Unexpected Joy

And then there are moments which I could have never planned, which made them all the more incredible.

One of my dear friends from high school, who was also my roommate freshman year at UNC, who I lost touch with probably 25 years ago, messaged me through Facebook shortly before 5 pm. She was in Asheville visiting her mom, and would I like to join them? Without hesitation, I asked where they were and said I could be there in 20 minutes.

As I drove there, I wondered, “Would this be awkward?” “Would we have things to talk about?” “Why had we lost contact 25 years ago?”

And as soon as I saw her, and hugged her, and her family, it was if we were all back in time. So many laughs and memories, and stories to catch up on. What she had done. What I had done. How she ended up where she was. How I had. Changes. After a bit, I left to visit Mom, as I had promised her I would. I left feeling lighter, feeling joy, feeling loved, and feeling seen. What an incredible gift.

(Note: I took a selfie of us, which was so incredibly blurred it’s embarrassing, so I’m including a picture of some glittery Bulgarian artwork instead, which also brings unexpected joy.)

And there was a cupcake

June 11, 2019

Before he passed, my Dad put our family cabin on the market. It closed last week and I received the check on Monday. Since it was a rather large amount, I went into the bank to deposit it into my Mom’s account on Tuesday.

The teller was quite chatty, and the transaction took a long time, and she had to have someone else approve the deposit, and at some point I started crying quietly. I haven’t been able to enter a bank without crying since Dad’s death. I’m not sure what the trigger is, and I thought perhaps this day would be different, but it wasn’t. I mumbled, “I’m so sorry. My father recently passed away and dealing with paperwork is difficult.”

She excitingly said, “Oh, tomorrow is your birthday! Happy birthday!” I smiled wanly and thanked her. “Are you doing anything extraordinary and special?” And what went through my mind was, “I’ll be celebrating without my biggest supporter, my Dad.” Last year’s birthday was extraordinary and special – so many of my friends came to Asheville to celebrate 50 turns around the sun. And Dad loved it. He always loved interacting with my friends and was always so charming. He reminded me of how lucky I was to have such strong friendships.

Instead, what I said was, “No, not really” and tried not to sob loudly, the tears running more quickly down my cheeks, annoyingly hot in the air-conditioned bank.

“Would you go out and get a cupcake? And maybe put a candle on it?” she asked.

“Maybe,” was all I could muster as I received the deposit slip and walked out of the bank into the hot, hot summer day.

**************

June 12, 2019

Mom and I went to a friend’s house for dinner. It was the happiest I’ve seen her since she moved to Asheville. She had a glass of wine, she ate a full meal, and she accepted a piece of cake to take home. It was the most perfect birthday present I could ask for.

I took her home, we sat on her balcony, we watched the sun set behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then I returned home.

As I walked onto my porch, I noticed a cupcake, right there on one of the chairs, next to the mailbox. It was beautiful. A chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, so perfectly swirled, with two blueberries and one raspberry on top, with decorative papers, and enclosed in a plastic clam shell.

“A cupcake!” I thought, and brought it inside.

************

June 13, 2019

I had back to back meetings all day and didn’t stop for meals. Around 1:30 pm, I was hungry. I saw the cupcake on the counter and took a bite. The icing, so smooth, so just a hint of raspberry deliciousness, perfectly complemented the moist chocolate cake.

I ate the whole thing.

During the last bite, I had a thought. “I just ate a cupcake and I have no idea where it came from or who left it on my porch. I’ve become that person who just trusts people leaving food on her porch.”

And I think I’m okay with that.

And if whoever left the cupcake is reading this, thank you for the second most perfect birthday gift you could have given me.

Note: image is not the actual cupcake. I ate the whole darn thing before I even considered taking a photo.

Changes

And just like that, everything changed.

“Who picked this place?”
“I did, Mom.”
“Did you look at other places?”
“I did.” (honestly not prepared for what might come next)

“You couldn’t have picked a better place for me. I’m so happy here.”

I stared at her, not sure quite how to react.

I finally said, “I’m so glad that you’re happy here.”

