I have been MIA on my little blogging site here for a minute and for various reasons.
The number one being this summer did not look exactly how I envisioned it, but then again, things rarely do. Life happens << I have no doubt I’ve started off other ramblings with exactly that phrase. Tends to be life’s MO.
I basically imagined this, over too damn quick summer, would look very much like the one before…Lots of time on the water. Maybe a few day trips and some nearby overnights. The usual beach days and Sunday family dinners.
And I assumed I’d have plenty of post inspiring thoughts.
July seemed to be cooperating with that plan. Hard stop.
What August brought was the month in bed, in a dark room, ac cranked up, and binges of the most shameful reality television. Pretty much the ENTIRE month…
Nope, not Covid….wait for it ….Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever! Who the heck gets Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on Long Island?! Me.
I despise ticks. Not a purpose in the world for them. Ok not true according to a 2019 article in ‘Sciencing’…..”These tiny pests aren’t without purpose, however. They benefit the moist, dark ecosystems in which they live by serving as a food source for many reptiles, birds and amphibians. They also help control wild animal populations. Scientists even use them as an indicator of an ecosystem’s overall health and stability.”.
So there you have it, I guess the little bloodsuckers do have their reason for existence, but it doesn’t make me like them any better.
As a nature girl who can typically be found roaming through wooded trails on any given day, I am quite diligent about looking for, and plucking off this particular parasite. Well this past July 14th I missed one.
By the end of July I was struggling with severe headaches, my vision was blurry, and I was so tired all the time. On August 6th the headache pain became so intense I couldn’t take the the light, nor could I stand up on my own. I couldn’t focus on anything and I was experiencing legit mental confusion. Then these continues sharp pains began to spread across my abdomen. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I just knew something was.
I asked for an ambulance (was hoping for a soft stretcher and some immediate fluids)….What I got was a two man, one on each arm, escort to the car with my Huckleberry Finn partner making a mad dash to the ER as I lay curled up in the passenger seat I’d been deposited in, all the while moaning in misery and with a sweatshirt over my head to keep me submersed in darkness.
Good times, and once there things became even more fun….When an ambulance brings you into the ER you slide right on in the back door…Not so much when you walk (or are carried) through the front door.
Fast forward to two hours or so later…
Triage nurse: “have you always had migraines”
Me: “this isn’t a migraine, I have sharp stomach pains too”
Triage nurse: “sometimes you can get a sore stomach with a migraine”
Me: “they’re sharp pains not sore”
Triage nurse writes down “sore stomach”
Me: lays on stretcher/chair contraption in hallway with blanket over head and hears nurse tell dr “she has a migraine”
Dr (who hasn’t even looked at me): “well treat for a migraine”
I interrupt this dialogue to share with you that the standard ER treatment for a migraine is apparently an intravenous “cocktail” of Benadryl, an anti-nausea, and Tylenol.
I recall the nurse saying ” this may make you feel a little heady” ….”heady??”…Haha, then the dancing colors came.
I made the most of this freebie high until slipping into a comatose style sleep from which I awoke two or three hours later.
Still in the hallway I groggily raised my head as a dr approached me asking if I felt better in a far too jovial manner. I nodded yes to the best of my ability (being discharged my only goal), to which he responded “oh good, then it was just a migraine”.
“Ahhh, yes….a migraine ….of course it was, and it’s much better now.”, as a nurse half drags me to my in the parking lot waiting partner.
“Umm, are you sure she should leave?” he questions. The nurse shrugs, I crawl in the car and put the sweatshirt back over my face.
In all fairness I hadn’t told them I was bitten by a tick, at that point I hadn’t even remembered it yet. I did recall it though when following up with my family physician.
It stood out due to a clear memory of feeling it in the evening as I put my hand on my neck while driving. I thought the raised spot I was feeling was a mole, or “beauty mark” as I prefer to say.
In the morning I absentmindedly itched the same spot when suddenly struck with the thought “I don’t have a beauty mark there”.
A quick trip to the mirror confirmed it was a bloated well fed creepy crawler who was hanging out on me like I was an all you could eat (drink) buffet. Ugh.
How do I recall weeks later that it was specifically on July 14th you ask…I didn’t until I was looking at pictures a friend sent over that she had snapped of my partner and I sailing past her boat, and low and behold I spotted the “beauty mark” spec on my neck.
Zooming in confirmed it indeed had legs 😦
So there you have it, an exact time line. I assumed it would be lymes I had it before, though I hadn’t been anywhere near as sick as I was at present. And then the tick panel (which apparently lit up like a Christmas tree revealing past tick borne illnesses as well as present) confirmed it was actually Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (<<< No matter how many times I say (type) that it still makes me start singing John Denver in my head) that had me so down for the count.
This turned out not to be one of those instances where 24 hours into beginning a course of antibiotics, even though you had many more necessary doses, you felt better already.
Just the opposite, the doxycycline kicked my butt!
I could quite literally feel my skin burning with any exposure to the sunlight. I remained fatigued and a little confused, the headache’s continuing to come and go.
Finally the treatment finished, sick time that ate into vacation time, and nothing left to do but go back to work.
And there I am still not 100%!
Now looking back it only took a two/three weeks to build my energy back up, but in my dramatic mind it stretched on forever.
If I pushed hard through two days, and by pushed hard I mean work a full day and meet a couple other of the days obligations, I would hit a wall and be done.
The kind of done where you can’t muster up any more energy to do another single thing no matter how much will power you think you have.
Summer was on a fast track collision course with Fall and I was turning down social invites left and right.
My body supported these decisions but my mind was all like “woah girl, what are you thinking? Summertime is slipping away”.
Then my mind decided to really mess with me…Not so bad at first ….’Maybe you’re just so settled into your relationship and content that socializing doesn’t hold the same appeal’, ‘maybe you’re still readjusting from a pandemic that technically isn’t even actually over yet’…..then shit got mean….’maybe you’re just not that fun anymore, maybe you’re old’. ‘Maybe this is you forever now’.
Yup I just took it there in zero to sixty….
Way to fill my days and head with anxiety! Luckily I remembered (or maybe it’s that I keep people around me who remind me) to bring it back to the moment.
And so I did. And in that moment what I needed was to listen to my body. To breathe. To focus while at work. To not take on too much outside of work. To go to sleep early. To eat well. To embrace the quiet, still moments that my body and mind needed. And to have a little faith….Faith that just because it’s this way today doesn’t mean it’ll be this way tomorrow.
Then came the tomorrow where it wasn’t like the day before, and instead of going straight home from work, I met a friend at open mic for a bite to eat and some music.
The following evening was Friday and I went to another friends house and binged a few catch up episodes of a show we always traditionally watched together.
Saturday night rolled around and one of my girls scooped me up after work and we went to the Riverhead Races….Ahhh, I’m back.
I feel like me again. I’m grateful for this shift and I do realize now that in the big picture it was a just a moment in time that it took for these events to transpire, though when I was in it I was certain it was stretching on endlessly.
There are lessons in this as there are lessons in most everything if I look for them.
As I had been pushing back against what was physically happening with me, it created debilitating anxiety that stole my peace of mind and left me mourning all I was missing out on.
The moments where I leaned into it and rode it out, I relaxed and appreciated what joys were being afforded to me at present.
Our last July night sail before I got sick, I recall taking in the sounds and sights I was experiencing in my surroundings and feeling grateful for, such as the ferry crossing back and forth, the wind carrying the sound of laughter from 5th street beach. Phosphorescence streaking the inky black water as our boat swiftly glides across it.
Granted my earlier compilation of August sights and sounds consisting of the darkened room, the chilly ac, the incredibly bad acting and mind numbing entertainment of what is deemed “reality television” (which I can frequently be quoted as deeming “the downfall of society”, does not sound quite as magical and romantic as that July night.
However it does all hold a peaceful reprieve for what was happening and when I’m not being a willful brat, it inspires gratitude just the same.
And truly the list of comforts afforded to me go on; Family and friends who care. A partner who met all my needs when I was a miserable ungrateful mess, a dr I trust, modern medicine, health insurance to pay for said dr’n & medicatin’, a job that pays me for being home sick, and maybe most importantly not to take for granted…An immune system that kicks in and kicks butt to support a body that heals and a mind that clears.
So there it is, my summer wrap up. I didn’t get what I expected, but I got exactly what I needed.
Final note~cheers to a Fall that has started out and is turning out to be better than I dared hope for…For today, I got nothin’ but gratitude and if tomorrow doesn’t go as planned…well, ahh who am I kidding, I’ll still probably try to swim against the tide until I exhaust myself and decide to go with the current ….Air hugs & salty kisses to ya XO
I didn’t always love boats. Just the opposite really…For a long time I hated them! Well maybe not them, but certainly the feelings they evoked.
My very first boating experience was with a group of drunken adults, who even at my tender toddler age I knew were not fit to be keeping me safe.
Perhaps I knew this because I knew I’d been snatched from my Levittown home with promises of a Disney visit that never came to be.
Perhaps I’d seen the combination of fear and sadness in my grandmother and great grandmother’s eyes as they stood on the curb waving goodbye. Smaller and smaller they grew as the rust colored car driven by my mother’s schizophrenic drug addicted partner drove me to the Virginia trailer park I’d soon be forced to call home.
Perhaps I was just a hyper aware child with some damn good instincts.
Whatever the case may be I have a vivid memory of being on a boat with previously stated group of adults. In my memory they had first been water skiing and then anchored as they chatted and drank.
In my minds eye I can see small me. I’m nervous. I always recall myself as a nervous child and this may be where it began. I am surrounded by water, the adults are loud, and the boat feels too small for how many people are on it. I am afraid I’ll fall off and foolishly I express this concern out loud.
My step father, who is the loudest, ridicules me for being afraid. He then picks me up and tosses me over the side of the boat.
I experience absolute terror. I’m going to die. The adults on the boat are yelling something to me between their fits of laughter.
“You’re floating, you’re floating” they say. I am in a life jacket. I am floating. The water is actually quite shallow. Someone hops in and scoops me out.
I never want to be on a boat again.
I’m a teenager when this memory comes to me. Have I imagined this? Did it really happen? I’m uncertain, but it is real enough that it paralyzes me as I go to step on the boat I was about to board.
I become irrational and refuse to join my friends. I leave.
This is not my first time on a boat in my young life since my Virginia years. Just the first time that trigged a trauma.
Amongst one of my fondest childhood memories is the time I was part of a whale watching excursion. I was perhaps 11 or 12 and with a youth group. It, the boat/the experience, felt big and safe. The majestic whales I saw that day were nothing short of awe inspiring. That particular memory on the water also left a lasting impression.
I suppose it didn’t hold the same similarities of company and circumstance that stepping on a smaller boat with a handful of partying friends did.
Dueling memories, a draw and a fear.
A lover of being at the sea does not necessarily translate to being a lover of being on the sea, but overall a lover of the sea I was (am). I couldn’t change that if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning to miss out on boating fun for all my days, so as I did with most of my traumas, I pushed it aside, or down, or just closed my eyes tight when it made its way in front of me.
Now I don’t mean to send the message that ignoring trauma and just pushing through works, but in this case that’s exactly kinda my experience 🤷♀️
Ok maybe that’s not entirely true….Just maybe it had something to do with other work I was doing in other areas of my life and it was my good fortune that it spilled healing into my life in ways I didn’t even realize.
Small power boats, kayaks, paddle boards…What began as forced white knuckle experiences, eventually became a source of peace and enjoyment. How grateful I am for this.
Slightly ironic that as this ease with being on the water developed and grew stronger, with no previous experience I would somehow land at a marina and call it “work”. It’s been a decade now surrounded by boats and boaters. A whole world that had been tainted, now embraced.
July 2019 I accepted my first sailboat invite. Just myself and the woman who captained the 26′ sloop, set sail one late afternoon.
We motored out of the marina and once in the bay raised the sails. As she turned off the engine, she insisted I take hold of the tiller.
That July afternoon, with the only audible sounds being the splash of water against the hull and the whisper of the wind that filled our sails, something inside me was fixed in a way it had never been before.
I felt it happen. I felt whole.
Falling under the category of “there are no coincidences”, this meaningful day corresponded closely with the first time my then acquaintance, now life partner, reached out via insta message to strike up a conversation.
With no idea what the future would hold for us, it seemed more than fitting to have him to confide in about what I’d just experienced. He understood.
He is a sailor. A sailor in every sense of the word. He has seawater in his veins and how appropriate he should sail into my life just then.
A few short months later after our relationship had transitioned from friendship to romance, I found us a “free boat”!
Now fellow boaters don’t roll your eyes. We all know about “free boats”….This was different…The lady offering was lovely and genuinely looking to freely pass along a well loved (and well cared for) daysailer. As I heard her describe the boat, I knew…I knew she was meant to be ours.
My partner responded much the way I expected he would when the words “free” and “boat” were spoken together, but I insisted we take a look and he agreed we would.
And that’s how we came to jointly own our sweet Rosie. Rosie, a 22′ Pearson Ensign who has a presence and personality all her own. So much so that I’m struggling to resist the urge to venture off into a side story about her name.
I won’t do it! I’ll stay on track and stick to the actual sailing. And sail her we did ….All last summer and well into the fall. While technically a daysailer, that didn’t stop us from dropping anchor and cozying up her little cuddy cabin for overnights.
I’m not going to lie, my partner and I can be a bit of a disaster on land ….We have big messy lives and at times it all seems quite chaotic…out on the water….it’s a whole different story. It’s a true reprieve.
I won’t try and convince y’all I’m some natural sailor who instantly tapped into a previously unseen ability. I have so much to learn, but little by little my understanding of sailing grows. I do not take for granted the confident teacher I have found in my partner and I take full advantage of trusting his skill and knowledge.
As fate would have it a bigger boat was in our future for this summer. The “Deanna Rose” was acquired in a similar fashion and also came to us well loved and cared for. She feels like home.
Ahhh it all sounds so charmed and perfect, but as I’ve already eluded to though we may sail smoothly when actually out on the water, our metaphorical seas have been rough as of lately. Not in relationship to our commitment to “us” per se, just so much change inspiring fear of the unknown.
I suppose with this little sail down memory lane it’s a fine reminder that for one…I am so grateful he and I are in the same boat, and secondly….should we get tossed out for any reason ….no worries….we’ll float.
Some teenage girls have best friends and cliques. I had accomplices.
Amanda, was one of my steadfast teen partners in crime. She and I covered a lot of ground in the years we ran together.
At any given moment we found ourselves on one end of Long Island or the other and anywhere in between, or in the city, and on various occasions out of state. It seemed we were on a quest for constant entertainment.
During the timespan of our juvenile misadventures we did occasionally split up when the situation warranted. However times apart were rare and usually didn’t last very long.
On one such occasion, I found myself in Kings Park. I was crashing there with my latest love, a sweet, but stereotypical Italian boy named John Giovanni.
Amanda, already having moved on from the roommate she had been head over heels for just weeks earlier, was staying in Huntington with some guy I didn’t know.
Early one morning after a heated exchange with John Giovanni I decided it was time for Amanda and I to regroup. A change of scenery was definitely in order.
Once he left for work I gathered a few of my things together and had a friend give me a ride to Amanda’s present location.
We mutually agreed on a road trip and in the spirit of go big or go home (going home not actually being considered) we concocted a plan to hitchhike across country. California seemed a fine goal for a final destination.
It was a warm day in late summer and we set out dressed comfortably in shorts, tee shirts, and sneakers. With us, a packed duffle bag holding the basic essential items…In our world that consisted of a couple pairs of sweatpants, a club outfit with the appropriate high heels for each of us, a hairbrush, some cosmetics, and a stolen gun.
Not being completely irresponsible, we thought it best to let someone we trusted know of our plans. Next stop, Joe and Timmy’s place.
Upon arriving there we found Timmy home alone. We confided in him our travel plans and while he expressed some minimal concern he thought overall it sounded pretty cool. As a caring gesture he gifted us a tiny bible he had received during one of his many incarcerations.
We gratefully accepted it, said our goodbyes and began walking toward the entrance ramp to the Long Island Expressway, armed with high heels, a gun, and a bible.
A box truck occupied by a couple of good natured delivery guys promptly offered us a ride. We happily accepted.
We squeezed in with them and they let us know they could take us as far as the Jersey Turnpike. The two-hour trip was filled with music and laughter. Good luck wishes and goodbyes were quickly exchanged as we hopped out at the toll booth.
Upon learning you are not allowed to pass through a toll booth on foot (learned that one the hard way) we quickly approached a car with a single middle aged man and asked if he could drive us through. He said he wasn’t going far and looked at us a little suspiciously. We promised to exit his vehicle promptly on the other side and though he still didn’t seem particularly sold on the idea we decided not to give him too much time to overthink it and we just jumped right in!
He drove us through and we kept our promise to not overstay our welcome. So here we were now, several hours after the idea of this journey had been born, all stemming from my morning disagreement with John Giovanni…
The sun began to set while we casually walked on the side of a major highway with our thumbs out. As the miles grew longer between us and our hometown, I briefly allowed myself to wonder if this had been a good idea.
My thought was interrupted as a car abruptly pulled to the side. A young guy jumped out of the passenger side with an air of authority and proceeded to chastise us for hitchhiking on the Jersey Turnpike, “in the dark no less”.
As he shouted at us the way a concerned father may have, with the question “are you crazy?” followed by the command “get in the car”, we obeyed with heads hung low in response to being caught doing something so clearly questionable.
Once safely in the back seat we explained our plans and could see they clearly thought we actually were crazy. We could see this because they said “you’re crazy”. While they were unable to convince us to abandon our mission entirely, they did manage to talk us into delaying it until morning.
They were local jersey boys and one had a mom who worked nights leaving him with his family home to himself. It was decided we would crash there, but not before changing clothes and checking out the local club scene. Knew we’d need those high heels.
The time frame was small between returning from the club to when we needed to vacate the premises in order to avoid a run in with mom. Enough for maybe two hours or so of alcohol induced unconsciousness, followed by quick showers.
