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Friday, January 30, 2015

10 things we love

I read an article today, written by a woman with a 20 year old son, how fast the time goes.  I certainly hear from everyone I know and plenty of people that I don't, that I'm just passing on the street, to enjoy my kids because the time flies by.

And believe me, I've tried to immerse myself in motherhood, to drink in my children to make sure I enjoy those big moments.  But even in doing that, I'm still shocked by how old they are now.  Yesterday I came across some baby video of Elena, who's now in Kindergarten, and I started to cry.  How much I would give to go back to that magical time in our lives.  But I can't.

The article surprised me.  Instead of whining about how fast the time goes, she did have some good suggestions of how to preserve those special, every day things.  One of the things she suggested we do is make a list of ten things we loved at the end of the year.  It's already the end of January so we're a little late but here is our list of things we loved from 2014.

1) Our new couch and chair (which arrived for our new apartment) in Sept of 2014.

2) Eliza loved Christmas and getting her sewing machine.

3) Eliza loved her birthday, going to the movies with her friends.

4) Elena loved her birthday party at the little gym with her classmates and then the surprise party that followed at our house which may have been the best party at our house ever.

5) Our trip to the Bahamas!  We had the best time there.  We loved everything about the Bahamas but particularly Marina Village.

6) Eliza loved a birthday pool party that she went to at Ava Gronberg's house.

7) We loved the fireworks at Windward Beach in July.  We saw that girl summer and her little sister for the third year in a row and they gave the girls glow in the dark necklaces.

8) Eliza loved her dance competition, even though we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning and we didn't get home until after 5pm.

9) We loved seeing the Christmas store windows at Macy's and then having dinner at Lombardy's pizza.

10) We loved the opening of the new North Pavillion pool.

2014 was a tough year for us.  We moved, I started a terrible job that I got fired from right before Christmas.  But we did have some good times, some times I hope we'll never forget.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Shortly before we made the big move from NJ to Queens, NY, Eliza and I started to watch the first season of "Lost" together.  Dear Reader, if you're still out there, perhaps you remember "Lost," perhaps you don't.  I don't watch much TV but for however many seasons that show ran, I think I saw every one of them.  I own the first and third seasons on DVD and whenever Eliza would come across them, she'd ask about the show and I'd tell her it was a show for grownups.

Maybe eight is not quite grown up but back in early July, I thought we'd try and watch the first season together.  And like any good serialized show with interesting characters, Eliza got hooked.  We sometimes watched three or four episodes in one sitting.  If you're familiar with the show, then you know it's about a group of people stranded on an Island in the Pacific following a plane crash.  What made the show great, especially in the early seasons, was the flashbacks that showed who the characters were before they landed on that island.  We met all these people in the pilot in the aftermath of the plane crash, but their backstory and who they were before was fed to us in small bits.  Each week would flashback and reveal a little about one particular character in the show.  We found out some very surprising things.  This woman had been in prison, that man had been in a wheelchair.  But a lot of it was about the island itself, what a strange and often frightening place it was, how hard it was to be a survivor cut off from everyone and everything you once knew.

Sometime in June, I accepted a job that started in mid-July.  I'd already put the wheels in motion to move back to New York so I needed a job in order to get an apartment.  I looked and looked and applied for places I didn't get.  On July 1st, with only two weeks to go before the job started, I brought the girls up to New York and spent five hours interviewing potential babysitters.  I found several that I liked and quickly hired one.  That night we looked at an apartment that was quite large, full of closets and felt like a pipe dream.  One week later, we found out we were approved for the apartment and on July 15, the day before my new job started, I got the keys to our new home.

The girls stayed with C for our first few days of filming, then back at our NJ home for the last full week in July with C again in charge.  On July 29th, I brought the girls back to C and our new babysitter started.  The week after that, he took the girls to visit their brother for a week while the physical move of our belongings happened.  The movers took close to 12 hours.  I had packed over 60 boxes.  My grandmother's dresser was ruined, the bunk beds weren't put together properly and I sat in my new apartment crying, thinking I'd made the worst mistake of my life.  The girls had fun at their brothers and though they missed me, there didn't seem to be any urgency to return home.  But then they finally did and for one week, they stayed here with me.

