Tag Archives: feelings

In the final hours all the things we do with love

Dear Readers,

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support by readers here. Many of you have sent me personal messages and  emails and all are so greatly appreciated. Thank you.


It’s harder the before part, isn’t it? When you know the end is inevitable, but yet, you watch looking to find glimmers. Oh, Ringo walked to her bowl. She’s still making it to her litter box. Oh, and she ate a bit more! She’s purring. After a few days of her withdrawing to under the table, resting and sleeping mostly, not sleeping on our bed, not jumping up on my desk to lounge on top of my laptop and help me…

After days of not, this morning Ringo jumped back up to my desk and sat in her usual spots. On the right side, behind the laptop, on top, on my lap, over my shoulder, and then circle back again to look out window at birds. She meowed and asked me to pick her up and I held her, Ringo Lite, so  airy and fragile, and she did that thing she does, nestling into my neck, hugging and purring. We sat like that for a while, while I cried and cried. I wasn’t sure I’d get to experience that one more time. But she came and gave that moment to me. One more time on my desk, inspired.

I thanked her out loud for being here with us for so long, and all her goodness. I thanked her for being there and helping us through tragedies and health problems and happy days and holidays, and boring nothing happens days, every day. I thanked her. I cried into her fur and she just purred. “What a good cat. What a good, good cat, you are. Thank you, Ringo. “

Then she got down and I thought, OK, she has given me her love for 15.5 years, a third of our lives. I have given everything I could to her. I’m lucky.

pic from 9/16/14 but she did this today, too
pic from 9/16/14 but she did this today, too

A little bit on how we found her is in this below:

Exhibit curated by Holly Metz, Cover -An Exhibition at the Hoboken Historical Museum, 2004
Exhibit curated by Holly Metz, Cover -An Exhibition at the Hoboken Historical Museum, 2004
The bit about Ringo starts on this page
The bit about Ringo starts on this page
And the rest is on this page
And the rest is on this page

This painting (sorry for not such great photo of it):

Ringo, 2001 by EH
Ringo, 2001 by EH

was inspired by this photo:

August, 2001 by EH
August, 2001 by EH

Today, Ringo enjoyed chicken and kugel (she can be such a little Jewish cat) cut up into the tiniest of pieces and heated up in the microwave. It’s hard for her to eat. It’s almost time.

Here we are with TableCat in September 2010 during Rosh Hashana.

September 2010
September 2010

When we first got her, she also couldn’t eat. So small, at 5 weeks and abandoned without her mommy cat,  we went to a vet and tried everything, used a dropper, but for days she seemed to not eat enough. On Mother’s Day morning, 1999, maybe a week after we found her, I was eating a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. Suddenly, Super Tiny Ringo jumped with all four paws into the bowl and starting chomping down. I let her (and got myself another bowl), but then I made her little cracker type things using the cereal as a base and smearing on baby cat food. She gobbled it up, eating from my hands. She’s been a great eater ever since and she grew into a whole cat.

Vintage Ringo Collection
Vintage Ringo Collection

In recent years, she’s been finicky with food, but that was fine, but really, she’s eaten very well her whole life, enjoying plenty of delicious home food courtesy of Andy’s amazing cooking skills. Now, at the end, she can’t eat enough to sustain. It is  almost time, soon, before she knows hunger, before it hurts too much, her pain meds keeping her comfortable for now.

M said, “Her work is done. She has achieved all her life’s goals. Now its time for her to rest.”

But denial along with that, “At least she doesn’t have cancer. She’ll be here, probably two more months. I’ll have one more birthday with Ringo.”

I had to tell him the truth. “Yes, Ringo does have cancer. She is going to die soon, but we don’t know exactly when. She won’t be here for your birthday. I’m so sorry.”

Watching him let that sink in was hard. His face fell. He bit his lip. I could see he was holding back tears. He gets it and doesn’t get it. We talk of the Rainbow Bridge. I told him whatever he feels is OK. I told him all feelings are OK. I said, “Let’s talk about FutureCat. Let’s eat more ice cream.”

