Monday, July 14, 2008
A year ago today a very good friend of mine moved away from the place where I live. A week later another very good friend was scheduled to move away. This happens every July when the second year med students leave for rotations and I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that every July I'm going to be sending off some really close friends.
But I often think about that day in particular. July 14, 2007. One year ago today.
We woke up early and Bobby went to the Pace's house to help load up their moving truck. Bobby needed some medicine from so I did something that at that time was totally out of character for me. I took both children to Walmart by myself. At that time Franny was not invited on shopping trips. Especially to Walmart. She was difficult to manage and she would often scream or run away from me and almost always caused a scene. It was not really a problem because I could just do all my shopping while she was at school. But Bobby needed me to go this particular morning and so I mustered up the courage and faced one of my biggest fears at that time: WALMART WITH TWO CHILDREN.
It actually went pretty well. We didn't need to be there long so we picked up what we needed and passed by a jewelry clearance rack. There was a long beaded green necklace that caught Franny's eye. I looked at the tag. $3.50. I thought, "Why not? We can swing that." So now that Franny was entertained by the green necklace I thought why not pick up a few more items. We shopped for a little while longer and then headed to the cashier's line. (I didn't want to push my luck.)
As we approached the cashier I started to get anxious. It had always been difficult to convince Franny that she needed to surrender whatever treat we were bribing her with long enough for the cashier to ring it up and hand it back. I was getting to the point where I really understood that negative behavior should not be reinforced so I felt prepared to deal with an outburst and proceeded to ask Franny to hand the necklace to the nice lady ringing us up. She flipped out. Lost it completely. I asked her once more to give the necklace to the cashier, and when she continued to throw her fit I calmly explained to Franny in simple words that we would not be buying the necklace today. Unfortunately I had parked in front of the OTHER end of the store, so while Franny screamed and screamed, I gripped the handle bar of the cart and with my head held high with resolve and determination I ignored her screams and the stares of many people around me and walked along the front of the store in front of the bank, the guest services desk, the salon, and the picture studio when Franny suddenly stopped screaming and said, "I'm sorry Mommy."
What? Did she just say, "sorry mommy"? I felt my heart soar. She had started to use words but I had never heard her come up with a "sorry" on her own with out any prompts. I knew exactly what to do. Instead of walking out of the store with what little dignity I had left, I veered to the left towards the jewelry section, grabbed another clearanced green necklace and we tried the whole thing again. Franny handed over the necklace after only being asked once, we paid for it and we've never had that problem again. (With Franny anyway. See here how Sophie is following in her footsteps.)
Kind of a small little breakthrough in my limited experience of parenting, but it was a big enough deal that I called my Mom on my cell phone as soon as we got into the car. I was thrilled that I had done something well and taught Franny a lesson. My mom listened closely to the story and she seemed just as thrilled as I was. We talked about it for quite a while and though I don't remember exactly what she said, I remember feeling happy that I was sharing that experience with her.
After that we headed over to the Pace's to help them clean. Then after the house was completely emptied, Ashley and I had a yummy girl's lunch where we talked about the name of the restaurant we would someday open. We sent her and Abbey off and felt pretty sad the rest of the day. Now we had to prepare for sending off the Sessions and Miss Franny's BFF Alyssa. I made cookies that afternoon- they were Heath Bar Toffee Cookies. They were delicious and I called Jill to see if we could come over and play and bring dessert. Then I got an email from my farewatcher (a great service from Travelocity) alerting me of cheap tickets to California. I got on the phone with my mom again to tell her that maybe we could afford a trip out there this summer. She got really excited and we threw around a few ideas for a short family vacation in August- maybe we could get a beach house in Carlsbad or something. I told her about the cookies I made and then she said, "I can't believe this! I just made those cookies two weeks ago for the very first time!" Call waiting interrupted and I checked to see who it was and said, "Oh mom, I better go. It's my friend. I'll call you later. I love you." We went to the Sessions spend some time together. My plan for the week was to soak up as much Jill and Alyssa time as possible before they left for Utah. My Mom and I had been on the phone a lot the previous week. She was very sympathetic and listened as I told her I had no idea what I would say to Franny when she asked for Alyssa. How could I explain to her in words that she could understand why she couldn't play with her whenever she wanted?
We came home and I fell asleep on the floor after trying and failing to beat the Legend of Zelda for NES. School for Bobby had just let out and we were feeling pretty care-free. Then the phone rang at about 11:30 PM. Bobby didn't get to it in time, but he saw it was my brother Richard. He didn't really think anything of it because he figured Richard had forgotten about the time difference and was just calling to chat. The phone rang again close to 1:00 AM. This time Bobby made sure to answer it and he knew it meant bad news. It was my dad. Bobby woke me up and I immediately felt scared. My Dad was calling with the news. My whole life changed during that phone call. We didn't know exactly what was going to happen at that point. But something told me right then that everything was about to change, and whatever was happening right now was going to impact the rest of our lives in a big way.
That green necklace belongs to me now. Every time I look at it I think of those last conversations I got to have with my mother. I spoke with her three different times the two days before she died. They were all three great conversations. Not the kind of conversations a mother and daughter have when they know they're about to say goodbye. Normal conversations- the kind they have on nearly a daily basis, the kind they know they'll be able to pick right back up on the next day. I'm so glad these were my last conversations with my mom. I cherish them. And it's funny how a cheap plastic necklace from Walmart can carry so much meaning for me.
I think I'm always going to hate this day. Something about this day simultaneously brings me farther away from what happened and right back to it all at the same time. And not in a good way. It's been a whole year since those phone conversations and any living memories of my Mom. And everything that's happening right now (face-melting heat, friends moving away, our recent move) are all things that were happening a year ago.
Something I'm extremely grateful for is the kind of mother she was. She was the kind who said "I love you" in every phone conversation. She never held back with her compliments and praises. I know exactly how she felt about me. I will never have to wonder if she is proud of me or if she loves me or if she approves of the decisions I make. These are things I just know. I hope I will follow her example and that my children and husband can say the same about me.
I was always going to post the slide show that was played at my Mom's funeral, but we couldn't find a way to put it online. It's online now and you can view it here if you want.