Any Other Day?

Ground Zero - Nat GeoEvery year I wonder if this is the year I will forget. Every year I wonder if this is the year it stops feeling so fresh. Every year—as September 11th, 2001 slips further into history—I wonder if it’s strange it still haunts me like it does. And every year, as the anniversary of that fateful day approaches, I wonder… Is this the year it starts to feel like any other day?

Yesterday I tried to remember what September 10, 2001 had felt like. What was it like to wake up in a world where September 11th was just another non-descript day on the calendar? What did it feel like before the words nine-eleven lingered bitterly on our lips or hung heavily in the air like an acrid cloud of black smoke?

Try as I might, I can’t recall. I remember the weather was beautiful. People always talk about the weather that day. Have you noticed that? Sunny, warm, and cloudless… Everyone says it was the sort of late-summer day that makes you happy to be alive. In fact, everyone seems to marvel at just how extraordinarily perfect and “normal” that Tuesday was when it began.

As most people do, I still remember the day so clearly. I remember what I wore, what I ate, where I was when it happened, what I said, how I felt and how I didn’t sleep at all later that night. I remember experiencing a sensation that the sky was falling because a nameless, faceless enemy had brought the horror of war to our doorstep. And I remember wondering if anything would ever be the same again.

I don’t know when it will feel like just another day on the calendar, or if it ever will. I hope it never does. I do know that so far every year—like picking a scab off of an old wound—I still remember. I know that so far every year it feels as though it only happened yesterday.

So I guess I have my answer.

Tonight when I turn out the lights to go to sleep… I will close my eyes knowing that this was not the year that I forgot.

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The Apron

By Tara Canestraro

The following was written by my friend Tara who lost her mother four years ago. Late one night, filled with deep emotion, Tara stayed up and penned the following about her mother, the relationship she had with her and the special kind of love that exists between a mother and her children.

the-apron

Anyone in my family can tell you what the words “go get my apron” meant. For as long as I can remember my mom always had an apron she wore to work. I used to think this apron was magical because so many things came from it.

From this “magical” apron came groceries, utilities, clothing, house payments, wedding dresses, car payments, college tuition and even toys. And the most magnificent thing that it could produce was a Christmas beyond a child’s wildest imagination.

Her apron was not only used for her own children — it was carried on to the next generation. It provided school clothes, more prom dresses, lunch money, Beanie Babies, books, coats and shoes. With her smooth tone of voice—never condescending—we were always told, “It’s in my apron.” Oh was this apron magical!

As the years went by, what I always knew to be “the apron,” had lost its shape and became the pocketbook. The pocketbook could take on the same majesty as the apron. It could provide for anyone in need without question. Even if was something as simple as a piece of gum, the pocketbook miraculously provided.

As an adult I now see that the apron/pocketbook helped a lot of people, and wasn’t really magical after all. I realize now that deep inside the pockets of this apron were things like sacrifice, dedication, and hard work. What came out of it were things like patience, loyalty and love.

She, like many, many mothers, was very dedicated to her children and worked tirelessly to make sure we had everything we needed and then some. Patience and loyalty were given without hesitation, and love and sacrifice provided expecting nothing in return.

Although I cannot repay all that the apron gave to me, I truly pray that my children will see her wisdom and virtues through me. I hope I can provide for my own family in the same way she did — without hesitation, without questioning, always loving, always putting their needs first.

Losing her has been the hardest thing in my life, but I have learned so much from it. What you have is material, but what you need is love. The most precious gift I can give to my children and my children’s children comes from my mother’s apron — self-sacrificing, unconditional love.

I hope in all my years, the contents of that “magical” apron will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

Tara

Tara Canestraro

NYC: I Heart New York or The Post Vacation Funk, Part 2

On July 1, 2011 I wrote an entry called The Post Vacation Funk after returning to real life from an 8-day trip up and down the New England Coast with my then-boyfriend. It turns out it was a popular post and actually garnered me a spot on the WordPress home page, in the Freshly Pressed section… which ending up catapulting me OUT of my funk because I was getting almost 3,000 hits a day for 5 days!

Unfortunately while the Freshly Pressed lightning has yet to strike again… The Post Vacation Funk has struck full force leaving me void of words and cursing the cursor on my computer as I struggle to cobble together an entry for you faithful readers to (hopefully) enjoy.

Therefore… I have decided to compromise by borrowing my previous post and tailoring it to the city that never sleeps

I just returned from a 4-day get-a-way to New York City with my fiance… and it was A-MAZ-ING. However… it is now official. I am in the midst of a full-fledged, hard-core, post-vacation funk. And I am here to tell you that the fabled funk is very real and I would argue that it is an inevitable occurrence in the life of any vacationer.

