Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My daughter turns Nine on Saturday.

And amongst the chaos, of preparing for her party under the stars, with her twenty most intimate friends, I want to take the time to reflect on her miraculous birth. It is a time to be thankful for her. It is a time to think how I am blessed by the everyday joys of having her in my life and it is also time to remember how she splashed into my life. Her entry into the world was a cue for wonders and to believe in everyday miracles for they happen everyday sometimes you just need a reminder.

My pregnancy was unique as all pregnancies are. I had a menstrual cycle through the first trimester. I only went to the doctor because I thought I had mono. But while in the doctor's office, waiting to seen, I thought... Just maybe, I could be pregnant.

And pregnant I was. I kept my miraculous secret, a secret for two days as I wanted to tell my husband on Valentine's Day, with baby clothes.I wanted his first Valentine to be from our little Scooter. His first Valentine from his wee baby.

I named my wee zygote Scooter as she scooted past the radar of us. She just scooted into our lives and well into our hearts. When we first heard that beautiful cacophony over the monitor, that whhhhaahhhh whaahhhwhaaa whhaahhh heartbeat and saw her flicker on the monitor, our hearts could not contain our joy. The miracle of a life is something to behold. It certainly had my husband and I star struck as we watched the ultrasound. We could not breath as watched her dance on the monitor before our eyes and with the back drop of the heartbeat had the two of us were riveted to the screen.

We had minor and major hiccups with the pregnancy. At 29 weeks, we had a scare during a full moon when our wee little Scooter wanted to come out. Our midwife met us at the crowded hospital where she called in advance so that I may have a bed. I remember being whisked in and forced to lie in a bed, they attached me to a fetal monitor, and while there was panic all around, I was trying to sing a calming lullaby to my wee Scooter I was trying to coax her to stay in for just a few more weeks. A few more weeks and she would have lungs to help her breath and she would not be torn away from us.
And somehow, through no medical intervention, she decided to stay inside until the day she was due. No rhyme or reason, she opted to stay in.

On September 30th at 6a.m. I had my first contraction.

Actually, that's a lie.

My first contraction happened the day before when I was running to catch the bus in the middle of a downtown intersection. I was tying up loose ends at work as my baby was due on September 30th, I had back to back meetings. I was running late when I saw the offending bus.
I ran,
and Owwww!!!
Whoa!!!!!! THE PAIN !
I remember just stopping on the street.
I remember holding the side of a skyscraper with my right hand and my left hand was on my belly. Just one sharp hit and it had me breathless, and I was holding myself up.

It was such a shock that I am certain I howled. I am certain I must have grunted.

Somehow I was not heard or noticed, as I had my first contraction. People kept walking with purpose all around me and there I was motionless and for a brief moment without air.
This contraction that was so unexpected that it did feel like a kick through my spleen.
I breathed in, I breathed out. I breathed in and ooooooout.
And the pain past, just as the people around me did. They fluttered about their business, while I stayed for a brief moment in suspended animation. When oxygen came back to my head and I could find my legs, I continued on my way.
I gingerly walked to the bus stop and waited for the next bus and my composure to return so that I could finish my meetings for the day.

After, tidying all my loose ends at the office, you find me on September 30th at 6am feeling my second contraction while lying in bed. It is a mild taste of yesterday and I am able to function as a normal human being.

I go to use the loo and there is the bloody show. The time has come. My baby is coming. I go back and lie in bed and listen to the birds chirping and the warm autumn air drifting through my open bedroom window. I am going to meet my baby today. I am going to be able to smell her, to hold her, to see her eyes, feel her skin, I am going to be able to nurse her in my arms.

I am talking myself through the day. I am envisioning a bath, I am envisioning a back rub from my husband and while I am 'dreaming' of the activities the pain begins to mount.

At 7:30am the alarm clock goes off. My husband, Boy Wonder wakes up. I tell him I am in labor. He smiles, kisses my belly and goes downstairs to take a SHOWER????

He is whistling in the shower, he is listening to the news, he is having a normal day.

Meanwhile, I rise from our bed descend to our second floor and begin pacing the halls. Walking back and forth. Millions of thoughts of self doubt are swarming through my mind in a flurry of contractions.

Boy Wonder turns on the radio in the bathroom. Boy Wonder shaves. Boy Wonder brushes his teeth. Boy Wonder tests the water. Boy Wonder takes a shower. Boy Wonder combs his hair. Boy Wonder gets ready for WORK?

