The Washington Post and the Stories We Need

I am grateful to the Washington Post for giving me the space to share my reflections on the Tree of Life Synagogue in the wake of the violence the community so close to my heart suffered.

The nostalgia around childhood is powerful. At 46, I can visualize my kindergarten cubby and rainbow-colored mat, feel the pebbly summer-camp road under my feet and hear the conspiratorial giggles of my friends gossiping in the girls’ room of my childhood synagogue.

Now that place is one of the most blood-soaked crime scenes in Jewish American history.

Some of the most visceral moments of my life revolve around Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill.

Read the full piece in the Washington Post.

Mothers of Reinvention and Connection

The last few weeks have been intense, but in a positive way. After May, and the schpilkes it tends to bring (Google it – it’s a good Yiddish word to know), June has felt sunny and busy and productive and present tense. Not just a time to get through, but a time to be IN. How are you, people asked, like today at my younger one’s field day, and my answer is  “CONNECTED.” I feel, and I hesitate to even write this down for fear of the evil eye, that at the moment, all areas of my life are overlapping in a very affirming Venn Diagram kind of way.  

I was interviewed last week for the “Spawned” podcast with Liz Gumbinner and Kristen Chase from Cool Mom Picks.  I’ve long admired their site, blog, and podcast, and not just because Liz and Kristen are funny and excellent talkers who you feel like you’ve known forever, but also because they offer practical and useful advice about what to read, what to try, what to cook, and what’s happening in the world of parenting. They cut through the noise – whether it’s a tech issue, a parenting fail or win, or a great idea for teacher’s gifts, they are an excellent resource and always seem to know what’s up. I had a terrific time being interviewed, and it’s instructive for me to hear what seasoned pros bring to a medium (podcasting) I’m working on myself. 

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The episode is called Mothers of Reinvention, and it was really cool to talk about the ways we've shaped our careers around our families. In talking about my "reinventions," from book publishing to voiceover work to children’s book writing to podcasting, I realized that so many of the MILKs I’ve been attracted to are authors because of that initial book publicist living inside me. Just this month, there are two MILKs with new hardcover titles out, and two with paperbacks. I know how much work it takes to write a book, and though their subject matter is all very different (Essays on marriage, juicy contemporary fiction, middle grade fiction and essays about women and ambition), I am so happy for all of these friends.

My interview on Spawned also helped me realize that years of hanging around actors, musicians, audio people and other creative hustlers really opened me up to questions about how people get from point A to point B, gave me confidence to try things that were non-linear, like podcasting, and how the people I've met in my work travels are all a part of this journey.

So it made sense, last week, that I was invited to attend a women’s collective through two other MILKs, Amanda Harding and Alessandra Olanow. We gathered at Alex’s beautiful home to pool resources, with the idea that what one awesome creative woman can bring to the table, another might need and so on.  It was inspiring and freeing to admit that many of us, working alone on projects and businesses, need community too. As Amanda, a wonderful person who works so hard as a teacher to create a community that gives back, always says, making connections is what it's all about. And Alessandra is such a talented illustrator – check out her work here.

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

On the mommy side, last week was my little one's 8th birthday, which then brings me back to MILK, and to this week’s episode with Journalist Angela Garbes. Angela is a journalist based in Seattle, and her wonderful book is called “Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy.” I hadn’t read about or thought much about pregnancy and new motherhood in a very long while, as most of my MILKs have been more mature moms, but her book is fascinating, super well researched and feminist AF. I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to Angela about how different paths bring us to the same powerful, and vulnerable spaces as mothers, and how we can truly listen and support each other’s stories and choices.

Angela’s interview came at an interesting moment personally, as things tend to do these days. I loved having the opportunity to reflect on my son's birth story, and reconnect with that side of myself – remembering what my body is capable of and celebrating not just his life, but also my life as his and his sister’s mother. Motherhood, as commonplace as it is, is truly miraculous, and it is worth pausing to remind ourselves of this simple fact. 

So it’s full circle with the MILK connections right now, and it all feels lovely.  Happy summer!

