30 May 2007

The Lovely Ms. N

Last night while I was playing soccer, I glanced over at our goalie and was so overcome with emotion that I almost started to cry. A quick, "Thank you, God" ran through my head before I was back to my familiar prayers that I'm constantly chanting while playing--they run more along the lines of, "Please, don't let me die".

I was waxing sentimental during our game because sometimes I am so overcome with what I feel for our goalie that when it strikes me, it is akin to having the wind knocked out of you. Our goalie last night was The Lovely Ms. N, or "N" as I've referred to her several times before in previous posts, and though I sometimes feel that I have a way with words, I don't have any words to describe how indebted I am to her and how much she's changed my life, but I'm going to try, anyhow.

I met N when I was house-hunting. She and her husband had the house listed, and I went to see it. The moment I met her, part of me loved her. The house was too far from town for what we needed, but I am positive that there was divine intervention happening when I drove out to see it. When her husband M asked her how it went, she told him that I probably wasn't going to buy it, but that she thought she had made a new friend, and M with his dry sense of humor responded, "We don't need anymore friends, we need to sell our house". And I'm sure that it was the truth--they didn't need anymore friends, but God, did I need her.

I talked to her maybe once after that, and then two weeks later while I was at work, daycare called and Little A was sick, and needed to leave within the hour. I was working twenty miles away, had car-pooled to work, and really didn't have the flexibility or capability to leave. I also literally had no one to call, and for whatever reason, this stranger to me popped into my head. After a few moments of hesitation, I called her. (I know, you moms reading this with mouths agape, "you called a stranger to watch your child"??, but some part of me knew that I could trust her). She went and picked up Little A, then watched her for me the next day, too. What kind of person does these things?

The same kind of person who used the gift certificate that I bought for her and her husband to take me to dinner, instead. Not only did she bring a sitter to my house, she paid the sitter in advance. Then she invited me to meet her friends and to her church and to play soccer with her. She demonstrated to me the potential for kindness and goodness that is alive in all of us. She changed me completely.

I need you to know these things, N. I need you to know how much you mean to me and how often during the course of a day I think of you and how amazing you are. I need you to know that every single day I recall all of your generosity and try to pay it forward. I need you to know that because you made me aware of the power of kindness, that I've helped change the lives of people that I know, and I know that because of the kindness I've shown them, they try to pass that kindness along to others. You have made an impact on people's lives that you don't even know about. I need you to know that the little note you slipped to me the day I was crying over the guilt I was struggling with is a note that I keep by my bed and read almost everyday.

I want to be sure that you understand these things, because sometimes I briefly see clouds of emotion crossing your face that make me think you are doubting yourself, and I can't stand the thought of that. Sometimes I hear things in the words that you don't say, and I want you to know that I hear them. You are singularly the most incredible person I've ever met, and I'm blessed with knowing many amazing people. Your open heart, your generosity and your spirit are gifts that I am eternally grateful for, gifts that I would never have had the courage to ask for, gifts that I know you don't expect in return.

I just couldn't get through the day without knowing that I said these things to you. Elton John wrote, "My gift is my song, and this one's for you". This post is for you--it's nothing, I know, just words, but every single word that is written here is written from my heart and in my heart.

I love you.

18 May 2007

Reality Show

Last night the Tigers had just given up a two run homer in the bottom innings (seriously, I'm going to apply to the Tiger's bullpen--I'm sure I could get a job there, but that's a different blog), so I flipped it to Grey's Anatomy. I used to be a fan of the show, but lately, it's too implausible to stomach, so I tune in just to stare at Dr. McDreamy now and then.

Before you start pegging me into "that" category, let me state for the record that I loved him back when he was the nerd in "Can't Buy Me Love", so my admiration runs much deeper than when he showed up in a pair of scrubs and that hair with those eyes. When my sister and I talk about how he looks, I remind her that I loved him long before this. But I digress.

