Last Call: Tell Me Everything

Every night, I rock my 3-year-old daughter, Anna, to sleep. Stanton thinks she’s old enough that my rocking her isn’t necessary. Just lay her down, tuck her in, he says.

It isn’t necessary, I agree, night after night. I just love doing it; she loves it too.

This isn’t efficient, he adds, as I sink into the old recliner, and Anna folds herself into me. “Squishes in to get cozy,” she calls it.

I’ll see you in about 30 minutes, I often say to Stanton. And he—he of adept efficiency—says he’ll see me then.

Sometimes we, as moms, can’t help wanting to hold our children just a little bit more. Especially if we have an older child, or older children, whose first instinct these days isn’t to reach for us, but to make requests and issue directives. Can I have a play date with Sophia? I’m tired of eating turkey-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch. Don’t walk me all the way, Mom.

At the end of the day, with my little girl, I’m unapologetically inefficient.

The recliner we have is almost seven years old. Stanton and I bought it a few months before Grace was born. It’s worn; creaky if you lean too much to the right; and the most comfortable seat in our house.

Sometimes we, as moms, can’t help wanting to hold our children just a little bit more.

The other night, I was rocking Anna. She wasn’t tired just yet. She was talking to me about Lizzy, my brother- and sister-in-law’s dog. She was saying she loved walking Lizzy, which she had done this past Thanksgiving when we were visiting them.

“Wow,” I said, surprised at her enduring memory. (I barely remember what happened yesterday.)

“Lottie and D-Daddy were there,” Anna went on. “And we walked and walked Lizzy. It was fun.”

“I’m so glad you have happy memories,” I said.

Anna nodded. “I have happy memories, Mom, but they don’t glow like in Inside Out.”

I smiled at Anna’s point of reference. “That’s OK, honey.”

Anna looked up at me with wide eyes. “There was a scary part, and Grace gave me a pillow and held my hand.”

They hadn’t watched the movie together in a while. Again, I was surprised at everything Anna remembered. “Because Grace loves you so much.”

“Yeah, I know that, Mom.” With the abundant self-confidence of a child. “Bing Bong is my favorite,” Anna added, laughing.

I laughed too. “I love all your memories.”

“But they don’t glow, Mom,” Anna reminded me. She snuggled against my chest. “And that’s what I remember.”

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As we go along in our lives, certain memories stick with us, for whatever reasons. Chance? Or maybe something scientific (a process involving synapses perhaps).

I have a clear memory of Anna, and that old recliner. Mostly clear, anyway. I’m not positive of the date, but I believe it was the day Stanton and I brought Anna home, or the day after. So Anna was three or four days old.

It was nighttime. I was in the nursery, holding Anna in the recliner. I had had a cold when I gave birth to Anna (it was February), and now she had the same cold. She could only breathe well if she was held upright; otherwise, she got congested, and coughed and sniffled. I held her upright all the time, for two weeks until she felt better. At that point, though, we were at Day 3 (or 4).

I was holding Anna against my chest, all seven pounds, eight ounces of her. Three years later, I can still almost feel her soft, newborn cheek against my chin.

Stanton walked into the nursery. He asked how I was.

I remember telling him, “I’m so happy.”

I remember that because it’s not something I say very often (which you may find surprising). I say I’m grateful all the time. Another popular self-description is frazzled. But happy—despite my glass-half-full nature, I reserve happy for moments of joy. Deep, conscious-of-something-beautiful joy.

That child was (is) my something beautiful, just like her big sister.

Stanton stayed near the door, looking at us. I remember thinking he looked oddly serious. “What?” I asked.

“I’ll take care of you and the girls,” he said.

That was encouraging to hear, considering I had just given birth to our child. Nice to know he wasn’t plotting a midnight escape, three (or four) days postpartum. 😉

My memory of that night is being happy (though exhausted), and hearing Stanton recommit that he’d stick around.

So many memories that stick with us center on people who’ve stuck with us too. Just as many are random—a motley crew of people, places, blink-and-you-would-have-missed-it moments. Walking a dog, Bing Bong, the hand of someone who loves you.

Lately, after both girls are asleep, Stanton and I have been watching Cheers reruns on Netflix. (Welcome to our cheesy life. 😉 ) Cheers may come across as unsophisticated for today’s sitcom standards (the laugh track! Rhea Perlman’s over-the-top Carla Tortelli! Coach!), but it’s sweet, classic.

