Submission

white-picket-fenceThe words staring back at Jess from the final page of the journal were not in her native language. And yet, no translation was necessary to convey their meaning. Her fingers gripped around the leather cover were shaking uncontrollably. She felt her hands, dirty with soil, reflexively release her connection with the caustic energy transmitted through the emotions on those tattered pages. Jess had heard the phrase a hundred times before. Now, she understood its true meaning. A picture is worth a thousand words.

It all happened so fast for Jess. In a period of six months, she had moved to the suburbs, began her dream career, discovered the man of her dreams, got married, and moved into the perfect home complete with a white picket fence. As she stood over the skillets on the stovetop, one contained pancake batter turning golden brown, the other had bacon sizzling up to crispy perfection. In the midst of her morning ritual, she didn’t have time to wonder how she arrived in this new role. The two pre-teen boys, backpacks slung over their shoulder, sauntered into the kitchen and sat down. They had come to expect the same breakfast routine from their stepmom before school each morning. The growing bump on Jess’ belly provided further proof that this would be her calling in life for the foreseeable future.

“Good morning, love,” came the impassive greeting from her husband, Sean, following the two boys into the kitchen. It had become like clockwork. Pancakes and bacon for the boys at a quarter til eight, coffee in the tall travel container – just a dash of cream, two sugars – and a lightly toasted sesame seed bagel with butter sitting on the counter by the back door at five minutes before the hour. Ten minutes later, Sean had backed out of the driveway enroute to the office, the boys were on the bus to school, and Jess was left in the quiet solitude of her kitchen to contemplate what had transpired over the previous months.

She often found herself perched over a cup of hot coffee at the table. By the time she finally took a sip, it had turned cold. In between, she relived memories from her childhood, the most poignant being the sixth grade field trip to a local riverbed. Jess could still recall the unexpected joy that came as a result of the primitive tools supplied to her – a hammer and a chisel. Picking up rock after rock, positioning the chisel in just the right location, and lowering the hammer with a forceful thud split the earthly stone in two. She found an odd sense of serenity in this routine. It was a stress reliever and a treasure hunt rolled up into one. A single swing of the hammer on that day long ago would prove to transform this casual activity into a lifelong passion.

fossilMoving the chisel into a perfectly placed crevice on her latest rock, Jess swung the hammer down. Appreciating the signature crack of metal meeting metal, the energy from her own physical exertion travelled down the tool into the rock splitting it in two. As the pieces separated, one falling to each side, Jess’ view through the scratched safety glasses was crystal clear. Her treasure was revealed – the perfect fossilized imprint of a specimen that was later dated three hundred million years into the past. That was how Jess found herself, since that point in time, fascinated with the uncovering of details from the past, arranging the pieces to tell a story of evolution. She began chasing, with intense fervor, a career in the field of geological sciences – specifically, paleontology.

She had succeeded in turning a relatively obscure profession into a successful one for herself. And just as she was beginning to establish herself as an expert in the field, Sean and the two boys entered her life. Everyone believed she made the right decision – to stay at home, be a housewife, and care for the family. The problem was that everyone knew of her, but no one really knew who she was. Being a relatively quiet and solitary individual, Jess didn’t allow very many people into her world. One of those people that she did let in, however, would end up being the one that changed her life forever.

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Welcome home

cloud-blanketThe air is thinner up here at thirty-eight thousand feet above sea level. There are less air molecules colliding with each other, fewer distractions clouding my mind. That allows me to contemplate the tangled web of thoughts racing through my consciousness at the present moment. The private jet that has shuttled me thousands of miles across the country for client visits is carrying me on a different type of journey on this particular occasion.

Weddings and funerals – unfortunately, it is most often these two circumstances that bring families together in one location. I find myself chasing the sun westward across the Great Plains after attending the less joyous of these two – the funeral of my grandmother. My husband and four year old daughter are waiting for me at home. She is too young to understand why her beloved Mimsy won’t be visiting anymore. We have spared her the complicated explanation at this point in her precious life.

We are able to cross the span of our continent in a mere five hours. Technology has allowed us to travel at breakneck speed from place to place, often without realizing just how close we come to breaking our metaphorical neck. I am the sole occupant in this cylindrical cabin, but I look around anyway to be sure. The twin aircraft engines provide a backdrop of droning white noise. The puffy cumulus clouds drifting by with each passing minute settle my overactive mind and allow me to slip ten hours into the past. Seated at my grandmother’s kitchen table, I am doing my best to come to terms with the finality of this situation. My mind begins to wander.

There is no digital clock on the gas stovetop range, just an analog face with three hands rotating around the twelve numbers at different speeds. It dawns on me just how far technology has brought us in the past fifty years, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. When I think about what was present in my mother’s childhood days in this very same kitchen, it is a small miracle that I even understand how to use this strange contraption with knobs that when turned cause a clicking noise followed by the appearance of a blue flame used for cooking.

vintage-stove-clockAnd it doesn’t stop at the range and oven. The microwave in our own kitchen would look completely foreign to my grandmother. It had not even been invented when she was raising my mom. When I think about how often we use these forms of electromagnetic radiation to cook or heat our food (that would be on a daily basis), my daughter would wonder how in the world we could possibly live without one. Alas, it is possible. Even one generation back, I can remember using an oven – gasp – to reheat our pizza. And we actually cooked corn in a stovetop pot. Sure, it took ten minutes instead of ninety seconds. But, the corn still got cooked. It makes me wonder sometimes whether the desire to do everything – and I mean everything – quicker, faster, and more efficiently has jaded our appreciation of that thing we are doing. We are talking about a lot more than just cooking here, mind you.

Sure, other fashionable things have changed about the appearance of kitchens over the years. The linoleum floors have been replaced by Italian style tile. The diner like booth that my mom sat at has been replaced by a traditional table and chairs. The large kitchens for cooking and convening have come and gone and come yet again. Ironically, the farmhouse style sinks and faucets have come into style again, as a retro look.

The myriad of electronic devices that line the counters today – mixer, can opener, coffee machine, and toaster oven – were all created through technological advancements over the last two generations of humanity. Before that time, there were only hand tools and the trusty gas oven and range that performed a lion’s share of the work.

