Build a Snowman

It’s been a tough New England March with a good bit of snow. As I scroll through my different social media feeds, I realize how much I miss snowmen in the front yard. Trust me, I don’t miss the puddles all over my kitchen floor, or the endless search for another pair of dry gloves, or even the constant drying of snow pants but, I miss the snowmen. The creativity of what they used for eyes, nose, and mouth. The teamwork of my two little builders. The hot chocolate with more marshmallows than you could count. The snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie to warm up afterwards.

As you’re reading this, you might think – “Oh that’s so sad” or “She must be so depressed” but please don’t, I’m not. I’m not sad or depressed. Quite the contrary, I’m proud and feel a huge sense of accomplishment. My kids had great childhoods. They are creative, hard working, and have a good sense of family. Did it start with the first snowman? Maybe. Do I miss them being around and building snowmen? Yes. But, guess what, I know they’ll have snowmen of their own in their own yards. Snowmen that will melt away too.

Have you ever shed a tear to a Judas Priest song?

I wake up in the morning; the beat is going off in my head.  I drive to work and think I hear the song on the radio, no; it’s still just in my head.  Cooking dinner, there it is again, only this time it’s real, being practiced over and over again. For two months there has been nonstop guitar practice – Living after Midnight.  His concert was coming; he needed to get every strum, every beat, and every rest perfect without even a millisecond of hesitation. He’s only twelve and he’s barely been playing for six months, of course he’s nervous.  I’m his mother, when he’s filled with worry, so am I.  His school work can wait, he hasn’t played in the yard in days, but still he practices.  Here comes the solo.  Ewwww, timing’s a little off.  Who am I to judge?  I couldn’t play a note if my life depended on it.  Try it again, one more time.  Whoa, I think he got it.  He stops cold, dead in his tracks.  The music continues on in the background without him.

“Did you hear that Mom?  I got it!”  He’s beaming from ear to ear, braces glimmering from the sunlight shining through the open window.  The presence of his prominent left dimple let me know that he was going to be okay.  It let me know that I had raised a confident, determined child.  He hadn’t given up; he had given it his all.  He felt that he was a success and that was all that mattered.

Do you think he knows that I will always be his biggest fan?  Does he realize that I will be cheering him on every step of the way, no matter what song he decides to play?

As he walked on stage, I could see a smirk.  He looked out in to the crowd of close to sixty people, never playing for a group so large.  For a split second he went expressionless then the most serious look I had ever seen came across his face.  He didn’t look like my frightened baby with the round cheeks and wide eyes; he looked like a young man who was ready to show the world his true talent.

The music began to play from the gigantic speakers behind him.  Booming, swallowing the room with every note.  Right on cue the gorgeous mahogany flame Jay Turser that he had wanted so desperately hit every note under my son’s command.  I sat breathless, listening to every strum as if I had never heard it played before.  He was phenomenal.  When I finally caught my breath, it was time for the solo.  Looking around the room, I could tell I was not the only person amazed by my son’s talent.  Other musicians were head bobbing, nodding in agreement.  Parents were nudging each other and nodding their approval.  My husband, with that same adorable dimple handed down to my son, was staring in disbelief.  When you ask people to tell you about their greatest accomplishments, they talk about earning advanced degrees, making lots of money, or perhaps completing some fitness feat but my greatest accomplishments are lived through my children.

As a tear streamed down my cheek, I giggled.  I can’t believe I just shed a tear over a Judas Priest song.

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Written in 2007 for a Memoir Writing course.

The Quiet Really Isn’t Eerie

More times than I can count this week, I have walked into a silent house. More times than I can count this week, I’ve been alone in this house that I’m deciding is too big for two people.

There hasn’t been a single noise, a single tv blaring in the background, a single footstep bounding up the stairs. But guess what? For the first time, it didn’t make me sad. Instead, there was a sense of peace. Moments where I’ve looked around and reflected. Looked around and thought what next? Looked around and smiled.

Sometimes the quiet can be eerie but lately, it sounds like success. No chaos, no drama, just peace. The dots are connecting; my path is falling into place. Career-focus; relationship-focus; future fun.

Do You Ever Sit Still?

When the kids are little you are either at home or en route. On the way to a friend’s house, a practice, an appointment, or a birthday party – nothing adult-related. As they are able to drive themselves, you stay home, not so patiently waiting, pacing the floors awaiting their safe return. Now that they’re grown, there’s no need to pace at home. You’ve done your job, you’ve done the best you could and now it’s time.

Time for what you ask? Time to explore, time to find and rediscover you. It’s not time to sit around the house and watch Pretty Woman or Sixteen Candles for the 100th time. How will you remember who you are by staring at those same four walls you’ve admired for 20 or so years?