I get this, Stanton said recently. A local place. People who know you, people who care.

Who wouldn’t want that? I agreed.

Although, thinking back now, some of us wouldn’t want that. Some of us may prefer living more anonymously, adventuring far and wide, footprints in the sand and memories as picturesque as postcards. I’ve been reading The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and I love this line from it: “There was no perfect way to live” (page 302).

So many memories that stick with us center on people who’ve stuck with us too. Just as many are random…

However each of us lives, whatever differences there may be among us, I do hope everyone has a good share of happy memories.

Crazy how our minds can speed along a train of thought, a far-reaching railroad track of time, history and memory. Books, TV shows, favorite places, milestones like the birth of a child…nighttime.

The end of the day, with dark outside and lamplight glow in, often offers us the ideal setting for honest conversation. No rush. Tired so that we don’t finesse language, but speak from the heart.

The end of the day is a last call of sorts, whether we’re toasting at a Cheers-like place, winding down the day (the adventures, or the minutiae), or snuggling a child to sleep. Tell me everything…be here next time.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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I Only Know What We Need for Today

Tuesday afternoon, two Tuesdays ago. I was picking up my younger daughter from preschool.

“Mommy!” Anna exclaimed, opening up her backpack to show me her latest arts and crafts projects. The paint on one of them was still a little wet; a feather was falling off another one.

“How about we look at everything at home?” I suggested, stuffing the masterpieces back in. Then I overheard some of the other moms talking about the upcoming field trip. “Field trip?” I repeated, looking up.

The moms smiled at me.

“What field trip?” I tried again, adding, “I may have missed a note…”

One of Anna’s preschool teachers shared with me that the next class (there were three classes left, before the end of her school year) would take place at a local lake. The kids would hike around the lake, playing “I Spy” as they looked for birds, fish and other wildlife. A picnic would happen afterwards—and every child needed a parent to accompany them.

(That would be me.)

Anna beamed at me. “I have my very own field trip, Mom!”

I smiled weakly. “Mm-hmm, I just found out,” I said. “Yay.”

“I may have missed a note…”

Because I had been planning to write, as I do when both girls are in school. I was thisclose to finishing a story, and submitting it to a magazine. I would just finish it a little later than hoped for, I told myself, as I buckled Anna into her car seat. No problem.

Thursday morning, the day of the field trip, arrived. Stanton had headed out the morning before for a business trip. So that morning was a little more hectic than usual, as I packed up everything Grace, my older daughter, needed for kindergarten that day and gathered everything Anna (and I) needed for our hike/picnic. Water bottles, sandwiches, hoodies…

“Anna, there’s going to be a horse named Anna for you to ride at your field trip,” Grace was saying.

“A horse! Named Anna?!”

I reached for my coffee. “Grace, stop lying to your sister.”

“…no horse?”

In other school news, Grace’s class had started an “alphabet countdown” for the remaining 26 days of the school year. A was for stuffed animal, B was for brain buster… I scanned the countdown sheet to see what today, C, was for.

Aha, there it was: C was for candy.

“I want candy too, Mom!” Anna said. “I want candy on my field trip!”

I began opening and shutting kitchen cabinets. “I don’t think we have any candy.” Maybe there was something leftover from Easter…

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“Mom.” Grace raised her eyebrows at me. “You always have chocolate.”

My daughter spoke the truth: my hidden stash of good-quality dark chocolate that I—judge me if you must—prefer not to share with my family. Stanton’s got his chips and salsa; the girls have snacks galore: ice cream, Teddy Grahams, pretzels and Nutella, Girl Scout Cookies (still)…and raw veggies and hummus, of course (of course we have healthy snacks too…). Just leave me my chocolate, people.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I broke off some of my last dark chocolate bar (with caramel and sea salt—arguably the most satisfying flavor combination!) so that my beloved firstborn could participate in C Is for Candy Day.

Grace gave me a thumbs-up.

The three of us began filing outside. I was carrying a bunch of stuff, and some of it was falling from my arms.

At the same time, my retired neighbor was pulling out of her driveway. She smiled and waved through her window. I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

Anna and I dropped Grace off at her bus stop. Then I realized I had left the directions to the lake in the breakfast nook. “Ugh.”

