The Front Door

We had a large oversized front door at our house on the hill, overlooking the Pacific. It was majestic. It was heavy. It was decorated with large wrought iron bolts and the tiny window was set up high so we could see who was knocking with the large heavy knocker.

We had to slam it to get it to stick shut, otherwise, we would wake up in the mornings and it would be swung open wide. Lizards would sneak in – one time, a raccoon. Sometimes, in the days of “just stopping by”, folks would come to our door unannounced and step in to call our names – because it had popped open through the day. Often we weren’t home and would come home to the wide open door and a note sitting under the doormat.

When it was closed and our guests were leaving, it would stick – it was our duty to escort them to the door, as we should, and jiggle and yank until it opened. A fire hazard, perhaps, but we were all well trained early on how to open and close this door, to get out “in case of emergency”.

A few times, while barefoot, it would fly open due to my tugging, towards my feet, and scrape heavily over the top of my foot due to the few inches gap. There would be bruising, scrapes, blood, crying…and as I became a teenager, curses my parents never taught me – every time. You would have thought I would have learned how to avoid this, but like all of us, sometimes you don’t.

This was back when lemon Snapple was the most coveted drink in the vending machine at school and Murder She Wrote aired on Sunday night TV.

Along with the cursing moments, came an 11pm curfew. The hall light was the signal, when we turned it off, that we were home, and my parents could see and hear it from their bedroom. It also made a loud click, as everything in our house was loud and echoed, just like the closing of the front door. Not only did the light alert them, but so did the loud slam of the front door behind us.

When I decided that 11pm was too early to lock myself in, I would come through a little bit earlier, slam the door behind me, shut off the light.

The turnaround was quick; I’d tip toe back down the stairs barefoot, and hop out of the unlocked french window in the dining room to the front courtyard.

We would lie on the front grass, he would smoke his weed and hold my hand and play with my hair. Sometimes one of us would cry. Sometimes we ate a peanut butter and jelly and chips in the dark and sipped a wine cooler he’d have tucked in the back of the van.

“Have you ever tried to dance to UB40’s Red Red Wine?” we’d mull over.  It’s nearly impossible. It is a catchy song, we love it, sing along, but it is impossible to really dance to.

“Same goes for Sweet Child O’ Mine”  I’d say – and he’d turn to look at me and say incredulously – “You can TOTALLY dance to Sweet Child O’Mine.”  I proved him wrong by pointing out that we NEVER danced to it. We always kept the song on repeat with our feet propped up at the beach in the van, at the highest decibel, right before distortion. If you could dance to it, we would have.

Later, usually around one, two or three, I would sneak back in the French window, with him hoisting me up, both hands under my thighs, followed by a final quick pat on my bum to say goodbye, before disappearing.

I was technically home on time.

Memory Layne
On Taking Photographs

The oversized albums stacked up on the high shelf in the linen closet were hard to reach.

On days where we weren’t going anywhere, we would pull the albums down and drop them heavily, spread them out, and slowly turn the pages – we would start at the beginning, photos of our grandparents, posed in patent leather, full skirts, high cheek bones, sometimes with Hollywood celebrities.  In those days, there were always cameras on hand.

On the back, written in formal cursive, it stated names, the year, and the place. Each and every one documents who, what, when and where. The why was always left unsaid, and the stories through the years changed, are elaborated, more details and secrets erupt the older we got and the more we were able to handle.

We reached our parents’ years. When they met. The shag rugs in the first apartment, gardens, holidays and engagements, were all photographed in faded tones by the time we opened the pages for the first time of the albums, the photographs carrying us through times we would never live, but we lived through on the rainy days, looking through the albums.

Photos of the overstuffed chairs that were once orange, but we know as now covered green – there were generations posed, year after year at Christmas and Easter, documenting births, marriages and deaths.

The excitement grew on albums three four and five…our generation. We could see ourselves as babies, our parents as young parents, grandparents who were not shuffling or hunched over, but alert, alive and able.

So cute, you were so cute – I had to wear the hand-me-downs – so our matching dresses, I wore twice. We were so cute, with home-cut-hair-cuts. Mom was so young. Dad had that bushy beard.

Do you remember that birthday cake? Do you remember the Christmas tree that year, with the electric piano beneath it, the rocking horse, the bikes? 

On the back of a few pages of photos, were the names of third grade classmates, first and last name, it was the first birthday sleepover party. Dad read a ghost story, there were a million presents, much more than if we had just a family dinner party. Barbie dolls, candy, stylish t-shirts, were all gifts, I held them high in each photo as I unwrapped them.

In the teenage years, the hair styles, the cute boys, taking photographs were imperative to prove to ourselves that these moments existed – that we could tape the photos of groups of friends up on our bedroom walls, doing risky crazy things, usually at the ocean. They were snap and shoot. We waited five days for the drug store to develop them, and if half of them came out blurry, we still saved them and considered ourselves lucky for having a few in focus.  We still wrote on the back of each, with the date, place and who was in them, even if we couldn’t see their faces.

Each year, the faces disappeared, either by lack of remembering, even with the handwriting on the back, or because the characters from them had vanished from our lives – shunned, missing, or dead. The good memories are right in front of us, they either make us remember or want to forget, even the good ones in the sunshine, seaside cliffs with loved ones, can make us somber, remembering that it never will be what it was.

Memory Layne
Laundry Room Confession

“What are you eating?” my daughters would ask.

“Broccoli”, I’d blurt out, breathing into the space away from them, because I had just been eating a chocolate bar in the laundry room, under cover.

The quizzical looks on their faces were only fleeting and then they were on to the next thing.

Fritos are the worst to hide. I make note in my junk-food-drug induced haze – no chocolate – no Fritos.

One day they will catch on, or maybe they already did.

I hide the things I don’t want them to find. The gummy bears, Swedish fish, even the cookies, I hide in my top dresser drawer in the bedroom. I learned this from my Nana, her top drawer was filled with hard sour cherry candies and licorice whips – black.

I promote healthy eating, eat your greens, drink water, make sure you have high protein – less sugar. But all the while, I am eating pudding and Hershey’s chocolate kisses in my car after a 7am workout.

You health catches up with you when you’re 40.  Maybe I cried a little over the fat and maybe I lifted my chin to say “I don’t care, pass the cake.” But the most dangerous thing in this house is the laundry room.

Maybe I cried a little over the fact that I had to hide it – the awful realization that I hide these secrets from my children while I make them eat their salad and asparagus.

