Category Archives: Essays

Mother

We all have or have had one. The woman who gave birth to us and/or took care of us, whether we appreciate her or resent her, she helped us grow into the people we are today, good or bad.

I hope that you are in contact with your mother if you can be. I hope you have put aside squabbles and have forgiven her for what she should or shouldn’t have done according to your own standards.

Mothers don’t have all the answers, I know because I am one. I do the best I can do, as did my mother. Even at the age of 33, I still held onto resentment for my mother and then she suddenly died. I felt so much guilt about it. But that is life. We need someone to blame for our misgivings and mothers are perfect targets. I am okay with being that target for my own child. And I’m sure my mother was okay with it too.

When I was a kid, my mom was the best friend type of mom, but I didn’t want her to be my best friend. She wanted to be the cool mom, but I didn’t think she was cool.

Now, I want to call her and tell her about my day. I want to make her feel loved and happy and full of pride for what she accomplished in life. But I can’t. Because she’s gone.

If your mom is alive, call her. If your mom is down the road, go visit her.

Mother’s Day. It’s a good day to forgive.

 

 

 

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Summer In Gilmanton

Bike tires on dirt roads

The wind whipping past my ears

Listening for frogs

Jumping in the babbling brooks along the way

To The Farm

Red Barn, yellow house

Tall grass in need of mowing

Steps made out of granite, framed by Brown-eyed Susans

Two old rocking chairs adorn the porch, strewn with fire wood and kindling

A black cast-iron wood-burning stove in the kitchen

Window above the sink

A view of the clothes line, yellowing pillow cases waving in the warm breeze

Floorboards creak, rugs heavy with dirt

Deserted rooms

Outside, crumbling rock walls section off meadows

Meadows dotted with tiny yellow and orange hawkweed flowers

Sheep to sheer and hay to haul

Wood to chop and birds to watch

This is summer in Gilmanton

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. I’m five years old. I’m lying in bed watching the light stream through the vinyl blinds. It’s nighttime but the moon is bright and it’s being reflected off the snow that is blanketing the ground. I’m supposed to be sleeping. I can hear music coming from the other room.

I lift the covers off of me and swing my legs out of bed. I place my feet on the carpet and walk through the dimly lit kitchen and into the living room where I see my mother sitting in the middle of the couch on the very edge of the cushions. On the coffee table in front of her are the two slender red candles we put out weeks before when we were decorating the apartment for Christmas. Tonight, they are lit and I can tell they have been burning for some time because they are half the size they were and there’s wax all over the silver candle holders. It seems like she is waiting for someone. I think it must be Santa.

She tells me to go back to sleep. Santa won’t come if I’m awake. I run back to my room and call for her to tuck me back in but she’s already making her way back to me. She wraps me in blankets and says goodnight.

I toss and turn for what seems like an eternity. I wonder if he will skip my house because I’m still awake. I finally start to doze but then I hear footsteps. I’m lying on my side, my face towards the wall. I hear my door creak open, I see light shine in from the kitchen, I see the shadow of Santa. He tiptoes into my room and as I hold my breath, he places my stocking at the foot of my bed. I want to turn around to see this mysterious person but I know I can’t. I concede to simply watch the shadow on the wall. He retreats.

I gently nudge the stocking with my toes. I hear wrapping paper crinkle inside. I feel as if I just might burst with excitement. I can’t wait to see if he received my letter and brought me the very toys I asked for. I close my eyes and smile. It’s almost Christmas and I almost saw Santa.

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Today, we celebrate Thomas!

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Today is my husband’s birthday.

We met when I was a freshman in high school. We started living together almost immediately. Thomas and I made a great team back then and now, nineteen birthdays later, we are unstoppable.

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In one of my English classes, we were tasked with writing an essay about an important person in our lives. I wrote about Thomas. I read it aloud and everyone stared. Mr. Loomer said, “Wow, saying one person is your whole life is a big statement.” It was a big statement and it’s still true. Although now, we have a son that shares that spot with him.