“Just use Google Maps, Mom,” Grace said.

“You know…”

“I know you like directions on paper,” Grace acknowledged. (She knows me too well.) “But you can do it.”

I looked at Grace. Then I looked at Anna, who smiled at me. “You can take me to my field trip, Mom,” she encouraged. “You can!” Ah…our children’s blind faith in us. 

Grace’s bus pulled up.

“Mom, one more thing.” Grace tapped my arm. “What’s tomorrow?”

“What?”

“Today is C Is for Candy—what’s for tomorrow?”

I had no clue. “I only know what we need for today,” I said. “Bye, love you, have a great day!”

I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

As I made my way to the lake, Google Maps confirmed for me why I prefer to look at a map and plot out my own route beforehand. There was road construction on one street. Another street had become one-way only since the last time Google Maps checked. And now Google Maps was rerouting me onto a highway during morning rush hour. (I excel at what you might call small-town, wide-open-spaces driving.)

“Merge onto NY-85…” Great.

Meanwhile… “I have my very own field trip,” Anna sang in the back.

Anna and I did arrive safe and sound at her field trip, thankfully. We actually were the first ones there, which worked out wonderfully, because parallel parking is another skill I’m not particularly strong in…so I was able to pull right into a great parking spot. Hallelujah.

The two of us took in the beautiful nature around us as we waited for others to arrive. Anna slipped her little hand into my big one. “I love my field trip, Mom.”

“Awww, I love you, honey.”

Everything with Anna’s field trip ended up being OK—really nice, actually. Later that day, Grace informed me she loved my dark chocolate. She also mentioned that she was excited about Family Math and Science Night at her school the following day, Friday (which also happened to be D Is for Favorite Drink Day).

Family Math and Science Night… Right. I had almost forgotten about that.

The early childhood years are fun. 😉

On Friday evening, my neighbor friend texted me. We were walking over to the school together with our kids. Would 5:45 p.m. be a good time to meet up, or maybe too early? she asked. (The event started at 6.)

I looked around the kitchen. I was in the process of making dinner (not ready yet). The counters were covered in unopened mail, Shopkins and, randomly, our birth certificates (an identity thief’s jackpot, should one happen to wander into our home).

(I’ve been meaning to organize all our important documents, under which “birth certificates” fall, into a filing cabinet. I’m optimistic this will happen…sometime soon.)

Another text, this time from Stanton. I read this latest piece of information: “Home between 10 and 11. Sorry so late. Ferry delayed due to weather.”

Stanton was on Martha’s Vineyard for work.

“Mom! We’re hungry! And it’s Family Math and Science Night, MOM!”

Maybe one day I’ll be stranded on a secluded island somewhere.

“5:45 might be a teensy bit too early,” I confessed in my text back to my friend. She kindly understood. In the end, we all made it to Family Math and Science Night, and everyone had fun—all’s well that ends well.

As last week wrapped up, I realized what a, well, not-smooth week it had been. I discovered important information about my children’s lives at the last minute (if field trips and C Is for Candy Day fall under the universal definition of “important”—but let’s not split hairs 😉 ). I still haven’t submitted my story. I did move the birth certificates to the master bedroom, but a determined identity thief might still find them.

We also lost Bernelly and Harriet last week, you might remember.

Oh, and there are no secluded islands in my near future.

I was thinking, though, that our family did make it through the week, one day at a time. And I was thinking that there are times in our lives, maybe even whole seasons, where that’s the philosophy we simply must work with, or make work: “I only know what we need for today.”

No shame in “one day at a time.” Maybe it’s not as impressive as a “five-year plan,” or as profound as a “big-picture approach.” But “one day at a time” can get the job done.

Something I’m very conscious of is that no matter how harried life may seem sometimes, what I’m so lucky to have now—my family, all of us healthy and here together—is what I hoped for so much (prayed for, really) years ago.

…”one day at a time” can get the job done.

It is such a gift to have people in your life who love you, and whom you love too. Even when you’re winging it day to day. (Maybe especially when you’re winging it, and trying to stay on top of all the stuff.)

If you happen to be winging it for people you love…let me assure you you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who is. And although it may be hard to realize in the moment, you’re very lucky.

Cheers to TODAY.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

When a Picture Falls Out of a Book

One corner of my kitchen countertop is a mess, always. Stuff just accumulates there.