Suddenly I didn't feel lost anymore.  My family was back.  We had been working terrible hours but that week we didn't.  I saw my girls every night before bed but Friday.  They were happy--I was happy--the babysitter was happy.  I felt truly convinced I hadn't made the worst mistake of my life.

Then Saturday rolled around and C came that evening to take them to his parents.  I always hate when they gather with his family.  I'm always worried that they'll have so much fun there they'll never want to come home.  But at least when we had a real home, a home that they loved, they were anxious to return home.  Now that I've brought them into this new world, a place where everything is so unfamiliar, they don't feel as at home with me as they did before the move.

I find myself wondering why I even did this.  I felt like I had to.  I need to work in order to support us and I couldn't keep working and expecting a live in babysitter to replace me.  But now, in the middle of a terrible work week, I find myself wondering again what I've done.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lena Loo and Lili Too

First of all, Lena, our nickname for Elena is pronounced "Layna."  Lili, short for Eliza is pronounced "Lie lie."  I dubbed Elena Lena Loo pretty early on but can't take the credit for my Eliza.  That nickname was given to her by her very first babysitter.

The girls spent the day with their father while I continued my search for our new home.  I made it home early enough to have dinner with them and then after their father left, I took them to the local fair.  As soon as they saw the lights, their eyes lit up but unfortunately it didn't start out as our best night.  Due to their age/heigh difference there wasn't many ride choices for both girls.  I've crossed over to the no spinning rides ever side so my poor little Lena Loo simply wasn't tall enough to ride the first ride with her sister.  Instead, she was stuck on the side of the fence with me, watching her sister ride with some random kid.

She's been sick off and on all week with various bouts of fatigue and stomach issues.  Today, all I could think about when I was away from them is how much I couldn't wait to get back.  It was especially hard to leave her because she hasn't been well.  I picked her up as she cried and discouraged her from putting her thumb in her mouth by asking her to hug Mama.  She looked at the ride, her face so sad and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.  I love Elena so much but she gets far more comfort from sucking her thumb than she does from me.  This does make me sad; at eight I can still make Eliza feel better.  But it also makes me love the mystery that's her and appreciate when she does want me all the more.  I don't really know how Elena feels about me.

Eliza came off the ride complaining the guy put her in a car that didn't spin and agreed to go on the dizzy dinosaurs with Elena.  Elena happily waved from her big spinning purple reptile (or is it a bird), the fair finally more than a haze of bright lights for her.  Afterwards, I directed the girls to the swing ride and Elena happily followed her sister in line only to get shot down for again not making the height requirement.  Since the seats weren't big enough for me, again Elena was stuck on the sidelines, crying as her sister flew up into the air.  Again, my arms around her offered little comfort.  We found a fun house that the three of us could walk through but the upstairs was closed off so we made the most of the mirror maze.  We tried for the kiddie roller coaster but the guy shook his head when we got to the line saying it was closed.  The fireworks started and we watched them for a while but they seemed pretty lackluster.  We ended the night at the carousel where the ride operator, a tooth gapped man drunker than most frat boys, told us we would be the last ride.  As we swirled around and the calliope played, I saw the look of pure happiness cross Elena's face.

Sometimes I wait my whole life for that look.

We headed to the car while the fireworks still blasted, the big finale happening right as I started the car.

"Don't go, yet," Eliza said from the backseat.  "I want to watch."

I opened the moonroof and we watched the big finish, firework after firework blaze across the night sky, ending with series of star-shaped white bursts.  The traffic wasn't even that bad getting out and the girls were happy in the backseat.  I didn't hear about the rides Elena missed, only about the crescent moon in the sky and milk Elena wanted when she got home.

