Monday, December 17, 2012

Yes, Joy. (Love to Newtown)

Found myself singing Oh Happy Day on my way to work this morning.

When Lily heard her first gospel last year she jived with her eyes closed to it.
It was a beautiful moment.
She felt the music and the words.
Washed right through her.

And it is a Happy Day.
It is.

I feel it.
The Joy.

Every morning when I hear Lily bursting with song from behind closed doors as she busies herself in the bathroom.
I feel it when she proudly shows me her Yellow Taxi Box constructed at school,
as a friend climbs in behind her and requests a ride to 86th Street.
I feel it when I think of my friends in Portland.
New York.

And family.

Of fellow moms with whom I share this voyage.
As we relish and commiserate, laugh, hug, rant and cry over the blessings and aches of parenthood.

I feel it when gentle fog keeps a morning soft.

I feel it when our President is such a man
That he sheds expected armor for grief.
Shows us that human strength can be measured with tears and compassion.
Takes us right back to Rosey Grier singing It's Alright to Cry.
(Go on, click it.)

Because it is.

And so many hearts are weeping through these December days.
And will weep and weep until they feel as though the pain can't cut any deeper.
Though it surely will.
Through the bone and the heart and the roots and the deep deep dirt.
It will crumple and crush until all the air seems gone.

So I must let myself feel the joy.

That I get another day with my girl.
And she gets another day with so many who love her.
And that there are some things I can do to fulfill my part of the job as best I can.
Shower her with love.
Hold her hand crossing the street.
Buckle her in.
Feed her good food.
Say no as I wrap my arms around her.

I struggle.
A lot.
And fear is no friend to any mom or dad.
All we want is the best for our children.
They mean so much to us

Beloved Treasures.

Our beautiful little animals who's scents we inhale every night.
Feed and bathe and stroke and pat and nudge.

Lily and I often say to one another
I Love You More Than Words Can Tell.
And though she may not grasp the depth of the lyric, I love feeling her hot breath as she child-whispers the words sweetly and indelicately into my ear.

This morning she yelled them from the bathroom.
Followed by, I love you more than ice creeeeeeeeam!
I love you more than crocodiles!


Lucky day.
Lovely day.
Every day is a joyful day.

When we get to be with them.

May we all have many, many

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh November...

What a number this November has pulled.
Around us lives were washed away.
From our backyards.
From arms.
Loving arms.

just like


Not a believer that things happen for a reason - they do, but I don't believe some presence somewhere directs. Unless it's a beloved spirit watching, guiding, loving from above.
Nature just .... is.
Happy, angry, reactive, vulnerable

so like my girl. too.
and her mom.

We can be a torrential team.
And our recent home-life has endured it's own storm of sorts.
Filled with love and fun but also battles of will.
Like mother like daughter, we are stoic forces
with wispy,
fragile insides.

A month of unrest.
And I, a mother of unrest.
Lily is moving, growing, shaking like the earth, reaching stunningly to grab hold of something but I'm not sure what it is.

Could be Alan.
Maybe not.

But she is trying valiantly, to steady herself, and I as well.
It's not easy being three going on twelve.
And it's sure as hell not easy being an only parent.
A lonely, only parent
(why am I now singing that to the tune of Rhinestone Cowboy?)

Puts the hardest job

Tops the top.

She wants to know what her dad sounded like.
Rich, deep, velvety.
I play her a recorded framed picture I have of us.
Hi Sus. I love you Sus.
He says.
She wants to know what Halloween candy he liked.
This one mama? This one? She asks
Yes, yes, no, no ... KitKat, Nerds, Twizzlers.
Weeks ago on a walk home from the park
Is Daddy alone mama?

Oh to have one's darkest fears articulated by a child.

I don't think so pumpkin,
I think he is with others and they all love each other.
Very much.
And yesterday, is he with Papi and Charli doggie?
Are they together mama?
Yes Pumpkin, I think they are.

Is he in Jake's heart?
Yes, Lily, I think he is.

I love nature but I don't like how it takes away.
So unfeeling at times.



Friday, October 19, 2012


How nice it was to head West for the weekend. The good vibes began with a passenger playing acoustic at the gate in Newark and it just got earthier from there.

to the

Lily and I embraced Oregon to the hilt.
Stayed with a favorite family and it was
The Best.
It all began with a bumper sticker on their wall that read


New York needs a bit more of that perspective.
Or perhaps I do.
Let's all hit the trails, grow beards and drink micro-brews.
Attend cool, ecclectic radio shows.
(Kudos, Rob. Kudos to you)
I generalize... but damn that fresh air was FRESH.
The trees were green.
Really green.
And people were ruddy complexioned, book loving, slow food eating,


I embraced Wordstock, got to introduce my book to a beanbag chair audience with Lily by my side. She was a perfect co-presenter, my muse - except when she took the stage during the next author's presentation - stating to me as I quietly ushered her off that she was about to do some "speakin in Spanish".
I later moderated a panel of memoir-ists who have written wonderfully lyrical, dark and inspiring accounts of their lives until now. It was a rich and surprisingly uplifting way to close out the festival.

