It happened again.
Last week we took a family outing to drive through a Christmas light display. Since we were in the area, we took a trip down memory lane and drove through the village of Avon. After looping around a couple of side streets, we slowed down to look at the Avon Inn. As if she could grasp the concept, we explained to our two-year old that the big building with pretty lights is where Mommy and Daddy got married, and then we told her that time before her existed. As we laughed at ourselves and slowly pulled away, that’s when it happened.
Our wedding song started playing on the radio.
I noticed it first, this time. We smiled at the fluke, feeling eerie in the coincidence. Our smiles were immediately followed by heavy sighs. The not quite silent acknowledgement that this relentless clash of emotions is a substantial weight to bear. Things that once made us so happy, make us sad now. It’s the consequence of a tarnished memory. Our wedding song, for example, makes us a little sad now. Life in general, is a little sad now.
And that’s where we exist today. Within that subdued pause between the smile and the sigh. Where everything is left unsaid, because there are no words. On one hand we have this amazing life, happy moments abound, so much to be thankful for. On the other hand, we have loss. Loss of a dream, loss of a friend, and the loss of a life that we once considered normal.
Happy moments still exist, of course they do. They’re just as present as they always were. But I’m not as present as I always was, I can’t be. The truth is I’m tired of hearing about the good things in my life, as if they somehow make up for the bad. “You have a baby so that should help with losing a baby”. “You are lucky to have so many great memories”. And the kicker “it could be worse”. Obviously life can always get worse. It already has, a couple of times. But knowing that doesn’t make this phase better. Happiness cannot be exchanged like currency. That’s not the way it works.
So I’ve arrived at a crossroads. Naturally, it has felt a little disingenuous to write about happy moments while standing knee deep in shit, but I do miss it. Writing. Sharing small, silly, and seemingly insignificant instances of my life. Noticing if only for myself, the ordinary moments that combine to create an extraordinary life.
Hearing our wedding song on the radio did remind me of good times. Better times. Not of our wedding, but of the last time this chance occurrence happened to us. On the way to our 2nd anniversary dinner, around the same time I started the blog. When I eagerly proclaimed that “this phase will not last forever, and that tomorrow might be a really bad day.” The irony is not lost on me.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with the lyrics that keep bringing me back to where it all began.
And I wonder when I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I’ll ever ask of you
You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when
For one reason or another I always seem to take a hiatus from writing at this time of year. But I’m here at last to share a quick story.
Allow me to set the scene. I’m sitting on the couch, my husband is on the adjacent couch. We’re in our appropriately dark living room on an inappropriately sunny afternoon. My phone, which rarely rings, starts buzzing with an incoming call. The number is not familiar, but it is my area code, so I answer. The conversations follows:
“Hi, is Kiera there?”
“No, this is her mom. Who’s this?”
“Oh, well is she there? Can I speak with her?”
I linger here a little because at this moment my phone starts chiming in my ear with a couple rapid fire texts. I glance at the screen quickly but do not recognize the number, so I return to the conversation more adamantly, albeit a bit confused.
“No, Kiera is at daycare. She’s 20 months old, I’m her mom. Who is this?”
“20 MONTHS!? It says here I should be speaking with a 20 YEAR old.”
“Well, you’re not. Kiera is my baby, who is this?”
“I’m so sorry, I must have the wrong person.”
“WHO IS THIS?”
“This is for a patient referral.”
“Oh… but the person you’re looking for is named Kiera? And is 20 years old, not 20 months old?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“That’s weird though, right? That’s not a very common name.”
“Right, I’m not sure how this happened. I’m so sorry to bother you.”
And with that I hang up the phone. I look over at my husband who had been following along. His expression, initially puzzled and confused, had now resolved into a smile with just a tinge of WTF? I shrug my shoulders, laugh, and then look at the texts I had missed. I find this:
What in the Sam Hill?
(Which I thought was sam hell my entire life, until literally right now.)
This was the most peculiar 3 minutes of my life.
It was as if someone saw me sitting there on the couch and said “hi there, I see someone kicked you while you were down. Here’s something to laugh at; think about nearly impossible coincidences, 20 year old Kieras, and crack for the rest of the afternoon.”
Admittedly I took the needed opportunity to do just that.
And I feel better knowing that if all else fails, at least I know where I can get some crack. Phew.
Do you feel that?
That feeling of being out of place? The uneasiness. Like the winds of change are a comin’ and instead of the gentle breezes we’re used to, they’re coming in hurricane strength gusts; bringing with them so much unwelcome tension. It’s an unfamiliar lack of control that leaves me with a sour mood that is palpable in almost every aspect of my life.
I can’t take any more of it. I also can’t take any less of it. For myself, to ignore seems ignorant.
