#grateful

Image result for namaste the light within me

A few years ago, I got upset with Max for something he’d said, and he told me, “It’s like there is a conveyor belt running from the back of my mind and it exits through my mouth. And there’s all kinds of stuff on it and it’s always going. So sometimes the stuff goes straight through my brain and out of my mouth. There are these little workers that are at the exit near my mouth and their job is to stop some of the things before they come out but a lot of the time they just go, ‘Oh darn, we should have caught that one before it went out!'” And after that complex anatomical explanation I couldn’t even remember what he’d said that I was mad at him about.

Today is Thanksgiving. Max and I are in the living room; he’s working on a paper for school next week. I’ve been alternating between cooking and reading. Max asked me, “Mom, what’s another word for corrupt?” I said, “Perverted. Shady. Crooked. Tainted.” A while later he asked me, “Mom, what are the names of the five books of the Torah?”  I thought to myself, “What kind of writing assignment is this?” But I helped him look it up.

This Thanksgiving, it was me and Max and my mom. I asked them, “What’s something you are grateful for this year?” My mom said, “I’m so grateful to be here, so I can watch Max grow up and be the amazing person he is meant to be.” Max said, “I’m grateful that I get to spend time with my grandmother and get to know her.” And I said, “I’m grateful that I can, I hope, make a difference, even if it’s a small difference, to make the world a better place.” And, I gotta say this. I’m grateful that I am learning to let sh*t go. It’s a process. I’ll keep working on it.

We all say stuff before the little workers stop things from coming out of our mouths. What’s more important is to spend time with the people in our lives. As they are. Not as we want them to be.  So today, I thank you, for spending time with me, for teaching me, for accepting me.  Happy Thanksgiving. Namaste. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united. We are the same. We are one.

#chances

Shane and Max my office

Kimba, our 130 pound mutt, and I used to have a morning ritual – we would go in to wake up Max for school. Then we would head downstairs to check on Shane. I noticed that Kimba was getting a little white around the snout, like me. I said to Max, “When I get old, can I come and live with you?” He said, “Mom, I think that is going to completely ruin my chances at ever getting a girlfriend.” (It didn’t.)

Shane never had to be woken up for school; he would be up and making coffee before Max and I grumbled down the stairs. Max is like me. We are not very good at mornings. Max and I butted heads frequently around that time, when both he and Shane were in high school. Once, after a particularly rough morning fight, I said to him, “Max, what do you think is the most important thing in life?” I was hoping he would say something like getting along or seeing the other person’s point of view. Instead, he said, “The most important thing in life is getting a wife.” I said, “Why?” He said, “So she can make me a sandwich when I am too tired to get off the couch after a fight with my mom.”

It’s  been a few years since what I call the sandwich-feminist debacle. Max and Shane’s dad and I have been divorced for a while. Kimba has been gone for a while as well. There are still (several) dogs in my house, and we wake up Max for school on the mornings he is at my house. And Max and I still grumble at each other as we muddle through our mornings.

And Shane – Shane moved to Oregon to go to school; it feels like an eternity away from me. He has been applying for jobs and after a few months, my usually optimistic son was a bit discouraged. “Mom, I didn’t think it would be this hard. I’m okay, I just didn’t think it would take this long.” He sent me his most recent cover letter to edit and I may be biased, but I would hire my son. “Now I am a college student, I have grown up a little bit and moved away from home. I am now seeking employment…. Beyond being steadfast, punctual, and detail driven, I would be a solid employee because I am eager to jump in. I want to learn and meet people and improve myself along with where I am in life. I look forward to your call.”

Dear Future Employer of My Son: You were once a young person trying to make your way in this world. It was freaking hard, remember? But someone gave you a chance and look at you now. Life is about chances. Chances at falling in love. Second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, hundredth chances. I am just asking for you to give my son a chance.

Maybe all we have are chances. To get up in the morning, even if you’re pissed off about it. To work. To get a girl(boy)friend. To fall in love. To fall in love again. To grow old. To be with kids and grandkids. To be happy. To have a sandwich made by someone who loves you when you’re too tired to get off the couch. To have someone who loves you wake you up in the morning. To live happily ever after.

