This Mom Has a Favorite Child

When Erin was home a few weeks ago she took the Red-eye in from LA and arrived in Philly at the ungodly hour of 5 am. I had worked late the night before and had clients scheduled well into the evening that night. Instead of forking out the mula for an airport shuttle home, she opted to transfer across a few different trains and arrived in our town at the more appropriate hour of 8 am where I excitedly and lovingly met her at the train station.

This past week, daughter Sara was headed overseas for a quick visit with Frank & Rosie. She has scored a great price flying out of Philly so even though she doesn’t live that close anymore, she drove *home* and then I took her to the airport for a mid-afternoon departure.

Apparently, this transportation arrangement led to a discussion between the two girls about which child was my favorite – based on the criteria of my willingness to drive to the airport. I believe it went something like this:

Erin: “That’s bunk, I’m obviously not the favorite child”.

Together in unison: “That would be Emily”.

Sara: “No, Frank is both the favorite son and the favorite daughter”.

I have always remembered – and recounted – a story I read in the Virgina-Pilot Ledger Star some thirty years ago, close to Mother’s Day. It was about a woman who had raised a few children by herself after the death of her Navy husband and when interviewed independently, each of the children had expressed that they always thought that ‘they’ were the favorite child. I recall thinking ‘what a gift she gave them’ as I… firmly believed that I was the favorite and I am convinced that it offered me a foundation of confidence.

My parents are gone now so we will never really know but I’ve strived to convey that same sentiment to my own children. I’m not sure it helped to tell them that I was trying to convince each one of them that they were my favorite. Perhaps it is kind of like your husband telling you how beautiful you are – we figure there is an underlying motivation and/or it is a fully biased statement; what else is he going to say?

In any regard, for most of my children’s lives – indeed, even now – my hope is that they know they each ARE my favorite for very different reasons

Frank – well, he’s my only son and the product of my first true love so he gets two very specific distinctions setting him apart from the girls; no doubt motivating their dialogue. He is responsible for my first gray hairs and my laugh lines. He is about to become a father for the first time and I am not only crazy anxious to meet that little critter but also excited for Frank to know parenthood and the enormity of love it manifests. Frank and I had several years alone together after his father died and became my reason for living; there is no doubt that a unique bond forms under those conditions. He IS my favorite son.

Sara – she is the manifestation of my childhood imagination as it pertains to what I ‘thought’ having a daughter would be like. Any time I played ‘house’ with my baby doll (aptly named Sara), I would imagine becoming a mother someday and when Sara was born she was it… She has always been my ‘little helper’, dependable and eager to please. Sara has yearned to learn since the day she was born. Her favorite pastime was to play school and she wanted to be the student. That desire has morphed into exploration and entrepreneurship as she matures, continuing her love of new information and even though it takes her far away from me, I am always so proud of her never ending curiosity. She is the peacekeeper and the unifier having adopted and now embodying the truest spirit of ‘family’. She wraps my heart in a hug with the simple words “Hi mom” and it feels like home. Sara IS my favorite oldest daughter.

Erin – she is my mini. She is headstrong and determined – creating a battle of wills from time to time that keeps her pushing forward. She is fiercely dedicated to her convictions and deeply emotional; traits that I admire as they remind me to stay true to myself and I honor that she acquired that knowledge so young. She is loyal and dedicated; maintaining friendships almost as old as she is. She loves with her whole heart, working to stay open and vulnerable; communicating through her fears. I wonder if Erin is an old soul, here to master a few lessons; focusing on perseverance. She lights my heart like a ray of sunshine every time she turns to look my way. Erin IS my favorite middle child.

Emily – she is the one that did all the things I said my children would never do and has consequently transformed my ideology of motherhood; I became less rigid. Her presence in my life has forced me to relax and reevaluate my priorities. I named her after an Aunt who personifies peace and humility and so it may be no accident that she was born with an elevated sense of compassion and soul, helping me foster and grow more of my own. She is equally fun and serious; diving headfirst into her passions with vigor and persistence. She fortifies and strengthens my heart with something as simple as a phone call. Em IS my favorite youngest child.

My children make me want to be a better person as they mature in their amazing individual traits and talents. I have believed from my first moment of motherhood that they are each unique and magnificent gifts to me and have as much to teach me as I have had to teach them. I am honored – every day – to be their mother.

