Monday, December 31, 2012

The Mist of a Boo

My phone rings, I answer to hear,  "Happy New Year Coach!" 
"Happy New Year!" I respond. 

I apologized for not recognizing her voice, explained unavailable showed on my phone screen, so I didn't even know where the call was coming from and I asked who it was. I heard her laugh, "It's been a long while, I am not sure if you will remember me but its Boom, your mist of a boo!"

It took me a second to make the connection, place a face with the nickname. because I had never technically coached her. The two of us laughed as we walked down memory lane, filling in each other's memory gaps.
She was this little bitty thing, cheering on a younger team. She would stay after her football game to watch my older kids cheer.  I dubbed her Boo because she always tried to sneak up behind me, make me jump.  She was one of the kids who constantly told me she couldn’t wait to get older, cheer on my team and be one of my girls.
I remember the many conversations between the cheerleading commissioner and myself. Her coach was frustrated with her team, especially the young girl I called Boo. She was too small to base and because she had been dropped to the ground the year before she was afraid to fly, she constantly gave up on builds and bailed. Kim our of frustration joked, the team was a stunting nightmare and asked if I could go help with the younger team, “work my magic”.   Never one to say no, or turn down a stunting challenge, I agreed.

Boo showed up at our next game and I asked my kids a favor. I asked a few of my more experienced bases to put her up so I could see what she was like in the air. I was hoping with the help of my girls, the ones she looked up to and admired, together we could start chipping away at her fear of being dropped. Give her the confidence to go back in the air and fly. The first time the girls tried to put her up, she bent her leg, crumpled and came right back down.  I saw the panic in her eyes as they took her up, much faster than she was used to. I told them to try again. 
As she stood in her load in position, her head was down, shoulders dropped; I had seen that look before, that was the position of giving up. I knew it didn’t matter who was under her, she did not trust herself or them, she was afraid. I told Boo to look me in the eyes. I ran through the basics, always keep her head and eyes up, shoulders and hips squared, elbows up so she could push off, then prep, and stand up and lock the leg out. It was a piece of cake she just had to want to do it.  I lifted her chin, smiled and assured her, she could do it. I would never let her get hurt; she had my girls underneath her, she would not hit the ground as long as I was around.  She could do it, I had enough faith in her for the both of us. I reminded her, a single leg lib is a simple build. Next I asked my girls to take her up slow and keep her up there until I said bring her back down.
This time she stood up, my girls had her fully extended but once she was up, she kept bending her knee, trying to bail, force my girls to bring her down. My girls even more stubborn than I am, followed my instructions and refused to sweep her. Every time she bent her knee, waved her arms, one of my taller kids extra spotting would push her butt back up, forcing her to stand up. I stood in front, instructing her, keep your head up, lock your leg, don’t swing your arms, you are up there, you can do this, you are not coming down until you lock it out and stand.  Elizabeth who was basing her, yelled, “You are light. We can stay here all night so just lock your leg out.”  Boo finally steadied herself and stood in perfect lib. I gave her a thumbs up, yelled "That’s it you are doing it!"  As promised once she hit and held the lib I gave my bases the 1,2 to cradle (bring her down, catch her).  I saw a huge smile when they caught her, and that confirmed her heart loved to fly but her brain was afraid of falling.   

As long as the heart is in the game, you can eventually get the brain to get with the program.  I told my girls, load up do it again, reminded her to lock out, show everyone watching she was a flyer.  I reminded her if she wanted to be one of my kids one day,  number one rule, don’t give up, fight for every build.  We went through the drill several times, load in, up, hold, cradle.  The more she hit the happier she became, I still remember her yelling at her Dad to take her picture. She was proud; so was I.

The following week I showed up at her practice to help their coach work on team stunting.  I watched as my Boo loaded up, bend her leg and fall before she ever got close to standing up. Each time I would correct her bases, correct her form and say let’s do this again. It was obvious, she was scared and her bases were scared. Her entire group was defeated they had no faith in themselves or each other. They were giving up before they even started.