I check on Ringo, watching her breathe. Making sure. I look around the house at all the spots where she has always been. The windows. The couch. The table. My desk. The beds. The hall. The litter box. Under things. There is fur in the screen of the window. There is fur.  More windows. She’s still so present and here. I’m already sad at the thought of her absence. All the above, but without Ringo in the picture. All the drawings I have made over the years which include her. There’s that empty space, the negative space, where she won’t be.

I cry a lot. I keep it together for when M is home. He’s so sensitive, we need to be careful, what we say, how we say it. But we still need and want to be honest and tell him the truth. We keep searching for ways to be as gentle as possible, knowing that while he often seems older than his years,  he’s also younger in other ways. All those feelings of loss and grief are certainly hard enough for an adult to process. I don’t think there’s any one right way or wrong way. We know our M and we make decisions that we feel are best for him, for us. So far, it is a mix but it is also calm and peaceful and is also a thing our family is going through together, each in our own different ways, and there really is no way out of it, just through it.

"Through the storm" made after Superstorm Sandy  in December 2012.
“Through the storm” made after Superstorm Sandy in December 2012.

This morning, M made some video of Ringo. He pet her head. He talked about names for his next Future Kitten.  He listed for me all the reasons why rescuing a cat is best, why we’ll get one from a shelter, why we won’t buy a cat from a store. M gets it.  He’s a real  cat person now. I’m glad for that.

I’m pulling out albums and looking through pictures and scanning and the time is going by too fast and it isn’t  just Ringo, but all the STUFF that has happened in the past chunk of time, 15.5 years, all rushing by. Little blips of images, memories, deaths, losses, snapshots of happy days and nights and all the days in between. Like a blur  going inward and backwards, but holding on to the pieces of the moment. I need to remember to eat. There is fur in corners and on steps and on my desk and on the window sill and —- and I like it that way.

Cat lovers know how special these creatures are. Ringo has been a muse for me. She heard me when I talked about trouble and when I triumphed. I have received and received. Grateful.

detail from illustration 2012
detail from illustration 2012

A silly ditty we had and rhymes…oh, there are so many silly songs and memories and things we have said:

“Ringo, bingo, bango, bongo, cat would eat a mango. ”

“Who’s good? Ringo’s good.”

“Ringo, Cat of Excellence!”

“Ringo, Cat of Destiny and Density.”

“Ringo, Cat of Constant Furrinness and Love.”

“Ringo, Healing Paws.”

Ringo is  a state of mind and an attitude. Ringo is pure love. We got to have pure love for 15.5 years.

How lucky is that?! Wildly, incredibly lucky to have Ringo in our life. All joy and love covered in fur. All goodness and peace. Our Beautiful Ringo, Angel Cat.

Ringo is made of StarStuff.

With love,


from Creative Systems Thinking
from Creative Systems Thinking




Dear Readers,

IMG_9108I adore Mary Oliver and her poem, “I Have Decided” (from A Thousand Mornings, Poems). When I read this  (or much of her other work), I feel understood. Yes, that’s  what I mean to say  —what I think  —what I believe —want to believe… Yes, I’m following you. This is a precise capturing of  complicated thoughts and feelings  distilled into what feels to me like having the best ice cream sundae with a cherry on top on a  sunny day where everything is clear and you’re with your favorite people.


I love that such big ideas are expressed in so few words. There’s nothing like reading something that resonates and feels true at exactly the moment I need to receive those words. They swirl around in my head, reaching into things I need or want to think about, or work on. They inspire me and answer questions I have and raise more questions, too. Gratitude to Mary Oliver.

Love and peace,






Dear Readers,


Our Spring Break is over (it was last week). Boston is recovering. It’s Earth Day.