 

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Freaked Out By “Shoulds” – A client’s letter to her mother

I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be …

This letter was written by a client as a ‘therapy’ homework assignment and I thought it was incredibly powerful. She gave me permission to reproduce it as long as I waited at least a year and omitted her name. I have done both. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen through the years that could have written the same letter addressed to either a mother or father.  Read through and see my thoughts at the end…

Dear Mama,

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you that expresses my feelings about growing up as your daughter. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say to you because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. In fact, I’ve always wanted to just love you. I’ve wanted you to love me and I think you did. In your own way. I have had a hard time understanding that you love me because I don’t believe that you ever accepted me. There were so. many. shoulds. I can’t get rid of them.

I know, you say that you do accept me except that you kept telling me all the things I “should” do. You told me I ‘should’ go to church, that I ‘should’ date Kevin, that I ‘should study harder, and that I ‘should’ go back to school. I tried to tell you that those things didn’t matter to me but you didn’t listen. You told me I ‘should watch what I eat” that I ‘should’ wear my hair short, and that I ‘shouldn’t’ wear short shorts. If I had done those things, I would have been a mini version of YOU – not me. Those things weren’t ‘me’. More than that, you told me I ‘should’ have kids before I got much older and when I did you went so far as to tell us how we ‘should’ parent them. Jesus mom… why ‘should’ I??

Today, I am freaked out by all the ‘shoulds’ that I’ve never achieved. I feel like a failure. I didn’t do what you thought I ‘should’ and somehow I decided that since I wasn’t doing those things that you wouldn’t (couldn’t?) love me. I am not all the things I ‘should’ be mama and I know you are disappointed. Here’s the thing I am confused about.

Why couldn’t you just love ME. The person I am. Why do I have to be like you in order to be considered good or OK? Why do I have to like what you like? Why can’t you just be OK with the person that I am? I’m not a crack addict or a mass murderer. I’m a pretty good person but I feel like it will never be ‘good enough’.

Frankly mama, I didn’t ask to be here. You did that. And because you chose to bring me into this world, I would assume that you might just be happy with who I am but that’s not what I thought for most of the time that I was growing up.

Yes, you came to my basketball games. Yes, you bought me a prom dress. Yes, you sent me to college. I probably didn’t appreciate any of those things at the time as much as I could have. However, I never felt like I could really talk to you. I was always waiting for the next criticism to come. “Don’t eat that”, “you need to lose five pounds”, “Don’t drink, or have sex, or curse”, “go to class”, “clean your car”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’m in therapy now mama and I am trying to discover who I am. I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be and I never figured out what felt right to me. I am almost forty and I am just now doing that. I am not blaming you per se as the therapist tells me you probably did the best you knew how to do. I hope to accept that someday.

In the meantime, I want you to know that I am throwing all those shoulds out the window and I am asking you right here, right now to ACCEPT ME AS I AM. I think that is your role as my mother. Just love me and all the things that might be different from you. We don’t have to agree, we just need to respect that we are two different people and accept those discrepancies, not judge them.

I want you in my life IF you are willing to just take me as I am. I, in turn, will take you as you are. No blame. Just compassion and acceptance. That’s it.

As children, we make the general assumption that our parents love us – or at least we have the unconscious and simply human expectation that they do/will. We tend to develop an understanding of love’s expression via the environment, television, social cues, etc… if a father beats his child stating it is ‘because’ he loves him/her – the child develops an understanding that physical abuse is a form of ‘love’ until he/she is taught otherwise.

If a parent is ‘absent’ – for whatever reason – there is generally an assumption on the child’s part that love is also absent. Children have difficulty sometimes separating ‘fact’ from ‘perception’ – actually even adults are challenged with that from time to time and yet we may expect that our children ‘know better’ (well, of course I love you).

Parents can listen more and preach less.

Parents can accept more and judge less.

Parents can teach more and dominate less.

Parents can trust more and fix less.

Parents can guide more and dictate less.

Most parents do the best they can – based on what they know – in that moment. We really can’t expect much more than that but… when we learn more we need to make it a point to do better instead of assuming that it’s too late or that we are too old to make big changes.

The mother of the client who wrote this letter eventually came to a few sessions with my client where they discussed this letter and learned to accept and honor one another’s differences. Today, the client and the mother have a loving relationship based on compassion, tolerance, and clear expectations. It is working.

