21

Day 29: the night of your 21st birthday

That was a LONG time ago. I’m surprised by how dim a memory it is. I’m amazed by how the events of adulthood — marriage, children, career — can blur the memory of the very beginning of that adulthood. I don’t remember most of my birthdays, really.

I do remember some of the circumstances surrounding this event, though.

I turned 21 in 1989. That day in early June, the Ayatollah Khomeini died. That day was also the beginning of the the brutal enforcement of martial law in Beijing. Within a year after my 21st birthday, the Berlin Wall fell (11/9/89) and Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years (2/11/90). The world as I’d always known it was changing. As I was turning 21, I entered a new phase of life in a world that was brand new in so many ways. It was a time of infinite possibilities.

Seven months before my 21st birthday, I got engaged to my beloved husband, John. It was just after I’d voted in my very first Presidential election. It was 1988 and I’d cast my vote for Michael Dukakis. We all know what happened…

So, I approached a milestone birthday as an engaged woman in turbulent times. I’d just finished my 3rd year of college at Oberlin and I was looking forward to spending the summer at Meadowmount Music School in (far) upstate New York.

There’s a little more to the story.

John was not the first man to ask me to marry him. That distinction went to someone I’d met and fallen for — hard — the summer between high school and college. That relationship had changed me in really important ways, and I was sad when it and the summer ended. The following summer, we met again and the relationship resumed. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in love, but this relationship was intense and passionate. He was two years older than me, and much less of a wandering spirit than I was. For him, life was simple: go to school, meet a girl, fall in love, get married, get a job, live happily ever after. At the end of the summer, I had to return to school and he was staying put. I didn’t know how to merge the life I had at college with the life I had with him, but I tried to hang on despite the distance. We talked almost every day.

Then, one day he asked me to marry him. He had already turned 21. I was only just 19. I completely freaked out, and I stopped calling him. I dodged his calls. I just couldn’t say what I knew I had to. I knew it would break his heart. So, in the boneheaded play of the century, I started dating someone else. That was how I ended the relationship. I was young, stupid, and scared out of my mind. I ran rather than talk about it.

I came to find out that just a few weeks later he met someone else. They started dating and it became serious. When I screwed up the courage to finally call and apologize, I got the cold shoulder. When I saw him for lunch a couple of months later, I got two shocks: he was joining the army and he had asked her to marry him — the night before. I deserved every bit of the pain that news caused me. He threw it all in my face and then rubbed it in. I had never known him to be cold or cruel, but he was both that day. I couldn’t be angry with him for it. This was his response to what I’d done and I’d earned his wrath. So I took it.

John and I were engaged less than six months later.

Fast forward to the spring of 1989. Within a few weeks, I received two things in the mail that rocked me back on my heels: an invitation to his wedding, and a letter from him sent from boot camp. I had assumed that the wedding invite was the final fuck you flourish meant to hurt me. The letter told a different story.

He was lonely and scared. He was worried that he was making a mistake by getting married. He wanted to talk to me.

He wanted to see me.

My heart was beating like a drum and my head was exploding. There was no way I could see him again. I couldn’t do that to myself, to him, to her, or to John. If we saw each other, everything would be an enormous emotional mess. No, I couldn’t do it. No. No matter how much I may have wanted to reach out to him, I knew it was dangerous and foolish.

I never answered the letter. I put it and him away, presumably forever. There was only one thing left for me to do. I had to survive his wedding day. I wasn’t going, of course, but the day would be a difficult one. It was exactly one week after my birthday. We had spent his 21st birthday together, as well as my 19th. I spent my 21st birthday doing stuff I don’t remember now. I’m sure it was a lovely day, and I suspect that I spent it with John. There were other things on my mind and my life had gone on. I had moved on.

The day he got married, it was clear to me that I had not moved on. I spent that day alone in my room, crying like a baby. In my mind that part of my life had been over for a long time, but the last piece of my heart broke for him that day. It was over and there was no going back.

I cried all day and then I was done. It was over.

