The Squishy Mushy Heart Feeling

I used to cry when I looked at Scarlet’s newborn baby socks.

And this was when she was a newborn. Although I had never before experienced the achy and exhilarating experience of growing a child.. outside the womb.. of course I knew how insane it all is. How you can break down in tears when they release you from the hospital, because your new real life has barely started, and you’re already nostalgic for those first days and moments of getting to know your child. It starts so soon. The rapid passage of time. And how it takes your breath away.

The feeling is a feeling I've felt for most, if not all, of my life. My mom and sister get it, Cassidy gets it, and I explained it to Scarlet the other day.

You know, from about one until age four, Scarlet used to push a toy shopping cart and a doll stroller all through the house. She’d shuffle along in mismatched clothing and a winter hat. Raggedy hair and a lopsided gait. Is it terrible to say that she reminded me of the many shopping cart homeless people I’ve seen? It gave me a specific feeling. It’s all so squishy and mushy and gushy. What is more innocent and amazing than a toddler pushing squeaky-wheeled metal and plastic toys – meant to emulate real, adult contraptions – ’round and ’round the house? With messy hair and glazed eyes. The feeling:

The feeling is a feeling I've felt for most, if not all, of my life. My mom and sister get it, Cassidy gets it, and I explained it to Scarlet the other day.

The feeling is a feeling I’ve felt for most, if not all, of my life. My mom and sister get it, Cassidy gets it, and I tried explaining it to Scarlet the other day, and she’s starting to get it too. It’s a spontaneous heartbreak of mysterious origin that occurs when viewing another person’s seemingly mundane actions or belongings. You are touched deep inside in a way that’s difficult to convey. When it happens with strangers, it’s bad and when it happens with people you know and love, it’s worse.

Unbearable, even. Just so. It’s like it drives you to the edge.

The feeling is a feeling I've felt for most, if not all, of my life. My mom and sister get it, Cassidy gets it, and I explained it to Scarlet the other day.

It’s a quick, recurrent heartbreak that occurs from subtle actions and possessions of someone who’s usually a stranger, but isn’t always. My mom gets this squishy feeling when she’s out in public and sees an old person fumbling for their money to purchase something. I get that feeling when I see someone’s glasses fall off. And when I see glasses lying alone and delicate on a table, I get it as well. It’s feeling deeply for someone based on their small actions. Tiny, earthquake heartbreak.

Or feeling deeply for someone from their belongings. Although with the tiny socks, maybe I felt badly for myself.

It’s because I knew I’d have to let her go, little by little, but no one ever thinks about that when their babies are young. You’re not supposed to think like that. Nine years in, I know it’s not even true. I think she’ll always buzz and swarm around me – and be drawn to me – the way it’s been with my mom and my grandmother in every direction possible. We are linked.

And sometimes this feeling comes from more obvious occurrences. My first memory of the squishy feeling was watching a film strip (remember those?!) about good manners in one of the lower grades of elementary school. In the film, some “bad” kids run around an old man in a parking lot until he drops his bag of groceries all over the ground. His lettuce rolls away and his eggs crack onto the pavement. One of the kids who is not a “bad” kid and was just yielding to peer pressure follows his heart and helps the man pick up his groceries. Pretty simple message, right? The rest of my class watched the film, got what they needed from it, and ran out for recess. I cried in the bathroom for 15 minutes. And I cried myself to sleep that night.

The feeling is a feeling I've felt for most, if not all, of my life. My mom and sister get it, Cassidy gets it, and I explained it to Scarlet the other day.

I was haunted by this poor old man dropping his groceries and having them spread out for everyone to see. It was my first major experience with The Feeling. In those same few years, I had a similar experience in the school library when the librarian read us a story about an old woman who loved her pet chicken and this chicken bought her all the happiness in the world and one day it died and she was alone. And some time later, she discovers that the chicken left her a basket of hatched eggs and now she wasn’t alone anymore. This was an illustrated book, and I was destroyed. It’s not often longterm.

Like I said – it’s often, tiny, delicate, mysterious, earthquake heartbreak.

Doesn’t take much to rip us into pieces.

It’s not always that clear and that obvious why I’d be sad. It’s mostly just speculation. Do you get that feeling when, say, you have a house guest and maybe you’re putting towels in your guest room for them and you see their beauty bag or suitcase and all of their personal items or clothes laid out? Or when you see your father’s glasses lying on a book on a table? Or get this one – I get sad when someone gives someone else a gift and even if the gift giver is nowhere in ear shot, my heart breaks if the gift recipient says something negative or unappreciative about the gift. Maybe we got three toasters for our wedding, but I probably wouldn’t even comment on it. And if I thought about each person lovingly buying us a toaster, I’d feel all warm and squishy inside. All I know is that my heart breaks for others sometimes – maybe for no reason at all.