However, perhaps the biggest thing of all that has changed in the kitchen over the last fifty years has nothing to do with technology, or maybe everything to do with technology. The likelihood that a family will cook together in the kitchen, or eat a meal together at the table is predictably low. It is too easy to whip up a quick meal in the microwave or toaster oven. We have too many other important obligations – appointments, soccer practices, ballet recitals, baseball games, and Pilate classes – to have the time to sit down for a meal with the other members of our family that we love more than anything in the world.

For some reason, we view these other obligations as paramount to the thirty minutes we could be spending with our family at the dinner table. Instead, we talk on our cell phones if we’re lucky. More often, we text or post status feeds on social media sites so those people we call family know what we’re doing and where we are. I wonder what would happen if we were to toss out our electronic devices for a day – or dare I even suggest – a week. What if we sat down every evening at the dinner table and just talked? It has become a lost art. Just to be able to look into your daughter’s eyes and say “How was your day?” could mean a tremendous amount, not only to you, but for her also. I guess you could say I am old school, wanting to turn the clock back fifty years. Maybe it’s overkill to suggest such a preposterous idea. But what if it’s not such a crazy thought? What if that’s exactly what society needs to become less like the machines we are utilizing on a daily basis and more like the human beings with feelings and emotions that we were meant to be? It seems to me that it is a choice that we can’t afford not to at least try.

home-where-our-story-beginsAs I sense an odd bump originating from the belly of the plane, I recheck my seat belt. We must be experiencing some unexpected turbulence over the mountains. Looking out the window, I see that the cumulus clouds have been replaced by an airport terminal with planes taxiing to and fro. We have landed. We have returned to the chaos of life at sea level. The time spent above this all has provided me with a fresh perspective. As we pull into our assigned parking spot, the cabin door opens and I descend the steps. Waiting behind the glass window with smiles on their faces are my husband and daughter. The air smells fresher and the setting sun feels warmer than it should be. The cool breeze pushing from behind urges me to arrive at those smiling faces without delay. As I drop my bag on the tarmac and break into a sprint, I reach the outstretched arms of my family – welcoming me home – in more than one way.

Sunrise

legal-tableSince his recent promotion, Patrick had been burning more than his share of midnight oil at the firm. Case upon case was piling up on the docket. If he was ever going to make partner status in this lifetime, he needed to buck up and deal with the luxury of getting four hours of sleep each night. The first several weeks of his new work regime carried on without incident. Adrenaline and carefully coordinate shots of caffeine provided by the firm’s espresso machine served him well. Like the sludgy oil in your car, however, you can only ignore it for so long before it revolts, the engine seizing up in protest. Patrick’s body did just that while seated at a conference table in an otherwise ordinary status meeting with his associates.

He was focusing on the details of a domestic violence case slated for prosecution the following week while simultaneously disseminating his planned strategy. In the next moment, Patrick opened his eyelids to the unexpected view of a much different environment: a white sanitized hospital room with his wife, Samantha, gazing out the window, an apprehensive look on her face.

“Hey beautiful,” he said to Samantha in a hoarse voice. The oxygen tube in his nose and the drugs dripping through the intravenous feed in his right hand were slowly bringing him back to this earthly world. Samantha quickly approached the bedside taking Patrick’s hand, “Pat, you had me so worried.” An impulsive tear ran down her cheek.

“What happened?” Patrick’s question arose from a confused mental state as he continued to absorb the details of his new surroundings.

“You had a heart attack,” stammered Samantha, the tears beginning to flow a bit more freely as she began to understand the gravity of the situation. “Honey, something has to change,” she pleaded. “This can’t go on. We can’t afford to have something happen to you.” By we, Samantha was referring to herself as well as the two young girls at home with grandma right now, ages four and seven.

Patrick had many redeeming and admirable qualities. The stubbornness that served him so well in his professional life did not do so in his personal and family life. It was this obstinance that left him lying horizontal in a hospital bed instead of sitting crisscross applesauce on the living room floor with his two daughters and their dolls. His body had provided a final warning, waving a white flag in surrender to the overwhelming stimuli of his self-induced professional responsibilities. The urgent message was signed, sealed, and delivered. Tossed into the trash like junk mail in the past, it was finally being read and received by Patrick.

“I know, I know,” said Patrick. “I need to change things. I promise I’ll go see the doctor when I get out of here.” And so it came to be that Patrick visited his doctor the following week for the first time in at least five years. Sitting in the exam room awaiting his family physician, Dr. Kreb, to enter, he couldn’t even remember if he was a she or vice versa. It had been so long, he knew that there would be no recognition between the two of them.

As the doctor knocked and entered the room, he (so it was a male after all) flipped through the pages of Patrick’s medical records while greeting his latest patient. “How’s it going today, what can I do for you?” Patrick was thinking that he should already know the answer to this question. He was admitted to the hospital but three days ago. Patrick’s emergency visit should have shown up in his file. Doesn’t everything end up in these files, he thought as he grasped for some release of internal tension and anxiety, recalling a Seinfeld episode from many years ago?

“Well, I guess the better phrasing is what I can do for myself,” retorted Patrick. As the doctor returned to the front page, he finally understood the reason for his visit. “Yes,” said the doctor. “I see we’ve been pushing our limits a bit too far, eh?” Although Patrick had a wry sense of humor, he didn’t appreciate any levity in this particular situation, at least not the kind doled out by his doctor.

wake-up-alarm-clock“I suppose you could say this is my wake-up call. I’ve hit the snooze button a few too many times and I know now that it’s time to finally get out of bed.” Patrick spoke in a self-deprecating tone as he began to sense how his cumulative actions over the previous year had led him to this present moment. He wished that he could simply take a pill and make this ill-fated situation disappear. Deep down, however, he knew this was impossible and was dreading the recommendations that would be forthcoming from the medical professional. It would be more invasive than the surgery that he didn’t need.

The doctor spoke in a very matter-of-fact tone, reading from the notes he had made, as if he was rattling off a list of items to pick up at the grocery store on the way home. “First, you need to cut back on the amount of stress you are creating in your life. That means no more eighty hour work weeks. You need to cut it back to forty hours like the rest of the human population.” Looking over the rims of his bifocals to be sure his patient was paying attention; he continued “Second, you need to find a way to manage the excessive amounts of stress that you have already invited into your life. Find an activity or a hobby that gives you some time for renewal and rejuvenation: set aside some time to listen to music you enjoy, meditate, or take a daily walk on the beach. Your choice, just be sure to find something.”

