Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Well the phone rang at about 11:30 on Friday night….. It was my daughter, crying. She had dropped my grandson off at college in W. VA that morning and was having a major separation anxiety attack.
How do you hug someone over the phone?

Apparently, he wasn’t doing much better—he’d already texted her three times and called once.
Again, how do you hug someone over the phone...

My daughter became a mom at 16; she moved out on her own at 25. So for almost 10 years it has been the two of them facing the world—growing up together in a sense. It will be huge adjustment for both of them. They are way more than mother and son; they are best friends too.
She said she didn’t want him to hear her crying. I told her that they’ve gotta acknowledge the “elephant in the room:” that both of them are going to have some adjusting to do. And that it’s okay to miss each other. It will get easier as the semester goes on. It's so hard to let go, to relinquish control. But it's your job as a parent to do just that. All you can do is hope that some of those lessons sunk in.

I remember the anxiety I felt when the two of them moved into their first apartment—and they were only 30 minutes away. I remember the guilt I felt when I got divorced and we had to sell the house my kids had grown up in—they wouldn’t have a “landing place” in case of emergencies. So I know exactly how she feels—sort of… My two weren't six hours away, but they weren't under my wing anymore either. As time went on, I was more and more impressed at how much they had heard--and learned [sometimes the hard way].

So, I'll continue to be there in the background for them. I'll be the one she can call late at night to cry to--and try to hug through the phone. It's my job. Of course, nowadays they have “Skype” on campus, so they can webchat. Gotta love technology.

Monday, August 17, 2009

the rain it raineth everyday.....

At least that’s how it has seemed this summer. This year’s has been one of the most erratic in my recent memory. Here on the East Coast. June was pretty much a month of rain, wind and thunder; July wasn’t much better. Here we are halfway through August and we’re having our first heat wave. What’s up with that?
Of course we also have the first official hurricane heading towards us. Last I heard, it was near the Lower Antilles Islands. Hurricanes are scary things—even a Category 1 is not fun. My parents lived in the West Indies from the mid 70s till the late 80s; the first time we visited them when they lived on St. Croix, Hurricane Klaus hit the island—with winds gusting up to 90 miles an hour. The worst hit overnight on the third day we were there. I spent the night convincing my 10 year old daughter [and myself] that we were all going to be fine. My parents, husband and son slept through the worst of it. My parents because they were used to it and my husband and son because they could sleep through anything. I remember screens blowing in as I told my daughter fairy tales, I remember singing Sunday school songs with the whirl of the wind as our accompaniment and I remember the terrible pressure on my head from the sudden changes in air pressure. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through. [Not counting my kids teen years, of course.]
Fortunately, my parents were off-island when Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Caribbean in 1989. Their house was totaled by one of the mini-tornadoes formed by a very condensed “eye” in the storm that stalled over the US Virgin Islands for 12 hours and had wind gusts of up to 190 miles an hour. I can’t even imagine what that would feel like, and yet the locals took it in stride. As did my parents as they rebuilt their home. Humor was the order of the day— like the engaged couple who told everyone they were now registered at the local hardware store. And my mother joking why was she bothering to sort her few remaining sheets into sets—she had no beds to put them on. We never did find their mattress by the way. Then there was one of her Cruzan friends stating he was going to try to get some new furniture, but “It all fly by too fast.” We visited the island 7 months after the storm and were quite impressed with how much had been accomplished in such a short time. Granted there was still a lot to do [such as putting a roof back on the control tower at the airport] but they were well on their way to recovering. And making improvements—like moving the phone and electric companies from the lowest lying part of the island so they didn’t flood every time it rained.
And now we are approaching the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and there are still dozens of towns and neighborhoods on the Gulf Coast that have yet to even start their recovery. How sad. Especially the loss of such a rich culture in New Orleans. Many of the artists, actors and musicians lived in the areas that were obliterated by the breach of the levees.
Let’s not forget that. And let’s count our blessings that the damage suffered around here is rare and minimal.
So, get out your sunscreen and enjoy it while you can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

[this is gonna be a long one—bear with me….]

As the grandkid gets ready to leave for college next week [whoa—tons of mixed emotions there], I’ve found myself thinking about my youth. I am a Baby Boomer—in fact I’m pretty much right in the middle of the boom. We were a generation of dreamers. Some of those dreams came true and some got crushed in the dust of the reality of the time…. My 16th summer has come back to mind mostly. News coverage of several 40th anniversaries has brought it all back. I was “on the cusp” of a lot of things that summer: adulthood, responsibility, discovery, sexuality… It seems as if the country was on the cusp too; but of very disparate things. A lot would change at the end of the volatile decade, and that summer was indicative of that.

It was the summer of man’s first landing and walk on the moon. Not only US citizens, but the world was glued to the television coverage of this unbelievable accomplishment. For a brief moment we were all unified in our awe of what human beings are capable of achieving. I vividly remember watching with friends during my 16th birthday party, all of us dumbstruck by this new technology. Today’s teens take computers, cell phones and the like for granted. All of which came about, in part, because of space exploration.

