Tonight, I started to explain the concept of Advent to you. Lately, amongst other memories, I have been reminiscing about one from the visit with GM & GP last year. One conversation we had in the car, with GP (GM and Lindy were in Lindy’s car), went like this:
Me: Who was Jesus’ mother?
Me: And his father?
Me: (pause) Well, yes. He had another father, too.
Me: God is Jesus’ father. Joseph is his earthly father and God is his eternal father.
GP: It is a bit difficult to understand, even for us, right?
When we had this talk, he just sat and smiled. Perhaps he was happy we were talking about faith. Perhaps he was happy your brain was trying to understand that we can’t really mentally understand faith. I just know he was happy.
That smile. Oh, that smile he had.
Getting back to tonight, it’s the first week of Advent. So, we talked a bit about Mary because Mommy talks to to Mary quite a bit about you (“PLEASE, give me strength because I know you had a child that had some serious ideas about how to do things the ‘right’ way.”). I told you that when she needed to have her baby, no one would let her inside their inns (hotels); so, she had to give birth to Jesus in a very dirty, cold, probably wet barn with animals around her. It wasn’t anything nice like the hospital where I had you. A few seconds later, this was your response:
“Momma, if Mary needed to have my room for the baby, me and Veronica (stuffed animal) would share.”
It told me a lot about you, Bärli.
On a day which saw you having temper tantrums (about things like not having an extra 2 minutes to play basketball, being unable to play with Daniel, not being able to put the crayons in the little boxes easily, and wanting bananas instead of oranges), your real heart shone through all that nonsense.
At age 4, you “get” it.
It isn’t about keeping everything safe, wonderful, shiny, new, beautiful, comfortable, etc. for yourself.
It is all about making sure that people that have less than you, people in desperate need of the help that you can give, are given the beauty, kindness, and best that you can give – based solely on that fact that they are human beings worthy of your best. Momma is trying so hard to teach you: you have two hands – one for taking care of yourself and the other for helping others. You cannot help others if you are not strong and tonight you said it so clearly – you are strong. Your head and your heart are working in tandem, my darling boy. You “get” it. You have so much and you are able to give so much. Of course, you thought you should probably stay in Godmum’s room because the baby would be loud and would have to have diapers, but that’s beside the beautiful point.
I could imagine your GP tonight, just like he did that day in the car. Smiling. Proud you are his and loving your heart.
The darling of the world is come, and fit is is we find a room to welcome him. The nobler part of all the house here is the heart. – Robert Herrick
I was deeply impacted by something I read years ago. I will butcher it to pieces, but it was an account of a woman who’d lost both of her parents. It was written by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey.
The woman was no longer protected from Death. Instead, she realized, she was the next, natural victim of Death’s sting.
I remember, vividly, watching my own mother say “goodbye, Momma,” to Grammy, her mother. We were in her bedroom, Grammy was gone. I looked at my mother, my youthful mother. I couldn’t reconcile how my mother’s mother was gone. I immediately thought of that moment, from the book. I wondered if she was thinking that?
COVID-19 has brought the three of us even closer. We do not interact much with the outside world, but we have made a Trio of Strength. Lindy is teaching you and you do not even comprehend how amazing this is. Lindy is one of the finest educators I know and you get her undivided, focused attention daily. She has, literally, taught you to read. At three years of age, because of her, you were reading sentences. (You are unable to attend school because your mother has been terrified, since pre-US “concern” about COVID-19. )
You constantly refer to Mr. Daniel and Lindy as your “best friends.” I concur.
Lindy and I have never been confused with best friends. We have had fights that would shock Jesus, himself. Little has changed. Except…I am tempered. Because I saw my beautiful mother looking at her mother, having left us all here without her.
How many memories do we have left? How do I keep the memories going? What can I do to make certain I am not saying, “goodbye, Momma” and I’m still here for my precious child? These are the worries of a parent, who is also a child.
COVID-19 gave me: appreciation, memories, time. It made me stop and pause. Amidst the absolute nightmare that is a full-time job, a toddler at-home, upkeep of multiple places/people…Lindy has been a rock. She has had two meltdowns. Two. I have had 20+.
This horror for our world, I have done almost everything in my power to shield two of my most prized treasures (the other prized treasures, like Pop Pop, won’t listen to me) from its lethal snare. Will it work? I hope. We do not know what will happen to any of us and I am thankful we are a family that believes in a Power that is more powerful, than any we see on Earth.
You are young and love to envision yourself as a superhero that fights, with Mr. Daniel, against anything evil (like a snake). One day, you said, “if the virus came here, I would fight it with my sword to protect my Lindy.”
