Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

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Bea handed me a small and intricately wrapped box on December 26th.  It was our Christmas celebration, since she was in LA for the 25th and didn’t fly east to be with us until the next day.  We had a big family meal with some cousins planned at our favorite Long Island restaurant for the 27th and a bacon-wrapped turkey dinner in the wings for the 29th.  Everyone wanted to to see her, to spend time with her, to take pictures with her and give her some presents.  But when she first arrived at my sister’s house, where the twins and I were spending the whole long Christmas break, it was just the five of us.  My sister.  The twins.  Bea.  Me. 

I gave her the presents I had managed to buy for her with my meager earnings.  The twins and my sister Gloria gave her their gifts.  There was a fire in the fireplace, laughter in the house, a happiness that had been absent from the family holiday celebrations Bea had missed.  She gave me a photo album, unwrapped with just a red shoelace holding it closed,  that made me cry.  It was filled with pictures of the two of us together on one side of each page and a brief description on the other side.  It was beautifully, painstakingly decorated with shells and stickers, beads and images that meant something to both of us.  The first picture was of me in a softball uniform with Bea, 2 years old, sitting on my lap.  We’re at a cafe after a game.  She’s smiling impishly and drawing with a broken blue crayon.  “My Favorite Picture of Us,” it says in magic marker on the facing page.  The words are surrounded by stick-on, 3-D butterflies.

There’s a photo of us in Aunt Gloria’s pool.  There’s one of us on a kiddie roller coaster and two of us together at the Early Show, from when she used to come with me to work.  There’s one of the two of us at Legends Field in Tampa.  She’s maybe seven weeks old.  Her first of many Yankee games.  The second to last page is a list of “A Few Reasons Why I Love You.”  A few.  There are 21.  I counted.  And the last page has a pretty, multi-layered heart, the kind you might use on a homemade valentine, with love always written in script.  It’s signed, simply, bea bea.  Because that’s what I call her.

And then, almost as an afterthought, she handed me the little box.  I wiped away the tears the photo album visited upon me and bravely soldiered on.  A little box, that rattled curiously when I shook it.  The wrapping peeled away easily and found its way to the fire.  “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor,” she had written on the lid.  And, “Be strong, mom.  I’m proud of you.”  The lid slid right off.  Inside was a crystal clear memory of happier times.  Or were they happier?  It was when her other mother and I were pretending to get along.  It was when we both had jobs.  It was when we had a house that felt permanent, like a warm wool sweater that would last a lifetime.  I smiled at all the smooth, cool pieces of sea glass.  Bea had been collecting them for me.  The edges were softened, like the memories of our turbulent past, when half our lives seemed to be filled with arguments, disagreement, disappointments, when walks along the shoreline were my refuge from the craziness that had become my life.

Bea would come with me sometimes, hold my hand, watch the sand for a dull glint of green or white or, miracle of miracles, blue.  We’d go to Cape Cod every August, to Provincetown to spend a week with other same-sex couples and their kids.  Herring Cove was where we would gather almost every afternoon.  Once the twins were a part of the family we’d set up a tent for the babies and little kids, a place to keep them safe from the crispiness of the baking sun.  Soon, they were old enough to walk along the shoreline, too.  Every single piece of sea glass was cause for celebration.  Every tide pool along the way was a rest stop on the journey to find a tiny bit of quiet, a few moments of peace.  It was on these leisurely but adventurous strolls that I first began writing my memoir in my head, Bea perched upon my tanned shoulders, wearing a sunhat and a long-sleeved white shirt to cover her peachy skin.  She’d hold on for dear life as I carefully bent to reach for what might or might not be the highly coveted glow of old glass.  If we found a piece that was still jagged and clear we’d throw it back in, declaring it not quite ready for the collection.

Once, Bea and I decided that the coolest piece of sea glass we could possibly find would be an old marble that had somehow found its way into the waves.  So we bought a bagful and tossed them in, thinking, one day, maybe we’d discover them again, perfectly round and muted and smelling of the ocean.  We figured, even if we never did find one again, someone might, and that would be truly awesome for them.  It was our small contribution to future sea glass collectors everywhere.