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I could go on for days about how amazing he is but instead I will just say Happy Birthday to the funniest, most caring, devoted, and thoughtful husband in the world, who makes me feel adored and as if it’s my birthday every day. Happy Birthday to the greatest, most compassionate, and positive teacher and father to our boy.

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You are my hero and my pillar of strength.

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Thank you for being you.

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Beauty

There is a cemetery along the walk I take with my dog and as I walk by I study the gravestones. I look at the names and at the dates. Some of them have battery operated lighting, flowers and wreaths, trinkets and a lot of them seem to have been long forgotten.

As I searched for flowers to decorate my mother’s urn inside the house on this beautiful sunny morning, dew still clutching to the short blades of grass and shrubbery, my son tapped me on the shoulder. From behind his back came his once tiny hand holding something. As he extended his hand out to me he said, “Here Mom, these are for you.” He was holding two little bright blue flowers. He smiled and walked off to explore more of the yard.

I wonder how as children we somehow instinctively do this thing; pick out the beauty in the world to give to another.

Now that I am grown and my own mother is no longer here to give beautiful things to, I still pick flowers for her. I set them beside the urn that holds her ashes. I set them beside the picture of her once smiling face.

There is beauty in life and in death.

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The Farm

It’s funny how some things just stick with you. When I was a kid, there was this farm. It was just down the road from my grandparent’s house. My dad helped Chris Robertson, whose family owned the farm, with some of the chores. They sheered sheep with what looked to me like long handled scissors and I remember wondering if it hurt them. I’d watch as the sheep would run back into the field, secure behind the electric fences. My dad helped haul the hay and chop fire wood. I even helped sling wood into the back of a pickup truck.

The farm buildings were split in two by a dirt road that ran through them. The farm house and the carriage house sat up on a little hill, they were pale yellow with white trim. The paint was chipping after years and years of sun beating down on it and the tall grass seemed always in need of mowing. The front steps were made of giant slabs of granite, plentiful in the state of New Hampshire. Brown Eyed Susan’s smiled up from the edges. There was a bent metal tube in the shape of a hand railing that I would hang upside-down on and pretend I was a gymnast.

The large farmer’s porch was an open expanse of floor, dotted with a couple of old chairs among piles of split wood and kindling. The front door opened onto a landing that had a door to the left and a door to the right and a flight of stairs going up to the second floor. The door to the left led into the home’s kitchen. A large black cast iron wood burning cook stove sat at the back of the room and across from it, in front of two small windows, sat a small kitchen table, strewn with napkins and playing cards.My dad made beef stew on that stove, allowing me the pleasure of throwing wood and pieces of cardboard into the holes that were the burners, in order to keep the heat steady.

Straight into what looked like a closet were a kitchen sink and the open cabinetry that held the dishes and pots and pans. There was a window above the sink that looked onto the back yard, where you could see sheets and pillow cases swaying in the breeze on a clothes line perched above tiny yellow and orange hawkweed flowers.

To the right of the small refrigerator was the doorway to the living room. A piano sat in the corner of the room, sheet music propped up waiting for someone to play. Beside the large couch was an end table piled high with magazines and newspapers, promising to topple at any moment. Another wood burning stove warmed this room in the cold New England winters. A tiny bathroom; containing a toilet and sink were lit by a single light bulb overhead, I remembering having to stand on my tip toes to reach the string that turned the light on and off.

Two other doorways led from the living room into the formal dining room and into the hallway that led to the stairs. The dining room held an oversize table and a chandelier hung from the ceiling. There were some missing crystal pieces and a few light bulbs were out but it was probably once breathtaking. A hutch most likely held antique china and heirloom silverware. The stairs led from the hallway to the many bedrooms. The floorboards creaked and the old rugs along the hallways were heavy with dirt.