John and I married almost three years later, ten days before I turned 24. We’ve been married nearly half our lives.

About 21 years after I ended that relationship, we got back in touch through an odd set of circumstances. I had tried to find him over the years. I needed to apologize. I finally got my chance. I am forever grateful for that. I did not want to carry that around with me for the rest of my life. It was generous of him to listen to me and allow me to set that burden down. It was even more generous of him to forgive me. What a blessing that was.

Looking back, I can see how much I didn’t know at 21. I was smart in an academic sense, but I was so innocent and naive in the ways of the world. I did so many stupid things. I used to have many regrets from that time. I have learned to let regret go. I have learned to forgive 21 year old Lisa as I can clearly see her now through my 47 year old eyes. My life was all ahead of me then, and I had no idea what that meant. I wish I could talk to young Lisa and help her understand how much life would mold and shape her over the years. I wish I could hold her close and kiss her tears away. She had so much to learn.

None of that was on my radar at 21. It was just a birthday that told me I was adult now. It was so important then. It seems so silly now. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

ExFiles

 

Day 26: things you’d say to an ex

Whoa. This is some heavy shit. I have a few exes, and I’d say something different to each of them. I’m still friends with quite a few of them, which shows that both parties involved grew up at least a little bit.

So, what would I say? I don’t want to go all Adele on them, if you feel me, but there’s still some pain and anger lingering in a couple situations. I’m almost 50 and I’ve been married — to one of my exes, actually — for almost half my life. What’s left to say?

I don’t want to name names or kiss and tell, but here are some thoughts.

  • I loved you once, with all my heart.
  • You broke my heart, but I forgive you.
  • I knew you were gay, but I didn’t care.
  • I still think about you sometimes, and always with a smile.
  • You taught me a lot about myself.
  • You made me so mad I wanted to kill you.
  • That was some really mindlessly awesome sex.
  • That was some really pathetically lousy sex.
  • Remind me again how drunk I was?
  • I should’ve called the police after the first time you hit me.
  • You’re a rotten bastard and I hope you rot in hell.
  • You raped me.
  • I can’t believe you tried to kill me.
  • How did it come to this?
  • Do you even remember our relationship?
  • We split and you started dating that cow?
  • You don’t marry your rebound, honey.
  • That was the sweetest summer of my life.
  • You made me feel like a princess and I always remembered that.
  • What were we thinking?
  • Love is some complicated shit.
  • You chased me and then you dumped me, then it was somehow MY fault?
  • What took you so long? What were we waiting for?
  • I could barely keep my hands off of you.
  • I’ve never felt that way before, or since.
  • What can I say? The first cut is the deepest.
  • We were so young.
  • Oh my God, I was so stupid.
  • I’ve always wondered what you saw in me.
  • I only remember the good times.

The most important thing of all is what I’d say to the most important of my exes:

  • I’m so glad you didn’t give up on us.
  • You have the patience of Job. I can’t believe you waited this long.
  • You were there when I finally landed. Thank you.
  • You had a vision of you and me that I couldn’t see at first. I see it now, and it’s beautiful.
  • I’m sorry it took me so long.
  • I’m sorry I hurt you.
  • I’ve loved you so long I can’t remember when I didn’t.
  • Thank you for asking me to marry you. I’m glad I said yes.
  • I can’t imagine life without you.
  • I’m so happy that we get to grow old together.
  • Thank you for the life we’ve made together.

And I’ve never loved anyone more than I love you.

Missing You

Day 24: Something you miss

Wow.  There are a lot of things that come to me.  Perhaps I need to make a list rather than try to put one topic into paragraphs.