All the fun you’ve been planning for, saving for and laid awake with great night-before-Christmas anticipation for … is over. The photos are now in your camera instead of the brochure and the t-shirt is hanging in the closet.

Mind you, the funk does not occur overnight. Rather it seeps into your conscience slowly and before you know it you are completely mired in it. Suddenly you find yourself knee-deep in the reality that you are neither: A. Independently wealthy, or B. Free from the obscenity that is Responsibility … with a capital “R.”

When you first arrive home—a weary traveler surrounded by the familiar sights, scents and sounds of your “stuff”—you can’t help but experience Dorothy’s “There’s No Place Like Home”  feeling and sleeping in your own bed (on the memory foam that still remembers you) is blissful.

The next day comes and whether at home or the office, it is a flurry of activity. You’re answering emails, returning calls and taking care of household chores with that rested, happy glow that only a true getaway can provide. You’re still sportin’ the amped-up attitude that comes from spending 4 invigorating days in a lively, noisy, pulsing city, surrounded by millions of people and you are recounting the details of your adventure to anyone who will listen.

People expect that you will not exactly be “at the top of your game” since your head is most likely still in the clouds (or on top of the Empire State Building, or on a sunny bench in Central Park, or at the comedy club or that really cool pizzeria you found and are determined is owned and operated by one of the Five Families) and minor errors and gaffs are swiftly forgiven.

Day three brings with it the bi!@# that is reality. The alarm sounds for the second time since you’ve been back and you suddenly remember that this was why you went on vacation in the first place … to escape that d@mn alarm and the daily grind that follows it.

Day four is the same as the third only worse. The alarm clock hits you like a punch in the face reminding you that yesterday was not a fluke or a joke or a drill or even a bad dream. YOU. ARE. NOW. HOME. And it is only Wednesday. This is when you begin to play a sadistic little game with yourself that I like to call: “Where Were You Exactly One Week Ago (or Two in this case) Today?” And a word to the wise about playing this game: The non-vacation version of you will always wind up the loser.

By the way… exactly TWO weeks ago today… we were having authentic New York bagels in Brooklyn (complete with lox) … but whatever. I’m not playing.

By day five you understand your fate, but you do not necessarily like it. Anger builds. You can’t stop playing the “Where Were You Exactly One Week Ago (or Two in this case) Today?” game every time you open the empty refrigerator, notice a heaping pile of laundry, encounter a pair of tall, sad, suede boots lying lifeless on the floor or reach into your purse in search of a pen only to grab your NY Metrocard instead.

It is at this point that you begin to entertain wild imaginings about how you might achieve the life of a full-time vacationer. What if I just disappeared?  What might be the consequences of that?  How much DO those people who serve over-priced cocktails, take tickets for the boat ride to the Statue of Liberty or sell I Heart NY t-shirts on the sidewalk actually make? Is it hard to learn how to make hand-rolled bagels like the guy behind the counter at that quaint little bakery on the Lower East Side? Is it too late to get a degree in Recreation or Hospitality and Tourism Management? Am I too old to become a bike messenger?

They say that there are five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. They are not necessarily experienced in order. The bereaved might vacillate between the five for several weeks or months languishing for a time at one stage or another. So far I think I have experienced all of them and it has yet to be two full weeks.

Hopefully by the time I post this, I will have quietly accepted my life just the way it is. It’s either that or you will likely find me behind a counter in a hairnet and apron, serving kosher pickles to tourists.

NYC: A Much Needed Break From… Absolutely Nothing

So I took a little blogcation for a few days in order to get away from the hectic pace that is my life these days. The so-called hectic pace being largely comprised of job hunting, unpacking sweaters and tuning in to watch The View every morning. During this blogcation I am excited to say that we took a real vacation to the very place that embodies the truest of hectic paces — The Isle of Manhattan.

I have never been to New York City (since I am told that my little pass over the GW bridge last summer doesn’t count) and it was an amazingly adventurous and eye-opening treat! I hopefully gathered a bit of fodder in which to share with you here as I jotted a few things down… at the hotel, on the subway, while my pizza cooled in Little Italy and in my seat at the Garden—waiting for the Rangers to take to the ice.

As incredible as it was to finally visit the famous, fabled, pulsing, living, breathing city that never sleeps… it has also been refreshing to come home to a world where I need only hop in my car to get anywhere I need to be and enjoy a bathroom in which I can actually turn around.

I hope you’ll check back in the days ahead as I promise to do my best to share a few little bites of a very Big Apple.

Cardboard Time Capsules

Unpacking after a move can often feel like the opening of a time capsule. There are pictures, clothing and miscellaneous items—all from another time in history—packed into boxes you long forgot existed. When you inevitably uncover them you find yourself transported back to that moment… that week… that summer… that period in your life when things were vastly different.