Too bad it took almost 40 years.

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A Letter to Myself – Age 40

It was a decade of self-discovery and reinvention; a decade of loss and exploration

“40 is when your body gives your brain a list of things its not going to do anymore.” – unknown

My forties were a time of freedom; emancipation from worries about what other people were thinking about me. I often wonder why it took forty years for that to happen. Once I experienced the pleasure of this peace, I encouraged my younger friends to let go of their need to please and yet it was as if there was an automatic release valve… a disintegrating dam that was locked into place until the fortieth year unfolded. Inevitably, someone would call and share their own ah-ha acknowledgment of the ‘pleaser’ independence. Needless to say, it isn’t that automatic but there is relief as we mature and center our perspective.

My forties, the first decade of the twenty-first century, was filled with tremendous grief and personal development/growth that I had never could have forecasted. It is a true testament to the idea that it is impossible to predict the future and that anything is possible. It was a decade of self-discovery and reinvention; a decade of loss and exploration.

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What surprises me the most is how young I continued to feel… it wasn’t anything like I imagined when I was younger. In my head – I wasn’t aging – I was learning. Everything in my life seemed to be highlighted and slightly more enjoyed. Well, except for alcohol… drinking a lot wasn’t much fun anymore.

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I’m not sure I would change anything but if I am ever able to offer some compassion to myself, some words of encouragement or a gentle warning… here it is; just in case I am willing to listen.

Hey Lady!
Welcome to middle age. It’s really not bad, in fact – it’s great overall. In retrospect, your 20’s were for exploring, your 30’s for creating, and now your 40’s are for growing. You will be growing your family – hey, by the way – those kids, all four of them – wow. You did good. And… you will be growing. Yes, there will be some growing pains but it will be OK.
Some of your growing pains will be because you didn’t take my advice in your 30’s. (see my raised eyebrows?) I don’t want to say “I told you so”, but since we are one in the same… I did try to tell you.
Stand in front of the mirror. Where are YOU? Where did you go? While it’s a little sad that you disappeared for awhile, I know it was for your protection. Your kids are more self-sufficient these days and so you get to pay more attention to yourself – thankfully, you discover the benefit  of balance. I know you can’t imagine it but guess what? By the end of the decade you will have a graduate degree… yes ma’am, you go back to school, finally! Way to go! Don’t worry about it now – the details work out perfectly and you’ll do great.
Your marriage is a mess. It’s good that you are trying counseling, that ends up being a great decision and will impact you far beyond what you can now imagine. You need to ask yourself an important question… why are you allowing yourself to be so disrespected? You, at the very least, deserve respect! Everyone does. The behavior you are allowing in your life does not respect you as a woman or a wife. Get smart. Respect is at the very core of your need as a human… pay attention. Also, while you are looking – what is it exactly that you love about the man you are sharing your life with? Is it the man he is showing you he is? Or the man you ‘want’ him to be? Listen. Watch. Learn. The man you want him to me may not be the man he is… Be present.
Your mom is going to need you for a few years and then she will leave you. I’m only telling you so that you remember to take time with her. Ask her everything you want to know – don’t leave anything unsaid. She ends up in an impossible position and does the very best she knows how to do. She’s only human too… you may have to forgive her.
Speaking of motherhood… think about what you want your children to know. What do you want them to learn about the world, about themselves? You are largely responsible for setting the example – both to your son about how women should be treated and to your daughters… how will you teach them self-respect? You are going to make a ton of mistakes… some of them will seem huge and irreparable but like your own mother… you are doing the best you can – based on what you know – in that moment. That’s all you can expect of yourself. Ever.
When you know better – well, as the saying goes, you’ll do better. In the meantime – give yourself a break and keep doing what you know to do day by day – that’s it. That’s as good as it gets. Your intentions are good and you demonstrate respect in most everything – that makes the difference. Get up in the morning and be grateful for a new day. Go to bed every night and count the day’s blessings – every day has a few. Hug your children. Keep your family close. Be kind to yourself. Keep learning to let go.
Even when you don’t think so or don’t feel like it, there is a core of strength in your spirit and you are going to be using every fiber of it. Stay strong and remember that true strength is feeling even when you don’t want to.
I’m here.
Me.

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A Letter to Myself Series – Age 30

This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!!