  1. My grandmother: her voice, her giggle, her food, her unconditional love, her advice.
  2. My dad: there’s so much I never said and I’ll never have the chance.  I have to live with that, and it hurts.
  3. My babies: mind you, they still live with me (for now — one’s off to college soon), but I really miss them as babies.  I know babies are labor intensive and exhausting, but my kids were beautiful and amazing and I wish I’d enjoyed that time with them more.
  4. New York: yes, I’ve been saying that for over seven years, ever since we left.  The New York I moved to in 1990 no longer exists.  Hell, the NYC I left in 2008 no longer exists.  I miss the raw energy of the City, with all its creativity and crazy.  I miss the feeling that making it there was the end all and be all in the life of an artist.  Now it’s just an expensive and sanitized Disneyland full of chain and big box stores.  The little businesses and restaurants are closing.  People in other parts of the country don’t seem to understand that NYC had its share of mom and pop stores too.  They’re gone now.  It’s so sad that it makes me cry.
  5. My hair: this always happens after I cut it short.  It’ll pass. I’ll grow it long again and then cut it all off again, all in 7-10 year cycles.
  6. My friends: my social life here in Ohio is very different from the ones I’ve had pretty much anywhere else.  I miss the closeness I enjoyed with my neighbors in New York, and with my colleagues.  People keep to themselves and their families more here.  It’s hard for a person like me who’s used to creating her family wherever she calls home.
  7. The over 40 family members and friends who have died since 2008: among them were my colleagues and mentors from my NYC music scene days, along with treasured members of John’s family and my own.  It got so bad at one point that folks were passing away in groups of three within a week for a while.  There’s been a lot of loss.
  8. Ethnic diversity: I miss riding the subway with Orthodox Jewish diamond merchants, Mexican mariachi bands, old ladies in saris, and Korean restaurant workers who smell like kimchee.  I miss that feeling of each subway car being a mini United Nations.  I miss living somewhere where catching a cab is a magic carpet ride that might take you to the middle east or sub-Saharan Africa.  I miss readily available sushi delivered to my door so many times that the restaurant sent me not one but two Christmas cards.  What I really miss is that Arabs are just another group of people in NYC, and not viewed and talked about with suspicion and trepidation.  In NYC, folks were folks and we all lived, worked, and co-existed without too much trouble most of the time.  I’m not that dark, but I’m often the darkest thing in the room around here.  It’s gone from being annoying to being just plain infuriating.
  9. The ocean: I’m an east coast kinda gal.  I need an ocean.  This Lake Erie beach shit is NOT cutting it.
  10. Cheese steaks, hoagies, bagels, (real) pizza, pastrami, egg creams, and Sabrett’s hot dogs: ‘nuf said.
  11. The feeling that my entire life is ahead of me: at nearly 48, that’s not really true anymore.  Sure, there’s a lot of life left for me to live, but I’m rapidly approaching the time where I will have lived more than half of my life.  I may live to be 96, but I doubt I’ll live to be 120, if you catch my drift.  I’m not 40.  I’m not 30.  I’m definitely not the wide eyed 24 year old I was when I last graduated from something (Juilliard in 1993).  More than ever, the phrase life is too short is becoming truly meaningful.
  12. My uterus: another odd thing to say, but still true.  We parted ways nearly two months ago.  I don’t miss how it was in the final days, but I miss feeling like I’m whole.  I miss the possibility of having more babies.  My two are awesome, but I have always regretted not having more children.  Having my hysterectomy ushered me into a new stage of life that there is no way to prepare for — very much like becoming a parent or losing a parent.  There’s no way to explain how it feels.  It’s just the new normal.  Most days it’s okay, sometimes even great.  Then someone brings a baby into the room and I start to cry.  It’s hard to change how I see myself, but I’m trying.

I miss you all.

I Don’t Like You

Day 23: A family member you dislike

Again, only one?

Seriously though, there isn’t just one person that I loathe and everyone else is okay.  I can’t say that there’s anyone in my family I truly dislike.  I dislike certain aspects of most of my family members’ behavior or personality, but as a whole I either like or tolerate pretty much everyone in my family.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I mean, come on.  Even if I really did dislike a family member, do you really think I’d throw it up on a blog post?  Unless I get a book deal with the prospect of having a NYT Bestseller on my hands, I’m not sticking my neck out quite THAT far as a writer yet.

