My sister recently asked me if I would be able to recognize my children’s hands in a group of several. Would I be able to recognize hers? She had come from a yoga class where the teacher had centered the class around hands, and said she was intrigued by the questions. My first reaction was, “of course I would!”, but then I had to wonder…. this coming from the mom who proudly showed off her firstborn in the hospital nursery to a visitor, only to be corrected by the nursery nurse. I had the wrong baby.
Could I look at my hands so deeply that they almost seemed separate from my body and think about what they had done in my lifetime? Having never thought about this before, I became obsessed with my hands — the hands that have created, destroyed, cradled, protected and applauded their way through my life. My hands are my outward representation of my spirit and in their lined palms, they have held all that I’ve loved, lost, hated, feared, created and comforted.
My sister telling me she’d recognize my hands gave me a deep sense of comfort. She said they were hardworking hands. She’s right. My hands have always felt more at home digging in the dirt than sitting in the manicurist’s chair. I thought back to a few years ago and the volunteer work I did in Peru at a center for the elderly in one of the poorest districts of Lima. I wanted to find an activity that would single out the women in the group, because I wanted to get to know them on a more intimate level. The following week I set up a small manicure station, with hopes that a couple of the women would want to take part. Much to my surprise, almost all of them did, creating a bit of a frenzy at the small “station” I had set up. I had danced with these women, chatted with them in their homes, played games with them, done simple crafts with them, but my favorite, hands down (pun intended), were the manicures. There was intimacy in holding their hand, while painting their nails and like little girls, they were in awe of the process, as they watched intently, boldly pointing out when my little brush painted outside of the nail line.
These hands made my hands look pampered and delicate. THESE were working hands and just like Madge on the Palmolive commercial from the 70’s, I had all the waiting hands soaking in soapy water. I told them it was to soften the nail so I could cut them, but in reality it was to clean them. Again, these were working hands. One of my favorites, Maria Rivera, waited patiently in line and finally took her spot as my last customer. Her hands needed the most work. Her fingers were bent with arthritis and her nails thick, dirty and terribly ignored. She had definite ideas how she wanted them to look — cut short, painted bright pink and made to look pretty.
“Bonita y rosada, por favor.”
I did my best to make them not only bright pink, but well manicured and far cleaner than what she started with. She seemed pleased. As I held her hand in mine and tried to file the nails down to a respectable length because they were far too hard to cut, I couldn’t help but think about what my sister had told me about hands. As I worked my way across the nail of each of her short, thick fingers, I thought about the history I had been told about her, specifically how her own son had tried to strangle her. Were these hands I was holding the same ones that pulled her own son’s hands off of her neck while trying to save her life? What else had these powerful hands done to protect the body that they were attached to? I wanted to sit back and hear all of her stories while holding her fight, her strength and her integrity in my own hands. These hands, that were her protectors, still honored her vanity and drew perfectly arched brows over sad brown eyes, and placed a gold hat that looked like a half-popped jiffy pop container on top of her neatly coiffed hair every morning before coming to the elder center.
I felt honored to share such intimacy with these women while working on their nails and making them pretty and pink. The task at hand was the manicure, but I felt like I gained far more than what I gave. The simple pleasure of being with these beautiful, hard-working women who had experienced so much hardship in their lives, while holding their hands and letting their energy mingle with my own, was truly a gift. Besides the fact that the polish was old and sticky, the women insisted on sitting right next to me rather than across from me, making for an awkward angle. There was also the frustration of working amidst swarms of flies. I later discovered that on the other side of the wall we were sitting, was a garbage dump. Struggles aside, it became one of my most treasured memories of my time in Peru.
My own hands, the same that so often had been told to put it down, leave it alone and stop picking at it, followed the rest of myself into a nail salon for a manicure the day before my oldest son’s wedding a few years ago. After the nail tech brought out the third wrong shade of pale pink, I had to leave because I started crying. No, that’s not a typo, crying. When I got home, my other son asked me if I got my hands all fixed up (boy speak for manicure). I told him no, that I had to leave because I started crying. He gave me an understanding look, held the gaze for a few seconds, then responded,
“You’re not ready for him to get married, are you?” I shrugged. “Not really. I keep forgetting that he’s not 12 years old.” Clearly this was not about the wedding, but rather was about my having to face, full on, the passage of time, which felt a lot faster than was comfortable.
It’s easier for me to be more accepting of my stubby fingers with rough cuticles and often less than perfectly manicured nails when I think of what these hands have done for me. The small hands they’ve held while crossing the street; the plants they’ve placed with hope into the dirt and the weeds they’ve pulled out in frustration; the family dog that they held while he was being put to sleep and the tears they wiped away for so many days that followed; the babies they’ve held through long sleepless nights; the wedding papers they signed and the divorce papers that followed 20 years later and the countless stories they’ve typed. I love them in all of their flawed imperfection as they represent my history, my life and my spirit in full view. How can that not evoke a crazy sense of pride and ownership? Dirty nails and all?
Today I was humbled by my age. I don’t think about being “old” – what’s old anyway? But I did learn that when it comes to technology, I’m far older than I realized. This was confirmed after 3 trips to the Apple store in less than 24 hours. I bought a new phone (I think the highest number, whatever that is) a few months ago. It’s new, cutting edge, and I’m happy with it, especially with the quality of the photos, although there’s one thing I wish they hadn’t messed with and that’s the security. Rather than give my phone a quick swipe of my thumb, the newest model is facial recognition and even though my phone recognizes me with a mask, if I add sunglass, my phone has no idea who I am. In Colorado, if you’re outside, you likely have on sunglasses as it’s a very sunny place. We’re all in disguise in masks and sunglasses so my phone not recognizing the disguise makes sense. I didn’t like the change and the thumb print was a lot easier, but I’m open to new ideas – keeps me young, right?
When I bought the phone the Apple sales guy convinced me I needed to get Apple care – something I’ve never purchased before because it seemed like a waste of money to me, like trip insurance, which I’ve also never purchased (until Covid). I was hedging on the add on when he told me that they’d give me a lot of money for my trade in (I’m not sure what “a lot” is), but because my screen was so cracked, they couldn’t give me anything. Nothing. Not even $2.00. After hearing that, I caved. He told me because I was buying the Apple care, I could skip on the screen protector. Bad decision.
Last week, and less than a month after my new phone purchase, I dropped my phone, as one does, and it landed on my driveway in precisely the exact spot to cause a whole lot of damage. My Apple care insurance became worth every cent. I have no problem with a cracked screen and have had screens so cracked that I had to be mindful to not cut my finger when opening apps, so this didn’t seem a whole lot different until I realized that the camera – not the camera that takes photos but the one that knows my face for security, was damaged, or more accurately, ruined. So I went to the Apple store, thankful for my Apple care and figured I’d just wait there while they sorted me out with a new screen. Well, when the new screen involves a camera, it’s more of a “come back in 5 hours situation.” So I left the store and returned home for the wait. It felt nice, and at the same time, uncomfortable, to not have my phone. What if there’s an emergency? What if my girlfriends are planning a hike the next day and I’m don’t get the message of when and where? What if my daughter wants to go to coffee or sends me a cute photo of my grandkids You know, dire stuff. Yet at the same time, it was nice to be untethered.
When I returned to the Apple store, exactly 5 hours later, there was a bit of a scramble and some hushed conversations among a handful of employees when they saw me. I was told to go over to one of the tables and wait and someone would be over to help me. Several minutes later, I was told by one of the employees that it would be a little bit longer and the store closed in 20 minutes so they hoped it would be done, but if not, I could come back the next day I’ve been patient and nice and cheerful and gracious up until this point then I got real. “Tomorrow? No. That won’t work because I need my phone.” It’s possible I added “for my job,” which was a total lie, but I needed to get their attention. There was a lot of going to the back room and more employees getting involved in the conversation, then the woman who I had been working with told me there was a problem. While they were fixing my screen, it appears they broke my phone and because of that they were going to give me a new phone. Normally, this would be great news. A new phone! But the phone I brought in was new and the thought of reloading passwords and the whole Apple ID situation, gave me a nothing but dread. I suppose they were trying to make the not so good situation better and help the silver-haired lady who needed her phone for her “job,” so I took the new phone, thanked them for their help, and left, the doors being locked behind me because it was closing time.
When I got home, I realized that my phone not only would not make or receive outgoing calls, but wasn’t receiving texts either. It was no longer a phone but rather, a camera and a social media connecting device. It appeared that in their haste, there was no SIM card – E-SIM or otherwise, so phone calls were impossible (just listen to me with all that tech talk… I was educated this morning…)
Four hours was one thing without being able to text or make a phone call, but close to 24 hours was another. All of sudden I had a lot of calls to make – people to talk to, plans to make, texts to send out etc. It’s when it becomes impossible that it also becomes urgent. Spoiler alert: once my phone was fixed and back in my hands, I could have cared less about making a call.
I got to the Apple store 15 minutes before opening the next morning – 9:45 sharp because I didn’t have an appointment and wanted to be seen first. I explained the situation to the front-door greeter/decides who you need to see guy, and instead of getting the expected, “Oh no! That’s awful… we’ll totally take care of it because obviously it was our fault,” I got an, “OK, I need the account number of your wireless carrier. Like I just happen to have that on me… sheesh. Fortunately, AT&T is only a block away from the Apple store so I walked over, was the only customer and was waited on by a very kind, young, outdoorsy looking guy who took care of the whole SIM card situation and also got me going on a better plan that’s going to save me $25 a month. He told me there was a big savings if I had AARP, then stumbled around his words and said, “Well… you know… if you’re old enough and all…”. I appreciated the effort on his part and the $25 a month saving to boot.
