Cheek to Cheek

Today is my grandma‘s birthday.
She would have turned 95.

I’m still not even close to being okay with the fact that Phoofsy left us so suddenly and unexpectedly. This is simply not how it was supposed to be. She’d been bummed because it was the first year (since she and my grandfather bought the house more than 40 years ago) that she couldn’t be at the lake from May until September; changing schedules meant that it was simply not possible. I was bummed for her because there was no place she’d rather be than Canandaigua, but I was selfishly looking forward to it. She could finally attend the girls’ piano recital! She would come to their Flag Day ceremony, dressed in her red, white, and blue finery just as she’d dressed up for the Halloween parade! Maybe I’d drag her to Field Day! And I’d definitely have made sure she witnessed the last day of school bus ritual in person.
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When she came to the girls’ Halloween parade last year, of course she dressed the part.
And she brought her iPad – to take photos of the girls to show her friends.

I knew that I was going to be out of town for Phoofsy’s milestone; there was simply nothing that could be done about it. I also knew that she’d understand, however – she’d have been mad at me if I’d stayed behind for her, actually – so we’d planned to take her out to The Melting Pot to celebrate a couple of days early, with Nick and the girls visiting her on her official birthday.

At least I’m no longer ditching her on her big day!
Silver lining?
Not really.

Shortly after Phoofsy passed away, we were talking with Ella and Annie about where she might be, if she was in heaven, and what they thought that looked like. Their insights were profoundly awesome, but one question had me stumped: “Mama, you know how Great loved music, so you like to think that when you hear songs that were his favorites, maybe he’s sending you a message? Well, since Phoofsy didn’t love music exactly the same way that Great did, how will she send you a message?”IMG_8535
At the Melting Pot with us, celebrating the start of school last fall.
Phoofsy proclaimed that the meal was so good, she could die happy right then.

I had no idea. My grandma was so very many things; she lived life more fully, more wholly, more openly than just about anyone I’ve ever met. But she wasn’t easily pinned into a package, nor did any one thing make her light up more than anything else the way that music did for my grandfather (except maybe playing Bridge, but since I don’t play, I don’t know how she’d communicate with me through cards). The thought that I couldn’t get that warm and fuzzy (and, okay, sometimes a little creepy) feeling from a particular song or a book or a phrase made me much sadder than I’d expected.

Less than two weeks after Phoofsy’s death, I set out back to mow the lawn. As usual, I listened to my Pandora stations on shuffle; it’s a wonderfully weird collection of everything from Lady Gaga to Paul Simon to Duke Ellington to Michael Jackson to Eminem. I’d just gotten the engine roaring when the first song came on.

I smiled because I immediately recognized Louis Armstrong’s voice. Louis has, somewhat inexplicably, always reminded me of my grandpa — the gravel in their voices, their jowls, their booming personalities. Plus, the music that Louis sings is from an era that my grandfather loved, so there’s that connection, too. In fairness, I do have a Louis station on my playlist, but because there are so many other choices, I don’t usually listen to too much of him. Hearing his rich, rough vibrato through the headphones was unexpected and delightful.

Without hesitation, I began humming along; I knew the melody by heart but didn’t give any thought to what the song actually was – I was simply singing by memory. It wasn’t until I absentmindedly started singing the lyrics that I realized what I was singing: “Cheek to Cheek” by the inimitable Irving Berlin.

In case you’re not familiar with this iconic tune (it’s featured on – is actually the title of – Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s recent collaborative album), or if you’ve forgotten the words, allow me to refresh your memory.

Heaven, I’m in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

Heaven, I’m in heaven
And the cares that hung around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

There’s more, but you can get the idea with just the beginning.

“Heaven. I’m in heaven.”
This was the first time I’d listened to music since losing Phoofsy. WHAT WERE THE CHANCES that THOSE would be the very first lyrics I heard?? I mean, seriously. SERIOUSLY!!!

And what were the chances that they would be sung by Louis Armstrong, a man who has always reminded me of my grandfather? COME ON, YOU GUYS.

At once, I understood: I didn’t need my grandmother to send me a message in a new and different way because my grandfather, who had always been the louder voice of their relationship, could do it for her – for both of them. And the message was crystal clear: I’m happy. We’re happy. Don’t worry, Em. We’re together and it’s more than okay; it’s bliss.
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My grandparents meeting Ella for the first time.

