Tom Petty died twice yesterday. It wasn’t his intention, I’m sure. I’m betting he’d have liked more time, but who knows. Nonetheless, it was classic rock-n-roll, to have rumored death, before the true event.
One of my favorite radio stations, WRSI, has been playing tribute all morning, and I love hearing his voice through song.
My youth was filled with his music, and I still sing Free Falling with abandon, holding nostalgia as well as immediacy.
I’ve mentioned that transitions are tough. Over-arching changes like the season, the landscape, life & death, create dissonance, (some more than others) to which I respond seeking consonance.
Mr. Holland’s Opus exemplified the hero’s journey archetype that has always stayed with me, and of course the title’s double entendre showcases how the story is not only literal – about his life as a musician – but his mental & spiritual journey from inexperience to mastery, immaturity to maturity.
All that happens in life, all that I conquer, or that conquers me, is just part of the story. I often feel used or abused by the cosmos, that I’m a bit player in some story I was thrust into, tripping over myself, getting the words wrong, and singing off-pitch.
But I keep stepping out onto the stage, is the thing.
You’re not going to find inspirational motivation from me, often more Eeyore-ish than Tigger-ish, but you’ll find I’m true, that I’m continually striving toward mastery.
Several religious or spiritual works have described self-mastery as the first order of business; I’m hoping it doesn’t take the better part of my life to realize some self-mastery, but just as everything else in life sometimes this is as good as it gets, and I need to make peace with where I am without proverbially throwing the baby out with the bath water.
E. K. Brough’s words comfort me: “And remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”
I can continue to be tunnel-visioned, or I can take the long view, and the long view is that my friends didn’t seek to harm me with their votes or their perspective, regardless of the actuality.
Yeah, I have to fight harder to keep equilibrium and try to keep our Democratic Republic, but their ignorance is just that – not malice.
They see all things from their religious perspective, and that blinds them to the long view, but the long view is still wrapped in their dogma, whether they choose to see it or not.
The fabled Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers, saying: “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” – Matthew 21:12-13 NIV
So the long view shouldn’t be on whether their elected officials will vote to try to stop abortion, but on who they are – on their fruits – and their fruits are rotten.
There is separation of Church and State in our country, and I realize they are working to end that, but it shouldn’t be eroded. We have a unique position in the world that we are not forced to anything, but come to choose freely. If they make our nation a theocracy, we become subjugated, regardless of our beliefs, and often forced to live a lie.
Religious people are free to practice their faiths, but not to demand anyone else do so, and if they could see the beauty of this system of checks and balances, they’d want the corruption out of our nation.
They’d fight to end Citizen’s United – to get money, that root of all evil, out of politics. Then we could have true stewards of our nation again. We could vote in actual public servants rather than the current corruption we’re witness to.
Yeah, there will always be those seeking power, and ways to game the system, but there won’t be so many, and disallowing corporations as ‘people’, and foreign money from campaigns, will help greatly in getting back to sanity.
This didn’t start with how any of us voted this past election. This started when money became king, when banks started writing the rules, when the Supreme Court decided Citizen’s United vs. the FEC.
Meanwhile, love surpasses all things.
My struggle is about acceptance vs. approval. I need to accept the loss of solidarity I thought I had with those friends and focus on our commonalities – on what made us friends, or like each other to begin with. We support each other in every day struggles. We laugh, cry, and enjoy each others’ company. We trust that underneath conflict is kindness and care, and our connection contains more healing than hurt.
Nervous. Excited. Freaking out! I need a positive attitude though – the tallest glass ceiling in America is about to be shattered!
Little girls will know they have a shot at the Presidency of our great country. Women will have more confidence in their importance – demanding equal pay for equal work; adequate, or even superior, health care; reasonable gun laws that protect our citizenry while maintaining our 2nd Amendment rights.
We’ll work on getting the money out of politics and overturning the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision. We’ll have reasonable and fair judges in our highest court, and we’ll work for social and economic justice.
Those things are being done, but they’ve been inadequate for a large swath of Americans for far too long.
Race relations, policing, public policy, and a higher standard of living will be legislated and not just thrown around as talking points when elections are at stake.
America’s in crisis. We have so many hurt and disenfranchised citizens that need to know they matter, they have a role, they can make a difference.
Hate will not be on the agenda though. Fear gets us nowhere, and anger blocks the love, as my sweet boy of three once told me when I was in the throes of my depression and powerlessness as a single, impoverished mother trying to raise a wholesome child with very little help or hope.