Unfortunately, there was one more glitch that sent me back to the Apple store. The old Apple ID/password rabbit hole. I know my Apple ID and I also know my password and even I’m surprised by that, yet my phone was telling me I didn’t know it. When I walked through the door of the Apple store, several employees now familiar with me, one of the nicer guys helped get me sorted out on the Apple ID issue which really wasn’t an Apple ID issue at all, but rather, was an issue with no credit card being on file (I hadn’t gotten that far on loading my phone with credit cards etc. at that point.). But before he realized that, he asked me if I was SURE I had put the password in correctly and maybe I should try it again, you know… just in case? Followed by “are you sure that’s your password?” Do you think he says that to the 24 year-old woman who has a similar problem? I’m proud to say the problem wasn’t me not knowing my password. That gave me a real sense of pride because I know the answer they usually get when they ask anyone over 50 if they know their Apple ID password.
I remember once many years ago going to a concert at an outdoor venue with several of our friends from the neighborhood. We were all in our early 40’s and although we looked every bit of 21, you had to have an ID to get the wrist band that would allow alcohol purchases. One of the women with us didn’t happen to have her driver’s license with her and her husband told her to just show her Jones Store credit card because only old people shopped at the Jones Store. Not only was he funny, but he was right. The Jones Store was always a favorite among the moms and I don’t mean MY group of moms, I mean OUR moms. That thought came up as I was leaving Apple. We were already placing judgement on our ages in our 40’s – we had no idea what going into an Apple store that is so uber hip that there isn’t even a check out counter, would feel like 20 years later in our 60’s! Humbling comes to mind first.
I thought about my parents’ frequent trips to either T-Mobile or the Apple store and my frustrations with them when trying to help them with passwords or the ever tricky Apple ID, which is a whole other story. I feel the frustrations with them that my own kids, and the nice guy at Apple, felt with me. The learning curve on technology is getting steeper and steeper and I don’t feel like I’m in the right footwear most of the time to make the climb. Maybe if they sold Apple computers at the Jones Store (which I don’t think is in business anymore…), I’d feel more at home or more confident.
I know that when that nice guy that helped me goes home to his wife or his husband or his roommate or his little brother and one of them asks how his day was – (just typing that makes it sound unlikely but for the sake of the story, bear with me), he might talk about yet another “grandma lady” who couldn’t figure out her phone… you know, the usual stuff. My go to when I’m feeling inadequate, insecure, behind the curve or in an Apple store needing help, is to want to respond to the tech’s questions that I don’t understand, with something I do understand – like yarn overs and cables in knitting, or what plants are the best for a xeriscape garden or which nearby trails offer the best views, but it doesn’t work like that. It was like when I had to answer an essay question in one of my classes in college that I didn’t know the answer to, but instead, would write paragraphs about what I did know. I didn’t answer the question asked, but would show the professor that I had studied – just the wrong stuff. I never got credit for those efforts, although I always did get comments.
I feel like my generation is the sandwich generation when it comes to technology. My kids, rather than teach me what to do, will just ask me to hand over my phone, my iPad, my computer then will go in and out of screens, type in some stuff and voila it’s fixed. I do the same with my parents, albeit on a much simpler level. My parents, on the other hand, although they use the technology they have and text and email and even wander over to Facebook on occasion, would be just as happy to get the phone call or the printed photos in an envelope in the mail rather than on their computer. I want the technology, but don’t want to have to go in very deep on keeping up with the changes. I guess that makes me sound old – like a sales rack shopper at the Jones Store. So be it. Until my phone breaks again, or there’s a glitch on my computer or anything with buttons and lights, I don’t know what I don’t know, although I can sure type paragraphs about stuff I do know, if the need ever arises.
I’ve written several Mother’s Day essays and while they are my favorite to write, as they seem to write themselves, every time I sit down to start one, I wonder if there is anything left to say because I’ve said it all. I’ve told the stories about being a mom and a grandma (or a Laudie, as I’m referred to). I’ve written about learning how to mother by the seat of my pants and the deep-seated feeling of love that is so hard to articulate, yet at the same time, the easiest of all because I’m sharing a feeling that’s so familiar. I’ve written about Covid and the restrictions it brought with it and not being able to see my own Mom for a year and a half. This year is different. The piece did not write itself. I struggled to find the right words and stopped several times because I realized there are no right words. I also had to stop to cry. This Mother’s Day piece is for, about and dedicated to a group of women who I really don’t know. I introduced myself to a handful of them, but the rest, I only acknowledged with a smile or a nod of my head because smiles are hard to see behind masks. These are the refugee mothers from the respite center in McAllen, Texas, where I recently volunteered. These are the women who continue to come to mind long after my suitcase was stuffed back into the closet and the final load of laundry was completed. These are the women, who almost 3 weeks weeks later, and often at inconvenient times, still bring tears to my eyes.
After my first morning of volunteering at the respite center, I only wrote one word in the small notebook that went with me everywhere – RESILIENCE.
Merriam-Webster defines “resilience” as:
the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Reading that definition, I’m happy with the word I chose to write down. The mothers I saw, having walked with children, some with husbands, some without, from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and as far as Ecuador and Peru, all fit that definition. Their bodies – strained but determined, were able to set aside their worries and fears while putting their roles as mothers first. I never once saw a mom raise her voice or scold or spank her child, even given the very harsh and cruel circumstances they were under with patience that had to be running thin. This was a group of women, most with young children or even babies, who had journeyed unheard of distances to arrive at the border control in Texas where they were then were detained to determine admissibility into the United States. The centers are not equipped for sleeping so there’s a 12 hour limit, although that rule is no longer adhered to. Hours turn into days and families sleep on concrete floors while waiting to be processed without even a mat because it’s only supposed to be a “day center.” Because of the over-crowded conditions, flu, lice, scabies and chicken pox was easily spread through the children. Food, drink and hygiene products were inadequate, forcing babies to drink out of dirty bottles and wear soiled diapers for days at a time. Once processed, the border patrol bussed the migrants to the center where I volunteered where they stayed for a few days while they waited for their sponsors to provide transportation or money for the transportation to take them to their home where they would wait for their arraignment trail. They were checked at the door for Covid, children included, and vaccinated. I saw the evidence of bandaids on upper arms, especially on the kids, who were eager to show me with pride and stories of how much it hurt. The whole process is extremely confusing and after spending a lot of time learning about it, I’m still not sure I understand the process, but know that the people we saw came through official border crossings, were detained, then came to the respite center a few days later, possibly several. After learning about the condition of the detention centers, seeing moms picking their way through their children’s scalps in search of lice, made sense.
I couldn’t help but think back to my days of traveling with 3 young children and how exhausted I’d be when we’d finally arrive at our destination. We didn’t walk, we usually flew, and we weren’t sleeping on mats lined up on the floor in a large, gymnasium-like room with 150 to 200 others, but rather, we slept in comfy beds. My exhaustion was real but it was also short-lived. The women at the respite center’s challenges had no end in site and the challenges they had already endured were only the beginning. They walked in danger and fear, all while putting the protection of their children first. Women who had access to birth control, went on the pill before their journey north, assuming they would be raped along the way, and given that over half are, that’s a fair assumption. Most of the women who came to the supply area where we would give away toiletries, needed either medicine for stomach issues or headaches – lots of headaches – but before they asked for themselves, they asked for their babies or children, who were feverish, dehydrated or had rashes or stomach issues. These mothers didn’t get a break. It didn’t matter how they were feeling, their children came first. (The dads didn’t go unnoticed by me, but given that this is a post for Mother’s Day, my emphasis is on the mothers). How does a mom answer her child when they repeatedly ask when they get to go home? Or sleep in their bed again? Or play with their toys? How do you help your child navigate uncertainty when you have no idea yourself?
The women I spoke with couldn’t hide their sadness at leaving their country but for their safety and that of their children, they had no choice. I kept thinking about the very large sign that greeted me as I entered the Syrian refugee camp in Greece.
“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”
These women were fleeing kidnappers, rapists and murderers. They were protecting their family. They were putting one foot in front of the other and not looking beyond that point. They were doing what they had to do.
I was so happy to see the resiliency of the kids who I played with at the center. Their biggest complaint to me was the pain in their upper arm from the vaccination. It gave them a sense of solidarity with the other kids – whose arm hurt the most. Kids are kids, no matter where they come from or what language they speak. There is no language barrier, especially for the younger ones and play becomes the language. I was grateful for the return of my Spanish, however, and eyes lit up when they realized I could speak their language and at my level, likely sounded like a 3 or 4 year-old, making me even more relatable and/or funny to them. They were adaptable – entertaining themselves with a game of “Go Fish” that grew to 14 kids or building houses with half a dozen blocks from a Jenga game. They were resourceful not only because they had to be at that point, but because they are kids and that’s just what kids do. None of them had laces in their shoes, which were too big to start with, and had to stop periodically to slip their shoe back on while they ran from one place to another because they weren’t allowed to go barefoot in the center. Shoe laces were all removed, adult shoes included, at the detainment center because of the personal harm one could do with them – a rule following an incident, I’m guessing. A few adults asked us for shoelaces, but unfortunately, we didn’t have any to give so they continued to walk around in shoes that flapped with every step unless they were the lucky few who got brand new, still in the wrapper, slippers. We also weren’t able to give everyone clothing that fit because we had a limited supply of donated items to choose from. One mom who keeps coming to mind, had her jeans completely unzipped and was trying hard to pull her shirt down to cover her expanding belly that was protruding above the zipper. I’m guessing she was at least 6 months pregnant. I asked her if she would like me to try and find her some pants that fit better and she responded with an exuberant “YES,” but her kids needed clothes first. I found the kids pants and shirts that were pretty close on size but could only find a men’s medium pair of sweat pants for her. She was petite, as most were, and I apologized for the large size explaining that our stash of pants was getting thin and we were were very limited on choices. She graciously took them and thanked me with appreciation far grander than I expected for a pair of men’s size medium, gray sweat pants .
