Sunday, February 27, 2011

Long Lost Never Forgotten

I ran into a woman I went to grade school with the other night. My husband and I were at a benefit and she was at our table. I hadn't seen her in almost thirty years. I didn't recognize her right away. When I first saw her, I felt she was familiar but I couldn't place her. I didn't even try to do the math. I just figured she looked like someone I knew once.

At one point, everyone started introducing themselves. When I gave my name she spoke it with me and then said my last name with a big smile. "How? How?" I asked as I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders trying to convey that I felt like I knew her but couldn't figure out why. She told me her name was Laura then said, "St. John of the Cross." Our grade school. A rush of warm feelings came over me. I had the fondest memories of this girl; now a woman. I realized that she looked exactly the same. Her hair was still down to her back. Always tall, she was now six feet. In school, she had a light, joyful energy and she was always nice to me.

We weren't quite friends in school. She was in the grade ahead of me with my sister Lissa who passed away over twenty years ago. Spending time with someone who knew my sister and is currently the age Lissa would be had she lived put my head in a strange place. I wanted to move across the table, change seats with her husband and sit next to her; up close. Throughout dinner, I kept looking her way hoping she wouldn't catch me staring. She was a window into Lissa's past and unwritten present. Laura had four kids. Lissa could have had four kids. Laura had a Masters in Education. Lissa was in college at the time of her death. Would she have graduated and gone on to get a Masters Degree, too? Who would she have been?

Laura and I had a lovely chat and everyone at the table was delighted by the small-world-wonder of our encounter. Somehow it felt as if Lissa was there because someone who shared in her life was there. Through Laura, I felt Lissa's presence.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is today. She would have been forty-two. It's been so long since she died that there are few people who are currently in my life who even knew her. My husband has never met her. My three year old daughter doesn't yet know that she has another Aunt who is in heaven. It's hard to know when to introduce the concept to someone so young. I had an opening when we were reading together but I chickened out. The moment is coming soon. She will know about her Aunt Lissa. This I swear.

I'm grateful that synchronicity, or serendipity, or chance, grace, or God put me at the table with my long lost past. My sister. Long lost. Never forgotten.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reach Out And Leave Me Alone

On March 6th, 2010 I posted an entry entitled "Parental Theatre" "The problem is," I wrote,"that as parents we haven’t given people (outside family or paid employees) the permission to help us even though we desperately need it." This was in reference to being left alone to handle my two and a half year old's tantrum in a restaurant. Nine months pregnant and utterly defenseless, I was convinced that strangers should have stepped in and offered their assistance. I claimed that I would not have been offended. With a kumbaya-spirit, I encouraged people to reach out and help me and each other.

Fast forward to February 14, 2011. I had to run a quick errand with my now three and half year old and nine month old daughter. My oldest, dressed in her princess-best informed me she did not want to go by screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing her hat at me while I tried to finish a conversation on the phone while parked in the lot of the grocery store. Her screaming and whining continued throughout every aisle while I tried to get what I needed and did my best to ignore her.

I'm a fan of letting kids cry. Let me clarify. When my daughter is in full meltdown mode and I know she is not in jeopardy I see no reason in trying to manage her tantrum. Reacting only fuels her fire. So, I let her kick, yawp, and moan. People marveled at her lung capacity and longevity as they passed by. In between deep cleansing breaths, I teetered between losing it and laughing it was so absurd.

At our last stop, Audra had convinced herself that something actually was wrong and was full on crying, with tears, red cheeks, quivering lips; the works. I made sure she wasn't sitting on something sharp, her temperature hadn't suddenly spiked, and she hadn't swallowed anything poisonous. She was fine so I recommitted to ignoring her after I wiped her tears and said, "I'm sorry you are upset."

Then, Grocery Store Lady (a store employee) flew up to the cart. "What's wrong, sweetie? Are you having a bad day?" Audra's fingers were in her mouth. "Is something wrong with your teeth honey? Are you teething?" Audra nodded. Audra is three. She wasn't teething but she had finally gotten her audience. "Oh," the woman empathized. Audra's crying reached the stratosphere. "That can really hurt," Grocery Store Lady informed me. Thank God. I had no idea teething hurt. "Can I give you something? Will that make you feel better?" Audra nodded, again. "Is that okay, Mom?" the woman asked. Nice of her to ask me after she already asked Audra. Even though I knew it would be a quick fix, I didn't want to reward Audra for her behavior. I told the woman I didn't think it was a good idea but the disappointment on Grocery Store Lady's face made me buckle under the pressure.

The woman went behind the counter and started blowing up a pink balloon. I looked at Audra who had a most satisfied grin on her face. We stared each other down like Clint Eastwood impersonators. Her smile grew wider and I had to hold my face tight so I wouldn't show any teeth. Audra-One. Mom-Zero. Grocery Store Lady-Below Zero because she should have stepped aside and not gotten up in my bizness. I didn't need her help if it was going to get in the way of what I was trying to do. I mean, did she think I wasn't aware that Audra was crying? Did she think she was saving the day by coming to the aid of this poor child whose death Mother couldn't hear her cries? Why didn't she pick up on the I-am-ignoring-you tactic I was clearly employing?

Grocery Store Lady couldn't have known what I needed, of course. She is not a mind reader. Nor is she my co-parent. Not her job. Now I see that unsolicited help is not helpful. Help when there is some cue that the parent wants help is helpful. So, forget most of what I said in that other post (though some of it is still very wise) Instead, remember, in most areas of life, keep your eyes open, don't judge and stay out of people's carts (especially when there is a kid in it.)