A good reminder that life goes on, in many positive directions.

Lily loved the "book show" and was in heaven running up and down stairs with Sam and Aliza as her destinations for three days straight. Siblings almost, they showered her with never ending attention and genuine friendship. I got the same from their parents and from my mom and brother who came up from Ca.
Lucky people we are, surrounded by such love and kindness.

So yes,


Sunday, October 7, 2012


We did it.
The long awaited, much anticipated transition from the only home Lily's known and the one where Alan and I spent our lives together finally happened.
So very hard.
I am not sure other than the moment right after Alan passed away I've ever felt so alone.
Moving is hard enough. And when there's no partner to share it with it's even more of a challenge. Not to mention I was leaving Alan's home that he so proudly bought, not to mention there were anonymous people who have no care for one's personal possessions - handling my husbands things, my things, my daughters things.
It was an invasion.
A frenetic, overwhelming thrust out of one home into another.
And it's not that I wasn't excited to move.
We were ready.
I just didn't know my sense of alone-ness could be any greater.
And yet, it was.

Knocked the wind out of me.

And all I could do was sprint through the day, chasing carts and clinging to memories left in their wake.

Release an empty apartment echoing with sobs at the end of a terminal day.



Happiness.Pain.Love.Death.New life.
All cycles.
My very own marathon.

Our new apartment is the perfect stepping stone for wherever we'll head next.
Me and my girl.
Still close to where we once were, but looking forward to what lies ahead.
And it feels good.
As I write - I'm in my own room, and she in hers.

Like we both just got to college.


So we're doing OK. Landed fine.
But the home stretch was trying on us both.
Moved us inside and out.
Lily's been an easy rider, some roughness around her edges, but she's taken on her new digs with admirable cool.
And I'm just on the other side of the wall, rediscovering and loving new found adult space and weening myself from my babe who's really a girl now.

A dear-friend-soul-sister shared a thought with me that illuminated exactly what I've been grappling with - we can be surrounded by family and friends who love us and who we love but it's still a singular journey.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


First day of school had a soft launch.
All of a sudden back-to-school seemed routine, with curious anticipation and generally tempered excitement.
Her teachers had already come to visit us at home, so I guess that was all she needed.
Lily was ready.
Why am I not surprised?

She picked out her clothes, and two relatively undramatic wardrobe changes later, we walked to the bus, happily re-connected with school buddies and upon arrival she was...
sprinting delightedly with her friends,
flying up church steps,
reeling through the "pushing doors",
and there we were, round two - second year bigger than the first.


Her cubby was waiting, teachers energetically in place, Lily entered the room and didn't look back.
Five minutes in,
I want you to go Mama.

And I was... dismissed.

Happy/Sad I left the room, spying on her playdoh play, and not so emotional - just... jolted. Somewhere Alan must have been saying,
Go Sus,
Maybe he lingered with her, or maybe she gently nudged his spirit away too ~
Surely he was with us today.
Many were with us -
An old friend who knew him and new friends who know of him, so they rounded out the picture ~

Plenty of beauty in the air today.

As my brother recently shared with me, Bruce has added a chant to his shows - to honor beloved band members no longer alive:

If you're here,
And we're here,
Then they're here.


Must be.

Must be.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oh August.

This month.
A milestone.
Many milestones.
Much seems to culminate in a season's closing month.
We reached California at just the right time - it allowed me space from distance travelled in NYC.

I needed it.

I had just handed down my maternity clothes.
Handed off a baby swing, a bouncy chair.
Recently offered up the breast pump.
Sold my baby carrier.

Logical decisions for some, for me, so loaded.
Each item endowed with memories from unusual and beautiful times spent with Lily.
Little does she know how life saving her anticipated presence and emergence were.


And to acknowledge that most likely I no longer have need for those same cherished items was painful.

Is painful.

But I did it.

And I do feel stronger.
I am OK.
Not to self - been through much worse.
Much, much worse.
So with August has come some perspective.
I see where I've been, I am proud of the ground I've covered.

And still much more ahead.

Sure there is much I long for.
And the dreams I once had still remain.
Can't shake 'em.
Hell, I deserve them.
But many of us deserve that which we don't get.
Lily, for example.
Not to mention her dad.

I wish he was here Mama so I could run to him and run back, and run to him and run back....

I know you do Pumpkin, I know.

But as I remind myself and Lily in less poignant moments, now that she's heard THE song ~
You can't always get what you want...
But if you try sometime, you'll find.... you get what you need.

And I do.
We do.
We have a lot.
And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August Days.

Summer is folding its arms, sleepily closing up shop.
Taking it's time, as it should.
And as steamy days inched toward closure here, Lily and I jumped ship and visited the West Coast.
It was a perfect trip.
We lived so much in a week.
I think all we mostly said was Yes.

It felt good to... go.
Let ourselves go.

Old friends and newer lives to reconnect with.
Bubbles in the sun, spontaneous meals, rocks in a creek,
Redwood cool,
Three generations of women, ever-doting-over-everything... Grandmothers, mamas and girls.
Just as we had pretended when we were small.
Real 'house' now.
So much more than we had imagined.

