When the days line up

We have a whiteboard calendar above the desk in our kitchen.  I was super late getting around to updating it to August, so it was just two days ago I finally managed it. As we’re already well into August, I started with that day, and went into September. And then I wrote down  Big Man’s birthday, and it hit me…..the days line up this year. His birthday is on the same day of the week as his birth day.

I mentally count down the events leading up to his birth every year. That’s nothing new. The day I started bleeding and was admitted into the hospital, the day I found out I wasn’t going home until I reached 32 weeks or he was born (whichever came first), the day they discovered I’d lost 8 pounds in six days and the feeding frenzy began, the days I got my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth steroid shots to help his lungs develop early, the day I had the fetal fibronectin test and no one would tell me the results, and then the night I started running a very high fever courtesy of the severe staph infection which would result in his birth the next day at exactly 26 weeks gestation. I feel those days coming every year. I’m not as emotional as I used to be, but it still hits me. He’s come so very far…he’s perfectly healthy and “normal” in every way, but that doesn’t take away the toll his premature birth took.

There’s just something about the years the days line up exactly. It makes it that much more of a journey to navigate because it’s all the same as it was seventeen years ago. I started bleeding and was admitted on a Wednesday. I was told on Saturday I wasn’t going home. I was weighed on Monday and they found out I’d lost too much weight. It was on consecutive Thursdays and Fridays I received the steroid shots. It was a Friday when I had the fetal fibronectin test. I was a Friday when the fever started. It was a Saturday afternoon when he was born. I’ll relive that exact journey this year. It’s like a punch in the gut.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel incredibly blessed we came out the other side with the miraculous outcome we’ve had. He’s my amazing boy – my first born, nearly seventeen years old. But none of who he is or what he does nor how he is takes away the guilt, fear, pain, and sense of loss from his premature birth. NONE of it. I will always relive those days in my heart and mind, each and every year for the rest of my life.  And when the days line up with the year he was born, it makes it that much more difficult.

The Movies

Both my parents worked when I was growing up. I was six weeks old when I started at my godmother’s daycare. For ten years, she played a near-daily role in my life. That amount of time gave her great influence in my life – food, music, faith, reading, and movies.

I loved her room – it seemed one whole wall had bookshelves full of books. I do believe I gained my love of reading through the hours she spent reading to us, all our walking trips to the library, and the immense amount of time she let me lay on her bed reading any of the books from her shelves.

We always took field trips – to the Zoo, to Frontier Village (now gone), to San Francisco on the train, to the pool at the nearby high school where my brother and I joined the competitive swim team, to the convenience store for candy and slurpees, and to Thrifty for ice cream.  She also took all of us in the daycare to Vacation Bible School each summer. Pretty sure my mom still has some of the crafts we made there.

One of the things I remember most is going to the movies with her. She took us to the drive-in, as well as the theater. We watched movies at her house too, on tv. She made each trip an event, piling a bunch of kids in the car, settling us with popcorn and drinks in the back seat of the car or in the row in the darkened theater.

I can’t tell you all the movies we saw with her, but every time I walk into a theater and settle into my seat, I think of her. I think of those trips with her. It makes my heart smile. While I do love watching movies at home, there’s just something about going to the theater – seeing it on the big screen, in a reclining seat,  surrounded by other people. It is a process getting tickets, standing in the concessions line, paying entirely too much for a bag of popcorn, hoping you’re there in time to get a seat in  your prime, preferred location (I like to be midway up, or slightly higher, but on an aisle in case I have to take a bathroom break. My eyes don’t adjust to lighting changes very well, and I get paranoid about re-finding my seat in a dark theater!), but it just isn’t the same to wait for the movie to come out on DVD or On Demand.

I’ve taken the kids to the movies a lot recently.  We’ll probably go to the theater at least a few times this summer. And I’ll think of my godmother each and every time – of all the experiences she gave us, all the memories she helped create, and the role she played in shaping the person I am today.

 

Chicago

One of the stations on my Pandora is summer hits from the 80’s. Oh yes, I am a child of the 80’s – and I’m both embarrassed and proud of it. Those songs just take me back, full of memories of hot summer days in the pool, road trips, talking with my brother in his room, high school dances, bus rides to basketball games, and hanging out with my bestie.

