Three Times I’ve Felt Blessed

When I really, really knew. I’m talking profound, existential moments.

The first time it hit me, really hit me, I was on a flight home from Santa Barbara. I’d been in California visiting a long-time, on again-off again boyfriend. What was different about this trip, as opposed to a handful of others to San Diego and Laguna, was that this time I fell in love with California. Santa Barbara – its intimately small airport, State Street with its farmer’s market full of vibrant locally grown produce, the little Greek deli’s spanakopita, the flea market/mall filled with old treasures, the Mission and the beautiful rose garden, the State Street Theater, Earthling bookstore, the magnificent cliffs overlooking the Pacific, two old men painting landscapes on the beach. I spent a great deal of time driving and exploring by myself, and the independence I felt brought me back to those solitary New York days where I was discovering who I was.

I got on the plane that last day and felt not melancholy, but … at peace. I’ve never been afraid to fly. I’ve always loved the rush of the jet lifting off, and again when the wheels skidded to a halt on the runway. And, as the plane lifted off and the California landscape grew smaller and smaller, I thought to myself, how wonderful. If this plane never lands again, if I don’t survive this flight, it will be okay, because I. Am. Blessed. I am happy.

The second, profound, time, on a day I can’t exactly recall, I realized again. Blessed to have extricated myself from a painful situation and I knew that God stood beside me as I walked in the light again. My friends stood beside me, they offered prayers and encouraging words, and I was blessed. And I was blessed to have Todd back. I was blessed during this time that he loved me still, and he stood beside me during the worst of the battles I needed to walk through. The revelation and remembrance that I was blessed is what got me through my darkest days.

This morning. After waking up on the couch at 4 o’clock in the morning, alone, with the cat sleeping on top of me and the dog nearby in her bed and the candles still burning on the coffee table… I crawled back to the bedroom where my husband lay sleeping. I woke again 3 hours later, and snuggled up beside him, his hand massaging the pain out of my arm and we spoke the silent language of long-time lovers and friends and I stroked his brown and gray-stubbled cheek, admiring the curve of his nose and the softness of the lips I’ve known for a lifetime. And I felt Blessed.

For I am and have always been blessed. Not more than anyone else deserves to be, but I recognize it – and inside the walls of my soul, no one and nothing can take that away.

Throwback Thursday: Reunion

I drove to our meeting place, my heart in my throat and my stomach somersaulting. While we wanted this first time to be private, circumstances made that virtually impossible. I imagined this as some epic reunion, and could hardly think of seeing him, after so long, in some crowded restaurant.

I pulled into the lot, my palms sweaty and trembling on the wheel. We had spoken frequently over several weeks, his voice over the air waves like an old familiar song, but until this very moment our eyes hadn’t met in over twenty years. All I’d had were pictures on a computer screen, and an old prom photo that by some miracle had escaped a jealousy-driven purge many years ago.

I saw his silhouette inside his truck, and knew there was no turning back. My heart was pounding in my chest. He stepped out of his truck as I opened my car door, and I was soon standing by my car feeling suddenly shy and conspicuous. We walked a cavernous short distance toward each other and I did what I always do when I’m breathtakingly nervous – smile stupidly like the kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

And then we were face to face. This boy I’d loved beyond all rational reason 25 years ago, the first real love I had, the unforgotten one who was indelibly imprinted on me … was standing right in front of me, flesh and bone. Same soft dark hair, shorter today. Same frame and square shoulders. Same dark eyes that see inside of me, reading all of my secrets.

And he did what any guy in his right mind would do under these extraordinary circumstances. He hugged me. I felt his arms encircle me and tried not to melt into them. I tried to remember that I was a 41-year-old woman who was mature and put together and … then I hugged him back. I couldn’t breathe. Because, Todd.

I hadn’t spoken that name out loud in forever. Hadn’t dared to think much more beyond a casual reminiscence. We stood back, looking at each other. So? So?

And suddenly there were no words. We sat down together, and suddenly the walls came down again, like they had on the phone, and we were talking about everything and nothing.

At some point he picked up my hand and I looked down, surprised by the familiarity – by the sight of his hands. You know how not all hands you will look at like they are yours? We were older now, but his hands hadn’t changed. And when I felt his hand around mine, it was a memory come to life again. In that moment, nothing had ever felt so right.

November 15, 1987

We’re back from our weekend getaway. We got in around 10 p.m. Friday night at Jeff’s parents’ house. I met both parents and they’re very nice. Jeff and I went out driving later – very fast, but I wasn’t afraid. We talked about very strange things, like death and the afterlife.