Third in the series A Letter to Myself

I remember thinking that if I hadn’t ‘made it’ by the age of 30, my opportunities would be gone. For some reason, I had developed the notion that whatever impact I was going to have on the world, would have to have begun before the age of thirty. Consequently, that particular birthday was notably difficult as I hadn’t yet influenced the world in any significant way.

I greatly admire and applaud the energy that young people step out into the world with. I am in awe of the motivation and dedication new college graduates bring to their first job and far too often I see the light get sucked out of their spirit because life does not unfold the way that was anticipated. It’s another problem with expectations that we conjure along the way… our neglect of developing realistic aspirations or the ability to combat disappointment. If we are going to have one – we must have the other.

I’d like to think there is a way to encourage tenacity so that it overshadows disappointment; to promote endurance and patience in the pursuit of those amazing visions we have in our early years. It’s also important to allow for a change of direction because not everything is what we thought it would be and/or we encounter a split in the road that calls to us more strongly. Here is what I would want my thirty-year-old self to hear and heed…

Hey Lady,

Another decade in the dust and what a whoosie it was. I’m so sorry you had to endure those hardships but hey… look at you now! It’s like life is giving you another shot. See… in some ways it’s like adulthood is just beginning for you and truly… you have no way to imagine what is in front of you! In the scope of your life – you have just started.  All the stuff behind you – well, it sucks for sure but by now you know that good things can come from bad ones so keep that front and center in your life.

I am happy to see that you’ve realized that dreams get fulfilled even when they look differently than you had imagined – it’s only the beginning of that too! What I really want you to know right now is that there is so. much. more. Have I already said that to you? It’s really important to know that every moment is to be enjoyed so try and tuck away the fact that you have time to enjoy this!

Look at what a good mom you are. Through all those challenges, you stayed focused. Good for you – that had to have been hard. See… self-compassion isn’t that difficult! I want to encourage you to learn that now instead of later in life. You are going to have more children and I won’t spoil the surprise this time but they change you – they change everything about you – for the better. We’ll talk more about that when you turn forty but for now, know that there is much to look forward to.

Going forward, you will be served well to trust your heart more. It speaks to you frequently but you aren’t listening. Learn to pay attention! Yes, your life will be hectic and there will be less time for you to sit and be still – make it! Don’t let your ‘inner self’ take a back seat. You will always be a better mother, wife, and neighbor if you take care of yourself FIRST. It’s not selfish – it’s self-care and it would be better all-around if you don’t wait another twenty years to figure it out!

Oh – and let’s talk about your body. So… you’ve developed more body acceptance, that’s great. Now you have to take care of it!! You have some bad habits that need addressing – you know what they are. Again, make those changes now instead of years down the road and even though you ‘hate’ to exercise – please. Please. Please. Do it. If there is any single change that this older version of you wants you to change now – it’s this part. I know, I know…. Everywhere you turn people are telling you to ‘get healthy’ – it’s a buzz phrase for all of the 1990’s and it would be good if you could get on the bandwagon. If you don’t – you never will and your body… well, you are not going to like it!

I know people everywhere are giving you advice and like most everyone – you really haven’t listened. Are you aware of how stubborn you are? Why do you feel you must reinvent everything you do? Why not take advantage of the lessons people in front of you have learned? This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!! You don’t have to do it all right. Let yourself make mistakes – try new things – experiment but don’t be hard on yourself. Let go.

You don’t physically change very much in the next decade but your whole perspective on life will change – it’s all good. As I said, motherhood changes you dramatically in really special ways and you will redesign your vision of yourself – that’s good too. Go with the flow – feel the vibe – the current – and relax on it. In part – it is your instinct… your intuition… and it’s authentic so it won’t let you down. Your only trouble happens when you are bucking the flow – did you hear me?? When you are not floating on your ‘authentic current’ – you will be unhappy. You eventually figure it out – but why wait??

That guy you just met… he’s part of your life lesson. No, he’s not going to die – you will be together for a long while but he is in your life so that you can learn. It will be up to you to find the lessons; the good and hard ones. It’s his children that bless you the most.

Keep going …

Me

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My March on Washington

There were more signs about Love and Peace and Hope than there was anything else.