I pulled Boo aside to give her a personal pep talk. I reminded her she could fly, she had flown with my girls; she was beautiful in the air. If she could fly with my girls, there was no reason why she could fly with her team. She was always in control, it was up to her if she hit or she fell. She tried to give me the excuse, it was her bases they always give up first. I explained, her bases were afraid because she was afraid. How would she like to be a base, and be under a girl who constantly gave up?  Fear was contagious and so was fearless.  She controlled which one her group would be infected by. Instead of giving up she needed to fight, she needed lead, to show everyone underneath her she was not afraid, they could do it together. I could tell by her expressions she was still not convinced. Again, she gave me the excuse her bases moved, it was hard to stand, she was afraid they were going to drop her, she would hit the floor again. 

As a coach, my kids will tell you I use some really ‘different’ analogies for my motivational talks. I use what pops in my brain at the time, which at times can be a bit interesting. 
It was raining outside so I asked her if she was afraid of Thunderstorms, she rolled her eyes and said not since she was a little kid.  I explained she could always be a mist of a boo, the flyer who comes down in a simple drizzle or she could become a BOOM, the flyer who goes up and stays up even in a heavy thunderstorm.  She needed to think of her bases as the wind, the wind doesn’t stand still, it always moves and shifts. No matter how much her bases shifted, she had to be fearless, lock her leg out and stand up.  Thunder never stopped or gave up because the wind was moving. I always believed the stronger the wind the louder the boom. As a flyer, the more her bases moved the stronger she had to be. No matter what was going on underneath her, she had to be fearless, squeeze everything and lock out. If she did that, her bases could get her up and keep her up. I added personally I thought she was more of a Boom than a Boo. In fact after watching her fly with my girls I knew she was a Boom, she just needed to see it to. Have faith.

I patted her on her back and sent her back to her build group. They loaded up and down she came.  I told them it was okay, made a few corrections and adjustments, then before I said 1,2 I heard her small voice say, “We can do this.”  Once again she came down. Not allowing the frustration to build, I told them it was okay, that is what practice is for, to learn, falling was a part of learning. I lifted Boo's chin, smiled at her and instead of hanging her head back down, this time she said a little louder, “We can do this.”   By the end of the night, her constant, we can do it, her determination caught on and her stunt group was hitting and staying up. More importantly they were smiling and starting to gain confidence they were missing before. They even learned to twist in a half.  When I left, I gave my boo and her group each a high five and I told her to keep booming away. 

I would go back to her practice several more times, helping them learn and master new stunts. I will never forget at counties; watching my little bitty flyer who weeks before was terrified of stunting, hit all her builds. She ran off the floor with a huge smile, gave me a high five, a hug and proudly announced "I am officially a Boom."
My little boom never cheered for me, her father was in the Army and they were reassigned/moved the following year.

After reminiscing, I asked her after all these years why she called? I was happy she called but technically I was never her coach so her call truly surprised me.
She explained, she was home on leave before being deployed. She was helping her mom go through some old boxes, organize her things, when she came across some of her old cheerleading photographs and papers.  My cell phone number was on the bottom of one of the GORC contact sheets.  She was happy I still had the same number. I confessed that is why I always kept it, so my kids could always find me no matter how long it had been.

She was excited to learn I was still coaching. She envied my girls; she had always wanted to cheer on my squad.  She told me she cheered in high school, was a flyer and I would be proud she never bailed, she always fought to stay up. It didn't matter how many times she was dropped, she stayed fearless and got back up.  She always remembered to lead with confidence not fall with fear.

She called because she wanted to let me know when she was in OCS (officer candidate school) there were times she was tired, hurt, sore, ready to give up, for some reason she reflected back to her days at GORC and my crazy faith in her.  She reminded herself, she was always a Boom she never again wanted to be the mist of a boo that gave up. 

She wanted me to know how much it meant to her that I took time to talk to her, encourage and work with her. In her eyes I was the cool coach, I taught the older girls. She would watch the interaction I had with my cheerleaders at football games, the fun we shared and she wanted to be one of my girls. In a way I was her idol, she looked up to me, my girls and I paid attention to her, made her feel special and taught her she could do anything. Before she deployed she wanted to make sure I understood how much it helped her grow. 

