Imagine how much harder you would be laughing right now if Cheli was telling this story. Happy Mother’s day to all of the moms and moths out there. I hope you have a wonderful day.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The good news is that this year on mother’s day I know I won’t actually die from missing my mom; because I made it through last year. The bad news is my mom is still dead and mother’s day is still really, really hard. I’m certain that it will get easier over time; people I love and trust who have been through it tell me it is so; but it’s just awful. There is a Cheli shaped hole in my heart that I don’t imagine will ever be filled.
Having kids makes it better....and it makes it worse. Part of me wants to spend the day in my bed with the covers pulled up high over my head blocking out reality but that won’t work for my kids or for the me that Cheli raised. Part of the magic of Cheli is celebration of holidays; the real and the imagined ones (you may be unaware that the day after Monday holidays are a sanctioned holiday in my family). It’s important to me that my kids have oodles and oodles of magic in their lives. Belief in magic is one of the best gifts my mom bestowed upon me. I’m 42, I know the secret identities of the Easter bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy but they’re still magic to me, part of me still believes. I want my kids to have that same feeling. And, I want my kids to know that days like mother’s day are important. Not because your mom shouldn’t be important to you all of the time, not because it’s the only day a year you should buy her flowers but because when you are a mom every other single day of the year is dedicated to other people.
My grandparents always made sure that we made a big deal out of mother’s day because my mom was on her own; my brother and I just never stopped. We always made sure that the day was about her and my kids do their level best to make it about me (like for instance, they’re taking me to brunch and they let me buy some running shoes) That being said, the older I get the more I realize that most of the things our kids think are about us are really still about them. They are the reason that I will not stay in my bed with the covers pulled high over my head. They are the reason I will go to brunch and I will open my (surprise) running shoes and they are the reason that eventually mother’s day won’t be so hard. In that I am truly blessed; my kids have studied magic under the best, they’ve had Cheli for a grandma, it will take no time at all for them to have me laughing through breakfast.
And so, because it is mother’s day and because I am missing my mom and because she was truly, truly hilariously funny I think I will end this post with a Cheli story; really, it’s an Erin story best told by Cheli. I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it and think that I’m a really good story teller but at the same time I hope you’ll also know that while I am a really good story teller and I do a fair job, I have nothing on Cheli. I wish she was here to tell it to you herself....you have no idea what you’re missing, but I do.
It’s late at night. My brother is visiting from Denver and has been out and had a couple of drinks. He gets dropped off by a friend and tries to quietly sneak into the house. Suddenly a voice whispers urgently from the dark,
“Erin, I’m a moth.”
A moth? He thinks. He looks around.
“Erin, I’m a moth.”
He can’t figure out what is going on and where is this moth that is speaking to him? But he is determined to find it, he looks everywhere trying to locate the moth. Again...
“Erin, I’m a moth.”
He recognizes the voice, it is our mother. Apparently, she’s become a moth.
Like all good children he knows he must respond, even if she’s a moth; she’s still his mother.
“I hear you, I just don’t understand how you became a moth.” He says with all seriousness. Because, really, what does one do when their mother has become a moth?
When the moth starts her genetically acquired Dastardly Dog laugh, his confusion grows.
“Look up.” At which point Erin looks up and sees my mom standing at the railing of the master suite balcony that looks over the family room.
“I said, ‘I am in the LOFT’ not ‘I am a fucking moth.’” She says as she is doubled over in laughter, she was whispering in an effort to not disturb John who was sleeping (which is about to become impossible).
“I heard you come in and I wanted you to give me the bottle of Advil from the kitchen counter.” She says when she’s finally able to get out the words.
Erin gets the super-size bottle of Advil off of the counter.
“I’ll bring it up.” he says.
“Just throw it to me,” she says, “I don’t want to wake up John.”
So he throws the bottle. She misses it. It hits the railing. Do you see where this is going yet?
As the bottle hits the railing the lid comes off and arcs up and into the cathedral ceiling-ed family room. One thousand Advil tablets rain down on my brother, on the family room....on everything. Dropping one Advil is not particularly loud or disturbing. One thousand Advil tablets exploded with great force from a second story balcony makes one hell of a statement. My brother is lying on the floor doubled over in laughter. My mother is doubled over the balcony railing (no doubt peeing on herself) unable to speak because she is laughing so hard. John has ejected himself from his bed in terror believing himself and his family to be under attack from outside forces.