We made it through. I didn’t kill myself, as I was so close to doing for way too many years. I was seeking help too, but I didn’t know, and only one therapist, when I was in my thirties, told me I had PTSD, and it wasn’t until I tried to be in a panic-disorder study that I was turned away for, that I found I also had major depressive disorder, and the researchers felt it was unethical to have me in a trial for a drug that wouldn’t address that. I knew what I had endured throughout my childhood and teen-aged years, but I didn’t know how deeply my abuse had effected me.
All I knew was that I was on welfare, and therefore reviled, living in shame and fear of losing what little I had. My son’s father, hijacked by alcohol, filled with his own anger & shame, lashed out at me – telling me I didn’t deserve to live, that I was stupid, that I’d never be a success.
I’m still healing from all that shame, and worried that I failed my beautiful child – now a man responsible for his choices – who told me he needs me to see his competence and ability: to stop projecting my fear onto him. He didn’t say those words, but that’s what I was doing. He’s still teaching me how to be a better person, how to have more hope and trust – some of the hardest lessons I’ve ever tried to incorporate into my being.
It’s important that he sees me successful, that he sees me rise up out of the mire of my life into the whole person I’ve always had the potential for.
This election has stirred my spirit. A woman, a fighter, a mother and grandmother, will lead us now. She intimately knows what it’s like living in a world that wants women to stay powerless, less than, dependent, and she has risen to the highest office of our nation, and will need the backing of every person who sees that positive power.
So many things I’d like to know – please tell me about your life. You think I worry too much, or that I think you’re in trouble all the time, and I’d like to change that.
Are you happy? Is your life as full of joy as it is of challenges?
If I start asking the right questions, maybe you’ll know that I want enough for you, in all your life. Balance is key. Laugh, love, sing, dance, study, question, believe, cry, fail, succeed, care, think, and act.
I trust you and your life path, and that replaces my fear. Believing in you, believing that you won’t waste this short life, or that if you do, that’s your choice, and it’s your prerogative.
My only ‘job’ (I wrote ‘joy’ by mistake, first, but I think it also applies) is loving you. For sure, ‘love’ is a big word. It encompasses all of life – not just the easy or joyful parts.
Life is learning. That never stops, so I’m still learning too. My emotion self is still immature, but my life experience is ever evolving.
Thank you for increasing my growth opportunities, and my dearest hope is staying connected – even as you wander further away.
In the time that’s gone by, I tried to see a reason for us, but ‘it’s one of those things’ is said, and ‘be glad you found it before you’re dead’, and I am.
Thousands of songs and poems say why: ‘it’s not the colors in his eyes, or the way he wears his clothes, or how he knows the things he knows, but it’s in how he thinks of and looks at me.’ It’s how he loves me so thoroughly – it’s so new.
I keep deciding to pull away, to leave and find my life another way, but I’ve started asking what I’m running for, because I truly know that there’s no better than this.
But this is not all there is, I know, and we don’t live to make the best in show; we have found happiness and joy, a port in a storm, a bond I won’t destroy – again.
So settle down I tell myself, this love we’ve found is real and precious.
You are the compass that points true, you are everything I needed but never knew, and if I tell the fear to leave me be, then it will always be you and me, together.
This is my song to you – to us – to love – to life’s joyful expression amidst life’s agony.
Thank you for your love, for your steadfast care and hope, and for giving me a chance to truly love you too.
Because that’s how I see you. Not really a boy, though. More like a young adult. Emphasis on young.
How would I treat you if I weren’t your mother? I’d still be concerned, and I know that because that’s me. I care for everyone I love – and my problem is being too attached – and I know all the ‘how to live a happy (er) life’ teachers, guides, gurus, masters, etc. say that attachment is the source of my pain. Stop being attached. Just stop.
It’s possible, but it’s not like turning off a switch. And if it is, then I don’t want to know you because you’re probably psychotic.
Little by little I am letting go. Issue by issue. If my job was to keep you safe – and let you take risks – I was a successful failure. I did let you fall off your bike. I did watch as I knew you might scratch your knees when you were running so fast downhill and took a header – and I was grateful that was the worst of it – but I did not let you run out into traffic and face those natural consequences. In fact, I smacked your ass and told you in no uncertain terms that you will never do that again.
Yeah, yeah, violence is never the answer, but it wasn’t violence I was going for. It was reaction from unadulterated fear – from my not being everywhere at once – from what felt like my failure, at the time. As far as that toddler you were, I was god(dess).
The next terrible two incident was finding you surrounded by unsheathed freshly sharpened knives in Beth’s kitchen. You had to open the drawer that was over your head, and take out the knives one by one. You were like every other toddler on the planet – curious and non-stop. And you didn’t have one scratch on you. There is a god(dess)! – but it’s not me…
It was exhausting, and I was in the midst of newly single parenting, and trying to find work, and our own apartment, and was doing the best I could to be present and available for you. You were such a lovely being. Your ‘up, Mama up,’ from your crib in the morning was so precious. How could I not get my ass out of bed for that, no matter how tired I was?
