Cover story

I watched as the evolution from confusion to understanding came across her face. She put the puzzle together.

The lightbulb moment: A-ha. She says, “Oh okay, I was about to say so you’re the one who just got married, but that must have been your sister.”

Umm, actually nope, that was me!

He chimed in too. About the same time. Yep, that’s her!

Then the drop of her jaw. Embarrassment, foot-in-the mouth. Really, I assured her, it’s okay. Everyone does it. Not a problem. She giggled. We all did.

She was an animated character, that one. With her short bob and the twinkle in her eyes. I instantly liked her. I was walking to baggage claim at the airport with him, we had just landed. She was on our plane and knew him. Who doesn’t in this town? We got to talking while walking down the terminal.

Lots of people in this town also know my parents, know my family. In conversation, one fact leads to another fact, and people figure it out. Sometimes even just a swipe of a credit card will do the job. So in fact, it’s been brought to my attention lots of people know me, or know of me or things about me- know that I was married. Know that there was a wedding. All because of a feature story in a local social magazine. The wedding issue. I, the cover bride. Rather, “Diamond Girl” I believe was the title. (My dad is a baseball coach, hence the pun.)

So, all too often I get inadvertently reminded of it. The wedding, the union of a marriage that ended a short 20 months later. Unfortunately there is no “divorce” issue.

So, the community who saw and read I got married, still think I’m married. And that’s okay. After all, it was only 4 years ago. What’s even more okay is my reaction. I know the direction in which these conversations go. No more lump building in my throat, no more sweat perspiring on my temples, no more tears welling in my eyes as I hear the words in slow motion, watching that puzzle being put together across their faces. The pivotal point of Ohh, that’s you!

Yes. That’s me. And I’m divorced. And I have a two-year-old son. And I have a boyfriend.

On a calendar, one would say that’s not a lot of time for all these milestones. A girlfriend of mine joked at a recent wedding, “Sami, some girls just have it all!” We laughed for a while. I do have it all- all the downs, and more importantly, all the ups. The downs were necessary to get me to those ups. And I’m doing great.

So whether it’s to the fellow parishioner complementing me on my wedding gown, the yoga instructor asking if my boyfriend was my husband, my boyfriend’s friends who were also featured in the issue as we joked over dinner, or the new stranger and her light-bulb moment, what I have to say is this: Yes, that was me, and it’s all good.

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Tragedy

One of my favorite moments of the week is when I get to pick Holden up from his two-mornings-a-week Mother’s Day Out Program. I excitedly walk down the hall peering into each classroom and watch as mommies and toddlers are reunited after a long 4 hours. Capturing all their smiles, I start beaming too as I inch closer to the two’s classroom. I stand at the half-door and watch him play for a few seconds before I say, “Hi baby!” He knows my voice and immediately looks. Sometimes, he portrays a smile for a second before looking up. He’ll start to budge his teachers to let them know I’m here by pointing to me and smiling, making sure it’s okay that he leaves. He walks to me with whatever toy in hand he had been playing with. I tell him he needs to leave it there before we go. He’ll look at it for a minute with pursed lips and drop it with an open palm. As soon as I open the half door I greet him with a big bear hug and kiss him in my favorite spot: just under his cheek where jawline and neck meet on the side. I take in his scent- maple syrup and pee. Feels good to have my man back in my arms.

He is so proud of his finger-painted coloring book page that is laying on top of his lunchbox and backpack outside the door. Never fails, every day I give him the same reaction, “You did that?! Mommy’s so proud!” And he grins proudly with an, “uh huh.” We slowly walk down the hall to the door, stopping every few feet for him to admire everyone else’s lunchbox and their themes- Thomas the Train, Dora the Explorer, I pray the kid with Mickey Mouse had already left or I knew the tantrum will start to brew.

Getting to the car, he knows he’s about to gulp down a sippy-cup of fresh milk and divulge in a snack or treat that I’ve brought to surprise him with. I make sure to keep it in the car so the other kids don’t see it, but I reassure myself surely the other moms brought treats for them and are just in their own cars too. However, last week’s cup of TCBY on a hot April day in Louisiana didn’t last the 5 minute wait too well. By the time we reached home, the inside of the car looked like a rainbow exploded with sprinkles in every square inch.

Every so often I peer at his face in the rear-view mirror on the drive home. He’s happily drinking his milk, eating his snack, and simultaneously catching a glimpse of Barney on the DVD player. Sometime’s he’ll catch me looking. Eye contact. He’ll scrunch his nose. He’s happy to know when mommy drops him off, mommy will be there to pick him up.

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The possibility of these moments getting stripped away from me (and him) because of a senseless tragedy is unfathomable to think about. I felt my body numb as the news unfolded Sandy Hook’s school shooting on December 14, 2012. My heart was breaking for all of the parents who did not get that moment that Friday afternoon that I just had. Schools are safe places, happy places. There is no tolerance for the horrific crimes committed to innocent children.

I felt the rush. The anger, the complete loss of love. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hold each one of those victims in my arms, one by one as their sweet faces started to appear on the news once the names were released. I vastly searched online for their names, information, anything I could find to make myself feel like I knew them, experience the tragedy. On my couch, almost 1,500 miles away from this devastation, and I was mad at the world.

A similar reaction was my experience that unfolded as the news of the Boston Marathon bombing. Senseless tragedy. Such evil. I came across a snapshot of Martin Richard, the 8-year old victim, as he stood excitedly up on the fence cheering on the marathon finishers- and all too eerily, the snapshot showed the two suspects just feet behind him with their backpacks in tow.

Mad at the world. This is my reaction. Anger. No matter what the age, innocent lives lost to sheer terror is devastating. I would imagine too many people parallel my reaction.

