I just wanted to write to you and tell you how much I enjoyed our play date this weekend. I had been looking so forward to it ever since your mommy set it up for us.
I think I’m in love with you. Oh my…
I especially had fun this morning when we were crawling on the floor together, exploring all the ins and outs and unders of your living room floor. You were quite interested in the plugs and cables. Perhaps you will be an electrician when you grow up. Or a deep sea diver.
Or a secret service man.
You’re such a good crawler. You get around with finesse. Remind me to invite you to my house next time I need someone to get that thing that rolled under my sofa.
I’m home now doing my laundry. And I’m giggling at the combination of dog hair, snot and mashed bananas on my nightgown. Good thing I raised three sons and have lots of Shout It Out and I know how to use it!
I’m reminiscing of our time together. Sigh. And I’m thinking of you. ♥♥
You’re the avocado on my sandwich. You’re the frosting on my cupcake.
You’re the garlic in my baba ghanoush.
This kind of JOY is new to me. It’s wonder, awe and rapture all wrapped up into one.
It’s a little boy with eyes of blue. Oh, how I love you!
in the secret of darkness
before I saw the sun
in my mother’s womb
Dear little Boe,
You are a miracle. A gift. Someone new to love and long to hold. A bundle of sweet smells and warm cuddles. You have us all in awe and wonder.
How beautiful you are. A blank slate. A crisp white page to be filled with lovely lyrics. An empty vessel within which we place all our hopes and dreams. Your innocence is compelling. I feel absolution in your presence.
I know that some little parts of you have been etched from my own body. That in itself is mind blowing. I look at you and feel such love and connection- and at the same time, a sense of mystery. Who are you? Who will you become? How will I fit into your life? What will we do together to build our relationship?
Little lovey, the day you were born we all experienced a life changing transition. Woman and man became mother and father. Mother and father became grandmother and grandfather. It may take some time for us to learn our new roles so please be patient with us.
I hear other grandparents brag that they can spoil their grandchildren and then send them home. All the fun and none of the responsibility. Then they laugh! But Boe, I have a little secret for you.
I would do it all again. The pain of labor, the sleepless nights, the diapers, the desitine, the sticky kisses, the million and one soccer, basketball and little league games, the waiting up for teenagers, the “sex” talks, and the endless and painful letting gos- witnessing three little boys traverse their paths into manhood.
But there would be do-overs. I would clean less, order more take out, play more games and be more attentive to the ebb and flow of raising a family. And most of all I would allow myself to enjoy it all. Not be so stressed and insecure. Not be so hard on myself. Not compare myself to other moms who appeared to be doing it better.
Little Boe, when your daddy was growing up, I wrote him letters on his birthdays and other occasions so that he would know how my love for him unfolded and developed as he grew up and became a young man. When he graduated from high school I gave him all those letters. It was a labor of love.
I want to do that for you, little Boe. I want you to see what I see in you. And in those moments when you are feeling insecure or a little blue, I want you to know how much you are loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, and carefully knit together in the secret of your mother’s womb by an even greater Love.
My heart is full. My life has taken on a new meaning with your birth. I have so many things I’d like to share with you. So many songs I want to sing to you. And I have all the time in the world to listen to you.
Stay sweet, little boy. Take in all the love you can. Learn honesty and integrity. Be generous and kind.
Grow up to be a man for others.
I love you,
It’s Mother’s Day and it seems appropriate that I would be channeling my mother in the kitchen this weekend. Tabouli, Hummus, Baba Ghannouj- salt, allspice, cinnamon, garlic, tahini, eggplant, and parsley dripped and splashed everywhere! You can’t make Lebanese food without making a mess, using your hands and taste testing along the way. The sterile kitchen police would have me under arrest.
My daughter in law is craving Lebanese food for my little Lebanese grandson still nesting just under her heart. A new little Shaheen boy in the works. My mom would be beside herself! Another man to cook for!
I found my place very early in life next to my mother in the kitchen. I had no choice really. I just grew up in there with my own apron and stepping stool, stirring the rice pudding, chopping the parsley and washing the dishes. Sometimes all at the same time.
I never complained. With a family of eight and so many brothers, it was the only way I could sneak something to eat before the food hit the dinner table. It was also my special time to be with my mom. To smell her perfume and sing songs with her. At a very young age, I wanted to be just like her. She was so loved and admired by everyone. And she was a fabulous cook. I think she invented that idiom about the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach..