Life is a series of moments and that was a good one.  I put in an application for an apartment that I don't want but if we get approved, I'll take.  I simply want the search to be over and to get the girls registered in school.  They're going to get stuck on a wait list as it is because this is how things work in New York.  I wish I could feel happy about the move to New York but I'm not and I don't know that I'm going to be.  Tonight I researched paralegal, montessori instructor, any kind of job that would keep me from making this move.

And tonight C, now unhappy that his princesses would have to live in Queens, offered to take the girls so I could "pursue my career."  I don't know what's going on with him and if he really wants them or he really wants to scare me from making the move to New York but I told him that I thought the girls belonged with me.  He presented his arguments.  My hours are terrible and with him they could live in a nicer apartment near a nicer school.  While I'll have to hire babysitters to take them to school and put them to bed, he can take them to school and get home before they go to bed.  I've known C for a long time and I've never known him to be home from work early each night but he claims he's ready to scale back.  I want what's best for my kids and it's tearing me up because I wonder if he is best.

But then I realize this is C world and while my job is far from ideal, even if I'm at work I'm the primary caregiver.  I'm in constant contact with the sitters, I speak to the girls each night and I offer school and homework input.  In C's world, he gets up in the morning, plops a couple of frozen waffles in the toaster and makes eggs, even though the girls don't eat eggs, tells the girls to get dressed, brush their teeth and then walks them happily to school.  He comes home to a running dishwasher, the girls bathed and fed, their homework done and sends the babysitter/housekeeper home for the night so he can watch TV or read stories to the girls.

In my world, I'll come home after a long day at work and sift through the girl's backpacks.  Before the sitter leaves, I'll ask her about the day, what the girls talked about and if they seemed happy.  I'll arrange snacks and lunches for the following school day.  I'll leave notes for the sitter if necessary and kiss their sleeping faces.  Some days, I should be able to take them to school.  And some nights, I might be home just before they go to bed.  If this job doesn't get cancelled and doesn't end when it's supposed to, five and a half months after it starts, I'll ask to alternate (job share) so I can be home more.  I will take off the first day of school and possibly Halloween and if anyone complains about that, I'll remind them I'm a department of one and I must do this sometimes.  This isn't a career I even care about anymore, I'm doing it because I have to and I'm hoping that by moving to New York, I will cut down the time the girls and I spend apart.

Because being the primary caregiver's about more than just how often I'm home.  It's about the the day to day stuff, it's about the look of pure happiness, about the fact that the three of us have something together.  That's not to say they don't have it with their father too but he is not the person I am.  And just because he works shorter hours doesn't mean he ever will be.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I'm suffering through another night of limited sleep and I decided to look at my blog.  I was surprised to see a post from 2008 about how I read "I Love You Forever" to Eliza when she was only two.  It's so important to write here, to preserve my life with my little girls because it really is flying by.  It's also important to proofread what I write but I hardly ever do.  I'll try to start doing that tonight/this morning.

Summer is here and we've already spent a great deal of time at the pool and beach.  The combined pool beach badge is expensive so each summer I tell myself I must get to the pool at least 11 times to justify the cost of the badge.  Fortunately for us, the weather has really been wonderful and I think we've been to the pool/beach 7-8 times.  You never know when the weather can turn so if the sun's out, we go.  Fortunately, my kids are enthusiastic this year because we've got a new pool.  It's me who has to psych myself into going. As much as I enjoy the beach and pool, with the sunscreen, the snacks, the water containers, change of clothes and towels, getting ready to go can be a tedious process.  But as of now, our summer has been divine.

Elena is now five, and is pretty demanding.  Our lives are so in flux now that I really wish I had more patience with her and the tantrums.  Yesterday was pretty hot (and it's always at least 10 degrees hotter in my apartment for some reason) and I got some bad news regarding an apartment.  At school, several kids told Elena of their plans to go to the pool so she was determined to go right after school.  I explained to her that first we had to take Eliza to a birthday party, then we had to have lunch at home.  While Elena ate her lunch, I got the news that we didn't qualify for an apartment because I didn't meet the salary requirements.  This was a bitter pill to swallow because I don't know that I'll meet the income requirements for any apartment in New York, even in the outer boroughs.  My goal of working as little as possible so I could be home for my kids is not what New York building owners want to see on my past tax returns.

