Rosemary

Christmas Eve 2022. The morning is blindingly bright, the sun deceiving as the temperature hovers at 7 degrees. The index says it feels like -9. Like so many major weather events, the sunny day after often seems like a promise of better days. Or a terrible joke, depending on who you are.

We have plans today that appear to be in flux thanks to power outages and frozen pipes (not ours), and my worst complaint is that I have to wear pants rather than a dress to make life easier because today that is simply trading one problem for a [most assuredly] worse one. Nobody wants frozen bits.

I might also complain that I’m in a significant amount of pain – in the “good” arm. It’s the same kind of pain I experienced with the left that led me to surgery and while this is not news (I mentioned it to the doc at the consult), it is beyond my level of patience at this moment because… It’s worse than the arm in the sling. Friends and family are asking how I’m feeling and I say okay but honestly the right arm apparently is feeling left out because I can’t lift it for the pain in it.

But today’s post is not meant to be a complaint. Complaints are like opinions and assholes – everyone has them and they all stink. Ever notice when you mention not feeling well or have pain somewhere – and there’s always someone nearby who says, yeah me too? Not mentioning any names but my husband is suffering chronic pain in his arm too and likely headed to surgery, and yesterday told me that “most” of the time he says nothing. This, my friends, is love.

Love is caring, and caring is sharing, right? At the risk of sounding like I want sympathy, let me tell you that there isn’t much in a house where middle-age wear and tear lives. However, my husband takes care of me and has taught me the value of asking for what I need, rather than sit in silence expecting him to just know. A novel concept! Even though he’d like to have The Force, sadly he does not and so if we all want to be happy I just need to say, hey, I need … a pillow, a Lindt truffle, and mega fries for dinner.

I realized that twelve years ago today I was standing on the precipice of a major life change. I was living in a home that was tense and exceedingly troubled where just 2 weeks before I was outed for sharing my unhappiness with my former brother-in-law (not my finest moment) and then declared my intent to put an end to this hell. I was suffocating in silence, since no one – no one – knew but X and, possibly, the children, who witnessed yet another splendid display of dad’s fury that afternoon. It was a very difficult time – wanting to be somewhere, anywhere else, and knowing it was a very long and arduous road ahead and not knowing how I was going to do it.

The focus here is not on the misery and heartache but – rather – remembrance, for remembrance is not only for the good but also for the days of anguish and despair, where hope’s beacon is all but a faltering speck in the distance. The memories of that life have dimmed but have not been extinguished. Yet, here I stand, a promise that a better life is out there if you reach for it. In the days when I miss my children desperately, and even when the weasels take me back far enough to imagine what if I’d never left, I can still look to the heavens and know that by His grace I saved my children from a hell they won’t have to endure under their parents’ roof.

So today I am grateful for memories – all of them – for they informed me and prepared me to be a better woman, mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend. The love of my family enriches and strengthens me, and I thank God I am able to return that. I’ve been blessed with love and trust in my life partner that I will never be hurt again, all the days we have left together.

I am also blessed by the many friends I have, have been reunited with, gained, felt supported by, and shared myself with. My life has been a funny journey. I had great friends in high school. Most of us grew apart as our journey into adulthood took us to different places where we made new friends.

Much to my mother’s dismay (just as I once announced I wanted to be a cheerleader) I joined a sorority and those connections – for the uninitiated – are lifelong, even though those disappeared for a time after I moved to New York City. Thanks to social media, we have windows into one another’s lives again.

I had a very small motley crew of friends at NYU. We all forged on to adult lives that were hundreds of miles apart. I had few friends I spent time with in my 20s – the barrier of vampire life in restaurant work left me either pursuing relationships there or getting lost in a different kind of toxic relationship I needed rehab to escape.

In the early 2000s, this new mother joined a Mom’s Club and made many dear friends I am still connected to today. There are high school friends who became better friends, and – despite my initial resistance to relocating – a handful of local friends today in addition to the friends I’ve made through Todd.

I have a job I went after where I’m blessed to work with 25 amazing women. It’s not a “career” but it is work I enjoy – because at 53 I am okay with not having a career. I’m not self-conscious around career women. I was proud to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m grateful to earn a living today and leave my job at the door when I go home, grateful for a little financial autonomy, grateful for the freedom to write and pursue other interests – because life is so short.

Today I will remember all of it – the youth, the parties, the friendships, the jobs, random folks who came and went, the heartbreaks, my family, the family we choose, my Nana’s living room, kitty Mitzi and dog Bert, Wildwood, my first kiss, my dad singing in the car, Elizabeth’s ’65 Mustang convertible at 90 mph, the wrestling bus ride home with the guys playing rock on the boombox, that first NYE with Todd, the weeks in Greece, the house I grew up in, my stepfather George, Disney, Thanksgiving on Kepler Road, my first friend who died, dancing on a frat house radiator with my bff, a midnight kiss in a boat on the Susquehanna River, pledging and sisters, the walks through New York, the professor reciting Shakespeare from atop his desk, a primitive Cabo San Lucas, a moonlit beach in North Carolina, the boys of 3rd Avenue North, Richard’s teasing and laughter, living in Newark with family friends and walking home in the dark from the train station, a seasick cruise to Bermuda, Valentine’s Day in Hoboken, lugging my futon into my Bayside walkup, my brother’s birth, long nights in the restaurant, the illicit drugs and the boyfriend who introduced them, working in retail in King of Prussia during the holidays, my first apartment that was all mine, San Diego, Santa Barbara, the first time I met X, the first fight, the wedding day, the tiny peaceful island of Anguilla, childbirth, my beautiful baby boy and my father’s words at the hospital, our first house, the Mom’s Club, the soft fur of our golden retriever, the fights, the isolation, my uncle’s death, another beautiful baby born, the worry, her diabetes, being broke, Nana’s death, running my first 5k, divorce, Oliver, the first time I heard his voice again, the promise he made US, the potholed journey we rode to get to this day in 2022.

There is so much more but no one wants to read my biography, although now you know more than you ever asked for. The point is the longevity all these memories illustrate – is that we have lived. We have learned. We have loved.

Embrace your memories and remember the love and friendship that carried you through and use it to walk through these difficult days knowing you’ve done this before and you can do it again. Be gentle on yourself.

***Rosemary is a symbol of love, longevity, remembrance, and friendship.***

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