It is three a.m. and everyone in the house is wide awake, a moth nowhere to be found. My brother spends an hour picking up Advil on his hands and knees. Not because it takes that long to pick up one thousand Advil, but because he cannot stop laughing.
Imagine how much harder you would be laughing right now if Cheli was telling this story. Happy Mother’s day to all of the moms and moths out there. I hope you have a wonderful day.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I have surrounded myself with women I can relate to. I am so blessed in my life to have a literal brigade of women who I both admire and call friend. This weekend is mother’s day and I find myself thinking about all of my friends who are also moms. Probably because I was raised by one and because for a time I was one, I have been specifically thinking about single moms. The life of a single mom is complicated at best and bat-shit crazy at worst. When I was in my early twenties my friend Debbie was a single mom to a beautiful little girl named Ariel.
I have a good friend who is in her late twenties, she is a single mom and parts of her life are very familiar to me. Becca is an ex-marine, she’s done multiple tours, messed up her body in service to her country (you know, when women weren’t in combat), she’s won medals she doesn’t talk about unless you drag the information out of her (and even then it is all downplayed), and she’s putting herself through school on the GI bill all while single parenting.
Becca, like every woman I’ve ever met (myself included, which you can read about here and here ), has had her share of broken hearts and disappointments and all of them are amped up just a little bit more because she is a mom.
One of the things over which we’ve bonded is operating on instinct. The entire basis for my existence on the planet is my sense of my own good instincts; they are, nearly always, impeccable. In fact, the only time I ever falter in my life is when I choose, for one reason or another, to ignore them. At 41 (wait, oh my God, I’m 42 not 41) it is much easier, more comfortable, more natural to listen to them than it is at 29. The only time I failed badly in regard to my instincts was when I was around 22 (in case you didn’t get enough the first time I posted it, here it is) and it sent me into a tailspin. I acted out, got myself into all kinds of boy trouble, drank too much and did too many drugs; I pretty much went off the rails until I was saved by an unplanned karmically (don't look in the dictionary, I made it up) induced pregnancy engineered by two failed forms of birth control both with success rates over 98% resulting in what will someday be the perfect man (Oh the irony. And hey, Aidan? No pressure to be perfect, girls like flaws). I thought my instincts had been wrong (turns out they weren't but that would take years and years to discover and is a story for another day) and what I perceived as a failure became the new, and thankfully temporary, basis for my existence. Basically, if I felt it I was certain it must not be valid so I did what any highly intelligent Irish girl with boobs and daddy issues would do; I chased a lot of boys. Eventually I learned to trust my instincts again and eventually I figured out that if you find a reformed bad boy you get the best of both worlds. It worked out in the end.
But Becca....well, I don’t envy her. I can’t even imagine having to date today. The first, and to me, the most obvious problem is texting. Don’t get me wrong, I love texting but texting with people you don’t know well can be dangerous. Sometimes texting with people you’ve known forever can be dangerous. It is very hard to read tone in text and if you don’t know someone very, very well then most of the tone gets lost. Tone is, by far, the most important cue in a conversation. Because dealing with boys via phone and in person when at least you had facial and voice cues wasn’t hard enough, they needed to add another new dimension to the the hell that is dating as a single parent. A while back Becca had her own derailment and has found herself not trusting her instincts, it’s too bad; she has fantastic instincts. No amount of me telling her it is safe to do so is going to fix it; at some point she will figure it out herself and be okay. I can hardly wait; she’s a fantastic friend and parent while she’s going through all of this crap; she’s going to be breathtaking after coming through on the other end.
You can’t explain to someone that no amount of avoiding answering the phone is going to protect you from getting hurt, and that sometimes it prevents you from getting a free breakfast with a boy you really like. You can’t arbitrarily shut down your emotions to avoid getting involved or to avoid getting hurt. Well you can, but not without a price. If you ever want to find real, lasting love, there is every chance that you’re going to get the crap beat out of you along the way, my experience is that every single, solitary bruise is worth it. I wouldn't trade my bruised and sometimes broken heart for a shiny new one, not for anything, neither should you, Becca.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Today was a bad day for Boston and for our entire country. Today is Patriot's day and should have been a great day; especially in Boston where people from 96 countries gathered to run the 117th Boston Marathon, the oldest marathon in the United States. Details are still unfolding, but at least three people are dead and over a hundred wounded. There will be lots to say about who the bad guys are, what they did, why they did it and how they did it.
