Home Sweet Dorm

The week leading up to dropping Hayden off at school was emotional at best and chaotic every moment.  We were frantically attempting to finish all of the necessary shopping while all the while gearing up for the fact that our baby girl was moving away to school.  I won’t lie; I spent chunks of time alone, in tears dreading the passing days.

It wasn’t so much that she was going away to college that was emotional for me.  I was, and still am, totally excited for this new chapter in her life.  I know she is ready to move on from high school and towards her chosen career path.  We are all ready for her to do this, to become her own person, to reach out for her own dreams, and to work hard toward her own goals.  In all honesty, I can’t wait to watch her unfold.  It’s just that she won’t be sleeping under our same roof every night.  Texting her goodnight will never be the same as hugging her goodnight.

And, it got here so quickly.

Move in day is a bit of a blur.

Side note: we decided the night before that we had to take two cars.  Not because we couldn’t fit everything into the van because we could.  We simply couldn’t fit everything and the people into the van.  There is a distinction.  We may have brought a wee bit too much stuff—except that we didn’t because she needs everything we brought.

We arrived early and began to unload her things from the van into a pile on the grass in front of her dorm.  Her pile was a little larger than other piles, but I think that was, at least in part, due to the way we had packed.  For example, much of her bedding was still in the shopping bags whereas, I noticed, others had crammed pillows and such into bins.  Also, others had not brought twenty five decorative pillows.

Hayden and Anna went and retrieved her room key and we began to move some of the lighter things up to her third floor (no elevator) room.  Before long, a group of move-in volunteers arrived at our pile and quickly got everything to her room.  We were alone in her room with the total chaos of her stuff for about fifteen minutes before her adorable roommate arrived with her family and her total chaos of stuff.

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Unpacking ensued.

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Decorating happened.

 

And, before we knew it, she was all set up.

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And, happy.

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Hayden had a mandatory freshman welcome gathering to attend, and we didn’t want to prolong the goodbyes, so we hugged and took a few more photos and then headed downstairs together.

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Anna and I both, for different reasons, wanted to stay forever.

I was determined not to cry, not to have Hayden see me crying as we were leaving and have her feel badly about it, so I did not cry.  In front of her.

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Now it is Labor Day weekend and Hayden is home and everything is right in the world again.

But, seriously, she is doing great.  And, the fact that she is doing so well makes it just a little tiny bit easier for us to have her away.  We miss her terribly, but we talk to her everyday, and she is advocating for herself and adulating like a boss, and we are so proud.

Our baby girl is on her way.

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Impossible to write

My mother, I think, would have loved her memorial weekend.  Everyone gathered at the lake on Friday: my dad, all my siblings and their families, my aunt and uncle and cousins, and my mother’s cousins.  We visited and hugged one another and ate spaghetti and told stories of remembrance and got caught under the tent in the front yard during a pouring rain thunder and lightening storm…and we missed her terribly as we prepped for her funeral the following morning.

The kids, even the littlest ones, helped to make the photo memory board, and arranged the fresh flowers and tied the twine bows for the centerpieces.  They loved her so much and they worked so diligently to make it special for her.

On Saturday morning there was a HUGE thunderstorm and we had a difficult time setting up the tent, but we managed.

Because, at my mother’s request, we had not had a wake, we had a reception line at the church prior to the funeral, and we were astounded at the number of people who came.  My sister is knows the deacon personally and he told her that that number of people never come to funerals.  He was so impressed by the attendance.  After the funeral, we had large gathering at the lake.  I kept looking around at all the people thinking how much my mom would have loved it; she was always happy to have people come and visit at the lake.  IMG_4935

We sent everyone away with Forget-Me-Not seeds that the littles wrote the message on.

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After everyone had gone, and it was dark, my siblings and my family gathered on the dock and sent a couple of lanterns up to our Mom.

And, I know she loved them.

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Mom’s Eulogy  July 8, 2017

My husband reminded me last night that my mother was a pretty open book, so some of what I am about to share with you you may already know.  Also, I think Father stole some of my notes.

My mother was born in Syracuse.  She was raised in Baldwinsville, on State Fair Boulevard, until the fifth grade when she and her family moved to South Otselic to live with aging grandparents.  She loved that first house though, so much so that she spoke of it regularly throughout her life, and although she moved at a relatively young age even her grandchildren know she lived on State Fair Boulevard once upon a time.  

