Killing it. Her passion made me cry.
September 25, 2014
June 15, 2014
I have had so many ideas for blog posts. So many things I’d rather talk about than this. However, as much as I’d like to tell you I ran a half-marathon or had a great vacation in wine country, this issue seems to be much bigger than me and I think I will regret not being able to address it. So, here goes.
A few weeks ago, J and I traveled to Napa and Sonoma for a vacation with his family. While we were gone, I was blissfully unaware of the shooting that happened at UCSB, the subsequent campaign #YesAllWomen that spread around social media and then the backlash to #YesAllWomen that was basically men saying “No, you’re wrong” in various ways. It was only when I returned home from California that it came to my attention and I was horrified. I clicked link after link, reading about so many women and their experiences, their viewpoints on what had happened in Santa Barbara, misogyny in our society, men refusing to acknowledge any of it, how enraged and tired we are. I can’t come close to articulating what so many women already have. The only thing I can do is share my own experience and join in the chorus of voices.
I was about 14 years old the first time I was sexually harassed and made to feel unsafe and small. I was performing in a play at a local community theatre, the cast a mixture of other kids and adults. A man in his 40′s named Bob would constantly crack comments backstage about how I looked in my costumes and to call me when I turned 18 and how far away was that and did I want to date him now? It was framed as a joke but I knew in my gut that it wasn’t. I never could find words for what it was so my cheeks would burn and I would smile uncomfortably and attempt to move anywhere that Bob wasn’t. Eventually another adult (female) brought it to the attention of the director and Bob was told to stay away from the kids. Because that’s what I was: a kid.
The second time I was sexually harassed, I was a senior in high school traveling alone on an airplane. Smushed up against the window for a two hour flight, the man in the seat next to me made comments about my looks, what he thought were my best assets (ass, number 1, tits number 2), asked if I wanted to sleep with him when I landed because he and his wife had an open relationship and he was going to a hotel on business. He looked visibly pleased at my discomfort, spilling details of his sex life, inching as close as possible to me. I did not know that I could call for help. It did not occur to me to press a button and involve a flight attendant. I felt trapped and ashamed. At 17, I did not have any tools, any words, any recourse, any understanding that I was entitled to my own space. I was amenable, always putting others ahead of myself, even at my own expense. I was not able to travel in public without being disgusted with the details of a stranger’s sex life, details that were offered to explicitly make me submissive and uncomfortable.
I have told maybe three people about that experience since it happened roughly 13 years ago. The shame of it still stings even though I did nothing wrong. And also, let’s reiterate once again: I was still a kid.
As an adult woman, I could write pages and pages about men inserting themselves into my space whether or not I wanted them to. Physically, verbally, it is not an exaggeration to say that it happens every day. It doesn’t matter if I’m out for a run on a hot day in a pair of shorts or bundled up in the middle of February in a winter coat, gloves and boots. It is not because of any characteristic that I specifically possess. It is simply because I am a woman.
The man who accosted me walking in Chelsea one night, who told me I’d look really hot if only I took off my glasses.
The man who yelled at me as I left the yoga studio. “Keep doing what you’re doing, NICE ASS!”
My male scene partner for my first and only Harold audition at UCB, who made the game of the scene a situation where he just threw insults at me, finishing the scene by calling me a “cunt”. In front of everyone. Because it was funny, right? Actually it was not. I never auditioned again.
A male yoga student who cornered me when class was over and made sexual comments to me that left me so uncomfortable, I went home in tears and he was asked to not come back to the studio. Turns out I was one of many female teachers he had approached.
Men trying to touch me on the subway or whispering something crude while nodding slyly and smiling.
My co-worker at a former company who would stop by my cubicle and make comments about my lipstick, about my legs, about my clothes, telling me I was dressed inappropriately for work, sharing intimate details about his divorce and his dating life. I was still not in a place where I could speak up to his face. But with the encouragement from others, I took it to HR. I had e-mails from him in my inbox that said “Please don’t tell anyone the things that I discuss with you”. I forwarded them on. Soon after that, I left the company for other reasons. As far as I know, he still works there. He was asked to attend a weekend workshop in Connecticut entitled “Employee Etiquette: How To Treat The People You Work With.”
