Ms. Dressup

October 31, 2018

I grew up so close to the Canadian border that my family was only able to tune into Canadian tv stations for most of the 70’s. And one of Canada’s hit shows was called Mr. Dressup. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s a real thing. And he was super cool. He had a Tickle Trunk that he would open on every episode to reveal some amazing costume he would wear around his living room, where his “friends” Casey (small boy) and Finnegan (dog) would appear from behind the couch (they were puppets) to talk to him. I think they may have lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s backyard…

Anyway, my love for dressing up started early, thanks to Mr. Dressup. My sister and I and our friends would always be wearing clown makeup or flowing dresses or wigs or tutus and prancing around our living room, putting on “shows” or just lost in some imaginary world. My sister and I especially liked accessories and props. We didn’t need braces or glasses in real life, but we would fashion braces out of tin foil or paper clips and wear sunglasses with the lenses poked out. At a certain point we asked our dad to make us crutches (we had never needed those either) and that was super fun. We would hobble around the house with our crutches and glasses, lisping through our tin foil braces…it was endless fun!

So, of course, Halloween was always a big deal. We grew up before there were many pre-made options for costumes, so our parents always made them. My sister was Betsy Ross once, with a red, white and blue hoop skirt (our hula hoop) and a flag she carried with needle and thread. My dad made me a costume one year that incorporated the crutches: Man Who Has Just Been In A Car Accident. I had bloody bandages all over me and my arm in a sling. And a fake broken leg, of course.

I worked and studied as an actor for a number of years, so always had lots of opportunities to dress up there. But it was the impromptu costuming that was the most fun. One evening, my neighbor Lea knocked on my door in a panic because she was throwing a Murder Mystery Dinner Party and 2 of her guests didn’t show up. And if you’ve never been to one of these parties, each guest plays a role and has a script, which gradually reveals who the killer is. So she really needed 2 more guests and wondered if I could come. Yes! I said. As long as I can bring my other 2 roommates and we could all dress up! Done and done.

No one who attended that party will ever forget it. The 3 of us came in ridiculous costumes (A turban! A flamingo pink disco dress! Curlers in our hair!) and entered in character, complete with accents, ticks, and attitude. The very conservative party guests had no idea what to make of us. Halfway through the script I guess my roommate Kara realized that she was the killer, so she made the character choice to reapply her bright pink lipstick often, each time going a little more outside the lines. And when we got to the last part of the script, where she confessed her guilt, she uncovered her face to reveal a giant painted mouth that spread from ear to ear! As she relayed with a straight face how she had done it, the rest of of fell off our chairs laughing.

Like any decent NYC actor, I spent several years waitressing. And like any decent NYC restaurant, all the servers at Sambuca’s were creatives of some sort, so our manager encouraged us to dress in costume for Halloween. My best friend and I worked there together, so we would compare notes on our costumes, then share a cab to work, rather than take the subway or rollerblade (my favorite mode of transportation in the 90’s) so as not to embarrass ourselves too much. The first year we worked there she dressed as Hester Prynne (from The Scarlet Letter. Google it!), complete with a red “A” on her bodice and a fake baby Pearl. I had gone a slightly different direction with my costume–I was a Beauty Queen Gone Bad. Here we are:

R&L Halloween1

On our way to work that night, we were in the taxi, still 10 blocks away from work, when our driver pulls over and tells us to get out of the car. I’ve forgotten why. Maybe his cab broke down? Anyway, we were stranded and there were no cabs around. We saw one down the block that was off duty and Libby took control of the situation and told me to “hide” behind a tree on the sidewalk that was literally 4 inches in diameter. I obeyed, knowing no cab would pick me up in my weird outfit, and did my best to blend into the tree, while wearing my pink satin gown and leather dog collar. Libby took off her cap and started franticly rocking Pearl, desperately waving down the off-duty cab. He pulled right over and she commanded me to jump in quickly before the cab driver noticed me. As he was pulling away from the curb he stared at us in complete confusion. Where did that crazy blonde chick come from? Is that really a baby? That second question he asked out loud, to which Libby replied she’d tell him once we got to our destination.

