Fourteen Years, a Rough Draft

Listen, anniversaries are hard, but I really thought I could get through this one without much fanfare. I started a new job and was so busy that I didn’t have time to be sad. This past year has been brutal, but I’ve referred to it as a rebuilding year. It’s the kind of optimism that I ascribe to my favorite sports teams when they’re having a lousy year, but if you think about it, it also means that you acknowledge they really suck right now. I actually don’t think I suck right now. I’m actually even proud, but I guess there’s that part of me that’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop. When the team gets really good, starts building momentum, gets your hopes really high up, and then crashes. Because sometimes that’s what life feels like. Just when things start to click a bit the bottom falls out from underneath you. This has been happening for the last twenty-one years of my life, so I think it’s my turn to win again. And the Mets and the Rangers too. 

It was with this same stubbornness I pushed through this week as I started a new job, had a week with zero nights in, and even managed to put on makeup on my first day at the new job after surviving food poisoning the night before. And Just Like That it all came crashing down tonight. The things I bonded over the most with my mom were fashion and television, and so often they intertwined. We would watch Sex and the City and pick our favorite fashions, and she would frequently try to recreate her favorite looks. I’m pretty fashionable, but I will never reach my mom’s level of sartorial greatness. I think that’s why I’ll see certain outfits and NEED it with every fiber of my being. There’s a connection between clothing and memories for me, to the point where I could write a book of essays and every story begins with a breakdown of what I was wearing at the time. Of course I’m drawn to the clothes that were either my mom’s or purchased with her, but when I see something that reminds me of one of her more creative moments in a store, I feel like buying it is giving me a new small piece of her to take home and grow new memories out of. When I put together an outfit my mom would have styled me in, oh boy, the feeling that she’s just a few inches away giving me the thumbs up is so strong, it physically hurts that I can’t see her there.

As I got ready to meet a group of strangers to watch the new Sex and the City reboot at a bougie bar that won’t let you in without the proper wardrobe, I wanted to wear meaningful pieces so I could take my mom with me. I pulled out the Marc Jacobs heels (from college!) that the two of us woke up at seven am the day after Christmas to purchase at Saks’ huge sale together. I threw on a Carrie Bradshaw style crop top that reminded me of my mom’s favorite D&G top I was never allowed to wear because she didn’t want me to stretch it out (I didn’t say she was perfect), and added a nineties style cardigan. I’ve been particularly excited about the nineties throwbacks because it takes me back to the happiest years of my life. I kept on the gold bracelet that wraps around my wrist the same way her hand did, when my mom would dreamily describe it to me before she owned it. I can still picture her drawing the most wanted jewelry items on notepads so I knew what to tell my dad to buy. I added a beautiful handbag my dad picked out for me (himself!) that she would have flipped out over. I think she was with him that day, incredibly proud of his shopping choice. The outfit was perfect, if a little bit of an Elaine Benes x Carrie Bradshaw mashup, but I was with a local meetup group and nobody there had a clue that a single item on me meant something. I needed a connection, but instead there was a missing signal. And equally missing, was the joy in revisiting an old favorite. 

I’m starting to lean towards the “enough already” reboot camp – except for Star Trek, give me that Captain Pike show already – but there was no way I’d miss And Just Like That. Except it didn’t bring joy, it brought extreme sadness with intermittent chuckles, and it reminded me that the last time this show aired a new episode on HBO over seventeen years ago, with the unzipping pshhh and ahhh opening I now associate more with Curb Your Enthusiasm, I watched it in college, calling my mom immediately after to discuss Carrie’s Parisian wardrobe. And that the next “episode” I watched was the not so great first movie, just six months after the loss of my mother, and full of the same emptiness I found inside myself at the time. I forgot. I forgot so many things. And as the show relentlessly focused on the painful passage of time and the inevitability of loss in your life, I remembered. And I also remembered that this week was incredibly painful. I just pushed it all down. Deep deep down. So far down I felt a stabbing pain in my stomach two days ago, without any physical rhyme or reason. And then, it came up. Like water pushing against the floodgates. I stayed quiet as my new neighborhood friends discussed their difficult weeks. I wasn’t quite ready to unload onto unsuspecting strangers. I said my goodbyes and Just Like That I walked home and overflowed.

First I felt rage. How dare this nostalgic show which brought me back to sleepovers in friends basements, binge watching DVD sets; late night marathons in my mom’s room, our cat snuggled on her stomach, likely already knowing what was brewing inside; getting dressed up for parties, with my mom adding a random necklace to push the outfit over the edge from pretty to perfect; how dare this make me feel a loss this heavy. Fourteen Thanksgivings that brought me back to the last one. Fourteen wishlists that no longer went to both parents. Fourteen first weeks of December where I didn’t know if it was going to be a tough week or a really bad week. Familiar questions popped up, what will it feel like when I’ve lived more time without you in it? Will I survive the big celebrations without you there? Will I survive? Will I have a cat and notice if she is constantly trying to draw attention to my abdomen? Or will I go far too many years thinking I’m too young and too frustrated to navigate the waters of my senseless health insurance? What would you be saying to me right now? What would you be dressing me in? What treasures would you have tucked away in your closet? What fabulous dress would you wear to my brother’s wedding? What what what what why why why why. Why does a TV show have such a keen ability to zero in on what I’ve managed to put away, and shake out the contents in such a messy fashion? Why do I sometimes feel like I’ve been left with nothing and burdened with so much? When will I make it from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day without feeling sad? When do I get to win the Stanley Cup?

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