If my life were filmed in the context of how life really goes, I have some plots I'd like to submit: (in case my gig with the Tigers doesn't pan out)

The scene where I'm lying in bed with my athlete boyfriend, thinking of the boy in my Stats study group.

He asks me what I'm thinking about, and I say nothing, but find a way to veer the conversation to Stats, then to the boy. "He's in love with you", he mentions, and maybe a little too quickly, I say, "You think"? He snickers and makes some snide comment, because it would never cross his mind that when you're lying there with him, you're thinking of Stats Boy. "You'd crush him". Turns out Stats Boy did the crushing, since ten years later, I'm still thinking of him.

The scene where I'm standing in a driveway with moonlight streaming down, half-listening to what a different boy is saying, but the final sentence, "...so what I'm trying to say is that I'm in love with you.." actually causes a whiplash reaction in me, and my stunned response is, "no you aren't." And then when he moves in to kiss me, I turn and say that we need to go in, it's freezing out here. Then I lie awake on the couch all night, staring at the wall to his room, wondering if he'll come out and say it again, but he doesn't.

Instead a couple of nights later he calls at 3:34 a.m. and asks what I'm doing in a semi-hostile tone.

"Laying here, where is X (insert name of current fling)"?

"Don't even do that, this isn't my fault"

"What isn't your fault"? I even feign an innocent look, although no one can see it.

"Fuck this. I'm going to bed. With X."

"Have fun"

"I hate you, Jennifer"

"I hate me, too".


Then a couple of days later when he and I are playing basketball and he fouled me, instead of calling it, I just got back up.

Him: "That was a foul. Call it."

Me: "No blood, no foul. I'm not calling it, play".

The basketball bounced off my head.

Him: "Call it."

Me: "I guess you shouldn't go around hacking people, expecting them to call it and then getting pissed when they don't".

Him: "Game over"

Me: "You're quitting"?

Him: "Yep, I'm fucking quitting. You win".

Then that night at the bar, he caught me looking at him while he was sliding his arm around someone, so I picked out the person that I knew would most bother him and made nice for the rest of the night. Let him watch me for a while.

"What the hell are you doing" he asked as he came up behind me an hour later.

"Talking. You talk to people all the time. Maybe I want to talk to someone".

"You are a train wreck. Seriously, you should not be allowed out of the house".

"I know".

"Let's go" And then we got in the car and suddenly everything was back to normal.

"Poor Pretty Boy" he said when pulling into the driveway, "He has no idea what I saved him from"

"No, he doesn't. He owes you".

And I let the unspoken "No, I owe you" hang in the air and haunt me for years.

The scene where I'm caring for my friends four year old twins while watching Big A play ball, and letting them amuse themselves by climbing in and out of the moon-roof. Don't judge me; there isn't anything in the owner's manual that indicates this could be a problem.

"Jenn, why is this seat here"? Asks L, sweetly, of the passenger seat.

Me: "What do you mean"?

L: "Who sits here"?

Me: "People. People sit there".

L: "Who"?

Me: "Well, you're sitting there".

L: "If I'm not sitting here, who sits here"?

Me: "Sometimes, I go to lunch with people, and they sit there".

L: "But nobody else sits here, right"?

Me: "Have you been taking classes regarding emotional abuse from my Grandma"?

L: "Who is your Grandma? Does she sit here"?

Me: "Never mind."

Moments pass.

L: "So, who is going to sit here"?

Me: "Maybe I will, L. Maybe someday, someone else will be driving, and I'll be sitting there."

L: "Who else would drive"?

Me: "Someone. Maybe. Someone".

L: "Oh, my mom".

Me: "Yes, most likely, your mom".

Because that is the realistic ending. Her mom and I, 80 years old, kicking back margarita's, yelling at the kids to get off our damn lawn.

The bidding is open. Any buyers?

12 May 2007

Letter to a Stranger

Coming home at three in the morning when I saw you, I wrote stories about you in a matter of moments: quick, succinct, to the point; I needed to make those snap judgments about you so that I could justify what I did and didn't do.

