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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Where have all the flowers gone

It's a flower themed post but it's also sad. 
I will show you a dress:
There's an awesome 70s maxi dress with an awesome print; but first, I need to pick up where I left off. Still so sad.
As I sat at my parents' kitchen table with my dad after dinner, I gazed out the window at the yard. You go down the steps from the screened porch and there's a little bricked area before the grass where they have the grill. I remember our neighbor's cat, Baxter always came running when my dad was grilling, and yes; my dad always shared.
This brought me to the memory of that little toe-headed boy in denim overalls, the look only a small child can pull off. We were sitting out on the porch steps one late afternoon. He called the cat, "Baster" (sounded like "bastard") and smiled with delight as he pet the fluffy gray kitty. He said when he grew up he wanted to have two cats, as he held up two fingers. "One Baster and one Tabby." The latter was our family's pet.
"How long will this sadness last?" I asked my dad.
He paused a moment and said, "forever" before taking a breath and adding, "it's still so hard to believe..."
Dark. This was Sunday, the day after we finally held the memorial service for our dearly departed Jesse.
 There's my angel in a black and white childhood photo. The service was held in a church (despite the family not actually having a church) and this beautiful floral wreath was made by an aunt on his father's side. This stood on the alter alongside with his ashes, a recent picture, the certificate of his organ donation, and some sneakers. The initial blow of a loved one's death brings a strong pain that soon fades into a dull sadness. However, as soon as I walked in and found a seat alongside my family, those wailing tears were once again flowing. Sitting a row behind me was Stevie who had been best friends with Jesse for years and now this poor teenager was going through something most lucky kids never have to. It became so real. This is Jesse's memorial service. There's his picture and those are his ashes. There's your whole family crying.
Look at those sneakers; they have wings! My sister told me they're made of old basketballs. He collected sneakers and those were his favorite.
It wasn't totally planned, but I was grateful for the opportunity to share my eulogy. It was really important to me. When it comes to writing, some peeps say I is pretty good and by then I had been "writing" what I wanted to say for weeks in my head. I loved this boy and I wanted to share with everyone, the reasons why he meant so much to me and to so many others.
I approached the church podium thing (pulpit?) with a handful of tissues and absolutely zero fucks about how a room of people were looking at me while I looked absolutely awful. With bloodshot eyes and a tear streaked face, I just started talking.
And I talked a lot. My uncle Jeff had spoken first and he related a story about how Jesse played with all the neighborhood kids and once grabbed a smaller kid from his scooter before that kid rode in front of an oncoming car. I went with the savior theme and said "If it wasn't for Jesse, I don't know where I would be today..." before telling everyone how I came to find my path as a teacher thanks to him.
Afterwards, everyone said I nailed it, but I want to make it clear that I did it for Jesse and not for the pats on the back. We lost an incredible person and I wanted to pay a tribute that would make him proud.
Here I will leave a picture that I share in a story last spring as the theme of forsythias serve to tell my stories metaphorically. They are bright, beautiful yellow flowers that grow on bushes in the spring. Some jerks trim them into little boxes but that's dumb because they are supposed to grow free. Because they only grow for such a short time. It's like, you look at them and admire these burning bushes and then you turn around and their gone.

Now, did I have a refash around here?
 So it's a too big dress that happens to have a floral print I can get on board with. Because it's black. Look at this:
I guess I took a lousy picture of a page from People magazine. Blossoms on black! Look at what it says underneath the header, it says "moody vibe."
So, first thing I did was try and sew down all the extraneous fabric around the awesome bustline.
Extra material was all folded under the v neck and it kept sticking out. It has that really cool gather at the bust that I like to do sometimes.
I obviously had to take in the sides, because it was muu muu like. I shortened the sleeves. Also, I hemmed it, but just a little. So the obvious sash belt was kinda skinny.
For an anticlimactic finish...here, look at this...
The pictures were taken with my camera on a tripod after I'd worn the dress all day. What I'm saying is: the pics tell a different story than my mirror did. That's why I'm sharing one or two at the most. These pics bad, I looked decent.
It's the sash. I tied it weird or something.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'll be missing you...part 3

I've been putting off this blog post because I'm not really sure how to write it. How can I end this story? The story isn't over.
Last week, I woke up crying. Apparently my sense of humor is ok, so the title refers to that Biggie tribute by Puff Daddy/Diddy.
Awesome t shirt from the GW that perfectly fits the emotions expressed in this post.
