It's become synonymous with BBQs, hasn't it? Here in RI, I'm going to two. One in the city and one at the beach (hoping for a roast pig at that one). But Memorial Day was started after the Civil War to remember those who fought and died. After WWl, it commemorated all who died in all our wars, and it was always on May 30--a date chosen because no battle had ever been fought on May 30. Our love for three day weekends (and BBQs) changed that to that last Monday in May in 1968, not without a lot of dissent. Veterans feared BBQs would diminish the significance of Memorial Day, which over time has come to represent a day to honor not just people we've lost in war, but everyone we've loved and lost. In fact, my grandmother Mama Rose spent every Memorial Day putting flowers on the graves of the people who had died--her parents, her husband, two children--and she used to take me with her. Here's a link to an essay I wrote about cemeteries that recalls this, and more:
This Memorial Day morning I woke with that all too familiar pang of grief. In these thirteen years I've come to recognize it easily. Is it the day itself, created for just such remembering? Or the lovely hazy morning outside my window, the air sweet with lilacs and the sound of so many chirping birds? I climbed out of bed and went downstairs and sat outside with our dog Zuzu, who arrived a white ball of fluff a month before Grace died, her long dreamed of dog now old and blind. I sat there and ached for my funny, smart little girl. Her raspy Tallulah Bankhead voice (so like mine). Her blue eyes behind her wire rimmed glasses. Her encyclopedic knowledge of all things Beatles.
And the quote by CS Lewis that most captures how these days feel came to me:
Her absence is like the sky; it covers everything.
I'll drink lots of wine today, eat BBQ of all kinds, stare out at the beautiful ocean. You should too. But let's pause and remember, our lost veterans, our lost hearts.
Get ready for lots of purple here! Sam graduated from NYU yesterday and everything is coming up violet in NYC and on Bethune Street.
This is the kid who looked at me when he was three and said: "I just gotta sing and dance!" And so he did. As someone who knew around the same age that I wanted to be a writer, I admire and fuel that passion. Too many people spend a lifetime without it, or searching for it. How lucky to have it young and relentlessly pursue it!
I've sat through lots of versions of Sound of Music over the years. And experimental theater. And student written production. And scene study class performances. And Shakespeare. And auditions. And voice classes. And guitar classes. And loved every single minute of it all.
It doesn't stop here, of course. (This summer he's doing summer stock in Annapolis, MD.) But this graduation from Tisch celebrates years of training and passion.
I'm about as proud as a mom could be. Not just of that purple cap and gown, but of how Sam has dealt with some tough blows and kept going. Triumphing even.
Yay Sam! I made spaghetti carbonara for his pals last to fete him further. And more celebrating as the week continues.
Thank you for letting me write today about my kid. (Only complaint about the whole day was they wouldn't let me bring knitting needles into YS!)
Here are a couple pictures from yesterday at Yankee Stadium.
One of the great delights and surprises of my world recently has been editing Providence Noir, part of Akashic Books Noir series. Basically, I got to ask my pals to try their hands at a noir story that takes place in my hometown. Every time a new one dropped into my inbox, I got excited. Imagine Elizabeth Strout, Thomas Cobb, Peter Farrelly, Luanne Rice, Hester Kaplan, Taylor Polites, Robert Leuci, LaShonda Barrett, Marie Lee, John Searles, Dawn Raffel, Amity Gaige, and Bruce DeSilva sending you a story and you'll have an idea of how fun this job was.
If you are in or near Providence on Saturday May 16 at 7PM, come to Books on the Square and meet five of us!
There are more events coming up from then through summer. In NYC, Boston, Mystic CT, and other RI bookstores. I hope to see you at one! And I know you'll love this book as much as I do.
Readers of this will remember that last year I spent Mother's Day with Gogo on a cruise to Bermuda. It was an incredible week, filled with long dinners where we bared our souls to each other (not for the first time), sunshine and lots of rum. I admit it felt strange to be away from my kids, but we celebrated when I got home.
And I admit that this holiday (is it actually a holiday?) is fraught with mixed emotions for me--and for every mother who has lost a child. (I'm sure the reverse is true too).
I remember the first Mother's Day after Grace died. It was less than a month later, and I was still reeling. In shock. In the most excruciating pain I've ever felt. Some of you have read my essay about, like a phantom limb, my arms ached from not holding Grace.
How did I get through that day? Surely
Sam smothered me with love. Surely everyone did. I was, after all, still a mother. To Sam, yes. But to Grace too. And it's that realization, that acute loss, that strikes every Mother's Day. My beautiful, smart, funny daughter. She loved Charles Addams cartoons, the Beatles, and drawing. Every night, as dinner was winding down, she would climb into my lap and rest her head on my chest. Her voice was husky, like mine. If I close my eyes and sit in silence, I can almost still hear it.
To all of you who have lost a child, I hope your memories helped you get through Sunday. And I hope too that the other people you love helped too.
To that end, here's a couple pictures of my zany kids. We spent the night before in NYC at Sam's show (after a truly yummy dinner at Il Buco de Alimentari: Go!) and then cold beers outside at the White Horse Tavern on a very hot night. And Sunday breakfast with these two, before heading home with a car full of food from Han Dynasty for Gogo.