When someone dies, I always think of the line Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz when she is in Munchkinland, and someone or other has left, “My! People come and go so quickly here!”
Because it’s true. Whether it’s death or divorce, marriage or babies, watching your kids grow up, or a friend move away, we’re in a constant state of flux. This gig is short. None of it lasts.
One of my first cousins, Judy, left the earth yesterday. She was in the end stages of Parkinson’s and fell down and hit her head and valiantly fought, but in the end, she passed. It’s such an awful disease and she had it for a long time. She is free now, free of that body that was bogging her down.
Because I am the youngest of all of my first cousins, there are many who are much older than I am, like Judy, who was 86. Because of the age difference (although she was fucking ageless, looking truly beautiful until the end), I have always been much closer to her daughter, who is my age. To me, Judy was glamorous and fashionable and warm with an amazing talent for design, a deep spirituality, good energy, and an easy laugh–a progressive and true original. I fully imagine that Judy will give heaven a design makeover worthy of its name.
Gratitude for those who come and those who go, as we learn to embrace the changes that keep rolling in. This is one of our tasks here, to recognize the impermanence and have at it while it’s fresh–to be with someone in the now-ness.
My husband tried to fix one of the shelves of the cabinet that contains some of our heavier cookware, and which seemed to be going through a middle aged slump. Further investigation revealed a crack in the side of said cabinet, making the shelf tilt. My husband, being the unhandyman he is (good at many things, house stuff not being one of them) took the shelf out and piled all the stuff on the lower shelf.
This morning I went down and while microwaving the milk for my coffee, I saw that the shelf has, like six cupcake/muffin pans on it. I have not made cupcakes/muffins since my famous spider Halloween cupcakes back in 1999. AND THAT’S WHEN IT HIT ME, I COULD ACTUALLY GET RID OF ALL BUT ONE OF THOSE CUPCAKE/MUFFIN PANS, BECAUSE I NO LONGER HAVE HALLOWEEN SPIDER CUPCAKES TO MAKE BECAUSE NO HALLOWEEN SPIDER CUPCAKE EATERS LIVE HERE ANY LONGER.
And I got a funny feeling in my stomach, which goddamn it, I realized was yet another moment of the kind of reality that hits like a solar eclipse–and that I would rather not look straight at, because I could burn out my eyes, or in this case, soul.
This is what I observe every once in a while–something in the house that I’ve been saving, or leaving out, or holding onto no longer needs to reside here, because it’s really a remnant of another time. A time which has passed, and is, in fact, long gone. Noticing is like a left hook to the gut. It takes my breath away. Because you cannot stop time or reverse it, and these moments of realization put me square inside that fact, and it hurts like having a root canal without novacaine, which you should never do, and I have never done, but I would imagine would hurt as much as having Trump as president.
The transition is happening AGAIN. Jake, home for a visit for the past week, left yesterday morning to fly back to L.A. and do his last semester at USC (that damn first semester at University of Barcelona did not count, thank you so much). I bring Ally to pre-season at Trinity on Wednesday. While their rooms were disgusting displays of all I failed to teach them about orderliness, I am once again going through the upheaval of having them leave again.
Again. Again. Again.
I thought once I adjusted to them being gone, I would be able to check that off my list. But it’s like Groundhog Day, the movie, it just happens over and over again. The shock, the melancholy, the terror that a part of your life has simply gone missing, and that no matter how many you appear on America’s Most Wanted, you will never find it again.
I am grateful for the summer I had with my daughter, who grew up a lot last year, and with who I have never had a better time than these last few months. I am grateful for my son, who although lives in L.A. comes home to see us and spend time with us, and who I believe always will love his hometown.
Today I throw out the cupcake/muffin pans and make more room on the shelf for something new.
I grew up in a small town with a big yard. Now I live in a big town with a small yard. Until recently my miniature property had a playhouse, purchased nine years ago at our kid’s grammar school’s yearly auction for a bargain price of $75.00. I am nothing if not a bargain shopper. I remember patting my savvy self on the back, until I read the fine print that you had to haul it out of the backyard of the family that donated it. GUESS HOW MUCH THAT COST–the non-bargain price of $500. I stopped patting myself on the back long enough to hit myself across the face. ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT.