So, to answer the question that I hear from my friends on a regular basis of “Do you ever sit still?”, the answer is, “No, I never sit still.” What’s the point of sitting around? I need to find me and she’s definitely not locked in this house.

The Real Journey Started in 1990

I loved him and I knew I was doing the right thing or at least that was what my naïve, twenty year old mind was telling me.  I made a rash decision to move eleven hundred miles away from home.  I withdrew from college with just three semesters left.  I quit a decent, full time job that could have been a career.  I deserted a loving family who were always caring and supportive.  I did all of these foolish things just two weeks before Christmas, Christmas the biggest family day of the year, with just a promise to come back and visit some time.  Was it the right thing?  Who knew, but I was sure as hell going to find out.

As my parents stood in the driveway wiping away tears, all I could think about was myself.  As I drove away, I ripped their hearts out, dragging them, slowly beating like the U-Haul I was towing.  Selfishly, I didn’t care who I hurt as I ran to him, it was all about me. Me, me, me and whatever I wanted to do.  Was I making a good decision?  Did I consider the feelings of my family who urged me not to go because I really didn’t know him?  No, I was a twenty year old college drop out who’s only future plans rode on the pipe dreams of a wanna-be whom I’d only been dating for three months.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, that couldn’t be any truer!  Had I known what I know now, would I have made a different decision?  Probably, but what happened in my life over the next two years was meant to be.  It was the most eye-opening time of my life.  Fate, destiny that is determined before you take your first breath, had carved out a scenic route for me.  On this part of my life’s journey, there were so many twists and turns that I thought I may have lost my way while spiraling out of control.  Today I am thankful that I landed face up in familiar territory.

My eleven hundred mile trek dropped me in South Carolina with him.  This part of my journey I like to refer to as “driving through the storm”.  This storm lowered my self-esteem and made me unsure of every move I made.  I worked two jobs to pay all of our bills and he claimed to have a job.  As far as I knew, with a job came a paycheck, this never happened.  His lack of a real job led to drinking and drinking to excess.  Drinking to excess led to hostility and anger.  Anger led to huge arguments and mean, nasty words.  Arguments led to him storming out of the apartment to the local bar.  And finally, more drinking led to cheating.  I won’t even dignify his presence in my life by writing or speaking his name but I do owe him one thing.  Thank you.  Thank you for opening my eyes to a world outside of Massachusetts.  Thank you for showing me what kind of relationship is never worth having.    But most importantly, thank you for leaving.  The mind games in which I had been the pawn finally stopped.

The next part of my journey is referred to as “the accident”.  He was a guy from the golf course, he was married, and he had kids.  I was drowning my low self esteem in Crown and water.  We hit it off right away.  He told me that he was married but he and his wife were treading on thin ice.  I wonder if she knew that but of course I believed him because I was a starry-eyed twenty-one year old.  He shared that he still lived at home but it was only because of the kids.  None of that seemed to matter to me.  I was on the rebound and needed someone to treat me like a girl was supposed to be treated.  What a twist in the road.  I was the one being cheated on last time around but this time I was the accomplice in the cheating.  What a terrible irony.  Unfortunately the only thing wrong with this relationship was that he was married.  Oh, did I mention he was seventeen years older than me?  Alright, so there were two things wrong with that picture.  Enough said.  The fun was short lived but well worth it.  I regained my self-esteem, grew a conscience and vowed to always be treated as I should in a good relationship.

I was having the time of my life, feeling good about myself, living on my own, working hard, attending classes at University of South Carolina and visiting my family whenever I could.  On a visit home during the spring of 1992, I caught back up with Mark.  Mark grew up a mile from me and I had known him since grade school.  He was “a friend of a friend” and when his eyes met mine while I was spending my last night in town out with a group of friends, I felt like he was the only one in the room.  His smile made me melt from the inside out.  The way he laughed with such innocence took my breath away.  Why did I have to run eleven hundred miles in the other direction only to find the love of my life living in my hometown?  Was it my destiny?  Was it for personal growth?  It was fate that took me on this scenic journey.  In the blink of eye my life had changed.  In less than one year from the day we re-connected, I married the man who had become my best friend.  This final part of my journey I like to call “reaching my destination”.

Living Your Dash

This time of year is perfect to reflect on where you’ve been, how you feel about the present, and what your future holds.

I must admit, I have been doing this a lot over the last 2 or 3 years – reflecting, evaluating, and re-aligning. When I’m deep in thought about my “what’s next”, I’m often reminded of the poem by Linda Ellis entitled The Dash.

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?

As we usher in the new year, make a point to be proud of your dash. If you’re not, it’s time to do something to change it.

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