It was in that house she began to develop her feisty personality: once she hit a neighbor boy over the head with her golf club because he sat on her ball and wouldn’t move off of it.  Another time she chased away some older, bigger boys who were picking on her and her sister as they walked home from the store.  She may have been little, my mother, but she was mighty even as a child.

In high school she was a cheerleader and a member of the color guard.  

Like most teens, she enjoyed spending time with her friends, and she told us stories about swimming at the gorge and hanging out, or doing chores at her friend’s family farms.  Because her family lived in town, those farms were particularly appealing to her, and, at one, she was even given her very own calf who she named SqueeDunk and fed with a baby bottle.  

She was very close to her cousins and loved having them come to spend time with her family or going to their homes, in their cities, to spend time with them.  Those times with cousins were some of her most fond childhood memories.

After high school, my mother left her little town for the big city of Plattsburgh, to attend college at Plattsburgh State, where she intended to study elementary education.  She quickly made a friend from Chateaugay, and went home with her one weekend.  That weekend she met my father.  

As the story goes, when they were ready to become engaged, it was agreed that my father would come to South Ot to take my mother engagement ring shopping in Syracuse.  Unbeknownst to my dad, however, my mother and grandmother went shopping the weekend prior to him coming “just to scope out styles” and my mother, of course, picked out a ring.  The jeweler put the ring she choose aside, and then totally forgot to act nonchalant when my mother, who had told my father she had no idea what she wanted, and father arrived in his store the following Saturday.  

My father purchased the ring anyway.

51 and a half years later, my parents continued to share the crossword puzzle every single morning.  She would do the “down” clues, and he would do “across”.   Or vice versa.  I’m not sure, and it didn’t really matter.  They were both in it together for the ups and downs and sidewaysness of it all.

My mother loved reading, and she read voraciously, but as much as she read, she was also horrible with book titles and never remembered until she was partway through a new book whether or not she’d already read it. This difficulty with titles also made it challenging for her to recommend books to friends or family, but it never stopped her from trying.  

She was funny.  My Anna says she was the funniest person on earth.  She told wonderful stories, had a tremendous sense of humor, and she was able to laugh at herself as she shared her experiences.

She enjoyed traveling to the homes of her children for visits.  When she came to CT it was understood three things were required:  chocolate ice cream, Pepsi, and a willingness to drive her to Target every day she was there.  Sometimes more than once a day.  There were bonus points if the ice-cream truck showed up while she was visiting; she couldn’t get her money out fast enough when she heard that music coming down the street.

She loved Elvis Presley, JFK, lilacs, and the color blue.  She put butter on practically everything she ate, and she favored shrimp scampi and lobster tails.  She loved photos of her family and she took a million of them; always telling us to “wait for the green” when her camera was slower than she prefered as she attempted to take the photo.  

She attended as many of her grandchildren’s sporting events as she possibly could even though she couldn’t begin to explain the rules of lacrosse or soccer or baseball or softball.  But, she was there.  And she always had candy in her pocket at the end.

My mother made the best chocolate chip cookies.

She couldn’t parallel park, but she could drive a stick, and she was proud of that.  

She was always the first one to “like” our facebook posts.

My mother was a terrific card player.  And, by terrific card player, I mean to say she cheated at cards.  And, she taught all of us how to play, so you might not want to play cards with us.

She was a night owl, and often bought helpful gadgets off QVC at two o’clock in the morning.  Most of the time, by the time they arrived in the mail, she’d forget just what they were helpful for, but this didn’t stop her from gifting them to us.  All of the men in the family looked forward to the “tool of the year” for Christmas, and more often than not, these tools actually did come in handy at some point throughout the year.

My mother’s favorite place on this earth was the camp on Chateaugay Lake, and she loved every minute she spent there.  One of her favorite days of the year was Dock Day–the day the docks went into the water symbolizing the beginning of the season, and the promise of another great year of fun and family.  

She enjoyed watching the birds at her feeders (although she wasn’t a huge fan of the red squirrels), and she loved listening to the loons on the lake, stalking them in the boat, and watching their little loon families grow.