The following year, she dressed as Ophelia. (From Hamlet. Google it.) She learned her speech about the flowers and recited it to ALL of her tables that night, before allowing them to order. And when they asked her who in the heck she was, she made them guess. The whole night the only person who answered correctly was a man who later that night called the restaurant, announcing himself as Hamlet wishing to speak to Ophelia and he asked her on a date. I, on the other hand, did NOT get asked on any dates that night. Because I dressed as Medusa (From Greek mythology. Google it.), complete with green snakes in my hair. I didn’t make my tables guess my costume. I announced to each of them in a loud, angry voice that I was going to turn them to stone if they didn’t order from me right away. They would all nervously giggle and try to ignore me, but I insisted and never broke character, snarling and frowning at everyone all night . It was the best night of waitressing I ever experienced.

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One is mad…

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and the other is MAD!

I don’t dress up too much anymore. I think I’m just too exhausted. And my son is not that into Halloween. But as soon as I recover from single parenting, I’m totally pulling out that red wig and tiara I’ve got in a box in the closet and coming up with some awesome props to create an obscure, insane costume.

Ooo! Maybe my dad can make me some crutches!

 

Happy Unbirthday

October 24, 2018

Today my son turned 18, but it wasn’t his birthday. He most likely wasn’t born on October 23rd, but he has no idea when he was born. He began living in an orphanage when he was about five years old and we don’t know very much about his life before that time. What we do know, we mostly keep to ourselves because it’s sensitive, treasured, highly personal information. Suffice it to say, a stranger brought him to the orphanage where he lived for the next 2 1/2 years before I adopted him. And the date Rahul arrived in the orphanage was October 23rd, so that was assigned to him as his birthday.

The first year he was my son, I planned a very small, simple birthday party for him on October 23rd. He was still very suspicious of me at that time and did not believe he was turning 8. He remembered being told at the orphanage when he turned 6 years old, but no one over told him that he turned 7, so for the first few months he was with me he didn’t believe his age. But once he had his first birthday party, on his 8th birthday, he finally became convinced of it.

I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, and until I decided to adopt a child at age 35 I hadn’t planned on having children. It just wasn’t something I desired, as much as I have always loved children. But then God led me down that path and He completely changed my heart. I am sure I was born to be Rahul’s mom. But because I hadn’t spent a lifetime dreaming of it I hadn’t anticipated how much I would love certain things about motherhood. And celebrating his birthday was one of those things. I didn’t ever plan elaborate parties for him, but I loved to buy him gifts and plan special surprises for him. There is something so special about celebrating the person you love more than any other in the world. I loved bringing cupcakes into school so his classmates could sing him Happy Birthday. I loved having my parents and my sister’s family come visit so we could celebrate all together. We had costume parties for several years, then one year we went to Coney Island and rode rollercoasters, and once we went to this crazy place in the woods and had a paintball party! Then a couple years ago he stopped wanting to celebrate his birthday. He didn’t like the attention anymore. And that date, October 23rd, was becoming problematic.

It was starting to really bother him that he didn’t know which day he was born and that the date that was chosen for him was actually anniversarying a difficult day in his life. He no longer wanted to celebrate the day he entered his orphanage and pretend that it was his birthday. So we stopped having parties, then we stopped inviting family over, and this year we stopped saying “Happy Birthday” or buying presents or making anything special out of the day. I bought him a few candies that he likes, but that was it.

And Rahul had a really great day today. He and I talked and prayed about how this date is very bittersweet for him, because if he hadn’t ever made it to that orphanage, he never would have made it here, to me. He doesn’t like to commemorate the date, but tonight he acknowledged what an important milestone it was in his life. It was a crossroads, and the road that was chosen for him led him to me.