Sometimes we never realize, it’s the moments, the conversations, the practices we forget. They are inconsequential at the time. We never recognize its the small tidbits of our life that can have the biggest impact on another’s.  

For most of my adult life I have coached either gymnastics or cheerleading.  I have worked with hundreds of children. I teach them for a few years and as in all things in life, they move on, they leave me. As a coach, I hope, I pray I have had a positive influence on them; I have been able to help them grow, reach their full potential.

Without a doubt, my kids have helped me to become a better me, a better coach and I pray I have done the same for them.  I hope they always look back with laughter and smiles at the times we worked, played, and accomplished many goals together, as a team.

I confess there are days when I leave practice and I am never quite sure if I used the right words, if I am really reaching them, are they listening, and I wonder all things a coach wonders.

…then the phone rings and a voice from my past is there reminding me exactly why I coach. Confirmation, crazy analogies and all I am not doing such a bad job.
Today's phone call also reminded me how neglectful I have been.

When I coach, instruct,encourage, give my crazy speeches and pep talks, it's not just me; the words, the methods are all formed from the influences of my past coaches, friends and teachers. I think it's about time I let those wonderfully special people know how much they have meant in my life. How much of what they taught me, I have absorbed and passed on to my kids. It really is a wonderful legacy we coaches share. 

So maybe a great resolution for 2013, is to reach back, remind all the people in our past how much they have meant to us.  How much they have influenced us all. 

Happy New Year everyone!! Be safe and God Bless.   

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Memory - I'll Be Home for Christmas

When I was little, most Christmases our family would travel to Lebanon, Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with my Nana Kay. The day after we arrived, Mom, Dad and Debbie would head out to do last minute Christmas and grocery shopping. Since I was a ‘handful’ at the store, I was always left behind. I never thought of it as punishment, for me it was a treat, Nana Kay and I would spend the day baking the final round of Christmas cookies. It is where I discovered the magic of baking.

 I loved her kitchen and often wish I could step back into it; the old white stove with black grates, the square table that sat in the middle, my magnetic paper dolls often adorned the wide metal band that circled the table top, the silver chairs, the peeling sound they made when you got up from the white plastic vinyl cushions. On the right side of the kitchen was the 'dish' sink, it was so tall I had to stand on a stool to wash my hands.  I remember how the oven would warm up the kitchen, the heat would at times be so hot Nana Kay would open the back door, slide down the window on the screen door and let the cold winter air in to cool down the house. 

Next to the kitchen was the formal living room, a place where children were never allowed to sit or play. It was the room with the fancy furniture, end tables with huge doilies, an over-sized curio cabinet I was convinced I could live in and a long table covered with old family photographs that ran the wall of the staircase. I was banished to my room once for knocking down the pictures with my dangling feet as I slid down the banister. Other than the  enticing banister, the room always seemed old, uninviting except for Christmastime. After Thanksgiving the room was a mecca of wonderful. It came alive with feather trees, angels with glittering hair, greens with red bows adorning their drapes, candles that once lit cast dancing shadows on the wall. The trophy of the magnificent room, on the back wall, standing between two large green wing chairs graced with playful Santas and under a set of large shiny red Christmas bells that hung from the ceiling, was a beautiful old hi fi stereo. It was huge, it was wooden and it was awesome. I loved the sound of the brass hinges as I lifted the lid and set the arm to hold it open.  The speaker in the front looked like a black mesh flower, the legs were beautifully sculpted, the sides always polished to a shine.  It was beautiful when it sat silent and it transformed to magnificent when it came alive with music. The only time I was allowed to enter the room and play the stereo unsupervised was Christmas baking day. 

Before Nana Kay would light the oven, measure any ingredient, she would retrieve her Christmas albums from the cabinet and lay them next to Santa in the chair. My job, when an album finished playing, I would replace it with the next one in the pile. As the day wore on the stack in one chair would grow larger as the other stack diminished. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Andrew Sisters, Perry Como, Doris Day, the King Family, Elvis Presley, I had them all memorized and would joyfully sing along with each. 

