Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A little rain

We watch movies and serialized dramas. We read books. We’re riveted, compelled by the artistic rendering of human pain. We cry for the people in these stories, we cry with them, knowing from our own human walk how agony scrapes us bare. We can’t look away when we see life mirrored in this way. It doesn't matter that the stories may not be real, because we know that somewhere, someone is suffering in the ways portrayed. I’m thinking tonight how pain is part of our human journey. We incarnate here to experience it, because without it, how would we ever know the sense of joy. How would we ever grasp the feeling of surpassing peace. I need to learn to not fear emotional pain, mine or my beloveds. To not shrink from it. To allow it and to know—really know—we will not be destroyed by it. Into each life, a little rain must fall—my mother often said this, quoting Longfellow. Tonight, as I brood on the ineffably sad ending of One Day, the fourteen episode Netflix series I just finished watching, the memory of her murmuring these words comforts me.

The photo is of Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, who play Emma Morely and Dexter Mayhew in One Day. The series starts slow, and I actually stopped watching at episode four, a bit exasperated by some of the characters' choices—perhaps I was too far away from my own misbegotten youth to be sufficiently patient with Emma and Dex's twenty-something confusion and missed cues. But my daughter and nieces urged me to keep watching the will-they-or-won't-they love story, which spans fourteen years. The series did get better from that point on, with each character's growth and story arc holding my interest till the end. I have some issues with the Dex character's family and background being fully explored and developed on screen, and the Emma character's family and background being missing in action, but I'm still glad I stuck with it, and it certainly afforded me a good cry. Possibly all sorts of other sorrows jumped on board, recognizing their chance to escape captivity in that convenient release of tears.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Just life

We had heat waves, lightening storms, and flash floods this past week in the city, extreme weather that I've mostly watched from inside my house. I walk in my garden sometimes, and sit on a bench and turn my face to the sun, but it's been a slow week, blessedly so, as my left leg is wonkier and more achy than usual, and my right foot has developed some kind of pain along the arch. I am a crooked sight as I walk, rocking side to side, and I must be getting wiser because for once, I don't even care.

My son-in-law-to-be went to Tulum, Mexico, with ten other guys including my son, for his bachelor fling this past weekend. I worried about my girl being alone in their apartment while he was gone, for the first time without the frisky energy of Munch. I was ready to go and spend the nights with her, but she and her cousin Leah flew to Dallas instead, to hang out with my niece Leisa and the delightful Harper while Harper's dad was off partying with the boys. I heard the guys had a great time and didn't get up to too much mischief, while my daughter and nieces enjoyed the company of Miss Harper. They sent me pictures and videos of them sun hat shopping, eating out at restaurants together, Harper in tow, and my girl in the pool with Harper for her swimming lessons. Though there's still something sad in her eyes, my daughter looked happy and fully in the moment—who can be anything but with Harper in the house? Babies are healing souls.

Harper was bushed after a day of liming with her mom and her two auntie besties. Looks like she fell asleep in the middle of trying to remove her shoes.



Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Love in bloom

Our daughter's bridal shower was last Saturday. It was a joy to see the different sides of the bride and groom's families, and their various friend groups cheerfully mixing and getting to know one another. And baby Harper was the hit of the party, padding around laughing and pointing like a little tipsy person in her fire engine red sandals, thoroughly entertaining and entertained. 

My lovely daughter in law was my partner in pulling off this endeavor, and she was absolutely the MVP—making the signs, coming up with games, and getting the game cards printed at Staples from a template she found on Etsy and customized. She also created a beautiful floral ring for a photo backdrop; she worked out the design in her living room, then she and my son carefully dissembled it and transported it to the venue. Meanwhile my nieces and son helped hang photo garlands and laid out a fabulous charcuterie grazing table while my girl’s in laws to be brought deviled eggs, a yummy pasta salad, and the cake from upstate. Suffice it to say, a lot of folks contributed. 

We did the shower in rooms next to the roof deck of the apartment building where my daughter and her fiancĂ© live. The theme of the event was “Love is in Bloom,” and we had buckets of flowers and greenery as well as an array of antique style bud vases that guests could use to make their own DIY bouquets to take home. I loved seeing everyone selecting their blooms and happily making their floral arrangements. It was the perfect bridal shower activity, and the buckets of flowers were festive!

I'm wrangling low level anxiety today, the sort that is a tangle of worries, none of them perfectly clear, just a looming sense of unease, which might very well be chemical or else based on imaginings rather than anything real. I'm absorbing the sorrows of the world again, it feels as if I have no protective outer membrane. I plan to just stay close to home today and try to distract myself from thinking/brooding on things that may just be life inexorably happening. What must it be like to have a quiet mind, as my husband does? What must it feel like to walk through the days with a settled heart. I’m reminded of the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which a character declares, "Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not yet the end." I'm here, my friends, trying to trust that as I concentrate on drawing full breaths. 

