Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friends, Roses, and the Beach Girl's Enduring Spirit

My friends, Cathy and Mike, performed a remarkable and beautiful favor on behalf of another friend, Patty, last night. That sounded convoluted, didn't it? Well, read about it here; it'll make more sense.

So I haven't mentioned this too much before, but Bug loved the ocean. When she had just turned three, we took her to Florida for the first time, and immediately headed to the north point of Captiva Island on the Gulf coast. I love that point -- it's a haven for Dolphins, Herons, Egrets, sport fishes of all kinds. The beaches are covered in shells, the waters are sparkly, and the sand is fine and soft. Bug took one look at the place and fell deeply in love with the great expanse of water that lay before her.

At three, she didn't have the skill for ocean swimming, so I held her hand tightly while she was in the water. She hated that. She longed to venture out. I longed to keep her from being carried out to sea. But she loved it. There are a lot of stories from that week. Stories that include her getting cold in the water with resultant pooping on the beach and hungry seaguls and Mommy deciding that she could no longer show her face in public and having to find a new beach after that. Stories of our needing to stop at every alcove and inlet, so she could get out of the car, feel how the water was "different" on her feet in each place, and dip her bottom in the water. Stories of first encounters with manatees, including more impromptu swimming forays. But we can tell more of those stories another time. They made her life richer, and ours, too.

Bug insisted I teach her to swim, immediately upon our arrival at a pool, and at every opportunity thereafter, so she would never again have to spend her beach time tethered to her mother.

By the time she was seven, she was "Beach Girl". Here she is, saving sand fleas in a bucket.

Have you ever seen sand fleas? Also called "Mole Crabs", they're tiny crustaceans that live on the beach, just at the breakline. They like the extra oxygen that is generated by the churning of the water as the waves break. When you pick them up, in a handful of shells, they try to burrow into the sand and they tickle your hands. This was Bug's definition of "The Best Animal God Ever Created".

Cute little suckers, aren't they?

No? I don't think so either.

But Bug loved them, which doesn't surprise me. Because she was always finding wonder and beauty in the things the rest of us found odd or even ugly. And because she was, is and always shall be a sea-loving creature.

So the favor? Cathy and Mike took a rose from Bug's funeral, lovingly saved for the last six months by Patty, and cast it into the ocean when they reached the shore yesterday. It was a beautiful gesture of love and remembrance. I'm sure her spirit was there to catch it. And I'm sure she smelled it, then smiled and laid it on the beach next to her bucket, just before she grabbed her dip net to head back into the water.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Perspective 3 -- Living in my own personal episode of Glee

I had to go in for a sleep study last night -- I've been suffering from some pretty overwhelming fatigue, and Mr. Bean says I keep kicking him at night, so it made sense to check for things like apnea or restless leg syndrome.

As I was answering questions for the technologist, she stopped and looked at me. "I know you! We went to school together!"

I get this question all the time from people; I have one of those faces that reminds everyone of someone that they know. I am almost never someone from school. At least not their school. This time, however, it turns out we did go to school together; she graduated with my younger sister.

This made me cringe a little inside.

I try hard not to think about high school. I was as awkward, and frankly as obnoxious, as any character from Glee. I had a small circle of friends, and a significantly larger circle of detractors and tormentors. It wasn't as bad as middle school -- nothing is -- but it's still not a time I'm keen to return to.

Then she kept talking. "I'm sure you don't remember me. I hung around with Jim's younger sister, Heather. You were always with Jim and Dave and the rest of the cool theater kids and the swing choir and you were always on stage. I wanted to be just like you. I used to sit in the prop room and listen to you sing."

"Me? ME???? You're kidding, right?"

"No. You just always seemed so confident and you had so many friends."

The truth of the matter was that I was always in fear of the next taunt, of losing my lines, of Jenny, and Jean, and heaven-knows-who-else, who were always waiting for me to fail so they could move in and take my part. I was afraid that, at any time, Jim and Dave and the rest of the cool theater kids would decide that I wasn't cool enough for them anymore. This would happen periodically. I was always on the fringe of the really cool, talented kids group, for all that I used to pull down the lead roles in the musicals. So I compensated by never really engaging with anyone. I didn't remember this girl, apart from her being part of the cloud of friends who hung around with Heather. For all I knew, I might have treated her like dirt, in an attempt to assuage my own insecurity.