Down a different flight of stairs was the landing that led back to the kitchen. Through the other door on the landing was the carriage house. What remained of what once held horse drawn carriages was a massive expanse of area full of old equipment and gadgets. It was two stories plus a cupola. The stairs were rickety and not at all safe. The barn and much of the farm’s land could be seen from it.

I roamed around that farm, into rooms that seemed to have been deserted. It was like my very own flea market. I found all kinds of things in the drawers of old dressers and tables, like skeleton keys and old glasses. I remember climbing up to the cupola and sitting in the sweltering heat, watching the birds gracefully land in the nearby pine trees. While in the barn, I would jump down into the hay bales, bouncing around as if they were trampolines and I’d walk along the stone walls of the property for hours.

I can picture my dad biting into a juicy tomato from the garden as if it were an apple, his eyes smiling with absolute joy. After the chores were completed we’d stop at a convenience store where he’d buy me a giant pickle (my favorite snack food) and then we’d head for home.

Thank you Dad for giving me that time to wander, time to simply breathe fresh air and study the natural world around me. Thank you for showing me how to swing an ax and how to drive a motorcycle. You’ve taught me more than you know and I am forever grateful. I love you Dad.

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Chris Robertson, my dad and me at the farm.

 

Sally

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She loves Elvis, the color purple and taking care of her family and friends. She has always been there for me. Always.

She encourages, supports and is right there to lend a hand when someone needs it, she would give away her last dollar without a second thought.

My grandmother brought four children into this world, provided for them and supported them. They gave her six grandchildren, who in turn gave her six great-grandchildren.

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She has nurtured us, fostered our passions, and cheered us on. She always seems to have a smile on her face and nice words to say.

My Gram has made a lot of friends over the years. She’s understanding, compassionate and a great listener.

She has lost a lot too: family and friends, but she is resilient and never loses focus of what’s important in life. She keeps them close to her heart. She sees finding a penny face up as a sign from her first born, Dan. She sees getting a good parking spot as a sign from her brothers. She believes that my grandfather and my mom are her guardian angels.

She will be 80 years old this year.

My grandmother has seen a lot in her time on this planet, a lot has changed from 1935 to 2015.

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I am thankful and grateful to have her in my life. I really don’t know where I would be without her.

She is my guardian angel, right here on Earth.

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Thank you Gram for everything you have done and continue to do for all of us. You have made me the person I am today.

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In Memory of Painted Fingernails

I can see my mom. She’s about the age I am now. She’s sitting in a chair pulled up to a white plastic table. The patio furniture is on a brick-red porch attached to the trailer we rent. I’m about twelve or thirteen, walking home from school, peering over the rock wall that divides the road from the front yard. She’s sitting there holding something tiny between her fingers, lightly brushing it along her fingernails. There’s a cocktail in front of her that she sips on between fingers. She’s done it so much that she barely has to look at her hand as she paints them. She lifts her head, sees me, smiles and waves. As I get closer I can hear the music, she’s playing Journey or Boston or one of those classic rock bands I don’t like.

My mother’s fingernails were always painted. As for me, I don’t wear make-up, I have no idea about fashion, I wear very little jewelry and I don’t get my hair or fingernails done. I don’t even paint them myself, like my mother so often did, but after having this memory play in my mind, I felt compelled to paint my own. As I sat on the floor, tiny brush in hand, I spoke to her. As I painted each finger, I remembered her smiling face, her smiling eyes, her petite frame and the sound of her voice.

Her death has taught me a lot. It’s taught me to never take someone or something for granted. It’s taught me that life is short and should be lived to its fullest and that living life to its fullest is different for each and every person. It’s taught me to never let other’s expectations dictate your existence. Her death has taught me that in order to be truly happy, you must be happy with yourself first.

As I sit here typing, I see my awful paint job staring back at me but I smile because I see my mother in the glitter that sparkles, in the imperfections, in the color that shines and in the hands she once held.