As soon as Elena was finished with her lunch, she wanted to get ready to go to the pool.  I begged her to give me a few minutes alone, to process this, to get myself together.  Elena hasn't mastered not getting her way and she's also not the most independent or physically capable kid.  When it was time to pick up Eliza at the party and then head to the pool, I still needed space from Elena.  Unfortunately she is not able to get into most of her swimsuits without assistance.  This particular one piece has criss cross straps that even I struggle to get on her.  Elena screams pretty loud with anything that's mildly frustrating for her and I can't stress enough how scared I am about our future and how often I beg her to stop shouting.  But after a big crying fit, we made it out the door with her in good spirits.

Eliza had a great time at the party and fortunately wanted to go to the pool.  Although the pool was packed, the girls were excited to immediately see friends and jumped in.  But after five minutes, with friends now leaving for the beach, both girls cried boredom and begged to head down to the beach.  While I love the beach, I wasn't ready to rush down there just yet.  The girls pleaded and I think Elena called me a few names but then a friend of Eliza's arrived, she ran after the friend like a stalker and the the girls headed over to the line for the diving board.  While in line, Eliza met up with more friends and soon declared the day "the best day of her entire life."

I also have to add that Elena is terrified of the water that is more than a foot deep.  Seeing that terror in her, I realize fear is genetic.  I'm not afraid of the water but I'm a very fearful person, my mother a fearful person as well.  She never learned to ride a bike and hated driving for most of her life.  I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was well into my 30s and it was all due to the fear factor.  It's hard for people on the outside of things, to understand how debilitating fear is and how much us fraidy cats don't want to be the way we are.  I've certainly done nothing to elicit fear in my children but watching Eliza learn to ride a bike and seeing Elena in the water, I know it really is genetic.

Elena wants to swim so badly.  Each time we go to the pool, she crawls around the shallow end, dragging her face through the water and kicking her legs.  She probably could swim if she would only allow me to help her into the deeper pool but the second we go down the steps from the one foot pool into the connecting pool that gradually slopes down three feet, she claws into my suit and screams like she's being beaten.  No level of bribing will work because this is a true, uncontrollable fear.  I remember what it was like for the me the last time I was on skis, how I so desperately wanted to ski but I was terrified.  The ski instructor, not my first but the first one who really understood that it was a fear I so wanted to conquer, talked me down the bunny slope and for the first time, I thought I might really learn to ski if I just had one more day there with that instructor.  But I didn't and I've accepted that skiing is something I won't learn in my lifetime.

But being safe in the water by learning how to swim is a skill I think Elena needs for survival.  Now that she's five, it's really time she learn to swim.  People have lots of advice but I don't think throwing her into the water will do much more than terrify her.  A lifeguard suggested getting her to float on her back with my arm underneath her but I couldn't accomplish this yesterday because she wouldn't let go of me, nearly tearing off my swimsuit when I tried to lower her.  It's hard because I don't understand why she doesn't trust me.  I want so much for her to do this, to be safe but also because I know it's what she wants.  She sees her friends swimming and jumping off the diving board.  She doesn't want to get left behind.

I was recently hired on a new show that doesn't start until mid-July so I've got a little less than a month before I return to work.  I'm still looking for an apartment so I'm unfortunately not completely free to relax.  We started phase one of our move this week by getting rid of our couch and another piece of furniture.  My landlord is being understanding and has agreed to us staying until the end of July.  If I can't get approved for a NY apartment before the end of July, I guess I'll put our furniture in storage and continue to look and hope.  Things might improve once I have a series of paystubs to prove  my income.  It's just a lot to deal with because I also have to find a babysitter and it's hard to even sift through the applications when I don't know where we'll be living.  But the kids can stay with Christophe for the summer and hopefully in the fall we'll be good.  It'll be tough finding a place in the city to stay for myself for the month of August but I'm hoping my friends will be understanding towards my situation.