Still, there are tendencies about a few members of my family that irk me.  Badly.  Badly enough that I may share some of those traits here without any names.  Remember, I gotta see and talk to these folks again at some point, and I’m not into the awkward family holiday thing…

Passive aggressive behavior: let’s just say this is a behavior that I married into rather than grew up with.  I’m from direct people who say what’s on their minds — sometimes far too much, too loudly, and too often.  When I communicate, I’m not interested in screwing with your head.  I want you to understand me.  So this behavior was not only annoying as hell, it was confusing too.  As of today, I can’t see that this is something that has passed on to my kids, so the bloodline may be dying out.  We’ll see.

Lying: this one I am very familiar with since, well, birth.  Some were lies of omission, and some were just big ole whoppers.  They mostly came from one person close to me who, of course, claims these lies never happened and that I’m crazy (that was another hallmark of my childhood that I’ll get to later).  The lies were such a big part of my growing up that I’m not really sure I understood reality as a concept until I was in my 40s.  No, I’m not joking and that’s not an overstatement.  It took me a while to figure out the real truth about myself in a lot of ways, and it was a hard-fought war.  I’m pretty sure I won.  At least I hope I have.

Denial: deep, painful denial of shit that was so obvious it was insane.  My parents (that’s as personal as I’ll go with this) were the king and queen of denial, to the point that stuff didn’t exist if they ignored it or said it didn’t happen.  Revisionist history was the specialty of my parents, especially after I grew up and was no longer afraid to tell my story from my point of view.  So, the catchphrase was, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  That never happened.  You’re crazy.”  I heard that so many times, I began to believe it.  That was the root cause of my long battle with mental health, but we all have those, don’t we?

Unwarranted advice giving: this comes from a number of sources on both sides of the family equation.  Folks, I try to only give helpful advice, as in the kind that neither assumes you’re stupid nor talks to you like you’re 3.  Please don’t give me advice that sounds like you think I’m an idiot.  If I’ve been married longer than you, or you’re on spouse number 3 and I’m still married to the only person I ever intend to marry, please don’t feel obligated to give me marital advice.  I may not be the woman you want to marry because I don’t (fill in the blank) the way you like, but someone wanted to marry me and he’s still happy I said yes.  Clearly, I’m doing something right.  So drop it and keep it to yourself.  I’m good.

Fear: this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing on the surface, but fear has kept a large chunk of my family from doing much of anything.  They often live in the same houses forever as the neighborhoods around them crumble and decline.  They don’t travel — not even outside of the city they live in.  They say disparaging things about other groups of people, not out of hate but out of fear of the unknown.  To these folks in my family, I have always been something between an adventurer and a lunatic.  I have traveled abroad quite a few times, I went away to college, I lived in NYC (thought of as Sodom and Gomorrah by members of my family), and I married outside of my race.  Clearly I’ve lost my damned mind!  To this day, I’m not sure how I lived my life surrounded by this fear and still managed to accomplish all I’ve done.  It’s a miracle, truly.

All these traits and character flaws are not from one person in my family, but they touch on the personalities of several of them.  Over the years, I’ve learned to overlook some, speak out against some, and just plain tear my hair out over others.  Family is something I take very seriously, so it takes a lot for me to just write somebody off — but I’ve done it more than once.  Some toxins don’t get to live in my life, no matter how much I may love their source.  Dislike is the limit for me.  I don’t want to make it to hatred.

 

Gemini

Day 21: your zodiac/horoscope and whether you think it fits you

I have an early June birthday which makes me a Gemini. The symbol for Gemini in the zodiac is a pair of twins, indicating a duality of nature, personality, or emotion.

Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.

Here are some named traits/attributes, both positive and not so positive about Geminis:

Gentle, affectionate, curious, adaptable, learns quickly, exchanges ideas, nervous/anxious, inconsistent, indecisive.

Guilty on all charges, your honor.

