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.
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.
Before we go back to the real world today, we wanted to write this post about Port Royal in Port Aransas, Texas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everything right about this world is taking root in you – kindness, compassion, curiosity, warmth, the desire to explore.
Today, you are two years old. I awoke to messages from your Engeli Anna Murphy (the finest family law attorney in the business), two godmothers, and Mommy’s friend in Kenya. You are loved so deeply by your Dallas family. Today, we will have a full day with your grandparents and cousins…and Rosco.
The most important birthday message I can give you today, your second birthday, is to tell you to give up. This sounds odd, “Bear” with me.
Give up on things that do not work. Let go. Even walk away. You can always come back. Or pivot.
You do not need to follow Mommy’s horrible example. Mommy will beat the proverbial dead horse with hopes, prayers, and absolute exhaustion. Don’t. You don’t need to.
There are over 7.6 billion people in the world at this moment in time. Find people that want to be your family, want to be your friend, want to be your business colleague, want to be your mentor, want to be a collaborative, positive part of your journey.
There are 195 countries in the world at this moment in time. You need not sit still. You can explore. You can find places that feed your soul, your mind, your spirit, and your bank account (never move somewhere without a job, Henry). You do not need to stay in the harbor, where it is safe. Needless to say, that doesn’t really work. Let that kind of thinking go and sail off, during the day. See what is out there. You will come back a fuller, brighter Bärli.
There are over 7,000 known languages in the world at this moment in time. The most frustrating, humbling experience in the world is attempting to communicate in your third, fourth, fifth, etc. language with someone who needs your immediate help (or vis versa). Do it. This understanding that “English” and “The United States of America” are not the hegemonic forces to all corners of the world is crucial for you. Should you go into public service, and I hope you will, do not try to make that idea work. It does not work. It should not work. It does not serve our city, our state, our country, or our world to try and make it work. Let that go. Further your understanding of what does work by learning languages, recipes, dances, mountain trails, river routes, etc. from your exploration of this great world. Take that knowledge and make that work.
It is 6:37AM. You were born in Bern on this day, just after 8:45AM. Dr. Baur only scheduled babies to be born on Tuesdays; so, you were born on Granddaddy’s birthday, which pleased me. Granddaddy knew it was go to give up and reassess. So did Pop. They were wonderful examples of fine men.
Do not be afraid to give up.
Mommy is so proud to be your Mommy, my precious Bärli.
On Preston Road in North Dallas, I was struck by the following signs next to each other:
FOR LEASE and TED CRUZ FOR SENATE
When did we start electing politicians that would sell out our children?
Sell out their health concerns to Big Pharma and health insurance companies that don’t care about wellness.
Sell out their educations to a Secretary of Education that doesn’t believe in education.
Sell out their safety to a gun lobby that doesn’t care about non-violence.
Look at the scorecard:
Leaving gun violence in school unaddressed.
Failing to provide public schools with the teachers, supplies, resources, and administrative personnel they need.
Cyberbullying and suicide statistics rise without combative strategies.
Proper food and nutrition fall to the wayside as cheaper, less beneficial food“stuff” is thrown in vats and distributed.
Ballooning student loans.
Dismantling fine arts and physical education programs.
Separating non-resident children from their families, placing them in communal centers with cages, asking them to represent themselves in a court of law, failing to cease even after hearing cries of “Mama” or “Papa.” Still, leaving them without families months and years later.
How will our children judge us? Look at what we have done to them and to children like them.
My son is too small to articulate his thoughts. He plays with all children. My nephews are a bit older. Still, they see children as children – not as white or brown, rich or poor, blond or brunette. Just children. They don’t qualify or clarify when they talk about kids and how things are tougher for kids than they should be. And, unfortunately, even they realize that the adults should be fixing these things.
They are reaping the toxic seeds we have selfishly sown.
Every time we allowed policies that hurt our children at the local level.
Every time we voted for state candidates focused on pleasing PACs instead of families.
Every time we failed to demand action from national representatives more interested in dinner than school lunch programs.
Every time we allowed inaction or disinterest to keep us from taking a well-informed step into the ballot box.
We failed them.