Our new friends had agreed to drive us as far as the Delaware state line. They kept their promise and back in our sneakers, with sunglasses in place, we headed out into the brightness and continued the journey we had embarked on 24 hours and two states ago.
Thumbs once again extended, we walked at a slow pace southbound on the I-95. Only a short time later an 18 wheeler slowed as it drove past us. Eventually it came to a stop on the side of the road. Blonde ponytails bouncing, we broke into a slow run.
With wide smiles we approached the passenger side door of the massive truck. A young boy of no more than 15 opened it and hopped out to let us climb into the back of the cab…which was actually a bed.
This might have been cause for alarm, but it looked dark and comfortable and considering the driver of this particular rig turned out to be the young boys, very sweet seeming, grandfather, we felt comfortable in the assumption we had scored ourselves just about the safest ride on the highway.
We kicked off our shoes and sat cross legged on the bed as we excitedly told our ride we were heading all the way to California and we’d gratefully stay with them for as far as they were going in that direction.
Grandpa and his grandson exchanged glances and with a chuckle grandpa informed us we were on the wrong route. Apparently we had never thought to consult an actual map and something had put it in our heads that the I-95 was the way to go. We were mistaken.
This called for a quick reassessment of our plans since we were now in a vehicle that was actually Florida bound. It didn’t take us long to conclude that the simplest solution would be to change course.
We thought of a good friend Lenny, who had recently moved down to Raleigh, North Carolina. We had a phone number for him and decided a surprise visit was as good a plan as any.
Our trucker buddies were more than happy to have our company for the five or six- hour drive to the Raleigh exit.
As the miles rolled by we took naps, watched tv, conversed about the trucker lifestyle, and were treated to a greasy meal at a truck stop.
Having arrived at our newly planned destination and grateful for the time we shared with these two sweet generations of men, we sincerely thanked them as they safely deposited us back onto the highway.
We walked the actual exit ramp and found our next ride in the form of a compact car driven by a teenage girl.
Amanda took the backseat and as I entered the front, the driver while reaching under her seat to briefly expose a gun that was safely tucked away, said sweetly in a thick southern drawl “now I won’t have any problems with you gals, will I?” We assured her she wouldn’t and let her know we were traveling with our own protection as a precautionary tactic as well.
We told her we didn’t know exactly where we were going, but we had a phone number to a house somewhere in Raleigh and if we could just get to town and a payphone we could handle it from there.
She not only obliged in getting us to a local payphone, but then provided us with the necessary change to make our call.
Lenny got on the phone with excitement in his voice when it was passed to him and he was told it was “Deanna from NY”. His excitement turned briefly to disbelief and then back to excitement when I informed him I was with Amanda and calling from a local stripmall.
After describing the surrounding storefronts it was determined that as luck would have it we were actually right around the corner from the house he was currently staying in!
In a borrowed car Lenny pulled up to us just minutes after hanging up the phone. He looked the same as the last time I’d seen him in NY, which was pretty much the same as the first time I’d laid eyes on him one summer day four years earlier.
I was crazy about Lenny from that first moment. I had been hopeful he felt the same way about me and had invited him to a get together at my mom’s. He was about four or five years older than me and ended up hooking up with my mom’s friend instead. I was bummed, but we stayed friends. Eventually a year or two later we had our romantic connection, but like most of my relationships the fantasy didn’t match the reality and I lost interest quickly. Still he held a special spot when it came to being a friend.
If memory serves me correctly I think he may have had some involvement of the on again/off again variety with Amanda as well. The lines were frequently blurred during those crazy years.
He exited the car quickly and swept me up into a tight embrace. I looked up at him and pushed his long hair out of his sleepy brown eyes. He offered me a crooked smile as he shook his head at our surprise appearance. He greeted Amanda affectionately as well and off we went.
It took me by surprise to learn the house Lenny was staying at was actually pretty much a drug den filled with skinheads. Not so much the drug den part, but definitely the skinhead factor.
I was fairly certain it was out of necessity for a safe place to lay low since I believed it was more than likely a legal situation that had inspired Lenny’s desire to relocate out of NY.
Whatever the views of these housemates, they were certainly welcoming enough to two little *blonde white girls and considering there was at least a dozen of both males and females in various areas of the house, I was not about to vocalize my judgement.
Not until later that was. After feeding us, allowing us to take showers, and sharing their drugs and alcohol freely, they set us up in the basement with makeshift beds alongside Lenny’s.
***Hindsight affords me the opportunity to see how this was a clear example of white privilege in action. I’m not proud of my willingness that evening to blend into what looked like a scene from the set of American History X, but I’ll leave that acknowledgment here and continue on with the story.
Once the three of us had a chance to talk alone amongst ourselves I had to ask him “what the fuck are you thinking Lenny?”, “I know, I know, it’s not like I want to be here” he answered. We conceded that accepting their hospitality was a means to an end and we had no other current option. Or did we….
As we sat there catching up we told Lenny of our original plans for California. Lenny thought we should get back to that course of action and said he’d love to come along. He was welcome company, the only problem was how much more difficult getting rides would be having a 6’ something, hippie looking dude in tow.
This could of course easily be resolved if we had access to a vehicle. As luck would have it, Amanda and I were no strangers to the act of “borrowing” vehicles without permission.
The basement had bilco doors leading to the open yard on a corner lot and right outside those doors just so happened to be the car Lenny had scooped us up in only a few hours earlier. With soft voices, a plan was formed.
We tasked Lenny with the job of going upstairs and lifting the keys. He accomplished this easily.
Meanwhile having done his laundry earlier that day without the convenience of a dryer, his clothes were strewn on a clothing line stretched across the basement. We began to pull everything down and hastily shoved it in his bag.
We rolled up a blanket to bring now that we had the luxury of a car and had everything just about ready to go when we heard the door at the top of the stairs open. We quickly sat on the ground and tried to act normal, my heart racing at the thought they had discovered the missing keys. Frantically I also realized where earlier there had been our belongings spread around casually, everything was now piled up ready to be carried out. Surely we had been caught.
As Brian, who turned out to be the last guy awake in the house, came down the stairs I concentrated on suppressing my laughter. With the combination of being stoned and having a long history of an inappropriate nervous laughter habit, I wasn’t a hundred percent successful at accomplishing that.
I was pretty certain that my inability to contain myself in what could potentially be a dangerous situation would seal our fates, however that didn’t turn out to be the case.
As he stood in front of us awkwardly trying to make conversation and clearly unaware of how we had just sat down as quickly as if the music had suddenly stopped during a game of musical chairs, I began to realize he was down here in the hopes of finding out which one of us was ‘with’ Lenny and to perhaps score some alone time with whoever that left available. He gave up relatively easy and excused himself to go to bed.
We waited for what seemed like forever and eventually worked up our courage enough to climb up the basement steps and cautiously open the bilco doors. The only sound was the rhythmic chirping of crickets as moonlight lit up our path from the doors to the car.
We quickly and more than likely not as quietly as one really should be under the circumstances, made our way.
With stifled giggles we shoved our belongings in, shifted the car into neutral and pushed it off the property. The car was small and light and with one of us steering this was easy to do.
When we considered ourselves a reasonably safe distance, we jumped in, started her up, and took off, finally allowing ourselves to erupt in laughter.
The next several days were spent doing our best to stick to a plan. However, we were easily thrown off course many times by various factors.
The first being we drove straight into a hurricane. Still not having consulted a map, we also neglected to glance at a weather forecast. We drove along on a mostly abandoned stretch of highway as sideways sheets of rain made seeing the road ahead of us challenging and high winds threatened to push our tiny vehicle across the empty lanes.
We occasionally passed a tractor trailer pulled to the side for safety which made us laugh defiantly about how we refused to stop. Stop we eventually did though when it became completely impossible to see and we then spent the rest of the storm sleeping in the car, completely oblivious of how dangerous our actions actually were.
Eventually the rain and wind ceased and the sun began to shine once again. The good weather proved to delay our travels just as easily as the bad.
We had made it as far as Georgia, although had we ever looked at that map we would have known we shouldn’t be in Georgia, but we decided it seemed like a fun place to stop and get some food and stretch our legs.
We ventured far enough off the highway that we found a town with a huge park. While there were beautiful stately homes on one side of the park, on the other was a more familiar element.
Not surprisingly we somehow managed to make new friends. One in particular was a young blonde haired, blue eyed hustler. He was pure southern charm and I enjoyed his company immediately.
We lost track of time as we partied the day away with our sweet new friend and as darkness chased away the bright sun that had made it so tempting to delay our travel we began to think about our destination once again.
As we discussed our plans in the company of the beautiful, young boy from Georgia, he chimed in with “If Y’all would be willing to go through Tennessee to make ya way to California I have a uncle there I wouldn’t mind getting a ride to, you know, if y’all got room for one more”.” We all agreed easily and I was particularly happy to be keeping him around a little longer.
We did a quick assessment of our funds between all of us and realized they were dangerously low. Amanda and I decided the best bet would be to sell the gun we had in our possession.
Georgia boy seemed like a capable candidate to facilitate a transaction like that and readily accepted the challenge. He brought me and the gun along with him as we went walking across town to where he felt he could best accomplish the necessary task. He was a seasoned street kid and pulled this off with ease. Less than an hour later we were walking back to where we left Lenny and Amanda, with cash in hand. Once again under the cover of darkness we hit the road.
I relinquished the front seat and climbed in the back with our newly added fourth. We drove a few hours until the days partying caught up to us and we all realized we were exhausted so we pulled over. Curled up on Georgia with his arms protectively around me I slept blissfully until the rising sun flooded the car with light. I buried my face against his chest to stay in the darkness, but Lenny was already up and ready to get back to driving.
My time with Georgia was growing short and I was going to miss him. It was a short drive off the beaten path to where we were leaving my almost lover. We stayed long enough for some breakfast and to freshen up, but my traveling companions were anxious to hit the road. He discussed route options with Lenny and we felt like we had the general direction down. Him and I said a playful goodbye and I climbed into what now felt like a lonely backseat.
The novelty of our road trip began to wear off for me as I got my period. Amanda and I ran into a gas station convenience store somewhere in Alabama to get tampons and food, as Lenny filled the car with gas. Needing a bathroom, I wandered into the attached garage and asked four old timers sitting around a table playing cards if I could use one.
My thick New York accent seemed to immediately set them on edge as one responded in an equally as thick southern drawl “well that all depends on how long y’all are staying around these parts, if ya just passin’ through ya go ahead now and then be on yer way”. I assured him and the rest of these good ol’ southern boys sitting there behind a cloud of smoke that indeed we would promptly be on our way as I headed nervously in the direction he pointed me.
It didn’t take long for us to run out of money and it had been a while since we showered. The car was beginning to seem too confined and I was growing tired of Amanda and Lenny’s company, as I’m sure they were growing equally tired of each other’s and mine.
We continued to wing it direction wise and wound up driving through Mississippi and eventually hit Texas where we stopped to get our bearings.
While there I decided to call home. My grandmother answered and accepted my collect call. By this time, she had heard from the police, as it turned out the car had been reported stolen. With Lenny’s full name and mine and Amanda’s first, the police were able to identify us with minimal investigation.
Grammie said there was an APB out on us and we would be arrested if pulled over so I should come home. She offered to fly me home, but refused to wire me money just to further fund my trip. Not feeling ready to so blatantly abandon my friends I thanked her, but refused her offer for help and assured her I’d be fine.
Next I called my father, however that turned out to be pointless. He flat out refused to donate to this little escapade at all so I thanked him for nothing and hung up.
I hesitated as I went to walk away and then turned back around once again reaching for the payphone. I dialed 0 and another number, after a few rings Tony, John Giovanni’s roommate answered. He accepted the charges and passed the phone off to John.
“Where the hell have you been?’ he shouted into the receiver, “your grandmother won’t tell me anything”, “you pissed me off and I decided to go to California” I responded in a matter of fact tone.
He didn’t believe me at first when I told him I was calling from Texas. I understood why considering it was less than a week ago I was laying in his bed. I told him he’d believe me when he got his phone bill and left it at that.
His voice softened as he let me know he missed me and that after not being able to find me he realized he may even love me.
Not that I even remotely loved John Giovanni, but my need to be loved responded swiftly to his declaration. I promised him I’d figure out a way to get back before hanging up. I immediately began to formulate a plan as to how I could manipulate the current situation to suit my own needs.
As I approached my friends who were casually leaning against our stolen car I said “Bad news, I just hung up with my grandmother and she says the cops know who we are” <<< that was true. “I think they know we’re heading to Florida or California” I added <<< maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.
We stood there contemplating what this meant for us as it registered we had done something we could actually go to jail for.
I quickly offered a solution…”I think we should turn around and head back to NY, nobody expects us to do that”. And then just like that our California destination was replaced with a return trip home.
We began to drive for longer stretches, stopping only when it was necessary to panhandle for gas money. We went through fast food drive ins close to closing time and begged for leftover food. We stopped in churches during the day to ask for money or food.
We survived day to day and kept driving. There was nothing glamorous about our north east travels and with no more romantic excursions in sight I had only one goal, to get back to Kings Park NY and the Italian boy who might love me.
We arrived in the evening to a full blown party under way, which was pretty typical. The crowd was aware of our excursions and it had us operating at celebrity status.
We entertained everybody with stories and I lost track of my partners in crime as I ended up back upstairs in John Giovanni’s room for the night.
Lenny had a plan to drive to a cousin’s house in PA and ditch the car at some point. He never made it. He got picked up along the way and a string of charges caught up to him. Living by the code of honor among thieves and not being a rat, he took the whole fall leaving Amanda and I completely absolved.
We would go on to not have a bit of repercussion from our cross country venture and to this day I am still not fully able to conjure up an image of the last time I saw Lenny. It’s as if he just faded from my sight and was gone from my world for good.
In, what is more than likely not surprising news, It turned out having John Giovanni’s love didn’t fulfill me the way I had hoped it would.
I grew restless quickly and thought it time to leave the house in Kings Park for good. I never knew if I was running from something or setting out in search of something. I just knew I couldn’t stay still for too long.
I scanned the room for any forgotten items and spotted a small red leather bound book on the dresser. I picked it up and ran my finger over the engraved “Holy Bible” on the cover.
I stuck it in my back pocket and closed the door behind me.
But wait did they? None of them drink, and though they certainly had their fair share of comedic times, it’s not a joke ….Let me start again …A writer, a photographer, and a musician spent a beautiful summer sailing through a global pandemic….but wait again, that’s not the beginning of the story, it’s the middle.
The perfectly fun, filled with adventures and laughter, middle…however there was a beginning to this story, and sadly an ending as well.
The photographer arrived on the NoFo scene fresh from Newport Rhode Island ….He was a bit of a Scallywag and the writer had to chase him for payment for the boat he left at her marina. He eventually did come through with the money and sailed away in good standing.
It would be months later when their paths crossed again on local common ground.
If you look up the word “scallywag” you’ll find various spellings and definitions. I use the term in the most loving of ways. I have somewhat of a penchant for cute rascals and find those who are clever but a bit mischievous endearing.
And the photographer was nothing if not clever and a bit mischievous….Yes, he was spiritual and a seeker on a path toward enlightenment, but make no mistake that impish grin and twinkle in his eye wasn’t the inner glow of sainthood.
The writer was in a fairly new relationship with a musician, and no new in town vagabond had anything on this guy. If the photographer was a Scallywag, the musician could be his leader….
While being in a committed relationship is not the ideal time to cultivate a brand new friendship with a member of the opposite sex, the writer was drawn to the photographer in truly the most platonic yet meaningful way. She openly connected with him regardless of popular opinion or protests from her partner.
It was during a brief rough patch in her still young relationship that their friendship was really cemented. He provided not just a distraction from her heartbreak, or an ear to listen and some sage advice, but a true insight and support. He seemed to not only understand her, but also the musician whom he did not yet really know.
It was him who helped her navigate her way through understanding and forgiveness and back to the man who would become her life partner for better or worse.
Now try convincing your newly reunited with boyfriend that your new best friend is a charming guy…And as much as you say “you’ll love him because you have so much in common…he’s smart and funny and a sailor like you” he remains suspect…Ugh, the writer has a predicament!
I suppose some may think her guilty of lies of omission but she continued the nature walks, long talks, and lunch dates. And while she may not have shared the details, she checked her motives and stood her ground that he was a friend she would not relinquish.
And then one day her perseverance paid off. The musician said “I need a hand with this rigging, let’s see if your friend really knows anything” < or something of the sort in that cantankerous kinda way. She shared the photographer’s number and upon the musician’s request the photographer’s afternoon was cleared and by evening the two were fast friends. Kindred spirits it would seem.
Their three way friendship became a smooth circle with no end or beginning.
They sought out monthly full moons to gaze at and photograph, sometimes by sea as they sailed to a nearby lighthouse or by land as they snuck around an old shipyard and watched the moon rise over the fishing boats.
They rode out storms of more than one type together.
There were literal storms, with pouring rain and gale force winds, during which the photographer and musician ran around securing boats, reinforcing docks, and moving fallen trees.
And then there were the life storms, like when the photographer lost his job, which unfortunately included his place to live. Off they went to load up his stuff and move him on in with them.
So that’s that…A writer, a musician, and a photographer cohabitated. They shared secrets and saw each other for who they were the way you only can when you truly drop all pretenses. They supported each other, encouraged each other’s goals (side note~ the photographer was a driving force behind this blog you’re reading) and had nothing but love for each other.
And now since I’ve found my way back to the middle I guess that only leaves the end, but even the end has its own beginning.
Yes they captured perfect moments during moonlit nights, sunset sails, front porch dwelling, and roaming through their tourist town eating ice cream, but there was also the reality that the photographer was a slob of a roommate, the musician was a bit brash, and the writer was, well…let’s just say… moody…
Ahhh life. It ain’t always pretty, and all the moments pass….the good and the bad…And the seasons change.
The fall came and now I remind you that the photographer was a vagabond. The warmer shores down south called him and off he went.
The usual promises were made to keep in touch and return but life happens where you are and people get lost in the distance.