I have opted to lie in our prepared birthing bed on the second floor, I am in the fetal position, he walks in and plops himself down in the rocking chair in the corner of the room.I look up. He begins to rock himself, his eyes meet mine. He looks at what he is wearing and then cautiously says'I guuuuueeess,I'mmNNNOOOOOOTgoingtowooork?'

I drag myself up from the birthing bed and pass the smiling, the freshly showered, the humorous, the 'non working ',clean man, rocking contently in our rocking chair, in our birthing room.

I start to walk the hall again. I go to one end of the long narrow hall then when I reach the end I return. Back and forth, back and forth. And all the while thoughts are zooming through my head as the contractions build. I am transported to an open field in sixty five years ago to where my grandmother is giving birth alone, I am in the hospital wing where my mother is in her 24th hour of labor on the hottest day of the year with no ventalation. I am thinking of my paternal grandmother giving birth to my father who was her first and weighed in at twelve pounds thirteen ounces. I think of all the birth stories that I have been told to me. I wince through then all and I think I am so unworthy of THIS club. This club, this club of endurance. What made me think I could be a mother?

I then talk myself through the fact that I can not walk away from pain I have to walk through it.

I re-enter my birthing room. My Boy Wonder has now changed into his birthing clothes. He slides himself down on the rocking chair and asks if I have seen his book.
He finds his book and proudly shows me the cover triumphantly, 'The Birth Partner' says he... HE cracks it open and reads aloud 'Chapter One... '

Now, Dear Reader, do not hate him. Boy Wonder went to every appointment with me to see my midwife. He went to the birthing classes. Heck, he even took a parenting class. He just did not do the last bit of homework and now he is cramming.

It is around 9:50 am.

I haul myself up again and walk down the hall to reevaluate my inadequacies in the birthing department.

When, what do I hear from down the hall?
Power tools?
Yes, that is exactly what I heard POWER TOOLS!

I walk towards the noise, towards the birthing room and there, there, in the birthing room is my Boy Wonder installing a new light fixture. I scowl at him as I slink back in the bed.
He then proudly points to a chart that he has made while I was 'away'.

He then says 'Oh, you should be having a contraction!' he says with enthusiasm,
and with that it came...
he timed it... as well as a many others.

and then the phone rings...
He answers it????What tha???? Yes, Dear Reader, he answered the phone.
it is one of my clients... I had a contraction, while Boy Wonder was on the phone with my client. My client then informs him that it would be in his best interest NOT to pick up another call.

Anyway back to us...
Back to the ' uncommunicative wife' and the Birth Partner. The Birth Partner has decided that I am not communicating appropriately, so he calls our midwife at 10:30 am. She tells him, that I have a longway to go and that I have to remain focused. She will arrive at our house at 1pm to help. She then asks to speak to me.

One thing about me Dear Reader, I have a very high pain threshold. And Dear Reader, I was able to 'talk' during a contraction. Our midwife had no idea about how far along I could be. Apparently women should not be able to talk while in full labor and who would have thought that I could have defied what the norm was.

Now, as I mentioned our midwife gave my husband instructions. She told him that I had to remain 'focused'. But focused to a woman in labor and focused to a man that is freshly showered and with power tools mean entirely different things. He took this cue or me needing to remain 'focused' as a perfect time to install a baby mobile above the birthing bed. I took this as a 'cue' to take a walk down the hall and think of ways to distract me from killing him.

When I slunk back the room holding my belly, I saw him smiling in the rockingchair, the showered face, the brushed teeth, the power drill in his left hand, the chart on the table, the Winnie the Pooh baby mobile above the bed...I just said,quite calmly 'You turn that thing and you die!'

I lay there for about a half an hour and then I started pacing again.

And then Dear Reader it all unfolded.
I wanted to relieve the pressure. My water had not broken. I knew it was going to be a long arduous day. But if the sac would just break.

I am focused and think if I just go to the washroom.

At this point my husband has had all he could bare with me. He tries to call the midwife's pager again and this time he reaches a pizza delivery place. He hangs up and calls again. Again it goes not to our midwife's pager but to a corporate switchboard. I should mention, that he did call the proper numbers. But while he was calling, a satellite crashed to earth and took down all paging systems from around the world for ten minutes.

10 minutes of not reaching vital number.