Decca Records, Bing Crosby in a Santa Hat wearing a holly bow tie, with ‘Bing’ signed on the side. The album was White Christmas and I remember it so vividly, not for its title song but for another track, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. When the song ended Nana Kay would tell me to "run and play it again". I would stand on my tippy toes so I could see the album spinning below and safely grab the needle. I would scrunch my nose and squint my eyes as I carefully identified the correct blank track. Curling my lower lip, slightly biting it I would steady my hand so as not to drop the needle or let it bounce as I placed it back down at the beginning of the song. To make sure I had placed the needle in the proper spot, I would wait for the orchestra to begin before I would turn and skip back into the kitchen. When the Bing Crosby finished and the choir began to sing Nana Kay would take my hand and we would dance around the table. The flour from my apron seemed to mimic a light snowfall as it danced its way to the floor as she spun me. Our last Christmas together, we must have danced to the song a dozen times. What I remember most, I was always puzzled, no matter how many times the song played; Nana Kay never sang the lyrics correctly. Her words were only slightly off, but they were still obviously wrong. I never pointed out her mistake, I never asked why; I was nine, I didn't question, I sang along and enjoyed our dance together. 

It was several years after Nana Kay’s death, when I was in college that I re-discovered her old Christmas Albums while searching for a box of lost ornaments in the basement. I pulled the box from where it had been neatly hidden and placed it on the floor next to Dad’s work bench so I could easily retrieve it later. After the tree had been decorated and my parents and sister went off to bed, I decided to dust off the Old Christmas albums and see if they still played. I pulled the box out from the work shop and loaded up my stereo. 

The fire was dancing in the Franklin stove as I lie on the couch, waiting. I heard the record drop, with the sound of the arm moving across the stereo I began to hold my breath. At first there was only static, slowly the crackling from album’s age gave way to Bing Crosby’s beautiful baritone voice. I smiled as I listened to my old familiar Christmas ‘friend’. I was snuggled deep in my blanket when I heard the familiar orchestra and guitar intro for "I'll Be Home for Christmas." I rolled over on my back, closed my eyes, put my arms in the air, so my Nana Kay could spin me once again. As we 'danced' and I sang along I finally realized it wasn’t a mistake, Nana Kay purposely changed the lyrics. Her words were, in a way, a love letter to my Grandfather. He had died at the age of 36 shortly after returning home from World War II. Now I understood why she often looked to the ceiling as we danced, she was singing to heaven. I understood why she wanted me to “run and play it again” and again and again. Irving Berlin’s song from so long ago; was Nana Kay’s Christmas love song to her Marlin, my grandfather. 

The older I become, the more I can relate to the longing that was in her voice as she sang. Life has taught me when you lose someone you love, the years may pass, memories may fade, but the love never changes, the hurt never fades. 

Tonight after the Christmas Eve service, as everyone was bustling around me saying their Merry Christmases and good byes; I sat quietly in the pew and said a prayer. I prayed for all the men and women who died serving our country that will never be home for Christmas. I prayed for the family and friends they left behind, who if they are like me will be dreaming of a Christmas one more time with the person they love and miss. When I finished my prayer I quietly sang my Nana Kay’s version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas especially to my Grandpa (Lt. Col. Marlin R. Kopp) and Bobby (Lt. Robert T. Bianchi) and to my friends, Kevin (Cdr. Kevin A. Bianchi) and Pete (Cdr. Pete Oswald) who never made it back home.

So this Christmas, I thought I would share my Nana Kay’s story… and hopefully, who knows maybe next time you hear “I’ll Be Home Christmas” you will sing her lyrics, then quietly say a prayer for all servicemen and women who will only be home in the hearts and dreams of the loved ones they left behind. 

