Category Archives: love

Why the mailman on ‘This is Us’ brought me to tears

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I’m sure a lot of people cried through the last few episodes of “This is Us.” (Don’t read any further if you’re not caught up.)

Like millions of us, I’m obsessed with this show, although it destroys me week after week. I was still recovering from the beautifully painful goodbye between William and Randall two weeks ago, and then last night was a whole new torture. Watching the family grieve evoked such familiar emotions and memories and brought fresh pain from long-ago losses right to the surface.

But the part that hit me the hardest wasn’t Kate breaking down, or watching Randall and his mom talk about how much time he lost with William, or even seeing the cracks in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage knowing more tragedy is ahead.

It was the mailman.

In a brief but poignant scene, a mailman – played with such tenderness by  Bill Chott – stopped in to deliver a package and asked Randall how William was doing because he hadn’t seen him and was worried. He teared up when he heard the news that William he had died. Randall didn’t realize the two had gotten to know each other, but learned they had met during William’s morning walks.

“People don’t stop just to talk anymore, you know,” the mailman said. “We became friends. He always asked about my daughter.”

I sobbed, alone on my couch, because my mom had a mailman like that. She was often home alone in the afternoons, sitting in her wheelchair watching life through the windows that lined the living room.

On one of my visits home, my mom started telling me about her friend, Glen, who had confided some secrets to her. Who’s that? I asked.

“You know Glenn,” she said. “Our mailman. We’re friends.”

He had been delivering mail in our Anchorage neighborhood for years. Everyone knew him. He’d wave and smile when he walked up to the drop letters in the box next to the front door. Turns out one day, he popped in to say hi to my mom, and they struck up a friendship. From then on, he’d just let himself into the house and deliver the mail directly to her. He must have been in a hurry to finish his route, but you’d never have known it. He stopped just to talk to her. They became friends.

Whenever I came to town, he knew everything that was going on with me, and what I’d been working on. He always asked about her daughters and son. He shared details of his life with her too. It made her happy when a card from me arrived, Glenn told me. He recognized my handwriting.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Glenn’s visits lasted longer. He noticed when she wasn’t home, worried when he hadn’t seen her.

She died on a Sunday. I saw Glenn coming up to the house on Monday and went outside to tell him the news. But he already knew. He said he had been to the hospital the day before but arrived just after she’d left us. He hugged me tightly, and told me through tears he wished he could have seen her once more.

I don’t know my postal carrier’s name. He or she stretches an arm from the mail truck to slide bills and ads and the occasional letter into the slot on our locked box on the street. My dad still gets Christmas cards from Glenn, sent from his new home in a warmer southern climate, where he moved with his husband.

But I have no idea who delivers them.

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Our mishmash Christmas tree is full of memories

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What mom could resist?

As we were decorating our tree this year, my son held up two of his handmade ornaments — jaggedly cut pieces of construction paper with black marker scrawled on them.

“Do we have to put these up this year?” he groaned.

The date on the back shows he was nearly 3 when he wrote “Mom” and “Dad” and drew stick figures on them. Of course those are going on the tree, I told him .And so are the wooden ornaments you colored over the years with babysitter, even the one with the crooked googly eyes you made when you were 4.

And the Popsicle stick Gods eye your sister made, and all the other ornaments we’ve accumulated over the years.
I have friends whose Christmas trees are works of art, with impeccable arrangements of elegant ornaments, worthy of the oohs and aahs. One couple we know buys chic new ornaments every year to create a different theme for every season. Some of my friends don’t allow anyone else to help decorate tree, lest they interfere with perfection.

Not me. I’m all about the color, all about the memories.

Christmas deepens my already sentimental, nostalgic side. I love the annual tradition of choosing the tree, hauling out the boxes, then carefully unwrapping our ornaments and decorations. I remember where just about every one of them came from. There are “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, faux wine bottles given to me by friends, and decorations we have picked out as a family on vacations. There are trinkets I bought the first year I lived alone and put up a tree by myself in my tiny apartment. They remind me how far I’ve come.

I have lots ornaments with my daughter’s name on them. She has a daughter of our own now. I suppose I should pass them on to her, but I love having her name hang in our house on soccer balls and sleds and candy canes. And besides the Shrinky Dinks my sister, brother, and I made still hang on my dad’s tree, along with the other prized possessions he and my late mom collected over the years. I like seeing them there when we visit at Christmas.

Our decorating doesn’t end with the tree. On the mantle over the fireplace, we arrange the beautiful Nativity scene three of my oldest friends gave us for a wedding gift, and in the hall, we hang the Christmas prints my mom gave me years ago.