And we sat in silence, looking at the mountains.

Me, too.

“Mom”

That’s what caller ID shows when Mom calls me. Our conversations are as short as the caller ID.

“Hi, Lori. It’s Mom. I don’t remember why I called. Bye.”
“Hi, Lori. It’s Mom. I don’t want people cleaning my apartment. Make them stop.”
“Hi, Lori. It’s Mom. Where is the blue material? I want to make cushions.”

I usually don’t have time to respond before she hangs up on me, my “I love you” disappearing into a dial tone. It’s like she simply has to get the idea out into the universe. I jot notes on scrap pieces of paper and follow up when I’m there in person.

Today I received this call.
“Hi, Lori. It’s Mom. There’s a birthday list here and we need to write cards. Please come over.”

Before she hung up, I told her I’d come after dinner.

Mom likes to send birthday cards. She always has. I arrived, reminded her she wanted to send birthday cards, and got the Ziploc bag labeled “birthday cards” from her closet, a pen, and a pad to practice on. She said, “Now whose birthday is it?” I walked her to the bulletin board where earlier in the year Dad had made her a cheat sheet of family and friend birthdays by month. I read the June birthdays: a grandson, me, a family friend, and a granddaughter-in-law.

There were no July birthdays listed.

We both saw it at the same time. Dad’s birthday. August 15. She started crying and I followed a mere milli-second later, hugging her tightly. “I miss him so much,” we said in unison, crying, then crying some more, which then turned into sobbing, a mother and a daughter missing the same man, more than either ever thought possible.

After a few minutes and several Kleenex later, we sat on the balcony, watching the sun set. I love the Blue Ridge mountains, shadowing each other, deeper and darker versions of blue layered upon each other. As the sun set farther, the outline of the mountains became darker, more pronounced. We sat in our rocking chairs, holding hands, rocking in unison, side by side.

“This is my favorite time of day.”

I nodded. “Mine, too.”

“I really like it here.”

I didn’t want to break the spell by asking her to repeat herself, in case I had mis-heard.

I nodded. “Me, too.”

The Joy of Celebrating

One of the things that I honestly love about getting older is celebrating dreams come true. I’ve been so fortunate to celebrate with friends as they achieve “the thing.” “The thing” could be anything from getting married, having a child, buying a home, selling a home, landing a new job, retiring, growing a garden, taking that dream vacation, learning to play that instrument, writing that book, mastering that recipe. It’s whatever has taken the hard work and brings joy.

And this week I was absolutely thrilled to watch another friend achieve a life long dream – being appointed as a Justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. I met Mark when I was an undergrad at Carolina and he was in law school. I remember giving him a gavel that I had procured at an auction – a harbinger of great things to come.

The ceremony was delightful. I had never been in a Supreme Court courtroom before. It was appropriately majestic and regal. High ceilings and dark green leather seats with brass studs. I loved seeing the court file in – three women and three men. Even though I had nothing to do with it (other than voting), I loved seeing that our Chief Justice, the Honorable Cheri Beasley, is an African American woman, and a person who is incredibly well spoken and polished and simply lovely. The feeling of collegiality among the court was pervasive.

Kind remarks and witty stories were shared. An oath was taken. Justice Davis was robed. Applause all around. And then Mark shared his remarks. I’ve known Mark as a friend for almost 30 years. And he brought the same wit and humor and humility and graciousness to his remarks as he has to our conversations. He shared how seriously he takes his duty as a judge, and that his personal views are irrelevant as a judge; his job is to interpret the law. He talked about the respect he has for his colleagues and what he’s learned from his mentors over the years. And he talked about his commitment to uphold the Constitution. I left the ceremony feeling inspired, uplifted, and with a glimmer of hope. Mazel tov, Justice Davis!

December Was A Whirlwind

Lots of visits with dear friends, some great music, and holiday spirit all around.

Favorite Things

I walked outside this evening, on my way to yoga. I felt a tingle on my face. Was it rain? It didn’t feel like rain. I looked around. Snow! SNOW! Flurries whirled around me as I watched the the flakes swizzle in the oncoming night. I was mesmerized by the patterns in my headlights as I drove to the studio.