I’m so proud of him and so grateful that today was good for him. But all day I have been so, so sad. I have watched Rahul pass up so many joys that other kids so easily embrace because his early trauma robbed him of his ability to celebrate and receive loving attention. And all I want for him is for him to be able to be happy and to live life to the full. These are daily struggles for him. And he is a rock star, constantly pushing himself to engage and participate and connect with people. But sometimes it just breaks my heart that he can’t blow out candles on his birthday cake. All day my heart has been grieving that child he briefly was, the date we’ll never know, the story of his birth, all the things I can never give him. And I grieved for myself that one of the beautiful surprises about being a mom, one of the things I have really loved–celebrating my child’s birthday– has disappeared from my life.

This year we started commemorating his adoption day in special ways, and when he got his tattoo this summer, in honor of our ten years as family, he had that date etched into his skin. April 17, 2008, the day he became my son. That’s the date he wants to remember and celebrate.

So I thinking that maybe next April I can get him to blow out some candles:)

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Opening presents at his first birthday party

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The Last First Day of School

September 5, 2018

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Rahul’s first first day of school, age 7

Every year that Rahul has been with me, I have printed out a copy of his school calendar to put on our refrigerator. There’s one page for each month, so as each one ends I rip it off and throw it away. The first full school year he was with me I was shocked to discover that I was completely overcome with emotions when I threw that last calendar page of the school year in the garbage. I remember feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. The year was over! I would never get it back. And we would just keep moving on like this until one day there would be the final calendar–senior year. I suddenly realized that in his final year of grade school each month would hold a special pain as I threw out the last September, the last February, the last June…

Well, here we are. It’s Rahul’s first day of his senior year. The last first day of school.

Rahul didn’t start school formally until 3rd grade. He had some lessons in his orphanage in India, but couldn’t read or write Hindi (his native language) or English. And when he arrived home with me in April 2008 it was practically the end of the year. I put him in a 2nd grade class, and he had a few weeks of school where he got to participate in field trips and perform in concerts. One concert, his school’s annual dance concert, was life-changing for me. I didn’t know what to expect–actually, I didn’t know what to expect about any of his school experience–and I had a conference call with my work team that morning. I thought surely I would be finished with the call by the time the concert started, but the call just kept going longer and longer. I tried to keep up, but I had my video camera in one hand, my regular camera in the other and my phone to my ear. (If only I had an iPhone back then!) And as Rahul’s group got up to perform, tears were streaming down my face as I watched him keep up with the class that had been learning this dance for weeks. I hung up on the phone call and quit my job soon after. I had realized that I couldn’t do it all and would have to find a more flexible job if single parenting this child was going to work.

He repeated 3rd grade with the same teacher both times to give him a chance to catch up. Then we switched him to a Special Education classroom in 4th grade when he still hadn’t learned to read. The summer before that school year he had a neuro-psych evaluation done and I wanted his classroom teacher to have this valuable document with all his test results and recommendations on it before school started. But despite my constant calls to the school, I could not get through to his teacher. So on the first day of school I marched him into his classroom to hand it her. Except when we got to the room there was no one there, the lights were off and the chairs were on top of the desks. We walked all over the school looking for his teacher and finally found her in the cafeteria. Apparently that’s were the Special Ed students gather in the morning. No one had informed us. I confirmed with his teacher where to pick him up at the end of the day  and left my once excited, now crestfallen child in the cafeteria. At the end of the day I waited outside the door he was supposed to be exiting from and watched as every 4th grade student in the school ran out into the arms of their waiting parent except my son’s class. I was really angry and panicked by this point, because Rahul has an attachment disorder and if I don’t show up on time it triggers a PTSD episode. He thinks I’ve left him and am never coming back. Even now. So that day I marched into the school to find him and there he was, with his confused teacher, wandering the halls. I was supposed to pick him up from a different door. I had already made multiple calls to the school that day to complain and when I got home I made one more. I found an ally in Mr. Manny, the vice principal and he assured me we could work together to improve things. I was still very upset and uneasy, so I decided I needed to go to his school and call on a different ally. I left Rahul home, walked the 2 blocks back to his school and walked around and around the school, praying. I prayed for every single human in that building. I prayed that the adults in the school would love Rahul and be charmed by him. That they would always have their eye on him. That he would find favor with all his teachers. That he would grow and learn and be safe and feel secure. I prayed until I was done, and in the end had probably walked around the school 10 times.

