Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dear Lindsey, I spoke at your funeral

Lindsey Louise Lewis

I wanted to write about you today. About how I spoke at your funeral.

And it was exactly what I needed to feel like the Lindsey I loved was represented. 

I hesitated, after your sisters invited people up to the microphones. No one moved. And I heard this voice say, cmon, you know I’d do this for you. (Sorry Lindsey, how could I have hesitated?)

So I got up, and grabbed the mic and talked about you; introduced myself as your best friend in high school, which was strange because I never thought of myself that way. You had a few other girls who you spent time with, and a lot of people in your large social group. But after a few days of reflection after your passing, I realized that I was most myself around you, even into adulthood. That’s rare. I’ll claim best friend. 

You wrote me letters, thanking me for my influence. Ha! If only you knew how crucially important you were to me. To my life and my beliefs, my ability to stand firm on what I saw as important. It was all because you taught me to be myself unabashedly. You were very firmly yourself, and by and by I became that way too.

I told the story about how I leapt off the cliff of a rock quarry with you- I can still smell the water dripping from our hair, feel the freckles on my shoulders emerging in the midsummer Kansas sun. It was one of those days that I felt infinitely young. No worries. No responsibilities. Leaping into oblivion with my friend.

I told of how you kept me sane during my wedding, and how I will always remember the dance you choreographed with my bridesmaids. You danced around me in a circle, your obnoxious purple dress floating about. You danced and sang to me and calmed my nerves - it was impossible to be nervous when I was hysterically laughing.

I told of how you came to my baby shower. You drove for hours to come, and I did not expect to see you. I opened the door of our little house and you walked in with a smirk and immediately rubbed my belly. Smiled so big and said “Jill!!!” Like only you could. You wrote me a card, gave us a high chair. You were there when I didn’t expect you, and when I needed you most.

Then I did something I think you would have loved...
I asked the packed audience who knew the last scene of The Breakfast Club? When that fist goes in the air while Don’t You Forget About Me plays- and I made us put our fists up for you.

You are unforgettable. Your life was LIVED. You saw the world and fell in love and made friends and saw your favorite bands play. You loved to dance and sing and eat and drink. You loved to stay up late and make bad decisions. You loved to give gifts and make people feel special and important. You loved to fight and argue and make your point known. You loved life! You loved those who few others could love - the basketcases, the jocks, the criminals, the brains, and the princesses.

You would have loved your funeral. Sour candy, open bar, 100 chicken nuggets made special for you by the owner of McDonalds, your best friends talking about your, the playlist your sister made, the Obama and Legolas cardboard cutouts, the pink flowers, the Love Spell perfume I brought for you (which one of your sisters immediately sprayed all over herself), the packed house, the awkward reunions. The tears, the laughter, the slideshow. I won’t ever forget how utterly Lindsey it was. 

And I could have sat there, afraid to say anything at my best friends funeral. But I hopped up and knew you would guide me. Knew you would let me know what to say and I was right - it was easy. I shook afterward and our friends held my hands to get me through it. And I cried and cried. And I got in my car afterward and drove home to the soundtrack of our youth and wondered what it was like where you are now. 

I can’t say I’m ok now, but I’m better. Thanks for the nudge, Lindsey. I’m glad I got up and talked. I’m glad I knew you. I’m so sad you’re gone.

The truth is, I won’t ever be the same because you made me different to start with. Thank you. Send your messages, send the signs, like the pink clouds on my walk last night and the songs on the radio. Rest. Enjoy the weird afterlife that no one is sure of. I’ll miss you. I’ll see you again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What Happened When I Let My Toddler Do Everything Herself

The Big Girl Moment

“Mama let me do it!!” My two year old yelled, wrenching her shorts from my hands. I got up and left, frustrated beyond belief of the past few weeks of the terrible twos.

I couldn’t seem to get through a day without frustrating my child and myself. It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, we just couldn’t find a groove lately. We clicked so well during her baby hood. She and I were like peas in a pod, reading each other’s cues and blending like water and soil. 

But toddlerhood... she just wanted to do everything herself. 

My husband and I sat down together during her nap that afternoon. He said, “Why don’t we just let her do everything herself when she wakes up?”

“What?!” I replied.

“She sees you get dressed, alone. She sees you shower and go to the bathroom, alone. She sees you put on your shoes and comb your hair and get a snack and pour your drink. She wants to be just like you.”

