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When Hurricane Sandy sent floodwaters pouring through the first floor of my home, the depth of devastation only became apparent in the effort to clean up, move on, start over.
As I dug through the closet, I opened the large plastic bin I had used to store the mementoes of the baby years – a journal I kept while pregnant with Mira, the pages all stuck together; Christening outfits that were soaked and yellow. In the garage, my husband Sid found a box full of newspaper clippings – all my first bylines and later, my favorite bylines, cemented together like a paper brick. To mourn over each drowned item was to threaten losing strength for the work ahead. So eventually boxes were thrown to the pile heap on the curb. Eventually they were hauled away, and eventually I chose to forget what was lost and what had been spared.
Last week, my friend Tracy gave me a large manila envelope. “You have to know this about me,” she said. “I keep everything.” She had been cleaning out her mother’s basement, and came across some things she thought I might like to have. Mira’s birth announcement. The photo from Mira’s first Christmas card.
Sandy was more than three years ago, and like many who endured her wrath we tell ourselves we’ve moved on, that life is back to normal, that in the end we endured and are stronger for it. Blah, blah, cliché, blah.
But then a friend hands you a picture of your newborn that you thought you would never see again, and you realize that the defining moments in your life never leave you. They lurk, waiting for the right moment to remind you of all you’ve been through, learned, and survived.
Today I received another large manila envelope in the mail. A former editor, the one who was brave enough to give a young reporter the freedom to figure out who she was as a writer, sent me a pile of newspaper clippings. They were of stories that I’d written that she enjoyed enough to hold onto, and oddly enough many of them are ones I still think of to this day.
A byline is quite a thrill. When you haven’t seen yours in a while you realize how much you miss those letters in bold and the power it asserts. Those were my words. I knitted the narrative. And I owned the reader’s attention, and hopefully heart, for just a brief while. I have to be honest — it was a power I reveled in. Still do.
Holding those clipping in my hand was like stumbling upon lost treasure. I really thought all those old bylines were gone. I tell my kids that before they were born, I was a newspaper reporter, but I had no proof. Or so I thought. For the second time in a week I found myself weeping over finding what was once thought to be lost.
I’m starting to think that life is not a line that brings us from one point to another. Rather, life is a spiral, an ever-enlarging circle that brings you back, but then moves you forward. You don’t always know why you had a certain experience, good or bad, or made a connection with a person, brief or long. But there’s a good chance that while journeying on the circle, you’ll get a reminder.
A storm that rocked your life but strengthened your soul.
A friend whose hoarding results in the gift of a lost memory.
A mentor whose faith in your talents propelled you once, and likely will again.
Maybe memories haunt us for a reason – because they still contain lessons we need to learn.
About a year or so ago, I was at the local hair salon, Strands, with my daughter. As she sat down to get her hair washed, I heard a familiar voice coming from the chair next to her. It was deep and friendly, booming yet not loud. When this fellow customer sat up in his seat, I made the connection — it had to be my high school chorus teacher Jim DiBenedetto.
How you can hold the memory of a voice you haven’t heard in more than 20 years is beyond me. But once I heard it my mind was sent back to those days in the second-floor Brooklyn Tech chorus room, the chorus teacher/football coach booming at us “What kind of shells?… read more
A couple of weeks ago, I finished up a year-long blog project called 365to40. I documented my march (slow slog?) to 40, which included an unexpected detour through Superstorm Sandy.
Two weeks later, blog-less, I realized two things. One, I missed the creative outlet that blogging afforded me. No editors, no assignments, just me writing about whatever the heck was knocking around in my mind at the moment. It was a free therapy session, and the feedback and support I received helped me through some tough patches.
Second, I realized that I am incredibly goal-oriented. Part of the success of 365to40 (an attempt, in the end successful, to navigate my midlife crisis) was that I was candid about what I hoped to achieve.… read more
I have very spotty memories of last Christmas: The 2-foot tall “Charlie Brown” Christmas trees in each of the kids’ rooms; crowding into my son’s room to open gifts Christmas morning; my husband’s cousin, knowing that stress had eroded my short-term memory, blessedly texting me every night to remind me to move the Elf on the Shelf.
It was far from my ideal Christmas. We were thankful, yes, for all the things we’d spent the previous two months repeating like a mantra: No one was hurt.… read more
I write that headline as if I am going to give you any advice on how to do this. Ha! Truth is, it’s a cry for help from someone who needs to figure out how to make that happen. Here’s my evidence:
Christmas is in less than two weeks and I, mother, wife, business owner, writing peon and editorial slave, I have yet to do any of the following things:
– Grocery shop for all the cookie baskets I dreamed I’d be making.… read more