She always knew just what to do in every situation. What to cook for every ailment. How to take care of her family. She could have written the book on mothering.
I watched her as a young mother wrap up my babies and sing to them. When my youngest, Peter, was born, I found her playing in the sandbox with Patrick and Robert and their trucks. “Whose mother is that??” I wondered! My mother never got dirty. My mother had her nails and hair done every week and wore heels and hose. My mother didn’t own a pair of jeans until she turned 50!
As I recuperated from each pregnancy and birth, she cleaned my house and did the laundry and cooked delicious things for us in the kitchen. I just held my babies and watched. I wanted to get in there and chop and stir and wash dishes but clearly our roles had changed and I was no longer the little girl helping. I was the mother. Still learning from her. Still needing her advice and expertise. Still wanting to be close to her in the kitchen.
Now on the cusp of being a new grandmother myself, I’m feeling a bit insecure in the transition. What will my new role be like? What are the expectations? Will I know what to do with a new baby? After all, it’s been 30 years since I had Peter. Things have changed. Mothers are more enlightened due to the internet. Information is dispelled easily through a quick Google. Does anyone call their mother for advice anymore?
The new parenting trends bring natural fibers and toxic free toys. Gender fluid nurseries and neutral color schemes. Babies sleep face up instead of face down. Bumpers are no longer safe in cribs. There’s something called “sleep training”.
Maybe I will Google “gramma training”.
So I find myself in the kitchen where I feel safe and smug. I know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Or through his mommy’s stomach.
It’s a start. The rest will come in time.
As I chop the parsley and squeeze the lemons. Smash the garlic with the salt just how she taught me. Mix the Tabouli with my unsterile hands- I haven’t killed anyone yet with my cooking- I feel her standing next to me and I smell her perfume. I am infused with her wisdom and her strength and her confidence in me.
“You got this, Sissie! You’re going to be a wonderful Sittie!”
Feeling the Mom void..
Imminent- about to happen, close at hand, forthcoming, in the offing, on the horizon, expected, anticipated, looming…
It’s like waiting for the wedding to begin. Everyone is giddy with excitement and suspense. Or waiting for a baby to be born where there’s a conglomeration of anxiety, longing, and hopefulness.
We spend so much time in our lives waiting for something to happen. My friend, Tom, calls it “waiting energy”. We wait for the clothes to be dry, for the turkey to be done, for the pudding to set, for the tomato plant to produce for us a bumper crop of sweet fruit. We wait for someone to “pop the question”.
We wait for the mail to come, for a phone call from a significant other, for the car to warm up, for our guests to arrive, for the guy from Home Depot to deliver the new refrigerator. We wait for the test results, for some good news, for a loved one to pass away from their pain and suffering into relief and peace.
And then we wait for our grieving to end.
I’ve been waiting all summer for my townhouse to be finished. But it’s really not about the townhouse.
It’s about me.
What is it about “waiting energy” that zaps our lives and renders us immobile, unproductive and frozen in time and space? Why can’t we stop waiting for something to happen and just start living our lives in whatever space we dwell in.
Physical space. Psychological space. Spiritual space. Inner space. Outer space.
What have you put your life on hold for- and why?
I was quite saddened when I read about Vice President Joe Biden’s 42 year old son, Beau, who just died of a brain tumor. This poor man has been through more trajedy than one could imagine. First losing his wife and infant daughter in a car accident with his two small sons fighting for their lives. Then years later having one of them succumb to cancer after not only surviving but also thriving with an enviable life, a successful career as an attorney and a fulfilling marriage with two beautiful young children.
Fate is twisted.
Ya’aburnee means “you bury me” in Arabic. It means wanting to die before a loved one so as not to have to face the world without him or her in it.
This was the prayer on my mother’s lips when she received the news that my brother, Bobby, at age of 31, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Let it be me. Not you.”
She fought for her third son from the very beginning. He was born premature weighing only four pounds. Just big enough to fit in a shoe box. In school he was the class clown and the ring leader among his friends, often getting into trouble with Sr. Dolores, the principal at St.Philip Neri, in our small town of Compton. He would lead kids twice his size around the neighborhood, looking for mischief. He teased me endlessly about being chubby and offered to pay my membership to Vic Tanny’s Salon.