May Day

May and June are major months for parents of the school-age. There are class trips and gifts for everyone, dads, grads, end of year concerts and performances for every damn activity. As the mom (usually), you gotta show up, be celebratory, organized and sociable. It’s all so intense and condensed that you actually have to laugh at the absurdity à la Kimberly Harrington. (Her book is amazing and you should get it).

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Since I lost my mom, the period between Mother’s Day, her birthday (May 24), her deathiversary, (June 6), my son’s birthday (June 8), Father’s Day (June 15), and the end of school (June 20 something), shines a light on how surreal grief can be, about rituals and niceties versus how you, me, (everyone!) really feel. The seasonal calendar just does its thing -- flowers bloom and the sun finally shines after a seven month winter, and all I can remember is the anxiety, this time 5 years ago, of knowing that she was at the end.

And as we are often reminded, grief is not linear, and it is not clearly demarcated as to when it will flare. I’ve been good lately, trying to focus on my own family, to be more honest and explicit about my needs, less angry and more positive. I feel like I’m getting somewhere with my personal and professional goals. I’ve been trying to contribute and to not be devastated by the direction our country is taking.   

Still, I was anticipating this would be a tough Mother’s Day. I’m deep in the mommy content biz now because of MILK, and on May 1st it was like a Mom Bomb went off: MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER. Not quite in the same way I believe I have been exploring the nuances of motherhood through art, kvetching, honesty, and the comedy of it, but rather through any product or company that can corral the concept of birthing children into an excuse to buy this thing. Mother’s Day (and motherhood) always comes with a side of marketing, but especially now that I’m tuned in to those channels, those books, those movies, and especially those emails about how to make Mother’s Day perfect if you just buy that thing, contribute to this charity, read this book. Dude.

But, I made it. I am a mother and I don’t have a mother but I’m here today, at my desk. I feel relief that I am back to a normal day with no pressure on it to be anything, except Monday. It’s all just a little much, right?

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Speaking of moms, (yeah I know) I read The NY Times Styles reporter Katie Rosman’s memoir-ish about her mom, “If You Knew Suzy,” maybe a year ago, after I tried to get Katie interested in writing about my children’s book, ELLA for the paper. I realized she had also lost her young, healthy mother to cancer, and had written an investigation into her mother’s life, to try and gain some peace about her untimely death. I relate so much to the desire to uncover the how of someone’s life, there are no good answers to the why. Her book is wonderful, and I was so excited to have her in the studio. Her episode will be posted next week.

Reading Katie’s book inspired the current MILK episode interview with Roslyn (Roz) Neiman. I’ve talked to Roz and my mother’s other dear friends many times about Judi, my mom, in person when I go to Pittsburgh, on the phone, and on Facebook, but the formality of having Roz in the podcast studio felt like a new frame, to go back and try to fill in certain gaps about my mom’s life the way Katie did with her reporting.

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I love this episode with Roz, because it is my childhood. I get to re-hear a lot of the stories I know, and then hear for the first time some things I did not know about my mom as a friend, a support, an adult person and not just a mother I took for granted. Roz reminds me in the interview, how, at 14 years old, I was dumb enough to wear my mom’s brand new, super 1980’s mother of pearl hoop earrings (that she told me not to touch) into the store she owned at the time. She wrestled me to the ground to take them off of my ears. What an ass I was, but how funny that my mom pulled a professional wrestling move on me!

To paraphrase Katie, “you need to embody and remember the life, not only the circumstances of the death.” That’s what Roz’s interview feels like to me – an opportunity to embody and celebrate the life of my mom. It prepped me for that sad, incomplete feeling of Mother’s Day,  but connected me to the mom figures I still have, like Roz and my cousin Phyllis, and others from their community. It helped me focus and not be too sad, to think about Judi’s terrific life, how many Mother’s Days we had together, or random, regular days when I could call her and bullshit with her about things my kids did and think nothing of it.

Also, I bought a dress and some sunglasses for myself on Mother’s Day, which is shallow and right in the pocket of the marketing that told me I’m worth spending money on. But I think Judi would have approved, as would Roz. I’ll wear them to the last day of Hebrew school event or the karate belt test or the class trip to Coney Island, which I need to put in my calendar ASAP before I forget.   