I’ll tell you though, one Spring day, in the laundry room, I was stuffing a few Mallomars in between loads of laundry (really) and I looked over and I realized, “I keep the wine in here.”

Mallomars are only available in the cooler months – at least they used to be. I would stock up and they would last for months, hidden away, rationed through the Summer. I am sure the shipping and transportation has changed so that the “melting months” are less of a restriction – just last week, I noticed that it was mid-Summer and Mallomars are on the shelves at our local Stop and Shop – and it’s July.

Wine and Mallomars. In the laundry room.

You just can’t hide that.

Memory Layne
I Had Heard He'd Gone Crazy

I had heard he’d gone crazy.

When I walked into the coffee shop this morning, he was standing in the corner wearing white fatigues, at a high top table with a stuffed penguin toy, a sketch pad and headphones covering his ears.

He danced with his hands, almost like he was trying to make shadow figures on the wall, but there was no sunlight, nothing to cast the shadow.

In between, he leaned over, swaying to whatever music was coming through is headphones, or whatever was in his head, and drew ferociously, that’s what is was, fierce and filled with intent. He would use the backside of his hand to smudge it. Draw some more, look at it, and then start spinning around again, dancing, murmuring to himself.

I had heard he’d gone crazy, everyone stayed away from that corner of Starbucks this morning. I made a pass once or twice, to see if there was recognition. He’s been my neighbor. He’s a father. He was her husband. But there was none.

I wondered how he got there. I wondered where the one piece white fatigues had come from, layered with the bright silver down vest.

I was the last in line to have a drink made in the morning rush and I stood there while everybody else stayed away.  I imagined something brilliant going on in his head. I imagined something brilliant on the paper.

When I passed by the outside window to my car, I was able to see it – that there was nothing there.

Memory Layne
The Brightest Light

Night was always when I could be myself the most. When everyone settled down into their rooms with a book, I was left alone with no bible reading, eating of vegetables or dusting the living room blinds.

The television was never on, with the exception of Tuesdays. Strangely, I was afraid of the dark, even though I wanted it to be nighttime, even though it was my favorite time of day, despite the darkness.

My closet’s overhead light was the brightest light in the house, just a naked lightbulb in the ceiling, with a pull chain dangling three feet inside the doorway. To turn it on to check for monsters, I had to step in – before checking for monsters, I had to pull the ribbon attached to the chain.

Upon “cleaning” my room, which was always a last priority but required before bed, my mother would check under the bed to be sure I hadn’t stashed my belongings underneath. She checked the closet, to be sure there wasn’t a pile of “stuff” under my hanging clothes.

It was frequent that I didn’t learn my lesson, over and over again…that stash under the bed was swept out into the middle of the floor and I was instructed to step into the darkness of my closet to turn on the light and put everything away.

Now, I still see my father next to me in the doorway, backing up my neat freak mother, saying patiently over and over again “Just step in and pull the string…you can do it, just do it, there’s nothing there”….

I would stand there arms closed in, convinced he was wrong, fists tight held under my chin, shaking my head “no, I can’t.”

We would go on and on like this, every day that I didn’t put away my things. I wanted to sit in bed with my reading light and books from the Friday library visit. I wanted to soak in the tub. I wanted to listen to my stereo with the big fat headphones and think about the boy on the bus.

But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do the right thing – I couldn’t connect the dots to putting away my things, to the waste of time in standing at the edge of the doorway to the closet, afraid of the dark and the nothingness that sat in there. After minutes that felt like hours, I would hold my breath, scream, jump in and pull the light on.

Dad would smile and say “See?”.

And then I would spend the next half hour before bed, cleaning up my things.

The dread and fear got to a point where I stopped bringing out my things, so that there was nothing to put away.

Many times though, I would cave in. I had wanted that arts and crafts project, I had wanted to play with my dolls and try on all the dress ups and parade in front of the full length mirror on the back of my door. Still, I couldn’t put it all away, so that in the evening, I found myself standing at the edge of the dark doorway, willing myself to reach in and pull that ribbon.

It had to have been years before I could do it on my own, before I could flood my closet with the brightest light in the house without thinking of what might reach out and grab me, that thing that never did.

How did I do it, you ask?

Well, if you sing at the top of your lungs and walk heavily in your boots, it scares them all away, and then you can just reach in and turn on the light.

Memory Layne
On Watching the News

We could tell time on Sundays by the news on the television in the den just off kitchen,  just like we could tell time by the moments we sat down to our family meals.

My sister and I cleaned up the kitchen every night while Mom went through her meal plans for the next day – would she make a pie for dessert – grill on the BBQ? – make spaghetti and try to fool us again by hiding garden zucchini in the sauce again? This was every day stuff, but you know, when you turn on the news, the “every day” became like a dream – unreality AS reality.

In the midst of this, we could hear the nightly news, 60 Minutes, the football game, a recording of Johnny Carson from the late night before.

I cut the chord on cable a few years ago – mainly to save the $105 that was being painfully pulled from my pocket.

The side effects were plentiful.

I no longer had to hear how a person on Nantucket lost their millions because of an embezzler, or a little old lady was writing bad checks at the local grocery, or a celebrity shoplifted…even though they were worth a few mil.

My mom’s friend was caught stealing money from three employers a while back. I did a search online and found she was sentenced to 15 months for wire fraud.

I bet BEING the news is worse than anything.

This little old lady was put away for 15 months in the same prison as Martha Stewart.

Funny thing –  like Martha Stewart, my mom’s friend made the best cakes I’d have ever had.

I don’t want to hear about children missing, or digging up bodies dated 1973 from a quiet man’s back yard.

Byron Page went missing. I found out while watching Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” on MTV three years later. He sat behind me in Spanish II. I had failed out the year before and had to re-take it with an “easier” teacher to be able to graduate that year, despite the rest of my straight A grades.

He stopped showing up to class, and I figured he’d been transferred to the smarter class – because while he was quiet, he was smart.

Every so often, I Google his name to see if he was found. He has yet to be.

On the television a woman is being stalked, someone famous is dying, a commuter on a bike gets hit by a car.

I don’t want to hear this – or the ticking of the 60 Minutes clock – anymore.

Memory Layne
Worst Ever.

Why does scratching an itch feel so good? Not sure, but the more you scratch, the more you itch. When you want to scratch your skin off, it’s ugly - the raking, breaking blood vessels kind of scratching.

At the end of May I thought I had a bug bite on my thigh. It itched. I scratched. I applied Cortisone, tried Benadryl. I wanted to claw my way out of my skin. I lay awake one night in itchy pain, on fire, and crept down to the bathroom to cover it with more anti-itch cream at 3am.