A few days ago my daughter, who lives in Baltimore, called and asked me to make history with her by attending the Women’s March in Washington, DC. It meant that I would get up at 5 am, drive a couple of hours – walk all day in massive crowds – and then, tired… drive all the way home. Of course, I said “yes” – not because I was that invested in the march but because when your daughter ‘wants’ to spend the day with you… a day she will remember for the rest of her life… is there any other answer??

I say that I wasn’t all that invested in ‘the march’ mostly because I am not an overt activist. I have always chosen to change the world in ways that improved my little corner… working in my child’s school, raising money for the PTA, volunteering in my community, etc… I’ve not used my voice for anything on a national scale outside of casting my vote and so this was a first for me. I did not wear a pink hat – mostly because I didn’t have one – but even more so because I’m not a fan of the ‘p’ word and the hats were called p**** hats and even those the intention/message was important I didn’t want to promote the use of ‘that’ word. We didn’t carry signs because Sara was going to capture images and I was the photographer assistant; we needed our hands.

Getting to Washington proved to be a challenge and yet for Sara and I, the perfection of the mistakes and uncertainty made the adventure that much more memorable. This was the plan… I would pick her up in Baltimore, we would drive to the Halethorpe MARC station and catch the train to DC. We picked that location because the large downtown train station in Baltimore didn’t have the greatest parking. Well…. When we got to there we couldn’t find the entrance to the massive parking lot. It was a shame because it was practically empty. We weren’t the only challenged ones, the street parking was filling up fast and we saw people flowing into the station. One local resident, standing out on his lawn with a cup of steaming coffee (which I desperately wanted but was afraid to drink because I knew porta potties were my only option) let us know – in no uncertain terms – that we could (should) be parking there.

We were at the station in plenty of time to catch the 7:40 train but as we arrived, a woman in an official looking yellow safety vest was making the announcement that the train from Baltimore would NOT be stopping as it was completely full. It had filled in Baltimore. Crap. We should have gone to Penn station. The next train wasn’t for another hour… Saturday schedule. (MARC apparently has a good reason for not adding lots of extra trains for this historical event.)  She informed us that our best bet would be to drive south to the Greenbelt Metro station and take the DC Metro to one of the Washington Mall stops.

Sara and I took a minute to berate ourselves for just not going downtown in the first place and for a hot minute we thought about waiting for the northbound train – taking it back up to Baltimore and then coming south again… remember, I hadn’t had much coffee – which is the fuel for clear, rational thought. We opted for the southern option and headed down toward Greenbelt. It was an uneventful forty mile drive but the traffic was definitely building as we got closer to the city and there were an extraordinary number of busses on the freeway. When we got to the exit for the Metro station, it was blocked by a police car and there was a massive LED sign letting us know that the parking lot was full. Now, Sara had been telling me all along about how big this parking lot was “like a football stadium” she had said and so I was bowled over when we saw that it was full… As we drove by we could see what looked like THOUSANDS of people standing in line, presumably waiting to board the Metro. Holy cow, now what??

We went to the Marriott to get some coffee and use the facilities. There were lots of women there, many in pink hats and we asked a couple how they were getting downtown. “the hotel has a shuttle over to the Metro station” they said. We quickly described what we saw as we drove by just minutes ago, and then commented that it may be better to Uber down and get as close as possible. The two women we spoke to were quick to join forces with us and while we took care of nature’s calling – they arranged for a Lyft driver. It was going to cost much less per person than had we taken the train!

Our driver was awesome! SHE was happy to be making some extra money that day and even more so to be helping out in the way that she was able in the formation of such a historical event. We guided her into town, around traffic and she got us all the way into Union Station with very little delay. It was such fun talking to her and meeting our new friends (who were from Salt Lake City, Utah). We were counting our blessings at how the whole thing turned out… here we were without riding a train and/or standing in a line. As we got out of her car we were immediately swept up by the sea of people coming out of the train station, making their way over toward the Capitol building and it was both overwhelming and incredibly exciting to feel the energy of what it is to UNITE.