In an instant, I was laughing because it was so ludicrous and beautiful and magical… and then I was crying, overwhelmed with grief and longing and wonder. When another voice joined Louis’s marvelous baritone (Ella Fitzgerald, one of my all-time favorite singers and part of the reason why we decided to name our Ella what we did) and the song became a duet, I could hardly contain myself.

And so I mowed the lawn just like that, literally laughing and crying at the same time, singing along, adding harmony… and profoundly grateful that I’d chosen to start with the back lawn instead of the front so that I didn’t look like a complete lunatic in front of all the neighbors.

There were other songs to which I could maybe have assigned significance, but they would have been a stretch; “Cheek to Cheek” was all I needed. I mowed the rest of the lawn, returned the mower to the shed, and was reaching for my phone to turn off Pandora when one final song came on.

Again, it was sung by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald (FOR REAL I am not lying), but this time, it was “Dream a Little Dream of Me” – a song that I’ve loved for more than twenty years when I sung it with my college a cappella group.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you”
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me

I stood, frozen, listening to Louis and Ella’s rendition, hanging on every word… And then, at the end, when Ella added a few extra words so that she sang, Promise me – you’ll dream a little dream of me,” I found myself whispering aloud, “I promise, Gram. I promise.”

Obviously, I understand that this could all be coincidence. Heck, it is probably a coincidence – me ascribing meaning to random songs on my Pandora station. But I choose to believe otherwise, because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel less alone, less sad, more connected, more at peace. And those are very good things, my friends.

I choose to believe that my grandma is happy, wherever she is. That she and my grandfather are together again, somehow, and that their cares have melted away into an eternity of star-filled nights and sun-filled days. That I can see them both again – in photos and videos, in memories, in the stories shared by family and friends, in the lessons they taught me, and in my dreams.

