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Marching Together

For me, this wasn’t at all about a man.

It was a text I received from a friend, inspiring me to take part.  It was the friend of that friend who drove me there and another who gave me a sign.  It was her five year-old daughter, skipping along our route, collecting flowers and feathers.

It was my college roommates in New York and DC who walked with parents, aunts, husbands, and children.  It was coworkers displaying signs proudly in Denver, San Francisco and Chicago.  It was women in my hometown marching with confidence across the city of Cleveland.  It was encouraging messages from those who were there in spirit, expressing love and support.

I watched strangers make room for one another in crowded parks and streets.  Young girls helping older women climb over curbs and steps.  The stately retiree in cashmere beside the lip-pierced student in neon beside the thirtysomething mom in ponytail and fleece, pushing a stroller or wagon.

In its usual way, history will paint the Women’s March as being all about a man.  But at least for me, its meaning was so much more significant.  It was about millions of women uniting in their shared experiences as mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and citizens, empowering one another to see and be seen, to hear and be heard.

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2016: A Year In Review

Chip and JoJo 1

I should have known this year was going to be a doozy when I found myself on a bus on my birthday, just off the Las Vegas strip, being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator. 2016 sort of continued from there with its endless stream of bizarre and disconcerting events. Brexit. HB2. The shock and depression of our presidential election. Riots in Uptown.  Prince and David Bowie. Brangelina. Mayo losing yet another All-Ireland Final. The Indians losing the World Series. The list goes on.

Thankfully, there are positive memories to look back on as well. The Cubs winning the World Series, for one.  The Cavs winning the NBA championship. My dad beating cancer. Walking our son in on his first day of school. Making the biggest jump of any employer on Fortune’s list of Top 100 Companies to Work For. Mastering my gym selfie.  Celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.  And who can forget my first trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo?  That was straight up bucket list action.

But something else happened that I would be remiss to ignore. I found out I was pregnant for the second time on a Thursday morning in January.  Shortly thereafter, I received confirmation that this was no longer the case.  Our miscarriage happened early, and it threw our entire year off course. While we won’t ever really know, we’re convinced she was a girl.  We would have named her Kate. She would have been born by now, and we miss her desperately without ever meeting her.

It was more of a non-event, really, but in a Christmas season now with much of the world waiting for a child to be born, it seems as though I still haven’t stopped waiting for my child.

Suffice it to say that 2016 has been rough. Maybe it’s not for us to know why things happen as they do, but it’s high time I wrote something about this particular thing. A thing that so many women experience, though you may not realize it because no one talks much about it.  I suppose there isn’t really much to say.  At times, you can almost convince yourself it didn’t even happen — but then there is the longing that never fully goes away, the lack of confidence in what you are capable of.

So today, I acknowledge what happened, and I hope that, in giving it its terrible moment in the universe, we can close out this mess of a year and move on.

This Wine Is For My Indigo Girls

roommates
Back in the day, we rocked a playlist on Napster like you wouldn’t believe.  We binged on Sex and the City and MTV’s Dismissed before binge-watching was even a thing.  We wallpapered our living room with inside jokes.  We had a breakfast place.  When someone was leaving town, every single one of us rode to the airport to see her off, and we all picked her up when she came back home.  We sometimes did this dressed as giant M&Ms.  It didn’t make sense to anyone else — it didn’t always make sense even to us — but then again, it didn’t have to.

The beautiful thing about these friendships is that part of us will always be frozen in time, back in that dorm room, listening to Indigo Girls, clad in overalls.  Part of us will always be walking back from campus, making big plans, pausing at the library to watch the sun set against an indigo sky.  These friendships are rooted in that special age where you open your eyes to the world for the very first time, and as far as the future is concerned, anything seems possible.

