Sunday, November 14, 2010

Stopgap Family (found in Amelie* moments)

This week, a variety of things have happened that have made me rethink my perspective on life. I just opened an art show (that I curated with another woman) last week, I was finally getting a chance to catch my breath. I was coming out of a hurricane experience, and the change left me feeling depressed, though a bit less stressed. My thoughts are still raw, and they may change, but for today they feel profound enough to share. 

My 41st birthday was on Friday. Having been obsessed with my right ear's adventures, my poor birthday could have gone by unnoticed. My focus had been on finding a cause for my ear's noise, and getting through the day without panicking over it all. Just two days before my birthday, however, I discovered that an old high school friend (my best friend's boyfriend, actually) had tinnitus. He's a cool guy who lives a pretty adventurous life, and who seems to have a positive outlook. When I asked him how he deals with it, he said something to the effect of, It's hard at first, but you adjust. After reading an alarming number of testimonies from people who said they've been suicidal over it, his words were a gift. I decided from that point on to stop asking around, and to believe what he said whole-heartedly. And that night, for the first time in weeks, I slept soundly (despite the ringing) through the night.

On the morning of my birthday, I had plans to go to acupuncture, and then spend the day with my boyfriend. He offered to do whatever I wanted that day, and I had special (private) plans for us. That day, my friend Betty went to our favorite morning coffee place, Heavenly Temptations, and called to meet me to see if I would meet her for coffee. I couldn't, but she wished me a happy birthday and we should meet next week. An hour later, when I returned home from acupuncture, I found a bunch of cards between my storm and wooden doors. And presents. A friend of mine who works at Heavenly, came to my house to drop off her card and present, and also dropped off a card from Betty. Anne's card was from Scotland (her homeland), and the present was a bunch of my favorite handknit washcloths that she makes. Everything was so personal, and they were brought to my house and left for me. How do I get to have such good people in my life?

My day with W couldn't have been more beautiful. Without giving it all away, I can only say that everything was perfect. It was sunny and 60*, and our whole day was like a dream. Being outside with the man that I love, in sunlight, on a very warm November day, made my birthday complete.

But wait. There's more!

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I work diligently at being First Mom. My birthday was no different. I pulled up to school just after 2 p.m., killed the engine, reclined the seat, and put my bare feet out the window. I had just started reading an article on Jay Bakker (famously known for being the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker) in New York Magazine when I heard a car pull up beside me. I sat up and saw my friend Betty (the same Betty who wanted to meet me for coffee, and whose card was delivered to my door) with her two kids in the car. They sang the entire birthday song, start to finish, for me. I couldn't believe it.

It continues, on and on again. Mandy and her daughter driving by and stopping to wish me a happy birthday, calls from friends, from my mom, my dad, W's family. I arrived home to a chair tied with a huge bundle of oversized mylar balloons, a bouquet of flowers, and a set of Learning to Speak Italian CDs from my mother. My ex-husband and his wife took my son to get me gifts, and my boyfriend's ex-wife took the girls to get me gifts. Heart-warming gestures.

That afternoon, I had lunch with my son at Roma Pizzeria. The family that owns it knows us so well, that going in there feels like a giant hug. It was a wonderful afternoon. And that night at dinner, W had the waitress and her posse (along with the entire bar at the Second Half) sing me Happy Birthday. W belted it out loudest of all, because he knew that it would make me laugh shamelessly. Then today, we had breakfast at our favorite diner. Our waitress, Mina, who is also the owner of the diner, brought out two pieces of her mother's homemade dessert, Kataifi -- one for W, one for me -- with a big candelabra type candle standing in the middle, lit.  So sweet, in every way possible.

And tonight was the cherry on top of the whole shebang. Our kids (along with W's exquisite help) planned a little surprise party for me. On the sly, they went to Party City and got streamers, balloons, and festive plates and turned W's house into a disco. They even got a disco ball mylar balloon to match the disco ball that they'd placed and lit in the kitchen. And when the kids had a dance off, taking turns breakdancing in the kitchen, I was so overcome with joy that I couldn't imagine why I'd ever been unhappy. 

All of these experiences moved me. 

What I realized most is that life is about the family you create, not the one that you are born into. I can honestly tell you that W and the kids are my family. But that feeling extends out to all of the people who show up, who create the moments that matter. 

Oh, and if you don't know or haven't figured out what an Amelie moment is, do yourself a favor and rent the movie.  Here's a link to the trailer:


  1. Hi Tiffany, love your story here. We say "home is where the heart is! - so true and so good that we can actually create a family with our love and attention! A belated Happy birthday to you!

  2. Yes, so true. Sometimes we forget what really matters, and I was thankful to have this realization. And thank you for the belated birthday wishes! Another lovely thing to add to my wonderful weekend.

  3. so true, life is about what we the family you create - and they truly are family. :)

  4. I agree. I am so happy with the one that I've created.