Here are likes (go ahead and laugh out loud — I did!):

Music, books, magazines, chats with nearly everyone, short day trips

Dislikes:

Being alone, being confined, repetition and routine.

I’d say that’s about 99% true. There are definitely times when I enjoy repetition and routine, mostly as it pertains to practicing viola. The rest is pretty accurate.

One of the hallmarks of the Gemini personality is a quick wit and an insatiable appetite for communication. We love to talk! We love chattiness and gossip, but we are particularly keen on deep philosophical conversations too. Because we are also described as being of a restless nature, we can often change course in mid-thought or bounce from one conversation to another. This can be misconstrued as flightiness, but I know that sometimes my brain is just going so fast that I can barely keep up, so how can I expect anyone else to?

Gemini is what is called an air sign (the 12 zodiac signs fall into the categories of the four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water) which is associated with all aspects of the mind, especially intelligence. This sign is also said to be ruled by the planet Mercury, the planet connected to communication, writing, and teaching. For me at least, this means that the world is just one enormous classroom with all sorts of fascinating stuff to explore and learn. We are people who want it all and want it now. As friends, we may be hard to keep up with, but we are never boring.

Apparently, Geminis tend to have many friends and enjoy being social. That is remarkably true of me. I love to have folks come over to eat and talk. I love to offer hospitality to people I like and take the chance to talk and get to know them better. As I read in one horoscope, we tend to have friendships with our siblings, which is certainly true of me (and BOTH of my sisters are Geminis!).

Do I like to keep busy? Absolutely! I also love to write, teach, and brainstorm ideas.

The quickest way to my heart is through my brain, as I also read in my research on Geminis. For me the brain is definitely a sexual organ and conversation is the best form of foreplay. I have fallen in love more than once with men who are witty, charming, and smart and engaged me in a mental sparring match. There is very little in the world more sexy to me than a man who will debate with me or exchange opinions and ideas freely with me — but he’d better be smart and have a quick wit or I will lose interest really quickly.

This is absolutely why I am still married to the same man for nearly 24 years. I think he’s the smartest man I’ve ever known and we have some really amazing… conversations. Whenever this restless spirit of mine gets tired and finally comes to a stop, he’s there waiting for me. He’s the tether for this kite and I love him for it.

Am I the Gemini I’ve read about? Yes, almost down to the letter and with very few exceptions. I don’t place a lot of stock in horoscopes and astrology, but I can’t deny that there’s at least some basis in fact. If you ever read the description of what the Gemini personality is, think of me. I really do fit the bill in more ways than one.

It’s like they know…

Five Fears

Day 19: five fears that you have

Heights: I can’t even look at movies with sweeping views of heights without getting that tingly feeling in the backs of my legs. Heights have always terrified me, mostly because I’m afraid of falling from them. Think Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Yeah, that’s me.

Death: even though I am a person of faith, with all of the requisite views and beliefs of Christianity, I am afraid to die. Why? Lack of faith? No, I don’t think I’m lacking in that. Perhaps it’s more about my overall fear of the unknown than anything else. Life is hard, but at least I know what happens to me in life. I’m not familiar with what happens during the process of dying. That moment of transition between life and death is frightening to me.

Harm coming to my husband, children, family, or friends: my hubby travels a lot for work and I’m a nervous wreck every time he flies. Maybe it’s because of 9/11. John and I were living in NYC at that time, along with our 3 1/2 year old daughter. I didn’t fly for 4 years after that. Watching John or Imani go through the security line at the airport gives me chills. Knowing that Iain crosses the street alone at a busy intersection frequented by tractor trailers makes my heart stop. Anything could happen, and I can’t stop it. Worrying won’t change anything, but I still do it.

My son’s future: will he be able to go to college? Live independently? Have a career? Marry and have a family? Those are all enormous question marks for him. We know how much better he’s gotten since he was diagnosed with ASD at age three. I’ve always believed that he could have what others might call a “normal life”, and I still believe it. But what will it take to get him all the way there? Are we on the right track? Only time will tell, but it’s a nail biter waiting it out.

