On August 19, 2001, I was in Seton Hospital pregnant with my second son, Hank. It was a Sunday night. Mambo (John Treanor) was in the same hospital on another floor, waiting for liftoff to a better place.
Surgery to bring Hank into the world was scheduled for Tuesday. I did not know Mambo, having met him only once or twice, but I wanted to say hello to him. I guess some hellos are also goodbyes. Nine months pregnant, I waddled up to his floor and room. The people crowded around the door to his room revealed the impact of his life by the amount of friends there to tell Mambo how much they loved him. There was laughter. There was love. I decided to come back in the morning, a Monday, when things were quieter.
I waddled again to his room in the morning. The room was empty, all the lights were on and the sheets had been pulled off the bed for washing. I assumed he had switched rooms. I went to the nurses’ station. “He expired in the middle of the night,” the nurse said, in a perfunctory manner. Just like that.
That night, a Monday night, I listened to KUT from my hospital room to enjoy some quiet time. I’d be a mother again in the morning. Larry Monroe was on the air peppering his playlist with special mentions of Mambo, if memory serves me. The details are a smidge fuzzy. Larry spun great tunes that night as always. I called the switchboard at KUT and Larry and I exchanged friendly hellos. I asked if he would play a song I liked on the night before my son would be born. Larry was so kind, and did, of course, play my request. The song stuck in my head. Hank was born the next day, a Tuesday. Whenever I was nursed him or Hank and I were without nurses, I contentedly paced the hospital room, often by nightlight, gently rocking him to sleep and I would sing or hum the song Larry had played for me. I must have done that dozens of times in the hospital.
A couple of years ago, sweet Larry Monroe and I ran into each other. He brought up the time I was in the hospital and called in the request which we had a good laugh about: me in my loud way, Larry in his thoughtful, quiet way. I had practically forgotten it and no way could I remember the song but he sure did. He recalled the exact song I asked for: Bob Schneider’s “The World Exploded Into Love.”
Goodbye, dear Larry Monroe. The record may be over and the needle skipping in the groove, but the music never stops.
Here is the song Larry played just because I asked. What a legacy of kindness and a lover of music he has given us.
I have gone out for a few groceries. I know you have discovered the small trove of unwrapped Christmas presents hidden in this box. I have taken a picture of the fabric covering these presents. I have also measured the depth of the fabric with a measuring tape. When I return from the store, I will check the measurements and photos to see if this has been touched.
If one eentsy weentsy iota of fabric has moved, you won’t like the results. I will tag you both in every Facebook post for the rest of your lives, make dumb “Mom” comments on your timeline to your girlfriends, force you to eat Brussel Sprouts pureed with Beets every day you are here, take away your computers for the next 4 days and worst of all, make your nightmares true — barrage you with country music 24/7.
I suggest you stay out of this box. And don’t gimme any bull about “the cats got in the garage.”
PS Lift the seat!
It’s not my fault. Society puts pressure on us to mop our floors. No doubt there is some eco-friendly value to “naturally dirty” floors. Many other societies don’t mop. Do people with carpet throughout their home mop? No. Elvis had shag carpet on the ceiling. The only thing he was mopping up was gravy with biscuits. I doubt the tribal families who live on earthen floors have a bottle of Mr. Clean under their kitchen sink.
I’m anti-mop, but I believe it is each person’s choice to mop as they see fit. Who am I to judge?
Regardless, I try to mop at least once a year. Since the calendar is turning to a new year soon, I thought it best to go ahead and get the mopping done. I purchased a mop from Big Lots, swept the floors and made them ready for their moment of glory. It must have taken me an entire 45 minutes – and whew! I’m pooped.
Mopping is a choice, not a chore. Today I chose to do my annual mop. I defied society by mopping once a year! Fight the power!
For the record, rumors of me dropping a 750ml bottle of my roommate’s Godiva Chocolate Rum Liqueur on the floor, smashing it into 100 pieces of glass with the delicious scent of chocolately heaven spilling all across the kitchen floor and gashing my toes had nothing whatsoever to do with my annual mopping. Don’t feel sorry for me. I did taste a tiny bit of it off the floor.
I was semi-aware of a new habit I was developing when grocery shopping, thrift store shopping, etc. It became crystal clear while at my favorite “department” store, Goodwill. I was at Goodwill to look for long-sleeved t-shirts to keep me warm. With 3 perfectly warm and cozy t-shirts placed in my basket, I did my “Check the Store Perimeter for What Else Ya Got?” mosey for good measure — or out of old habit. On the glassware aisle I paused to adore a light pink, vintage, etched wine glass. Price? Fifty cents. Score! The thrill! I added it to my basket. It’s Goodwill, right? Everything’s affordable.
As I headed to the register, a nagging feeling came over me. Something felt wrong. “This is my new life. I have new commitments to myself.” I asked myself, “Do I really need this?” My answer was, “Some of it, but you can do without until employed.” I used to turn to food to soothe my troubled mind. Putting back a doughnut was not a common thing. I felt this same “I must do this” feeling over the fifty cent wine glass. I walked back through the thrift store and placed the t-shirts on the rack. I had one or two long sleeved t-shirts at home and that would do.
On the glassware aisle, I saw the empty spot where I had plucked the vintage, etched wine glass before a hipster could come along and beat me to it. Then my promise to myself came to mind. The fifty cent wine glass took on a whole new meaning. Sure, it was cute and would cost 2 quarters in change. It would also be a step backwards. It’s been happening — picking up what I “want” yet purchasing only what I need. It’s started.
I gently placed the wine glass on the shelf of jelly jars, coffee cups – things that one finds in a home. I told myself, “Things don’t make a home. Attitudes, love, friends, laughter, music playing and living each day make a home. They don’t cost fifty cents. They don’t cost a dime.”
We went to a movie (sneaking in the candy of course). The boys and I pulled into a parking spot next to a man in his car preparing to leave. As we got out, so did he and asked me if I had jumper cables. The cables dug from the depths of the trunk underneath Who Knows What, the man and Sam went to work. Suddenly, two doors on his car opened at once and two young children, a boy and girl – she in a pink fuzzy tiara – scrambled out. Her, in a voice that melted my heart: “Daddy, I have to potty!” Him, just as innocent and darling, echoed her wiggly-legged plea.
“I’ll take them,” I said, as he was elbow deep under the hood of my car trying to find the battery. Sam and Hank stayed with him. He nodded thanks.
As I walked the boy and girl through the large, packed parking lot, we came to a lane for cars to drive through. Gracie, 4, stopped, looked up at me, and reached for my hand to cross the street. I took it instinctively, took Noah’s as well, and we made it through a small crush of people. I also got to hear about their baby sister, Ruth.
I waited outside the bathrooms as they both said they “knew what to do.” Gracie came out to ask for help washing her hands so I went to help. When we left the bathroom, her 6 year old brother came out of the men’s room. Before we commenced everything in reverse to get back, I realized a total stranger trusted me with his precious children and I trusted him with my cherished older kids. It was very sweet to be a “mommy” to small children if only for 15 minutes. It was a wonderful moment of shared trust with a stranger.
How sweetly ironic that my birthday would fall on Thanksgiving this year. It’s also the culmination of a rough and tumble period of time. Not sure how I got by at times, but just kept going forward.
Therein lies the problem – and solution. I stopped going forward, slowed down and began to look around at life. When life got upside down, instinct turned me head first and I did what I had to do – call out to friends and anyone who could hear me.