The box trembled in my hand.  The good memories it brought back far outweighed the bad.  I could smell Cape Cod Bay.  I could feel the summer sun warming my tired bones.  The waves were licking the shoreline like a still-blind kitten finding and tasting its mother.  The kites were dancing happily, crazily in the on-shore breeze.  The girls, all three of them, were small enough for me to scoop up together in one giant, delicious group hug, golden sand falling from their hair and tiny feet.  I thanked my kid for knowing me, for understanding the sweetness of sentimentality and bringing back to me those warm and happy thoughts.

I’m planning to go back to Provincetown some summer, soon.  With all of my girls.  For lobster and clam chowder and sunburned friends and quiet days at the beach.  For finding crabs in tide pools and fishing and swimming and shopping on Commercial Street.  For dunes and bicycles and drag queens in comedy shows.  And maybe, for one perfectly round, weathered piece of sea glass.  A muted orb.  A circle.  Like life.

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More On Gratitude

Posted: December 4, 2013 in Gratitude
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I am a keeper of, a maker of lists.  I like to compartmentalize.  As soon as I see that there are two similar things that belong together, be they English words with two letter ‘u’s in a row or now-defunct candies I ate as a child, I try to think of a third so they can all exist together in a nice tidy group.  I have written down the names of all the pets I have ever had.  I’ve listed celebrities who have died in plane crashes.  I’ve cataloged, I think, all the American sit-coms of the 50s, 60s and 70s.  I do not admit this easily.  I’m sure it makes me seem a little off the wall, but when you have a mind that will not turn off or slow down, it helps to have random tasks to keep it occupied when you’re, say, standing in line at the DMV and you forgot to bring along the 700-page book you’re reading or a worried-over crossword puzzle.

My twins and I just spent a long and lovely Thanksgiving weekend with my oldest sister, ensconced warmly and comfortably in the large guest bedroom of her suburban Long Island home.  My middle sister and her family came over twice for big family dinners, on Thursday, of course, for turkey and all the trimmings and then again on Sunday, for a more relaxed day and evening of leftovers and football.  As soon as my brother-in-law and nephew sat down I hit them up for their input on a list I had been formulating in my head:  The best quarterbacks in the NFL to wear every jersey number from 1 to 19, from Warren Moon to Johnny Unitas.  We got through it pretty quickly, hesitating only a couple of times, most notably at number 6, but our choices felt authentic and justified.  And then my sister threw a wrench into the list by reminding us that the great New York Giants QB, Charlie Conerly, wore jersey number 42, so we added him at the end.

List-making can be obsessive and weird but it can also be useful.  Like right now, for instance.  I would very much like to, now that Turkey Day 2013 is a fading, rear-view mirror image and the holiday season is in full swing, publicly recognize and thank all the incredibly kind people who have helped me survive this very strange and trying phase of my otherwise completely happy and satisfying life.  It’s been a rough five years or so, what with my cohabitation with a “partner” who no longer loved me (if she ever did), her insistence that we “stay together for the sake of the children” even though I could tell our staying together was the very worst situation for the children and was making everybody miserable, my job loss and subsequent inability to find a new job, still, 3 1/2 years later, the sale of my house to avoid foreclosure, the sudden absence of my wonderful 14-year-old in my everyday life as she headed west with her other mom to pursue her rock star dream and a host of other trials and tribulations, the likes of which I have never experienced before and by which I was completely blindsided.  This list is in no order.  No one deed is more important or significant than any other.  Every kind person listed has helped me cope, survive, exist and every person is appreciated equally.  I sometimes think that my inability to find a suitable new job is karma being paid from a despicable former life.  My friends, though, remind me that the amazing help I have been receiving is good karma coming back to me for all the times, in this life, I have helped others.  I can’t control what may or may not have happened in prior incarnations.  I can’t even control what has transpired in the past of this life, the past I can actually remember.  It’s history.  It’s done.  But I am trying to be a decent human being and I have been on this journey for many years, so perhaps my friends are correct and my helpfulness has come full circle.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the people who are on this list.  If I have inadvertently left you off, I apologize, but the nice thing about lists is that they are open-ended.  I will add as I go.

