Category Archives: birthdays

A decade of the mighty Quinn

imageMany years ago, Quinn was described by his grandmother as formidable. She was so right, he most certainly is. There are some other words that can be used to describe my forever baby boy – relentless, sweet, affectionate and funny. In honor of his 10th birthday, please let me share a few moments and memories which truly define my youngest son.

Quinn is sensitive and thoughtful. Unlike our current spoiled dog, Jeter, his predecessor, Cassidy, wasn’t given bed privileges. Recently, Quinn asked if it would be ok to place the urn containing Cassidy’s ashes on the bed just so she would know what it was like to sleep there.  Pretty sweet, right?

Quinn is articulate and well-spoken. During one of our regular evening battles to complete his homework, he asked me to not yell at him. He explained to me that he is motivated by happiness and love. His self awareness is impressive and I can only hope that both of those emotions will always be present, in excess, in his life.

Quinn is growing up too fast and his sense of humor is often a bit too mature for his years. Having two older brothers makes for an abbreviated childhood, I’m afraid. Please don’t ask about the South Park fish sticks episode that prompted a call home from his teacher.  Last week he told me that I had to stop treating him like a baby because he is “practically double digits.” I understand the inevitability of Quinn growing up but I really wish it could all slow down just a little. I think he’s mighty fine already.

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Down a stud. Again.

imageFor my 18th birthday I received my first pair of diamond earrings. They were a gift from my boyfriend, (his father was a jeweler), and the .25 carat stones were considered “perfect.” I loved those earrings years longer than I loved that boyfriend.

4 or 5 years after I was given those studs, I lost one. I was in a hotel in the Soviet Union, maybe Moscow, and realized that one was missing from my ear. My (different) boyfriend and I crawled around on the communist quality carpeting looking in vain for the small earring. I grew impatient and gave up, consoling myself with the thought of the housekeeper finding it and somehow using it to improve her life day by buying goods which were only available to residents with “hard currency.”

Andy, who never was one to abandon hope, found the earring a few minutes later. I still have that pair of earrings.

Years later, I was given a new pair of diamond solitaire earrings. These were a bit more sizable and I wore them all the time. They, as all diamonds do, went with everything and gave me an accessory that was timelessly beautiful. The day I reached up to my earlobe and found one of those earrings missing was a very dark day indeed. I felt really sad and somehow incomplete without the earrings that I believed gave me, in a weird way, status. Within a short period of time, the earring was replaced, with an improvement – screw backs.

Friday, on my way home from the golf course, it happened again. My hand went to my earlobe to absentmindedly spin the posts in my ears and there was one missing. I had again lost one of my diamond studs. My immediate response was physical – a sinking in my stomach and an increase in my heartrate. This sucked. I quickly tried to mentally replay my day and  speculate about when and where it may have gone missing. I came up with some possibilities which demanded exploration.

I started with the car. Nothing. At home, I undressed carefully hoping the earring was somehow attached to me. No. I crawled around my bedroom floor, feeling the rug with my hands in hopes of coming across the errant earring. No dice. Or ice. I felt myself growing upset over the loss but reeled it in pretty quickly. It was an earring, one which had been worn with enjoyment many, many times. In the big picture, it really wasn’t that important. Not everything we love is forever.

To feel that I’ve made a fair effort, there are a couple of additional spots I still want to look when I’m back at work, but, if it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m thinking maybe I’m just not supposed to have a pair of diamond stud earrings. Maybe I’m more a diamond solitaire necklace girl.

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Not all heroes wear uniforms, not every prince has a throne

DSC_0029Today is my brother’s 50th birthday.  I know I’ve said it before, but my brother has  been the one constant in my life.  This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have our times of conflict.  I recall darts being thrown at my feet to encourage me to vacate his room and spats over typical sibling bullshit, but, ultimately, if I ever needed anything, I’m talking protection, advice, $, he gave it to me.

Having only one sibling, and about a half a parent, made for an independent life.  There are times when weeks, maybe even months, have passed without my brother and I speaking.  Like some sort of German standoff, I may have even consciously not called him just to see how long it would be until he called me.  He always wins.  It doesn’t really matter, though, because when I do finally break down and dial his number, he almost always answers.

The thought that there is only a single person in the entire universe who shared your childhood is sobering.  Without my brother, I’m the sole keeper of legends and memories – a pretty weighty responsibility for the child with a reputation for being a bit wild.  Even though our recollections aren’t always (ever?) identical, the comfort of knowing that he was there, we were in it together, is reassuringly grounding.  The world feels like a safer place with him it.

Our mother complained that the boys in her family (and there were a lot of them) were treated better than the girls, they were considered “princes,” while the girls were more scullery maids.  As a parent, she continued that tradition and, if you’ve ever met the Lilly boys, you know I’m guilty of the same thing.  DSC_0014
On a Veteran’s Day a half century ago my brother was born.  His uniform is more lab coat than camo, his throne the same stool he’s been sitting on for at least 35 years, but these details do nothing to diminish the fact that, to me, he is a hero and a prince. Happy birthday, TJM!

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Words that moved me during year 47

wordle

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.

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My just deserts

DSC_0121We celebrated a birthday this week, in a fairly low-key fashion. While I generally write a birthday piece and devote it to the celebrant, I struggled with a cohesive message when it came to my middle son’s birthday and a litany of pithy observations and attributes just felt forced. You see, he is, as my estranged mother likes to assert, the one who is “just like me.” While she would like to believe that he is my punishment for all the terrible things I put her through during my own teen years, I disagree. He is my triumph.