Boy Wonder after one minute of not getting through begins to panic. He makes an executive decision to call the landline of the midwives. He gets a hold of the receptionist and informs her that he needs to talk to a midwife. He thinks that things are really beginning to happen as he says this, I push.
I scream.
He comes running into our bathroom with our portable phone and places the phone on the counter as he yells 'Oh My Gawd,It's the Baby!'

And I yell back that ' IT IS NOT!!!!'
I stand up and everything goes back in.
My husband screams back 'If it is not the baby you are in BIG TROUBLE!!!!'

Now, in Celtic folklore, being born in the cull/sac is one of the luckiest thing that can happen to a person. There is a belief that very few are and it is very special. To be born in the cull is looked upon as a miracle. Well, that was certainly the case with us, as I sat on the loo and pushed to relieve the pressure. Three strong guttural pushes and the baby came out in the cull.
The sac broke my baby's fall as she hit the toilet.

The cull exploded.
The umbilical chord snapped.
The chord snapped, in the right place.

I get up. My legs are shaking and I am hemorrhaging.
I try to get my baby out of the toilet. I can not stand. My husband, pushes me aside and knows from years of experience to move the seat UP, and he picks up our beautiful daughter who has not cried at all. She is just looking all around her like a sage, ole creature.

One thing I have not mentioned through this story has been the fact that I had a dream months before giving birth. I had a dream about my daughter's birth. In my dream I was all alone upstairs in my bathroom and the windows were closed and I could not call for help. In my dream, there was 'a voice 'that kept saying everything was going to be okay. In my dream, it told me to go to the tub to deliver.
And so I followed my dream. And I trusted the voice. I went to the tub, our great Victorian tub which supported my back and my legs and helped me deliver the placenta. I would never have thought of that on my own. It was a perfect place for me to squat. A perfect place to sit and breath.In and out, in and out.

And then the world came hurdling back to us.

We could hear the midwives screaming from the portable phone on the counter'PICK UP PICK UP!PICK UP!'

My Boy Wonder, my hero, picks up the phone, the midwives tell him to give me the baby or I will go into shock if I am not physically responsible for the baby. They also tell them that they have called emergency services and he better get down stairs and open up or they will break down our door to get to us.

They also instruct him to give me the phone.

They start telling me to hold the where the umbilical chord broke, they tell me that Iam the strongest woman alive, they tell me that help is on its way and to stay with them...
And all they while I am holding the umbilical chord, and my daughter and I are just looking at each other.

The paramedics arrive in a matter of minutes.
They take my baby from me and give her to my husband, they also give him a list of things they need from him from our house and then they start ot work on me.
I know that the situation is not good because they will not look in my eyes. They are just focused on trying to stabiize me. I want them to notice me. I want them to hear the voice too.
I want them to stop panicking.
I read one of the guy's names from his badge. 'Jim.'
'Jim!' he stops 'Jim, do you have any kids?'
'How many, Jim?'
'Jim, after each one, everything was all right, right?'
'Well, Jim, everything is going to be okay.Everything is going to be okay' and with that he looked into my eyes and I had him repeat after me.' Everything is going to be okay.'
He nodded and he paused. He looked at me in my eyes. I knew he saw me then. I knew that he saw me as a human. I knew that I was there and he saw me, not just a body that was bleeding away.
I had an IV, I was on a heart monitor and then my 'back up' midwife arrived.

She flashes a badge and said that she is legally allowed to give me these drugs.
And with that she injects me in my left thigh.
She then injects my right thigh.
With the help of the paramedics I get out of the bathtub and I am walked to my birthing room.

The midwife goes to work on stopping the clotts from traveling to my brain.
This basically means that the midwife sits on my chest and beats my stomach for close to twenty minutes.

No one EVER told me about the beating!

The paramedics are not allowed to leave me with the IV. The midwife is not allowed to take it out. Nor is she allowed to touch the heart monitor. The paramedics can not touch the drugs, nor can they touch the baby's med pac.
Very strange as it is all legal mumbo jumbo... But the paramedics and the midwife have to work as a team as the hospitals were in a crisis mode and not taking on any new patients.So this emergency team must work together so they can stabilize me as there is nowhere to go. I will die if the bleeding does not stop.
The drugs start to take affect. I am stabilizing but will need a bit more medical attention from the midwife and I certainly need the IV for another hour or so.