First off, I must show gratitude to the amazing family with whom the twins and I live.  We could have easily moved in with my oldest sister once our house was sold and there was no money for a new one.  We could have left the town we love and headed out to a place where the twins would have been the “new kids” in school, but my girls really wanted to stay and go to middle school with their friends.  I was hoping to stay, also, because it’s an easy commute to New York City from here and that’s where I’m (still) hoping to find a good job.  Also, I have incredible friends here and a support network it would take years to replicate elsewhere, were that even possible.  Thank you, Jim and Miriam, for all you do.  I know we’re cramping the style of your teenagers, but we do our best not to get in their way and we will never, if we live to be a thousand, be able to repay your immense kindness and selfless generosity.

There’s Nechama, who treats me like a little sister and, in the name of her parents, whom she knows I admired, makes surprise deposits to my bank account and then reminds me of what really matters.  There’s Jennifer, who houses whatever furniture and “stuff” I was able to keep and not sell or toss.  My boxes, crates and tables have been in her garage loft since June and she has not complained once.  Thank you both so very very much.

There’s sweet Laura, who, in the midst of all my insanity, has reminded me that I deserve to be loved and I deserve to be happy.  She’s bought plenty of meals for me and the girls, kept my DJ equipment safe in her basement and taught me how to work a drill press and cut a dado.  I was an amateur carpenter when we met and now I am… less of an amateur.  She is the true genius behind every Adirondack chair, bench, picnic table and cabinet we made.

There’s Steve, and Mary, Steve’s mom, in her 80s, who I have known all my life.  Last year, when I flew out to Los Angeles to see Bea on The X-Factor, I stayed with Mary and she made sure I ate and had gas money so I wouldn’t run out while navigating the horrible traffic of the So-Cal Freeway system.  Steve and I hadn’t seen each other in perhaps 40 years.  Yet, after we went out to dinner one evening in Orange County and Steve and his wife heard about my struggles he followed me back to his sister Leslie’s house, got out of his car and handed me a huge wad of cash so I could pay some bills when I got back to the east coast.  “You’re family, Kim,” he said as he gave me a hug.  “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been between visits.  You and your sisters will always be family.”  Steve’s dad, Tim, a USMC Major, was a friend of my dad’s back when they were both stationed at the Naval base in Patuxent River, Maryland.  Mary and my mom were friends until my mom passed away in 1998.  Tim would have been an astronaut had he not died tragically, as a test pilot, a few months before I was born.  My father died two years later.  Our families have never lost touch.  That’s the military legacy I was given and of which I am so proud.  Friends like Mary and Steve are once in a lifetime.  Thank you.

Because of facebook, I am close once again with a small group of women I have known since high school, and a few of them since kindergarten.  Last August, during a girl’s weekend where we all ate and drank and yammered about the past just a bit too much, I offered to stay home and make dinner while the rest of them went on a tasting tour of some of Long Island’s North Fork wineries.  It wasn’t in my budget so I elected to stay back and conjure up a big pot of the shrimp creole I learned to make while I was working as a DJ in New Orleans.  I needed to visit the local supermarket for all the ingredients and one by one, before the stretch limo came to spirit them away on their adventure, some of my friends sidled up to me and handed me money for the store.  They all gave me way too much.  One simply handed me $100.00 and firmly squeezed my hand with a “don’t you dare not take this” warning.  Someone else left a 20 on my backpack.  It was all, ha! “for the dinner food.”  Thank you, Mag 9 ladies.  You are all incredible and I am blessed to have you back in my life.  My daughters adore you, as do I.

My middle sister sends me emails, hoping to help me stay positive.  I feel the love and concern from her and her family.  They always go overboard at Christmas, giving my girls such lovely gifts and wrapping them exquisitely, making my kids feel loved and special.  My oldest sister would give me the proverbial shirt off her back if I asked for it.  I can’t imagine where I would be without her financial and spiritual assistance.  She is nine years my senior and has always had my back.  Someday I’d like to take her to a Yankee game, with tickets for seats right behind the home dugout, or to a Giants game with seats at the 50-yard line, 20 rows up from the field.  Someday.