The bestie – we had our favorites, but our go-to was Chicago (think Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Love Me Tomorrow, Hard Habit to Break, You’re the Inspiration), particularly when one of us had had her heartbroken, or was going through yet another unrequited crush. I can see her bedroom where we would study while cassette tapes played in the background. When Chicago songs came on, we’d stop what we were doing, and sing along as loudly as possible.  I’m sure her mom LOVED that. We had the use of her neighbor’s pool one summer. I remember laying on the hot concrete, talking about whatever teenage girls talk about, and Chicago music playing.

I’ve had the chance to see Chicago in concert twice – once with Peter Cetera still at the lead, and once after he’d left. They were fabulous, although my boyfriend at the time of that second concert just didn’t get the attraction. But that music is part of me, entangled in the memories of my becoming years.

Anyways, when Chicago comes on, I see my bestie’s face, and I hear her voice. All the memories come floating up – the walks home from school, the homework sessions, youth group, summer and winter camp, driving to and from youth symphony, Asilomar Leadership conferences, the long talks about boys, life, family, God, future, past. I don’t know if she knows just how much she helped shaped me, my high school career, where I went to college, who I became. But when I hear Chicago songs, I think of her, I smile, and I sing along, as loudly as possible.

Someday

Someday, you will be but a blip on the radar of her high school memories.

Someday, she may still remember your  name, but everything else about you will blur and fade in her mind.

Someday, the memory of you, her first like, will be eclipsed by the memory of another, her first love.

Someday, she will wonder why she was afraid, for she will realize you are just a boy.

Someday, she will wonder what it was about you that made you stand out in the first place.

Someday, she won’t recall why she let you so impact her days, her moods, her emotions for  a season of her life, won’t remember why she gave you that power to begin with.

Someday, she will be able to see you and not feel that little hitch in her breath, that little hit to her heart, that little kick to her stomach.

Someday she won’t remember your voice, your laugh, your birthday, your favorite foods.

Someday, she will forget why she let you matter so much.

For now, she is cracked and a little bent, but she is not broken.

For now, she is a bit sad, a bit angry, a bit confused.

For now, she is finding her way back to herself.

For now, some songs, types of movies and tv shows are off limits.

For now, she is digging into that well of strength and resilience she remembers she has inside of her.

For now, I am seeing glimpses of my happy, goofy, confident girl.

For now, she is surrounding herself with her friends and her family, doing the things that make her feel good about herself again.

For now, she is learning that she will never quite be the exact person she was before she let you in her life, but that isn’t a bad thing.

For now, she may be bruised, but she is getting back up, and will move on, stronger for the lessons learned.

The Pool

We moved into our house fourteen years ago. I’ve wanted a pool since day one. I grew up around water. We had a pool in our backyard(s) from the time I could walk, even it was just a blow-up pool. We spent our summers in or by the pool. I’ve known  how to swim as long as i can remember, and competed on swim teams from the time I was seven years old through my sophomore year of high school. But Spouse wasn’t comfortable putting a pool in when the kids were so little. I lost that initial battle, but I never gave up the fight.

We re-entered pool negotiations a few years ago. I was pushing to have it done before Big Man started high school. We had plans drawn up, and started the process of getting HOA approval, but then things came up and we tabled it all…until last fall. Digging started the second week of November – yep, the week our Southern California drought started to end with rains that came weekly. Our pool is finished, although there is work yet to be done as far as landscaping and an additional patio near the pool. Can I get an amen?

Why was I so adamant about putting a pool in? Well, selfish reasons really. I love being by/in the water. I cannot wait to float around my pool this summer, book and beverage in hand. I love going to the beach, and we have plenty of friends with pools, but there’s nothing  like being able to walk out into your own backyard to your own pool. Also, I prefer my kids be at our house hanging out with their friends than be anywhere else. The pool gives us that opportunity and enticement.