I was thrilled, when an hour+ later, I walked outside and the flakes were still swirling, sheets dancing across the road, not sticking, merely visiting.

As I was fixing dinner, my favorite things came to mind:

  • first snow
  • heavy duty tin foil
  • texts from friends
  • emojis, emojis, emojis (especially multi-colored hearts and dancing animals)
  • surprises
  • heavy notecards and fine ink pens
  • FaceTime with family
  • homemade chicken rice soup
  • a book that you forego sleep to read, often until 3 am
  • sleep
  • the smell when the heat first comes on in the house
  • plants that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk
  • laughing, hysterically, at a joke (if it involves a pun, so much the better)
  • running into neighbors at the grocery store
  • the feeling of a warm scarf around your neck when the wind blows

What are some of your favorite things?

Vote!

I voted today, on a Sunday, in the middle of the afternoon, at my local library. I brought my sample ballot with me, with choices circled. I signed in, we talked about the weather (it is cold today!), and the poll worker handed me a ballot. I carefully marked my choices, making sure I filled in the correct circles for each candidate: Quentin Miller for sheriff, David Wilson Brown for US House of Representatives, and no, no, no, no, no, no on the proposed NC constitutional amendments (among others). I wore my “I Voted Early” sticker proudly and struck up conversations with folks at the grocery and drug store, asking if they had voted or if they needed information about polling places (many were surprised the polls were open on Sunday). I signed up with several organizations to volunteer to drive people to the polls on election day. Wherever you are, please make plans to vote: absentee, early, on election day. Your voice matters!

Bear!

As I was bringing the garbage bin in from the curb, I noticed bear scat in my front yard, alarmingly near the side of my house. Yes, I knew it was bear scat because I was a Girl Scout at one point and had been fascinated by animal poop. Just to be sure, though, I Googled it when I came inside. Yes, definitely bear scat, and the bear had recently eaten lots of berries. It comforted me slightly to think that my bear visitor might be vegetarian.

I didn’t think much of it, except for the fact that the scat was fresh and very close to the house and a very large pile, which meant it probably came from a very large bear?

Today, a neighbor moved in across the street. I had intended to walk over and introduce myself. I was leaving the house this evening and noticed them sitting on their porch. I thought, “I’ll just check out the bear scat again and then amble over.” I looked at the scat and thought, “That is fresh. I wonder where that bear is.” I looked to my left, and there was the bear.

I hightailed it back onto my porch. My new neighbor was staring, probably wondering why I was running in my own front yard. I screamed, “Thar’s ah bear!” and then ran back into the house.

I stood for a moment, trying to catch my breath. I thought I was safe inside. The doors were deadbolted, right? Bears couldn’t pick locks, could they? Photos. Get photos.

I walked to the back door, and the bear was lumbering around, sniffing the ground, maybe eating acorns? Other food? Planning to pick my locks?

I took some photos and the bear lumbered away. I composed myself and walked across the street, introduced myself to my neighbor, starting with, “I normally don’t run screaming through my yard…”

The Breakfast Club, 30+ Years Later

I watched The Breakfast Club again tonight, the first time in almost 30 years. I remembered loving it as a teen; I remembered emulating Molly Ringwald and her love of vintage clothes; I remembered the funny parts of the movie and its signature song, “Don’t You Forget About Me.” I didn’t, however, remember how dark the movie was. I didn’t remember how they bullied each other; I didn’t remember the sexual harassment in the film. It was hard watching a favorite film through today’s perspective. It was hard being taken back to a time and place. It was startling to see what details of the film I remembered and which I completely blanked out.

After the film Molly Ringwald took questions from the audience. They ranged from the completely mundane to requesting career advice to her thoughts on the movie now (also reflected in this excellent piece in the New Yorker), to her next project (directing). I loved hearing her perspective on the movie, the experience of working with John Hughes, and why there shouldn’t be a remake. Asheville, you continue to delight me. Molly Ringwald at The Orange Peel.JPG