When you were three, and we were living in our South Portland apartment, and I had just been Momzilla about some stupid shit, and I was sitting on the floor crying, you took my face in your sweet little hands and said: “the anger blocks the love, mama”.
That was your way of grabbing my full attention. If I was distracted and you had something. to. say. you’d grab my face in your hands and force my presence. Thankfully that wasn’t a constant occurrence, but more, that you were resourceful, even as a toddler.
I watched you deal with disappointment in your grade school years, watched as every kid in your class got a party invitation but you, and we ended up going to the public river swimming area that day. I was livid, but I hugged you and dealt with your hurt, and called those parents later, saying that they could have at least invited you for the cake once they knew you were there. I got it, not everyone is going to like you, but when the whole class was there? I started wondering if you had ADHD or something, but really, you were just already your own person, and at that age, conformity was king. You faced social challenges early on, and I did the best I could to support the great kid I knew you were – as well as try to get you to conform some – for your ease, not mine.
It wasn’t until junior high, at Four Rivers Charter Public School, that you found your posse. It was a great fit for you, and I watched you blossom there. You were pulling away from me, as life dictates, and I told you that you were changing but I wasn’t, and I’d always be here.
I feel like I need to say that again. I’m always here. Same as it ever was – to borrow a Talking Heads phrase. Maybe I’ve changed a lot too, but it doesn’t feel that way. I love you and like you and want you in my life as much – or even more now – as I always have.
But, to the point of letting go: it’s for my benefit that I release my bond to you.
You know where to find me, and my love is unchanging.
Two friends have died in the last month. Two people who were making the most of their lives, really enjoying all the moments they could, living with gusto and positivity.
They both left behind teen-aged children, significant others, and a wealth of friends.
I sat at one friend’s memorial while dozens recounted how kind, generous, fun, and mischievous he was, and what a loss it was to not have his presence here anymore.
It’s not about what comes after this. There is nothing we can do about what’s beyond here, if anything, except to live to the best of our capacity, and believe that if there is a creator, we are accepted.
I will soon attend the services for my other friend, more like family, really, and that is a shock not yet sunk in for he passed away last night.
Being in top health doesn’t guarantee a longer life – but it sure makes being here easier. Health adds to our ability to tend to each other and to tend to the world. Being our best helps, but being a light regardless of anything else going on matters the most.
The stories of how much people’s lives were touched by just one being is astounding to witness.
Who will eulogize me, and what will they say? Who will be around to witness my passing, to send me off – if anything exists beyond here – with a brighter soul than I had before I left?
I hope stories shared will create laughter and joy. I hope I have been kind enough to warrant a group of disparate individuals coming together to celebrate that I was here, and that I mattered.
Steve – you were fun, hilarious, kind, increased my joy immensely, and I’m sad to no longer have an ’80’s karaoke pal, and you are greatly missed by your family, and the wealth of friends and acquaintances left behind who honor your memory.
Dave – you also were fun, funny, kind, a wonderful athlete with a zest for life, and your presence will be dearly missed, especially by your wife and children, your extended family, and the hundreds of friends who’ve already been attesting to your influence, and meaning to them, and to all of us.
If we continue in any sentient form, I hope you are both at peace, surrounded by love, and by those gone before you, but you will long be remembered and celebrated here, and I’m glad I knew you.
Death is tough whenever it comes, for those remaining, but it’s especially tough around the holidays, when it seems that anything but good cheer is out-of-place. It’s also hard to lose friends and family in winter when the bleak land and low light deepens our darkness.
We will love and comfort each other, and remember their best with as joyful a heart as we can muster.
Nat King Cole croons The Christmas Song, and I remember that it’s my sister-in-law’s favorite holiday song. Many years ago we went caroling: she, my brother (her husband), my next oldest sister, and our younger brother, as well as some family friends, and I remember our fun, our exuberance, and just us as young adults.
Eventually, our lives expanded out like the big bang – each of us in our various orbits, claiming our bit of space, our independence from one another.
What role our family trauma played, I’m unsure, but untreated trauma does not resolve of its own. It can be medicated, white-knuckled, tossed outward, or left festering inside, but it has to be handled.
There are healthy ways of dealing with trauma and not so healthy ways. So much creativity has been born from pain, and those who’ve had that outlet are sometimes healed, but not always.
I doubt my brother would want me to feel sad for him. It’s not pity he needs, and it’s not pity I’m giving. I lived with my parents too. I was there too. I was affected too.