The years fly by and there's nothing I can do to slow that down.  But I do hope that some time from now, I can look back on this posting and remember this day that Eliza said was "the best day of her entire life."  How after the pool we went out for pizza (too hot to cook) and Elena kept kissing my cheek.  How the girls really enjoyed their dinner and although I was a bit blue, we had a nice night.  I wish I had more patience, that I could handle Elena's temper tantrums better, that the way the girls fight didn't drive me nuts.  I'm so overwhelmed by everything, I think because I'm so overwhelmed by what's to come.  But it is summer, and we're so lucky to have a pool and beach a few blocks away.  So often I realize I really am lucky.  I know when I look back on this, I'll realize how lucky I am.  I just want to feel that way today.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Stress, the stress

It's been such a long time since I've written here.  My little baby Elena turned five last months so now I officially don't have a baby.  So much of her life has gone by in a blur and now here I am going months without writing much about either of them.  Elena is really shining now.  She loves to make up sweet songs and dance around the house.  She can play for hours with dolls, having them act out little dramas.  Despite the age difference, Eliza and Elena play quite a bit together.  They'll fly the dolls around the room, one doll the daughter and one the mother.  They make up complete lives for these dolls.  It's truly wonderful to see.

Eliza is close to finishing 3rd grade so there's some growing pains.  School and dance class have become more serious so as much as Eliza would like to spend her time playing fairies with Elena and the dolls, study time and work time beckons.  Eliza's also been taking piano lessons for a year and I often force her to practice where as I didn't a few months ago.  She's now started to work on opposing hands.  There is a lot of crying, a lot of temper tantrums that happen at the keyboard each night and it gets hard.  She likes taking lessons and truly wants to learn to play but she'd be just as happy quitting.  However the piano is the one thing I'd like them to do and I'd like to keep it up until she gets past the opposing hand hurdle and starts to find herself able to read through the music and move her hands at the same time.  I want her to know that a little bit of work can actually get you somewhere.  Lord knows, I gave up just about everything I couldn't do within five minutes and look at me now.

I'm a total and complete mess.  Years ago, I worked on a show called Fringe and I recall meeting the mother of one of the stars of the show.  She was a single mother, I can't recall if there was a father in the picture at all or not.  This actor always spoke of his mother and gave her a tremendous amount of credit.  In addition to being a pretty good actor, he was also a great guy.  We were said so as we met his mother.

I was pregnant with Elena and the time with Eliza about to turn three.  Most people on set didn't know I was pregnant and no one knew what a terrible home life I had with C.  I had a new baby growing inside me and I wasn't happy about it because all I could see was myself moving forward in a very unhappy life, adding another baby to the mix.  I knew our actor had a sister so I asked her, what was it like being a single mother to two children.  I don't remember most of what she said but what I do hear so clearly are the words to the effect of "I'm still recovering from it, that's how hard it was."  Our actor was well into his 20s and still his mother was recovering from her solo parenting act.

I could have it a lot worse.  C is in the picture and financially helps support his kids.  However, even with his support, I still have to work.  The only way I can continue to make enough money to pay a babysitter and keep up my health insurance is continue working in the television and film industry.  I could have it a lot worse.  I work with great people on often interesting projects.  And I can kind of work for a few months at a stretch and then not work for a while which gives me time at being a full-time mom some months.

The flip side of that is a lot of uncertainty.  The work is all freelance and sometimes it comes in and sometimes, when you really need a job, the work doesn't happen.  I've been booked on a movie that starts shooting in June since the end of March.  This particular movie has a bad track record which I knew going into it.  This film was supposed to start shooting last Fall but then at the last minute fell through leaving everyone hired for it without a job.  When the office opened up again in February and they started to call people they'd initially hired, those people said no thinking it was not a valid project.  However, when they got to me, I figured I'd go in for the interview and see what happened.  It all went well, no other work came through and we even did some pre shooting in April.  Shooting the first few bits in April and seeing the elaborate sets and costumes, it felt like it would happen this time.