But there is also this; no one comes together in crisis quite like Americans. Say what you will about us; and much of it is true, as a country our society is plagued with problems large and small. But we are inherently good. Show me one terrorist with a bomb and I will show you a thousand Americans with hearts the size of bulldozers and the strength of character to match.
The 78 year old runner that was knocked down from the blast got back up and finished the race, he finished second in his division. On Twitter people in Boston were offering their homes to people who had become separated from their groups or were far from home or just confused as to where to go. Two veterans of the war in Afghanistan ran into the blast to help people and then when first responders showed up to take over they went to the hospital to donate blood. The Red Cross reports that blood supplies are full due to the generous donations of citizens.
Because that is what we do. We fall down, we get up, we look around and we see if anyone else needs help, we help them up. There are always going to be bad guys. Someone is always going to steal a wallet and some religious zealot is always going to try and blow something up. But we are more than that. There are always more good people than bad and on a sad day like today it is worth remembering.
When explaining today's events to my children I am going to rely on two people, both much smarter than myself; Mr. Rogers and his mother.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"
It is true. Turn on the news and you will not see the bad guys, the bad guys are hiding, the bad guys are cowards. What you will see are the helpers. You will see helpers everywhere. God bless the helpers, God bless the victims and God bless Boston.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
I used to have the most vivid dreams. So real, in fact, that once when I was 14 I dreamed about a boy that I liked and I woke up thinking we were actually dating (A big shout out to John Mokey who's dream counterpart was a fantastic kisser and who gave me one of my best hours of high school), it took me a full hour to realize that it had just been a dream. This says something important about me; I don't know what though.
I stopped dreaming in August of 2011 when my mom died. I miss dreams, I go to bed every night hoping that this will be the night they return. Sometimes in the morning I have a very fleeting memory of a very fleeting dream but nothing concrete, nothing I can hold onto for more than a moment. Except twice. Last night I had an incredibly vivid dream and let's just say that this blog would not be the proper outlet for the kind of dream that was. The first dream was on Christmas morning 2011, the first Christmas without my mom. After all of the paper had been torn, batteries inserted and toys flung about in wild abandon I laid back down in my bed and I dreamed about my Mom.
It's Christmas morning and I'm sitting in my actual living room on a wing back recliner that my mom bought from Habersham Plantation in 1988. My mom is sitting in the wing back next to mine; they are both in front of my fireplace. My mom's legs are tucked up under her the way she sat in a chair or on a couch for her entire life. She isn't sick. If I had to put money on it I'd say she is 32. I am 40. Olivia is sitting tucked into the space between my mom and the chair quietly playing with a doll; my mom's arms are wrapped around her. Grace is on the floor in front of her playing with a new toy. Aidan is lying on the floor with a book and Erin is lying on the couch. I tuck my legs up like hers.
"Can they see you?" I ask.
"No" she says.
"Can you always see us?" I ask.
"Yes. I always can" she says.
"Do you miss us?" I ask.
"No. I am always with you. I can see you and I can hear you" she says.
"I miss you" I say.
"I know. That's why I'm here" she says.
"Mom, I'm sorry" I say.
"Kristyn, you have nothing to be sorry for. You are exactly enough. You are an amazing mom, you are going to be okay and I love you" she says.
When I sit up in my bed my first thought is I want to go back. My second thought is that even dead my mom managed to come up with a fantastic Christmas present; only Cheli. The thing is, there is no going back. Life is all about forward motion and that morning my mom gave me a little shove down the path to reclaiming myself. That journey is a project in progress, it has bumped and chugged and occasionally stalled out. But it is moving forward; I am moving forward and I become more sure of myself as I go. My mom was really good at just figuring crap out and moving on. I've been told I'm the same. I feel like I owe a debt of gratitude to her for giving me a little push. I'm not there yet but I feel like I am well on my way to being my best self. If you want to rise up out of the ashes like a phoenix you can't always afford to wait for someone else to burn things down. Sometimes, you have to burn your own shit down. Fire in the hole, people, fire in the hole.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Today was a bad day. My mother in law is sick, I’m worried for her and too far away. I somehow managed to throw myself down the stairs in celebration of President’s day. And I can’t sleep in part, because I think I have a concussion and I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I won’t wake up and my kids will be sitting writing sad blog posts about the loss of their mom with their hair uncombed and no vegetables in their bellies. So I’m working really hard to relax.
