a few years ago, i was at edward’s flowers in winnetka perusing a selection of tussy mussies to present to my then husband maximillian for valentine’s day. winnetka is a small town and everybody knows a little too much about everyone else ergo i knew this much to be true:
1. etta had never married
2. etta had two cats
3. etta was approaching retirement with the foreboding of one who has seen one’s fondest dreams unrealized
a tussy mussy is a diminutive bouquet and requires patience and concentratino on the part of the florist to create. etta was the best tussy mussy emprasario–
while i regarded my choices, she allowed as how she hated valentine’s day.
“is it because it’s such a busy holiday for florists?” i asked.
“no, it’s because i was asked to marry on that day,” she said. “i was going out with a boy and he asked me to marry him and i got so scared i said no and ran home. the next day, i regretted it and wanted to marry him, really i did. but he had up and joined the navy and was already gone. i never saw him again.”
at that very moment, i became etta’s secret admirer. waiting until etta was out of earshot, i asked the manager to make sure etta got a sweet something for the special day. now, you can’t really give a florist flowers for a holiday because it’s a little like giving candy to a chocolate maker. etta loved limoge boxes so that’s sort of what she got from her secret admirer. a few weeks later, the manager slipped me a letter from etta.
“oh, yeah, she quizzed me,” the manager said. “i told her i couldn’t tell her who it was. but she thinks maybe it’s an older gentleman. married. too honorable to directly approach her.”
“tell her she’s right.”
so for the next years, i made sure that etta got a valentine’s day gift, a little something for may day, a halloween treat, a christmas surprise. just before edward’s manager left her job, she informed her replacement of the unusual arrangement.
a limoges box is created in the eponymous french city. the hinged boxes are made of kaolin clay which is native to limoges. originally created to store snuff, these are collected world wide. unfortunately, they’re damn expensive. i didn’t buy any true limoges for etta, but there are some awfully sweet knock-offs.
and a few weeks after every holiday, i received an envelop addressed to her secret admirer. often she wrote about her cats and what she had been doing outside of work. one year she even made me–er, well, the elderly gentleman who was too honorable to declare himself–a christmas ornament out of silk thread and a styrofoam ball. and in person, etta never once betrayed that there was an admirer in her life and treated me no differently than any other customer.
i have left winnetka but stopped in at edward’s one last time to pick up flowers and to talk to the manager about how to long distance this relationship.
“i have these for you,” she said.
three cards were presented to me, each with a floral theme. in one of them etta wrote that she was retiring.
so now my relationship as her secret admirer is over, but i believe it was her perfect romance. quiet, restrained, delicate–just like etta herself. i hope she always and forever thinks of herself as loved.
christmas, valentine’s day, mother’s day, my birthday. the four dread horsemen of the calendar. from a distance, wonderful and appealing. the moment of impact? horrific. well, maybe not the moment of impact. it’s the night before. i always think i will be forgotten by those i love. and everyone else. and i’ve had those years.
i was put up for adoption by my parents when i was three years old. after twenty two years, i used a private detective to track down my natural/biological parents justin and aleta. today there’s open adoptions. there’s tracking your parents down on facebook. or maury povich.
when the future queen of france was sent from austria to meet her husband the future louis the xvi, at the border she was required to change her name from maria antonia to marie antoinette and to strip naked and re-dress in clothes provided by the french. she also had to give up her dog and her ladies in waiting. in 1963 when i was adopted, my name was changed from arlynn merrill leiber to lynn melody patrick, i took no clothes with me from my old home, and i gave up my stuffed kitten. i did not get jewelry and versailles. on the other hand, i didn’t get beheaded. go see farewell my quee. after all, it’s been three long years since a marie antoinette movie has been playing in theaters!
i thought i had a good (or at least okay) relationship with these new/old parents and it surprised me that both forgot my birthday the first year we were in contact. i would like to say that i didn’t mind that justin and aleta didn’t remember. but i did. i howled and whined. i was a petty, sniveling, blotchy faced wreck. but in private. a few days later, justin reminded me that my infant half sister casey’s birthday was coming up and i said it was interesting that we shared the same astrological sign. a dozen roses showed up the next morning with a belated birthday greeting. as for my mother aleta, the matter resurfaced in october. she called me in a fury. i had forgotten her birthday.
“but you never told me when your birthday was!” i wailed. “and besides, you forgot mine!”
“how was i supposed to know yours?” aleta countered.