Maybe I’m able to see a hidden truth about humans in these seemingly subtle occurrences. And maybe it hurts for a reason.

Do you get the feeling too?

There’s A Place I Can Go.

I wrote this several years ago after spending time in my one of my favorite places. I’m sort of there right now, but not. I wrote this about Cape Cod – my favorite way and place to relax – but now I’m with my same in-laws by the beach. We’re in St. Augustine today, and not Cape Cod, but so much is the same and so much feels right. I think I’ll relax and stay for a bit..

This is written, in part, in memory of George Landers. A true friend.

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Every year of my mid-childhood contained a perfectly memorable summer vacation. My family usually revolved our vacations around my older sister’s dance competitions so we’d go wherever the dancers went. For several years it was two weeks in Myrtle Beach. We’d spend a few days doing dance competition whatever and then settle into our home away from home – a HIGHLY air-conditioned condo, thanks to my dad. These condos changed annually. One was two stories with a spiral staircase separating the floors. That was pretty epic. Often as big as the condos were, there were five of us kids and we’d ultimately all huddle into two shared bedrooms. Sometimes my uncle came. Sometimes my cousin. And sometimes a babysitter. It was a home base for two weeks, and after vigorous fun at the beach, the arcade, the amusement parks, the mini golf courses and the restaurants, we’d have a great place to eat and sleep and soothe our sunburned skin. It was memorable.

When we were a bit older, the dance competitions moved a bit north – Ocean City, Maryland. This meant a shorter drive, rather than the 12 hour overnight we’d endure down to South Carolina, but we’d still get a bit squirrelly. Seven people and their luggage in one GMC Truck. I remember making “HONK IF YOU LOVE DELAWARE” signs and putting them up against the back windows. Oddly, no one ever honked. We also quoted Wayne’s World by shrugging our shoulders blankly and saying:

“We’re in Delaware.” Yay?

It’s the little things you remember. Like our condo that we shared with another family – very close friends. There were about 17 air fresheners scattered throughout the two story condo. One smelled like orange barf and wore a female clown costume. If you can believe that. A cone air freshener dressed like a clown. We called her Mrs. Odorifica. She made our day.

Imagine our surprise, a year later during our second Ocean City vacation, that we had the same exact condo. And imagine our surprise to find Mrs. Odorifica just as we left her, no worse for the wear. She was, in fact, worse for the wear for the next renters after we hung her by her clown cone neck from the kitchen ceiling fan – for the condo’s one early riser (our dear friend, George) to find her the next morning. I was so happy that second year. I loved the fact that we were in the same condo again. That made it feel like home. My first year in our new vacation place had been disorienting and homesick.

The second year was familiar. I wanted a place I could go, nearly whenever, to get away from reality for awhile. A place that didn’t change much, even if I did. A home away from home. I’m finding that in Cassidy’s family’s home in Truro.

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We’ve been there before together, sometimes even to get away, to be romantic together or to fight morning sickness in a remote, beachy place. Even to stay for a Cape Cod wedding. However, this was our second year staying, at the house that Cassidy’s dad built decades ago, for a summer vacation with other family members. It is the perfect beach house. Gravel road, hammock, wraparound deck, outdoor shower, junk food, cool breezes, swimsuits hung everywhere, people coming and going all day long. From home to beach to home to market or dinner and then back home again. A true vacation.

And we sure needed it, after the stresses of spring and summer. Our vacation was very concentrated into two days but those two days held everything we needed – rest and relaxation, seafood, ice cream, sunset, and beach, beach, beach.

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I’ve been trying to imagine what it’s like to be three-year-olds on a beach vacation with your family and someone offers you a giant inflatable swan to glide on in the middle of a calm bay. I think about it a lot. It’s a happy place in my mind.

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Des slept through most of it.

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Eyes open for five minutes, and then asleep again.

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These are some of my favorites.

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Des clearly was comfortable, happy, dreamy, baby.

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And that’s how we spent our two day summer vacation. It might have well have been two weeks, with all of the simultaneous joy and relaxation. Made me think of summer vacations past in Ocean City, Maryland. Made me think of familiarity and closeness. Laughter and love. The merging of families, all becoming one family. Sunburns and sandy towels. Seafood and ice cream. Made me think of the family we spent two weeks with for two summers.

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We all miss you, George.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “My favorite way to relax is..” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on any of the matters: HERE.