I’m sitting and watching The History of The Eagles, Part One and I can feel the loss of my mother as keenly as I would feel the loss of my leg. Most days she is a dull ache in the back of my bones like a whisper of arthritis. Today it is more, it’s like the fall I took down the stairs; I’m walking along, minding my business and then I find myself laying on the floor trying to figure out how I bashed my skull and cracked a rib. So I’m listening to Don Henley and Glenn Frey and my entire childhood is laid out before me like a soft, warm blanket; but with something missing. What it is missing, of course, is it’s heart; my mom. As I’m listening to these songs and artists that are such an integral part of my childhood I am listening with a different ear; the ear of a woman instead of a child. For me The Eagles are my mother, I can take myself back to age six, I am draped across my mother’s body on our new couch and she is absentmindedly playing with my hair as Peaceful, Easy Feeling plays on the record player. Another day she is lying on the couch with my brother playing on the floor in front of her as I flip through album covers over and over and Linda Ronstadt sings Desperado, we haven’t been in our new house long, but she has constructed an entertainment center made of wooden planks and cinder blocks; I think it is beautiful. Anywhere she has been she has left behind her the feeling of home like a magical cloud of sweet smelling smoke. She was a firm believer in her home rising up to meet her long before it was a concept, long before she had money to do it easily. I am 41 years old and I can tell you many of the albums in that stack, I can picture each of the covers; Jackson Browne-The Pretender, The Eagles-The Eagles, Hotel California, Linda Ronstadt-Simple Dreams, Greatest Hits, Heart Like A Wheel, Bob Seger-Live Bullet, Night Moves, Beautiful Loser, Pablo Cruise-A Place in The Sun, Willie Nelson-Red Headed Stranger, Fleetwood Mac-Rumours. Back then I listened to her music and I loved it, probably because I loved her; I wanted to be with her, I wanted to be like her, I wanted her to want me with her always. I listen to music all the time; it is what keeps me sane some days. My son has not one inch of respect for anything I listen to, none at all. Olivia and Grace (especially Grace) listen to what I love and take it for their own. So, it’s an interesting mix, they get what I listen to of my Mom’s; Fleetwood Mac, Linda, the Eagles and what I’m into now; Grace Potter, Brandi Carlile, Kris Delmhorst, Patti Griffin, The Lumineers, Maroon Five, Blake Shelton, the list goes on and on. I wonder if they will grow up and ask me why I listened to a particular song over and over again and what it meant to me when they are finally old enough to realize that not every thought I had was about them; I look forward to their questions.
As an adult I listen to it having experienced many of the things that my mom experienced in her life; I have loved, I have been broken, I have been disappointed, I have re-grouped and started again. Having spent the time between her death and now sort of re-inventing and re-claiming myself I now listen to those same songs and wonder what my mom was thinking thirty five years ago while she was playing with my hair on the couch. I know my mom’s love stories, I know her heart breaks, but I’d like to ask her more questions. I always have more questions... why wouldn’t you listen to Wasted Time? I love that song, did something or someone ruin it for you? Because, mom, I’ve got to tell you; I listen to that song and I just relate to it, I know you did too. There are things I want to tell her too, things that I should have or maybe even things I did but can’t recall; that drives me crazy. There was an Alabama song that sort of summed up my one big broken heart. It was called If I Had You and I literally couldn’t listen to it after we were over. My mom nursed me through that broken heart and one day, many, many years, a marriage and three kids later I walked into her house to find her crying, listening to that song. I was taken off guard because I not heard it in years and I’d had no idea it had any significance to her. I asked why she was crying, my mom wasn’t a crier like I am, and she was crying because she just remembered how wholly broken I had been and how sad she had been for not being able to help me, she told me there is nothing in the world like watching your child’s heart break and as a mother I can certainly understand that now. I don’t remember if I ever told her that she took that pain from me when she made it her own; I’ve been able to listen to If I Had You since that moment and I think she knew she kept my head above water then but I’d like to tell her again.
For now, I’m going to play The Eagles on my iPod, lean back in my recliner and nurse my wounds; physical and emotional, close my eyes and feel my childhood wash over me soaking me in 1970s southern California rock and the surety of my mom’s love.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Except for the Kaminski children, you do not often read words here about my husband’s family. I don’t really write very specifically about Dan because I think it would probably cause problems between us; if I put things in writing about our relationship a)he would have a place to check back and try and prove me wrong and b)I’m not ever wrong but I don’t want to make him feel bad about it, because in addition to being right I am also an understanding soul. The reason you don’t hear about the rest of the Kaminski and Barry family is not because they are unloved by me or because they are crazy in-laws or because they are in the witness protection program; it isn’t even because they’ve asked me not to talk about them. It is because I don’t think they’d like it; unlike my boundary-less, attention seeking media-hound family (oh wait, maybe that’s only me), as a group they don’t seem to feel the need to share every thought that goes through their heads with the world at large via personal blogs and facebook. Okay, so maybe they are a little weird....
