Category Archives: writing

Tack Your Map.

Yesterday, I woke up to a text whistle.

My eyes were still trying to focus, failing miserably to recall the details of the very weird dream I just had about going back to college…I was doing the groggy, obligatory reach-over for my glasses and my phone.

A very upset dear friend sent me a text. “…Did you hear about Sammy?…”

No. No no no no no no no. Not Sam. Samsamsamsamsamsam.

What is that thing? What is that thing our minds do at times like this when memories, clips, moments, feelings…they all attack our brains and our heads and our faces…flying at you like a colorful tornado…recollections of the past floating around. You close your eyes and you try to grab ahold of one to steady it for second, and it moves and then you open your eyes. Poof. There they go. You try really hard and they come back again and you struggle to remember them in a not-fuzzy way. For me: a laugh, a look, a rehearsal, a tipsy walk down the street, a striped shirt, a giggle-filled stage kiss, a hi and a hug, a deep talk in a dark bar…reminiscences all chaotic, all fighting, bumping into each other, these memories belligerent and clawing to be seen and competing to be remembered in my mind, just as they were in that memory Polaroid…those memory Polaroids…snapshots of those times, that small moment of many; many and not enough tiny moments that make up the time when I had Sam in my life.

He was just a friend. Not a past lover. Not someone I even truly knew anymore. But my heart aches just the same. Crying for his family, bawling for his loved ones. Then my inner dialogue goes Tasmanian Devil…we do this to ourselves….I’m yelling at me in my car yesterday morning, fists gripping my steering wheel, “Why in the hell didn’t I talk to him anymore?!”

Stop, breathe. Hug ourselves. It’s in this moment that we need to tell us that we are ok because life. simply. moves. It just keeps moving. That time I had with him was there and then life moves so fast…onto the next show, the new circle of pals, the new job, the new husband, the kids, the more kids, the more jobs, the more life. The journey takes us; the road winds and we drive farther on The Map of Life. But it is on that Map that you mark those special tack pins. You take them and stick them in all the locations that you really lived and loved, because you want to remember that time and that spot and those people. They meant so much to you that you saved them for later. You do that, so when you go back to The Map and look at all the beautiful places you have been, you remember what a great journey we are on so far…And Sam, my friends, was definitely a tack.

I love Facebook. I fucking hate Facebook. But most importantly, I NEED Facebook. Not just to promote my music career, but I need Facebook so I can look back on all my connected tacks. I go on my feed page so I can laugh at a ridiculous cow meme that was posted by an old theater professor, or admire a neighbor’s summer garden or feel happy for the old middle school friend who found great love, or I can even just send a virtual hug to a long-distant cousin who just needs a freaking hug. It’s not the same. It’s not in person, it’s virtual, but it’s the best I can do right now and I MEAN it. It’s me saying to everyone, “I am busy on my path, but I am still so glad that you were on one of mine.”

Sam was just this stunning human. Strikingly good-looking, yes, but that wasn’t even the best part. First and foremost, he was a deep and true listener for all. When you spoke to Sam, he concentrated on your words with his warm puddly eyes and his beautifully enormous heart. All of this greatness was surrounded by a unique and rare talent for performing. I have a funny Polaroid in my head that reminds me I had a little crush on Sam. I was playing Chris Hargensen and he was my Billy in a hilarious Chicago musical called “sCarrie the Musical”. We were the mean kids and made out a lot. Which wasn’t horrible. We had this rather rated-R musical number where I had to sing to him while I was performing….well…let’s just say, that the entire cast could barely get through it every time because we were all laughing so hard. Best of times.

I don’t know how we lost Sam. What I pray for is that he didn’t feel one ounce of pain. What I wish for is that his legacy will live on for all days, by the people who loved him. What I know is that all of it is a complete tragedy.

Pray for his family. Hug everyone you can. Love everyone you love. Go hang your Map.

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Too Sad To Title.

I really want to scream.

I wake up this morning, dragging myself out of bed. I’m yawny and blurry and dreading my 8:30am workout.  I roll over, grab my glasses and pick up my phone to see what I missed on social media. God forbid, I miss something important, since it’s been a whole four hours when I last tried to sleep. And then I see a text from one of my dear friends, to tell me that someone we love died last night.

Fuck.  Fucking fuck.  I can’t.  Shock is weird.  It’s like someone took out my brain and hung it on the ceiling right above my head and it’s throbbing.  I’m feeling so many things, but I don’t actually know one thing I’m feeling.  I can toss out the usual reactions: disbelief, shock, sadness.  I can’t think or type the right words to even describe what that feels like…I can only explain that it was more like I’m slouching on the side of my bed, with an elephant sitting on my chest and I just can’t find a breath to take.