I suppose that could be the end, but there are many kinds of endings. It was the end of the summer. It was the end of their lives being intertwined daily. Though none of them suspected it would ever be “the end” the end…
Winter passed and the photographer’s drifting ways had him drifting back to the New England sailing community he loved.
It was a spring day in May when the writer’s phone rang and she saw the photographer’s number.
It wasn’t the first time they’d spoken, there had been sporadic calls over the course of the months since they’d last seen each other. And as was their norm they never made small talk, they cut right to the chase.
“Your voice sounds funny, do you have a cold?” she asked, to which he responded “no I don’t have a cold, but I do have cancer”.
The typical questions. The answers as best could be provided. The plan made to go to him. The phone hung up. A good cry.
3 weeks. 3 weeks from learning of his illness, to the definitive diagnosis, to “the end”.
Within those 3 weeks the writer, the musician, and the photographer had one more perfect day together.
They looked at the ocean. They walked in the woods. They even climbed a tower. They spoke their words of love for each other. They embraced. They parted ways.
That was the true end of their physical time together. By the following week the photographer had left his body.
Death is funny. It can serve to soften ones imperfections in the memories of those who love them. Typically it brings those people who love them together. Not always.
The thing with free spirited drifters is they’re many things to many people and it tends to be in short but intense bursts of time. Even relationships that wind through the years have huge gaps of time and space.
Who may make sense during one piece of life may not make sense during another and sometimes all these separate lives don’t bode well when they unexpectedly converge.
You can’t get more unexpected than an unexpected passing.
Would the real “read his name here” please stand up?! He can’t ….he is gone …and we are left.
We are left with our grief, our memories, and our idea of who our friend was. Who we had been in relationship to each other, and at times that doesn’t align with the recollections held by another.
So who wins? Who knows him best? Who knows him for real?
Is it those who share blood? Is it those who have known him the longest? Could it be who knew him most recent?
Perhaps it’s all the above. Maybe we need not try and figure it out. Maybe the answer is not to look too deep into who someone was to someone else, but to hold close and cherish who they were in the moments they shared with you.
For all their beautiful moments, the photographer also captured the spaces in between smiles. The musician sang the songs that were sad. And the writer penned the stories without happy endings.
And there you have it, for one perfectly imperfect period in time, a writer, a musician, and a photographer were bound together by their truths.
Squeezing between bodies as I made my way to the back of the bar, I brushed up against a tall lean figure standing with his back to me. He turned in my direction and as I glanced up I found myself locked into the wild eyed stare of an infamous local legend.
I stumbled all over myself in an attempt to make conversation with him as I struggled to regain my composure and be my flirty self.
It was no different than the first time I met him two years earlier at the tender age of 15, time stopped and the only place I wanted to be was where he was.
Playing it cool wasn’t even an option. The physical reaction from being in such close proximity to this man coupled with the knowledge that my best friend who had an on again/off again relationship with him was safely half way across the country, left me helpless from preventing what I inevitably wanted more than anything I’d ever wanted before.
I felt it right away, that I’d be leaving with him. I knew by morning’s light I’d know what it felt like not only to be on the back of his bike, but to be in his arms.
I never left his side for the rest of the night, too afraid that any sudden movement could cause a shift in direction. This felt fragile and too delicate to survive if not handled with the most extreme care. I wanted nothing to jar us back into a reality where there was no us.
And then there was an us. I brought him home and he stayed. When he left, I left with him. We rode slow past store fronts and vainly looked at our reflection. Leaning casually back against that high sissy bar was worth every bruise on my spine and the fender of that chopped out panhead, with my legs wrapped around his waist, was my favorite place in the world.
His friends became my friends, and when he spoke of future plans I was in them. We purchased a cheap van together, along with some tie downs for the bike and began making a plan to head out to Colorado.
News eventually got back to my friend and I received an angry call from her. I offered no excuses, just a weak apology. She was pissed, but she seemed to get it. She knew the pull he had.
It made me sad to have betrayed my friend, but if that was the cost of being with him it was worth it. Being with him was everything, and then some, that I had felt that afternoon 13 year old me had her first ride on the back of my uncle’s friend’s bike, by the end of which I knew I had no use for boys my age and there was nothing like a modern day outlaw…A biker.
So while I may have been honestly sorry to hurt my friend, I was more than willing to do it. It wouldn’t be long however before I felt the bitter sting of betrayal myself.
My own on again off again relationship, the one with my mother, was recently on. She was living nearby to the house I resided in. She had begun to make attempts to get sober and was going to AA on occasion.
She had been in and out of so many detoxes and rehabs. It was a pattern that would continue for years to come. At this point she appeared to be sober and genuinely interested in a relationship with me, and I was in a space where I was feeling grateful to have her in my life.
I was excited when I introduced her to this man, and made no secret of the fact that I was crazy about him and the happiest I’d ever been. I could tell she wasn’t immune to his charms and I loved that he had that effect on everyone, but chose to be with me. I wrapped all my self-value up in that feeling.
“Come on, please. It’ll be fun, and I’ll do our laundry while we’re there”, I said to him as I snuggled up on him and attempted to fully wake him from his half sleep state. Begrudgingly he gave into me, and I assured my mother we would be there for dinner that evening.
That’s the memory I would replay in my mind for the next three days. How he didn’t even want to go.
That and especially how he had initially turned her down as we sat around the table, in front of dirty dinner plates, and she asked “Is there any chance you would give me a ride to my AA meeting on your bike?”.
He hadn’t wanted to, and just like I’d gently persuaded him to join us earlier, I again cooed, “pleeeease, don’t make her take a taxi there”.
He reluctantly agreed.
As I stood there at the kitchen sink, and heard the loud engine fade into the distance, leaving just the rhythmic noise of the dryer turning in the background, I reveled in the contentment I had found in this simple moment.
The time passed, and he didn’t return. My mind raced with possible explanations, most not good. He was only to drop her off a few blocks away, and then return.
Did they have an accident on the way there? Did he have one after dropping her off? Did she convince him to stay for the meeting? We were all trying to stay straight, perhaps he stayed with the intentions of checking it out and then giving her a ride home? Maybe he saw someone he knew, there or between there and here? Before or after he dropped her off? It was all just speculation.
Questions and guesses floated through my mind, but the one that kept pushing all the others to the side and coming prominently to the front, was the image of them together, together in a way that made me sick to my stomach.
I knew the truth and I hated myself for basically orchestrating it. Who did I think I was to trust them?To trust life? To believe I could have both a mother’s love and a man I adored…
I was a fool, a fool washing her dishes and doing his laundry.
There are clear moments in time where a divide occurs. A before this event, and an after this event. I’d experienced them before, and I knew this was one. Nothing would be the same, nothing could bring me back to the “before this happened”.
I wanted to die. For the next three days, I basically invited that outcome. I swallowed handfuls of pills that I didn’t even know the names of. I slept drug induced sleeps, and when awake walked around groggily telling anyone who’d listen that my mother and boyfriend had disappeared together. Even through the muted chemical haze, I felt raw and exposed, and lost. So lost.
Then the call came from my roommate ,she called over to the house she knew I was at and told me he was home. She said “calm down, there’s an explanation, don’t freak out”.
I walked past the bikes parked in front of the house, his amongst them, and angrily threw the door open. Before I could do little else, he was holding me, leading me into our room. Those beautiful brown eyes, filled with shame and regret.
He told me nothing happened between them, to get that thought right out of my head. He said it was just a relapse on drugs. A poorly timed crack binge, and nothing else. We could move past it, we could start over. And then he said “I love you”.
That’s all he had to say. If he hadn’t said a single other thing, that would have been enough. I believed that he loved me. I had to. I didn’t care if somewhere in me I knew he was lying about my mother. The fact that he cared enough to want me to believe it hadn’t happened was enough.
The fact that he was standing in front of me, shoulders slumped, eyes sad, speaking softly, and professing love, was all more than enough to make everything in my world ok again.
Maybe I had been wrong, maybe this wasn’t a defining moment in time. Perhaps this was nothing more than a blip, a barely remembered rough three days, that would hardly stand out amongst a lifetime of adventures with this beautiful man standing before me.
I suppose it could have gone like that, but nope…not if my mother had her way, and she of course did.
He told me my mother couldn’t go home and was riding with one of the other guys now, and that was fine by me. He said he and his friends had some business to take care of and they would be back shortly to pick us up.
After a lingering kiss goodbye on the lawn, I walked over to the curb my mother was sitting on, and took the spot next to her. The happiness in my heart matched by the rumble felt in my chest from the four or five nearby Harley’s starting up and roaring down the street.
I turned toward my mother, I was smiling, I felt light, but then I recognized the contempt she held for me in her eyes.
It all happened so quickly. Had her words been fists there would have been no time to shield the blows, she verbally lashed out with a devastating speed, and it fell on me as painfully as any physical attack could have been…”are you stupid? Of course we slept together, we fucked the whole time”…
Stunned, I was crushed by the weight of what she was saying, she continued “the plan was to come back here and get his stuff, leave together, but then he hits with me that he loves you and wants to stay, tells me to ride with this other guy, fuck him”.
In the moments that followed I felt the familiar disconnect that had always been between us. I was not her daughter, just another player in her story, someone who did her wrong, as so many had in her twisted mind. Once again the world had been unfair to her, denied her, her due share.
She looked old, she was bitter, unwanted, and it stole her beauty right before my eyes. Had I been a stronger woman, I could have felt pity for her, but I wasn’t. I was a 17 year old child, trying to make my way in a grown ups world, completely untethered, and desperate to belong somewhere. I hated her. I’d always hated her for her rejection, she was at the root of every fear I had.
I completely succumbed to the rage rising up inside me, and now before she could shield the blows, I was on top of her, swinging wildly. Telling her with every hit, how pathetic she was.
That evening there was the usual traffic that came with a party house, and either some passerby or perhaps even one of my housemates, was promptly dragging me off of her.
Given the opportunity, she ran for the house, I broke away from the arms struggling to restrain me, and chased her. As more people stepped in, in an attempt to gain control over the situation, she was somewhat shielded behind bodies. I wildly grabbed anything within my reach and threw it in her direction. I didn’t care what I broke, or who I hit. I wanted to hurt her. I desperately wanted her pain to match mine.
Somebody was shouting to “please stop, we don’t need the cops here”, and then somebody was screaming at me to take the phone.
It was him on the phone. I don’t know if someone knew where to call him, or if he had just happened to call during that time, but I took the phone, and calmly told him “come pick up your shit, it’ll be on the lawn”. He said “don’t do that, go wait for me in our room, now put your mother on”.
Without saying a word, I turned toward the corner of the kitchen where she stood protected by strangers and extended the phone in her direction. She took it, put it up to her ear, and before she could get more than a word out, he told her to sit at the kitchen table and not say anything else. He hung up. We both listened.
I laid motionless on the bed we shared. The house remained eerily silent. Eventually I heard the bikes pull up, the front door open, and then there he was, standing in the doorway of our room.
We looked at each other sadly for a moment, he shut the door, and took his place beside me. He held me while I sobbed.
I never wanted to move beyond this room. There in his arms I found the safety I had been looking for. The protection from her that I needed. And he understood.
We eventually spoke, and the only explanation he offered was that she had money to pay for the drugs if he’d take her, so off to Brooklyn they went. His official justification for sleeping with her …”it was like something I’d read about in Easy Rider”.
He asked me what he should do about her now, did I want him to go out there and tell her to leave?
I thought about it for a second, looked up at him, and said “she rides with your friend, let’s go tell her”.
“I think I might like to go to Africa on mission someday” I offhandedly told the surgeon whose mobile surgical ministry my church supported.
“You should go to a 2nd world country before going to a 3rd” he said. “Perhaps come along to Ecuador in September” he continued. “Yes, I’d love to” was my response before I could even process what all it would entail.
I hadn’t left the country since I was 14. I didn’t even have a current passport and September wasn’t far off. I also had an August trip planned with my daughters that would need to be cancelled. I would have to secure time off work, etc.
I hadn’t factored in any of these things yet I was all like “let’s go”. Throughout the planning process I came up against more than one stumbling block.
For every hoop I had to jump through to make this adventure a reality I simply reassured myself I would take the next step necessary and if it were meant to work out it would.
I ignored the voice in my head telling me “this is impossible, you can’t do this”, and step by step, it did work out.
I learned so many things on that trip, and most of it was lessons about myself. I suppose of the vast amount of take aways from my journey one of the most life changing was this newfound trust in the universe I was cultivating.
When I was younger, as in my teens, I flew without fear. I’m not sure why, when one considers what an anxiety ridden child I was, flying didn’t scare me, but it didn’t. However the first time I flew after having my first child it was a particularly bumpy flight, and with an innocent babe in my arms who I was solely in charge of protecting, I felt vulnerable in a way I never had before. That’s when the fear crept in.
I continued to fly throughout my life, my need to travel outweighing my nerves, but to say the feeling in the pit of my stomach was unpleasant would be putting it mildly. And that was nothing compared to the places my mind took me as I imagined the scenarios of death and destruction if my plane were to plummet out of the sky.
Until traveling to Ecuador the longest flight I’d endured was NY to Arizona, which I recall actually being an excruciatingly long and turbulent flight. How on earth had I not given a single thought to the sheer amount of hours in the air this upcoming trip would require?
Well, somehow I didn’t and here I am at JFK boarding a flight for my first leg of this trip…NY to Miami was a typical enough experience. Not too horrible.
The layover in Miami included some wrong gate drama, a mad dash through security, and a walk of shame to the very back row of seats as I was the absolute last person to board.
Finally we depart.
I felt my usual unease as the plane continued to climb. And then, somewhere in the sky between Miami and Quito, something changed. Another of those recognizable shifts in perspective I so often share about. A feeling of peace washed over me and replaced the nervousness.
This contentment with my current situation wasn’t that I suddenly felt a guarantee my plane would land safely, it stemmed from the sudden confidence that no matter what should happen, all was well. The universe is always unfolding properly and in the grand scheme of things all will always be well.
It didn’t matter if I was gazing out a window 36,000 feet in the air, sitting at my desk, sleeping in my bed, or crossing a hometown street…I am not in control….There is a driving force to this universe, call it God, call it a divine energy, call “it” whatever you choose, but regardless of names we assign, I personally do believe there is something…
So in my little enlightened aha moment I recognized yet another opportunity to surrender. I surrendered my preconceived notions of safety, I surrendered the fear I held gripped in white knuckles, and as I had experienced in the past, with surrender comes a freedom.
A freedom to live in the moment, to experience it fully in a way you just can’t when worry is stealing pieces from you.
I experienced that on the puddle jumper from Quito to Cuenca. And on the 7 hour bus ride to the remote village where I would spend a week volunteering.
I experienced it walking into a make shift operating room, as well as hiking through the Amazon Jungle, and while gazing up from under an impressive waterfall.
So having unpacked “worry”, I left it behind, and carried my newfound “faith over fear” mantra home with me like a prized souvenir.
From adventures like tracking down wild horses in the Wild West to roaming solo through new cities, I have kept it with me, and it continues to serve me well.
It allowed me to look at my future in a different way and I made this fabulous, fearless five year plan to move to a city that captured my heart. (Ok I know a five year plan doesn’t fall under the spontaneous category, but to be fair there were child rearing obligations to be taken into consideration) No longer held back by thoughts of “well that’s impossible” step by step my timeline passed and finally with the last pre-move year unfolding, something ( read: someone) wrecked that plan.
And that’s ok. Because sometimes plans change. And as courageous as it is to move to a far away city where you don’t know a soul, it sometimes takes even more courage to stay put and be open to a whole other kind of adventure.
I still make plans…Fun plans, brave plans, spontaneous plans, always loose plans…I’ve learned to give the universe room to work it’s magic, for sometimes it has an even better plan than me.
And as one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver said, this is my one wild and precious life….As for what I plan to do with it? Live it…Live it without apology, without self imposed limits, and without fear.
I sit in the darkness of my yard. I’m grateful for the warmer air, especially since I fled the house with no coat.
The rhythmic hooting of a nearby owl calms me. I am struggling to regain my composure, to slow down my racing thoughts. I want to disappear into the night but the full moon bathes me in her light. I feel crazy. I think I am a “lunar”~tic.
While I may not writher around on the ground sprouting fur when exposed to the monthly glow of a full moon sky, it would seem my fangs do grow sharper, and my bark has bite.
It’s not to say I embark on a spree of verbally striking down just anyone who has the misfortune to cross my path as much as it’s more an inability to control my primal response when confronted with fear or anger during this particular lunar phase.
My teens, twenties & thirties I wrote my monthly mood swings off to pms. In my early forties when I was smacked straight into surgically induced menopause I assumed that on top of the obvious menopausal crazies, the one intensely coming out of my skin day a month was a phantom pms of sorts. Now here we are, a good few years past menopause and still I have a monthly day or two break from sanity.
Maybe what I am and have always been at the mercy of, is the moon.
Who hasn’t heard tales that hospital ER’s and jails or asylums are all the more challenging during full moons. I’ve read that crime increases on full moon nights. Some people speak of not being able to sleep. And of course there’s the fact that she (the moon) commands the oceans < now that’s power.
My sun and moon sign are the same. In the daylight sweet Libra boasts such characteristics as peace loving, fairness, and balance.
Under the light of the moon my lovely Libra personality possesses traits like outrageous flirtatiousness, an insatiable appetite for fun, and mercilessly demands loyalty from those who surround her.
The moon captivates me. I constantly find myself in awe of her beauty and her force. She is surrounded by both mythical magic and concrete science.
Moonbeams reaching into the very core of who I am, releasing an animalistic wildness does not seem out of the realm of possibility. And with such creative phrasing can almost make it seem dark, yet desirable. Freedom from society’s emotional restraints. How wickedly enticing….
Ahhh as much as I rather find myself enjoying the spin put on my occasional outrageous behavior of being some fair haired unruly moon fairy jacked up on sparkling stardust, science might see it differently….Mental Illness.
Hmmm. Well then….Turns out with a quick Google search that there actually is a documented link between bipolar disorder and the effects of the full moon.
