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.
I made him a Long Island Ice Tea and he went home and told his mother he was going to marry the bartender. It was my first summer as a full time resident of the small east end community I had visited frequently in my youth.
As for this Long Island Ice Tea drinking customer, I wasn’t thinking about marrying him, but I was thinking about him.
He was 6’1” with braids and brown skin that glistened in the sun (<pretty sure I just inadvertently quoted a Don Henley song there), as he strolled up and took a stool at my waterfront, outside bar.
He left after that one drink and I immediately pumped his two sisters, who waitressed at the same establishment, for info about him. It was light hearted and not pursued after I learned he had a girlfriend.
I went on to have a fabulous summer fling with another local, which lasted beyond the season and finally ended just around the holidays.
It was at the employee Holiday party that, he who shall remain nameless from now until the end of time, reappeared on the scene. He also, had recently found himself single.
I took him home and he stayed. That’s the long and short of it. My kids liked him instantly. He was funny, and easy enough to spend time with. It progressed so quickly.
I had assumed he was the older brother to the coworkers I had since become friends with, A short time later I learned I was mistaken and he was actually eleven years my junior. Upon hearing this I had said, and I quote…”oh well, it’s not like I’m gonna marry him”….I was wrong.
In merely two months time from that fated holiday gathering, I would find we were expecting a child. My youngest of the 3 children I had being 7, I had not been planning to have more. However, when I saw the second line appear on the stick I held in my hand, I couldn’t help but be overcome with a rush of excitement and pure love, for the spec sized seed growing inside me.
His reaction was equally joyful and he vowed in that moment to always be there for me, my children, and ours.
It’s with great difficulty I write about these joyful recollections. Times in our early relationship that I was filled with love and hope. I don’t typically allow myself to recall the happiness, because of the shame it fills me with. The shame that stems from knowing that it was I, who not only allowed him into our lives, but willfully fought to keep him in them.
Just months into the pregnancy things began to change. I recognized the signs of active addiction and it brought all the chaos with it, it possibly could. There were fights, and tears, and cheating, and violence. Finally it was done, and I stepped into a future where I would continue as a single mother, now with an additional babe in arms.
He made it to the birth of our daughter and we briefly attempted to be a family. The attempt failed quickly. With him out of the picture, feeling alone and overwhelmed, I struggled with my own demons. I made questionable decisions and walked some dark paths.
I walked a road so dark, I found him on it. We hadn’t made it work in the light, but now in this shadowy world we came together and formed a twisted connection woven together with lies and betrayal.
I became unrecognizable to myself until one cold January morning, staring at my reflection, I saw a glimpse of the woman, the mother, who I used to be. She was still in there. And in that single moment of Grace, the lights, though dim at first, flickered back on.
I stepped out of the bleakness and back into the warmth of the sun. Once again my life evolved quickly and smoothly, somewhat seamlessly, as I fully embraced all that felt right. He joined me, and together, both he and I, as well as the four young lives on this ride with us, grew.
There was a wedding. A beautiful, simple, celebrated wedding. There was community. There was a church family to be joined, where we worshiped together, where we volunteered together. There were sports played and coached. There were family vacations and romantic couple getaways. There was continued education for all. There were good jobs and career paths. There was hope. There was a life.
Those are the highlights I held onto. That is what I knew the world saw and I desperately wanted that illusion to be real. I don’t mention the fights behind closed doors. The general uncomfortableness I felt so often. I wanted this perfect picture so badly, that I ignored the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pushed the dark, spreading dread down so deep, and polished up the shiny exterior. I exerted an enormous amount of energy into not only playing a part myself, but assisting him in pulling off his.
I dressed him up and fed him his lines. It took me a long time to admit this, but that is what I did. He completed the picture I had strived to create and I forced this jagged, misshapen piece into the puzzle of my life.
I like to think my motives were pure. My intentions good, but what is it they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Ah yes, yes it is.
“He’s not the person I would’ve chosen today”…I uttered those words to a confidant many times as the years passed. And though I felt that way, I continued to honor my commitment to this man.
That changed on June 5th, 2013, as I innocently reached into his laptop case and unexpectedly pulled out two packages of condoms.
The confrontation was met with lies on top of lies. The days and weeks following were a systematical unraveling of what ultimately turned out to be a double life.
A double life that included secret email accounts, profiles on adult sites, eBay accounts on which items of value stolen from elderly customers of his handyman business, were sold. Low paid drug addicted employees on jobs were used in place of himself as he met with the women he’d found on the aforementioned adult sites. And there was the drug and alcohol abuse, abuse that great lengths were gone to to hide.
He first moved out of our room and into the partially finished basement. The air hung heavy in the house. The pain and confusion so palpable. It was mid August by the time he moved out of the household. Bittersweet relief came with it.
A brief marriage counseling attempt only to be derailed by the uncovering of yet more lies. Then the introduction of a new family onto the scene.
His new girlfriend came as a complete package with a son and daughter. The daughter strikingly similar to our daughter. Enough so to inspire whispers and rumors. None ever substantiated. The announcement of a baby on the way in about as quick a time frame as he and I had found ourselves expecting our child. He had moved onto his “take two”.
The divorce was messy, expensive, and included a custody battle. A battle I fought with the tenacity of a mother who was willing to walk through fire to reach one of her children. The standard visitation rights he won, later completely abandoned as the final horrific truth of his masquerade was revealed a full four years after the veneer had first cracked.
On a summer day, as I was driving down the main road, my then 20 year old daughter, finally found the courage to blurt out the truth she had buried deep inside her years ago. A truth that four years earlier began to push its way to the top of her memories.
The struggle between remembering and forgetting led her on a path that included abandoning the NYC conservatory her talent had earned her a spot in, and inspired suicidal thoughts that required multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals.
With the unburdening of these truths she had carried alone revealed, the healing could begin, but first we had to break my youngest child’s heart as we shared these harsh facts with her.
Her love for her sister strong, and guided by the support of a trusted therapist, she slipped right into a place of acceptance. As she had digested the information being told to her in a safe environment, neither her heart nor her head doubted the accuracy.
At 14 years old, my youngest daughter severed all ties with her father. Her childhood vision of the man she believed him to be had already been altered drastically in the previous years, and now the last of that illusion lay there quietly on the floor of the room we had all bravely spoken only truth in.
We went to the police and the police failed us. I won’t say more than that, for to list all their shortcomings, is another post. Perhaps one better made in an opinion column of a national paper. That day may yet come. For now the focus remains the continued overcoming and rebuilding of ourselves.
Perhaps I could write you a long list of my own failings. Point out all the spaces in time I feel shame and regret for, but I choose not to dwell there, for me not at my strongest weakens our whole family structure. I rise above those failings, and I look beyond. I look at the strength and resilience I have played a part in fostering in these incredible young adults. The bond amongst them and myself. The course of our lives tethered together with a flourishing thick, sturdy vine impossible to sever. The momentarily strongest of us there to pick up the slack when another is at a weak spot. That is how we not just survive, but continue to grow.
This is why his continued attempts to destroy our peace fail. There are too many hurtful, spiteful actions he still to this day does to even bother to name, but his cruelties fall softly upon the floor of our lives, where we let them lay. Unaffected by them, they are ignored and flattened by our footsteps as we continue to stay the course and walk our path in the light.
“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.