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Archive for September, 2017

Letting Go

 When I became a mother, I entered into a whole new existence. No longer did everything center on me. I moved to a place where everything centered around my children. They became my reason for living, and protecting them from the harsh realities of life was instinctual. But as they grew, I learned that you couldn’t protect them from pain, sadness, disappointment, hardship and even suffering because in this life, at some point, they are

At some point when my girls reached young adulthood, I had to face a hard truth. That it was time for them to make their own decisions and I had to let go of control. My role would be different. It would be about sitting on the sidelines of their lives and cheering them on. Watching them make mistakes sometimes and praying that they would make it through the consequences of those mistakes and learn from them. I remember that time. It was a feeling of freedom, relief and fear all mixed into one. But as the years went on and I watched them forge their way through life and create families of their own, it became easier and easier to relax, to trust and rest in the knowledge that I did my best as a Mom and actually raised good women. Watching their successes, their joys and their triumphs is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But, they would have to walk through some of their own fires in life and watching them get singed and even burned sometimes was painful for me as well, but continuing to be there, to help wrap up the burns, was my new role, not to prevent them.

Life brings more hardship for some than it does others. It is just the way it is. You never know in advance what cards will be dealt to you until you are staring at them in your hand. And there is no giving them back. You have to play the hand you are dealt; there is no other way.

It is this reality that brought me to a new place recently as a parent, to walk some ground I had never walked before on my life’s journey. A blazing fire broke out in the life of one of my adult children that had made the brush fires up to that point almost inconsequential, as her life was ripped open due to the sudden, and unexpected death of her still very young husband. And suddenly in the blink of an eye I was the parent of a little child again. A woman who is strong resilient and fiercely independent, was instantly transformed in my eyes into the little girl with the big brown eyes and pigtails who’s body I picked up and ran to the hospital with when she fell off of a wall and hit her head. The little girl who’s tears I wiped, and who I rocked and sang to and comforted all those years ago. I was not rusty. I was not at a loss as to how to react for it was instinctual. For months my life drifted quietly into the background and suddenly again I was waking up everyday asking myself what I needed to do for her this day.  

It’s funny how that happens in times of crisis. Real crisis, not the everyday bumps and bruises that we all need to experience to make it successfully in this life. The big, things, the tragic things. You recognize those things, when you see that strong responsible person that you raised unable to get up and brush themselves off. Not that they don’t want to, they literally can’t. You just know and you unquestionably become the parent of that little child again, and the process begins again of slowly letting go, like when they took their first step, or faced that first day of school, or stood up to that bully in the school yard. You stand close, but you slowly let go, again, as they attempt to carve their way through whatever pain and tragedy brought them to that place where they needed their parents again in a way they had not in a very long time. Depending on the severity of the blow, 10 days 10 weeks 10 months 10 years, you patiently let go as slowly as they need you to until they are standing strong against the winds of life once again and you move from being a fortress, a supporter, a guide to becoming more of a spectator of their journey, their biggest fan, smiling on the sidelines of their lives as you watch them soar. 

There is a memory burned into my soul that will be with me until the day I die. In fact there are a few memories like that related to this recent tragedy in my daughter’s life, some are hard to revisit as they are dark and sad. But this particular is neither happy, nor sad. It is just profound, and speaks to this very topic. It is the memory of moving through the airport, my husband and I, with the most precious and fragile cargo in tow. Our daughter and two Grandsons. Bringing them from their home in California where they lost the most important person in their lives, to rest, recover and grieve their loss in our home under our loving care. Their eyes empty of emotion and reddened with tears, a look of utter despair and ultimate trust in us, as we gently held their grieving hearts in our loving arms. Going through the motions of a process they had gone through many times, in happier times and for happier reasons. Moving mechanically, shoulders slumped, Mom clutching her boys, sons clutching their Mom and us, walking behind them with careful eyes on their every move, every facial expression, ready to pounce on their every fragile need. On the plane sitting strategically across my from my daughter, watching her clutching the remains of her deceased husband to her chest and waiting for signs of panic, knowing flying was difficult for her, even under the happiest of circumstances. Reaching across the aisle holding her hand with a lump in my throat. These memories will be with me forever. It was when I was called again to be that mother, before the letting go the first time.

