Mothers of Mine

This is how I remember it all… (But memories are mischievous things. The winds of time have a way of upsetting them, twisting and warping them, distorting and contorting them. And in some cases, changing them entirely. So, what I remember, may not, I
regret, be true.)

We are playing on the great, green lawn in front of Grandmother Rose’s home. I am four and have no fear. We are running in circles, around and around. We are having so much fun. Out of breath, I want to stop for a moment. But before I have a chance, her claw, her dewclaw— an additional claw used to trip and catch fleeing prey, typically gazelles on the wide plains of Africa—inadvertently flies out and catches my arm. I hear the long rip as I fall, in slow motion, to the ground.
Japanese John—as he was called then—who is hanging the wash nearby, stops what he is doing. Scuffling over in his slippered feet—they had been badly burned during the First World War—he kneels beside me. Rani, our baby cheetah, owner of the dewclaw, begins to lick my wound, an instinctive response surely, as saliva promotes blood clotting and defends against infection. “Mmm,” old, wrinkled John whispers. “Mmm.” He nods. “You good. You okay.” John’s few words—John knows very little English even though he has been working for
my grandmother for decades—serve to keep me at peace. I don’t feel pain. I don’t feel frightened. It isn’t until Grandmother Rose comes rocketing out of the house, her long, red hair wild and streaming out from its usually-neat knot on top of her head, her blue eyes on fire, that any of these ideas begin to occur to me.

I, of course, still have the scar today, many years later. Therefore, I know this memory to be true. It begins above the inner fleshy part of the elbow of my left arm, and goes up a good five inches. It’s wide, white, and jagged.

As you can see, I had a lot of mothers growing up. I had, of course, our cheetah, who mothered me quite well, and possibly saved my life immediately after almost taking it. I had Japanese John, whose gentle composure contrived to keep me more reasonable than I might have been had I grown up without him. I had my Grandmother Rose, the first woman to receive a speeding ticket in the United States, on a ride through Fairmont Park—an inspiration that speaks for itself. I also had the nuns, called Mothers, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, where I boarded for many years. They wrapped me securely in their black-habited arms when I needed to be contained, and sang hymns to me with sweet, angelic voices. My mother, Jule Junker Mannix, who actually gave birth to me, was possibly the most influential mother in my life because, due to work, she traveled around the world a lot. I, too, have a travel bug within me that takes me far and wide as often as I can get away with it.

I know what I remember may not be true. But, truth be told, my life is a magnificent, crazy and wild ride. So anything I remember that makes me feel a burst of ecstasy has to be seized and cherished. For I am, after all, the product of some very brilliant, if unorthodox, mothers.

 -Julie

Right Before His Eyes

It’s my husband’s birthday today. November 3rd. Our family— minus the Florida part, unfortunately—  is gathering at his favorite restaurant, Il Piccolino, in West Hollywood, for the celebration. Tomorrow, he will board a train at Union Station in VSOEinstationdowntown LA, and head to New York City— a trip that will take three days. He is a very happy man.

It’s a simple train. Nothing fancy at all. Just the necessities really, and he will have his magazines, newspapers, books, and his music (always LauraPausini). He has loved trains his entire life, and he’s been on many trips around the world. Canada, India, and Australia, to name a few. But his favorite train trip, I think, was on the 734923_319646971470521_1252637956_nOrient Express, which started in London and ended in Venice two days later. A short trip, yes, but one that took his and my breath away. (So much so, in fact, that he conceived of and filmed Romance on the Orient Express, inspired by it. It starred Cheryl Ladd, Julian Sands and John Gielgud.)

The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is the world’s most authentic, timeless train. Its 1920s Art Deco cars each glisten with luxury and come at a price of $3,120 a person. But, thank God, this includes the best of champagne, drinks and meals. The day Frank and I boarded the gleaming train that departed from London Victoria station on platform 2, the weather was crisp lonvenmand clear. We had seen so many photographs and read so many articles about the Orient Express, that the prospect of having a very unique experience was swelling large in our souls. We held our breaths as we were helped up the stairs of our first-of-two trains, the one that would take us to the English coast. Our seats on this train were royal-blue velvet, headrests covered in linen towels. We had hardly gotten adjusted to our splendid surroundings and were flying through Kent, when we were invited into the dining room for a lovely brunch on the way to the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Channel.