Anyway, we plunked it in the corner of our little yard and, while Ally had just about grown out of it, it became a receptacle for colorful window boxes and antique watering cans and architectural salvage–an outdoor shed and adorable way to block out our view of the road behind us.
After more than a decade of New England’s kick-ass winter’s (don’t get me started on the winter of 2015, really do not, because you will be sorry) although spectacularly made, the little house began to deteriorate, and we had two choices–it could be torn down, or renovated. With no kids left at home, and grandchildren, a twinkle in nobody’s eyes, but my husband’s and mine, the only intelligent thing to do was to take down the house, but this because of all the blocking it did of the road, necessitated a renovation of our backyard. So, down it came, and at least five neighbors in my hood came up to me with an expression that said “We just buried our best friend and all our family members,” and out of their mouths came the same exact words, “The little house………”
Yes, the murder of the little house meant there were no more little’s at my address anymore. And the neighborhood took note. I was actually surprised how sad everybody was. Everybody, but me, the usual emotional barometer for all sad stuff. I knew I was saying goodbye to something sort of epic in our lives, but truthfully, I was just freaking excited by the prospect of my little yard becoming a bigger little yard.
We’re in the middle of creating life after the little house right now (and btw, when I say “we’re” what I mean is the fabulous Brookline-based, Faithful Flowers), but can I even tell you how awesomely amazing it already is, without even being done? Can I, huh?
Sometimes change sucks, and I fight against it and throw up my hands and sob my face off. This time, it was welcome, and maybe even overdue (and maybe I’m getting a little used to it). Gratitude for that. (WRITTEN ON MY NEW BACKYARD PATIO, LAYING ON THE COMFY COUCH, WITH THE SUN IN MY EYES).
Yesterday was a funny day. Not ha, ha funny, but interesting funny, “wouldja look at how life is, all it is,” kind of day.
My son should have graduated from college this year, only his first choice college, USC, Fight On, Go Trojans, accepted him for the Spring semester, and he wanted to go there enough to say yes. This prompted us to have to find something to engage him for the first semester. A friend ran a cool organization and we found he could go to University of Barcelona. The USC Admissions board said, “Oh yeah, we know that program. No problem. Great” But being a novice college mom (and possibly dumb as poured cement), I didn’t get it in writing, and yes, if you’re playing along, it did not, in the end, count (four courses in a foreign city, three of which were in Spanish and not a one of them counted, THANK YOU SO FUCKING MUCH). Which means, he did not graduate this year with all of his friends, which also means I did not yet have to ponder, yet another transition.
But it seemed yesterday, I did. And it a little bit undid me.
I started the day by going to a graduation party for twin boys who I’ve known since they were little, and I say this as little in the sense of just a few months old, and little in the sense that they are now both 6’5. Not even kidding. They are like buildings in a sea of cottages. This may have started me on the course of where I ended up. I mean, you look at them and because they’re so tall, so much larger than when they were babies, you think, how, HOW could this have happened that those two tiny people became these two very big people? They are perfect visual symbols of this concept that just reminds me of everything I don’t understand about life.
Then, Peter and I met our friend Sharon, at the movie “Obit” at the Coolidge, where the filmmaker and one of the writers of obits for the New York Times was having a Talk Back after the movie. Some time ago, we recognized that we were all a little in love with obituaries. My obsession began after my mom died at 73, which I felt was way too young, and which is when I began reading obits in earnest (age 32), being secretly grateful when someone died who was younger than my mother, and covertly angry when someone was older (I never said that I was a normal person, I am clearly not). Anyway, when we heard about this film, I knew we just had to see it and we just had to see it with Sharon. It was great. But of course, it made us ponder dying and what our obits would say and I realized that I really have to step it up, because at this point, if I were to get a headline at all, it would be, “She made a nice poster, she wrapped a nice gift.”
The end of the day was another graduation party of my son’s high school girlfriend. I love this girl like she is mine (even though she is not, and has wonderful parents who raised her to be the brilliant, ethical, loyal, loving and hard working girl she is). I think after the obituary movie, which had me look at my own mortality, and the morning acknowledgement of the neighborhood boys graduating, I was set up to sob. And before I could even eat, I started to, which was ridiculous, and wrong, and I decided we had to leave abruptly, because I all of a sudden was rushed with the emotions of how fast time is jetting by, and it flooded me like a goddamn tsunami. A tsunami, I tell you.
