Tag Archives: Forest

Most people think pink.

Beth loved yellow.
I suppose it had always been her favorite color. I can’t be sure.
Though we came from the same small town, when she was a senior, I was in the first grade. I only knew her as one of the beautiful high school girls.
I bet she loved yellow back then too.
She was always a bright spot in the world.
By the time I moved to Washington, D.C. when I was in my late-20s, the gap our ages had caused back home narrowed. She had been in D.C. since I was a kid. By any standards, Beth had done well for herself. She had climbed through the ranks to a rather fancy job with the U.S. Senate.
From where I sat, Beth was important. She had the world by its tail.
And, I did not.
Not only did I not have a job, I didn’t even have a place to live at first.
And yet, from the day Beth and I reconnected, she was as kind and genuine to me as a person could be. If you’ve ever not had a job and spent a few months looking for one, you understand the appreciation you have for those rare souls who don’t seem to mind or think less of you.
That’s what Beth did.
She treated me with as much kindness and respect as I imagine she treated the senators she worked with in the Capitol Building.
That was Beth.
Our families had known each other for generations, but she and I didn’t know anything beyond each other’s names at first.
That changed quickly.
Beth helped introduce me to the city and many of its interesting residents. She had seen the workings of Washington from a unique vantage point for more than 20 years. She had great stories.
Within a few weeks, Beth became a huge part of my life. We became great friends. I knew I could call on her if I got in a bind. We spent hours rehashing the different angles ten years made on our perspectives of events back home. We shared story and story and often found ourselves laughing as long and hard as we could.
One day she called me and didn’t sound quite as chipper as she usually did. I could tell something had happened. She explained that her beloved cocker spaniel had bumped her as he was jumping into her car, and something about that pain didn’t seem right. I don’t know exactly how or why she decided to go to the doctor, but she did.
Within a week, Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I remember her saying how determined she was to fight it. And, she did. She fought it with every thing she had. For several months, she lived life to the absolute fullest. Her younger sister told me that the doctors had said, “She’ll seem fine for a few months, but when it hits, it will hit really hard.”
And it did.
Beth ended up in George Washington University Hospital. Several afternoons a week, I took the blue or orange line one stop from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom. I’d walk the block from there to her hospital room.
She was still determined to fight and remained chipper. She never wanted to focus on the pain. With her mother, her sisters, other family members and friends by her side, we continued telling stories and laughing.
As long as we could.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, and most people think pink. But me, I think yellow.

LSS: Chasing dreams and marking milestones

Shortly after their family moved to town, they called me to babysit.

I was 14 and always game for some extra cash in my pocket, I gladly accepted the job. The little girl was two, and the mother was pregnant with her second child.

I rode my bike the five blocks to their house and certainly never expected the gigantic parts the mother and children — including the little boy who was born a few months later — would grow to hold in my life and heart.

Nearly 34 years later, I find myself in a Los Angeles hotel, rooming with the mother who called me to babysit all those years ago. We’re getting ready for that little girl’s wedding.

Her brother is here also, freshly back from serving in the Peace Corps and finishing a graduate degree. The daughter lives in Los Angeles, and the son in Omaha, Nebraska. They’re both doing work they love and chasing their dreams. Even though I’m just their babysitter from long ago, I am filled with joy and a touch of pride that they both have the world by its tail.

Their mother still lives in our hometown, teaching home economics at the high school. She and my parents are close and see each other often. Through the years, this lady was my cheerleader. She supported me in ways I didn’t even know I needed supporting. Her enthusiasm for life propelled me to try new things and go new places. She showed and taught me new ways to look at life. I will forever be grateful for all the goodness she has brought into my family’s world.

In fact, in the world of non-family members becoming family, I’d say we’re there. Mostly, we celebrate joys and holidays, but through the years, we’ve also grieved together.

Relationships take unexpected twists and turns, don’t they? Not only did the mom, who called me all those years ago, and I become great friends, she became close with my parents and her children became close to me. Those two children, who I knew all those years ago have become amazing, accomplished adults and global citizens.

I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the best way to describe what it feels like to stand on the sidelines and watch children grow into teens, followed by young adults and then into full-blown adulthood.

Maybe it’s nothing more than time passing and the aging that comes with it. Clearly, this is just what happens and there’s nothing novel about the process, but I can’t help but be touched by the magic that this perspective offers — reconciling all the memories I have of those two tow-headed kiddos with these poised, responsible and side-achingly funny adults.

Maybe we share a special bond also because unlike most of our friends and classmates from home, we left. Seeing home from afar, with all its warts and goodness, changes you. If you’re a thinking person, having a love/hate relationship with a place, especially the place you come from, is natural. Having a safe sounding board to discuss the observations and stories that are bound to come from that ever-evolving geographic relationship is priceless — and that is what those two kids have become for me.

How did that happen? I’m trying not to be overly sentimental, but for me, it’s difficult to figure out what filled the years between the day I taught them the difference between white and dark meat chicken and the day I helped one of them fill out his Peace Corps applications and the other one amazed me with her capabilities as she makes her way in the entertainment business.

We have shared so many milestones together. I am grateful this weekend offers yet another.

LSS: Rolling around again

Even though Piper, my 9-year-old daughter, can’t make it all the way around the rink on her own, her latest fixation of roller skating is another example of the adage, “Everything old is new again.”
Piper loves to roller skate. Based on her newfound love, I’m thinking roller skating may be making a comeback.
Truthfully, what Piper does really couldn’t be considered as skating. Even so, there’s something about putting on those skates and doing her best to go round and round that the child simply adores. It’s completely new to her. In fact, she’s only been twice, but she talks about it nonstop.
By the time I was her age, roller skating was old hat to me. Well, that’s not true—roller skating never became old hat. We went often, always as a large group and usually on a church bus, but it was still a thrill. Anticipating a trip to the roller rink (about 30 miles from the tiny town where I grew up) could keep me awake at night. It was exciting stuff.
When we went to the roller rink, they hosted one big life-altering event every time we went. At some point in the course of the evening, they’d turn the lights down and all the girls would squeal because we knew what would happen next. With the disco ball in the middle sending little stars all over the walls and our clothes (which all the girls had chosen carefully in hopes of the chance to shine in the black light effect during that very moment), we would prepare for The Big Event. (By the way, in an unwritten rule, the girls never wore dark clothes to the roller rink so they could look cool under the black light.)
In the way I remember what happened next, the boys would be lined up on one side of the rink and the girls on the other. What happened next was rather brutal from a 10-year-old girl’s perspective. The skate manager would pick one boy. That kid would have to skate to the girls’ side of the rink and pick one girl. They would then be forced to hold hands and skate round and round—all by themselves, with everyone watching, until the song ended. Then they would drop hands. The boy would go pick another girl, and the girl would go pick another boy. Repeat. For about three songs or so, every girl and boy would stand there, holding their breath, wondering if he or she would be the next chosen.
It was exhilarating and awful all in one.
What happened during those three songs provided enough fodder for gossip for weeks.
My daughter doesn’t have any deep emotional connection to the roller rink. I asked her what it was about it that she liked so much.
“It’s just fun, and it’s sort of challenging,” she said. “Learning a new thing is interesting. The problem with it is that the skates are way too heavy and when you fall, you fall really hard.”
I believe part of her interest in roller skating could be the real consequences it offers. Roller skating is not virtual.
“When you fall, it really hurts,” she said—and that’s an important lesson to learn.
Thus far, she has demonstrated the appropriate response.
When she falls, she gets back up and just keeps going—and it won’t be long until she makes it all the way around unassisted.