Many months later I ponder the process of the past six months, as I watch her walk through the various stages of grief and I am struck with the realization that life sometimes comes full circle. Sometime we need to repeat processes. It has been a time of letting go just a little and then running to pick her up off the pavement and then letting go again. I am still very needed at this stage in her journey and it’s fine with me. In fact it’s an honor, and as she grows stronger in her journey there will be lots of letting go, again and again and again.  

By: JLE September 13, 2017

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For those of you who did not personally know my son in law Jerry Thompson, here is a synopsis of who he was . The son of a mother from South Korea and Father who’s family are from the Bahamas , he grew up in the Bronx, of NYC. As one of his closest business associates put it, he was uniquely American . A melting pot of heritage, growing up without privilege, who followed his dreams, put his talents to use to carve out a successful life. Jerry was a self taught genius in the world of technology. In this tech world, He built things. Things that I could not begin to explain or understand . He put his talents to use in an evolutionary journey that took him from the computer screen of his tiny Jersey apartment, to building his own business which would eventually land him a position as CTO of Successful, LA based, online advertising and technology company . His name was known by countless people who had worked with him , in the music and technology industry. He was respected and liked for his calm, kind demeanor and his undying willingness to solve problems and help others .

His family is proud of his success but most cherished Jerry for his love and commitment to his family and friends. Jerry was loyal, dependable and committed. His wife and sons are a testament to that. We will forever hear his laugh, remember the things he used to say, and see the love he planted in the eyes of his boys . The world did not have him long enough. Rest In Peace, my dear son in law .

Til we see you again .

By JLE

Written : February 25, 2017

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Growing up in the Sixties

When my maternal grandmother was still alive, I would occasionally go have tea with her as a young woman. One of the most charming memories I have is of sitting in her kitchen and hearing her talk about life in her youth. I still find it fascinating when my parents talk about the past, how life was different for them. I find it a little sad however that as they age their memories begin to fade and I relate, because it seems the older I get the less details of my childhood I can recall.

This is what motivates me to write this. I wish I had more opportunity to talk to my Grandkids about my life. Unfortunately a good part of their growing years have involved Grandma being a long distance relative. When I do see them and have the opportunity to talk to them the focus is more on me catching up with what is going on their lives. Thank goodness for today’s technology. I can see their lives unfold on their parents Facebook pages, and though the teenagers are too busy to talk to Grandma on the phone, they will answer my texts and occasionally chat me up for a bit. I know when I was a teenager, I liked seeing my Grandmother when she came to visit, but sitting and listening to stories about her past did not interest me much until I became a young adult in my twenties. So I hope I have the same to look forward to with my Grandchildren. In the meantime I have my favorite means of leaving my legacy for them. My writing. This piece in addition to being recorded in this blog will also be printed and put in a special binder (the old fashioned way), I am creating specifically for that purpose. For my Grandchildren.

So being born in the 50’s despite what you might think, I don’t have memories of poodle skirts saddle shoes and do-op music. I was a baby, a toddler, a preschooler. That was my parent’s world. By the time I reached the age where the culture of the day would be indelibly imprinted in my memories of childhood, the new decade brought about a big change. The 60’s revolution. Growing up I was influenced by the Hippie mentality, although I was not a rebellious child so I grew up what I like to call a fringe Hippie. Embracing the fashion, the music and the lingo, but not the drugs, the promiscuity or protesting of the establishment. But that didn’t come until my adolescence anyway.

In my young childhood, the decade was still young and the shift from the world of American families striving for Father knows Best and leave it to Beaver families was still in force. Although behind the doors of my home we were far from that kind of family. But that is another subject. But I saw this world around me, in other households and for me it represented the norm.

As you know I grew up with four younger sisters, considerably younger, therefore other than the time and attention I would give to devote to them for my occasional amusement, they did not provide me with playmates my own age.