Lots going on and I’m feeling the need to look at beautiful pictures,  listen to music,  be quiet,  let things sink in and settle.  So much awfulness has happened and yet all around, I see trees blooming, blue skies, flowers, and  birds. So much destruction, fear, and sadness and at the same time, stories of courage,  love , and helpers. Stories that were unimagined before, in this way, in this place. New to here, not new to the world. Not new to Paris, London, Manhattan,  Israel, Madrid,  Iraq or Syria or so many other places where bombs, WMDs and terror strikes have either happened or happen regularly. I think that US mass shootings are our own version of domestic terrorism, but that’s another post for another day.


The first terror attacks I’m aware of remembering as a child were  the Munich Olympics in 1972. Then Entebbe in 1976. Then The Coastal Road Massacre in 1978, in which the  older brother of sisters in my ballet class was killed, as was American, Gail Rubin, a nature photographer, and many others killed and injured. I grew up in Israel watching out for “suspicious objects”  and being extra vigilant at bus stops and in crowds. I remember when they removed the backseat/benches from   the public buses I rode to school (because terrorists might leave bombs there) and that trash cans were removed from street corners (to prevent bombs from being placed there). I was used to opening my bag for inspection at the entry to every store, movie theater, or museum. I was used to soldiers everywhere. I know people who’ve been in near miss situations, or very close to attacks, or survived attacks. Most people in Israel know someone affected, in NYC, the same. Everywhere, it’s the same.


Circles of people. There is this awfulness in the world and we live with it, and no day is promised. All there is to do is be here now. It is indeed terrifying, it is what terror does, scare us and try to stop us from living, and in some cases they succeed in their missions. The  only answer to it, aside from law enforcement and the powers that be being on top of things, is to live your life every day. That’s it. And try not to hate on groups of people, ethnicities, races, or nationalities. There’s no exclusive hold on who can be a terrorist. To me, it matters  that we find out the precise who/what/where/why, of course, and that might take some time. But  all terrorists are  the same in the end, no matter where they come from or what they believe or what they wish to accomplish. Their causes can never justify their means, ever, anywhere. Their victims are innocent. Every last one. And every time this happens here, in our world, it feels like the end of the world. And in some ways, it is, but the world is still filled with good people, with beauty, with good. If you’re far away from the center of these things, you can recover faster and put goodness into the world faster. If you’re in it, if you’re hurting, it takes longer. This story I’m attaching is about  a terror attack.  TheBusStop is fiction, inspired by real events, written in 2004.


We’ve joined the rest of the world in this  type of terror attack. But still, we say, we’re thankful it’s been so many years since 9/11 and how many attempts were thwarted? Many. Still, any attack is one too many for those who are hurt and killed. Yet, this happens and we must deal with it in whatever way we deal with it. My mother was in lockdown very close to the scene of the mayhem and capture at the end. She was safe, but it was a traumatic experience for everyone who was there. Depending on how close one was, at the marathon, all week-long. This will take time for people. But, I know Boston will carry on, as do all the other cities and places where this happens. And for some life will never be the same again. I wish comfort and recovery to all those who  were hurt, who are grieving, who are trying to recover in Boston and who can’t make sense of the senseless and who may be feeling helpless even though triumphant, and guilty, even though grateful for surviving, and afraid, because it has happened and cannot be undone and it could happen again.

buds8And it’s Earth Day. I  find that especially after a tragedy, nature has a way of helping to heal things. I need to slow down, let the air go through my brain, the sun land on me, take notice of the sky.  Sometimes breathing  is enough to soothe some of what has happened, to be able to calm down a bit, a little bit, just to let the guard down enough to see that where you are, where I am, at this very moment is OK. I hope that it’s OK for you.  I’m  calmed by holding our cat, or walking for  even five minutes and looking up to see the clouds. Writing also helps. And to  deal with my helplessness feelings, it helps me immensely to do a task that’s easy, and that shows immediate and tangible results, such as: folding laundry, sorting  a pile of  mail and dropping most of it into the recycling bin, shredding credit card bill offers, raking out leaves,   painting something unexpected or expected (chair, flower pot, rock, old tea kettle) and adding it to my garden.