In the first story--the story that initially came to mind when I saw your hazards flashing and you starting to walk the long walk to the nearest exit, you had gotten off work from the late shift. You were working two jobs to try and save up for a house with a fenced-in yard and a puppy and a flower garden and a spot to put a sprinkler on the hot summer days when the kids wanted to run through something cool. ("Thank you daddy, we love you daddy")

Your kids and wife were waiting for you at home. You'd been late before and when you walked in the door that time, it wasn't your car that delayed you; it was something far more difficult to fix than that. But your wife was giving you a second chance because dammit, you loved her first, and who was she to let one mistake erase all that you had built, and now here you are, an hour late and she's lying there in the dark, thinking, "I can't do this".

Because your wife was writing a story about you, too. In that story, you weren't broke down on a highway, trying to get home as fast as you could because you knew she wasn't going to believe you. You were somewhere else, with someone else and that someone else didn't have stretch marks from bearing your kids and her thighs were smooth and strong and she didn't say, "Please, not tonight" when your thumb rubbed that spot above her knee. And there your wife was, 3:07 a.m., thinking, "Not again".

When our eyes met, I was your hope, your ride home, your access to a phone to call to say, "I'm here, thinking of you, I need a ride, I want to get home to you and the kids".

Not so fast, Mister.

Because I had kids to get home to as well, and the second story that I wrote wasn't as flattering.

In the second story, you were the reason that I park my car under bright lights in parking lots at night, and why I check it three times before I commit to getting in. You were the reason that sometimes I have to get up at least twice during the night to make sure, just one more time, that the doors to the house are locked. You were the singular cause of me having to sleep with a cell phone in my hand and why I have frequent nightmares about it not working correctly when I need it. No I can't hold, didn't you hear me, I can hear him coming down the hall, I can see the knob on the door turning. Hello? Hello?

You were the reason that sometimes I can't catch my breath when I'm out and I start feeling uncomfortable because I'm not familiar with my surroundings, and I start fidgeting and smiling quick little smiles and tapping my legs and rubbing my neck to quell the panic rising inside. You were the reason that I dreaded getting up to go to the bathroom because I hate asking someone to go with me almost as much as I hate walking anywhere alone. I knew for a fact that it was you that made that comment to me when I had to squeeze between you and your friend to get to the bathroom. I knew your friend was waiting to slip around to the driver's side of the car when I rolled down the window to ask you if you needed help. Nice try, you son of a bitch. Burn in hell, you bastard.

While I was writing your second story, I was also reminding myself about the kind of person that I wanted to be. The person that never rushes to judgment about another; the person that wonders what path you must be walking to be so angry, so sad, so mean. The person that holds out a hand instead of pointing a finger, that offers hope instead of turning away.

Because one day in my past, an act of kindness from a stranger changed me. Because sometimes, there are things that you think you can live with, and things that you think you just cannot live with, and sometimes it gets very, very hard to distinguish the two, and right when you think that you've decided where those lines are drawn in the sand, a wave crashes on the shore and erases them.

I promised myself and that person that day (silently, but a promise, nonetheless) that I would try to change the lives of everyone that I met, because the truth is that you never do know when the smallest act that you commit can have a profound effect on someone else. Guess what I did with that promise? I polished it up and kept it when it was easy, but when push came to shove, I looked into the eyes of a stranger that probably needed help and I stepped on the accelerator and left him there, walking in the dark.

And then I thought:

"If you were a dog, I would have stopped to help you". And I hated what that said about me as a human being.

Because I know all about hope looking like a fading tail light in the distance on a cold night, but I also know that if I had it to do over again, the next time, I might not even make eye contact with you. Instead, I'd turn up the song that was playing and sing along, "You were quicker than they thought; you just turned your back and walked, and you're still the same, some things never change"...

What I'm trying to tell you is that you were on my mind all night; for days really. I was thinking of you when I was staring at the ceiling at 4:37 a.m. That's when I wrote a couple of endings for your stories.