The Boyfriend rolled over towards me in bed and I snapped “DO.NOT.TOUCH.ME”.

They say not to Google symptoms - of anything. They say to go to the doctor, but instead, that night at 3:05 am, I Googled the hell out of the rash that was slowly spreading across my skin.

At first I diagnosed myself with shingles, then poison ivy, then decided it was the new laundry detergent - I shouldn’t have gone with the generic brand just because it was two bucks cheaper. Then I noticed the ring. In a panic I turned on the bright reading light by the bed, lifted a naked leg and pointed, forcing The Boyfriend to put on his glasses and take a good hard look for the tick I thought might be there.

There was nothing. Just ugly itchy red scales and a big fat ring. I was not going to be getting Lyme.

I’d eliminated everything else, there was no mistaking it, I had RINGWORM. I made The Boyfriend put his glasses back on and look for worms. He laughed. Ringworm has nothing to do with worms apparently (I confirmed with Google), but everything to do with fungus, moist heat - bacteria can spread like wildfire. I found that Ringworm is common and you’ve already had it if you had Athlete’s foot or Jock Itch. So pretty. So classy. So sexy. Let me tell you, it’s worse than child birth.

I Googled “How do you get Ringworm?” and tracked it back to a somewhat recent visit to an indoor pool on one of those rainy cold Spring days. Indoors it was hot, humid and smelly. “A locker room is the number way to get Ringworm...” I’m pretty sure the locker room was infested, where I sat on the bench to change with a towel wrapped around my waist, sure the back of my thigh touched the wooden bench for at least a second.

My daughter’s high school graduation was looming, as was work, family coming to stay, and an upcoming beach day scattered in. There was no way I was going to spend my time waiting in a doctor’s office.

Digging out an old prescription cream from last October’s dermatologist appointment was the smartest thing I did - for a sun fungus that made my arms white and blotchy in places, but was otherwise painless and harmless. Laziness worked out well for me, as it remained unused and still on hand. The cream before was for pure vanity purposes; now, it was for survival.

I Googled “Econazole Nitrate Cream”. The first thing listed was the cure for Ringworm (SCORE!)…along with athlete's foot, jock itch, tinea versicolor, and yeast infections. Of course, I figured this to be a great alternative to a doctor’s visit and within a week it started to get better. The ring was vague. The scales had calmed down.

Meanwhile, however, I was still scratching the sh** out of my leg and it had traveled mildly to the other thigh. I lived my days changing sheets, clothes, towels, much like a lice infestation, as Google instructed. I’d spend each day walking around the house in my robe, trying to keep the infection dry and cool. After a shower in the morning, I’d lather up the cream and lie down on the bed in my underwear, laptop on my chest, to let it work its magic before getting dressed. All the while, The Boyfriend had been exclaiming in my ear about how cool to be with a girl with “the crud”…”I’ve never been with a leper before”…simultaneously with being enamored by the fact that he had yet to get it - as we share bedsheets.

I couldn’t stand it anymore and was scared I wouldn’t stay ahead of the healing - the itching was beyond the worst. A message to the doctor’s office begging for an appointment before the end of school year festivities, resulted in a visit the next day. I raced to see a nurse practitioner I’d never met, put my foot up on the bench, boldly hiked up my dress and pointed to my naked inner thigh.

She looked and goes “Hmmmm…I’m not really sure you have Ringworm…”

I spent the next five minutes trying to convince her that it WAS Ringworm - because I had Googled it, used old prescription cream on it, and ultimately, started treating it - and it was so much better - but I was still scared - and “what else can you do for me!?" Meanwhile, she told me it was nice to meet me, wrote a prescription for another tube of Econazole Nitrate Cream, “just in case it’s really Ringworm.”

Twenty five dollars poorer, I drove home invalidated.

When it was time to get dressed for my daughter’s senior banquet that night, I put on a pretty flowing dress. The Winter hadn’t been all that kind and Spanx underneath really topped off the outfit - I strolled out of the house feeling my best. The itch crawled up my thighs as I parked my car at the venue, and I realized I may have made a big mistake. A good yank to the Spanx, I decided to give it some time, went in for photos, visited friends, and sat through a chicken dinner with penne. Through awards and speeches, dying from the pain as the Spanx suffocated my thighs, the Ringworm festered and grew.

Finally, two seconds before standing right there in the middle of the room in front of 200 + people, including my child and ex-husband, and lifting my dress to peel the Spanx off down to my ankles - the banquet ended.

“Give it room to breathe” Google said. “Keep it uncovered”.

Not - “Wear Spanx”.

I am not sure what I was thinking, more concerned with smoothing a little muffin top than promoting the healing from Ringworm. The casualty that night was that I took a few steps backward; now, over a month later, still applying the cream, it is invisible except for the occasional fingernail scratch marks from the random outbreak of itch. Either the Ringworm is still there, or it is just going to be in my imagination for the rest of my life, the raking, breaking blood vessels kind of scratching.

Note: The Boyfriend dared me to write this. I humored him.

Memory Layne
I Don’t Know What I feel like

Every evening, before I left my mom in the Chestnut Hill care facility, I asked what I could bring her the next day. She’d get on the internet and browse menus from the nearby restaurants. By the time I went to bed each night, she’d text me her order…it usually included “add cheese” and “wheat bread if they have it, if not, white is fine” and “if they don’t have it in BBQ flavor, then forget it and just bring me a chocolate shake from McDonalds”.

As time passed, she’d say “I don’t know what I feel like”, much like the standing at the open refrigerator door, having just gone to the market, not quite sure what you feel like eating.

In the beginning, I naturally took her flowers, we chose to have lunch from a restaurant she liked, like Panera or the Cheesecake Factory. Sometimes just a McDonalds chocolate shake would suffice, which I’d pick up on the way at the exit right before Route 9. The Shake Shack became a regular frozen custard/french fries take out meal and I’d finish mine in the mile long traffic at rush hour, heading back to where she was staying.

The last few weeks Mom seemingly got frugal. “Don’t spend your money on me” or “Use my credit card for whatever you want, I will have eggs on toast here….a smoothie”…and it wasn’t long before I realized that she really just didn’t feel like eating anything, as those eggs and that smoothie went untouched.