Rene, Joy and Debbie have all blogged about me, trying to help me in my job search.  My cousin Tom likes every single blog post I write.  He urges me to keep at it and even emails old family photos to me, hoping some will match the stories I tell.  When he re-posts a blog entry my numbers go up nicely.  Margaret and Sean offer the twins and me a calm and quiet refuge any time we feel overwhelmed and need some restful peace.  Mark walked on fire to help me sell my house last spring.  Arlene is someone I have known for more than 50 years.  She was my middle sister’s friend all through public school.  When the twins and I were sent for by the producers of the show Bea was on, the second time I went out to LA last November, we were scheduled to be there over Thanksgiving.  The producers didn’t care about where we would eat our Thanksgiving dinner.  Arlene and her family live about 90 minutes south of the actual city.  They sent a car for us early Thanksgiving morning.  The driver picked us up right in front of our hotel, drove us directly to Arlene’s house, where we had a wonderful family-oriented holiday meal instead of being forced to eat by ourselves at a restaurant, and then, when it was time, took us right back so we could freshen up and make it to the show on time.  Because friends don’t let friends eat Thanksgiving dinner alone.  I’m so grateful for all of you.

Here in the sweet and leafy suburb we so proudly call home, I have an incredible network of friends.  Their collective attitude towards me has not shifted, even though I am no longer a tax-paying homeowner.  There’s Amy, who buys me coffee, listens to my theories about my joblessness and makes me laugh and feel appreciated.  There’s Doreen, who is the best hostess I know (she could put Martha to shame), who remembers that I like beer when it’s hot out and wine when it’s cold.  There’s David, whose antics and stories and crazy voices keep me rolling on the floor.  There’s Liz and Lisa, who have offered me constant friendship and understanding and support.  And others, too numerous to name, who stop me at the post office or the pizza place with ideas about jobs and hugs of encouragement.  I love my town.

And I love my neighborhood pharmacy.  I have been a regular customer there since 2003, when we moved here from Brooklyn.  The head pharmacist, Dave, knows I’m out of a job.  He knows I need my low-dose blood pressure medication.  Sometimes, when I go in for a refill of the 30-pill bottle, I get home and open it up to find 60 or 80 pills, all for the price of a month’s worth.  That would never happen at a big-box pharmacy.  Please support small, local businesses.  What they do for me is just one reason why.  There are dozens of small stores here where I am recognized and treated with affection and respect.  It’s a mutual love fest.

There’s my coaching group, of course.  We meet just about weekly to talk about life, the universe and everything.  We are sometimes given journal prompts via email by our fearless leader, which we are supposed to use as springboards to write from the heart and get to the bottom of what scares us, what moves us, what annoys us and brings us true joy, in the hope that we will grow and learn to live more authentic lives.  Thank you Tammy, Claire, Mary, Amy Jo, Michelle and Michelle.  You are the friends who insisted, all through the spring and summer of this year, that I start a blog.  You said it would change my life.  It has.  No, it hasn’t yet helped me find a job or an anxious publisher for my memoir-in-progress, but it has lightened my load considerably and my new-found lightness feels wonderful.

There’s Chip, who brought me back into the fold at CBS.  It’s awesome to feel like a stage manager again, even if it’s just twice a month.  It’s a start and I am thankful.  And Anna, who I’ve known since 1988 and who recently re-entered my life.  She’s trying to get me work at another network across town.  If she is successful I will kiss her!  But even if it doesn’t work out, I am grateful for her efforts.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And of course, there are my lovely daughters.  People keep telling me how unselfish and wonderful I am to have adopted my twins.  But I believe in reincarnation, remember.  They knew what they were getting themselves into before they swam from the spiritual plane to this physical existence.  They chose me.  For that I will be eternally grateful.  And my Bea.  I haven’t seen her since October and won’t see her again until Boxing Day, but she brings me such joy.  What an amazing kid I have!  Really, what an amazing life I have!  I’m anxious to find a job and earn decent money and get an apartment and live an independent life.  I’m looking forward to settling in and buying new beds and towels and utensils.  I’ll be happy to throw a housewarming party and return some of the kindness and generosity that has been shown to me over the last three years.  It’ll be a blast.  Life, right now, is a total blast.  Thank you all.

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