Letter #3: Happy Birthday, Gramma!

Dear Gramma,

Tomorrow would have been your birthday.  I had a dream of your birthday or maybe it was a memory of your last birthday.  I saw you blowing out the candles and laughing.  If only it were that easy to wish you back.  I’m afraid I’m going to forget your laugh, your scent, the particular bend of your fingers.

In the hospital, you were so sure you’d be home for your birthday.  I remember my eyes welling, threatening to spill over onto your bed.  I didn’t know how to tell you I didn’t think you’d be going home again.  Instead I swallowed the lump in my throat and kissed your hand, telling you I hoped you’d be home for your birthday, too.

And you are home.  Home among hosts of angels and saints.  Home with Grandpa.  Home with your mother who gets to be with you on your birthday for the first time in stacks of decades.

Yesterday I was deleting numbers from my phone.  Numbers no longer in service.  Numbers of friends who have faded into people I once knew.  I came to your number, my finger hovering above the red delete button.  I couldn’t press the button.  Silly, I know, but I couldn’t.

I’d like to call and wish you happy birthday tomorrow.  I’d tell you about riding my bike with Pete and how proud I was when he crossed the finish line.  I’d tell you how well Terry is doing.  You’d no doubt tell me that he just gets better and better looking.  I’d agree, smiling at your love for him.  I’d tell you crazy stories from this wild year of teaching and we’d laugh.

But tomorrow my finger will just hover over your phone number.  Tomorrow I will cry and plumb my memories for happy times, like when I sat on your lap on our trip together, my arms and legs sticking out all over.  You said I was never too big to sit on your lap.  Not to point out the obvious, Gramma, but I was too big, way too big for your small lap.  But I didn’t care.  And neither did you.  You always had room for me and for that I’m grateful.

Happy birthday, Gramma.  I wish we were celebrating together.  I miss you terribly and I love you.  I love you so much.



The Auntie Diaries: Happy Birth Day, Aiden!

Dear Aiden,

It’s your Birth Day today.  For reasons beyond my understanding this is not technically your “first birthday”.  Even though it really is.  You were born on the most perfect day.  At around one in the morning your dad sent me a message saying they were on the way to the hospital because you were finally ready to see the world.

I got the message from your daddy and probably responded with a “afhoighyerhjans” because I am always very coherent in the wee hours of the morning.  What I meant by “afhoighyerhjans” is that I said a prayer for you to begin your life happy and healthy.  I laid awake breathing in the scent of summer rain.  I wondered when you would take your first breath.  I wondered if you’d be lucky enough to catch the same scent of rain.  All night long I awoke to the steady tap of rain dripping from gutters.  Each time, I checked to see if there was a message proclaiming your arrival.  The veil of night gave way to morning sun and the rain slowed to a mist.

At 6:59 am, your mom ushered you into the world.  Your daddy called me a little while later to tell me you were healthy and that your mommy birthed you naturally.  She is a strong woman, your mom, a fact you will surely appreciate many times in your life.

I came to meet you this afternoon.  You were asleep and kept flinging your blanket off.  Swaddling is not for you, almost like you’ve been cooped up too long and just want to stretch out.  Your mom wasn’t wearing a stitch of make-up and her hair was pulled up with curls escaping here and there.  She looked beautiful and happy with you by her side.

You are surrounded by people who love you and I thought I’d give you a heads up on some of us.  Your daddy knows everything about cars and will teach you as you grow up.  Your mommy is selfless, always putting her family before herself.  Your brother is awesome at kicking a soccer ball and I imagine the two of you playing many games together.  In case you need a laugh, your brother does a side-splitting impression of a duck.

Your Uncle Terry knows everything about sports.  He is convinced kids don’t like him, but you two will get along perfectly, especially if you root for the Chargers.  As for me, I love to read and write.  You’ll live among piles of books upon books upon books.  When you’re a little bigger we will go to the park to look at bugs, dig in the dirt, zip down the slide, and talk about all the things we see.

