When I set out to write my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir I had two reasons in mind. One was to prevent myself from going into a massive depression on the first year anniversary of my second husband Sy’s sudden death, and the other reason was to leave the love stories for Sy’s only biological grandson to read when Robbie became an adult. So I am sure people by now know that A Bird and the Dragon takes my marriage to Sy from the first days of meeting him to the last days of his life. And in those horrible days after the death, adjusting to my new life, I pretty much assumed that our days together were over. What I have found is that the days of physical contact are indeed over but the days of emotional and spiritual connection are strong and well.
I did have some warnings that he was not going to be with me forever but as most people do I turned them away and forgot. It is only looking back that I can see clearly that he was starting that new kind of communication. The biggest warning came in the summer during the time we were living in our summer cottage, between selling or big family house in Nerme, CT and building our dream senior retirement home in Forest North, in Center Town, CT. Sy was always in charge of the big purchases in our lives together: the cars, the houses, the taxes, the securities. I was in charge of those domestic expenses that usually pertained to inside of the house or to the children. We discussed most of these transactions but on this particular day we were driving in the car from our summer cottage to view the new house and out of the blue Sy said to me, “You will need to start saving for a new car.” My mind went around inside my head about three times thinking, ‘That’s not my job it’s yours.’ But I never said a word. Then the next thought was ‘that’s weird.’ But again I said nothing nor ever spoke about it.
In these last almost four ensuing years I have learned that in the first year after he passed he was very distant. I felt all alone and lost most of the time. I was in a new town, in a new house with only one close friend in the community. And he was gone!! But over time I began talking to his picture on my bedside stand at night as I crawled into bed. I’d talk to him and then say good night.
My mother who passed away three years prior to Sy’s passing had a very distinctive body odor. One night when I was crawling into bed, I could smell that smell and so I said, “Hey, Mom, have you come to visit me, too? Did you come along with Sy?” And to him I said, “You can’t go anywhere without her!!” Clear as a bell I got back. “You know she’s afraid to make the journey alone.” Now I have to tell you that Mom adored Sy so this was not such a strange encounter. We three settled down for a few moments together and then they both were gone and I was off to dreamland.
I’ve had other experiences like this with one or the other of them. My Dad has even gotten into the picture a few times, years ago. Right now he is pretty busy trying to keep my mother out of trouble, I’m sure. But all of this is preamble to what happened yesterday.
That day came yesterday when I had to go purchase that new car. And, (no I didn’t get much money saved for the car), but the miles on her were telling me it was time. I talked it over the night before with Sy and he agreed that it was more than time. So the evening before closing down the lights for the night I asked Sy to go
with me next day and just guide me through the process. On the way to the dealership I asked again for him to be around and watch that I made wise choices. I had done my research so had some idea of what I wanted and what I wanted to pay. I got a very nice young man to work with through the purchase; and I have to report that I got my new car for exactly what I had planned to spend, got the car I wanted, and the salesman also guided me to a new insurance company where I will be saving a good bit on insurance. Now when Sy and I were married and involved in doing something big like this it always seemed to go smoothly, like he was my lucky penny. And I guess by reaching through the veil he is still my lucky penny.
I hope those of you who have lost your dear one have some of these same kinds of reassurances that the relationship is not over it has only changed in its physical dynamics. I would love to hear stories like this that some of you may be carrying. Please reach me at my personal email email@example.com.
Those of you who have been lucky enough to procure a copy of my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, know that my nuclear family moved around quite a bit. I must accept the blame. It was my restless foot that created so much of that change. Houses have always held a fascination for me. I am a bit of a dreamer and I can always envision the family that might live within a particular house. Some houses actually call to me that they need love, attention, or they are just very happy with their inhabitants. Maybe it is that preverbal thought that whatever is across the street might be better. Whatever the issues behind this fascination of mine, I have come to realize that houses are actually sacred symbols for the container of our souls. In other words they stand as symbols for all that our bodies hold: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Several years ago, one of my daughters, I think it was Felicia, was coming out of her teenage self-absorption and said, “Hey, Mom, what do you actually do behind your office door with those therapy clients?
Without thinking I said, “I rebuild houses!”
“Yeah, right,” she responded. “And I suppose you use hammer and nails. That’s why we are never allowed to interrupt you when you are with a client. It must be bloody in there!”
We indeed were messing with each other, but actually the analogy of a course of therapy sessions as a process of rebuilding the psychological house that we live in is a good analogy. With Carl Jung’s system of counseling, which I use, we go back to
find the foundation experiences that have wounded the client. You can’t build a house on a foundation that is part brick, part stone, and part concrete. These foundations age and deteriorate at different rates. The same is true of people. If the father was a missing quality in the family of the client, there is a wound there. If the mother was over-protective to the point of smothering, there is a wound. If the children had to raise each other because the parents were too busy, there is a wound. So in fact I go back to look at the foundations and then we build from there—the walls, the second floor, the attic if it is needed and the roof. And yes we put in many windows to let fresh air in and to get a better view of the larger world around the client.
