What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

I recently had a weird dream that was all jumbled up, but I recall that the question shrouded me in regret and remorse:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my journal, and wrote it down.

Then I tossed and turned, asking myself the question over and over again.

It was a fitful night, and I finally gave up trying to sleep and began writing this blog post.

What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

What would you do?

Rosh Hashanah, a time of repenting and forgiveness, begins at sundown tonight—Friday, September 18.

There it is—that number 18. It always manages to creep up and in, whenever I’m soul searching.

“The days of awe,” also known as the “ten days of repentance,” include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days in between, during which time Jews reflect on how we cycle through the year, bring it to a close, and begin again.

I don’t know about you, but I could really use a new beginning.

In the old days, when I would attend Temple during the High Holy Days, I would recite the same prayers every year. Year after year, the same tedious prayers. But this year is like no other year.

In thinking about what has happened over the past twelve months, I am regretful that I ever thought the prayers were routine—or worse, boring.

So, I pulled out the prayers today. And yes, they’re the same old familiar prayers, but in a calming, rejuvenating way.

Like all of you, my circumstances have forever changed.

The past twelve months have brought and wrought a harrowing narrative coupled with a Groundhog Day corona-routine that has rocked my world.

I looked back in my journal to remind me of all the things that happened over my past twelve-month life. If only I could go back to a simpler, safer time. If only I could go back to twelve months ago.

Last September 18, I had a Me Too awakening that left me with a glorious sense of acceptance. Finally. And of course, it happened on the 18th.

In October, I drove with my husband to Manchester, Vermont, for a wedding. The wedding was terrific, but it was the hours of driving, exploring, and conversating that reminded me of why I love spending time with my guy.

In November, I flew to London with my daughter, and we had an unforgettable ten days. I had never been to the UK, and will probably never get there again. I wish I would have known that back then.

On December 31, I threw a New Year’s Eve party, and we all cheered and celebrated the coming of 2020 with steak, lobster, and champagne. Happy 2020! Happy New Year!

In January, my grandson turned ten years old! And I recall thinking that it seemed like yesterday that I gently held his tiny swaddled body at the hospital. Back in the day when I assumed that I had all the time in the world to spend with him.

In February, I celebrated my daughter’s birthday in Brooklyn, New York, at an annual Peter Luger’s extravaganza with her two best friends. Porterhouse, thick-cut bacon, and an ice-cold martini, oh my!

And then, well, everything changed.

On March 7, I went into quarantine. I haven’t left my house since.

I remember the date, not because Coronavirus happened, but because it was the birthday of a special someone. A someone I’ve never met and who is a beloved and integral part of what I would do if I weren’t afraid.

On April 3, I corona-celebrated my 67th birthday. How the hell did 67 happen? But the day is seared in my memory forever, not because I turned 67, but because my Aunt Mary and one of my best friends I affectionately called Annie Pannie, were both buried that day.

On May 10, I got to see my daughter for the first time since we celebrated her birthday in February. The best Mother’s Day ever.

On June 21, we spent Father’s Day with two of our grandchildren, albeit socially distant. We hadn’t seen them since the prior November. And wow, how they had grown.

On July 21, I was fired from my executive director job by the deputy mayor of Cedarhurst, New York, because I asked to sit out the promoting and organizing of the annual summer Sidewalk Sale, which in the past years brought thousands of people to the shopping village. Sorry, not sorry, but I didn’t see anywhere in my job description that it was okay to kill people.

In August, I celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary with my husband corona-style, i.e., I warmed up whatever leftovers I had in my fridge, followed by a two-hour television binge of Married at First Sight.

And now, here we are on September 18, 2020.

I’m contemplating what I would do if I weren’t afraid—to reach out, and ask a most treasured person for their forgiveness.

I recently read that in asking for forgiveness, we often overlook the balance between the one who asks for forgiveness and the one who forgives.

I find it difficult to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made. And even though I recognize that I’m a work in progress, I continually beat myself up over events I wish I could go back and change.

I desperately want a do-over. A chance to make things right and put the mistakes and regrets behind me and out of my life forever.

