It was summer and I was about 13 years old. I don’t know what initially started the disagreement, but words flew between me and the other girl. She was from a family of girls and she was far meaner than I. She wrapped up her verbal assault with a shocking assertion regarding my mother, my brother and myself. The sound of her words stung me with an undeniable ring of truth and I immediately recognized that secrets hurt.
Secrets are kind of like snakes – what makes them scary is that they appear unannounced. If only they would wear collars with bells which tinkled as they approached! Since that isn’t realistic, living life in the open without rocks to hide under seems to me to be the best way of preventing things from sneaking up you. So, that’s what I do.
The secrets that Mary Lambert sings about are not my own, yet this song still perfectly expresses my own sensibility of secrets. I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are. So what.
Another year around the sun complete. Some words which moved me – to smile, to laugh, to think, to cry.
Life is full. Times passes quickly. Each day is a gift.
Filed under aging, birthdays
You remember that Billy Preston song, don’t you? I don’t think I’ve heard it or even thought of it in at least 20 years. Until about two weeks ago, that is. The context that day was a theme park, a carousel, and a boy. The song popped into my head and caused me to smile.
The most recent mowing of my neighbor’s yard also featured circles. I know I’ve shared before the artistic mowing for which, among his other artistic endeavors, my neighbor is known. As soon as I saw the pattern from my deck, I once again heard that tune bouncing around in my brain.
During my run last night, the song came for the third time. These things usually happen in threes, right? I was reflecting on a personal situation and thought about the uncountable conversations which seem to consistently travel in a circular fashion. Although I like to travel in a circle, preferring to take a different route home than the one I took during departure, when it comes to relationship interactions, circular is definitely not satisfying.
Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?
I just don’t know.
One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers. Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace. I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else? Very.
Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend. Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros. I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter. Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage. Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage. There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.
Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition. I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves, sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force. Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating. Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected. That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent. Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.
As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything. She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.
We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now. There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long. For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach. There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family. She’s truly the mother of my heart.
Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:
“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…
I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”
It breaks my heart a little bit each time.
Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.
I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.
Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.
It seems that so much of life involves schedules and commitments. When we’re at work, during our designated work hours, we frequently have to respond to the demands of others, doing what “they” want, when “they” want it. In my chosen profession(s) I have to be responsive to other people’s needs and, when it’s work time, I don’t take issue with it at all. But, when I’m on vacation, that’s just not happening.
I’m a morning person. It isn’t unusual for me to wake up with the birds and I love the sense of feeling in tune with the earth. Since I need something in my tummy before I can drink coffee, breakfast is a mandatory meal for me. Beyond that, though, I’m winging it. I don’t want to feel pressured to have a meal just because it’s lunch time or dinner time. I want to eat when I’m hungry or to line my stomach before enjoying a cocktail or three. It’s vacation. Unless I have reservations for somewhere, I’m all about eating simply when I feel like it.
Not surprisingly for a librarian, I’m super organized. I prefer to stay on top of things in terms of tidying up, laundry and keeping our stuff under control. I hate the feeling of haphazard inefficiency. Seriously, it makes me more than a little insane. To avoid this, I try to combine errands and minimize the number of times I have to get in and out of my car. Particularly when we’re staying on an island that is inaccessible by car when the tide is in.
I’m realizing that I might be challenging to be around on vacation since I feel about vacation as I do about running: it’s my time to completely set my own pace. Beyond the rhythm of the tides, I won’t be pressured to abide by anyone else’s schedule or demands. It’s my vacation and I want to go with my own flow. Don’t you?
The sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.
I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.
I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?
Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.
Time to feed the hummingbirds.