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Photo by Sara Kantner

There were all kinds of signs. Some were anti-Trump, many were pro-women’s choice, some were specifically for equality. I’ve read that the crowd in Washington, DC is estimated to have been over six hundred thousand. I never had a vantage point that allowed me to view the entire mall area. In fact, most of the time we were simply in a sea of moving people – and for part of that time it was – quite literally – full on, packed, body to body, people. We accidentally got ourselves over by the main stage – behind the American Indian Museum – in a hive of human beings that were so tightly packed together I finally understood the mechanism that activates panic in claustrophobic’s. Not for me. We spent an hour moving ourselves across the mall to the northwest side. After four hours of standing, walking, and watching… we started the march toward the Washington Memorial. When we got a chance to look across town – down the side streets, it was apparent that people had overflowed from the mall onto Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues. They filled Madison, Jefferson, and Independence… all moving west toward the Monument and President’s park. By then… I was over the crowding. I was cold… the weather report had not fulfilled its promise to reach 55 degrees… and I was sore from not sitting for more than five hours. It was time to find coffee… food… and warmth!

We kept moving until we found a street with moving traffic… hailed a cab and went to meet my youngest brother for an early supper.

It was amazing.

It was heartwarming.

It was breathtaking.

It was enlightening.

It was empowering.

It was more, too.

Sara began her day by intending to visually document the March from the perspective of mothers and daughters – motivated in part by her presence there with me. Certainly, one of the most inspiring parts of the March for me was how many children were there. THEY are the future of this country and they were experiencing firsthand how to respectfully demonstrate – how to use their voices. There were NOT just mothers and daughters… there were fathers and sons… entire families. These children were learning how to disagree in a loving spirit… I saw it with my own eyes. There were more signs about Love and Peace and Hope than there was anything else.

Yesterday inspired me, it was impossible to leave Washington without an imprint of that experience on my soul but it was more than that. We were not alone in that city… if you are connected you already know that many millions of people marched in over 30 countries and in every single state. How inspirational is it that people across the world came together unilaterally in support of simple humanity?? Literally…. Across the entire world. My deepest hope is that we all continue to use that spark as only the ignition of continued support for global human dignities.

This March was NOT about the American president. It was about HOPE that the Universal progress we’ve made regarding basic human integrity’s will be sustained and promoted throughout the world; at least THAT is why I marched. THAT is the lesson I hope those children took home and THAT is what I will continue to promote if only in my own little corner of the world.

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LA Bound – Tale#7- Arrived!

… I was getting a sneak peek into the next phase of her life.

Continued from LA Bound – Tale#6

“Never surrender your hopes and dreams to the fateful limitations others have placed on their own lives. The vision of your true destiny does not reside within the blinkered outlook of the naysayers and the doom prophets.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

Our effort to drive into Los Angeles in daylight was somewhat anticlimactic due to the heavy fog and driving rain that greeted us in the morning. Top that off with morning traffic in the second most populated city in the USA where no matter what freeway you pick – and there are LOTS to choose from – it is bumper to bumper. It’s rather comical to see a speed limit sign allowing you to move at 75 mph when most of us could walk faster than our car was moving. The saving grace was the HOV-2 lane because at least that was rolling along…

My goal to accidentally drive by the Hollywood sign was a bust as the fog cover was hovering low enough that you had a sense that God had stuffed a big wad of cotton over the top of LA, trapping the emissions to give it a smoked butter glow. It was better than it had been thirty years prior when I left the area, back when every metropolitan area dealt with smog problems, but it was still evident.

We drove straight to a little restaurant we found near Universal Studios, a healthy ‘California Style’ hole in the wall where Vegan options were well represented. There, we connected with my first cousin and her family – a reunion she informed me had been 34 years in the making. We were simply older versions of ourselves and it was another validation for Erin that she ‘looked just like her mother’. I never tire of the wonder with some people and how, even after several decades, you can just pick up and carry on as if there hadn’t been a massive interruption in your interaction.

This particular cousin was one of the ‘big girl, big sister’ types in my life… a mentor of sorts who had the dream I wanted when I grew up… a home, husband, family & apparent Brady Bunch style contentment. That was my frame of reference – the Brady Bunch. I didn’t think too much about the marital history of Mike and Carol (Mike was depicted as a widower but the networks didn’t want to allow Carol to be a ‘divorcée’ so they just didn’t say), I just wanted a family like they had and my cousin appeared to have it. Indeed, (and maybe sadly??) I recall that my dad – who stayed with her for a few weeks – told me she would have all the laundry from the day before washed, dried, and put away before noon each day. For some reason – I used that information to create a standard by which a ‘housewife’/’good mom’ handles her home but that tidbit of information is for another story…  we will leave it to say that lunch with my cousin was good.