I would ask for a second chance—that’s what I would do if I weren’t afraid.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve asked this person for forgiveness many times.

So many times that I’ve all but given up.

I said, “all but.”

Before I was Jewish, I was Catholic and taught that I was born with original sin. I always took that to mean that I was predisposed to making mistakes—a lot of them.

And I learned over the years that sh** happens. But it’s never too late to make amends.

I’ve personally given plenty of loved one’s numerous chances. Some took full and loving advantage, and others did not. But I don’t regret forgiving.

So, I’m going to ask for forgiveness, even though I’m afraid.

And I know that if I’m forgiven—which I probably won’t be—we will never be able to get back to the way we were. Asking and receiving forgiveness doesn’t mean all is erased.

I’m not naïve.

I know that if I’m forgiven, it will never eliminate the anguish of the injury or the memory of the pain I caused. I’m just hoping to break the impasse—to unbreak two hearts.

And tonight, when I light the Sabbath candles, I’ll pray for a new beginning. Not just for me, but for all of us.

Because we are in a very dark time, and there is way too much suffering and human wounds out there.

And even though I’m afraid, I will send that email. I won’t call because I know I’ll never get a callback.

I’m hoping, but not expecting a response to my apology.

And until I draw my last breath, I will pray for the courage to keep trying and to never lose hope.

Even though I’m afraid.

The Light Is Still On

He was born in the winter, on a cold and rainy Wednesday night.

He was finally mine, and I was struck with an enlightening love I had never before known. The January of my life.

When I would call him mister-man in my baby talky voice, he smiled big and toothless, his brown eyes twinkled, and I felt warm in his love.

And when he needed me most, I rocked him through the pain, the dark, the disquiet.

I refused to put him down, lest he rolled over amidst the bandages.

And I made sure a light was always on, more for me than mister-man.

That was before the silence, before the break.

Seasons come and seasons go.

Too many, I fear.

But the light will never dim.

The Three Strong Women in My Life


I spent my early childhood years living with my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Many on the outside thought our living arrangements were unusual. To them, I was living in a broken home.

To be clear, there was nothing broken about our home, our relationships, or our bond.

And sure, we struggled, but there was a lot of big love.

My desk area is covered with photos of me with the three women who shaped and steered my life.

I often gaze at us and wonder: Who was I to them? And who were they?

I was known as mon petit chou to my grandmother and my grandmother’s favorite to my mother. And since my mother was my great-grandmother’s favorite, I like to imagine I was in the same treasured category as my mom.

My grandmother barely knew her father, and my mother and I never knew our fathers at all.

I was an only child, and so was my mom, so the three women in my life were all the family I had—or needed.

My great-grandmother lost her mother when she was four, so I can only assume that she knew her father well. Unfortunately, I never asked her much about her life.

I do remember her telling me that her husband—my great-grandfather, had been involved in a terrible accident which rendered him a vegetable. I never forgot the story because even at a young age, I felt her pain. She told me that he spent most of his adult life in an asylum. And I could see from the telling, she was ashamed.

Through ancestry.com I was recently able to find a 1930 census document with my great-grandfather’s name on it. He was indeed a long-term patient at the Augusta Maine State Hospital for the Insane. And according to the records I was able to uncover, he spent at least 25 years there before he died in 1951.

We were four women, with no male heroes. A dysfunctional familial band of female strength on the one hand, full of unspoken male loss on the other.

There were no men in my early life—and that suited me just fine. Not that I knew any better.

How strange it is, then, that having been surrounded by women for most of my life, that I’ve never had a lot of female friends. In high school, I had maybe three close girlfriends. In college, I had one.

Even today, the females in my life are few and far between.

I suppose it’s because of those early days of being surrounded by loyal, compassionate, and unconditionally loving women.

But that was then, and this is now.

Perhaps I expect the women in my life to live up to a higher standard. Maybe a standard that is virtually unattainable.

I just don’t know.

We were four strong until at nine years old, my great-grandmother passed away.

And then after many weeks of tears and broken hearts, we were three strong.

My grandmother died when I was thirty.  I lost a heart-wrenching chunk of me and an enormous safety net.

She was my safest place.

Down to two strong.