Once in France, (after, I must say, a horrendous trip on a ferry, not recommended after a meal) we boarded an exquisite royal-blue train at the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Assisted by uniformed and white-gloved attendants, we were shown to our Lalique Beynac-Upper-Villageglass- and wood-paneled room, where a rose-colored velvet couch, chairs, draperies to match, and a vase of blossoms welcomed us into its luxurious arms. As we traveled through overwhelming, picturesque stretches of France, we rested a bit, and then washed up in our small, but well-appointed salle de bain. After a visit from our butler to ask if we needed anything and to remind us that dinner was soon to be served, Frank donned his black tie and dinner jacket and I, my black lace floor-length dress. Soon, we were rocking and rolling—gracefully of course—down the carpeted corridors into the bar car.

NOT the actual Lady in Red...
NOT the actual Lady in Red…

In its wall-chandelier-splendor, it was one of the most magnificent rooms I was ever to behold, complete with a pianist playing music from years ago. Sipping champagne served to us in gleaming cut-glass crystal glasses, we reservedly chatted with other guests nearby. There was a duchess and duke; another couple, royalty from Scandinavia they suggested; and a Lady in Red— that’s what we call her even today. And there were three eighty-some-year-old gentleman train enthusiasts from Texas, who had ridden on every train in the world. After another glass of Dom Perignon, we all timidly brought out our cameras and took pictures for each other. After that we became old friends. Some time later, in a lavishly decorated dining room, we were served a feast, each of the four courses exhibiting culinary skill of great proportions, summoned up in a minuscule galley kitchen.

29E681E100000578-0-image-a-27_1435328416088That night we hardly slept at all, not wanting to miss a thing. Raising the blinds every so often to reveal towns and villages, mountains and lakes and fields of growing things, all lit by dazzling stars and the moon, we finally just left it up and stared out, spellbound.

italy-29634609-1366363719-ImageGalleryLightboxBreakfast, with two of the three men from Texas, found us weaving along contours of stone castles and church towers, finally reaching Vorarlberg, which divided Tyrol by the six-mile Arlberg Road Tunnel. Lunch (with the duchess and duke) was served as the train draped down from a highpoint on the border with Italy, and through clusters of villages abundant with orchards and vineyards. Afternoon tea, (the lady in red was nowhere to be seen, and a lovely gray-haired couple from Jaipur, India asked to join us) was offered, as the train passed by the last major city we would see, Padua,the oldest city in northern Italy, and where my favorite saint, St. Anthony was born.

Venice Grand Canal from Hotel Ca' Sagredo

When the train arrived in Venice we walked out of Santa Lucia terminal, and suddenly found ourselves on the exquisite banks of the Grand Canal. Our feet on solid, firm, motionless ground once again, the past two days seemed dreamlike, pretend, and 10930864_10205521118498060_4253128777442041264_nunreal… until the lady in red whisked by us, trailed by a man with a cart of suitcases, and disappeared out of sight.

As I said, it is my husband’s birthday today. He has traveled many places in this world, by ship, by car and by plane. Sometimes he travels with me and sometimes he travels alone. But his very favorite way to get from one place to another is by train. It’s that sense of being somewhere one minute and somewhere else a moment later that excites him. Seeing it all laid out right before his eyes. He likes to slow down and reflect now and then. And glimpse the view unhurriedly as it goes by.

Again and Again

We’re working on a second book — about which we can’t reveal too much yet — except to say we’ve been conducting many, many interviews for it. We interview adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents alike, and are constantly stunned and deeply touched by the stories people choose to share with us.

One of the themes that has emerged is that many young adoptees who felt rejected by their birth families harbored a great fear of being rejected by the adoptive family, as well, no matter how loved they may have been.

One adoptee in particular, James, told us about one of his birthdays when he was a young boy growing up in a house of four other adopted children. His account so moved us, we asked for his permission to share it with you all.

I can still remember the night before I turned ten. I was restless and my legs wouldn’t stay still. My mind was running in circles, too, and I couldn’t sleep so I turned on the light next to my bed, reached for my sketchbook and pencil, and began to draw. I still have the drawing I did that night. It’s somewhere in a box of things my mother saved. Anyway, it was a picture of me, my two sisters and two brothers. I was standing in the middle, wearing a birthday crown. Around my neck was a string from which hung a sign. FOR SALE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS ME, it read.

