CNF: Gifted

by Angela Townsend


There are gift registries for the recently divorced, but they aim too low.

I would have welcomed fuchsia towels or window herb gardens when notaries stamped my new old name. I would not turn away spray mops or right-hand rings. You have my blessing to comfort me with peridots and decorative pillows.

But the cosmos loves its divorcees enough to give real gifts.

Penny the lawyer lost her lawyer husband to another lawyer. Penny did what holy people have done since dawn. She softened the days into dough, kneading them until they tee-hee’d. She colored her hair orange, then let it go wool-white at forty three. She adopted a one-eyed cat and named him Romeo.

She watched the dragon boats on the Delaware and saw her arms grow coppery with feathers. She joined the rowers. She married flight and water. She was discovered by fire. She is sanctified with life.

Ellen the agnostic said “no” after thirty years of “I’m sorry.” She scrunched her curls and un-balled her fists and trespassed the grounds of monasteries. She walked labyrinths and banged gongs and argued with wild geese.

She followed white-tailed deer who were not afraid. She invited archetypes on hikes. She said “maybe.” She wrote hymns. She read her name on God’s palm. She dipped hunks of her life in wine and offered them to sisters.

Josie the genius held her children against the chill and survived fire. She studied sugar’s secrets and coaxed fondant into art. She built three-dimensional Elmos and Avengers and licked her fingers free of vengeance. She lit candles and taught second graders that their lives are worth the sweet.

She decided the stove was just for a season. She decided she had as many acts as breaths. She believed everyone who ever called her brilliant against the one who disagreed. She grabbed her jumper cables and ended up a Jeopardy finalist. She made the Philadelphia public school system cheer.

My mother did not buy me Lizzo CDs or shower curtains or “Delightfully Divorced” T-shirts. She brought a jeweled tiara and a pink ceramic apple and declared my condo The Queen’s Garden. She hung a rose window in my living room and established Notre Dame of the suburbs. She crossed out my apologies. She commissioned feral angels and uncanonized saints to insist that I am my own. She also bought a titanium bar to keep unsavory characters from breaking my balcony window, but she is as much a mother as a mystic.

I did not ask for this book, but language loves enough to write true stories. When the library fell on my tail, I counted eight more lives. I asked the words of life if they remembered my name. They lined up like ladybugs. They had waited years for this. I planned to write until I ran out of road, only to go airborne at the horizon.

I played with paragraphs and redeemed wrinkled promises from the back of my wallet. I wrote until I kissed the face of my own childhood. I shared wriggling words, imperfect and in progress. I was declined and accepted. I formed a two-woman writers’ colony with my mother. I ate apples from the highest branch.

We aim high.

We need not register with anyone.

The Gift loves enough to give life.


Angela Townsend is Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary, where she bears witness to mercy for all beings. Her work appears in Fathom Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, LEON Literary Review, and The Razor, among others. She graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and Vassar College. Angie has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 33 years, laughs with her poet mother every morning, and loves life affectionately.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Gifted”?

“Gifted” first cracked its egg as I sat in traffic on the Delaware River. Watching dragon boats fly beneath me, I thought of one zestful friend after another. I felt a rush of feathers as I remembered how these women had added extra pages to the “end” of their stories, vaulting through new lives. As I crossed into Pennsylvania, I gave thanks for their rebel joy. I recognized myself as a fledgling in their arbor. I began scribbling at the next stop light.


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