winter), along comes a new season to fill you with joy and hope and awe.

As much as I loved Austin (and I lived there twice), I loved autumn more. Every September I would miss the crisp northeast air that would blow in one morning and let you know that summer was over and it was time to pick apples and watch the leaves turn into a kind of visual poetry. And then along would come that first snowflake and I’d fall in love all over again.

Now it’s spring, and I find myself staring out my back window every morning, watching the barren limbs turn vibrant green. I actually get a little giddy every time a new bloom appears somewhere in our yard. I know this wave of cool color will eventually give way to the hot and humid tones of summer, sometimes tinged brown by drought. But that will bring with it the big bobbing white heads of the hydrangea, the bats swooping overhead at dusk, and the anticipation that a tart and crispy McIntosh apple is just around the corner.

Here’s some of what awes me in my own backyard this week:

The bleeding heart I rescued from a high-traffic area at the edge of my yard when it was just a single branch with one bloom. Now look at it. Pretty obvious why it’s called a bleeding heart when you see it up close, no?

Lilacs. One of my favorites. This is the first year we’ve had a lot of blooms, at least on one shrub. Maybe next year one of the other three will join in.

Vinca. A groundcover really, but such a pretty one. And it can survive in the shade, which is why it grows wild in my yard, which was at one time pretty much all deep shade. Not so much now that they’ve clear cut the three lots around us.

A potted begonia and a basket of pansies, which I had to include because Chiara took these photos. Not bad, eh?

And, of course, at the top of this post is a long view of my raised bed. This is what Our Lady of Guadalupe looks like when she’s not serving as a snow-measuring device, as was the case in THIS POST. I bet she was glad to see a change of seasons this year.