Below are her lyrics, (Please note, on the newer recorded versions of the song, there is an intro that was not on the older Bing Crosby rendition, so I added my own changed lyrics to match my Nana Kay’s. I hope you don’t mind) 

I’m dreaming tonight 
Of a man I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it was a long time ago
I promise you

You’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
We’ll have snow and mistletoe 
And presents under the tree 
Christmas Eve will find you
Where the love light gleams
You’ll be home for Christmas
Forever in my dreams

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Letters: A Gift From Our Past to Our Present to Our Future

True, mail is slow, email is instantaneous. I love how in a matter of seconds what I have written via email will reach its destination, whether it is next door or the other side of the world. Questions can be answered within a day verses a week.  Email has many remarkable attributes but will never be as wonderful, as intimate as an actual letter.  ‘Dreamy’ is holding a piece of paper, a love note, next to your heart that a sweetheart has written.   There is something magical seeing a person’s handwriting verses the font that appears on a computer screen.   Mail gives us something tangible to hold on to, cling to after someone is gone.  Email is a virtual correspondence, to me not as personal. Hand written letters are our own personal time machines, they allow us to glimpse into our past, remind us of whom we were, the people who traveled in and out of our lives.

In the process of searching the basement for a box of old family photos to give my sister I rediscovered one of my many boxes of old letters and keepsakes.  Feeling nostalgic I grabbed the box, spent the next few hours journeying back into my past.  Sitting on my bed I took out the bundles of mail neatly held together by rubber bands, smiling as I separated them, reading the names and location on the return addresses. It felt as if it was Christmas in May as I pulled out souvenirs of my younger days; old football and graduation programs, a few business cards, an unused airplane ticket, soap on a rope and a few other “interesting” trinkets.  The letters tied together by a simple white scarf I held for a few minutes, not wanting to let go.  I ran my fingers over his last return address, HC-5 Box 84, FPO San Francisco, Agana Guam 96637. Twenty five years ago his hands wrote my address, my beautiful last letter.  I leaned my head against the wall, sighed, amazed at how much time had passed, saddened at how much life he has missed.  I put his letters aside; I wanted to read the letters I had forgotten, not relive what my heart has memorized.

The memories that had lapsed, long forgotten in the recesses of my brain, came to life as I sat Indian style with a pillow on my lap and read. When I finished each letter, I placed them neatly in piles around me.  Notes from high school had me laughing the hardest. Apparently thirty cents bought a soda, because that is what my secret sister gave me to buy a coke “to go with that scrumptious dinner.”  A small faded piece of paper reminded me my first secret sister was Jennifer McCarthy, who lived on Camelot Drive in Odenton.  Teenage frustration at life, being forced to move during high school was clearly evident in a single page letter dated 14 November 1977 with one sentence written over and over again, “I hate LA” (Louisiana) from my friend Margaret. However, the subject did change in her P.S., “What do you mean- you are close to having a boyfriend?”   I must confess I am curious now who the close to was as well??  Other than a handful of correspondences from St. James School (my first boyfriend) most of my high school letters are notes passed between friends discussing what boys were cute, recalling the countless dateless dances and heartbreak over not being liked by a crush. Most amusing were the notes discussing what happened over the weekends. The letter post marked May 1981 Colorado Springs, Colorado reminded me how much and how often my ‘big brother’ worried about me.  He was busy studying for finals but wanted to take time to write, remind me to be safe, have fun but be good at prom.  My last letter as a senior in high school; would be the first of many letters I would receive from the zip code 21412.  Dated 20 May 1981, 3rd class midshipmen, 2nd company 83, wrote to thank me for our walk the weekend before, “I think you’re a doll unfortunately awkwardness prevailed much of the time we were together.  Time however, does have a way of seasoning people. You are beautiful… Don’t close the door to romance.”   I don’t remember Midshipmen Evans so I think the door must have closed.

