Being a journalist for a newspaper that no longer wants me.
Being a friend to a friend.
Holding her hand and absorbing her sobs. Her holding mine with its perfect manicure, thanks to her.
A reporter helping to report on the murder of two local policemen -- one of whom just happened to be the husband of one of my dearest friends, shot in the line of duty by a mad man. And for no apparent reason. A reporter who screamed when told by her editor to "write down this name."
He was one of the good guys, who grew up to be what he always wanted to be. Who took his job seriously. Who genuinely loved what he did. A big, burly cop who scared the crap out of you when you first saw him, but proved to be nothing but a big teddy bear who loved his wife, his children and his motorcycles.
Who laughed at the sports writer turned crime reporter who was a fish out of water when she had to cover a bus crash, and urged me to watch where I was going so I wasn't run over.
I did what I could. I waited for her at the hospital, then went to her when she refused to come.Told her what I knew, even what she probably didn't need to know.
Then I drove her to find her lost soul mate, honored to be given the privledge. And I pretended for the time being that I didn't have a job to do.
I promised to do whatever I could for her, whatever she needed, knowing I could do absolutely nothing to ease her pain or wake her from her nightmare. I even offered to see him first.
I held her hand. Hugged. Advised. Made a joke or two -- because that's what we do. Squealed that we had a police escort who blew us through the yellows. Offered to drive through the Daquiri Shop on the way home if she wanted. Promised to reschedule my nail appointment for another day. Got our photographer to take the photo of the "magic bandaid" given to her by her 6-year-old daughter, to heal her mommy's hurting heart. Teased her about her own unpolished nails as my colleague took the picture.
And warned her about people like us -- just doing their jobs.
A few days later, we sat on her back patio with a bunch of her many girlfriends. The tears had dried for now, not that the pain had gone away. She wanted me to help her write her husband's obituary for the newspaper. She wanted something different. Something unique. Something special. Like him.
It took us hours. It took a thousand laughs. And brought a few sweet smiles.
I told her, "Some cook. Some clean. I write obituaries." That I can do.
Her first day of preschool was delayed by Hurricane Katrina, postponed
from early August until mid September.
She was so excited to wear her
little skort and her sparkly pink shoes, her Kim Possible back pack, and
her tag with her bus number on it. And I made sure her hair was perfect
and curly and adorned with a pink ribbon.
Someone later gave me a
sticker that said, "Hug me: First Day of School Mom." And everyone understood
what that meant.
Today she starts middle school. Can I have another
And yes, after playing cool all morning, like it was no big deal and I was just a big old pain in the butt, she did turn to me just as the bus drove up, hugged me, kissed me and said, "Bye mom."
On the morning of January 26, 2001, a woman named Gail handed me a tiny pink bundle of just-born sweetness, proclaimed that she was my daughter and made all my dreams come true. In that moment, a giant-sized hole in my heart was filled.
It took me nearly a decade to have that moment. Six doctors. A few science experiments. A lot of letters mailed to a lot of people. A couple of false hopes. About a million tears. And one wonderful woman.
But it was all worth it in that moment and in the so many others after.
Every now and then, I let my mind to go back to that moment in that hospital room on that cool winter morning, to remember how happy I was, how fulfilled, how utterly blessed I felt to finally become a mom.
Because now, sometimes I just want to strangle her.
I've gone from the mom of the cutest little baby with the most beautiful curls to the mom of an oh-so-worldly, taller-than-me 11-year-old who knows everything she will ever need to know about life and the world -- except, of course, how to pick up her dirty socks and underwear off the floor. Or make a bed. Or fold her clothes. Or comb her hair. Or brush her teeth on a daily basis. Or that chips are not a suitable breakfast.
Who only comes out of her room when she's hungry.
Who doesn't need my help to do anything, from taming her unruly eyebrows to styling her often unmanageable hair to picking out an appropriate outfit.
Who will not listen to a single word of advice from me, whether it's how to heat the pizza rolls or how to use hair products or how to glue the letters on her social studies project.
Who will wear the same clothes for three days straight if I let her, and not comb her hair once, but won't let me car dance because someone might see me and she'd be so embarrassed. Ohmygod.
Who is absolutely enthralled by reruns of Full House, and Friends. And SpongeBob SquarePants.
Who has read every Harry Potter book and the first three chapters of The Hobbit.