When I went to my first therapy session with Rev. David Eaton, oh, so many years ago, I went because I wanted to tell the therapist how horrible my first husband was and how he hurt me physically and emotionally. What I actually did was cry and talk about the fact that my grandmother had died, and because the day of her funeral was a mix of snow and freezing rain, my mother decided not to tell me, the mother of small children, about the event until after it was over. I cried to Rev. Eaton saying, “I feel like my Grammy is floating around out there somewhere and I don’t know where she is.” (You have met my grandmother, Mary Emma, in other blogs and in A Bird and the Dragon. She will also be in my next book Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long-Term Illness.) As a therapist I now know that I was really telling Rev. Eaton what he needed to know: that I was out of touch with my feminine side and that was why I wasn’t able to make the relationship of a marriage work. In my experience Grandmother stood for those feminine qualities.
These last four years since my second husband, Sy died suddenly, have been difficult. Life is beginning to be much happier but there are still low days. On one of those days I decided to look on Google Maps to see if possibly my grandmother’s
house had survived. She has been gone for a good fifty years. The maps took me right to 9 Gibson Street, in Medford, Massachusetts and there sits the house, still sending out warm waves of recognition to a lonely grandchild. There are changes, but the driveway is still the same and the spare lot to one side where we played as little grandchildren, is still there and you can see where Grammy had the space in the back for her vegetable garden every year until into her late eighties. I sat soaking it all in and the tears streamed down my face. The house is such a representative of the energies that lived inside it; truly a sacred symbol to the heart.
And I want to end this blog with an invitation to come work with me. I am taking on
new therapy clients during the month of October at a reduced rate, down to $60.00 per hour from my usual rate of $125.00 per hour. I do not take insurance since I feel that no one in the insurance world has the expertise to decide how much time each client should be allowed to have. What goes on in any session is between the client and the therapist. If you are interested in taking me up on this special offer, please reach me through my website by going to http://www.jessiemaykessler.com/ and clicking on CONTACT.
Yes, I’m back. I’ve had a month of working on rewriting my second book Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long-Term Illness. We’ve gotten through the first edit and while a second editor takes a look, I must get back to my regular life. It was a vacation of sorts!!
I thought since I’m still showcasing my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, which is a published book, I should tell you that it is available on http://www.amazon.com. In fact you can go to Amazon.com, choose books, plug in my name, JessieMay Kessler and the book will come up. You can look through the pages and read some of the story. It is also available to book stores and libraries at Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and Balboa Press. And while I have your attention, if you do get the book and read it please write a review on Amazon.com. You will find the place to do that on the second page associated with my book. Thank you in advance!!
This week as I get back into routine, I thought instead of my telling you about my book I’d share what others are saying about this quiet, but enlightening little story of invincible love between a second-time-around couple and their five complicated teen-age daughters. This book is actually the third in a series of three memoirs about my life and adventures. Above I mention Sissy, and she is the heroine of what should have been the first book in the series, but then there are publishers’ opinions, while Hunt the Beloved: to Find a Heart is the middle book of the series and has yet to be finished. So keep watching!! You can find all of this information on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com.
The first review I want to share is by Carole A. Scofield and she gives the book a five star rating:
In this divisive world we inhabit today, it was so refreshing to read about a couple who loved each other enough to blend their families together rather than adhering to the “your kids, my kids” approach. How often we hear of possessiveness of one’s own children and jealousy and resentment of the spouse’s children in blended families. In this family, it was all about cohesiveness; so refreshing, as were the anecdotes about the children as they matured and left the nest. The writing reflected warmth and great sense of humor, tolerance, love and understanding. Another strength; was the total honesty, the admitting that not everything or everyone was perfect. All the “warts” were exposed, but not in a negative manner, only to illustrate the fact that they were regular people trying to succeed in the world. Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of the book was the love between the author and her now deceased husband. Although rare in the world today, it is something to strive for. I enthusiastically recommend this lovely book.
Another review that caught my attention was from Necia Stopa who said it briefly but so well:
I truly enjoyed reading JessieMay’s book. It was a real “page turner.” I felt like she was sharing her personal story to me as her audience. I could relate to her personal journey and felt very connected to her trials and tribulations. I’m glad I have this book in my library, as I’m sure I will read it again!
And last but not least by any means, a review by Eva P. Menon:
This is a warm story of a family with many struggles and many triumphs. I loved “spending” a weekend with JessieMay. She is a masterful story-teller. Makes one think you are sharing her life as she tells the story. Great book for a book club to read! Many life lessons one can learn and discuss.
