Archive for June, 2008


I had my first garage sale over the weekend. It was beyond exhausting, but what surprised me the most was emotional part. I was not prepared for it. It was like watching “This is Your Life” except that greedy strangers appear and snatch up your memories and haggle over them.

There was this one woman who grabbed my daughter’s little navy dress with the white polka dots. Elizabeth wore it to my cousin’s funeral when she was just a baby.  My cousin had died tragically young from a drug overdose and we were all shattered. In that dress, on that day, Elizabeth was my only source of light.

As she nuzzled her fuzzy head into my neck and drooled on my black cardigan, I felt comforted. When she took her fingers out of her mouth and flashed her wet gums to strangers, I knew she was providing the best form of bereavement counseling. 

I wanted to go over and pull that dress out of her hands. That little dress was my tiny reminder that when pain nearly stops our hearts, new life arrives to show us that we can smile again.

Then there was the yellow Ralph Lauren duvet with matching pillow shams.  I remember the day my husband and I bought it.  We had just gotten back from our honeymoon and were giddy, in love and clutching fast cash made from returning wedding gifts.

Emboldened by the fresh start ahead of us, we splurged on the silky Egyptian cotton linens. We were so happy to be appointing our married life with much finer things than our single ones could have afforded.  We were naïvely certain that the days of crappy, irregular sheets from the deep-discount table at Bed, Bath and Beyond were behind us.

On some level, selling that duvet felt like acknowledging the end of the newlywed belief that married life will always be exciting and fun. Though considerably faded, I wasn’t sure I was ready to abandon it completely.

Nearby in a bin of books sat my tattered copy of Pat Conroy’s “The Prince of Tides”.  It was one of my first pleasure-reads after college while vacationing in Arizona. As I lay in the sun scalding my skin a dark pink, I fell in love with Tom Wingo’s gorgeous South Carolinian prose. It was the first time I would ever think of an author’s words as lyrical because, well — they were.  

That book marked the beginning of my great love affair with books to which I remain besotted for life. I had marked my first lover “50% off” — which shamed me more than just a little.

And then there were the little froggy rain boots we bought at a beachside gift shop. Once during a rainstorm, Caroline put them on with her fanciest pink nightgown and went outside to dance like Gene Kelly.  She was so deliciously transported into her own world that I raced outside to take her picture for which she posed proudly.

Those boots marked my little fashionista’s first awareness that very often it is indeed, the shoes that make the dress. 

I looked at the bits and pieces of my life sprawled out before me and I thought: that’s it. I simply could not part with any more of it. I nudged my way in amongst the shoppers in their fanny-packs.  I was ready to start pulling stuff from the sale when I was stopped by a woman with a thick Irish brogue. 

She wanted to confirm the size the gauzy, white flower-girl dress Elizabeth wore in a wedding last December. She was buying it to send “back home” to her sister in Ireland. She said it would be perfect for her niece’s first holy communion. 

I had a vision of a red-haired girl wearing the dress in an old Irish church and I was pleased beyond belief. I know it’s predictable to say “think of all the new memories your things will enjoy”, but in this case, I was totally fired up.

Godspeed, pretty white dress!

That’s when I knew I would be okay.


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I need to put my small-town business aside for a moment to talk about the passing of Tim Russert.  I’m so sad about it. I seem to be taking it personally — and it’s not just because he’s been so integral to my Sunday morning ritual. It’s more than that.

I come from this crazy, politically charged family. Both ends of the spectrum are fervently represented, from my right-wing activist parents to my left-wing idealist uncles. No one takes it all lightly either, and what results is a big, bad blurring of politics and personal.

My dad likes to throw out red meat emails to provoke my uncles, ostensibly to debate, but really – I think – because he misses them. They, of course, respond in kind — blasting back passionate arguments from their side, leaving my dad unconvinced but later, (surprisingly) puzzled why they’re not closer.  When it comes to these family political “debates,” scores are never settled, no one ever agrees and damage gets done.

I can’t claim to be above the fray either. My mom and I had a recent scuffle over a political email she sent me.  It was an attack on a candidate’s character, and I responded furiously by attacking hers.

Once at a dinner party, my husband called the hostess a communist.  We were three minutes into our conversation and grilled salmon when he burped up that assault. He was horrified.  I was practically under the table.

Must politics always be so mean?  It doesn’t take long before our discussions veer into anger. It’s like road-rage on our personal values.  

I read Maureen Dowd and I can’t get past how bitter she seems. I watch Sean Hannity and I think – that guy is an asshole. Bill O’Reilly may claim a “no-spin zone” , but the guy is always cantankerous and growling, ready to pounce. 

And then there was Tim Russert –razor sharp, but jowly and twinkling. He wasn’t angry about politics, he was downright gleeful. Perhaps that’s what made him so effective. When you watched his show, you knew he wanted to get all of the answers – so we could judge for ourselves

That is what I’ll miss the most. I learned a lot by watching his show. Tim Russert’s classroom was safe from playground bullies. Politics were to be appreciated and respected. He seemed to enjoy the process as much as the ideals, and his enjoyment was infectious.

Sunday mornings will never be the same.

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#16 Skip some stones

School is out. Thank god. I can’t take any more crazy school-mom mania.  The overachieving moms get me all worked up with their uber involvement and super fabulousness.  The closer we get to the last day, the harder they organize, schedule, and plan.  I am so not made that way, and I get really grumpy and rebellious when I’m around them. Cut it out, crazy moms. Go home, eat something and stop with your highly organized efforts.

I can’t handle the super summer scheduling of kids either.  I’m a firm believer in free play.  Unleash the imagination! I refuse to sign them up for a bunch of crappy camps that cost a fortune and require me to drive them all over town. I brag about this to the uber moms, hoping to induce a new competition for just letting kids play. They don’t buy it.

I relish the idea of summer: no alarm clocks, no lunches to make, no barking about homework.  Ahhhhhh just sleep, reading and the unfolding of a new day.  Who knows what today will bring.

Apparently, today (the first day!) it brings: fighting, whining, crying, pinching, pulling, demanding, eating, spilling, and trashing. Shit. I need a crappy camp to get them out of the house.  I panic. What was I thinking?  I start flipping through the catalog of expensive day camps.

Quickly, I rough out a schematic for this week: fairy camp, safety town, hip hop dancing, tennis and lacrosse. I make plans to dip into their college savings to cover next week. Everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself.

Then Elizabeth hands me the list she’s made of “100 Things to do this summer”. She’s done it on her own, inspired by a summer of possibilities. She’s decorated the cover with a crayon drawing of a beach umbrella stuck crookedly into a yellow hump of scrawled beach.  The list is written in purple marker.  It’s four pages long and stapled together in the corner. I read it and relax. Here are just a few of her summer aspirations:

#5 Watch a scary movie
#11 Ride bikes to the library
#18 Visit a relative
#22  Read a book
#35 Make up a dance
#46  Sun bathe
#50  Make friendship bracelets
#66  Go to the beach
#72  Take a nap
#85  Make a sand castle
#97  Catch bugs

I toss the camp catalog in the garbage. Clearly, she has better ideas. I start making lemonade. Welcome to summer.

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