That vision wasn’t really what I’d imagined for Phoofsy’s 95th birthday, but now that I think about it, it’s the very best way to celebrate.
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Birthday selfie for her 94th.
Damn, she was a great sport.

~~~~~~~~~

Happy 95th Birthday, Grandma.
It brings me incredible joy to know in my heart that you’re still kicking ass and living to the fullest, no matter where you are.
I miss you so much, and I wish you were here to celebrate with us (or Nick and the girls, at least — I’d have FaceTimed, though!!)… but, in the meantime, I hope you’re dancing like crazy. xx

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One Day

It’s officially day two of summer vacation and I’ve already taken a break from the kids.

This was a scheduled trip, though, not a desperate attempt to flee – a trip out west with friends to visit another friend who we just need to see. It’s been far too long; I’m so looking forward to being with them, to sharing hugs in person, to laughing and crying and just being together.
And also the eating. I love me some eating.

With just one day between school getting out and my leaving, I wanted to make the most of it with Ella and Annie. I wanted summer to start off right, not with me running around like a maniac or everyone scattered in different directions or me losing my temper only three hours in and yelling at them for disagreeing over Legos (not that that’s ever happened, but I’ve heard it’s a possibility).

So, by gosh, we made the most of it.

The first thing the girls wanted to do was a craft off of this year’s Summer Fun List – using bleeding tissue paper to dye a canvas and then adhering additional tissue paper to the colorful canvases with Mod Podge.
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This was totally not my idea; Annie completed the very same project at a friend’s party a few weeks ago and her family was kind enough to share the instructions – and tissue paper – with us.
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Photo by Ella of her final creation.
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Photo by Annie of her final masterpiece.

While the canvases dried, we got to do the rarest of things: shop for something silly with no timeframe or schedule, just for the hell of it, because we wanted to. To be more precise, we searched high and low for specific names on Coke bottles as part of the Share a Coke With marketing scam genius promotion that has drawn in suckers sentimental consumers like me. We’ve been on the lookout for certain names for weeks, but we’re always frantically rummaging through bins and coolers while grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions at Target, so there’s never any time to just browse in a leisurely fashion. Annie and Ella were in heaven.
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This may look like chaos, but we have got a system, you guys.

We might have pushed it a little by going to eight different establishments in search of our elusive bottles, but it was a lovely, frivolous diversion — a delightful way to pass part of a summer afternoon. And we found three more names we were looking for; holla!
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Fenwick was remarkably patient, but by the fourth or fifth store, he was starting to get more than a little tired of hopping in and out of the car.

After a brief swim next door, the girls asked if they could borrow my good camera to take photos of their projects (see their first attempts, above). While I prepped dinner, they then decided – for the first time ever – to try to take “real” photos of one another posing with their canvases on the lawn, in the tree in our front yard, on the back of Nick’s scooter… and, inexplicably, Ella’s bike (artistic vision. Respect).11403411_10153334445540295_4803402200932975868_n

The results were simultaneously awesome, cringeworthy, and hilarious; once I return and have their full permission, I can’t wait to share them.
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I love the intensity of their examination.

Following dinner, we participated in the most classic of all summer rituals: the procuring of ice cream.
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And the making of butter in a jar.
What? That’s not one of your summer rituals? Lame!
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In all seriousness, butter in a jar is both easy and fabulous. 
YOU’RE WELCOME.

I didn’t take pictures of me running or weeding the garden, the girls’ Lego and cardboard creations, the fort that they set up in the playroom, or the dog peeing on the rug… but it all happened, my friends. It was a jam-packed, relaxing day (yep, totally possible to be both) and just the way I’d hoped our summer would begin.

As I’ve talked about several times before, summer is hard for me. The lack of routine, the absence of structure, how nothing gets accomplished, my inability to relax; it’s just complicated. I guess milestones are complicated for me, period, even small ones like the end of school. Every year, I find myself wrestling with such intense and conflicting emotions, I feel like I’m being consulted for Inside Out (which is fabulous, BTW; do see it).

I’m elated that the girls loved their teachers and are sad to leave them and I’m bummed for them that they feel so heart-worn. I’m rejoicing not having to pack lunches for ten weeks and lamenting that now I’ll have to drag the girls with me when I buy groceries. I’m thrilled that the kids are older and we’re able to enjoy so much more together and I’m shocked and dismayed, as always, that the years are flying by so freakin’ fast. I’m delighted at the thought of all the fun we’ll have between now and Labor Day and I’m anxious because I’m already afraid that we won’t get to everything and I’ll be disappointed.

Thankfully, by now, I know what to expect. I know that summer will not be this perfectly idyllic experience, nor will it be a total disaster. It will be somewhere in between – dirty and messy and yummy and tear-filled and joyful and laid-back and exhausting and crazy and good – which, when you think about it, is just as it should be.

At least I can confidently say that Ella and Annie and I got one day of summer wonderfully, deliciously right.

