Mothers, Gratitude, Regret, and Wishful Thinking

Tomorrow on our cul-de-sac we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. A 24-pound turkey, Al, will not be thawed by tomorrow. Dinner may be late for our small gathering this year of 15. I am thankful to have a warm, welcoming home for 15 people to sit down together and laugh more than we cry -or drink.

My mother passed away this past Nov. 6th at 7:30 AM. My alarm went off at 7:30 and as I rolled over to hit snooze I noticed I wasn’t coughing up small hamsters from my lungs for the very first time in 3 months. When I stood up from my all too comfy bed I was hit by a weight of depression I hadn’t been experiencing for the last couple of months, so I noticed.

I got a call at 12:10 PM. letting me know my mother had passed away a bit unexpectedly. It was nice of her to take my cough with her. I’m sure it’s just a weird coincidence. But, still, it’s weird.

When my husband, the-very-patient-man, and I decided to have children I vowed to do everything I could to give my children a different childhood than mine. I succeeded and failed.

Now that one is in college and one a recent college graduate living her dream life in California, I have too much time to miss: their magical imaginations, shopping for their food and entertainment and education and positive reinforcements. I miss the few and far-between moments of my own mother’s attempts to do the same for me. My ‘nows’ are often made up of ‘thens’ and the wishful thinking that I could have done better, at everything.  I miss the way our life was, even in the midst of loving the way our life is. more “Mothers, Gratitude, Regret, and Wishful Thinking”

Neighbors For Good

I see a world where we continually define ourselves by the way in which we are divided.

Our family moved to Chandler, Arizona from Los Angeles 18 years ago. We found a nice house we could almost afford in a safe neighborhood. My husband and I had two small daughters at the time. I suggested leaving L.A. the day helicopters were hovering over our house bellowing repeatedly through a blow horn for everyone to lock all doors and windows and stay inside. An armed robber was thought to be hiding in one of our backyards after shooting the owner of our corner grocery store. I love LA, but life in Chandler has been way less “survival of the fittest.”

The first day of house shopping brought us into 20 identical, beige, stucco houses in 20 different neighborhoods between Scottsdale and Chandler. more “Neighbors For Good”

Well-Intentioned Poster Child

A circa 1880’s poster with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied bed, on the green checked wallpapered walls of my girlhood bedroom. Every night, in the hours spent dreaming, these words hung over my head:

Come See
Karen Suzanne
Can-Can Dancer Extraordinaire
She Dances, Recites Poetry, Tells Jokes
She does it all!
Bucket O’Blood Saloon
Virginia City, Nevada

I’m Karen Suzanne. I basically became a can-can dancer, an actress, and a writer of poetry and slightly amusing anecdotes.

On the walls of Palmer Chinchen’s childhood house in Africa was a tapestry of the last supper.

Palmer became a pastor.

My husband’s boyhood bedroom walls were covered in all things Star Wars.

While my husband resembles Mark Hammil, remains jealous of Harrison Ford, and still gets a little disoriented when you mention Carrie Fisher and gold bikini in the same sentence, that’s where the imprint ends. He does kind of look like Mark Hammil though…

In my oldest daughter Hannah’s room hangs a painting of stripes in various lengths and colors with the words “Be Original” along the bottom, a poster of 12 distinctly different cupcakes, a few monkey posters and an autographed poster of the Rockettes. Oh, on the wall opposite her bed, so the last view she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning is a mural I painted on her wall of a castle high in a cloud with the words Once Upon A Time…

Hannah wants to be Cinderella. She is hoping to attend Chapman University when she graduates, partly because it’s a 10 minute train ride to Disneyland. Where she could get a job as Cinderella. (Ultimately, she wants to be an occupational therapist…and a Rockette.)

Talia, my youngest daughter has the word hope in various sizes, shapes and forms all over her room. Her middle name is Hope. Hanging directly above her head board is a mirror that is surrounded with pictures of her friends, the little pictures that you take in photo booths. Not one of them is serious.

Talia wants to be a neuro-biologist and a photographer, but after she is married and has 3 kids. It’s not incredibly likely that one of the kids will be serious.

On the top of the mirror in their bathroom is a quote by Ghandi “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it. They’re teenage girls… their focus is on who is staring back at them. As it should be at this point. But, I have hope that one day they will look up.

When I was preparing their nursery, I agonized over paint swatch colors for weeks. I asked anyone who seemed to have a reasonable handle on humanity what color meant in the years spent forming an individual. I sincerely wanted a color that would be both soothing and stimulating and would help guarantee the inhabitant of the room acceptance into Julliard. The last person I asked for input replied “I think you’re asking too much of a color.”

I settled on a kind of blue/gray with a classic Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border. Pretty much the room became the hundred acre woods of Christopher Robin’s (and my) imagination. So far, my girls alternately resemble Tigger and Eeyore with the occasional Rabbit thrown in during finals.

It seems to be critical what we hang on the walls of our homes, what we surround our children with during times of innocence and rest. I’m pretty sure my parents just thought that can-can dancer poster was funny. I loved it. For about 12 years it hung right over my head every night as I drifted to sleep. If my parents had hung a tapestry of the last supper over my head would I be closer to God? A pastor?

Can these seemingly innocent acts form the course of our destiny?

If Palmer had had a can-can dancer poster in his home growing up would he be throwing in a high kick every once in a while?

If my husband hadn’t seen Star Wars…well, I don’t have a comparison here…

It’s too soon to know the lives my children will lead. I hope Hannah is original and sweet and creative and delighted with small creatures, just like Cinderella. She actually is already. I hope the best things happen to her before midnight. I hope Talia never loses her hope to be – my hope, the hope of her generation. She has the capability. And the humor.

I guess as parents we are just doing whatever we can to not only keep our children alive, but guide them into the lives we hope they will lead. And maybe all the kids have to do is survive through our preconceived notions as to what will make a difference beyond survival.

Just to be clear, Julliard is off the table.