The first piece of his treatment was going to be difficult to embrace. His work had become an addiction for Patrick. Cutting back to half the hours would be akin to going cold turkey. It was not going to be pretty. In fact, he surmised that it would introduce even more stress in the short term. Despite his apprehension, however, he knew it was necessary. Besides, if he didn’t follow through with the doctor’s advice, he was either headed for another heart attack or a divorce, maybe both.

As difficult as the work schedule aspect of his treatment would be, the doctor had stumbled upon a perfect activity for Patrick to help alleviate some of his existing stress. This part would be much easier. He had moved from the Midwest after law school to be closer to the beach. And yet, here he was less than ten minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and he could count on his one hand the number of times he had been there in the past ten years.

atlantic-ocean-beachOne of those times, perhaps the most memorable of his life, occurred on his first date with Samantha. With the pale moonlight casting a glow over the endless sea, the two of them stood with their foreheads touching, gazing into each other’s eyes as the lapping waves tickled their toes, sinking their feet into the sand as if setting strong roots for their future together. Maybe that’s why he didn’t return as often. Maybe he never wanted to risk tainting the perfection of that fond memory. Patrick would be strolling on that same beach more often now because he relished the reminiscence of that first date. He planned to relieve stress by taking a daily walk on the beach each morning before commuting into the office.

He had walked on this beach and sat on these dunes dozens of times in the past several months. The most spectacular part of this new practice was watching the sun begin to peek above the horizon as night transitioned to dawn. Each sunrise was different. Every one portrayed a different mood and told a different story. Some narratives were filled with gray clouds and a dull light that cast a somber ambiance. Other renditions were characterized by brilliant hues of vibrant pink, blue, and orange that was manifested by the smile of encouragement and hope on Patrick’s face.

turtle trekThis Friday morning’s sunrise was neither melancholy nor effervescent. And yet, it was like none he had ever seen. As Patrick sat on the dunes, forearms resting on his knees, he eagerly awaited the story line beginning to unfold as the diluting darkness of night gave way to the refreshing light of day. From the corner of his eye, in his peripheral vision, Patrick noticed what looked like a shadow, a vague form of something meandering down the sand towards the water’s edge. As the rising sun began to cast more light on the scene, he spotted the trail of sea turtles trekking vigorously towards the safety of the deep ocean waters. This was only the first of many obstacles that they would need to surmount in their young lives, but it was the most pressing at the moment. They were devoting every ounce of energy and focus into the here and now, and Patrick was overfilled with gratitude, being able to witness this magical transformation, this beginning of a new life.

It led Patrick naturally to contemplate the direction of his own focus. Each and every morning, he would sit here on this beach and focus on what was out over the horizon, awaiting a grand spectacle to make its presence known from a distance. He wondered how many other things, like these fledgling turtles, that he missed right before his eyes.

His daily routine should have carried Patrick south towards his office and the final eight hours of his new forty hour work week. It was those eight hours, after all, that would help propel Patrick closer to becoming a partner, that vision looming just out over the horizon. Instead, he turned north, headed home to his own fledgling turtles, all the while planning a perfectly splendid party involving imaginary tea, pretend scones, and the three most important people in his life.

Spoon fed

fancy-restaurant-tableThe business dinner planned for later that evening left Aimee with a feeling of discontent. She wasn’t sure where this mysterious anxiety came from until she laid the linen napkin across her lap. As she looked down at the decorative porcelain plates sitting in front of her along with the assortment of eating utensils to the left, right, and above her plate, she felt like she was preparing for an archaeological dig instead of an enjoyable dinner with co-workers.

She was promptly reminded of her childhood days. Each evening, she was required to don her most frilly dress, have her hair perfectly set, and carry impeccable manners with her to the dinner table. This daily routine was just a microcosm of the life she was asked to lead as a young girl. Aimee was born a free-spirited individual, ready and willing to conquer the world. She had vivid dreams of running a neighborhood lemonade stand at the age of five. She wished more than anything to play shortstop for the boy’s baseball team at the age of ten. Through her high school sociology elective, she was drawn towards the opportunity to volunteer her time in a third world country to help impoverished youth.

Aimee had grand ambitions, lofty aspirations, and audacious goals. But, none of them were ever explored, becoming nothing more than figments of her imagination. In place of the lemonade stand were piano lessons. Instead of the baseball team, she was shuttled to tennis practice three times a week. That was what girls did. She was reminded of this whenever she instigated any semblance of resistance. The desire to travel abroad in the name of humanitarian efforts was shunned in the name of earning exemplary grades in the important classes so that the finest medical schools would court her in the coming years. The things most important to Aimee were buried deep inside. Try as they may to escape through an embryonic personality characterized by unfettered passion, it had instead become a natural habit to push each of these frivolous dreams back from whence it came. This had become the signature mark of Aimee’s tainted youth.

During one meal in the austere dining room of her childhood home, she was surrounded by her two sisters, three brothers, and an important client that her father had invited to their home for that evening’s dinner. Aimee was only eight years old. She never cared for the formality of a meal despite the unrelenting reminder of proper etiquette when she strayed from the accepted standards.

She always tried to remember the general rules, at least. Start from the outside and work towards the inside she mentally reminded herself. The spoon that she picked up for her soup was on the outside. It just happened to be alongside the top of her plate. Surely, she could be pardoned for picking up the dessert spoon instead of the soup spoon on the right side of her plate.

formal-place-settingConsidered by Aimee to be an innocent mistake, no one was hurt and no one was disrespected by this minor gaffe. Alas, in the eyes of her parents, this was apparently a reprehensible offense. Her mother viewed it as an intentional and rebellious sign of Aimee’s disrespect towards her elders. The insanity of these irrational reactions didn’t materialize until much later in her life. At this tender age, Aimee accepted that this was the way things were, the way things should be. And they slowly, but surely worked their way into the fabric of her being.

As retribution for her attempt at insubordination, Aimee was forced to eat without her spoon for the remainder of the meal. She spent the next ten minutes manipulating her fork, attempting to fish out the small vegetable pieces from her soup in the most dignified manner as possible. All the while, her mother held a smug grin of satisfaction on her face.

Ever since that distressing experience, she dreaded the presence of a formal place setting. The trigger of sitting down at that table with her colleagues whisked Aimee back to her upsetting childhood days. What should have been a pleasant and relaxing environment with her professional colleagues turned into the relapse of a memory that she had suppressed too many times to count. Instead of her co-workers and prospective clients around the table, she saw her family and the pompous grin on her mother’s face that she longed to wipe away in a not so dignified fashion.

