Tag Archives: memories

The Magic of Memories

We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

Through a Shattered Looking Glass

I grew up on the Jersey Shore. Memories of my childhood are ensconced there, on the beach of Ocean Grove, in the quiet lull of the Manasquan inlet, speeding down Rankin Road in Brielle on my bicycle and hoping to stop before smashing into a giant oak.

Girl Scouts, the local park, soccer, softball, piano lessons, Perkins instead of Halloween, church, camping trips, the Pine Barrens, Englishtown. Bagels, pizza, the roar of the ocean every day during the summer after Cream Cheese & Grape Jelly Sandwiches whilst watching The Prices Is Right at my grandmother’s house. The smell of coffee mixed with Entenmann’s topped off with the wafting odor of printer’s ink. So many memories crammed into such a short amount of time.

As with all memories, there are good and bad.

Bullying, incessant teasing from classmates because I didn’t live in a mansion. My parents drove sensible vehicles, okay, sensible vehicles which may or may not have had rusted floor boards. (I really miss the green & white Dodge Ramcharger with the rusted “viewfinders” along the back seat floor board!)

Death. I lost count of how many relatives crossed to the other side during my childhood. I lost both grandmothers by the time I was a freshman in High School. My first grandmother passed away on a Thanksgiving. Before she passed, she told me to “Be the best you can be. Always.” Perhaps she didn’t use those exact words, I was 11 and had more important things on my mind, but that’s always stuck with me.

We moved away from New Jersey when I was 12, almost 13. Truth be told, I was happy to be moving away. A new start. No teasing or bullying. Finally. I could be me.

But then I kind of missed it. You see, our house in Jersey was on a dead end street. I got along with the other kids on our street. We played outside, a lot. I was also the only girl. I played Cops & Robbers, tackle football, baseball, Olympics, random games of street-hockey, etc. Life was good on the street, just not at school.

The house in Virginia was in the middle of nowhere. Our nearest neighbors were 6 feet underground – yes, a cemetery. Quite a change from suburbia for a kid who was used to going out and playing with the neighborhood kids.

I romanticized my time in New Jersey as I grew older. Particularly in college after losing my grandfathers. Any time spent with my paternal grandparents was in Jersey for the most part. I clung to those memories. Their houses, the way they smelled, my grandmother’s elegant clothes she let me wear to play dress up, my grandmother’s amazing cooking, and my grandfather’s massive pines lining his pristine black asphalt driveway up to his green and white Cape-Cod style house.

In my head, my memories are trapped in a snow-globe, just beyond a looking glass. Perfect, happy, and never-ending –like old movies stuck on repeat in a theatre.

And then…..

Sandy.

(I’m crying now.)

Sandy.

Not only am I aware of the massive destruction she left in her path, I survived the massive storm myself as it passed over Pennsylvania, where I now call home.

I meant to go home to Ocean Grove, to Brielle, to Point Pleasant – to eat at Vic’s in Bradley Beach again – to visit friends and family still residing there– before Sandy.

I’m still going but it won’t be the same.

The looking glass is shattered and so am I.

I keep telling myself Sandy didn’t destroy the memories I hold so near and dear in my head and heart – nothing can do that unless I allow it to do so.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m lucky. Our townhouse is still standing, our power was only out for nearly 4 days, and we didn’t have to wait for FEMA or the government to help us. No gas rationing here. I’m grateful.

Grateful but shaken.

Shaken because all the mourning, all the grieving, everything, has come undone within just a few short weeks and I don’t know how to fix it just yet. I’m shocked and bewildered to have been affected this way. It’s as if Sandy pulled a string on the bag holding all these memories and now I have to catch them but they’re growing as fast as a group of Tribbles. Every time I think I have things under control again, something else pops up. What’s worse is that I’m not sure how to put this into words – not yet. I realize I am but when it actually happens, I struggle to convey how I am feeling because I don’t know.

I don’t feel as if I have a right to feel the way I do when so many who still live on the Shore and in NYC are facing so much more loss than I am as a result of Sandy’s vicious attack. I know trauma is in the eye of the beholder. I know. I’m striving to give myself permission for my emotional reaction –once I achieve that part, the rest will be all downhill, just like cruising down Rankin with the wind in my face when I was a young girl.