I could go on with the professional review that was done by Barbara Bamberger Scott for the US Review of Books but I don’t want to bore you with my jumping up and down, bragging, and shouting, “Go get this book and read it!” I think you will love it, especially if family in this present chaotic world is important to you.
See you next week with more stories. And if anything in this blog raises questions for you please do contact me.
Before I really get into this blog I want to share that I’m taking the month of August off from blogging, column writing, and many other weekly tasks so that I
can focus on rewriting my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness. I had a forty minute chat with a marketing person last week and he ended our conversation with, “I run into so many writers who are busy writing their second or third book when they haven’t even figured out how to market the first book.” Inside I said ouch, but outwardly I thanked him for his time. (Some of my problem is that people who have read A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir have forgotten to go to Amazon.com, click on the picture of the book which takes you to a second page, scroll down to where you are asked to write a review, and then enter their comments. Fifty reviews or more tend to get other publishers looking at your work.) Unfortunately, I’ve lived with me long enough that when the muses say ‘time to write’ I have to drop everything and go write—brilliant move or stupid. So this is the last My Little Bird Blog until September.
And now you are saying what does that first paragraph have to do with the title, Cats! Cats! Cats!? I’m a Jungian therapist and I do much of my counseling work through dream interpretation. If you are familiar with some of psychiatrist, Carl Jung’s concepts, you know that in dreams the dog represents the masculine energy and the cat represents the feminine energy that is within each of us, regardless of our sexual tag.
As I write stories about the people in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Stories: A Memoir, it is so easy to just write about my daughters but they all live fairly close to me so I have to be careful as to which stories I share. In my book A Bird and the Dragon I paint a lovely picture of a blended family. I now don’t want to upset those precious relationships. So I’m going to talk about the cats each girl seemed to claim in their growing up years. Perhaps these animals were mirrors for the girls or maybe they were the counterbalance.
When my husband Sy and I married, each daughter, with the exception of Felicia, had a cat that came with them. Cora the oldest daughter brought Casey.
Casey was a mature gray and white striped cat and an explorer. I’m not sure how he got to Sy’s previous family but I remember he certainly played the part of the older sibling in our blended family. He was also the first to depart from our lives. Funny or sad, depending on how you look at it, that Cora was also the daughter who would excuse herself from as many family activities as she could. She apparently wanted to cling to the previous family. I tell the story in A Bird and the Dragon of first having to tell her that her cat had wandered down the hill from our house onto the main street below and had been killed. Then I walked with her to the spot where he lay and offered to carry him home. She told me no, Casey was her cat and she would carry him herself. I still have a vivid memory of walking behind her, her sturdy body dressed in a winter jacket, arms outstretched as she carried her precious cargo home. The same acceptance of the inevitable and the fortitude to handle the situation travels with her today. When we got back to the Ugly Green House all the girls came outside while Sy dug a grave for Casey beside the garage, said a few words over him, and we gave Casey up to God.
Next in our line-up is Pussy, May’s cat. She entered our lives back in my first marriage. May was at the age where both Harvard, my first husband, and I felt she needed an opportunity to care for someone beside herself. When we asked if
she wanted a kitty she jumped for joy. I believe Harvard found that the nursery school teacher had two fluffy long haired gray kittens and she was willing to give one up. He chose one of the kittens bringing it home to May. I can still see her hugging, to the point of squishing her new cat, dropping it and jumping up and down in glee, and then picking up and hugging the kitten again. When we asked what she would call the cat she said Pussy. Puss lived a long time and she, too, was a wanderer. One summer Harvard and I had packed up the old Mercedes ready to head to Maine and the cat was also a passenger in that ancient car where the rear seat slipped around. Harvard had a propensity for bargains! Puss was not happy to be a traveler and was making a lot of noise, so we stopped at the Mystand overlook to give everyone a rest. We had gotten out leaving the children with the cat. The back window was open and next thing we heard were the girls screaming that Puss had jumped out. Harvard and I looked for Puss for several minutes while we kept the girls in the car, it being too close to the main highway. In a short while Harvard said, “Well, we have to keep going if we are ever going to get to Maine.” The girls and I were heartbroken but he was adamant.
We had our vacation in Maine and I don’t remember May making much fuss about losing her cat. She still is a bit ‘easy come, easy go’ about things that would tear me apart. It was about two and a half years later when our neighbor called one afternoon and asked, “Didn’t you have a gray long haired cat with a white mark on her chest?” I respond, “Yes, but she ran away.” They said, “You had better come take a look. We have a gray long haired cat sitting in our kitchen.” May and I went to see. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I called, “Puss, Puss?” The cat got up and sashayed over to me. May was on her in an instant. How Pussy got from where she left the car to where we lived is mind blowing because she would have had to cross wetlands and skirt ocean inlets and we were just so glad to have her back. [On the map it doesn’t look very far but I doubt that she marched down Interstate I 95 to get back to us.] Puss was also the cat that when we left the Ugly Green House and built a new home on Lakeview, she would go back to the Ugly Green House. Because we were camping in the backyard of the new house without a telephone (no cell phones yet) the Ugly Green House owners would swing by and ask us to come and get Puss, once again.