As the midwife works on my body, the paramedics clean up my bathroom. There was blood through out the bathroom and being the compassionate, caring people that they were, they took it upon themselves to clean my bathroom ceilings, floors and walls. They believed that I should never see it.

Our main midwife arrived when all the chaos had passed and my Boy Wonder had to talk the midwife out of the shock of missing the birth of Scooter. She had been a midwife for 20 years and this thing just does not happen. She has never missed a birth. She cries about all that could have happened. Boy Wonder consoles her.

The rest seems so inconsequential as the midwives took an hour to knit me back together, how they ensured that I had enough fluids in my body, how the administered Vitamin K into my baby, how they took all the vitals of Scooter, how the midwives gave my husband some drugs for him to cope with the shock. (He claims that he was just fine, but I do not think that if he was complete control of his faculties as he would have given me the phone to talk to my father when the midwives were knitting me back together...)

This story has been told a great deal of times by us. It is a story of my daughter's birth and my near demise. It is a story that still causes my husband to be overwhelmed with emotion when he gets to the part with the paramedics. The paramedics were taking control when he realized how out of control it all became. The paramedics allowed him to take in the whole story.

It is the story of how we became a family and when my daughter splashed onto the scene at 11:45pm and when the midwives left us at 6pm.

I do not know if I can say with a certainty that fate helped my wee family. I do not know if I would think of us as special as aren't we all? I would say that I do think of most days as having some kind of miracle in them, and sometimes we need to take the time to find it.

I can say that within my heart I am so eternally thankful for having each day.I am so grateful that I am watching my beautiful, wonderful, daughter, flourish. I am beholden with her laughter, her sense of being and her love of song.I am grateful that I can witness her endless compassion. I am grateful that I have the strength to stand by her as she makes mistakes. I am grateful for when I am there to watch her succeed. I am grateful to be there for when she struggles. I am so fortunate that I have experienced nine years of her. I am so fortunate to be part of her cognitive memory. And that she has filled my soul with wonders as she has been growing up.

And while her birth is just part of her story. It was only her entry. I know that someday she will ask for the whole story. The story of her birth. The story that may have her envisioning me walking down the hall and her dad with power tools.

I rarely think of what could have been lost that day. I only think of what I have. And what I have is a great story for my daughter to envision. What I have is a most wonderful husband that could never bare to think of me in pain, much less dying and not spending the rest of his life with me and power tools. What I have is truly a wonderful life with endless moments of miracles in being. And on my daughter's birthday it is just nice to have the reminder.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Neil Sedaka - Calendar Girl

A Girl's Slumber Party.

I am about eleven years old. I am too old for dolls and too young for boys. It is an awkward time to be a girl. That is, unless you have your absolute best friends around and then all fits into place.

This song brings me right back to my bedroom on the third floor in my house in the city. This brings me back to me standing beside my record player and playing this 45 that I just inherited from an old uncle of mine. I would play it over and over and all my girlfriends would take turns dancing, singing and miming out the song. Each time the song played, the campiness of our dancing and our singing would put any Dean Martin Roast to shame. We would squeal and laugh and fall onto my bed and play it again. We would all be wearing our comfortable pj's. We would have our sleeping bags and best junk food littered on the floor. We were young. We had each other.And we had years of friendship under our flannel belts.

I grew up in an age before MTV really got its groove. If you even want to call it a groove now. I grew up LOVING musicals.I could sing the entire score to Fiddler on the Roof and force my friends to play various characters. I grew up listening to Bing Crosby. My parents did not listen to any of this. It was just me, an odd quirky girl. A girl that could persuade her friends to listen to all types of music. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra mixed in with the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, twinged with Elvis'69 comeback special. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds. I grew up to The Beatles and the Monkees. I grew up listening to The Bay City Rollers, Bobby Darren and Eartha Kitt. I grew up listening to Peter,Paul and Mary laced with a bit of Genesis and a whole lot of disco. The time I am bringing you to is before I began to contemplate that Paul McCartney may be dead and talk for hours on the phone of the evidence that sergeant Pepper's produced. I am talking about a period before I found the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. I am talking about a time when I could belt out the words to Cocaine by Eric Clapton and not think what the song was about. And heck, I would sing Rod Stewart's Tonight's the Night at the top of my lungs, much to my prudent, Roman Catholic, father's chagrin. I had not idea it was about THAT!