Have I been trying to dress up psychotic breaks as pure unbridled fiery passionate moments?
I often acknowledge child me as painfully shy but if given the honest appraisal hindsight affords, the truth is it was more in line with paralyzing anxiety.
Creative cocktails of various ingredients starting around the age of 13 were the elixir that allowed me to come out of hiding and join the world. And join the world I did, I took it by storm.
That worked until it didn’t work anymore.
I suppose that could be considered the good ol’ self medicating approach. I just didn’t know that was what I was doing.
I was raised by a generation that believed you don’t show your crazy. You tuck it in, squash it down, lock it up…I have resisted this deeply rooted subconscious response as best as I’ve been able and subsequently banished a demon or two, but somewhere they remain. They have tucked themselves into the deepest darkest corners and there they stay docile until the full moon’s light is so bright it reaches into those crevices and stirs them up.
The ones I have met and acknowledged and named are the least terrifying but then there are those I run from. They are the ugliest parts of me. Some months they make their presence known more than others, and some they remain slightly more subdued.
If in fact the power of the moon does influence these moods of mine perhaps the worst corresponds with “super” moons closer to the earth, the same way their gravitational pull creates extreme low tides. That sounds like a plausible theory though with no real basis as I’ve got a somewhat unscientific simple mind. Maybe there just so happens to be other very real triggers happening in my life simultaneously and combined with the moon create a perfect storm.
Regardless, the moon now wanes and I grow more settled. I gaze at the night sky without trepidation as each evening it moves closer to my favorite phase of crescent moon…a Cheshire Cat smile.
I have a choice to make. Do I wait until my demons rise again, the way they always eventually do, or maybe it’s time to invite them out into the light of a new day.
Shall I introduce myself and learn their names? Whatever names that might be~depression~anxiety~mania~ptsd~etc.
It’s more likely I’ll slip back into denial. My general happiness and love of life is real and it propels me through most days with a well balanced ease that makes it so difficult to recall the fear felt on a moonlight night when I am helpless to contain my flurry of emotions.
Then again I have left this trail of words on a page to remind myself where I’ve been. I suppose it’s up to me now where I might go next…
I just received an alert reminding me that my annual payment was coming due for my website. It’s been a year. And what a year it has been!!
I love acknowledging year anniversaries. I do it constantly. I’m obsessed with all things full circle and enjoy the opportunity to reflect on where I am as opposed to where I was, and what has been learned or changed as I cycled through all four seasons between now and whatever event I’m circling around back to.
Does that sound peculiar? Maybe. Well I can be a bit peculiar, so that’s ok.
On with the anniversary reflecting….To begin with, I don’t hate mermaids anymore! Today they inspire nothing more than the nostalgic feeling of childlike magic. Any thoughts of the “darker” variety have simply drifted away like seaweed on the shore carried back to the deeper part of the ocean by the tide….Sure it’s still out there somewhere, but it ain’t swirling around my feet anymore getting all tangled up and ruining my beach day.
So now here we are almost a year after that silly mermaid hating post, twenty or so subsequent posts later, 47 organically grown followers, a lot of love shown to me on Facebook/Insta when I post blog links, and a door cracked open just a wee little bit that I honestly hadn’t even thought of knocking on, all has me feeling pretty good about expressing myself on this forum through the written word.
Granted I’ve posted inconsistently and my topics have been all over the map, but damn it’s been therapeutic! Processing heavy shit, be it of the personal variety (death, depression, relationships, etc) or strife in the world ~write about it. Fun times on or at the sea ~ write about it. Holiday happenings that conjure up mixed feelings ~ write about it. Childhood memories ~write about them. Pretty much nothing is off limits, which I suppose could make those around me a little nervous…I mean it can’t be as bad as dating Taylor Swift (ouch that joke was so 2017), but I do like to publicly process some feelings through telling a story….
And tell a story is what I suppose I will continue to do. And maybe looking back on this year I see my story is bigger than I realized and it’s strung together through all these smaller tales. Perhaps there is a common thread that ties them all together and just maybe that thread is not a “thing”, but a “who”.
That who has quite possibly impacted who I am in nearly every relationship I have had, one way or another…My mother.
Fifty year old smiling, confident, super fun, trusted friend, loving partner, best mom I can be, me is comprised of an abandoned newborn, a stolen toddler, an abused mentally breaking down four year old standing in a West Virginia trailer park, a painfully shy and picked on elementary school kid, a suicidal middle schooler, a promiscuous teen, a high school drop out, a drug addict, and eventually a scared too young of a mom desperate not to repeat history….And they all continuously reach out for her ….My mother.
Well that paragraph was the condensed version of my most painful highlights and probably sounds a tad whiney and like I’m blaming my mother….Poor moms, always getting the blame 😉
I swear that’s not where I mean to go with this. In between those house of horror moments were love, light, and beautiful experiences that also played a significant role in shaping who I am and how I view the world. I know I’ve been blessed a million times over.
And how can I say I’m not blaming my mother when I make the bold statements that I do, you ask? Because I’m simply not, I’m merely acknowledging a fact.
The fact that mothers are creators, they are life giving powerful feminine forces and from the moment we are born of them as tiny vulnerable humans in an overwhelmingly huge world, they are the closest connection we know. Forever tethered by the phantom cord that once nurtured us into existence.
I do have enough life experience and especially after having made an abundance of my own mistakes, to know that nothing this woman did (or does), regardless of how much it seemed like it, was she doing “to” me. She’s just been surviving in this world the best way she knows how and because of this I don’t hate her. Plus there’s the fact that she did quite literally give me life….So there’s that. Thanks mom.
Still though, I feel compelled to continue to tell our mother/daughter story because it’s my story. It’s not to shame her or garner sympathy, but just because it’s my most intimate, complex, love story.
She was my first relationship and my first rejection. I carry part of her with me into everything I do and I can never fully escape her. When I look in the mirror I see her face. And when I look again at all my seemingly random blog posts, she’s almost always somehow intertwined in them. She is everywhere.
And so perhaps this writing adventure of the past 12 months, that started as an outward “mermaid” attack and quickly turned introspective, brings me to the biggest full circle moment of them all. I’ve gone straight back to the absolute utmost beginning!
So cheers to a year of self reflection, the beginning of finding my voice, a little healing and as always a lot of love. And that’s all I got for now. I suppose more shall be revealed….
Thanks to anyone who may have found themselves following along. Xo
I’m grieving … I’m grieving a 17 lb black cat named Massacre.
A 17 lb black cat who 16 Valentine Days ago was born to a feral park dwelling mama.
Massacre and I had something in common…
My mother dwelled in the same park and was a bit feral herself.
Shortly after this (then) scrawny black kitty was born, his cat mom fell victim to a speeding car and it was my tent living mama that scooped him and his three siblings up to save them from the fate of being a raccoon’s snack.
It was an on again time in our long history of on again off again rotations. It was also just weeks after January 27th 2005, a significant turning point in which I was learning to find my feet in a new way of living and my life was changing in so many ways.
Most changes were of the both necessary and positive variety, but one heartbreaking beyond my control change was that I had to say goodbye to my own little feline partner.
~Gypsy~ Beautiful 13 year old calico Gypsy…Gypsy who was older than two of my children. Gypsy who outlasted a marriage and subsequent relationships. Gypsy who moved half way across country with me twice. Gypsy who I loved more than I’d ever loved a pet. And I had loved many a pet.
Much like my mother had saved Massacre, I too had snatched Gypsy straight from a cruel fate. She was a 2 lb, flea & mite ridden, eyes swollen shut, ball of snot whose barely audible 3 am mew alerted me to her location next to the dumpster behind the sports bar where I was a cocktail waitress.
That was how our story began. It ended 13 years later with me handing her, weak and sick, over to an animal hospital worker, who was also a friend and had promised to stay with her during the end because I was too selfish and scared to be there myself.
How I’ve always wished I could go back and do it differently…but I guess all the wishing in the world can’t turn back time…
Meanwhile back at the park the orphaned kitties continue to thrive in my unconventional mama’s care and my loss of Gypsy immediately inspires mom to insist I offer a home to one of her motherless kittens.
My loyalty and grief at first cause me to refuse but she wears me down and I agree to one. Then comes the call suggesting I take two as she was only able to find homes for two. I agree.
Kitty delivery day arrives as mom steps off a Jitney bus with a cat carrier containing not two, but three 6 week old kittens. “A home fell through, but it’s ok, just pick the two you want and I’ll figure something out for the one you don’t” < this is the suggestion she makes as my three daughters stand before me already each with a squirmy meowing kitten in hand.
So yeah. I kept three.
The older girls immediately devised an ownership plan. It is decided that really our dog belongs to Andrew so he’s covered in the pet department. Shauna selects the black and white male as Colette is content with the black and white female. Oreo and Pookie have been named and claimed.
A very sweet two year old Tia is not only happy with her left over solid black cat, but true to her nature offers to share him with me. Her older sisters support this decision and Massacre is deemed “ours”….mine and Tia’s.
This is not necessary, I do not want a new cat. I look at this fleabag menagerie and my heart aches for Gypsy. I’ve been conned and now I have a brood of four legged mouths to feed that just serve as a reminder of the cat relationship I lost.
Time passes and the cats grow. They are fine cats. They are loved cats. We are a seemingly happy home and all living things appear to be well cared for. Still I keep my distance.
Im convinced that to love them too much would be a betrayal to the cat who I already feel like I abandoned in the end. I need to at least mourn her properly.
And so I do. And then one day it happens, and like so many defining moments in my life I look back with an awareness of the exact time and place which within a shift occurs.
I am sad or mad or something that I can’t quite process. I sit there on my couch and this now very large black cat hops up on me. His weight is a significant presence and I feel it ground me, bringing me fully back into the present moment. As I pet him he purrs loudly. I look into those beautiful green-gold eyes and feel overwhelmed with love for this comforting creature. And so our love affair begins.
I don’t know why in that moment, probably a good two years after this cat had already been “mine” did it become ok to love him so completely, but it did. He wasn’t just mine anymore, I became his.
I became his in such a connected way that at 5 years old when I almost lost him to organ failure I refused to give up and willed him to survive. With the help of medicine that was only meant to comfort not cure and a friend who came over two times a day to give him fluids by injection I watched the yellow in his eyes clear and the weight come back on. His Veterinarian was shocked and could offer no explanation for his complete recovery. I never took a moment that came after that for granted.
He saw me through recoveries just the same. Both illness and heartbreak. With one fat black paw on one shoulder and the other on my other, he would lean his forehead against mine and literally hold me. Again I say his weight had such a substantial grounding quality and his ability to love me was perfect.
So perfect that he remained a good sport through household additions of both the four and two legged kind. Oh wait, and even a three legged one at that!
He was a gentle giant if ever there was one. I would frequently cup his face in my hands, look him in the eyes and say “you can never die Massy, don’t you ever leave me”.
I thought we had a deal, but on February 15, 2021 the day after he turned sweet 16, something happened inside him that couldn’t be willed better.
We are in a quiet room. Massacre is calm and wrapped in the cozy blanket I held him in on the drive to this location. It is fitting that Tia and I should be together in comforting “our” cat during his final moments.
I kneel beside the table he is laying on and gently press my forehead against his. He responds with a purr. Tia strokes his fur and he continues to purr softly until he drifts off to one last sleep.
Now I grieve. My grief encompasses so many elements from the very easy to understand feelings of missing my cat that I loved to the more complex feelings toward the woman who gave him to me.
And just as it was 16 years ago it is again only weeks after January 27th, and the same as how Massacre just had a birthday, I too in a very significant sense just turned 16.
So I’m left thinking that maybe we actually do sometimes get a chance to go back and do things differently and I’d like to believe it wasn’t just Massacre I was kneeling beside at the table there in the same room my sweet Gypsy girl drifted away in 16 years earlier.
Destination chosen. Time off work secured. Lets get a packin’.
When making the usual travel choices and checklists we can now factor in these considerations….Covid test appointments scheduled for before travel and after. Yup yup. Do we dare risk an airport and airplane? Nah, let’s drive. Do our hotels have sanitizing procedures in place? They sure do. Have those we’re visiting tested negative, been vaccinated, or already had Covid-19? ✔️✔️✔️
Mask on, extras packed. Here’s to 6’ apart.
Big difference from last years carefree travels to Mardi Gras where my biggest concern was securing enough outfits with gold, green, & purple sparkle.
Bodies squeezed together dancing in the streets and sitting on dirty curbs while waiting on parades. Catching plastic beads and trinkets thrown from passing floats, touched by dozens of unknown hands. Who knew how strange that would seem by the following year.
Apparently Mardi Gras was the original “super spreader” event before we really grasped the dangers right around the bend. Surprisingly enough (especially considering that tidbit of info) I myself have not had Covid. I tested negative for the antibodies as recently as a couple weeks ago. Who knows why some people get it and others don’t, even after exposure.
My good fortune in not contracting this highly contagious virus does not make me feel invincible and I still take it quite seriously. How could I not when people I love are considered high risk?
Or actually ….how could I not when any human I come into contact with might be a high risk candidate?? It’s about more than just me.
Ok ok, getting a little preachy here….I’ll stop with the passive aggressive shaming of those who don’t buy into this whole “global pandemic” thing.
Honestly I shouldn’t go getting too sanctimonious as I probably fall somewhere in the middle myself.
Am I willing to tweak my lifestyle and do my best to be safe and keep others safe? Yes! Am I willing to stop living and stay home 24/7? Uhhh…no. That’s a big huge N-O-.
And so I do my best. I travel by car to avoid public transportation and crowds. I test regularly. I wear my mask in public. I limit my trips into stores. And whenever possible I keep that 6’ distance. It’s kind of become second nature by now. Here’s a god awful phrase ….it’s the “new normal”…. < haha I know that’s so obnoxious!!
Obnoxious or not, it’s life. Life on life’s terms. We’re living in the days that will be recorded in the history books of the future, and like all things…this too shall pass.
Even pre-Covid I was always down for a good road trip, and now that has become the preferred vaca theme. Keeps me and whoever my travel partner(s) may be just a little more self contained.
This most recent trip my travel partner was also my life partner and in fortunate news, we do well self contained in confined spaces. I’m sure for many travel partners (much less life partners) that’s not always the case, so hooray for us, we rock!
I’m being serious …want to test a relationship?? ….Get in a car and cover a total of almost 4,000 miles in ten days! Throw in a little her meeting his dear old friend and him meeting her father to inspire just a few nerves.
Update …everyone loved everyone …damn that went well! Again I say it, we rock!
Oh Corona, you may have forced my hand and made me dial back my travel itinerary….no international excursions and no popping in on a celebration of music and life (with its fair share of debauchery) this year, but cheers to inspiring visits to new cities as well as long ago favorites.
Sometimes I may miss the energy of a crowd, but oh how I adore wandering with my love down to a quiet riverfront, through historic cemeteries, lazing on a riverboat, or biking a (high bear activity<for realz, the sign said so) trail.
And yes I’m a fan of hopping a flight, dozing off and being somewhere far away and new when I open my eyes, but I do love the things that happen as a car rolls down a highway and the miles pass….conversations both silly and deep, singing along to songs, and random roadside stops.
I may not be making as many trips as I’d like, going as far as I have in the past or had planned for the future, and I am definitely not seeing everyone I’d like to spend time with these days, but I sure am savoring what I have, with who, and where.
Stay safe y’all and if our paths cross out there I’ll be sending ya an air hug and blowing you a 6’ away kiss 💋
I know we’re all basically feeling like we should get an “I survived 2020” tee for making it through this year < wow that sounded more clever in my head, seeing it in print I’m confronted with the thought of just how many did not.
We lost (and still are losing) astronomical numbers of people to Covid 19, and of course many of us lost loved ones to a suicide, cancer, and tragic accidents, and how can we not pause and think of those who died by the hand of police brutality.
This year we took notice of racial injustice like never before when the dying gasps of a man calling out for his mother and repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe” was heard around the world.
George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and Breonna Taylor are only a few of the names chanted in streets, the list of lives wrongfully extinguished far too long and too many names not even known.
2020 is certainly a year not to be referenced lightly. Perhaps it’s challenges impacted us collectively more than any other year, or maybe that’s just the way it feels to me.
Still though, reining it into a more local level evaluation, even for all its surreal extremes I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out of gratitude for all the good in my life. And as always, if I look for it, there is so much good…
Though It hasn’t all been sunsets and snuggles, there sure was plenty of that.
The most difficult personal loss for me this year was saying goodbye to someone I loved my entire life, but this year also brought new babies to the family and engagements and these are the things that hold the promise of hope as life carries on.
Milestone celebrations were scaled down. Travel plans may have been canceled or altered, but that is a small price to pay when you consider it’s about staying healthy and keeping others healthy. And especially not the worst thing when you’re fortunate enough to call the NoFo home. < A fact that is never lost on me!
My beloved live music…sadly summer concerts were all postponed, but I did leave the shore with a fine singing sailor every chance I could…making it a magically musical summer in it’s own right.
I am by nature a social creature and while I truly missed all the friends and family I couldn’t see, I have however appreciated the opportunity to form bonds all the tighter with my quarantine crew.
And I know how privileged I am that so many of the terrible things happening leave me and mine largely untouched, and I know that just because I get to exist in this blissful little spot where blessings can be so easily recognized, that those awful things are still happening. I know I have a responsibility to not get swept away in ignorance and forget to fight the good fight.
In my positive proclamations I certainly in no way mean to be insensitive to the loss, the isolation, and the devastation many have faced through 2020, the pain for so many is so real..I know this.
I pray for all those who experienced the worst of 2020 that they may find peace and love abound in 21.
May we all continue on a healing path, with strength to endure the difficulties, gratitude for the grace, and respect and compassion for our fellow humans.
If there is indeed an afterlife and if my life of sin should assign me eternal damnation as my ever after, I have a pretty good idea what my personal hot spot will look like.