As the Jersey Shore rebuilds –and I know they will because we Jersey folks are a strong breed — I will be rebuilding my memories and working to remind myself no one can ever take them away from me. I will give myself permission to mourn the change and the loss of this tremendous storm. I will continue to move forward and persevere.

I am Jersey Strong.

Memories (A TRDC Post)

The red dress club writing prompt for today caught my attention and the following piece spilled out before I realized what was happening. The Red Writing Hood prompt today involved a photograph. Go here to read the other entries and see the photo on which this piece is based. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

 

Today.

 

Deep breath as I stretch under the duvet. Red and green lights flash at me. Babbles fill the room. Why don’t babies come with a snooze button?

 

I sit up, sighing. Another deep breath as I reach for the drawer. My hand grips the curved steel to pull it open. Inside, my camera. Right. Today. Scooping it up, I sling it over my shoulder as I slam the drawer shut. I stumble to the bathroom. As I pass Simon’s room, I hear him babbling. It’s more a cooing at this age, really.

 

I set the camera down on the bathroom sink for safekeeping.

 

Today.

 

As I wash my hands, I stare at the camera. There have to be pictures. Memories. Things for him to look upon when he’s as big as I am – or bigger. Memories.

 

I stumble back down the hall stopping just short of his room. Lean against the wall and slide down, the dark wood swallowing me. The camera hits the floor with a thud. Simon stops babbling. He’s listening. My breath catches. I know what’s coming. I know what’s…

 

“WWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

 

Shit.

 

I mean, just.. SHIT.

 

Really?

 

How the hell could I be so fucking stupid? Really? The camera, of COURSE hitting the floor was going to make him scream. And I bet I broke the stupid thing too. I reach back to grab the camera – it’s still in one piece. Take the lens cap off and snap a quick picture to see if it sounds okay. Seems fine.

 

But I’m not. He’s not. He’s screaming. My breath is faster than a cheetah running across the savanah. My heart – well – it’s the damn Hindenburg. If I stand up, I’ll fall right back down. So I sing. Collapsed outside his room. I sing.

 

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

 

He’s still crying. I’m still panting.

 

“You make me happy when skies are grey….”

 

I’m scream singing now. He’s whimpering. I tone it down.

 

“You’ll never know dear…”

 

I think I can get up. Hands on the wall, I stand. I reach down to grab the camera and prep it for a shot.

 

“ How much I love you….”

 

He’s silent as the door opens. I stare at his tear stained cheeks below the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

 

“Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

 

Click.

 

Memories.

Respite

Today, for the first time in years, my toes and the Atlantic Ocean made contact.

I grew up on the Jersey Shore (NO, not THAT Jersey Shore – mention it again and I’m a send someone with a whole lotta vowels in their last name your way) just mere seconds away from the ocean. I suffered from perma-tan as a result of spending almost every waking minute on the sands of the beach during summers at my grandmother’s house.

We had a routine – we’d hang out, then eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on toast while watching The Price is Right (with Bob, not this new guy, Drew). We’d pack up the station wagon after the show was over to glide the 5 measly blocks to the ocean. Hot metal car seatbelts do NOT feel good against young skin, lemme tell you what. Then, we’d slather on sunscreen and go running smack dab into the ocean.

The afternoon always passed too quickly in squeals of delight, screams of fear after stings of jellyfish, and whoops of joy as huge waves carried our brave bodies toward shore, hurling us unfailingly into the hard sand underneath the soft water. We’d laugh, get up, and run smack dab back into the ocean all over again.

The grandmother with whom I spent all that time with at the beach, at the Atlantic Ocean, is now a part of the ocean. She passed away well over 10 years ago and her ashes were spread in the Atlantic.

Today?

Today I said hello.

Tomorrow?

Tomorrow I will run with glee smack dab into the ocean to give her the biggest damned hug of my life.

I am home.

