This House of Love


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Nine Years Later

When I was pregnant with Charlotte someone in the Starbucks line imparted a piece of wisdom to me. This is a frequent occurrence during pregnancy – advice, words of wisdom, warnings, congratulations – strangers offer them all.  Few are gems, but for some reason this woman’s words still echo through my mind to this day, four years later. Perhaps it was the fact that she was toting two little ones, her hair was askew, and her smile was both defeated and effervescent at the same time. It’s possible that I recognized a future soul sister in her. It could be that I was hungry for guidance and support. Whatever the reason, I listened. And even though I often forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, or even more frequently return from the grocery store with half the things I need and double the things I want, this phrase embedded itself in my brain. Presumably forever.

“The days are long, but the years are short,” she had said kindly yet frankly. I committed the line to memory as we continued to banter light-heartedly. As I mentioned, I will have had hundreds of run-ins with people by the end of both of my pregnancies. But, this one. This one clearly felt different.

Eventually, as those first months of sleep deprivation and hormonal rollercoaster rides melted away, and I dug myself out of the trench that is the transition from pregnancy to postpartum, life went on. At both a snail’s pace and break neck speed. My days often felt undeniably (and oddly) long AND short; I spent them mourning the loss of the family I grew up with, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been, while trying to balance the creation of a new one. I was happy and sad. And then I was pregnant again. Charlotte soon turned two. Adam arrived. My daughter started school. She was quickly out of diapers, and he was sitting up. The next thing I know my kids are three and a half and eight months, and my heart has octupled in size.

And within the proverbial blink of an eye, the tragic calendar count I have been conducting amidst all of life’s curveballs gets much closer to a decade than to any other convenient measure of time. Nine years to be exact. Nine years since Mom was killed. If you had asked me to write about my life that day in Starbucks four years ago, my reflection would have been much different. I was so fractured then. Despite having found love, buying a home, working steadily, and being pregnant, I was slogged down by sadness. I was in the deepest pit of grief still, attempting to crawl my way out. My stance was that the woman who had given me life, only to have hers selfishly taken away, was missing out on all these events that she had begun dreaming of the moment I was born. It felt so wrong to rejoice without her. So, as my life continued on an uptrend, as did the difficulty of moving on.

But now, as we approach this ninth “anniversary” of Mom’s death, it is clear to me that this extra time passed has helped to heal a good deal of my wounds, and that my frame of mind is evolving. It is true that some days I still spend a little sadder than others. I catch myself standing at the edge of the gaping hole that grief always leaves behind in its wake, teetering between the me that is present in all my current love and slipping back into the me that is rooted in my painful past. But what also remains true, and what I often remind myself of, is that I have lived nine whole years since Mom died. Within those nine years I met the love of my life. A stubborn, handsome, funny, incredibly loving, supportive, relentless, nutty man whom Mom would have loved. We moved a bunch of times, sold a home, bought one. We planned our dream wedding. We honeymooned. We made babies that we adore more than life itself. We live our lives every day, not loving every moment, but valuing each one. We have done all these things, and despite the sadness I felt amidst many of them, I often look back with so much fondness. These are the highlights of my life. They would have been the highlights of my mother’s as well. She would never want my happiest recollections to be so tainted.

Thus, if my grief, heartbreak and *parenthood* have taught me anything, it’s that every moment matters. So, as I begin this tenth year without my mom, I choose to reflect on that wise saying a nice lady in Starbucks once shared with me. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Why should I waste these precious minutes scarred and jaded, when they will so rapidly weave together to create the fabric of my whole lifetime? This annual commemoration  (also conveniently always “celebrated” around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), I vow to try my best to be content in every beautiful, poop, tear, and laughter-filled moment I’m gifted with. Because before I know it, the days of my live will morph into years. And I’m planning on filling mine with more than enough happiness for both Mom and me.

 

 


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Let’s Make a Deal

img_0731((As Seen in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Miracles))


“There’s a story behind everything… but behind all your stories is always your mother’s
story…because hers is where yours begins.”
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day