The glow of Hell’s fires will actually be the soft twinkling of holiday lights. The background noise won’t be the tortured moans of my fellow damned souls, but rather nonstop (perfectly pitched) caroling favorites, and of course there will be the smell of freshly baked goods wafting through the air.
Almost sounds like heaven, but wait….all the while I shall exist in this perpetual external December paradise, whilst carrying the constant nagging internal twisted anxious knot that tells me I’m not happy enough.
Happy Holiday expectations….Where exactly did this stem from? Did I have such ideal childhood holidays and that somehow set this incredibly high bar? I can’t imagine it’s that.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t the stuff nightmares were made of or anything. They just weren’t a Norman Rockwell standard either.
There was love, gifts, and good china set around the dining room table (a table only sat at for a holiday meal) but you know, they were just kind of falling short in the special department, with their baby shrimp cocktails in a jar and fruit salad out of a can, how lackluster…
So if it isn’t the long ago ghost of perfect Christmas past haunting me, It must be my very own wild imagination fueled by books read and movies watched that scream of the all encompassing “holiday magic”, that really piles the pressure on.
Add a few kids into the mix and boy oh boy does that make you really feel like you have to make things emulate that sought after perfection.
We all know perfection is unattainable under the best of circumstances, but hey let’s sprinkle in some active addiction for good measure.
What you have now eventually leaves you with a highlight memory reel of holiday mishaps and let downs of some colossal proportions.
Let’s review…there was the time I was newly separated, estranged from family (by my own doing), in a sweltering state I hated, with three wide eyed youngin’s scratching up a storm with the chicken pox…What could make it worse you ask? If I had the chicken pox too and my current budget allowed only for Dollar Tree shopping.
Wait a second, if I remember correctly that Christmas actually turned out OK.
Oh I know, there was the one where I stayed up all night wrapping into the wee hours (amongst other things one should not be doing on Christmas Eve or any eve really) and upon running out of …eh…wrapping paper…yeah, yeah…that’s what I ran out for at 3am…wrapping paper! And when I stopped at 7/11 after picking up said wrapping paper, I managed to get my pocket book stolen out of my car. Boy did I wish I hadn’t left that “wrapping paper” in my bag…
Oh wait, maybe it was actually a Christmas blessing that I did, because now that I think about it, I went home and eventually to sleep and in the long run that wasn’t the worst Christmas either.
Ok, ok I have it …my pièce de résistance of shitty Christmas memories…oddly enough this one comes into play long after the financially struggling single mom days, and several years after the whispers of an actively addicted life had been silenced.
It was the year I did it all. I checked every box off the “How to have a perfect Christmas” list.
Step one-Cut down your own tree ✔️
Step two- Decorate early✔️
Step three- Take family into the city for a full day of holiday shopping, 5th Ave window peepin’, family pic in front of “the tree”! And add in any other hot coco sipping, ice skating watching, NYC winter wonderland goodness you can think to pack into a single day ✔️
Step four- The baking of holiday cookies, not only decorated as sweet as they taste, but packaged up in Christmas cuteness and hand delivered to friends and neighbors alike (be sure to have you and your elf (youngest daughter) wear appropriate holiday attire, consisting of Santa hats and ugly sweaters for full effect ✔️
Step 5- Dress everyone in their Christmas best and not just attend Christmas Eve candlelight services but be the family who stands up in front and lights the advent candles, recites the scripture, and exudes peace, love, & joy ✔️
Step 6- After the (non alcoholic) egg nog has been drunk, and holiday shows watched, and the traditional Xmas Eve present opened by each…tuck those kiddies into bed and let the sugar plums dance in their head….almost got to ✔️ that off …so damn close…until Mama’s melt down woke up their sleepy little heads.
This was also the year I lost my grandmother. The woman who raised me. Or more accurately saved me. The woman who grounded me, and who without I felt lost.
I recall now how I had grandly announced as the season began “I will not be sad this first Christmas without my Grandmother, I’ll celebrate the way she would have wanted me to”.
I checked those boxes off at warp speed like they were steps on a scavenger hunt and I was racing to the finish-line. I don’t think I stayed still long enough in a single moment to have been present in it. They are blurred memories at best speeding toward an epic crash.
The crash…that’s a memory that is sharply in focus. I can’t tell you what my children’s faces looked like that day in the city, try as I might, but I can see the disappointment and confusion when they awoke from sweet slumber to the sounds of shrieking and crashes, as I hurled whatever was nearby at the wall.
Embarrassing….yes, I know. It’s this thing that happens to me though. When I don’t honor whatever the feeling is I’m feeling, be it sadness or fear, or if I dig my heels into expectations of how things “should” look or be….things tend to come out sideways…usually as anger. Earth shaking, unreasonable, uncontrollable anger.
Side note > In my life this can apply to anytime of year, though as a tribute to this fa la la la time of year, I’m focusing on Holiday sadness and expectations.
I’d like to suggest that this amazing sense of self awareness I clearly have suggests that I have now nipped that little personality problem in the bud. Ehh well, “progress not perfection” is the phrase that comes to mind.
And so progress it is, but some days you forget. Some days you walk through the hap happiest season of all with a smile on your face while inside all you want to do is sit at a table reserved for holiday meals and eat tiny shrimps drowning in a glass jar of cocktail sauce and you don’t want to let yourself feel how much you’re missing the people with whom you shared those sweet ( what did you call them? -lackluster) holidays long gone by.
So maybe one December weekend you’re trying to make it all look perfect and then the crockpot overcooks the beef stew meat and undercooks the vegetables. And maybe the cookies you were baking fall flat. And maybe you start to feel mad at someone for things you already forgave them for, and everything feels wrong and you want to explode…but then you remember ….this isn’t some Holiday Hell you’ve been banished to and you’re the only one telling yourself how you’re “supposed” to feel.
On that note, it’s ok to call a friend and have a good cry, a heartfelt “I’m sorry” can work wonders, piles of mushy flat cookies are delicious, pizza is always an acceptable solution for dinner, and no dog ever complained about tough meat when being served beef stew.
And maybe the difference between heaven and hell is nothing more than your very own perspective ….And I’m just gonna be over here doing my best to remember that 😉
Wishing y’all peace, love, & the ability to be kind to yourself this holiday season ❤️
It has been in my nature for a while now to reference the dark vs light quite a bit. I suppose I use it literally, biblically, figuratively, metaphorically, metaphysically…you know, all of the above. I just really like that whole light/dark vibe…I see where it is applicable in so many situations, but if this past year has taught me anything, it’s taught me things ain’t quite so black and white, so maybe everything isn’t dark and light.
It was right around this time last year that somebody told me I was being overly simplistic in my declaration of what (or was it a who?) was dark (oh yes it was a who) and who was light. Looking back I can see she wasn’t wrong.
In January of 2005 I had what I truly believe was a “white” light experience. It was an instant where the universe shifted and I became aware everything was different from how it had been only a second earlier. It was when a muffled voice in the distance became audible, when a blurred vision came into focus. It was a definitive moment in time, one that I came to believe separated the dark period of my life from what now would be my time in the light.
How overly simplistic indeed. How willing I had been to write off my previous years as all having been lived in the dark, but that was not the case at all.
Cue Leonard Cohen …I can hear his baritone voice singing “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.
In the darkest parts of my childhood, abandonment and abuse, was there not the saving Grace safety of my Grandmother’s home? The unconditional love from those I shared it with? Light.
Throughout my school years when I was lost, shuffled around, unable to find my feet in an academic world, were there not those moments highlighting my potential and intelligence? Light.
For all the places I didn’t fit in, did I not find friendships that would span the decades? Light.
Where I see the failings and short comings of a young wife and mother, can I not also see the strength and resilience of a young woman who faced challenges and made tough choices in the name of fierce love and protection? Light.
In my darkest of times, days that blended into nights, and as the hours passed gave way to day once again, a twisted period of pain and confusion driven by the most primal of survival instincts, yet still every bedtime I would pause and safely tuck my children in while singing “you are my sunshine” <<<right there, that was a crack in which the light got in.
The light was always infiltrating the darkness, just as the dark still seeps into the brightly lit, warm life I live now. There is balance in everything I suppose.
The darkness of betrayal winds it’s way through the brightest of times. The fears that live in the dark cast shadows against the light. And at times the darkness comes from deep within, but all that it touches is not ruined forever.
No, not ruined. Changed yes, but different is not the same as destroyed.
In my naivety I believed if I was willing to draw that line, leave those years, those sacrificial memories, there in the darkness, that somehow my todays would all remain untouched. They have not. Should I erase the line? Redraw it to include more years in the scrap pile?
What of my children’s lives growing up? Small arms around my neck, kisses on my cheek, “I love you Mommy” whispered in my ear. Times I saw their eyes wide with wonder. Would I banish those memories that bring so much joy due to the smudges of darkness left by the pain caused from our time with a devil?
What of the lover I placed on a pedestal? Would I say goodbye to the laughter, the love, the hundred ways my life is more fulfilled because their darkness ruined my image of perfection? Perfection? Theirs, mine, ours together…an illusion.
Through it all there is a coexistence. A blending of the dark and light.
And now here we are, the “holiday season”…I walk through these days with an eerie remembrance of its counterpart day from previous years. Some more prominent than others in my mind’s eye. Some darker, some blissfully light, and I allow them all their opportunity to exist in my memories, as I continue to grow comfortable walking in this space somewhere in between the dark and the light where real life happens.
I say “stories that are mine to tell”, but is this one really mine?
Many memories overlap and intersect with someone else’s, but this story does not live in the black and white world of my memory vs theirs, having been created during shared experiences, thus creating a story we both call our own. This story, these memories, exist within the shades of gray.
In my minds eye I see the teenage girl with the long strawberry blond hair staring at a pink newborn through the nursery glass.
If I look closer I see the days before where she was in labor, scared and crying out for her mother. I see them take the baby from her, the baby she is not allowed to hold.
Looking still closer I can see the months earlier, before being sent to the Bronx home for teenage unwed mothers, when she defiantly pushed an empty stroller down the block she lived on for all the neighbors to see.
In my memory I see the form fitting mini dress showing the beginning of a baby bump. I see the strides she takes, the proud arch of her back as she blatantly extends her growing belly. I remember the weather that day, the sky is clear, still slightly cool as winter gives way to spring.
Oh wait, I don’t remember these things. I couldn’t possibly. I am the baby. The baby she looks at through the nursery glass. I am three day’s old and I don’t yet have a name.
Again though I imagine I can see her standing there. The nun in her black habit approaches her and gently places a hand on my young mother’s shoulder, softly she says “if you wish to be the one to name her you must do it now or we will when we baptize her”.
It is the only thing she is allowed to do. Someday, this first name she gave to her baby may be the only thing she knows about her. She has been desperately trying to dream up a name that is unique.
In these self created memories I can hear the piped in music playing in the hospital corridor… “Indiana wants me, lord I can’t go back there”…I see the teenage girl turn to the nun and say “Deanna”.
The memories continue…On a crisp fall day I see the same teenager on the side of a road with her thumb out. After she receives a ride I see her hand balled into a fist knock upon the door of a home in Bellmore. The home that was meant to be mine. The woman with the kind face who longed to be my mother is too sympathetic to turn this desperate teenage mother away.
The memory of my first Christmas I am not even in. I see my grandmother hand her daughter a gift wrapped box. It contains baby clothes with sweet delicate details. This gift says “ok we will bring her home”.
These are the earliest memories that set the course of my life. Where I would grow up and who I would be.
So perhaps this was my mother’s story, but she has passed it down on more than one occasion through the years. I have accepted it, assigned the imagery of the details I couldn’t possibly know, and placed it in the memory box of my life along side of my own.
⚜️One last dna tale blogpost..which is actually the first dna tale that I wrote about and shared on my social media. Now having painted the full ancestry result debacle, I’ll wrap it up here with this sweet discovery.
As I mentioned in the post before last, I have a deep soul connection with New Orleans and while my other discoveries have had tremendous impact on not just myself but others, this one is lighthearted, fun, and affirming.
Out of the few nationalities I knew myself to lay claim to, the one I never particularly mention often is my German. Funny I would disconnect from it considering that hands down, my biggest “hands on”, childhood influence was my maternal Great Grandmother, Minnie. Mimi (to those who knew her), came from good German stock. It was her ancestors I was raised on stories of, and today it is in the ones I had no previous knowledge of, that I validate my sense of belonging to New Orleans.
During the wave of German immigration, sometime in the late 1840s, Friederika Henrietta Weigel -Held, after the death of her husband Ludwig, made her way to America, and landed in New Orleans. She made her home in the 12th ward and died there on October 11, 1851, at the age of 62.
While her older children, including Phillippini Jakobina Held, who would go on to become my gggg (<that’s 4 greats if you’re counting) grandmother, made their way to NYC, two of her children, Susanna and Jacob Held, remained in New Orleans. They married, had children of their own, and their legacies, it would seem, carry on.
While these relations stem from Aunts and Uncles with several “greats” in their title, and are now cousins many, many times removed, they are nonetheless, to some degree, my people. It is with tremendous satisfaction that I know my kin still walk those streets, and since we all know how “spirited” NOLA is, that my ancestors still roam. 🔮✨✨✨
On my first visit, March 2013, during the trip from the airport to the Quarter, I told my driver, Big E, “I feel like my soul is from here”. I’ve repeated that phrase to anybody who’ll listen ever since. Well, clearly, now we know…the feeling was no doubt, my sweet ggggg grandma Friederika, welcoming me home✨….oh, and PS: The Germans introduced the accordion into Cajun music. 🎶You’re welcome. 💜
So to the question “where’s my Italian?”…Turns out I have an answer… I tracked down 2% of it!
As ancestry improves the science behind determining dna, results become tweaked to be more and more accurate. With this fine tuning my ancestral connection to Wales has become very prominent and just for a fun little (haha here’s your Italian) twist, they threw in 2% from Northern Italy.
Even if that had been there from the beginning, the minuscule amount presented along with the sudden appearance of Irish dna would have been enough to raise questions in regard to my paternity. Never mind the dna matches of “close relatives” bearing names I’d never heard.
What that 2% might have changed though was triggering my suspicion enough to look beyond my own paternity and into my mother’s.
Perhaps I would have assumed that 2% was all that got passed down from my ALL Italian maternal grandfather. And perhaps I would have assumed all those unfamiliar names with matching dna stemmed from my newly discovered biological father.
It wasn’t there though, and it made me curious…
As I believe I may have already mentioned I seem to have somewhat natural investigative skills coupled with an occasionally almost spooky intuition.
It is not unusual for my mind to immediately make a leap to what may initially appear as a far fetched conclusion, only to then double back and begin to fill in the blanks along the way with more and more clues that support my initial “guess” < for lack of a better word.
To be fair, there have been times I’ve “guessed” wrong but, there’s been more times I’ve been right. Ya know…if we’re keeping score 😉
So I did look a little closer and upon realizing that not only is all of this Irish dna coming from both parents but that a good number of these unfamiliar matches stemmed not just from my new found father’s side but, from my mother’s as well, I drew the obvious conclusion. I wasn’t the only one who was about to add an Irish dad in the mix with the currently known Italian one.
It would seem closets are made for keeping skeletons and apples don’t fall far from trees.
I recall my mother telling me about being mistaken for Irish, much the same way I had always been. One gentleman in particular who upon her correction of “no really I’m Italian”, confidently proclaimed “don’t be silly, I know a fine Irish girl when I see one”. Turned out he was right!
I brought this follow up information to my aunt, whom I have mentioned is the matriarch of the family, and informed her I suspected Grammie of having had an affair resulting in my mother, therefore creating a dna connection to this new group of maternal side matches with names we didn’t know. For the record, their dna primarily Irish.
This notion was met with resistance and shrugged off. Other possible explanations discussed. I knew though. I felt it in my Irish bones.
I began looking at the names closer and I began reaching out with a general introduction and inquiry. Upon not getting any responses I began google searching their names and compiling any facts I could put together of their ages, relationships and where they lived.
What I came up with was a grandfather/father to the ancestry matches provided, who was the same age as my grandmother and had lived on the island during the years she was raising a family. I could find nothing actually linking them though. They were married at the same time and he had two children to her four. Her oldest two, a son and daughter (<my mother) the exact same ages as his two, a son and daughter.
Becoming increasingly interested in connecting with one of these maternal side matches I went beyond the ancestry site and sent one young man in particular a Facebook message. He responded.
He wasn’t that much younger than myself and as luck would have it, he was indeed the grandson of the gentleman who piqued my interest. He was genuinely interested in figuring out the possible connection and we shared facts about our families with each other.
As we went down the highlight reel of our grandparents, who we both seemed equally enamored with, we finally met in a common place…Levittown.
In my own searches I had not found any thing connecting them to Levittown, but as it would turn out, in the early years of this young man’s grandfather’s marriage he did indeed live in Levittown. It was his first home with his wife and it is where his two children were born.
My newly discovered cousin through previously unknown dna, informed me he always remembered the name of the block his father had lived on the first few years of his life because it reminded him of the Beatles song, Abbey Road…though the street was actually Abbey Lane.
Abbey lane. Abbey lane as in the Abbey Lane I grew up on. The Abbey Lane my mother, aunt, and two uncles grew up on. The Abbey Lane where my grandmother and her GI husband bought their first home. The Abbey Lane where she spoke of bridge parties with neighbors. The Abbey Lane where my grandfather worked long hours as a policeman while my grandmother raised four children. The Abbey Lane where my grandparents had separate twin beds in their bedroom, like on I Love Lucy. The Abbey Lane where eventually my grandfather left my grandmother to raise four young teens alone and never looked back.
Which house on Abbey Lane was home to these future matches that now appeared as aunts, uncles, and cousins? The house across the street from my childhood home.
With this new information my aunt could no longer dismiss my suspicions. She became the Oprah Winfrey of ancestry dna tests…”you get a dna test”, “you get a dna test”…”everyone gets a dna test”….
As we awaited the results, results I had initially assumed would prove my mother also a match for the across the street neighbors and a half sibling to my aunt, something else began to take shape.