“because you were there!”
as you can imagine, this interaction didn’t help our relationship. i think i hold aleta responsible for my adoption although since aleta and justin were married it must have been a joint decision at some level. i know if my ex-husband had ever asked me to put up joseph or eastman for adoption, i would have balked. not that he ever would have. eight years after this conversation, aleta terminated our relationship over an issue involving my payment of her health insurance. justin and i have our ups and downs–and some years he remembers my birthday and some years he doesn’t.
on july 22 every year i have a massive anxiety attack slash pity party. this year was no exception. it started at five o’clock with the shakes and chest pain. it ramped up with crying and shaking. i was utterly and completely convinced that i was forgotten, alone, without purpose, and about to die. it would be months before anybody would notice my demise.
how does santa know where you are if you’ve sold your house? this past month, a new family moved in and i haven’t got my bearings. it would be massively worse if santa were to die! but that won’t happen because as long as there are children and retail establishments who believe in him he will live!
and then something odd happened. a facebook friend posted a picture of a birthday cake on my profile page. another posted a link to a recording of mickey mouse singing happy birthday. then a link to youtube showed up, and it was my friend jose’s youtube post for my day — you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VluSLAGdwY&feature=youtu.be
i even received a birthday greeting from mark zuckerberg, the founder of facebook. he’s pictured here with tony tyner, mr. 314, meaning that tony is the 314th facebook friend i have met. hey, many thanks mark and tony! btw, married life must be treating you nicely, mark, because you look like you’ve put on a few pounds!
i needed to say thank you to each person and that took me most of my birthday but it was a wonderful way to notice, remember, reconnect with each friend. because even if facebook automatically puts a notification on your page reminding you of which friends are having birthdays, it still takes thought and care to write out a greeting or post a picture or photoshop an image just for me!
i realized that i had cried because i thought i was forgotten and i sure as heck wasn’t. in fact, all told, i wrote eleven hundred notes of thanks yesterday and today and i’m still behind. sending each thank you changed my perspective, and turned me around.
thank you facebook!
and also thank you to facebook for an interesting feature: every time a friend posts on your wall, your mutual friends are notified. so, for instance, when my son eastman’s friend will (who was the 176th facebook friend i met with) sent me a “happy birthday mrs. presser” eastman would have been informed. and in a remarkable coincidence eastman called me about twenty minutes after will’s message. he says he’s sent me a package but that it won’t get to me for a few days.
i don’t know where eastman sent this package but i figure if santa can keep track of every little child, eastman can certainly find his mom. i just hope santa or a package shows up at the daughters of the american revolution meeting where i’ve been invited to speak on thursday evening. oh, but i forget that santa won’t be available–he’s in tahiti because this is his off season!
meanwhile, my other son joseph (the sixty first facebook friend) sent me a present that will change my life. i will assemble it today!
children as of january 1, 2011 — joseph, living in new york, and eastman, a freshman at oberlin college in oberlin, ohio
new sons acquired during the past year and one month–
emilia who is from indonesia. he’s muslim, likes hip hop and jempoler’s mania. aldo who lives in seoul but is originally from indonesia. he’s also a friend of emilia. it’s nice when siblings get along.
shizuka who is from nagano, japan and has more siblings and daughters and cousins than anybody i know. and oddly, i’m not his only mom. and he’s just three years younger than me.
daughters: maya and andrey from indonesia and ayin from malaysia–cory who is about to leave quezon city and move to kuwait to work for burger machine.
i think on facebook it’s sort of a sweet “extra” friendship to list friends as your relatives. so they join my father justin and my sister casey, and my biological sons joseph and eastman as part of my facebook family. and i have a lot of new facebook friends, many of whom have written to me about their experiences with being what once was called a “recluse” but is now more frequently called agoraphobic or having a social phobia. facebook allows us to have friends and family but not necessarily have to travel or see them in order to keep up in real time. so the reclusive or the socially anxious person isn’t shut out of social interaction. the only difficulty is figuring out what is real and what is not real on facebook. for instance, you might believe i have nine children. . . .
weight as of this morning: 146 pounds. i blame my thyroid. or maybe spending a year (2011) traveling–airport food is a diet buster. does anybody know how to lose weight quickly?
tomorrow, we celebrate valentine’s day, a day that combines family, friends, and gaining weight. how? well, there’s chocolate, the traditional gift of the day–that’s going to put some more pounds on me. and there’s love–which we share with our friends and family and on this day we try to make a point of expressing to them. and then there’s the pressure. . .
i met tao zhang about ten years ago when we were both working on a pta benefit. at the time, tao was just starting to explore the notion of being a photographer. today, he’s one of the most sought after photographers for weddings, christenings, graduations, and other important occasions. he has a particular whimsical and personal style that exactly matches whoever and whatever he’s photographing. i was talking to him about the strange journey he has made from being a radio announcer in china to a gentleman of the north shore.
and he’s happy! really happy with the career that he’s developed. but we couldn’t just talk–that would be a waste of a perfectly talented photographer!
we went to the stairwell of his building and took a few shots. i’m wearing my carharts which are absolutely essential for this weather! tao also does photography for many north shore magazines. he’s a real treasure!
you can see more of his work or even book a special occasion picture (how about an early valentine?) by going to http://lensworkstudio.com!