And this walking and praying has become an annual ritual for me. Each year, on the first day of school, I take time off of my job and I walk around and around his school, praying. I pray until I’m done. And as I walk around I picture the instructors at Hogwarts casting spells of protection around the school as the dementors are closing in. I realize I’m not casting spells, but I love to picture creating that same type of bubble around his school. I imagine my prayers traveling through the school like incense wafting through the halls and under the doors and up the stairs, until the whole school is covered by God’s protection and love. I walk away secure and confident that my child is not alone in there. That he has a spiritual army walking with him wherever he goes, whispering in the ears of his teachers, moving in their hearts.

Someday I will write about all the amazing things that have happened to Rahul throughout his school career. It’s nothing short of a series of miracles. But for now, I want to absorb this last first day of school. This last prayer walk around the campus. I want to make it count, for him and for me.

And as I move through this school year, throwing out each month on the calendar as we creep closer and closer to the end, I want to remember that armies surround me too. That I am not alone in my sentimental recognition of Rahul’s lasts and firsts. And that there are still many “firsts” yet to come.

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Rahul’s last first day of school, age 17

My Midlife Crisis

July 24, 2018

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When I told Rahul that I wanted to get a tattoo, the first thing he thought was, “O jeez. My mom is having a midlife crisis.” Perhaps. Then I convinced him to get one too. We decided we would get them in honor of our ten year anniversary of being a family. I knew exactly what I wanted mine to say, and so did Rahul.

When I adopted him 10 years ago, I made him a little movie, and in it I dedicated a scripture to him: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” He loves that movie more than any other one I’ve made him and keeps it on his phone to watch it all the time. If he really likes someone, he will make them saddle up to the computer and screen it. And Jeremiah 29:11 is his favorite scripture. It’s now written forever on his back, along with the date I brought him home, 4.17.08.

When I decided to adopt a child, I was in a really good place in life. I had just come through a time of great healing and was feeling especially blessed. I had been sad about a relationship that hadn’t materialized, but was realizing that I was ready to open my heart and my life to someone. One deep prayer later and I realized that someone was not a man, but a child. One that was living somewhere out there in the world, longing to belong to someone. The calling to adopt was so strong that I could not ignore it. I spent several weeks in prayer and fasting, but I knew. I was meant to adopt a child.

In my effort to prepare my heart to become a mom, I discovered what became my adoption theme scripture, Isaiah 58. It talks about how when we act religious we only please ourselves, but when we take care of our fellow man–when we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and poor–these are the things that truly please God. And when we lose ourselves in the giving, God will fill us back up. And He promises that our people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations, and that we will be called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. I just love that language. I love the idea of God renaming us, and recognizing us for our giving. I love the picture of man helping man and together rebuilding things. I read this scripture every day for the year leading up to Rahul’s adoption, and continue to read it regularly. It has reshaped how I see God and how I see myself.

So this Spring, when I suppose I was going through a bit of midlife crisis, I had the overwhelming urge to etch these words on myself. To get a tattoo, not for decoration, but for the reminder of what I have suffered and what I have accomplished. I wanted it in a place where I could look at it every day and remember. Remember the intention I had when I received the calling to adopt. Remember the incredible pain and desperation I felt throughout Rahul’s first few years with me. Those years were full of joy and wonder, but they were also a constant life and death struggle. Truly, no one except Rahul and I and God know how harrowing those years were. And no one besides God knows how much I sacrificed and how much I lost as I spent myself on repairing Rahul. The pain he had experienced was so deep and he was so broken. And he trusted me to fix him. He brought his pain to me over and over and I took it on. Together we wrestled the demons that threatened to undo him. The experience was stunning and horrifying and miraculous. Most days I focused exclusively on putting one foot in front of the other, not worrying about next month or next week, just Today. Each night I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling in stunned silence, not beleiving we had made it through another day.