My P.I. partner (who I was now assumed to share an Irish grandfather with) and I continued to share old family photos. In these photos something could not be denied. His father and aunt, bore a striking resemblance not just to my mother, but to her siblings…my uncles and aunt.
Plot twist…dna results are in…Italian grandfather > you are NOT the father to ANY! Irish grandfather > they’re ALL yours!!
Granted this could never be officially proven in regard to my deceased Uncle Jimmy but, there are the pictures. The similarities between him and the boy of the exact same age from across the street are uncanny.
That family moved shortly after the birth of their daughter. Irish grandpa didn’t have anymore children within that marriage, but he certainly did with my grandmother. I guess whatever pulled them toward each other from across a street was strong enough to cross some towns for.
This is where the facts end. Anything beyond is pure speculation, though for myself it’s impossible not to imagine the scenarios in which this may have happened.
In my minds eye I see my young grandmother, a 1950’s housewife. She’s beautiful, she’s passionate with a bit of a wild streak. She loves music and dancing. She’s social. She wants to see the world. She yearns to get outside of herself.
Maybe her husband isn’t that nice. Maybe he works too much. Maybe she’s lonely.
The man across the street is handsome. He has a magnetic personality, this I know from what his grandson has told me and from what I can see in his pictures. They would have made a beautiful couple. They did make beautiful babies.
Maybe it all starts at a key party. Just a little swinging fun. The free love hippies of the sixties didn’t begin the sexual revolution. Happy little suburban neighborhoods just like Levittown were rumored to be swinging hubs.
Gentlemen drop your key in the bowl at the door. Ladies grab one on the way out and see who you’re going home with. All those bridge parties…hmmm. Urban legend or scandalous reality?! Who knows for certain…
Within the process of revealing all these wild truths, and entertaining possibilities that don’t seem quite as wild anymore, many of us close to this began digging deep into our memories. Looking for hints to help string the pieces of this love affair together. Moments that may have seemed insignificant in the past but now in this new light revealed themselves to have deeper meaning.
My aunt and I share a memory, hers a bit clearer than mine due to my young age, but it is there none the less. I’m in the living room. A man carries in a wooden rocking horse. It is a gift for me.
My aunt was there when this happened. She didn’t know the man or why he brought this beautiful rocking horse for me. I keep it my whole life. My children play on it. I still have it.
Could that have been…
I obviously don’t really know why or how their love began, nor do I know why or how it ended. I choose to believe it was love, again it’s just something I feel in my Irish bones.
After spanning all those years they later both ended up divorced. Why not finally be together…Make a real go of it. Perhaps he wanted to. The point where they would have been able to do just that, they would have been in their late forties. Still so much life ahead. Still youthful, vibrant beings. What had changed? What was she doing then…oh wait, she had been left with me.
Shortly after the time I received that rocking horse would have been when he moved to Florida. He settled down and remarried (side note > to his ex wife’s cousin, who I’m told kept a tight leash on him< you just can’t make this stuff up). Perhaps that gift was his goodbye.
One last bittersweet note worth mentioning, that helps support my romantic notions of ill fated star crossed lovers, is something my Abbey Lane offspring cross the street cousin remembered.
He told it to me like this…that on one of his last visits to Florida before Irish Grandpa passed away, he and his dad were taking him to lunch and on the drive something about Levittown came up and at that time he recalls he mentioned “Hope”. My new cousin was now aware “Hope” was my grandmother’s name.
He wrapped this up by sharing that while at this point (our) grandfather suffered from some dementia, Levittown and Hope, had not been forgotten….
Look at me digging up old bones. I’m sure some family members cringe at my confessional style blogging and perhaps my poor grandmother rolls in her grave upon realizing we’re all spitting in tubes and matching with old neighbors, revealing the secrets she thought she had safely carried with her.
I don’t do this to shame anyone though. I point no fingers. I know her a little bit more and in knowing her more, I love her all the more.
I don’t see the old woman, whom I believed to be so full of wisdom, who I thought had all the answers. I see a reckless wild child living with her choices. I see a vulnerable, and yes selfish, perfectly imperfect human just trying to stay the course on a twisted path. Mostly …I see myself.
I see myself, and I make a little wish…may the generations that come after me look upon my life of mistakes with a bit of kindness, compassion, and a whole lot of forgiveness. Remember, we’re all just doing our messed up best…
Air hugs to y’all, from this Irish girl with 2% Italian ☘️ 🇮🇹
This post was inspired by a question posed by my favorite podcaster… “If your last day alive was in New Orleans, what would you do with your day?”.
Now obviously this is set many years into the future, ‘cause you know, I’m going to be old…but fun old, vibrant old, little bit wise old, and of course don’t give a crap what anybody thinks old. Basically all the very best things about being old.
The golden light which is filtered through the long sheer curtains fills the room in my French Quarter apartment and I begin to wake up. I rise and greet the day on my balcony as below me the street cleaners wash away the night before, early rising tourists begin to appear, and the shop owners open their doors.
After I’ve finished my perfectly pressed strong cup of Community Dark Roast, I get dressed and make my way down to the street. I stroll on over to the nearby Croissant D’Or.
I carefully select a fresh pastry (or two) and then I head toward the river. On my way I smile, nod, and occasionally stop to chat with friends and strangers alike.
Once there I sit a while enjoying the soft breeze as I eat my breakfast. Music and church bells mingle in the air as I nostalgically watch the barges and tugs come into port.
Did I mention it’s Sunday? Well it is! That’s why it’s time to make my way uptown to Tipitina’s where this week’s second line is beginning. When I arrive, I see the the men from the social club are looking dapper. I fall in line behind the brass band and even at this advanced age, I can still move my feet. As I do I feel the music through my whole body. Life can be hard and we’ve all got challenges, but we have this music and we dance and we celebrate and in this moment we’ve never been more alive and it’s perfect.
I stay with my fellow paraders for quite a while dancing through these city streets until finally I give into my body’s need for a break. I find myself at Mother’s and I get a sweet tea and a Debris Po’Boy. It’s messy and it’s delicious.
After I finish it I head home to spend some down time relaxing with a book in my courtyard. I had recently decided to reread ‘The Sound of Building Coffins’ since it was always a favorite. Guess it’s a good thing I finish it up in that sitting 😉
When I’m done I begin my regular Sunday phonecalls…I check in with each of my children and get updates on the grandchildren and great grandchildren, everyone is doing well. I tell them how much I love them and how proud of them I am and as always I send my love along down the line to them all.
The hours have passed and I realize it’s time to start thinking about evening plans. I decide on catching an all star performance at the Preservation Hall.
We squeeze into the tight space and I’m fortunate to get a seat up front. Tonight’s musicians are a trio of stellar old timers. I catch the piano player’s eye and we exchange smiles. My thoughts fondly drift back to when I first met him in 2016. Even all those years ago he was already such a phenomenal player as he walked in the footsteps of the greats and now here he is, one of the legends himself.
After the show I walk to the Gumbo Shop. I order the barbecue shrimp dish that is never on the menu but always available and when I finish the last of the warm, soft on the inside, crusty on the outside French bread, I ask for another without shame.
I am blissfully content as I arrive home and prepare for bed. I slide in between the cool sheets, I stretch, and as I do so I reach out and take the framed picture on my nightstand in my hand.
I lovingly gaze at the youthful images the photo holds and I feel the pang of loss as sharply as I did the year before when I said goodbye to my partner in this life. I trace his face with my fingertip and in a whisper say “fair winds and following seas”.
I don’t recall returning the picture to it’s spot on the bedside table. I can’t remember falling asleep. It feels as though only a second in time has passed yet there is that familiar golden light spilling into the room. It quickly becomes brilliantly bright and it’s warmth surrounds me. Then I hear him before I see him…”It’s time to set sail Deanna Rose, you’ve kept me waiting long enough”. I take his hand and we go….
Memories of someone else’s memories passed down through the years, delicately intertwined with memories of my own. Memories of words, and images, scents, and sounds, live in my mind with crisp detail, while some are shades of gray, obscured by the shadows in which they were created.
Memory is a tricky thing. Many times I’ve watched my family argue over who is remembering the correct version of a certain event, each so sure they are the one whose recollection can be trusted. Perhaps my accounts aren’t accurate at all, I mean I think they are, but wait, soon I shall be the sole keeper of the memories of my childhood home….who shall I ask? There will be no one left…
I am little more than a toddler in diapers playing at the bottom of the stairs in a Levittown home when I reach out and yank our old dog’s ear, prompting him to bite me in the face. I hear my great grandmother’s scream and feel my Uncle Jimmy’s arms hold me as we race down the turnpike on a fire truck. I hear his voice telling me it’s going to be ok.
I am a little older sitting on those same steps peeking through the rail as the neighbors join my Grandmother & Great Grandmother for cocktails around the kitchen table. I hear the blender that makes Brown Cows and Pink Squirels. I listen to the laughter and the clink of glasses joining in a toast.
It’s these stairs I creep down in the middle of the night, in search of a glass of water. Making my way in the darkness with a sense of familiarity. I do not see the dog, I trip, I feel my forehead connect with the bricks that surround the fireplace. I feel the warm blood and my cries summon Grammie and Mimi, who turn on the lights, scoop me up, and tend to the gash.
My fingers absentmindedly touch the quarter moon scar as I recall this memory.
It was the top of those stairs where I stood quietly as I grasped what was happening in the living room below. Mimi and Grammie placing gifts around the tree. My desire to remain out of sight stemming from not wanting to disappoint them by revealing that I now knew the truth. I slipped back into my room unnoticed.
It was in my Great Grandmother’s first floor sitting room where I learned to play Dominoes and Mille Bornes. It’s where I watched my Saturday morning cartoons. In Mimi’s company we watched weekday soap opera’s, as well as the evening news.
The adjoining bedroom I knew as if it was my own. I snooped in the closets and the drawers of the heavy antique furniture. A need to seek out secrets that would reveal a past I had no knowledge of. Always certain there were mysteries to be discovered. My small hands trying on the collection of jewelry kept atop the dresser. Dreaming of the stories behind each piece as I admired the delicate details and was awed by the ones that sparkled as they caught the light.
So many nights I slipped into her bed, scared to be alone. The one time I kept her up into the wee hours as I sobbed for every hurt or lost person and animal in the world. My heart ready to explode from the grief it carried for injustices happening beyond my control.
It was that bed where she would lay me down with a heating pad to my ear in an attempt to dull the pain from the ache I was so prone to as a child. Her hand stroking my brow as soothing as the warmth from the pad. A framed copy of “An Irish Blessing” hanging on the wall in my line of vision. I read it over and over again through the years. Later after she passed it would be the only thing I asked for.
The glass kitchen table with the flowered wrought iron frame…We all sat at it from time to time, but it was my Grandmother’s domain. It was where she smoked winston cigarettes while drinking her morning coffee, or sipping her nightly chablis. It’s where the Sunday crossword was done, where she wrote out her bills, and where she took her calls as she stretched the cord of the lemon yellow wall phone across the room. It was also where she sat passing the time and worrying all the evenings I stayed out too late.
Before the pull for excitement that called me out into the dark beyond the safety of my home, I was content to spend late nights in the living room. My grandmother and I watching PBS English comedies on the rabbit eared black and white tv.
The living room has a door leading outside. The yard where fragrant flowers bloom around stone fairy houses. At night with the light of a candle’s flame flickering inside them they capture my imagination. During a backyard bbq I bite into an ear of sweet corn and lose my first tooth.
My bedroom has a flat roof outside the backyard facing windows. Sometimes I sit out on it. I’m not supposed to do this but, I’m drawn to the outside world. I see into my neighbor’s yards, I wonder about their lives. I watch spectacular sunsets over the the traffic on Gardiner’s Ave. I never take that little flat space for granted.
It is that roof the boy I snuck in must jump off of after my Uncle Jimmy catches him in my room. My Uncle Jimmy who tries his best to be a father figure and guide me away from trouble. He is a soft and gentle man inside though he maintains a somewhat tough exterior. Our birthdays are a day apart. As a child I am sure this makes us connected in a special way. Maybe it did. Maybe it still does.
Across from my room is my Uncle Peter’s room. 12 years old when I am born and in my young eyes a super cool big brother. There is a steady stream of long haired young men in denim jackets in and out of his room. The door typically remains shut. I hear happy voices and eruptions of laughter over the rock and roll that is always playing. I smell the familiar pungent scent.
Sometimes when no friends are over and he comes home with a new album he leaves the door open and lets me come in and sit. I am fascinated by the ticket stubs taped to his wall of every concert he’s attended. I read their names and picture the music coming from the spinning black vinyl, being played in front of me on a stage. He introduces me to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Doors, and so many more. This is a gift.
Those are some of the rooms at 26 Abbey Lane and these are all the people who shared that space with me. They are the earliest pieces of my memories and I am mixed up in theirs but, they have taken their memories with them.
Mimi has been gone since 1990. Uncle Jimmy was only 49 when he succumbed to the leukemia he had been fighting for the previous two years. It was just days before our birthdays when I had to say goodbye. Grammie slipped from this world to the next a decade ago already.
Now the veil between life and death grows thin once again, as I see them in my minds eye gathered around my Uncle Peter’s bedside. He is too young to lay there looking so ravished. His wife should grow old with him. His daughters need him. His perfect new grandchild should be cooing in his arms, reaching up with tiny curious fingers to pull on his beard. The cancer doesn’t care about these things though and it is taking him whether we like it or not.
He is the last person left who was in that house with me. I want to shake him awake and say “remember when I brought home the black lab puppy from the neighbor and you made me bring it back, and then I went back the next day and said that my family changed their minds and I came home with it again?”. We had that dog 17 years.
“Remember how when Mimi wanted us to turn the music down she banged on the ceiling with the broom?”. “Remember what bad cooks Grammie and Mimi could be and all the mushy canned vegetables we ate?”. “Remember when you and Uncle Jimmy got into a fist fight in the dining room?”. Remember when you saw me wearing makeup for the first time and tried to tell me I was pretty without it and I looked ridiculous with all the orange blush and blue eye shadow?”.
We’ve done this through the years when we get together. This retelling of tales creating our own personal sense of time travel. The shared memories of a life experienced within the walls of 26 Abbey Lane.
When I find myself in my old hometown I drive past 26 Abbey Lane. Her structure still stands though her face and shape has changed. The familiar bushes in front of the kitchen bay window gone. The path to the front door no longer gently winds around the light post with wrap around vines. Cars I do not recognize are in the driveway and I wonder if as this new family creates their memories, if somehow the house holds the lingering impressions of the life lived there during the years soon only I will be left to remember.
“Middle of the road” < I’ve taken pride in using that phrase to describe my political position through the years. I’ve put down extremists both right and left. I wanted to be more open minded than that. I wanted to be fair and balanced and see all sides of things. That’s a fucking cop out.
While I stand by the belief that things are rarely black and white, they are sometimes right or wrong.
Denying people basic human rights based on their sex, sexual preference, socioeconomic class, or the color of their skin = wrong.
The police repeatedly killing unarmed black people=wrong.
Presenting black on black crime as an argument in the fight against police brutality=gas lighting =wrong.
Saying “all lives matter” = so very fucking wrong! “All” lives DON’T matter UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER TOO!!!
What’s so hard to understand about that? Ask yourself why you need to find a loophole in a statement as simple as “black lives matter”. Why can’t we say “black lives matter” PERIOD. END OF STATEMENT.
Ok, let me back track…This touches on some of the things mentioned in my last post. I’ve always had strong beliefs. I always felt an internal pull toward what I believed at my core to be right.
Through some of my years, for reasons I won’t get into now, I became disconnected from spiritual beliefs and practices, and whatever loving force it was that had guided me, was silenced. Or at least somewhat muted.
A little over 15 years ago I had an experience (the specifics of that I also won’t get into right now) that created a clearly defined “before and after” in the story of my life. While it may not be the only before/after moment I have experienced, it is probably one of, if not the most significant.
The “after” part of said experience, led to that connection to a higher power being awakened. That in turn also led to turning the volume up on the inner voice that spoke to me of right and wrong.
>Enter social media< Now here I am coming back to life. My voice found. All my senses stimulated and opinions forming on everything. Oh good, and now I have a platform! Haha, I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts on all that I deemed important happening in the world. Especially politics. 😬
I was aghast to find out there were actually people in the world, in my community, no wait a second…in my own family…that didn’t see things the same as me.
Luckily they had me to educate them through articles, you tube videos, and the ever so clever memes. I was also sanctimonious enough to feel free to engage them in battle in the comment section of the things they themselves posted and was completely flabbergasted that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make them see the light.
*Lessons in humility…As I began to realize that among these people who didn’t view the world the same as me, were people I downright loved AND respected, I had to ask myself if perhaps I was missing something. That maybe my way of seeing things, wasn’t the only way. Interesting. I have to think about this.
Hmmm. So perhaps it is not my appointment in life to be an armchair warrior and make it my mission to strong arm these people into changing their opinions. Maybe, I should just live my life doing the next right thing, and accept people for who they are and where they are at.
Utilizing this tactic was not a bad idea in regard to many a topic. It worked well for a while, but like every other aspect of life, it requires balance. At some point I drifted over to apathy. For my own personal comfort it became easier and easier to be non confrontational, regardless of how strongly I believed something.
When does respecting others opinions and remaining quiet become signing off on the very thing you feel called to fight against. Where is the balance in that?
What do you do when you realize you’ve been standing in the middle of the road by yourself. That the very people you were trying to remain neutral for, have never been neutral at all. They have clearly chosen a side and it is not the side, that in your heart, you are on.
How do you reevaluate some of the most important relationships in your life?
This post comes with no tidy wrap up. No simple solution. I leave it here, completely unfinished…
This post is days in the making. Words have been rattling around my head, unable to stay still long enough to fall into place. Just when I think I’ve pinned them down, the winds of change blow and they scatter like a pile of loose leaves.
While I find my place in this moment of time, this mind blowing, devastatingly horrific, but in many other ways long overdo moment in time, I pray to express myself as accurately as I possibly can.
I have lived a life. It’s been filled with many experiences. I have seen things both beautiful and ugly. I have felt joy and pain. Comfort and discomfort.