Yesterday we found out that it's not.  I feel like some one should be liable when they tell people after they hire them that they don't have enough funding to continue.  Especially when the person at the helm has a lot of money and could practically fund the project himself.  However, it doesn't work that way in my business.  They have the right to stop shooting at any time, as I found out back in October when halfway through a 12 week job they pulled the plug because the network didn't like the show.  We shot seven episodes that will never air  All that money and time wasted on something people won't ever see. Kind of like what's happened with this movie.  And no one ever does anything because, that's show biz.

On top of that yesterday, an apartment sublet that I'd been pursuing in New York fell through.  I finally decided to take the plunge and move from our cozy suburb back to the city.  Moving to New York is such a costly, horrific undertaking when I managed to find an apartment through a friend, it seemed preordained that I needed a break and would get one.  However the tenants of the apartment don't want to put me on the lease and without a lease, I can't register my kids in school.  I told them I'd need a lease when I met with them over a month ago but they waited three weeks to tell me this was how they preferred to do it.  So now after a night of little sleep and a lot of stress, I have to tell them I can't take this wonderful apartment that really was perfect because what's the point of an apartment in a good school zone if I can't register my kids there.  Plus if we do it illegally and the building owner finds out, I'll get evicted.  They lose the apartment too but since they've already gone through the trouble of moving into another home, the loss is much bigger for me and my kids.  They seem like extremely nice people and I think they don't understand the variables here well enough but now I have to let that dream apartment go because it won't work for us.

Basically I have one month to pack us up, pay some one with a truck to take any furniture that we can't take with us, find a new home in a decent school zone and oh, find a job.  I told C last night I wanted him to take the kids because I don't see how I can do this anymore.  He has a steady job, he has family that helps him out with the kids.  At this point I really only have my father and he's not as helpful as he could be.  But the reality is I don't want to not be with the kids and the kids don't want to not be with me.  Eliza said last night, "I don't want you to go and have your life without me."

It was a succinct thing to say, a beautiful thing to say.  It really sums up how I feel too though I know all too well eventually she is going to go off and have a life without me.  But not right now, not when she's eight.

Moving to New York is such a hassle but I have to be there if I want to work.  But there's so many other places I'd rather be.  I'm closer to 50 then 40 now so it's not exactly time for me to start a new career.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn't make a living as a writer but now I realize that might not be in the cards for me.  I don't even know what other kind of job I could do.  New York has it's pluses. But all the stress associated with finding a home, a school, everything there is so huge.  I needed a break here and I got one and now it's gone.

So what to do?  I have 24 hours before I let my landlord know.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

One year later

Wow, it's been so long since I've written anything here.  I don't know that I've gone this long without writing something about the kids.  I'm often inclined to summarize my life from the last post until now in the situations but I'm not going to today.

It's be a tough few weeks at home.  On Friday, October, 4th, shortly before lunch at work, our producer gathered us and told us we wouldn't be starting the next episode the following Monday.  He referred to it as a short "hiatus", a break so the network could decide the new direction the show would take.  For a week we dangled in limbo, thinking we'd return to work the Tuesday after Columbus day but at 3pm that Friday, we were all called to say no, we were done.

It wasn't the best job but it's never easy to be out of work.  I was offered another job but it doesn't start for over a month and a lot can happen between now and then so officially I'm unemployed.

There are perks to unplanned unemployment when you have kids.  I've been able to share a lot more and do a lot more with them since my show got canned.  But I've also been walking around in a fog, reliving my life last year, with the anxiety of not working mixing in with the grief.  Because I lost my mother and that grief is never going away, instead it only gets deeper.  I think on many levels my mother kept me grounded and now without her, I feel like I'm unraveling.

My mother was really all I had.  She was the only person who cared about me whom I spoke to on a regular basis.  I haven't, not once, picked up the phone to call her because I know she's gone.  But I have held the phone on many occasions, wishing I could call some one, anyone.