He doesn’t want advice from his littlest sister, even though I had to deal with my trauma or die – even though I sought professional help, and practiced the tools I was given – even though I trained to help other trauma survivors – even though sometimes it’s still next to unbearable remaining alive.
The best way out is through, for me. Just let the feelings be, but visit the skills I’ve learned before I’m in crisis. I forget that. I think I’m healed – that I’m all done feeling pain – or that I’ll always cope well from now on.
Pride kicks in too – the belief that I’m knowledgeable, and therefore untouchable. The other side is despair. Why remain alive if I keep going through this, or if I can’t make life better?
I can hold my brother in my heart – as well as my whole family – and I re-affirm that he is whole and complete. He is competent, capable, and has enough humility to seek what he needs. He knows I care, he knows I’m available, and he knows I understand as perhaps few others can.
He’s made it through, all these years later, and I remember that what’s not dealt with keeps manifesting itself until it’s faced – whenever, or however, that trauma shows up.
I’ve re-connected with most of my siblings after raising my son and having my space again. My S.O. has been an understanding, caring, and deeply loving partner, and I know how rare that is, and I still want to run away now and then. My old nemeses, fear, self-hate, and depression, muscle their way in, but if I’m fortified enough, they’re easier to battle.
This time of year is filled with the ghosts of trauma past, their presence appearing unconsciously, making it seem as though now is the problem, or that I have made no emotional progress.
I cannot save my brother, or anyone who doesn’t want to be saved, but I continue to love and care anyway. The violence witnessed, and perpetrated on us, got into our psyches, but it was also programmed into our DNA before we were born, from the violence done to our parents, and on down our line, but we can use our will, we can learn self-love, and we can practice self-care, changing not only ourselves, but the DNA we pass on to our children, and that they will pass on to theirs.
Christmas is about hope in terrible circumstances. Whether it’s just a story, or has some historical truth, the message, to me, is perseverance, self-love, and love, and hope, for humanity.
Love, kindness, and care are what matters, and the carols my family and friends used to sing were, and still are, a gift of light in a dark season – for ourselves as well as others.
I wish all whatever you need, and for more joy, comfort, peace, and love – whatever you celebrate, or not!
I missed you more intensely this year. Remembering our trips to the library every year, you picking out books you wanted to read, or have me read to you, and me picking out scary and fun Halloween stories to read together. I miss how you’d cuddle up on my lap and play with my ear as I read to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad you’re grown up and handling your adult life beautifully, but sometimes I feel like we’re near strangers, and I struggle knowing what to talk about now. Wanting a separate life with little contact is understandable – I remember being your age – although I can’t know your perspective as a man.
Life changed when I had you. My life was no longer solely my own, and becoming a parent changed me in ways you can’t know unless you become a parent.
The struggles we endured as you grew have not faded, but I think I handled them well. An image flashes of you at fourteen standing stock still while I hugged you, telling you I love you, and even though you were changing, I was not. You did, at least, allow me to hug you.
We got through those dark times, even if sometimes the memories still tear me up, and I wish my best memories with you were more current, but I’m reminded of our sweet and happy times together every year.
Holidays heighten my old loss with you, that necessary loss we all experience, and even though I’ve spent time reading to other people’s children at a play-group, or with the children I cared for, it isn’t the same.
The sadness only lasts a few days, and sweet memories are there too, but missing you pushes out better feelings I try to invoke, and it’s OK to feel this – especially as I have little control over its insistence.
Shame that I’m not wiser, happier, better, more emotionally balanced, presses in, and my best weapon is non-resistance.
This is depression’s scourge, my trauma brain – whatever – and minimizing my reality by suggesting I ‘choose happiness’, or other platitudes, only increases isolation.
It took all this to say I miss our connection; I miss the boy you were, even if I celebrate the man you are.
Once there was a girl who sang. She sang her heart out to all her favorite songs on the radio, to songs others made up and sang around her, and to her own songs that she kept in her heart and mind, but didn’t know how to strike the chords to bring out what she played inside her.
She bought a guitar and tried to play it – so many times – but it wasn’t like singing. She had trouble with her fingers on the strings to make chords, and didn’t understand things like thirds and fifths and sevenths – it all sounded like calculus to her, and she was terrible at math. So, she gave up. She didn’t get rid of the guitar, and did learn to play one song on it. It was a folk song her best friend had sung when they were twelve, and she never wanted to forget it, and if she could only ever play one song, that was the one she wanted to play.
She had a son, and he sang all the time once he figured out language, and she sang too, but the guitar sat in its case. At least it wasn’t gathering dust.
