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that sweet man

meeting

Hello, farewell

When my mom
met my now-husband
four months before she died,
she told me I had to
“marry that sweet man”

I resisted, of course;
marriage sucked, and
my mom still didn’t know
anything

Except, years later,
I understand she knew
much more than I
know, even now

As Anthony left
the house earlier,
he joked
that I was lucky to marry
such a man as him

“Not to be smug,” he added,
with a laugh

“Yes, I am,”
I replied earnestly,
“And I told your mom
she raised a good man,
just yesterday”

(And then he
wasn’t laughing,
and that was
beautiful, too)

Anthony has
watched me grapple with
centuries of painful truths
in a couple
short
years

He’s supported me
even when he doesn’t
agree with my conclusions,
and encouraged me doing
what I must to
understand
(& change)

He has been
my rock

I don’t know if
I will blog here again,
but I want you to know,
if you take nothing else
from having joined me here,
that the best thing I did
my whole life
was marry
that
sweet
man

daddy love

With our oldest

daddy littler j

With our youngest

wedding bw

Us

The fan box

Many years ago, I bought a box of antique fans at an estate sale. My mom gave me the dime being asked for them. 

Before I found the box of fans, I’d complained about being dragged along to sales with my mom. After I found the fans, I felt decidedly more pro-sale.

My older son, Li’l D, discovered the fans a couple of years ago. At least once a month, he’s asked to look at the fans. I even gave him one of his own, and promised him the fans if he still wants them when he’s much, much older.

My husband, Anthony, has witnessed these exchanges. He’s seen the little cardboard box that’s housed the fans for decades and, it seems, decided a better home was deserved. He made that home himself.

For years, I felt my mom when I took out the old box and thought of the gifted dime that bought its contents. Then I felt my mom and my oldest son while sifting. Now, another layer of connection has been added. Anthony is part of the experience of these fans, too.

Someday, Li’l D will pull a small green box off a shelf. When he does, he’ll remember a little of my mom, and a lot of me. And he’ll think of his daddy, too, and how Daddy once sat down to make a fan box in Mommy’s favorite color.

Categories: Family, Love, Parenting Tags: , ,

Books, family, love

A few months ago, my family happened across a used bookstore that was going out of business. The store’s lovely, kid-friendly owners couldn’t afford the rent, which had just been jacked up something like 50%.

My husband, sons, and I bought a couple of boxes full of books that day. Before we left, my husband signed up for the owners’ school book fair mailing list. It’s a good thing he did, too!

A few days ago, he got a great email about the bookstore. First, there’d been such an outpouring of love for Camelot Books, its owners had decided to open up shop somewhere else a few months down the road. The store wouldn’t be closing down for good. Woo-hoo!

Second, there wouldn’t be enough space to store their inventory in the meantime. With thousands of books still left, the real sale had begun! 

My family and I returned to the store yesterday, eventually leaving with one enormous box of books for only about fifty dollars. We left, too, with memories of another hour spent surrounded by books, love, and each other … and the elation of knowing this bookstore will continue, and with it a joy that has little to do with physical location.

Categories: Books, Family, Love Tags: , , ,

no. matter. what.

I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.

My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”

I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.

(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)

Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!

As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.

(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)

And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.

Most people don’t have that.

That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.

‘Cause, see, I have always had these three people–Rachael, David, and Madeline–who have had my back, so I can’t imagine life without them.

2013 siblings small

then and now

Most people have never even had one-third of that. Read more…

the after-drought rain

Today, I hope

you have enough

food to be full;

water to slake your thirst;

shelter to stay both safe,

and neither too cold

nor too hot;

as well as love to fuel you,

and that, if you

have any left over,

you will share it

freely, choosing to

be the after-drought rain

that helps

life

grow

Categories: Idealist, Love Tags: , ,

That green apple

Saturday, 11:45 a.m.

As we inched toward Hollywood in traffic, I asked my husband, “Do you have a snack in your car? I need to eat something.” He knows my blood sugar’s been giving me grief recently.

“Don’t you have that apple?” he asked.

“You’re right!” I smiled as I reached into my purse for that green apple.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.

My husband and I were on our way to our first date in months. We’d almost made it out the door when our seven-year-old,  Li’l D, asked me, “Aren’t you going to take the apple with you?” He’d set a green apple in front of me a few minutes earlier.

“I don’t need an apple, sweetie,” I said. “But thank you!”

He looked so crestfallen, I put the apple in my purse. For show.

Saturday, 7 p.m.

My littlest one, Littler J, babbled with overtired zeal as we loaded him into our car. Li’l D was quieter in his sleepiness as he climbed into his car seat.

“Hey. You know what?” I told him. “I ended up needing that apple!”

“Told you!” he cheered. To himself, he murmured, “I helped.” His chest puffed out for a moment, leading my heart to swell in return.

“You sure did,” I said, smiling. “You sure did.”

Categories: Family, Love, Parenting Tags: ,

Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

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