Saturday, November 29, 2008

A tragedy of immense proportions.

Certainly, children lose parents everyday. But this week, five of these children have names for me, have stories. Five of these children have broken my heart just a bit, thinking of them and what's been lost forever.

In one of these families, a mother died just a week after giving birth to her third child, a son who would join two sisters, age five and seven. In the other, a father leaves two young boys, also five and seven.

One family I don't know at all, but is here in my community. The other is the family of an old friend.

And for both, I am grieving today.

And strangely, it's not only for the future of these children in two different families, two different cities even - Mackenzy, Kacy, Jake, Jacob and Joshua - it is for their past, too. Of course there will be the future proms and graduations and weddings that will be less joyful because that parent isn't there. And there will be the chair at the dinner table that is so very empty at every special meal - and the ordinary ones too. There will be infinite future losses every single day, some too tiny for words.

But it is for what has already happened, that might also be lost, that is on my mind.

It is the little moments, the special shared intimacies between us and our children that, as they grow and change, are forgotten and replaced by other traditions and rituals that we and only we share, that I am dwelling on today. I think of our own family of course, and of the tiny, silly but oh so important exchanges, trials and tribulations - ones that have passed between us so sweetly as our children have grown from newborn to infant to toddler and child.

I think of the countless moments these parents, who've gone so suddenly, must have shared with their own children. Now those memories, along with the parent, might be gone forever.

So as a testament to them - and for our little ones too - I write down here as best I can the things I just don't want to be lost. As our two sweet peas richochet from one milestone to another on the way to growing up, I can feel the days, the moments, slipping away underneath me, like sand being pulled away by the tide.

For Finn. For Reese. And for the children everywhere who have lost parents, you must know this: there are a thousand moments that happen everyday that fill your parents' hearts and crush them and make them fill with pride. Know that beyond the birthday parties and graduations, there are these instances that truly bind us to you, that make us know you better and ourselves, too.

Finn: there will always be the night you fell asleep on my shoulder, your profile lit by the streetlight outside our window. There will always be the two weeks you were sick everyday with a different ailment and we clung together bracing for the next onslaught. There's you saying "bah-a-ball" for basketball and "gigi" for orange and "Ree" for your favorite person, your big sister Reese. And Reese, there is always the colic that plagued you for three solid months and not a day less and watching your dad walk you round and round the house for hours, holding you like a football, the only time you were content was there in his arms. There's you loving the water from minute one and dunking your own self underwater at eight months old, trying to swim like Esther Williams, smiling all the while. There is you teaching your brother everything you know, mostly sweetly, sometimes not so sweetly and him looking at you like you are the sun. Which you are.

Reese and Finn and Mackenzy and Kacy and Jake and Jacob and Joshua: know that even if you don't remember these moments one day, know that they, or something like them, something equally sweet and warm and life changing, happened and that those moments piled on top of one another to create the unbreakable bond that we will have with you, no matter what. No matter where we are. Or where we go.

Know more than anything, know above all, that you were loved.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recession Confessions

It's hitting home now, this "economic downturn" as they call it. Not that I hadn't known/seen/heard it was coming.

Now I'm feeling it though.

I go into the neighborhood dry cleaners, the one I've been going to as long as I've lived in the neighborhood and find it's been taken over by "the franchise" which sounds a lot like "the firm" when I hear it come out of the mouth of the new manager that's greeted me and my dirty laundry. She doesn't know where the old owners are. She never knew them.

They had owned the business for over twenty years.

And in one day, it's like they were never here. Wiped clean.

I remember coming in and the lovely woman who ran the business would always call out my name, pulling up my account, bringing out my order without me saying a word. She always had a smile and a booming welcome. She and her husband, the quieter of the two, always kept some little candies by the door. She had carried my laundry out to the car many a time, full of compliments and coos for my children, pleasantries for me.

And now, it's like they were never here. Candy, pleasantries and coos a thing of the past. Now it's all business. I'm back to spelling my last name. Now I'm just a phone number and a tag.

I don't know if it was the economy or just plain tiredness or something else entirely that drove the kind owners from their business. I just know I miss them. And I missed getting the chance to tell them that.

I also know that I was waiting in line at Starbucks this morning with all the other folks who rank coffee up their on their list of necessities apparently, when out of the blue, the woman in line next to me starts telling me about her failing business, an Asian restaurant; she doesn't know if they will make it, her husband and she. This time, she says, she doesn't know if they can do it. Their house in the suburbs, they're going to have to try and short sale it, she says, her eyes fastened on the morning buns in the case. It's already lost half it's value.

She can't believe it she says.

We bought it for $750,000 and now it's worth $319,000 they tell me.

I want to wrap my arms around her, this stranger, and tell her it's going to be OK.

But I don't because she is a stranger. And I don't because I don't know if it's going to be OK.

I don't know when it's going to be OK.

But I suppose the fact that I'm caring more now about the folks who run the dry cleaner down the street, the stranger next to me in line, the whole world outside my doorstep that used to be noise and wallpaper and has suddenly become flesh and bone, is a good thing. A sign perhaps that things will not only be OK. But better.

Maybe in losing everything, we're gaining more. The luxury of being insulated from the rest of the world, from its pain and its loveliness both, is gone and in its place is hard cold reality, as well as opportunity to learn from one another, to live in tune, to live with less than before.

Yet, it seems, with more, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A new day.

This morning, my four-year old told me she was excited it was today, Election Day.

I was a little surprised that she remembered.

Oh, yes, she said, they were getting to vote at preschool today. They would vote on what special snack they would have: pizza or popsicles.

Popsicles, unsurprisingly, won by a landslide.

Then tonight, before bed, before it was announced that Barack Obama had been elected the 44th president of the United States, we sat in our usual nighttime spot, our rocking chair, the one my mom rocked me in when I was a baby and my sister too.

As we rocked and talked, her feet dangling way down near mine, her long body all pretzeled up in my own, she said to me:

"I like that Barack Obama. He is a good person. I think he will be a good president."

And I told her I agreed.

She also told me she thought he was pretty.

I told her I agreed.

I cannot wait to tell her tomorrow that the pretty, good person won. That the good person, the best person won. And that I believe her life, the lives of all of us will be better for it. That forty years after someone had a dream, it actually came true.

I cannot wait to tell her.

And when I do, first thing tomorrow, I'm betting she will say two things. One: oh, that's good. And two: what do we have for breakfast?

And I will get her breakfast and I will pack lunches and I will find her brother's tiny orange basketball for him and I will make beds and answer email but it will all be better and done with less anxiety in my heart than I've had in a long while and I will breathe easier and I will be grateful, grateful to be here seeing our country doing well. Moving forward. Making change. Having hope. Believing.

And for today, that is exactly enough.