But what can I do? I can call, email, and write to my representatives. Ok… done. But this type of change takes time. Months and years. Most days I measure time in hours and even minutes. I can’t wait that long, and I’m not about to start letting bad things linger. So what can I really do?
I can control my own environment. I can block the wind. Stop the tension right in its tracks, at my doorstep. I can make my home a welcoming and relaxing place, for myself and others. I can make it a place where everyone feels like they belong.
While it’s something my husband and I have always aspired to do, I’m starting to figure out that now, for me, it means so many different things.
It means giving more than I receive.
It means getting rid of stuff.
It means less clutter.
It means taking care of the stuff I do have.
It means dreaming.
It means being mindful.
It means immersing myself in things I really enjoy.
It means moving on.
It means being present while I’m with my family any truly enjoying each other’s company so much that we forget about the rest of the world, if only for a second.
It means welcoming anybody, and I do mean anybody, who walks through my door with a smile.
It means taking care of each other.
That is, after all, what I’m here for, right?
It also means I’m going to going to jump on the hygge bandwagon. Google it if you don’t know what it is, but this explains it pretty well.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Sharing the laughter and love.
Bruegger’s is my favorite mommy/daughter date spot.
Our local chain is not very busy and we have a very relaxed routine when we’re there. We go in, order two breakfast sandwiches, and set up shop at a corner table for the 45 minutes it takes her to eat an entire sausage, egg, and cheese sammy.
Only once did I make the rookie mistake of ordering one sandwich for the two of us, foolishly thinking I could share with my 12 month old. She ate the whole thing and I was left with the tough outer shell of a bagel as my only sustenance. You live and you learn.
I took her there yesterday for an early lunch. We had a busy week ahead of us and I wanted to spoil her a little bit. We went about our usual routine. Ordered food, sat down, said “hi” to everyone there 6 times, and then got down to the serious business of eating.
A half hour later, when she finally looked up from her plate, she noticed that an older woman had (quite intentionally) cozied up to us at a nearby table. We all said hi to each other of course. I took the break in Kiera’s eating marathon as a sign that she might be ready for some conversation, so we talked about our day. About how Daddy was on a work trip. About how she and I would be going to Aunt Sarah’s for a Christmas party. Then we talked about Santa. As Kiera smiled and whispered “Tanta Tause” under her breath the woman next to us could no longer hold back.
“Does she know SANTA?!?”
“How old is she?”
“Oh my gosh she’s so young, that’s great!”
“She’s so big!”
“Does she like Santa?!”
The flood gates had opened. It was as if the “S” word was a secret password that gave us access to an exclusive Christmas club. A club in which an old woman, a young toddler, and a 32 year old believer were the only members. At least for the time being.
Kiera nibbled at the rest of her food while the three of us sat there and talked about Christmas. She told me about a Santa that visits a local chain every week night. I feigned interest; she tore a schedule and coupon out of her newspaper that she was reading and gave it to me.
Just then an employee walked by and the woman abruptly stood up and said “excuse me, I have something to do”.
I watched her walk over to the employee and start doling out goodies from her bag. She had brought treats to give to the Bruegger’s employees. As they stood there discussing people’s work schedules, so that she could come back later in the week, I had a feeling of déjà vu; this has happened before.
But it hadn’t. Not to me anyway. It had happened to a friend, and she described it so well in her guest post that I was momentarily confused whether it was her memory or mine. That day, two years ago, she got to be a member of the Secret Santa club. Today, it was my turn.
I let myself think about how funny life is for a second but then quickly dialed back to present day and took this window of opportunity to start packing up our things to leave. I took Kiera out of her high chair and told her she could run around while I put the chair away. But she didn’t run around. She grabbed her coat and marched directly to the older woman, arms out asking for her coat to be “on”, before I had a chance to object. The woman happily obliged and as I hurried over to say thank you and pick up my billowy toddler, the woman whispered something to Kiera.
“I have a present for you today”.
She pulled out a baggie of M&M’s and said “I brought them for the workers who aren’t here, but you’re a good girl and I think you deserve them instead”.
And then it dawned on me.
This woman IS Santa.
Here I am, just dipping my toes into my lifelong dream of having the official title of Santa Clause, as this woman was (presumably) long ago faced with the unfortunate milestone of retiring as Santa. But she chose not to hang up her Santa hat. She simply found somewhere else to wear it.
“Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”
(Hip lyrics for those following along)
I want to be just like her when I grow up!
Since this blog is slowly developing into a personal account of things I want to remember and things I want to be, I’m letting it evolve and adding this to my list of life goals.
I will remember this as the day that I realized I will always be Santa, because I always have been Santa. And that a small piece of me is even a little excited for the opportunity to someday be this example for someone else. When there is time, and money, and sleep. I will remember this as the day I got to be a part of the Secret Santa Club, when I was simultaneously united with a stranger and reunited with an old friend across the distance of two years. And I’ll remember this as the day I let my daughter take candy from a stranger, because she wasn’t a stranger at all.