I grew up in a city. I grew up in a time when you could not order Indian food for delivery. Or there was maybe one Japanese restaurant in the city. Thai was not even heard about in my social circle for a meal. Chinese food was laddened in glow in the dark syrup and a great MSG glow. Pizza was the food of choice for delivery. It was filled with waxy type cheese and pepperoni and always seem to arrive a wee bit soggy.

But at the same time I grew up in a time of new immigrants. My best friends were German, Greek, Japanese and Pakistani and Ukrainian. How's that for a mix?

I would remember each friend and our wee traditions. With my girlfriend Naseem, I would attempt to learn Arabic, I would be part of the daily prayers. I even had my own prayer matt when visiting.I could pray to whatever God I chose. But would have to respect that they were praying too. After, we would finish our prayers we would quickly go back to our Nancy Drews, or our Archie comics laced with a bit of the Trixie Beldon. We would always have Indian music in the background and the smell of delicious curries would permeate the house. The house was filled with exotic women in saris of all different colours. Most of the men wore white and always barefoot in sandals no matter what the weather.

At my German girlfriend's house we would go into the backyard where my girlfriend's father would be building his own airplane for the family to fly to the cottage in.He was always tinkering with his inventions and when we would bore of him, we would then go downstairs where would would make pottery as my girlfriend's mother had a kiln and clay for us to weld our creations.At the end of the day, we would listen to her father play the piano, Beethoven of course... and sometimes he would add a bit of Mozart to his repetoire. We would sit in the living room as her father would give us a recital. And you know, we gobbled it up.We loved to hear him play. We would always insist that he end it with dadadadummmm... from Beethovan's fifth symphony... He would never fail to explain that it was a symphony and we would just look at him and say... Just play the DaDA DaDummmmmm part then...

At my Greek girlfriends house we would enjoy the yoghurt cheese and talk about our love for the Bay City Rollers. We would listen to disco music and try out our best disco moves. For the important Greek Orthodox holidays we were forced to dress in our finest and go to church with Maria. We were forced into all the pageantry as Maria's uncle was one of the highest priests in church.And it was magical with all the gold and we would sit in the pews of honor with Maria's entire extended family. One of my girlfriends caused quite the stir one year as she crossed her legs in church... Apparently that is a BIG NONO!!! And when the service was over, we would all file back to Maria's family's house where Greek music would play and only loud dialogue was spoken.

At my girlfriend Kimiko's house we would be enthralled with the pageantry of being Japanese. Her Grandparents lived upstairs and her parents lived downstairs. Her Grandfather would take enormous pride in his garden. There were exotic flowers and bushes that were cut into the most exquisite shapes. It was easy to think of yourself as a regal princess in his garden in the city. Even when we played Charlie's Angels and we were fighting off vile villains, the garden was where Charlie lived.And we Angels were just visiting with Bosley.
Kimiko's grandmother wore kimonoes of the most beautiful silks. Her hands were always manicured and lotions were always used. Her hair was always in a bun and it was never out of place. She was a most gracious woman and would be calm even when all us girls would descend upon her. The rice steamer was never off.I remember large banquets upstairs with endless arrays of cantaloupe and melon that were the sweetest I have ever tasted. And the orange that were always cut and on display were always bursting with juice. Everything looked beautiful. They never had small dinner parties. There was never less than 40 family members gathered around their table eating and talking in Japanese with us girls running in to grab some sushi from the table and run into our makeshift fort downstairs.
I remember gathering all of our snacks together. I was the offical 'wrapper eater' as I did not care for the Japanese candy but loved eating the rice wrappers from the candies.

The Ukrainian household was a great deal like my own.(But my house was also ensconced with the Irish traditions as well) Where we would eat borscht and Vareneky and Holobtchi and could eat spoonfuls of sour cream. Where there would be songs from the old country. Where there would be thick accents and pinches on the cheek to say that we were all too thin. The conversations were always around the table. There would be a circle of woman making vareneky(Peorogis if you are Polish). The tea towels would be laid out while the women gossiped and had tea while attending to the task at hand. There would be thousands of little dumplings all laidout and the house was always humid with the boiling of soup to accompany the evening meal.

Through all the ethnic diversity we grew up together. We knew all of our traditions We incorporate them all. Christmas Eve was very important for my German girlfriend, so we would all descend on her family for the lighting of the candles.We knew about Ramadan. We all attempted to fast. We knew about bad Japanese movies. We watched countless ones where with bad Japanese accents we would fill in the missing dialogue. We learned about how the Japanese were interned during World War II. We learnt about the Nazis, we learnt about the resistance in Germany , we learned Greek songs and attempted to learn Ukrainian.