 I'm guessing this is one of those things that is really hard, then gets a little better, then gets a little worse.The first days of a tragic event are filled with the grieving process and all the tears and emotions that take over. You get together with loved ones and share your sorrow. On the Friday night after Jesse died, some of his classmates put together a candlelight vigil in the park.
I snagged this caption from one of the teens' Facebooks.
About a hundred people attended. I was able to talk to Jesse's best friend, whom I hadn't seen since he was a little boy. In the photo, you see a camera person from the local news who covered the story. What's interesting is that the woman from the TV station that we talked to actually remembered Jesse from an event that happened years before.
Link to a news story, sorry.
Yeah, I don't know how to save and embed a video from a news site. It's the story of a two middle school boys who snared a mysterious reptile. The smaller boy was Jesse. I remember how I proudly shared it on my Facebook when the story aired. It was so surreal seeing that footage again.
In the days after Jesse's death I realized that grief comes in layers. As I walked with Chris through a Goodwill on our way to get burgers, I was suddenly overcome with sadness not for myself, but for my aunt Jen. How can she go on? How horribly unjust and awful it is to receive the gift of a child like him...then lose it. I sobbed as we waited for our takeout from Five Guys.
I'm not a "fate and destiny" person and feel like life is a roll of the dice, and it's the arbitrary nature of this event that makes me angry. Out of all the people in the world, why him? Why would we have to lose someone who is so special? 
Climbing an apple tree with his bff.
Another layer of sadness surfaced while I was standing in line at Market Basket (regional grocery chain). I looked over and saw a little boy with bright blonde hair playing at the next checkout line. For half a nanosecond, I thought I was seeing Jesse. From the back, this child looked just like him. Then you remind yourself: That's not your cousin (and if it was, he wouldn't be 7 years old, duh) and it never will be him. You will never bump into him at the store, and you'll never see him again for as long as you live.
Later on, I became incredibly depressed because a couple weeks had gone by and he was still dead. He will always be dead.
That's the thought that gave me nightmares. Last weekend, Chris woke me up asking "are you ok?" I was tearing up in my sleep. I dreamed that it was Christmas and I was at my parents' dinner table as they set out plates. Our Christmas thing is easy-to-make lasagna and the pan had just come out of the oven as we awaited the arrival of Jen and her family. Minus one. The dream me started begging my parents to stop, that I didn't want this event without Jesse. I didn't want to see my aunt, uncle, and cousin without Jesse. I am dreading the holidays.
But the holidays will come and the world will go on. Our family will grow older, but we'll have to go all these years without him. He will stay forever 17 and forever leave a gaping void in our hearts.
With one of his beloved nephews.
Now is not a good time to say that everything happens for a reason because as said previously, that's not my belief. If there's anything to be gained from this, it's the lives of those he helped save.
Since he was a little boy, Jesse loved cars. He was so happy when he got his license last winter. My mom remembers what he told her.
While excitedly showing her his license, he said, "Look, I'm an organ donor!" My mom said that he was so proud of that. He had no idea how soon he'd be donating.
 Jesse's stepsister took a picture of the certificate the family received. Eight people were helped.
His service will finally be held tomorrow, but the grieving will not stop there and I'll probably be hurt for a while.
That's all for now. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sad World...part 2

"Sad" world is meant to be hummed like that song "Mad World" by a guy named Gary Jules. It's a really somber tune, I'm sure you've heard it.
Here's part two of the story I never wanted to tell. The story of a life cut short is always a sad one; it's no fun writing about a dead teenager.
But his story is one that deserves to be told.
:::flashback sequence::: IPicture a younger, thinner me. Imagine that the song "Mambo No. 5" is playing in order to bring you back to the time period...
The year: 1999. Me: out of high school and without a plan. Not quite an adult yet.
My aunt Jen is my mom's sister, eight years younger. At the time, Jen was 38 and a single mother to a nine year old son and a teenage daughter. My cousin Megan is a high functioning person with a disability. My Mom, my Nanny, my sister and I were...apprehensive when she told us she was having a baby with a man we didn't know that well.
As you may have guessed, any reservations we had about the impending birth were long forgotten when Jesse John Philbin came into our lives. My mom is one of six children born to my Nanny and Grandpa (who died in 1994.) Throughout childhood, I was the oldest of a handful of cousins whom I saw regularly when we swam in my Grandpa's pool during the summers or partied during the holidays at his nearby home. (He and Nanny divorced before I was born, but still very much family to each other.) Only James, who is now a college student, and Jesse came along in the late 90s in the era after my Grandpa had gone.