My gift to a small handful of these women was to be able to occupy their kids, allowing them to close their eyes and put mothering on the back burner, if only for a few moments. The kids were easy to connect with as they were hungry for attention and play. The moms would watch me long enough to know their child was safe then would give me a nod and a smile that was visible even behind their mask. Besides getting Tylenol or baby formula or a toothbrush or clothing for them, playing with their children was really all I could do to help them. It didn’t seem like enough in the grand scheme of things, but it was something and that was better than nothing. It was also a gesture that told them I saw them, I cared for them and I wanted them to feel welcome. I think that mattered more than anything else.
I used to say I’d step in front of a moving train to protect my children and any mom I know has likely said the same at some point, knowing that the scenario would be highly unlikely. Instead, it served more as a metaphor for the distances moms go for their children and the profound love they have for them. These mothers’ acts of bravery and heroism was just about as close to stepping in front of a moving train as I’ve ever witnessed.
Mother’s Day, or Dia de las Madres, in the three Central American triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, is celebrated on May 10th. To these women of strength and resiliency who I’m both awed and haunted by, I’m hoping on Tuesday, May 10th, someone will honor you, compliment you, hug you or watch you kids for a moment. And although you won’t be able to read the words I’ve shared about you as it’s highly unlikely you’d come across them nor are they written in your native tongue, writing them felt important to me. So much of your faces were covered by a mask, but your eyes and your hugs of gratitude said it all. Your strength, your convictions, your resiliency and your patience in the most difficult of situations, will not be forgotten. You were my reset and reminder to stop and recognize what I have, even on the most difficult days and that even after having the curtain pulled back on this reality in our country, it is only the tip of the iceberg and in reality, I still have no idea.
“Hope has two daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” ― Augustine of Hippo
The anger feels easier, but anger without the courage to act isn’t enough. Both are necessary. What I saw in these women was courage, but no doubt it was the anger that fueled their journey.
To my own mom, it was through your example that I learned the importance of doing what I can to help others. I was inspired by the volunteer work you did in the schools during your and Dad’s winter months in Texas – so close to where I was.
To the ones in my family who I have the honor of calling you my son-in-law or daughter in-laws, I’m grateful every day that my kids chose you. You belong – like you’ve been in our family forever.
And to my the kids who I birthed and the 3 grandkids you birthed for me – you are my heart, my soul, and the best thing that ever happened to me.
And finally, to all the moms who happen to be reading this, Happy Mother’s Day. I hope you are celebrated well today.
Wrapping up. Reader alert – this is one of my longer posts as I struggled with editing. It all seemed too important to leave out.
Much of this trip was written about in quick paragraphs on Facebook because I didn’t have my computer with me so was operating off my phone. I hate typing on my phone. Right now I’m in re-entry mode, and even though I didn’t even leave the country, this re-entry seems as significant as when I came back from Ghana or Morocco or Greece, less the jet lag. It was an emotional, educational, frustrating, heart-filled week that I was fortunate to be able to spend with 10 other people who I feel blessed to call my friends now. The shared experiences and emotions made for quick bonds and goodbyes were tearful, sad and stretched out to the airport gates in Dallas, where 5 of us parted for other parts of the country. The five of us with early departures decided that it made more sense to sleep at a hotel near the airport so said our goodbyes the night before. It was nice getting to tuck into comfy beds after showers that had continual hot water and good pressure and being able to flush toilet paper and not dispose of it in the bin by the toilet. That being said, our accommodations in the “dorm” were comfortable and cozy and I think we all adapted quickly as we were familiar with the accommodations from previous volunteer trips. There was an option to stay in a nearby motel, and I had signed up for that option, thinking I’d have more alone time for writing, but when I saw the dorms with the large open living room/kitchen with sleeping rooms on either side of it that housed lines of sturdy bunkbeds, I asked if I could move out of the hotel and into the dorm. It felt familiar – no frills on the lodging, just beds and showers with weak water pressure and iffy hot water. Carolyn, Barbara (our leader) and I were in one bunk room and Sandy and his wife Gail in the other. The remaining 6 were at a the motel, 15 minutes away.
When I think about the past week, it is the faces that come to mind – the worried faces of the parents with the sick baby who Carolyn and I tried to figure out Tylenol dosages for because she was under two and dosing at that age was “ask a doctor.” I think of the woman holding the word search book we had found for her, anxious to get started on her “learning English” or the kids who were so adept at entertaining themselves with a stack of cards or the blocks of a jenga set that became building materials for houses and roads. I think about women in sweat pants rolled down several turns at the waist so they’d fit and over-sized tee shirts because those were the only sizes we could find for them but they didn’t seem to mind. They were just happy to have a new set of clean clothes. I thought about the woman with the zipper of her jeans pulled all the way down to accommodate her expanding pregnant belly and I hoped that someone would find her some of the desperately needed, over-sized sweats. I think about the moms seated in a cluster of folding chairs near other moms, trying to stay awake while watching their kids, in-between brief moments of closing their eyes. Sleep couldn’t have come easily after the mats were rolled out at night in a room the size of a gymnasium (on the days we were there, I’d estimate there were 150 to 300 people, the busiest day being our last). How do you keep your toddler on the mat next to you? How do you keep your baby from crying when they hear the cries of other babies? How do you answer the questions your children continually asked of “when do we get to go home?” How do you try not to look worried, afraid or anxious in front of your children who are counting on you for everything? I think about the beautiful 9 year old girl with long brown pigtails from Guatemala who was going to Atlanta with her mom, younger sister and older brother, to be with their dad who was already there. She told me she wanted to be a police officer because she wanted to help others. She was smart. She helped her mom who couldn’t read and helped translate for her.
Although we had several educational sessions during the course of our stay, it’s an extremely complicated issue and I realized how much I don’t know or understand. Ann Cass, the director of Projecto Azteca, helped educated us on the complicated border issues as well as the needs of underserved areas of Hidalgo County, where 33% are living in poverty. What we learned was difficult and eye-opening and I had to continually remind myself that I was in the United States, and not a developing country. Even with explanations in my native tongue, I’m still not sure I totally understand the process that the refugees we met had gone through and the steps that were still ahead of them. How were they able to process and understand the enormity of it all when English wasn’t even their first language? What I do know is that the people we volunteered with all came through legal check points – they did not swim across the Rio Grande that separates parts of the United States from Mexico, nor did they climb over or dig under the large imposing wall. They came legally and all had sponsors who had agreed to house them temporarily as well as provide financial aid to pay for their journey to locations all over the country. They had traveled very long distances, mostly from the Northern Triangle of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. I met one family who had made the journey from Peru, and heard about families from Cuba and different parts of Africa. I only met one family traveling from Mexico.
I was reunited with Dee Dee and Mimi, who I met while volunteering in Morocco. It was a very special reunion for the 3 of us and I have no doubt there will be many more. Dee Dee reminded us that although they had traveled for weeks or even months, the people we were helping had only just begun their journey and still had a very rough road ahead. The factors are complicated and I know the words “immigration” and “refugees” and “border control” are political hot buttons, making the issues even more inflammatory. Immigration reform is necessary and long overdue but my focus this past week was on the humanitarian leg of the situation – the people and their struggles, the children and their fears, the parents and their remarkable resilience – helping with the most basic of needs while trying to restore human dignity to this group of people.
Midway into the week, I got a text from my daughter with a photo of her almost 5 year old son, at a restaurant sitting behind a glass of orange juice bigger than his head. Given the many children I had played with earlier that day, many my grandson’s age, the photo gave me pause. My grandson is on spring break with his parents and two year old sister. He’s almost 5. He won’t have to worry about where he’s going to sleep when he gets home or if he’ll have a home to go to. He doesn’t have to worry if kids will understand him at school because he speaks a different language. He doesn’t have to worry if his parents will even be able to find a school for him to attend. I looked at that photo, like so many she texts to me, but the timelines of it held so much weight. “Hug your kids, I responded…then hug them some more and be grateful for the name of the country that’s written on the front of your passport.” She understands because she’s volunteered in Peru with me. The big poster on the wall in the Syrian/Afghan refugee camp where I volunteered, kept coming to mind:
“No one puts their children in an unsafe boat in dangerous waters unless the water is safer than the land.”
And to that I’d add my own words,
“No one walks with their children through dangerous countries, with only the clothes on their back, and not knowing what they will be waling into, unless the place they are leaving has become too dangerous to stay.”
Our group also volunteered with Projecto Azteca – a non-profit self help construction company that serves the underserved populations of Hidalgo County. It was though this organization that Ann Cass was the director of, that gave some of us the job of painting the house of the elderly couple in Mercedes, TX, a half hour away from where we were staying. This is an organization that focuses on the colonias – the unincorporated and rural areas of the county. The families in need put their own sweat equity into the homes built. Because this couple was elderly and the wife somewhat immobile, we were able to provide the “sweat equity” hours for them. It was hard work in hot weather on rickety ladders with a lot of trash and dogs to work around, but I’m proud of the work our team of 5 accomplished. We didn’t completely finish the painting but were about 85% done when we ran out of time. We skipped the 105 degree day due to safety issues. Sore neck and shoulders aside, and still picking random splatters of paint off of my arms and hands, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was such a good, supportive group – holding ladders for each other becoming just as important as the laughter we shared to get us through the job. We all gained just a little more respect for soffits, joints that need caulk and the difficulty of painting a light color over bright blue paint.