Saturday morning Mike and Wendy picked us up. We went to the Mall and I absolutely loved it. There were some really great stores, like the Sharper Image. A great many “catalog” stores. Afterwards, we went to see Scott in the hospital. He’s doing fine, has a pin or two or three – I don’t know – in his leg. I don’t really know him, so I stood back feeling uncomfortable while the guys visited. I felt like I was somehow invading his privacy.

Wendy and I saw the cutest little girl in one of the rooms down the hall. She was all alone and crying, and we got her to stop crying and actually fall to sleep. Afterward, the four of us got sandwiches at a deli and waited for the train into New York.

I LOVED New York. We dubbed our trip “Jeff’s 20-minute tour of New York City,” since he sort of took charge of where we went and what we saw and because we seriously ran through the city. We had taken a train in from Hoboken, and got off in Greenwich Village.

I saw lots of neat stores everywhere to shop in, if only I had the money and we weren’t on a whirlwind tour. We stumbled onto a sex shop called the Pleasure Chest, and the boys dragged us inside. It was wild! I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s way more kinky than Spencer’s. There were glass display cases full of dildos in every size, shape, and color, and other things I had never seen before. And they had these little penis erasers! Now those I would have loved to have. I can’t imagine the looks I’d get in class with them!

We raced through Washington Square Park – this beautiful park surrounded by trees and a huge fountain in the middle, and a huge arch on one side that looked like Paris. There were people everywhere, sitting on park benches and children in the smallest playground area, dogs on leashes, legions of artist-types lounging around the empty fountain, and students with backpacks.

There, and on several of the streets we walked through, I saw purple and white flags hanging all over the place. Turns out this is NYU, or, New York University. It never, ever occurred to me that people go to school in New York. This has to be the coolest place ever to go to school. How cool would that be?

Anyway, Jeff’s Whirlwind Tour came to an end and we took the train back to Hoboken. We went out to dinner at some restaurant there, and had a great time. I love going out to dinner and getting served. Wendy got trashed and so did I – we had an excellent time together. We stopped at Mike’s sister’s apartment. Mike kept dropping the keys at the door, on purpose, because he knew I had to pee.  Everyone was laughing. Except me.

**Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP. NOT YESTERDAY, NOT TODAY, NOT – EVER.

Weddings, Past & Present

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Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016

The current heat wave we are experiencing here in the mid-Atlantic states is almost unbearable. Todd hasn’t ridden in days. I haven’t run in nearly twice as long. I just can’t do it.

We catered a wedding last weekend that was eventful to say the least. The staff was running around getting the house ready, and we were all sweating like characters in Dante’s Inferno. Bee and I joked about our sexy boob sweat, and then Dee chimed in about swamp ass and I nearly wet myself. This, folks, is the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps up morale.

The A/C was running inside, but this couple had chosen to be married in our courtyard, so we had a number of jobs to be done outside. As I usually run the bar, my job kept me mostly inside. But then I was called to set up the outdoor beverage station under an umbrella’ed table, and by the time I returned inside I looked like I’d taken a shower. In my clothes.

While everyone complained about the heat, I was inspired to recount a wedding I was in on the hottest day of the year in 1988. Well technically, after doing a little research, it was July 17th that was the hottest day that year, at 102 degrees. But that date, through the third week of August, marked a “higher than average” span of temperatures. I’ll say.

The date was August 13th and, while the historical record says it was 91 degrees, the heat index was easily near 100. A longtime dear friend was marrying her high school sweetheart, and I was honored to be a part of the wedding. At least, until the pool began to swell in my bra.

Wendy was married in the same Catholic church that my parents were married in – so you can see how small our large world really was, in some ways. She wore a beautiful full-length white satin gown, adorned with pearls and beading, and fitted sleeves with the puffy shoulders common in the 1980s. Like all brides, she chose beauty over comfort, and paid no mind to the season. The bridesmaids wore floor-length royal blue taffeta gowns with baby blue cap sleeves (pictured).

After the ceremony, the guests adjourned to the Elks lodge a few blocks away and the bridal party went to have formal pictures taken. I don’t remember what the bride and groom rode in, but I will never forget what the bridal party was treated to. We rode in rumble seats to a popular outdoor spot for wedding photos, about 2 miles away.

Heat, sweat, and rumble seats don’t mix… and I can’t speak for the other girls, but my hair did NOT like this combination. The photos probably took no more than 30 minutes, but it felt like hours as we stood there in full-length gowns, and the poor groomsmen in tuxedos!