Live From The Wing Dumbo, It's Tue/Night

Last night was fantastic because 1.) I told a story live about one of the most treasured moments in my career 2.) I listened to other brilliant storytellers tell hilarious and poignant tales about their first jobs and 3.) I had a reason to wear my blush colored silk blouse in a mostly blush colored room. My whole evening was well lit, filled with excellent conversation, and today I'm still buzzing.

The live storytelling event was organized by Tue/Night, an on and offline community for women over 40, and is run by the awesomeness of Margit Detwiller, Adrianna Dufay, and Karen Gerwin. I've written several pieces for their weekly magazine, and I treasure the work they do supporting we Women of a Certain Age (props to Kim France's blog of that same name, which is another fave of mine). Tue/Night publishes an on-line issue each week, on, yes, Tuesday night, as well as a newsletter, and produces live events with a theme. Last night's theme was First Jobs.

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I told the story of working in book publishing as an assistant to a larger than life publicist, and getting the opportunity to go out on a book tour with RuPaul (yeh, that RuPaul) soon after arriving at that job. Many of my friends from that era, including Karen Gerwin of Tue/Night, are still in my life, and last night when I was reading and considering all that has happened since 1994 when I arrived in New York City to begin my adult life, I was so moved as I looked up from my notes and saw so many women from different phases of that life. Publishing friends, voice-over friends, kid school friends, neighborhood friends, MILK Podcast friends, and brand new friends, like the lovely woman who wrote her disseration about drag culture and RuPaul. Not to mention the other terrific live storytellers, Stacy London, Dee Poku, Robin Gelfenbien and Kimberly Peeler-Allen.

My story also involves reflection about my boss, Jennifer, who passed away tragically at the age I am now. This sad fact reminds me to strive, and to pursue what makes me happy, as we never know what is ahead. But as we push for ourselves in our careers, striving to succeed and find a purpose, we must also support those who are struggling to hold on. As I listened to Letitia "Tish" James, NYC's Public Advocate, talk about issues that plague women across this great city, I thought about how compassionate women like her are serving as elected officials because taking care of others is in their blood. It fills me with pride, that so many women have this attribute, but also with anger that we are not compensated equally for that caretaking work we do. And that there are not enough Tish James's, and that we need better female representation in leadership, especially for women of color. Higher Heights, the organization Kimberly Peeler-Allen runs, is working to change that, and it was terrific to hear from her.

So many feelings, all necessary ones, were spilling over as I listened, joy and laughter mixing with tears and empathy. As women, we know our strengths but also how much more there is to do. Because that is how we roll. We multi-task, even with our feelings.  Since joining the The Wing, a co-working space for women, I've recognized how important it is to network and connect with like minded people who want other women to succeed. The need for community is real, and I'm thrilled to be a part of this one.

Read my piece and the other "First Job" stories: here, and follow Tue/Night, Higher Heights, and the other storytellers who are all amazing. I loved being a part of this event. 

Beautiful photos are by Erika Hokanson of Tue/Night.

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How Mallory Kasdan, MILK Podcast Host, Spends her Sundays

(A Parody of the NYTimes column about the Sunday Routines of people, but also how I spent my Sunday)

Mallory Kasdan, 45, host of The MILK Podcast: Moms I’d Like to Know, interviews artist, author, and activist moms in her home studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. On Sundays, she works, tries to get in a nap and do her taxes, and argues with her husband, Evan, over who will take Miles (7) to basketball and Zoe (11) to Barnes and Noble.

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TOO MUCH RED WINE I wake up groggy. It’s daylight savings so the only person who really knows what time it is my phone. I stay in bed until people start yelling from the living room.

NO SELF-CARE I do not meditate at my window with the sun streaming in. I did use the Headspace app for about six months last year, though. Just telling you. 

BREAKFAST Evan is making pancakes for the kids, which is a nice, Sunday-ish thing that he does happily and well.  I think about making a goop-y smoothie with kale, bananas, acai, and coconut oil for myself, but I don’t have any of those ingredients so instead I drink 3 cups of coffee with milk and sugar and then eat my son’s turkey bacon and pancakes off of his abandoned plate.