That is how Aimee came to the odd habits she had cultivated over the past fifteen years. There was not a fork or knife in her apartment, only spoons. Her upbringing had denied her lemonade stands, baseball teams, and travels abroad. It would not deny her the one thing forbidden on that impactful day of her childhood. She would always have a spoon.

lobster-bisqueAs she perused the menu, exploring every delicious offering available, her dinner order consisting solely of lobster bisque brought suspicious glances from her associates around the table. Aimee continued to rationalize the supposed authority that she possessed over the events from her past. She was in control now, she repeated to herself. Left with a sad contentedness that would tide her over until the next trigger, Aimee reached for her spoon. At the same time, she pushed the other utensils and the metaphorical memories they held across the table. If not out of her mind, they were out of her sight, for now at least.

Amore

bakery-storefrontEmily wiped down the counter one final time. This thousand square foot space leased by her ten years ago was like a second home, even though the time spent here far outweighed that in her studio apartment uptown. The charming cafe was filled with delectable pastries, muffins, and gourmet cupcakes. The complimentary sights and scents occupied every last drop of available space in the most delicious way. Each time the door was pushed open a small piece of the love poured into her craft floated out on to the sidewalk, took hold of an unsuspecting passerby, and lured them into her savory world. Her skills with flour, eggs, butter, and milk were only matched by her magnetic personality that transformed ordinary members of the public into new patrons, and usually new friends.

As the sun was beginning to set on this Friday afternoon, traffic on the street was beginning to escalate which signified the beginning of another weekend. To Emily, Friday was no different from any other day of the week. Each day found her following the same familiar routine, commuting back and forth between her apartment and cafe on the Route #7 city transit bus. She noticed the same people each morning on that bus. With a little game she devised to amuse her, Emily gave each of these regulars a name, even though they were complete strangers.

There was Snarky, the tall man, always wearing an overcoat, hair slicked back, attaché firmly in his right hand, always his right hand. Then there was Clueless, the petite redhead, ear buds permanently embedded it seems, eyes aimed at the cell phone in her hands, never looking up. Finally, there was Bambi, a peculiar name for a member of the male species, but it fit well nonetheless. Like a deer caught in headlights, this young man’s appearance, disheveled at best was not as unsettling as his eyes. The blank and empty stare, like a deer in headlights, was unnerving when their glances met for the first time. Emily had become accustomed to the creepiness since that initial encounter.

She felt sorry for all these individuals. Emily saw a look of resignation in each of them, as if they were simply going through the motions, following the directions on a medication prescribed by society for their ailing souls. Either the dosage was not correct, or the medication was wrong. She suspected the latter. As she pulled the front door closed on her cafe and turned the key, she caught a reflection of herself in the pane of glass. Amore, the name of her second home etched in the glass on the door complimented her reflection well. Sure, she worked day and night. And although she was exhausted at the end of each day, she simultaneously felt energized in a paradoxical way. Her chosen life was a labor of love.

nyc-at-nightTempers were already escalating in the world outside. The yellow cabs darted to and fro like mice chasing an elusive piece of cheese. With their horns blaring, the animated facial gestures behind each windshield uttered slanderous remarks that could not be heard, but understood nonetheless. She could have afforded to take a taxi back and forth each day. Emily, however, tried to insulate herself from the inherent stress of a bustling city. The bus had a much more relaxed and less hurried atmosphere. Besides, she was always on the lookout for new regulars. She had a whole lineup of new names on hand when the matching individual appeared.

As she stepped next to the sign with the number seven printed inside the transit system symbol, Emily glanced at the watch on her left wrist. The familiar parasol on its face, Mary Poppins floating over the London skyline, was a constant reminder of her past, equally encouraging and upsetting depending upon the day of the week, the month of the year. The rotating hands on the face indicated the bus should be arriving shortly. As if looking at her watch could magically summon her ride, she glanced up and saw #7 Uptown on the display marquee of the approaching bus. As the hazard lights flashed, the squealing brakes decelerated the bus to a full stop. Retrieving the transit card from her purse, she waited for the driver to open the doors. As she prepared to board the bus, Emily was frozen in her tracks when she recognized the man getting off of it.

He was ten years her elder, she knew that. What she didn’t know is what he was doing here in this city. She had intentionally moved to a location on the map as far away from his last known residence to insure that an encounter such as this was unlikely to occur. Emily felt this man had a severe impact on the quality of her younger years, not for what he did, but rather for what he failed to do. The person stepping down the steps of the city bus had not yet noticed her, but Emily could not mistake the blonde hair, blue eyes, and charismatic smile he tossed at the female driver. And if that wasn’t proof enough, the armband tattoo sealed his identity. It was without a doubt Josh, her older brother.

It is believed by some that a near death experience causes the most poignant memories from a person’s past to flash before their eyes. In this fraction of a second between the recognition of her brother and what would come next, the roller coaster ride of emotions began for Emily.

mary-poppinsThe memories closest to her, both physically and mentally, arrived first. The Mary Poppins watch created a flashback to the cave she had fashioned in her childhood bedroom. Complete with a body size bean bag chair, a small clip-on desk lamp mounted in the corner, and a combination video tape and television unit on a makeshift table, this was Emily’s sanctuary as an eight year old. This is where she snuck when she heard the screen door slam. This is the place she retreated when she heard the voices, escalating in volume, and the slurs of alcoholic influence evident in every attempted syllable. Unfortunately, the volume on that little portable television could not be turned up loud enough to drown out the misery from down below. Emily instead tried to focus on the visual image of Mary Poppins, hoping and wishing for a magic nanny to drop out of the sky and rescue her from this dismal situation.

Josh had taken a different route than Emily in dealing with this chaos. Instead of cowering in submission, hiding from the effects, Josh reacted with rebellion. He and his friends had formed their own band, Academic Mishap, a fitting moniker given that the cumulative high school grade point average of its three other members didn’t reach that of Josh’s alone. When Josh heard the same indicators of imminent jeopardy, he instinctively headed out the door, hopped on his bike, guitar slung across his back, and disappeared into the evening. He rarely returned until after school the following day and usually didn’t stick around for long as the pattern repeated itself.

In a moment of uncharacteristic courage during this distressing time in her life, Emily decided on a different course of action when the yelling and screaming commenced one evening. Tiptoeing down the wooden staircase, hand delicately poised on the banister to support her weight, she knew just where to step to avoid any creaking, the human wolves continuing to howl in the room at the foot of the stairs.