After nine years of Catholic school Bobby begged to be set free to attend the local public high school where most of his friends went. He was a rebel. A contrarian. A master of debate. How he convinced our ultra- Catholic parents to transfer him to public school remains a mystery to us all.
Years later while waiting to be accepted into Law School after earning a degree in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a Masters Degree in Political Science at American University, he would bide his time sitting on our couch at home reading through the encyclopedias from volume A through Z. By now I was taller and not so chubby. But he would still find things to tease me about.
Bobby went on to become a successful attorney. He fell in love and married Christine. Together they had a family, Matthew and Katherine. I’m sure my mother stopped worrying about him at that point. (If mothers ever stop worrying..)
Until the evening when she got the news of Bobby’s brain tumor.
“Ya’aburnee,” she gasped in fear.
She got her wish. My brother, Bobby recovered after several years of treatment. He was healthy and back to work as an attorney, just long enough to be the Executor of my mother’s will after she succumbed to ovarian cancer in October of 1986.
And I imagine she was waiting with open arms at the gates of heaven with St. Peter when the cancer took my brother Bobby’s life in July of 1991. For a brief moment, they would embrace and she would comfort him. After which they would move on to join the Communion of Saints, their lives on earth but an ethereal dream.
My father was not so lucky. He buried my mother. And then he buried his third son. Dad died of cancer and a broken heart almost exactly a year after my brother died.
All these painful memories come back to me as I read the article about Joe Biden losing first his wife and infant daughter, and then years later, when it looked like life had self corrected, he lost the son he fought so hard to save.
Ya’aburnee. You bury me.
My new mantra.
The day began innocently enough. Five friends from high school met in San Francisco for fun and sightseeing. Two of us are currently from the bay area and the other three are visiting from the OC where we all grew up. We’re a classy bunch. At one time in our lives we used to elicit looks and howls from handsome men on the street but now we just kind of blend in with the masses of humanity enjoying the beautiful day and weather. Our best qualities now internalized. Just when did that happen?
Nonetheless, we think we are pretty hot babes. (Or at least Perry thought we were.. more about that later…)
After a go around in the Ferry Building and a satisfying lunch (no calorie counting today!) we forge our way up the Embarcadero towards whatever suits our fancies, stopping to have our picture taken and do a little people watching and shopping. With happy hour fast approaching, we set out to find a friendly bar. Feeling very urban sophisticated, I suggest we call an UBER and promptly press my handy app. A Toyota Corolla was on its way and would arrive in 2 minutes.
WAIT! There’s five of us! No way. I quickly cancel and we squeeze into to a nearby cab that’s just barely big enough for the five of us and head to a groovy street for shopping and bars- “Chestnut in the Marina”. The driver says “oh, that’s only about four blocks away..” Twenty minutes later, we arrive. Really? Four blocks? Not even. Sandy would have liked to walk it with her Fit Bit. The rest of us were content to be driven.
In and out of shops we go, all the while looking for a bar appropriate for our age category and level of sophistication. The Tipsy Pig looks like fun with its’ 20 and 30 something beautiful people falling out of the windows and doors! Oh yeah… we aren’t 20/30 anymore. Not a bad thing we all agree!!
We settle on the Ristobar with equally beautiful people more in our age category and somewhat more enlightened. Sitting at the bar, we flirt with our bartenders like old times. Why not? We are classy babes from the OC! I text my son Peter to let him know we are in his neighborhood. He’s across town with his friend Nathan.
Darn.. the girls really wanted to meet him.
He says “have fun mom and don’t get into trouble!” He has no idea what trouble his mother can get into with her hot girlfriends…
Now we are hungry for dinner and a little tipsy to boot. I asked the lady next to me at the bar (who BTW was from Seattle) how to hail an UBER big enough to accommodate the five of us. I selected UBER XL (or I thought I did) and my phone announced a white Honda Accord was on its way to wisk us off to the Fog City Diner
Boy that was fast. As soon as we hit the street there it was. Our white Honda Accord chariot. We opened all the doors and began to pile in asking the driver if he was sure he could take all five of us!! Not only was English his second language but I’m guessing the sight of five gorgeous babes climbing into his car was too much to believe!
He was rendered speechless..
Just then.. my phone rang. The voice on the other end of the phone asked “where are you? I’m here on the corner of Chestnut and Scott!”
