Friday, May 8, 2015

"The Very Harried Month of May"- Making Intangible Memories in Physical Places

NOTE:  If anyone who reads this blog post has any information about how to contact the family who was affected by the fire at 1588 Bradley Street in Schenectady, NY, please comment below or message From Teacher to Mom on Facebook.  I am hoping there is some way to send a monetary gift in form of a gift card, or something of that nature, to help them in their time of loss.  Thank you! 

I have changed the song to the "Very, Very Harried Month of May".  May is not so merry.  It is just not.  EVERYTHING happens in May.

These are the events on my family's list this year:

  • Baby shower (sister in law in NY.  Sorry to be missing it!)
  • First Communions (2 of our Godchildren and 1 friend)
  • Dance Productions (Valley Dance Theatre spring show, Carmen's first year doing this)
  • Senior Prom (my two teenagers are going together and I am honored that they want me to go to dinner with them!)
  • Mother's Day (Um, whatever about that. Whoever made Mother's Day in May was playing a joke.  It is the busiest Month of the year for Mom's, I would venture to say)
  • Our Annual Memorial Day party (I guess I dug my own grave there by adding another event to an already busy month!  Well, it all started when John decided to be born on May 14th and my friend convinced me to have a party two weeks after he was born.  She was a wonderful help with the party! Couldn't have done it without her.  We had John baptized on Memorial Day weekend and celebrated afterwards and thus began our annual Memorial Day party.)  
  • High School Graduation  (one of my teenagers is graduating from High School on June 6.  Oh wait, that is June.  But I have to plan in May, RIGHT?)  
  • Birthdays (John will be 3 on the 14th!)  and our dear friend Uncle Jerry's birthday is on the 11th, always around Mother's Day.
  • Standardized testing (This is the first year I am testing both Emmett AND Carmen, so it is taking even longer) 
I told George I was going to just prepare myself to miss something big.  I will probably forget something, even though I live with my calendar and my phone.  

Yesterday, I found out that my childhood home (I lived there the first 19 years of my life) had a fire and two people people, a mother and daughter, died.  The home, 1588 Bradley Street, is no more.  It is being demolished as I type this. Both of my grandmothers and my own mother died in this home.  My maternal grandmother, in a fire in 1986, when I was just 13 years old.  And now this week, a mother and a daughter.  I don't what it is about that house and fires and claiming the lives of strong women, but the saga has now ended.  

As I pray for the family affected by the fire and reflect with my own siblings about memories we made in that home, I realize that everything on my own family's list for this busy month of May is about making memories and being together with people I love.  

While we are making memories in physical places that can perish, as with my childhood home this week, the important thing to remember is to not get caught up in all the physical stress of life.  It is so fleeting.  Unfortunately we are reminded of that all too often through tragedy.  

On the other hand, the memories that are seemingly so fleeting, can impact us forever.  Next year, May will come around again, just as it always does.  Busy months and dull boring days alike have their place.  But the small things we say and do, the looks we give people, and the genuine moments we give to loved ones and even strangers on the street, are what really last.

A mother and a daughter died in that fire in my childhood home.

I think of my Carmen, my daughter. I think of how each night we go to bed and don't see each other til the morning.  The mother and daughter that died in the fire went to bed only to wake up to trauma and heartache in the middle of the night.  Forget about how busy their month was.   What was their relationship like?  How did they feel every day?  Did they have any regrets or anything they would have done differently?

I have read such nice things about them in the news following this tragedy.  I am glad I got to meet the mother, Benita Thomas, last August when I drove by to show my children where I grew up.  She was coming out of the house to her car and I said hello and introduced myself.  I told her I grew up there in her house.  

Reflecting on the tradegy in my childhood home, my philosophy this busy month of May has changed a little.  I am simply going to keep trying to do my best and to not lose focus on my children and their day-to-day needs.  Instead of cleaning the kitchen, I took a few moments to sit on the deck and watch the children play in the yard together.  Instead of making the kids go to bed at their normal time, we watched their newborn home videos together. Watching Emmett meet Carmen for the first time is adorable.  Instead of making lunch right now, I am stopping to reflect, think and just be.

I'm exhausted, my foot hurts and I am overhwelmed with responsibilities of motherhood.  However, knowing it all can be gone in the blink of an eye causes me to pause and think of what I really cherish in my life.  How do I want to spend my busy months?  Lamenting how full the calendar is?  Or being grateful that my days can be filled with family and a love that this is so big that no temporary, physical place could ever hold it.  The love that my family has for each other will go on and on far longer than this home we live in ever could.  That is as it should be.  

The physical place in which we reside is not meant to last forever.  Yes, it is a shock when things comes to an abrupt end, but nothing is without purpose.  What meaning and purpose we find in it is ours for the making...

Beautiful things that come to us from nature are so temporary.  The flower blooms that come forth in May die soon after. But that beauty goes back to the earth in the dirt and mulch that we lay the next year helps to bring forth more beauty in new blooms again and again.  

So are we going to dwell on the beauty in every present moment  (of our own springtimes in life)...

My home in Virginia

 or will we dwell only the charred remains from our past (that so resemble the ugly mulch that we lay on top of the weeds and dirt)?

My childhood home in New York

Another house will most likely be built here in the empty space on Bradley Street.  It is certainly the end of an era, but also the beginning of something else.  That's how it goes.  That is how everything goes.

For me, it is a mixture.  It is a balance.  It is joy and pain all rolled into one.  It is past, present and future working together.  What I dwell on in any given day depends on many things.

One thing of which I am sure to think about every day, though, are the notes my daughter writes to me (we each have a little homemade mailbox outside of our rooms and we write to each other). Seeing life through eyes of a child is a gift. 

So here's to the busy month of May and to all those memories and places and people we hold dear.  May we all have something in our lives that trancends the physical and carries us through the ups and downs, the good and bad, and everything in between.

In conclusion,  as my old childhood home is torn down today, I am happy to have a rather heavy and cumbersome keepsake.  Our phone booth! It was in my house for many, many years.  It was quite a novelty.  I wouldn't have it if it weren't for my brother, Bernie, who was visiting me in Virginia a few years back when I got the call that I could have it if I wanted it.  He drove up to New York on the spur of the moment and got it!

I think it is hysterical that this phone booth made it all the way to Virginia.  Thank you, Bernie!  And thank you to our former neighbors who gave it back to our family after getting it from my Dad when he left the house.  I cleaned it out and sat in it it today and took the pic of the graffiti.  Wow.
It is so strange how physically being somewhere brings back so many memories!

Praying for all families who experience loss and, in particular, for the Thomas family.  


  1. Oh Lorraine,
    Thank you for the memories of your childhood home. How many hours I spent there with you and your siblings. If I hear more about the Thomas family, I will let you know. Peace and love from Sch'dy, Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn! Thanks so much for reading. So many good memories with you there. I hope people are able to reach out to the Thomas family in some way. I am going to do more research next week. Happy Mother's Day to you!

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