Moments Matter

BFFs for Life

Editor’s note: Whether you have a sister, brother, or a close friend, I hope you take the time to appreciate your BFFs (“best friends forever”). I dedicate this post to my sisters – Terre, Michelle and Karla. I love all our moments yesterday, today, tomorrow and always. Chance Made Us Sisters, Hearts Made Us Friends.

Now as BFF adults, me with my sister, Terre.

She slid open the unlocked window in the dark of night giggling as she fell on my bedroom floor. Slurring her words, she asked if I’d ever had a scrooge driver drink. “Uh, no,” I replied sitting up groggily in my bed. She collapsed in the make-shift bed on the floor of my room. I slowly put the blanket over her as she drifted off to sleep.

I was only 12, but I clearly remember the days when my older sister (from my mom’s first marriage) would come home after a night of partying and sneak through my bedroom window. In the morning, I would make her favorite hang-over remedy – toast with butter and a cold glass of milk. It sounds like such a small job – caring for a family member, who was going through an experimental growing stage (in this case, the taboos of drinking alcohol under the age of 21). But these were the times that I really bonded with my older sister. I kept her secrets. I fed her much-needed nourishment. We chatted. She could drive.

Sisterly Learning Lessons
Around that same time, I finally felt like my older sister was viewing me not as the annoying little sister (being six years apart), but as someone she could confide in – a friend. For a short while, she was temporarily camping out in my room until her apartment was ready.

Most sisters would be so bugged that they had to share a room, but my older sister was (and is) so cool. She never judged me. I never judged her. I also got to witness some of the pain she experienced, and I tried to learn from both her mistakes and accomplishments. I am so very thankful for those moments – as they taught me so much.

Sisters Forever
Now with two daughters of my own, I can’t help but witness their sisterly love on a daily basis. An example of this struck me the other day when I found a note that my older daughter had written and left in my younger daughter’s room. The handwritten letter was full of love and encouragement before my little one’s dance recital…

Caught off guard when I found the piece of paper folded crookedly in half, I opened it and read the note, my eyes filling with tears of joy. They have each other forever. Not just as sisters but as friends.

The Three Musketeers
I would be remiss not to mention that I also have two younger sisters (from my mom’s second marriage). Growing up, we were the three musketeers – me being the head musketeer, of course. Not only did I have instant playmates, but I often took the role of caretaker as my mom worked six days a week as a hairdresser. Most of my summers were spent caring for my two little sisters. By the tender age of eight, I was cooking, doing laundry, arts and crafts, walking to the rec center, the pool, matinees… This was a tremendous amount of responsibility for a young girl. But I wouldn’t take back those moments for anything. In my own way, this was how I showed love for my two sisters – by caring and nurturing them to the best of my ability. I also now cherish this time as some valuable on-the-job “pre-mom training.”

Me with my fellow sister musketeers, Michelle (middle) and Karla (far right) in the early 1980s.

Friends for Life
For the most part, sisters share a special relationship. When my husband and I were in the midst of discussing whether to have a second child, I recall visiting my two young nieces. I asked my younger niece who her best friend was, and she told me quite simply that her older sister was her “BFF.” During our stay, I observed them interacting in the pool, laughing and playing together. I longed for my daughter to have this type of close sisterly relationship.

My wish came true when our second little girl was born. And now, my two girls play together and love each other (when they are not arguing over a toy). I love it when they wake up in the morning and run to each other with a big hug and tell each other, “I love you, sis.”

As adults now, my sisters and I will always have a unique connection. We are more than just sisters though, we’re friends for life. I know that my two daughters are following the same path – caring for each other, never judging one another, and learning from each other’s mistakes. But most of all, I hope they appreciate the moments they have together as sisters – and eventually as friends for life.

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Girl at Heart

The woman came from behind the counter with a long measuring tape wrapped around her neck as if she were a doctor with a stethoscope. I stood there lamely as if I were having my first female exam – not quite knowing what to expect. She quickly wrapped the tape around the front of my chest. At the age of 16, I was mortified during my first official bra fitting at our local department store.