Her demands the last few days suddenly got stronger. Her breathing was weak and she barely spoke when she was awake. I’d put my ear up to her mouth to hear her breathe out “An everything bagel. Toasted. Cream cheese…one side. Jam on the other.” When I brought it for her, she had changed her mind and it was a “Subway veggie sandwich with provolone, all the veggies, no peppers, no hots with honey mustard dressing”. I sent my guy out to find the local Subway, and was VERY specific in a text to not leave anything out - or add anything. He came back with it in ten minutes, she at three bites, which satisfied us both.

The weekend before she passed away I missed a Sunday. When I left the day before, I told her I would see her early on Monday but I didn’t think she heard me, which was okay, as I felt the natural guilt of needing a day. I hoped she wouldn’t realize the gap.

Through that day she kept looking suspiciously at her Kleenex box and pointing, asking, “what kind of cake is that?”, over and over.

“Would you like me to bring you cake when I come again?” I asked. She nodded like a child. “Chocolate”.

A stop at the Wegman’s bakery section two days later produced the most amazing looking piece of chocolate cake in one of those crystal clear plastic containers, the layers were perfect, the moistness was apparent, it seemed perfectly right for Mom. A gorgeous bunch of supermarket tulips accompanied the cake when I walked into her room that morning.

She grimaced, rolled her eyes at the cake and said “why would I want that?” and then promptly asked for another “everything bagel, toasted, with cream cheese on one side and jam on the other”.

She asked again and again, while her eyes were closed, why I brought that chocolate cake.

“Because you asked for it”.

Eventually she blurts out “yeah, BUT THAT WAS TWO DAYS AGO!”

I guess she noticed I had missed one.

Spending my time there, reading out loud in hopes she could hear, attempting to feed her with a teeny spoon, I also cleaned all the imaginary spots around the room that she would “notice” when her eyes opened for a few minutes. She’d point and gasp out “clean that”…”there’s dust there”….”pick up that corner”, “move those flowers to the other side” and “make the bed”, even though it had been made more perfect than I ever could have done by one of the sweet nurses who cared for her.

The nurses wrote down everything she ate and I’d report how many bites she’d take of the treats that I’d bring in, the salads, the shakes. They’d nod and write it down, as if even the enormous amount of non-nutrients were a feat. I would uncover what she covered with her napkin, trying to hide that she wasn’t eating from them. “They keep track of everything” she said, paranoid. “Why do they do that?”…I didn’t have the heart to tell her they kept track of her bowel movements too, how long she was up at night and how much she slept during the day. I felt like I was “telling on her”, which I was in a sense, and she’d glare and mutter “what are you saying behind my back?”

On a Tuesday, the car broke down on my way to see her, stalling out three times as I rerouted myself to the repair shop, where it broke down for the final time, transmission fluid draining out in their parking lot. Then I “broke down” in their waiting room while waiting for a ride to rent a car, so that I could go see my mom. The guys who ran the place walked in and out, eyes averted, but handed me coffee on their way by - a napkin to mop my face.

I was two hours later than usual and called the nursing facility and let them know. I stopped for a Panera smoothie, bagels, cream cheese, jam and chocolates, hoping something would satisfy my mom. She hadn’t woken again the day of the chocolate cake debacle and had stopped her texting last minute food requests a week and a half before. I sat with her in silence that day, her food sitting untouched on the revolving tray in front of her.

As I gathered my things to go later that evening she woke, alert, recognizing it was me, and then softly described the cookies she wanted. Chocolate. Marshmallow. At the market. Bakery. It was like that game of Taboo and I kept guessing. The final word “Nana” brought it to my attention that she was asking for my Nana’s favorite cookie, Mallomars.

When I left that time it was the first in all those months that I felt it would be the last time I’d see her. The nurses were lined up on my way out the door, reaching out while I cried, walking out of the building by myself to my rental car. But, on my way home I picked up a box of Mallomars.

The next morning, my bag was by the front door, ready to go to Chestnut Hill, Mallomars resting on top, when the phone range at 5am. My mom’s favorite nurse was on the other end, letting me know that she was holding her as she was taking her last breaths.

I kept those Mallomars hidden in the cupboard for a few months before sitting down one night on my couch with my mom’s handmade quilt over me and the box on my lap, eating them one by one. It wasn’t a significant date, it wasn’t a monumental moment, I just felt like Mallomars right then.

Memory Layne
Our Own Trails

Note: This is a repost from a post I wrote on April 28th on my guy’s blog, where I contributed during the few months he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail this Spring. Although he is home now, he is still writing and fun to continue following over there


Our Own Trails

Side note: Who would have thought that wearing your boyfriend’s socks from time to time and sleeping with his t-shirt would make you feel closer to him?

He mentioned one day last week that the next day would mark his first month on the TRAIL. A month of being out in the wilderness, with just his pack and his own two feet – exactly 7 months sober (virtual chip to you, Boyfriend!), plowing through pulled muscles, an ER visit topped with some morphine, Bojangles Chicken and walking a hell of a lot through some nasty weather, WITH.NO.JACKET. (still)

When I think about what I’ve done in the last month, it certainly wasn’t as physically taxing, but been getting life organized, worked a lot, managed to eek out some miles around the back shore and across the beaches and cried a hell of a lot over about a million different things for many reasons.

When cold, I cover myself with an electric blanket and crank the heat up to 75. When hungry, I eat whatever I want – and it isn’t by pouring hot water into a bag – my food is warm and I don’t run out (nor do I have to hang it in a tree). I’m getting caught up with work, have figured out college for my oldest – how to pay for it, cleaned my house for the first time top to bottom in six months, am painting a few walls, and ticking off some tasks that had been put by the wayside for a bit.

My sister once said to me ago, “You don’t get everything you need from just one person”…and it’s true – so so true.

I remembered it when I was caring for my mom this past year. I remember it now, as my guy is on this journey. I remember it with my mom now gone and will when my daughter escapes the coop for college very very…and then the next daughter…all too soon.

I flew to California recently with my 18 year old, while my youngest was in Spain. It’s weird not having the other point of our triangle with us for this trip – but she is one of my little world travelers, and she basked in the adventure.

While on paper, we were to scatter Mom’s ashes “at sea”, we made the executive decision to do a few things: scatter a bit at the beach below our childhood home in Pacific Palisades and in various places in Gloucester – including Mom’s garden, per my daughter’s request. She said her grandmother mentioned it a few times, as they weeded the plant beds together. What the kid says, goes…we don’t think Mom would have minded.

A few weeks before the flight, I sat in my daughter’s Jazz concert at Shalin Liu in Rockport while out of the blue, panicked thoughts built in my head and chest and heart – stabbing.