TWO MINUTES FOR MISCONDUCT I break up a fight the kids are having over charger positioning and threaten them a bunch of times with taking away their devices “for the rest of the day!”

To make up for yelling, I force affection on them with kissing and squishing. I attempt to get them and Evan back into my bed for full family cuddle. It usually works. 

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NEGOTIATION Evan and I try to figure out who will do which activity with which kid and who will get some alone time to work out or go food shopping alone. It is a familiar dance.

PODCAST PREP The kids have Hebrew school from 10 AM – 12PM, and I have a guest coming over for an interview at 10, which of course was planned way in advance, since she’s is a mom with her own weekend negotiation process.

Evan showers while I clean the dishes and encourage, cajole, and threaten Miles and Zoe to get dressed and out the door. Everyone leaves, and the next ten minutes are excellent, peaceful minutes.

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I shower and dress in my MILK uniform: jeans, denim shirt, bun in my hair, hoop earrings and clogs. My guest, Rona Kobell, a high school friend and journalist I’ve reconnected with over Facebook, arrives and we kibbitz for a few minutes. Evan comes back from dropping the kids and helps set up the microphones and sets levels, which is nice of him. He’s a sound guy, which is lucky for me. We jump into my home studio.

MOM JEANS In the interview, we talk a little about mom stuff, just because we have so many other subjects to cover, like high school, gun violence, grief, nostalgia, sex, Aziz Ansari, racism, empathy, privilege, and her reporting. But we show each other pictures of our kids and partners and think super fondly of them because they are not around. This is when, I’ve found, as a mother, you love them the most.

FILM SET NEIGHBORHOOD I take a walk around the neighborhood with Rona and point out all the bizarre things that happen in Dumbo on a Sunday, like photo shoots with ladies in tutus laying on the cobblestones, bakeries where a box of mini petit-fours cost $15, and the crazy amount of selfie sticks on Washington Street. I wonder how I can harness these Instagrammers who clog my street and convince them to follow me.

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Rona gets a Lyft, and I walk by a few parks and see people with their kids and am secretly happy that I’m not them because it looks cold and boring. I head home.

LAZY LUNCH Everyone is home from Hebrew school and eating their various meals. I’m lazy so I eat some hardboiled eggs, some cheese, an apple and a banana – no dishes to do! I make some tea and take it into my woman cave and shut the door, and hope no one will knock on it. Evan takes Miles to basketball and I have no idea what inappropriate show Zoe is watching on her ipad. I decide not to worry – she reads a lot, so what could go wrong?

TAXES/NAP I sit in my office and put together my receipts for taxes. It sucks. I hate it. I come close to finishing, and then I tackle the to-be-filed file, the source of endless fights between me and Evan. I end up throwing away a lot of paper, feel high from the purging, and decide that I’m gonna throw everyone’s clutter away in this house. I’m serious.

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I start to get really tired. Daylight Savings, amiright?

I get in bed and take a really long nap. It’s awesome. All the years my kids were too young to occupy themselves… those were the years I cared what they were doing every minute, when I needed them to be at a museum or a show or an event every weekend. I have paid for these weekend naps and I am cashing in.

FITSPO I force myself to put on work-out clothes. Exercising is like writing. I love having done it, but I obsess over when I’m going to do it and I often wait until the very last minute to get it done. Our building just bought a Peleton, so I go down to our basement and do a really hard ride to classic rock, and I’m relieved no one can see how red and crazy I look.  The teachers are gorgeous and fierce and bang on the handlebars and say “Ungh” in a way that’s simultaneously sexy and athletic. I wonder if they take naps.

Evan is home from Fairway, where he got his podcast listening and food shopping alone time (don’t feel bad for him, yesterday he was on a bike ride from 8 am – 4:30 pm).  He makes the kids put away the groceries. They whine. I force them to shower. They whine more. I pour wine. 