She brought out the guitar and played her one song now and then, but even that song was hard to switch chords, and she never got the hang of it and thought she must be that stupid. She could sing but she wasn’t smart enough to know music. Her guitar became art. It reminded her of all the beautiful songs she had ever heard, and all the vibrant, robust, sad, powerful , joyful, ecstatic sounds that came out of that one instrument.
It was a savior and a nemesis. How could that be?
She finally closed the guitar in its case and thought about selling it. She brought it to the music store and the man behind the counter came around and took her guitar and started strumming. He told her that it was a beautiful guitar and he could not give her the amount it was worth, and if she thought she wanted to play, she needed to keep it.
The guitar sat while she looked longingly at it for another year. One day, she saw an advertisement for another guitar – shhhhh – is it even okay to get another guitar when you aren’t playing the one you have? – please don’t tell!
This one is blue, and smaller, and it’s blue!
She loved it so much she got out her old ‘Standard Guitar Method’ book one, and began. It’s been two weeks and she hasn’t stopped practicing. Her fingers hurt, and she’s frustrated, and feels stupid, but every time she picks up her Blue, she feels like she’s home. It’s OK to be stuck at level 1 forever, if that’s all she can do, because she has never felt so happy to be so terrible at something.
This life was always a hard sell. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, pretty much ever. I got in over my head from day one, and I’ve tried to sort it out ever since.
Does it matter if I’m angry, or sad, or disillusioned? I don’t know why I came with expectations. How did that happen? Was it television? Did I believe the fantasy family shows I saw were real?
I existed in my family – I endured. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. Life was what it was. I didn’t know I had any other choice, and none was offered to me.
When my mother moved us to a commune/cult when I was ten, I thought that was the other choice. I thought my mother finally made the best decision for us – and maybe she did.
Or maybe she was another messed up person in this world who couldn’t do the right thing, and her children suffered for it, and blah, fucking, blah, right? There’s no redemption. There’s no ‘making up for it’. There’s nothing. We’re where we are.
The world says, ‘what are you going to do now?’. The world is only curious if it’s interesting or somehow commendable.
I love prevailing stories. I want people to win, to better their circumstances, to get revenge, and if they can’t get direct revenge, to come out better in the end. I want the assholes to suffer. I want them to hurt. I am so not compassionate toward those undeserving.
I saw the guy who molested his eight year old foster daughter – the girl who moved to his & his wife’s house to flee another predator. I wanted to hurt him. Several years have gone by & there is no difference in how I feel. No softening, no compassion. I want him to die. He is useless, and I have difficulty knowing he yet lives. He manages to fill his days instead of hanging himself, as he should. Maybe he doesn’t have to hang. He could shoot himself, or poison himself, or a myriad of ways to leave this world, and yet, he’s still here. I’m still here too. My molesters were never charged or payed for what they did either.
I’ve concluded that whatever ‘god’ exists does not concern itself with us. There might be some over-arching energy or force, but it cannot care about what happens here and affect it. Or, if it does, and chooses not to, I have no allegiance or fealty to such a being, force, presence.
My life is my own. I don’t commit my life to any person, place, or thing. No nouns own me.
My job keeps me humble. Every day broken hearts and lost love by the thousands come through the Clearing House, and part of my job is sorting through the morass, deciding what’s repairable, and we send that up to the Techs with the appropriate work orders, but the tough ones are those we ship back for further grief processing. Sometimes hearts that looked relatively untarnished come back several more times – each time more ragged and bruised. I’ve been tempted to send encouraging notes with those, but I’m not a Technician, and I’d probably only make it worse.
The Clearing House selected me when I was fifteen, and my empathic powers weren’t developing as my parents had hoped. I couldn’t repel others’ grief, and you have to keep your emotions out of it if you’re going to be a Technician. Filtering others’ emotions through my heart used to cause me terrible sadness, but being a Sorter has clarified what’s mine, and how to not attach my heart to others.
Not that I’m immune to heartbreak – I’ve had several leaves of absence while my heart was sorted – and my work review has had several underscores in grief differentiation skills, and too much entanglement. It has taken me nearly twenty years to learn the craft, and I still slip up now and then. The older crew worried about me, and a few times I was almost done for, but I made it back, and I hope the last leave was exactly that!
Trey swore he’d never seen a heart that torn up mend, and I owe a lot to the techies – especially Marcia, bless her heart, who took my heart home for some extra care, even though she wasn’t supposed to. I guess even Technicians can score low on entanglement sometimes.
Dealing with lost love is trickier than straight-up broken hearts. There’s often so much hope left that you’d think it would be easier to sort out, but lost love is like a bottomless pit. You send it up to Tech, and it comes right back down to be sorted as hopes rise and fall, and we do our best to piece it all back together into something workable. Sometimes the best that Tech can do is rearrange pieces to fit, but sometimes there’s only a shell left, the insides are all fragments.