Just like me? The lady who walked away in frustration just hours earlier, tears in my eyes from feeling clueless as a mom?

Just like me. Something clicked. She was no longer my baby. She is almost three. We have taught her from the beginning to do things on her own. Told her how to do it so she can be big. Is this the moment when we need to just let her do it?

That evening we ate dinner on our back deck. We used the China my grandmother bought us for our wedding- around $40 a plate. Phoebe was done eating and hopped down from her chair. She grabbed the plate off the table and I made a move to stop her.

My husband held his hand out- “Let’s just see what she does.”

I paused and watched. She put the plate on the deck, let the dogs lick it clean (yes we are those people), picked it up, opened the sliding glass door, walked into the kitchen, opened the dishwasher, put the plate in, and closed it back up.

I was speechless.

At that moment, I let go. No more babies in our house. We had a big girl. I let her do more and now she is capable of so much more than I thought:

She gets both mine and hers toothbrushes ready in the morning

She dresses herself and asks which feet her shoes go on

She washes herself with a purple bath poof and puts her own soap on

She combs her hair 

She pours juice and milk for herself

She walks the dog and holds on to his leash pretty well

She picks out her bedtime books

And the biggest one... she’s officially potty trained, two weeks after we let her be big.

Are things done perfectly? Nope!
Are things done fast? Nope!
Are we frustrated? Nope!

She has to be a person someday. We chose that day to let her just be herself. Two months shy of three, and she’s more independent than I could ever dream. But guess what... we don’t fight anymore, and neither one of us are in tears. 

I let go. She stepped up. What a wonderful child- I’m so happy my husband told me to just let her do it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Baby No More

I won’t ever see my baby again.

This was made clear to me yesterday, as my toddler kicked me in the face as I loaded her into her car seat and fought me while I tried to brush her teeth, sending her toothbrush flying.

I told her I was very sad. That I wanted her to be nice to me, and that I didn’t want to sleep with her that night. My exhaustion level was so high, after a few super physical days at work, and Phoebe in the care of others, which meant she just wanted me (and to nurse all night; some reason I have lost the ability to sleep as she does so). I was burnt out and touched out and so, so tired.

I put her in her toddler bed next to our big family bed and put her soft blanket over her and turned out the light. Her gentle crying was so sad. She had been such a toddler, and I just needed a break.

It occurred to me then: I won’t ever see my baby again. Her soft full baby cheeks are gone.

Her toothless smile is gone.

The rolls on her ankles and elbows and wrists and thighs have lengthened out.

She no longer needs me to move about the house. She sprints.

She can feed herself and requests specific foods.

The snuggles are fewer, and harder with her long legs.

She nurses still, but not the soft baby nursing. It’s comfort for her still, but it’s different and she sighs loudly, “no milk, mama.”

I lay there in bed thinking of how fast these three years have gone and wept. I could not stop the tears. And Phoebe cried too, mostly because she didn’t get what she wanted. 

I invited her into our bed after about 10 minutes, longer than I ever would have separated from her in infancy. 

She said, “Don’t cry mama. It’s ok, sweetheart. Let me wipe your tears.”

And she took her little hand and wiped my wet cheeks. 

Hugged and kissed me. 

Offered me a pickle to make me happy. 

Comforted me for mourning the loss of the baby I once knew.

I let her nurse and she hummed a lullaby I sing to her, one my mama sang to me.

And I realized then... I will feel this loss my whole life, as each new phase comes. I will (maybe) mourn her toddlerhood.

Cry when my little girl becomes a young lady.

Mourn her childhood at her graduations, and wedding, and someday if she becomes a mama, I’ll really cry and say with absolute truth: “Where did my baby go?”

I needed that cry, I now know. And hope to get a good nap in today to revive myself. But I think of the things that I did that made her who she is today... they all stem back to her baby hood.

I comforted her, saying “Don’t cry, baby. Mama’s got you. It’s ok sweetheart. Let me dry your tears. Do you need something?” And snuggled her, nursed her, let her into my bed...sang her an old family lullaby. 

It’s funny how I turned into the baby who needed some love. I have a feeling she’ll keep surprising me, loving me when I need it most, even if it’s her orneriness that made me grumpy in the first place.

Cycles of life. Circles of remembrance. I hope I can remember this phase... I’ll likely be sad when I realize I’ll never see my toddler again.