And now I look at my son and I can’t believe he was once the broken, hurting child I had to devote every waking hour to keeping alive. He is strong and full of life. He helps me every day. He encourages me and teaches me.

And every day when I look at my arm, and see God’s words written in my best friend’s handwriting–the friend who flew across the world with me to go and get Rahul and who has been a constant source of strength and support to us–and I see the Hindi word for “family” entwined in God’s name for me in Rahul’s original language, I will remember. I will remember what I’ve done.

And when you tell me that I’m too independent, aggressive, forgettable, stoic, unworthy, or ugly, I will look at my arm and words etched on it, and remember that although I may be all of those things, God tells me that I am a Repairer of Broken Walls. I healed someone! I repaired a broken person!

And when I think of all the dreams I let go and all the things I didn’t accomplish. When I begin to compare myself to people who have more money than me, or have achieved incredible success in their careers, who have found true love or have won the admiration of many, I will look at the words written forever on my arm and remember that although I haven’t accomplished those things, I did lay down my life and sell my possessions and fly to the other side of the world to get this amazing boy and bring him to me so he could have a family and be loved and have a hope and a future.

And when I look at half of my life behind me and start thinking of the things that could have been and that I should have done, I will glance down at the midlife crisis carved forever into my flesh, and remember that I did at least one thing right.

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

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Not Forgotten

July 11, 2018

Not Forgotten

Me, in my backyard, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world…

“Where’s Robyn?” my mom asked, sounding a little frantic. I looked around for my sister. A while earlier, she had asked me to watch her as she did some yard work. Robyn and I were playing in the sandbox. Except now it was just me playing in the sandbox, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world, as usual. I looked up at my mom with a mixture of fear and guilt. Because I had lost track of her. I was 4 years old.

As my Mom’s eyes filled with fear and confusion we both heard a loud squeal. Her eyes widened in terror and she went tearing around to the front of the house, screaming. I looked down at the sand creation I was building and quietly set down my tools. I felt a pain in my stomach like a stone as I realized what a horrible sister I was. Slowly, I crept around to the front of the house, going around the opposite side than my mom had travelled. As I rounded the corner I could see Mom carrying my 2 year old sister in her arms. There was a huge truck stopped in front of our house and I came to realize that Robyn had been crawling across the street, completely unattended by her big sister, when this tractor trailer rounded the curve at the bottom of the hill in front of our house. It was going full speed when the driver hit the brakes because of the baby crawling across the street. My mom had arrived just as he was picking Robyn up and carrying her toward our house.

I stood, unnoticed, off to the side of the house, in the middle of the driveway. I watched as my mom gratefully carried Robyn into the house to tend to her and nurse her own guilt and fear. And I remember just standing in that spot staring at the ground for a long time. I didn’t cry. Or run to my mother. I just stood there. Realizing I had nearly caused my sister’s death. Rooted to the ground with guilt and shame and embarrassment, unable to move. I was hoping no one noticed me there, and I understood that I didn’t deserve comforting. My pain was self-inflicted and my mom and my sister were the ones who really needed tending to at that moment.

But also, I felt forgotten.

I think everyone has a baseline fear that drives and informs their life. Most likely it is shaped by some childhood experience or trauma. It might be the fear of being alone, or the fear of being rejected. My son’s baseline fear is not being believed. He experienced a terrible trauma as a child when he lived in an orphanage in India, and when he told the orphanage director about it, she didn’t believe him. Of all the traumas he has suffered, that is the one that affects everything he does: not being believed. He is honest to a fault and will turn on you with violence if you accuse him of lying.