On our last afternoon, we drove around in search of a section of the wall that we could get close enough to touch. It was an odd request that we gave our director, but one that felt very important to all of us. Although we had all seen photos of the wall, that wasn’t enough. Standing by such an imposing and daunting man-made structure was emotional on so many different levels. We saw where the wall ended in one spot, butting up to a 3 foot chain link fence, obviously the spot to cross if one was making an illegal crossing into the US. We also saw ladders. The ones who chose to cross in that manner would likely be picked up in the towns that were close to the wall. There was a new housing development next to one of the portions of the wall we drove by, their view being of the wall itself. The development was called “Esperanza” or “Hope” in English. The irony was striking. Being able to see the iron structure that separated “us” from “them” felt like a necessary part of all of our journey and was timely to see on our last afternoon after having learned more about policy and procedure. Now we had faces and personal stories to accompany it.
While waiting at the airport in McAllen for our flight to Dallas, I saw a mom and her three boys, who looked to be in the age range of 4, 6 and 8. The boys were all holding hands and looked both tired (it was 6:30 am) and nervous. The mom was making her way over to a small coffee stand for snacks with all 3 in tow. I saw her purple plastic envelope with the papers that all the adults at the respite center had. I noticed it because on one side of the stack of papers inside the translucent envelope, was a sign that in big letters said, “ I DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH….” followed by a few other sentences that I was never close enough to read. The boys had bright yellow blankets that I had also seen at the respite center. When they made their way back to their chairs with their snacks, I went over to her and told her I had been volunteering at the respite center the past few days. I asked her the same questions I had asked so many – Where are you from? Where are you going? When did you arrive? And in Spanish she told me she was from Ecuador and was going to Brooklyn, where she had family. She and her boys had been at the respite center for 4 days. I wished her buena suerte and with those words, she reached up and hugged me. This is why I do this work. I get far more out of it than I ever can give.
Out of our group of 11, 5 came down with a bug, one necessitating a trip to the hospital emergency room where I sat with her in the small, curtained off room in the ER while she received fluids through an IV. It was early in the morning, and I had only had a couple of house of sleep because we had spent part of the evening earlier at a quick care clinic. When it was decided that she needed more than what the quick care clinic could provide, we left in the early morning hours to go to the ER. In my haste, I had thrown on a sweater over my pajamas and grabbed my shoes and backpack. Only in the light of day, as we were leaving the hospital, did I realize how ridiculous I looked and taking the extra 2 minutes to change into clothes would have been a good idea. We also had one of our team break her ankle when she fell into a small hole in the parking area where the van was parked. This same person had a tooth extracted on day 2. There was so much concern and support offered to those with stomach issues, sore throats or learning how to maneuver crutches. The genuine love and concern this group of people showed one another tugged at my heart more than any other volunteer trip I’ve been on. I miss them, every one of them, already. This morning I woke up with a slight fever and sore throat, catching whatever it was that was going around (fortunately, not Covid). It was impactful work we were doing and I know that plays as much of a part in our physical well being as the emotional.
Now that I’ve returned to the comforts of home, is when the real work begins. Education about immigration needs to continue and stories that have faces attached to them, need to be told. My hope is that my words will be read with the emphasis on the humanitarian side of this and not the political side. They are difficult problems and we need to be realistic, but the importance of not losing site of the individuals who make up the numbers, is essential. The fact that today is Easter, a day of transformation and promise, whether recognized through a religious platform or not, has not gone un-noticed by me. It was a short week with long days and was nothing short of incredible. It will take time for me to absorb the enormity of it while determining how I can make productive use of the emotions I’m feeling now.
Thank you to Global Volunteers and our incredible leader, Barbara, for bringing all of this into my life.
When my daughter, Emery, and I returned from a volunteer trip in Perú several years ago, the immigrations officer in Newark, NJ seemed bored. He wanted to chat. There were only a few of us in line so he had nothing but time. It was 6:00 a.m. and Emery and I had been flying all night and were exhausted. We didn’t want to chat. Because we had been gone for over a month, I expected a few questions before being waved through pertaining to the nature of our visit.
“How long were you in Perú? What exactly were you doing there for so long? Where else in Perú did you go?”
Standard questions. But then he added, “Have you ever thought about volunteering in your own country? There are plenty of people and places here that could sure use you and your daughter’s help.” He paused and looked up at me as if to say, “well… what’s your answer?” I felt reprimanded by the man in the kiosk. And judged.
I was tired but I didn’t want to be detained further because I irritated him, so I responded with a kind, “We will look into that, and thank you, Sir!” To which he moved us through. Had I not been so tired and so careful about not upsetting him, I would have chatted about my world views, my curiosity with other cultures and my love of travel, especially when passports are involved. But instead, I gave my prompt thanks for the advice, and Emery and I moved quickly through the kiosk and onto to customs, where they only cared about whether we were carrying illegal substances from Perú, and not the nature of our visit.
I’ve thought a lot about the officer’s question at immigration and a few other people have asked me the same question regarding my volunteering. Why leave the country when there’s so much need here? Valid question.
Volunteering all over the world has given me a global vision and has shown me the connections that we all share regardless of borders. Mothers worry about their children whether in a 8 x 8 curtained off room in a makeshift refugee compound or in their home on my street in Boulder, Colorado. Kids are proud of their artwork whether using expensive paints and paper or the backs of packing materials with one shared crayon. Parents want their kids to be polite and thankful whether with their abundance or lack thereof. Fundamentally we are all the same. We need each other. We need people to notice us and care about us. We need to be seen and we need to be loved.
I knew the difference I was making during my volunteer time wasn’t easily measured and sometime was as fleeting as a quick smile or a kiss on the cheek – moments in time. That’s all. I haven’t saved lives or given people a better place to live or helped them feel safe. But I did add moments of levity and laughter that maybe would spark a memory later. I gave manicures to the hard-working hands of Peruvian women that were rarely (if ever) pampered and painted. I held small children in an orphanage in Morocco that were the size of toddlers who couldn’t sit, stand or speak but responded to my gesture with their eyes. I made repairs to school uniforms in Ghana that were so ragged that the wearers held them together with an arm or a hand for modesty reasons. I tested hundreds of children’s eyes in various countries and later got to see some of those kids proudly wearing glasses. I say “I” but with the exception of holding children in the orphanage because it was a one person job, it was always a “we” – a we of people who have changed my life forever in the way they saw and responded to the world. None of this was world changing, but maybe moment changing.
The more important reason I take long flights to places very far away is to learn more about the people and their cultures. I believe that if we can learn about people who live differently from us with regards to their religions, laws, customs etc., won’t that help us to be more understanding with people who are different from us in our own country? In our state? On our streets? I had a friend once ask me if I was scared being around so many Muslims after I returned from volunteering in Morocco. Afraid? No, I wasn’t afraid. The better word would have been inspired. We form ideas about people and their cultures that are quickly dispelled when meeting in person, when we find our common ground, regardless of what the media tells us. Getting to meet people with such a strong dedication to their Muslim faith – and is the 2nd largest religion in the world next to Christianity, was eye-opening to me. We only hear about the radicals and not the classroom filled with young adults, so eager to learn English, or the cab drivers who went out of their way to keep us safe or the women in the Hammam who helped us let go of our modesty and embrace the tradition of joining a roomful of naked women for a weekly ritual and scrubbing. Those are the people I now associate with Muslims. If I can impart even a tiny morsel of the lessons learned when I return home, then my success with volunteering outside of my country will extend far beyond the fleeting smile or the kiss on the cheek. It’s uncomfortable when people are different from what we know – in their customs, their dress, their religion, their world views. I’m trying to find my own piece of comfort in the discomfort of the unknown.
The question of fear also came up for me before volunteering in a Syrian/Afghan refugee camp in Greece. Wasn’t I afraid? Of the place or the people? I did have to clarify that I was not actually going to Syria to volunteer, which I would have most definitely been afraid of. But the people? Who fled? The mothers and fathers who put their children on an unsafe raft and traveled great distance because the place they were leaving was so dangerous? Those people opened up my heart and left me with a lump in my throat that had me holding back tears for the duration of stay. I’m guessing it’s the word “Syrian” people fear, not the actual people.
That’s my rambling explanation as to why I feel the need to leave my borders to volunteer – to enhance my understanding of the world and our place in it. Add to that, my curiosity of cultures, so great that it became my major in college, never realizing at the time that all the cultural anthropology classes I took would become such a gift to me later. Oh, and I love to travel.
That being said, I’m leaving in a few days for my first volunteer trip since the spring of 2019 and I’m not bringing my passport. I’ll be working in an underserved area in southern TX near the Mexican border. This isn’t about politics or policy – just people. This time, I won’t be able to say, “yes, but at least this isn’t going on in the United States….” I’m sure I’ll learn things, see things and experience things that will make me angry, discouraged and sad, but also, as with all my other volunteer trips, I’ll come away with an even greater sense of gratitude that what I left with. Stay tuned.
While hiking with friends today, I took out my phone to get a photo and before I could get to the camera app, I noticed the date. 3/13/2022. What an auspicious anniversary today is – 2 years ago today, was when I was told to prepare as Colorado was in a state of emergency. Two weeks later, the stay at home order began. When I got home from the hike, my FB memory from one year ago popped up.
One year ago today, I was sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store talking to my sister, Susan, on the phone. She told me that I needed to make sure I had at least TWO weeks of food because of the coronavirus and a possible quarantine. She lives in MA and they were about a week or two ahead of where we were regarding the virus in CO. I remember asking her, “TWO weeks??? Are you sure? That’s a long time!”