Loving cousins, cool Uncle, and proud Grandpa.
Dim Sum, Cable Cars and a steam train through the woods.

And no weighty fog this time.
It hovered across the bay, kept it's distance.
Sunny days, every day.
I had always wished for Alan days like this - but maybe the blustery cold on our visits was designed for his favorite warm sweaters, and rough sails.

Happy hours were spent in vineyard heat & outdoor showers. Lily ran gleefully through gardens, over gravel and bark, trailing two big girls who were full of spirit, innovation, and devotion, while I relished in moments with a dear old-soul friend and model mama.
We fed chickens, picked candy strawberries, pink apples and fresh vegetables for dinner.
Sticky first S'more for dessert.

She draped herself over rope-swings.
Floated languidly through brick oven heat.


New York is undeniably in Lily's character but when I see her out West, I can see her great great grandmother, just like her Jiji says: Deep dark eyes. Strong stance.

My little oak.

And the way she says California always makes me smile.
Just the way my Gigi said it.
Califonia, no r.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Parenting. American Style.

Since it's July, which is a reliably tough month due to Alan's anniversary on the 5th typically followed by harsh heat and sapping humidity, I have indulged in torturing myself a bit more by reading a American woman's account of raising children in Paris.

Apparently we have much of "it" wrong.

We allow too much freedom, unruly conduct is rampant, children are treated as the center of the universe, they can't play alone and are force fed flash cards instead of being left to play. They over snack and never sleep.


There is some validity to aforementioned traits - definitely - but, please,
S'il vous plait,
cut us some slack.
We are not savages.
We're a warm, involved culture.

(Actually, I'm not finished.)

My girl has been "doing her nights" since four months, she plays independently for long stretches, she is schooled in a place that stresses the importance of play and socialization - and I think, that I/we are doing pretty damn well.
Oh. And we're not plunked in front of the TV with "My Baby Can Read".
Nor vying for schooling that offers Mandarin and computer skills.
(Though, yes, some are. Scarey.)

Could she improve her restaurant manners? Oui.
Could she embody rules and manners more ably? Bien sur.
We are working on it, and no, not to keep up with the French.

But I wonder if their way of farming off babes to the creche in their early months (not because they have to, because they want to), their point of view that parents and couples come before children, and their seeming lack of involvement with child's play is what leads to their reputation for "coolness" (and no I do not mean hip) and elegant detachment as adults.

Just wondering.

I will certainly admit that the way they do some things is beyond appealing. I strive to lose the guilt when I try to focus on myself, not Lily. I am envious that there is more ingrained respect for uninterrupted "Adult Time", and I find their rigidity of schedule for meals, snacking and bedtime FABULOUS.
I envy their free daycare and choice to do full-time daycare and take time off from work.
For themselves.


Honestly, I've take much of their approach to heart.
We're now working on the importance of a confident (and warm) "Hi" when we greet people - and put it up there with pleases and thank yous. And we're working on waiting and stretching our patience when we "need" something.

And yes, there is a simple cake recipe that they do with their kiddos that sounds delightful - so without a doubt, we will bake away.
Thank you France pour le gateau.
We will practice resistance Parisienne as we wait until afternoon snack time to eat it.

Vive la France!

Such discipline.

But do they ever cut loose? Dance with their kids on the carpet? Sing in public? Wear outlandish outfits - just... because?
We Americans love self discovery too, and we also set limits - but in our culture we may dote on our children a bit too much.
But we also live with unrepressed emotion and passion, and I think we, as a culture, are beautifully unique and expressive.
And showing love, baby, love ~ I'm all for that.
I don't think a child can ever be shown too much.

But we will wait for the cake.
And greet others with confidence.

Now remember Pumpkin, when they open the door we say "Hi or Hello" with a friendly voice so they can hear us.

Or we can just wave like this Mama (she says, smiling and waving Thanksgiving-Day-Parade style),
or - she cheerily suggests - we could just say


And no, I am not reading the book to Lily too.
We have Fancy Nancy to thank for that - a character the French would abhor.
Shudder to read.
(The books are pretty awful.)


Can't wait til the cake is ready.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Alan River

Father's Day came again.
It always does.
And Lily has been asking regularly about her dad.

She really wants to see him.

So on Father's Day we were able to make an early afternoon excursion aboard an old sloop on the Hudson River.

Built with purpose by Pete Seeger in the 60s to help spread love and appreciation of our Hudson River, to preserve its health and protect it from pollution.

So aboard we went, Lily and I, with an old friend and a new one.
It was special.
Lily has wanted to sail for a long time, so it was perfectly fitting that we should make an inaugural voyage together that Sunday.
She didn't know it was Father's Day, or maybe she did. I had no desire to advertise. But she knows her dad loved to sail and this outing was a perfect way to bring us closer to him.

It did.

It was a warm, still day. Alan would have been a bit frustrated by the light winds, but we moved gracefully through the water as musicians sang gentle shanties on the deck. Lily circled the boat many times, sat on a wooden box patting it to the music, eyed fish in a tank that had been caught safely for us to see, and enjoyed the potty on-board.