She left me at a crucial time in my life. I threw up for weeks after her death thinking I was heartsick.

It wasn’t my heart. I was pregnant.

Boy did I need her guidance.

And then things went wrong. Really wrong. My life took some spins and turns and crashes and burns.

You could say I joined a circus for a few years.

I made some naïve and terrible choices. Don’t we all?

Down to one strong.

How I wish I would have asked my three strong women more questions about their pasts, their loves, their dreams, their aspirations, their regrets.

There are so many things I don’t know about them. I have way too many unanswered questions.

And way too many whys and hows and sorrys.

I so wish I could turn back the hands of time to live and love them all again and begin anew.


Me with my grandmother circa 1953

Father-Daughter Dance

If you know me, or my blog, I often write about being fatherless, and its cause and effect on the past 60+ years of my life.

The annual Father-Daughter Dance at St. Ambrose School in Bridgeport Connecticut during the early 60’s, was the blockbuster event of the year.

For me, it was the tragic reality that as the only one in my class without a father, I couldn’t go.

The nuns, of course, knew of my fatherlessness, and were vicious about it; whispering gossip to each other about me and my unusual family unit.

As a divorcée, my mother was excommunicated by the Catholic Church. As such, she was deemed a sinner by St. Ambrose and as her child so was I.

The nuns accused me of sinning, while the parents of my friends labeled my home broken.

So from grades 1-8, I enviably sat that dance out.

But oh how my imagination ran wild.

I conjured up in my young inventive head how magical the night would be.

Me the belle of the Father-Daughter ball, sparkling in a Cinderella gown, and my father the most handsome man in the room, dressed to kill in a fancy tuxedo.

All eyes would be on us as we made our grand entrance into the transformed cafeteria and danced and twirled the unforgettable night away.

Everyone in attendance would ooh and aah at the bedazzled and priceless diamond necklace my father had surprised me with.

And no chintzy corsage for me. My wrist was adorned with a matching dazzling diamond bracelet.

I envisioned posing for the Father–Daughter photo, a swarm of paparazzi bulbs popping all around the two of us.

NOT.

Year after lousy year I was harshly reminded of the sin, the broken home, the fatherless void.

  

Trading Places


If you try to be me, I’ll try to be you.
Then for each other, we’ll know what to do.

If you look at me through my eyes,
there will be no need to wear my protective disguise.

Because you’ll be able to see that my inner child is in fear.
You’ll be able to see my insecurities quite clear.

You’ll see that I’m not nearly as strong as I appear.
And you’ll see that I feel more and more pain with each passing year.

Then it will be your turn to take off your mask.
And you’ll have no choice but to tell me your true feelings when I ask.

I’ll see that when you want to cry, you scream.
I’ll see that you, like me, are not as tough as you seem.

I’ll see that you’re going over the brink.
You’ll see that I need you to love me much more than you think.

When you look at me reflected in your view.
The picture is distorted by my ego—and yours too.

Look at me without the deep complexes of our past.
Open your heart and relate to me at last.

So let’s open our minds—I’ll become you, and you’ll become me.
And I’m sure we’ll be shocked and saddened by what we both see.

I’ll see that you need significance, and belonging.
You’ll see my dreams for you and my longing.

I’ll see that you are weary of the games we play.
You’ll see that I pray for you to love me and stay.

If I see your pain,
I won’t hurt you again.

If you see why I cry and complain,
you won’t abuse me the same.

And if I am you and you are me,
we can finally end this torture and agree.

To work on improving the relationship
and make it the best it can be.

So we can finally live together
in peace and harmony.

So let’s trade places.

Let’s open our eyes and see
What happens to the two of us

When I become you
and you become me.

My Do-Over


Whenever I think back to the epifocal moment where I realized I had been given the miracle of a do-over; a better life, a better me, it’s this unforgettable memory:

My mischievous three-year-old son dressed in his holiday best, his back to me, but his beautiful face turned in my direction. His body lurching forward, but his eyes fixed on me.

Every time I recall the scene, it plays out in my mind in slow motion with me mouthing “NOOOOOOOOO.”

His infectious smile radiated; his face a combination of angelic and devilish.