FAMILY DINS Evan and I make dinner – hamburgers, roasted potatoes, broccoli rabe with garlic. It's one of the only meals everyone will eat. We all sit together without devices. After one kid has a fit that I cut her hamburger and the other wants me to cut his hamburger, the kids and Evan watch half of a Harry Potter movie while I clean the dishes. Then I stare at my phone for a bit, encourage, cajole and threaten the kids to get in their pajamas and brush their teeth, and Evan and I get into bed and watch High Maintenance and Homeland. 

I take my Zoloft and call it a Sunday.  

 

 

ELLA!

My children’s book. ELLA, came out 3 years ago next month. I'm proud the book that made me an author still has a life, and that there are new readers aging into the story every year. ELLAs are everywhere, and OMG I simply love to meet them!

This weekend I was lucky to participate in two very different storytelling events. The first was at neighborhood bookstore Books Are Magic in Carroll Gardens. I’m in there a lot with my kids and they happily stock ELLA, which makes me happy in return. When longtime standby BookCourt closed suddenly last year just after Trump was elected, it seemed like the last straw in an impossibly horrendous moment for my country and more locally, my book-obsessed community. But Books are Magic came along and filled that void, and now it feels like its always been there. Trump … well, that’s a different book. 

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BAM’s book buyer Abby Rauscher asked me to come in on Friday morning to speak to some local second graders about writing fiction and creating parody. I was thrilled to meet these awesome kids. The best part about writing and making art is the human connection that comes from sharing that art. When I get to talk to kids about their own writing and illustrations, their ideas and inspirations, it is the most energizing and connected feeling I can describe. Children are so honest, so earnest, and so damn imaginative and funny. It truly inspires me to dig deeper to create more.  

We talked about the process of making a book, from coming up with an idea, to shaping it with an editor, to handing the words over to an illustrator for his/her interpretation. We talked about printing, publishing and writer's block. We discussed parody, Eloise at the Plaza, and how The Local Hotel makes sense as a home for ELLA in 2017, and what it means to update something. It was wonderful fun, and the children walked out, holding hands with their partners clutching their ELLA bookmarks. 

Sunday morning was another event, wonderfully planned by new friend and fellow Brooklyn mom, Dara Fleischer, who works in events for Saks Fifth Avenue. She asked me to come to their newish downtown store in the Brookfield Place mall to read ELLA and host a cupcake decorating session provided by the fabulous Sprinkles cupcakes. It was amazing. I sat in a beautiful millennial pink chair, reading to the kids and surrounded by the most incredible women’s footwear. The lighting was wonderful, the coffee was flowing, and the staff at Saks was incredibly welcoming to all. I felt like Barbra Streisand! My kids were even impressed. 

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I met a bunch of ELLAs, a bunch of MILKs, and some dads too. We filled in Marcos Chin’s coloring pages, I signed books sold by Books Are Magic, and watched kids decorate and tear into some seriously gorgeous cupcakes. There were beautiful silver sparkly Saks purses as giveaways, which my son insisted on handing out to every child.

So thank you to Books Are Magic, and to Teresa Ward, Kristin Smith, Kaitlin Brown and Dara Fleischer at Saks, and Aiyana Coker from Sprinkles Cupcakes. It really was an excellent weekend for me, for ELLA, and for books and community.  And cupcakes.

Mid Life MILKs

Welcome to my new digital home. Here, you can meet the women of my MILK Podcast, and check out my children’s book ELLA. There’s also my other voice work, writing, and radio work for you to see and hear as well. 

MILK (Mom’s I’d Like to Know), started out as a list of writers and artists I admired, and morphed into a framework to connect with them. I’ve always loved radio, and creating a podcast in the context of my other interests and career just made sense. I see now too, that I have been seeking a community of sorts, and the permission to ask questions of others that I hold in my own heart. It’s also important for me to laugh and to find sisterhood in a world that can feel isolating and toxic.

Coming up on my 45th birthday this month, I’ve been focused on retaining memories, doing a lot of looking back at photos and journals and reconnecting with sides of myself I’ve felt distanced from since the kids. It's been sort of a mission, examining who the hell am I right now -- and how did I get here? An interesting thing that’s happened in the midst of this mid-life not really crisis, though, is that I see all of who I am as a positive, even if it means I’m not always appreciated or understood by everyone. To actually feel this way and mean it …. well, YAY being 45.