Sneaking out the side door, she arrived at Josh’s bike a few second before him. “Let me come with you. Please,” Emily urged. Josh and Emily both ran away from their problems. Josh, however, preferred to do it alone. “You better get back in side Em. If mom and dad catch you out here … well, you just better get back inside.”

Emily retorted with tenacity that she didn’t realize she had inside her, “Josh, I can’t take this anymore. I need to get away from them, if only for a little bit. Please, let me come with you.” Perhaps it was the grit in her voice or the bleakness in her facial expression, most likely a combination of the two, Josh succumbed to her plea, “Get your bike, quick.”

bike-next-to-shedThat evening proved to be one filled with the most inner calm in Emily’s young life, even though it consisted of music that was not to her taste, underage drinking, and distasteful jokes. There was a release of tension. A floodgate opened that allowed Emily to just be her eight year old self. It was a state of being that she wanted to revisit again and again, except Josh would not oblige. In fact, it was even worse than that.

One afternoon, before the recurrent nightly chaos began anew, Josh knocked on Emily’s bedroom door which she always kept closed and locked. It was a way to insulate her from the malignant aura that pervaded the rest of the house. They had a secret knock so that Emily knew when it was Josh. Unlocking the door and swinging it open for Josh, she could see in his eyes that he did not have news that she would accept well. He didn’t provide any idle chit chat. He got right to the point.

“Hey Em, I’m dropping out of high school. Me and the guys found a manager that wants to hire us for a nightly gig at a bar downtown. This could be our big shot.” Josh left a moment of silence with a pleading look in his eyes for acceptance from Emily. He often forgot that Emily was eight years old. She was mature beyond her years. She needed to be in order to survive in this place. But, in the end, she was still eight, and the tear that formed in the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek showed just that. Josh sensed this and continued on, “I know this is rough for you to understand, but this is my one shot to make something of myself, my golden ticket out of this life.”

Emily was frustrated, distraught, sad, and livid all at the same time. She had a million nasty retorts racing through her young mind. The only words that emerged from her lips, however, to accompany the multiple tears running down her face, “Please, don’t leave me.” Despite their complicated and dysfunctional lifestyle, Josh always had a soft spot for Emily. He was her big brother after all. At this point in his immature life, however, this was not enough to keep him around. “Sorry Em, I need to do this. I’m leaving tonight.” And with that statement and decision, another chapter had been closed in her life. Another person to help navigate these tumultuous seas had jumped ship. She was left alone, physically and mentally, to weather the storm. Struggling to keep herself afloat, she knew that drowning was an unavoidable consequence in these unforgiving waters.

For ten years, Emily had scraped together a piecemeal existence, relying on fairy tales in books and movies to bolster her hope for a chance to live. And she had succeeded, treading water and avoiding the sharks until she graduated from high school and moved east. Her parents probably never knew that she left, most likely because they treated her like she was never there in the first place. The resentment held against Josh and his decision to leave grew with Emily during those formative teenage years. And despite her bitterness towards Josh, there was always a small corner of her heart that understood his dilemma and his decision. Given the same opportunity, she could not be sure that she wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. Regardless of the troubled past and experiences that plagued their relationship, she was still his little sister, and he was still her big brother.

As the flashback rolled through its final scene, Emily felt the departure of a life, a death of sorts. But, this turned out to be a passing that was welcome and long overdue. Seeing Josh as he stepped off the last step on that bus, her only desire was to put the negativity of the past to rest and focus on possibilities for the future. It’s what she had always lived for in her personal life. Why not do the same for her own brother?

As his eyes transferred focus from the steps of the bus to navigating through the crowd of people, his eyes landed upon Emily. As his jaw dropped in disbelief, Josh inquisitively uttered, “Em?” Half question, half statement, he did what came natural to him, as unnatural as it was for his own parents. He wrapped his arms around Emily and squeezed tight. For what seemed like minutes, but was seconds in reality, they hugged. And in that embrace, all prior transgressions, all feelings of discontent, and all the grudges that may have been held between the two of them melted away.

As she stepped back at arm’s length, still touching his shoulders, Emily looked at Josh and smiled, “What are you doing here?” Josh, still in a dumbfounded state, replied, “I could ask you the same thing. Our band broke up out on the west coast. That kind of thing tends to happen when your lead vocalist gets arrested for dealing drugs.” In a slightly more coherent tone now, Josh continued, “I got accepted to the university in the city. I have finally decided to get a degree in music even if it is a few years later than most. What about you? What are you doing here?”

Emily went on to explain the synopsis of her last ten years over a three minute span. When the immediate necessities had been shared between them, it had only led both of them to crave more details about the other’s life since their childhood days. “Hey, I’m starving,” said Josh, “Do you want to go get a bite to eat somewhere?” Emily, eager to share some of her recent history firsthand shared, “Why don’t we head across the street? I can’t offer you a gourmet meal, but I can provide some fresh coffee and the best banana nut muffin this side of the Mississippi.”

As she pulled the keychain from her purse once again and unlocked the door, the impressed look on Josh’s face could not be hidden. “Amore. That means love in some foreign language, right?”

amoreWith the coffee brewing and two muffins placed on plates, Emily flipped on the spotlight in the corner seating area. There was no bean bag chair. There was no television. But, there was also no screaming from outside this personal sanctuary. There was only Emily and her big brother. The alluring scents and delicious tastes of Amore, an infusion of Emily’s love, had served to provide her with a swarm of new customers. She was quickly coming to the realization, however, that the latest one sitting across from her at this very moment was undoubtedly her most important one.

Fly away home

second-baseAfter the signature ping of aluminum bat meeting baseball resulted in a double down the left field line, I stood hunched over, catching my breath at second base. The double ear-flapped helmet obscured my peripheral vision as well as the cheers from the small crowd comprised of other parents in the bleachers. The run I represented held great significance. Well, it did for the twelve year old version of me some thirty years ago. As the potential winning run, I was the difference between a team victory and extra innings. And the customary reward for a win, a free cherry sno-cone from the snack stand behind home plate, tightened my focus. Well, truth is, we got that sno-cone regardless of whether we won or lost, but I digress.