“How exactly do I transfer some of her ashes, to something to carry with me on the plane? Do I use a scoop? Bare hands? Do I put her in a Tupperware? Do I use a ziplock bag? Will they make me check her with baggage? Can I really do this?”

I ran to the car and called my family in California – I gulped out what I was needing – this simple answer. I think we all knew it was a physical reaction to something far greater than what I was asking.

If Kevin had been here, he’d been standing right there, coaching me along – even doing it for me, if I couldn’t. Kind of like when he volunteered to identify my mom for me at the funeral home. Kind of like when he high tailed it across the country in ice, snow, darkness to be with me, as I knew she was slipping away quickly.

And of course, he made it.

In the weeks following my mom’s passing, but before Kevin’s departure, I booked our flights to California – that always makes you feel better. I also spent time with my kids, girlfriends, Kevin , and some notable time with his family. Most of us go way back to a different time in my life and having then a part of our lives has been a little segment of comfort.

The battle cry that comes after is quite alarming. For me, it was an easing into things – my kids came home from their vacation, and they processed all over again – their grandma was no longer just across town. It was an expected thing, we knew it was coming soon, but nothing ever prepares you. You get together with your girlfriends who all have lost a parent, cared for them, stood in shock afterwards and grieved in similar ways. It is not a club you ever want to be in, but when you realize you have your people there for you because of it…well, thank goodness.

When your person was there for you through it, and then gets on that airplane to go away, you are never quite prepared for that either. Even though you’ve talked it through over and over again – and again – right before – when he said “I can stay longer, and walk North to South”…it is still a jump to the heart – one that asks, “can I do this alone?”

It took a force of courage for me to say “go do this” – because I just wanted him to get it over with. I also knew that there couldn’t be any compromise in this – I knew where he stood in his heart about his own trail and in the end it would have compromised mine. Prolonging the processing, the different kind that would happen when left alone to fend for yourself, would be too painful.

When there is nobody next to you at night when you come home at the end of the day to leave you those wildflowers, play with your hair, jab you with their toenails, even do the dishes : ) – you check your phone every hour, because on the flip side you have this small fear that they may not return – for any reason. That’s when you activate the courage to walk your own trail for a while.

Memory Layne
The Pretty Way

In my 40's I find these “little things” coming back. Maybe it has something to do with my girls becoming more independent, as they are both driving, making their own smart decisions, even the simple things like finding their own “style”. One with two really big tattoos and ever-changing hair - pink, purple - hot blue - blonde again, covering her gorgeous red auburn hair for the last few years - announced last week that she was going “pastel”. This was said as she headed out the door to shop a local vintage consignment store. The other chooses a basic white t-shirt, jeans, white Converse. Every time. Simple blonde highlights in her hair, a straightener, and just black mascara. American Eagle is her go-to. But, they both have cute little tiny nose piercings.

I have to say, enrolling one in college, a plane ride away, sure does force your life to flash before your eyes.

* * * * * *

A glass bottle of Dr. Pepper in the parking lot after a long hike to Rainbow Falls in Mammoth, by way of Devil's Postpile in the 80’s.

Checking out a stack of paperbacks from the library on Fridays, and returning them on Mondays, read - when ten was the limit.

Asparagus soup, and our best friend sleeping over and "throwing it up" all over my bedroom, after Mom made her "eat her veggies" at dinner that night.

Black and white television, and fighting over who had to get up to change the channel during commercials, so we could technically watch two shows that were being aired at the same time.

Walking to the beach barefoot on hot pavement, carrying a volleyball and beach chair to meet the rest of the team.

Family dinners that began with a salad, every time - I was forced to eat everything, except the tomatoes.

Riding the skateboard on our bottoms downhill - scraping the soles from our shoes - using them as “brakes”.

Being woken up at midnight to peek down, out the second story window, at the raccoons bathing in our shallow backyard ponds.

* * * * * *

Now, as my kids are nearing their "upper teens" they sometimes chatter in remembrance and say "remember when we were little and had picnics on the floor for dinner?" and "When you were driving us to the mall and it turned out you had secretly packed out bags and taking us to New Hampshire for the weekend?"  Just today it was "remember Cherry Lifesavers?" and "Cherry Chapstick?! You always had Cherry chapstick for us!", the same way I remember my jumbo stick of Orange Crush Bonne Bell.

Now, as Summer begins to become Summer, they say wistfully, "Remember when we would drive the pretty way and listen to Taylor Swift?" We rarely drive anywhere together anymore, as everyone drives themselves. I do know they very likely drive themselves the pretty way every chance they can get.

“The pretty way” is the long outside loop around the back shore to our house - instead of the straight road from the lights at the end of the highway. It didn’t matter where we were coming from, it was always possible to drive “the pretty way” home, depending on the hunger level in the car, how badly someone had to use the restroom, if it was way past bedtime. We didn’t always “think” to go “the pretty way” - for it was a frame of mind - the last final 3 songs on the playlist - it was hitting “repeat” on the favorite ballad as we hit the “three and a half more minutes” mark on the road.

When it was a full moon, it was a full long slow loop. If it was a stormy day, it was a definite cruise.

During the warm Fall evenings, surfers appeared for us at the small stretch by Good Harbor, clouds in the sky - or sometimes is was perfectly cloudless.

Fisherman could be scattered on the rocks, dogs could be walked on the sidewalk lining the shore - or often folks walked alone.

Sometimes it was dead quiet like midnight, with no movement, light or traffic.

There were huge storming waves - sometimes it was just still.

Now they drive it, sometimes on their own, listening to their own music - and maybe, I suspect, the sisters roll down their windows and ride it together.

Memory Layne
Hearing Things Differently

I spent a good part of the morning last week at the audiologist and in the testing booth. It was my third trip in the last month as "we" have been trying to resolve some issues with my hearing aids.

My new audiologist is a bigger brain than the other guy, who recently retired. He explains in detail how my ears work (or how they don't), why I am now afraid of heights and get off balance when on the edge of a trail. He uses terms I need more time to Google, so I just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that our senses change as we lose some, and then others make up for it, and then some go off kilter....and we, as people, overcompensate for what's missing....? I did too.

The other guy, who recently retired, sat in the other room reading something that looked like a magazine and sipped his coffee. He's "merging" into retirement but "helping them out". My appointments before consisted of hemming and hawing and looking in my ears and clicking his tongue and then send me off with a tuned up pair of aids. No explanation. Just a lot of talk about the next vacation for both of us.