Elizabeth was a little girl when we lived in Grows Town and I was still in that first marriage. The front door of our house had the sidelight windows down the side of the door. This fluffy three colored cat would come and sit in the bottom window. I didn’t pay much attention but soon I noticed there were dishes of milk out on the front steps. When I confronted my crew, May pointed to Elizabeth and said, “Elizabeth’s been feeding the cat milk and the dog’s food.”
I confronted Elizabeth and she confessed, “I thought if I fed her she wouldn’t go home again. Can we keep her?”
“No, we can’t keep her. She belongs to a family down the street,” I told Elizabeth.
This went on for a while and the cat sat in our window for much of the time. (Today, Elizabeth is our family’s animal whisper.) Finally, I said to Elizabeth, “If you want to keep her we have to go down to the neighbor’s house and you have to ask the lady if she is willing to let you keep their cat.” Now Elizabeth was my shy child so I was amazed when she agreed to my terms.
We took the walk and Elizabeth manned up and asked the lady if she could have the woman’s cat. The woman hesitated for a moment and then said, “The cat belongs to my daughter who is away in her last year of college. I will have to check with her and let you know; but I think she isn’t going to be able to keep the cat where she is going and if you want her and my daughter agrees, you can have the cat.” I was dumbfounded and Elizabeth was overjoyed. We had to wait a week but by the time the final yes came Elizabeth had already made the cat a bed in her room. When the three colored cat was finally ours I asked Elizabeth what we were going to call her and she responded, “Footsie. She has big feet.” And indeed the cat did have five toes on each front foot and walked a bit like she had on snow shoes. Footsie lasted until we were living on Lakeview and Elizabeth was about to go off to college in Bunker’s Town. The cat contracted feline leukemia and was getting increasingly sick. I pleaded with Elizabeth to let us put Footsie down but Elizabeth said she couldn’t go there. So Footsie held on until Elizabeth was off to college and then I took her to the vet and she gratefully passed out of this world.
Felicia didn’t have a cat growing up. She has made up for it in her adult life but that story doesn’t belong here.
Annie’s cat was supposedly found under the nursery school building and Sy had
to help Annie capture the kitten and bring it home. Impy was also a gray and white striped cat, and friendly, full of energy like Annie. Impy was tormented a bit by the other cats—I guess it is called being ‘low man on the totem pole,’ somewhat like Annie experienced her place in the family. Impy was our “mouser” because someone left a newly dispatched mouse on the front steps of the Ugly Green House for my new clients to step over as they left a session. Hey, life comes and it goes. When Annie was off to college Impy contracted an abscess around his front fang and the infection passed up into his brain. It became the humane action to have him put down. All of the cats and the dog, Hobo, which you have read about in a previous blog, traveled to heaven from the back yard of Lakeview, in Nerme, Connecticut. A family is just not a family without their animals! Do you agree?
If you have read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you have met all of my children: Cora, May, Elizabeth, Felicia, and Annie. This week’s blog circles around Elizabeth and a social incident I had with her during her middle years at home with my husband Sy and me.
When I was a little girl and starting out on this long road of learning to socialize I would eventually get my courage up to bring a new girlfriend home for an after school visit. We’d arrive on the big yellow school bus and then I’d bring my friend into the house and back to the kitchen where my mother was ironing at the
old ironing board or starting preparations for supper. I’d introduce my friend to my mother and she would say hello and then offer an afterschool snack. Mother would stop what she was doing, fix the snack, and bring it to the table, all the while making small conversation with my friend. Sometimes she’d even sit down with us as we ate and continue to talk to my friend. After a while I became frustrated, and I suppose jealous, that my mother was so easily social while I struggled.
After a few years I learned that I could bring my friend into the front hall, drop our books on the bench there, and race up the front stairs to my bedroom. In a bit I’d find out what my friend wanted for a snack and go to the kitchen to get it, returning with a feast in hand. I’d managed to bypass my mother and I still had my friend’s undivided attention.
Now let’s fast forward to my daughter, Elizabeth. She also had some trouble
learning the ways of making friends and entertaining them. She would bring a girlfriend into the kitchen to meet me. I’d say hello and how nice it was to meet the young lady and then go back to whatever I was doing in the kitchen, all the while allowing the girls to go about getting their own snacks. One day when Elizabeth was a junior in high school she came to me and asked, “Why don’t you like any of the friends I bring home?”