Staring into space and doing NOTHING is also good if you’ve got a minute.

A couple of years ago, I wrote, “Green is My Son’s Favorite Color.” Our cousin, Sharon Rowe is founder and CEO of EcoBags and she compiled and edited this collection/series with various perspectives and ideas, Earth Day, Every Day. 

bloom1The  pictures are of a maple bud, and a progression of buds opening on our pear tree (no fruit) out front. Things that maybe will help us  remember our planet and that it needs help and to be appreciated. And our earthlings, human and animal, they  need help. We need to fix what is broken. One thing, fix one thing. In your little circle, one thing. We need: help/kindness/love/patience/understanding/empathy/sympathy/care/more love/hugs/rest/to hold hands/to breathe/to cry/compassion/to be heard/to listen/to sit down/to lie down/to kneel/to stand up/to thank/to give/to receive/to laugh/to love more.


Love and peace,bloom3


Helping children after the storm

Dear Readers,

I hope you’re all safe and sound after the storm. We’re OK.

I  just started writing a post about the storm and after the storm. Then I saw a post and pic (see below) on Sesame Street’s Facebook page today. Since this show airs tomorrow –in the NY area, on WNET-13, it’s on at 7:00am—I’m sending this out now.

I highly recommend it for  anyone with young children; anyone who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or who knows someone who’s been affected; or for anyone who’s human with access to power and a TV.

As with everything Sesame Street produces, this special episode is helpful for children and grown ups alike. It touches on a range of emotions experienced by so many, but that are often difficult to express, understand, or cope with.

Info and activities for parents and children:


And more resources:


More soon-ish.

Stay well and warm,


From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page: 

From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page

“On Friday, we’ll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.

A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird’s home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn’t dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.”

Please check your local listings to see what time the episode “Sesame Street Gets Through a Storm” will air on PBS, at


Colors, words, and having it all.

Dear Readers,

It is hot. Very hot. I hope you’re in a cool place.

Thoughts about what “Having it all” means. Thinking about it has given me a headache. But here’s a few interesting thoughts by others. Perhaps more on this another time.

I made this for a friend years ago. I called it, “balancing act.”

Balancing act

Been noticing the heat and weather patterns, the heat advisories and air quality warnings. Thinking about global warming and the many ways our planet is being destroyed by governments, leaders, businesses and citizens in denial. I want a habitable planet. Doesn’t everyone? This picture posted on Facebook by the Cove hit me hard.

I turned to our collection of shells. I want our planet to have clean oceans. I want Max to be able to collect shells and run in and out of waves forever. I wish no more animals, sea creatures, or birds will be injured or die because human beings can be thoughtless and dangerous.

A few nights ago I had a peaceful moment in the backyard. I watched fireflies (we also call them lightning bugs and magic bugs) dance around in the dark. I saw dragonflies overhead.

Fireflies & clover in the grass

It reminded me of paintings I made a long time ago. I decided to share them.

Woman in hammock with fireflies and woodland creatures 2004

I had some hopeless feelings, so I read a few William Stafford poems. Here they are:

From The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, Graywolf Press, copyright 1977-1998 William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford
From The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, Graywolf Press, copyright 1977-1998 William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford

I found a picture of a boy who had cancer. It was the summer of 2004. I was making him a painting of his favorite things, but I never finished it or sent it. I don’t remember why. I regret that. There is a photo of a woman holding the dog up to him in his wheelchair that I worked from to make this. This is a sketch of a dog that comforted him in the hospital. I’m not sure if it was his dog or not. I wonder if the boy and the dog are alive.

A healing dog, Summer 2004

A friend’s mother has cancer. She’s very sick. It’s been a year, but I just found out. Maybe that is where my helpless/hopeless feelings are coming from. I wish there was more I could do. Painting in the face of that seems silly.  Ineffective.

I made a drawing for another woman friend I knew who had breast cancer.

