Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Happy birthday to this man

My husband's birthday was yesterday. In that picture, he is carefully replanting my terrarium while wearing an FDNY squad shirt our son gave him. Both those things speak volumes. They hint at why there is no one I would rather be with on this epic journey. My life with this man took on the promise of brand new experiences when our son proposed to his love this past weekend—a new stage of life is suddenly within view. Such a wonderful father my husband is, such a bedrock good soul, not a fickle bone in his body. Every day he gets up and puts in the hours, and every night, my spirits lift when he walks through the door. The intimacy of shared history, raising children, belly laughs, companionable silences, easy conversations, hard conversations, getting through, standing firm, all of it is a gift I do not take for granted. I am forever grateful that life gave me this man to love, a man for whom the most perfect birthday is to have his family around him, his children and their loves, and our niece who lives with us, and this is how we celebrated him last night, the stories flowing, random flights of conversation, traveling down musical memory lanes, side-splitting laughter, everything easy and good.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Our son and his love are engaged

I love them both so much and couldn't be happier for them. My son proposed on Friday in the brand new wedding and events hall beside the lake at camp, where his friend, who is a wedding photographer, captured these photos. The ruse was, she had just brought new lenses and asked my son and his girlfriend to come up and model for her in the woods at camp, so she could try them out. While she was doing that, her husband, my son's friend of more than a decade, who is now director of the camp and conference center, was getting the candles lit and the champagne set out. When they came back from taking pictures at dusk, he asked them if they wanted a tour of the new events hall, which hasn't yet been officially opened. My son's fiancée (love saying that!) didn't know what to make of the aisle made of candles. She said the whole thing felt surreal and otherworldly in the most breathtaking way, as if they were the only two people in the world.

Then on Saturday, my son and his love gathered with their two families for a day-long celebration filled with joy, laughter and so much wonder. My lovely daughter in law to be has been in our lives for going on five years now, and she seems to "get" our quirky boy, their love has only grown, and she has very much felt like a daughter to me from the start. My daughter once told her brother that if he didn't marry her, she would, so much sister love there is between them. As we all sat and shared a meal last evening, two families brought together by the love these two young people share, I looked around the table and reflected that these are the people with whom my husband and I will share our grandchildren. They are a generous, warmhearted and rich humored family. I raised my glass for all the toasts, smiling at my thoughts.

My niece/other daughter in Dallas commented on the pictures my son posted this morning: "Such a NY couple with the matching Tims. So happy for you guys."

I had to admit, the matching Timberland boots made the whole proposal uniquely them. When my son was a baby, I used to look at him and wonder what kind of man he would grow up to be, what work he would choose, who he would love. Now we know all those answers. May these two beloved young people be happy always. May they continue to be complete each other's sentences. May they always remain the best of friends.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Our freshly-minted college graduate is now gainfully employed!

That's my niece who's been living with us since she graduated in May. The photo is from an apple picking outing upstate with my daughter and her friends. My niece had an internship with Paper Magazine over the summer, and has been looking for a full time job ever since. Just as she started getting discouraged, goodness swamped her. There's a small story involved, given that we humans are meaning-making machines.

Last Thursday, my niece and I took a Lyft car to meet my daughter at a restaurant for our semi-regular girls night. I was still in my expansive mood from the meeting I'd had that afternoon, and our Lyft driver only enlarged that. His license plate said "ABAGNON" and I asked him what it meant. "It's an African word from Benin meaning everything will be okay," he said, and then began asking us about ourselves. Is that your daughter? he asked me. She's my niece and goddaughter, I said, and she is much loved. Are you in school? he asked her. No, I just graduated and I'm looking for a job. Don't get discouraged, he told her. Ask for what you want, and listen to everything your auntie tells you. Speak to God, and trust that everything is coming to you. We had a cheerful conversation about faith and prayer for the ten short blocks we traveled, and when we got out of the car, my niece and I agreed that it hadn't felt at all as if the man was proselytizing, but rather that he was sprinkling blessings over us. It's hard to explain, but neither of us felt pinned to the seat by efforts to convert us, it felt so much lighter and brighter than that.

The next day, my niece got offered not one, but two jobs! One, a paid internship with UNICEF, and the other as a full time digital editorial coordinator for a travel and lifestyle brand, with benefits. Best of all, the full time job has a two-month on-boarding process, so she can work for UNICEF in the meantime! She told them about the possibility of the full time job, explained they were at the point of checking her references, and the UNICEF people said, "Of course someone else wants you!" and "We want what's best for you, so you can work with us until you need to leave." Apparently, the UNICEF internship drew more than 300 applicants, all of whom were required to do an edit test. My niece did the test at 11 PM Saturday night after spending the day apple picking. She was exhausted but had just seen the position listed and the deadline was the next morning. Her interviewers, four of them on a conference call, two of them in England, told her that her edit test was at the very top percentile. An hour after interviewing her last Friday morning, they called her back and offered her the job. That same evening, the digital editorial coordinator position was offered to her as well.

It couldn't have worked out better for her. I went into the Lyft app and tipped that driver who was sprinkling blessings ten dollars, which was more than the cost of our ride. I just felt as if I should give a little back to the angels.