Indeed. I have spent the last six months of my life, trying like Hell to stop “it” from entering her world, too. With your sword, my tenacity, and her willingness to stay put, it is my hope that we will not suffer the fate of other families, in the world. We are rapidly approaching 200,000 lost Americans.
My prayer is our, not just yours!, Lindy has never thought about the fact that, having lost both of her parents, she is no longer protected from Death. I do not know. I do know that we had a discussion about the “if one of us catches this Virus” scenario, early on, and we decided we would handle it in this house. Together. We would care for each other.
I like the story of how you got your name. You are SUCH a “Henry.”
I was warned not to name you early. Some cultures do not believe in naming an unborn child. They find it bad luck for the birth. Given that I’d had bad luck for quite some time, I though I’d roll the dice and start thinking of names.
When I was growing up, I always wanted a little girl and I wanted to name her Suzanna because the coolest girl I knew was Suzanna Finnegan, Aunt Jenny’s friend. Though a lovely name (and still one of the coolest girls I know), I wanted something else. I know exactly what I wanted.
Emily and Mildred, my beloved grandmothers. The day I realized Emmi, one of my favorite Luzern companies, combined the names of my grandmothers almost made me forget how terrified I was to have a Laura 2.0. I wanted to name a little girl “Emmi.”
Bibiana. Two strong women I admired, respected, and idolized had this name in their names – Monsie and Bibiana Marie.
Emmi Bibiana if it was a girl. Not even a question.
I considered Jackson Ayres, after the two RJAs and your Godpoppa.
I thought about what it would mean if the baby was a boy and I named him “Jackson Ayres.”
Given that there’d already been an “RJ” and a “Jack,” my son might be nicknamed “Three,” which I didn’t like. I didn’t think the Swiss would be able to pronounce it either. They’d struggled with Jackson’s name during his visit, calling him something that sounded so odd I didn’t realize they were talking about him. He got a lot of “Jacques.”
But, Jackson was a great choice because it allowed me to pay tribute to these two men and my soul brother. I was working through this when I texted Jackson Henry.
“If it’s a boy, I’m gonna name him Jackson.”
But, that didn’t feel right when I typed it.
I loved the entire Henry family so much it made (and still does) my heart bigger and my life complete. The Kings too, for that matter. Godpoppa and Godmomma’s kids and families were my family. I loved all of them.
It went perfectly with the first name I always wanted to choose, but dared not to, lest someone get upset with me: Christopher.
Though I call him “Brother” and you call him “The Dude,” I was so concerned the boys would be upset if I named you after their Daddy. They weren’t! For awhile, Coopie wanted us to call you “Christopher.” Your uncle is such a strong, brave man. Perfect decision.
Family from the beginning of his name to the end.
How did you get your nickname “Bärli”? Mommy’s heart lives in Luzern, but my life really started in Bern. You are named for that life that started on in September of 2015 at the WTI and ended early in the morning in September of 2016, my Berner Bärli.
I was Skyping with Lindy one day when Dr. Baur texted me, “It’s a boy.”
Perfect boy with the perfect name.
Almost every weekday morning, you come into my room asking if you have to go to school. When I say, “Yes! You get to go to school!”, you never fall for it. Collapsing in tears, just wanting to stay with Mommy.
Here’s what you don’t see.
There is a house about two blocks away from your school. Every morning, I pull the car over, after I drop you off. I cry for a few minutes. Every morning. I cry because you are sometimes upset when I leave. I cry because there are days when I feel too tired or sad to go to work, but I must. I cry for my pathetic bank account that is not growing. I cry that I haven’t walked into my church since you, Godmum, Lindy, and I went to Luzern in September of 2016. I cry because Kindergarten is right around the corner and then I lose the last chance that I had to be your full-time Mommy. I cry because I’m scared for the future of all Americans. I cry because I just want to stay with Henry.
I want you surrounded by people that love you; so, I will NEVER complain about being a single mom. It is not easy, but it is far easier than imagining you around anyone that didn’t love you or wouldn’t cry for the lack of you for 8-9 hours of a weekday. I feel sorry for anyone who would leave that sadness at a house or not have it at all. It’s not me. Your school “Moms” are a blessing to me. They love you so deeply – cheer for you when you succeed, encourage you when you are frustrated. I cannot imagine our world without them.
But, I am your Momma. You are my Bärli. It is hard for us both and I know there will be a day when it is not hard for you anymore. I now understand why many parents feel incomplete after their child begins to reach independence… 10 – sleepovers … 16 – drive a car … 18 – go to school … 22 – start a career/move. Brutal, but beautiful.
Thank God I have that house.