      “You know, your aunt was always jealous I was picked that day,” my mother would begin. A smile would spread across her face, ever the competitive little sister. “I was no more than twenty-one, and I had on the cutest bunny costume!” Her face would shine even brighter. “I made it myself, you know. I even had a tail. That day I won a year’s supply of Reynolds Wrap and Super Glue.”
She was speaking of her early 1970s appearance on the ever popular Let’s Make a Deal. This tale was one of her favorite memories of all time, and I had heard it throughout my childhood far too many times to count. I never minded though; I loved to see her smile so radiantly.
It was now early October, five years and one week since I had last seen my mother smile. As I often did around that time of year, I spent much of my time reminiscing and flipping through family photos. This year in particular though, I desperately missed seeing her face light up and hearing the heartiness of her laughter. For the billionth time, I searched for family videos, but nothing new surfaced. My mother had hated to set foot in front of a still camera, let alone allow herself to be videotaped.
As I was flipping through a scrapbook I had just applied the finishing touches to, it dawned on me. I could search the web for old Let’s Make a Deal clips. I mean, there are stranger things on YouTube, right? I grabbed my iPad and swiftly typed in “1970s Let’s Make a Deal clips.” Hundreds of options popped up, mostly boasting 1970s cars (which I knew my mother had definitely not won). But one bold blue line caught my eye.
Let’s Make a Deal Tickets.” Tickets? Huh? I didn’t know they were still filming.
I clicked the link and found information for tapings in the Los Angeles area. I read through, and as the moments ticked by, I grew giddy and excited. Tickets! I entered my information, requesting tickets for a date a few weeks from then. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband when he got home!
A few hours later, as Danny and I were sitting down for dinner, I heard my phone ping, alerting me that I had received an e-mail. I would usually disregard the noise during dinnertime, but for some reason I was drawn to the phone. I picked it up, and immediately saw the subject line, “Let’s Make a Deal Tickets for Friday!” Friday? Tomorrow? Tomorrow! I checked my Google schedule and lo and behold, I had the day off.

“Babe, Let’s Make a Deal, tomorrow! Let’s make it happen!” I shouted.
“What?” he called from the kitchen. “I wish! I have to work. Are you serious?” I had told him about my previous search and he was as excited as I had been.

      I forgot all about dinner and ran upstairs, searching for my newly acquired Halloween costume that would have to work for the next day. I slipped it on and looked in the mirror, finishing off my rather convincing pirate getup with an “Arrrrrg!” 

      “Verrry nice,” Danny said, coming up behind me. He spun me around and hugged me. He held me gingerly for a minute and then said, “Something tells me your mom is responsible for this. I know it in my heart. Just you watch, you’re gonna win. I know it.”
The next morning found me standing on the back lot of the studio, waiting in line, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by a gorilla and a Greek goddess. There was nowhere else I’d rather have been. In what felt like no time at all, we were herded into our seats and the cameras were rolling. The music, the people, the lights—it was beyond overwhelming, in the best possible way!
Everyone was encouraged to dance, and that we did. I moved with the music and waited for Wayne Brady to make his debut for the day. Within moments he appeared, and after some more silly moves, he quieted us down and got us into our seats.

      “Alright, who’s ready for our first game?” he asked after his hilarious introduction. Of course, we all screamed our heads off. Pick me, pick me!
“Alright, you,” he said, pointing to a brunette woman dressed in bright yellow.
“And… you!” he shouted, pointing at me. Me? Me!

      I ran down the steps to join the two of them on stage. My ears were ringing, my face was flushed, and my heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest.

      “… you got it?” Wayne asked. I snapped back to reality. My head may have been nodding up and down, but I sure didn’t catch the rules. Everything was going so fast. “Go ahead, which door would you like?” he asked, facing my opponent.
“Door number one!” she replied enthusiastically.
“Alright, Amy, that leaves you with door number two,” he explained to me. Thankfully I now had some idea what was going on.
“Now, I’m going to offer you five hundred dollars for your doors, but you both
must decide to sell or stay, even though you are ending up with different doors.”
Okay, I’m getting it now, I thought. We looked at each other and decided to stay
right where we were. “We’re not selling!”

       He offered us more money, but we weren’t interested. Give us our doors! Wayne revealed my partner’s door. Behind it was a… ZONK! A cactus-shaped something or other, who knows? What was important was that was not my door! She took a seat, which left Wayne and me all alone.

     “Amy, how are you feeling?” he asked me.
“I’m feeling great, how about yourself?” I quipped.
“I’m wonderful. I’m just hoping to give you something amazing like a brand new
car.” He smiled.
“I hope so too. I’m going to keep the door. Can I keep the door?”
“Well, you have to,” he paused, laughing.

      I blushed, but then I saw an opportunity. “You know, my mom was on this show almost forty years ago, and today I know she’s with me, watching from up above. Thanks Mom.” Tears filled my eyes and the back of my throat. I choked on my words and Wayne continued seamlessly.
“I’m sure she is. Now, do you want to see what’s waiting for you behind door
number two?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed.
“It’s a… brand new car!”

       My heart stopped. Or did it speed up? I’m not sure what happened. All I know is that my knees turned to jelly, yet still they helped deliver me into the driver’s seat of my brand new Honda Fit. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, thanking the powers that be, and most especially my mother. I may not have seen her smile or heard her laugh that day, but I sure do know she was doing both in the purest and happiest of ways.