I love how the new audiologist over-enunciates and uses his hands when he talks to me. I don't know sign language, so I hope that's not what he was doing. In the end, when lip reading becomes the norm and necessary, if you are faced down or turned away from me, I am not going to be able to communicate with you. I will follow you around, grab your face and turn it towards me so I can see. Living with hearing loss means working harder to interact with the world....with you. More importantly, when I retreat into solitude in a crowded room it's because I just can't.keep.up. and I'm missing out on what feels like everything.


Miscommunication is probably the most embarrassing thing in the world and when Kevin sat across from me on our first date, I read his lips as he spoke, having stupidly not put my hearing aids in beforehand. (I'd probably been more focused on my hair and mascara) I pulled them out discreetly and popped them in my ears, pointed and said "I'm hard of hearing - soooooo I've got these things in"...

I tried to be casual about it, knowing it could be a bit much for someone to deal with, the potential to not be heard or have to speak up to be heard. I figured, might as well bring it up right off the bat so he can decide if he wants to deal with me or not. Instead, he raised his voice up a notch to be sure I could hear, asked 103 questions, and carried on.

If you know him, you would recognize the tone in his voice when one day he said to me "I think it's cool that you've got those - it makes you special." When I changed the batteries in front of him for the first time, he said it made me look a tiny bit "bionic".

I’ve been hearing things differently, like the fridge running at a new decibel, trucks digging across the harbor, some new bird species that's been flying around the neighborhood this season. When you're hard of hearing, you miss what your child is saying while she's crying in your lap, telling you a story about "what happened" that day at school - her high pitched voice isn't in the range that you can hear very miss half the movie in the theatre because the special effects drown out the words...your kids might not watch TV with you because the subtitles lining the bottom of the screen drives them nuts.

Since I no longer have people in my life who yell things into my face like "DO YOU HAVE POTATOES IN YOUR EARS?", I've relaxed a bit about this obstacle. Kev sometimes lifts my hair to see if my hearing aids are in - my knee jerk reaction is that he's going to demand that I put them in - but every time, it's that he wants to know how he needs to speak. There is nothing bionic about wearing hearing aids, except that it just helps you cope, hear a little better - often times, it doesn't help at all. I still don't hear as well as the average person, and often hear things I don't want to hear, like the flushing toilet next door, the cats scratching in the litter box and the beeping of the trash truck in the next town away. At the end of every day everything's on overload and I rush home to tear the things from my ears.

It is hard not to feel like I am not complete. But - I can read lips. So there.

Jesus on Wheels

My daughters used to attend Sunday School every Sunday. I was more likely to let them play hooky, only because I could hardly sit in church for an entire hour without agitating all the church ladies by my swinging leg and picking the polish off my fingernails. But I wanted the kids to know the Bible stuff, the God stuff, the prayer stuff, at least be educated - when they are old enough, they can decide what to investigate, what to believe in.


When my oldest was 8, she was absolutely fascinated by Jesus. We’d drive by a nativity scene on a rotary at Christmas, adhere to the 25 mpg speed limit along the outer edge of the circle five times, so she could glimpse Jesus over and over again. Every time we’d find ourselves within a mile of that rotary, she’d yell "Let's go see Jesus!!!!" When I tell you I found the secret to make this kid’s day, I REALLY mean it - I found the secret to making her day.

There's a children's book about the history of the candy cane and part of that history is that when you turn a candy cane upside down, it becomes a "J" for Jesus. She thought that was pretty neat-o. What she didn't understand was the explanation in the book for the red and white stripes...that the red was symbolic for Jesus' blood running down his body when he was crucified. HOLY COW! Her questions about "why were all those people mean to him?" and "will I die?" began to flow. (don't ask me how I answered them because I don't think I could repeat my simple child-appropriate answers back to her without freaking out)

At the mall there was a kiosk of beautiful hand carved miniatures, of the last supper, Jesus on the cross, the nativity, Mary and Joseph and the donkey traveling along a dirt road. This kiosk took priority over Build-a-Bear, the hermit crab kiosk, even McDonalds.

Once in a toy section of a shop in Boston, we came across a display of action figures. Later during lunch with friends, my eldest yelled, "Guess what action figure I saw today!" Everyone guessed…."Superman?" No. "Batman?" No. "Wonderwoman? Bionic Man? Spiderman? Stretch-man?" Noooooooooo.

My little girl stood up on her seat, stretched her arms out wide and with a big grin on her face yelled "JESUS!!!!!!"

Yes, in fact, there were actions figures of Jesus. I bought her one for her birthday that year. He still hangs around in the kitchen - and he has wheels.

Even better though, at Christmas a few years ago, we were out walking around in the newly fallen snow and went into a quaint Christmas shop. Room after room after room of Christmas stuff. A snowman room. A Santa room. A crystal room. A caroler room. A Nativity room. A Christmas train room. Wait....A NATIVITY ROOM!!!!! Of course, we spent some time there, checking out “all the Jesus-es”, as my daughter continuously marveled.

Obviously, we had to come home with a nativity, which we did. Beautifully handcrafted and painted tin nativity manger, along with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three wise men, some cows, sheep and a donkey.

For weeks leading up to Christmas, at some point each day, I’d hear this little voice calling from the other room "Hey! HEY! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY! Anyone wanna play JESUS???"

The Cross Stitch

I love television.  Like eating candy, which was also limited while growing up, I feel like I lived the term "binge", because once I was in college, a priority was a television in my dorm room, and skipping afternoon class to watch back to back Oprah and Days of Our Lives with my roommates.  A remedy for losing points in college was the VCR my dad sent in the mail. My friends and I would gather in my room to watch favorite shows that we recorded each day. Attendance rate increased in all our classes - if the administration only knew why….

The luxury of sitting and watching, focused, relaxed, immersed in each story, was something new and indulgent, and something I still enjoy.

While TV was limited in our home, and we started the day with fruit topped with cottage cheese and chores, our friends woke up every day to a morning of cartoons and sugar cereal. Their beds were left unmade, and they played with Barbies, Legos and had a routine for changing the channel at the stroke of each hour to the next show.

We knew “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” were allowed in our family. Staying up past 7pm meant it was a Thursday and we could watch "Little House" because the new season started at 7:30. Staying home sick from school meant we'd be able to lay on the couch and watch the morning reruns along with a little added "Bewitched".

The rule resided in our household: If you watch television, you must NOT just sit there. You must be doing something.

Enter: coloring book, playing with dolls, sewing and eventually, the cross stitch.