First thoughts….first thoughts…it’s not real.  I think of his life partner. I think of his family.  I pray that he didn’t feel pain.  I angry-cry about him being too fucking YOUNG.  Warning: I’m going to spill the beans and share all the crazy shit that was going on in my head.  It’s embarrassing, but maybe something relatable. Or maybe it’s just thoughts that prove that I need professional help.  But it’s real, it’s raw and it’s the truth. And it all comes from me hoping that in our very last days, we know how much we are loved.

My mind is a Rolodex, flipping to the last time I talked to him. Flip, flip, flip…when was that? I just had an email exchange with him a week ago…two weeks ago…was it a month ago?  It could have been six.  It was business.  About a booking? Was I loving, responsive and kind?   Or was I curt, short and to the point?  Is that the last impression he got from me?  Did he know how much he meant to me?  Did I tell him how much he meant to me?  Fuck.  No, I didn’t. We, as humans, don’t do that all day, every day. It was business about a booking…it was…normal day stuff.

More thoughts are spewing: why didn’t I tell him how much he meant to me on one of the last times I saw him.  That time recently at a show.  When I saw him looking up at me,  smiling at me, watching me from off-stage. Why didn’t I scream out to him, “I love you and I am grateful for you in my life, my friend?”  He deserved to hear that every day.  We all do.   But we don’t think that every time we say goodbye to someone…that it might be the very last time.

I want time back.  I want the early days with my old pal, when we were jamming in his family room in the first band I was ever in, when I was in the best times of my life and I didn’t know it, and he was teaching me Chaka Khan tunes and we were drinking PBR; underage and unforgiving, I want to go back to that and take his face in my hands and say, thank you for being in my life.

And then when we re-connected through music in the last few years…he found out that, even though I’m an old Golden Girl now,  I’m still musically at it, kicking around on stages and still fighting the old gal fight.  He heard I was still singing, and he reached out to me with that beautifully gargantuan smile and said, “Hey.  Let’s do something with your music,” Then again, I should have taken his face in my hands and said thank you for again for still being in my life.

Recently, he hired me to sing in a place, and there was a random hole in the floor.  He quietly, yet deftly remembered that I am, and always will be, a ditz.  AKA: a girl who will always fall into holes.  He pointed down and said, “Heather, don’t fall in that hole.”  I walked past that hole in the floor without incident, turning back at him with a smirk on my face and simultaneously patting myself on my own back.  Then he pointed to a door in the back of the room and gave me a warning look. “Walk through here.  It’s cool behind there, but be careful.”  Obviously, I strutted through that door and I immediately fell way down into a much bigger hole.  But it was a fun fall, because I got to hear that old laugh.  It was lovely; ringing robust and true just like those good old days.

What now.  I feel too many things.  Mostly I feel so deeply sad for his amazing partner and his loved ones; all the people who will feel the loss every day.  I’m feeling again so much sadness for those who will now have to walk around everything and everyday without him.

Now it’s the wee small hours.  What to do now?  Gradually all day,  I was checking Facebook, watching how so many people were grasping to mourn such a tragedy.  Share how much they loved this man by posting pictures and stories and dedications.  I did the same, trying to to connect and grieve together. There were so many loved ones, yearning helplessly to write to him and tell this magnificent person one more time how much they loved him…hoping so hard that he can hear all of us from up above.  It’s so desperate and yet so very needed for many of those left behind.  All so overwhelming and heartbreaking and scary and final.

I once had this kind friend in high school and he asked me to be in a band. He taught me things about music that I still sing out of my mouth today.  Lately, he found me again and I got to see that wide, electric smile and share some laughs and a great love for music.  Then, we lost him too soon and I wish I had more. I wish I did more.

Ferris nailed it: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Life is, indeed, gorgeous. It’s work.  It’s tiring, yet so rewarding.  It’s filled will so many layers and it is enveloped with all the different kinds of love.  It fills your heart and it breaks your heart and then it’s over way too soon.  My old friend, thank you for your friendship.  Heaven is jamming to your serious super-funk tonight and for always. How lucky are they up there? How lucky were we down here. XO MT.

 

 

 

 

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“This is only a drill.”

Last year, I was helping out in my youngest daughter’s classroom. We had a surprise lockdown drill.
I.LOST.MY.SHIT.
First, this is embarrassing, but…yeah, I’ll share.  Because I know that I’m not the only one who has felt like this and it needs to be talked about because it’s actually ok for us to say out loud, “this is scary.”  I am scared for my children, for my friends’ children, for my teacher friends.  I’m scared for everyone.  Even everyone I don’t know.  The whole package.  And also, I wish I was braver and not so scared. 

