Love And Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes

Image by Premshree Pillai via Flickr

When I was a little girl, I remember throwing pennies up in the air so that other little kids would find them and be happy. This was not something my mom or dad taught me; it was something I just did. My parents didn’t mind; I think they were mildly amused. Eventually, I worked up to throwing nickels and dimes and imagining excited, delighted children got even sweeter. The first time I threw a quarter my mother put her hands on her hips, stamped her foot and said “are you crazy, that’s a lot of money!”  and it really was way back then.  I went back to pennies, nickels, dimes and, of course, an occasional quarter, when she wasn’t looking. It was something that always felt right to me and defined me as a person.  I never lost that quality, I just didn’t have a name for it.

Years later, when “Random Acts of Kindness” became popular because of Oprah I had a name for what I have always done. I now paid tolls on bridges for the cars behind me, I paid for a cup of Starbucks coffee for the next person in line.  I sent a little boy a gift certificate to Toys R Us after his mom died signed by “a friendly neighbor.” When I heard that one of my on-line friends truly loved a certain book, I arranged for a brand new, shiny hardcover book to be autographed with her name, by the author, who happened to be a family friend. Imagining that book on its trip from the post office to her house kept me excited the entire week.

When my son was about four years old we visited my parents who lived out-of-town. I remember one bright and early morning my son, whom we dubbed ” the farmer,” woke up at 5:30am. Everyone else was fast asleep so I decided to take him out for breakfast, just me and my buddy on a date at a local diner. We ate blueberry pancakes with sweet, brown maple syrup and drank bright orange juice from small, plastic glasses.

In the booth in front of us there was an elderly woman looking cranky and mad and according to my son, “really mean.” We could hear her grousing and complaining often, first to herself and later on to the waitress. I told him that maybe the lady behind us, the “really mean lady” was not mean at all. Perhaps she was ill or lonely or very sad to be sitting by herself on an early Sunday morning. I asked my son if he wanted to play a new game; what four-year old would say no to a game?!   I told him about a happy, surprise game that involved doing nice things for others that we could do together.

After we finished our meal we went over to the waitress and we paid our bill. Winking at my son and looking at his big, warm brown, excited eyes, I asked the waitress to please add the lonely lady’s meal and a tip for herself to our bill.  I remember the waitress looked astonished and pointed to the woman and said “for HER?” We nodded yes, my little boy’s face beaming. My son and I giggled as we left the diner quickly. We couldn’t let the “lady” know who paid for her surprise meal.  Our stomachs were happy, our hearts full and our faces were warm and radiant in the early morning sun. We raced down the steps, sharing a delicious secret, our hands still sticky and sweet, clasped firmly and lovingly, together.

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The Whiffleball Champ

Kids grow up so quickly these days, one minute you are holding their hand at the bus stop for the first day of kindergarten and the next, it seems, you are handing over the keys to your car.  They are connected to you, and they will always need you but it changes as they get older. It’s a transition, for everyone. I never thought that it was possible but you do get used to your children/young adults separating from you. You have no choice; it happens quite naturally; although, believe me, I still sing “Sunrise, Sunset” at every opportunity.

The quick-dash of our 17-year-old son flying out the door so he can play whiffleball with his best friends, a game they have played for many years.  They built and designed the playing field with lighting that could attract a Madison Square Garden concert, with bases that the Yankees would be proud to play in. The initiative to do it on their own, drive to Home Depot a number of times, to thoughtfully design and build it; that made it special; that made it their own and they will always have that, in later years, they will have their memories.

They talk these days are about colleges, SAT’s and AP tests and how school is “technically over” with the exception of finals. The summer brings a much-needed refuge from exams and adult decisions and the dreaded common essay. These group of friends will be entering their Senior year of High School in the fall and things will proceed full speed ahead from then on, and yes, it will be different. The posse will be going in all different directions for college but I have no doubt that they will always be friends.

Topics around our house include talk of the Volunteer Ambulance Corporation and how our son felt the rush of adrenaline when he was able to do compressions on a sick adult man.  The fact that his EMT complimented him on his technique was, to him, the highest compliment ever and he was ecstatic. “If I ever had any doubts about Medical School, I don’t now, wow, what an adrenaline rush!!!.”

That young, empathic,  compassionate boy that he was is now grown and channeling his inner gifts to want to help others. He has his goals set on being an ER doctor or a surgeon; I tell him he has plenty of time to decide.   He may not be the best athlete on the whiffleball team, he may even be one of the worst players, I don’t really know but it doesn’t matter to me.

He calls, after his game, to ask if I want anything from the ice cream store. He walks in, fifteen minutes later,  dusty and tired and grinning, bearing a scoop of vanilla cake batter ice cream for me, his mom, with rainbow sprinkles.  In my eyes, he is, one true champion.

Painkillers Are Easy; It’s Life That’s Hard

April 16, 2010

It’s always the unexpected things that happen, the ones you can’t prepare for, that freak me out.  The ones that pop out at you in the middle of the night when everyone is in dreamy night-sleep, lumbering, putting their cares to rest. Suddenly, out of the blue, the phone rings, something happens to you, to someone you love, to someone you know, that flips you like a sizzling-hot flap-jack. All that you knew for certain was suddenly gone in a split second. That, is called Life. I hate that part.

Mice, rats and bats are examples of things I also hate that appear, no dart, out of nowhere surprising people. It’s their unpredictability that frightens me, roaches too. If a mouse were to introduce himself to me, slowly, I might not mind the little critter but those rapid, sure-fire motions make me actually scream out loud and yes, I do climb on a couch or a chair or whatever will elevate me to the highest position I can handle.  Fear of heights, though, is another matter altogether.

Unexpected things scare the hell out of me and probably I am not alone but most people try to avoid thinking about it and are somewhat successful. After all, you can’t prepare for it so you have to just roll with the punches, as they say. I am not a very good roller, I must admit.  I need to get used to something albeit for five minutes. I’m great in a crisis for other people but not for myself. I need time to acclimate, to fidget, freak out, worry and adjust.  I need to wrap my head around something new and I definitely need to percolate.

I am an old-fashioned coffee maker that sits on the stove top and slowly, very slowly starts to boil, and drip, boil and drip. You can rely on me to make a good cup of coffee but it is always the same, nothing better, nothing worse. Don’t surprise me by turning the flame on too high because I will burst into flames and burn, don’t turn the flame off completely because then I will just sit there and die, and the coffee will taste like luke warm soapy water.

There are also times when I am amply prepared for what is about to happen and cry anyway. My son is a Junior in High School, next year he will be a Senior and then off he will go to college. Tonight, I burst into tears because I know I will miss him so much. Yes, I am glad he is going to go, yes, I think he will have the time of his life, yes, I am proud of him. It’s knowing that it will never be the same, once he heads out the door, that makes me cry. “I am going to miss him” I sob when he just took the car for five minutes.  Things happen like that, unexpected, unrelated emotions that just burst forth uninvited. For all those future moments of sadness and depression, sobbing and wailing I will say that I expect them, but in no way does that mean that I will be prepared.