My baseline fear is being forgotten. I only recently realized how much this fear paralyzes me.  One of the things I have loved most about being Rahul’s mom is our closeness. We share everything and have been through so much together. We have a really deep bond that has been created through trials and fighting and a lot of hard work and love. Our attachment to one another is well earned. And because of his special emotional needs, we have spent more time together than most families. Last winter, as Rahul and I were talking about what it will be like for him when he goes to college next year, I suddenly realized what it will be like for me when he goes to college next year. I realized that although he will most likely live at home for the first few years of college, everything is going to change. For the past 10 years I have completely built my life around him. I created my business based on his school schedule and special needs. I sacrificed nearly all of my social life to spend most of the time when I’m not working caring for his needs. I sleep half the amount I used to before I adopted him because he has trouble sleeping and because of the demands of my work. I have no money because his special needs drained all of my savings and investments when he was younger, and I’ve spent the last 8 years digging myself out of that financial hole.

Well, all of that is about to change for me. Which seems like it should be a good thing! I will be able to choose a different work scenario, where I can earn more money and receive benefits. I will sleep more! I will be able to socialize like I used to. But all I can think of is this sinking feeling of being forgotten. I picture this vague, depressing scenario where I’m home alone with my cat and everyone has forgotten about me and moved on with their exciting lives. (My beloved dog Baby Fish Mouth is very old and I anticipate that he won’t be around much longer than Rahul’s high school career.) And that no matter how much I push myself into my friends’ lives and continue to care for my my son’s needs, I won’t be woven into the fabric of anyone’s day anymore. I won’t be the first person anyone sees every morning and the last person anyone sees every night. I don’t fear being alone, I’ve always been comfortable being by myself. But I’m terrified that I will be alone because I’ve been forgotten.

I try to explain this fear to my friends and I realize it doesn’t make any sense. I have friends that are closer than family and will never leave me. My friend Libby started crying when I told her about this fear, because she would never forget me and has proven over and over how much she is willing to do to be there for me when I am in need. I recently went though something really heartbreaking and my friends came swooping in from all over the place to take care of me. Calling me from far away night after night to talk and pray for hours. Traveling long distances and leaving their families behind to come take me out to dinner or go on a picnic to get me out of the house and keep me talking. It was extraordinary and I felt very loved and taken care of. But with all of this proof of love and devotion, I’m still terrified.

It’s irrational, but the feeling I fear is the same one I felt when my sister was almost killed. I fear that other peoples’ needs are going to always be more important than mine. I fear that because I am so fiercely independent people will assume I can always take care of myself. I fear that because I’m not usually the one in the middle of dramatic situations, because I’m not particularly needy or a squeaky wheel, people will assume I don’t need their attention. I fear that because the things I need are simple and quiet: a hug every once in a while, a text or an invitation to let me know I’m on your mind, a visit for no other reason than to spend time together–that people will forget that these things make me feel loved and seen and valuable.

I’ve been avoiding all the things I should be doing to prepare Rahul for his college career. I can’t seem to get motivated to research scholarships or set up school appointments or make travel plans to visit schools. And the time has come. We have a lot to do this summer and I can’t delay any longer. Time marches on and I don’t want him to miss out.

So I am resolving to face my fear and to push through it. I am traveling back in time to visit that little girl standing in her driveway, scared and ashamed, and giving her a big hug. I’m looking her in the eyes and telling her it’s OK and that I see her pain. I’m reminding her that her family loves and cherishes her and that no one blames her for what happened. I’m walking her into the house to find her mother and ask for the comfort and reassurance that she needs and will surely be freely given.

And I’m convincing her that she is not forgotten.

