Somebody Leave the Light On

This is for you, Mom.

This song takes me back and forth – the way I cried out for you in a song I made up as I rocked my crib across the floor. (I still remember the rhythm and melody but thought Tori Amos was WAY better suited today) The way I still wake up out of dreams – heart pounding, stomach in my throat, words at the tip of my tongue. I’ll always rock or crawl across the floor to you (there’s a Clapton reference too!) and I’ll always seek those words. Maybe that’s the greatest gift you ever gave me.

The way we seek and find words, shaping them out of our stomachs into our throats – hearts pounding – forming the images of horror and unspeakable joy, pain and relief, ecstatic humor and rainbow sprinkles and road trips. And always, always, always finding and seeking out the best. You have been giving me words for so long. They’re so ancient – and so new – ripe and ready to pick at any moment. Yet so long and buried, they have grown mold and decay. Still, they need to rise.

We give them life. Old and new life. We have always lifted them up, and they lift us up in return.

And really, who knows what can happen? It’s all just so.. possible and ALIVE, isn’t it?

This is my Mother's Day tribute to you, thanking you for one of the greatest gifts you've given me other than life. And that's words. Magical. Simple. Words

When I was pregnant with Scarlet, my mom gave me the journal she had used to record my babyhood. It started with the day I was born, and continued until 1984 – when I was four. For two years, I kept it safely in a desk drawer, even though my mom kept hinting at me to read it. I dug it out by chance when Scarlet was 18-months-old because I wanted to see how I had been walking and talking at that same age. It was all there for me – in a book! Like how Scarlet and Des will one day see their entire babyhoods spread out on the pages of this blog. My mom waited two years for me to find what was in those pages.

This is my Mother's Day tribute to you, thanking you for one of the greatest gifts you've given me other than life. And that's words. Magical. Simple. Words

Here are the last two posts of my baby book. The first post was written almost three months after he died. The second post was written only about a few weeks after we found out we were expecting Scarlet. She was the first grandchild.

Sept. 26, ’84

“Dearest Tammy,

Three weeks before your fourth birthday, your daddy died. You had been at a birthday party at Shonghum Lake and Lindsay had been to our lake. I picked you both up and we went home. You saw Daddy’s car in the driveway and said, “Look, Mommy. Daddy’s home – the best daddy in the world.” Inside we found Daddy in bed. I bathed you two and you both wanted to kiss Daddy. You went into the bedroom and you both told him you loved him and he was the best daddy in the world.

He felt so uncomfortable and so I told you to kiss his arm so he wouldn’t have to turn over. After I fed you both, I was in the kitchen. I never heard your daddy get up. We all heard him crash in the hall. Lindsay ran to Eileen’s for help.

Carol De Meo and Richard Campbell began giving Daddy CPR. You and Lindsay were taken to Tony and Aggie’s house. Daddy was taken to the hospital. You and Lindsay saw him taken away. You then went to the Campbells’ house and they put your pajamas on you. Then you were carried home to me. I took you in my bedroom and put you on my bed. You both were asking about Daddy. I told you that Daddy had died. You said we needed a new Daddy. I told you his body had died but that the part of him that loved us, dreamed, and thought thoughts would always be with us and I felt he would watch over us.

You and Lindsay slept with me that night. You didn’t talk much over the next few days but on the day of Daddy’s funeral you told Judy Kaplan you’d never see him again. A few days later, you wouldn’t get out of bed. I said to you that maybe you wanted to talk. You said, “I’ll never see Daddy again, will I?”

We took you to a family counselor about 6 weeks later. When he would talk about Daddy, you would giggle and hide behind a chair. This last visit you told him he was scary but maybe you wouldn’t run behind the chair.

You talk about Daddy a lot – how you and he made funny faces together, how he found you the horsie swimming tube you wanted after your nap one day, how he took you to the mall and unlocked the car…

One morning you looked real sad. I tried to get you to talk. Finally you said, “I wish Daddy would come back.” The next day you added “right now.” Sometimes you tell me you want a new daddy but I remind you that our pain and sadness would remain and we would still miss Daddy. This is a time of sadness for us.

One day you said, “It isn’t nice that Daddy died.”

I am trying so hard to help us all through this, Tammy. Your daddy loved you like crazy and I hope you can keep a treasury of memories of him.”

November 24, 2008

“…and indeed you have kept your treasury of memories, Tamara. Once, in our Florida house, you told me that while you dreamed of playing in our front yard, Daddy sat on the porch and watched you, watched you dream.

I am hoping you will enjoy this journal from the past and perhaps continue writing, from your perspective, of all the adventures you are having; you will have.