I recently cut all my hair off. Over fifteen inches, gone. I had many reasons for this, my therapist blanketing all of them with a need for change, a need for power, a need for agency over my decisions. When my husband asked what prompted the idea, the reason that came truthfully tumbling out was “I’m sick of men staring at all my blonde hair on the subway.” And it’s true. So I hacked it all off. I guess you could say I hit a breaking point. And while the length of my hair shouldn’t matter and the onus shouldn’t be on me to change myself, the power it has given me is unbelievable. I tell anyone who will listen how empowered I feel, how masculine, how strong, feelings that are mostly alien to me.
My inability to stand up for myself is perhaps its own separate issue and it bleeds into all areas of my life, not just this one. As a child, as a girl, I was never told that I had a right to my body and my space. I was not given words. I’m also an extremely emotional and highly sensitive person which means when I was younger, my feelings would overwhelm me and make it very hard to communicate. This is why I’m really good at staying silent in scary situations, why I’d rather slump down in my airplane seat than call for help or tell anyone to stop. It’s a straight up dangerous way to be.
Now, I practice. I have phrases in my toolbox that I have rehearsed so if I need them, I can use them. My husband is the one who encouraged me to create them. We sat together one evening and made a list of things I could say. They are simple and I feel silly even admitting it but the power it gives me to have something to lob back is indescribable.
“Don’t touch me”, I said loudly to a man recently who was standing on the running path with his arms outstretched, laughing with his buddies, drinking a beer (on a running path? Cool, bros!) offering a high five or a grab, who knows?
Don’t touch me. This is making me uncomfortable. I need you to step away from me. I don’t care.
The last phrase meaning, I don’t care that you like my hair or not (awkward male co-worker who said I looked like King Joffrey! Funny! But also, ????) I don’t care that you think I’d be hotter if I took my glasses off. I don’t care that you’d like me to smile as I walk by. I do not exist to make you happy, newsflash. I don’t even know you.
I’m not sure men need to practice these phrases. My husband admits to me that he barely thought about what women go through on a daily basis until he met me and we had many conversations on the subject. And why should he? He walks where he likes to walk, whether it’s dark or light outside. He’s unaccustomed to strangers shouting crude things at him. He doesn’t need to wonder if the person behind him while he walks home is following too close. He doesn’t need to cross the street to be sure. He’s never slipped his keys between his fingers like a weapon, thinking a stranger might be lurking somewhere nearby.
The messages are clear: The only thing that matters is how I look. How I look is fair game for commentary, from anyone. I am not safe in public. I am not entitled to space or respect. Because I am a woman, I have to be constantly vigilant because there are predators out there who want to invade my space and my body. After all, as women we are told ‘do your best to not get raped’ instead of telling men ‘DO NOT RAPE WOMEN’, kind of fucked up, no!?
So, those are some of my experiences and by no means are those even half of them. Every woman I know can speak similarly. Because #YesAllWomen. And yes, I am completely aware that it’s not all men but the tricky thing is, how do I know? If we’re alone in an elevator, how do I know what kind of guy you are? The point is that as a man, you NEVER have to think about the type of person who is riding in the elevator with you and I do. That is the point. The playing field is nowhere near level. You need to understand that or this conversation can’t go anywhere and nothing can improve.
I’m waving my arms like crazy over here because at 31, I’m finally feeling empowered to take up space, to chop off my hair, to speak back to the men in my life who enter my space without my permission. I’m raising my hand and I’m pushing that call button like crazy.
I think we all deserve at least that much.
More reading, if you need it:
April 3, 2014
My parents sold their house. They’d been talking about it for awhile now – property taxes too expensive, too much property for my dad to maintain, etc. They put some work into it and put it up for sale in October.
“This is going to take awhile,” I thought. It’s a beautiful house but it’s dated now and it needs work. It also sits awkwardly on a huge hill which can be a pain when the driveway is covered in snow or ice…
A young couple from the city walked into the house with their new baby a month or two ago. They wandered around for a bit, pointed out some things that needed work and then were basically like, “We’ll take it, here’s cash” and that was that.
I was four years old when my parents decided they needed more space and moved us out of Nassau County and into the big house on the hill at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in Miller Place. When we moved in, a huge peach farm hugged the main highway and new construction was popping up in empty lots, mixing in with old houses that had been standing since before the Revolutionary War. I’d meet my neighbor Sam at the bus stop every morning, we’d ride bikes after school or roller skate around her unfinished basement. We’d bounce from neighbor to neighbor all summer, to the one with central air conditioning, to the one with the pool, begging dollars from our parents when the ice cream truck rolled through, making our tongues sting with sour War Heads or too sweet sugary Pixie Sticks.