Do it. Take a chance.

#anishals

MAX Drawing

Several years back, Max brought home his homework report with three signature lines. Under one he wrote, “Anishals here.” Under the second he wrote, “Your dog’s name.” Under the third he wrote, “Your maiden name here.”

The other night my Max texted me. “I’m really stressed out.” I asked him, “Why honey? What’s going on?” He said, “I have too many things to do… I don’t have time for anything I like and I’m stressed out.” Dammit.

My kid is a junior in high school, with a ridiculously good GPA. He started a jazz band when he was 14 years old.  He plays several instruments. He is an artist. He is in honors classes. He works. He never. Freaking. Stops. And I owe him the biggest damn apology. I am so, so very sorry. I did that in high school, too. I still do that, now.

I am an overachiever, for sure. But I do not expect my children, or anyone else in my life to do what I do or be who I am. I am well aware that I constantly walk the balance beam between fucking falling into the stress-ball abyss and namaste.

People sometimes say to me, “I don’t know how you do it all.” The answer is, I don’t. I don’t do it all. Or even half of it all.

Maybe it looks like I do. But trust me. There are many unanswered emails and texts. There are many books unread. There are bags of dry cleaning to be done in the trunk of my car. There is laundry on my floor. I never finished my wedding album. I never will, because 20 years later, I got divorced.  That’s sort of how this overachiever does it all.

But that’s okay. What I try to do, every day, is put my anishals where they are supposed to go. I know every dog’s name that I have ever had the privilege to live with. As for maiden names? There are no maidens living here. My home, probably a lot like yours, has an overachiever-stressed-out-divorced mom raising a couple of sons, trying to make this world a little better. That’s not a job for a maiden. That’s a job for a g*damn tired Type A mama warrior and some strong coffee. Like me. Like you.

#nojudgment

SHANE and TOMMY

My Shane was called for jury duty in June of 2018. I read him the summons and told him to call and find out when he had to appear. He texted me, “”How long do you think the jury summons will last tomorrow?” when his jury number was called to appear. I told him to take a book and he showed up. My Shane always shows up. He is my steadfast hero.

I asked him, “Did you get picked?” He said, “No, they haven’t even gotten through the first round of potential jurors yet.” I said, “You know, you can always tell them that your mom is a plaintiff’s attorney and your dad was a cop, that might get you excused.”  Later, he told me, “I would have but it was kinda cool to watch.” And all he told them was that he was a 19 year old student. Oh yes, my heart was full, thank you. My 19 year old son understood the importance of jury duty. That was worth every freaking penny of my law school tuition, right there.

Shane sat through three days of jury selection. He didn’t get picked. He did get a witness fee and mileage fee. I think it was $11 or less. I asked him, “What was the case?” He said, “I don’t think I can discuss it with you, Mom. We were told we can’t discuss it. I’ll just say that it was a criminal assault case.” Oh hell yeah, for my honest, steadfast son.

When someone posts something on social media about how young kids wear baggy pants  or “man buns” and were spared being hit with a belt and somehow that is not okay, I just have to say this. I don’t get it. My mom always told me she wanted my life to be better than hers. I so appreciate that, and now I have the chance to pay it back to her. I want my sons’ lives to be better than mine. I don’t give a sh*t about their pants, as long as their hearts are big and they do the right thing. Shane’s pants sag because he is skinny, and because he chooses to shop at a thrift store to save money and because he has a unique style. His priorities are about making the world a better place. Not making sure his pants fit to make other people happy.  My son Max’s hair is long and he puts it up in a really cool ponytail/bun when he plays his jazz. He doesn’t have the time or inclination to cut his hair to make anyone else happy. And he really does have great hair.

It may help to remember that we, too, had our way of rebelling. Maybe it was pants. Maybe it was hair. Maybe it was shoes. I was a punk rocker with purple hair and tattoos. I don’t have purple hair anymore. But I will always, always, have the soul of a punk rocker. It’s what made me who I am today, for sure. I encourage my sons to be their authentic, creative, badass selves. And I am so proud that they are. They are definitely not molded versions of anyone else’s expectations. And by the way, you should remember, too. Your bad ass, rebellious self made you who you are today. Not your complicit acceptance of what someone else thought you should be.

