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Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

In a disarray of discarded plants and flowerpots, a neglected, but tall and proud-looking amaryllis caught my eye. Surprised by the sight, my heart rapidly filled with emotion – first sadness and then happiness. With its sturdy, solitary stalk and two huge Christmas-red blooms, this plant reminded me of a dear friend I once had. Her name was Martha, but I knew her as Marty.

About ten years ago my daughter and I volunteered to paint fingernails at an assisted-living care center for senior citizens. Walking through those doors that day we could not know how our lives would change. It was fate. Of all the women in the room we could have helped, my daughter chose the feisty, diabetic, and wheelchair-bound Marty.

For six years, we regularly visited Marty at the center. In an attempt to make her life better, we brought her books to read and movies to watch, as well as holiday decorations to bring cheer to her room. And whenever we went on vacation, we made sure to bring back a souvenir for our friend. As many a great time we shared with her, we also endured difficult ones. Witnessing her decline from an opinionated and independent woman to a bedridden and silent one challenged our spirits, but never our commitment to her. Towards the end, we braced ourselves whenever we entered Marty’s room. One thing was for sure, though, no matter what physical condition she was in, Marty’s bright blue eyes always lit up when she saw our faces and we, in turn, always tried to smile, covering up any alarm we might have at seeing her situation.

Four years ago, in the month of November, the phone call came – Marty was gone. After hanging up the phone, I looked at the potted amaryllis bulb that sat on my kitchen counter. It was to have been Marty’s Christmas gift and my daughter and I had been eager to see the expression on Marty’s face when we presented it to her. Sadly, I picked up the plant and carried it outside and placed it amongst a pile of old flowerpots. I stood there remembering an earlier Christmas that Marty received an amaryllis from her son and how she spent the following months marveling at it. After the giant blooms faded, she had asked me to take the bulb home and replant it for her. Regretfully, I never had the opportunity to do that, because the plant, pot and all, disappeared from her room. That’s when my daughter and I decided we’d buy her a new one  –  one that she’ll never see.

Following Marty’s death, bad weather ensued, months passed by, and soon the plant was completely erased from my memory. Then one gorgeous early spring day, when the warm sun beckoned me out to the garden, I walked over to my garden shed. That’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a patch of bright red. There in the heap of garden rejects was Marty’s Christmas gift! A magnificent red blossom, in all of its glory, was swaying in the breeze and calling out, “Don’t forget about me.”

Every year since Marty died, the amaryllis has bloomed. And today as I stand here and admire its beautiful spring offering, I can hear Marty’s soft voice say, “Isn’t that something!” Picturing Marty’s face and thinking about how she graced my life, I reply, “Yes, Marty, it most certainly is!”

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I always say that raising three children is a juggling act. In three ball juggling, there is never a moment when all three balls are in the air simultaneously and that’s pretty much how it is with my three kids. If I can get two of them in the air, or in my analogy, concern-free, then the third is at the bottom and needs a boost up. Not to say that any of my children have huge issues or troubles, but more just a matter of dealing with the curves that life throws at them. Periodically, each of them needs a little parental support and my husband and I are happy to give it. That was the deal when we signed on to be parents. We knew it was a lifelong commitment.

My husband and I always wanted three children. When our first two children were born, we were over the moon with happiness, but in our hearts we knew we had room for one more. When I was pregnant with our third child, a wise friend informed me, that having three kids was not just a simple equation of 2 + 1 = 3, it was more like the chaos theory. Her point was that with two children you achieve equilibrium because you have one hand for each child. With three, there’s always one on the loose and you’re always off balance. Without a doubt, having three is challenging just by virtue of being an odd number. Pairing up for amusement park rides is awkward, packaged toys are often packed in twos, and the two-against-one argument is commonplace.

The thing about having three children is that there has to be one in the middle. Being a middle child myself, I know about threes. I am sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother, so I am well aware of birth order characteristics. My sister, the oldest child, definitely has the leadership characteristic stamped in her DNA and my brother, the baby of the family, is characteristically comical and entertaining. As for me, three, yes, three, middle child characteristics jumped off the list when I first read it. “Creative.” Yes, I am creative – that’s why I’m a blogger! “Doesn’t like to follow authority.” Hmm, I view it more like I have a lot of questions for authority. “They can usually read people well, they are peacemakers who see all sides of a situation.” I’ve certainly had on the job training as peacemaker in my family.

As a kid, I thought I would never have three children, because I didn’t want to create a middle child. Obviously my husband convinced me otherwise. But as I raised my children, I made a concerted effort to be especially fair to my middle child. The tough thing, though, is life is not fair and will never be fair, so maybe I should have taught my middle child that lesson instead from the get-go. From a middle child’s perspective, it’s all about expectation, therefore middle children are better off if they have no expectations and then they can be pleasantly surprised.

If I had to do it over again, I would still have three, because I cannot imagine my life without anyone one of my children. They are three wonderful individuals marching to their own drumbeats who every now and then need a boost from their parents to get back in the air. Who will be up and who will be down next? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Have you ever returned to your childhood hometown and gotten lost? I spent last week visiting my parents and as we headed out to run an errand my mom asked, “Do you want to drive?” I said I would if she wanted me to, but that I would need directions. After a nanosecond worth of thought, she replied, “That’s okay. It’ll be faster if I drive.” Although I grew up in the area, I haven’t lived there for over three decades. My familiar landmarks have changed and I’ve lived and worked in several different cities since I left home. Yet, somehow there’s an expectation that I should know my way around the area. The odd thing is that this expectation conflicts with the fact that my whole family knows I am directionally challenged.

Why am I directionally challenged? I’ve come to a few conclusions. The primary one is the whole notion of north, south, east, and west is an abstract concept to me, much like the atoms and molecules I studied in chemistry. Compass directions are not concrete concepts. Having grown up where the mountains are to the east and the ocean is to the west, I was completely disoriented when I married and moved to a place, where in the words of my husband, “If you are driving towards the mountains, then you are heading north and if you are driving towards the desert, then you are heading east and if you’ve reached Disneyland, then you’ve gone too far west.” Even better yet, he used to persuade me to use the sun as my directional guide by making statements like, “If it’s the later part of the day and the sun is on your right side, then you are heading south.” My reply to that was, “What if it’s the middle of the day and what if I’m driving at night? I don’t see how the sun or the mountains can help with directions if you are driving at night and can’t see anything!”

Another thought about being directionally challenged is that I have an unusually good memory and am a visual learner. Compass directions have no meaning to me, but landmarks do. Give me a physical landmark and it makes an imprint in my brain. Directions like “Go two blocks and make a left at the purple building with the yellow trim and the blue shutters make more sense to me than “Go two blocks and turn east.” Unless I’ve been to a place before, I have no visual map to retrieve in my head. But if I’ve been to a place before, it’s no problem finding my way back.

Being directionally challenged is not a flaw, it’s just a different type of operating system. Maybe Thomas Wolfe was right, You Can’t Go Home Again, of course, unless you know how to get there!

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