She was happiest on boat rides, or sitting on the deck, drinking Aunt Lindy’s slush, watching and listening to her grandchildren swim and play in the water.  She loved sitting around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories–she was a champion s’mores assembler–and she would sit for hours staring at the flames and listening to the laughter, never wanting to go inside until the first bat of the night was seen flying above our heads–then she was the first one inside.  

She looked forward to the camp t-shirts the kids made every year with that year’s particular theme whether it be Camp Monsoon Rainforest or Got Camp?

But mostly, she loved US.  Her family.  She loved her siblings.  She loved her cousins.  She loved her nieces and nephews and her brothers and sisters in law.  

She was a loving and devoted wife, a doting and supportive mother, and an engaged and adoring grandmother.  

She went by many names.  We called her Mom, Nanny Pitbull, Nancy Lee, and PeeWee, but Grammy was her favorite title.  She truly adored those seven young people sitting right over there:  Nicholas, Hayden Elizabeth, Anna, Ainsley, Drew, Colton and Avery Kate.  To say she felt the moon and stars rose and fell on them would be a gross understatement.  They were her world.

My mother was the most passionate person I know; she felt everything intensely, she cried with great sadness and she laughed with great joy, and she held steadfastly to her beliefs.  She did nothing halfway, but, rather, poured her entire heart into everything she did, and everyone she loved.

In the days and weeks immediately following my mother’s passing, our family received many condolences; they came in several forms: as cards, emails, facebook messages, visits, and phone calls.  And, in reading and re-reading the messages I received personally, I quickly noticed a pattern begin to emerge.  In nearly every single message: you all told me that you had lost your best friend.  

At first, I was puzzled by these repetitive messages.  They were heartwarming for certain, but how, I wondered, could all of you, each and almost every one of you, refer to my mother as your best friend?  It was a bit surprising to realize that you all saw her the way her family saw her.  

My mother was always there for the people who were important to her.  She was always ready to swoop in and catch you when you were falling, she was always the first one to congratulate your accomplishments, she was always there with a hug in sad times or a smile in brighter times.  

She always had a cup of coffee or a coke float or a glass of slush for anyone who needed one, and she always knew which of those things was needed.

If you needed to talk; she was there to listen.  If there was something she felt you needed to hear; she would tell you. If you needed to sit on her front steps in Dannemora or on her front deck at the lake and enjoy the evening air, or if you needed to sit at her kitchen table and visit for a little while; she was there.

My mother was loyal.  If she loved you, you were hers for always.  No matter what.

Because, my mother, I’ve come to understand, though she had many friends, was simply not friend material. That’s just not who she was.  No, my mother was BEST friend material.

She was your best friend, you told me she was.  She was certainly MY best friend.  And, though we will never, ever, fill the void she has left, I know she would want us to move forward loving one another.

On behalf of my dad and our family, I would like to invite you all to join us in remembering my mother today at her favorite place on Chateaugay Lake.  We have a big tent, so let it rain.

The post that is not the post, but is about the post that is supposed to be posted.

I’ve been attempting for a couple of days to post about our experiences with prom dress shopping this year; how shopping for a senior prom dress differs from shopping for a junior prom dress, how we were disappointed to discover the boutique we loved so much last year has undergone some managerial changes, how strange it was to be shopping without my mom…

I’m struggling with that post.

For one thing, I can’t get my photos to load.  There actually are not a lot of photos to load; I didn’t take as many this year as last, in part because she didn’t try on as many dresses, and in part because I wasn’t sending them to my mother for opinions, and, therefore, only took pics of the best dresses, only took the pictures Hayden requested.  The post needs the pics, but the damn computer won’t load the pics, so the post won’t flow.

My mother, though only physically here twice, has always been a part of our dress shopping: homecomings, winter balls, graduations, proms: all of them, all of the dresses, all of the shopping, we have included her either through texted photos or FaceTime.

And, she always bought the shoes.

It was bittersweet to be there without her.  I worked overtime to stay in the moment, and to enjoy the time with Hayden, but I missed my Mom–both in real time and in future losses.  She won’t be there when we shop for Anna’s dresses, and she won’t be there when we shop for wedding dresses.

Yet, she was there.  I know she was there.  We are all adjusting to a new manner of her being there, but she was, she is.  And, I know she loves this year’s dress.