Red Hot Lady

She told me it had lifted her spirits. She’s died since. This picture is for Barbara and all the people hurting from cancer today, including my friend’s mother and her family. I wish it could cure, but it can’t do that. It’s just for the spirit, really. Wishing for a win.

Max went to the town parade with his dad on July 4th. When he came home, he was still excited by everything he saw. He created his own parade using his toy cars and trucks. As he was organizing them just so, he declared, “Mommy, I have ALL the colors, shapes, styles, and types! This is my Hot Wheels Fashion Race Car Show Parade!”

Max’s Parade

I think about colors and painting things. I think about words and writing things down. Even when it’s too hot, even when it feels hopeless or helpless. It is always better to paint it, or write it, than not to. That is what I tell Max.

White River, Vermont

All words and images © Elana Halberstadt 1998-2012 except where noted.

The poems, “You Reading This, Be Ready” and “Yes” are © 1977-1998 William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford. 

On Graduating Pre-K

Dear Readers,

Why  is it that when nearing an end, time seems to accelerate? There are 11 days of school left for Max. 11 days! What?! Max has been at his current preschool for almost two  years and he’s  done summer camp there twice. It literally feels like yesterday that we found this school and were the new kids on the block who didn’t know anyone.

This is Max’s little world.

Classroom door

There is the morning  drop off, the afternoon pick up. The small tables and chairs. The gazillion art projects. The incredibly warm, thoughtful, caring, wonderful teachers and staff. The parents. I’m not sure if  leaving  this school will be harder for me or for Max. I’ve got a  lump in my throat.  It will be difficult in parts and maybe easy in other ways, but I believe that we’ll both be OK. I know there’ll be tears. His. Mine.

I’m holding on to the moments as they fly by. But I have to keep letting go to make room for new moments.  I know I still have to show him how to leave, how to begin. But he’s also getting the hang of it on his own. I stay in the moment, but know the moment is ending even as it’s happening. Sometimes I wish for less awareness. I wish I didn’t feel some of this stuff. I wish  I could be like other people who seem to transition easier, people who can let go faster (or maybe they feel it too but are just better at hiding it). I’ve never been one of those people. I hold on. I don’t like letting go. I get very attached to people and places. That’s  how I’ve always been. It hurts  when it’s over, but then I think,  I had a full experience and felt something.  Better to have loved and lost.

By Max’s pal, Nina

We’ll  want to stay in touch with Max’s current circle of friends, my circle of friends. I know it will be possible and impossible (as it is already now with everyone’s schedules). I know that everyone is going off to various summer plans and then to different schools. I know that what we know now, exactly as it is,  will end.

Max art

I really  hope we  stay in touch and not lose everyone. I  can’t bear the thought of never seeing these people again. But I also know, as it is with small children, that the day-to-day changes when you go from place to place, from one school to another. I know Max’s world is expanding and that’s  a good thing. I know nothing lasts forever. I know Max is growing up and that’s  something to celebrate.

I don’t like goodbyes or endings, even if they’re inevitable and part of  life or are expected or perfectly timed, or are part of growing up or reality or how it is. I don’t like having to say goodbye or feeling the hurt of missing people I care about. Yet, I know I can and that I’ll be  fine. I know that Max can do it, too. But I don’t have to like it and neither does he. And I hope I find out that other parents feel the same way, so we can share in it together.

Maybe Max will be better than me at leaving, and I can look back at this and have a good chuckle. Silly me, worried for nothing. Last week, he was poring over a map on the back of a cereal box and said to his dad, “I’m looking at the map. I wonder what my new school will be like.” Andy said that Max was curious and excited. And who cares that he was looking on the wrong map to find his school? That tells me he’s processing things in his own way. Max knows he’s leaving his current school and he’s looking forward, too.

Recently, Max wanted me to watch him do a new trick on the monkey bars.  “Only big kids can do this, Mommy!” Then several of his friends showed me their cool moves. They  do incredible feats with their strong bodies. I realized that I finally know everyone’s names. It sure took me long enough. I’m going to miss them all.