If you are ever the subject of a jury trial, I hope one of my sons is on your jury. You couldn’t do better than having one of my beautiful, fair minded, open hearted sons on your jury. I know I am judgmental AF sometimes and I work on that every day. My Max asked me once, “If I judge someone for being judgmental, does that make me a judging judger?” He had a point. By asking, we can become aware. And awareness gets us halfway there. We should always keep asking.

None of us are perfect. None of us know what perfect looks like. Sometimes, we are cruel to each other and often, we say things to each other we shouldn’t. I hope if you sit in judgment on anyone else, you stay fair. And if you sit in judgment on yourself, you give yourself some grace. You deserve that. You’re badass. Keep asking. Keep going.

Don’t give up on love

Love againWhen Max was much younger, he asked me if he should go for it and let the girl he had a crush on know how he felt about her. I told him, yes, do it. Be bold. Tell her how you feel. He did.

After he had spilled his heart out to her and she had rejected him, he said to me, “Mom, I can never trust you again about relationships. You gave me bad advice. I have to be sure that someone loves me before I say that I love her.” Oh, if only. If only we didn’t have to shipwreck our hearts to get the answer to love me, love me not.

Not too long ago, my uncle called me from Hawaii. He lives alone and waits for his home health worker to show up so he has someone to talk to. He said to me, “I am thinking about getting a cat. But I want something that won’t die before I do.” I said to him, “Uncle, maybe you should get a bird. They live a long time and they will talk to you.” He said, “I will think about this. But maybe a dog.” I get it. We all want someone we can share our time with – who loves us unconditionally, who is always happy to see us.

Sometimes, we get lonely and stuck. There are so many reasons we can give to stay hurt or depressed. There are so many reasons we can give to be angry at someone or something else. There are so many reasons to stand behind fear and pain. But there are so many reasons not to.

Maybe we are all just pilgrims here, on a path none of us have the final compass points for, walking together in the hope of finding our happily ever afters. Maybe once we could have settled for being perceptively fragile and fucked and fermented in a vat of “I told you so’s” and regret. We are better than this, I think. We all have the capacity to be strong and kind and good. To do otherwise is to give up. I don’t think we are built to give up, and especially not to give up on love. I think we are made for love. After all, we are all in this together.

There are two words I am working to integrate into my vocabulary more. They are not common words in my line of work. But what the hell. I’m going to try. They are “I believe.” I believe. I believe in love. I believe that even a shipwrecked heart can make its way back home. I believe that the best hearts are those that have been wrecked and yet remain open to make their way back out to sea again, to try again. And again. And again.

Don’t give up. Don’t give up, uncle. Don’t give up, Max. Don’t give up, you. Take the chance. Put your heart out to sea again. And don’t ever, give up on love.

wash stress away

I took the California bar exam two times. Not unusual. It is a mother f*cker of a test. In 2012, when I took it the first time, Max was 10 years old. During that time, I downloaded some free self-hypnosis podcasts from i-Tunes to see if any of them could talk me down after my days of studying for the bar exam (versus drinking an entire bottle of wine and crying). I found 3 minute self-hypnosis podcasts (who has time for more than that?) and Max checked it out, too. His favorite was one called “Wash Away Stress.” He would borrow my i-Pod and lie on his bed with my little pink earbuds in and zone out. He told me he liked to “get hypnotized and de-stress at the end of a long, very stressful day.”

When I failed the bar exam the first time, no one was more despondent than Max. He spent hours with me during the summer of 2012, lying on the floor next to our big dog Kimba, while I studied. I would tell him, “Max, go outside and play.” He refused, preferring to sort through my flashcards and read them out loud to me. Burglary. Robbery. Larceny. Rule Against Perpetuities. Strong stuff for a kid who had barely started middle school.