“Oh, and they’re saying we should stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer…. and make sure the food isn’t perishable… things like beans and rice.”
The first thing I noticed was we were still calling it Coronavirus… We had no idea the variants Delta and Omicron were on deck. I mentioned the date to the three friends I was hiking with and each one remembered the date clearly and had a story of how and when they heard about the shut down and what it meant to them. It’s an easy date for me to remember as it was Friday the 13th. I am a bit superstitious, avoiding walking under ladders, reluctancy to cross a black cat’s path and then of course, Friday the 13th, which I can’t say is either lucky or unlucky for me, but I do take note. I had no idea at the time that this would be the Friday the 13th that I’d never forget. This would be the date that had me running from store to store to shore up supplies for two weeks. Buy enough food for two weeks, I was told. A week later, I’d enter a period of time that would last six weeks. Six weeks of not getting close enough to anyone, including my family, to give them a hug. Six weeks of me alone in my house, staying busy with closet and drawer clean outs like everyone else, digging out canvases and paints and trying my hand at something I used to do daily many years ago but had set it aside and writing. Lots of writing. I look back at those 6 weeks with a sense of fondness and pride. It was hard, especially for someone who needs and thrives in the company of others, but it also felt like a very healthy reset for me. I became tight with my introverted self – the self that until the 6 week isolation, I had no idea existed. It would become the most inspiring, lonely, introspective, creative, sad and heart opening time of my life.
When I look back on who I was and what I was doing two years ago, for lack of a better word, I’m flabbergasted (does that word make me sound old?). There have been so many changes I’ve gone though yet it was all so gradual that I really couldn’t comprehend it until now with two years of prospective and enough distance to fine tune my focus.
Two years ago I knew my neighbors, but only through the exchange of pleasantries with each other while shoveling snow or mowing grass. One neighbor I had a few more conversations with because she invited me to their New Year’s Eve party in the afternoon on the 31st, Scottish time, their annual tradition to honor her husband’s Scottish heritage. After coming away from their house that early evening on 12/31/2019, I felt hopeful. I met a handful of people at the party. Maybe people I could hike with. Maybe people who I’d be able to call friends someday. That didn’t happen but the neighbor who hosted the party did invite me over for a socially distanced dinner on their patio. This meant she and her husband at one table and me at my own table for one on the opposite side of the patio. Conversation was a bit difficult as we had to shout to be heard, and of course we had masks on when we weren’t eating, but we felt safe and I had an invite. Yes, things were looking up. And then they moved.
It took me until January of 2021 to decide it was time to mask up and get out and hike. Still without friends or anyone to hike with, I laced up my boots, gathered up my nerve and went on a Meet-Up hike. I’m not including my Boulder family in the friends category, by the way, because although my kids are my friends, they can’t be the sole members in category. Or so I think.
It’s hard to be the only one in the group that no one knows. It’s hard to be vulnerable. I sat in my car and watched the group gather at the trail head, leaving the engine running as the conversation I was having with myself and meeting people and putting myself out there wasn’t going well. Going home and walking around my neighborhood instead was winning. Then I remembered what my sister, Susan, had told me when she first went to a Meet-Up hiking group in the Berkshires where she had moved and it started a whole chain of friendships for her. I could feel her nudge while I sat there, my hands on the wheel, ready to put the car in reverse and leave. She told me I could make all sorts of excuses as to why I shouldn’t get out of the car to join the group, all of them pretty flimsy, by the way, but until I put myself out there, I wouldn’t meet anyone. Plus, you’ll be doing what you love. Her words were louder than the NPR voices coming out of my radio. How could I ignore that sage advice? I got out of the car, walked over to the group, introduced myself and headed up for what I now realize still holds the record for the hardest hike I’ve done in Boulder since moving here. 8 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gains. I came home tired, but happy. I met two women that day, both who texted me the following day to make plans. I’ve gone on many hikes with both women, and have seen one of them for regular hikes and social outings.
The three women I hiked with today I also met on hikes and now, 15 months and hundreds of miles of hiking later, I’ve found my tribe and it’s a good one because we’re all doing what we love. I think it was the push of the pandemic after so much time alone, that gave me the courage and the “what the hell and why not?” attitude, because seriously, after what we’ve been through, how can one not feel that way?
Two years ago I wouldn’t have had any idea that the journey we were starting to embark upon would still be present two years later. I’ve been vaccinated, boosted and even got Covid a month ago. I’ve worn masks for most of the past two years due to mandates, have been thoughtful about where I will dine, preferring outside, have sacrificed movies and theatre and live music and have only made a few trips on airplanes. I missed Christmas with my parents and siblings and one of my sons and his wife, for the first time ever. I missed hugging. So much. I know I wasn’t alone in any of it, which gave me a collective strength, making it much easier. The two years of sacrifice and priorities, growth and discovery, creation and contemplation have been above all else, a gift. There was a whole lot of missing that went on and I know I share that with most of the world, but today, while traversing the muddy Mesa Trail, I realized that all that missing has made me a lot more grateful for what I have now.
Close to a year after we shut down, I finally saw two of my friend’s faces who I had been hiking with for several months. The three of us participated in a memorial walk to honor the ten people killed in the King Sooper shooting. It was such an emotional afternoon that afterwards, we decided to walk over to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner. The restaurant had large garage-type doors opened in the front for fresh air and was operating at 1/3 capacity. It felt safe and necessary. When our food arrived and our masks came off to eat, I realized that I had never seen the smiles of these two women who I had become so close to through the countless stories shared through the cloth of our masks. Those smiles were just as bright as their eyes, that had been doing all of the communicating when the masks were on.
The word that continued to circle through my thoughts today while on the trail was gratitude. It’s been a long, difficult road of Covid that for me came on the heels of my move to Boulder. I think Covid helped me assimilate into this town and onto the trails and if I had to find the silver lining to the last 2 years, that would be it. The other silver lining was my son and his girlfriend, got married on 12/21/2020. A bride, a groom, a marriage officiant and a photographer. Done. What could be more romantic or more true to the intention of the union than that? And I got another daughter in law in the process. Truly, a highlight for 2020.
I’m hoping if I post a blog a year from today, it will be about a child or a grandchild or an incredibly exotic trip or maybe how pretty my garden looks in the late afternoon sun and that Covid won’t even get a mention.
I’m tired. Not the kind of tired from not having enough sleep or the being bored kind of tired, but the heavy cloaked tired that comes with not knowing mixed with fear and anxiety and topped off with the new realities that even after over 2 months, I’m still having a hard time with. I heard a name for this today – coronavirus fatigue. The symptoms for coronavirus fatigue didn’t present themselves immediately for me, but rather were gradual in their onset, but now seem to be present daily. Walking, nature, painting and writing seem to offer temporary relief.
Things in Boulder are starting to change and last Saturday was the “soft” opening of retail shops. The doors opened to new rules of spacing and mandatory masks, but still, the doors opened and customers entered. I walked down Pearl Street, the Main Street downtown where the majority of the shops and restaurants are, out of curiosity. It was the eeriest walk down Pearl I’ve ever experienced in my short 9 months of living here. People were walking around wide-eyed and curious, as if seeing everything for the first time. It reminded me of when people exit their homes during the quiet after a big storm to assess the damage, with a vulnerability that made it seem like we had just gotten up and were still in our pajamas. Wider than normal swaths of gray roots and hair that looked long overdue for a trim were the norm. Something about that felt reassuring to me. My own hair is about 3 inches past its haircut due date, so no judgement there, just observation. Some of the shops had music playing and doors wide open, giving a sense of celebration to the area but even so, something didn’t feel right or normal or as it had been before. I realized that I hadn’t seen that many people in one place in a very long time and even with distancing and probably less than 1/4 of the population that would normally be there on a beautiful Saturday, it seemed like a lot of people to me. The other odd thing was seeing everyone with a mask on. It still looks like a science fiction movie to me, but at the same time, I was grateful to see so many people following the rules.
I went into one of the shops, simply because I could I guess, but had no intentions of buying anything as I didn’t have my wallet with me. I had passed by the shop window many times on my walks during the past 2 months and had seen something in the window that caught my eye, so wanted a closer look. The thing, an old wooden vessel of sorts, was just as intriguing in person as it had been through the shop window but I’ve got to say, I had no desire whatsoever to go home, get my money and return for the purchase. In fact, I had no desire to buy anything. I know the small businesses need all the help they can get, but spending money on myself for things totally unnecessary didn’t feel right to me and being in a store, regardless of the distancing didn’t feel right either. At least not yet. Having adhered closely to the “quarantine rules,” my re-entry will be slow. And I’m nervous, but I am getting out. I’m going to the grocery store and made a few trips to a local nursery for flowers. This, to me, is the scary part. I’m afraid that with each venture out to a new public venue, I will get more and more casual about touching things and physical distancing. I know it’s odd, but I’m afraid I’ll be so distracted by the plants, the flowers, the produce, the shoes, the books, that I’ll forget about the virus, even while donning a mask. Again, my re-entry will be cautious and slow.
My way of dealing with difficult situations is to only take on what I can handle, a gradual easing in process. It’s nothing I do consciously but rather seems to be the mechanism my psyche has set up as a matter of protection. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. Had I been told 2 months ago to prepare for a solo quarantine for 2 plus months then a gradual return to a very different reality, I’m not sure what I would have done. After hearing about the 2 week “self-isolation,” daunting as it was, I prepared both physically and emotionally and was ready for the challenge. And now, a month and a half later from that “challenge” when I hear things like “mid to late summer for large gatherings… maybe, airline travel will come with risk or stock up on masks as we will be wearing them for a very long time,” my reaction is a flat, dull, sure, OK… hardly what it was when I heard 2 weeks isolation. I’ve become desensitized but know my psyche has a hand in that. What I can manage right now is today. Just today. I’m living the lesson I’ve always tried to put into play – living in the moment – and that lesson has become a matter of emotional survival for me.