I swallowed hard. "Was I ever mean to you?. I was a total brat sometimes in high school."

"No; you were really nice to me. You always said thank you and you encouraged me to keep singing. Gawd, I mean it; you haven't aged at all since then. It's kinda scary."

"Well I'm not so sure about the aging thing, but I'm glad I wasn't mean to you. Because you seem like a really good person." I went on to tell her about what was going on with several of the kids she had graduated with; that Heather had opened a couple of very successful cafes here in town, that Tracy was living in Phoenix with my very cool brother-in-law, that Angie had lost more than 100 lbs and was an athletic trainer.

During this whole time, she was putting electrodes on my skin, in my hair, behind my ears. I felt like I was on The Machine from Princess Bride.

It was a fairly miserable night. I couldn't get used to the electrodes or the belts or the other devices she put on me. I also had an infrared camera and a microphone on me all night long, with her in the next room. So there I was, facing a night of subjecting someone who apparently didn't recognize what a total dweeb I was in high school to my snoring, my sleep talking and the nighttime functioning of my digestive system.

I had a sleep disorder alright: I didn't sleep. Not sure what they'll learn from this.

But I'm once again reminded that every experience can be different, depending on your perspective. I'm also reminded, yet again, that it is more important to be gracious than it is to be popular. And probably some hackneyed rot about making one's words sweet or something like that.

"I need applause to Live!"

Monday, May 17, 2010


Yes, it's once again been two weeks since I've posted.

There was a part of me that wanted to post something on Mother's Day. But I struggled to figure out what to say. That I survived it? That really, I had hoped with all of my heart and soul that I wouldn't? That I got the most beautiful, heartfelt letter from Daisy Mae that both lifted my heart up and shattered it to pieces? Because all of those things were true.

I will never, ever again be "Mama". The extent to which that rends my very soul is indescribable.

But I am still a mother.

Case in point: this weekend.

Friday was Daisy Mae's 8th Grade Banquet. The days before were a flurry of dresses, jackets, hairdos and shoes. I let her borrow my good black Coach bag. She squealed and proclaimed her love for me. We jumped up and down in place to test our undergarments. We reviewed the use of proper silverware. We took pictures. We looked at pictures. We got awards. We smiled.

The rest of the weekend was spent helping Daisy with her final project for History. And I mean the entire weekend. Because, as teenagers are wont to do, she decided to expend the entire 25 hours necessary to complete the project in the last 48 hours before it was due. At 1:14 this morning, as I was gluing her reference sheet to the back of her poster, having sent her to bed -- no, you may not shower tonight; wait until morning. Just go to bed -- a half hour earlier, I thought of my own mother. Finishing the painting on Jupiter for the scale model of the solar system I had made out of papier mache'. Finishing the popsicle-stick model of a geodesic dome I had started at 2 pm the day before it was due. Sitting beside me, with the Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia and three cookbooks, helping me figure out why a Passion Fruit was named thus and trying to find a recipe that would tell me what to do with one, for my Home Ec. class. Proofing my term papers.

These events, invariably, take place between midnight and 3 am on Monday mornings. They are what takes the place of putting SpongeBob bandages on skinned knees, pushing swings at the
playground, and re-sewing the seams on over-loved stuffed animals. These late nights, the rescuing of school projects, the borrowing of purses, the ever-present knowledge that Mom Won't Let You Fall Too Far -- these things re-define how our children depend on us, as they stop being "kids" and start being "teens".

It's been a tough jump into the deep end of this particular swimming pool. It still hurts. I still sometimes feel like I'm not a Mom anymore, but not as often as I did. More weekends like this have the potential to make next Mother's Day feel more real.

And on an unrelated note: My garden is fully planted. Glad I didn't do it last weekend, as we had a hard freeze last Sunday night. Anybody need extra tomato plants?