Perhaps they were better times, perhaps they were worse. Perhaps you are overcome with feelings of nostalgia, joy, surprise, grief or even relief that you are now sitting exactly where you are sitting at this particular moment in time. No matter the emotions that may wash over you, one thing will almost always be certain: Life looks different than you thought it would back then.

This week Lee brought in some boxes from the garage where we are still storing and sorting through my things. One of them contained a photo album, several envelopes with loose photos and a few cards and letters. He asked if he could look at the album and of course I said yes as I pulled my chair along side his in order to get a good look myself.

It was an album I put together of the summers I’d spent working on a dude ranch in Colorado during college. I was happy to see that although the photos were nearly 17 years old, I didn’t look radically different than I do today… minus a few laugh lines and crows feet. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact that Life hadn’t really touched me yet. In those images, Life and Circumstance had yet to ruffle my youthful feathers. Or trip me up and skin my knees.

Back then I operated under the naive assumption that the worst that could happen was a bad hair day, a rained-out horseback ride, accidentally calling a guest by the wrong name or a few broken dishes. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Though I wouldn’t trade my then child-like idealism and ambition for anything. I would learn soon enough that the world wasn’t fair and sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them.

We all do, eventually.

After we got done looking at the album and he got up and turned his attention to something else, I lingered over that box of photos and letters—this cardboard time capsule—and I looked at more images of times when I was younger, thinner, prettier, tanned and toned. And honestly, the thoughts and feelings they conjured up have been tumbling around in my head for days. Only now are they coming out through my fingers on the keyboard as I share this with you.

Truth be told I envy that girl and yet I remember that EVEN SHE occasionally thought (waaaay back then) that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or good enough… yet. She thought that ONE day—when she was older—she would come into her own and everything would be perfect. Everything would be just as it should be.

Well, here she is. Here I am. That “one day” has arrived and you know what? I’ve decided after peering inside of my time capsule, that since I can’t go back and fix her unattainable aspiration for perfection… I can fix mine. I can live in THIS moment, enjoying all that I have right now, promising to always try and stay present. But most of all… no matter how many more time capsules I uncover in this lifetime… to stay grateful for all that has been and currently is.

When All Is Said and Done

One of the reasons I am infinitely glad to have journaled faithfully throughout the years is the unique perspective it provides when all is said and done. I will often dig out my old journals and read through past entries with pure fascination and curiosity as though someone else had written them.

I am so surprised to read about (and be reminded of) the worries, concerns, fears, victories and priorities of the past. And I am even more surprised (at times) to see how the situations (i.e. worries, concerns and fears) have worked themselves out. To take a step back and see the picture that time has painted for me. An image that time and only time truly can.

Time is incredible in that it is the only thing capable of explaining our lives to us with the greatest amount of detail and accuracy. When allowed to do it’s job… it will reveal secrets, provide solutions and share with us endings to stories and answers we’ve literally been dying to discover.

If you think about it… sometime when things are quiet and you have a few moments to be alone with your thoughts — write them down. Record them. Because I promise you that they will change and they will evolve and if you don’t… those thoughts and feelings may slip away from you.

One day—when all is said and done—you will stumble into the answers and they will not hold the value that they could have had you remembered to make note of the questions.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

Residential Purgatory

“It’s weird being here without all of my stuff.” I said to Lee on the phone yesterday afternoon.

“It’s weird having your stuff all over my—I mean our—house without you here.” He returned.

It is official. Living in an empty house is depressing. All of my things are in my new home while only a few necessities remain here so that I can continue to exist having contact with the outside world as I tie up all of my loose ends.

After three days, I finally put my finger on it and found the right words. I feel as though I’m in residential purgatory. Now, I’m not catholic or anything so I don’t know much about purgatory per se… but from my limited understanding of it—it seems an appropriate term. I am merely waiting here in between appointments, lunches with friends and niece’s/nephew’s winter sporting events.

I know I mentioned this on the blog earlier but with nothing but a single bed, a 13″ TV, a stereo, one place setting of dishes, one set of silverware, a pot, a pan, a cheese grater and a computer with a lawn chair in front of it… I am beginning to feel like a bit of a squatter in my own home.

I loved this house the moment I saw it and it has done a great deal of restoration in me as previously noted in a post from last week. But I realize now that it isn’t so much the walls of the structure, but rather what they contain.

Pictures of my family, photo albums, journals, books, gifts, pieces of furniture and knick-knacks with special memories attached to them. These are the things that make up a home.

And if you’re lucky enough to have some or even one person also inside those walls who loves you, talks to and listens to you at the end of the day… well then that’s just gravy.