The best part of the job is seeing mended hearts, and when love is found – either old or new. It’s difficult, but the world couldn’t exist without our work. The Techs get most of the gratitude, but they share it with us because the entire operation is only as good as its parts.
Last week, I picked up a heart, and was just about to toss it into the irretrievable pile, when it fluttered and shimmered for several seconds. It wasn’t really enough to send up to Tech, but my empathy must be getting better because I couldn’t toss it. I knew I might get reprimanded, but I was prepared to defend my decision. Turns out, I didn’t have to. We don’t always get to know particular stories, but yesterday Marcia came down to tell me that the heart I saved was from a young woman who reminded Marcia of me. She almost didn’t make it, Marcia confided, but just as Marcia was about to stop resuscitation, the heart leaped and glowed stronger than ever. Marcia delivered it personally – she might be the one reprimanded if management finds out! – but the woman decided to love herself, and finally knew that she was enough.
I’m so glad Marcia shared that with me because it helps keep me strong too.
“Darling Lisa”, it began, “I am so happy you said yes. My life without you would be less fun, far less beautiful, and I would only know a life half-lived.” The letter was signed ‘Paul’, and it was well-worn. I spied it next to an E Station bench, curiosity overtaking me. I looked around hoping to find her, unless she had discarded it? Oh Lisa, where are you? Two trains had come and gone already – was she on one? Had the letter been here for days? I watched a worker removing refuse and felt it was lost today.
101 Dalmatian pajamas, 4T. I breathe into the fabric, trying to catch the scent of my little boy, but I forgot that I washed them before packing them away in the box of baby remembrances when he had outgrown them. The box also contained his cloth Madeleine doll, which showed where the scar was from her appendectomy, and the yellow rubber duck received at his baby shower that he had to have at every bath time. I say ‘contained’ because when his sister, my nearly step-daughter, had her first child four years ago, I sent the rubber duck, after sterilizing it, with a letter, saying that I hoped her daughter would like it, and if she remembered how her brother had loved it when he was a baby.
His sister emailed me after she got the package, telling me how sweet that was, and her daughter liked it too. When we went to visit them a few years ago, it was gratifying to see the rubber duck in among the bathtub toy collection.
She mentioned in a post how her daughter was enjoying the Madeleine books, and I knew it was time to send along the Madeleine doll, so beloved by my son at her daughter’s age, along with a little monkey puppet for her latest family addition, who is now a year old, and I haven’t yet met. I got a note the other day telling me they received the package, and her daughter asked if she could keep the doll forever.
It seemed overly sentimental and silly to keep those few things from my son’s childhood, but I have no keepsakes, and no pictures from mine, so it was important to me, and I thought my son would one day appreciate the link back to his youth. He thought it was cool that I had sent his niece the Madeleine doll, and we spoke about how he used to watch the Madeleine cartoon, and have me read the books over and over. Rather than merely keeping useless things that only had meaning to me, the items became an heirloom of sorts, and re-connected my son and I with a happy memory from the past, as well as furthering my son and his sister’s bond, with her children too.
Keeping sentimental things just adds to my pile of stuff, so I’ve done my best to pare down, taking pictures of things before giving them away or recycling them. Having some tactile link to the past is important to me though, so the 101 Dalmatian pajamas will remain in the (now smaller) keepsake box.
I found this letter/ode I had written to my son in a bunch of old papers I was going through to recycle today. I wrote it when he was twelve, and pulling further and further away from me – right on schedule! But just because biology dictates a thing so, doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrible for me…
Evolution Of A Boy
When you were born I held you close, rocked you, walked you back and forth while you screamed with colic – or was it protest at being out in this cold, drafty world from the temperature controlled, fluid womb?
You stayed in a crib until you were two and a half and began crying to me of your needs in the night, or in the morning, coaxing me with “Up, Mommy? Up, Mommy – peas. Peas, Mommy?” How could I ignore that? You asked so politely, so pleadingly.
As a toddler, and ever since you were born, I read to you day and night. It became the bedtime routine: books and a back rub until you fell asleep. Often you would play with my ear – a throw back from your nursing days – a comfort habit that never bothered me. Whoever held you until you were four or five would have their ear manipulated by you.
Nighttime was our time. It was sometimes the only peace in the day. I was really present most of the time for you then, and we both knew it wouldn’t be a struggle of wills; it was a time any outside observer wouldn’t question my parenting skills.