I have a fuzzy memory or two from my toddler days but really, the only home I know is the one my parents just sold. And as lucky as I am to have had them there until now and as crazy and as selfish as it sounds from a woman of thirty-one, I just thought I had more time. More summer evenings at the backyard picnic table with my mom’s macaroni salad. More walks around the property to see my dad’s new flowers or landscaping adventures. More time sitting on the stoop with a glass of wine listening to the crickets, seeing stars and the flash of the neighbor’s television from across the street.
My parents are so excited about moving. I know they’re nostalgic and sad, just like me, but they’re making an excellent choice and they’ve purchased a beautiful condo in Riverhead. I went out to see it last week and to begin the arduous process of sorting through boxes of things I’ve kept at their house. It was funnier than I thought – particularly once I hit the shoeboxes of high school keepsakes. You can see my two interests clearly – Broadway playbills and Jesus paraphernalia. Cast lists and tech rehearsal schedules, a program from my Confirmation, Jesus stickers on a youth group notebook. Then, notes passed surreptitiously in math class, referencing inside jokes I no longer understand and people I no longer remember. Love letters, artwork, report cards, yearbooks, photographs. One of my favorites: a childhood birthday card from my beloved Grandma Agnes telling me she won at bingo last night, here’s a few extra dollars, love, Grandma.
So many things sorted through, a few boxed up, so many things stacked up in a trash pile, better to let them go.
I saved my tears for the ride home and I’m not even sure what I was crying about, exactly. I know that home is really my parents and they are both still alive and I’m so grateful for that. I know that the next chapter will be full of fun, in a brand new home in a brand new town. Beers on their new patio in the summertime, Christmas in a new living room, meals around the same table taking up a different space. The same drive out to the island from the city, just a little bit longer.
I guess I cried for all the goodness. Because that’s all that really came to mind. I couldn’t for the life of me drudge up anything bad, anything sad, even though I know those experiences are there and that’s alright.
But I suppose during a transition like this, when you have to say goodbye, you remember the goodness. The sweetness. The grace.
Carving out trails in the woods behind our house. Me and Paul and cousins, staying out for hours, making up rules and games, pretending we were experts, tour guides, identifying berries and leaves, finding the best walking stick, man hunt when the sun went down.
Building igloos on snow days with Debbie, taking turns speeding down the hill on sleds, all the neighborhood kids coming inside for hot chocolate, my mom would throw our mittens and gloves in the dryer until we were ready to go back out again.
Jumping in leaf piles, pulling Jeremy in his little red wagon, walking to the Harvest Festival at the junior high school for caramel apples.
Helping my mom weave the sparkly white garland around the bannisters for Christmas. Hanging lights in the windows, securing with scotch tape, waiting inevitably for the tape to give up and for the lights to fall down. Karen Carpenter on the record player.
Falling asleep in the back of the minivan, driving back from the beach or the cousins’ house or a party late at night, waking up when the car hit the tiny bump at the edge of the driveway where the pavement is slightly uneven. Feeling the van turn slightly as it makes its way up the hill, my mom pressing the new automatic garage door opener, shifting the car into park. Paul and I sleepily unbuckling ourselves and crawling out of the car, my parents carrying in my little brother and sister, pajama-clad and snoring. One by one, we’d file up the steps and into our house, which had been standing there quietly, waiting for us to come home.
March 1, 2014
I wrote this over the weekend and forgot to hit publish. You’re welcome.
A few weeks ago, tired of the New York winter, I texted Tom to see if he was around for a visit.
“Any weekend!” he said, delighted. “It’s dry and 80 here!”
I picked the weekend based solely on cost of flight. ($288 round trip, be still my heart!) Then last week, the news began circulating that California was due for some rain right around the time I was set to show up.
“Don’t worry!” reassured everyone. “The forecast is always wrong!”
The forecast this time, my friends, was correct. Great for the drought, bad for me, but I’ll take one for the team.
Knowing we were about to get rained on for almost my entire stay, Tom and I began half-jokingly talking about driving to the desert for a day just to get warm, before the storm hit. I took an early flight out of JFK Thursday morning and when I arrived, 11:15 AM LA time, Tom was waiting for me at the airport.
“Here’s some veggie sushi, a juice and a scone. Also we are driving to Palm Springs now.”