My daughters’ ponytail holders. My Us Weekly magazines (I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit, I’ve been a subscriber, off and on, for years). Stanton’s various electronic gadgets. Pens, batteries, coupons, Shopkins, the occasional card. Lots…of…stuff.

The other day, I tried to clean up some of the stuff. Scoop the ponytail holders into a drawer. Recycle the magazines. Then I picked up an overstuffed file folder and a coming-unbound book—“Chocolatina” by Erik Kraft, one of the girls’ favorites—and a picture fluttered out of the jumble of paper and pages.

This picture:

When a Picture Falls Out

This picture shows my three siblings and me with our mom and her parents, our Poppy and Grandma. I’m the cute one. Just kidding, friends. 😉 I’m the one wearing the orange shirt.

My brother Josh is making bunny ears on my head. My other brother, Jared (in the striped shirt), would grow up to become the cute one. My sister Jenna is resting her head on the table.

I’m not sure whose birthday we’re celebrating here. If one of them is reading this, maybe they’ll help me out. (Hint, hint…)

I emailed this picture to my family, along with some old friends who have been around us Minetolas so long, and sat at that kitchen table with us so much, that they, too, know all the characters in this story.

Jared replied all: “photo cred: John Minetola?” That would be my dad, and I replied that yes, I thought so. Otherwise, he would have been in the picture.

This was before the selfie stick era, you know.

When this picture fell out of that book, I wasn’t expecting it. But instantly, after I picked it up, I smiled.

I smiled because it was a happy memory. Not a perfect memory—whose birthday cake was that?—but a happy one, because we were all there together. And I’m grateful that we still do gather around that table, many years later, for dinners and rounds of Uno and other normal, nothing-special moments that actually are special in their togetherness.

Poppy, of course, has since passed way, five years ago now. I miss him, but I know he’s in a good place.

I do wish he could have been here to have met Anna. I know he would have loved everything about her—every little thing, from her dimples to the mischievous twinkle in her eye, which is exactly like his.

Poppy did have a chance to meet Grace, about a year and a half before he died. I will always remember the way he leaned over to her—an old man with glasses, looking with big love at my baby—and said, “I hope you live to be 90.” Grace looked back, and I like to think she understood what he said.

Sometimes, our best pictures are the ones we don’t take. But our memories, strong and enduring, of times that touched our hearts and stay with us forever.

“I hope you live to be 90.”

In her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo writes that it can be difficult to organize pictures. Not only do we file them into photo albums, but we also stick them into books as bookmarks, or magnet them to the refrigerator, or pull them out of our photo albums to send to loved ones. Our pictures…end up…everywhere.

Have you ever opened a book, or knocked a day planner to the floor, and a picture or other memento fell out, rousing a memory?

What did you remember, friends?

Reflecting on a past moment, we might slip on our rose-colored glasses. We might romanticize a time, long gone, that we struggled through in real time, years ago.

I’ve had my moments with rose-colored glasses, and romanticism too. I’ve had my moments, friends.

People aren’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. Life is beautiful, and it’s also humbling.

Life is both/and; shades of gray, not black and white.

Our pictures…end up…everywhere.

Poppy loved nature. The older I get, the more I love and seek it out too.

Last week, my parents were in town for the girls’ winter break. One morning, I brought my dad and Grace to Five Rivers, a nearby nature park. We spent some time bird-watching at the visitor center, using binoculars to look out the expansive windows. We spotted many eastern bluebirds, and even an opossum.

“Poppy would have loved this,” my dad said.

I agreed.

“The best thing about a picture,” Andy Warhol said, “is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” I loved seeing Poppy again in the picture that fell out of the book. I so appreciated remembering him, too, when I was bird-watching with my dad and my daughter.

Years from now, I wonder if my daughters will stumble upon an old picture, or frayed certificate of participation that I saved—a memento of some kind. So much of our life is digitized now, but we still keep hard copies of this and that here and there.

I wonder what Grace and Anna might find. I wonder what they’ll remember.

I hope they’ll skim over the imperfect parts. The persistent morning rush and end-of-day crankiness. My forgetting Anna’s teddy bear on “Bring Your Teddy Bear to Preschool Day” (that happened yesterday), Stanton’s coming home later than he’d said (two nights ago).