It’s not to late to get involved. Midterms are around the corner, then 2020. Sooner than that, you have a local school that probably needs a volunteer or a Big Brothers/Big Sisters that could use another mentor. There are always after school programs desperate for talents you probably possess. So, do it.
I felt lucky to be with you as the breath left your body today. I felt honored to have a closeness with you and Candy that allowed that to happen.
You are the only family member that genuinely understands two of my loves: mountains and opera. The only one who really “got” it when I didn’t want to make my home in Dallas – without the mountains – because I craved that connection to nature.
More than my own connection, the unforgettable love you gave to my aunt (your “Annie”), or any of the many hats you wore, I will remember one of your other roles.
I will remember that you were Henry’s first male role model.
You were present. When we came back, you showed up for Henry every week. You made silly faces and did silly voices. Heck, you talked to him, even though he wasn’t speaking yet. You wanted to hold him any time he was around you. In fact, I remember one time, Henry was crying and you told me, “Give him to me.” I reluctantly did so, I never gave Henry to anyone when he was upset. Of course, Henry quite abruptly stopped crying.
He asked for “Bob” all the time. Including today. When we arrived, he asked Candy, “Go see Bob?” Not today, Henry.
I want to thank you for being the first man that Henry reached for, the only man that made him a priority, and the perfect man for me to point to when I encourage him to learn to ski and play golf. I think I will point to your example about a great many things, Bob.
The journey from father to uncle to great uncle was a long one for you. I know that. I also know Henry was the beneficiary of all the wisdom you gathered along your path.
After you left us today, Candy closed the door, which was covered with butterflies. Henry looked at me and said, “Bob sleeping, Bob gone now.” I don’t know if he was asking or telling me? You two had a closeness for which I am and will remain eternally grateful.
I suppose that answered my question. He was telling me.
I’ve officially reached the ripe old age of 42. I realize some people regret the addition of another digit to one’s age; and, though I reserve the right to bemoan that should I ever choose to do so, I simply have never felt that way.
Every year, I consider it a new start. A chance for something, or someone, new to arrive. Last year, my father, my son, and I went to the epicenter of the Ayres family, Hutchins. Two years ago, I crossed the border and went to Lake Constance (Bodensee) for my birthday. A few years before, I went to the Château de Chillon, another year – The Matterhorn. I have spent the years searching for beauty, embracing the world’s amazing offerings.
This year? I took Henry to the local zoo.
Henry is fascinated by drawings and flashcards of these majestic animals; so, I spent my birthday morning with my son, looking at these creatures in the flesh. He fed a giraffe, without a hint of trepidation. He sat with a pane of glass separating him from a gorilla and carried on an entire conversation (“How you doing?” was his opening line). His entire face lit up when he witnessed the brightly coral-hued flamingos. He wept when we could *only* ride the Carousel twice. The adoration of the majesty of the animals. It was so pure and simple.
I no longer visit sparkly places. The place I visited today smelled, sorry, of elephant poo. But, like everyone, I still have goals for which I will strive. Here are three.
Mr. D Less than two weeks ago, I was honored to sing at the funeral of a beloved teacher from ESD. During this service, he was remembered as a man that “seemingly loved the simplicity of everyday chores and tasks.” Doing his part to make his corner of the world…better? Easier? Cleaner? More interesting? More beautiful?
Joe and Mrs. Simpson Three days ago, I was honored to pay tribute to one of my favorite people and teachers from ESD. I’ve never known anyone to have the semblance of one harsh thought of Joe. Never. Also, during a discussion about another honoree, I heard her described as a woman who had decidedly used her life to seek out the best in people. That’s an important distinction from “bringing out.” Joe and Mrs. Simpson both have this innate ability not to merely “accept” people for who we all are, but to reveal in what makes us remarkable.
Late last night, a dear friend wrote to me about BML being a woman that sought to help, even when she was, herself, in need of help – a woman able to keep her own needs in perspective with the needs of the patients, friends, or family members that needed what she had to offer. Her ability to bring light and life to those in need of human kindness is something severely lacking in this world.
In addition to these lofty goals, for myself, to be a bit more like these wonderful people, I have a HUGE goal as a mother. I want to continue to bring that sparkle of adoration to Henry’s beautiful eye.