And we did. Driving straight from the airport, we booked a cheapish room at the Ace hotel due to some Orbitz rewards I had racked up and in two hours, I was sitting at a restaurant in 83 degree weather sipping a Bloody Mary. Later we sat by the pool reading, took a nap, went to dinner, a day of perfection. I could’ve gotten on a plane home that evening and felt like my trip was worth it.
In the morning, while grabbing a quick brunch at Cheeky’s before we left for LA, the rain started and didn’t stop until Sunday afternoon. I thought I would mind because it’s not warm exactly and definitely not summery and DEAR GOD ENOUGH WITH THE PRECIPITATION, WORLD but it’s…spring. And spring, I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!
The rain kept coming and I spent blissful hours alone while Tom was in rehearsal just sitting in a coffee shop reading a very long delicious novel, something I always say I’m going to do in New York but never do. I just grab a few pages here and there on the subway when I can. There’s something about the push and pull of the city that makes it hard to stop and rest and I think there’s some of that in LA, especially in the entertainment industry, but I’m blissfully not a part of it. So I read and I wrote and I napped and my best friend was always somewhere close by.
We reenacted choreography remembered from 6th grade when we were in the children’s chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, much to his roommate’s dismay. We went out for late dinners and drank fancy cocktails downtown. We spent each night in bed next to each other watching HBO on his laptop, the computer balanced on a pillow between us.
This is my 7th time visiting Tom in LA? I think? It’s amusing to see that the first time (when hilariously, it also rained as soon as I arrived), was spent really seeing the town and doing some touristy things and cramming a lot in to a few short days. As the years have gone by, it has become less about that and more about Tom being like ‘hey I have errands to run, do you want to drive around with me for two hours?’ and we sit and do NOTHING and it doesn’t seem to matter at all. In fact, it’s quite lovely to have that kind of relationship where you’re like hi, you don’t have to entertain me or do anything special, I’ll just be here hanging out with you regardless.
He did clean his room for me, which I found quite precious.
It doesn’t take much to reboot and reset and breathe a little bit after a winter spent bracing against the chill, shoulders hunched, evenings spent feeling sad for no reason. I feel like I’ve now got gas in the tank and I can power through the rest of the cold and I’m so grateful for that.
How about you come to New York sometime soon?
Tom, also I am talking to you.
February 24, 2014
I didn’t set out trying to get electrocuted.
If you’ve ever been electrocuted, then you know how it feels and you would know that that should never be a human being’s end goal. Ever.
But that’s precisely what happened about a week ago on a rollicking Saturday night.
Let’s preface it by saying I was Tired. Like, real tired. A couple night’s of bad sleep, too much work, I was pretty delirious. So at the rockin’ hour of 11-something on a Saturday night, I turned to my sweet husband and said, that’s it, I give up, I’m going to bed.
“Remember to unplug the heater,” said J.
Now, the heaters in our apartment are sensitive little beings. We usually sleep with the heat off, which is fine, but when the temperature drops below a certain degree, the heater will randomly blow air through its vents, even when turned off, to prevent everything from freezing. So throughout the evening, because the heater is on my side of the bed, I will get randomly blasted with ice cold air. It’s as fabulous as it sounds.
So we finally came to the conclusion that oh, you could just unplug it, problem solved.
I stumbled into the bedroom and pressed the OFF switch. Then I reached down and pulled on the plug which is a HUGE three-pronged crazy thing in a HUGE custom-made socket. It wouldn’t budge. So because I’m not a quitter, I just thought, I KNOW! I’ll use BOTH my hands and pull HARDER on it, not even stopping to think that the heater, at that moment, was STILL blowing out its final remnants of hot air. As in, I had pressed OFF, but it wasn’t really OFF.
And so it came to be, that in my approximation, when I took my two hands and grabbed that plug and both of my index fingers made contact with one of the metal prongs, 10 zillion watts of electricity jolted through my body.
Let me tell you…
Aside from some static electricity mini zaps, I have never before felt anything like that. It zipped through my index fingers, up into my wrists and all the way down to my toes. I screamed as if being murdered, because I was pretty sure I was and jumped back about three feet into the air. J came running and found me hysterical holding out my index fingers to him, gulping for air, my heart beating like crazy.
“ELECTROCUUUUUUUUUTION!!!” I wailed.
“I-I-I ELECTRO-HICCUP-CUTED-HICCUP-M-M-MYSELF ON THE P-P-PLUUUUUUUG!”