The evening I found out I had not passed, we had an event at our synagogue. It was probably the best place for me to be. I am not what you would call a religious person. But our synagogue is a welcoming place and probably the closest thing my hippie soul can stand in and be comfortable in for purposes of any kind of connecting to the Big Everything. I needed to connect.

I was tired and overwhelmed and too self-conscious to cry. But Max cried. He clung to me like a suckerfish to the side of a fishbowl and he cried. He kept telling me, “Go back and check again, Mom. It has to be wrong.” I told him, “No, baby, it is right. I know it. I did not pass this time. But I promise you I will try again.” I did try again. And damn it. I passed. My Max was with me the entire way. No one was prouder than my youngest son the day I was sworn in as an attorney.

Flash forward six years, Max and I are sitting in his room. Max is writing an essay about his struggles with ADD and getting his homework done on time and getting to school on time. This is a struggle I know very well. I struggled with ADD while I was taking the bar exam. Fuck, I struggle with it every damn day. I always joke that the name of my band should be “Late For Court.” We all need a little grace in our lives; the grace I ask for, every day, is that those in my world understand my struggle with the time-space continuum. And I have been given that grace, for which I am so grateful.

So far, life hasn’t been as forgiving for my son, we have been fighting to get him a little grace in his world. We will get there. But sitting in Max’s room that night, he was doing what Max does and addressing how ADD is actually a gift and has helped make him the successful person that he is today. I said to him, “Let’s do a paradigm shift. How many really successful people have ADD? Tell me someone you admire, who is your hero, who has ADD.” And he said, “It’s you, Mom. You are my hero.” And I couldn’t say anything because my whole heart was just….

We all have bad days, for sure. We all fail. You cannot truly succeed unless you do. Max reminds me that I should take time at the end of the day to wash stress away. Max gives and teaches me more grace than I ever give myself. And for that, my Max will always be my hero.

Life is a Circle

The boys and me

My son Shane moved out of the house in August and left for Oregon. Caveat. He didn’t actually move out. He left behind 15 years’ worth of detritus and teenage decay for me to clear out and deal with. I asked him, “What do you want me to do with all this stuff?” He said, “I don’t care. Burn it. Sell it. I have what I need.”

On the Friday morning that he left, I woke up at 6 a.m. because he was standing in my bedroom doorway.  Kinda hard to miss a 6’2” kid standing in your doorway.  “Mom, can I have a yoga mat? And some bath towels.” I gathered them and then walked outside to the well-worn mini-van, the one I had given him when he first got his license. He loaded up the mat, the towels, and his cat in a cat carrier. I waved goodbye and he drove off. As he drove off, I could hear his cat, Veronica, yowling loudly.

I called him later. “Did you make it okay?” He had. “How long did Veronica meow?” He said, “Only for the first few hours. Then she calmed down and she only meowed every once in a while.” He told me that he let her out in the house to check it out and she was hiding behind the water heater. I reminded him that it was a new environment and to be careful letting her out. He said, “I’m getting a leash to walk her around the property first.” One of my friends told me, that it was pretty cool that I raised a son who has no issues with taking his cat to Oregon with him and then taking her outside and walking her on a leash.

Yeah, that’s right. I raised a bad ass kid who took a mini-van packed full of thrift store clothes, beach towels, a yoga mat, and his beloved cat to Oregon for his next big adventure. I am proud as f*ck of him. He will walk his cat on a leash to introduce her to the wilds of  Eugene. He will figure out the wilds of Eugene for himself.  And I’m here for him when the inevitable leaving home questions come up.

In the meantime, my mom, his grandmother, has moved into my son’s old room. We packed up everything left in there because I know, inevitably, he will remember or need something that he left behind. Or I will want to keep it as a reminder of the years when he was still my little boy. My mother’s boxes and furniture arrived and as she unpacked them,  I realized, that life is a circle. A crazy, beautiful, circle. When I was 19 years old, I moved out and left everything behind for her to deal with. She has now brought it back to my house. The boxes she saved when I left and she knew that inevitably, I would remember or need something I left behind. Sometimes, mothers are right. Often, they are.

