Monday, November 9, 2015
It's what he left us with, though, that has me humbled. He is physically gone, but his love feels more tangible to me now than ever before. I honestly feel that real love continues, and continues to make a difference. The thoughts and memories of him that came flooding into my head and heart since that difficult phone call from my brother have all been of his tenderness and his support. The overwhelming response from those that knew him were to exclaim about his generosity, both of spirit and his material gifts. I guard the last few notes he sent in the mail and by email for their encouragement to me as a wife, mother and person. All the things I've read of his over the past week (and let this be a lesson to leave nothing laying around you don't want someone to see after you are gone!) have shown me the generous heart of my dad. All these things led to a celebration of his life on Saturday at the funeral, regrets faded and healed.
This is only the beginning, I imagine, of a complex healing process. He said in his letter to us that he was concerned about the hole that his dying might leave in each of us. He wanted us to grieve, but not excessively. He wanted to provide for us, and as I understand it, not just monetarily. The legacy of love he left between my siblings and those closest to him is that provision. I've experienced a deepening tenderness between us and his partner and her family over this past week. I could regret that we weren't open to those relationships sooner, but I refuse to waste my energy on regrets, (and I of any of his children will certainly have the most.) I watched as my mother, his wife of 41 years, embraced Nancy, his partner over the last 12 years, for the first time, each grieving their own heartache, but grieving together. I heard stories of his desire to connect with me which I rebuffed or didn't understand during my formative years (of which I'm sure I'm still in), and I feel convicted. But I don't feel his displeasure or reproach anymore. I feel his deep love and it is healing to me, even while I grieve.
As my brother said so beautifully at the service, we all had our unique relationships with my dad. In an instant, in a week, for the rest of my life, I suddenly valued and will continue to value mine with my dad, with all it's bumps and bruises, laughter, misunderstandings and moments of connection. I will relent more, and trust more in loved ones' motives, and learn to accept every part. Our relationship was complicated during life, but in death, it has become a thing of clarity and comfort. This is my experience thus far, and I'm sure it differs or resembles others' in little or big ways. I'm sure, too, that the grieving process is long and labyrinthine, and there will be darker moments than today. Thankfully, I have love, his legacy of love, through my family, and the people he surrounded himself with in life, to ultimately fill that hole that his death has most certainly left in my heart.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
If you have kids, you may have heard of Pete Seeger's, Abiyoyo. But until now, you probably haven't heard of AbiNoNo. Zazie recently introduced us.
At 1 1/2, Zazie is turning out to be a pretty fun kid. She loves to laugh. My favorite is her sinister laugh, followed closely by the forced belly laugh that she conjures up when she really wants a chuckle, but there's nothing funny going on. She imitates sounds, like dogs, car alarms, and the screams of her cohort one floor down. She sings all the time. We detected the first three notes of 'Lightly Row' early on in her career, at about 9 or 10 months. She now has the first phrase down pat, along with the first few intervals of 'Happy Farmer', 'Twinkle, Twinkle' or 'Baa Baa', including the vowels aa--ee--eh--ee-ooool, and the beginning measures of the Seitz Concerto No. 5. (I'm not kidding about the Seitz.) She is definitely next in line for Suzuki lessons, as she can already bow with her heels together.
She has also started talking, adding daily to her vocabulary of almost-words. She can say 'yeah' really well, a gratifying 'ooooh, WOW' when Mike puts food on the table, along with 'banana' and 'apPUUUUUllllll', her sweet, soprano voice hitting the high point on the second syllable and trailing off on the 'L', while pointing at anything even remotely juicy to eat. Her diction is perfect on 'cocoa'.
Since she's been an exceptional communicator without actual words for so long, (she employs the hand sign for 'diaper change' quite readily, whether she's really soiled, or just wants to get out of a situation), she hasn't been so precocious when it comes to talking*, despite her knowledge of how to acquire chocolatey goodness. But now, things are getting screechy so we're working extra hard to teach her the proper names for other desirable things, like 'cheese', 'broccoli', and 'Nourit'.