The letters from my college years were much different than the ones previously; they are evidence of my transition from a teenager to young lady, no longer school girl notes, the majority were from men vying for my attention. The many various relationships witnessed and recorded by pen and paper delivered by the U.S. Post Office. Sifting through the piles I was reminded of the Rugby player from 5th Company who wrote me in August of 1981. As I read his letters my memory came alive; he was from Tucson, Arizona and I met him while walking downtown with my friend Helen.  Our introduction; he made a funny remark about how my ice cream cone was bigger than I was.  It was melting down my hand faster than I could eat it.  He came to my rescue, retrieved a napkin and while I cleaned my hands he finished my cone.  I believe his pick up line was something to the effect, since we had officially shared germs I had to go out with him. He introduced me to the game of rugby and I introduced him to how fickle girls could be.  Another 3rd classman quickly caught my attention and I dated him for the next several months.  My mailbox was now receiving mail from 7th company no longer 5th.

 I couldn’t help but laugh at the Christmas card I received dated 12 August 1982. “I was thinking about you, and that made me think about Christmas.”  A post card from San Francisco reminded me at one time I was called Wild Woman #2 by my brother-in-laws friends.  My first card of 1983, came from Ann Flight, 1/1/83 a quick note telling me the cookies I made were delish and Happy 1983. I smiled at her signature, “Ma”.  There were many letters and cards from ‘Ma’.  The largest Valentine’s Day card I have ever received arrived in February 1983 from “Sunny California.” It cost 33 cents to send. Less than a month later, post marked March 9, 1983 San Diego, my introduction to the world of break-up letters.  He was a pilot, gorgeous, he was intelligent, he was sweet and I was not meant for him. The ‘break-up’ was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  The first letter to break my heart was sent December 1st, 1983 from Pensacola, Florida.  At the time it brought tears to my eyes, now I see the humor in it.  He was responding to a letter I had written him on my plane ride home from the Army Navy game in California. I was confused and needed to know what future he saw with me. He wrote all his friends were getting married and he was not ready for any kind of ‘formal commitment’.  He went on to explain he was pretty sure he loved me, but maybe he should refrain from using the word love so often when we spoke and wrote each other. What made me chuckle, he signed his letter, “Love you always.”  Two weeks later I received a Christmas card inviting me down to Pensacola to visit, he missed me. The uncertainty of love and life born on the pages of my letters, now stored in the basement.

Definition of bad timing: Christmas 1984, I received cards from Corpus Christi, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; Alamogordo, New Mexico and Norfolk, Virginia.  It seemed every man I had seriously dated or had secretly been in love with sent me a card letting me know they were thinking about me, asking how I was, they missed me and were hoping I would consider visiting them.  I never answered any of them; I was pregnant with my daughter.  At the time it was painful, but now it is almost comical at how ironic it all was.

The funniest letters, the best illustrators of my younger years, the numerous correspondences I received from friends; some asking for the latest dirt, others teasing me about the current love of my life.  Letters from California, New Mexico, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Pennsylvania, my friends dotted across the United States and some stationed overseas. Postcards from Christmas, spring and summer break ; August of 1982 I am sure when Mark wrote from summer cruise he had no idea 30 years later I would be once again be reading his postcard and saying out loud, “That’s right he bought a mustang”  and laughing at his predictions for 1st class year!  I smiled at the letter from California asking if the latest rumor was true, was I dating a certain Lieutenant in Norfolk.  The answer was neither yes nor no, I really didn’t know. There were dates asked and confirmed via the mail for sailboat rides, drinks at friends and beach volleyball games on the shores of Norfolk. They all made the summer of 1982 one of the most fun I ever had. It also added to my confusion; San Diego, Annapolis, or Norfolk, where did my heart really belong.

Many of my personal dilemmas were solved with the help of my friends via pen, paper and the post office. Other problems were compounded by them.  Letter dated 20 January 1982, “You can’t seriously consider liking him, his friend is a complete jackass and that means I would have to be nice to him. You know how hard that will be?”  One of the most wonderful letters was written to me the early morning of May 25, 1983 and left for me at the Flight’s house, it was  from a good friend Ed, “Just wanted to drop off a letter in case I didn’t get to a chance to talk to you again” (after graduation) He gave me advise on the rest of my college years, about a certain man in his company and ended his letter with; “You never know what will happen in life I wanted you to know I have never seen you as an “average” person, I have come to know a pretty extraordinary girl. Never sell yourself short. (Which you tend to do)  Please write or call if you are ever frustrated, pissed off. (Or happy as hell.) Don’t sweat it dude. Later D, it’s been fun. Going to miss you. “ Hellertown, PA I had forgotten his hometown but the address he left me, a place where they would always be able to forward his mail, triggered my memory.  A simple letter reminding me of all the wonderful friendships I had found at the Academy and lost through time.