The first day we were able to get into the pool, Little Man was in. This is the same kid who wouldn’t budge off the top step of any pool for years. Now, we can hardly keep him out of it. He’s outside, away from his computer, and that alone makes it worth it. A couple Friday nights ago, I sat on the back patio and watched as Big Man jumped in for the first time. The Princess has already been on her pizza float, and sat on the bench under the umbrella. This past Sunday evening, after running in a 15K race, Spouse and I got in the hot tub and watched the sun set. Happy legs!

I foresee warm days spent out there in our backyard, my kids actually hanging out together, building more memories, swimming and floating in our own pool.  I picture evenings on that back patio, hanging out by the firepit with friends. In  my mind, our backyard, our home, wasn’t complete without that pool.

We Listen to Music

One of the Princess’ friends made a comment to her that we always have the music on – at home, in the car, everywhere we go. And we do – we always have music on (unless we have the news, sports, or our favorite shows on tv going).  We listen to all kinds of music. If you put my iPod on total shuffle, you’ll hear everything from video game music to movie soundtracks, classical to hip hop,  Broadway to ballet music,  country to Christian,  gangsta rap to the Brat Pack, and Pop to hard/hair band rock.

I learned an appreciation for music basically from birth. My family always had music on, as well as my godmother/babysitter/second mom. I grew up to a varied soundtrack. We knew when the music turned on every Saturday morning. that was our cue to start our chores. We heard Neil Diamond and Elvis mostly, but also my mom’s favorite old-school, twangy country music, and the old standards for my dad – Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Nat King Cole. In the car, out by the pool, camping trips, on the boat – music was always on. From my godmother – a bit younger than my parents – I gained an introduction to the Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary, and whatever was contemporary at the time. My godmother also took us to church every Sunday. I sang in the youth choir, learned all those good Lutheran hymns, and all our VBS/Sunday School songs, which we loved (at that young age) to belt out in the car, and around her house. My brother, four years older than I, started listening to his own music in middle school, and we’re talking late 70’s/early 80’s, so disco, Journey, KISS, Styx, Queen, Abba, Boston, Kansas, and the Eagles were added to my life soundtrack. I think I got my first PlaySchool plastic record player when I was about four. My first album was Peaches & Herb (that’s a little terrifying), followed by the Grease soundtrack, Andy Gibb, Sean Cassidy, and Donny Osmond (no jokes regarding my age, please!).

High School brought a new soundtrack, but the music definitely continued to play, all the time. INXS, Prince, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Time take me back to dances in the cafeteria after football games. I can almost feel the cool fall night air, remember clearly sitting on the benches outside the cafeteria where we talked with our friends and waited to be asked to dance by that certain someone who’d caught our eye that week/month. Chicago always reminds me of hanging out by the pool of my best friend’s neighbor, or sitting in her room doing homework. Janet Jackson’s Control and Run DMC’s You Be Illin have me dancing cheer routines from Homecoming and Hoopla. Beastie Boys takes me back to being on the bus to basketball games – Funny how you can remember the lyrics to every song on one particular album, including the order the songs were in, 30 years later, but can’t remember what you ate for lunch three hours ago. Paul Revere anyone? Fight for Your Right? Girls? Oh  yeah…..And don’t even get me started on the soundtracks to Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Breakfast Club. Sigh…Jake Ryan and Blane….mmmmmmmm…..

My college soundtrack covered the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s. I went from the scene in Santa Barbara – Oingo Boingo, UB40, the Cure, and U2 – to the Central Valley of CA and hip hop/dance music including MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Kriss Kross, and Color Me Badd. I spent hours driving to and from Santa Barbara listening to Kylie Minogue, Amy Grant, Michael  W Smith, and Debby Gibson.

Nearly every relationship has a playlist. Every single time I hear The Outfield, I’m once again riding in my first boyfriend’s truck (or his daddy’s Porsche, but that’s another story for another day). Garth Brook’s Friends in Low Places comes on and I’m at one of many college parties, with some awful memories attached to that particular disastrous relationship – but I still love that song. LL Cool J and Jodeci play, and I’m in J’s truck driving to our first vacation together in Tahoe. (It seems I dated a few boys who drove trucks) Color Me Badd songs remind me of following my end-of-and-just-out-of-college boyfriend to Chico for the baseball team’s games, and some of the ball players doing a crazy-good job of lip-syncing and dancing in some bar there.

