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..

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  1. Omg, I am wiping away tears my friend cannot even imagine what you went through st such a young age. I mean I knew about your dad and everything from our friendship, but your mom’s first person account in her letters was heart wrenching. I mean on one hand, I love that she did write these letters just for you during this time of your life, but on the other to actually read what you were indeed going through tore at my heart. You, my friend, were a special and truly brace little girl and even more special woman. I hope you know I just adore you now more than ever. Many hugs and love from me to you now <3

    1. Thank you, my friend. I took a REALLY long time to come back to this post to respond to comments. It’s a heavy hitter. I still have to read those journal entries all of the time!

  2. What an incredible gift. Your mom is the perfect mom for you and I can see where you got the gift of words. I am always amazed at the depth of feeling that your writing evokes. Just words strung together, but in a magical way. You have your own twist, but I see that your mom does too. Thank you for sharing those bits with all of us, just words, strung together, into pure magic.

    1. It wasn’t until I had a child that I understand being the perfect mom for a baby, and being a perfect daughter for your mom. My mom is one of a kind for sure. xoxo

  3. Now I see where this writing gift came from. Such a difficult journey for all of you. Loss is just awful, and loss of life leaves a hole we never fee. But when the hold aches, it is because it was made by the exiting of something incredible.

    1. Ah, thank you! My mom never went into writing, but she has a gift. On the contrary, I don’t have the gift for fine art that she has, but I’m happy to have photography instead!

    1. Thank you, Jhanis! I honestly can’t imagine. I try and then I get this feeling in my stomach and my heart. I’m so glad she wrote this.

  4. OMG i love this song and so much emotion touches my heart. OMG reading your moms journal had to be incredible. Reading that first passage made me cry uncontrollably. your Mother is one strong woman.

  5. Woooof ….. reliving that day is never an easy task…. but always interesting to see we all remember it pretty much the same. Thanks for the warning, now I have to change my contacts from crying ❤️

  6. “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.”

    Oh my gosh Tamara. You. Your mom. Your shared story of pain and love. This is so powerful.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  7. I’m crying at your words. I’m crying at mine. Our connection is beyond time; that I’m sure of .
    This is the best Mother’s Day gift ever. Thanks for your words, your love, and your great sense to pick me to me your mother.

    Love you infinitely.

  8. Wow! Just wow! What beautiful, yet painful words to read. I think it is awesome that you mom was a writer too! She truly did give you a gift. Thanks for sharing these private memories with us! Hugs.

    1. She never identifies as a writer, but he so clearly is! I only hope me becoming a writer has made her more aware of her power with words!

  9. Wow. Tamara, this is so beautiful. Your mother is a lovely woman and how intuitive to journal your babyhood. It must be really hard to read about “the day” . On the other hand, it provides some answers I suppose. I have no more words. Just, Happy Mother’s Day to you, Tamara! xo

  10. I love the “gift of words” your mother gave you…your mother also gave me gifts during my motherhood years…that I will always be thankful for. She is kind and thoughtful and wise…so it doesn’t surprise me at all that she has passed on those magical qualities to her daughter as well. Your family posts, pictures and willingness to share always makes me smile. (and sometimes cry…) Please wish your mom a happy mothers day along with your celebration as a daughter and mother as well!.

    1. Aw, I’m so glad you commented! I know I’m late here but I can wish her both a belated Mother’s Day and an early one as well. xoxo

  11. Crying. It must have been so hard for her to write about the day your dad died. It must have been so hard for you to read. Wow. And yet. What a gift your mother’s words are and were – to have those memories! I see where you get your talent from. The photos too, and the song? So good.
    Happy Mother’s Day, Tamara. I hope your weekend is full of magic.

  12. Whoa. This is so very timely for me to read, Tamara. Yesterday I was very brave and did a podcast about how my sister mothered my children when my husband was dying. They were very young – 16 months and 3 years and don’t remember him. I’ve written about that time but never said it out loud. Thank you for sharing your mom’s words. The fact that your mother wrote all of this down for you is so very special. Wishing both you and her the Happiest of Mother’s Days.

    1. WHOA. That was timely! I’m not timely in responding to this, but that’s timely. What a unique perspective. I often wonder if I’m so close to my aunt because she was like a second mom to me when her big brother (my father) passed away.