Last year I was organizing family photos, which included small projects I had saved from when I was young. Folded up next to my daughters' baby shoes, was a piece of cloth. I knew what it was. It was the cross stitch that I had worked on for HOW MANY was my free pass to watching television. If I sat and stitched, I could watch TV. I can’t tell you how great I got at pausing between stitches, until Mom noticed and told me to keep going or she’d turn the off the tube. It was painful. I am sure Mom told me I would be grateful when I was older that I knew how to sew, and I would really enjoying having this finished piece.

When I found it last year, I felt the disdain of stitching in order to be able to watch favorite programs. I am pretty sure it had stayed folded up since I finished it, and then it moved around the country with me when I left home in 1991.

It was time.

I took it to a framer the next day and laid it down on the counter along with a credit card for a frame job that would hopefully preserve my work for another 25 years at least! The woman looked at it and goes “you did this?” and I nodded and pointed to the dates, “Yes, and apparently it took me five painstakingly long years”…We laughed at the fact that in 1983 I was 10, when I started it, and probably almost 16 before it was finished. She looked at me and replied “So, you figured that you might as well get over it and bring it out into your life now, huh?”

I could not disagree.

A few weeks later, I got the call to pick it up. They had to make sure it was steamed and stretched and laid out properly in an archival matte and frame system. It now hangs in my entranceway, I am proud that I did it. I am proud that every stitch was done by me. It looks good on the wall too.


Art Show History
Show at Maxima Art Center, Arlington, Ma 1999

Show at Maxima Art Center, Arlington, Ma 1999

Demo for art show in Winchester, Ma 2001

Demo for art show in Winchester, Ma 2001

Art show in Winchester, Ma 2001

Art show in Winchester, Ma 2001

First art show in Woodstock, Vermont 1996

First art show in Woodstock, Vermont 1996

Art show at Carberry's in Arlington, Ma 2002

Art show at Carberry's in Arlington, Ma 2002

Show at Fidelity Investments, Boston, Ma 2000

Show at Fidelity Investments, Boston, Ma 2000

I was going through my files recently, old files...older than when I moved to Gloucester twelve years ago. It's almost like we live a few different lifetimes in our lives, as we move around, isn't it?

When I first moved to Boston, I lived in an apartment twenty feet from the railroad tracks of the commuter rail in Somerville, just outside of Davis Square and had a drafting table set up for my painting. I painted there every night after work, alone, not showing it to anyone other than a dial up email list I had, where I could email a photo to the thirty three friends who were semi-interested.  When I moved to my first house in Arlington, I was involved in the art community and had a lot more courage to walk in a place and say "hey, wanna have an art show?"  

It's been a few years since I've done something like this, maybe because I became as single mum in 2005, maybe because I opened a restaurant and bar in 2010, and maybe because since closing it five years later, the life change that came with it kept me at my desk, painting quietly, in my living room studio space. 

The photos I found are just from a few shows over time, sadly, I have limited recordings of past few photos, I suppose because it was before the digital age and when the internet was really a tool for sharing and saving memories.

But I remember that in a few of these photos I found, I was pregnant with my girls, or about to step on a plane to Hawaii, or commuting the next day to Boston for work - wearing a suit and heels - or I was planning for and looking forward to the next art show.

The last few years of the art world for me has remained in-house and online - dropping work off at retail shops that carry my work, and then heading home to paint again. Maybe I don't want my picture taken again, like the ones you see here (boy, I was young!), or maybe it's just not the right time. Soon it will be. Stay tuned. 

2008 Lone Gull, Gloucester, Ma

2008 Lone Gull, Gloucester, Ma

Memory Layne
Ten Weeks of Trees

Back in college I decided that an independent study for my studio art degree would be FUN! I got to come up with my own lesson plan, have my very own studio space, and often make my own "hours".

I set up in an amazing little corner space, near a water source, with STACKS Of brand new huge cold press AND hot press paper. There were new brushes and tubes of paint. I used the same pallet that I still use today, over 20 years later.  Even better, the studio was just steps from the back door to my dorm.

Coming up with my own lesson plan meant that I was require to have it approved by my professor, who I am sure already had me pegged for not following directions and being quite the rogue art student. I remember coming upon the deadline for submission, I was starting out the window at the trees and blurted out "trees!". So. I painted trees. For ten straight weeks. Trees, for three hours a day. I was required to check in, meet and critique, change my technique and colors. On occasion, I got caught sneaking out to watch Oprah in my dorm room with my roommate, who was NOT an art major and was NOT required to spend her afternoons in the art studio like I was.

In the end though, I got in the zone. I had my walkman and headphones, another cute boy art student worked nearby (he was SO much better than me, drawing figures, architectural rendering, while I scratched abstract lines all over my papers and filled them in with paint like a coloring book.

The result wasn't too shabby, I have heard that if you do something regularly for two weeks, it becomes a habit. Or at least, you have to come out with some sort of growth, progress, a nice result.

At last I passed the class and have ended up with some amazing tree paintings.

One hangs in my living room, and many others in homes all over the country. 

(there are a few left in my files, which are now up on my website in the "organics" section. Click HERE to go to that page and start scrollin')

Monastere de la Grande Chartreuse

Almost 20 years ago I went on my one overseas trip to the French Alps and visited the most amazing Monastere de la Grande Chartreuse. I tasted some pretty potent green colored Chartreuse liqueur, made there by the monks, a very secret recipe that I don't ever care to have because it will never be my choice of drink.

Chartreuse Monastere
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The curvy road and long drive up to the Monastere, the quietness of mountains and property, was almost overwhelming with it's peace and space.

I hiked around, took a museum tour, inspected the silent monks from afar, I watched them closely, hoping to catch a rebel speaking to another, perhaps. (but that did not happen, they took their vows of silence very seriously) 

I picnicked on a stone wall the way the French do, with a loaf of bread, and assortment of stinky cheeses and salami, apricots. and warm soda water.

Nearby, I looked up and took a snapshot of this statue above a doorway. This   was a profound moment for me, for some reason, not one I can explain. The vision of the statue stayed in my head for the next few weeks until I returned home and developed the film in my camera.

The next day I painted it.

Home Art

This was a Sunday morning that I would like to duplicate every week. 

I have teenagers who continue to prove that sleeping in on weekends will continue for nearly every teenager (or they will try) until the end of time. In the peace of 7am and the grayness outside, I brewed the coffee, filled my water bucket, and sat down to paint in my home studio space (which is, um, comfortably behind the couch, in the living room).