In a split second, while still in a forwarding and thrusting motion, he turned his tiny face away from me and jumped full force into a muddy puddle of water.

I watched in disbelief as the blotches of mud spattered his fancy and pricey B. Altman outfit. As I horrifyingly ran toward him, he turned around and faced me full on. He was beaming, otherworldly, his demeanor was one of pure delight.

He pushed a baby curl of hair off his face with his dirty hand, leaving a dark streak across his forehead.

I stopped dead in my mommy tracks, astonished at the flood of joy, and love and hope that crashed and passed through me.

I had been one person before my son, and now I was someone else. Someone I never knew was hiding deep inside of me.

While he delighted in his mud bath, I thanked the dear Lord for this do-over.

As he gazed into my face, which I assumed at that moment must have appeared less than pleased, I broke into first a smile, and then a full on laugh.

He giggled playfully back in response as he lunged at me with wide open arms.

I grabbed him up and tenderly ensconced myself with all of him, twirling and whirling, tears of wonder streaking my meticulously painted face.

The two of us lost in a brief moment of time.

My son and I, a muddy loving mess.

Mother’s Day and Raleigh: My Brother Disguised as a Dog

Raleigh A

My relationship with Raleigh began on Mother’s Day in 1961 when I was eight years old and continued for eleven blessed years.

I was living on Huron Street where I lived in a railroad tenement with my grandmother and mother, who both worked full-time jobs. Our top-floor apartment was run down but immaculate and was laid out in a single long line of rooms: from the kitchen to the living room, to the bedroom that I shared with my mother, to my grandmother’s bedroom at the end.

 

The tiny bathroom was directly off the kitchen to the left and lined up with a long narrow hallway that ran from the bathroom all along the length of the entire apartment and ended up at a dark, steep and narrow stairwell that led down twenty steps or so to the front door. We never used that door, because it was padlocked—sealed shut and unusable. So the only way in and out of the apartment was to climb the several rows of steep stairs in the back of the house and enter through the kitchen. Only one way in, and one way out. A real fire trap.

My grandmother Mammy (pronounced MayMe) worked the 3-11 pm shift, so she was already gone by the time I got home from school. My mother worked until 6 pm or so.  I didn’t like coming home to an empty apartment at all. What seven-year-old would?

I would spend enormous amounts of time by myself in that apartment. I would slowly trudge toward home after school every weekday. Then I would reluctantly and cautiously climb the stairs upon stairs in the back of the tenement and hole myself up in the kitchen and try to keep busy until my mother came home for supper (as we called dinner back then).

Huron Street 1958 A

And in the winter when the sun would set super early, I was a bundle of nerves—tense and agitated. Because scary things inevitably came out when it got dark in that crummy apartment on Huron Street.

I would continuously and frantically check the clock in the kitchen, occasionally sprinting from one end of the apartment to the other, to press my face and hands against my grandmother’s bedroom window in the hopes of catching a glimpse of my mother arriving home.

Huron Street

I would furtively check out the street below for a mother sighting and then sprint as fast as I could back to the kitchen, my mind full of monstrous thoughts about the dark hallway. During that time in my life, I had a recurring nightmare that troll-type demons were lurking at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me. That damn dream didn’t help the situation at all.

I would rock myself on a kitchen chair, willing my bladder to cooperate so I wouldn’t need to go to the bathroom and face the dreaded scary hallway.

There came a time at some point that spring when my grandmother asked me if I was afraid to come into our empty apartment.  I was most certainly afraid, but I didn’t want her to worry about me, plus what I told her was sort of true: I was more lonely than afraid.

“The poor dear is lonely,” she repeated to my mother soon after that, as I listened intently while pretending to color at the kitchen table. As they discussed the situation, they glanced over at me, and when I curiously looked up at them, in hopes of hearing their solution to my predicament, they finished off their conversation in French.

A few weeks later, my mother treated Mammy and me to an elegant and very expensive Mother’s Day brunch at the Lighthouse Inn in New London, Connecticut.

Lighthouse Inn New London, Conn

Now, this brunch was way beyond my mother’s means, but it was Mother’s Day after all, and it was a rare day we ever went out to eat.