As I shuffle off second base to take my primary lead, my eyes are locked on the pitcher taking his position on the mound. In the split second that I glance behind me to find where the shortstop is positioned, the pitcher spins around and relays the perfect pick-off throw to the second base bag. Whether by some ill-conceived plan to appear as an accomplished ballplayer, or out of sheer instinct, I dive back headfirst towards the bag. There is a very good reason why headfirst diving is discouraged in little league baseball. I learned exactly why in the seconds that followed.

As my outstretched fingers attempted to touch the safety of second base before the approaching ball tagged me out, I overestimated the distance between me and the base. With too much force and excessive momentum, my fingers jammed into the side of the base. What used to be of utmost importance now meant nothing. I didn’t care whether I was out or safe. All I cared about was the searing pain running through my fingers as they collided with the stationary base.

The imminent swelling and varied shades of blue color brought tears to my eyes. Partially from the excruciating pain, the tears carried more emotion from the anticipated plans for the coming week. With an injury to the fingers on my glove hand, it would be extremely difficult to participate in the baseball camp I was scheduled to attend at Penn State University. Was I excited to learn baseball skills that would improve my game? Absolutely. Was it my sole purpose for wanting to attend this camp? Decidedly, no. With an opportunity to stay in college dorms, eat in the dining halls, and maintain responsibility for my own schedule, it provided me an opportunity to develop and exercise independence. A healthy dose of ice, some tape wrapped around my fingers, and a stubborn resolve to carry forward allowed me to attend that summer camp, to develop that independent spirit.

Fast forward thirty years to the present day. With our son sitting in the back seat, my wife and I are driving him to his first week long Boy Scout summer camp. And although my camp experience occurred so long ago, it is one of the most vivid memories from my youth, most likely due to the impact it imparted on the aforementioned opportunity for independence. I remember feeling a mix of nervous anxiety and eager anticipation for that chance to strike out on my own, even if it was only for a week. Back and forth, the emotions rattled inside. And here I sit in the driver’s seat feeling the same thing, for myself, my wife, and my son.

Over the course of this past week, my wife and I have attempted to keep ourselves occupied, acknowledging the void in our household, struggling to not let our son’s absence affect us too deeply. It’s amazing how much you miss the sarcastic comments, the random sounds emanating from his room, the assortment of clothes scattered in the most unconventional places all around the house. And by unconventional, I mean everywhere but the laundry basket. The subtle reminders of his presence are missed dearly, especially his voice.

I have been away from my son for a week long period on many different occasions. But, I have never been away from his voice for that long. Even while traveling halfway around the world, I was able to call him from another continent, the radio waves bouncing from satellite to satellite in order to connect us for a few moments each day. And here we are separated by a mere two hours of driving between the Boy Scout camp and our house without a hint of verbal connection.

And so, with the help of a suggestion by my wife, I devised a different way to stay connected with my son over this past week. Although decidedly one sided, I have formulated a story, broken up into five individual pieces, which I have shared with him by the e-mail he receives from us each afternoon at camp. The ironic thing is that story and the process of writing it helped me as much as I hope it will have helped him.

arctic-ternThe Arctic Tern is an amazing bird. Each year, it travels up to twenty five thousand miles in migration from its Arctic breeding grounds to its wintering grounds off of Antarctica. Over the span of its lifetime, it travels a distance equivalent to the space between the Earth and the moon, three times over. Although we don’t necessarily need to reach for these extremes, it behooves us to spread our wings on occasion and take flight into the unknown. Flying away from what is comfortable can open our eyes to new possibilities and bring us a sense for what it truly means to be home, not only in our house, but also in our heart. For now, I am looking forward to flying north in our car tomorrow morning to pick up our son, give him a hug, and find out just how far he has flown over the past week.

Mindful heart

storms-over-the-oceanAs we stand and gaze out over the horizon, storm clouds rising in the distance, high tide beginning to tickle our toes with foamy water, my mind can’t help but wander. I look to my son with a grin on my face and express, “You know, if we just start swimming east, we’ll eventually end up in Africa.” He chuckles with sarcastic disbelief. The mythical journey would find us swimming our last few strokes towards a new continent, approaching the western shores of Morocco. How grand an adventure would that be? There is something magical about the grains of sand beneath my feet, a power within that allows these magnificent dreams to take flight. My mind begins to wander even further.

Arms wrapped around my sweetheart’s neck, feet sinking into the sand with each lapping wave, lips locked, butterflies fluttering about within, I reminisce about the very first evening seventeen years ago when I met the woman who would become my wife. Words were spoken, but unnecessary. I could see forever in her eyes.

Several years later, walking along the dunes with my six year old son, the same ocean provided solace during an especially difficult time in his young life. We caught a glimpse of new life in action as newborn leatherback turtles, small enough to get lost in the palm your hand, emerged from underground and began their trek towards the deep waters of the ocean. I fondly recall the sense of courage conveyed by these tiny creatures, to father and son alike, in the face of overwhelming adversity.

There is a quiet serenity in the sights, sounds, and scents provided by this wondrous power of nature. Each time I take the time to engage in a conversation with the sea through my senses, beautiful things transpire. This past weekend was no exception.

As is customary in our household, Friday night is movie night accompanied by pizza for dinner. Except it is Saturday night and we’re having smoothies and wraps instead of pizza. But, hey, flexibility is an admirable trait, right? On the playlist this evening is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Having consumed the first five books of this series in a period of two months, my son is following suit with the theatrical renditions.

At the completion of the movie, I remember hearing a memorable quote and I am struggling to recall it. As the movie credits are rolling, we all disperse to do our individual thing. My wife at her computer processing photos, my son wandering around aimlessly, giddy from the experience that is Harry Potter. Meanwhile, I am engaged in perhaps the most mundane task, gathering and emptying the trash from around the house. Well, I assumed it was going to be unexciting.

As I reached for the plastic receptacle beneath my son’s desk, I was greeted with the most unexpected trash item. At the bottom of the container sat little globs of the blue raspberry gelatin that we made earlier that day. Returning to our family room, I inquired to the general population “Should I even ask why there is blue Jello in the trash can?” My son’s response, very sincere, was “It fell on the floor, where else was I supposed to put it?”

There is an amiable serendipity that often visits me when I least expect it. And usually it arrives just when I need it the most. After recovering from the ensuing laughter of this trash experience, my wife called me over to her computer. She wanted to share a picture with me that she had captured while taking our family walk on the beach.

father-and-son

In my last post, a first foray into the land of fiction, I spoke of everyday events causing something to shift in our perception of the world. Sometimes almost imperceptible, there is no doubting when this occurs. The first glimpse at the photo displayed on my wife’s computer screen did just that.