I love Max’s friends, their parents, and the teachers and how much I have learned from them. I will miss this time period, this place. It has been good. And who wants something good to end? It’s bittersweet.

Getting ready for one of the “best days ever!” Leap day, 2/29/12 wearing silly, mismatched clothes and underwear as a hat.

Then there will be the next place. The next circle of friends. Which is a bit scary, but is also very exciting. Kindergarten in public school. I think that’s a big deal. It certainly feels big. Sometimes it feels like I need to breathe into a paper-bag-BIG. A guardian angel in my life told me, “It is an accepted maternal tradition to be freaking out about kindergarten.” I was immensely relieved to hear this after I was doing everything I could to squash how freaked out I felt. Oh, I’m not freaking out. I’m fine. No really. 

His  teacher told me Max is absolutely ready for Kindergarten. What a relief to hear this. She told me, “He’ll be OK and you’ll be OK.” She gave me great advice. She suggested that since September is light years away in the mind of a 5 and a half-year old, it’s better to not over talk the topic of BIG NEW GROWN UP KINDERGARTEN. Or to build it up into something GREAT.  She suggested that we let Max bring the topic up and let him guide how much we talk about it (or not).  She said that sometimes children are afraid that getting older and going to Kindergarten means the fun is over. I’m doing my best to reassure Max that the fun won’t end. So far, this strategy seems to be working.

At the school playground

The reality is that what Max knows now will in fact be over and there will be a real loss.  I believe it’s important to allow ourselves a minute to let that sink in and let whatever feelings we have about it come and go freely. I imagine there will be sadness, anger, frustration but also excitement, celebration, and pride. Squashing feelings doesn’t move one forward faster, it usually is a set up to get stuck, instead.

The teacher also suggested that instead of us telling Max how it will be, since no one can predict or know exactly how it will be or feel like for him, that if he brings it up, to simply ask him questions or mirror back observations: “I hear that you’re excited/ scared/ curious.” Or leave things open-ended. “It’s true, going to a new school can be scary AND exciting. You won’t know how you’ll feel until you’re there and  find out.” Or something along those lines.

Max tends to get anxious if he knows too much (or too little) ahead of a big change. I’m a fan of the need to know information flow. Many things require advance notice and preparation and this does, too. But I agree with his teacher. Max doesn’t need to know every single detail before he’s ready, or before it’s much closer on the calendar, or before I’m a bit over my freak out that his preschool days are almost over. Which, by  the way, since I accepted how freaked out I was feeling, I’ve actually become much calmer about it. Squashing my feelings isn’t the same as presenting a calm front for Max. That I do as best I can. But acknowledging my real feelings helps me move through them so they don’t control me. To sum up: I’m both freaked out AND calm. OK, truth: calm-ish. Mostly ish.

When we know which school Max will be going to, we can start preparing him for the specific place (drive by and show it to him for starters, etc.). I think that unknown factor is contributing to my nerves. But our town has a system by  which we’re notified of placement in mid-summer, so I’m not the only one in the dark right now. And I’m pretty sure the schools organize orientations and help facilitate play dates for incoming Kindergarteners (and their anxious newbie parents, like yours truly). I look forward to those events where we can meet our new future friends and classmates and get a grip on what will become our new routine in the Fall. Gulp.

Max at home, May 2012, photo by Elana Halberstadt

Our family moved when Max was two and a half, leaving his first preschool. Then we moved again when he was three and a half, leaving his second preschool, so it wasn’t surprising to me that when he realized he’d be leaving his current school soon, that he was  concerned. “Are we moving again? I don’t want to!” I reassured him that yes, he’d be going to a new school, but no, we’re not moving. Big sigh of relief!

I’m also thinking of those first two preschools —both wonderful. I still have friends from both of them. It is good to remember that even with time passing and big distances, that some friendships last. And even if these friendships aren’t as present in our daily lives, we remember our  friends and our time in the world together: the babies, the 2s, 3s, 4s—they’ll  always have a place in our hearts.