It was also the summer of the Stonewall riots—the start of today’s gay rights movement. Some very brave individuals decided enough was enough; they were not going to be brutalized, marginalized and hide in the closet anymore. Can you imagine the courage that took at that time?! But we would not come as far as we have were it not for them—and others who carried on the fight in those early years. We still have a long way to go, but it now seems possible….

It was the summer of the Manson murders too. Charlie and his tribe were gonna bring about “Healter Skelter” [their spelling, not the Beatles’], a massive race war. On the night of August 8th, Manson sent several “family” members to a home on Cielo Drive in L.A. to enact revenge and set his bizarre plan in motion. Actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and 4 others were brutally murdered. The next night it was Leno LaBianca and his wife. The entire nation shared L.A.’s fear.

This coming weekend will mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition—3 Days of Peace and Music.” Poor Max Yasgur had no idea what was about to occur on his dairy farm in sleepy Bethel, NY! Around 186,000 tickets were sold beforehand and organizers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up. In the end, estimates were that nearly half of a million hippies showed up for what became a free concert. I was deemed too young to go, but my future husband was there. He was 22 and fresh out of photography school (we would not meet til 3 years later); however, he had no pictures of any of the 3 days he spent in the rain and sun listening to some of the most amazing artists in rock music history. He was too busy “grooving.” I teased him about that—a lot. But Woodstock came to symbolize a lot for my generation—a generation still deeply scarred by the war in Vietnam, which was at its height that year. Peace and love really meant something to us. Deep down it still does.

When you look at all of these events, it’s pretty daunting. So much happened during my teen years that contributed a lot to who I am today—the good, the bad and the ugly. We were a generation of idealistic dreamers—and that’s a good thing. It is our dreams that make us human, I think.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's in a name? That which we call a rose..."

Okay, let's start off by saying I wasn't always enamored of my name.

I felt odd cause no one else shared it with me. My brothers all had regular old All-American "guy" names: Bill, Bobby and Rick. How come I had something out of the ordinary? [When you're a kid you totally want to fit in, don't you? If you're lucky, as you mature, you realize standing out rocks.]

When I eventually found out how I got my name, it was kinda cool. I was 4 days old before it was bestowed upon me--by my oldest brother. My parents, excited over their first [and, it turned out, only] girl, could not agree on what name suited me. My father suggested Joan, after one of his nieces. My mother politely demurred: "There's already a Joan in the family. It'll be like 'Robert'." [Say "Bob" at one of my dad's family reunions and 15 guys would turn around.] Then dad offered Jane...."Oh no," said my mother, "Then she'll get 'Plain Jane.' I'm not doing that to our daughter." [Third kid in six years, I guess mom was a little cranky--she usually never argued with my dad.]

Well this continued on.....with the letter "J" seeming to having a real hold on the negotiations for some reason . Into the picture comes my 6 year old eldest brother; he was a happy little first grader. I guess my dad was talking about his nameless little sister to him as he was putting him to bed or something.... In his school reader, the main characters were John, Jean and Judy [apparently a contender, albeit briefly]. BUT--they had two friends who lived down the block: Bobby and Ellen. Six year old reasoning being what it is, he made the connection: "We have a Bobby, why not an Ellen?" Bingo, I had a name.

Now, when it came time for my late husband and I to name our two little ones, I agonized over it for months. And I mean agonized--I remembered my feelings when I was little and didn't want to put my kids through the same thing. Our daughter was born on Valentine's Day of 1975 and my hubby allowed me to pick her name. After much thought, I chose Megan as a tribute of sorts to my Irish grandfather. I opted to not use the more Gaelic spelling, Meghan, because I thought it might confuse people. As it was, my husband's grandmother could never remember it--she called her "Nutmeg" til the day she died. I had real doubts about my choice after the umpteenth time I explained the name--but then The Thornbirds came out and by the time she started kindergarten there were two other Megans.

Our son joined the family on March 14th, 1976. His dad got the honors of naming him and chose Jason--partly after Jason and the Argonauts. It's a good strong name and our son has grown into a good strong man. I think both of my children are very happy with their names--thank God. I would feel awful if I found out I'd stuck them with something they hated.

A name can influence your behavior, I think. It can make you feel like you have "street cred." I mean it's hard to go all gangsta with the name Cuthbert or Chauncey. And who could feel very sexy/glamourous named something like, say, Agnes? By the same token, names such as Chastity or Faith can put alot of pressure on a person. A name can be a powerful entity that casts a shadow over who you are in life.

I often wonder what was going through their parents minds when I hear some people's names. Now some are very cool and have real character to them, but others......
Some poor souls are stuck with the most outrageous monikers! I know if it was me and I had a name that just screamed to be mocked, I'd be down at the courthouse changing it the minute I turned 21.

But maybe I'm just a wimp.