When I was indoors alone in my room, I would listen to children’s records on my record player, read books like Black Beauty and Little women, and oh how I loved my “Highlights” magazine for kids. I would sing constantly, sometimes in front of the mirror, and imagine a lot. Later around 11 or 12, I would find the love of writing I have to this day.

But like most kids in the early 60’s the outdoors was my playground. Friends lived right on my block, and the next block. There was no need for parents to arrange playdates, or drive me to a friend’s house. Kids I knew in school remained just that. Kids I knew in school. I never saw them outside of school. If I happened to have friend a few blocks away we walked to each other houses, or to a central location where the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. Daily out door fun included swinging on your own swing set, or someone else’s, playing games in the street such as hopscotch, kickball, tag, hide and seek. Or playing Jacks or Barbie dolls on someone’s porch. Walking up the street to the neighborhood family grocer, who happened to be an uncle of mine was always exciting, buying a piece of candy, or doing an errand for your parents. Then there was the ice cream man. He would come around ringing his bell, and everyone would scatter to beg Mom for money for ice cream. Riding bikes was another activity I loved about as much as swinging.

And then there were the nearby woods. How kids loved to find their own secret place to build forts, or swing on a rope swing across the swamp. I can remember dozens of my friends doing that at one spot we had just a few yards into a wooded area off our street. I don’t remember doing it myself, just watching. We also had a nearby field where we would go to pick blackberries, or push a raft across the swampy water. I have good and bad memories of that field, but again that is another story.

We had a lot of freedom, at least most kids did. As long as were home for dinner, and in before dark, parents didn’t worry about us much. Some older folks will tell you it was because the world was a safer place back then. I disagree. The world was not any safer. There was a lot of danger that lurked out in the world. Bad things happened to kids every day. The only difference between then and now is awareness. The evil has been exposed and is out in the open. It’s talked about, kids are taught to beware, we take lots of precautions to protect our kids against the evil in the world. Back then, still clinging to the Leave it Beaver facade, we lived in denial. Predators like pedophiles, kidnappers, mentally ill folks that might harm your child, or influence them negatively were only whispered about. Such ideas were swept under the rug and even when these evils were uncovered in ones own family, the secret was kept locked up tighter than a drum. Child abuse and domestic violence were things that were kept behind closed doors and no one felt it was any of their business.

As the sixties wore on I approached adolescence and the teen years. These years brought a loss of interest in some of the childhood games and more of an interest in pop music, collecting your favorite vinyl records, walking around with your transistor radio, bike riding on the back of the boys banana seat bike, playing more grownup games in the street like, softball although we still played kickball, and I still played with Jacks through my teen years. The boys played football and the girls chatted and watched and talked about the boys.

Occasionally the cool parents would let all the kids hang out at their houses. These homes were normally equipped with a finished basement, which was common in suburban Staten Island NY homes in the 60’s. There we would listen to vinyl records of the latest bands, the girls would dance, the boys would play pool if the family had a pool table, or have a Jam session with guitars and drums.

We also began finding these secret places. Like under the Highway overpass, tucked way up top where we couldn’t be seen. Here was where kids smoked their first cigarette, stole their first kiss, sipped their first sip of Boones Farm Strawberry wine, Sorted out our very dramatic spats with one another. We told scary stories of urban legends of which there were always a few.

As I advanced from the early teen years into my high school years the sixties were coming to an end and the 1970s was fast approaching. Leaving Junior high behind meant girls were no longer required to wear skirts and dresses to school. I am not sure which year but sometime in high school girls were allowed to wear jeans. So I hung up my gogo boots and mini skirts for bell bottom hip hugger jeans. I wore my hair shoulder length and pin straight parted down the middle. Think Marsha Brady. That was pretty much me, without the perfect blended family though. My first year in high school was kind of turbulent. For some reason my address did not allow me to be zoned for the same high school as friends on the same street. I guess we lived on the dividing line. So I started high school with no one I knew from my neighborhood and we were all pretty tight on my block and one block over. So I got into a bad habit of playing hooky and not going to school often for many months. But even my friends that went to the other high school did the same. We would all meet at the bus stop, no school buses, we took chartered city buses to school since Staten Island was a borough of New York City. Then we would go hang out wherever we could hide from truant officers that patrolled the streets for kids skipping school, including gas station bathrooms. Yuck. But at that time adults would question you if you were loitering around during school hours. So we had to stay out of sight. These were the dangerous years of my youth. Hitch hiking was a popular thing among Staten Island teens my age. I am ashamed to say that as a group we hopped in the cars of many a stranger who was cool enough to give us rides to wherever we wanted to go in our skipping school days. Occasionally we would get to hang out in the home of someone whose parents were both working. This was rare however. Eventually I got caught but the good outcome was that I convinced my Mother I did it all because I was so out of place in my high school and would do so much better if I could go to the school where the rest of my friends went. So my Mother found a way to get me transferred. I finally cracked down and took school more seriously after that. And so did my friends, or at least some of them.