As a freelancer, I've always seen myself as one step up from homeless.  All that it will take to trigger a state of homelessness is a long stretch without work.  When my mother was alive, I had her home as a fallback.  I knew I always had a place to go to, a family to turn to if times got really bad.  But now, my grandparents have been dead for more than two years, my father lives in a retirement community that doesn't allow kids.  And if I dumped the kids on C's porch, my father and his wife still couldn't tolerate an interloper for too long.  The extended family I had when my grandparents were alive don't think about me or my brother so I certainly don't imagine them providing a place of refuge.  The one really close friend I had decided to pack up and move her family to Israel into a small settlement that wouldn't exactly make me feel welcome.

So it's just me out there with no backup.  If I become sick, injured, weak, broken, I will quickly have no home.

For the most part, I feel pretty good and have the energy of some one much younger so I'm not too worried.  But it's always there, whenever I see a homeless person, and I see plenty more of them now with this economy, that a few years from now, yeah, that's me.

My mother not only provided that safe feeling from homelessness, she also was the only adult who truly loved me.  Without her, no one calls to see how I'm doing if they haven't heard from me.  No one thinks about me unless I contact them first.  I have gone from some one who really mattered to some one who's importance can only be measured on how much my kids need me.  That's not nothing, of course, the kids, but I find myself wondering how long I can keep operating without an outlet for myself.  I think of joining a local health club with a gym because swimming always makes me feel better but it's tough to spend more money when you're jobless.  I try to drum up some interest from my friends and I do have plans tonight and another night next week but it's still disheartening when the plans are always originating with me.  Being one's own cheerleader gets so tough after a while.

A lot is happening around me too.  I have two friends going through marital splits.  One happened very suddenly and only now is my friend really feeling the impact.  My heart breaks for her as she has been with her husband longer than I've known her, and I've known her a long time.  Another friend, who's marriage I believed to be rock solid, is also breaking down.  I'm so far away from them physically and they keep themselves so busy, I've hardly spoken to her much but I feel terrible for them both and wish I could stop them from doing this to each other.  At midlife, it seems a lot of friends are going through some major stuff so I can't fault anyone for not being there for me.  And I do have some friends going through some great stuff right now which is wonderful, it's not all bad out there.  Life is not easy, we know this.  I think about my grandmother and how she lived through the depression.  Then I realize she was young, as she got older her life got easier, at least workwise and finance wise.

I miss my grandmother, almost as much as my mother.  Both women still serve as an inspiration to me.  As long as they were alive, I always felt taken care of, loved, not in danger of being homeless.

Now, I just don't know.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thank you, My Eliza

My grandmother said the happiest day of her life was "giving birth to Frances.  It was the only thing that was ever all mine."

I know exactly what she means.  Of course I know that Eliza isn't all mine any more than my mother was all my grandmothers.  My grandmother called my mom "the rebel" because she didn't like to clean, she didn't want to join the convent and she had to go and her father's skin instead of her mother's.  The feelings of that child as being your complete possession eventually give way to the realization that this is a whole other person, working pretty damn hard to distance herself from you.

But ah those early years with the right kid, for a little while you have that great gift, that perfect love.  Eliza is my perfect love.

My mother often described as the kid that was always walking up and down the street knocking on doors looking for some one to play with.  I'm still kind of like that, a very lonely person who longs for a large family and chaos and people around me all the time.  I gave birth to Eliza and suddenly I had that some one to play with.

Eliza and I were alone for marathon stretches of time, often 12-14 hours without relief.  There were days when I truly feared I might go insane but then I didn't and then I realized I wouldn't knowing that was so freeing.  She started smiling and adoring me, screaming and reaching for me starting at only six weeks.  I am not exaggerating here.  I remember the moment so clearly.  I had a babysitter interviewing to come and help out for just a couple of hours a week.  I told her a little about Eliza and handed Eliza to her.  Eliza's head snapped towards me, her eyes widening, not in fear but almost in anger.  She opened her mouth and let it be known that she was severely pissed off that I handed her off.