These are broad statements that I believe most anyone can identify with, but my ugly goes deep, my pain has gone deep, and the uncomfortable place I existed in for so long, felt like a prison I’d never escape.
Now if you read my last post it sounds as if I had a childhood of privilege, white or otherwise. In many ways I did, but like I said before, I’ve lived a life. Or maybe what I really meant to say was, I’ve lived many lives. That’s probably more accurate.
This isn’t really a post to talk about my pain though, I’m just attempting to create a window into some of what played a part in creating the perspective I view the world with.
Again such a broad stroke of the brush…I’ve thrown myself into a vast sea of memories, creating ripples in all directions. Let me narrow it down. Let me talk about what’s on all our minds these days. Racism.
When I was 5 years old, in kindergarten, I only had one friend. His name was Louis and we played together during recess every day. One day my great grandmother had to pick me up early from school and walked out to the playground to fetch me. She found me playing on the monkey bars with Louis. I excitedly introduced her to my friend and though I can’t recall anything that may have been said, I somehow sensed her disapproval. I felt like I’d done something wrong. Louis was black. The only black child in our school.
Louis wasn’t there anymore come first grade and I didn’t see another black person in my town until high school. And even then it was only one brother and sister from the only black family in town. I didn’t make another friend who wasn’t white until I was a teenager dating a boy from a neighboring town whose best friend was Puerto Rican. Jose and I became close friends. He was a kind, caring, protective friend. One day he came to my town and my grandmother met him. Again I sensed that unspoken disapproval.
The women who raised me weren’t hateful women, yet they supported systemic racism. I heard the conversations where it was mentioned that the town I lived in was built after World War II for the returning G.I.’s. For the white ones that is, they flat out wouldn’t sell to “blacks”. That was just the facts. I’d also heard it said that the early bridges on the parkways had purposely been built low to prevent the busses coming in from the city. The busses coming from the city would be carrying “blacks”.
These were accepted truths of the seventies, the civil rights movement only the decade before. People of color were still very much being kept separate and so very far from equal.
Even in memories of my young years, something inside me knew to push against that line of thinking. Somewhere other subconscious influences were at work. I’m sure some peace, love, and flower power seeds had been planted in my psyche as well. The sad truth was, I just simply didn’t have much exposure to diversity for many years.
Fortunately for me, I’ve always been a seeker. A seeker of experiences, and that need to experience the world, opened up a world where I met all different kinds of people. Not all the experiences I sought out were good, and not all brought me pleasure. The places I went and people I met have not always been safe or smart choices. I’ve learned from them all though. I never remained in the protective bubble of a hometown where everyone looked like me, and that shaped me in ways and gave me insights in ways nothing else could have.
Fast forward to twenty years ago when I arrived in my current hometown. A special little spot on the end of an island, different from the rest of it. A place I had childhood ties to and somewhere in my heart I always knew I’d return.
I say hometown, but in reality it is a handful of idyllic small towns that together create a unique community. It is largely white, with the exception of one of the small seaside towns being extremely diverse. While it has seen it’s share of strained race relations through the years, struggles with an all white police force, and some stand alone incidents that scream bias, there is also the connections that grow between people who share lifelong experiences together through the years. This town is special, and it’s always been ahead of itself in the learning to live side by side with our fellow humans department. I truly believe this.
Ahh, but as I said this is only one little town amongst the several that make up the area. The rest being as white and privileged as can be. Where all their neighbors look just like them and while they’d never dream of using the “N” word, they sometimes when speaking of racial issues let a “those people” slip out.
Twenty years ago when I moved here I moved smack into one of their lily white neighborhoods. Myself and my three small children were welcomed and embraced. I lived there peacefully for months, I don’t think my neighbors had even noticed I started dating a black man from the town next door. They noticed when I invited his family over for a 4th of July bbq though. They noticed the black children splashing in the waters edge at the dead end private beach we had access to living in that neighborhood. They noticed and they didn’t like it.
These same people that had welcomed me, now held angry secret conversations and pressed the women who had rented to me to get me out. What ensued would become a battle involving the town’s “Anti Bias Task Force” and eventually resulted in the homeowners selling the property they had inherited from their parents, to avoid any further issues.
The long and short of it, I was removed from a neighborhood for unnecessary blackness. My first time being personally, negatively impacted by racism.
Through these last twenty years I have continued to call this place home. I take pride in both the natural beauty of where I live and the strong community ties I have created. This is a good place. People do care about each other and I have witnessed many examples that highlight that good.
Clearly though, it’s not perfect. I also have had further experiences of not just racism, but sexism, and classism as well. Injustice sucks. Feeling oppressed sucks. However the truth of the matter is I don’t have to wear it for the whole world to see. The color of my skin allows me the ability to shake it off and blend in. I also don’t have 400 years of oppression weighing me down as I try to move through this world. So I am aware this is a small comparison.
The weight of what i did carry though was heavy enough to grow tired. Tired enough to take advantage of the privilege my fair skin offered me, especially after a nasty divorce from my black husband. I quietly blended in amongst my neighbors and let go of any fight I had left in me.
I’ve enjoyed the peace that has allowed me. I live a beautiful life today, free to touch and taste all that is good. I do not take this for granted. I moved quietly amongst my neighbors, doing nothing to disrupt the tranquility of this beautiful place.
The women of this community are my peers. They are the mother’s of my children’s friends and schoolmates. They came to know me from meetings, and field trips, and fundraisers, and gatherings out and about town. They have treated me nicely, and it feels good to be accepted and fit in. The majority of these women, like myself, are white.
One summer I was included in a group text of about 15 of these women, meant to be used to let us all know who was at what local beach. The group took on a life of its own. Beyond meeting up for beach days, we began to celebrate birthdays together, and do an annual Christmas party. We shared about things happening in our lives and celebrated the good and showed one another support through the bad.
I became closer to some and some I associated with strictly through the group. Some personalities I found a little jarring, and several had opposing political views, but overall these were good women. They saw the world from their own perspectives, because that’s what we all tend to do.
I don’t regret creating friendships with people who see things differently from me, what I regret is not feeling confident enough to speak my own truths when I vehemently disagreed with turns the conversation would occasionally take.
I began to tell myself that “quietly” stating my own beliefs and living my life “appropriately” was enough. I bought into “live and let live”, which I suppose could be fine if we were all living on an even playing field. We are not. Plain and simple, we are not.
In 8 minutes and 46 seconds I awakened to the realization that silence IS violence. That injustice for one is injustice for all. That I have a need and a desire to be a part of this moment. That this moment can slip away if we don’t fight for change with all we’ve got, and that means not remaining silent as I read the words “thugs” and “animals” being spoken amongst this group of women. Some who can’t help but counter “black lives matter” with “all or blue lives matter”.
These are not my people. And that is not the conversation I want to be a part of. So on Tuesday night, when one shared the information in regard to the local protest scheduled for the following day and some began to express frustration with “those people”, and a couple spoke disparagingly of the young man who organized this call to action, I could not remain a silent observer any longer.
“I will be there” is the last thing I typed before removing myself from the group text I had been a part of for years. “Deanna has left the conversation. Tuesday 10:02“ .
My silence, while remaining in that conversation spoke of who I didn’t want to be. My leaving it screamed loudly of who I hope to become.
I have since protested side by side with my biracial daughter, who struggles to find her place in this world, as people tell her “you’re lucky you look white”. I am watching my adult daughters living in different areas approach this with a fierceness that serves to fuel the fire in my own heart. While one is on top of providing information to change legislation, how to educate yourself on who to vote for if it’s change you want, and grassroot initiatives to begin disassembling systemic racism in America, the other is ready to burn shit down. She has deemed herself a medic, packing supplies and heading to the front lines of large scale protests, ready to help whoever is in need. She also has donated generously to causes that support the movement. Both angry. Both passionate. Both necessary.
No justice. No peace. Change is painful, and this country needs change. I will not speak on condemning protester’s violence or on how pointless looting and rioting is, when the police are responding to protests AGAINST police brutality, by engaging in police brutality. I will not speak on anything but the cause that has set these current events in motion. You don’t like this violence? Let’s stop the violence that is police brutality. Let’s stop seeing the color of someone’s skin as a weapon. When a large black man is seen as a threat before anything has even happened, what chance is there for peace?
When a man can be lynched on a street in broad daylight, by four uniformed officers, as onlookers film it and those who attempt to intervene are threatened with mace, I will not quietly stand by and listen to “well that’s awful but people rioting and looting has to stop”. How about “people rioting and looting is awful, but police killing unarmed black people has to stop”.
George Floyd is only one in a long list of names we should be saying, but it his name that is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is his face, painted in murals around the world, that is sparking a revolution. This can not continue. We must rise together and fight against these killings. This is not black people’s fight. This is humanity’s fight. There is a knee on the neck of humanity and WE CAN’T BREATHE!!!
Yesterday I went to the local market, checking out at the same time as me, was a woman I knew from around town. We are not friends, but our paths have crossed through the years. I knew her daughter was one of the strong, incredibly inspiring speakers at the protest I attended the day before. As we both headed out the door I stopped her to say how proud she should be of the leader her daughter has emerged to be.
She thanked me, and we continued to walk in the same direction. She is a black woman the same age as me. In the span of those few blocks we spoke of our children, some of our hopes and fears for them, and how sick we are of what’s happening in the world. We parted ways with a “stay safe out there” to each other.
It was both a simple, yet profound short walk. I reflected on the “conversation” I had recently left and thought how I didn’t leave that conversation to stay silent. I left it to be a loud unapologetic voice against racism.
I implore you not to let this moment pass. Don’t just repost short clips or quotes, without knowing the whole context. Follow black influencers on social media. Follow accounts that are fighting for change. Read black literature. Learn the history. Black history in America is American history. We need to educate ourselves and we need to vote. Know what your legislators support. Get involved with local politics. Speak up when you witness racism. Walk and talk with people who don’t look like you, and stand beside them and fight for a better world.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
I know when I shared my “No really, I’m Italian” post, I left off with a teaser for what would be part two of my dna tales. Then my ex-wedding anniversary rolled around (2nd marriage for those keeping count of marriages I mention in posts), which brought with it several years worth of fb “on this day” memories. My favorite being the eulogy I wrote on behalf of the family betta fish who perished on what was technically (we were still married that year, though estranged) anniversary number ten. I decided it was too fun not to share, so that interrupted my flow.
Now I could easily get on with it and deliver the sequel in this post, but with it being Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial start of summer season) and having spent some recent quality off season time in Montauk, I have something else on my mind.
All these lovely new Montauk memories I’ve made lately, have me fondly recalling Montauk memories from long ago, as well as other memories by the sea. They are the best part of my childhood, and my grandmother is all wrapped up in them. That’s what I feel like writing about today.
In reality I was a little landlocked in the middle class suburban town I was being raised in, but that didn’t stop us from making some seaside memories. Luckily I had a grandmother and great grandmother who were quick to load up a car and head for the shore.
Trips to Montauk were a favorite, hence what kicked off this trip down memory lane. They consisted of day trips to the lighthouse with a stop for lunch, or weekend getaways to a small beachside motel, to the more luxurious pampering of Gurneys. In season or off season, this was where my problems ceased to exist. This is where it was easy to stay in the moment. The good, beautiful, safe moments.
Montauk was not the only seaside escape though, there was the more exotic travel to Aruba. I was a tall for my age, well developed 14 year old, so often uncomfortable in my own skin, but here I stood confidently. Ernesto the pool boy flirted with me. I hopped a private plane for a day trip to Bonaire, where I snorkeled and dined surrounded by flamingos. I sipped virgin pina coladas and danced under the stars to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, my insecurities a million miles away.
Perhaps my favorite though, long before the tween Montauk escapes, or the teenage journey to the A-B-C islands in the Caribbean Sea, were the trips which required the least travel time. Jones Beach.
Now I may not have technically lived in a beach town, “technically” <haha, it just straight up wasn’t a beach town….but fortunately, Jones beach was a hop, skip, & a jump away!
Far enough to plan, pack, and spend the whole day there, but close enough to jump in the car on a whim and drive during a storm, just to watch (from a safe distance) the wild waves crashing on the shore.
I was merely a young child, yet the power the sea possessed was not lost on me. Even on the hottest of summer days, when everyone flocked to the beach and gathered in the water to seek relief from the unrelenting sun beating down, I knew what the ocean could do.
I waded out a little further and then just a little bit further. I bravely stood my ground as the waves rolled toward me. Sometimes I would jump at just the right moment and I’d gently ride the wave up and down. Sometimes I’d brace myself as it washed over me, and as much as I tried to dig my feet in, that wave would knock me right on my ass. There would be moments of panic…A blur of confusion, some salt water swallowed, seaweed and sand in uncomfortable places. Sometimes I’d barely get my head above water before the next wave knocked me down again.
After a while, when it became too much, I’d crawl exhausted to the safety of the shore. I’d make my way back to my grandmother, and our blanket. There I would rest and relax, until feeling up to venturing back to the shore’s edge. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am” she would say, as I set off once again toward the unpredictable sea.
These earliest seaside memories are what I would later recall as life lessons when times got rough and I felt tossed about. Years after she was gone, it was the image of my beautiful, sun kissed grandmother on her beach blanket, arms extended toward me, that I would meditate on when I didn’t know what else to do.
Even physically gone, she serves as my refuge when life knocks me around to the point of making it difficult to catch my breath, and leaves me a little confused and uncomfortable. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am”, I can hear her say.
And just as her memory serves as a port in a storm, she is as much in the delicate sea breeze that gently kissed my cheek during the recent joyful days making new memories in Montauk.
Wishing everyone a 2020 season of making some new happy seaside stories of your own.
No really, I’m Italian, is a phrase I’ve repeated more times than I could ever count. The reason this statement had to be repeatedly stated was due to the disbelief one would express upon hearing it from me the first time I would say, “I’m Italian”.
Blonde hair, green eyes, alabaster skin, with freckles…”I’m Italian”.
Ok, ok, I get where it might seem unlikely, but then I would explain that my mother’s mother was the product of a German mother and English father, and my father’s mother was English as well, therefore accounting for the light hair, skin, and eyes. I would go on to further explain that both my father’s father and mother’s father were as Italian as can be.
While I may have been born with features from the one side, I truly believed with the male line so strong, my personality favored the Italian side. I was certain my hair trigger temper, and animated way of speaking, proved this point.
So there you have it…No really, I’m Italian.
Fast forward to my approaching 50th birthday. In an attempt to avoid any well meaning surprise parties, decorated with “over the hill” banners and gag gifts, I thought let’s have an adventure worthy of marking such a significant milestone.
Now I already told you my half time theory in my other post, so what better place to celebrate the new beginning of my 2nd half of life, than getting in touch with my roots on a solo European journey.
Obviously Italy it is! Also I figured England. I chose these two since I have ancestors on both sides from these places and feel the most connected to these nationalities. Germany would have to wait. Brilliant! All that’s left to do is narrow down where exactly I should visit in these two countries. I’d like to get as close to my actual roots as possible. A real full circle kind of experience.
To assist me in pinpointing locations I may have an ancestral connection to, my oldest daughter thought it would be fun to send an early Christmas gift …ancestry dna…what a great idea!
I spit in the tube, filled out the label, and mailed it off promptly. A few weeks later I would really experience the full impact of my daughter’s gift.
It was 1am in a midtown Manhattan diner, and I was about to dig into some cheesy fries, as I got the ping ~ your results are in~ “my results are in” I loudly shared with anyone within earshot.
I pulled them up and began to read, my friend across from me waiting to hear, along with the waiter, and surrounding tables.. just like I thought, pretty much a three way split of nationalities….the smallest slice of the pie, German. Then a considerable sized piece of English. And my biggest slice…Irish. Wait. What?! Where’s my Italian?
“Where’s my Italian?“ became the $100 question. It turned into a lively debate amongst the staff and fellow patrons about the accuracy of these tests. As well as inspired dna result tales of what happened to friends of friends and so forth. I thought there must be an explanation. I mean, clearly I’m Italian…Right?
Not being able to grasp a quick reasonable explanation, but truly believing there must be one, I dramatically, and rather playfully, resorted to the most obviously scandalous, and declared “my whole life a lie”. I then proceeded to share that revelation with the Uber driver, the hotel doorman, and the folks in the elevator on the way up to my floor.
When I woke that morning, my first thought was (you guessed it), “where’s my Italian”. I grabbed my phone, pulled up the ancestry dna app, and gave things a more thorough review. It turns out that aside from the breakdown of your dna story, ancestry also provides you with dna matches. I had been vaguely aware of this, and knew to expect a ton of 4th and 5th cousin matches.
As I read about how relationships are measured and what categories they fell into, I realized that amongst this long list of unfamiliar names, were matches with so many centimorgans between myself and them they fell into the half sibling, first cousin, and aunt & uncle ranges.
Time for answers. Time to call my Aunt Holly…my teller of truths, the one person I could always count on to give me the straight story! From my earliest questions of trying to figure out the family dynamics, to where do babies come from, to any taboo topic that fell under the category of “things you want to know but are too embarrassed to ask”, she was my go to.
I was in Penn Station waiting for my train by the time I got in touch with her. She was, as always, very matter of fact. “What could this possibly mean?”, I asked her as I finished the dna results tale from the evening before. “Well, Deanna..it’s obvious what it means!”, was her response.
And just like that I realized my hot blooded (so called Italian) temper and fast talking ways, actually were attributed to my being the fighting Irish and having the gift of gab…hmmm…now a lot makes sense. Including these green eyes and freckles.
I reached out to my closest match, a female about ten years younger than me, and between her responses to my questions and the memories of the past my aunt shared, I began to piece together the story of my paternity. By the time I pulled into my train station, I didn’t just have an Italian dad, I had a bonus Irish dad…and the latter came along with an additional six siblings. Add them to the baby sis mom blessed me with, who I always knew about (wellll…almost always knew, she was about three, I was about 10…I can explain, another time though) and I’m now one of eight! Well this is unexpected.