The best part for Erin was that my cousin’s son, her second cousin as lineage would outline it… lives in Malibu and knows people in the television industry. I guess if you live in LA, you are bound to know someone who works in television. It also turned out that my cousin’s granddaughters step-father’s brother-in-law’s neighbor… or something like that also produces a program and yadda, yadda… we’ll just say that numbers were exchanged and it never hurts to pass names along. The farther you cast a net – the more you have the potential to catch! Any and all help is appreciated!

Erin arrived in LA with no job and no place to live other than the AirB&B she reserved for a couple of weeks. She had been busy when not driving to connect with people about both and so this day was about organizing and preparing to find a job and a place to live. She had commented one evening at dinner – earlier in the week – that it had dawned on her that I “was just dumping her in LA and then heading home”. Indeed, my goal was to grab the Red Eye back to Philadelphia and my life there – that night.

I thought about this for a bit as we unloaded her car, the few measly boxes that she had packed to bring with her – none of which included furniture, décor, or kitchen items (outside a waffle maker she got for Christmas and photos of people she loves) … I am leaving my girl here with no family, no close friends, and no job. What kind of a mother am I? Suddenly this felt a lot like throwing a baby in a pool to see if instinct takes over and it automatically swims. I knew logically that this was different. She had been preparing emotionally forever and literally for a couple of months. She had a sizable savings account, lots of soft leads, efficient technology, and most importantly – a good head on her shoulders. I also knew that after we got the car unpacked and put a few groceries away that there was absolutely nothing that I could do. I would want to of course. I could do the apartment hunting for her, I could scour resale shops in search of a dresser and a clean sofa but I also knew that Erin needed to do it herself. Maybe she didn’t ‘need’ to but if everyone was right and she was as much like me as they all claim… she ‘wanted’ to do it and no amount of ‘mothering’ from me would change that.

After unpacking the car of the few meager belongings that she chose to take with her, we completed a Target run for groceries and a few remembered necessities. We sat in her room for a bit as I took it all in. For a brief period, she would be living there – in a rented Air B&B room that was void of her personality but full of her stuff. I was feeling grateful not only for the chance to have spent a week with her but for the moments we were having now… I was getting a sneak peek into the next phase of her life.

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We spent a few hours with her cousin and my Godchild, a student at UCLA in Santa Monica – walking the pier and eating dinner and then it is time. It was time for me to let go. Honestly as I type this I can feel the lump grow in my throat. It sits there because I don’t want to have her so far away from home that she can’t come over for Sunday dinner. It sits there because I know that if she needs me I can’t just hop in the car and comfort her with a hug. It sits there because I am so incessantly proud of her courage and determination. It sits there because I remember being the same way and I imagine that she may learn a few similar difficult lessons; ones that won’t feel good and I desperately want to protect her from them. It also sits there because I know that she can handle it and I am overjoyed with happiness for all the fun she is about to have as she discovers the young woman she is.

It didn’t take long… in just three days she received a phone call asking if she could be at Universal Studios the next day at 6 am. She got her first gig. She’s working on a new show scheduled to air in March, meeting people, networking, and working on the perfect roommate/apartment. She did it!

 

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LA Bound – Tale #6

This roadtrip, a priceless adventure with my daughter was almost over.

Continued from LA Bound – Tale#5

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot

It wasn’t long before we saw signs for Blythe, the California town just on the west side of the border. Erin was getting excited and wanted to make sure that I was prepared to take a picture of the state sign. She had a few very specific expectations on this trip and most of them involved a picture of something that she had anticipated as important – the California sign was at the top of the list – the granddaddy – the one worth turning around for. We entered Ehrenburg (notice the pronunciation is ‘Erin’ burg – weird coincidence?) and slowed down… it turns out that the state line is in the middle of the Colorado river which divides the states and we were on a bridge, on a highway… there was no where to stop.

California has border check points especially for livestock and produce… they are very protective of their produce, thankfully. We were waved through and immediately noticed a ‘Welcome to California’ sign on the right side of the highway. We pulled off on the side of the road while eighteen wheelers whizzed past us as they accelerated back up to speed, so that Erin could stand under the sign and have me snap a few photographs. We had arrived.