There is such a beautiful creative process to letter writing.  No spellcheck, no backspace delete, what flows freely from your brain is transcribed on paper with no alterations or corrections.  Back in the day there were no icons; hearts and silly doodles were hand drawn then sent to a sweetheart.  When I was younger, I kept a writing pad in my nightstand, before going to bed I would use my knees as a desk and write to the people who meant the most to me. Then I would anxiously await their reply. At the time I didn’t realize with the help of my friends, I was documenting a history of me, my crazy confusing life.   

After reading my old letters, recognizing how truly magnificent they are; it now saddens me the vast majority of correspondence takes place today via email.  Letters that at one time would be stored in boxes are now kept in virtual folders. The delete button or a computer crash can erase every thought, every sentence, and every feeling, forgotten memories. As email takes over, there will be nothing tangible to hold on to.  I am afraid years from now there will be no new signatures to run my fingers over, no postmarks or return addresses to document where the correspondence came from in 2012,  no funny hearts and doodles to make me smile, there will be nothing to actually hold next to my heart that someone actually held in their hands from this century. Our history will become as impersonal and as sterile as the computer keyboard I am typing on now.

The latest trend seems to be book clubs. Everybody is anxious to meet and discuss “Fifty Shades of Grey” or the latest ‘in’ book. As I sit here with the box of remnants from my past next to me, I wonder, maybe a ‘new’ movement should be started; may I suggest a letter writing club?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

15 March 1984

Every night I lying in bed holding you close in my dreams
The song begins to play on my iPod, it’s melody, the drum, the bass, guitar, everything about it takes me back to what seems like so long ago, a lifetime ago, twenty eight years to be exact. I close my eyes escape in the memory.

My feet are propped up on his dashboard; his hand is resting on my knee. The wind is blowing through my hair as I stare out the window at the moon; it was bright, beautiful, almost full. The stars over the gulf seem to go on forever, millions to wish on, if only I had.

I am lost in the beauty of the night sky, for the first time since January I am feeling comfortable, unafraid around a man. Not thinking, I start to sing along with the Eagles. I feel his hand slide off my leg, out of the corner of my eye I see him reach for the dashboard. The volume of the chorus becomes softer. The realization hits me that I was singing out loud and he was listening. Mortified I stopped and immediately apologize. I explained to him it was a bad habit.

"Oh my God I can't believe I was singing!"

He chuckled at my quiet exclamation. I buried my face in my hands/knees out of embarrassment. I felt his hand rub my back, then push my hair back, trying to get me to relax, look up at him. I was praying he would simply turn the radio back up so we could both forget my singing, my embarrassment. Pretend like it never happened. I was surprised when instead he questioned me.

“Bad habit, no it’s a good one. Why do you sing so quietly? Why are you holding back?”

I can still hear his voice, the confusion as he was trying to understand why I was so embarrassed, almost ashamed that I was singing. When I didn't answer, I felt the car pull off the road and stop. With my head still buried in my hands I asked, "Why did we stop?"

"Just tell me why and I will drive."

When I finally looked up he was patiently staring at me. Our eyes met and he smiled. He raised his eyebrows, silently letting me know he was waiting for a response. I explained to him, when I was younger whenever I sang along with the radio or a record it drove my mom crazy. I was constantly scolded told to stop. My dad didn’t mind but to my mom my singing was annoying. Even my sister on a few occasions told me my constant singing with the radio bugged her. From then on I tried to tell myself not to sing with the radio. I confessed I didn’t realize I was singing, usually I only sing when I am driving alone ... then he interrupted.

“When you feel safe”

“I guess so” I answered, amazed at his correct choice of words.

His eyes lit up, his smile transformed into a huge grin, “I am an officer and a gentleman. You will always be safe with me!”