Today I am breaking my own rules to talk about Patti. Patti is my mother in law but before she was that she was my friend. For those that don’t know Dan and I well, a little background would be helpful. I grew up knowing my mom’s friends well. My mom was a good friend to have and for most of my life she had the same friends. When I was in my twenties she started hanging out with the group, with the exception of my mom, the rest of the group had been friends for years. There were six including my mom and Patti. I think my mom and Patti became close bonding over their similarly aged (read, similarly pain in the ass) children; Laurie and Dan were born in 1970 and 1972, Erin and I were born in 1971 and 1973. Every year a different member hosts the group Christmas party. I have a healthy sense of family obligation and every year I brought myself and my son to the party because my mom wanted to show us off. My mom is dead so now I get to re-write history; my mom didn’t want to show me off, she wanted to show off her grandson and get a bonus designated driver, but there is no one to argue with me, so let’s go with she wanted to show us off. In 1999 the party was at Patti’s house, and she wrangled her kids into attending. Dan and I met and fell in love at first sight. Okay, I’m re-writing history again, honestly, I thought he’d be fun to make out with, he liked my boobs; look where that got me, be careful what you wish for, ladies.
So since then Dan and I have been together. It probably seemed fun to our mothers for about the first five minutes and then, I’m certain, it sucked. Dan and I had an exciting courtship (read, drama, drama, drama). My mother had a forceful personality (read, big mouth) and Patti had to listen to a lot of crap because my belief that I’m always right is a genetic trait; my mom was always right too (she just thought she was, I really am). So, in a completely genuine, not boring or wall flowery way, my mother in law is perfect; she is the epitome of shut up and wear beige. There was a very specific point at which Patti decided not to argue about Dan and I anymore. It mostly took the wind out of my mom’s sails and they went back to being good friends. I stopped talking smack about Dan to my mom....and I started talking smack (and by smack, I’m talking leaving the toothpaste cap off, not hookers and drugs) about Dan to his mom. Which may seem like a bad idea, and quite honestly would have been, with a lesser person. I just figured she loved him too so I could bitch about him and she’d get it. For which I probably owe her a sizable apology and a huge debt of gratitude; thanks, Patti.
Patti and I are what you might call copacetic. We love a lot of the same people; Dan, Aidan, Grace, Olivia, Erin. We just get along, I’d say our temperaments were similar, but I’d be lying. I’m a pain in the ass, she’s a really nice, easy person. If I annoy her or if she secretly detests me; she should get an Oscar; she is a fantastic actress. I honestly can’t think of a cross word that she’s ever said to me and I’m sure I’ve been a snot at some point...you’ve met me?
When the girls were born Patti and her sister Marilyn (who is fabulous and adored by me in her own right) started coming over on Saturday mornings to give me a break. Pretty much every Saturday morning of their lives has involved their Grammy and their Auntie Mare...and doughnuts. They, as a team, have been beyond generous with their personal time and their love for each of my three children; I would not have made it through the first year or two of the girls’ life without the knowledge of that break on Saturday morning. If I have not said it enough; thank you, thank you, thank you.
When my mom got sick Patti is who held Erin and I together most days at the hospital. I don’t even have words (and I have a lot of words) to express what her support during that time meant to me and to my brother. And here is the thing; the motherless daughters club is expansive, there are far, far too many members. Of that club, there are three people on the planet that I am certain feel the same way about the loss of their moms as I do. They are Jessie Fenner, Donna Peters and Patti. Patti has been, by far, the most supportive woman in my life in regards to the loss of my mom. She just gets it. Her relationship with her mom was much, much different than my own and yet...and yet. That is all. She is just an irreplaceable, fantastic person in my life; she knows it, I tell her all the time, but I’d like everyone else to know it. Because, this...this is a bonafide love letter. I have often joked with Patti that I may not have won the husband lottery, but I damn sure won the mother in law lottery and it is entirely true. Patti Kaminski, you are absolutely, without a doubt one of my very favorite people on this planet. Thank you for taking me and my son and my brother into your family. Thank you for being my friend and thank you for just being generally fantastic. I love you.