I hope they’ll skim over those parts, and remember that we loved them. At the very least, that we tried.

That is, after all, what families do: Love. Work. Play. Be there for one another. Try.

This quote made me laugh, so I’ll end with it, for your enjoyment too: “My whole family is lactose intolerant, and when we take pictures, we can’t say, ‘Cheese.’” –Jay London

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

You Are Where You’re Supposed to Be

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in a pew at the neighborhood church that Stanton, the girls and I attend. The pastor announced the next song; I flipped to it in the hymnal. “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.”

The choir director began playing the melody of the song. In that moment, my memory flashed back about 20 years.

My very first job, at age 15, was as an organist for a small church near my Pennsylvania hometown. I probably was in a bit over my head, friends. I knew how to play the piano, not the organ…so I learned as I went. In the beginning, I played the organ like a piano—focusing on one keyboard only. As time went on, I began adding in sounds from the other keyboard, plus the pedals.

The biggest challenge, though, was trying to direct the choir. The choir consisted of four or five regular members (median age: 76), all of whom harbored strong opinions about which songs we should be singing. They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

At this point, you might be wondering how I got this job. (You also may be wondering if I was qualified…) Answer to the first question: My friend’s mother was the original organist at that church, and needed some help with some of the services.

I ended up playing the organ for that church all through high school. I also ended up (eventually) becoming fairly close to my septuagenarian choir members. I invited all of them to my high school graduation party, and they all came. As I’m writing this, I’m smiling at the memory. George, Annette, Eddie…they were all there.

They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

Back to that song, though: “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.” At my hometown church, there was an old lady who always sat in a front pew.

If you’ve ever attended a worship service somewhat regularly, then you know that many people usually sit in the same spot week after week. Similar to having “your” seat in a college classroom, or “your” table at a coffee shop. You get comfortable; you gravitate toward the familiar.

This lady, friends—I wish I could remember her name. I can’t. But she had white hair and wrinkled skin, and she was nice. She also wore a hat, every Sunday.

One Sunday before the service, I was downstairs where the pews are. I was making my way up to the choir loft, where the organ was, along with George, Annette and the gang. I stopped to say hello to the lady. We chatted a bit, and she asked me if I wouldn’t mind playing her favorite hymn, “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.”

There was still some time before church started, so I said sure. She squeezed my hand. I went upstairs and played that song. When I was done, she turned around in her seat and smiled her thanks.

Organ

I like the song “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.” It’s straightforward to play (which is helpful). The melody is pretty, the lyrics uplifting. I got into the habit of playing it every Sunday before church started, partly because I liked it but mostly because the lady did. Every time after I played that song, she turned around and smiled.

I waved back: “You’re welcome.”

Twenty years later, in a different place, in a different church, I was the one sitting in the pew, and I heard that familiar melody I once knew so well. The title of the song was slightly different—“Lakeshore” instead of “Seashore”—but it was the same song. Hearing that song took me back to 15.

I had to blink myself back to the present. I also had to blink some tears away. Because almost certainly, my old friend has passed on by now. I’m not sure where my “Battle Hymn of the Republic”-loving choir members might be either.

I do know, though, that that small church doesn’t exist anymore.

Has something like that ever happened to you too? You hear a song, or a line from a movie, or something like that…and suddenly, you’re time traveling?

Hearing that song took me back to 15.

For me, time traveling—nostalgia—isn’t constructive. I start to miss people. Places. More than anything, I feel my mortality. I look at pictures of my high school graduation party, for example; I see a younger version of myself (alongside George and Annette); I have to acknowledge, “I’m getting older.”

Sometimes I’m surprised by the people and places I miss. Maybe you are too.

As we move along in our lives, we still may carry within us pieces from our pasts, from our childhoods. Pieces stay with us…still. Because they mattered.

On Monday evening, the day after “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore,” I stopped by a yoga class at our Y. I love yoga, but don’t always make the time to practice it. At one point during the class, the instructor led us through a challenging pose.

He encouraged us not to compare ourselves—our bodies, our yoga practice—to our neighbors. Go with your own flow, he said. Appreciate what you can do. Then he said, “You are where you’re supposed to be.”

Friends, those words struck me. You are where you’re supposed to be.

The wisdom in those words, for me, is that this makes sense. This present moment means more than anything. This is right.

Be present.

