Turn, turn, turn

Where to begin. We lost my Nana at 11:58PM on St. Patrick’s Day; my dad’s birthday, her dad’s birthday, and one of our family’s most appreciated holidays. We toasted with Chivas and an Irish blessing and recounted old stories and even some long suppressed confessions that had us reeling and telling each other, “Shh, people are sleeping,” through hysteric laughter (without any enforced change in volume at all).

Collected from her final party once it started to die down, its attendees gone home for a night’s rest to prepare for another day of uncertainty, she left us wrapped in the warmth of her family’s love, snapshots of her incredible life flashing before her – the memories jogged by recounted stories as best could be remembered and shared by her children, children in law, and granddaughters. She held hands with her youngest son and my younger cousin on all of our behalf before going off to hitch a ride home with her sister, her neighbor, and her father. That’s how I choose to think of it, anyway, the idea presented by my aunt and cousin… and I thought I didn’t even believe in that sort of thing anymore. I’ll make the exception for this.

We spent her final day surrounding her in her small, yellow room in suburban Pennsylvania, seated on assorted chairs and stools borrowed from the facility’s communal areas. We were watched over with care by images frozen in the blissful timeline of our own happy family memories captured and command stripped or taped to the walls. We rotated frequently and each held her hands. Some flew from the west, racing against an unknown deadline with all their might, and some said goodbye through others and through phone calls and videos. We all made it in time in that she knew we were each thinking of her. Of that I am absolutely certain.

We told her we loved her so much and that we knew she loved us too even though she couldn’t say it with words. So powerful was our matriarch, even in her final days that she drew us to her like moths to her sheltered flame. Wordless, her energy’s container frail, our need to be near her was so strong. We let her know she made us who we were- members of a family, a close knit tribe unlike any I’ve ever heard of – despite living on split coasts and across different states.

The grief comes in salty Atlantic waves with foamy Pacific crests and words get crumpled up like moist Kleenex sometimes. Tomorrow will be easier and each tomorrow after.

There is a season.

Turn, turn, turn.

The Gathering Place

I sit on the porch of our family shore house listening to the morning symphony of foam flip flops shuffling along slate sidewalks to the boardwalk, the gentle rumbling of car engines in slow pursuit of good parking spaces, and the sweet-tuned gossip amongst the birds singing the breaking news of summer from the trees lining the street.

The breeze is cool and a cocktail of salty humidity clings to the furniture as the sun spotlights the modernized facelifts of our street’s once Victorian-style dollhouse homes.

I can usually see the ocean from this spot on the cozy wicker sofa, but the hedges around the porch have grown a little too accustomed to a casually untidy appearance which we can all pretty much relate to from living through a worldwide pandemic. I could use a trim as well but that can wait a while longer. These are those lazy, hazy, crazy days of… well you know, after all.

(The birds’ news reel plays on a loop).

I was too lazy to prepare the coffee this morning and didn’t want to wake anyone sleeping on the first floor with the bubbling gasps of the coffee pot. So instead, I gathered my laptop and headed out to the porch to sit in the breeze and be inspired by summer. Not too long after, I am joined by my cousin and her young son and demands for bubble time take priority. Wobbly iridescence floats heavily on the air and splash lands on the floorboards while the writing takes a rest.

Welcome distractions abound in this family-filled old house. These walls tell stories of use and love – of our own contained family history in this little shore town. The rooms are filled with laughter and conflicting TV volume preferences – with movie decision fatigue and lazy mornings sipping coffee. The scent memory of freshly baked Italian rolls and cinnamon sugar crumb cake permeate the dining room and waft up the stairs like a buttery apparition encouraging everyone to wake up in slow procession.

The memories of past experiences and loved ones long gone remain alive in this magical place, preserved like old time postcards in a frame. This house tells us stories and helps us write new ones. It makes us laugh till our bellies and our cheeks ache or even sometimes, till we pee “our” pants (IYKYK). It is where we have gathered for my whole life- where I got to know my family as a whole and I am so grateful for all that it gives us. We try our best to do right by it and keep the experiences going, even when it gets hard or we don’t have a clue what we are doing.

But now it is time to put away the laptop and enjoy the first day of summer – to bask in the salty breeze of the shore, with the only current task at hand of pondering when to head to the beach.

Spotlights – The Stuff of Memories

I have a polygamist set of champagne flutes in a glass-paned cabinet in our kitchen.

One groom was gifted to me on my wedding day as part of a set. “He” was widowed before the nuptials took place, his bride- the victim of a tragic, glassware-slaughter incident at the scene of the bridal “getting-ready” brunch. “She” lay in glimmering shards in a pooling stain of mimosa on the carpet, having been caught up in the avalanche that followed the sudden collapse of the coffee table during the photography session. Her demise was deemed “good luck” by our officiant later that evening.

The groom was joined by a replacement set over a year later and his bachelorhood came to a plural end(s).

I keep a tiny, rubber elephant inside my handbag almost all the time. This companion is known as “tiny elephant” (all lowercase) and accompanies me on journeys near and far. tiny elephant is a security blanket smaller than a dime that I adopted from a toy store off of Pioneer Square in Seattle while buying some jigsaw puzzles as trip souvenirs in 2016. My tiny “world’s largest land mammal” makes me smile whenever I see it, providing me with the comfort of accessible joy when I feel anxious, all for the cost of 75 cents and a faint bruise to my self-respect by making the cashier wait for me to retrieve it from the display and gently place it on top of the puzzles with a matter of fact, “… and this too,” before she could complete the purchase.

One of these things is not like the others. My desk is topped with a second hand lamp, coaster, trinket box, and a mason jar containing two DIYed wizard wands. The wands, crafted out of wood dowels, drizzled hot glue, and brown paint by my cousin and her husband, came into my possession at my birthday celebration a few years back (maybe even more than a few; time flies faster than a Firebolt, I swear… ok I’ll stop…).

The celebration was one of multiple gatherings at my cousin Mo’s old apartment in Brooklyn, a place rich in my memory with family gatherings. The wands take me back to a time of home cooked feasts, gourmet Brooklyn pizza, plentiful drinks, game nights, movie nights, and walks past the home fronts along Washington Avenue, the luster of their time-full grandeur sheepish in shadow against the glittering backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

These belongings are among the stuff of memories in our home – some of the un-minimize-able prizes- awards of time well spent- of milestone days and past adventures, of good company and smiles that make my cheeks hurt just thinking about them. Some things, while extraneous and meaningless to others, may be integral to the accessibility, reflection, and retention of your memories. The magnitude of their value may not have been recognized at the time they entered your life, but their presence sparks appreciation and joy now and reminds me that not everything must go.