And then I also realized that my beautiful, yogi, cat-walking son, drove off to Eugene, Oregon with the only working garage door opener.

I’m grateful for the detritus of my sons’ lives and the boxes of all of it in my garage.  And I can say it now. Mom, you were right. Thanks for bringing back my memories.

I wish I had my garage door opener. But it will circle back home again. As will my sons and all of the memories. And I am so, so grateful for that.

Keep saying thank you

Mom and the boys

About three years ago, Max told me, “I haven’t been working out at all. The only time I run any more is in P.E. My mile time has gotten slower and slower.”

I said, using my most loving mom incentive-y voice, “What will you do if someone is chasing you?”

Max said, “Lie down and give up all hope.” And then he stopped and said, “Or turn and run straight at them, screaming. No one expects that.”

My sons and I have conversations in the car, at the kitchen table,  via text, through the doors of my bathroom. Most of the time I am trying really hard to be a good mom without losing my shit and also conveying to them that I love them more than anything in the entire world but without being a helicopter or a tiger or whatever it is kind of mom. It’s freaking difficult. Every day I hear a woman say something about a man being a jerk or an asshole or uncommunicative. And here I am raising two young men as a divorced middle aged mom. I’ve got to make a difference. No pressure.

Like Max, my mile time has gotten slower and slower. I feel, often, like lying down and giving up all hope. Then last week my 83 year old mother had to move out here from Colorado to California to live with us and there was no way I could let her drive her 2005 Subaru and her 75 pound dog Lilo out here alone.

And my sons, my amazing sons, volunteered to fly out to Denver and drive back with her. Not only did they drive her back, they got her from Denver to Sonoma County in a day and a half. My mother said to me, “I am so impressed with Shane. He got behind the wheel and said, ‘Let’s go,’ and off we went.” Shane and Max took turns driving through Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. They stopped one night at a motel and a few times to eat. My mother said to me, “Your sons say thank you to everyone. They even said thank you to the person cleaning the floors at the McDonald’s.” My kids just said, “It was a great adventure.” Oh – and Shane said, “Mom, we didn’t get tailgated once until we got into California.”

Today I took my mom to Safeway to grocery shop. As we were leaving, she said to me, “I said thank you to the grocery clerk who handed me a bag. Your sons made me remember that because they say thank you to everyone. It really does make a difference.” I guess I forgot how often I said thank you to my sons, maybe that helped a little. I say thank you for calling me. Thank you, for doing your laundry, for cleaning your room. Thank you for remembering to call a family member on their birthday. Thank you for doing such a good job in school. Thank you for doing your best. Thank you, I appreciate you. Thank you, I love you. And I say to myself, I will remember to say thank you more often, too.

On the days when I feel like I want to lie down and give up, when I feel overwhelmed, something always happens to make me remember that it’s all worth it. And I take a deep breath and turn around and run screaming and laughing right back at life. No one ever expects that. Thank you. Keep saying thank you. It matters. Namaste.

Who you really are

Shane

Right before I became pregnant with Shane in 1997, I was struggling with my weight and my self-confidence. Again. Like many women, I had this image in my head of what I should look like. Because I didn’t look like an airbrushed supermodel. No one did. Not even the supermodel.

So obviously, every time I looked in the mirror the image in my head and the image in the mirror did not match. Then I got pregnant and I couldn’t follow my typical crazed exercise bulimic ritual. So I planned for After The Baby. I bought a 13” television-VHS combo and a post-pregnancy yoga video. The plan was that while the baby slept, I would do the yoga video and lose the pregnancy weight. Like all pre-baby plans, the VHS-yoga-weight-loss plan went in a completely different direction.

Because the baby didn’t sleep. So I never used the VHS player for the post-baby yoga video. My baby Shane was colicky and did not sleep more than two hours at a stretch. As it turns out, the only thing that would occupy him during these bouts of colicky crankiness were 1980’s movie videos. I would bring him into bed with me while he fussed and wiggled and I would put a movie into the VHS player.  And I would pass out. I’d wake up hours later, the movie would have rewound and restarted, and Shane would be sitting up at the end of the bed in his onesie, focused on the movie, swaying back and forth as he watched the movie.