Whoever you wish you could be with again—whoever you may miss, including your younger, carefree self—whatever time from years ago seems easier than the moment you find yourself in now…no. No, this is it. This is where you’re supposed to be.

(And try not to compare yourself to your neighbor. Everyone has their own journey. Everyone has their own struggle.)

When you struggle, where do you find hope? And when your heart overflows, when your cup runneth over…where do you acknowledge the goodness, the grace, the second chances?

For some of us, the answer (to both questions) may be church, or temple, or another place of worship. For others of us, the yoga mat, or another form of exercise or meditation. Nature. Lots of places.

This present moment means more than anything.

In “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway ends his memoir with a beautiful reflection on Paris, a place that “stayed with him” throughout his life. He concludes that when he lived there, with his first wife, “we were very poor and very happy.”

My old friend in that small church can’t perfectly compare to Paris—it’s not the best parallel—but that time in my life was very “coming of age,” as Hemingway’s Paris was to him. I learned then something that has stayed with me all these years, which is work with people. Find common ground; meet in the middle. Wherever you find yourself—whatever odd set of circumstances you seem to have stumbled into—make the best of things.

Leave that place better than you found it, if you can.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense at the time, but you are where you’re supposed to be. One day, you’ll understand why.

“Be where your feet are.” (Anonymous)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

To Think You Might Have Missed This

Saturday morning is, arguably, many people’s favorite time of the week. It’s mine, for sure. Maybe yours too.

During the week, Stanton usually travels two or three days for work. In general, every Monday through Friday is a mad dash of school drop-off and pick-up, thrown-together meals and deadline-driven notes to self (“New tires, CR-V!” “Literary magazine submission!” “DENTIST!!!”).

Saturday morning, though…we’re all together. The girls still get up at the same time (they have yet to discover the pure joy of sleeping in), but the pace is relaxed, not mad-dash.

On a recent Saturday morning, Stanton got up with the girls and began getting their breakfast ready. The scent of freshly brewed hazelnut coffee soon lulled me into the kitchen too. Within a few minutes, the four of us were sitting together around the table in the breakfast nook.

Grace finished eating her waffle and asked for another one. I rose and toasted another round of frozen waffles. “More syrup, please!” Anna called.

“And butter, please!” Grace added.

Saturday mornings are made for waffles, syrup and butter, aren’t they? I brought the girls’ requests to the table. Grace opened a board book, then frowned. “Anna must have been looking at this,” she said, wiping her hands on her pajamas.

“Is it sticky?” I guessed.

Grace raised her eyebrows me. “It’s really sticky.”

Stanton and I met each other’s gaze and smiled. Yes, that sounded like Anna.

“My favorite story!” Anna pointed to the book. As she did, she knocked over some of Stanton’s coffee.

“Be careful, honey,” I said. Stanton wiped up the spill.

Anna smiled and shrugged. “It happens, Mom.”

Saturday mornings are made for waffles, syrup and butter, aren’t they?

Grace sighed. I’m a big sister, too, and I could guess what Grace was thinking about her younger sibling: Trouble. I love both my daughters so much; they each make me smile in their own ways.

“To think,” I joked to Stanton, “you might have missed this.” The spill, the stickiness, the general messiness—but a wonderful messiness—of a family’s Saturday morning.

The day before, Stanton had been out of town, a work trip. I had encouraged him to stay the night where he was and drive back, refreshed, in the morning. But he wanted to be here with us in the morning, he said.

“I would have missed it,” Stanton said, finishing wiping up Anna’s spill.

I loved him for saying that—for meaning it.

When you think about the people you love, and why you appreciate them, that’s the reason, often—the clichéd “because they’re there for you.” There for you. They do everything they can not to miss things, from big things to little things (like too much Saturday-morning syrup).

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There have been some things I’ve missed. Not with my children so much, but with my siblings because of my children. Sometimes child-care logistics have encumbered my “being there” for my two brothers and sister. Luckily, my siblings have (usually) understood. The four of us are stuck with one another for life, so we’ll always, somehow, figure things out.

Later this week, I’m taking a bus into New York City to spend the day with my sister. “Do you want to see a show? Go to a museum?” Jenna asked me, when we began making our plans.