  13. While I had heard of your father’s death, reading it here through your mother’s eyes brought tears to my own eyes. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she went through as a wife and mother, one thing I can say is that she did her best with you and you and your sister turned out to be amazing women. Kudos to mom!

    1. Thank you so much. I will say the same about your parents! That reminds me to ask you about the Caribbean. We are looking to get away for our 10 year anniversary and I want THAT!

  14. I was a college roommate of your mother’s who never met your father. Karen was always rushing to see Steve. I thought of him as the neighbor on a TV show you hear about constantly but never meet. Then there was the blizzard the weekend of the wedding and we couldn’t get to Rochester.
    I knew the story but not to this extent. Wow! Both you and your mother are incredible writers and people. Strong because you have to be yet loving and caring.

  15. Wow, Tamara. Such beautiful words – yours and your mom’s. I can’t even imagine living through that at such a young age, or what your mom must have gone through to keep on for your family in the after. Thanks for sharing this with us. What a bittersweet treasure. Happy Mother’s Day!

  16. Oh my. What a beautiful post. I don’t know how children as young as you were deal with such a thing as loss of a parent, but children really are amazing. I do love baby books and this one is uniquely special. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

  17. This is like the best thing I’ve read today! This totally inspired me to start writing letters for Reiko – actually, now I’m asking myself why I didn’t start long before when he was younger. I guess it isn’t too late yet? 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day to you, your mom, your sisters, and moms in your life! You truly have been blessed to have the gift of words.

    1. I wrote some to Scarlet before she was born, but they sort of fizzled out. And now I write to her and she can read it in real time and it’s so awesome! There’s still time with Des, though!

  18. Oh my. I, too, am wordless. You certainly have your mom’s gift of words. What lovely tributes to each other on this Mother’s Day, and to your dad, too!

  19. This is so touching, dear Tamara. Its such a blessing to have a mother like your mother. The last letter from your mother tore me to tears. Such precious words , such a beautiful soul. My tributes to your wonderful and affectionate and compassionate and graceful mother . And a Happy Mother’s day to her lovely daughter .
    Best wishes,

  20. Ack… I’m a mess after reading your mom’s poetic, passionate, and oh so powerful words!! My jaw is still on the ground- and yet, I’m not surprised to read any of this. I just KNEW you came from an intricate cut of fabric that weaves together this masterpiece of creativity and compassion and depth like few others possess.

    And here it is- From where you came- Your mom’s heart passed on to yours, this tragic truth of early days that launches dreams from pain, and magic from love. It is the greatest gift that has been breathing purpose and inspiration and meaning into all that you are and every day you live out your dreams.

    I feel honored to get this intensely beautiful view into your Mother’s heart and ultimately yours too.

    HAPPY Mother’s Day, to both of you incredible women!

    1. ah, Chris. Nearly a year later and I’m still crying over your comment! Happy Belated Mother’s Day! Or at this point – Happy Early Mother’s Day!

  21. Beautiful Tam–totally like your mother in honesty and love. This is a beautiful tribute Bute written to her in her book of life. The akashic records have recorded it for all time.

  22. So I’m not sure if it was the best idea to keep playing Never Grow Up while reading this, but I’m in puddle of tears.
    Your mom’s strength and love is absolutely beautiful. I hope the two of you had a lovely Mother’s Day. Sending love your way.

  23. Wow, how beautiful! Your mother is a wonderful writer, just like you. And thank you for sharing these journal entries with us. What a painful, difficult situation for all of you to go through. You are all so strong!

  24. I meant to comment on this when I first read it, but I was on my phone. This was just…breathtaking. I’ve only ever thought about your experience through your eyes, but to read it through your mom’s lens, and now being the mom of a 3 1/2-year-old, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for her, the strength it must’ve required while parenting two young girls. Thank you for sharing it <3

    1. Right?? That’s what I was going for! I always talk about it but I thought about what it would be like for longtime readers to know her words. Or my sister’s next! hm.. I should have her guest for this Mother’s Day.

  25. I see where you get your writing talent, Tamara. And your huge heart that feels so much. Happy belated Mother’s Day to you and to your mom.xoxo

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