These Days

Steve is working on the bathroom remodel; there’s crashing and banging and sawing and drilling and hammering and swearing filling the house.  Hayden is doing her nails and otherwise prepping for homecoming while her music volume constantly increases to cover the crashing and banging filling the house.  Anna is drawing a “Welcome October” picture for me in my bullet journal.  I told her a simple sketch would be sufficient, but she is an artist, and nothing for her is ever sufficient; it must be perfect.  And, I am researching a new book idea.  There are two dogs at my feet; one because she is always at my feet when I am in my office, and the other because she is terrified by the banging and crashing filling the house.  It’s raining.  That will ruin the homecoming pictures.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty perfect Saturday in the fall.  There’s spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, simmering away, filling the house.

Steve and I just celebrated our ninetieth wedding anniversary, and I wonder, so often, how it is that we got here, to this place, these weekends, that I so dearly love.  Sometimes it feels like such a long ride, and other times I think we are still at the beginning.  We are the among the lucky ones, I know this.  We’ve had plenty of bumps and bruises along this journey, we’ve suffered some great losses, but we have never faltered, we have never doubted our love for one another.  Many of our friends have divorced or almost divorced, a few of those divorces quite shocking, and each time we wonder how it is that a marriage can get to that point, each time we are so thankful that we don’t know the answer.

I know I sound a little, or maybe even a lot, self-righteous.  But, I truly know that our success so far has as much to do with luck as it does with our hard work.  I know that it could all fall apart tomorrow, that some unforeseen event could shake us, some minute shift in the universe could rock us to our core.  I know how blessed we are to have these moments, this family, these Saturdays.  I take none of it for granted, and I do, I honestly do, wonder how we got her so relatively unscathed.

Because these days?

These days are the days that sustain me.  These little days with my little family.  I am such a lucky woman.

 

 

 

 

 

Senior Year

This beautiful girl started her Senior year of high school last week.

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She was very patient while I took several photos of her before she drove herself to school for the first time ever, oh my heart!

Mom!  Stoooop!  I’m gonna be late!

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So, I stopped.

For a minute.

Then I chased her down the driveway.

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And, so, it begins.  My baby girl’s Senior year of high school.  So many milestones coming up this year, and I want her to enjoy every single minute.  I’ll try not to let her see me sobbing in the corner.

Not a river in Egypt

We’ve been a little lax about preparing for Hayden to go college.

I’d love to blame it on her being our first born, and how new we are at this whole college thing, how we don’t have any idea what we are doing or supposed to be doing, so we have naturally fallen a little behind, but I think it may have something more to do with the fact that she is only SIXTEEN years old and still my BABY.

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Denial. De. Ni. Al.

I mean, it’s not like we haven’t seen it approaching.  She was a junior last year and she did all the junior year milestoney things that juniors do in their junior years: she went to the prom, she took her SATs, she got her braces removed from her teeth.  For the past year we’ve made impromtu stops at various schools; driving around the campuses to check them out, engaging in conversations about whether or not they are located in areas that she can see herself living. We’ve attended college nights and a couple of open houses.  We’ve added terms to our vocabularies.

Common Application.  FASFA.  Admissions Requirements.  Student loans vs. parental responsibility.  Financial aid.  Merit Scholarships.

We’ve added those terms, but, beyond that, we have ignored them, more or less, completely.  Those are things we have to worry about in the upcoming months.  Not this month.  Never this month.

Denial came up and slapped me in the face today.

We’ve had a couple of college visits this week.  Real, actual, college visits with deadline discussions and personal tours where I found myself asking a thousand questions about the schools and the buildings and the programs and the meal plans…when all I was truly needing to know is how they plan to take care of my little girl; how am I ever going to be able to leave her on her own?

This is it.  In twenty-nine days Hayden starts her senior year of high school, and we begin the countdown, the last year of having her home with us, safely under our roof, every night.  I’m simultaneously so excited for her and sad for me (and Steve, and Anna).  I know this is her time to soar, to go out and make her mark on the world, and I truly can’t wait to watch who she becomes, but I am SO NOT READY to let go of her.

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I know we aren’t the first or the only ones to ever go through all of this.  I know it is normal and necessary.  And, I even know we will find ourselves on the other side of it someday, but damn if it doesn’t still suck now.