“Do you not know me at all?” I said; my sister laughed. “No, let’s take a walk, eat at cool little cafés and talk about Party of Five.” (Jenna and I have been rediscovering and analyzing the wonderful, underrated ‘90s drama through Netflix reruns.)

“Perfect,” Jenna said.

Little things.

*

I bought a new picture frame, with slots for four 4×6’s. I was scrolling through the photos on my phone, trying to find four good ones for this frame. A lot of the pictures made me smile. And a lot of them brought up happy memories from the past few months. Grace’s soccer games, Anna’s first day of preschool, Halloween.

The four pictures I chose for the frame, though, portrayed ordinary moments. Time with family and friends. Mainly candid shots.

The picture for Slot No. 4 shows Anna jumping into a pile of leaves I’d just raked—her smile big, her hair flipping up behind her. Grace had already jumped into the leaves, and in the picture, she’s smiling at Anna. Despite my amateur photography skills, I took the picture at the exact right moment to capture Anna’s delight, and Grace’s love for her sister.

I captured that memory, not a moment too soon.

Sparkler 11-6-17

In reflecting on that memory—in looking at that picture—I have the same hope that my mom probably had for my brothers, sister and me: I hope they’ll be good to each other. I hope they’ll be in each other’s lives for a long time.

I hope they’ll be friends.

*

The holidays are approaching, quickly. For a lot of us, that means reunions and get-togethers with family and friends. Planning, travel, gifts.

Anything out of our routine can cause some stress. We’re creatures of habit; we excel in the “everyday,” while special occasions can throw us off.

I can feel some stress during this time of the year. Maybe you do too. If you do, maybe this will help; at least, it’s helped me.

I take a deep breath. I remember Thanksgivings and Christmases from the past, all those happy memories. And I remember they’re worth it—the memories, and the moments as they were happening, were worth the effort of being there for them.

I want to be there for them.

*

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple” (Dr. Seuss).

It’s really sticky.

I want to be there.

Perfect.

I love you.

Yes.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

You’re Here TODAY

Earlier this week, I went to a physician for an annual checkup. Although, for me, the last time I had this “annual” checkup was about three years ago. My excuse for this negligence happened to accompany me to my doctor that morning: my 2-year-old, Anna.

Yes, Anna goes everywhere with me these days—literally. Errands during the day (grocery store, post office, you name it). My bed, most nights. The restroom, the locker room at the Y, and now my doctor’s appointment.

I tried to schedule this appointment for when my parents would be in town to babysit, but it just didn’t work out. So that morning, I told the medical assistant at the doctor’s office, “I appreciate that you all don’t mind my bringing my daughter.”

She replied, “Don’t worry.” Then she addressed Anna with a smile: “Would you like some stickers?”

Anna smiled back and shook her head. “How ‘bout lollipops?” Anna’s doctor, the pediatrician, has stickers and lollipops.

The medical assistant laughed and left to find lollipops. When she returned, she gave Anna the sweets and then turned her attention back to me. She asked me when I had last had a checkup.

“Three years ago, which I know is bad,” I began explaining. “I was pregnant with Anna, then I had Anna, then I was busy with both my daughters, then we moved, then…”

The medical assistant smiled kindly. “It’s OK,” she said. “You’re here today.”

You’re here today.

Anna smiled back and shook her head. “How ‘bout lollipops?”

The rest of my appointment went smoothly. The physician turned out to be kind as well, and Anna, thankfully, was happily occupied with lollipops, stickers and coloring books for the rest of our time there. I was grateful to have found such a great doctor’s office in our town.

After we left, I kept thinking back to what the medical assistant had said: You’re here today. Her words stayed with me all day.

You’re here today—what an uplifting message.

The medical assistant was assuring me, Don’t worry about what happened, or didn’t happen, the past few years. Today you’re on the right track. Focus on the present—what’s right in front of you.

Easier said than done sometimes, right, friends?

The next morning, Grace wanted to color a picture to mail to my grandmother. She couldn’t find the crayons. “Mom!” she called.

As it turned out, the crayons were on the kitchen table—truly, right in front of her. “Grace, remember, what’s the secret of life?” I said.

“Look,” Grace replied. Then she looked and spotted the crayons. “They’re right here!”

We both laughed.

Eyeglasses

Parents often have little sayings or words of wisdom that they say, over and over again, to their children—to the point where, possibly, they become annoying to hear. At some point in my motherhood, I said to the girls, “I’m going to tell you the secret of life. The secret is to look. Open your eyes.”