I recall the Lighthouse Inn being the grandest place I had ever seen, and incredibly fancy, with magnificent views of the Thames River, as well as the Long Island and Fishers Island sounds.

At only seven, I, of course, didn’t know what the bodies of water were called, but they most definitely left a lasting impression on me. So much so that 56 years later I can still recall that Mother’s Day like it was yesterday while most other memories from way back then are a bundle of murk and haze.

There was an elegant pathway leading up to the Lighthouse Inn, which was set way back from the main road. Both sides of the path up to the mansion-turned-Inn were spilling with the brightest and most beautiful wildflowers, roses, asters, and goldenrod.

Before we reached the front door of the Inn, there was a magnificent fountain sitting inside a circle of lush meticulously manicured green grass.

The entire scenario reminded me of the royal estates I had seen many a time on the  “Million Dollar Movie.” For anyone that remembers the series, they would show the same movie twice every night from Monday to Friday, and then three times a day on Saturday and Sunday. The exact same movie would play sixteen times over a one week period. And the “Million Dollar Movie” music was “Tara’s Theme” from “Gone With The Wind.” So as I strolled up to the grandiose entrance of The Lighthouse Inn, I hummed the iconic tune quietly to myself.

While I stuffed my face with eggs benedict, and hordes of crispy bacon, I was pretending that I was one of the rich and the famous. I play acted in my mind and pretended to be Shirley Temple.

After brunch, the three of us decided to throw pennies into the fountain and make a wish. The fountain area was packed with families who all had the same idea, and as we squeezed in and out of the crowds toward the fountain, Mammy suddenly and violently began to throw up.

Well, that dispersed the crowd rather quickly. And to their horror, Mammy’s top false teeth flew out of her mouth and onto the green leafy grass. My mother and I looked at my grandmother in shock as she bent over and picked up her teeth, shook off the vomit, and popped them back into her mouth.  When she turned toward us, she casually and matter of factly said, “The food was too rich.”

My mother was humiliated and wanted to get the hell out of there. I was in no rush—and intent on throwing a penny into the fountain. She dragged me to the car, all the while talking under her breath about how embarrassed she was and how she couldn’t take us anywhere without us causing some kind of an incident.  Poor Mammy was nauseous as all get out.

We got into our rickety old car, and it took a few tries before the engine turned over. My mother was frustrated, and I figured our Mother’s Day outing was over—ruined by Mammy’s teeth flying out of her mouth.

We drove for a while and came to a white house with a large red barn-like building. Mammy, who was still feeling queasy, stayed in the car. My mother took my hand and together we walked up to the house, and she rang the doorbell. An elderly woman answered the door and chattily walked us to the barn.

The woman opened the latch to the barn and lo and behold, there was a pile of black fluffy puppies! I was having a hard time trying to figure out why we were there with these adorable fluffballs and ran back to the car to get Mammy.

When I got back to the barn with Mammy, the woman handed me the tiniest and most precious black powderpuff puppy I had ever seen.  “He’s a pedigree Pomeranian,” my mother told me proudly as he fervently licked my face with his teensy red tongue. I was still confused as to why I was there.

“He’s yours,” Mammy said lovingly. “Someone to keep you company,” my mother added. The woman pulled out a folded paper from an envelope as I crushed the little black snowball against my chest.

“His mother’s name is Marlene, and his name is Marlene’s Onyx Jet,” she explained as she presented my mother with his papers. “His name is Jet,” my mother reiterated to me.

Jet? I didn’t like that name. It didn’t suit my puppy at all.

“What’s his father’s name?” I inquired. “His father? Who cares?” Mammy responded. The woman pointed out a name on the piece of paper and replied, “His father’s name is Sir Walter Raleigh.”

“I’m calling him Raleigh,” I informed them both, even though they thought it was an overly pretentious name. On the way back to Huron Street, they tried to convince me to call him something else, but my mind was made up. His name was going to be Raleigh, and that was that.

It was a Mother’s Day I will never forget. Poor Mammy asked my mother to pull off the side of the road so she could throw up again, and right before we got to Huron Street Raleigh puked all over my new dress. (For the next eighteen years every time Raleigh got into a car he would dry heave and then spit up.)