That nighttime routine when you wanted me to lay down with you after reading and rubbing your back until you fell asleep – or nearly – lasted until you were eight or nine. I would sing Mockingbird – replacing Papa with Mama, of course – and Lily Of The Valley, three or four times each, and sometimes you would sing along. Then we would always play the ‘I love you more than’ game. “More than chocolate cream pie with ice cream and marshmallows, and a ton of whipped cream” – or whatever we would dream up. A phrase we had read: “I love you to the moon and back”, began a long tradition of sometimes jokingly arguing over who loved the other more – “I love you the most – eternity, infinity!”
The mornings nearly always had me picking you up and carrying you into the kitchen for breakfast until you were about seven years old. It seemed to help you wake up just that little bit more.
Sometimes you would jump up into my arms for a hug and you did that until you got too heavy for me to grab you up into a hug like that.
Now you’re twelve. You are on that precipice between knowing you are not a dependent child to knowing you are not quite grown-up either. It can be confusing, frustrating, and scary – but exciting too.
You are, at times and often, so much more than you think you are. You have so much to offer this suffering world. She needs boys and men who care, as you do. Societies may seem indifferent or hostile to boys and men who care, but that is because societies are not grown-up either. They don’t know how to accept the whole boy or the whole man – but they are learning. Just as I am learning to let go – but I have built a path from my heart to yours – and there is a path from your heart to mine too – so that we’ll always know there is a home for us, especially when you find the need, or just to be reassured that it’s there.
There are hundreds of family pictures I looked through while searching for photographs for this challenge, and other pictures of places and things that fill my heart, and love is such a vast topic that it was difficult to narrow down.
Love is more of an essence, permeating every area of my life, through every cell and fiber of my being, and, in its finest sense, love is beyond example or explanation. As I looked at the pictures I have on my laptop I’m posting with now, a few hit the center of my heart: one of my mother and I that I took when we were at one of my favorite lakes a couple of summers ago, and one of my son and I at his High School graduation:
Happy Birthday to my beautiful son. He is the best thing I have ever done, although I take no credit for his amazing capacities and talents. He is his own person; I just ate well while he was growing inside me, and then made sure I fed him good food, gave him as many opportunities as I could afford, or could imagine, and taught him to appreciate reading, which he now loves. His cognitive intelligence exceeded mine when he was about twelve, but my emotional intelligence stills beats his – hah!
He is bound to fare better in his life than I did in mine, and that is the best a parent can ask for. I love you, my dear boy/man.
A huge crash of lightning and thunder snapped me awake at 3 this morning. I lay in bed, watching as flashes of light illuminated the room, as though my neighborhood was enduring a crush of paparazzi. What honor brought the heavenly clamor to my home?
The continuing storm unnerved me as it seemed stalled over the house, the pouring rain seeking entrance through the windows I rushed to close against the barrage. Once secure, I lay in bed, wondering if the electricity would go off, but it didn’t.
Soon the winds and driving rain slowed, and the steady drum of gentler rain lulled me back to sleep.
The bright morning’s freshness required my appreciation as I stood on my porch this morning. The sunlight’s slant highlighted my coffee steaming in its mug as I savored the fresh world around me: the Forget-Me-Not blue sky, the smell of ozone-laden air, the sparkling water-dropleted grass, and the deep earthen scent rising from the ground made me believe that my beloved Earth was sentiently grateful for the night’s drenching as much as I was to witness it.
Chocolate rarely disappoints me. Sometimes, when I eat certain brands that were alright in the past, I expect satisfaction for my chocolate craving, but end up being turned off because old favorites now taste too sweet. I used to love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but they just don’t taste as good as they used to. Maybe my taste buds have changed, but give me a piece of Dove dark chocolate, or Cadbury dark chocolate, and I am in confection heaven.
Sadly, chocolate straddles the line between healthy and unhealthy – the sugar content necessary to overcome chocolate’s natural bitterness. I remember finding a bar of baking chocolate in our pantry when I was little, and thought my mother was hoarding her own private stash. After chomping a generous bite, my glee quickly turned to disgust as I spit it out, nearly retching. Adding insult to injury was my mother discovering me in that moment and laughing at my misery while telling me it served me right.
Chocolate produces chemicals in your brain that are also created when you fall in love, so it’s no wonder we can’t get enough of it. I suppose I’ve become more sophisticated as I’ve grown because not any chocolate will do anymore, which seems to correlate to the men I’m interested in. Hmmmm 😀
I’ve always hated the generic chocolate I’d get on Easter, or Valentine’s Day. That chocolate has a somewhat waxy, and almost chemical taste that I no longer find palatable. Interestingly enough though, I also don’t favor high-end chocolates like Godiva, or some others. I have never found them superior to some mid-level chocolatiers, but I did enjoy the chocolate I ate in Switzerland. I especially enjoy what a friend and I affectionately term ‘lint-balls’: Lindt, Lindor, chocolates.