And now, in my city I can order Sushi. I can order Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Greek Indian or anything else I chose.

But my life is not peppered and seasoned with the truly ethnic experience I grew up with. All of my gal pals have married and have taken very different paths. They all live in the suburbs and I am the only one that has opted for the city life. My Greek girlfriend married a Hindu boy, my German girlriend married an American, my Japanese girlfriend married a Spaniard, my Ukrainian girlfriend married a Dominican , and my Pakistani girlfriend had an arranged marriage at the age of 16 that had all of us in a tears.

But for a brief moment... Through this song. They are back at my house. We are upstairs and we are full of promise. We are giggling and being told to quiet down which causes us to laugh harder. We are too old for dolls and too young for boys... And we are all Calendar Girls!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Technicolor Dreamcoat?

He saw her at a dance. He can not recall what she wore. He can just recall the moment he saw her. He can only recall the feeling in his stomach. The urgency, in his being, his destination.

He turned to his friend and said 'I am going to marry Her!'

The friend had been listening to the music and scoping the room for a girl to dance with.The friend was just about to cross the room when it dawned on him, his friend had just something?

What? Who? Who are you going to marry?

Her, That girl over there...The boy's friend adjusts his glasses ands takes a better look..

Oh, I don't think so! I went to grade school with her... And you are not going to marry her! You are not on her radar, Bub! She has career plans... Marriage is not in her mind...Have? Have you, even met her?

No, But I am going to right now.

And with that comment suspended in the air, the boy left his friend alone at the other end of the room and went to meet his wife.

She does not recall the dance. She does not recall any urgency upon meeting him. She just remembers dancing all night with him. Every dance was with him.

And on the third date He proposed, at a movie theatre over the buttered popcorn and a soda. He gulped down his pride, straightened himself up, stared at the curtain and asked... 'Will you marry me?' No ring. Just a statement/question.

She laughed as the curtain went up at the movie theatre and the song 'More' by Bobby Darrin started to play. He laughed and said, 'They are even playing our song.'

He took her laughter as a 'Yes' for it certainly was not a no....

He was on top of the world and was glad that his destination was sealed.

Little did She know.

The following day, He went to her family's home to ask her father. Her father was a large, hulking, new immigrant with hands the size of baseball mitts. English was not his first language. He was an overpowering figure to this scrawny nineteen year old boy who was all bones through his suit. This man escaped through the mountains, with his wife and eldest daughter when his family was being persecuted in his old country.This man had helped build a railroad, had slept in ditches to bring his family to this country. This father had been a farmer. This man knew sorrow. This man knew great happiness.This man wanted the best for his youngest daughter.

This boy went through the doors of his betroved house, as He knew He would bring her happiness. I know He thought this, as how else could He have had the courage to go through the door?

I do not know what they talked about. But permission was granted to this boy on the cusp of his twentieth birthday. On the cusp of a new life.

When the girl returned home from a day of shopping with her girlfriends, She was flabbergasted that He was serious. That He DID propose in the movie theatre.
And when She really thought about it, when She sat down and looked at him, her heart filled with joy. A joy that She did not know that She was in need of, until then. She realized that She did say 'Yes!' at the movie theatre, ... And that She, She who had not looked for him, now, could not imagine life without him.

They married 42 years ago.They married in sunshine with the father of the bride crying the entire way down the aisle with his youngest daughter in duchess satin.This boy and girl, this husband and wife, married with a trust of the future with the security of a love everlasting in their hearts.

Beginnings are always beautiful to talk about. They are what most people can relate to,as everyone has had a beginning, just as everyone has known an end.

And I am happy to say, there has not been an end.

The middle is the hard part to talk about. The middle is where it is messy. the middle is what gives the fabric of life its substance. The middle is filled with births and deaths, the middle is filled with sunrises and sunsets, the daily coffees at the kitchen table, the cups of tea in the evenings in the reckroom, the laughter and the incredible pain, the lovemaking and the fights,the dances and the walks, the friends and the family, the moments of endless phone calls to each oher, the loveletters that are still left on the kitchen table with their nicknames for eachother enscribed at the end, the days are filled still with each other, the nights are still spent on a double bed, the nights and the days, the hours and the weeks, can all conveniently blend into one, in a narrative.