Whatever Wednesday: Grandma Jane’s Silver Bells

My Grandma Jane rocked. She was sassy, outspoken, brash, and overly compassionate. Doesn’t sound familiar at all, does it? ;-)

There were closets full of sweeping silky gowns, bedroom high heels, and real fur coats. We could dress up in anything we wanted to as long as it wasn’t in HER closet. Oh, the things I used to wear when we were at her house. (My cousin and I even got into her make up one year. Boy did we pay the price for THAT faux pas!)

She played organ at her church and had an organ in her living room on which she practiced. You know what that meant, right? We got to practice too. She would casually give us lessons too.

One of the songs our Grandma Jane loved this time of year was Silver Bells.

We would sit next to her at the organ as she played, watching every place her lithe fingers would land. Then it would be our turn. We would try our best to imitate her but all we could ever eek out would be Chopin.

This Christmas, every time Silver Bells plays, I am reminded instantly of my Grandma Jane. So I pause. In that moment, I feel the joy of sitting next to her at the organ, drinking in her perfume (remember Charlie?), her living room aglow in Christmas lights, delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, her perfume, and laughter of all the family members roaming about the house. In that moment, my heart is happy once again with her memory.

Then the song ends.

And I, I am left all alone until the next time the song is played.

I miss and love you, Grandma Jane.

This one’s for you:

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The Great Return

Tomorrow we go to Atlanta with Charlotte for follow up with the Cleft Palate Clinic.

I would be lying if I said I was not nervous.

This appointment was supposed to have taken place when she was nine months old.

She’ll be three years old next month.

Charlotte in the NICU

Charlotte in the NICU

It took me this long to get to the point where I could even think about facing the hospital where she spent her first 21 days of life without having an anxiety attack.

This is the same hospital in which I tucked myself into a corner of the sleep room in the NICU area, blasted Linkin Park over the MP3 player and checked out. No desire to come back. Just wanted to stay curled up under the blanket and pretend none of this was happening. Nope. Not to me. I didn’t have a baby in the NICU. She wasn’t downstairs having major jaw surgery at just nine days old. We weren’t doing this. I was stuck in the middle of a really bad dream and I’d wake up at home with a normal baby.

I can still see that hallway, that sleep room, my nostrils fill with the scent of the surgical soap that killed my hands as I washed them every time we went into the NICU, every time i pumped, every time I went to the restroom there.

I remember the pumping rooms in which I spent most of my time staring at the clock wishing I could nurse my daughter instead of shoving my breasts into hard cold flanges, flicking a switch on a massive antique pump, adjusting the suction to just below Holy Crap that Friggin Hurts.

But tomorrow is the day we finally go back.

Chris is going with me as a safety. I don’t know how I will handle this. I’m hoping for the best. Praying for the best. I keep thinking about how far we’ve come since then and how lucky we are that we don’t have a lot of the problems a lot of parents have with their Pierre Robin kids. She’s talking, using sentences nonetheless. She’s breathing on her own. She eats – oh lord, she eats – she’d eat herself sick (and has) if we let her. No oral aversions here.

But she does have a fistula – an opening in her palate repair. It’s at the back of the throat. And her enunciation is off – it’s nasal. She can’t say “s” without blowing air through her nose. Chris and I understand maybe 75 – 80% of what she says and it breaks our hearts that we can’t even understand our own child all the time. It’s led to frustration on both sides and is now turning into a discipline issue.

I’m afraid we’ll be told she needs surgery. I’m afraid of what that will mean for us and for her. I’ve talked with her about the possibility of surgery. She knows that they would give her some medicine to help her go to sleep and fix her mouth while she was asleep. That she might be owwwy when she wakes up and that they’d have medicine ready to help with the owwwy.

She seems cool with it.

I’m not.

I have forgotten how to let her go with the doctors – I got so good at it when she was in the NICU but she’s been all ours for almost three years now. I don’t want to hand her over to be taken to surgery. I want to go with her! That’s my baby you’re taking!

But now I’m thinking too much and need to stop and let God do all this worrying for me.

Please pray for us as we face tomorrow.

Pray for a peaceful heart and soul for me.

Pray for a pain-free and comfortable day for Chris as he goes with us.

Pray for a positive evaluation.

Pray that I am able to handle any news of surgery with strength and grace and truly give it to God.