Having said that, we cannot deny the passage of time.  In the almost fifteen years since our last library walk, even I have to acknowledge that things somehow, inexplicably, continue to happen.  They happen on a daily basis and miles away.  Still, throughout the years, these are the only people who can adequately advise, who can effectively comfort, who can see clearly.  They celebrate and they cradle. They hold a harsh light up to life, and they remind me of who I am when I have all but forgotten.

And when things happen to them, I feel it deeply, as deeply as if it had happened to me — because in a very fundamental way, it has.

I may not know my roommates’ comings and goings anymore.  I may not know what they had for breakfast or what show they’re currently binge-watching, what they’re doing next Saturday night or even where exactly they work these days.

But if anything happens to them, I will go to wherever they are, I will take whatever it is, and I will put that thing on me.  I will stare into that indigo sky with them and I will fight it fiercely.

This Wine Is For That Random Glass In Our Cupboard

Nine years ago, two fine people from two fine families from two fine countries went to City Hall and got hitched.

Later that morning, they went to brunch with their families.

Later that afternoon, they took a nap.

Later that evening, their friends came by to celebrate.

Late that night, the barman at the Irish-American Heritage Center arrived with this glass.

Filled with whiskey at the time, it has since been filled with water, wine, orange juice and milk. It has been used to make up a quick vinaigrette, or as an ashtray for cigars. It has moved from cupboard to cupboard across the country.

In the cupboard, it has no match.

It isn’t part of any set.

It stands alone — one of a kind — just like the day on which it was given.

This Wine Is For Cramming My Son’s Feet Into Shoes Two Sizes Too Small

Who knew tiny feet grew so fast?

He never complained, just let me shove those feet into hand-me-down shoes, got right up and went about his day. Watching him tackle milestone after milestone, I didn’t stop to think about what he was wearing while doing so. And then it hit me one day, as I jammed his left foot in unceremoniously… These shoes might be too small.

So off we went to a children’s shoe store, to get him sized properly. As it turned out, I had been stuffing size 7 feet into size 5 shoes. After guilt-purchasing two pairs of the best brands in the store, I spent the afternoon pondering my misstep.

I have learned a lot so far as a mother, but this lesson hit me hard. Because my only job, really, is to help him put his best foot forward, and here I was doing exactly the opposite. My only real responsibility is to raise my child to have a curious mind, a good heart, and two feet planted firmly on solid ground.

Already he is growing faster than I can keep up. What else am I failing to notice?

And now for the toast — with each day that I fasten those Stride-Rites, may I recommit to nurturing that boy from head to toe. May I watch him run, and fall, and pick himself back up, heading out into the world full speed ahead.

Love is a deep and a dark and a lonely

In his most recent visit, Grampy (formerly known as my father) brought me a copy of Carl Sandburg’s collection of poems, Honey and Salt. On the inside cover was an inscription written by the author’s daughter: “‘Love is a deep and a dark and a lonely__’ p.11.” Flipping to page eleven, I immediately read the following verse and was moved by the honesty and the acceptance in each line.

Since then, my beautiful friend has lost her beloved sister. It is one of those moments where the limitation of my own writing becomes glaringly real. So thank you to Carl for saying it for me, and for all of us, right there on page eleven.

This Wine Is For Nobody

Goodnight NobodyWhen I get to “Good night nobody,” I always have to pause. What does it mean?!      The thought is far too existential to follow a comb and brush and to precede mush.    But there it is, in black and white: Margaret Wise Brown’s version of Godot.

And anyway, how can somebody say good night to nobody? Is it the same as when I say good night to my little boy, holding him close as we rock in the chair? Is he just something I dreamed up — some drooly, chubby, babbling figment of my imagination? Is it like the sun setting in gold waves across our lawn, the moon rising in a clear sky, the stars saying good night to another day of nothing? Or is it something much more ominous — some moment of foreboding?  A reference to the way the universe will someday say good night to me?

Good night nobody.

Henry smiles at the comb and brush. He is waiting in anticipation for the mush. But I am distracted as we finish the story, as I am still fixated on nobody.