When we finally arrived at the Elks, after another exciting and extremely slow ride in the rumble seats, we stepped gratefully into the air-conditioning and assessed our wilted selves. Beads of sweat sparkled on the men’s foreheads. As for the girls, large circles of sweat had darkened the royal blue fabric under our arms. I wondered at poor Wendy, who still looked beautiful, although she couldn’t have been comfortable in that dress. We were able to collect ourselves for a few minutes as we lined up for the grand entrance into the reception.

A short time later the bride and groom had their first dance, which they never finished as Wendy fainted in her husband’s arms. We took her to the restroom and attempted to cool her off with water, but she was sick. I remember coming out to check on my date, and stopped to chat with one of Wendy’s elder relatives who was concerned. She was relieved that she was recovering, and then speculated – with a twinkle in her eye – that maybe Wendy was expecting. Hardly. I think Wendy was lucky that she’d only suffered from heat exhaustion.

Thankfully there were no obvious casualties in the wedding we catered last week, but the guests were determined to stay indoors until the ceremony was announced. The bride was gorgeous. Her mother, in a floor-length pale blue lacy gown, was gorgeous. The bridesmaids were gorgeous. None of them looked like they had even kissed a temperature over 70 degrees. We the staff, on the other hand, looked a little worse for wear… but no one really cares what we look like, as long as we’re still pouring the drinks and serving the food.

As for eventful, the ceremony had just finished, we’d just passed the champagne toast, and the entire guest list was running indoors. A torrential downpour moved in so fast, it’s a miracle they all made it inside. Some members of the staff? Not quite. Their white tuxedo shirts clung to the skin like a wetsuit. And it rained, and then it stopped. Some of the guests went back outside. And then it started pouring again. And then it stopped. And then the DJ set up indoors, and the guests danced outside.

I guess it’s a really good thing it didn’t rain on Wendy’s wedding.

Revelations – the Detox Story Continues

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My journey toward writing my New York stories – whether by book or by blog – took me to this particular page where I was surprised to read what I had written over 25 years ago. I’m inspired to share the chronicles of New York and NYU, in my usual style of humor and a bit of sarcasm, but this page – this page – was anything but funny. The most shocking bit of it, was the only part I have no memory of.

I recently wrote about discontinuing Paxil, and how difficult it has been. It’s been 17 days, and all that appears to be left is waking nausea – not unlike morning sickness – and the emotional hurricane inside my whole being. To the former – many of my withdrawal symptoms look like pregnancy. However, I can assure you, I am not. To the latter – anything, and everything, has the potential to release the floodgates on my usually composed emotions.

I was sitting at a table in the water park on Tuesday, and our song came over the sound system and I just tensed up with stupid pent up tears. It was ridiculous. I fully expected to cry on my two high school friends the previous night, you know, because we haven’t seen each other in sooo long and how many years has it been and we’re getting older and… for the love of GOD. Thankfully, I didn’t. But that’s the crap part of this – you never know when it’s gonna hit. Well, except when we’re watching movies and then I can be sure it will come – and what the hell was I thinking watching Ghost under these circumstances?

According to what I’ve read, this crying thing is part of the withdrawal. And it sucks BIG TIME. This medication, just like anti-depressants, “takes the edge off” so much that I was actually numb. I even asked my alarmed, and slightly annoyed kids – when is the last time you saw me cry like this? And they can’t remember. Because, it’s like – never.

Yesterday Todd and I went to the bike shop to have my bike repaired after he accidentally rolled over it in the garage in the Mustang (SO glad I didn’t do that). He’s in the market for a road bike, so he and “Mel” were chatting while I sort of wandered about the store, touching at the jerseys and bike shorts in a disinterested way. And then I saw a yellow jersey that struck me instantly with a memory of my uncle, an avid cyclist, who lost his battle with cancer twelve years ago. Lance Armstrong sent him a LiveStrong jersey, post- mortem. It was hung over his bike at the memorial service, where I cried an uncontrollable torrent of tears. In public. And later, all I could think of was, is this what life will become? Everyone I love will eventually pass on and I get to stand here and watch it happen, over and over again? It was a heartbreaking revelation and it took me a very long time to recover. And now – in that bike shop – all those emotions came flooding back to me and I found myself fighting back tears.

Okay so back to the point. So, ultimately, I don’t want to be on medication. I don’t think I need it. Yet, after re-reading what I wrote at age 20 – I wonder that I always felt so conflicted, so fragmented, so emotional, so angry at things I couldn’t even articulate. That the semester I took a course in Women’s Literature I started to really consciously recognize these feelings. I read A Room of One’s Own. I read The Golden Notebook. I plunged into my writing classes. It all started to click. And now, in retrospect, besides knowing there’s a significant genetic link to this – I was always this way – Born this Way – and now I’ve got wisdom on my side. The wisdom to know what works for me, and what doesn’t. The wisdom to know the difference between just surviving, and thriving.