(Haha, and now she just got a callback from Buzzfeed!)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

More than afternoon coffee

Sometimes I am just so humbled by my life. I met a woman for coffee this afternoon. She's an editor at that same publishing house whose publisher I met last year when I flirted with taking a full time job, but then a book project came through and I decided to do that instead. But I loved that publisher. Perhaps the good feeling was mutual because last month she suggested that her editor reach out to me. She said we should meet, that there is work we might yet do together down the road, and I absolutely loved the editor, too. We had such an instantaneous connection, our conversation freely roaming, quickly moving past work things to life things, an open sharing of souls. And to think this morning I was doing my usual hand-wringing, not wanting to show up, wondering if I could call and cancel, but I made myself get dressed and go, it took a lot of talking to myself to get me there, and now I think how sad it would have been if I had missed meeting this generous, deeply kind soul. Maybe we'll do work together, I don't know. But I feel as if I just encountered a person I've known for aeons, and we paused to check in with one another, and see how this adjacent incarnation we both chose is going. With some people, the feeling you have after being with them for a spell is an expansive, all-encompassing love. That is the feeling she inspired in me, a pure giant-hearted lovingness that extends to every person and every thing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Outlander Jones

I finished watching all four seasons of Outlander and immediately went back to the beginning and started again. I think the way Jaime, played by Sam Heughan, loves Claire, played by Caitriona Balfe, is why the series has such a passionate fandom. The scorching chemistry between Jaime and Claire alone keeps you watching. Claire is no damsel in distress, a medicine woman who falls through time and meets her life's true love, a braw Scottish highlander with price on his head. She and Jaime grow together through all manner of trials, historical and personal. I can hardly wait for season 5, which is filming now and debuts next February 16. And no, I am not being paid for this endorsement. I'm just in the habit of recording my current preoccupations here, and Outlander definitely qualifies. Plus, you know, the lead players aren't too hard on the eyes.

Who else is watching, or should I say escaping? Because yes, I am burying my head in binge watching this series for a spell. The news, at home and abroad, is too much to bear.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Clearing the nests

She inherited my noisy, hyperactive thought cycles, with their constant manufacturing of catastrophic outcomes, and oh how I wish I could have spared her that. You will survive it, I tell her. I am Exhibit A—proof that we go on.

We smile and function in the world at large, few ever guessing at the brooding thoughts branching inside us, choking our breath sometimes, making us shake, yet somehow, the terrible things we are capable of imagining almost never come to be. (I went back and added the word "almost" in that sentence, wary of challenging the fates.)

I remember a woman saying years ago that you can't stop disquieting thoughts from showing up. Like birds they alight before our peripheral vision can detect their flight. But if we can't always prevent their arrival, this woman said, we can keep them from building nests in our heads.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Sourcing inspiration

Someone posted those paintings of women. There was no attribution, so forgive me for not giving credit where it is surely due. I'm posting these images here because I want to try this stylized, vibrantly colored approach with some paintings of my own, a series depicting woman of many different colors and ethnicities. The reason I didn't become an artist, even though I started out as a studio art major in college, is that I considered my inspiration to be too derivative of other people's vision, but now I wonder, is most inspiration derivative of another's brilliance, maybe something we saw in passing that imprinted on us, that we take in a new direction and make our own? Or do true genius artists pluck inspiration from some deep ancestral source, if not from the very air?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Our beloved boy is 28 today

And he and his girlfriend are coming over to spend the day here! There will be cake and candles later on. After work, his dad and sister will join us. So will his cousin who lives with us (she is out on a day date with a boy we've heard about but haven't yet met. He's in town for the weekend, and she certainly seemed excited). How beautifully our firstborn has grown. I remember when he was a baby, I wondered what kind of man he would become, what work he would do, how he would love. I am gratified to say my funny cranky boy is a wonderful and caring man, if a bit bossy like his mama. When we were in Toronto at the hotel last weekend, I came down to the dining room to order breakfast and he and his sister and cousins were already there. He got up from his table and came over to me at the counter and began pointing out various menu items I might like and suggesting I get the cold brewed coffee because it had a less bitter aftertaste. He towered over me, and had his arm around my shoulders as he stood there imparting information I might want to make my choice. I chuckled and looked up at him and said, "You are making me feel so taken care of right now." We saw ourselves and laughed. I feel like an incredibly lucky mother. Happy birthday, darling boy! We love you forever.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The feeling of belonging

I don't even know how to write about Aunt Grace's memorial service, except to say her send-off was far more joyful than sad, a true celebration of a woman whose driving force was always love, and that is what we brought to her memorial, love and more love. Lots of cousins came, the younger ones, the cousins in their twenties and early thirties, bonded in ways that made the older ones, the aunts and uncles in their fifties and sixties, smile deeply with satisfaction. After the day-long repast, which lasted into the evening with dinner at a Mandarin buffet, my own three (my son and daughter and niece, in the photo above) went out for drinks with their cousins from Vancouver. They all stayed up into the wee hours, and my daughter said after that it was easy and good, with many belly laughs, and a sense of being alike, of being related, a sense of belonging to one another. It's that sense of belonging that my family excels at, the feeling that we are a tribe, enfolded, and that word again, loved. I'm rambling. Here are pictures from the gathering last Saturday in Toronto, at which we bade the last of the nine, our incomparable Grace, aka Gaga, a grateful tear-and-laughter-filled goodbye.