Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Golden Day

Seventeen years ago today I was living in a town that hadn’t grown more familiar over time.  The yard was an archeology dig with layers of accumulated blizzards somewhat offset by highly efficient snow removal.  Going out involved getting four children, ages 6 ½, 5, 3 ½ and nearly 2, dressed to the point that no one would call the authorities.  But that day there was a break in the action, a bit of a thaw so that you felt like perhaps, it would not be always winter.

It snowed the next day of course.

But at that point it no longer mattered because there was new life in my arms and spring in my heart.  Matthew Fredrick, known from the moment he joined us, as Matty, had arrived.  And although my children were tiny themselves, it was from the beginning as if Matty was everybody’s baby.  There were challenges—deathly food allergies in an era when the words ‘gluten-free’ drew nothing but a blank stare—but even this was faced together.  Six pairs of eyes always watching, multiple hands held out to cross busy city streets, laps for sitting never in short supply.

I worried about this sometimes.  Wondered if a day in the future would come when his wife would look at me and say, “What were you thinking?  He’s completely helpless!”  But it didn’t turn out that way.  When he went to school his kindergarten teacher said, “He does for his classmates what has been done for him—tying shoes, helping with schoolwork, seeing those who need a friend.” 

Today is his Golden Birthday, the natal celebration when one turns as old as the date of one’s birth.  Seventeen is my favorite number, but this was a much shorter trip than I imagined on the day he arrived.

Happy Birthday Matty Fredrick.  You are loved. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dedicated to the Ones I Love

My love had to travel this year, to far-flung places, and some that only seem far and so it was last week that I was standing in line at the Post Office, mailing boxes of pink and red to children of mine who are somehow now adults.   I thought of young parents, the joy of all that awaits them—burbling vowels and consonants unspooling into language, construction paper and Valentine boxes, hope and heartbreak—life.

We have some extra genes in this family, the Valentine gene for one.  Sara Kate and Glenn taught me that it was a day to be celebrated, perhaps even a month, and so February has always been more bearable than the rest of the winter for us.  But the Baby Freak gene is another.  Go ahead, hold your adorable bundle in front of any of this crew and watch us TRY to walk past you without stopping--peripheral vision on the alert, we will screech to a halt every time.  And so, in that Post Office queue I remembered kissing tiny feet and hands, precious words written in faltering letters, and the years when a broken heart was a simple repair.  I thought about how much I loved those days, how fascinating those children were to me....and how little I knew.

Today I see the Love that birthed these five amazing humans, that carries them still; the sonorous resonance of lives I cannot fully comprehend--mystery engraved on their very dna.  The persistent will to climb, or figure things out by yourself, or eat books like food, are not simply personality traits, they are hidden doors that will unlock the life you are meant to lead.  I look back to years gone by and realize, We have no idea what wonders are hidden in the people around us.*  How could I have known; how could I have lived without constant gaping astonishment, if I had understood then, the true nature of the flowers that were blooming before my eyes?

We are an imperfect crew, lest you get the wrong idea on this day of love.  We’ve had mountain highs and Death Valley lows, and we’re in some of them right now.  But this year, on a day when I will not see any of them face to face, they are in sharp focus in my heart, shoulder to shoulder and atop a hill, the sun coming up behind them.  It is glory only partially understood, but from where I stand, it's quite a view.
* The Guys, a play by Anne Nelson

Thursday, February 10, 2011

18 Degrees Fahrenheit

It is February and there is so freaking much snow that I pretty much want to cry when I leave the house.  I hold my breath when I step outside and do the fifty-yard dash from the parking lot to the security entrance.  In other words, I’m cold and apparently my brain is too.  Here, however, are a few thoughts that managed to thaw out.

         My wonderful new job is in a museum and at some point I had the brilliant idea that I would power walk its halls of glory when it was closed.  The temp is perfect, the views are gorgeous and I can crank up my Ipod and run the marble stairs to my heart’s content.  One day I really overheated and headed out the nearest door to cool off in the covered parking garage. On my unsuccessful 5th or 6th attempt at trying to get back in, the director of security services happened to return from lunch.  It was a humiliating trek through the proper entrance, visual evidence of my escapades scrolling on security screens before my eyes.  About halfway up to my office I realized…Oh, I work in a Museum.

         Daniel is in Philadelphia for two months doing a play with Alex Burns, an amazing director who directed him in R&J.  If you live within spitting distance, go and see the Quintessence Theatre Group’s production of Don Juan because these are brilliant minds at work.  And there’s a bonus too…you know how there’s always one person currently designated the World’s Oldest?  Well, I think the guy playing Don Juan might be the currently designated Best Looking.  For someone who mostly fell for skinny and sense of humor, it’s more of a clinical fascination than anything, but I’m telling you, there’s good looking.  And then there’s This.

         I am not trying to tell God how to do his job (oh no I would never do that) but seriously, life would be so much easier to figure out if passive aggressive people lit up or changed color when they were behaving badly. 

         Last week was Chinese New Year, which was celebrated well at my place of employ.  The festivities caused me to consider how much I love new beginnings---January 1st, Rosh Hashanah, the first day of school, Easter, and the dark waiting of a new moon every single month;   even Monday, that much-maligned day of the week, feels like blackboards freshly washed and waiting for chalk white thoughts to cover them.  God’s mercies are new every morning but sometimes I need to turn a page to remember that.

         February 5 was our favorite Welshman’s birthday and in spite of good intentions, no well wishes made their way to Oxford.  Happy belated birthday Rahman—may this be a stellar year.

         The other day I was shopping for Valentine’s Day and I thought, Good lord, at this time of year I crave color so badly I could eat a 64 pack of crayons.  One of our neighbors in the building in New York had this fabulous winter scarf in a hot pink plaid, and when I complimented it one day he said, “In February or March there are days when it’s this or the gun.  I think choosing this is best.”  In the midst of a gray sky and snow blinding lawns, my $7 rings from Target are the cure for what ails me.  The stones will probably fall out in May, replaced with lilacs and forsythia.  Now that’s what I call a good investment.