But when I think of trying to even encapsolate this couple I am at a loss. A loss because it all would seem trite. The fabric of this marriage, this life together has many interesting stitches, Some have given way in the centre where there a huge gaping holes and other spots have had shoddy patches placed overtop. There is duchess satin and Egyptian cotton, there is burlap as there are parts othe heavens, there are a few stars and many tears, and I do not know how but I am certain that laughter is embedded in the fabric, just as trust and compassion, but just as there is this, there is also rage, there is also anger and there is passion that can not be wasted on the faint of heart. This beautiful blanket allows for others to come in and be enveloped in its beauty. This blanket covers the couple at night, as they have their gentle slumbers or turbulant nightmares. This blanket nourished me as a young girl and as a grown woman.

This blanket helped me through a few storms.It has been a beacon of hope for many.

And on September 18th.I hope that you will raise a glass with me and toast the 42 years of my parents. A lovestory with a beginning and a middle... And for the grace of god, or fate, or whatever you want to call it, no end.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Year of Heroes and Villans

September is filled with a great deal of emotion for this old girl... This time of year is filled to the brim with memory. And yesterday September 10th is a big day for me, as that is the last time I saw my best friend. He flew here from New York City to be a part of my daughter's first day of school. He came to my country to be a part of our family moment. A family that he loved. It was his first voyage to a foreign country since his kidney surgery. A surgery that left him minus a rib, his adrenal glands and both kidneys. He came to my country with a sense of hope for the future. He came to my country in a great deal of pain.

He came to my country to grab his independence back. To realize that the machines that sustained him would not bind him. He was determined to travel again. But just for brief stints as he did love his city so, and New York was home.

I sit on my porch and there under my welcome matt,is the deliable imprint on my bestfriend's shoeprint from that maiden voyage. My husband painstakenly paints around it every two years... But there is a footprint stays on my front porch as a reminder of his last visit in September 2001. A print that always has me sigh, laugh and cry all at the same time, as I recall him stepping on the newly painted porch and all of our laughter at the folly at the time.

My dear friend, that passed away was the embodiment of New York. He was born in New York. He was raised in New York. He grew up with his family on the upper east side in a beautiful brownstone house that housed the last greenhouse ever to be built in a home in Manhattan. Central Park was his playground and the city restaurants were his cafeteria.He loved theatre, he loved art, he loved culture and ethnic diversity. He could have all of it in his great city.

He was jaded and rough, at the same time, having the refined witt and grace of an educated socialite.He grew up on the upper east side but had the edge of being an outcast as he was gay and grew up in a time when he was ostracized by his family and society itself.

He stuck with his fair city through thick and thin, in good times and in bad. He was in New York for the Stonewall Riots and would cry as he would relay all that happened on that day. He would relay in full account of the abuse he faced in the riots all due to what he was. He could cry for what New York did to him and his friends on that day. But through his tears there was forgiveness.

When New York was going broke, he invested. He adored his fair city with the warts and the tinsel. He knew that New York would rise again. He never abandoned hope for his city.

We would walk through Central Park and he would show me where he would sled as a child, or where he would have boat races with his three older brothers. He would show with some twisted sense of pride where he was first beat up as a kid, or how he was robbed at gun point at the age of 20, only having the Guardian Angels rescue him. He would show me murals from graffitti artists that he would enjoy, or go to the MET and marvel at an extraordinary new addition to the walls.

All street corners and stoops had stories.He would recall when he lived in the Dakota how he would have tea with his neighbour Lenny... Or to all of us, this man would have been Mr.Leonard Bernstien. He would relay stories of Dakota and all its legends and ghosts that wandered its halls. I remember entering the lobby of the Dakota and he said 'And this is where John Lennon died.Right here. The three consierges here tried to save him.They tried with all their might. But he died in their arms. Right here, in the fourth stair'

He was a playwright and always used his fair city as a reference.

He was also business suavy and as a result he invested and made his own money. He knew the business world and could manuever around his finances with great ease.He was a New Yorker that believed in knowing your banker and where his fair city had instabanks, he never trusted them. He would always go to his branch, deal face to face with his banker. He felt that you always had to have a face and respect for money. So every time he went abroad he would take out an extrodinary amount of money to last him his vacation. And he would always have a budget for all that he did.