It's heartening to observe that, besides food, Zazie's first words have mostly been names. Hopefully that translates into a humanitarian spirit. She started with 'Mama', moved quickly to 'Dada', then 'Nanny', 'Papa', and 'GO'. ('GO' is actually the most fascinating person in her life thus far. Formally known as 'Hugo', this little boy is exactly one year older than Zazie, and the best Godzilla impersonator around. In fact, Zazie learned how to imitate Hugo imitating Godzilla so well that she didn't back down when a 10 year old boy tried to scare her on the playground a few weeks ago. She merely growled and roared right back at him.) She says 'Hi, Lilly' out the window every morning at breakfast, and can articulate 'Ming Ming' pretty well. She says 'Anne' with a perfect German accent. Her sisters' names, however, have been the last to roll off her tongue.
A week or so ago, though, she started to say Avi's name pretty intelligibly, but I wondered why she wasn't attempting Nourit's name. After all, Nourit loves Zazie and lets her pretty much do anything around her, including sitting on her lap and stealing her pencils while she's avoiding her schoolwork. She is gentle and kind to Zazie, and takes a genuine interest in her. I kinda figured Nourit's name would be the next on the vocab list. All I would hear, however, is "ABI NO NO!", leading me to believe, (and I'm generally right about this), that Avi had done something less than altruistic to her baby sister. From morning until night, it was either "AbIIIIIIIII!!!", or "Abi NO NO!!!"
We continued to wonder how Zazie would first say Nourit's name when she attempted it. Would it be 'Reet', like Nourit's first friends used to call her at age two? We encouraged her with 'New New', but still we didn't hear any attempts at the eldest sister's name. Maybe she was just being respectful. But we finally figured it out one day at lunch. See, she decided to name everyone present at the dinner table, just checking in, perhaps. 'Mama', 'Dada', 'Abi', 'No No', 'Ah Ee' (Zazie without the zede)...So that was it. No negative suffix on Avi's name. Nourit is 'No No'. Avi is 'Abi'. (And now we're going to officially change Nourit's name because I can't imagine Zazie calling her anything but 'No No' now.)
*Perhaps her vocabulary list would be more competitive if we took her pacifier away. But the way this child screams (and enjoys listening to herself scream), we are keeping that plug handy.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
My room was bright yellow, with a built-in bed and adorable hand-made shelves and drawers. I think it was originally a giant walk-in closet. Later, my dad expanded the room and I spent many nights star-gazing through my sky-window and dreaming of being an adult and all the adventures I'd go on. I had a cat, Puss-n-Boots, who mothered many, many other cats, and we had an Irish Setter, Rusty. I believe we had chickens, but Rusty put an end to that experiment quickly. We also had a huge garden at one point. We ate mulberries and raspberries and currants, played in the fields and woods in the summer, and went sledding and ice-skating outside at the neighbors in the winter.
This last year has been a roller-coaster, and although I'm feeling it acutely, I know others have felt it as much or more. The house, which had been on the market for a few years, suddenly became a burden for my mom, whose health was compromised this year. Getting it sold became a priority, but sifting through 40 years (or more) worth of memories was painful for her. I think the moment I felt like the worst daughter ever was watching her breathing turn ragged and her hands shake after an intense bout of purging. To us, they were plastic tchotckes and old, worthless vases. To her they were reminders of so many friends and loved ones. After starting, though, she really became ruthless and got rid of so much. By the time she got down to the things that reminded us of our childhood lives in that lovely home, she was ready to move on. We still weren't. But now that the papers are signed and she's in her new space, she is relieved and happy. I hear it in her voice and am so glad. I'm relieved, too, that she has space for us to visit because it's always home wherever she is. I remember staying at our old house one weekend while she was away and feeling lost without her there. I also remember feeling like the house needed fresh air breathed into it. Updating. People using all the rooms and the earth outside. I so very much wanted it to be us. I wonder if the two little girls moving in today will love it as much as we did. I think they will. Maybe they'll even find the treasure that's allegedly buried in the cellar.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
My 17 year old niece is getting ready for her senior year in high school and looking forward to starting college and the 'rest of her life'. Funny, I've felt the same way for the last 20 years, since I was her age. (Okay, 22 years.) I graduated high school, moved away to college, moved to another college, got married, moved to graduate school (mine), then moved to another graduate school (Mike's.) I can't count how many apartments we've rented during our marriage. (Well, yes, I can. Ten, plus two stints at our respective parents' houses.) Our five year old abided in four of those in as many years. We are on our third child and I'm still somehow waiting to start the 'rest of my life.'