J sat me down on the couch and calmly looked into my eyes, speaking slowly, as if to a very stupid animal.
“Do I need to call…an AM-BU-LANCE?”
“I DON’T KNOW!!!!” I yelped. “AM I GOING TO DIE?”
And it was a dramatic question, of course. But the fear was very real as my heart was racing and my body was on high alert.
“I think,” said J, as sweet as can be, “that in these types of situations, if you were going to die…you probably would’ve done so by now.”
“Your heart would’ve stopped right away.”
“I mean, at least I think so. Do you want me to Google it?”
“I’M DYYYINNNNNNNNG!” I wailed and buried my face in J’s t-shirt.
We sat like that for a long time.
My whole body felt so strange. The memory of the electricity stuck to my skin, I could feel the jolts in my fingertips still and the warm buzzing and burning sensation throughout my arms.
After sitting in silence for quite awhile, I looked up at J and said, “Remember when I electrocuted myself?” and started to laugh.
“DO NOT,” said J. “THAT WAS NOT FUNNY.”
But the corners of his mouth were already turning up at the ends.
“YES IT IS,” I insisted. “THAT WAS RIDICULOUS.”
“Laura, come on…”
Then he ventured out loud…
“Do you think your hair stood up when it happened?”
And that was just enough to push us to the brink of a new kind of hysteria, and the laughter started and couldn’t be stopped. I told him I wished someone had taken a picture so I could’ve seen it, wondering if you could’ve seen my skeleton like you can in cartoons.
After about an hour, I made my way back to bed, staying as far away from the heater as I possibly could.
“I think I’m going to let you deal with that from now on,” I told J, as he tucked me in.
I fell asleep with phantom pain in my wrists but laughter in my head and my love the next room over, checking in every now and then to make sure I was alright.
January 27, 2014
I don’t run.
Not sure if you know that about me.
Oh sure sometimes I “go out for a run”, usually at the advice of my therapist who once suggested I move my body when I get anxious. But I’m not very strong, I don’t love cardio and I don’t go very far. I also tend to get distracted by the showtunes on my iPod and it’s like, you know what? I’d rather stop running and daaaaaance!
My brother Paul, however, runs marathons.
I’m just going to let that sink in, in the event you knew Paul in high school. Back then, he was glued to his computer, was about 80 pounds overweight and his exercise routine consisted of walking from the couch to the pantry to scope out whether our mom had purchased any more Oreos.
Instead of exercising, Paul used that time in his life to become the smartest person in the world. Literally. He knows everything. More than anyone I have ever met. And I’m guessing somewhere in the middle of LEARNING ALL THE THINGS, Paul was like hm, science says exercise and eat vegetables so I don’t die. And just like he does with everything, he went full throttle.
Last year alone, Paul ran 4 marathons, a 50k and a 50 miler.
People can change, I guess, is my point. Also my point: Paul is now unfairly the smartest person in the world AND the most athletic/lean/drop-dead gorgeous.
Last year, he and my also athletic sister Deb ran the Brooklyn half-marathon and were like IT WAS SO GREAT WE ENDED UP IN CONEY ISLAND DRINKING BEER!
And I was like, oh bummer, I want to hang out with you guys in Coney Island drinking beer, no fair.
So when registration came around a few weeks ago, those fools along with my husband who is always like YOU CAN DO IT YOU ARE GREAT!, convinced me to sign up.
WHAT HAVE I DONE YOU GUYS???
I’m only slightly panicking. I had 16 weeks to train when I signed up (now down to 14) and I’m told that’s plenty of time. I’m taking it slow, baby steps and it’s been great so far except the polar vortex has mandated almost all my runs happen on the treadmill which is my least favorite thing.
But I must say, even after a 2 mile run, I am exhilarated.
“I DID IT!” I keep saying. “I RAN TWO MILES!”
I’ve just always labeled myself “not athletic”, “not a runner”, “not”, “other”, I can’t, I can’t.
I’m trying to prove to myself that I can.
January 25, 2014
My blog broke.
And I couldn’t fix it.
And I got married and had a bunch of health problems so I gave up.
But then I missed it.
So I got Paul, my brother, to fix it. And he did! And now I’m writing! Aren’t you so thrilled?
I’m in the process of getting the template updated as I think it’s time for a change but just wanted to say I’ll be back in action regularly.
What did I miss!?!?!?
September 3, 2013
I’m getting married on Saturday.
No big deal, you guys.