Guide by the hand and lead by the heart. Reflecting on my son’s comical response to his trash disposal ideals, I can see we may need to spend a little more time on the guidance part. But more significant to me, is the second part. Lead with the heart. I want him to look over the horizon, perched at the edge of one continent, and feel it is not only possible, but probable, to reach the coastline of another land that is beyond what we can see. I want his imagination to run rampant. Too often our creative thoughts are interrupted by the devious and misinformed ploys of what we call the real world. The most compelling way to overcome these negative pulls toward the black hole of reality? Lead from the heart. Allow the seemingly impossible to become possible.

A picture speaks a thousand words. And sometimes it embodies many more sentiments. This simple arrangement of digital pixels, millions in number, carried with it a commensurate depth of emotions. Not only because of who is in the picture, or for the message it conveys, but also for the beautiful person who captured it. The person who cared enough to open my eyes to the influence we are able to impart on a future generation. The same beautiful woman, my wife, whose eyes seventeen years ago showed me a glimpse of how glorious forever is when you are with the one you love.

It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices. ~Professor Dumbledore

Finally, the quote that had eluded me returns to my consciousness. We find ourselves captivated by magical worlds projected onto the canvas of a movie screen. Filled with majestic castles, levitation potions, magic invisibility cloaks, and mischievous house elves, we wish we could visit, or even take up permanent residence in these enchanted lands. We fail to realize that same magic can be created on the blank canvas presented to us at the beginning of each day in our lives. We are the producers, directors, and participants in that movie. When we lead from the heart, we cast our own spell, we create our own magic. We have to make that choice. Keep a mindful heart. Choose well.

satellite-beach

A new lenz on life

see-through-new-lensesBuried deep inside the pages of an old college physics textbook, yellow highlighting fading over the years, a description of Lenz’s Law was important twenty years ago for a different reason than it is today. Originally encountered as a scientific law required for the comprehension of electricity and magnetism principles, my second encounter with this idea carried with it a more magnetic force, an electricity on the inside filled with emotion.

Ask my eleven year old son the one place on this planet that is on his must see list. I can guarantee you that I know the answer. Switzerland. Not to trek through the Alps, not to taste the sweetness of Swiss chocolate, not even to journey on the rails through the splendid landscape. No, the object of his desire is contained within a four letter acronym, CERN. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the European Organization for Nuclear Research is his dream destination.

Buried underground, beneath the rolling pastures filled with cows, hidden from the soaring peaks of the majestic Alps, is a scientific lab like no other, experiments being conducted to better understand and comprehend the most fundamental particles that comprise everything in the universe. As an international organization, CERN unifies the experience and knowledge of scientists from all around the globe. One of these organizations may be found in the heartland of the United States. Located just outside Chicago, Illinois, Fermilab is in attendance at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in our nation’s capital. And so are we. As we walk down aisle 3700, my son’s gait accelerates as he gets nearer to the Fermilab display booth.

I have never seen a group of people welcome an eleven year old boy into their realm with such open arms. In a world where age restrictions limit participation in activities that are most interesting, these individuals transcended the bounds of societal expectations. Just like their forays into pure science research, these people understand that only through challenging the norm do we advance in science. And as a human race.

Inviting my son to help participate in the education of attendees at the festival, he was provided an official t-shirt and lanyard. He was a member of the team, helping to demonstrate Lenz’s Law to kids and adults alike. Whenever I see that signature grin on his face, I know that something has touched him at his core. Yep, it was all over his face.

Playing a virtual game of hide and seek, my wife and I are just out of view. Peeking around the corner, cinnamon dolce latte in hand, we alternate glances toward the presentation being conducted by our son. I never could have imagined that physics would provide such an emotional charge within me. As I watch him carry out the experiment, using his hands and voice to help explain the scientific principles behind the demonstration, I cannot hear his voice. But, I can see the invisible field of energy around him. And so can his audience. He is in his element, living a dream.

My wife and I recently spent an evening watching The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. We have both regarded this as one of our favorite and most influential movies to date. The film is eccentric, sometimes unconventional in its portrayal of the alternate realities in our mind. The other, more important characteristic of this movie, however, is that it is real. And deeply inspiring.

We each have these seemingly far-fetched and ludicrous ideas running through our heads. We keep them to ourselves because exposing them to the public would be too risky. Our emotional well-being may be challenged when we fail to adhere to those well-defined societal norms. It is in accepting ourselves and our ideas as worthy that we find true growth and opportunity. An opportunity to see the world. A chance to see behind walls, both literal and figurative. The possibility of drawing closer to each other. To feel with deep and authentic emotions.

The things that flourish are those we choose to nourish. Whether it’s the notion of writing a book from a cafe in the tree lined streets of Paris, the vision of owning a charming bookstore on a sleepy cobblestone street, or the dream of helping to explain the role of fundamental particles in our everyday life, we are called upon to push those ideas out of our head and into the world.

walter-mitty-quoteThe cliche states that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We’ll never know, however, unless we decide to jump over that fence and see what’s on the other side of the wall. To explore, to draw closer, to feel.

Walking down the hallway on the final day of the festival, my son’s face carries that signature grin once again. “I’ll never forget this”, he says. As a telltale grin of my own appears, my smile silently speaks the words from inside. Yeah buddy, me too.

Just keep swimming

courage-is-not-the-absence-of-fearSitting cross-legged on the floor of my son’s room, I stare at the pile of cards nestled in the palm of my hand. My pile is but a sliver compared to his, but that does not concern me. I always have a firm grasp on hope. The next card from our individual decks reveal a stalemate, a two of hearts versus a two of spades. As if flipping cards rapidly will conjure up the winning one expeditiously, three cards from each of our hands go face down. Snap, snap, snap. Revealing my final card face up, the mischievous grin across the battlefield seals my fate. Another game of War is in the books and I have been conquered yet again. It seems that my son always has the upper hand when we play this game, quite literally. I understand what it means to have the cards seemingly stacked against you. As it turns out, I would discover a lot more on this particular subject.