My favorite part was the two minutes of silence the crew requested, well after we were under way. Even Lily channeled her dad's stillness.
And as I squinted up to the top of this boats giant sail, I felt like it was an arrow to the sky, pointing straight up to her dad.
The lines, creaks, sways and breeze surrounded us with easy kindness.

It was the perfect place to be.
Water moves me.
And I think it did her.

Just yesterday on our return home from a different weekend road trip, as we merged along side the Hudson River, I pointed it out to Lily.

Because I love my daddy so much I think I will call it
The Alan River,
she said.

I love that idea Lily, I said.

Love that idea.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oh Dear. Lifeline? Someone?

Did you and Daddy make me out of clay?

The question came as Lily was leaning casually against the bed, in her pjs.
Eyes open and expectant.

Oh! I said.
Good question Pumpkin.
We didn't.
Actually, Daddy and I made you out of lots of love.

Eyes unblinking.
Fixed stare.
Answer not good enough.
No comment from peanut gallery.

Wheels were turning, as were mine.
Oh dear. Not off the hook yet.

You know how your flower plant was a seed that was planted in the dirt and then it grew and grew and now has lots of flowers?

Nod. Stare unwavering.

Well... That's kind of how we made you! Kind of like a seed was planted and you grew until you were big enough to come out all by yourself.

Pause to see if I've succeeded in Reproduction for Three Year Olds 101.

She ponders. Imagining herself in dirt in her mom. Hmmm.
Not a good answer?

I am not sure how the conversation concluded. I was so concerned with my explanation that the rest is a blur.
I think we went on to talk about which of her friends were older and younger.
Any conversation change is welcome with the Big Life Questions.

But Lily's dad is mentioned frequently this season.
She misses him.
She wants to see him.

What would you say to him if you saw him, Pumpkin?
I would tell him I love him.
And then she bursts into an improvised song to him which is beautiful and blogworthy until it ends with "peepee and poopy".
Then she is all laughs.
She wonders frequently about when other dads she knows will die.
And she now is beginning to understand her world with a maturing mind.

Again, oh dear.

Her world is one where dads die.
I explain that most live until they're very very old.
But not William's dad? And Nikhil's?
Right, Pumpkin, William's dad and Nikhil's dads died when they were little babies, I say softly.
But most daddies don't.
Most daddies don't, I repeat.

Why must difficult life lessons begin so early?

I'll take love and clay, any day, over death.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So Much Happens.

Tonight the daughter of dear friends became a bat mitzvah.
She grew so fast I felt so old I'm not sure how it all happened.
To think that just a few years ago she was perched on a grown up's knee, open eyes, amiable, soft, trusting, she was new to our world - Alan's and mine - and we admired her so.
And I remember her telling her dad early on that Alan seemed like an uncle to her.
He relished in hearing that.
Proud of his impression.

He was just here.
It seems.
Sometimes, that is.

When I caught a fleeting glimpse of him tonight, in a montage, it felt like yesterday we were wandering through that cornfield maze - Alan,Sam, Michael, Ava, and I.
We looked healthy.
Shadowed by near twilight sun.

But then I reflect on the fact that it was pre-Lily, pre-Jake, pre-Stella. We were all newly in love with the dream of creating more family.

And so it happened.

But not the way any of us had imagined - we are one person short of the happiest of dreams.
Actually, many people short;
There were others who also deserved to be there tonight.
To see this no-longer-child poised and present, on her own.

No knee needed.

The age of awkward beautiful, heavy on the beautiful,
just teetering on the cusp of adult life.
So close, near ready, but hopefully not too too soon.
Many must have been smiling down on her.
Oh so proud.

It is a wonder to watch the way things grow.

I am awestruck when I look at Lily these days,and I have fallen prey to every parental cliche.
They grow up so quickly.
Enjoy them at this age.
Savor these moments.
It all goes by so fast.

And so it does.

We visited a farm today.
Lily and a friend (donning a cape no less, another cohort with flair).
Pulled garlic stems, picked snow peas, collected eggs.
Learned that there are more things living in a fistful of soil than people on this planet.

Ahh life.

Origins before our eyes -
Ones that even a three year old can begin to contemplate.

Slow down, you move too fast.

I am amazed by how it,

Oh to be a parent.
The greatest, hardest job.
And joy.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Girl In The Pill Box Hat.

Lily had her first dance recital this weekend.
It was big in every way.
For me, at least, and a couple hundred other parents.
"Are you excited for your performance today Pumpkin?" I asked, so excited myself.
"No Mama. Because I am doing it."
And so it went.

She was ready.

She's gone regularly to her ballet class, embraced it with joy, excitement and focus. And this performance has rested gently on her horizon for a few weeks now, and for her, for whom everything is still fresh and new, performance anxiety has yet to rear its ugly head.
This child is happy in her body.
Proud of her abilities.
Broad in character.

Rooted in her existence.

So when the curtains were closed and all I could see were ballet shoe toes, positioned IN the curtain ripples, I was on the edge of my seat. Curious to see how she would fare - on stage, with no view yet of what existed beyond:

And there she was.
Away she went.

All smiles, focus, shaking her hips, pointing her toes, jumping on cue (or early with excited anticipation).
Doing her thing.
In sequins, hat, and fringe.