I swore I would never force my daughters to undergo this type of public humiliation. As my girls are still very young, I know there’s some time left before they reach the “woman” stage (thank God).

Still a Girl
The entire notion of when we transition from girl to woman came to mind recently when someone in my work-out class asked me a question, and I referred to myself as a “girl.” As the word “girl” spilled out, I realized that I still think of myself as a girl. I then rhetorically commented to the woman as I gasped for air, “Isn’t it great that I still think of myself as a girl?” In return, she gave me a courtesy smile. Well, I guess I didn’t get the memo that I was 41, but I think the revelation is that we should always be a kid at heart, right?

Early Signs of Womanhood
One of the early (most obvious) indicators of when you are at the beginning phase from girl to woman is “the bra.” I remember in sixth-grade when Ellie Peterson was the first girl in our class to get a bra. Not only could you see the bra on Ellie, but you could hear the snap in class when the boys would pull it like it was a mini slingshot. I dreaded the thought of getting one. By seventh grade, I really had no choice as I had always been well-endowed than most girls my age.

Me at the age of 12 -- just starting the akward girl to woman phase.

It also didn’t make it any easier that during my first gym class where we had to actually change in front of other girls my mom purchased a bra (a used one on a shoestring budget) that was quite unique from the others. I was proud to show a few of the girls how my bra could “open up.” A few of the girls snickered and then informed me that I was wearing a nursing bra. That was rough to say the least. The nick-name “mama” was bestowed upon me for the remainder of the year in gym. Once again, total mortification.

The other major indicator of our girl-to-woman phase is, of course, our “monthly friend” that visits. I remember when a girl in seventh-grade had a serious accident all over her desk seat. I felt terrible for her as she cried and was led away to the nurse’s office.

When I turned around 18, there were other signs of becoming a woman. First, I started shopping in the woman’s clothing section – instead of the juniors. I thought: Do I like these frilly shirts and elastic-waist-banded jeans? I kinda’ do. Another hint was that I started using eye cream. Yep, eye cream. My friends thought I was crazy to start using eye cream. “Oh, you don’t need that – it’s for old ladies!” they would say. Of course, reflecting back now – I still truly do love my eye cream.

Aging Gracefully on the Inside
I know the growing phases for my own daughters turning from girl to woman will eventually come. But I want to be there for them – to hopefully ease their worries and concerns. I hope that if they continue to work on being healthy on the inside – that all the biological and emotional challenges ahead will be more tolerable – less mortifying.

Furthermore, our past experiences during these awkward moments in life (male or female) shape how we guide our children; and how we personally cope with our own reality of growing older.

As a wife and mom of today living in Southern California, you can’t help but be inundated with how to slow down the aging process. With Botox, breast implants, diet fads, skinny jeans…and with stereotype names like “Cougar” – it’s hard not to fall into the trap of all the anti-aging promises.

So, when I am complaining about the wrinkles on my forehead or sagging triceps to my husband, he sweetly tells me that I am even more beautiful than when he met me at the age of 19, and that I am simply growing older with grace. I guess I still am a girl that’s just aging with grace – from the inside out.

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Destination Ahead: Spontaneity

Editor’s Note: As vacation season is in full swing, I hope my short story motivates you to take an “unplanned” trip this summer. Try not to plan it, it’s more fun that way.

The beer can fit snuggly in between my dad’s legs as the road ahead looked never ending. I sat next to my dad watching the raindrops dance on the window naming each little drop. My dad cranked up his favorite song on the radio. He twirled his cigarette in the air following the beat of the music, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. Turning the map upside down, my mom proposed her shortcut idea of how to arrive at our next stop. My dad paid little attention as he was enjoying the drive, the freedom, the moment.

Our faded gray 1976 VW Bus.