This is a piece written by the granddaughters of the original Port Royal pioneers, Hap and Emily. We watched you, we learned from you, we have continued in your footsteps, and we love you.
Hurricane Harvey, long since forgotten by most Americans (and, sadly, Texans), devastated the Gulf Coast. In 2017, Harvey pummeled Texas, causing $125b-worth of damage. We remember the food, clothing, water drives…sending everything we could manage down to the coast. We watched in abject horror as our childhood summer destination, Port Aransas, was decimated by the anger of the Gulf of Mexico.
From Laura: I have stayed in 5-star hotels and dined in Michelin-starred restaurants. I swam in the Mediterranean. I biked in the Austrian countryside. I know summer fun. Port Royal is still my choice for a beach vacation. Coming to Texas from overseas? Come here like my Swiss and Slovak friends did. It will not disappoint you.
Did Harvey change Mustang Island? Yes. Would these amazing men, women, young people, and kiddos benefit from the influx of your tourist dollars if you came here? Yes. Is this is fool’s errand on which we send you? No.
We went to the IGA twice and were greeted with friendly faces, Port A seafood, and a great selection. We have gone twice a day to the beach, which is almost idyllic this summer – very little seaweed, no tar, no beached jellyfish, terrific waves. Shopping in a few local stores yesterday was fun, minus the toddler tantrum that ended that fairly abruptly, and that is due in large part to the fact that there are amazing local buys here. This is not to mention the amenities that are still strong at Port Royal.
All three of our boys took FULL advantage of the pools. We were so grateful for a small slide that was toddler-safe and the new water obstacle courses, successfully scaled by the twins!, the resort added following the hurricane. It truly is a family-friendly pool…and we hope it continues to be, as people come back in mass to this beautiful place.
The boardwalk does need a rejuvenation, but it is still the glorious walk through the dunes, with their local flora and fauna, that we loved as small girls and adore as adults. The first time the ocean breeze hits us, almost everything else fades away.
We prefer the gulf view. Seeing the seagulls in flight, watching the sun wake up, gazing outside from the table as we enjoy dinner together as a family, imagining the nights when we walked the beach as teenagers struggling with some truly awful and horrendous case of angst…it brings the entire world into sharp focus.
Family and making memories – we’re all about it. So is Port Royal.
To our beloved boys: these memories will last us a lifetime and it is all because of two sisters making it a priority, sitting at Lindy’s table and getting a confirmation from Port Royal, saving pennies for the past few months for the beach, getting in our cars in Dallas and Austin, making a pitstop with Cah in Austin, arriving in Mr. Mark’s beautiful condo, feeling welcome by every Port Royal guy and gal…splashing, laughing, crying, eating New Braunfels Smokehouse sandwiches, building sandcastles, attacking the waves, saving Hermit crabs and minnows, visiting the Texas State Aquarium, “Roam”ing in the beautiful store in town, savoring ice cream with shell, feeding seagulls, playing all the great Goliath games (Charades for Kids was a particular favorite – Vanni was the Champ!) hugging, kissing, and being together as a strong family. Aunt LaLa/Mommy and Mama/Aunt Sparkles love the three of you so very much.
What a day. What a week. What a month.
You are thriving in your new school. Soon, we will be in our new apartment and it will be so much better for you. There is a beautiful tree outside of your window and Spring’s showered it with little birds.
I learned a lesson this month. It will not mean anything to you, unless you become a parent.
I have sincerely admired and genuinely respected the work of Van Morrison since I began studying music. He’s a troubadour. He’s a poet. He’s a storyteller. He’s a singer. He’s a performer. He’s an artist. He’s a faithseeker. It’s too hard to put him in boxes. None of these do the trick. You love him. Thank God.
Mommy has always wanted to hear him live…and I finally had my chance. Not only that, but I could take you! Van is, probably as I type this, in New Orleans. This plan took my excitement at hearing Van to a whole new level. Your first concert? Van. AT THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FESTIVAL. VAN AT THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FESTIVAL. I was doing it. No question. Tomorrow morning, I was going to fly us to New Orleans at 6AM, take you for your first beignet at Café du Monde, go hear him at 11:30AM (which is what the first website said was his time), and fly you back here in time to have you in bed at 7PM. Exhausting? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes.
A few weeks ago, more things were printed about the man I refer to as “your father” one morning. One hour after that news, I received an email from the Jazz Festival (I’d written BEGGING to be allowed to bring you backstage for a picture) unceremoniously informing me Van was not performing at 11:30AM, he was playing at night. When I left work to go pick you up, I listened to one of my favorite Van songs, “Stranded.” I felt it then, I feel it tonight.