I don’t remember what prompted me to say that. (Maybe, like this most recent time, somebody didn’t see something that was right there.) And I don’t pretend to know the secret of life.

Myriad talents, from entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs to singers like James Taylor, have reflected on “the secret of life.” I can’t stay the pace with those reflections. Anyway, the “secret of life” spiel I give my daughters is, partly, tongue-in-cheek.

I do believe, though, that it’s important to look—to be present.

The medical assistant reminded me of that “be in the present” perspective when she said, “You’re here today.”

“The secret is to look. Open your eyes.”

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Kathleen came to visit. Kathleen and I went to school together from kindergarten through high school. We’re what the kids today call “Day 1’s”—friends for a long time.

As always, it was wonderful to see Kathleen and catch up. We reminisced about childhood moments. At one point, I grimaced at the memory of something my younger self had done and told Kathleen, “I can’t believe I was that person!”

I thought back to some other memories from the past. Things I wish I had done, or hadn’t. Moments I wish I had been there for, but wasn’t. I thought again—to myself this time—I wish I did that differently.

I wish I had been different.

You can’t go back. You can’t go back, friends.

You’re here today. What you can do is take what you’ve learned from the past and make good with it in your present.

And you can be present.

For all the years-behind annual checkups and annoying little sayings I blame on my daughters, they have brought a joy to my life I know I don’t deserve. They are absolute gifts in my life, friends.

One of the most humbling parts of my day is when Grace and Anna want to show me something they worked on in kindergarten or preschool. They’re so proud to share their newest math worksheet or watercolor painting with me. They hand it to me, beam at me, wait for me to tell them it’s wonderful and bear-hug them.

“Look, Mom!”

“Look! Me too, Mom! Look!”

You’re here TODAY.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

The Christmas Presents I Remember

Yesterday morning, Anna and I stopped by our local post office. While Anna munched on crackers and thumbed through a display of bubble mailers, I addressed several flat-rate envelopes and stuck the last of our Christmas presents for family and friends inside. I felt two emotions at the same time—hope, that everyone would like what I’d picked out for them; and relief, that my Christmas shopping and boxing was now (literally!) wrapped up.

For all its festiveness, the end of the year can be a stressful time. Arranging get-togethers and travel plans with loved ones. Finishing work projects. And buying presents. Always…buying…presents.

To be honest, I love picking out presents for people. I especially love doing this for my daughters. Stanton and I are so looking forward to Friday morning, when the girls will open our Christmas presents for them before we drive to my mom and dad’s house in Pennsylvania.

I think Grace will love the blue watch we got her—actually, I know she will, because she told me that’s what she wanted: “a blue watch.” And I can picture Anna’s eyes lighting up when she opens her box of dress-up headpieces. And I picture…ripped wrapping paper on the hardwood floor; hot chocolate with marshmallows in mugs on the coffee table; and staying in our pajamas longer than we ever would on a normal Friday morning.

I thought back to my own childhood. I tried to remember, what were some of my favorite Christmas presents? I thought harder…

christmas-present

What came to mind, instantly—and as clearly as if it had just happened—was my parents’ living room. There was ripped wrapping paper there, too. And my Dad with a big Hefty bag, cleaning up.

I remembered my Dad.

And my Mom. In my memory, my Mom was sitting on the couch, holding a cup of coffee because she’d been up until 2 a.m. wrapping all the presents and baking the last of our Christmas cookies. Although I didn’t know it at the time.

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

My Dad and my Mom.

My brothers and sister, too—I remembered them. We were all there together. Later that day, my grandparents would come over…and other family and friends…and we’d celebrate Christmas all day long.

I remembered all those things very clearly.

Not one single Christmas present, however, is a clear memory. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

Christmas presents are fun—the giving and the getting. They’re especially fun for kids. It’s unfortunate, though, that some of the things related to the fun and festivity of this season can be stressful.

So if you’re feeling stressed right now, friends…if you still haven’t addressed all your Christmas cards (me neither!)…or wrapped your kids’ presents…or crossed off some lingering end-of-year to-do’s…take a breath. Take a moment.

Remember.

What the people you love will remember…is YOU. That you were there.

That you cared.

They love YOU.

Merry Christmas, all. 🙂

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.