Ride or Die

Many of you know that in the last couple of years I lost my two best friends – the best of the best. These were the friends I’ve known since 3rd grade, which translates into 47-49 years. More than friends, they were my closest sisters.

Joni and Velda were an intimate part of all of my childhood secrets, my teenage blunders, my twenties relationships, my marriages, my children, my jobs. For a long time I could imagine us as “old” friends still hanging out in our 70’s and 80’s. Still enjoying each others company, still causing havoc, still laughing, still there to answer the phone at 3 am, to open the door in the middle of the night, to offer a hand, a shoulder, a dollar. And even though they have both gone on, I still imagine.

I hope it’s understandable that for more than a moment I felt really alone after Velda passed. When Joni died, as much as it broke my heart, I still had Velda. And when I thought I couldn’t hurt any more, my mom died, but I still had Velda. But when Velda died…

Jokingly (not really), I told my husband that he would have to step up and be my new best girlfriend. To his credit, he is seriously trying to fill that void and I love him for that. Recently though, I had a revelation. It wasn’t a surprise to me really, just a realization about something I had not looked at in this way before.

I had the pleasure of visiting with some other friends not long ago. Some old friends actually. These are friends that I don’t see often or talk to on a regular like I did with Joni and Velda. But when we got together it was familiar, fun, and special. And I was reminded that these friends watched my children grow up and I theirs. Somehow, it just occurred to me that Angie has been my friend for close to 30 years, and Lori has logged 23, Verona 15, Dietra about 20. There’s Brenda and Rita for at least 36 years and Michelle too, who has been there from the very beginning. I am so blessed to have so many more people who have lasted through the decades. I hope I am as good a friend to them as they are to me.

One thing I know for sure is that my old secrets are forever safe with Joni and Velda. Still, I wish we had more time to ride.

Counting my Riches – Mother’s Day 2015

angel's wingDespite thousands of commercials and signs everywhere I still somehow managed to let Mother’s Day sneak up on me.

Hubby and I were vacationing in Florida last week and while there I met a white woman who happened to be from my home town. She didn’t live in my neighborhood but she worked there. When I told her the name of the street I grew up on she stated very matter-of-factly, “Oh, youse lived over there, your people had money!” Funny, I don’t remember it that way.

What I remember is growing up with a woman who had strong morals and work ethic and with a heart so big I have nothing to compare it to. I remember a single mother who worked every day to take care of her children and very often one if not all of her five brothers. I remember standing in food lines to get our bag of groceries – you know the one that had that good Government cheese in it. I briefly remember food stamps.

We were, however, “rich” in other ways.

I can remember mom pulling out her sewing machine to make clothes for my Barbie doll and kneeling with her beside the bed to say my prayers. I remember how she twisted her left hand on paper turned sideways when she taught me how to write right-handed. I remember when she was the cook who could make a meal out of anything and I was the baker, making cookies and cakes from scratch, beating the batter by hand. I remember the etiquette lessons as a teenager, how to stand tall, sit like a lady, walk with head held high. I remember how often she told me that I could do anything I wanted to do and be whomever I wanted to be and she made sure I had the education and skillset to accomplish just that.

It’s true my brother and I did attend 12 years in tuition-paid parochial schools. I never remember being hungry. There were always presents under the Christmas tree and always cake and gifts for our birthdays. But what I remember most, money didn’t buy.

My mother was my biggest supporter and my loudest cheering section. I remember all the times she told me, “It’s ok, everything will be all right,” and “You can do it.”

She was my toughest opponent. I remember when I couldn’t take her anymore and I just had to get out, be on my own.

She was my greatest ally. I remember coming home again and again and again… until it was her turn to come and live with me.

It’s been 7 months since mom passed and this will be my first Mother’s Day without her. I haven’t even thought about the gift I would have given her if she were here. Probably something silly since we are long past fancy and elaborate. She wasn’t a fan of flowers in the house so potted plants was the “go to” gift after homemade gifts had run their course. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have been able to give her diamonds and furs before returning to homemade when she received original paintings from me, but we’ve since both reached the age where a simple phone call would lift our spirits and warm our hearts because the other stuff wasn’t important anymore.

So, this is it. In the last 7 months I’ve survived Thanksgiving, Christmas and her birthday – November, December, January – all in a row. Then there was Valentine’s Day in February, my birthday in March (thank God for a reprieve in April). But here it is May and yes, I’m a little snot-nosed and red-eyed as I write this but my momma left me rich beyond even my dreams, so I know I’m going to get through this as well. No, my people didn’t have money. We had momma.

Remembering Joni

Today is such a beautiful fall day. For me the perfect temperature and a nice mix of sun and clouds that give the sky character and makes me yearn to be outdoors; a painter’s (or photographer’s, or poet’s) dream.  I’m glad I got a chance to enjoy it before it turns into yesterday – and before I know it another year gone. How time flies.

A year ago yesterday my very best friend died. Normally, I would have said that I lost my best friend, but that’s not true. She’s not lost at all. I carry her in my heart and I know she watches over me as she did for more than 40 years.

It’s funny how yesterday came and went and I didn’t give it a second thought. I knew last week that the day was coming. I reminded myself of it again two days ago, and yet this first anniversary came and left and I didn’t think about it anymore until today.   And today I’m not so sad.

I wonder if Joni had anything to do with that clearing of my head?  It is just like something she would do in life. She knew me for 46 years, shared my every wish and hope and dream. If anyone knew how to cheer me up it would be her. Or in this case not allow me to be sad.

I miss her terribly. How can I not?  She is woven into the very fabric of my being and there is not much that I do or experience that I don’t share with her. Only now I do so silently, having cognitive conversations and knowing intuitively her responses.  

I am so grateful for my big “sister” Joni (Joan Elizabeth Smith). My mother’s other daughter, grade school friend, my high school cohort, my children’s Auntie, my confidant, my partner in crime, my BFF, my bud, the peanut butter to my jelly. I could go on, but….

I thought this posting would be longer, filled with remembrances and stories but she’s tugging at me, telling me to get up, get out and enjoy the rest of the day as night falls early now.  I have literally a lifetime of memories and I can tell you stories for the next 40+ years, but right now, the cool crisp air, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, and the enchanting colors of autumn are beckoning me and Joni has given me the OK to go out and play.  

PS: Tell someone you love them today.