I often look back at that time in my life and refer to it as before Raleigh and after Raleigh. Before that Mother’s Day and after that Mother’s Day.

Now with Raleigh in the picture, when the school bell rang, I would ecstatically race back to our apartment, fly up the stairs upon stairs, and burst into the kitchen where my too- fancy-for-Huron Street pedigree puppy would be patiently waiting for me.

The bathroom? No problem. The hallway? Easy breezy. Raleigh would growl and bark at anything he thought was moving about. Heck, Raleigh would bark at the air.  He thought he was a Great Dane, and I guess whatever was lurking around thought he was too because nothing scary ever showed itself when Raleigh was around.

I had no need to sprint from one end of the railroad apartment to the other furtively looking for my mother.  And I wasn’t afraid of the dark any longer.

I was too busy dressing Raleigh up in pink tutu’s and teaching him to dance on his hind legs. Or I would whip him around the kitchen with his tiny teeny little front legs.

I look back on it now, and I hope I didn’t hurt him, but he loved every minute of it, the two of us swirling and spinning full tilt in circles until I would fall down. Then the two of us would dizzily try to walk it off. I would laugh uncontrollably. He would bark playfully.

From that Mother’s Day forward it was always Raleigh and me—my best friend, my fierce protector, my favorite sidekick, my beloved brother.

Raleigh D

Goodbye—Not Sorry, Seems to Be the Hardest Word

I have always been overly obsessed with listening to my favorite melancholy tunes over and over again, never tiring of the songs, the words, or my morose reaction.

I know what you’re thinking. Big time downer.

I once asked my music theory college professor why certain songs hit me so hard, and he thought it involved some level of hypothetical observation—a musical conversation, and in all probability caused by a chemical reaction in my brain.

Chemical or not, I have always loved the Elton John song, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.

Each and every time I listened to the lyrics, they just about broke my heart. And each and every time I cried to the words, I always imagined that the questions asked in the song must have been formulated with an incredibly precious someone in mind.

What have I got to do to make you love me?
What have I got to do to make you care?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
And I wake to find that you’re not there?
What have I got to do to make you want me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I say when it’s all over?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
It’s sad, so sad.
It’s a sad, sad situation.
And it’s getting more and more absurd.
It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Elton John’s heartbreaking lyrics could have been written for anyone—a friend, a lover, a parent, a child.

In my mind, the years of crying and analyzing those lyrics over and over again reinforced for me the realization that I can love someone, but it doesn’t mean that person has to love me back. And I might want to talk it over, but that only works if there is someone on the other side who cares enough to listen.

Yesterday when I turned on my car radio, Elton’s sorrowful words and song I had long ago emotionally analyzed and conquered, served as an instant and profound epiphany.

Sorry may seem to be the hardest word, but in actuality, goodbye is even harder.

Because sometimes sorry just isn’t enough.

You can beg someone for their forgiveness, but they can refuse to forgive. Or forget. Sorry in their mind doesn’t cut it.

So then what?

Do you hang in there? Try to make them love you? Try to make them listen? Try to talk it over?

Bend over backward and kiss up to them even though you feel unfairly judged?

Keep silent when you have words rattling around in your head ready to be spilled and spelled out?

Do you jump through hoops to find that loving place you once shared when deep down inside, you know it’s lost forever?

And are there any last words left to say to save forever?

No, because sometimes there is only one word left to say—and that’s goodbye.

And that is indeed a sad, sad situation.

BFF or Frenemy? When to Call It Quits

Best friends
I lost touch with my first best friend when I moved cities at age fourteen. The sudden loss of my then BFF broke my heart and I still think back on the devotion and love we shared and then lost, and sometimes wonder if our friendship would have lasted the test of time.

Since then, many besties have come and gone, for one reason or another. The old adage that we can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends is only true so long as we make the right choice.

And even though I’ve tried to choose my friends carefully, I have over the years developed less and less tolerance for those of whom I once thought I picked well.