When James, the son of my uncle Timmy, (yes, we call a grown man that) was a baby his parents worked odd hours leaving their son with my more than willing Mom and Dad. We had him around for only a year or two before they moved out of state, taking our precious baby with them. Not sure if all that family background information was necessary. Anyway, while James was like a brother to me, Jesse was more like a nephew or maybe occasionally I felt like he could've been my own little boy.
Myself as a young goth girl holding an angel.
As I was saying, the child came into our lives like a ray of light and I mean that both figuratively and literally. He had pale white skin, and hair as blonde as WWE legend Ric Flair. He was a beautiful baby and easy to love.
Watching him grow was a fascinating and happy experience. It's true when they say it's not necessarily the big events that you remember. As I reflect on my memories, it's like a video montage of small, meaningful moments. I remember picking up three-year-old Jesse from day care and meeting my aunt Jen at my parents' house (where I lived.) As children are likely to do, he got himself dirty while playing outdoors. Sand and sweat clung to his sandaled feet. I remember Jen scooping him up to sit on the kitchen counter, teasing him about how she couldn't take him to the store like that. With a wet paper towel she cleaned him off, tickling his toes and making him giggle. I just remember how happy she looked. I thought to myself, "aww, she loves him so much."
When Jesse was four, I was asked to pick him up from preschool on Wednesday nights so Jen could take a night class. I would leave work and rush to see him and ask him what he wanted for dinner. Usually, we would end up at my home at some point so I could share the fun of spending time with him with my sister and the rest of my family. I was in a relationship with John and he too liked to stop by, as Jesse was always so happy to see him. My sister remarked on how much I seemed to enjoy taking care of him, suggesting I do some sort of work with kids. At the time, I was working retail at T.J.Maxx and in need of a way to move up in the world. My mom also noticed that I seemed to respond well to babysitting. She wanted me to be a teacher.
Me as Moody Starr, early '00s.
 I didn't exactly agree. By now, I was performing as Ms. Moody Starr in WAW Wrestling (see posts tagged "WAW Wrestling" if you're new) and considered myself quite a badass. I was like, "Yeah, I don't see myself wearing a corduroy dress with an apple appliqued on the front. So no." With a lot of prodding, I went with my mom to the Manchester Community College to enroll. Having suffered from untreated ADHD for all my previous school years, I was sure I would not enjoy or be successful in a college setting. I was signing up for school, thinking I would just prove that I couldn't do it.
Mom was very integral in getting me started and she even had a friend who taught kindergarten whose class I use for my observation hours. Mom contacted the woman over the summer and I made plans to visit her classroom when school started in the fall.
Sometimes everything just goes right. You look down at the hand you were dealt and see a bunch of aces. Guess which little boy moved into a new neighborhood in the summer before starting kindergarten.
A picture of a school picture from my scrapbook, 2004
My aunt had split from Jesse's father and was getting serious with a man named Jeff. They moved into a little house which happened to be in the best school district in the city. We'd be starting school together. One of my favorite subjects to learn about was stages of child development. We learned that young children are "self centered," meaning that they haven't quite learned to consider points of view or experiences other than their own. I thought that Jesse was special, recalling the time when--at three years old--he asked my sister and I what we wanted for Christmas.
One time, my uncle Timmy and cousin James were visiting from wherever they lived at the time and various family members where hanging out at Jen and Jeff's place on a weeknight as Timmy and James were leaving the next day. Jesse was about 7, and as the night started getting late, Jesse's words took a slightly fresh tone.
By now, I think Jeff and Jen were married. So, the now stepfather gave Jesse a warning. "We're letting you stay up because your cousins are here, but if you're going to be rude you can go to bed."
"Fine," Jesse flounced up the stairs in an age appropriate mood. About 15 minutes went by before Jesse came back downstairs in pajamas and announced, "Sorry I was being rude. I came to say goodnight." Then he gave us all a hug.
Record skip noise.
He changed his tone already? With a sincere apology? He decided to make the responsible choice and go to bed?! Who is this child?
By the way, school worked. It took 6 years, but I eventually got my degree in elementary education. It took a little time for Jesse as well. Having spent time with him in is classes, I knew he wasn't always a model student.
When Jesse was in 5th grade his father died. During that same school year, he won his school's spelling bee.
He was a damn ray of light, I tell you.
To be continued