Failure: I wrote a blog post about failure once. I should probably go back and read it again. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, for years to change careers. I am beginning to worry that the change will never come for me. Right now, I’m stuck in a job that has no security, no benefits, low pay, and no future. And I’m about to send my firstborn to college in the fall. I need a chance, an opportunity. I need to put down the instrument and move on. My career has prepared me to do just about anything. I’m afraid — terrified — that I will never be seen as capable of any other work. The older I get, the more afraid I am. I fear my window of opportunity is closing fast.

My life isn’t ruled by fear, but I do try to be honest about what scares me. I cannot fix flaws I don’t acknowledge.

Bullet Points

Day 16: Bullet your entire day

  • Wake up — harder than it sounds
  • Bathroom — no explanation necessary
  • Coffee. Must. Have. Coffee.
  • Check weather and traffic — it’s best to get the bad news early
  • Shower and brush teeth
  • Pick out clothes and dress
  • Breakfast — rice and eggs with TONS of hot sauce
  • Take kids to school
  • Hit the road to work — otherwise known as the highway to hell
  • Arrive at work. Expect the unexpected. Troubleshoot as needed. Never a dull moment.
  • Commute home
  • Pick up kids from school
  • Home and homework
  • Coffee and snack while relaxing with dogs and (inevitably) watching an episode of Law&Order on the DVR
  • Make any necessary phone calls, schedule appointments, etc., before the close of the business day
  • Tie up any loose ends from work
  • Walk dogs, no matter the weather
  • Supervise transportation to extracurricular activities: swim practice, choir rehearsal, etc.
  • Handle dinner: who’s cooking what
  • Eat — usually too much, too late
  • Watch tv with hubby if he’s not on the road, but always with the dogs
  • Write my daily blog entry (at least these days)
  • Clean up kitchen, do load of laundry
  • Supervise instrumental practice for kid #2: drum set, piano, and tuba
  • Be sure kid #1 is alive and try to nail down her schedule
  • Be sure #2 makes his lunch and gets his clothes ready for the next day at school
  • Be sure #2 gets ready for bed, goes to bed, and stays in bed
  • Send emails, pay bills, work on budget, all while trying not to worry too much
  • Send texts to tomorrow’s students
  • Fall down the Facebook rabbit hole under controlled conditions
  • Still watching tv, too much too late
  • Collapse, exhausted, into bed

Observations: not enough me time. I need to make time to work out and consolidate scattered tasks into one or two bigger tasks. I’m not using my time efficiently.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Everyday is a new beginning. I need to start now. The spirit is willing, but… You know the rest.

Looking over that list makes me tired… No wonder I’m tired all the time after actually doing all of this stuff. I need to make life and career changes too. I’m in a rut. Putting my day into a list of bullet points has made that painfully clear.

To action!

Relationship 

Day 11: your current relationship; if single, discuss that

I am definitely NOT single. In fact, truth be told, I haven’t been single for almost exactly 28 years. It was right around this time in 1988 that John and I rekindled our previous flame which had ended back in 1986. In the two years we were apart, there was so much crazy relationship nonsense for me that I can’t even begin to tell it all. Aside from all the frogs I kissed and strange places I woke up during my so-called “lost semester”, there was a physically abuse relationship, a summer romance that ended with a marriage proposal, a nine week whirlwind fling that ended on a rooftop during midterms, and the game of cat and mouse with the man who wore me down and then decided he wasn’t interested.

And then there was John.

I don’t know why we work, but we do. We are such radically different people, but we fit. We are great people on our own who are exponentially better together. On the surface, we don’t look like we should work on paper. When I’m with John, all is as it should be. The good times are greater and the bad times are bearable. Life wouldn’t be the same without him.

We’ve learned to meet in the middle on the issues that would separate most folks. He smoothes my rough edges, but doesn’t file them away. My directness has rubbed off on him and he is more open and expressive than when we first met.