Save for the mosquitoes. They’re like hummingbirds this year, y’all. Evil, buzzing, bloodthirsty hummingbirds.

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Tucking into bed last night. 
These girls, y’all. These girls.IMG_1099

Bee’s Knees

When the house phone rings at 8:20 on a weekday morning, there are really only two possibilities as to who will be on the line: Nick or my dad. If Nick is out of town, there’s a good chance it’s him, calling to say hello to the girls before they get on with their day. If Nick is home, it’s definitely my father.

Prior to his retirement last year, my dad did not call us on weekday mornings. In fact, I’m not sure that I can recall a single time when he phoned me while he was at work, ever, unless he needed an immediate answer to a particularly pressing question. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to speak with me, but rather that, when he was at work, he was working – hard – period, the end. Once I graduated college, we chatted fairly regularly, but always after 5 p.m., save for the pressing question times.
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Together on his birthday this year, one of few we’ve been able to celebrate together since moving to Rochester nearly eight years ago.

When my dad phoned us that first Monday after he retired – just because he could, because he wasn’t at the office, didn’t have any meetings to attend, didn’t have an agenda that had to be considered – it was a fun novelty, but I assumed it was a one-off. Lo and behold, however, the calls kept coming; not daily or even weekly, but every couple of weeks, the phone rings at 8-something in the morning and my dad is on the other end.

He doesn’t want to speak with me, though. No, he’s calling to talk to Ella and Annie, and they know it. “Oh – it’s Papa calling again!” they’ll say as they scramble to pick up the phone.

Occasionally, if they’re in a particular rush to get out the door or are moving at a snail’s pace and are behind in their routine, they’ll hear the familiar ringing and whine, “Mom, we’re too busy! Do we have to answer?”

And every single time, my response is, “Yes, you absolutely do.”
And every single time, they do. And, when they hang up, they are glad that they did.
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Kiawah, spring 2015

Because they know why their Papa is calling; I’ve confirmed this, just to be sure.

“Mom, why does Papa call us so much?”

Why do you think he does?

“I don’t know. Because he wants to say hi?”

That’s part of it.

“Because he wants to hear our voices before we go to school?”

That’s another part of it.

“Because he’s retired now so he likes to call just because he can?”

Yep, that’s another…

“Oh! And because he’s thinking about us and he wants us to know!”

Yes, there’s that, too. But you’re forgetting the biggest reason why Papa calls you in the morning.

“What?”

I bet if you really think about it you can figure it…

“Do you mean because he loves us?”

NAILED IT!

“Well, duh. We knew that.

So, to recap, their Papa calls them on school days because he is thinking about them, so that he can hear their voices, and so that he can tell them he loves them. Those are pretty damned good reasons to pick up the phone.

This past year since my dad’s retirement has been, hands down, my favorite of our relationship. Seeing him more often, being able to truly enjoy him and vice versa, has been an incredible gift. I’ve always known that my dad thinks I’m awesome; seeing him pass the same message to my own children is one of the greatest things I know.
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At the girls’ final swim meet of the year, which was in February. Given that my dad and GrandMeg had just come to visit us over Christmas and had – unexpectedly – been able to attend a swim meet, I’d told him that they didn’t have to come all the way back in February to repeat the adventure. My dad’s response: “Are you kidding? We wouldn’t miss it!”

Because that’s what we all want, isn’t it? To know that someone thinks you’re awesome? That you’re the bee’s knees? To believe their feelings down to your core?

Annie and Ella are fortunate enough to have dozens of family members who think that they’re the bee’s knees. Their own daddy is no exception. Nick was away this weekend participating in his annual guys’ day tournament; we’re used to him being out of town, but being gone on a Saturday or Sunday is unfamiliar. When the tournament was first scheduled and I knew that he’d be flying back on Father’s Day, I assumed that he’d sleep in, hang with the guys, take a flight that best suited him, and return later in the day. After all, on Father’s Day, he should spend his time exactly how he wants.

Instead, he booked a 6:30 a.m. flight, landing in Rochester before I’d even awakened… because it was Father’s Day, and what he wanted most of all was to spend it with his kids.

He thinks they’re that awesome. And they know it.

I don’t know much about actual bee’s knees, but I do know that being the bee’s knees feels pretty damned fantastic.
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Father’s Day surf and turf!
I love the way Ella is looking at her daddy in this photo.

————————-

Because I have been thinking of it all day, I would be terribly remiss in not giving a shout-out to another man who thought that Ella, Annie, Nick, his sisters (Nelle and Em) and their families and I were the bee’s knees: my father-in-law, Bill. Today* would have been Bill’s 72nd birthday. A double-whammy: Father’s Day and a birthday. I so wish he were here to celebrate with us – to see his oldest grandson turn five yesterday, to see his middle grandson sing Frozen songs, to meet his youngest grandson, who is just six weeks old.

We love and miss you, Grandpa Bill, and think you’re the bee’s knees, too.
(Which is probably a good thing, because you had bad knees.)
Happy Father’s (Birth)Day!

* This was written on 6/21 but, due to a scheduling snafu (i.e. time for bed!), won’t be published until 6/22…
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grandpa bill laugh
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Mud Creek

It is not yet officially summer here in Western New York – both because the calendar says summer hasn’t started yet and because our schools’ summer breaks don’t begin for approximately a bazillion years. (Okay, they only have two days left, but this past month has been particularly long.)