 

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I love the rain. When I was a very little girl I used to go out on our sunporch and lie on an old couch when it would rain. I would lie there all by myself and look out the windows at the muted sky and listen to the sound of the rain hitting the leaves on all the trees surrounding our house and on the roof and windows of our sunporch. It made me feel safe and surrounded by God.

As a teenager, I would sit at my bedroom window when it rained and look out over the farmland that stretched out past our house and breathe in the scent of rain on the fields–an earthy, sweet, mineral aroma that would fill me with calm and peace.

When I moved to NYC for college I loved it so much I stayed through the summers every year. And I quickly learned that summer storms in NYC are something to behold! They sweep in dramatically, darkening the sky with eggplant colored clouds and dump billions of giant raindrops all over the city. I always think God is trying to scrub the streets clean. People run for cover (because umbrellas are useless) and stand under awnings and scaffoldings forever, waiting for the rain to pass. One summer I got a job as the receptionist for a production company in Soho. And one day when I went out for lunch, a summer storm rolled in. I laughed at all the people hiding from the rain, and they rolled their eyes at me as I marched around the streets, turning my face up to the sky to get the maximum amount of wet. When I went back to work I had to sit at my desk dripping and shivering in the air conditioning, clutching a mug of hot water for warmth for the rest of the day while everyone who came in the office felt sorry for me for “getting caught” in the rain. Only after the 4th or 5th time that happened did they realize I was deliberately getting drenched. I got a stern talking to by my boss and *tried* not to do it again.

Spring rains are beautiful too. Light and misty, they soften and quiet the atmosphere. My apartment is on the ground floor of my building and has big windows that look out on a little garden. One of my favorite memories from Rahul’s early days with me was a string of rainy Saturdays we spent playing games sitting on the couch. The rain fell softly outside, hitting the leaves surrounding our building and I remember feeling really nourished. Like the rain was nourishing the ground and everything growing out if it, I felt like God was nourishing me with this amazing child, who was normally so frenetic, now sitting calmly with me playing games, listening to the rain.

It’s Spring now, and lately Rahul and I have been having these deep late-night talks about God. He is so wise and his life experiences have been so different than mine that his perspective on difficult and mysterious spiritual topics is really illuminating. He has answered a lot of the questions for himself that most people spend their whole lives wondering about and won’t flinch or hesitate if you ask him why God allows painful things to happen to us, or why some people seem to have an easier life than others. These are topics he has wrestled with in his own faith journey and has resolved with confidence. We sit together at night, often while he is giving me a foot rub or I am giving him a facial. (You have your Family Movie Nights, we have Family Spa Nights–don’t judge!) And I ask him my deep questions.

“Why is my friend, who has experienced heartbreaking and devastating loss, one of the most cheerful and grateful people I’ve ever met?” “Because when you hit the bottom of the well you can either choose to stay there and live in grief and darkness for the rest of your life or you can look up and choose to live your life grateful for every day. It’s God’s way of showing that He is in charge–by taking something devastating and transforming it into something life-affirming and hopeful.”

“Why does Jesus teach us that we only we need a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain?” “Because God already did all the work for us to be close to Him and He wanted to make it easy for us to have faith that our prayers are powerful. It’s an illustration that reminds us how little we need to do.”

Lately it feels like the battle of my life to just believe that God will give me what I’m asking for in prayer. Rahul reminded me how “easy” faith can be. Just by looking at the man he is now affirms my faith. I’ve seen him change so dramatically over the years in lots of ways, including his faith in God. He did not believe that God existed for most of his childhood. I never tried to force my beliefs on him, but by being around me all the time he did absorb a little bit of my faith. Mostly he argued with me about it. But sometimes he attempted to imitate what he saw in me. When I was sharing with him my struggle to believe that God would answer my prayer he reminded me of an experience that he had when he was little that I had forgotten about.