I was so proud.
A positive first on the stage.
In the lights.
A beautiful accomplishment.

So many changes this year in this girl.

Her drawings are more and more representational.
Flowers, rainbows, houses, trees, ferris wheels, playgrounds and suns.
I like what she sees.
At school I hear her class mates calling her in - with eager glee.
Relationships now her own.
She writes letters, is into rhyming.
Word curious.

And of course the Mary Poppins obsession continues.
I just saw Mary!
We've had multiple sightings.
She is present and otherworldly.

Three is cool.
Beautiful cool.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Will It.

This morning I met a woman, older than I, further along in life and its experiences and we spoke about how we move forward, past loss. I said Lily is my purpose, that one has to be resilient to endure.
She said there are many people who are not strong in this world.
She said you have to Will It.

So true.

I always felt odd when people commended me for my "strength". Yes, I was and am aware of it, that power I harnessed when Alan and I were deep in the trenches, the energy I found when we were broken in spirit, and the determination to continue on with my life for Lily, with Lily. But to me despite my slumps, dark moments, and ever ache, it is what one does.
You rise to the occasion.
It's what you do.
I think.
I thought.
And though there were times when an end to my life seemed enticing (had I not been pregnant),I knew, having seen a love robbed of his - that that just wasn't

No Way (as Lily now frequently exclaims).
It was a selfish thought.
Foolish to even entertain.

But ahhh that's what death will do.
It caresses those left behind, sells an unknown destination, hijacks a beating heart. Leaves you sitting in unbearable quiet.

You have to will it away.
Will yourself to stay - as best you can.

And for that, you need only to whisper a wish - quietly to yourself.
No strength required.

Mother's Day is one of my toughest holidays.
But I will will myself to find wholeness where there is indeed a hole.

This morning when Lily awoke way way WAY too early and crawled into my bed, I loved feeling her soft hand under mine, resting around my waist.
It was
So soft, unscathed, warm, relaxed.

Her love and presence fill me up.
She lives with such abandon she is freeing to watch.


Willful without intention.

For her, it is all about being.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ohhhhh... Got it.

Had my second parent/teacher conference with Lily's teacher this morning.
Amazing how one conversation (or rather, two words) can clarify so much.

First Adolescence.

Like a therapeutic breakthrough.
For me.
Not that things will change, today, but it's as though I was gifted with supporting evidence that
this is Lily's World these days.

No Therefore I Am

is how her teacher described it. Apparently in class she's a great kid, a collaborator, and an imaginative spirit. But at home, while Lily isn't so heavy on the nos these days, she is all about asserting her independence in feisty ways which frustrate this Mama to no end.
Or should I say, exhaust.
And make me wonder, how did I get a teenager at age three?
She is an advanced Selective Listener.
She invites me into her world only to then ask me to go back to wherever I was.
And the I Need Privacy statement is every other request.

Last night she insisted on my not coming into the room while she dressed and washed for bed. Thankfully she washed first, and came into the living room smiling - looking as though she had just been on the Log Ride at Great America.
And the bathroom floor was ... puddled.

Go Mama, I need to get my pjs on.

Banished back to the living room.

And today when I asked what she thought she might want to do with her sitter Juliana this morning -

Go Downtown, she replied.

Pumpkin, I think you guys can stay in the neighborhood this morning.

First Adolescence.

"It's hard for them right now" Her teacher said "They're too old to be babies and too little to be with the big kids - so older kids are bothered by them and yet, that's where they want to fit in"

Made me want to laugh. Sing. Elbow Alan and smile over at him.


Apologies to Simone and Nolia. It is merely loving worship.

Which doesn't make our battles any easier but I can see my
Renegade Child
Wear the high heels.
Wear the three layers with vest with jacket with ski hat with three necklaces one glove and leggings over tights under layered skirts.
Meet me at the elevator.
Carry your own plate over the white shag rug.
Sing about "California Grass" (just lyrics...)

She insists after bathroom breaks in restaurants on meeting me back at the table.
"I will meet you there, Mama."
Even then, half way there, she'll turn around and freeze me with her hand.
Wait Mama, she commands, mouthing the words from a distance.

And so I do.

The other thing her teacher commented on was Lily's active imagination. She takes it everywhere.
It is one of my most favorite facets of her personality.
Even when she's away from the babies, the office, the kitchen/restaurant or doctor (yes, she now plays doctor) when she's playing with blocks, her buildings are an embellishment of her imaginary world.
The other night I heard her clapping and congratulating James and Jayna for mastering hula hoop floor rolls.
She's got good company, my girl, even when alone.
In Jamaica, when she spotted a far off cruise ship - she began shouting to James.
Come HERE! She yelled repeatedly into the horizon.

He came to shore.

I love my soulful, willful, creative, electric three year teen.

When Lily told me she played Doctor at school,
Oh, I said,
Were you sick Pumpkin?
No Mamaaaaaaaa, she smiled,
We were just pretendin'.

Note to self, just a phase.

And a cool one, at that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Irie. Yeah. Irie.

Just back from Jamaica.