Still, it’s not so bad, because it feels like summer in so many ways. The kids are outside playing, every single day (well, every day that it isn’t raining to the point of flooding). It’s lighter, longer. We’ve officially left our winter gear behind for t-shirts and shorts and sundresses and flip-flops. There is little, if any, homework. After-school activities are finished. Peaches are in season. Our garden is growing like crazy. The house already smells like sunscreen and chlorine.

Now that I think about it, our kiddos may be the among the luckiest in the country: they essentially receive an additional month of summer before summer even begins.
I LOVE NEW YORK!

Despite the laissez-faire attitude, though, until last week, one critical component of our summer days was missing: our trips to Mud Creek Farm, where we participate in a CSA program. Last year was our first CSA summer, borne of a whim on my part – a thought that it would be nice to have fresh, homegrown produce every week; a wish that we would come to enjoy visiting the farm to pick our own herbs and veggies.
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I’d hoped we would find it fun, that the 15-minute drive would be worth it, that we might even appreciate our food a little bit more having participated in collecting it (the veggies from our own garden always taste better than anything we get at the store!). I hadn’t anticipated that we would come to adore it as much as we did. 

Every week, we would count and weigh our allotted assortment of goodies, discussing which peppers looked to be the sweetest and which zucchini would make the best soup. We marveled at foods we’d never seen before – orange-hued watermelon?! (hint: it tastes the same as the pink kind) – and foods we’d seen but had never tried before (bok choy, I’m looking at you; turns out, it’s one of Ella’s favorites).
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To her delight, bok choy was available at our first pick-up this year; score!

We carefully weighed our two pounds of kale or three pounds of beets, watching as the hand on the scale wavered until it nestled on just the right amount.
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Choosing just the right lettuce to bring home.

And when we’d collected our “official” share, we’d head out into the fields to take advantage of the you-pick options — beans, tomatoes, loads of herbs, peppers, gorgeous flowers — our bags growing fat and our arms weighted down (truly; one week, we picked more than five pounds of green, purple, and yellow beans). As the girls would walk gingerly between the rows, I would stop, every time, and watch the sun behind them, breathing in the very smell of happiness and freshness and freedom and summer.
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July 2014

The farmers and employees are super friendly and helpful, and the fellow shareholders are genuinely happy to see us – it feels like a community. I’d hoped we’d enjoy the fresh produce, but I’ve been most excited by how much the girls and I just adore being there. It’s so serene and warm and lovely, truly a highlight of each week.

When our season ended last October, I missed it… but, quite frankly, life was so busy between sports and travel and work that it was almost a relief to not have to drive to the farm. As June approached and the days — and our attitudes — lightened, I found myself longing to be back at Mud Creek. When at last the first pick-up day arrived last week, Ella and Annie and I could hardly wait to be back again.
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On the (very, very muddy) hunt for snap peas…

Summer.
We can literally taste it.

As our attitudes have lightened, however, our hearts have been heavy; first, my beloved grandma. Then, the massacre in Charleston (which felt strangely close to home because it is a place that is very special to us). I’ve struggled to make sense of things, to explain them to the girls, to help them find meaning and answers when I don’t even know what they are, myself. (As an addendum, this post by my wonderful friend, Liza, is an amazing guide to how to be a white ally to the black community.)

In absence of answers and in an effort to not become completely overwhelmed, I’ve been clinging to the little things, the ones that bring me hope and ground me; the way the dogs lie at my feet, sleeping contentedly; the sound of my daughter’s voice, bursting with confidence and joy, as she sings in the shower; the shy satisfaction of my other daughter as she shares a secret with me; the gleeful recognition of Nick’s number on the caller ID, meaning he’s checking in with us even when he’s not in town; watching So You Think You Can Dance and marveling at how ridiculously handsome Jason Derulo is (come on now, it’s not just me…).
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Yep, a few more in-the-fields, sun-behind-us photosmud creek7

And our weekly visits to Mud Creek, which allow the girls and me some glorious downtime, an opportunity to laugh and talk and share, with the sun at our backs and fresh food in our hands. I know we are very fortunate to even have such an opportunity, and even more fortunate to love it as much as we do.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that wind up being not so little at all.
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After receiving an absurd amount of rain recently, the fields last week made the Mud in Mud Creek particularly true. 

To Say Hello

My grandma (Phoofsy to Ella and Annie and many others) – always said that life was worth living so long as you were having fun. A little less than two weeks ago, unexpectedly and suddenly and to our stunned shock and heartbreak, Phoofsy stopped having fun.

You guys. I just… It’s simply not okay.

Living so near her these past eight years was one of the reasons that moving to Rochester was such a fantastic decision. My grandma was our guidepost, our touchstone, our sounding board and cheerleader, our adventure buddy, and our constant partner for dinner, games, and talking. We have never lived here without her and, honestly, I feel as though we’ve been cut adrift; Nick and I hadn’t realized how much she grounded us and made us whole.

