Month: December, 2012

Modern Woman?

I read a piece by Stacy Wolf in today’s Washington Post about the ‘miserable stereotypes’ of women in Hollywood’s recent interpretation of “Les Miserables.” Wolf opines on the portrayal of women in the movie and how it conforms to conceptions that should be long gone. “You’ve come a long way, baby…”

Two hours later I am listening to the story of a young woman in India—beaten, raped, and thrown from a bus. A protester interviewed in Dehli says, “In India we say ‘don’t get raped’; not ‘don’t rape’.”

I’m not sure if we have come far—here or there.


Memories of Mom

My mother, Mary Elizabeth Woods Lightfoot, was born on December 29, 1913. This is one of my favorite memories of spending time with her in the waning years of her life. I tried to do this in 100 words, but just couldn’t make it work. Here are 200 words in honor:

I am a huge believer in the once-in-a-lifetime experience. One such experience I had with my mother. Mom was 90 years old. It was a bitter cold February day. I made the five hour drive from Washington, DC to Long Island. She had no idea where I was taking her, but she was game for the experience. She didn’t know who Christo was.
I bundled her up, put her in the car, drove to the West Side of New York City, parked the car, put her in her wheelchair and off we went! The park was so crowded it looked like a summer day. We walked through The Gates, those saffron sheets billowing in the harsh, frigid wind. We strolled with the festive masses and we loved it. Again, Mom had no idea exactly what this was we were experiencing but she loved it nonetheless. She was with me, she was out of her dull life, she was in the world and, most of all, she was alive.
Mom died at the age of 96. She passed away of old age, I think. I still miss her. When I think of her, she is with me at The Gates—alive.

The Fateful Ride

It’s a roller coaster and a Mack truck, all rolled into one. After you’ve gotten off the ride or the truck has run you over, you ask, “What the hell just happened?”

I thought it was just me, but my friend said the same thing. She is free of the breast cancer that was growing in her body just one year ago. She did everything they told her—surgery, radiation. On Sunday she said to me, “I have no idea what happened.”

When it’s cancer, you simply go numb and give yourself over. Looking back, you may wish you hadn’t.


Sometimes I forget the lessons that I’ve learned; even the ones that I’ve sworn to live by.
For instance, one of the truths in my life is that happiness and wisdom are found in the small moments, the quiet times, the little remarks that a person makes. I believe the beauty in life is found in the simplest of times, the smallest of “things.” Yet, I have resisted believing that my life could change, and change profoundly, by a simple thought Sean shared with me. His words, “It is the questioning that matters,” freed me from a lifetime of guilt.

A Moment in Time

Is life defined in singular moments?

I don’t remember much from elementary school. I got straight A’s in sixth grade. Mrs. Heart was everyone’s favorite teacher ever.
One seminal moment I remember was in seventh grade with Miss Pietz. I’m not sure what the lesson was, perhaps she was preparing us to write our “Autobiography.” I have mine somewhere. Anyway, we were brainstorming words to describe one another or ourselves. After a few classmates offered ideas, there was a lull. Miss Pietz pointed to me and said “serious.”
It’s haunted me ever since. I don’t want “serious.” I want “fun.”


I remember it was snowing, but does anyone know if the moon was full at midnight on December 20, 1984?

When you lose your spouse, significant other, partner, lover, life mate, you lose half your memory. There are certain things, important and small, that are known only by the two of you.

When you lose your parent you lose some of your family history. What is this strange knickknack that had a place in my childhood home? Mom would know where it came from. She would know why it should be kept.

Never mind dementia—death has taken my memory.

December 14, 2012

It’s the iconic picture of childhood: a seven-year-old’s smiling face—two front teeth missing. We all have one, either our own or our children’s. I can pull up the mental image of my own children, at that age in their school pictures, without even trying.
This morning in the paper it is the beautiful face of a child who was gunned down. Daniel Barden. I want to make sure that he is remembered, not the gunman. Looking at that picture it feels as if it could have been my child. It is the picture of pure happiness. Promise. Hope. Life.

The Theme Continues…

In 1862 Emily Dickinson wrote, “Narcotic cannot still the tooth that nibbles at the soul,” a beautiful, lyrical version of “you can’t fill the hole…”

Nancy, my cousin-by-marriage, my friend-by-choice, asks, “Why can’t we?”
Well, we can, I suppose. Or we can try. But, does it ever really fill or do we just momentarily drown out the emptiness there?
Does everyone have a hole? The emptiness inside, the loneliness, the isolation? For me, it’s been there for a long, long time—since I was a child.

Does everyone have a hole or is it just me—flawed me?

Please comment.

The Hole—Part Three: Yes, this is related!

My childhood was not awful, but it was lonely. A bold statement from someone who grew up in a small house with seven other people. Cheek to jowl, as they say. Yet, looking back I see that I was a lonely child; I felt isolated. People assume that the youngest in a family has it the easiest and I am here to say that is not necessarily true.
My mother gave me a gift one day. In the course of conversation she said, “I think it was difficult for you to be the youngest, wasn’t it? ”
Thank you Mom.

The Hole—Part Two (not sure how many parts there are—it may be a long siege)

“You can’t fill the hole by filling the hole.” I think of this sometimes when I find myself engaging in a behavior I know is counterproductive for me and my well-being. Shopping too much. Enjoying more wine than I should (happily, those days seem to be behind me). Eating to overfullness. Collecting. Grabbing. Hoarding. Whatever. I find myself thinking, “I’m trying to fill the hole.” Why am I hurting myself when I know exactly what I’m doing?

Where does this hole come from? Is this a hole that everyone has? Is this “the Human Condition”? Was my childhood so awful?