In the 1970s and 1980s, our family road trips were not typical by any means. Many times we had no specific destination. My parents would usually figure it out along the way. I remember when my dad bought our first VW bus in 1976. My parents saw an ad for someone selling the faded gray bus, so they bought it in cash, and we were off on one of our first family trips. No maps, no timelines, no destination. When my dad got tired of driving he would just pull the bus over and we’d sleep. We’d start back up in the morning and meander along the way, often stopping to enjoy the beauty of nature – a waterfall, a stream or a breathtaking valley view.

Modern-Day Trips

In stark contrast to family trips of today – with GPS, online hotels and campsites – and trying to cram in as much sight-seeing as possible – my childhood family trips seem like such a gift. Back then I dreaded the long drive and having to be in the back with my two little sisters for hours on end, but in retrospect it really was worth every minute.

Now packing for a trip with my husband and two young daughters, is usually a high-stress process – from the clothes, toiletries, medicines, accessories, snacks, toys, videos, games…. Why can’t we keep it simple? This does not even including the planning portion of the trip.

Spontaneity at its best. My girls at their first hotel vacation. Jumping on the bed was first on the agenda.

The whole notion of family spontaneity came to mind when on a whim, my two daughters and I went out to a casual, low-budget dinner. There was no planning, changing into a special outfit, or meeting up with friends.

As I sat at the table with my girls, I savored in the moment that we did something spontaneous. It felt refreshing and empowering. I had realized that we have evolved into part of the “over-prepared planning society” with our e-calendars and eVites. At dinner I told the story of my hippie family trips and how as a child we would just get in our bus or truck and drive. Their little mouths dropped. My older daughter asked, “You didn’t even know where you were going, mom?” “Nope,” I answered.

I can remember a time as an adult (pre-kids) when my husband and I went on a camping trip to Northern California. We had a general idea of where we were going, but had no campground reservations, or definite plans. At one point during the trip a panic came over me as we drove and were struggling to find a place to camp for the night. Being in an unknown area, low on gas and it was growing darker, I held my breath while directing my husband with the map along a winding road. We finally saw the sign for the campground and were greeted by a friendly man at the gate. It was a weekday so the campground was virtually empty. The stars blazed in the sky. We realized we only had beer and hot dogs (no buns). That was one of the best meals ever. Not for its culinary or nutritional value – but for the moment. We sat by the crackling fire under the stars.

Get Your Motor Runnin’

Spontaneity in our lives can come in many different forms. When I was about five, it seemed my dad was always working on his beloved motorcycle. I remember him spray painting it metallic jet blue (very 1970’ish) and cursing when a part didn’t fit properly. The motorcycle was totally off limit to us kids – except for in one instance.

My Dad working on his beloved motorcyle in the 1970s.

At the time, our VW bus had broken down and my grandmother was in the hospital. Still living in the commune outside of town, I remember hopping on the motorcycle in the dark of night with my mom (who was very pregnant at the time) and dad. With the wind in my hair, safely nudged in between my parents, we cruised to the hospital going up and down large, rolling hills. I know from a safety standpoint this was probably not the best idea, but it illustrated to me that we need to live life naturally and enjoy every precious moment.

Even though it seems like a contradiction, as parents and human beings we should strive to not over plan. Be impulsive. Do something on a whim. Even though my unplanned event was a simple dinner with my kids, I “plan” to make many more motorcycle rides, camping trips under the stars and off-the-cuff family adventures so they can hopefully share stories and memories with their own children – whether they know their destination or not.

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Purse Breakup

My 1976 Holly Hobby keepsake held by my oldest daughter.

I dug out the receipt from my purse as the woman behind the counter called a manager. I was performing the long-time ritual of the store return. I was returning something I had bought on a rather compulsive whim – a long-adored Coach purse. As she inspected the purse (with the tags on), I felt compelled to explain that I felt OK returning the purse because we had not built a true relationship yet so it really wasn’t a break up. After all, I hadn’t even put my belongings inside. The woman laughed and thought that was rather clever (as did I). But wasn’t it so true? We place so much importance on things or objects.

