Friday was a joyous occasion for my friend Ann: it was the day of her release from prison, where she spent six years.
We have been writing to each other for nearly that time, and we know a little about each other's lives after all those letters, about each other's minds and hearts, too. I've come to know her wry sense of humor; her toughness in the face of the day-to-day humiliations, large and small, that prison life inflicts on inmates; her generosity, intelligence, kindness, and refusal to let prison turn her into a bitter, cynical pessimist. Yes, of course she has had bad days and bad strings of days, days when she wondered how she would endure her circumstances, but in the end, she has always been able to maintain a sense of herself as a worthwhile human being for whom life holds meaning, joy, and wonder.
We have sent each other books and discussed novels and stories in our exchanges. She's sent me many a political cartoon or wacky article clipped from a variety of sources, usually reflecting her humorous take on things or her appreciation of the absurd and the just-plain-weird.
She's reunited with her parents, about whom she's been worried. They're in their eighties, with the not-unusual health problems of that age group, and her biggest fear was that something would happen to them while she was incarcerated. She phoned me on Saturday, and one of the things she told me was how sharing dinner, a simple casserole and a tossed salad, with her parents made that meal memorable and "it tasted sooooo good!"
I imagine that for a while, the ordinary will seem downright luminous.
When I talked to her, she had also seen her daughter briefly, but had not yet met the three grandchildren born while she was in prison. That meeting was something she was looking forward to with great impatience and excitement.
We'll be talking again soon. Our friendship will continue, and I hope Jim and I will be visiting her one day in her native Texas (and here I swore I'd never go to Texas!).
I sent her some flowers, and on the card put this haiku by Moritake:
A fallen blossom
Is coming back to the branch.
Look, a butterfly!