I was stunned. “I like your friends, Honey. What makes you say that I don’t like them?”
“Well, every time I bring a friend home you say hello and act like you’ve got too much work to do and so don’t say much of anything to them. It looks like you don’t like my friends.”
At that point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I chuckled and that made Elizabeth ever more annoyed. “Honey, there is a reason that I don’t spend a lot of time chit-chatting with your new friends.” And then I told her the story of feeling as if my mother stole all my girlfriends away from me until I figured out how to bypass her with the different kitchen routine.
I’m not sure if Elizabeth missed the point of the story or not but she replied, “But I want you to like my friends!”
You see, we try to cure the problems we had in our childhood so that our children won’t suffer what we suffered, only to find out that they want something completely different. It seems like we mothers can never win with our teenage children. Maybe boys are different. I only got to raise girls (see below) and later on, one grandson. What about you? Do you try to heal a sore spot in your history only to find that there is almost an opposite need in your child?
My youngest daughter Annie, whom I hope you have already met in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, comes about once a month to my home “to get me back on track” as she puts it; a job she has been doing since her father, Sy, died almost four years ago. I also hope you have read the chapter in A Bird and the Dragon entitled “The Shoe Box.” In brief that story is about Kermit, the frog, and how fond I was of him. On the particular visit that started this whole train of thought, Annie produced me with a framed picture of Kermit sitting on a stool in a thoughtful pose. The caption reads “Have you ever just sat and thought…Damn, I’ve been through a lot of shit.” In truth I have been through a lot but I got to thinking, what pulls me out? Immediately the response came, “It’s the bread crumbs on the path.” The origin of the bread crumbs on the path comes from the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Hansel, in an effort to save him and his sister, drops bread crumbs along their path so that they can find their way back home from the great forest where their father has left them to die.
If I go way back in my life, I have to take you into what will be my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness and the fight I had with Carol Simpson. If I hadn’t had that horrible fight on the school playground I never would have had the meltdown that showed my mother I was a very sick little girl struggling with the rigors of first grade. It turned out to be rheumatic fever and I’ll leave the rest for you to read, when the book is published. But that fight was really the bread crumbs for my first intersection in life.
Later on in time, I was in seventh grade and still somewhat of a gangly blond with a fear of most everything. We had a substitute teacher one particular day and my classmates virtually made mincemeat of the poor lady. That story will likely be in another book that I’m working on entitled Hunt the Beloved: To Find a Heart. The upshot of that event is that the boy who sat in front of me at the front of the classroom, Ray, was there because he was one of the troublemakers in the class and I was not. In the melee of the substitute teacher’s classroom, Ray asked me to go out with him. My mother actually let me go with him on a double date. It was my first date and my introduction to boy/girl affairs. None of the other girls in the class were dating and it made me feel more grown up and special. More bread crumbs—something that changed my life forever.
In high school I was at a town dance and sitting, as I always sat, with the girls that weren’t dancing. I prayed fiercely that someone would come and ask me to dance. One boy finally did. And then a second boy came, but this boy had a message from someone else (a boy named Tino, also an important person in the manuscript Hunt the Beloved) who wanted to dance with me. I told the second boy to go back to his friend with the instruction that he had to ask me himself. Tino did come and ask me to dance and my life took another right angle turn. When I stepped into Tino’s arms it was as if I were home again. More bread crumbs.
Later, I’m out of college and I’m invited to fill in with a friend of my hometown minister for a dinner date and a Church Maundy Thursday service. The friend was Rev. Harvard Lesser, whom you’ve heard about in A Bird and the Dragon. This time the birds came and ate up most of my bread crumbs; and when my insides were saying something is off, I said, “Oh, No, it’s not,” and married the minister.
The next event was when Rev. Lesser and I were trying to have children. After
surgery and taking on a foster child, I was able to conceive and hold on to the baby. She arrived and I was consumed by a fear that I would lose her and so asked Harvard for another baby. The second baby came fifteen months later and is my faithful Felicia. (I now know from doing past life work that the fear of losing the first baby, Elizabeth, was based on a past life experience and so the second daughter was very much needed.) These strange urges and these unexplainable knowings are part of the bread crumbs of my life.
It has taken a long time for me to recognize that when I’m at a junction in my life I pray for my God, to show me the bread crumbs on the path. Sometimes they are pretty hidden in the grass, sometimes the birds get a few of them, but sometimes they are so clear I don’t have to fear where I’m going.
With age I am quicker to see where the path is leading and sometimes that it looks like a long journey to I don’t know where, but I do know that I always have those breadcrumbs to show me my way home, if I will just ask for them.
How about you? Have you had bread crumb events in your life at junctions when you didn’t know what to do or when your life took an unexpected one hundred and eighty degree turn?