Everyone who’s had someone has also lost someone. I have my sad break-up songs, my angry break-up songs, my revenge music.

Then there’s Spouse. We have our own soundtrack, and it’s pretty long. We met in a country bar, so that genre has always been part of us. Garth Brooks played at our wedding, as did Clay Walker, and Shania Twain. We also both love to dance, so any pop/dance music from the last twenty years goes on our soundtrack too. Loving, and actually being able to dance was one of my top requirements for the man I would spend my  life with. Spouse qualifies.

I have my own playlists for each of them. For Big Man, there are the songs that remind me of driving to and from the NICU – He’s My Son, and Creed’s Arms Wide Open. Wake Me Up When September Ends will always, always make me cry,  because it takes me back to that month – the month he was born, the month I lost everything I dreamed of when I got pregnant with him, and gained a tiny, two-pound, fragile, miracle of a child. For P, our only girl, My Little Girl, I Loved Her First, and Slipping Through My Fingers will remind us how quickly she’s growing up, that someday she’ll belong to someone else. I hear Nutcracker music, or any of the songs she’s danced solos to, and I can see her dancing in my head. Taylor Swift reminds me of the concerts we’ve gone to, For Good from Wicked reminds me of singing in the car with her (which we do a lot). I’m watching my kids develop their personal life-soundtracks now too. P is already planning the playlist for her Sweet Sixteen party, and I’m sure she will carry those songs with her for the rest of her life, as a captured memory of that night.

One of my FB memories the other day was when Little Man was little, and was singing Sexy Back loudly from his carseat in the second row of my SUV. Not embarrassing at all to pull up at a light, windows open, and your toddler is singing about bringing sexy back. Mother of the Year.

We do listen to music, all the time. It can reflect a mood, improve a mood, or set a mood. Music is part of our family fabric. What’s on your life soundtrack?

First and Last

Do you remember your first love? Do you remember how much you had invested in that relationship? Do you remember what it was like to have a crush on someone in high school? The “Oh my god, what if he doesn’t notice I’m alive? Oh my god, what if he Does? Oh my god, what if he doesn’t talk to me? OH MY GOD,WHAT IF HE DOES? What will I do if he asks me to dance? What will I do if he actually asks me out. OH MY GOD HE’S WALKING THIS WAY!” Yeah, that. Lucky thing school came relatively easy to me because I spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting my days, dissecting my friends’ days with my friends….who talked to whom, who didn’t talk to whom, who said he said he liked who, who passed on what rumor, and so on….Do you remember your heart pounding and your stomach fluttering when you knew you would pass him in the hallway between classes? Do you remember your stuttered, clumsy talking when you sat next to him in class?

I remember all of those things so well. But here I am on my  last love…..a love I’ve been with for nearly 21 years. I’m with my last love, watching our teens going through all the drama of all those firsts….how every little event is so HUGE for them. We have the experience. We have the wisdom. We have the longevity.  We have the memories. It’s so interesting to be on this side. We see the bigger picture, because, well, we’ve lived it. Every minute, every minute happening doesn’t mean everything to us. But we have been there.

Truly, my heart aches for the heartaches they will endure, and endure them they must. That’s just part of life….the unrequited crushes, the beginnings and ends, the breakups, the broken dreams, the fears, the insecurities. But I’m also excited for their excitement, for their new experiences, for them realizing that someone who doesn’t have to will love them.

There are times I would they could skip all that – just go on being and have their first be their last, years and years from now.  I remember how all those endings felt – how I literally felt my heart would fall out of my chest, broken and bruised, how hard it was just to breath much less go on with life as if nothing momentous had happened, how the mere sight of him hundreds of yards away would throw me right back to my room and my already-soaked pillow, how unworthy I felt, how hard a hit my self-confidence took each time. I remember hating myself for causing pain to anyone when I was the one to end things.

I knew my last love was waiting for me. I knew each of those other loves was preparing me for this love.  My hope is my children learn that lesson, have that outlook.  My hope is that each first brings them closer to their last.