Fast forward 19 years. We’re at the dinner table. It’s me, Shane, Max, and Shane’s friend. We’re discussing Shane’s imminent move to Oregon and what he will take with him. Max said, “You’re taking the VHS TV to Oregon, right?” Shane said, “If I could only take one thing with me, that would be it.” His friend says, “This is so cool. I don’t remember the last time my family sat down for a home-made dinner and just talked.” First, I have finally begun to enjoy cooking and food. Because life is short and you shouldn’t freaking deprive yourself. That evening, I had cooked a good meal, I’m just going to say. And second, we explained in that dinner conversation that the VHS-television player had been given to Shane, who kept it and valued it above the other electronics and technology he acquired in the 19 years of his life.

I have a B.A. in Psychology: in the books and studies I read towards that degree I learned that there’s been a long-standing dispute about whether an individual’s mental health is determined by genetics or environment. In my Shane’s case, I’d say environment was predominant, largely due to the movies of his infant years. He has the 1980’s VHS movies from his early years memorized. He can recite The Breakfast Club from heart, start to finish. And when I want someone to watch Better Off Dead with, I can count on my eldest son to sit through it, again, with me.

For his high school yearbook dedication, his brother and I wrote this, from his favorite movie:

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. And you see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

and an athlete…

and a basket case…

a princess…

and a criminal…

Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

My Shane moves to Oregon next week, to study film and video. He’s taking the 20 year old VHS-television. He is a unique, athletic, kind, rebellious, audacious, human being. And I could not be prouder of my kid who defies definition in the simplest terms. I will miss the hell out of him.

For the record, despite never doing the VHS yoga video, I lost the “baby weight.” I didn’t lose weight because of the VHS-television and the video I bought. I lost weight many, many years later. I lost weight when I let go of the bullshit reasons that anyone else put on me to lose weight. And it wasn’t the baby weight or the divorce weight or the stress weight or however else we define it. I lost the weight of expectations and definitions. I lost the weight of what I thought I should be as a wife, mother, daughter, woman, friend, lawyer. Those are the simplest, most convenient definitions.  But that doesn’t really define who I am. Or who any of us are. When we let go of the weight of unrealistic expectations, we gain this airy freedom of who we really are. Like anything else, weight is how we define it. I’m free. It doesn’t matter how much I f*cking weigh.

The world is an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time. (The Breakfast Club.) But imperfections are just another convenient definition. In fact, imperfections define our uniqueness. Look in the mirror. Check out that imperfect, beautiful, audacious, rebellious, kind, heartfelt, badass, free, human being. And be proud of yourself.

#Hamilton

 

There have been moments in each one of my son’s lives when I can specifically pinpoint the moment he hit a milestone. I remember clearly the day that Max stood up and started walking. I remember the day Shane walked to school by himself for the first time. And every day since then, they have become more and more independent.

Still, there are times when the calls or texts come in hourly. “Mom. Shane won’t play outside with me.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me sit next to him on the couch.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me talk to his friends.” I text back, “Max, give the phone to Shane so I can talk to him.” The reply, “I can’t right now. Shane is lying down in his room and he says he needs time to calm down. Why does he have to calm down?”

Even at times when I thought they were otherwise engaged, I got calls and texts.  Once, a few years back, Max went camping with his dad and his brother. He called me from a mountain top at 2700 feet. “I’m so proud of you,” I told him. “Are you tired?” “I am so exhausted,” he said. “Shane made me climb all the way up here and I am sooo tired.” “What about the view?” I asked. “Yeah, yeah, the view. I still have to go BACK DOWN, Mom. Don’t you understand?”

Max made it down from the mountain. He found his own friends to play with. He has a love of music that is deeper and wider than my own, which is pretty damn deep and wide. With that love comes a desire to see and hear as much music as possible.