We realized we were in the wrong Honda just as the man tried to explain in his broken English that he was waiting to pick up his wife! Now stunned and embarrassed, we quickly evacuated white Honda Accord #1 and proceeded to jump into white Honda Accord #2, all the while laughing and gasping for breath. Of course our UBER driver got to hear the entire story. He was somewhat entertained.
Still greatly amused at ourselves, we arrive at the Fog City Diner where we are promptly seated. The mood of our group was quickly picked up by our intuitive waiter, Perry, who asked “Are you ladies ready for an adventure?” at which we dissolved into uncontrollable laughter once again. Perry volunteered to order the entire feast for us including the wine. We accepted the offer and the unsolicited flirtation.
Obviously he recognizes our inner hotness.
As a part of his fantasy, he renamed us all. Dawn was Penelope. Linda was Gwen. Sandy was Maria. Lisa was Susan. I was Betty Ford.
Ok enough! I ONLY had one Lemon Drop at the Ristobar! My girlfriends had my back and begged for a more exotic name for me. Sensing a potential post-menopausal riot, Perry renamed me Annalise.
The parade of food began.. Grilled Local Calamari, Hand Cut Furikake Fries, Lacopi Farm Brussel Sprouts, Caeser Salad, McFarland Springs Trout, Wagyu Flank Steak Fries, Short Rib Kim Chi Tacos, and two bottles of very expensive wine, after which we had two desserts (by then we didn’t care what we were eating..). I asked for some table bread half way through the parade but Perry said NO it will ruin your appetite. ( I don’t think he liked me..)
As the feast drew to a close, we asked Perry what his story was. What’s a handsome middle aged man doing in the city waiting tables? We heard his entire life story. Wife accused him of being abusive. Turned his three beautiful daughters against him. Yadadada…
Well, with age comes wisdom and these babes recognize a shmoozer when they see one! Nonetheless, we leave a significant tip commensurite with the entertainment and attention he provided and then cozied up with Perry for one last photo.
Hoofing it back to the Bart station, we recapped the day’s mischief, feeling quite proud of ourselves for throwing caution to the wind.. just like old times! Five hot babes from the OC doing the City!
BTW, this might have been one of those “you had to be there” stories. So if you’d like to leave a comment on this blog with your email we will invite you next time pending an UBER big enough and a driver brave enough. Until then, let’s raise a glass to midlife mischief!
He leaves her little notes around the house, in the silverware drawer, on the bathroom mirror, in her favorite coffee cup. She makes sure he eats healthily, supports his dreams and believes in his goodness and integrity.
He is strength and tenderness. She is courage and grace.
They complement each other.
And three short weeks ago, Peter and Brianna committed to a life together as husband and wife.
There’s something very contagious about young love.
It draws us in and mesmerizes. It holds us spellbound. It makes one want to try a new recipe for dinner or say hello to a stranger on the street, be a better person, sing in the shower, color a picture with crayons.
Peter and Brianna make me optimistic about the future of our world. We pass the baton to our children and find such satisfaction in seeing how easily they grab hold of it and run with confidence, taking with them all our hopes and dreams invested.
I wonder if we really know our children fully until we observe them navigating the major milestones of life- making their way in a career, establishing a community of friends and colleagues, taking on the challenges of marriage and all the joys and responsibilities that go along with it.
After years of mothering and guiding and teachable moments, the tables have turned. I am a witness to my children’s journeys.
I am being taught
And baby, THIS love never felt so good!
It’s all the rage. Right up there with pre-marriage counseling. And I invented it.
Peter is my first son down the aisle. The first one to get the pep talk and the unsolicited advice about marriage and women and everything he’s ever wanted to know about life but didn’t know he didn’t know!
On my way up highway 101 to our meeting place- Stack’s in Burlingame, I contemplate my speech. I have resisted the urge to bring index cards with notes. Isn’t this wisdom encapsulated within? Aren’t these things I know by heart?
Oh, now I know what that means… To know something by heart.
I’m listening to NPR and they are coincidentally interviewing Raffi, singer songwriter of songs for children. Songs that teach them about world peace and brushing your teeth and loving your family. Songs that Peter and I sang “by heart” while putting puzzles together on the living room hard wood floor, anxiously waiting for his brothers to come home from school. Synchronicity. My world is lining up to herald the beginning of a new way of life. Passing the baton so to speak. A married son. A new daughter. A new branch of the family systems map.
All those good Raffi lyrics imbedded in the heart and soul of my youngest son. Incubating. Shake your sillys out! Rise and shine and show your love all around the world! One light one sun, one sun lighting everyone.