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When I was finished, I turned off my lamp. I remember that for some reason I felt better and was able to go to sleep after that. The next morning when I woke up, I noticed  wet streaks across the drawing. And I couldn’t remember crying. That’s when I saw the note next to the picture. In my mother’s careful handwriting, this is what it said:

IF YOU ARE FOR SALE, I’LL BUY YOU. AND EACH TIME YOU ARE FOR SALE, I’LL BUY YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN. 

Motherhood and Miracles

I always wanted to be a mother. Ever since my first doll was put into my arms, I never played dolls for some strange reason. I played mother instead. I changed diapers on a small wooden dresser, gave all my babies baths in the sink, standing on an old wooden stool, and put them to sleep all around my room under blankets my grandmother crocheted for me. I set a small table with linen from my grandmother’s cabinet, put leaves and flowers into tiny vases and set out a real miniature blue and white china tea set. My babies sat around it on pillows collected from all over the house.  Every day, I took my babies for a stroll up and down the sidewalk in a navy-blue carriage, making certain they were all tucked in safely. Most times, there were at least half a dozen of them, each sent to me by my parents from a different country on my birthday or Christmas or other holidays. I had lots of baby clothes made by my grandmother, that I kept in a box under my bed. Since all my dolls were about the same 14782844084_c299a5c302_osize, what one wore on a certain day could easily be put on another, the day after.

I was a very busy mother. There was always something to do. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. As a mother, my days were long and full.  At age five, when I went off to a convent boarding school, I packed all my babies to take with me. “Girls big enough to go to school don’t need dolls,” the Mother Superior told me, as she reached to take my basket of babies away. I looked at her, astonished “You can’t do that!” I told her in no uncertain terms. “I am their mother. They need me. Who will take care of them if I don’t?” Without a word, the white-faced woman in the long black habit snatched my basket of babies away. When I tried to grab them back she held them high over my head. I tried to jump up to get them, but my attempts to regain my status as Mother was thwarted when she turned her rigid back on me and walked away.

I will always remember the sound of the long rosary beads at her waist swinging briskly as she disappeared out of sight. I would never see my babies again. Since I was the youngest of the boarders it was arranged that I would go to bed ahead of the others. “Your dolls will be sent to starving-orphans-in-China,” I was told that night by one of the younger nuns, as I cried myself to sleep in the unfamiliar white metal bed, one of twenty in a long, narrow hallway-room. I ached for my babies and I knew that they ached for me. Never, I promised, would such a thing ever happen to me again. As long as I lived no one would ever take my motherhood away from me again.

But they did. When I was eighteen the same thing did happen again. But it was one baby. A daughter. And she was real. She would not be sent to starving-orphans-in-China, however. Instead, she would be adopted by a family who would nourish and love her very much. Unbeknownst to her, as she grew up, she would have two mothers: the mother who would kiss her sweet, pink baby cheeks and sing her to sleep at night; and the other mother, me, her birth mother, who would yearn for her and love her, too.

Today, fifty years later, I am happy to share my daughter’s love with another mother. And happier still that she grew up so treasured. It is a miracle that she found me, that we have come to love one another and that we were able to write Secret Storms together. My cup truly does runneth over.

To all of you mothers out there in the world, I send you my deepest congratulations on this Mother’s Day. Creating life is a miracle. Nurturing life is a miracle. Love is a miracle. I believe that tomorrow is a miracle, too.

-Julie

“Be Kind…

…for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

This morning, I was on my way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light candles for my children and grandchildren, as I always do when in New York. IMG_7965I happened upon the funeral procession of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, and followed it. For some reason, one of the policemen mistook me for a reporter and allowed me closer than most other onlookers. The sky was gray, preparing itself to rip open and pour. The mourners were somber, the music elegiac, the air sweet with incense.

During the homily, much was made of the Cardinal’s humility. Rather than focus on adulating him, the funeral focused on what Cardinal Egan loved more than himself: God and the church. And that was my favorite part. While a Catholic myself, to me it makes little difference what religion we are, if humility and the fact that our own individual lives are but a part of a vast, interconnected consciousness are what we

Just because the mailboxes have to be locked for security, doesn't mean our hearts do, too.
Just because the mailboxes have to be locked for security, doesn’t mean our hearts do, too.

value above all else.

One of the many ways of valuing these is to always remain open. The eyes, the ears, and the heart. Later in the day, I had reason to stop by an Apple store to get a device fixed. I was led to a woman in blue, who greeted me with an infectious, beaming smile. The kind of smile you simply can’t leave unreciprocated. As she looked through my gadget, she commented on the great number of digital and audio books it contained. “Yes,” I answered, “I have trouble sleeping at night, so I read.”