Let’s all agree that if you know me well, I’m a little…let’s say…hyper-empathic, to a fault….badly coupled with an overactive imagination that is way too big for it’s britches.  
But here I am….excited to help out in class…the last year that I can before my youngest moves to middle school. Cry! Weep! Take a selfie with her…post! I adore the teacher and the kids and we are doing cool things with planets and rockets and cereal boxes and cotton and….

Surprise lockdown drill? 

That…was not on my volunteer agenda. But here I am.  I’ve got this.

The alarm goes off and the teacher locks the door, turns off the lights and starts to huddle the kids under the desks. I look at her quizzically and she smiles and tells everyone it’s a drill. Or did they announce it?? I don’t recall.  I do remember feeling my blood boiling and my face getting hot and I put my hands on my cheeks and my stomach starts to hurt.  I follow her lead and pretend like I’m even an 1/8 of the superhuman she; as all teachers are in situations like this.  I am trying to calm the kids, who’s levels of fright are somewhere probably ranging anywhere from a 1-3 out of ten….I was lingering at somewhere around 149 out of five. While I’m smiling, winking and making funny cool-mom faces, inside I’m dying. Kind of literally.  All replayed out in different scenarios in my over-active absurd mind. I’m legitimately scared and there is no valid reason for it.  It’s a practice drill.  But I’m not 100% sure.  They don’t tell you that before it starts because….it’s a DRILL

Some of my thoughts…that I can vividly remember…that were pounding in my head, flying and whipping around like lights at a Floyd laser show:

(1)WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER. She’s literally right next to you.  Where are my other kids? Safe at school.  Safe?  Safe. These kids are safe.  I’m mom to all of them right now.   Count the kids. one, two, three…I don’t even know how many kids there are but still count..four, five, six….smile.

(2) What is that look in the teacher’s face? She looks scared.  This isn’t real.  Could this be real?  This isn’t real.  I’m listening so hard with my ears for every.little.thing.

(3) Can the kids see me crying a little bit?  Stop.  Stop.  Breathe. Smile.  

(4) Wall of windows.  How do those windows open? How fast can I get there and open one to get the kids out before something happens and I can’t make it? Omg STOP.

(5) Can the kids even fit out the window? How far do they open? Stop.  

(6) Where is my cellphone?  Where is my purse? It’s across the room.  I don’t need it.  Why the FUCK is my cell phone not in my pocket?  Smile.

(7) Re-lax. This is a drill.

(8) Almost done.

(9) Is the teacher scared? Wait? Is that a scared look? No, she’s fine. No wait, she’s acting like she’s fine, but she’s losing her shit.  No, she’s annoyed that her parent helper keeps staring at her and is losing her shit.  I’m so sorry.
(10) This could NOT be a drill.

(11) Keep smiling.  Keep making silly faces.  Keep winking.  Hide fright.  

(12) Why doesn’t Mike ever volunteer?

(13) I want Mike.

(Smile at Lulu, wink, squeeze her hand…make funny face)

(Turn away so she doesn’t see me crying again)

I hear footsteps.  Then the door jiggles. They are checking the locked doors. The principal and the police officers.  I know this.

It’s just a cop.

It’s just a cop.

It’s just a cop.

Omg. Is this real? Staring at windows. Starting at teacher. Staring at windows.

The next 5 minutes felt like 5 hours.

*Announcement: Drill over.

As I non-challantly blow a kiss to my daughter, make a lackadaisical eye-roll laugh and wave at the teacher, after I sign out at the front desk, tossing out some witty repartee about how “I always pick the best days to volunteer” and as I saunter out of the building… I am choking…CHOKING back the tears and the sobs that I finally let out all the way home.  I should have just taken her home with me.  I want to take the entire school home with me.

There wasn’t enough bottles of Chardonnay for me when I got home that day.  Why yes, I did day drink that day.  Sue me.

That experience wasn’t the real thing.  The vile thing.  Nothing I felt or thought that day could ever even TOUCH what all these children and teachers have had to experience and are continuing to experience.  The HORROR.  The REALITY.  

NO ONE. No child, no teacher, no parent, no law enforcement, no rescue teams should EVER have to go through any of it. Those children were helpless in a war they didn’t ask to fight in, in an unmarked war zone they called school and without any way to defend themselves. This is the worst kind of war ever.

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