It’s going to be a great life, Aiden, full of joy, full of love.  Happy Birth Day, sweet nephew of mine.


Auntie Alicia

Death By Chocolate Cake

I haven’t ridden my bike in almost two weeks.  I have a litany of excuses related but not limited to a pencil stabbing and birthday cake.

I am exhausted from the first week of school.  This week is usually completely tiring, even when all goes well.

All did not go well.

In the span of one week my precious students dealt me 2 bouts of vomit, 1 rush of pee on the playground, 1 pencil stabbing, 1 punch in the face, and a long string of profanity.

I’m going to have to dig down deep this year.

My body tends to tell me when it’s time to rest by getting sick.  I woke up Saturday with a bit of a stomach bug.  I laid on the couch and watched a lot of bad tv.  Sunday I woke up with fever aches, but by Sunday afternoon I was feeling well enough to go to the grocery store.

My step-dad, Chris, has been taking amazing care of my mom as she recovers from eye surgery.  Sunday was his birthday and I wanted to do something nice.  Since I love my step-dad, I didn’t bake for him.  No, I bought him a shimmering quadruple chocolate monstrosity of a cake.

As I carried the cake and an armload of groceries from the car to the house, I noticed that the washing machine had leaked all over the garage for the second time that weekend.  I stepped carefully because flip-flops do not have the greatest traction.  I’d almost made it to the door when my feet slipped.  I held the cake aloft.  Oh no, oh no, please don’t let me ruin the cake.  Wait, please don’t let me hit my head or ruin the cake.  No, wait, please don’t let me hit my head, rip the seat of my pants or ruin the cake. With a thud and a weird “Oof” of air, I landed squarely on my tailbone.  Pain shot up my back.  I cringed.  What about the cake?  What about the cake?

I peeked in the bag and to my great relief the cake stared back at me in perfect condition.  It’s all about priorities, people.  

Tailbones heal.  Cake does not.

And so there it is, my list of excuses as to why The Rocket is in the garage, stewing with Frank.  That’s never good.  I’ll ride soon and I hope that when I do, The Rocket will forgive me without demanding penance for my inactivity or for the divine piece of chocolate cake I inhaled.

Summer Top Ten

It’s late at night and Letterman is on, so, here we go Top Ten style.

The Top Ten Reasons I’m Giddy For Summer

10.  I’m hoping to re-vamp my backyard a little bit so it feels more like an oasis and less like a slab of cement surrounded by dead plants.

9.  I’m heading to the NCWP Summer Institute again.  That means new ideas, new people, and time to reflect on my practice as a teacher.  Not to mention regular doses of Jon & Bon’s frozen yogurt.  Mmmmmm…

8.  After two weeks at the Institute, Terry and I head to Alaska with four of our friends.  We will mountain bike to justify eating unholy quantities of delicious food.  Then we’ll take a zipline ride and throw it all up.

7.  Fourth of July will announce that it’s birthday week for Terry and I.  I heart fireworks.

6.  On my birthday I head to Southern California to hang out with a few hundred of my favorite high schoolers, not to mention some of my dearest friends at Western States.

5.  I fly from Southern California to San Jose where I will meet up with Terry and The Rocket to ride 100 miles and show cancer exactly what I think of it.

4.  A few days later I fly to Arizona to participate in The Writing Project’s National Retreat where I will soak up as much knowledge as I can in hopes that this bear of little brain can retain some of it.

3.  Five of my nieces and nephews will be spending a month in Redding.  I can’t wait to squeeze, kiss and snuggle them all, especially the boys who pretend to hate all that mushy love stuff.  Deep down they love it.  Deep, deep down.

2.  In August I’ll sit down for a second in my new and improved oasis, surrounded by dead plants, and laugh at the fact that I’ve once again failed to cure my brown thumb.

1.  Terry and I will celebrate another year together.  The best compliment I’ve ever received came in the form of two little words: I do.  The fact that he still does makes my heart full.