Life has a mysterious way of drawing parallels between an entertaining game and real life situations. Like that card game, battles rage around and within us. In a somewhat callous fashion, the world delivers a stage where these conflicts become the focus of our attention. The unfolding drama of these productions tug at the emotions of our heart like a puppet string, pulling one moment on the strand of melancholy, and the next instant on the thread of joy. I felt like Gepetto’s creation this past weekend, experiencing the pull on each of these strings within a twenty four hour period.

sunset-cocoa-beachWith our son out of town on a scouting campout, the weekend ours alone to define, my wife and I seized the opportunity to do something off the cuff. Fat Kahuna’s is a restaurant on Cocoa Beach, tiny in size, but reputedly big in flavor and atmosphere. With a half hour wait on this Saturday evening, we strolled out to the beach, admiring the breathtaking performance being choreographed between the sun, sea, and clouds. It was a carefree and relaxed atmosphere that we carried into the restaurant. The entire experience, including the meal comprised of calamari, seared ahi tuna, and coconut shrimp, was simply delightful. Sitting across the table from my wife, I had a view of carved tikis along with pictures of the South Pacific islands. Her line of sight faced the window, looking out to the street. We were less than four feet apart, but looking into two completely different worlds.

As we departed the establishment, our focus swiftly changed course. Away from the charming experience we had just savored, and towards the homeless man who had humbly entered the restaurant, offering to clean dishes in exchange for a meal. My wife shares “No one deserves to be hungry, let’s go offer to buy him something to eat.” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said “Let’s go.” With a purposeful gait, we trimmed the distance between us. “Excuse me”, I called out to get his attention. He turned around, somewhat confused. Upon offering to buy him a sandwich, he just nodded, with a questioning look on his face, as if to uncover our ulterior motive. Once we entered the adjacent Subway restaurant, he opened up, sharing his name and story, always interleaving words of sincere appreciation for our thoughtfulness. I remember being called upon as two little angels, for providing a hot meal on an evening that wasn’t even his birthday. When a foot long steak and cheese sandwich from Subway looks like a gourmet meal, when you learn that the same sand between your toes will serve as both a bed and a pillow for another human being on this evening, you gain an entirely new perspective on the term compassion.

Perseverance, secret of all triumphs. ~Victor Hugo

On the following afternoon, my son finds himself slipping into the aquatic pool at the local YMCA. I take for granted that I know how to swim. Learning to do so at such a young age, the ability to swim was always present, like the ability to breathe. My son was not afforded that same luxury. Beset with numerous ear infections and surgeries throughout his younger years, he was refused admission to enter the world below the water’s surface.

Now, as an eleven year old, he is undertaking a Herculean task. Coordinate movement of arms and legs. Take periodic breaths. Swim in a straight line. And forget all about the fact that you are in water that stands taller than you ever will. If there ever was an accurate depiction of jumping into the deep end, this would be it. In so many different ways. Less than a month ago, he was anxious if his head was underwater. Today, he is in a pool next to his Scoutmaster, bravely preparing to attempt the swim test required for advancement to the rank of second class scout.

Rolling over onto his back, he tentatively begins the backstroke. Although his goggles obscure his eyes, I can sense the battle raging inside. With one stroke, he exudes fear and uncertainty. In the next stroke, sheer determination to triumph. I never completely understood why my parents were more anxious than me throughout the pursuit of my personal endeavors. I know now. I could have cared less whether my son earned second class rank on that day. What I cared about was his desire to overcome fear, to vanquish those internal demons, leaving them in his wake as he determinedly took one stroke, one kick, then another, over and over again.

Within a few short strokes of the finish, my wife exclaims in a trembling voice, “Dave, he’s going to make it!” In that moment, my heartbeat fluttered. As his hand reached back to touch the wall, he stood on his feet and looked around, almost surprised at where he found himself. The far side of fear, the near side of personal pride. The beaming smile on his face etched an indelible mark on my heart.

Just-Keep-SwimmingAs I think back to these two experiences over that twenty four hour period, I could scarcely fathom just how different they were from each other. One person fighting to survive, another one wrestling with personal achievement. And as disparate as these struggles are in principle, a common thread emerges. The desire to prevail. We all find ourselves, at times, adrift in the sea of adversity, metaphorical waves crashing around us. This past weekend awakened within me the notion that the best we can do is to take a deep breath, swim one stroke, and then another, and then one more. Just keep swimming.

Time after time

time-shows-us-what-really-mattersIf I were the adult. The presence of these five words in our house seem to scale exponentially with the age of our eleven year old son. The words that follow these five vary. If I were the adult, I would be able to stay up as late as I want, I could tell someone else to pick up their dirty laundry, I could go out and buy ice cream whenever I wanted. On my weaker days, I throw back a sarcastic reply that falls upon deaf ears. On the more patient days, I simply bite my tongue. Not because I think he is correct, but because I can hear those words coming out of my own mouth some thirty years ago. I remember how it feels. We spend our entire childhood wanting to reach adulthood, and much of our adulthood wishing we could return to the innocence of our younger years.

As a twelve year old, I remember the pride I held in my musical collection. Although compact discs were evolving into mainstream use, I was smitten with my turntable and collection of seven inch records (affectionately known as 45s). One of these was Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. At that point in my life, I had no vested interest in the lyrics. I was simply proud to own another number one billboard single in my prized music collection.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust

Those round vinyl discs are long gone, perhaps serving as drink coasters in some nostalgic eighties diner. Thirty years after my initial exposure to this song, however, my eyes and ears have acquired some experience in ferreting out little nuggets of wisdom. During a recently heard acoustic performance of this song, the lyrics shone through allowing me to experience something from the past again. For the very first time.

As I watch my son experience life, I relive some of my childhood memories through his own eyes. Often, they are fleeting glimpses. Some that bring a smile to my face, others that cause a moment of despair. These flashbacks last but an instant, quickly replaced by the responsibilities of adulthood. But, when I slow down and allow myself to acknowledge those recollections from the past, I sink back into those youthful days and empathize with the emotions of an eleven year old boy, past and present.

If you’re lost, you can look, and you will find me, time after time. If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time. ~Cyndi Lauper

childhood-lasts-all-through-lifeThe unbridled laughter emanating from my son’s room causes my own heart to share in the same delight. I have never heard anything more authentic. It is pure joy, a result of human connection, even if it is through a Skype session.

And as I listen to his worries and difficulties bubble to the surface, I live through those with him. I have been there. I know how both extremes feel, the exhilarating times and the discouraging ones. I return to my childhood more often these days. Not to relive memories from the past, but to help guide a young boy towards creating new ones in the present. Time after time.