Back when we were first planning our wedding, the hardest part was deciding where to do it. We obviously wanted to try to get married in NYC or around it, since that’s where we live and that’s what we love but oh, YOU GUYS, I don’t know if you’ve heard but New York is a little expensive?
Sample conversation from wedding planning:
ME: Oh okay, so that’s $15,000 and that includes…
HORRIBLE PERSON: The venue.
ME: Alright. So food, booze…
HORRIBLE PERSON: Nope. Just the venue.
ME: Oh. So. That includes…
HORRIBLE PERSON: The space.
ME: Ooookay. So if I wanted to feed people…
HORRIBLE PERSON: Dinner starts at $150/person.
ME: Including alcohol?
HORRIBLE PERSON: No, just dinner.
ME: Can you hang on a second while I throw up?
It became clear after many similar conversations that we couldn’t afford a New York wedding if we wanted to invite all the people we wanted to invite. I don’t know if you’ve heard but I have a few relatives. (4 kids in my family, parents each one of 7, 45 first cousins! High five!) J also has a large family and an admirably huge circle of friends and we sadly had to say goodbye to New York as an option.
So we opened our search elsewhere. After throwing some ideas up against our extensive list of Do’s and Don’ts (e.g./Do not make people fly into an airport and then drive 10 hours and then get on a donkey to take them the rest of the way), we settled on a place near and dear to our hearts: the beach! Specifically, Amelia Island, Florida where J’s parents own a beach house and where we travel a few times a year to swim in the ocean and go for bike rides under Spanish moss.
It was affordable, easy to get to, personal to us (both J and I grew up loving the ocean) and lovely.
It’s been tricky to plan a wedding far away from home but we’ve had a ton of help and it’s been really fun to attempt to create a memorable weekend experience for everyone. All I wanted was a raw venue so I could make it feel like us and I could get as far away from the types of places where all the weddings look the same. I’m pretty thrilled with how it’s coming together which feels like a huge relief considering the wedding planning process in general has been more stressful for me than it has been enjoyable.
Since we took the wedding out of town, we’ve had a lot of people decline which was to be expected. I prepped myself for the disappointment, realizing that to take it personally would only upset me. Kids are back in school and summer is technically over and it’s hard to get on a plane if you’re elderly or sick or have little babies or just a busy adult.
What I’ve realized though is that the disappointments have made me ten times more grateful for the people who are showing up. I’m overwhelmed, quite honestly by all the people I love so much coming from all over to celebrate with me. Tom is flying in from Los Angeles and Alayna and her husband will be there though they are grieving and my friends Dan and JK and 6/7ths of my improv team, compromised of actors and artists who will light up the dance floor and be generally ridiculous.
It’s the sweetest and the loveliest and I’ve cried many times thinking of it.
I’ve been in Florida since Sunday, taking this upcoming week to finalize last minute details and spend some time with J before people start arriving and things get crazy. The wedding is Saturday at the sweetest little chapel followed by a reception at sunset at a lovely space on the marsh side of the island with huge windows and Chinese lanterns over the dance floor. My dad is giving a toast in his ridiculous Brooklyn accent which is sure to delight everyone, as long as the Southerners can understand him. (J is from Nashville, Tennessee.)
I’m thrilled to have a party.
I’m even more thrilled to marry J.
There was a time in my life when I did not believe a person so wonderful existed. There was also a time in my life when I did not believe a person so wonderful would ever find me.
I’m so lucky to have been proven wrong on both counts.
I love you, J.
Let’s get married and lay on the beach for the rest of our lives.
August 22, 2013
I’m getting married in two weeks, if you can believe that. (I cannot.)
I was going to write about that. About how we’re getting married in Florida and I hope there’s not a hurricane and I’m sad because some people won’t be able to make it but excited for the people that are and I like my dress a lot and there will be a candy buffet but.
My best friend Alayna’s mom got sick a few weeks ago. She went to the doctor thinking she had pneumonia and was given a diagnosis of cancer which was…unexpected. And we thought she’d be alright until we realized she wouldn’t be and about a month after she went into the hospital, she passed away.
She was in her early 50′s.
And my sweet best friend no longer has a living mom.
That’s a crazy thing for my mind and heart to process, particularly as I’m immersed in planning a wedding and all that goes with it. It’s been such a haunting reminder as I dwell on little things like what to wear and what kind of flowers I want, the presence of my mother and the history of our relationship. That mother-daughter dynamic, still there like I’m a teenager, wanting her to go away and leave me alone, I’m all grown up and yet reaching for her hand and wishing she was there and needing her advice.