He makes gorgeous babies. I truly believe that our kids are stunningly beautiful in their own right, not just because I’m their mom and that’s a requirement. Even with all of the difficulties we’ve faced with the kids, I can’t imagine doing any of it with anyone else.

We strengthen each other’s strengths and help with each other’s weaknesses. We fight for our love, our family, and our marriage. We’ve faced some very serious adversity, and we are still together and stronger for it.

We love each other’s company and miss each other when we’re apart.

I can’t imagine life without him: going to bed and waking up next to each other, growing old together. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m happy to live it to its fullest one day at a time

I love him. He loves me. No flourish, no pretense, no bullshit. Of our own free will, we belong to each other. It is my life’s greatest blessing.

In May, we’ll mark 24 years of marriage, which will be half of our lives. We’ve grown up together. Hopefully, we’ll grow old together.

Our love is no fairytale, but it is magical in so many ways.

My John, my love, you are every beat of my heart. I love you, Boo Boo.

Day 4: 10 (Interesting) Things About Me

 

I’m going to cheat a bit on this one…

Nearly seven years ago, back when publishing notes on Facebook was a thing, I responded to the request from a friend to post 25 Random Things About Me.  I was surprised that I had 26 things to post, even though I probably could’ve condensed a few of them into a single item.  So, in the interest of conservation (reduce, reuse, recycle), I’m going to use some of that list here.

I put interesting in parentheses in the title because I’m not sure everyone will find these 10 things interesting.  Here’s hoping!

  1. I found out that I was adopted when I was nearly 30 years old and my firstborn was about 4 weeks old.  My “Aunt Cheryl” is really my mom.  Needless to say, this was some pretty earth-shaking news, especially in my hormonally challenged state.  Two years later, John helped me find my birth father.  So now I have four parents (though one is deceased), and my kids have six grandparents.  I’m also now no longer the only child I thought I was.  I have 5 brothers and sisters (again, one is deceased).  In the end, finding all this out was a tremendous blessing.
  2. I met my husband in 8th grade.  We sat across from each other in home room.  He thought I was cute.  I thought he was weird.  In 9th grade, I dated his best friend (who turned out to be gay — just my luck…).  We did eventually begin to date, right before he moved to Vermont.  I broke up with him on Valentine’s Day.  It took nearly two years and the kissing of MANY frogs to get me to see the mistake I’d made in dumping him.  We’ve been together since 1988 and married since 1992.
  3. Our daughter was born in the back seat of a 1997 Lincoln Town Car at the corner of 104th Street and Riverside Drive in NYC.  John delivered her.  This was the first of several diva moments she’s had in her nearly 18 years of life.  Giving birth to her was a life-changing experience for me.  I’ve never been the same since.
  4. Singing was my first musical expression.  I first remember “being caught” singing by my mother when I was 3.  We had just recently gone to a wedding, and the two musicians sang the song “September” from The Fantastiks.  That’s what I was singing to myself in my room as I played with my blocks.  Mom thought it was the radio.  When she figured out it was me, she carried me to her bedroom and made me sing it again for my dad.  I still remember the look on their faces; they looked at me as if I were some kind of freak.  That has, unfortunately, followed me since.
  5. I am a violist today, and have been since I was 16, but I started off playing violin.  Violin wasn’t even my first choice of instrument.  I wanted to play French Horn like my Aunt Mary Ann, but my parents didn’t want me to do ANYTHING  Mary Ann did.  So I talked them into letting me play violin.  They never really supported my love of music, often telling me that Black folks didn’t play stringed instruments or play Classical music.  Again, they made me feel like a freak for loving music and wanting to do it professionally.  They never have understood what I do.  This had been one of the saddest things in my life for many years.
  6. I wore braces on my teeth from the age of 22 to 25.  I still had on my bottom braces on my wedding day.  While it really sucked at the time, the investment in my smile was worth the pain.
  7. I love to practice and perform solo Bach more than any other music in the entire world.  It is the purest expression of who I am as a musician.
  8. Beethoven is my favorite composer.  When I was in Germany, I took the train from Cologne to Bonn to visit the Beethovenhaus Museum.  On the top floor, there is the room where he was born.  I remember standing in the doorway and crying like a baby at the thought of such greatness coming into the world in such a tiny space.  I also cry every time I hear or play the third movement of his Ninth Symphony.  I’ve been a musician for decades and I’ve heard and played a lot of music, but I’ve never heard anything more lovely and moving than that.
  9. I had an out of body experience the only time I ever performed the Shostakovich Viola Sonata.  I dedicated that particular performance to a friend of mine who had just died of AIDS.  While playing, I burst into tears during the climax of the last movement.  For many years, I remembered every note.  It was a really powerful experience.
  10. My son’s autism has been the biggest challenge for me.  Every view I ever had on raising children, education, and the way the world views the differently abled has been challenged, tested, and reevaluated.  There have been times when I literally thought I couldn’t raise him and that God had given him the wrong mother.  However, I have come to see that his triumphs outnumber his defeats and that he does benefit from my presence in his life.  Sometimes I think he’s raising me because he’s taught me so much.  He’s a beautiful boy and I love him so much.  It’s hard to watch the world misunderstand him, or to see his peers going on to do things he’s not ready to tackle.  All I can do is pray and do everything I can to make him as strong and capable as possible.  No one will limit this child as long as I’m alive.  Only the sky is his limit, no matter what anyone else may think.  I will never give up on him.  He is my sweet young man.