Childhood Keepsakes
I experienced this human phenomenon of objects and their significant connection just a few years ago with my oldest daughter. In my nightstand drawer I keep several treasured items – my journals, special cards and some child-hood keepsake trinkets. One of those keepsakes is a Holly Hobby comb and mirror set. On the front is a picture of Holly Hobby standing in a maroon colored dress wistfully smelling a flower with the words “May happiness walk with you…” The small set has a mini comb inside with a mirror – smaller than the size of my palm. Even the year of the set’s production “1976” remained clearly printed on the back. One day my daughter saw the comb set in my drawer and asked if she could have it. I replied, “Maybe someday.” She disappointedly shut the drawer.

For years after, she continued to ask me if she could have the set. I tried to explain how special the set is to me and that when she was older I would give it to her. Finally one day, I gave her the set. She promised to take good care of it and put it in her nightstand drawer.

I remember exactly where I bought this mirror and comb set. When I was nine or 10-years-old, I used to go with a group of my little girlfriends and we’d take our allowance money to go shopping. The store was filled with huge displays of Hello Kitty and Holly Hobby toys, stickers, plastic gizmos and trinkets galore. It was a child’s dream come true for kid stuff. I counted out each dime and nickel until the set was placed neatly in the brown paper Hallmark bag. I happily trotted off with my friends to the Orange Julius restaurant next door that served the greasiest hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. We would sit at a table and spread out our goods to see what we bought. These were the times when we had no worries or cares as children.

Meaning Behind Our Things
To reinforce how important “things” are to me – when we moved into our current home years back I created special memory boxes for my husband and I. I labeled each box with our first name and the words “memorabilia.” I placed some of my trophies, my high school graduation cap, certificates and other special items in the box. I separated these boxes from the garage storage boxes and now they sit – gradually filling up with items over the years in the top of our master closet.

The stark white boxes intrigued my elder daughter. She was dying to see what were in these mysterious boxes. I finally opened the boxes and went through the items with her – telling a little story about each object. Her eyes grew especially large when I showed her my “writing trophy.” This was my first trophy I earned as Journalism Student of the Year my senior year of high school. I told the story of how I came from a family of non-academics (blue collar workers), and that I wrote for the high school newspaper covering controversial stories for the school. I was nominated as journalism student of the year and was competing against straight-A students that were bound for Ivy League schools. Deep inside, I felt like I didn’t stand a chance. The night of the student awards came and I stood side-by-side my fellow competitors. Then my name was announced as Journalism Student of the Year. My daughter soaked up every word. She asked when she could have her own memorabilia box. I felt guilty I hadn’t thought of it before.

When telling my husband about how we tend to build relationships with items and how important these “things” are to us. He quipped, “It must be a girl thing.” I immediately thought of his father who had passed away several years ago and the sock incident. A few years after being married, I decided that I would sort through my husband’s sock drawer and throw out all those mismatched, hole-ridden socks. I threw several pair away. When I told my husband later that day, he asked, “You didn’t throw out the ones with the red line in the toe, right? Those were my dad’s socks.” Uh-oh. I quickly rummaged through the trash and retrieved the priceless socks. I reminded my husband of this story, and he agreed that as humans we tend to build “relationships” or develop this intimate connection with things or objects.

The ‘Memory-Thing’ Connection

So as I stood at the store counter returning my luxurious purse, I hadn’t the opportunity to create a memory, or build that connection. Maybe if “we” would have had the chance to get to know each other, it might have made into my memorabilia box. However, I feel like I’ve gained a greater lesson – it’s not the importance of the object, but the memory associated with our things.

Of course, both of my daughters now have their own memory boxes that are slowly expanding to include special pictures, crafts and little objects. Hopefully, they can share stories with their children of how these things have meaning to them – although I know they’ll also have a few breakups along the way.

Sidenote: I did end up purchasing a beautiful Michael Kors Crossbody Flight Bag (right). We’re in a very serious relationship now.

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