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The peanut savior

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The rocker angel

And on the piano, we place the tiny manger that holds baby Jesus in the form of a peanut with a smiley face and the pine cone angel with haphazardly placed glitter and a shock of curly blonde hair that gives her a decidedly less than angelic look. My son brought them home from his church preschool. I can’t find the tape of the gift tags, but I’ve manged to hold onto that peanut for the last six years. I thought it was ridiculous when I first saw it, but I adore it.

And our centerpiece, our tree, will be covered in hundreds of colored lights and that glorious array of old and new. The are crystal stars next to Seahawks Santa hats, and a sock monkey ornament near a glittery glass heart. There will be no rhyme nor reason to the placement, except for the antique angel always that goes on top.

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Grandma’s angel watches over us all.

My beloved grandma passed her down to me years ago, and I cherish it. She has a painted porcelain face and dainty ceramic hands and feet peeking out from her delicate lace dress, her satin wings outstretched behind her. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I have no idea why I was the lucky grandchild to inherit this beauty.

My kids have asked over the years to instead put up a star, or something with more bling or shine, but I hold fast to this tradition. She’s the last thing we take out, and the last thing we pack away, encased in bubble wrap and cardboard to preserve her for next year.

Our tree is not color-coordinated nor stylish. It’s far from flawless. It’s not picture-perfect. It’s just perfect.

I hope however you celebrate the holidays, they are full of memories you will cherish.

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A toast to the moms and the motherless

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On the last Mother’s Day I spent with my mom, I gave her a keepsake box, with a Maya Angelou quote on top:

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”

That box now sits on my dresser, holding some of my most precious mementos: photo of my kids, my mom’s charm bracelet, the hair clips my stepdaughter and I wore at my wedding.

On Mother’s Day 10 years ago, my husband gave me a jar of baby food. We had just learned that I was pregnant a few days earlier. Yesterday that little baby scored a couple runs at his baseball game and a touchdown at flag football. Today he gave me a handmade card:

“Thank you for being so supportive of me, caring for me, and giving me so many opportunities though my years so far. I know how hard it is to take care of a kid, so I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done.”

That one’s going in the box.

And my beautiful stepdaughter is about to have a daughter herself. She was the first one to make me a mom when she came into my life 15 years ago, and soon she will make me a grandma.

That Maya Angelou quote is fitting for this holiday, which is wrapped in so many memories and emotions. On this day reserved for Moms – who, let’s face it – will still be doing laundry or changing diapers, packing lunches and checking homework – we all have reasons to celebrate, and reasons to mourn.

Many of my friends are without their moms today too, some for the first time. And there are the heartbroken moms who have lost their children and women who long for babies of their own.

This Mother’s Day, I had brunch with my husband and son. They toasted me and gave me flowers, and I felt their appreciation. Thanks, guys. I love you.

And I thought about my mom, of course, because so much of who I am today I owe to her, and I will always miss her. I thought about all the strong women in my life who are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, single moms, nieces, cousins.

As we make our way through this life, becoming mothers and motherless, I will take Maya’s words to heart.

I adore you. I cherish you.

 

 

First crushes and being crushed

1 A girl has a bigtime crush on my 9-year-old son. She is cute, smart, and funny, with a bit of attitude and a bold streak. She has not been subtle about her feelings for him.

She has recited a poem to him, rushes to sit with him on the bus, and talks to their classmates about how cute my boy is. Other times she chases him around the playground and they pretend to hate each other, because, well, they’re third-graders.

I admire her confidence and find the whole thing pretty adorable. I’ve known this girl for a couple of years and her mom for much longer. I like this girl. My son likes her. But he is not ready for this talk about “liking” someone.

“We are in elementary school!” he says emphatically when the subject comes up. “El-e-men-tar-y school.”

I agree with him. I’m glad he can be friends with girls and boys, and I told him no matter how he feels, to always be nice to her. (“Obviously, Mom!”) I don’t want her feelings hurt. Kids aren’t always kind, and boys don’t always express their emotions in the best way. I think my son has a good handle on the situation, and I predict they’ll be friends for a long time.

But I remember how those crushes go. Don’t we all? Even as adults who have survived actual heartbreak and real relationships, we remember those childhood hurts.

The boy I was in love with when I was 9 presented me with a palm branch at church on Palm Sunday and asked me to marry him. I was over the moon. I kept that branch, that token of his undying devotion, until it was brittle and brown. We flirted off and on for a few years, but as childhood romances go, nothing else ever happened and I was crushed when his crush subsided.

(I’m happy to report that we are still friends all these years later and he is happily married to his husband.)

I remember those feelings that you don’t really understand but that you can’t avoid when you’re just a kid. Palm branch boy broke my heart for a minute, and I did the same thing to another boy.

He was a bit of a nerd, super smart with curly hair and rosy cheeks. He always wore turtlenecks and his favorite thing to do was study ancient Egypt. He was intelligent, nice, and made no secret of how much he liked me.