For those of you who have already read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you may have come away with the impression that we ran a fairly well-oiled machine of a family, with only a few glitches. Well, to give a little balance to that scenario–mixing it up–I’ve got more stories on the girls. I told you in one of my recent blogs that I had planned over two years ago to leave my beautiful senior community home and find a less expensive living situation. To that end I packed up most of my books, picture albums, and excess kitchen stuff and was storing these boxes in the garage. I don’t know what happened but about two months ago I got the message loud and clear, from wherever those messages come from, to take the house off the market and start unpacking my treasures. I’ve been doing that and have found all the old family albums. And the pictures trigger memories, so you are in for more stories.
The chapter in A Bird and the Dragon about May paints her as if there were never any good times or fun/frustrating times in our mutual lives. One of the pictures that I came across recently shows a group of our girls lined up on the side of the swimming pool that we added to the back corner of the Ugly Green House. May has her hand above two of the girl’s head in the V, the bunny ears sign, while the garage roof looms behind them. It wasn’t until all the girls were adults and it was either Annie or Felicia who saw the picture again and said, “Yeah, whoever took the picture didn’t know that May had climbed up onto the roof of the garage and dove into the pool.” New news to me!! My mother must have been babysitting at the time so that we could have a long weekend away. I chose at the time of the confession not to ask if any of the other girls had gone off the roof. There were no broken necks so I’m assuming the others stayed on the firm deck.
During much of that summer the girls and their friends were in the pool. I could look out over the scene from my open kitchen window as I washed dishes. The girls used to play Marco Polo at the top of their lungs. I can remember one day saying to myself, “If they scream Marco Polo one more time I’m going to go out there and murder every one of them.” It didn’t happen—they screamed but I didn’t murder. But to counterbalance this story my mother was visiting, and with the setup of where the pool was in relationship to the inside of the house, the girls had to march through my kitchen to get to the downstairs bathroom. (At least they used the bathroom!) My mother was drying dishes as I washed and was watching the parade of children marching by from time to time. Finally she pointed to one child and said, “Do you know who that one is?”
“No,” I answered. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before, but at least my girls and the neighborhood kids are in my backyard under my watchful eye. That’s what really counts.”
She nodded and didn’t say another word about the sloppy wet kitchen floor or the noise from the back yard.
And now I’m going to finish with another May story. May had finally moved in with us after her year of living with her father and had taken possession of the bedroom
we had built for her in the basement. She was fourteen by now and was smoking cigarettes. I grew up with a mother who smoked and stopped at age forty. So I had no use for cigarettes and for an underage daughter thumbing her nose at me with her smoking. This particular day I caught the smell of cigarettes coming from her room and marched down to catch her in the act. When I got there the cigarettes seemed to have vanished but the smell told me that it had happened very quickly. I confronted her and demanded she hand over the cigarettes. She told me she didn’t have any and by now she was sitting on the bed watching me to see what I might do next. Of course I didn’t believe her so I started looking by picking things up and opening draws. I pulled stuff out from under the bed. (There is always stuff under the bed with a teenager.) I made her turn out the pockets on her shorts and continued to demand she hand over whatever she had left. By now I was beginning to feel slightly silly and so I told her that we weren’t done yet with this topic and I marched back upstairs.
Come Monday morning, Maria, my cleaning lady, arrived to clean the house. She often started in the lower basement room and so I went down and poured out my frustration to her. She smiled at me, walked to the center of the room, reached up with one hand to lift the ceiling tiles, and pulled out the pack of cigarettes. She turned, handed them to me, and said, “Be patient with her. I was a May once and it took me a long time to get beyond it.” Surprising how wise counsel comes from some of the most unexpected places.
The reason that I’m writing this Little Bird Blog is to share stories that are not in my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir; and if not stories then thoughts and ideas I have during the week that relate back to the people in the book. As I was thinking about the fact that this is the Fourth of July weekend coming up I remembered the fireworks and then the light parade. Okay, now I have to explain.
I wondered to myself why we have fireworks for the fourth of July. And then it hit me that they simulate the noise and thunder of cannon being fired and the smoke that the soldiers experience in war. The fourth of July is our memorial celebration of this Nation’s intention to become independent, allowing us to be free thinkers. We fought hard for that right. So now what about the actual celebrations?
When I was a little girl, four maybe five years old, my mother, Jordan Elizabeth would see to it that we all went to the town display of fireworks. I was so frightened and my mother loved them so much that I had to sit between her knees and suffer through it. She would take her blanket and put it over my head and tell me to cover my ears that it soon would be over. But she loved them so much I could hear the “Ahs!” and “Ohs!” as fireworks thundered on in spectacular display. Of course I had to peek. And later as I got older I didn’t need the blanket.
