Friday, December 26, 2008
Make time for me
Fifteen years ago tonight, I treated my four year old son, Jake, to a holiday night of sweet treats and amusement park rides on the rooftop of the Emporium, a now defunct department store downtown on Market Street. My own mother used to bring my sister and I there every December to eat crunchy corn dogs dipped in yellow mustard and ride the ferris wheel high above the twinkling city lights, snuggled in our parkas against the brisk air. This was one Christmas tradition my Jewish parents allowed me to experience despite their refusal to decorate a tall tree with ornaments and place a crystal angel on top. The night I took Jake, I did not share his exhilaration and happiness. My husband and I had recently separated and it seemed as though I was the only parent standing alone waving at her child as he whizzed by on the miniature train. I stared at the mothers and fathers holding hands, snapping Polaroids™, watching the images of their children with hands and fringed wool scarves flung into the air materialize on the white squares of photo paper. I spiraled down into a mood so low that I forgot to keep my eye on Jake as he snaked through the crowd to ride the roller coaster. I was paralyzed by the depression. I stood still and felt as cold as an ice sculpture. I didn't hear the music of the carousel. But from the din, Jake's laughter and urgent "Mommy, watch" snapped me out of my funk. I didn't want to destroy his fun and managed to gather the energy to use up the rest of our ride tickets and find the corn dog stand. We somehow caught the right streetcar home and once Jake was sound asleep, I placed a chunky sandalwood candle on the floor in the middle of my dark bedroom, lit the wick, and sat cross-legged in front of it's glow, waiting for clarity. I was mesmerized by the blue and yellow flame. Soon, my chest began to heave and primal sobs burst from my mouth. I was afraid the wracking sound would scare Jake so I pressed my palm over my lips. A movie of memories flooded my mind. I “watched” a little girl in a red and green plaid jumper begging her Daddy to dance with her. The word "homesick" underscored my recollection of a childhood wishing for more time with my Dad. I let the story unfold over an hour that late night. I immersed myself in homesickness; I learned to access old, stagnant emotions by giving myself the space and time to see through to the truth. And then I let go what didn't work for me anymore.