A yearly pilgrimage made even better this year by my brother and his kids, adding another layer of depth and beauty to a special, special place.

Upon arrival Lily, arms outstretched as though embracing the Round Hill universe, yelled and squealed with joy. She had been anticipating this return since our last visit and let's just say her

As does mine.

And with her cousins Addison and Simone, it was bliss.
She could hold hands with them on our walks to the beach, aspire to do all they could do in the pool, share burgers with them, paint rocks with them, look for mangos with them, pick flowers, collect shells and dance ~
The list goes on.

Repeated daily for a week.

Grandma in the mix too.
Even better.

And I got to ease into the island state of mind - daily conch fritters with my brother, talks on the shore from chairs planted in shallow water, afternoon teas with family - wet with salt water, and gritty sandy toes.

It is a joy to share parenthood with a sibling.

Bonfire evenings, raw reggae,
and a limbo too.

Lily's first.

Simone rocked it, and Lily surely made her limbo-star-dad proud.
Alan expertly navigated it in his day, even with pins and rods adding roots to his spine, he never lost his bend.

Quite proud of his limbo abilities, he was.


Good family time.

I am mastering the Irie state of mind, just takes a few days to melt into it.
Most easily practiced looking out over blue waters with enveloping rays and a Red Stripe in hand, kind smiles everywhere and marischino cherries atop every lemon freeze.
And children's laughter.
And "Aunt Susie look at this!!!"
And Mom!!! Look what I made!!
And the occasional Ninjago fact courtesy of An Expert.
And the soft jingle of hair beads.
And ceiling fan breezes.

Seaweed became bushes in a sand village, snails were left peacefully in their shells, and the ocean swayed us gently, even when a paddle boat drifted off course.
Cuba's not so far...


That's right.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Better. Spring.

Spring appeared, momentarily, as it seems to do in the East.
A few days of warm thaw, enough to coax the blossoms into their pink and white glory,and then we're all swept away again by intermittent, breezy, brisk,

It always snows petals this time of year.
How quickly temperament changes.

That's how Lily and I have been. Anxious for Spring and Summer.
Enjoying our present but on the lookout for change.
I've not been in a great place; moods mercurial, exhausted mind and body, every morning refueled by Lily's spirit but everworn all the same.

Can I say that?


But just the other day in a fleeting moment of warmth,
under the sun I sat,
eyes closed, angled to the sky and just took it all in.
Felt good to have warmth on my face.
A quick recharge which eased my mind and heart a bit.
Reminded me.
Everything is alright.

And it is.
I just have felt battered.
And wish for a slight reprise.

Over the weekend I went out, saw a friend and his life love play acoustic music and it was reassuring to see their bond - hear their present/future - woven confidently together by gracefully planned, wafting notes.

Just how it should always be.

Good Love.
Love Is Good.

And then he surprised me with a beautiful song, and she delivered it with strength and delicacy.

Unexpected Gift.

Over three years out.

Some wounds never heal.
I've known that and always will.
But friends and love are the best antidote around.

So I will cling to it as a promise and also a reminder that things are, and will continue to get
Better. (Listen here)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whoa Mama.

May no one that knows me run into me today.
Except my Mother-in-Law who unfortunately arrived long before above warning.

My girl was a pain in the butt this morning.

No wait, there's more.

She insisted on getting herself dressed and then idled so much (we had her 3 yr check up scheduled this morning) rolling around on the floor with her head under a step stool, that a battle ensued.
Not pretty.
And as soon as I got the clothes on, she-who-has-her-own-agenda takes them off, then I forced them back on. It was like a bad scene from The Miracle Worker.

Only I was working no miracles.

I want to wear THHHHIIIIIIIIISSSSSS blah blah blah, clock ticking (Oh. Look! she's topless and shoeless, trying to take her leggings off and it is now officially our appointment time. COOL!)

And then I am no longer able to get ready for work, so I guess Mama will just goes to work looking as though her daughter dressed her. I was fuming with frustration, not pretty in many, many ways.

I mildly boiled-over.

And yelling doesn't help but I was not capable of three-year-old whispering today.
Did I mention I was also up about five times last night? Lily has a cold and a cough and when she does, her sleep is restless. With her tossing and turning she landed on the floor at one point (on pillows - I did get that part right), and the other time I made quick saves in a midnight stupor - robot mama mode on - ready for anything.
But this morning...

We made it to her check-up where her cheery, humorous doctor (that I do love) chirped,

Three is harder than two.

Really, reallllllly needed to hear that this morning.

Try hard not to fight with her, it'll just make it harder, she said.

How to respond to that. How to respond to thaaaaaaaaaaatttttt....
Deep breath. Chuckle. Glance at Granny. Laugh.


Appointment ended on a good note, Lily is off to ballet and I am off to work - bedraggled, exhausted and then forced to walk down Madison Avenue past bright, cheery botoxed bunned manicured moms who chat idly on street corners in 500 dollar yoga outfits sipping ice coffee looking rested and happily staffed with husbands and help, planning their lunch dates and spin classes with energetic applomb.
And there I was, trudging by, with my tired eyes, humidity hair, feeling unattended and raw.