“I understand,” she said. “I can’t sleep at night, either.” I asked her why that was. Without revealing any more about her than I have the right to, I’ll say that her reason is that her boyfriend was murdered six months ago. She has since founded and runs a charity in his honor. The details were awful. And I found myself wondering how she could have smiled at me, and probably everyone else she sees throughout the day, with such energy, so much light.

And I was instantly reminded of a quote I love, whose author I cannot remember: “Only the heart that’s had enough stays shut.” I believe in that because it gives me hope. It should give us all hope. When we think we’ve had enough, often we find that we’ve underestimated ourselves.

I’ll probably never see her again, and who knows if Cardinal Egan is looking down and approving of his tasteful, pious funeral. What matters is that my eyes and ears were open. So my heart was filled.

-Julie

 

 

Finding My Place in My Family, Part II

Read Part I here

As I said, I am very lucky. Whenever I get to missing my mother and father, I can just look them up. I can look up everyone in my immediate family: my two daughters, my son, my grandchildren, and my husband, too.

Frank at White Barn Theater
Frank at White Barn Theater

The things that pop up under my husband’s name, which is Frank von Zerneck, make me very pleased indeed. From the moment I met him in the sizzling summer of 1963 I knew he was ferocious with importance and bursting with self-belief. He was a cyclone, a tempest, and a great force of nature. And he sent me soaring one tranquil day, high into the great blue yonder, spoiling me forever from all that was ordinary and dull.

But wait a minute. I might be getting ahead of myself. Maybe you need to know a little more about him before I show you what he became. Perhaps I need to explain to you that when I met him, he was all bluster and gusto, with humongous dreams.

Possibly, I should clarify that he was just a kid from the Bronx with delusions of grandeur, before I show you what pops up on the internet under his name. And maybe I ought to explain where he came from first.

He was the first-born of immigrant parents—his mother a Sephardic Jew, his father the son of a baroness from Austria-Hungry. He was a child who learned to avoid the grass between the Bronx pavement stones, lest it leave its green tint on him. He grew up smart as a whip. He grew up on a cot hidden behind the family couch in the living room, so all his toys had to be small enough to fit under it. And he grew up looking out the window of the one-bedroom apartment, four flights up, imagining what it would be like if there were no telephone poles or buildings blocking his view.

The High School of Performing Arts, circa 1950
The High School of Performing Arts, circa 1950

As a child he acted on live TV and in the theater, selling drinks and programs in Broadway lobbies. Spending most of his summers as a teenager at White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut, he stage-managed and learned to light plays, and design and build sets. The White Barn was a small theater founded by Lucille Lortel, which premiered numerous plays that went on to successful Broadway and Off-Broadway runs. Miss Lortel aimed to present unusual and experimental plays, promote new playwrights, composers, actors, directors and designers, and help established artists develop new directions in ways they might not have been able to do in commercial theater. From the age of thirteen on (claiming he was older,) Frank became Lucille Lortel’s go-to guy, living in a small trailer behind the theater for seven summers, and then

Theater de Lys, 1955
Theater de Lys, 1955

eventually moving to work at her other theater in New York City, Theater de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel Theater) in Greenwich Village. That was where The Threepeny Opera by Bertolt Brecht played from 1955 until 1961, which was then a record-setting run for a musical in New York City. In between all that, he attended the High School of Preforming Arts in Manhattan, and then he went to Hofstra College on scholarship.

When I first met him he was selling tickets in the box office of a tented summer theater in Westbury, Long Island. From there, that winter, he would go to The Phoenix Theater, the first American repertory company on and off-Broadway, until he went to manage the Martin Beck

Martin Beck Theatre
Martin Beck Theatre

Theater (now the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) on Broadway, where The Ballad of The Sad Café by Edward Albee was opening in October. By the age of twenty-three there wasn’t one thing he didn’t know about the theater. He knew it inside-out, upside-down and backwards.

We were polar opposites. Where he was dark, I was light. Where he was outgoing and spontaneous I was held-back and shy. I had grown up in an insulated world on Philadelphia’s Main Line. He, on the other hand, had grown up in a world full of so many dimensions it boggled the mind.