Last night, Max and Andy had a chat. Max said, “I like our house. I have a lot of friends. You meet new friends your whole life. Right, Daddy?”

For now, I’m holding on to my gratitude for a terrific preschool experience. Blurry, mushy, fast moving and slow days. Minutes and months and all weather and a full range of feelings for how much Max has grown and how much I have, too, because of this specific place, with these specific people. I am immensely grateful.

Max on the first day of pre-K, Sept. 2011

I hope we have a good goodbye. We’ll celebrate what we’ve accomplished. And then, after that, with pounding hearts and sweaty palms, we’ll walk into the next place, with new people, and we’ll say, “Hi. It’s very good to meet you.”

You meet new friends your whole life, right?

Yes, you do.

Thursday in the Park with Max

Dear Readers,

We’re having glorious, picture perfect weather. Low 70s, dry, sunny, and blue skies. The kind of days where, even in the hustle and bustle of NYC, it is extremely pleasant, people seem to smile more, are less rude. Well, maybe not less rude, but maybe I noticed it less. Maybe it was me smiling.

Max and I spent a great day in town yesterday. We rode the commuter train in. We took the subway. We arrived on time. Max had a checkup at his ENT and the doctor said,  “Everything looks good.” It’s not every day you get a declaration like that. EVERYTHING LOOKS GOOD.

We headed back downtown on the subway and met a friend of mine near the American Museum of Natural History. Max and I had planned to go, but it was just too beautiful out. Plus there were so many school buses with class visits, tourist buses with throngs of visitors—it didn’t make any sense to go inside.

My friend told us about the fountains right next to the planetarium building, and so we went up the stairs and discovered this incredible place. Max went right into the fountains.

He ran and splashed and got soaking wet.

I patted myself on the back for having brought him a change of clothes.

When Max was done splashing, I got him dressed in dry clothes and he continued to play; running back and forth on the grass. Exploring every part of where we were. He started conversations with other kids and their parents. In between, he chatted with my friend. Hours passed.

The friend was someone I used to work with a long time ago. It was great to reconnect and catch up, and also to introduce Max to someone from my past. I spent years in NYC. Then I left. It is always good to be able to go back, to show Max the city I knew, to rediscover it, and to then find something new.  It made me grateful.  I could remember what I had done. I could be happy with my choices. I could soak in the sun and watch  Max be  happy and free. I felt happy and free.

Max was incredibly well-behaved all day. There was not even one tantrum, or meltdown, or fussy moment. I thought, who is this child? Lately, we’ve  been having more of this kind of day. He has grown up.  He reminds me, “I’m almost five and a half, Mommy. I’m a big boy.” He’s been counting down to his half birthday for weeks. Now it is tomorrow. When do we stop counting forward and up? Children want to be older. Then we get older and we want to go back. I’m constantly aware of time, of wanting to stop it, of wanting some things to never change, and understanding they will change and accepting that, but then immediately  wishing things could stay the same.

I wish Max’s innocence, his smallness, his skin, everything he sees and feels and everything I see and feel during these moments where EVERYTHING LOOKS GOOD could somehow be protected and kept forever. The minute I  get a handle on something, it seems it’s time to move on.

Yes,  it is bittersweet and  so much fun to spend time with Max like this. To have had all this time together, and to have gone through the more difficult years of neediness, of carrying, of the weight of things; I can carry less now. There is less unreasonable (or reasonable) whining and screaming. To come to this, another day where Max  cooperated easily, where he understood when plans had to change, where I didn’t even  raise my voice once, where I was just proud, so proud to be walking alongside my boy, my little guy, who I adore more every day. Who breaks my heart. Who fills my heart. Who still holds my hand. Who lets go of my hand.