I miss her so much, I cannot begin to put it into words.
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We have spent every Easter with Phoofsy since we moved here.
This year was no different.

Losing Phoofsy has been difficult for Ella and Annie as well. Sadly, they are quite familiar with loss (most importantly, their Grandpa Bill, and to a much lesser extent – although fresh on their minds – our Madison), but never before have they had to say goodbye to someone who was an integral part of our daily lives, someone whose presence would be noticeably absent at soccer games, swim meets, birthdays, evenings beside the fireplace, Sunday brunch, Wednesday nights, and every day in between.

This is an active, different kind of grieving, for all of us.
Not better. Not worse. Not harder or easier. Just different.

My mom and stepdad drove up to the lake the day after my grandma passed away and immediately got to the business of sorting through Phoofsy’s affairs (and providing lots of hugs and memories and laughs); we loved getting the chance to see them, even under these circumstances. As our little family foursome was driving back from the lake last weekend – the first-ever we’d spent there without my grandma – the conversation naturally turned toward Phoofsy.
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Playing The Lake Game on Memorial Day, my grandma was absolutely tickled that she managed to successfully flip her cup. We were absolutely tickled, too.

Things began simply enough, sharing stories and memories, but soon moved onto more metaphysical, abstract thinking. It started with Nick telling them that he was comforted by the idea that, one minute, Phoofsy was here and healthy, the next there was some brief confusion, and the very next, she was seeing Great‘s face as he said to her, “What took you so long?”

Annie and Ella were intrigued by this and wanted to hash things out, so we kept talking. “Where do you think Phoofsy is right now?” “If there’s heaven, do you stay the same age as you are when you die?” “Can people who have already died leave ‘messages’ for those of us who are still here?” 

As they discussed their conceptions of heaven, Nick and I grew more and more entranced. The girls’ ideas were absolutely fascinating and far more interesting and nuanced than anything I’ve imagined in my nearly-forty years. In fact, their thoughts were so lovely, so simultaneously comforting and thought-provoking, I asked if I could share them with you.
They graciously agreed.
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Chuckling that her poker hand was better than Ella’s.
Even when you’re 84 years older than your great-granddaughter, victory is sweet. 

—————-

“In heaven, you can be any age you want, and you can change that age whenever you like. So, if you had a really great time when you were twelve, you get to be twelve. Then, if you want to feel what it was like to be fifty again, you can be fifty for a while. Oh! And the person you’re with – like, if Phoofsy is with Great – can be another age, too. ‘Cause you know how Great was 86 when he died but Phoofsy was almost 95? That might not be fair, for her to be older, just ’cause she got to live longer. They might want to be the same age again – so they can be, together.”

(I don’t know what age I want to be yet, but that sounds pretty much like the best idea ever.)

“I think, in heaven, you can live out a dream while you’re awake. Like, you know how when you wake up after you’ve had an awesome dream and you suddenly realize it was just a dream and you’re so sad? Well, in heaven, you actually get to do the dream while you’re awake – you never have to miss anything! So Phoofsy and Great and Grandpa Bill can live out all of their dreams, for real – not just dreaming – every single day.”

(OMG THAT IS AWESOME.)

“But it’s okay to sometimes miss things. I think people in heaven might sometimes be sad. I mean, they’re mostly happy – it’s heaven after all, and they can see their friends and they can travel all around the world and have those dreams – but I think there’s a little sadness… Because life has sadness. We have to have some sadness to appreciate the happiness. Without a little, tiny bit of sadness, heaven wouldn’t be real.”

(Appreciation and perspective, even in heaven. Very cool.)

“When you’re in heaven, if you get to travel all around the world and be any age you want, I want to be a baby for a little while.” 

(Interject our incredulity. A baby?? But wouldn’t that be… boring?)

“Well, that’s the thing. We think it would be boring right now because we can’t see inside a baby’s mind and we don’t remember what it was like to be a baby. But if I could be a baby, but have my regular mind, I could see what life was like when I was a baby and actually remember it.”

(Scratch what I said before. THAT may be the best idea ever.)

“And I know that, once people are dead, they’re gone and all that. But I think they’re still with us, too — not just in our hearts, though, like people say. I think – and I know this is kind of weird – but I think that people can come and visit for a while. You can’t see them, you can’t feel them, you don’t even know they’re there… But they are. Maybe they walk with you to school. Maybe they sit next to you at dinner. Maybe they ride beside you in the car. Then, suddenly, you have a good memory of that person and it makes you feel better… and it’s because they were right there with you for just a little bit, visiting. Not all creepy like a ghost! Just a good feeling, because they came to say hello.”

—————
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Mother’s Day 2015

Ella and Annie don’t talk too much about being sad, but I know that Phoofsy is on their minds. Every day since she died, both girls, of their own accord, have made absolutely certain to keep something of hers with them; Ella now carries her books in one of Phoofsy’s old purses; Annie wears her hats around the house. Hardly a day has gone by when they haven’t worn one of her necklaces to school even though, normally, necklaces aren’t their thing.

Every time I see them toting her bags, donning her jewelry, adorned in her hats… a fleeting, glowing smile crosses my heart.

And I have no doubt Phoofsy has come to say hello.
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