I get to the restaurant before Peter and pick the best table near a window. I love light when I eat out. I see him enter and I wave (like a mother..). He looks taller. Can you continue to grow in your late 20’s? He walks with such confidence and grace. Comfortable in his own skin. So very unaware of the stir he creates when he enters a room.
Clear sea green eyes. Beautiful olive complexion. A heart of gold.
I only have two hours on the parking meter. Will that be enough time, I wonder? I have so much to say! I need two breakfasts! Or maybe another week! Time has run out.
My mother told me that before each of my brothers got married she bought them pajamas and told them not to discuss money on their honeymoon. My mother told me before I got married- she was ahead of her time- to never depend on a man to support you! That seemed harsh at the time and I told her so. And we argued. But I understand her words now and have not forgotten them.
I took them to heart.
It occurs to me that Peter is going to remember everything I say this morning.
One hour and 45 minutes later- eggs, cheese, bagels, coffee, orange juice, fruit, potatoes, and a connection that is fierce between a mother and her son, we conclude. There’s more to say, no doubt. The love is palpable. We take a selfie, hug, and go on about our days.
I am exhausted and come home to take a nap.
When I wake up I realize that it isn’t just about what I said this morning. It’s about the years and years of love and modeling good behavior and love and tender instruction and love and singing and dancing together and love and listening late at night and love and respecting others and playing fair and world peace and making your bed and shaking your sillys out.
We covered all that in the last 28 years. Peter’s good to go.
All things considered, I’m hoping my other two sons wait for a bit to get married until I’ve recuperated from this mandatory event. I pray that Rob and Patrick know all this by heart and that our breakfast will be just a recapitulation of years and years of Raffi songs, loving your family, doing your chores and one sun shining on everyone.
One love, one heart
One heart warming everyone
One hope, one joy
One love filling everyone.
My oldest son texted me during dinner last night. “Hi Mom! I’m going to swing by your house tonight after my final if that’s ok. Need to grab some of my camping stuff.”
I am quietly thrilled. I am the keeper of things.
He arrives as I finish up the dishes and wipe the kitchen counters. I hug my first born son- life changer, trail blazer, heart breaker, 33 years of connection, love, and journey together infused in an embrace.
We walk the time line through the laundry room and into the garage where the archives of family life line the walls- boxes labeled “Patrick’s GI Joes”, “brio train”, “Christmas decorations”, “dress up clothes”, the wooden toy horse made by Grampa Healy, a shelf crammed with size 13 crocs. We rest our eyes on the row of sleeping bags and tents above the work bench and the requisite green plastic tubs that hold the treasures of camping trips of yore- plastic table cloths autographed and decorated by camping buddies, liquid dish soap, camping stoves, a variety of pots and pans, lanterns, plastic forks and spoons, make shift coffee makers, propane tanks, camping games.
I am the keeper of things. I have worked over- time trying to keep life consistent and predictable for my three sons through two major relocations, new schools, new friends, various homes, their parents’ divorce, the transition to college and eventually to adulthood and the fast and furious challenge of living in the Silicon Valley. I have housed their baseball cards and dress suits, amplifiers and cast off instruments, baseball mits, autographed baseballs, baseball hats, high school yearbooks, art projects, stuffed animals, and boomerang plants. Cartons of camping gear tucked high on garage shelves. More sleeping bags and tents than one family could possibly utilize. The family pictures. I have intentionally rooted myself so that they could be free to explore and take risks and chances in the world yet still find their way back to a touchstone of familiarity and an infusion of security.
I look at my handsome 33 year old son in the soft light of a bare energy efficient bulb. He’s quite a man. A full time job at Facebook, a new car, a flat in Palo Alto. He phones his 31 year old brother, Patrick, to make sure he’s not forgetting anything they might need. They discuss Nate and Chris and Todd and Sam and the things that they agreed to bring for the camping trip. Good friends from high school. Solid friends. Rooted friendships.
We hug goodbye and share an “I love you”. He drives away in his sleek dependable Subaru- the temperamental yet utterly faithful Volvo thankfully a remnant of the past.
I linger in the garage contemplating my youngest son Peter’s pending wedding this summer and Patrick’s journey through grad school in Denver to his current professional life in Santa Clara.
They are rooted. They have wings.
How much longer will I need to be the keeper of things?