The cliché — childhood goes by in a flash. It is true. Just yesterday was years ago. Max is always moving forward, even in those moments where he retreats back, needing my reassurance, needing to know I love him no matter what. I do, no matter what. When things are difficult, when he’s  hurting, those are the times that require more of me. To show love, patience, understanding. Even in limit setting, to be firm, but not unkind. When Max lashes out, when he tests me, it is on me to help him.

I also feel it is very hard to do.  To stand strong and firm and calm and patient in the face of a child who is out of control, or afraid, or sad, or whatever  big feeling it is—to stand in that and not crack is often hard to do. But when I’m able to do that, to show him repeatedly, we may not hurt ourselves or others. To use his words. To find safe ways to self comfort. To find ways to express how much it hurts, how much we are frustrated, or angry—and not use intimidation, not use threats that could hurt even worse—I am proud. I am. Because  it seems that strategy is working. Some days anyway, sometimes.

Maybe I’m calmer now. Maybe I understand things a little bit better. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been  a parent to Max for five and a half years and that is not just a milestone for him, but for me, too. Maybe I trust myself a smidge more. Maybe I see that when I do trust myself, and I do what I believe is right, I can convey that to him with less doubt. I want to do right by him, and I always fear I will come up short. Maybe I’m not coming up so short. Maybe I know what I’m doing sometimes. Maybe I cope better when I make my daily mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Maybe I forgive myself, him, everyone —just a little bit more. I don’t know. It’s  one step at a time, looking for the sunny spots.

We took the bus downtown. Anything to stay above ground, to look out the window. I pointed out one building where I used to work near Lincoln Center. I showed Max the route I used to walk home, down 9th Avenue. And all the way downtown, he pointed out buildings and exclaimed to me, “Look, Mommy, look at that building. And that one!” At the intersection with 49th Street, my old block, we took pictures.

49th and 9th

I lived in NYC for so many years, but I rarely took pictures. Digital wasn’t big yet, and I don’t know why, but I lived there and didn’t take pictures, probably because I was afraid I’d look like a tourist. Not that there’ s anything wrong with that. So, now, I take pictures, and it is mostly to recapture something for me.

I didn’t recognize many of the new restaurants. Some stores were the same. I was happy to see the Seven Brothers Deli still there on the corner.

I wasn’t sad. I don’t miss my old neighborhood anymore. But memories popped up. The day we found out I was pregnant.  And the day Andy said to me, “Your life is too big for this space.” The day I realized that was true. And then the day I packed up my tiny apartment and moved and didn’t look back. Max was around six months old. It was here.

We stayed on the bus all the way downtown to Chelsea Market. And we went to another place I used to work, and someone I knew from the show I worked on opened the door for me, and we hugged. It was  nice to see him. So good to remember that I had worked here and I had made friends here, too.

Max was tired by then, so we did our rounds at Andy’s job, saying hello and goodbye quickly. We went downstairs and got delicious grilled cheese sandwiches for the ride home. Max took these shots on 10th Avenue as we drove out of town. I didn’t know he took them until after we got home. I appreciate that he wants to capture what he sees. I appreciate that he is able to take pictures and see, and feel, and be so present and that like many photographers and artists in our family, he has a need to document things on his own terms because it helps with remembering.

When we got home, Max asked me for his hero cape. I had made this for him when he was around two years old. He’d worn it once or twice, and it was my choice to put it on him. Max  was never interested in it again, so it lived in my closet.   I figured, oh well, it was still fun to make; it is a relic of his past. But, suddenly he asked me for it. This was his choice. And so after his bath, I put it on and he ran back and forth down the hall squealing, “I’m SuperMax!”

Yes, he is The Maximizer,  maximizing everything. Max exhausts, delights, frustrates, and surprises me. Yes, I cannot believe how big he is, but still how small relative to the massive city buildings, to grown ups, to the world, to everything that is unknown.

The cape I made him years ago still fits. Which means it was probably way too big for him back when I made it. Perhaps heros grow into their capes exactly when they’re ready. “I can fly, Mommy. Watch me!”