Missing mom

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I miss my mom.

I took it for granted that I’d always be able to call her later, that she’d always be there when I needed her to be. Her physical body is gone but she’s still with me. She’s in the butterflies that cross my path, she’s in the leaves turning color and in the wind that blows the top branches of the trees.

There’s so much beauty in the world, but it now seems everything that is beautiful is tinged with sadness. Maybe it’s just the fresh grief that surges up each day when I think of her smiling face.

When I wake up in the morning, I remember all over again that I will no longer hear her voice on the other end of the line. She won’t be able to see her only grandchild grow into a man. I won’t see her bubbly handwriting wishing me a happy birthday in the cards she always sent.

She gave me the greatest gift of all, life, and I am forever grateful for her sacrifices. I am thankful for the lessons she taught me and I am so damn happy for her, for overcoming the obstacles in her life. Sure, she made mistakes. We all do, but I was able to learn from the mistakes she made and become the daughter she could be proud of.

I wish I had called her the night she died. We had been playing phone tag for a couple days and I thought, I’ll just call her in the morning on my way to work. I wish I had that one last time to tell her that I loved her and that I did want her to come down for Thanksgiving, even though we don’t have the room and that we’d find a way to make it work. I wish I had called, but I didn’t. I hope she didn’t think I didn’t want her to come. I wanted her to have the drumstick; I wanted to make those celery sticks with cream cheese that she liked.

I know she is happy and warm, comforted and care-free up there in heaven. There’s no pain or worry, no fear or uncertainty.

Thank you for everything Mom.  I love you.

 

Fifteen Years

1998

This June marks fifteen years since I graduated high school. Fifteen years. I recently flipped through my yearbooks, trying to remember the names that went to the faces of kids who had not yet become the people they were meant to be.

I stopped on a page from my junior year. The picture staring back at me was of my friends, Kim, Melissa, Jamie, and Jen. I’m in the back. There we are, maybe all of 17 years old and seemingly happy. Who knew that two out of five wouldn’t make it to the possibility of a 15 year reunion?

Kim, Jamie and I are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have made it this far, able to watch our children as they grow up in a world full of possibilities. Unfortunately, those possibilities are what got Jen and Melissa into trouble. Drugs were the main culprit and the inability to stop the devious hold they had on their lives.

Seven years ago, Jen and her older brother Jeremy were murdered on the same September night by her drug dealer boyfriend. It may have been domestic in nature but it was due to drug abuse. Her father believed drugs were the reason she stayed in the volatile relationship, why she kept going back to him.

Just this year Melissa overdosed. She had been estranged from her family and friends for years, living out of state and away from prying eyes. They tried over and over to reach out to her, to get her the help she desperately needed but she was in too deep. She wasn’t the same sweet girl she had once been.

In the town we all grew up in, population 6,700, drugs are readily available. Just like any town or city, they find their way in and they wreak havoc. Children are far more likely to try drugs if their parents or older siblings do them. It may even start as a legitimate and legal situation. An accident occurs and you are prescribed a pain killer by your doctor. Maybe you start taking more than prescribed and it escalates from there, you might even think you have it under control.

Drugs and alcohol aren’t discriminatory. They don’t care if you’re rich or poor, happy or sad, strong or weak willed, educated or not. Sometimes all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whether it’s because of curiosity or peer pressure, the problem with experimenting is that you just don’t know the outcome. Will you be one of those people that get hooked right away? Will you be able to put it down?

Drug and alcohol abuse breed all kinds of unsavory behaviors and can get you into shocking situations. As someone who grew up in a household where drugs and alcohol were abused, I was a victim of that environment in more ways than one. Fortunately everything worked out for me but my life could have been very different.

If you know someone who is in trouble, please don’t give up on them. If you are the one who is in trouble, seek help. For the sake of your family, your children or your parents; for your own sake and for that of your future self, take back your life. It’s never too late.

http://www.recovery.org