Now, we fast forward to my children and grandchildren. The early years with my first family are such a blur you’d have to ask the children how we celebrated. But much later when they were grown up and gone Sy and I would step outside our door
on Honey Lane, in the senior community in Nerme, Connecticut where the elevation was high enough that we could see the fireworks being set off on the beach a mile away from the street in front of our house. Since we were the first to move into that community it took our neighbors time before they figured out why we were standing in the middle of the street. Soon we all brought out lawn chairs to watch. That way we didn’t have to fight the traffic down by the shore. The best of all worlds; except we missed the ground displays.
As you will read in A Bird and the Dragon we moved from Honey Lane to an old duplex in the center of Nerme when we invited my daughter, Felicia and her husband, Chris, to come with their children to live with us. Annabelle, this snuggly old house was a block back from Main Street and two blocks from the beach. We could gather up our blankets and flashlights, lawn chairs and nibbles, and sneak through the back fence onto Main Street. It was a short walk from there to the open
field to the left of the beach and just behind the Episcopal Church. Everyone spread out their blankets and pillows. The snacks were plentiful and the kids could yell and scream as much as the neighbors would tolerate. From here we could see the ground displays as well as the heaven sent fireworks. And the best part was we could walk home while the cars struggled. Some of the smaller children in the neighborhood group were tired by now and wanted to be carried. Poor Markey Mark, one of my Cavalier King Charles dogs had to wear his Thunder Shirt even though he was two blocks away safe at home. Cara Cozy the other dog was her composed self through it all.
But the fun times weren’t just in the summer. Nerme has a tradition of what they call the Light Parade that is celebrated early in December. All the merchants from the town and neighboring towns round up whatever floats they can find and then
decorate them with marvelous themes. These are advertisements for the businesses or representations of Christmas stories done with lots of colored and blinking lights. The school marching bands play as the riders on the floats throw candy to the children. Because our home was only a block back from the street, Felicia would make up a giant thermos of hot chocolate, pack a can of Reddi Whip or Marshmallow with a spoon and sometimes we’d bring cookies as well. Once we got there we’d set up our lawn chairs in the driveway of the bank, wrap ourselves in blankets and wait for the parade to start. The first year we did this Nicole, my upstairs granddaughter, was only two. And for some reason she decided that she did not want to wear mittens nor gloves or anything on her little hands. Felicia tried to get Nicole to pull her arms back into her jacket sleeves to protect those hands but Nicole was not buying it. She’d protest and fling the mittens off. –Now, those hands shape beautiful sculptures. Who would have guessed?!!
Isn’t it interesting that we as a people choose lights and loud noise to help us celebrate the longest days of the year and then again the shortest days of our year. Both activities create a feeling of excitement and magic. Although with the blanket over my head at four I didn’t feel the magic—except maybe radiating from my mother’s joy.
What are your traditional Fourth of July family celebrations?
Lobster and corn on the cob
or potato salad and hot dogs? It is indeed fun to reminisce.
When you read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you will discover that Sy, my then husband and I took our daughters to many different places in an effort to help our two families blend into one family by building new common history. So when it came time to babysit the grandchildren the pattern was already established and we took Andrew and his sister Nicole to many different places. Andrew had a love of history and Nicole a love of art so we tried to alternate our adventures so that each child would have a chance to experience the things that stirred each of their hearts.
About a year before Sy passed away we decided to go to Concord Massachusetts, a
town not too distant from the town in which I grew up, and investigate to see what we could learn. This of course was a trip for Andrew. We wound up investigating the family burial plot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The children wandered around looking at the various family headstones and Nicole suddenly called out, “Gramma, wasn’t your grandmother named Mary Moody?”
I responded, “Yes, she was but why are you asking?”
“Because there is a Mary Moody buried here in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s graveyard.”
I said, “You’re kidding!”
“No, I’m not. She’s right here. Come see.”
I did go and look and there was the name but it couldn’t be my grandmother because the dates were off. Some other person investigating the gravesite overheard us and said, “Maybe you should go to the Emerson House and take the tour. They could probably explain if there is a connection.”
Now the children were ready for a treasure hunt. We went to the Emerson Memorial House and took the tour. There was an historical guide explaining and pointing out important features of the house. At one point Andrew got close to the docent and said, “I think we may be related to Mr. Emerson.” The docent replied that he couldn’t help us with that but there was a family tree in the gift shop that we could buy and the person there might be able to help us with our investigation.
We bought the family tree and still were having trouble when the shopkeeper came and asked if she could help. We told her that we had found a Mary Moody in the family burial plot but the dates were wrong. She said, “Well Mary Moody, the aunt of Ralph Waldo, had a great uncle Joseph Moody, a minister and he was known as Handkerchief Moody.” I nearly gasped, because I had been brought up hearing all about Handkerchief Moody, and that we were directly related to him.