I thought that I had written more in this book. I sort of remember writing in Lindsay’s journal on later birthdays. I know for years, you didn’t like your birthday. Well, I always had a difficult time too. Perhaps, that’s why I didn’t write more. But, do you know what? I love your birthday now and I think you, too, are having lovely celebrations. Why? Because for one thing, we have truly moved on. It’s not that we forget our other life, it’s that we have integrated it, woven it into the wool of who we are now, who we have become.

I began this journal so I would tell you what you were like as my baby girl. I hope you enjoy the story of “Little Nunu.” I remember wondering if I was doing “it right” as if every 6-month-old in the entire country napped from 2pm to 4pm every day, as if there was a universal “right” for everyone combined. What I learned as a mommy is that each child has her own “rights.” Every child needs her own special kind of parenting, a blend of his/her needs, what is workable, and lots of love mixed in.

I am so proud of who you have grown into. I am intoxicated by your story and know that destiny and magic have brought you and Cassidy together.

I know you will be sensitive, creative and compassionate parents.

How lucky for me to have this wonderful connection to and with you. How lucky I am to be a part of your adventure. How lucky I am to have given birth to you.

I love you forever,



If you’re able to pick your jaw off from the ground, I’ll leave you here, only because as much as she has given me the gift of words, she also has given me the gift of wordlessness. And that’s where I am today. Be good to yourselves, everyone.


I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “Oh, Mother..” You can link up HERE.

Oh, mother..

The Reluctant Graduate.

A conversation I had with Scarlet last week:

Me: “In only two days, you’ll graduate from Safety Village Summer Camp!”

Scarlet: “Nooo! I don’t want to graduate!”

Me: “What? Why? You don’t want to leave?”

Scarlet: “Wait, what does graduating mean? Does it hurt?”

A little, my Scarlet. A little. Only in the heartstrings of your parents, though, generally.

It hurt me in the heartstrings when I graduated too – each time. Preschool, 8th grade, high school, college. Even stagnant but long-term jobs. Each time before graduation was like a painful and tight cocoon that I stepped into, and when I emerged, I wasn’t really a beautiful butterfly. I was just cold and scared. I always eased into new transitions in my own time, though. A reluctant butterfly?

It doesn’t all have to be so heady though, does it? We’re talking about preschool “Safety Village” summer camp.

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It started when my friend saw me cry next to my car last week. It was the first day of summer camp drop off.

Actually, I’m not sure that he did see me cry because I may have run into my car at the last minute, after fumbling through a choked up, “See you later” and jumping into the van. I did hear him say, “Well, we live so close to here..” and that did make me feel better.

If she needed me, I would come.

It’s times like these – the haunted times – that make me feel I’m not emotionally cut out to be a parent. And then I think it’s the opposite – I’m exactly cut out to be a parent because I feel the suffocating gravity of what this all means. These precious lives we hold for a too-limited amount of time. So I think deeply about what it means to gain her trust. Is it to hold her tightly to me at all times? Or is it to let her go and make some of her own choices, little by little, and then having me come back to her at the designated time.

Just like I said I would.

I dropped her off and heard one of the worst sounds in the world – her crying and calling out for me, “Mama!” The lip biting. The tears spilling out. How could anyone leave that? And then, how could anyone not leave that and not let her grow and not let her try summer camp out for herself. All the way home, I cried in the car. Des looked bewildered when we got home and he looked at me.

We waited the four hours together. And by that I mean he took a long nap while I tried to get work done. Instead I replayed the morning over in my head. Every so often, another sniffle. I kept the phone next to me at all times because they said they would call if they needed me. And they never called. I went to pick her up with bated breath and she was smiling and laughing and full of stories. Two counselors told me how much fun she had. As the two weeks winded down, every pickup was the same – happy. And every drop-off was easy. There was one in which she said, “Mama, wait” while I was on my way out. I turned around and she smiled and said:

“Try not to cry in the car again this time.” And you know what? I didn’t.

At the end of the two weeks, there was a graduation ceremony. Des and I were ready in the crowd:

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And then we saw her. The only one lined up without a safety hat. The only one lined up with a scowl:

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She just got scowlier..(new word)

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..and scowlier.

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It turned out to be a hair tie incident. She wore a ponytail to camp that morning but had to take it down for bike riding with helmets. She lost her hair tie. The counselors couldn’t find it. She couldn’t find it. She didn’t want to wear a safety hat when she has genuine princess tiaras at home, (thank you very much). Commence scowling. You want to hear the best part? After the ceremony, I found it within five seconds on the playground because I have that kind of radar. You want to hear the other best part? She did finally have fun at the ceremony. Sorta. She got some groove back after the diplomas were handed out..

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The ever-popular dancing to “Stop, Drop & Roll.”

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Oh, and they played “Pomp and Circumstance.” Now tell me – can you listen to that song without crying?