Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sleep to dream

The night before I turned 30, I dreamt that I was asleep in my childhood room, snuggled in my childhood bed with the Monet waterlilies comforter. I knew I'd gone to bed around 11 or 12, but when I woke up, evening dusk had settled around me. Disoriented, I looked at the clock: 5:00PM.

I stumbled downstairs and saw my mom in the kitchen.

"Mom, it's 5 o'clock!" I said. "How did you let me sleep so long?"

"You seemed like you needed the sleep," she said.

When I woke up from this dream, a little before 8AM, I felt refreshed and wide awake, like I'd just had the most rejuvenating slumber.

Sally believed that when you dreamt about people who had died, it meant they were paying you a visit. Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mom.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On the eve of 30

Less than an hour until I turn 30. Can't sleep. Too awake and excited.

This evening I had a surprise rendezvous. Dad and Susan called and were across the street from my office, killing time before a concert. I met them at a pizza place and then walked them to the music venue.

Standing at an intersection near Lincoln Center, waiting for the light to change, Susan's arm wrapped around me, my dad on my other side, all of us chitchatting incessantly, I suddenly realized that like that other girl in the wedding photo, I was flanked by a parent on each side. Huh, I thought, stupified. This is pretty nice.

At that moment, my phone buzzed. Mark.

"Guess who I'm with???"


"My parents!" I squealed.

Later, walking to dinner at our favorite spot, he called me out: "You said 'parents.'"

"I know," I said. "I'm testing it out."

Goodnight, 29, and all the 20s that came before it. Looking forward to greeting the morning, and all the possibilities the new decade brings.

Theme song for turning 30

Dear Mom, 

I'm trying to shake off my anxiety about turning 30 tomorrow, and my grief of not having you here to share all the exciting steps until my wedding. I will carry you in my heart when I try on my dress tomorrow. Until then, I'm trying to take Florence's advice and shake it out! 


P.S. Aunt Sherry wrote me a beautiful birthday card that helped, too. I cheated and opened it a day early to give myself a little pick-me-up. Worked like a charm!

P.P.S. Here are the lyrics to this song. I don't know if you would have liked Florence & the Machines, since my only memories of your music preferences include Rod Stewart and Mandy Patinkin, but I like it a lot.  

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh

But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I've been a fool and I've been blind

I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around

Our love is pastured such a mournful sound

Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out,

Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out,
Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

'Cause I am done with my graceless heart

So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
'Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out,

Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out,
Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

I tried to dance with the devil on your back

And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It's a final mess but it's left me so empty
It's always darkest before the dawn
(Oh whoa, oh whoa)

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't

So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat
'Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I'm gonna let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out,

Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out,
Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Down the wishing well

The wishing won't stop.

It started when I left the post office. After my third day in a row there, selecting the perfect stamp (bonsai), asking about weight and delivery dates, adding a second stamp (yet another bonsai), and finally parting with Mark's pretty paper masterpieces, I pushed open the door, walked out onto the New York City sidewalk, and reached for my phone. All I wanted to do was call her and say, "Ma, can you believe it?" Only in her would I have been able to confide how vulnerable I felt: I'd just told 120 people that Mark and I were in love. I joked with Mark later, saying who knew the girl who blogs her innermost thoughts would ever feel exposed by a wedding invitation?

It happened again today, when I saw a picture on Facebook of a girl I knew in high school being walked down the aisle, flanked by her father and mother. I cursed my Jewish heritage for including both parents in the patriarchal tradition. If I were Catholic, my mother's absence wouldn't matter in that moment. But I know it does. With just my dad there (despite his wonderfulness!), the weight is uneven. Grief gives you an eternal limp.

If you've gone down the wishing well, you know what I know: It's not good to wish for things that can't come true.

So, I thought that instead of wishing to talk to my mother, I would write to her here over the next eight weeks leading up to the wedding. Here goes...

Dear Mom,

It's your little girl. I'm getting married!

His name is Mark and he's just lovely. Warm and funny and strong. Sometimes I worry you'd call him an "Eddie Haskell," because he's quite the charmer, particularly with the older ladies. But I think that would have only been your first impression. You would have grown to see what I see, and told me I'm very lucky, and to treasure him.

I'm trying on my wedding dress for the first time on Saturday, my 30th birthday. I'm calling it the best me-to-me present a gal could get: a preview of how she'll look on one of the happiest days of her life. You will be with me, as you always are, since I honor you every day by wearing your engagement stone. (I hope you approve of the beautiful facelift Mark gave to it!)

I try hard to honor you in my everyday actions. Smile. Talk to strangers. Be there for your friends. Impact the lives of others. Be kind to those less fortunate. Notice people who are often overlooked. Laugh too loud. Laugh at yourself. Laugh when life is good. Laugh even when it's not.

Sometimes the concept of "getting married" feels scary. Something that's happening to someone else. Something I can't possibly be old enough to do. Sometimes I'm surprised by who it is that fits me. Sometimes I'm scared of being this lucky -- of my happiness being found out and taken away. Best to act nonchalant so they'll skip over me. Maybe they knew how much we loved each other, Mom.

Next month it'll be the 10 year anniversary of when you passed away. I can't believe it's been that long. If I heard someone else say that, I'd say, "Get over it, man!" I wish I could. But your loss is still that -- a loss -- especially as I near such a delicate day.

This morning, I accidentally slammed my underwear drawer shut, and the photo of you, me, and Daddy came crashing down, bringing with it some loose change and my brand new bottle of perfume (an early birthday gift from Laura -- yes, 17 years later, she's still my best friend). I felt I heard you say: "Stop wishing, Missy. Enough!"

I'll try.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A photographic memory, on Sally's birthday

Sally would have been 69 today -- almost 70! It's hard to believe.

Her birthday got me thinking about a mother's best quality: she knows exactly who you are. Down to your core, every ounce of your being, she's got you pegged. Whether you're sensitive, stubborn, a do-gooder... even though she may encourage you to adjust your behavior ("Oh, Missy, you just need to have a thicker skin"), she knows it's of no real use. You are who you are.

In ninth grade, my friend Heather took a photography class and asked me to be her model. I immediately said yes. (Having spent 90% of my teenage years practicing pouts and smiles for my imaginary Seventeen magazine cover shoot, I felt very prepared.) My favorite shots she took were of me with heavy eyeliner, wearing a vintage fur coat that had belonged to my Grandma Rose (my mom's mom) and looking very serious. I felt so glamorous.

When I showed the shots to my mom, she flipped through and said, "This one's my favorite." I felt sure it was the same one I liked. Wrong. This one was of me wearing a plaid collared shirt and jean overalls, with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup, smiling and staring straight into the camera.

"Mom, that's the one you like best?" I asked. "I look like a farmer!"

"No you don't," she said. "You look just like yourself."

I remember that now, as I think about how I want to look on my wedding day. With options for hair extensions, airbrush makeup, and big poofy gowns -- or even something as simple as a suggestion to dye the gray out of my hair -- I try to explain to people: "No, I just want to look like me."