When my first child was born, organized me was totally ill prepared. He was early, he was small and he arrived surgically rather than in anything remotely resembling the Bradley birth for which we had been preparing. He became critically ill, a consequence in my mother’s eyes of my own stubbornness and incompetence, rather than the fault of a medical team who failed to make a routine and simple diagnosis. Feeding him was a challenge and he missed milestone after milestone. With all of the necessary interventions, it was a long time before I felt like he was “mine”* and could confidently manage his care and develop routines that worked for us.

Griffin, though? He is my child, not my mother’s, not a medical patient, not an early intervention case to be managed. He arrived on the precise day for which I was hoping – the last day of April and not the first of May, my own mother’s birthday. He is a gift to me, my very own diamond, albeit one which remains in need of a little polishing.

I birthed this child and fed him from my own body for more than a year. Together with his dad, I dressed and nurtured him, feeling capable in my veteran mother status. He started running as soon as he was vertical at a mere 11 months. His first word was “Go!” which he yelled at the vehicle in front of us, after the light had turned green and the driver failed to step on the gas fast enough. He continues to be the child who most resembles his parents in terms of physical strength, coordination and interest in athletics. He can thank his Dad for his gorgeous curls and rue his maternal genes which came complete with freckles and a mild form of a condition known as pectus excavatum.

Mirroring my own personality, he is inclined to intolerance when it comes to bureaucratic educational nonsense and tends to be a bit of a fashionista. Like his dad, he has a mind for math along with a tendency to procrastinate and then respond with frustration when he finds himself overwhelmed by an avalanche of responsibilities. He’ll make it through, though. He’s smart and sensitive, social and funny as a hell, and I understand him in a way that feels completely intuitive and natural.

If being “just like me” means my son will find his own path through life, with the added benefit of two parents who love and support him, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the sweet “punishment” the universe has imposed. He is just what I deserve.

*When I say “mine,” in no way am I suggesting that he is more mine than he is his father’s. Of course, he is ours.

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On the edge of 17

From last year's trip to Europe.

From last year’s trip to Europe.

It’s been almost 17 years since I became a parent. Impossible. When my water broke 5+ weeks before my due date, I remember feeling more excited than nervous, confident that my baby would be healthy and hearty. The unusually warm temperature (a record, it turned out) seemed a positive beacon and I went to the hospital with an easy heart and only a light sweater for warmth on a late February day.

My son’s early arrival was my first lesson in parenting and it was a bit of a challenge for me. After conceiving in my first month’s attempt and enjoying a very easy pregnancy, I was shocked to be completely lacking in control when it came to when (now!) and how (c-section) he would make his entrance. My world shifted and I scrambled to hold on.

I don’t think it is possible to predict how, or how much, having a child will change a person. Finding the balance between placing child(ren) in the center of our universe, while remembering the importance of retaining our own identities and independence demands grace and poise, not necessarily my strengths. It’s a strange thing sometimes. While I love being recognized as so-and-so’s mother, I often find myself hesitating when I sign my name on a note I’ve written to my children. Identifying myself as “Mom” still feels remarkably new, even after 17 years in the role.

Prior to becoming a parent, I had imagined all of the things I would teach my child – how to walk, speak, read, swim, travel… What I hadn’t really considered were all the things I would learn about myself from my children. I now know I can be incredibly patient, fiercely protective and relentlessly organized. On the less positive side, I’m critical, inclined to blunt sarcasm and often guilty of doing too many of the household tasks myself without demanding some effort from the boys. It’s probably a control thing.

Ultimately, though, what I find most fascinating about being a mom, is witnessing my children learn who they are as individuals. It is absolutely amazing to see the unique creatures that have been created by using the same genetic contributions. Seeing my oldest son evolve from a premature, critically ill infant into a strong and healthy young man has been remarkable.  As he marks his 17th birthday, I recognize that we both began a new life that February afternoon in 1997.

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The Beatles, my boys and a birthday

If I think back on music from my childhood, The Beatles  immediately come to mind.  They were definitely the soundtrack of many car rides in my memory.

Freshman year of high school, I remember the painful decision of which album to pick – the Red One or the Blue One.  I don’t remember which I ultimately chose.  I know I loved it.

When my oldest son was born, 5+ weeks early, I didn’t have a pediatrician, nor did I know a single lullaby or nursery song.  Or so I thought. Doing the new baby rock and walk, I found myself humming Beatles’ songs, sometimes even murmuring the lyrics.

My first digital camera had a memory stick that held about 8 images or a seconds long video.  There was a mini movie of the oldest 2 Lilly boys singing their hearts out to Hey, Jude, including all the Judy, Judys and a perfectly timed and heartfelt “Ow.”  I have no idea where that memory stick is and it doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget that moment.

My youngest child turned nine today on the very same day that marks 50 years since The Beatles invaded America.  Perfect synchronicity.  Quinn’s love for The Beatles is pure and relentless, just like him.  He hasn’t yet tired of discussing the tragedy of George’s cancer or John’s assassination.  He knows the words to countless songs and when he doesn’t, he enthusiastically makes up his own.

What remains inside of us is a wonder only second to what, in fact, comes out.
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