As the hours of coverage drag on, minute by minute, light shines forth. Within any given tragedy, I note the goodness amongst the reactors.  The citizens helping carry victims to ambulances moments after the explosion, police officers running into Sandy Hook Elementary, the military veterans running back into the Pentagon’s flames to save those trapped inside on September 11th.

Good triumphs all evil. Strangers become united.

I am humbled at the stories that flash over the news of those heroes amongst tragedy. I enjoy reading the columns devoted to the selflessness. Flashes of “restoring your faith in human nature” lists start aligning the social media. I have to read it all. Take it all in.

And slowly, the anger lessens. The release of the grudge. The appreciation for the heros, and the gratefulness for the good.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”~ Mahatma Gandhi

If ya got one good friend in this life, ya lucky

Miss Gertie used to say it to her 13-year-old daughter Christine and best friend growing up in a small town in the south of Louisiana. They’d fold their arms and knelt across the bed from one another. Talking about what teenagers talk about. First kisses, cars, life aspirations. Dreams of their first apartment together at  the Pontalba house in New Orleans. Conversations would go on for hours, only to stop for Miss Gertie’s tea with a side of saltines and butter.

“If ya got one good friend in this life, ya lucky.”

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That’s where it all began. My mom’s lifetime best friendship with Christine.

It wasn’t a surprise that this past Monday that there was not a dry eye amongst the congregation as mom read aloud the eulogy at Christine’s funeral. Unfolding their lifetime relationship. These ‘first’ conversations publicly praised to all that loved Christine probably for the first time.

A life that ended “too soon” as people say so commonly these days.

How was 43 years of friendship to be summarized in one small speech? How could you possibly say everything you’d want to say? These were the questions mom struggled with as she picked up the pen and started to write. Their friendship wasn’t something one could put into words. Countless memories, countless conversations, countless feelings. They made each other better. Partners in good crimes. Up at the altar, mom displayed a certain grace one would think would be similar to divine intervention.

For mom Christine was not a friend, but a sister. “Aunt Tine” was one extraordinary, loyal person. A mentor. A lover. A supporter. A believer.

One of the sweetest souls you’d hope to come across.

A friend you could only hope for your own child to have. A friend I would hope Holden can have.

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I heard recently a line that I haven’t been able to shake. “We all have an expiration date.” Sounds terribly harsh, but it’s terribly true. It’s easy to live day-by-day making decisions as if we are invincible isn’t it? But it’s moments like this- having to watch mom profess her 43 years of friendship in a matter of 15 minutes, losing those closest to us, ones that lived and were always there- that remind us that of that exact fact. Kind of makes our “big” deals not seem like such “big deals” in reality.

Life is short, but sweet for certain.

Rest in peace, dear Christine.

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Nostalgia

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My lips pressed up against the back left of his head. My nostrils taking in his sweet smell of Johnson & Johnson’s no-tangle baby shampoo. It wasn’t his usual scent, the combination of urine and maple syrup. He was clean and it was bedtime.

He was snuggled in the crevice of my armpit on the couch. I can’t remember the last time Holden sat still for longer than 20 minutes, and I didn’t even care we were watching the ‘Elf on the Shelf movie’ in April. His choice, I couldn’t argue for my only other options are Elmo and Barney. Of which all three movies I can completely script out every line after the astronomical amount of times we’ve watched them.

He hasn’t been in a mommy phase over the last couple of weeks. Always choosing whoever is more fun to be around when we’re with other people. Primarily because mommy and time-outs go hand-in-hand almost daily. It breaks my heart more than it does his. The ever-so-frequent temper tantrum in which all 31.6 pounds of him is thrown to the ground I assume could be comparable to a soap opera audition. I will admit though, the time-outs really are starting to work. I can actually seeunderstanding come across his face near the end of his time-outs when I ask if he’s ready to be a good boy. Earlier today I laughed to myself as we walked down the hall and he pointed to his time-out corner and let out a whine and looked at me. I looked down and said, “No baby, no time-out. Good boy right now.” He smiled with a nose scrunch and said, “heh.”

It was past his bedtime, but I didn’t care. Normally I do, sticking to the routine religiously. Not tonight. He didn’t mind sitting next to mommy and I had to indulge. I had to reap the handful of these minutes I’ve had such withdrawls for since turning two, since the loving-mommy phase ended. I let him blow his grape-scented Jelly Belly bubbles the Easter bunny had left in his basket Sunday as he sits on the couch. I combed through his freshly-rinsed hair with my fingertips and closed my eyes. He laid his head back on my arm around him to blow the bubbles higher. I kissed his temple and left my face against his. Felt my heart beat.

After I tucked him in tight for the night, turning on button number two on his sound machine, the rain noise, and turned off his light, I immediately started flipping through pictures as I do often when I am in need of more Holden. Skim through the past two years of his life, all his memories. All he knows.

Tears drop down my cheeks.

Nostalgia. In just the few minutes I had snuggling with him on the couch, I was flooded with this overwhelming… joy? I guess that would be the word closest to what I’m trying to describe. It’s physical, deep. The consistent feeling I would have throughout the first few days of Holden’s life. When I got to hold him, touch him, smell him, love him. And that’s all I had to do at the time. That was my purpose.

It’s not that the feeling isn’t there anymore. It’s just not as apparent when I have diarrhea smeared on the couch and toothpaste in my hair.

That joy is still present during the toddler phase, but it’s these subtle moments that channel it back to me. These quiet minutes with Holden on the couch before bedtime, in which I can completely tune out….”SANTA! THIS LETTER IS FROM TAYLOR? TAYLOR MCTUTTLE?!”… and just be next to him, hold him, smell him, love him. All I had to do tonight.