But what is 'the rest of my life'? Is it a steady job, a big, red, brick house, and new furniture? Is it my kids in one school from Kindergarten through High School? That was always the picture I had in my mind as a child, and it's still there, though faded somewhat. We've been in such non-traditional situations - graduate student housing one year, a dorm the next - that I'm wondering if we'll ever fall into a 'normal' life. The job market for composers isn't exactly booming, and when Mike finishes his Ph.D, who knows where we will end up. We might have to be creative, cobbling together work for awhile (and move to Canada for health care and good schools.) Or, maybe there is a job out there just for him and we'll buy a smallish, red, brick house, and send our kids to the nearby one-room schoolhouse, perhaps somewhere in Idaho.
For all that yearned for stability, though, I love where we are right now. Of any place we've ever lived, or will live, I think this place is unique. From the day we moved in, the girls became part of a wonderful group of friends just out our back door. Their parents are our friends now, too; our social circle, and our support system. I thank God practically every day for our neighbors, for their generosity and inclusion. I love our dinners together, movie nights, vacations, trips to the museum, the skating rink, the beach, or the pool together. Birthdays are celebrated en masse, and holidays. As much as I crave moving back to the country, or on to a stand-alone house with a garden, it's hard to imagine not having these friends who are almost like family, right out my back door. We've been fortunate, too, to have one more year with these friends, before graduation and new jobs send us all in different directions. Because that is the inevitable. This is student housing and we are part of the University of Chicago. Dear friends move every year, and we say goodbye, wondering when it will be our turn to leave. If we could stay here, in this situation, while our kids are growing up, I would. But graduate school is transitional and there is always an unsettled feeling inside of me. Hopefully we will have to collect new boxes next summer, pack up, and move on to the obvious next step. At this point, I'm not very concerned about where we'll end up. We'll be together as a family, eat good food, and create a rich life wherever we land. It's too much to imagine it would be permanent, but I'll settle for a stable job situation, and the same floor plan for more than 2 years. I will miss this state of affairs, though. Being part of this has taught me more how to live in community, and although I know we'll never recreate what we have here, I hope wherever we go, or however nomadic we remain, we'll always find our tribe.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Oh, boy, are there mementos. You know those things you get from proms and homecomings, photo frames or wine glasses etched with the date and sappy theme of that particular dance? (Because truly, my date was the Wind Beneath My Wings, and I was Never Gonna Give Him Up.) You know what I'm talking about if you are from the Midwest. Or maybe New Jersey. Well, I went to 16 of those dances over my high school career (and yes, keeping up that kind of social life was its own type of career) and I have not only the frame/wine glasses/souvenir photos from all of those, but all manner of cheesy items, including, but not limited to: horrible sequin-y costumes from 80's and 90's talent shows, cheer-leading paraphernalia, and t-shirts from every play and association and club I belonged to. (Did I mention my high school social life was a full-time job?) It's not something I'm proud of. I really wish I had focused more on my studies, practiced piano more, and dated less. Really. Because then I wouldn't have all this crap to sift through and decide whether to put it in the 'to keep' pile, the 'to donate' pile, or the 'burn-it-and-don't-ever-let-anyone-know-I-was-associated-with-it' pile.