She was Santa.
Happy Holidays everyone! If you’re out there being Santa, feel free to comment and share.
Yesterday started out as a great day.
Before leaving for work my husband and I made the short walk down to the school. Both equally excited about having the opportunity to vote for a woman as President of the United States. We discussed how cool it was that our daughter would never know a world in which a woman, or African American, had never been president.
As we walked home we were swarmed by dozens of preschoolers and kindergarteners just starting their day. Full of cheerful energy and absolute chaos. We laughed about how this would be our life in just a few short years, and I think we both found a little bit of solace in the fact that we were doing our very small part to help our daughter get a good start.
It was the perfect start to a perfect fall day. The sun was shining brightly. Firing up the reds, yellows, and oranges in the trees, the air was crisp. It was all very picturesque. Even thinking back on it now gives me the warm fuzzies.
But then the weather changed. It got dark, and cold.
And as the rain started to fall in Western NY, hearts started to sink across the country.
I threw in the towel at around midnight because I knew it was over. When my husband came to bed a half hour later I non-verbally requested an update, and he replied that there was still the slightest outside chance that things might fall her way. I told him the only reason he believed that is because he is a Bills fan, and he’s accustomed to hoping for the impossible. We both laughed.
But to be honest, it wasn’t really funny.
I woke up at 4:30 and had to grab my phone. I read that just a little over an hour had passed since Hillary had conceded. Hillary conceded. Hillary conceded.
For the second time in a few months, albeit for very different reasons, I felt as if the world (my world) was standing still.
Once again, I had to ask myself why. I’m not a political person, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand all the nuts and bolts of our political system. But, to put it in layman terms, at its core being the president is a job. A very complicated and demanding job, but a job nonetheless. ‘Job’ is a term I can understand. I have a job; I’ve offered other people jobs. Every time I’ve done so, my decision was based heavily on the person’s qualifications.
I voted for Hillary Clinton simply because she was more qualified for the position. And in a postion as complicated as say… the President of the United States… I do believe qualifications and experience are important. Tremendously important.
As it turns out though, qualifications don’t mean a lot to a lot of people. We are all entitled to make our own decisions about who we vote for, and why we’re voting for them. I get it, and I’m fine with it. But while I’m not a political person, by choice, I am feminist (oh no, I said the F word). At the root, I do see this as a feminist issue. I’m not fine with that.
The most qualified candidate did not get the job last night. Sometimes that happens. Them’s the breaks right? Sure.
But it happens more to females.
A woman needs to be stronger, smarter, faster, and work harder than a man in the same position to get the same result. It’s not fair, but it is a fact of life that women are just expected to deal with, while smiling. I’ve seen it happen on a small scale again and again in my own life, and I’ve now watched it play out on the world’s largest stage. Even the word feminist carries negative and “bitchy” connotations. I am a woman, with a brain and opinions, who wants equality. Therefore I am a bitch?
Clearly, it’s a sore subject and I’m tired of avoiding it. If Hillary were a man she would have won. I whole heartedly believe that.
But wait, we’re not done yet. Just to twist the knife, an incredibly misogynistic, chauvinistic, and degrading man got the job. She didn’t lose to just anyone. She lost to someone who represents the exact opposite of change and progress for every minority group in this country, including women. And this is just one of the many issues with our new president-elect, and probably not even the most pressing. It just happens to be the one I’m currently riled up about.
If there is a silver lining (because I have to try to find one right?) it is that this has re-lit a fire in me. A fire that had almost gone out, maybe because I’m lazy, or maybe because I thought progress was being made. Once upon a time I was that little girl who annoyingly argued about this stuff. Now I have a little girl. I have a responsibility. I have a woman to raise. I was hoping to give her a stronger foundation for the incredibly complicated social issues that she is going to face in her life. Issues that we were just barely starting to scratch the surface of.
Mostly when I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be, I wanted it to be the truth.
And while I still will tell her this little white(male) lie, I will also try to convey to her the reality of being a women. I will tell her that in order to get where she wants to go in life she might first have to break down some walls, or glass ceilings, or whatever symbolic term you’d like to use to refer to the real boundaries that do exist.
I will tell her that she might have to be a bitch.
P.S. Since I don’t like ending a day, or a blog post, on such a sour note. I’ll get off my soap box and leave you with this.
When my husband came to bed last night I was already scrolling through some old pictures, one of the ways I (like many others) make myself happy. After my joke about the Bills, we watched this video and it helped me end the day as nicely as it had started. I hope this makes your day better too.
At 8 months old she was already breaking down walls, and I couldn’t be more proud.