Flashback: February 24, 1990

Tuesday morning I had my Medieval Lit in-class paper – I didn’t even finish. Then yesterday my Irish Renaissance paper was due, and a Math test I didn’t get to finish.

Last night we partied in the dorm – Roxanne, Julie, Chris, Ian, Luke, and I. The living room looked like a tornado went through it. I left around 11 to visit Michelle and Lori in South Tower and apparently they all thought I was out wandering the streets alone. Ian was so worried he went out looking for me, wandering all over the village. When he didn’t find me he came back to the dorm and wrote me this bizarre yet very creative poem that didn’t rhyme, in which he called me an “infant arachnid.”

Roxanne is feeling paranoid about her weekend with Bryan. She thinks she’s pregnant. Her period is so irregular it’s entirely possible that it’s coming soon, but worrying about it just makes it all seem worse. Meanwhile, I’m having doubts again, about the whole thing with John. It’s so easy for me to be away from him right now. I think it’s time for that whole “space” thing again. I keep having doubts about him. Thinking about the future just scares me to death.

I wish I could talk to James Joyce sometimes. I feel like I’m struggling to realize myself, and perhaps he could help. Mom and I got into a fight on the telephone yesterday about silly things. I started to cry.  She called back a little later, we cleared the air, and I realized we share the same irrational fear. We both feel like when one of us gets mad, the other will stop loving us. It’s a sad realization – our bond is so powerful that sometimes it hurts, sometimes I feel like I can’t leave her, and it’s like a force is pulling me back to her and when I resist it tears me up. I wonder if she feels the same?

Sometimes I get so messed up that it frightens me – because occasionally I feel like I just want to die.  To close my eyes and sink into nothingness. Let the tears stop flowing and reach a higher plane, full of light and warmth, for eternity. God put me on this earth for something – I don’t think He wants me back for a while. But who is out there? I sometimes can’t find her. The fog moves in and becomes so thick I can hardly see her, and then she drifts away. God, please don’t let me fall into boring patterns when I grow up. All my life I wanted to grow up, and now I’ll be 21 in a few months. What then? I still don’t have a clue.

 

Flashback: July 25, 1989

July 25, 1989

I realize now just what I need in a relationship with that degree of commitment.  I need to be me, plain and simple, and never lose my separate identity. I’m aware of my good qualities in spite of the bad, and that I should never put up with bullshit, because it’s not worth my time. I can do better. I’m still healing from the breakup with Ben. I sent that letter I wrote him. I’m hoping he’ll call. Which is probably why I can’t fully engage my heart and mind with John.

Speaking of phone calls…Todd called me last night. We haven’t spoken in two years. We spent some time catching up. He said he considered coming back to visit this weekend, but then he changed his mind. I’m considering going to Baltimore to visit him some weekend. I don’t know.

I nearly hit a dog today – it ran out on the street and scared me half to death, no kidding. Sherry and I went shopping the other day, spent a ton of dad’s money and I came home with some beautiful clothes. She told me that dad thinks that the grandkids he’ll have some day will be immaculately conceived. She found this enormously funny. I’m not sure whether she expected me to dispute the fact, but I said nothing and instead laughed with her.

Work at the nursing home has been slow lately, but being there makes me feel a little better… changing the beds and delivering meals…. Tonight I got to feed Eleanor and Mary R. at the same time, while Mary F. entertained with her usual striptease in the dining room. The RN came over and says, “Mary, I’ve had it!” Mary looked up at her and said in the most casual of voices, “well — who gave it to you?”  Agreeable Eleanor just nods and giggles to herself. Linda and I just lost it.

I was talking to Dorothy earlier, who told me she’ll be 84 in October. She was telling me about a thunderstorm where she got shocked by her vacuum cleaner.  She doesn’t really look like she’ll be 84. But then, Mary G. doesn’t look like 98 either. Eloisa is this little old Sicilian lady who grabbed a hold of me when I wasn’t expecting it and wouldn’t let go. She holds on so tight, it’s painful. I can’t say I wasn’t warned not to get too close to her. She was imploring me for medicine for her “head-achy.”

Mr. “A” is the grandfather of a classmate of mine. I was warned about him too. He’s very touchy-feely. Still, the nurses let me walk him back to his room at the end of the hall from dinner one night. The walk back to his room was slow and very awkward, as he tried his best to wrap his hands around my personal parts. He’s sneaky and subtle about it too, and I’d bet my car he uses his “senility” to get away with it.