So. I’m proud of these conversations with my MILKs, and excited to see where this podcast, and the rest of my work will take me. I’m happy to have my output in one place, to be able to promote people I admire and share things I love. Through it, I hope to deepen connections and articulate my artistic contributions. There’s a lot I want to do, suddenly, and I want to make it all count.

Please share the site and the podcast with anyone you think might dig.

Xoxo Mallory

personal in public

I’ve always found stadiums and sports arenas fascinating. Like their sadder, more workweek cousins Convention Centers, stadiums are concrete, generic vessels that come alive when people united by a team or a band stream through their entrances. If sports and music are religion to some, then yes, stadiums are churches, and each person shuffling through the restroom line an individual worshipper.

On a Friday night in early July, I stood on the floor of a stadium in Chicago with tens of thousands of other twirling, wrinkled, middle aged people watching The Grateful Dead reunite after 20 years. The following Friday found me at another massive venue in New Jersey with my 8 year-old daughter to see Taylor Swift perform for squads of tween, teen and other variously aged females, plus a few baffled dads and boyfriends.

These two epic summer musical events in the space of one week smacked me in the face with nostalgia, and filled me with a new parental feeling I’ve been struggling to define. I was buoyed by the primal indulgence of entertainment, and felt unironically #blessed for the dual chances to supersize my and my daughter’s joy.

At the Dead show I was with girlfriends from college, and ran into others from all facets of my life. I was giddy and thrilled to be a part of a temporary hippie throwback moment – no matter how constructed. It was a massive party and I was going for it. My pleasure when the music started was both deeply personal and perfectly public. I was free to dance badly with feeling.

I had last seen The Dead in 1995. What struck me as I watched the band and the fans revel 20 years later is how rarely it is that I lose myself in anything these days – and how much I used to take that kind of letting go for granted. Now my energy seems solely focused on solving problems and creating opportunities for my kids and my work. As the band played, I forgot the checklists and lost myself in singing out lyrics and woo-hooing.

My experience was deepened at the Taylor Swift show, as I witnessed my daughter absorb her first concert. Z’s shiny, widened eyes, her fist raised in the air as she mirrored others around her, the adorable poster she and her best bud schlepped to the show – it was all so beautiful and pure. I breathed it in and put a mental photograph in her girlhood scrapbook for both of us. It made me tear up, because I recognized that Z having a formative experience. I was there for this one, and got to share it with her, but I realized as I watched her mouth move and her eyes follow the spectacle of girl power and pop music, that she was already having the kind of interior life I had reconnected with a week before in Chicago.

As I hugged her and we shouted out the words to “Bad Blood,” “Trouble,” and “Style,” all around me I saw girls and women of all ages doing the same. I saw people, thousands of them, standing in their stadium seats with their blinking bracelets and their smiles, looking as happy to be there as we felt. I squeezed her tighter.

A few days later Z left for overnight camp. It is really weird not having her around, which is a non-writerly way to describe her spotless, empty room and the negative space in our home without her loud voice and big personality, but weird is really what it is. Last week she was here but now she’s somewhere in New Hampshire, climbing ropes and making friends and learning archery, and I’m not there for any of it. She is being propelled into the world, but her inner life will always be with her. I hope she nurtures it with lots of music and art and friendship and anything else that reminds her that she is her own person, with her own story, but is always amongst thousands of others right there with her in the stadium.

Every day I write the book

I’ve been working on a children’s book about loss and grief. It features beloved objects that become separated from their owners and won’t be coming back.

The book will explain to a young person, in metaphor, where someone goes when they die. How those left behind can cope with the journey of grief and come out ok. It will do this without talking down to these young readers or confusing them.

I’m hoping my book will have the proper combination of sweetness and whimsy to keep it appealing and hopeful, and still be clear enough to guide a small person who has been devastated by loss.

Problem is, this is REALLY hard. I’m terribly murky about how to shape a story that’s going to make a child feel like everything is going to be ok after a loved one is gone.