The babysitter calmed her down, I was impressed and I hired her.  And Eliza was okay with her but that was it.  For months, whenever anyone tried to hold her--my mother, C, my father--she screamed.  Her scream often sounded like a fake cry.  She wanted me and that was that.  No one had ever loved me like that before.

I took her everywhere.  The world was suddenly new and hopeful and as bright as the sun if you looked at it directly.  Stumbling across a band at the South Street Seaport turned her into a whirling fireball of dance.  A first taste of chocolate gelato brought back that forceful, pissed off wail for more.  I walked for miles with her in the sling, her face turned up to smile at me and then peer over my shoulder to make goo goo eyes at some person behind me.

We took Mommy and me tumbling classes, music classes and playgroups.  Every day was a celebration of our perfect love.  When she got her first real cold, I must have sat with her for two to three days straight, only putting her down to go to the bathroom.  She and I slept in the living room on the fold out couch together while her father snored away alone in the bedroom.

As the years passed, I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable turn, that moment when she wasn't so into me anymore.  But the thing is, even now, with her entering third grade, it still hasn't happened.  She still adores me and often when we're together it's still there, our hands entwined together, our perfect love.

Tonight we went to Summerfest, an annual music and fireworks festival along the water near my mother's house.  She and I started going alone, my mom at home with baby Elena, and after the fireworks we'd go back to my mom's house and sleep.  Tonight Elena came with us and we came home after the fireworks.  It hurt knowing my mother's house was empty, remembering so many nights inside her house and hearing the fireworks and knowing that the house was dark and eerily quiet.

As I drove home, I thought of our first Summerfest.  The band was a Bruce Springsteen tribute band and Eliza got a huge Spongebob ice cream treat.  It was the messiest treat in the world.  I'm a huge fan of the boss and being outside, listening to that music as the sun took it's sweet time setting; it didn't get better than that  There have been many Summerfests after that one but it's the first one that sticks with me.

On the way home, we passed a park where the kids and I attended an Earth Day fair, maybe when Eliza was in Kindergarten.  We passed the Point Boardwalk where we've gone almost every summer.  So many afternoons watching Eliza run around at the park on the Bay near my mother's house.  Watching her run alongside the hill at Twin Lights.  Standing in the ocean one night, snapping photos of her and Elena running away from the waves, into the sunset.

I have loved her childhood so much, a childhood that's forever behind me.  She's still a kid, she's still my loving kid, my Eliza but for how much longer?  How many more Summerfests will she enjoy, being stuck with just me when she can go with friends?  I finally knocked on the right door and got exactly the playmate I wanted and pretty soon she's going to move off and find some other people to play with, people who she thinks about more than me.  My perfect love with be gone.

I honestly don't know how people cope with their children growing up.  I guess other people have lives and have relationships outside their kids.  I've always known it wasn't healthy to put all my eggs in one basket but no one, no one loves me like she does.  With my mom gone, I often feel like Eliza is the only person in the world who loves me.

If you're wondering about Elena and feeling bad that I don't talk about her and me and a perfect love, it's not that I love Elena any less.  Quite the contrary, sometimes I pick up Elena and feel a love surge through me so strongly, I feel like I just can't hold her tightly enough.  But Elena pushes me away.  She loves me and when she does give me one of her little hugs, I can't begin to describe how it feels to have those little arms around my neck.  Elena loves me, but she is not so affectionate, she is not so adoring and has Eliza in between her and me.  From day one, she was happy with whoever held her.  She went through her period of wanting to be held all the time, sure, but she didn't care who was holding her.  I like that about her, I like that independence.

And I like seeing it in Eliza, when she runs into friends and suddenly I'm invisible.  I don't feel hurt, only happy that she seems to be relating to her peers in a healthy way.

But still, at night when I'm driving home from fireworks and the kids are sleeping in the back seat, I can mourn the small children years that are in my rearview mirror.  And say thank you to my Eliza, for being such a wonderful, amazing, beautiful and most of all loving, girl.