That Tree


“Let’s go spy on our old house, Mom.”

How could I resist the sweet plea from the back seat, exiting from the mouth of one of my nearly seven year old twin boys? My older boys began recognizing the familarity of the streets surrounding our old house. We drove up slowly next to our old house. I wanted to take in the moment, notice the changes and also the things that had stayed the same. I desperately, almost out of habit, wanted to turn the wheel and pull in the driveway. Unbuckle the kids and run inside. Maybe quick, have a dance party right there by our big front window. Or listen to the sound of my boys running on the hard wood floor. Up and down the many steps. It didn’t seem like anybody was home. Perhaps we could quickly run around back through the colorful crunchy leaves everywhere.

Once you open a can of memories, there’s no turning back. The memories happily fled. Escaped. They overwhelmed my emotions. Five precious and beautiful years of memories. All sorts of memories. New memories. First time parent memories. Baby memories. Toddler memories. Hard memories. Kitchen table crying and laughing memories. Back yard memories. Happy memories. Tear filled memories. Scary memories. Messy memories. Habitual memories. I wanted to talk about them all at once, but my choked up words couldn’t begin to keep up with all of the thoughts racing, frolicking, and tip-toeing out to see our old house.

I wanted to cry as we sat there on Grandview Drive. “Spying” on our old house. One of my boys said in a tone that I recognized, a sentimental tone. A tone that made me miss our old home. And all of the memories it created and hosted for five long, yet strangely fleeting years.

“I liked our old house.”

Me too, buddy. Me too. I had to drive away. I couldn’t help but notice how big that tree has gotten. Unbelievable. How could it have grown so much in the two years since we’ve been gone? It’s leaves had not yet turned the vibrant, eye mesmerizing red-hot red. I know I would have cried if they had. It used to be one of my favorite times of the year. To stare out at the bright red leaves on the baby tree we planted. For a few days, the tree boasted, held its branches high for all to see. It looked like it was on fire. A safe, peaceful beautiful, enchanting kind of fire. We proudly possessed the most spectacular tree on the street for those few days in October.

We planted that tree on a rainy cold October evening. Seven years ago. My sister, Rachel, came over to help my husband lift it into the hole that he had dug in the front yard. We needed to get it into the ground before it got too cold. I stood there watching the scene, most likely smiling helplessly, with my hands resting on my gigantic belly. It held twin boys who needed to spend some more time growing. I’ve never known what to do with my big hands. It helped being pregnant, having a nice round resting place for them where I could conveniently feel the kicks, elbows and hiccups of my sweet boys.


But now it’s not our house.

It’s not our yard. And not even our tree anymore. Which feels weird. A bit strange and sad. I wanted to take that tree with us when we moved. I knew it was a crazy thought. I just felt awful driving away the last time and leaving it there. Naturally, I cried so much that I needed to explain to my boys why I was sobbing. So hard. I needed to turn the windshield wipers on. For my tears.

Now we’re at a new house. With new trees. A house that holds memories for other families. And a house with trees that will forever remind me of my monkey armed, tree climbing, outdoor loving boys. Hanging upside down, waving at me or pretending to be Spider-Man. Yesterday, I read a stack of books to my youngest up in our tree fort. We layed on a sleeping bag and ate cheese and crackers. We escaped momentarily from the hustle and bustle of a Monday house full of messes. Messes that could wait.

Because there will be a day when my boys will have adventures in their tree fort without me. Or a day when we may not live at this house anymore. There will always be messes and dirty dishes, but there may not always be a day for hanging out in a tree making memories. Drive-by forever kind of memories.



Laugh Restrictions


I hate doing my breathing treatments. I know. I know. I should be happy to have access to albuterol and a nebulizer and my damn acapella valve. But I hate stopping my life to do the treatments. It’s not even like I had big plans this afternoon. I always get the post-albuterol shakes and feel like my thoughts are going ape shit in my head. I can’t lasso them. They’re jumping off the fence posts, beds, running up the walls, jumping on the trampoline that I must have bought in a dream one night. That kind of crazy.

But, lungs are important. For breathing and stuff.

Usually, the way I know I need to start doing treatments is when I start laughing and can’t stop coughing. And coughing. It really puts a damper on a funny moment. I’m ok. I just need to not laugh anymore. Or do a breathing treatment. I’ve tried offering myself incentives. Like last week, I started a new book that I told myself I could only read during my breathing treatments. Well, that sucked. Once the albuterol starts pumping, I can’t read about raising the emotional lives of boys. A little too deep for a breathing treatment book.

So, today, I decided I would just fold a basket of laundry. Why not do two sucky things at the same time? Kill two birds with one stone, though I would never kill two birds. Unless they were trying to attack my kids or something. I folded that basket of laundry in record breaking speed. Then, I sat staring at the wall thinking about a hundred or so things. All at once.

A few albuterol thoughts….I need to remove that last chunk of wall paper. Why is the dishwasher making that sound? I like Josh Ritter’s music. Those were cool pictures my husband took while in Israel. And so on.

I got to thinking how I do like laughing. My mom said I used to do it as a baby when she put me in my crib. I still laugh sometimes when I go to bed. My mom said that I’ve got a good sense of humor because she was watching “I Love Lucy” when I was born. Makes sense to me. The worst times in my life have been when I had laugh restrictions. That’s right. Laugh restrictions.

Like in church or somewhere that you’re just not supposed to laugh or be funny. Somewhere very serious. After abdominal surgery, it physically hurts like hell to laugh. My mom had to kick my sisters out of my hospital room one time because they kept making me laugh. And it hurt so bad. I would put a pillow over my stomach and modify my laugh, but it didn’t help. They had to leave. The moment they came back in, we all started laughing at the absurdity of my mom kicking them out into the hall for making me laugh. I had been stuck in that bed for five weeks….not laughing. I think that’s what my family misses the most when I’m not me. When I’m so sick that I can’t laugh. When I’ve got those laugh restrictions in place.

That’s why I did my breathing treatment today. I want to be able to laugh loudly. Unabashedly. With my mouth open. Without having a coughing attack. I don’t want my cough to steal the show.

There are not always the right moments for laughing. There are the places where laughter has been banned or placed on the “uninvited” list. It sometimes sneaks in the back door anyways. Meetings, funerals, doctor’s office waiting rooms….I want people to laugh at my funeral though. How awful to come to the funeral of someone who loved to laugh and sit there just so sad and crying. If you remember me, I want you to remember my laugh. I want people to say “she loved laughing. She had a great laugh. And she loved helping others find their laughs.” Then, tell a funny story, like a really funny story about me or anybody so everyone will laugh. Then, leave the boring funeral home and go have some beers, or espresso shots or albuterol and laugh some more. That’s the way I want to be remembered. The world can be so serious and painful and boring too. A good laugh can give you just the perfect amount of hope to help you tackle the next hard thing with a different perspective. Or a little more hope and joy. Find something or someone to make you laugh today. You can always go watch youtube. There’s a lot of funny stuff on there if you don’t have a person around.