Andrew didn’t miss my intake of air. “What is it Gramma?” he asked.
“Well, Honey, what the lady just said means that you and your sister Nicole are related to Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
“Are you sure?” Andrew asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. My grandmother, Mary Emma Moody used to tell me all about her people that came over from England and how they settled in New England, and among them was a minister who accidentally shot a man, and as his penitence he wore a handkerchief over his face because he felt he was not fit to be seen by God with an uncovered face.”
“Wow!! We’re related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The man in the house said he was a big writer!”
“Indeed he was a great writer, a great thinker, a social engineer, and a supporter of
the people of his time.”
“And he lived in this house?!”
“Yes, he did.”
“Boy is my teacher going to be surprised when I take that family tree and show her that I’m related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have to have the family tree because otherwise she’ll think I’m just making it up.”
“No, you’re not making it up, Honey, and you have to remember that your sister Nicole is also related.”
“Yeah, I know!”
When we walked back to the car that afternoon I swear that both children had a bit of a swagger. It is very important to know that you have important people who have broken the path before you and that you too have the genes and potential to be an important contributing member of our society.
Have you ever had something similar to this happen to you?
As a therapist who writes about psychological issues I have to make the decision: do I use client material or talk about my family members to illustrate issues. Since most clients come because they have been badly hurt one way or another in their families of origin I would be violating and re-wounding them to use their experiences. So…my grown children graciously have allowed me to use some of their material to illustrate concepts from time to time. You may or may not know that the girls’ names have been changed in my book The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. This gives each daughter a little privacy.
it took to release the charge. I have a hard time forcing someone to re-experience that kind of pain and so I backed away, but during the training I was required to do a lot of regressions with my fellow students. The upshot is I have experienced lives with all of my children including the adopted daughter and my step-children. Most amazing and informative! Let me share at least one of these stories. These stories have helped me better understand why my children respond to me in the ways that they do. Remember, I said at the start of this blog that past life informs present relationships.
The past life story scene opens with me as a very young wife standing at the door of a hallway and I am about to hand a bowl of hot soup to Whitley Dresser, the man who was our psychic reader in the book store, Merlin Books, that we owned in this present lifetime. In the story he was old and cranky and miserable to live with. He took the bowl of soup, and as it was too hot for him, he threw it in my face. I was hurt and outraged. When I could get away, I went to see my father who had arranged this marriage to this much older man. I told him how cruel my husband was and that I wanted to leave and come home. Life was terrible. He soothed me as best he could but told me to stay, that the old man would not live too much longer and then I would be financially well off. I grudgingly did what my father insisted I do.
Sure enough, death came after not too long a time and I was free and well to do. There was a young lawyer whom I had seen driving a single horse drawn cabriolet down our street in Paris, France and I loved the way he handled his horse and the gleam of his shiny black carriage. Soon we happened to meet and eventually married. The lawyer was Sy Kessler in this life. It was a rewarding life and we had a daughter and a son. Our time together was peaceful. As the children grew older I had less responsibility and so I began to write. I was rather good at writing and began to have my material published in the manner of the day, under a pseudonym name. I joined other writers and became enthralled with the accolades and the attention. Something made me think that I would have more exposure in England and so I left Sy and my home in France and went to England to pursue my career. My daughter (Elizabeth in this life) denounced me for leaving her father and I never saw her again after I left France. The son (Felicia in this life) was a bit more forgiving and would come once and again to see me in England. I actually did not fare well in England and died alone in a garret room of tuberculosis. I never saw Sy or Elizabeth again in that life.
Now the connections: When Whitely Dresser came to ask me for a job at Merlin Books I rejected him almost immediately. It was only after I could not get the man out of my head, something about him was familiar, that I asked him back to do a psychic reading for me. And as I say in the book, A Bird and the Dragon, he became the backbone of our store. Positive payback?!!
Next, Sy always told me that if he had not become an engineer because he was told that it was lucrative, he had wanted to be a lawyer. And even took some courses for a while after we were married to become a paralegal but found what he would be doing to be too boring.
In this life, when I asked Elizabeth’s father, the Rev. Harvard Lesser, for a divorce she simply turned away from me. As a child she was very close and in the book I refer to her as my apron strings child. This was crushing for me and doing this regression helped me better understand. She also in this life grew to be close to Sy and when he died she was tied up at work, did come to the memorial service, but skipped the casting of his ashes because she wanted to remember him as he was.
Felicia was a boy in the regression story but she was the son that stood by me in that story and she is the daughter in the present time story that stands beside me. She has even offered to be my caregiver when that time comes—similar to the regression story.
All of this past life work makes me believe there is much more to our existences here on earth than we see on a day to day basis. There are many other dimensions to us and to our world if we would but dare to explore.