I prefer dark chocolate, but there are some milk chocolates I’ve had over the years that are wonderful as well, and I regularly have some form of chocolate in my house. I have much better control over my chocolate consumption than I do alcohol, so I allow myself to purchase several bars when there’s a good sale. I don’t get high from chocolate, and I usually get satiated without being excessive. Maybe there is a kind of ephemeral high associated with chocolate because it nearly always helps ease my crankiness associated with PMS, and was one of the (literally and figuratively) sweet things an old boyfriend would buy me once a month.
Thank you, chocolate, for helping make this life a bit more bearable. ♥
My son is getting his first apartment with college friends. I’m pretending it’s not a big deal. I mean, he’s been away at college for two years now, so, it’s basically the same thing. Except it isn’t. He’s had his bed and most of his stuff here, and in three days and several hours, it will all be gone. I’m trying to stay in the moment, and not trouble trouble until trouble troubles me, as the saying goes.
I was in my son’s room packing up what I can until he gets here and pares down what he wants to get rid of. He already told me he’s not sentimental and doesn’t want his old school year books, or photos, or other keepsakes, but I am sentimental, so I’m keeping most of it. He may have a wife and/or children some day who will actually enjoy seeing some of the things from his youth. It isn’t exactly archeology, but it is history, and I loved seeing my ex-boyfriends’ childhood pictures. It’s a way to connect the past to the present and beyond. I so enjoy looking at my Mom and Dad’s pictures of their youth and childhood. Ever since my Dad died several years ago, those pictures have taken on more meaning. Even though I often rail against life, I also revel in life’s complexity and variety. I embrace change as much as I loathe it. I may not like changing all the time, but as long as I have company, it’s really not too bad.
I’ll be fine with this new life passage, I’m just not overjoyed. I also know that many people are overjoyed to have their personal time back when their children get older and leave home, and maybe I’ll feel that way, eventually.
It was such a lovely morning. My son gave me a beautiful sweater, and he liked the few gifts I got him as well. He really enjoyed his stuffed stocking, and it makes me so happy to see his happiness. That’s the best aspect of parenting. I don’t care how old your child/ren is/are: wanting for, and taking pleasure in, their happiness, and success, is paramount.
We had a scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast, and then we made our Gingerbread house. We don’t have a good track record at that activity. We’ve only made two of them before, both of which came out awful. We didn’t name the first one, but we dubbed the second one: “Sucky, the Gingerbread House”, and this one my son named: “Mediocre, the Gingerbread House”. We did have a lot of fun making it, and maybe any future attempts will give better results.
My son’s feeling mostly himself again, although he still has a cough, and he told me he woke up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night so he left his room and slept on the couch, where I found him this morning.
He left a little while ago to hang out with friends, and while I want him to stay well, it was really nice to have him home and wanting my help and company for the last few days.
I used to think my life wouldn’t be complete or fulfilled without a husband, but I’ve come to understand that I’ve only ever needed myself. Once I started making better choices, loving and accepting myself, and focusing on my life, other parts of my collage started to be fulfilled:
I thought peace and happiness would come from what I attained, or achieved, or especially, through someone else. In fact, most of the turmoil I’ve experienced in my life was because I tried to get others to give me, or do for me what I needed to give to, and do for, myself.
My friend’s dog died two weeks ago. He was one of my favorite dogs. I met him a few years ago at a party I attended at my friend’s house. I had a plate of food and sat down outside and there were at least twenty other party guests sitting around with a plate of food on their lap, but Cooper decided that he wanted to sit next to me. He followed me all day long even though I never offered, or dropped, a bite of food. I didn’t know it then, but we had just become friends.
Any time I went to my friends’ house after that, Cooper would follow me around and be so happy when I would pet him or pay attention to him. He was a sweet bulldog and I’m so happy I got to know him.
I went to my friend’s house tonight after a fun night out on the town, and we were so full of our evening that I didn’t even absorb Cooper’s absence until I went into their living room, and it hit me so fully that he is gone. I was misty-eyed as I remarked that it was so weird that Cooper wasn’t there, and my friend’s husband said: ‘here he is’, and pointed to the pretty box with his ashes. I held the box for a while, even though I know Cooper’s soul isn’t in there, but I really felt that beautiful dog’s presence in the room with us.
There are very few times in one’s life that the feeling of unconditional love is encompassing, and tonight was one of those nights. My friends said that Cooper’s spirit now lives on ‘Bulldog Island’. When I was a child, and our dog had to be put down, my father told me that she went to live in the ‘happy hunting grounds’.
All I really know is that Cooper was a good dog, and he will be missed.