The first ending concluded when you got home and your wife kissed you and thanked the stranger that brought you there, and told you that she didn't doubt you, even for a second. In that story, you told her about that woman in a car that you thought was going to help you, but instead drove away. Your wife shook her head, and wondered when people got so self-centered and promised herself that she'd never be that lady--the lady that left people desperate for an act of kindness waving their arms, chasing after you in the dark of the night.

In the second story, you got home, too. Turns out that you really were working two jobs and that it wasn't you saying those things to me tonight in the bar while you made sure that I had to brush up against you to get by. Your wife rolled over when she heard your key in the door and looked at the alarm clock and pretended to be sleeping when your side of the bed sank under your exhausted weight. You never told her about me since the truth was that you never gave me a second thought. Because a long, long time ago you'd given up on a stranger ever offering you hope, let alone a hand.

It was the second ending that made me sob.

06 May 2007

The Love of a Woman

There's something to be said about the way that a woman loves another woman, and I'm not talking locker-room talk amongst men.

I'm talking about the kind of love that really does endure through all; when I speak of some of the greatest loves of my life, beyond my children, they are most likely women.

Women who I've shared countless laughs with, fought with, cried with, dieted and cheated on diets with, women who I can look at for one second and know exactly what they are thinking, no matter what they are saying.

Women who curl up in my king size bed with me because some nights, being alone really is nearly unbearable and you just need someone there to sleep beside you. Women who would instantly come running without hesitation if you called. Women who have picked me up, women who have laughed with me and cried with me and women who have jumped into cars in the midst of sleet two hours away and who continue driving, even though the windshield wiper is broken and they have to hang their head out the window to see, because they just knew from the tone of my voice that I was breaking in incredible ways.

Women who shared a twin bed with me for years because there were only so many hours in a day, and my room happened to be the one that was located in the basement, making sneaking in much easier.

Women who I fought over socks and bathroom time with, but who, when it was the bottom of the ninth and you needed a sacrifice bunt so you could score, bunted for you. Women for whom you would actually do bodily harm to another upon for making them cry. Women that you name your kids after.

Women for whom you'd hop on a plane and fly cross-country on the anniversary of September 11th, then drive them home for 28 hours straight because they woke up one morning and couldn't live their lives anymore. Women that help you pack up and move into your home in sleet and snow and sleep on couch cushions with you because your bed isn't there yet. Women who take five hours to help you assemble a swing, then when you realize that you've done it backwards, help you disassemble and start over again.

Women that you love dearly, but that somehow you've lost. Women that despite your goodbyes or their goodbyes or broken hearts you'll love loyally until the day that you die, even if you never see them again. Women who try to mend bridges that they didn't even know existed, and when it fails, wake up and try again.

Women who meet you and take you to dinner and then pay your babysitter for you. Women who make you want to be a better person, because they are the most amazing person you've met, and if you could be half the person they are, you'd be doing alright. Women who tell you they will raise your child as their own if a day came that your children were without you.

Women who know your greatest flaws, but would unleash the gates of Hell if anyone dared to discuss those parts about you. Women who know why you hide behind a face with no makeup and flip-flops, and the same women who tell you to give up the hiding routine, because really, it's pathetic, and put on some eye-liner, because someday, a boy that you actually like is going to look at you, and you'll want to be ready for that.

Women who would die for your children, women who forgive you for giving them their birthday present from March to them in July, women who keep your secrets and hold your hand when you need it, but kick your ass when you need it too. Women whose children you consider your own, women whose lovers doors you knock on at three in the morning because someone else's car is in their driveway.

These amazing women have given me so much; taught me so much; loved me so much. My life just wouldn't be the same if I didn't know the love of a woman.

01 May 2007

When The Queens Are Away

Tequila? Check
Corona? Check
Dancing shoes? Check
Girlfriends who accept drunk singing? Check
Somewhere to eat hash browns at 2:30 a.m.? Check
Soul sister to help you change your sheets at 4:00 a.m.? Check
Extra-strength ibuprofen? Check
Regrets over being a mom serving the queens instead of a rock star? None.