I have been concentrating on being a sounding board for Alayna, the strongest lady you could ever know who was brave about all of it and who took care of everyone around her and who has a little notebook of all the things she talked about with her mom in those last few final days.
I didn’t spend a lot of time with Miss Cay in person but because I knew Alayna so well, I felt like I saw her every day. (And she read my blog sometimes which always tickled me.) I knew the way she lived her life, joyful with a strong faith in God, surrounded by a strong tight knit community who adored her. When she faced death, she was at peace and full of love and she planned out her services and declared no crying and wanted no funeral but a potluck picnic in the park instead with happy singing of songs and balloons being released into the air for her.
So that’s what everyone did.
She died last Saturday afternoon and when I found out, I grabbed my phone and some headphones and I went out for a walk. It was a gorgeous New York City summer evening and I walked and walked until I was tired of walking and thinking and feeling and I sat on a bench by the water in my neighborhood looking at the sky.
The sun was getting ready to set hiding behind the clouds that hovered all over the skyline. I imagined Alayna’s mom up there, floating, singing a church hymn, snapping her fingers. And just as I was trying to decide which exact cloud Miss Cay was hanging out on, the sun burst through and shone so brightly I knew the answer.
She was everywhere.
June 3, 2013
It was a black tie wedding and I kept my heels on until the end. You ask the shuttle bus driver to let us out near your parents’ house where we are staying instead of downtown at the hotel with the rest of the guests.
“We’ll have to walk a few minutes,” you say apologetically as we get off the bus.
I walk a few feet and realize I’m not going to make it in these heels so I hold onto your arm for balance while I slip off my shoes one at a time. The road is suburban, sleepy at this late hour and dark. So different from New York. Tiny lights shimmer from the front porches of houses, guiding our way. We walk on the pavement, listening to the crickets. I pretend the white line of the shoulder is a balance beam.
Eventually the gravel hurts too much on my bare feet so you tell me to move to the grass. It rained all day today and the blades are cool and wet squishing between my toes, heavenly relief. Your tuxedo jacket is limp over your arm like a puppet waiting to come to life.
I carry my heels in my hand and we walk on the grass, through the yards of your childhood friends. We talk about the food we ate and the people we saw and how weddings are a great but weird way to catch up with old friends who disappear out of your life for years at a time and resurface again. You want to talk and catch up in a meaningful way but the music is too loud so you drink too much and dance too long and say how great it was to see them again and wave as you get off the bus.
I like when you talk like this. How evident your frustration is at a lack of meaningful connection with people you love. I love how much you care. I like the way you pause between sentences, the way you say ‘um’ and tilt your chin while you gather your thoughts. I think back to the first time we grabbed a drink and you showed up wearing a sweatshirt that looked really soft and you tilted your chin a lot and chose your words carefully and listened intently to everything I had to say.
When we tiptoe into your parents’ house, I realize I’m missing the wrap your mother loaned me. I panic instantly at how careless I can be, scanning my brain for when it might have slipped off my arm in the grass somewhere.
“I’ll find it,” you say, calm as can be. You kiss me on the forehead and tell me to get ready for bed and you walk out again through the front door, into the darkness to retrace our steps.
My feet are wet from the grass and my body aches from dancing. I’m just a few steps away from collapsing into bed but you’re out there in the middle of the night, fixing my mistake.
My sister-in-law once asked me if you were always so mellow. I admitted that you weren’t, not all the time, but most of the time, yes. A feeling I’m drawn to because it makes me feel grounded, my feet firmly planted instead of flying through the air as they usually are. I live in the clouds and I talk fast and I lose things and where are my keys? I don’t know where they are, I don’t know where I am.
You remind me when I forget and you find the things I lose and when I’m anxious, you tell me to breathe and you let me borrow your confidence and try it on for size. I don’t remember a flash of fireworks when I met you or the surging of a Hollywood movie score, blinding white light and the Hallelujah Chorus. Instead, I experienced a warm feeling that slowly and steadily crawled over me over time, as if you were an old blanket, a friend I once knew a lifetime ago, a person who made me feel safe and strong at the same time.
My cell phone rings.
“I found it,” you say. “See you soon.”
I stand in the silent kitchen, eyes closed and wait for you to reappear.