While I'm working on different projects, half of my time is shared almost equally by my actual "work" (the job that pays) and household "mom duties" and “life things and people I love”. The other half seems to be all about art...either in my head, drawn on paper, or partially painted. There are stacks of recycled wood pieces that I have plans for in my head, new tubes of paint, frames, charcoal, new oil paints, turpentine - all ready and waiting.

I suppose I feel appreciative of the Winter months, for the ability (or requirement in the 15 degrees) to crank up the heat, light candles, and wear my sweat pants to work just ten feet from my coffee pot.

I don't feel like I need to be anywhere else.

Drudgery tasks hopefully will lessen by Summer - Inspiration will hopefully not wane - Paint time will surely be optimized.

In the quiet this morning, I walked around our little home, where my girls and I have lived for exactly 12 years. The art has changed over the years, right along with life. 



Memory Layne
Coming Across Ancient Projects

Years ago I was home with my little ones and my mom was working in Concord, Ma at Concord's Colonial Inn at the front desk. She also managed their little gift shop, which continued to grow as she put her head down and did their purchasing and set up for them there. Somehow the opportunity came up for me to do a painting of the inn, which ended up on their t-shirts and mugs (I believe we also made note cards, which were sold at the front desk). At some point, with life changes, and Mom moving to Gloucester when I did in 2006, that side of my business dropped away. 

I just came across the paintings in my flat files in my studio, as I am using the snowy cold season to archive every piece of work in my possession.  They are also for sale on my website, the direct link to the section for purchase is in the Other Places & Other Things section. (and scroll down to the bottom, they are sitting right there)


When I hear the word "disaster", I think about the times in my life, hearing someone say "what a disaster, this dinner is a disaster, my day was a disaster, that relationship was a disaster..."

The other day, my day felt like a disaster when my heat stopped working, my daughter was stranded - having locked her key in her car and AAA was going to be a three hour wait, and losing my driver's license (for only four hours until I found it again).

I do know, even when blood levels rise and these things cause anxiety, my days have certainly NOT been a disaster.

I was up one morning in December at 4am East Coast Time and happened to catch a message from my family in Ventura, California, who were traveling south in the middle of the night in a caravan. They were evacuating their homes from the massive Thomas Fire heading towards them. When I called, I heard the hum of the car behind the sound of their cats crying, and could feel the silence that surrounded them as they drove from the unknown. 

Disaster is your family evacuating fires encroaching on their homes and businesses in the middle of the night. Disaster is a community having their homes washed away by floods, rocks, and debris. That is disaster.

I can't say I know how it felt to be them, I can't even part way understand. I know how it felt to be across the country from my those who are my "closest people" during this traumatic experience. I would have rather been there with them than not.  I know how I felt, as a daughter and sister, to know that they felt fear. I know how it felt to hear their voices on the phone talk about the holidays not feeling like the holidays - how they couldn't breathe the air outside because the smoke was sickening them - and how the spirit of their community changed overnight.

There is importance to being vulnerable in the world today, but when these disasters are out of our control, that vulnerability causes worry and fear.  Our fears are our own and they change with what is happening to us. Perspective changes. What we do with it changes. 

I burned our dinner last night. It was a disaster. 




Forest Fire by Memory Layne
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Memory Layne
Killing Christmas
killing christmas

I've spent some time thinking lately about how life keeps changing, whether we like it or not. The kids don't need me as much anymore unless it involves driving, food or cash. There are things that keep it so much the same. A mortgage, beach days, favorite restaurants, edible meals on the dinner table, driving ten times around the island for the kids' activities....and then there are holiday traditions.

I mentioned to the kids last weekend we would get our tree, as we always do, and decorate it. "I'm working"...or "I might go to so-and-so's-house" or "Can't we do it another time?" is what came back.

I thought hard about it, I swear, I did. I tried mustering up the energy and the plan to take care of this myself, but I dreaded driving to one of our lots here in town (possibly by myself) and spending $15 on a tree that would dry out in a day and smell remotely like pine for just the first hour. I dreaded the alternative of spending $80 on one that might last three weeks, lose it's stuff on the floor RIGHT before Christmas, cover the tops of presents with needles and quite possibly could end up on it's side in the middle of the night due to my lack in keeping it stable in its stand.

Also, there was NO WAY I was going to drive an hour away to chop down a tree with a dull saw and drag it through the dirt (possibly by myself) and driving it home on top of my small car, risking it flinging off on the highway because the 14 year old kid who strapped it on wasn't savvy with his knots. (and yes, this is said from experience).

I wasn't looking forward to untangling the lights, or taking them off at the end of the month, along with 300,000 dried pine needles. I wasn't looking forward to the cats leaving throw up on the window sill from drinking pine needle water from the water trough, while we were sleeping. 

Getting rid of the thing in the end would also be a pain, with a brittle needle trail leading through the living room, down our carpeted stairs and out the front door. I would also have to keep in mind the "dead tree pickup day" and get it to the sidewalk, sometime at the end of January. IF I forgot, it would have to stay by the side of the house until I could discreetly cut it up and put it in a trash bag to illegally put out on the sidewalk for a regular trash day.

So, instead of going alone to get a tree this weekend, tie it to my roof, lug it up the big flight of stairs and struggle with doing all the tree stuff, I got online with Home Depot.  While drinking a very large glass of Cabernet, I purchased a beautiful pre-lit artificial tree (and a pine scented Yankee Candle from

It came four days later. I didn't even drive down the highway the 25 minutes to pick it up. I waited, comfortably in my home for it. Yesterday I unwrapped it, pieced it together and plugged the damn thing in.

And there was peace.

Do I feel a little guilty? A little. Not too much.

Do I feel like I failed as a mum because I couldn't handle another live tree and all that comes with it for the 17th year? A little. But not really. No. I don't.

The beauty isn't in the artificial presentation of it, and honestly, if you don't look too closely, it looks real(ish). The lights that were already on it are spaced evenly, they all work, and there is a manual that comes with the thing if something were to break.

The beauty is in the simplicity, the lack of dread, the "making it easier" as the kids are spreading their wings and having less time to focus on the things that were all that mattered before.

I think it does still matter to them, I just think that THE WAY it happens, is less important to  than what has happened, the end result. This was proven that night the tree was "built" and plugged just a matter of minutes...when we sat around on the couch together and drank cocoa with marshmallows and watched "Christmas with the Kranks" on Netflix by our "tree".

Although, after I presented this big beautiful un-messy no-stress-for-Mom-tree in our tiny living room, my daughter looked at our new artificial pre-lit tree from Home Depot, and bluntly stated, "Well, you just killed Christmas."


Memory Layne