Why did all this stuff end up there? And why did I think I needed to remember my teenage life with cheap plastic champagne flutes, given to me 5 years before I was even legally allowed to drink? What was so amazing about each and every experience we had during those 4 years of high school that we felt the need to memorialize it with a t-shirt signed by everyone present? (T-shirts 5 sizes too big to even wear anymore because of that trend back in the early 90's to sport everything oversized and tucked into your pants with a belt, then pulled out a little. Or a lot. I guess it offset the big bangs.) Sure, it's fun to pull it out of a box and say "Oh, I remember this!", but after doing that for awhile, the memories start to consume me. Why do I need to go back there, that place that most people try to forget because it's the place where we were our most insecure, selfish selves?
The letters are going to be the hardest. Real, physical letters, written after typewriters were invented, but long before any of us had even conceived of email. Written in pen and ink, where the only shorthand was SWAK or LYLAS or TLA. Loooooong before LMAO and ROFL. Letters from friends I met at church camp each summer and corresponded with once or twice. Letters from friends that continued from year to year, until we drifted apart in college or after marriage. (And yes, I was married before I had my first email account.) Letters from boyfriends who were good friends. Letters from boys who I thought were just plain old good friends until I got married and they disappeared.
I'm not certain why I've kept every word ever written to me. I often thought I'd keep them until I was 80 and in a rocking chair with nothing else to do but re-read hundreds of old letters and reflect on my life, but the older I get, the less I reflecting I feel like doing. I reflect too much as it is. Besides, I think there will be more fun things to do when I'm an octogenarian. My Grandma-in-Law got married and went dancing every day when she turned 80! Maybe I wanted to leave a trace of who I am (or was) for my descendents. However, I'm not sure my life and thoughts as an adolescent were all that unusual or interesting, and frankly, I think some things are better left forgotten. Which brings me to the next box. The box full of journals.
Or diaries, if you don't want to refer to my scribbling as serious 'journaling.' They go back as far as when I could only print in capital letters, and came equipped with a lock and key. I haven't gotten in there yet to re-read them, but I don't think I'm ready for that. And I'm not sure there is anyone else I want to share them with, either. I always imagined I'd have a little girl that would become an adult one day, and I'd share them with her to say, "See, your mom wasn't always a grown up! I had a life before I was a mother!" Now I have three little girls, and want so desperately for them not to do the kind of stupid things I did, or feel the selfish feelings I felt. I want them to spend time thinking about saving the world, not about what Ryan So-and-So said to them at the lunch table on a particular day. I want them to experience a little pain, and a little rejection, but not enough to cry for months, or years, at a time. And maybe now, I just don't want them to know I was anything BUT their mother, because maybe they would roll their eyes and laugh at who I was. It's one thing for them to do that about me in my role as 'mom', because every child will do that at some point, and I'm expecting it. That part wouldn't hurt. I just don't want them to be disappointed in who I was (or wasn't). I didn't do anything spectacular. I wasn't all that interesting as a kid. I was pretty selfish and self-centered and mixed-up, and that's just not a pretty read. So what to do with those journals?
Unfortunately, we don't have a working fireplace where I can tear the pages out and send them romantically up the chimney. And maybe, even more unfortunately, I don't have a consistent written record of all the good days and times, especially now, with my busy, wonderful family. I guess because we are so wonderfully busy, and the only time I have tended to write in my journals is when things seem to be hitting rock bottom and I'm trying to figure my way out. There's no need to go to the counselor when things are going swimmingly, I guess. (Not that it's always perfect, or ever perfect. That's impossible. But somehow, my current life with little kids forces me to be present. And the present situation is always better than what goes on in the recesses of my mind.)
All this dredging up of the past is because my mom is selling our childhood home. It has been on the market for a few years now, but she is finally serious enough about getting it off her shoulders as to clean out 36 years worth of accumulation. It has been very hard for me to imagine her not being there, to imagine someone else in our space, and to know those chapters of life are closed forever. I still call it home, even though I moved out at 18. I love the house, the smells, the land - everything about it (except maybe the sulfur water!) I just haven't wanted to let go yet, but after last weekend, when we started going through all the closets in earnest, I realized I don't need the contents of those boxes to remember what was good and redeeming about my growing-up years. Not the tchotchkes, not the letters, not even the beautiful, old house itself. Appropriately enough, I found the following in the book I was reading to the girls the other night.