Making and keeping a BFF takes perseverance and there has to be mutual affection and respect for one another. An unwritten code of empathy, kindness, harmony, solidarity, support, and compassion combined with friendship etiquette is essential to a long-term alliance.

Anyone who has a BFF gets what I’m saying here.

Friendship etiquette is something that ensures the growth and tranquility essential for a healthy and reciprocally beneficial relationship. Friendship etiquette also means that there exists between two compadres an understanding, loyalty, and acceptance when there is not a shared like or interest in something or someone. You silently agree to stand behind and up for your BFF because that’s what a good friend does. You have their back whether you agree with them or not—in good times and especially in bad.

Additionally, friends don’t become your frenemy because your life might happen to be better than theirs at some moment in time. Friends take pride in the progress and success of their BFFs.

An actual friend will revel in your successes and knows when you’re in trouble. And they do what it takes to combat and control their possible jealousies and inner demons because we all have our insecurities.

True friends understand that even though they are BFF’s their lives are divergent and separate from each other. And they recognize that only through give-and-take respect can they secure an unforgettable and life-long attachment.

If you’ve ever had the honor of having a true BFF, it’s fairly easy to name the qualities you expect in a close friendship. And you go out of your way to be a legitimate and honest friend.

But is your BFF really for forever? The following questions should give you the answers you’re looking for.

Are they genuinely happy when something good happens to you?

Do they listen to your stories without changing the subject to something about them?

Do they give you a break when you’re clearly off your game, knowing that everyone has a bad day?

Do they cancel their plans to be with you in your hour of need?

Do they check in on you when the weather’s bad or just because?

Do they feel your sadness when something bad happens to you?

Do they accept your friends?

Do they say the negative things they feel about you to your face, and say only positive things about you behind your back?

If you’ve been a faithful friend or have a loyal sidekick, the answer to all of these questions should be yes. If not, maybe your BFF is not who you thought they were.

And jealousy is the quickest way to destroy a friendship. Let’s be honest, there will always be a friend out there with a better life than yours—a more successful job, a more luxurious home, in better shape, with a closer significant other. And maybe they’re more beautiful, handsome, or spontaneous.

But you say you love them, right? You want them to be happy, healthy, and prosperous, correct?

The wannabe BFFs say they love you, but the authentic BFF lives it. Because your friendship is worth safekeeping, and they know it’s the real deal and that a BFF once found, is irreplaceable.

Keep in mind that your BFF will always include others in their lives, which doesn’t mean that they stop being your best friend. A BFF needs to be confident enough to give their friendship shared freedom.

You’re friends for a reason. You chose each other because the two of you have something you don’t find often enough, if at all. You mutually share things like consideration, trust, empathy, support, and you love spending time with them. A BFF is a gift that can’t be measured like material goods.

Being a BFF means being truly ecstatic about your friends’ success and happiness even if you’re not up to the same speed. In every BFF, there is an element of responsibility to care about what your friend needs and take the lead sometimes. Your BFF is always on your mind, and you don’t play games.

It takes two to make a BF—there is no such thing as a one-sided friendship. A bona fide BFF is one of the best things that can happen to us. They listen to us, do things with us, and bring out the best in us. They make us better people, share new experiences, make us laugh, and are always there with broad shoulders for us to cry on in times of trouble. A BFF is considerate and your problems are their problems.

If your BFF is not like this, then, take a closer look at your friendship. Do they lack empathy and/or consideration of your feelings? Have they said and done things that have hurt you or caused offense? And when you try to explain to them that you are terribly hurt by what they’ve said or done, do they still play the victim?

If you’re always overlooking the bad behavior or demands of your supposed BFF, and/or walking on eggshells when you’re around them, it’s probably time to say goodbye.

As hard as that might be, take the energy and caring you’ve been wasting on your frenemy and find yourself the BFF you deserve.

alone-on-a-bench

The Little Drummer Girl from Bridgeport Connecticut

The Little Drummer Girl A

I spent a couple of hours yesterday reading through a creative writing fellowship application, and came to the following question:

What was the first piece of creative writing you ever produced?

Since I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, I really had to dig deep for the answer.