My niece Leisa told my daughter that even though she is sad about losing Munch, especially in the way he died, she should still allow herself to feel happy, because she is getting married to her love, and this is also a joyful time. There it is again, the trick of holding two competing truths and allowing them both to be fully what they are. My daughter seemed to manage this on Saturday. She enjoyed her shower and her beloved did too. She told everyone gathered that they were “feeling the love." And truly, to me, she was pure light. Here are more pictures.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Seventy five years ago. And now

On this day in 1949, my parents were joined in matrimony. They had a wonderful partnership, which lasted forty-seven years, till my father died in 1996. They had their challenges, of course; I witnessed them from the inside. But they met them squarely, and love endured. I pray they're looking down on my two, my son almost two years married now, and my daughter making the commitment in just a few weeks. I'm thinking a lot about marriage today, how even the charmed ones are wildly imperfect, and no one other than the couple knows what happens between two people who pledge to walk through this earthly life in tandem. I imagine there has to be some indefinable magic, a sustaining friendship, and maybe also a lot of luck. Love is primary, yes, but you have to keep choosing it. I suspect it helps to start with people of bedrock good character, stubborn faith, emotional resilience, and a liberal sprinkling of beneficial karma, too. 

These two lovely couples are getting married in July, one at the start of the month and the other at the end. And last night, we got news of a third member of my daughter's cohort group who is planning to tie the knot at City Hall at mid-month. Three weddings of kids who started out together, all in a cluster. Tell me, friends, what bit of wisdom would you share with these couples standing of threshold of saying "I do"?


Monday, June 10, 2024

Saturday outings

We took our son's in-laws to see the new wing of my husband's museum on Saturday. It really is an impressive building. He also gave them a behind the scenes tour of his department, explaining how the ichthyologists do their work. We saw two of the special exhibits, the one about elephants, and one called Invisible Worlds, which is about life at the microscopic level. I especially loved being immersed in the visual narrative of the second exhibit, losing myself in the swirling images and color. After, we all went out to dinner, and as always when we spend time with my son's wife and her family, it was easy, warm, and good. Here are some pictures (including rare full body snaps of me).



In the evening, after our son's in-laws were back on the train on their way home to New Jersey, our daughter's soon-to-be in-laws arrived. They were sleeping over with us after spending the day with our daughter and their son/brother, having driven from upstate to offer support in our children's time of grief. My daughter and her love are just so sad. It is excruciating for me to just stand back and allow them to manage what they are going through, I want to jump in and fix it all, as if I could possibly take away their pain. I can't. I just have to watch and know that they are struggling, that they are reliving again and again waking up and finding that Munch had died. My daughter had set her alarm to check on him every two hours through the night, and when the 3AM alarm woke her, he was gone. "We wailed for hours," she told me. I cannot even imagine it. They were so connected to that dog. He made my daughter so happy. No matter what kind of day she had had, he was there to cuddle and coo with. And now they are in the apartment with his toys everywhere, but he's never coming back home. I think he chose his time. My daughter described how, the night before, he came to her bedside and nuzzled her hand, and she petted him peacefully. I think he was saying goodbye.

Friday, June 7, 2024

A breath at a time

I did the video call with my potential new book subject on Wednesday afternoon. I loved her at once. She seemed kind, and humble, despite having reached the stratosphere and making history in her chosen endeavor. Now she has a new mission, born when she and the baby she was carrying almost died. Yesterday she chose me to be her collaborator. 

So now I know what my next project will be, though the details are yet to be worked out, and we won’t get started in earnest till the fall. I feel smiled on by fortune, even though my heart is shredded for those I love who are grieving such a cruel loss. 

“This innocent little being entrusted to our care and we didn't save him," my daughter said last night. Her dad and me, and her brother and sister in law, sat with her and her soon to be betrothed around a table on their roof, eating take out. One of their friends came by and dropped off cupcakes. Another brought a home-cooked casserole.  

The bridal shower is in a week. I asked my daughter if she wanted to cancel it. "No," she said. "Life keeps on." She and her love are so very sad, but they are taking care of each other, too. This being human is holding two contradictory truths at once, and allowing them both to breathe. No way out but through.


Photo by Danielle Lee

Wednesday, June 5, 2024



Our little guy Munch died last night. He had been ailing ever since an emergency surgery he had in February. He never really recovered. He was scheduled for an MRI today, but didn't make it to morning. My daughter and her love are lost. I have no good words, just tears. I can't seem to stop their flow. My friend Debbie said, Sometimes, the dog decides. I have a Zoom call this afternoon for a possible new book project and I can't seem to pull myself together. I know it's because I'm hurting for my daughter and her love. Almost like there's no separation. I read that some of a child's cells remain inside the mother after the infant is born. They literally live inside you for a lifetime. Those cells are weeping. Debbie just texted me again. It’s deeply sad. I know. Go on the call and focus. Munch insists! He was only four. His time was too short.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Lifers at the farm

One of their group, second from right, is getting married three weeks before my daughter, and she decided to do her bachelorette getaway at the farm where she and her K-8 classmates spent weeks and summers together as children. The farm staff posted this pic on their social media, reminiscing about when they first met these five beautiful young women as second graders on their first farm trip. I heard they all had a great weekend revisiting their old haunts. I just wanted to post the picture of these friends who started out together as four year olds and, despite navigating rapids along with the way—how I remember the fifth grade girl wars, when their wonderful teacher would send them out of class to solve the drama during long, deeply emotional huddles on the school fire escape! They have all grown into five very distinct adult personalities ("We've all just become our mothers," my daughter laughs), with a teacher, a psychotherapist, a food techie, an art curator, and a digital content producer among them, but they still cherish the sisterhood, practice friend therapy with one another, and make it work.