Laura called out softly, "What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?"
"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura, " Pa said. "Go to sleep, now."
But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She though to herself, "This is now."
She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Me: "Mike, I think we are going to have another baby."
Mike: "How are we going to fit another car seat in our super-small, fuel-efficient car? Crap! We'll have to get a new car."
Don't misunderstand. Mike was THRILLED about having another baby and actually, that was my first thought, too, after the first wave of nausea settled. How are we going to fit a third car seat in our 2008 Honda Fit? We loved our little zippy car and the fact we didn't have a car payment anymore. So we got on the world wide web and searched for other brave souls who didn't throw up their hands in defeat and immediately upgrade to a mini-van. (Not that one wouldn't be nice once in awhile, but there's no way on God's
This is what we bought for a grand total of $624.25 on Amazon (through Amazon prime, with the option of free returns if they didn't fit, which they did):
2 Diono RadianR100 Car Seats (for our 5 and 7 year olds)
1Combi Cocorro Lightweight Convertible Carseat
If we had preplanned 8 years ago, we would have saved another few hundred bucks by purchasing these first and using them for all three kids. But, that would be antithetical to who we are, and besides, car seats are obsolete a year after you buy them. $700 is still a whole lot cheaper than a new van.
The Radian can be used from infancy through age 18 (or whatever age kids have to stay in a car seat these days), but we couldn't fit it in rear facing. Hence, the expensive little Combi number that we'll get rid of when Baby #3 turns 2ish. It was the smallest seat we could find, and the convenient removable kind with the base just wouldn't work. So that's the one drawback - you can't remove your sleeping baby IN the car seat. You just have to wake the poor thing up to take her out of the car. (If her big sisters haven't already, which is more than likely. Besides, it's the third kid and they are never going to get an uninterrupted nap. Neither are the parents. But I digress. Because I haven't had enough sleep.) I guess there is one more drawback. Once you get these puppies in, you will refuse little old ladies rides home in the rain because you will never want to take them out. It's a bit tricky to get the right fit.
If he could do it, my husband would attempt to fit all of us in a Smart Car but that's just a little ridiculous. I mean, there's no backseat. So when Baby Tierce goes forward facing, we'll have the moment of truth - can we fit another Diono Radian in? I think we can, otherwise, you just might see us on a bicycle built for five.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
There are so many now that I'm seeing red.
Since Nourit one day started devouring books, I've felt this panic to keep the beast fed.
So a query last week on Facebook I post-ed,
For material she can read by a light in her bed.
Below is a compilation of what you all said.
Hopefully it all will go to her head.
Some we've read,
Some are to be read,
And some will definitely be re-read.
Book List for Nourit
~or Other Girls Age 7~
(to be augmented and edited, as we go...suggestions are welcomed)
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Shoe Books - Noel Streatfield
Betsy Tacy Books - Maud Hart
The Littles - John Peterson
The Mouse and His Motorcycle - Beverly Cleary
Ramona Books - Beverly Cleary
Wayside Stories Series - Louis Sachar
Anne of Green Gables
Trixie Belden Mysteries
The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
The BFG, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Twits - Roald Dahl
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E. L. Konigsburg
Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Nancy Drew Series
Percy Jackson Series
Judy Moody - Megan McDonald
*Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine
*Spiderwick Chronicles - Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
*Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Books
*Dimwood Forest Books - Avi
*Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
Floors - Patrick Carmen
The Magicians Elephant - Kate DiCamillo.
Kate DiCamillo Books
Everything in a Waffle - Patty Horvath
*Rump - Liesl Shurtliff
More Ideas and Links
The Diamond in the Window: For those starting chapter books
A Mighty Girl: The world's largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.