I canceled it all. I had to use the money I’d used for our flights and rental car to pay legal fees because of the Swiss mess.
As I hear Van in my head tonight and remember reading the emails that day, as I imagine what it will feel like in New Orleans tomorrow when he’s performing and I’m working on my laptop, as I reflect back on how it felt to miss something important to me today because you needed to be home and napping…I can honestly tell you I’d make those decisions every time.
You are worth never hearing Van. You are worth all the money I have in my bank account to protect you. You are worth sitting at home and playing the same puzzle for the 23rd time because you scream, “Look, Momma! That’s a rectangle!” with such unbearable bliss you can barely handle it every time you put the last piece in place. You are worth it all.
Your chance to see and experience new things is my goal – I had that chance. Lindy and Pop Pop let me. I soaked it up. Van will not be your first concert, but you WILL have an awesome first, second, third, and fourth concert. I don’t know what they’ll be…but, I’ll take you to cool ones. Not as cool as Van, but cool.
Your ability to feel safe and secure is another goal – they protected us from some things that were scary. I think children should be children. Remember that when you are a parent. Even if the circumstances are difficult, as ours are. You have NO clue the circumstances are difficult because it’s my priority that you do not.
Being a parent is a shift. It is a shift from what I wanted all the time to what you want/what is best. People use the terms “appropriately selfish” and “self care” and other reminders that one cannot lose one’s self in his/her child. I get that. I am not lost. In fact, I am found. You found me. You made me a Momma. Your Momma.
Van will have to sing to someone else tomorrow. I’ll be sitting, right here, in my bed…listening to another beautiful tune: YOUR SNORING.
I remember that afternoon. Walking from Mom’s car directly to the choir room, as I’d been instructed. I was six. It wasn’t a big deal because there were always people in the choir room, which was a shared space between Transfig and PDS. The building was also quite small, but the hugest one. There were always people around.
For some reason? Not that afternoon. And, the choir room was locked.
I was prone to being an explorer, as the cast on my arm might have suggested. I wandered into the nearest office area, where I saw her.
It’s easy to remember what I thought because I thought the same thing last week, and she wasn’t even there.
Tall. Gorgeous. THAT VOICE.
She told me I was in the right place. She told me it would be just fine for me to wait with her until everyone else arrived.
There was an assurance, through her timbre and her posture. She was elegance personified. I knew it then.
I went to her every week. For over a dozen years. For over a hundred reasons. The buildings got bigger, but her ego did not. She was the same, beautiful person in service to education, to children, to God.
That was 36 years ago. I knew it then. I know it, as if it were a Gospel truth, now.
I missed you so very much in my “years away,” your phrase. I came back in the fall of 2016, and you lost him. Our Ed. Jesus, life is cruel. Now, we all lost you.
The emptiness I felt on Sunday without you. Palpable. I cried. I was in church the week before, Casey was so wonderful when he announced that you were gone, but I was still in shock. But Sunday, I saw a salt and pepper-haired, lovely lady…but, she was short. I pretended she was you. I want you in that church. I need you.
You promised me that we would find Henry’s way together. I was so scared when I came back, with a little baby. “You will be just fine.” I think I even have that exact comment from you on a random Facebook post, which you did once a year! Did I mention that I need you? Did I mention that we need you? This world needs you?
On January 12th, it’s not my day to grieve you. It’s my day to celebrate you, the way we celebrated Ed, and I will. I remember what you said, “I wasn’t even sad…I was jubilant. I didn’t feel consolation, I felt joy. It was perfect.” When Joel told me you were gone, we talked about your service. I remember when you entered the church that day for Ed’s service. You entered as I sang. You looked up at me. It damn near killed me.
You are gone. You won’t look up at me.
But, you’ll look down on me and I will sing to you. You lived a life of service. You are where sorrow does not reign, but perpetual light shines, on all the saints, in glory.
I’ll remember you now, for who you were, you are, and you will always be to me and to my son: Educator. Glamazon. Friend. MOTHER. Confidant. Wife. Headmistress. Warrior. Ranger-ette. Lady. Daughter. Leader. Thinker. Mediator. Episcopalian. Servant. Exemplar.
You will always be elegance personified, in my eyes. I love you, always.
Let me tell you a story.
In a restaurant called “Bohemia,” which I only remembered a few days ago at 3 in the morning, I met your Godmum, Tracey Leck. God, I hope this is the first Google Search item about her (Tracey Leck, Tracey Leck, Tracey Leck, Tracey Leck).