I love my walks. Still. I love getting to know my neighborhood and beyond and have to wonder how “deep” I would have gotten on my walks had it not become a very important 2 hours of my day simply for my sanity as well as my physical well-being. I drove to a small garden center a few days ago as I was told they practice very strict and safe distancing measures. I had to think about how to get there from my house, given one way streets that don’t matter when walking. Driving felt strange. I can’t say that I loved it. The last time I filled my car with gas was on my return trip from KC the first of March. I still have 3/4 of a tank. Once we’re back to our “new normal,” I hope to spend more time on foot or on my bike doing my errands, which I’m still wondering exactly what those errands that had me in and out of my car several times a day even were? Yes, things will look different, be different, feel different and for much of that, I’m thankful.
I walked past the Catholic Church down the street from me on Mother’s Day and couldn’t help but notice that the parking lot was relatively full, something that looks out of place these days. My curiosity got the best of me and I stopped to try and figure out what was going on. When I saw the sign that gave the radio station to tune into, I realized that it was Mother’s Day mass in drive-in form. The priest was on a small covered “stage” at the front of the parking lot and the congregation were in their cars listening from their radios. Once it was over and the cars started leaving, I saw a couple of men stationed at the exit who were handing out flowers to the mothers in the cars. They’ve figured it out. Mass while maintaining social distancing. Maybe I’m just nosey or maybe I’m curious or maybe I crave conversations with others, but I did cobble together a conversation in Spanish with a woman who was leaving the mass to confirm what I thought. Yes, Mother’s Day Mass in cars. Honoring their religion, their mothers and the social distancing.
Yes, I’m nosey and curious and am stopping people more and more often these days simply to ask questions and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly most have been. A couple of the restaurants with large plate glass windows in front have put large pieces of plywood over the windows during the temporary shut down, I’m guessing to stave off possible looting. It was sad and rather forbidding to see. A few days ago I walked past the same windows only to see they had been painted over with a beautiful landscape. I was lucky enough to be there as the artists were working on one of the window paintings and had a nice conversation with them. It was suggested that maybe the paintings could be auctioned off once the restaurants re-opened and the money given to the restaurant association to help those who have suffered so much during the quarantine. Maybe one of the restaurants would want the painting on an interior wall? I asked them if they’d mind if I just watched them paint for a bit and they said absolutely not and so I did. There are a lot of stories out there. I’m happy to hear some of them
Observations: 6 feet. We all know exactly what it looks like now with tape X’s and lines on the floors of the stores. The lines to get into stores often seem incredibly long, with the monitoring of one in one out rule, until I realized that there is 6 feet between every person and in reality, it’s only a handful of people who are making the line stretch out so long. It is the measurement of my life these days and I know by heart what it looks and feels like. How odd it will feel when we can all bunch together again, with ” excuse me” and “so sorry,”, when body parts accidentally touch. The thought seems very foreign to me right now.
I’ll let my photos tell the rest… always the most interesting part of my days…
I’ve always loved writing my Mother’s Day post more than any other as they seem to write themselves – the words flow effortlessly because it is a subject that I know well and hold close to my heart. This year is no different. Actually, it feels good to write about something else besides the coronavirus (59 days, by the way, which I’ve already rounded up to 2 months), but enough of that. Onto motherhood…
I was blessed with the title of Mom on April 30, 1986, when my son, Thomas, entered the world, followed by Grant in 1987 and rounding off our newly formed family of 5 with Emery in 1990. I look back on those early days of mothering, filled with exhaustion, adoration, frustration, devotion and lots of other words that end in “tion,” with such tenderness and nostalgia, but day to day, while in the throes of it, I’m not sure I would have used those words. The edges of life’s memories really do soften over time and although I was sleep-deprived and frustrated with babies who wouldn’t stop crying, while ignoring my own needs, those early baby days are some of my fondest, and as cliche as it is, the time really did fly by – days were long but the years were fast. I never thought I’d be that mom who tells her ‘new to their parenting role’ children, “It feels like only yesterday that YOU were that age and I was trying to get YOU to sleep, stop crying, eat, smile for the camera and so on.” But lo and behold, I am that mom. I’m also that mom who continues to tell any mom who is bemoaning the fact that their babies are growing up too quickly that EVERY age was my favorite ( small lie, middle school excluded…) and that includes the age they are today. Those silly, joyful, stubborn, curious beings are still there whether at 2 years or 32 years and getting the occasional glimpses or the gestures that take me back are my constant reminder of that. The gift continues even with my very young grandchildren, (ages 3, 1 and 6 months), when I see their parents in their facial expressions, gestures and sense of humor. It’s only now, that my children are grown and flew the nest over a decade ago, that I feel like I’ve gotten the distance necessary to see the 3 distinct phases that my journey into motherhood has taken me, each one, naturally, my favorite.
Phase One was infancy to leaving home for college – the exhausting and memorable years that filled photo albums and journals. It was my life and who I became and I’m darn proud of those years. I’m touched with my kid’s memories of the small gestures I made for reasons that varied from total enthusiasm to it will help us (me) get through the day. The fact that they remember the small things mean a whole lot more to me than the vacations, the Christmas’s or the gestures far grander than laying on a blanket in the front yard with our eyes to the sky while we looked for animals in the clouds, or midnight runs to the store for snacks in slippers and “loungewear” because we were watching World Cup soccer in a European time zone or having a campout in a closet that was far too small for much more than tiny clothes. Those years, while forming the adults my children are today, also played a very big role in my own self-development and my journey back to my own inner child – the creative, often dirty, probably too loud, happy little girl who tested boundaries and pushed edges. Because those years became such a part of who I am today, Phase Two, the empty nest phase, was a difficult one for me. That, coupled with divorce and finding my way through a newly emptied house on my own, was a difficult time for me. As much as I thought I was ready for each one of the kids exits to college, I wasn’t. While unloading over-filled cars, to undersized dorm rooms, always on the hottest day of the year, I held back tears as I watched my kids feather their new nests while leaving their old ones behind. But it turned out OK because the kids eventually did return and slept in their old beds and stayed out too late and left dirty dishes in the sink and trails of clothes on the floor and I still worried and nagged and asked too many questions and felt deliriously happy in the chaos of their brief returns and my return to “normal”.
What I didn’t realize at my time of empty nests and roots and wings metaphors was that there would be another phase – Phase Three, when my basement would be cleared of all my kid’s boxes and belongings because this time, I was the one moving. No longer would the kids be coming back to their own rooms, still holding glimpses of themselves on their walls, to stay during holidays or the occasional just because weekends. This time, the baby birds weren’t the only ones to leave the nest but the mama was also leaving. Not only did our nest change, but our roles have changed as well. The same children who used to hear the words so often that I think scar tissue formed in their ears:
“When will you be home? Who are you going with? Who’s driving? Did you finish your homework/project/room cleaning/assignment etc.? How are you going to get there? Did you remember your books/soccer gear/ ballet shoes/homework/project??? And no, for the 100th time, you can’t…”
Are the same kids who are now asking,
“Are you OK, Mom? Have you met your neighbors? Need me to tune up your bike, mow your lawn, sort out your blog website, get you groceries? Help you move that (insert anything heavy here…)?”
Granted, the quarantine has strengthened this concern and offers of helping out, but it didn’t create them as they were there long before I was in my solo-quarantine.
Less than a week into my quarantine, I went to bed, thinking all was OK and was quietly “congratulating” myself on making it through another day when out of nowhere, I began to sob – a chest heaving kind of sob. It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that it was going to be OK and that I was going to be OK, I clearly wasn’t. I was scared. I was alone. Without hesitation, I picked up my phone and called my son, Grant, whose time zone is an hour earlier than mine and I knew he’d still be up. My son became the voice of reason, insuring me that everything was going to be fine and I was going to be fine and just think, when we are on the other side of this, the stories we will all be able to tell of living through a pandemic.
“You’ll be ok, Mom. I love you, Mom.”
We talked for about an hour, he talking me off the quarantine wall while I listened to the sage advice and reassurance from the son who gave me so many sleepless nights and whose behavior my own parents had to tell me was strangely familiar as they had seen it before with me. That son. That same son that this parent was now calling for reassurance and simply because I was afraid.
“You’ll be OK, Mom.”
“Thank you, Grant.”
About a month after that call, my son, Thomas, texted that he was going to ride his bike over and would I like to go bike riding with him, keeping masks on and distancing, of course. And so we did, but only after he gave my bike a front to back tune up, something I had been quite remiss in keeping up with. After wandering around empty streets, me showing him some of my walking discoveries while he gave me riding tips (it had been a while since I had ridden on city streets, even though they were empty…), we sat in the yard and talked – about the quarantine, his daughter, Lilah, Boulder, life. That time together was exactly what I needed and I’m sure Thomas knew that. There’s an unspoken communication that parents develop with their kids which no doubt is where the saying “eyes in the back of our heads” originated. You know when your child is not telling you something or is lying or stretching a truth that they are “fine” when you know they aren’t, simply because you are the mom and moms know. I’ve got to think that the kids of those moms develop the same kind of intuition over time. Thomas knew I was having a rough few days even though I had said nothing to him and did what any caring child would do and invited me to go bike riding. After he left, I stayed outside, sat on my front porch and absorbed it all. Although we can’t hug, that time spent pedaling around the neighborhood was just about as close to a hug as I could get. This experience of quarantining is teaching me that there are many ways to hug, without physically touching, and for that, I’m continually grateful.