Who writes incredible stories of fiction like I never could.
Who draws beautifully, even though she insists on drawing the same kooky characters on every single page of her sketch books. Well, they all look the same to me.
Who has the voice of an angel but will sing for no one but her singing teacher during her weekly lessons.
Who thinks macaroni and cheese is a food group.
Who is all packed and ready to go to register for middle school tomorrow.
Middle School? How in the hell did that happen?
Wasn't it just yesterday we were packing crayons into her little pink Kim Possible school bag? That I put the tag with the little picture of the school bus around her neck and prayed to God that Ms. Mamie was a good bus driver?
That she let me dress her and put ribbons in her hair? Actually, that feels like forever ago.
We spent a good deal of time tonight gathering her just-bought school supplies into her just-bought backpack, checking each thing off the long list of school supplies she will need for sixth grade. Pencils, pens, notebooks, paper. Jump drive???
And as we packed it all up, it took me only a moment to notice that, for the first time, there are no crayons.
Next week she'll put on her new school colors and head off to the land of snarky tweens. Of mean girls in the bathrooms and stupid boys who think straws up the nose and fart jokes are funny. Of cliques and pecking orders and peer pressure and bullies. Pretty girls and not. Cute boys and not. Nice teachers and not.
Is she ready? Probably. But I'm not.
Postscript: On the morning of the second day of school, my 5-foot-4 11-year-old baby came upstairs to my room at 7:01 and woke me. "Mom," she said. "Do you think we could snuggle? Or is that off limits to sixth graders?" .... Just when I think she's all grown up....
Hanging out once again at Yeah Write. Check it out!
Since the heart-wrenching drive to the mothership. Since the pat on the hand, the handing of the white envelope, the look. The words, "You are being offered a severance."
Ending a 26-year career in the span of about three minutes.
And since then it's been 50 days of misery, worry, fear, disappointment, humiliation, anger, regret and sorrow.
Of sleepless nights, mindless wanderings, and tears. And a little bit of alcohol.
Of feeling like I've been dumped by a heartless former lover.
Of what ifs and what wills and what nows. And a few WTFs.
And trying to hide it all from those around me.
Oh, I've done all the things I'm supposed to do. I Googled "How to Write a Resume" and "How to write a killer cover letter." I've hit up Thesaurus.com to look up synonyms for "reported" and "covered" and "wrote."
I've Facebooked and tweeted and blogged. I've joined LinkedIn and WorkNola.com and Simplyhired.
I've made wishes, consulted the Tarot and prayed.
And I've gone to work every day, at the company that has rejected me -- twice. And I've greeted our customers and taken their money and told them how to put an ad in the paper they don't even read and said that I understand how disappointed they are that they will no longer have a newspaper to read while they drink their coffee four days of the week.
And I haven't even screamed at them, "Don't you realize that I've lost my job????!!!"
I've scoured the want ads -- even in the paper that no longer wants me -- looking for something, anything else I might want to do or might be good at.
And I've found a few openings that sounded somewhat interesting. One that truly piqued my interest.
Only to fear rejection too much to apply.
When in the hell did that happen?
Eventually I did send that resume off with a wing and prayer, only to hear absolutely nothing.
Is that the way it's done these days?
Then there was the job I applied for, putting my supervisor as a reference. Only to find out later that she applied too.
Oh it hasn't been all bad. There are days I am exhilarated at the
upcoming months of freedom which will allow me to do some of the things
I've been meaning to. But then I just spent more sleepless nights mulling over whether to paint my front door red or black.
And there was the one day I did not feel like crumpling into a heap on the floor -- the day I was asked and agreed to return to my first love, sports reporting. I will be on the sidelines this fall. I will be writing sports again for a local web site. And I can't wait for that.
And in just a few weeks I will receive my golden watch -- a gift from the company for my 25 years of continuous service (they don't count the first eight months when I was technically "temporary," but I do) from the soon-to-be ex publisher of the soon-to-be-former daily Times-Picayune.
But on the last Friday of September I will say good-bye to the life I've known, the career I've loved, the company I've been loyal to.
And I won't even get a cake.
And I've been told that everything will be OK. That I'll find something. That I'll land on my feet. That I'll be snatched up. That I'm still good at what I do. That I'm talented and special. That we'll be OK
And I've smiled and nodded and tried my best to believe it.