I shook my head. I couldn't believe how lame his line was, but I knew he was trying to get me to relax, laugh. I teased him, “That was really bad!”

He started laughing, said “No this would be bad!”

He put the car in gear, pulled back on the road.He reached down and turned up the radio. Cyndi Lauper’s 'Time after Time' was playing and he began to sing along loudly. He was a bit off key. I couldn't tell if he was singing off key on propose, to make me feel better or if that was normally how he sang. It didn't matter, he proudly and sweetly serenaded me.

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time

He reached over and poked me, then continued singing.

If you fall I will catch you--I'll be waiting
Time after time

He jabbed me harder, “You know the words, come on. Let it loose. I don’t sing solo”

He playfully pushed me. I finally joined in.

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows you're wondering
If I'm OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time
You said go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds
Time after Time.

When the song ended, he turned the radio back down. Then he asked, “Promise me you will sing more, sing loudly and never hide your voice. “
I shyly smiled, confused as to why he would want me to make him such a promise. I answered hesitantly, “Okay I promise.”

He rubbed my leg, turned the volume back up. The rest of the ride to my condo we sang along with the radio, loud, unabashedly and many times off key.

It was heaven, just the two of us, singing, laughing, with the moonlight, the night wind and the stars above as our audience.

March 15, 1984 was a great night. One I will always remember and cherish!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Naked Romance

Last Friday night sitting with friends at Kaufmann’s as our conversations sometimes do it took a sharp turn off of normal. Someone brought up the impending ‘doom’ of Valentine’s Day when one of my male friends stated “Just once I would love to be able to start a letter on February 15 with ‘Dear Penthouse’.” Quickly one of my girlfriends chimed in, “Yeah well I am still waiting for Richard Gere to come carry me away.” Two simple statements explained it all; the great what is love/romance divide between the sexes. Men long for the Penthouse and/or Maximum moment while women long for the classic love scene in an eighties chick flick. The problem, everyday romance sits in the middle, centered between exciting and downright dull.

In the eighties we (women/girls) were wishing someone like Patrick Swayze would go “Dirty Dancing” with us. At night we would dream of some amazingly hot guy kissing us passionately in the rain the same way John Cusack kissed Ione Skye in "Say Anything". We went to sleep with our bedroom windows open hoping to be awaken by the sweet serenade of “In Your Eyes." Guys on the other hand were watching "Weird Science" hoping Kelly LeBrock would “pop” into chemistry class, their bathroom, anywhere. They often wondered why no girl in high school who looked anything remotely like Phoebe Cates ever dropped their bikini top for them. While we were hitting the rewind button on the volley ball scene in "Top Gun", guys were turning their heads sideways trying to get any kind of sneak peak of the women behind the scrambled images of the Playboy channel or rummaging through their father’s hidden magazine stash. A woman wants or needs hours of romance, a guy thirty seconds of the 'right visual' and he is good.

Through our favorite films women are taught romance is all about seduction, a man willing to go to any lengths to demonstrate his undying love. We longed for our own “Officer and a Gentleman” to come rescue us from our everyday life. This could explain why every Valentine’s Day we dream of the perfect candlelit dinner, beautiful music and sweet nothings whispered in our ear, hoping for one night of 'Hollywood' romance.

For men the fantasy of romance is to get naked, naked, naked or as close to naked as they can safely get their woman without being killed. Perky boobs and butt are an added bonus but not necessary! Any kind of naked is good! I believe most men dream of walking in the door on Valentine’s Day to find their wife or significant other waiting for them in nothing but an apron seductively whispering, “Hello dear how may I help you?"

Maybe to help ease the divide of romance between the sexes we women need to think more like men, adjust our fantasies a bit. Let me see.... Tatum Channing standing outside my bedroom window no shirt, jeans slightly unzipped in the rain holding a boom box playing my favorite love song. When I look out at him, he smiles, says, “Happy Valentine’s Day. What can I do to make you smile?” And yes there would be a guarantee, we would definitely be getting naked, naked, naked. I think I may actually like that!!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!!