Hamilton came out and I immediately began getting texts. “Mom, I want to see ‘Hamilton.’” I checked online and tickets in San Francisco were over $500 for the cheapest seats. I told him, “I’ll enter the lottery.” He texted me endlessly, “Mom, have you checked for ‘Hamilton’ tickets?” “Mom, I won’t ask for anything else again ever if you can just get ‘Hamilton’ tickets.” He listened to the soundtrack to “Hamilton” on an endless loop. He sang it. In the morning, while he was in the shower. While I was driving him to school. Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.

I told him, “Max, I can’t afford it, I’m sorry. It’s so expensive.” And then late one night, Max sent me a link to the traveling performance of “Hamilton” – at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. The tickets were imminently affordable. “Mom, PLEASE! Hurry up and buy them! And can you buy three of them?” I did it. I bought three tickets to the show, for the performance on December 3, 2017, the night before Max’s 16th birthday. And then I worried about how we would get to LA from Santa Rosa.

I used up all my credit card miles to get three round- trip tickets to LAX for me, Max, and his girlfriend. I found an inexpensive room near the airport, so we could use a hotel shuttle to get back and forth to the airport. When we flew out early the morning of December 3, Max was sick. He could barely breathe on the plane. When we got to the hotel room, his girlfriend and I fed him tea, soup, water. He took a hot shower. We got him some cold medicine.  We got him dressed and out the door. And we headed to the Pantages Theater. As we got closer and Max saw “Hamilton” on the marquis, he kept saying, “I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe it.”

We got out and stood in front of the theater, looking at the names of the stars on the sidewalk. When we finally got in, I bought each of them Hamilton sweatshirts, and we waited to be seated. Once inside, I realized that what I thought would be high-up balcony seats were in fact, true mezzanine seats. We were in the front row of the back set of seats, high enough to see everything, and without anything or anyone obstructing our view. The lights when down, the curtain went up, and the first song began. And I looked at my son. He clapped both hands over his mouth and started sobbing. He was incredulous and he was overwhelmed and he was overjoyed.

As we were headed out of the theater, the actors were stationed at the doors, collecting money for a benefit. The actor who played Aaron Burr was at the exit door. I put money in the bucket he was holding, and I told him, “Thank you very much. It was a wonderful show, and you made my son’s birthday amazing.” He turned to my son and he said, “Happy birthday young man. Did you enjoy the show?” Max said, “Yes. Yes.” As we stood on the sidewalk outside the theater waiting for our ride, I said to Max, “Well, not many 16 year-olds can say that Aaron Burr wished them a happy birthday.” Max was speechless. That has happened perhaps twice in his entire life.

That evening, as I was picking up food to take upstairs to my still-sick son, I saw on the news that there was a fire alert in Los Angeles. No, no, I thought. No. We cannot get stuck here, we cannot live through another fire. We were still freshly traumatized from the firestorm in October. We were in Los Angeles the next day, we wandered through music stores, and finally headed to LAX at 9 p.m. The next day, fires raged through Southern California and LAX shut down.

When we flew into Santa Rosa that night, we were silent as we looked down over the empty spaces where there were once lights of homes. The convergence of Hamilton, disaster and loss in our county, and imminent recovery and hope of our community, were etched forever in our hearts. We will never be the same. Those who have literally been through the fire are never the same.

As I have done, every day since the days the fires roared through my county, I consider all that I am or should be grateful for.  On this day, Independence Day 2018, I am grateful that I was able to find a way to take my son to celebrate his birthday by seeing an amazing musical, partially a tribute to lawyers, (just saying, it’s true), and primarily, of course, a tribute to immigrants.

“I may not live to see the glory, but I will gladly join the fight. And when our children tell the story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.” (Hamilton – Lin Manuel Miranda.) This blog post was a very short story about how a mother found a way to take her son to see Hamilton.  But that is just the beginning of the story of a fight. It’s a fight that has been going on since the beginning of time and mothers. It’s a fight that continues. Any questions? Go see Hamilton. And call your mama.

We are (all) are immigrants. Somos immigrantes.

We are (all) warriors. 私たちは戦士です Watashitachiha senshidesu.

We are mamaninjawarriors.