And yet, we were still several hours away from our next overnight stop. Since we gained another hour of time crossing the border we agreed that we would divert through Joshua Tree National Park. While I had heard about it, I didn’t know anything about the park or about the Joshua Tree. The park consists of almost 800,000 acres where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts converge. It is home of the Joshua Tree – a unique specimen that was named by the Mormons because they believed that the tree was welcoming them to the West and urging them onward.

We entered the park on the south side and drove north toward Twentynine Palms, a city infamous for its Marine training base. It was instantly apparent that we were entering a desolate desert landscape and once again, there was basically nothing… it was as if we were on Mars, I think. I’ve never actually been on Mars, but it’s exactly what I imagine Mars to be like… rocks and fine silty sand with little variation in color.

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Looking across the landscape it was as if we were in the bottom of an empty ocean. You could clearly see the drifts of sand up against the mountains as if there was a soft gradual rise exactly opposite what we see/experience when at the shore and walk into the water on the sandy bottom. The road seemed to disappear into the gray sand and we couldn’t tell which way it went unless we happened to catch a glimpse of the sun bouncing off a car coming toward us. Only then could we decipher the road as it wound its way through the martian’esque surface. We had no cell service and no GPS… we simply followed the road; trusting that it was leading us toward something worth seeing or experiencing.

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And it did… suddenly we were facing a field full of a type of cactus that is totally ‘unworldly’. In fact, it looks like it belongs under the water or specifically in a terrarium. I imagined it to be a natural habitat for tarantulas because they kind of look alike. It was the Cholla Cactus Garden and there is a quarter mile nature trail meandering through it but thankfully, we were short on time as I am not sure I could move away from that tarantula vision long enough to motivate myself onto the trail. And so, we kept driving.

Erin was reading the brochure about what ‘sights’ were in front of us and she started reading about Jumbo Rocks… explaining that they were created by magma pushing up through the earth’s crust til just under the surface and then over millions of years, the earth around them washed away leaving the magma remains. For you Geology lovers, I included the link so you can read about it but I assure you – there is no comparison until you actually SEE them. I have yet to see a photograph that captures the magnificence of those rocks… they are massive and they are strewn across the desert in random piles. It’s not an ‘ice age’ kind of thing – it’s not similar to ‘boulder fields’ that exist in the north but it is as unique and one of the most beautiful and interesting things I’ve seen in my life. My bucket list now includes another trip there – in a camper – with time to walk and walk and see the sunset. Around every turn thereafter we were both exclaiming “oh my goodness” and “look at that”.

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Eventually we arrived at the Joshua Tree forest and it isn’t a forest per se… not the one you imagine when you say the word but I suppose it is by definition – that is, a large grouping of trees. I totally understand why there are so many UFO sightings in this part of the world… those aliens probably think they are ‘home’ when they come upon this landscape. For all of my East Coast friends and family… it will be mind blowing for you; treat yourself with a trip to Southern California and make the drive!!

We came down out of the mountains into the north side of the Palm Springs desert and once again I was amazed at the number of wind turbines capturing the currents moving through the valley. I am impressed with the implementation of alternative energy and for some reason – enthralled with wind farms. When we were in Europe a couple of years ago I stood in amazement of them and the fancy of it has not tired yet.

I arranged to meet up with a longtime friend for dinner. I would say an ‘old friend’ but we are both of the age that ‘old’ has a different connotation. We met 35 years ago when she was my boss and after my brief stint with the company, we became friends. She is one of the only people in my life still that remembers me as a young woman madly in love with my blonde prince and it was really fun seeing her again. When we arrived at the restaurant she immediately commented on how much Erin looks like the young me. I’m never sure how Erin feels about that but she is always gracious. What is odd to me, just a little … is that I left California when I was 23 – almost from that very spot and here we were connecting with someone I knew back then as my 23-year-old daughter is entering California… how weird is it to think of that night as some kind of ‘portal’ for the continuation of some cosmic unfinished business??

Ummm… sounds like a sci-fi novel and I offer it up to anyone who has the energy to create it!

We had been on the road for six entire days and it was almost over. This roadtrip, a priceless adventure with my daughter was almost over. For the benefit of our budget we opted to stay out there in the East Valley overnight and drive into the city so that Erin could view LA in the daylight. This had been a dream for almost half of her life and I wanted it to be special for her.

To be continued…

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