If it's Spring, why doesn't it feel that way.

Upon arriving at work I spoke to a friend who had recently led a support group for moms and babies in a nearby prison.
They have around the clock help.
It takes a village she said.

Check me into that place.


(ok not really. but... sort of.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

How Will It Grow.

Lily took her third birthday by storm.

For a week before, the first question at dawn
Is it my birthday today?

She is heavily into the passage of time.
Runs to the clock,waiting for a hand to reach a number I've shown her
It turned Mama!
And in anticipation of other things to come she asks when they'll happen.
I try my best, but ahhh Time ~
To think that I thought explaining "Let It Be" was a stretch.

But the clock turned mama!
Yes Pumpkin, but...
A tough concept to grasp.
To explain.

Watching her grow every day is a dial all it's own.

What I do know is that what was once a green shoot is now truly flowering.
In all directions.
She challenges me with knowledge, offers theories about everything, and is insatiably curious. The outfits are more creatively outlandish.

She is talking about her dad at school, expressing facts
and wishes.

I enjoy her connections. And despite the bitter/sweet discoveries, I can now admire from an arm's length how she instinctively navigates her reality as it evolves.
I will always be by her side - but she is, on her own, stepping a bit further away, coloring her world with ideas, fantasies, and beginning to grasp her own truth.
And all that comes with that wondrous, enlightening and sometimes devastating word.

Such is the way of the world.
And she is growing up.

(Cue Music/Click Here.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Into the Sun.

Last week I got to sit in on Lily's second ballet class. Typically drop off, but they let caregivers watch this time, so I sat with my mother-in-law watching Lily do her thing.
Beautiful dancer spirit sprite.

Quite a moment.
A "Jesus. Where is her dad for this moment?!"

One of those.

(Of course there were no other fathers present but man would he have relished in this.)

I think he was watching.

She was something.

Wobbling on her tip-toes, managing plie's with determination and un-grace.
She pranced around the room, bells jingling on her arms, and every time she passed us she gleefully smiled or waved to us - as though on a merry go round - reconnecting with every joyful opportunity for eye contact -
On occasion she stepped off her blue plastic dot to run and kiss me on my leg.

Big Love.

We smiled back with pride and suppressed our subtle chuckles over her moves.
Unadulterated exuberance within us all.

And though I was wanting for Alan to be there with us, I had his mom next to me and my girl before me. And my enthusiastic family and friends to whom I can circulate videos and pics, hourly, and have them cheer from afar.

Again, much to be grateful for.

And then I heard a certain song this morning.
It kept the want at bay, and turned ballet day directly toward the sun.
Damn that Mavis is good.

You're Not Alone.
(Want to hear it? Click Here.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Almost Three.

You dream of Dada, Mama?
Yes, I do sometimes Pumpkin.
What he doos in your dream, Mama?
Oh. Sometimes we are in a car together, going somewhere. Sometimes we are taking you to school. He is smiling.

The fantasy begins. Or rather, my fantasy does. Can dreams count as memories? Might those images be ones she can envision and hold on to?
Do her dreams qualify as her own freshly minted memories?

I like to think so.

She spends a lot of time "imaginatin'", as she says.

I want dada to see my big girl bed.
I know you do, Pumpkin. But I think he can see us from all around. So maybe he does!
He is restin' in your heart?
Yes he is. That's a nice thing to say, Lily.
I want him to come back.
Ohhh... That would be nice. I would like that too.

And then, my tears appear. Lily has never seen me cry. And she laughs as she is used to seeing me "pretend cry" when I am dramatically reading her bedtime stories.
(Flourish is important.)
But this time they are real, and I just couldn't keep them within.
I was tired, under the weather, and wishing things were different.
I know there's nothing wrong with a child seeing a parent cry.
But this time I had to explain to her that I was crying because I wished he could come back too. And it ached. I ached.
For me, but mostly for Lily. She deserves to have a father, and she's been so accepting until now of not having one.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people advising me "not to make my issues hers". Because I don't.
But people don't seem to understand that one can miss something they've never known.
And this weekend, I saw a lot of that void in Lily's beautiful presence. She doesn't complain, whine or get weepy.
But she is noticing with greater awareness that she is indeed missing out on...
She makes up stories about him. Wants to be loved by him.

Wants to know if he knew her.
He did, Pumpkin. He saw pictures when you were teeny tiny inside of me and he was soooooo happy to see you there and to know that you'd be coming.

When I have a baby I don't want it to be inside of me.
OK pumpkin, that's fine.

Deep breath.

Lots of dada questions this weekend.
She also asked, from astride her rocking horse, when a friends dad would die.
Hopefully not for a very long time, Lily.
Most people live until they are very very old.

And then, thankfully, on to The Beatles - a new musical favorite of hers.
A breakthrough in our home.
What's dat song mean, Mama? She asks in reference to "Let It Be".


Note to self - write book interpreting monumental songs for toddlers.

It's about just letting things... be.

Well done Sus....

Just... leaving things alone, allowing things to be as they are.