She found me through an ex-pat club. I think it was around 201?0/1/2. I know I sent her an email, after she’d left Switzerland, due to Cat Scratch Fever…ha ha, in 2013. Moving on…
Augh. I remember her email. She was new to Zürich and didn’t know anyone. But, she actually said she was lonely. Most of them didn’t. I thought, “Okay, LA. This one is different.” Boy, she was. She was different, indeed.
In fact, Godmum is my best friend. She is my entire broken heart made whole. Godmum, Godmomma, Godpoppa, Lawa, Chuwa, and our family? They are everything.
This is a challenging time for your mom. You are hitting me a lot. You are throwing tantrums a lot. You throw yourself on the ground, on a chair, on a wall, on anything standing still. You want to get aggression out, even though we are a non-hitting family. It doesn’t matter. You are TWO.
When Godmum arrived, I assumed her “Mary Poppins” magic would fix it all. IT DIDN’T. Because she’s normal and Mary Poppins is a figment of an author’s imagination. It was a tough vacation for her (you owe both of us a nice vacation).
She stuck in there. She held you. She laughed with you, played with you, fed you, pushed your stroller (again…she did this in Bern and Luzern, as well), put your boots on and put them on again after you kicked them off and put them on AGAIN after you kicked them off AGAIN. She stuck in there.
She was there when you got your first cowboy boots.
She was there when you sang your prayer so beautifully.
She was there when you had your first “Time Out” in school.
She was there when you made your first “Card for Godmum.”
She was there.
Godmum doesn’t understand a few important things about herself. In case I’m not around to enlighten BOTH of you, let me do so here.
She is smart. She is smarter than she lets on. She is a whiz with numbers, turns of phrase, de-escalating situations, etc. She would have been a BRILLIANT international tax attorney.
She is beautiful. She doesn’t get this at all. I have pictures of your Godmum, yes she was in a box in one of them, that show such a classic beauty. But, she doesn’t see it.
She is funny. “It’s the ones that are quiet.” That was her quote when she displayed her absolutely BRUTAL Art-of-War style of game play on Saturday. She…is…hysterical.
She is kind. This is the reason that she will move here if I need her. Everyone she touches loves her. Because she is good. She is love. SHE IS LOVE.
That. That is your Godmum.
She is love.
You were born to bring the light. You are a light bringer.
You bring more joy than one family deserves. We are – the Ayres and Loper and Wasson and Hawkins families – so lucky to have you. You, our Cooper Scott Ayres, our CooperDiddlyOoper, you are pure joy.
Your laughter permeates every corner, every sound beam of every room you grace with your presence. We have our own language, which involves high-pitched squeaking and crazy hand gestures. Wherever I go, wherever you go…we have our own language.
In the first 9 years of your life, I have seen you triumph and I have seen you struggle. I have watched you learn lessons, some easy and some quite difficult. Through it all, you have an indomitable spirit that simply will not be held down for long. You are a true phoenix.
You are kind to friends, but you are also kind to strangers. Because you are smart and talented (and you REALLY are), people tend to think you have a great deal of confidence. They don’t hear your sweet, “right, Wyatt?” that we hear all the time. You are not so certain, all the time. There is still a sweet, little boy that thought “Bohemian Rhapsody” was “Bohemian Raspberry.”
Recently, I took you, Wyatt, and Henry on a little road trip I refer to as “Finding Stevie Ray’s Roots.” I drove you all to see the house SRV grew up in, which is about 32 minutes from your home with Daddy. I was not surprised by your response. Your eyes and heart were open. You were asking amazing questions. You were interested, genuinely interested to see where he’d been raised to be the brilliant artist he was. There were no mansions, no swimming pools, no fancy cars. Just a small house that bore a musical genius. You got it.
You get a lot of things, Coop. I also remember your first game as a QB. I think there were 5 interceptions, 4 of them were in a row. You were crushed. Usually, when you are crying on the field, Daddy’s pretty serious about getting you to brush it off. Boy, not that day. Daddy kept hugging you, Mommy was even holding her breath on the sidelines. “You can do this, Coop,” we were all saying. It was tough. Damn if you didn’t hit the field again. And again. Getting better every time. Giving it your best. Like you always do.
When you were born, you made this little whimpering noise. I have some videos of it. We thought it was the cutest little noise. You crawled to me on the floor at Grammy and Granddaddy’s house. I have a video of that, too. You put Wyatt in a headlock, declaring he was “Best Friend Wyatt.” Video. I’ve got your first nine years and cannot wait to see the next 9.
I could write about you, your brother, or your cousins for days on end. I am so proud and so grateful to know you. I am so proud and so grateful to be your Aunt LaLa. You make my life meaningful and complete.
I love you.