And finally, last week was my grandson, Arlo’s, 3rd birthday and although I hadn’t planned on seeing the kids that day due to coronavirus, Emery called me a few days before and insisted I come over. I had developed a pretty severe rash on my arms that was only getting worse and Emery thought that breaking social distancing rules at this point and going in for the hugs was more important for my health than staying away. I followed her suggestions and spent a few hours celebrating Arlo’s 3rd birthday with lots of hugs and family time. And the rash? The itching subsided that night and now, a week later, after having it for almost 3 weeks, it’s completely gone. Emery’s maternal nature and concern for me has come through with supplements and teas for my immune system, runs to the store, drive by’s with Arlo in the back seat, simply so I can get a quick “in person” look and FaceTimes almost daily to connect. A few days into the quarantine, when we were all thinking it would be 2 weeks and weren’t really sure of what was next, a package of goodies from a small local store was delivered to me from Emery. She knew. She’s developed the maternal eyes in the back of her head and I’m the lucky recipient. We are all taking care of each other in our words and our gestures and seem to know intuitively when to jump in and offer a virtual shoulder. Hugging from a distance.
Not only did the kid’s belongings leave the basement and the mama fly the nest in Phase Three, but the children become the parents. I have no intention of surrendering my parental role (is that even possible???), but have certainly loosened my grip and am happy to let my kids step in and offer to help or a listening ear. Those gestures of love mean as much to me as the stack of pop tarts and glass of orange juice, brought to me on a tray, with kids arguing about who got to hold it, while serving me “breakfast” in bed.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Whether a late night reassurance call, an impromptu bike ride, a morning of hugs or stacks of pop tarts on a plate, they all say the same thing…
Day 51, but who’s counting? I guess I am. The numbers seem kind of irrelevant though now as I feel like I’ve been in this pattern for long enough that the absurd has become the normal. Case in point, when I see photos of people standing next to each other I’m a bit stunned. Old photos, no doubt, but was it really that long ago when we gathered in groups, touched arms with people we knew or didn’t know while in line at the grocery store with strangers? When we said “excuse me” because we bumped into someone, actually touching bodies, in a narrow store aisle? Or stood shoulder to shoulder for a photo? Or actually embraced? That time seems like a very long ago to me.
My moods have waxed and waned – probably more waning than waxing the past few weeks and I know I’m not alone with that. The novelty of our daily reality has worn off and although I’m not sitting around bored and am spending a great deal of my day outside walking or in some sort of creative modality, the absence of having physical connections to other people is huge. The theme I’m living now would be inspiring for a solo retreat and no doubt I’d be intrigued by its description – maybe something like “exploring your inner soul, by yourself, while tapping into your creativity and nature.” (and in the fine print “You’re on your own for cooking, entertainment, and whatever you want to fill your day with but we will provide WIFI and internet….) I don’t think I would sign up for the 51 day package though….14 days, maybe, with the possibility of an add on weekend.
My walking has increased and I’m easily getting in 5 or 6 miles a day, every day. It’s been a real gift in getting to know my neighborhood, and beyond, and I’ve discovered so many interesting pockets that I doubt I never would have without the restrictions that we’re all under. I was riding bikes with my son a few days ago, and was able to point out curiosities and cool houses that he said he had never seen before. When you pay attention, I mean REALLY pay attention, it’s truly amazing what you can see. My walks have become a bit like an Easter egg hunt for me – always searching for the positive, the creative, the quirky and the memorable. Today’s memorable moment was a couple I passed while walking around a nearby lake. He was using a white cane, so I assumed he was blind and the woman with him had a gentle, yet directive, hold of his arm. As I passed them, I overheard her saying,
“We’re going to stop in a minute so I can tell you about all the flowers that are around us.”
“Tell you about the flowers….” something about that touched me. I would have loved to have heard her describe the flowers but thought it would be too creepy of me to turn around and follow them, close enough to hear her words, yet far enough to maintain a safe distance. Gratitude presents itself far more now that I’m paying attention.
The saying that your body speaks its mind has come into play full tilt in my life during the past 2 weeks. I’ve developed an odd, very itchy rash on both of my arms. No where else, just the arms. I’ve not changed soaps, lotions, food or detergents (I’ve not gone to the store so have proof positive of that!) and yet this rash appeared from what seems to be out of nowhere for me and right in the hugging spot of my arms. I’ve dealt with pretty severe cases of poison ivy but this isn’t poison ivy or poison oak or any of the other poisons that can wreak havoc on the skin. My conclusion was that my arms hadn’t hugged in close to two months, and no doubt that takes a toll on the emotional body, but I have to believe that the physical body isn’t left out. I don’t feel stressed, and have to say that I have far more good days than bad, but who am I kidding? Of course I’m stressed! I’ve not had human contact in almost 2 months and we are social animals. We need physical contact. A few days, several days, one week or even two, but 2 months is too long to be alone, without any physical contact. I’ll spare you the photo on this one, but you’ll have to trust me. I’ve been in long sleeves since and we’ve had a few days in the mid 80’s, definitely not long sleeved weather. It looks that bad.
After seeing my rash (via face time), my daughter, Emery, insisted that I come over to the house to celebrate my grandson, Arlo’s, 3rd birthday, which happens to fall on my firstborn, Thomas’s birthday, the following day. She said we will do a joint celebration, while honoring physical distancing etc. I told her I wasn’t sure Arlo would understand that he couldn’t hug me and she said that’s fine. You both need to hug each other. And so yesterday, I celebrated Arlo and Thomas’ birthday, played out in the field behind their house, marveled at my 3 grandchildren (ages 3, 1 and 6 months) and felt the greatest joy I’ve felt in a very, very long time – at least 50 days, all of that preceded by a long time simply hugging. When I got out of my car, Arlo ran up to me, jumped into my arms, hugged me and laid his head on my shoulder. I sobbed… tears of joy, relief and confirmation that yes, the stress has been real. I had just started to reach for my mask to put it on when this happened but forgot about the mask and continued with what felt like real life to me. Familiar, hugging, no masks, no distancing. Emery said that she thought even Governor Polis would agree that this gathering and embracing of people, none who had left their houses in over a month was not only fine, but necessary. Thomas and Brooke and 1 year-old Lilah arrived a few minutes later and when Brooke got out of the car, she looked at us all bunched together with raised brows and a big smile said,
“Are we doing this?”
Yes. We’re doing this. More hugs. More embraces. More tears for me.
I didn’t come bearing gifts for my son or grandson, we didn’t eat birthday cake (it was 10:00 in the morning) and we didn’t even sing “Happy Birthday” (they would do that later with cake and candles), but it was the most wonderful celebration of birthdays and family and love that I’ve experienced in a very long time. I only wish Grant and Katie could have been there as well, but they did check in on Zoom. I realized that the celebration didn’t need the cake or the presents or the ceremony that usually happens but rather it was the love that carried us and made it one of the most celebratory moments I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had been holding my breath for 51 days and finally, yesterday, I got to exhale and boy did it ever feel good. I told my kids it was the first time I’ve felt a sense of normal in close to two months. That’s a long time. Too long.
We will return to social distancing and will likely wear masks the next time, as Boulder is lifting restrictions in a week, which means we will have to be even more careful as we will be venturing out and coming into contact with others. Bending (or breaking?) the rules a bit yesterday became very necessary for all of our well-being. Oh, and the rash? It hardly itched at all yesterday and today, I have hope for the first time in over 2 weeks, that it’s on its way out. How can I NOT make a connection between the rash and the lack of hugging? Especially given that it only presented itself on my arms and no where else. A dermatologist would likely give me the diagnosis of “contact dermatitis” (which a dermatologist once told me simply means they have no idea…) and they would probably be right, but I can’t discount the role that stress and lack of human contact have played. *Note to anyone googling skin conditions…. heed the warnings. The photos are indeed disturbing…
These are stressful times and whether through sleepless nights, nervous stomach, headaches or a rash on the arms, it is showing up, one way or another, in our physical bodies. I’m just glad I was able to get the medication I so desperately needed yesterday – hugs. Lots of them. As I was hugging Arlo, he looked up at me and asked me if my arms still hurt ( Emery must have told him my arms “hurt”) and I answered,
“Not any more, Arlo, now that I’m hugging you.”
And his tight hug back was just about the best thing I’ve ever felt.
Boulder is FULL of art, and not necessarily in galleries. I know I’ve posted a lot of painted walls, fences, buildings and just when I think I have to have found them all in my neighborhood, I find more. Yesterday I read that Boulder is #3 in the country for creativity for small cities. I have no idea how they come to those numbers, but from what I’ve seen, it does make sense. Here are several from my past few walks.
And finally, my banana bread game has never been stronger. I use a different recipe every time I make it and have found my keeper. I’ve also gotten much better at portion control and am eating it like a normal person, a few slices at a time, (albeit on the thick side). I’m into day 3 on my last loaf and have to say I’m feeling a sense of pride that it’s lasted that long. I read yesterday that banana bread has been the most baked item during quarantine (again, how do they come up with those numbers????). Who would have thought so many of us would be sharing comfort in a mixture of over-ripe bananas, flour, sugar, eggs and spices? Happy to be with the masses on that one.