Wise words, easier said than done.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Lily got married today.
Just like that.
Not even three and I had thought we'd have years together before she flew the coop.
But, no.
I came into the living room this morning where she was playing with her Granny and there she was, donning a much loved turquoise knit summer shrug with sequin border, over her dark wintry outfit and packing up her stroller.
What are you doing Pumpkin?
Gettin' married.
You are?! To whom?
Oh. Congratulations! I really like James, I think he's a nice boy.
Yeah. She says.

Ah me.
James is nice. He is invisible but very present. Just this weekend she was droppin' him off at ballet class and pickin' him up. (Lily has no use for Gs) The other night before storytime I found her sitting on my bed in the dark.
Why is the light off Pumpkin?
James isn't listenin, so I turned it off.
In our building elevators she always presses 10 for him. She is fast, and I am left sheepishly making "surprise" apologies for her to other riders, as though I had no idea that ten would be pushed.
His birthday is nearly every day.
And he has a little sister/boy friend named Jayna.
And sometimes another baby sister named "Stell".
And a mom who is in meetins' a lot.
And sometimes a dad but he works a lot too.

I like to indulge her imagination.
It is a trip for me as well.
A nice one.
She is busy in mind, body and soul.

Alan and I had invisible friends too.
But I will leave it at that.
No need for further grown-up embarrassment.
That's right Sus, Alan echoes from... around.
He's probably bothered that I outed him at all.

But she is a creative spirit.
Clearly the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Days Like This.

There are moments.
Not fun ones.
When I am caught in a memory, or stuck in the present, all alone.
Lily had a sleepover at her Granny's this weekend, and though it allowed me a much needed respite and cherished down time, there are moments when her temporary absence has a reverse effect.
Such as Sunday.
When I woke up to utter silence.
No chatter from her crib, no soft landing & pitter patter to my bed followed by a light kiss on my cheek. No "Mama, is it a school day, Turleta day, Granny day or Mommy day?"
Just quiet.
And this weekend it hurt. And scared me.
Haunted by the fearful thought to self - how would I be if I didn't have her.
My Lily.
The answer is not one I like to ponder.
When Alan passed away - I had a desperate need to hold on to whatever was inside. Lily was barely the size of a gummy bear and I was ever fearful she wouldn't make it.
How could something so delicate ever endure such emotional pain.
I was terrified that my anguish would be the end to my nightmare/dream.

But she held fast, my resilient, determined,butterfly.
And when she did arrive, it was as though it could never have been any other way.
She was healthy. Beautiful. She had made it.


Much to be grateful for, I remind myself constantly.

But on Sunday I gave myself a scare, wondering how well I was really doing. My loneliness is immeasurable - and cannot be alleviated by even the most wondrous child. And it shouldn't have to be.
May she never feel weighted by such a void.
I took myself out to breakfast, the air too searingly cold for tears, and choked down breakfast I hoped might keep the sobs at bay.
Me and my book at the bar.
Good times.
And then home I went, crawled into bed, and slowly recovered from the morning's darkness.

Lily came back to me and clung fiercely as I lifted her out of the car-seat.
I knew that soon she'd be crying for her Granny & BebeO - transitions are challenging - but it felt so good to feel us each holding on so tightly.
Within the hour she was singing, dancing and told me,
"I am happy Mama, because you gave me blackberries".

I was happy too.
Because Alan gave us each other.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thank You Patti. (And my everloving flower)

Our year was a good one.
Loaded, but hearty with happy firsts and challenging as the two of us guided one another - teaching ourselves what it is to be parent and child, mother and daughter, friends. I never guessed that a child less than three could be so powerful a force, so sharp yet naive - so energetic - so imaginative - so beautifully self-guided with her movements - and could nearly break me with exhaustion, bring me close to tears with despair and resurrect me with kisses on my brow.

Yes on my brow.

Perhaps she learned it from me.

I wonder often as I marvel at her evolution - which parts are Alan, which parts are Susan and which parts are pure Lily.
As one of my oldest friends reminded me on New Years Eve Day,

she is not a passive child.

And I was comforted by those words. What a gift those words were, Sensei Alexis, ever wise and wonderful friend. My tendency is to blame my skills at motherhood rather than acknowledge that I am growing a little being, and she is who she is. I will steer, but she - already - is making her own roads.

Her brain sparks differently - she said, and it is true.

Some don't get that, she said.
Fellow moms are the ultimate comfort ~ and the ones who are ahead of me, golden.

After our conversation I found myself gifted with an evening to myself. So I rolled off the bed, lethargic, feeling a bit broken but hungry for a lift, took a bath.
A bath.

And then I took myself to see Patti Smith.

A fine last move for 2011.

Her chords enveloped me, her words, her presence - nice to end the year with the encouragement of another strong, most remarkable woman.
She was uplifting.
Loud, soft, modest, endearing, funny, evocative, electric.
Expressive hands, graceful and masculine.

Another friend cheered me via text "BOLD!!".
So grateful for my friends.

I do have courage - though every now and then it idles.
But the choice to go was easy.
And then Patti was my beautiful reward.
Bold times two.
Bold for two.
And ready for our next chapter.
Excited for a new year.

Grateful to be alive.
And to feel that way as well.