I was an average student in high school. I could have done better but like many, I didn’t apply myself 100 percent. Honestly most of what preoccupied me from my early teens were boyfriends of which I had several steady ones throughout my teens. At that time it’s what you did, you didn’t just date boys, you went steady. We just called it, “going out with” someone but it meant exclusive, or you were just friends. No in between, at least not where I was from. Truthfully as I look back, it was very restricting for a teenage girl. To serious too soon, but it was what we did.

As for music, listening to music was not like it is today. At home you had records, outside of home you had the radio. When I was sixteen my Birthday present was the Beatles Abbey Road album. It was all I wanted. I was a huge Beatle fan. I loved the British bands, the pop bubble gum music, and Motown. I was not a big fan of the heavy metal rock that was coming on the scene in the seventies. It was all too loud, dark and dissonant for me. I preferred brighter music that made me happy, lyrics that told a good story and harmony. Later in my teens I became a big fan of the oldies, which then were the do- op songs of the fifties. I knew them all. I remember a station that played the oldies consistently. And on Staten Island there was a sweet shop that was still in business from back in the fifties, that had all the oldies on a jukebox.

Unlike a lot of Baby Boomers, I did not go to concerts or teen clubs. They were around but it was just not in my world at the time. Once I was taking public transportation to leave my neighborhood with friends it was to go to the beach, or occasionally shopping at some mall. But that was rare. I rarely had money for that until I was out of high school and working. We didn’t go to the mall to just hang out. That came to be popular a decade or so later.

I got my driver’s license around age 17, I believe. I passed my first road test. I was given an old 1950- something Ford I think. It was baby blue. It lasted me a few years. I didn’t take it far, to and from school and later to the ferry or train station along my commute from Staten Island to Manhattan for work. My high school boyfriend had a Ford thunderbird convertible and I spent a lot of time in that car for sure.

My later teen years lead to driving around with my boyfriend to meet friends at popular hang out areas. Usually down by the beach. That involved drinking out of the back of someone’s trunk where the alcohol was kept, until the police cruised around and you shut the trunk and leaned on it with an innocent smile. I was not a big drinker however. My first experience with liquor was trying scotch out of my parent’s liquor cabinet in a tall Tupperware glass and getting very sick after spinning around the living room to make sure it took. I never really liked drinking much after that. I did pick up the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes at age 16 which thankfully I gave up at age 24 and never looked back.

Back at the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s not all girls were encouraged to go to college. Some were, but it was assumed by many girls like me who came from lower middle class families that we would go to work to help the family out when we got out of high school. College was for the girls from more upper middle class families. Truthfully it was never even discussed in my home. I really was never told by anyone I even had that option. So In my last two years of high school I chose classes that prepared me for what was called a commercial diploma, as opposed to an Academic diploma (college bound kids). These included typing, bookkeeping, record keeping and stenography. Yea stenography. You probably don’t even know what that is. But June of my senior year I had already been sent on a job interview in Manhattan for a big firm and got the job. I graduated high school in June of 1972 and in July I started my full time job in the big city. The rest is history.

So this is a glimpse of what growing up was like in my day. I am sure my great grandchildren will grow up in quite a different world but it is my hope that these memories written down will pass down through the generations and keep the memories alive for years to come.

By: JLE September 2017

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