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..

She Wore Scarlet Begonias Tucked Into Her Curls

My mom, and many others, feel that you should choose a mug that speaks to you.

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It’s true. I have one at her house, that is one of a few that she also favors. It’s cream-colored, soft around the edges, and smooth to your lips and tongue. I do lick that mug. I lick the whipped cream around the edges, as well as the remnants of brown or raw sugar. And I can feel it now – curved under my palm – smooth, cool, and comforting. The coolness is a contrast to the hot liquid. The whole experience is heightened from that one mug.

I promise you that.

At home, we have two “Scarlett’s Country Inn” mugs that made it in one piece on a cross-country flight – no doubt wrapped and padded with baby clothes and socks in our suitcases. I won’t even go to Google to try to link up a website for “Scarlett’s Country Inn” – just in case it doesn’t exist anymore. That, I couldn’t bear. I invite you to go see if it still exists, but you don’t have to tell me the results. My favorite mug is the light blue one above.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

This post is for two people, no longer here. Connected by grace and strength, and the fact that they both impacted our lives enough to contribute to the naming of our firstborn – Scarlet Bella. This post is for FTSF and for these women. This post is part naming convention and part belated eulogy. And it’s partly for our firstborn.

writing prompt

When people ask me how we came up with Scarlet Bella’s name, I hesitate because there’s no one clear answer. It’s like our “how we met” story. I don’t know when I first thought of Scarlet as a name but I know it was somewhere around ten years ago and that once it came to be, it felt like it’s been there all along this journey.

And maybe it has. I have always thought I’d have a daughter. Sometimes you’re trying to remember or create something, like the name of a movie star or an idea for work, and you can go through your daily life normally while your brain sub-consciously gets closer and closer to it and the – LIGHTBULB – the answer seems to come out of the blue? And you know it’s not coming out of the blue and that your brain has been on auto-pilot all along.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

“How about Scarlet?” I blurted out one day. I can’t remember when this was, whether it was by email when we still lived 3,000 miles apart or if it was when we were sitting together in our San Francisco apartment. Cassidy agreed to it like that. And I know this was before any talk of babies, or even a wedding. Even after we had discussed this name and held it secretly close to our hearts, this name that had followed me in my past and was circling us in our present, it was still to creep up in our future – actually right when Scarlet was conceived.

Here’s a list of a few of the ways in which “Scarlet” has played into our lives. This is why we called her that:

1 – I went to Rutgers University (Douglass). So did my father, my dad, my sisters, my grandfather, and probably more family than I can remember have all gone to Rutgers University. Their mascot is the Scarlet Knight.

2 – When I was in fifth grade we did a unit on rain forests and I became OBSESSED with Scarlet Macaws. It’s part of my rainbow obsession!

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

3 – “Scarlet’s Walk” is a Tori Amos album and a song on the album. Nothing could replace “Under the Pink” for me – but this album did heavily influence how I look at lyric writing, America and road trips.

4 – Different shades of reds have been my favorite colors for as long as I can remember. I love reading different red descriptions in catalogs like Victoria’s Secret and Land’s End. I most would want to buy a Scarlet dress.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

5 – In our wedding vows, I vowed to explore the magical realm of the Grateful Dead. Before that, I had only known “Touch of Grey.” So a lot of my schooling happened on our two and a half week road trip to move back East. We listened to the Dead something like 80% of that trip and they calmly sang us through one of the most harrowing moments of our lives – getting off of a giant mountain during a freak blizzard in the Rockies.

“Scarlet Begonias” is a favorite song.

6 – When Cassidy and I got back together, we stayed with our friend Scarlett at Scarlet’s Country Inn in Calistoga. Our Scarlet’s name has one “T” but we dream that she will grow up to be as elegant, kind-hearted, dream-catching, timeless, and as wise as Calistoga’s Scarlett was. I think it was Cassidy’s mom, Ruth, who first found the B&B. We went any chance we could – to celebrate our engagement, to get away from the city, to say hello and goodbye. The first time I was there, Scarlett made us the most delicious french toast I’ve ever had and gave us advice about running a B&B. She had a boisterous new puppy – a Pomeranian named “Chewbacca of Kashyyyk.”

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The second time I went there she had rescued a beautiful bird that had been left for dead that she believed to be a Stellar Jay. She named him Stella. She nursed him back to health but he always hung around, eventually becoming wild enough that she couldn’t always tell him apart from other Jays. He still hangs around there, I’m sure. The third time I went there, I believe she had two more dogs than the previous time. Her mother had recently passed and she had inherited the dogs. Her mom must have been 110!

The fourth time I went there she revealed, rather shyly, that she had rescued a tiny field mouse that had been left for dead. She kept him in the house and fed him with an infant dropper. She held our Scarlet in her arms and we told her she was part of the reason we gave our baby that name. Then we talked for hours over strawberries dipped in sugar and sour cream. I’m so glad we told her about the naming inspiration. She knew!

Scarlet Begonias

A year later, Cassidy excitedly called her up to make a reservation for a wine country wedding. We found out the tragic news that she had JUST passed away three weeks earlier in a car accident. I found it near impossible to wrap my head around the news. Scarlett was one of a kind and I always wished for an annual Scarlet/Scarlett get together. At least they did meet once. I know she had a long life that must have dramatically touched the lives of everyone around her. I’d only seen her four or five times in my life and I believe I’m a better person because of it.

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7 – Scarlet’s middle name is Bella. That was my grandmother’s name. No Isabella – just Bella. She was magic. I could write on and on about her with tears streaming down my eyes but I think I’ll just post the few paragraphs I wrote about her in the “We Remember…” dedication section of our wedding program:

“When I think of Bella Klein, I always think of the phrase, “larger than life,” because she lived life so big and true. There was not enough room in this world for her huge heart; as well as there is not enough room in this world for our pain at losing her. The quintessential perfect Jewish grandmother, she taught us how to dip bowls of ice cream into rainbow sprinkles and how to be properly tucked into bed at night. This involved yelling “Alley-oop!” and throwing blankets well over our heads as we shrieked with laughter.

I went to college quite close to her home and when I first started as a freshman, I was so nervous that my throat closed and her magical salad was the only food I could get down. I wish I had known then that my time with Grandma Bella was limited because I would have screamed to the sky and been around her 24/7 just to say, “I LOVE YOU” a thousand times. It would never have been enough. Luckily those were my last words to her anyway, thought I didn’t know at the time that they would be. Her funeral was on a clear, dry day in December.

We were all dying a little that day…until someone said, “Look up in the sky” and brought the ceremony to a standstill. I’m no scientist but vivid, full rainbows with arcs do not appear on clear, dry, wintery days yet there were two in the sky directly above our group. We all became believers of magic that day. However to know Bella alive was to be a believer anyway.”

Scarlet Begonias

I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “They Call Me..” You can link up HERE.

What do they call you?