We were driving to Brooklyn for some neuro-psych testing he was having done and it was a long drive. It was raining and I told him one of my favorite stories in the Bible about rain. Elijah was a prophet in Israel during a particularly Godless time. He prayed earnestly that it would stop raining and lo and behold, it stopped raining and there was a drought. Then after a few years he prayed again and the heavens opened up, it rained and the drought was over. There were various reasons Elijah did this, but one was to teach us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Rahul loved the idea that a man could control the rain and he quietly tried it out as we were driving. He would silently pray that it would rain and moments later I’d be turning on the windshield wipers. Then he’d pray it would stop and off they would go. Over and over he did this until we arrived in Brooklyn and he announced to me that he had just controlled the rain all the way there! This experience was formative for his faith as he began to understand that God hears us when we pray and loves to answer even our weird rain-based requests if it will help us believe in Him. When he reminded me of it the other day it really moved me. Here was Rahul’s mustard seed of faith that moved his mountain of doubt and anger and disbelief and created this super-deep, spiritual, faithful man.

It’s supposed to rain the rest of the week, and I’m going to try to let every raindrop that hits me on the head remind me how easy faith can be.

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Rahul running his heart out in the rain

 

Signs of Spring

March 23, 2018

When I was a child, my mother would send me outside at the end of winter to look for signs of spring. She would give me a notebook and a pencil and I’d roam around our property looking for any hint that there was a new season on its way, then report back to her. I grew up outside of Buffalo, so winters were especially harsh. I can remember when I was about 5 years old we had a season of blizzards so intense that schools were closed for weeks and we measured the snowfall against our swing set in the backyard until the snow nearly covered it. Maybe it was that year that my mom first had the idea to get me looking for spring.

Inevitably, the first signs I always noticed were the purple crocuses that would pop up while the last of snow was still on the ground. They grew around my favorite tree–the one that held our tire swing, another wooden swing and our tree house. Of course, it might snow a few more times after they popped up, but they always seemed to persist. And they always came back the next year.

The thing I most enjoyed about early spring were the streams all around our house that would fill with melted snow and bubble with clear, fresh water. I can remember spending hours dragging sticks through the streams, just watching the water flow. Behind our house was a large field and behind that were the woods. There was a waterfall deep in the woods that ran down to a big stream that then ran off into all the little streams I would play in. Every Easter afternoon our family would hike all the way back through the woods to that waterfall, climb up to the top, then march around our neighbor’s property as if we owned it.

Spring is nice. But I can’t say that I love one season more than another. I feel like each one has its beauty and each one brings with it echoes and anniversaries of wonderful and also painful memories. So I don’t usually look forward to spring any more than the other seasons. And this year in particular, I have been resistant to its charms. Winter has been especially wonderful, and I haven’t wanted to see it end. It has been a season of calm and renewal and hope and beauty, and I wish all of that would continue. I fear that with spring’s arrival winter’s joys will disappear.

But despite the nor’easter we got hit with this week, spring has officially arrived and there’s nothing I can do to stop it! And I’m already beginning to fall prey to its charms. The light is so clear and bright! There is a smell of freshness in the air. There is a feeling of coming to life all around me, like nature is quivering with excitement and about to burst open.

And I have to wonder. Maybe all the peace and calm I experienced over the winter was simply preparation to a great blooming that is coming in spring! In a few days I know I will start seeing the bright green of new buds on the trees. The ground will thaw and soak up all the melting snow. We will shed our heavy coats and our socks (always the first to go for New Yorkers–we love to show off a good pedicure) and hopefully a few pounds. Many of us will start sneezing and itching and losing our voices. (I’ve been taking allergy medicine for weeks already.) The baby birds and squirrels and skunks and (please God, NO!) mice will emerge as the world springs to life all around me. And then the flowering trees will burst to fullness and hang heavy with colorful, fragrant blossoms.

And maybe then I will join them, and all the peace and joy I’ve cultivated over the winter will blossom into fullness and blessings and happiness…

I don’t know. But I’m already looking for the signs.

 

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Purple crocuses at my parents’ house

 

 

 

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