Graduations mark time. I haven’t thought about time since back in September when my daughter left for college, leaving the nest void of kids. I’ve been busy doing stuff. But yesterday forced me to not only look at these kids who I’ve watched grow up, but once again at myself and to be reminded that there are certain periods of my life that are now over–times that seemed at some moments to identify who I was.
Morphing. That’s what we’re all doing, all the time. Going from being one of 1,209, 792,378 things that we are, into one of the 1,209, 792,378 other things we are on our way to becoming.
Graduations are for celebrating the graduate, but they also make us look at where we are in the great graduation procession of life. Yup, we’re born and we die, is how some people would sum it up. But we all know it’s more than this. It’s so much, so goddamn much more.It was a funny day. I suspect there will be many more just like it.
So, my sister moved to Miami a month ago. Stratight down the coast, and away from me. We’ll find out where my boy will be next September, in a little less than a month but, all indications lead to him being in California, Colorado, or Wisconsin, not a hop-in-the-car to visit, not a one of those places. And the month after September, more commonly called, October, my trainer and close friend will be moving to California, clear across the whole country. THE WHOLE COUNTRY.
We are talking about a major amount of loss. Of course, we’re not talking about a loved one dying, LIKE MY HARD DRIVE, but we are talking about people I am exceptionally close to, leaving my geographical location, and well, my everyday life. This is a lot of change. This is a one,two,THREE punch in the nose. This sucks.
But one thing I’ve learned so far, life is all about change. It’s all about the constant morphing from being one self to being another self. I had my first kid at 35. I had worked before that. I had been in advertising at agencies, full time and freelance. It was difficult to adjust to being a mother of a baby, after being someone who worked out there in the world for so long. (NOT THAT IT WASN’T AMAZING, BUT YOU KNOW, IT WAS DIFFERENT.) And then, another baby came. And suddenly, there were two. And I was the mother of a toddler and a baby and full-on into the whole family thing. And it was AMAZING. SO AMAZING. And I was blown away by the enormity and AWESOMEOSITY of all of it, but It was also foreign, and frightening. And sometimes I would look into the mirror and wonder who I was and where the other person I used to be had gone. And then one day, you wake up and realize that you’re the mom of toddlers. And you’re new identity fits just fine. And you’ve made the transition. But before you know it, those toddlers are pre-teens, and boom, it takes you a while to re-adjust to who you are AGAIN. You give away the cribs and the strollers, and nobody stops you on the street anymore to tell you how adorable your babies are. But you manage to move on, somehow. And then in a lightening bolt flash, they are teenagers. And high school comes, and the mothering you do is far less physical, and much more mental. And BAM, you’re putting on a different identity AGAIN. And this one starts to be about who you will be when they are gone. BECAUSE THEY ARE GETTING READY TO GO. And guess what? You’ve been preparing them for this since they came out of your Vajayjay! This is what you’ve been doing all those years, BUT IT’S SO HARD, YOU CAN BARELY FACE IT. And you just want to lay in bed with a million covers over your head because you wonder what it will be like without them. FOR God’s sake, YOU JUST GOT USED TO BEING A MOTHER!
And this is how it is. You’re constantly being asked to change. And if you can’t do it, you will be left behind. Life will pass you by like a marching band. You will be sitting in a pool of pity and shunned like a high school outcast. Because this is what life is, people. It’s about how well you can accept change and go with the fucking flow. That’s the deal. Can you wear it? Can you flaunt it? It’s not about whether you want it, it’s about making yourself fit into it. Because we don’t always have choice in who we must become.
But here’s the thing, we can do it with grace and wonder. We can be the best versions of ourselves along the way. And that’s all we can ask of ourselves. To be our best versions and accept our new roles everyday AND SEE WHAT THEY MIGHT TEACH US, WHAT THEY MIGHT OFFER US. That’s my aim. To see how all these situations that terrify me and make me want to lay in the road and wait for a car, can somehow be part of, and enhance my new self. The exhausted self that is always being asked to change.