Here is some of what the internet has to say about him:

Frank von Zerneck, born 1940 in New York City, is an American television producer. His career began as a theater producer in Los Angeles, but moved to television in 1975 in collaboration with Robert Greenwald, which resulted in the Emmy nominated docudrama 21 Hours at Munich. Of the company’s most notable productions are four Native American films produced for Turner Network Television which included the Emmy winning Geronimo, nominated Crazy Horse, and Golden Globe nominated Lakota Woman. Tecumseh, which concluded the series, was also critically acclaimed. During a career in entertainment that has spanned more than 40 years, Frank von Zerneck has been responsible for theatrical motion pictures, several Broadway plays and numerous highly rated television movies. His many credits as a producer include the Emmy-nominated mini-series Dress Gray, written by Gore Vidal and starring Alec Baldwin; and Queenie, starring Kirk Douglas and Mia Sara.

Among the many other highly successful projects which von Zerneck (and his partner, Robert Sertner) are proud of: Too Young to Die?, starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis; Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid, starring Val Kilmer and Wilford Brimley; the record-shattering drama, The Pregnancy Pact

Frank, bottom left, on the set of Armstrong Presents' "Teenage Junkie"
Frank, bottom left, on the set of Armstrong Presents’ “Teenage Junkie”

Gracie’s Choice, a depiction of drug and alcohol abuse, starring Anne Heche in an Emmy–nominated performance; a miniseries adaptation of Scott Turow’s best-selling novel, Reversible Errors, starring Tom Selleck and William H. Macy; The Mystery of Natalie Wood, a miniseries for ABC directed by Peter Bogdanovich; the critically acclaimed and highly-rated We Were the Mulvaneys, based on the best-selling Oprah Book Club novel by Joyce Carol Oates, which was nominated for three Emmy Awards; and Within These Walls, starring Academy Award winners Ellen Burstyn and Laura Dern.

Over the years, Frank von Zerneck has produced over 150 movies for television, some of television’s most successful films, enjoying both critical and commercial success. As an independent long-form producer, von Zerneck is second to none.

He has just finished filming Cleveland Abduction, a Lifetime Original Movie, the true story of Michele Knight, a 21-year-old whose life was irrevocably changed after she was abducted by Ariel Castro in Cleveland on August 22, 2002, and held as his prisoner in his home for over 11 years. Taryn Manning, of Orange Is the New Black, stars as Knight, the woman who refused to be broken by Castro.

***

Yep, that’s him, all 5 feet 10 inches of him. My husband, who went from rags to riches, as they say. But I hold that he was rich from the start, for he has always been a man of dreams. I saw those dreams the first day I met him. I saw them in the sparkle of his hazel eyes and the manner in which he walked. It was, and still is, a jaunty walk, a gentle swagger of a sort. I have, however, watched him fall hard a couple of times over the years, too. But always he picks himself up and starts all over again. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, even when you are following a dream. He is still a cyclone, a tempest, and a great force of nature. And he still sends me soaring high into the great blue yonder. I am spoiled forever from all that is ordinary and dull.

Despite all, there was a shadow between us for many years. It was not a shadow that could be lain down upon or even reached for, although we tried. The shadow was out of our reach and because of that it brought us much pain and suffering. The shadow was that of a baby, our baby. The baby I was forced to give away before we were married.

To be continued…

-Julie

The Dress that Broke the Internet and What it Teaches Us About Reunions

juliekathweddingThe dress that broke the internet got me thinking. The age-old question, “is your red the same as my red?” applies to so much more than color perception. In some ways, it’s the true foundation of all our relationships: negotiating a dance between one’s own perception of the world and another’s. If I perceive nighttime as the time when I wake up, have breakfast, and live my life, and I have a husband for whom the same is true only of daytime, chances are we won’t get to grow old together. That’s an outlandish example, of course, but it stands in for countless subtler perceptive differences that we often don’t even notice compromising on. More importantly, it’s what illustrates the true breadth of blind faith we all must have in order to function in the world. When we hear the words I love you, for example, we have no guarantee that the word love represents the same feeling in the person professing it as it does in us. We just have to trust that it does.