He wrote me notes and complimented me. One year he drew my name for a class holiday gift exchange and I remember him literally squealing with delight. He gave me a perfume and powder set. The powder came in a bright green plastic apple and the perfume in a bottle shaped like a turtle. It was a much nicer present than kids usually exchanged.

Our school took an annual trip to the roller rink, which was a highlight of the year. And there was always the “snowball dance,” when they would dim the lights, turn on the disco ball, and skaters would make their way around the rink holding hands. (I know this would never happen in elementary school today, but it was the ‘70s.)

The boy approached me in front of all my friends and asked me to skate with him. I was interested in this hand-holding idea, but I wasn’t so sure about doing it with him.

I said no.

He looked grief-stricken. It took him a lot of guts to come up and ask me, and I rejected him. My friends giggled as he walked away. I have felt bad about it for decades.

After that, we didn’t talk much, and the next year we went to separate schools. I saw him again when I was a senior in high school when we shared a class together. I said hi, but neither of us initiated any more conversation. I feel bad about that too. It seems like it was up to me.

Who knows if he even remembers me or this slight that haunts me. I have Googled him a few times – he has a distinctive name, so I thought he’d be easy to find somewhere. But I have never located him. I don’t know what became of him and his life, but I imagine he’s successful, and I hope he’s happy.

I’d like to tell him thanks for asking me to skate. Thank you for the gift and the notes. Thanks for thinking I was special. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.

But you know, we were in elementary school.

(Do you have a story about a childhood crush? I’d love to hear it in the comments. And if you liked this post, feel free to share it.)

 

 

The many loves of Valentine’s Day

You are loved2Years ago, when I was single and lonely and living miles away from any of my fellow non-attached girlfriends, I dreaded Valentine’s Day. That was when this holiday seemed to me a magical day reserved only for the coupled, who would undoubtedly spend a blissful day enraptured by each other, leaving the rest of us feeling alone and worthless.

I was surprised when a delivery man appeared in the newsroom and called my name. “These are for you,” he said, handing me a huge bouquet of balloons, the centerpiece being an enormous red heart-shaped Mylar balloon proclaiming “I love you!”

Baffled, my single heart beating, I opened the card. Everyone oohed and aahed and asked who they were from. For a split second I thought of manufacturing a secret lover, but I sheepishly replied, “They’re from my mom.”

She meant well and was so thoughtful, but it somehow magnified my lack of romantic prospects. I called her to thank her and told she’d made my day. Then I called my sister and said, “Don’t ever let her do that again.”

But of course I remember her loving gesture every Valentine’s Day with gratitude. This silly so-called holiday should be about love, after all, not romance.

Years later on Valentine’s Day, I was happily in love and preparing for a needed weekend getaway with my boyfriend, even with the loss of my mom three weeks earlier weighing heavily on my mind. A gorgeous bouquet of roses appeared on my office desk. This time the card read: “Love, Dad.”

I was so touched that he sent them, in the midst of his great grief, on his first Valentine’s Day without her. See, it’s about love.

That night, my boyfriend and I headed out of town, checked into a ritzy hotel, and went to dinner. He seemed standoffish to me as we walked the streets of this romantic city with his hand in his pocket rather than holding mine. The restaurant wasn’t very good, and he seemed inordinately disappointed about the chicken cordon bleu. We walked wordlessly back to our hotel for a nightcap and dessert.

He was so fidgety and uncomfortable, it made me nervous. Until I found out the reason for his nerves.

“So I have a question,” he said.

And he offered me my mother’s engagement ring, which she had told my sister was to go to him with her blessing. He had been carrying it in his pocket and was petrified he would lose it, so he kept his hand firmly gripped around it.

I told him about the balloons, and how she was happy that I was happy, that I had found this man to spend my life with, that she had known him, and loved him too.

A few years ago, my Valentine was a poem written by my then 6-year-old.

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I really love you!”

Oh, the love again.

This morning, my husband let me stay in bed and surprised me with French toast. The doorbell rang a little later – an unexpected delivery of dangerously delicious chocolate-covered strawberries from my husby.

Over breakfast, we reminded our son about why February 14 is important to us, how it was the beginning of our family with him and his sister.

“Some people believe Valentine’s Day is just created by greeting card companies to get more money,” my 9-year-old said. “Is that true?”

Pretty much, I said. And it makes some people feel bad for no reason. It doesn’t matter if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s just a day for telling people we love them – even if we shouldn’t need a designated day for that.

It’s just a day, whether you have balloons and roses, or you shirk the whole V Day thing and enjoy too many shots with your friends, or spend the night home alone with a bowl of ice cream and bottle of wine, or are chasing after kids hyped up on candy while dreaming of peace and quiet rather than romance.

Whatever kind of Valentine’s Day you have, I hope you know you are loved.