He could take me on walks and show me with great delight the oldest bar in New York and know the whole history of the place. He could tell you how the bar was actually saved by Jackie Kennedy, as it was one of the Irish bars that Jack adored. He could tell you about Jane Mansfield living two doors down from his house. He would talk of his mother sending Ms. Mansfield a letter written on linen stationary scented with roses.The letter addressed to Ms. Mansfield was not a fan letter but a letter to remind the young starlit to pick up after her dog.

He would talk about the great performers of Central Park. The amazing puppetteers that come out every Sunday and give some of the best performances that New York has to offer and all they want is a small donation in their cap. Whenever my daughter and I were with him he would always discreetly put in at least 100 dollar as he knew what it was like to go hungry. To be poor and give art to the mases is never easy. And he never wanted New Yorkers to miss out on such talent. Street performers were part of the fabric of his city and he felt accessible art helped bind his fellow man.

Outside his place on Sundays or Monday nights there would be homelessmen, and these men would set up televisions ouside my friend's home, along with lazyboy chairs, popcorn and beer and have a long wire running from my friend's place as they pirated his cable and his electricity so they could watch their football games. They would always nodd, call him by his name and let him know the score, later on in life they would also tell me if my daughter was up to mischief in the house...Always referring to my daughter as the Wee Miss...

He would not suffer fools lightly and it would not matter if we were in a play or in a cab, if the person did not know their trade his tongue could be ever so wicked. I remember a few plays where he got up and just threw his insult as we left. Sad to say,it would also happen in restaurants as well. And coming from a city where we are all polite and manners it would just send me into manic spasms.

He would take me to endless restaurants and simply go to different planets when he tasted something delicious. He would bang his spoon down and cry with delight exclaiming that he could just lick the plate. He would boast how restaurants were now the biggest tourist attraction in New York. He would take me to all the great restaurants and cute greasy spoons he found through his 57 years of living in New York. He would just love to dress for dinner. And would always gasp in delight, whenever his chosen family entered a room. He would marvel at how we,his family, could clean up for dinner.

And the way he could hail a New York cab was a thing of beauty to bestow. The hand discreetly up like that of Nuryev or Barishnikov. My daughter has since perfected the stance and I enjoy thinking of how he would have loved to see her now.

He was an excellent host. And when in his fair city you knew anything could happen.

That is, until the impossible did.

I remember watching in dismay as I saw the World Trade Center on fire.How my stomach ached when I saw the plane hit the tower. I automatically called my friend. The phone lines were down and panic filled my heart. When the towers crashed. I had to talk with him. I had to hear his voice. I had to hear hope. I had to touch New York.

The phone lines were jammed for close to three hours on September 11th. I heard from my dear friend at 12:18pm. I sighed and cried.
He scolded me.
He asked me 'how I could think that he would be down in the financial district?He hadn't been down that way for close to 15 years'
And I asked 'what were the chances of two planes hitting the WorldTrade Center?'
I had been there, with my daughter in the mornings. And it is not an odd phenomena to be down to visit the World Trade Center.

The odd thing was he was grappling to be that logical New Yorker. He was hurt and angry. He did not know where to turn. New York a city filled with hope. Filled with tinsel and now the air was filled with dust and debris. You could taste the residue from the buildings and the airplanes in the air. He could not get thetaste out of his mouth. He could not breath. The smell was overpowering. The smell was suffocating him. The smell was filled with dispair.

He had been to my house for close to ten days and had just returned to his city. On September 11th, He was on his way to the bank when to second plane hit.He went to a bank to withdraw money and was informed that the banks had closed.He was informed that the subways were closed. He was informed that New York was closed. Closed.

He, as New Yorkers are, are prized fighters. Nothing was going to get them down. Clean themselves up, put on a brave face and do not let them see your tears. The show must go on...

He wanted to grab something that was normal. Something to prove that New York would go on. And on September 11th there was no hope.
It was so overwhelming that New York stopped. And New Yorkers cried. As did the world.

It seems very fitting that my best friend died in the year of heros and villans.He died on December 20, 2001.My husband said it was kind of him to pass on the eve of winter solstice so that we would have the darkest day of the year to mourn him...
But I reminded him, that the darkest day already passed.

So as the anniversary of September 11th approaches. I am on my porch and thinking of the last time I saw my dear friend. I think of all that was lost in my heart in 2001 and the wonderful careless footprint under my welcome matt on my front porch.