And since my response is required as part of the fellowship application (should I decide to even apply), I figured I could practice up with this blog entry. You know, write it down and then see if it has any legs.

It was December, and I was in the third grade at Saint Ambrose Catholic School. I will never forget that it was right before Christmas, because our teacher, Sister Regina Mary, placed a small figurine of the baby Jesus in his manger on a table in our classroom and gave us an assignment.

Each one of us was to bring a gift for the baby Jesus on or prior to the last day before the holiday break. It could be a monetary donation for the St. Ambrose School or church, a wrapped gift that would be passed out at a local orphanage on Christmas day, or some canned or jarred goods that would be donated to a food kitchen.

My classmates were beyond excited. Me? Not so much. What kind of gift could I possibly round-up for the baby Jesus?

Because we wore school uniforms, there was hardly anything to tip off my fellow classmates to the fact that I was dirt poor.

I say hardly because my shoes were always the giveaway.

While others were shopping at the local department stores, I was supplied with clothes from the Salvation Army. And since my feet were huge, the only footwear appropriate for my age and fit me, were boy’s shoes.

The old adage “You can judge a person by their shoes,” didn’t work so well for me back then.

Anyway, after school that day, I walked home defeated and depressed. Heck, we couldn’t even afford shoes so my thoughts came back to the same dilemma.

How was I supposed to muster up an impressive gift for the baby Jesus?

My grandmother, always the optimist, sat me down at the kitchen table to “put our heads together.” But try as we could, the bottom line? I had no gift to give.

And then it hit me. I had no gift to give!

Neither did the little drummer boy, I told my grandmother. And then we went to work.

Days before the holiday break, the kids were bringing in envelopes of all sizes and colors, beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts, canned soups, hams, jars of jellies and jams, other non-perishable goodies, and decorative tins of that God awful fruit cake.

For several nights before the “deadline” I would sit at the kitchen table with my grandmother. While I vigorously wrote away, she created a masterful drum for me. She meticulously adorned a Quaker Oats container in gold foil wrapping paper saved from the year before. Then she rummaged around in her sewing kit and found some red piping to further enhance the look of the drum.

As she glued, I wrote.

On the last day before the holiday break, I was a nervous wreck and started to regret my whole simpleminded drummer girl storyline.

My grandmother lent me two of her wooden crochet hooks for drumsticks, shoved them, the drum, and my hand-written story into a brown paper grocery bag, and sent me on my way.

As I dragged myself to school, I rehearsed aloud and prayed that I wouldn’t let my nerves get the best of me and screw up my baby Jesus gift.

As the school bell rang, I squirmed nervously at my desk, with the paper bag carefully resting on my tapping ugly boy shoes.

When Sister Regina Mary asked if anyone had any last-minute gifts for the baby Jesus, I warily and shyly raised my hand. She looked at me with disdain.

Another back story I should mention.

Because I was raised in a home with all women (my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother) and no father, the nuns didn’t take too kindly to me. I was from a “broken home,” and as such, a second-hand sinner.

The Sister indifferently asked me to come up to the front of the class.

I took a deep breath, grabbed the paper bag, and walked over to the baby Jesus.

I pulled out my story, silently told myself I could do this and recited it to the class.

The story was about a poor girl from Bridgeport Connecticut, who was supposed to give a gift to the baby Jesus. But she had no money, and so she had no gift. And then she came up with an idea with her grandmother. A simple gift that she prayed the baby Jesus would like.

The whole class was whispering and asking each other what this stupid girl wearing boy’s shoes was talking about.

Sister Regina Mary stood by the blackboard with her arms crossed waiting for the baby Jesus gift.

I reached into the paper bag, pulled out the contents, and began to sing — Little Drummer Boy style…

Little baby Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor girl too Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King Pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you? Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him Pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

Tears filled Sister Regina Mary’s eyes but to be honest, I could care less. Sister Regina Mary was of no importance to me.

What was of import, was that I was proud of myself and mostly relieved the whole stressful ordeal was over.

The bottom line? I had given my all for the baby Jesus.

But most importantly, and what I will never forget for as long as I live…

As I turned around to go back to my seat, I caught a fleeting glimpse of my grandmother slipping quietly away from the classroom door.