So, there are the 10 things I chose to share/disclose.  Interesting?  Perhaps.  Good for me?  As an exercise, this was absolutely perfect for me, especially on New Year’s Eve.  Tomorrow is a new day and a new year.  Maybe I’ll have a whole new list to share next December 31.

First Love, First Kiss

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Day three

This prompt got me thinking and I must admit I’m at a loss.

My first kiss was extremely inappropriate because it came from a 19 year old when I was only about 5. This young man molested me and left an invisible scar that took years to heal. His name was Jessie.

I’d rather not think about that.

The first kiss I chose to give was to a boy in my first grade class named Steven. He had dark auburn hair and a few missing teeth (we were that age). His face was full of freckles and his brown eyes sparkled. I had only ever had one other major crush in my brief years: the late Bruce Lee (come on, he was GORGEOUS!). Steven and I sat together and sometimes ate lunch together before playing together at recess. I can actually remember the feeling of my heart fluttering when he smiled at me.

One afternoon on the slide, which was shaped like a big pyramid without the point on top, Steven and I were sitting and talking. I timidly confessed that I liked him and he said he liked me too. I seized the moment and kissed him gently on the cheek. Steven smiled at me right before he turned to go down the slide. He smiled at me!

He missed the next week of school. Chicken pox. Luckily, I didn’t get it then.

That kiss may not have been the stuff of romantic legend or passionate lore, but it has stuck with me for over 40 years. We probably wouldn’t recognize each other after all this time, and Steven may not even remember that day at all. That memory is mine to keep.

What of my first love? I have been in love many times, and each of those loves were dear to me in unique ways. There was the one to first open my heart and then break it to pieces when he left me for someone else. There was the first man I loved just as I was becoming a woman. There have been those who first spoke to my mind on the way to winning my heart, and those with whom the chemistry was so strong it was like being consumed by fire.

The only one of these loves that truly merits discussion here is the one I share with my husband — the love of my life.

He was not my first love. Our love was not the passionate conflagration that burned out before it had a chance to take root. We began as friends. Over time, we came to love each other more and more. It became clear that our bond was strong enough to withstand the stresses of the world around us, and that nothing could ever break it. That love has been challenged many times over the years. We are still together.

It doesn’t matter which love was my first. My marriage to John is my last love, and my greatest. The others before got me ready to receive this gift. I am thankful for all of them and the lessons they taught me. Most of all, I am glad to have found a kind of love that not everyone finds in life. First isn’t always best. True love is worth waiting for.