This is heightened and even more extraordinary when thinking, as Kathy and I are wont to do, about adoption reunions. The meeting between, in our case, an adoptee and a birth mother, is a meeting between relatives who are strangers to one another. While we recognized each other as family the moment we set eyes on one another, that had little bearing on the kind of relationship we would have. Kathy still had no idea what kind of person I was. Just because she recognized her own children’s features in mine did not mean that she could expect her values to be in harmony with mine. Or that I was an affectionate person. Or empathetic, or kind. Because these assessments can only be made with time. For example, she may have asked me, are you an affectionate person? To which I would have responded, thinking about what affectionate meant to me, yes, and by doing so created in her an expectation of me. We lived thousands of miles apart. What are the chances that the way I expressed affection would be in keeping with the way she expected me to express it?

This is just one small factor that complicates reunions. As we research reunions for our next book (stay tuned for more information about that!) we are more and more convinced of the wisdom in slowly getting to know each other rather than jumping in headfirst, spurred on by the euphoria of the ‘honeymoon period’.

Because sometimes all it takes to break up a fledgling relationship between reunitees is, “No, you’re wrong. It’s obviously black and blue. And I can’t be around a person who insists it’s white and gold!”

-Julie

Oliver Sacks and the Art of Healing

In the middle of writing an entirely different guest post at Julie and Kathy’s request, I received news that Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. For those unfamiliar with his work, he is a neurologist and writer, famous for books that contain incredibly interesting case studies of some of his patients. The 1990 film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, called Awakenings, was based on his book of the same name. It recounted his efforts to help patients suffering from a debilitating disease called encephalitis lethargica, which rendered them effectively comatose, to regain neurological function. Sacks dedicated the book to W.H. Auden, and included these lines from Auden’s poem, The Art of Healing: 

Healing,
Papa would tell me,
is not a science,
but the intuitive art
of wooing Nature.

I know, through his books, (most notably, Hallucinations The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Musicophilia) that Oliver Sacks mastered “the intuitive art of wooing Nature.” I know this intuitively. While his realm of study and practice is neurology, and the kind of healing Kathy, Julie, and all those with similar stories, must engage in has more to do with OSackspsychology, his insights are no less relevant. He is an incredibly intelligent, accomplished scientist and clinical professor. His appeal as an author is an uncanny ability to explain complex neurological concepts and conditions in a way that is interesting and accessible to the layperson. He is able to demystify sanity and insanity both, and plunge into depths of the mind in a way that reminds one of a mountain climber scaling a steep cliff. But what has always struck me more profoundly than all of that, are his relationships with people.

In his NYTimes essay, “My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer”, he writes,  “…I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.” This is what I love most about him. I suppose it’s what I love most in all humans. Their humanity– unmasked, untamed, untethered. I love that Oliver Sacks is a man of Science without a white coat. I appreciate his ability to listen in a way that makes you feel what you have to say is all that matters in the world. I appreciate that his understanding of the workings of the mind serves his humanity, and not the other way around.

He writes:

I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight. This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

To My Valentines

Whatever your personal feelings regarding this day, it does have meaning. As a culture, we come together and, despite the part FullSizeRender (9)about buying stuff, we all find ourselves with something to say about love. It is, after all, whether we admit it or not, human beings’ favorite thing in the world. It is the source of our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. In its many shapes and forms, it’s what drives us, what fulfills us, what, however temporarily or not, assures us that our existence is not in vain, that our living has meaning. If we have it we struggle to keep it, if we don’t, we struggle to have it. Not only is love the vessel that connects us to others, it is what ensures that our lives do not go unnoticed. Unwitnessed.

When I gave birth to Kathy and had to say goodbye, it was my love for her that gave me the strength for it. When I spent the subsequent years pining for her, it was Frank’s love that gave me the strength to go on. When I was racked with guilt and pain, it was my love for my other children, Danielle and Frank, Jr., and their love for me, that gave me the strength to be a good mother to them.

I’ve been married to the love of my life for fifty years now. Love has evolved as we have evolved. What has remained constant, however, is the strength it has infused in us to face life, and bear all it gives and takes away. Today, because of love, because of the hope that love wouldn’t allow us to give up, we are great-grandparents to a little boy born to the daughter of our long-lost daughter. It feels a bit like a miracle. Like a dream. Like magic.

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Today, Valentine’s Day, I want to thank my daughter, my co-author and partner in crime, for finding us. For making our family whole. For giving us so much to celebrate.

And Danielle and Frank, Jr., for being my greatest source of pride and joy.

And my children’s children (and their children), who are gifts I cherish every moment of my life.

And my friends, and our supporters, and the readers of Secret Storms, whose own stories inspire Kathy and me every day.

And, of course, my Valentine. Frank, the love of my life.

♡,

Julie