This will be the day that will become the center point of my before and after – a new measure of quarantine time for me. The Thunderbirds flew over the Front Range and Boulder had a front row seat. The flyover, that made its way through the state then back to Las Vegas, where it originated, was to honor healthcare workers, first responders, military members and other essential personnel who are working on the front lines to combat covid19. The flight path originated in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy graduation then flew over more than 40 medical facilities. A well-spaced, masked crowd began to form in front of the fire station, which luckily happens to be in my neighborhood and even luckier, I just happened to be walking past and noticed the spread out groups of people gathering. It was the perfect vantage point as 2 firemen were stationed on top of the aerial ladder and were keeping watch as we waited patiently. It brought back so many memories of Dad and I at Richard-Gebaur Air Force Base, always on the hottest day of the year, with our heads tilted up to the sky in anticipation of the few seconds of thrill that would pass by in formation. And just like those hot days so long ago that were always worth the longer than anticipated wait, today did not disappoint. In fact, I was caught off guard at how emotional I became. It made me cry to look around and see masked faces, all with our eyes to the sky in hopeful anticipation, stopping everything we were doing to get a quick glimpse of one of the oldest formation squadron fly over head. Like my Dad said after I told him about my day, “Seeing the Thunderbirds makes you stand a little bit taller and a lot more patriotic.” You don’t just watch the Thunderbirds fly overhead, you feel them in your bones and in the depth of your soul. After they passed overhead, I realized I was sobbing, right there in the middle of 13th Street and High and I didn’t care who saw me because I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one. That soul tug lingered and will hover over me during these difficult days and that’s why I’m beginning my blog with it. The Thunderbirds flew over Boulder and became a new marker of before and after for me… a fulcrum of time. It was that important. It wore the silver lining cape today.
Way back when, I could tell you exactly what day of quarantine I was in… 6 days, 10 days, 2 weeks, more than 3 weeks and then one day I didn’t know and had to do the math with an initial check of my phone to see what date I was counting back from. If I didn’t have a phone with the date on it would I think it was March? Or maybe May? The fluidity of time seems to be increasing daily, or is it weekly? I’ve lost that sense of knowing the day because of the “almost the weekend” or “IS the weekend” or is the “weekend wrap up with Sunday” feels. It’s all mushed together now. Weekends, weekdays, all the same. Oddly, and surprising, time seems to be passing quicker than I would have predicted. I guess I’m not bored. I guess that’s good.
I’m beginning to understand the purpose and attraction to my black, stretched out, long overdue for the Goodwill pile, or possibly the trash pile, sweater. My 3 year-old grandson, Arlo, has a blanket he calls his bun-bun (appropriately named as there’s a bunny head in one of its corners) that he’s slept with since he was old enough to have something in his crib with him. It’s his security blanket and what he wants when he goes to bed, when he naps or when he’s hurt. I realized the other day that given that I’ve got multiple options on sweaters or sweatshirts, the black sweater is the one I continually go to. It has become my bun-bun, although unlike Arlo’s bun-bun, mine is used only during waking hours. I think I must have been wearing it on day one of quarantine, March 13, and it offered some sort of comfort and now, a whole bunch of days and weeks later, its still does.
Animal Kingdom on Mapleton Street continues… I was awakened in the middle of the night, once again, by animal noises in the night. So, after some research, I’ve concluded that I either had a muntjac (a type of barking deer) or a roe deer in either my back yard or my neighbors. I wanted to get up and have a look, but honestly was too tired. The quiet in my neighborhood, both at night and in the morning is becoming increasingly loud. This morning, while awakening to the sound of birds, I realized that I wasn’t hearing car doors slamming or engines staring up or any other typical sounds of life in an urban neighborhood. I like that. I like that a lot. It sounded like I was waking up in a cabin in the woods. Deer aren’t the only ones wandering around my neighborhood. Two mountain lions were caught on camera meandering down the snowy street during the early morning hours – a mere 3 blocks from my house. They eat deer so if those roe deer or muntjacs that I heard a few nights ago want to not become dinner, they best move along. The mountain lions are out. They’re hungry. Run. Run for your lives, deer.
And speaking of sounds in the night…every night here in Boulder, there is howling that starts at 8:00 p.m. and goes on for 5 or 10 minutes. Not wolves this time, but neighbors out on their porch howling to thank the medical personnel and relieve stress at the end of a day of quarantining. It’s a way for people to release pent up emotions while connecting with anyone in earshot. The dogs also seem to be getting in on the fun. I had heard of this, but hadn’t actually “heard” it until a few nights ago when I saw the family across the alley from me all out on their back deck howling, family dog included. The call and response aspect of it feels very Western storyteller-ish and gives feelings of unification. I’ve also heard about alley poetry readings in Boulder at night, (it is Boulder after all…), but feel like my energy is alining more with the howling right now. It’s loud. It’s a release. It’s good for the lungs and the spirit.
We had 18 inches of snow on top of a melting 10 inches of snow from a few days earlier and today I noticed that the middle school aged boys who live behind me (the howlers), have gathered up snow from their yard and have made a nice little ski run on their low deck that goes straight down into their yard. It’s short, but steep. A solid blue run, no turns. I love seeing what people will do around here to improvise for what they can’t do. It also may have been an extended outdoor recess for the parents inside.
More than once in the past few weeks I’ve heard the very dreaded squeak of a low smoke detector battery, a sound that brings on incredible anxiety and feelings of dread and seriously, now??? for me. I have high ceilings, no extension ladders, a respectable fear of heights and am not comfortable with anyone but me in my house right now, so a smoke alarm chirp is a terrible sound. It took a while, but I finally realized that the chirping was coming from someone else’s house and not mine. The someone else being the house of whoever is being interviewed. I know these medical, scientific or political experts have more important things on their plate right now than smoke detector batteries and I’m sorry they are having to deal with the incessant chirping. They must be on the same battery changing schedule as I hear the dreaded sound at least once a day now, thankfully on TV and the very HUGE silver lining, NOT from my house. I’ve got a rough history with those guys including removing and dismantling a unit then smashing it with a hammer when it still wouldn’t stop and even then the chirp continued from the smashed heap. I later learned that batteries will continue to chirp even once dead as a continued warning. A good idea, but seriously…? I’m guessing the land fills chirp.
There’s a whole lot about this month and one week of quarantining that I’ve really liked, starting with lessons in humility and learning how to improvise times 10, simply out of necessity. Cooking comes to mind first. I made stuffed peppers tonite. They were stuffed with peppers, sautéed onions and rice (I was very long on peppers). And no, it wasn’t very good. They looked much better then they tasted but they were good enough and good enough is good enough these days and they were healthy, so there was that. I also made peanut butter cookies for an after treat, so a weak dinner didn’t feel so weak as I had something to look forward to post peppers. I like that the pretenses have been pulled back. We’ve been humbled by this and there is no place to hide. Case in point, I just shared my lame pepper stuffed with pepper recipe to anyone who is reading this, something I would have never done 5 weeks ago as that wouldn’t have happened given that endless opportunities of ingredients would be available to me with a simple run to the grocery store. I’m putting this in the plus category and one I want to carry over. Make do. Improvise. And quit making lists for the grocery store that have 2 things on it, one of them likely not even edible..
Boulder has blessed me with 4 (or has it been 5? maybe 6?) big snows this winter. I’m not driving. I’m at home. I say bring it on, even in April, although I know it may cost me a big tulip show in my back yard that I was anxious to see, tulips planted by the previous homeowner. I know not all people are in agreement with me on this, but I do love the snow. I’ve always equated this to being born in Colorado where my personal barometer was set to higher altitudes with snow. The same day we got 18 inches of snow, I read that Boulder is the snowiest city in the country with a population over 50,000. Holy cow. I’m in snowdrift heaven.
To add to our FaceTime content, Susan and I have started pulling our trip photo books off the shelf, and one page at a time are reliving vacations. I have made photo books of every major trip I’ve made and Susan’s been on several of those trips with me, so she also has copies of the books. Today, she gave me a heads up before the FaceTime – The Camino, second round, first day. Logroño. Open your book to page one and and prepare. Done. When she called, I was ready. We relived our trip, page by page, memory by memory, all over again. This is the best thing ever to do with an extra hour and books that you glance at multiple times a day (especially while laying on my mat in my zoom pilates class, with prefect view of my book shelves…).
“Remember the hotel lobby where we had potato chips and wine for dinner? Or the time we ran into my friend from MA while in Burgos and you met her with that awkward, “are you going to go European or American with the greeting?” while deciding to go for the cheek kiss and she decided otherwise and somehow you ended up kissing her on the lips? That thing?? Or that amazing meal we had that night, pasta with a side of pasta, but it was all overshadowed by that awkward kiss and that’s all I can think of when I think of Burgos, Spain?
You know. That kind of stuff. For an hour. At least. This is quarantine at its best. Silver lining material that keeps on giving. Good grief. That awkward kiss. I laughed sporadically off and on during today’s walk.
My how times have changed… I remember in one of my first coronavirus posts commenting on how awkward it was to see people talking to one another while standing at least 6 feet apart. Today, seeing groups of people NOT giving each other the appropriate distancing, or NOT wearing masks, looks not only odd, but feels disrespectful and rather dangerous. We’ve shifted so much in such a relatively short amount of time. We are far more adaptable than we realize.
I had a special visitor stop by early this evening to share with me his excitement in seeing the Thunderbirds, to which he added, “I don’t know that word, Laurie, so I call them ships.” You can call them anything you want, sweet Arlo, and I will always listen with bated breath
These days of isolation and distant togetherness has made it a lot easier to find our soft spot… the things that make us cry, slump with overwhelming sadness, hear things we’ve never heard before, maybe because we forgot to listen, and find the beauty in the details. We are also discovering our limits, our frustrations, our edges and our most vulnerable selves and how we need to help that self while living in times of overwhelming uncertainty. Our soft spot right now is each other, from a distance, but closer than ever.
Keep the closeness, while maintaining distance. Stay at home. Stay safe.
A photo is worth 1,000 words. Here’s my collection that adds up to 10,000 unspoken words. They say more than I can.