Fun fact…four were younger, but two were (barely) older! While the younger four were products of my father’s marriage with his eventual life long wife (I should mention he passed away three years prior to my discovery) and presumably “settled down” years, myself and the older two were all born to teen moms, impregnated over the course of a year. Two of us he was never aware of, and one mom he married. However the young marriage dissolved fairly quickly.
Alrighty then, this isn’t too weird. Oh wait, it gets weirder. He spent his whole life a town away and raised those four half siblings, 3 sisters and a brother there. A town I frequented regularly. Some might say they were my old stomping grounds. Dammmn did I stomp them grounds!
Can’t get much weirder than that. Right? Oh but it can…My oldest sister was raised in another neighboring town. Well most of the time, you know, except when she was living in the SAME town!! Like come on now, seriously!
Basically the only sibling not running around the same hood, was my brand new big brother, whose teen mom was a hippy chick flitting through town. She was in a far away state by the time she realized her mother-to-be condition, and gave him up for adoption, which landed him smack in the middle of the mid west.
So why did my mom not name daddy dearest and instead provided me with just enough info to mange to track down Italian dad, as an angsty teen? I believe bio Irish dad was just a one time, hazy, backseat memory and my own hippy dippy mom thought she couldn’t possibly be wrong claiming I belonged to the 19 year old musician she’d actually been dating for months. In all fairness this was the end of the sixties…’nuff said.
Not wanting to throw Italian dad under the bus, I should explain the reason for him needing to be tracked down 14 years after my birth is not a reflection of his unwillingness to participate in my arrival on this earth. It is however a story for another day. Not only because I should resist the urge to veer off on a side story, but also because it is a story worthy of standing on its own and deserves to be told independent from this dna debacle tale.
Spoiler alert though..it has a happy ending. Kind of can’t help but give that part of that story up when I mention during this part of this story, that the hardest part of this whole experience was having to tell Italian dad about Irish dad.
What happened when I did, you ask…I received, hands down, some of the best parenting I ever received in my life. He said everything that the one time abandoned, repeatedly rejected, uncertain of her place in this world child, that sometimes still lives inside me, needed to hear. And for that I will be forever grateful.
The new sibs…A stand on its own story if ever there was one! More shall most certainly be revealed, but for now I will say that with some the relationships have progressed farther and faster than others, and some are completely resistant to anything at all. Regardless of how fast or slow the bond is forming, with each one I’ve met, I feel a connection. A connection to them, and to their children. These are my people and I’m so grateful to know them or at least know they’re out there.
Speaking of my people, there’s been some changes to my birthday itinerary…. Goodbye Italy and hello Ireland. Goodbye solo adventure, and hello a few new siblings trip!
Wow, that was a lot to come out of one little dna test. Ohhhh, but wait just a stinking minute!! Didn’t I say my grandfather on my mother’s side was all Italian? Shouldn’t that count for something? Hmmm….I guess there’s a part two coming in the next blog post and it obviously starts with the question, “where’s my Italian?”! 😉
It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I’m thinking about my mothers…I’ve had grands, and greats, and almost adopted, steps, and in-laws, and like a mom mothers, but I never had a Mommy, not even a Mama or a Ma.
Oh well, can’t waste my time longing for what never was, nor will ever be. Luckily I did have a Grammie and a Mimi to step up and in when my 17 year old “mom” dipped.
Mimi, who was 5’ nothing with big boobs and a tiny waist, was born in 1900 to German immigrants. She was one of a kind and she was Grammie’s mother. Grammie, who had her proper Englishman father’s height and clear blue eyes, but Mimi’s wild head of curls and stubborn streak, was my mother’s mother.
These are the two most influential women in my world. It’s because of them I know that even though sometimes mothers leave (and come back, and leave again, and so on), that sometimes people who say they love you, stay. It’s because of them I know that unconditional love is a real thing. They softened and smoothed the rough edges left by the carelessness of others.
It was the beginning of the summer of 1990, Mimi and I were having lunch in the backyard when I saw her hand begin to shake. I asked her what was wrong and she tried to say nothing. The shaking grew more violent and spread up her arm, her fingers uncontrollably twisted around the rosary beads she prayed on regularly, and almost always held.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and remained in the hospital until summer’s end, passing away just weeks after I gave birth to my first child. So grateful for the just shy of twenty years I had her in my life.
Grammie remained my constant. She was there to celebrate every joy, and ease what burdens she could. She loved me at times, both in childhood and adulthood, when I was not very lovable. I thought she’d always be there. It seemed impossible there would come a time she wasn’t.
And then came the beginning of the end. The “end” spanned ten years. From diagnosis, down to the final days, I observed this woman of strength and dignity surrender the things she could no longer enjoy and accept the next phase with a graceful ease.
I was the lucky one. It was that last Friday evening I was alone with her that she experienced what hospice commonly refers to as the rally. For the last several weeks she had either been withdrawn, not speaking at all, or agitated and picking at the bed sheets nervously. Tonight was different as she sat up straight in her bed, pillows propped comfortably around her. Her pale blue eyes, that always so easily betrayed her emotion, whether it was with a flash of anger, or a deep sadness that could break your heart if you looked too long, now sparkled with life I hadn’t seen in months.
I had brought along a writing assignment to work on as I sat at her bedside, since typically her interaction was so minimal. This night she had surprised me when she turned to me and asked what I was doing. I explained the premise of the piece and then read it to her. It was personal and spoke of regrets and accountability and the gratitude to move forward and do better. She listened intently, and with a gentleness about her not frequently witnessed by many, she assured me of her love and pride in who I had become. Then much to my surprise she asked me to pray with her. As I held her hand in mine, I leaned over and laid my head on her chest. Together we said The Lord’s Prayer. With her free hand she smoothed the hair back off my forehead in a comforting gesture that took me back to childhood.
Afterwards we spoke of that childhood and many of the happy memories it held. From the exotic travels she took me on, to the simplicity of laying on our backs Christmas Eve watching the patterns dance across the ceiling from the twinkling tree lights. We laughed belly laughs about things that only we thought were funny, the inside jokes that stemmed from a life experienced together.
As it grew later and she was becoming tired, she occasionally glanced towards the corner, once asking me who the people over there were. I assured her it was only the light playing tricks with the shadows. I could see the energy draining from her and I was exhausted as well. I laid her bed back to the reclined position and readjusted her pillows. I tucked the blankets around her with care and pressed my lips to her forehead. I lingered there a second and appreciated the moment of connection, the sense of being grounded. As I pulled back I looked at her and realized she had always been what grounded me. I touched her face gently and I thanked her.
That was the last time she ever spoke. She slipped into a catatonic state and by Sunday I received the call telling me she had begun the active phase of dying. That’s how specifically hospice can break it down for you. They suggested the process could be anywhere from a few hours to a day or two.
I was in the garden with my youngest child when I took the call. “Do you have to go now?” She asked me as I hung up the phone. I gathered my thoughts as I looked around at the flats of pansies waiting to be planted, “no” I said “In a little bit, but not now”. Other family members were at my grandmother’s bedside now and I needed to be where I was, present in this moment out in the sun with Tia, our hands in the dirt. It was through participating in this springtime ritual of living I would gather the strength needed to be present for the dying.
The hospice nurse gave us instructions on how to proceed in caring for Grammie in these final hours. Once she had left, only myself, my Aunt Holly, cousin Haley, and my mother remained. Usual differences placed aside and each woman’s desire to be there for their own personal reasons respected by the others.
The hours stretched out and rolled into the next day. It seemed fitting that the sky was gray and subject to occasional downpours. I had put music on in her room from the big band era she loved, and my tears began to quietly fall as I sang along softly with ‘Till We Meet Again.
We had been taking turns sitting bedside, however as longer stretches elapsed between the breathes she struggled to take, we had all gathered around to say our final goodbyes. I sat to her right and held onto her hand. Eventually no more breathes came and within moments her skin grew cool to the touch. She was gone. Death had come quietly. She left this world with the same calm, dignified strength, by which she had lived. I glanced toward the corner and thought to myself that perhaps just as we had surrounded her to bid farewell, Mimi and the others were now welcoming her.
It is with so much love and gratitude that I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Grammie & Mimi, who I’m sure are together again, and never really too far from me.
Ok, so I referred to my second post as my “introductory”, however the only thing I ever really introduced was the blog ideas I won’t be doing.
Next in an attempt to actually introduce myself, I somehow got the bright idea to start in the beginning ….as in the beginningest beginning possible …cue pregnant teen mom, her tale of woe, leading into my own twisted toddler years…Some really fun tales indeed, but upon giving it some actual consideration, this is not where I want to narrate some linear unfolding of my life story. So, three additional posts in, with a quick “delete, delete, delete”, here we are again.
I am banking on the fact that this is a brand new blog, which I haven’t even taken the time to complete my website for, and the chances of it getting more than a visit or two, are super slim. Those who are passing through, thanks so much for that and you are the witnesses to my early on, ever changing whims. The hope is that I will eventually hit a groove, and perhaps crank out something consistent, in the form of at least mildly entertaining. I find myself mildly entertaining on a regular basis, so here’s to translating that via an online blog. Haha, probably easier said than done. But we shall see…
Ok, so introducing myself for real…You can call me Dee Dee, or Dee, it’s short for Deanna. I spent years trying to shake the nickname Dee Dee, and now here I am, in middle age, embracing it. Ahhh, middle age…yup, that’s where I’m at. I’ve always said I believed I’d live to be at least 100, and I still believe it. Now that I’m fast approaching my 50th birthday (and I do mean fast, “time flies” is a factual statement), I truly consider it the midlife mark. All good though…so what if I’m in the senior years of my first half of life, I’m about to be in the infancy of my second half! And the awesome thing is, I DO KNOW NOW, what I’d wished I’d known then! Something tells me this is gonna be fun.
I get it, I know there’s all this society pressure on women that shames us into hating ourselves for getting older, that youth is the prize, but in regard to that I say…oh please, eff that!!
I’m plenty young. I’m young in all the ways that matter most. I’ve got tons more to learn, to see, to experience. I wasn’t always this young though. You know when I was old? When I was 25. I was so old then. I would look in the mirror and see the beginnings of fine lines around my eyes, and bags underneath them. The lines forming around my mouth, exaggerated with every drag of the cigarettes I chain smoked.
At 25 I had three children under the age of 5, the oldest with special needs, a crappy marriage < sorry to my ex for writing it like that, if you ever happen to read this. I mean really, I accept a lot of the responsibility for the “crappy” part.
When I wasn’t busy trying to embrace the role of wife and mother (key word “trying”), I waitressed and bartended. I was a slave to addictive behaviors that popped up in a multitude of ways and I was basically bluffing my way through life. Damn, that exhausted me to the point of numb. Yeah, I was old.
Now just about double that age, add in a shit ton of life experience, self discovery through both bad choices and good, and today you have me…A happy, fairly well adjusted, life loving, youthful woman. Today I show up and actually am the things I present myself to be. I am a mother. I am a marina manager. I am a friend who has incredible friends. I am a partner in a relationship. I am a lover of things that feed my soul, and excite my senses, from the music I listen to, to the places I travel, to the coffee I drink. I am so mutha f*ckin’ alive today, and I feel the good and the bad, with an intensity far superior to the anesthetic numbness I embraced during those early years when I was old.
And that my (hopefully there’s a couple of you) readers, is a brief synopsis of my story thus far. There’s so much more to tell though…because you know, the devil is in the details…😈
So this will technically appear as my second post, but in reality it is my third. It should really have been my first. My introductory if you will. I’ve never been one for doing things in order.
I have contemplated a blog for quite a while now. I did one a few years back. It was fun and successful, but that is because it was on a specific event and to a targeted audience. I was a lay person on a medical mission team. We traveled to Ecuador and stayed in a remote Amazonian village, Guadalupe. While there we used the local clinic, along with a box truck converted to a mobile operating room, to perform many relatively simple procedures. Gallbladders, Goiters, etc. I was allowed to scrub in, I held the hands of nervous patients, I was taught to pass without contaminating, I helped in any way I could. I was given the opportunity to be the proverbial fly on the wall listening to some of the most brilliant medical minds of our time, discuss future planned advancements in their mission work. Truly an incredible experience. Definitely one worth writing about.
Enough about that though. That was then, this is now. I’ve done some local mission work since, but none that has taken me out of the country. I had always planned on eventually traveling to Africa to continue that particular journey, but for now life has stalled that plan. Perhaps someday, never say never. When and if I do, I will no doubt write about it, however past trips and possible future trips, does not provide me something current to write about today. So, back to blog ideas for the present time.
One, positively brilliant-if I do say so myself, idea I had for a blog, was what I would have called… “Jade’s jaded adventures in Wonderland”…it would have been a chronicle of my tinder date experiences. Fun, fun!
Several years ago I went through what was a pretty horrific divorce. There I was in my early forties thrown back into the single girl world. Suffice it to say things had changed a lot since I had dated last and I was not only terribly out of practice, but a little knocked around emotionally from the level of betrayal I had experienced. Well, might as well jump into the dating pool with both feet. I quickly learned that nobody seemed to meet organically anymore. I downloaded the trending app, chose some pictures I thought were not only flattering, but represented my well rounded lifestyle and wrote a brief bio introducing myself to the online dating world.
I would soon come to find that the tinder men fell in two camps…1-looking for a “hook-up” or 2-looking for “the one”. Falling somewhere in between that myself, I erased my bio and changed to the tag line “I have no plan beyond coffee”. And that was the truth!
Oh the stories I have. Every blog post would be the details of a date in all its sitcom worthy awkwardness. Sometimes I could hear the laugh track in my mind. A select few made it to a second date, but a third was elusive. I occasionally accepted one, but would later bail. Good times!
Well, look at that, I’m back in the past again talking about what I could’ve done! Obviously I never did get around to putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, on that idea. And eventually a planned third date was kept. That gave way to a fourth and fifth and then the weeks rolled into months. Before I knew it, I had found myself in a relationship. There goes that blog idea.
So, my first post divorce relationship…almost three years of on and off again drama. Teenage angst in midlife never looked so good. He’s a story that might be worth telling, but I haven’t found my words yet. It was a complex connection, one that would take more space than I have here to explain. For now he shall stay privately tucked away and placed in a safe spot, maybe to be looked at later on another platform. We’ll see.
Back to the Mermaid inspiration for this blog…I live in a small seaside community. I have always felt drawn to the water for as far back as I can remember, and not only am I a stones throw from it at all times here in my hometown, but my current career consists of my being surrounded by boats, beach, and the sea. What a place to call your office. Resisting the urge to say “hashtag blessed” right now. < corny, I know! I am though…blessed that is. While individual details of my life, standing on their own as a singular experience, may look particularly challenging, I have been gifted with the Grace to see the good side of most things. The beauty in moments. I live a life I like, and I’m as happy alone as I am with a partner. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to think maybe even more so being alone.
Ahhh, but then it happened. This local boy sailed into my life, and everything changed. He was a fine sailor, who had been right under my nose. I didn’t find him on an app. I didn’t resist a second or third date with him. This sailor is far from perfect, but perfect enough for me. He is the sailor who I wrote of in my second, now deleted, post on this blog.
Why did I delete it? It was too out of order, even for me. And it was a sweet, personal memory. Not one to be shared from a place of hostile retaliation directed toward a past lover of his. It is real, and true, and mine to be held near to my heart always. When and if I share the tale, as it is my story to tell, it will be from a place purely of fond recall.
Now, about this past lover of his, enter “the mermaid”…yes, she fancies herself a mermaid, hence my previous mermaid hating post. Now I’m not usually the sort to display, or even have, such animosity toward an ex lover of my current lover. This one however, warrants an exception. Aside from mentioning that I landed here in WordPress due to her creative tagging of my boyfriend in some outlandish blog posts, I shall not use this time and space to shout out her list of atrocities, I’m just going to ask you to take my word for it.
As previously mentioned, being a lover of the sea, I am also a lover of the creatures that dwell in it. Seahorses hold a particular fascination. While their appearance seems almost magical enough to be as mythical as a mermaid, they are in fact real. Aside from being fascinating in all the very factual ways they are, the mythology behind them is equally delightful. As highlighted in that previous post the folklore between Seahorses and mermaids stands in sharp contrast to each other. It doesn’t take any deep pondering to see the points I am making there.
There you have it. I was upset with a meddling mermaid and took to a safe outlet to express my frustrations. I wrote a silly story, as opposed to acting out in any other way. In doing so, I was reminded how right it feels to express myself through the written word. I don’t lay claim to being any great writer, the next Hemingway I am not, but I can string together some words in a cohesive thought pattern to tell a story. Oh, and I’ve got stories…
If anybody stops by to read this, and hasn’t been bored to tears already, please stop by to read my next post. I have new ideas brewing for the direction of this blog. Not a one having to do with mermaids. I do owe her a debt of gratitude though for the inspiration. I guess it’s true, inspiration can be found in the damnedest of places…
When we think of mermaids we tend to think of Disney’s sweet Ariel. She is as kind and good as she is beautiful. She saves a drowning sailor and falls in love with him as she does so. She loves him so deeply that she is willing to sacrifice anything for them to be together…ahhh true love…but, yeah…no. That is not an accurate depiction of long standing folklore. In fact, it is the total opposite.
Mermaids are bad luck to sailors. To glimpse one is an omen of danger. To actually interact with one can mean doom. They summon the storms that cause ship wrecks, they drown sailors and trap them in an underworld where they are treated as slaves. The mermaid may initially appear as beautiful. They hide behind long flowing hair and a siren song, but upon closer observation they reveal their true form. They are hideous monsters. Their ugliness matching their horrific intentions.
Luckily there are Seahorses. The Seahorse is a magical, unique creature. They are powerful. Sacred to Poseidon. Greek mythology tells us that it is the Seahorse that keeps the sailors safe, and who stays by the side of a drowned sailor to accompany him from one world to the next, assuring he meets no further harm along the way. Now that sounds like true love.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that as much as mermaids are bad luck to sailors, the Seahorse is the ultimate symbol of good luck for a sailor.