Because are they going to be ok?

Am I?

At the moment it’s dicey. And like I’m trying to write my way out of something hairy that I want to be better, but cannot make so.

I returned yesterday from the first of the one-year later memorials. My nails and cuticles are not in excellent shape. Mom used to smack my hands when I’d bite my nails in nervousness and out of habit and say, “MALLORY!” Now Zoe smacks my hands and shouts my name, with that Judi flavored bossiness that’s in her DNA.

Hugging mom’s friends at the memorial – friends from the swim club and the book club and the women’s organization that was honoring her – those hugs were plush with history and love. Watching a slide show of her accomplishments set to a Desiree song was moving and smile through your tears sad, and enriched this other perspective on my mom, one that didn’t involve me and my sisters or my dad, but was connected to her need to help others and pursue social justice.

Remembering her passion, her persuasiveness, her laugh, her opinions and her “close talking,” I felt and feel deeply connected to those aspects of her every time I force myself to stop looping about how hard this is and focus on what a unique woman she was. Not just to our family, but to every person she touched with her get it done style and her self assuredness that she was doing the right thing. And honoring that her death is also loss for every person that she could have helped.

Going to see her gravestone was grounding and peaceful. Walking in the woods afterwards gulping in air was cleansing and healing. Chasms between me and family members continue to be distressing.

It is just crazy trying to parse out where she has gone, trying to figure out who is going to plug up the holes and smooth in the cracks. We are all still unprepared for a future without her. It feels terrifying. But we must move through so we do.

So the story goes forward. The memorials will continue and in a sense I must mother myself now, and find support in those able to give it — friends and cousins and my own community. Smack my own hand or wait for Zoe to do it.

And hopefully with this forward movement, clarity will come, and my story about being ok will write itself.

words

I haven’t written since mom died, which has been just over 3 months. And that’s mostly because of the fog in my head, which creates confusion and informs me when I have free time to sit at the computer I’m instead supposed to be reading books about stages of grief or else staring into space for hours. Or checking Facebook and email compulsively.

At first it was just surreal when she became very ill, even though we knew the ramping up was imminent. The disease was everywhere. Then we had to make decisions. Watch her body and mind completely surrender. Feel empowered in this one way because we were finally able to DO something for her, which was to give her a dignified death. The action of this experience felt like a reprieve after having so little recourse and only bad news during her illness. We watched her breath leave her body and then she was gone.

Then the funeral and shiva, which together were an overwhelming outpouring. People from every stage of my mom’s life were lined up to offer condolences to me and my sisters and my dad. They needed to see us, to cry with us and for us. And we needed to be there for them to process their own grief. Those days were agonizing, draining, and yet wonderful, as they enabled me to see all my best girlfriends from all over the place in one place, which happened to be the place I had my bat mitzvah.

Once that crazy amalgamation of party, food orgy, reunion, waterfall of support and love was over, we roadtripped home to Brooklyn and attempted the normalcy of ending school and starting summer. I tried to not make people feel awkward about seeing me for the first time and got better at saying the words “I just lost my mom. Yes, cancer. Thank you.”

One surprise was my physical reaction to the loss. My nerves were literally afire in the month following her death. I had pain shooting into my hands and feet. I felt bursts of panic and anxiety. There was that fog, which was punctuated by acute anger and rage. Then, moments of normalcy. Laughing at something I read, feeling cognizant of being entertained by a movie, dealing with poop or sunscreen or waterwings and forgetting for a second. And then deep, throbbing, sadness and loneliness.

The weirdest thing about losing mom is that I had no idea all the mom space my mom filled. She cared about all that bullshit minutae that meanders into my day. She wanted news about percentiles for height and weight and pictures of the kids not looking at the camera. She wanted boring details about their teachers and the precocious things they say and do. All the stuff of life that you don’t know someone is absorbing until that person is gone.

And yet, how lucky I am to have her within me. What a fine and loving life she led. I am aware how much I need her spirit and all the memories I can muster to help me rebuild myself. I only wish I could call or text her to talk to her about it.