Friday, November 30, 2018

Memorable Moments at the Movies

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving 2018, and I took my 7-year-old daughter to a showing of "Ralph Breaks the Internet" right after school. I already knew that the movie theater was this kid's happy place, but this trip ended up being extra special.

We were the only two in the theater.

Not only did we loudly talk and make jokes throughout the showing, she got up and danced around the empty theater during the credits. I mean, ran up and down the aisles shaking her "groove thing" to "Zero" by Imagine Dragons.

And then as we were walking out, she said, "I'm gonna tell them this is the best time I've ever had in this theater." And she did. Bless that teenage concession stand employee that listened to her speech and smiled at me over the top of her head.

I think this is the first time I've fiercely hoped my daughter would remember a moment for the rest of her life.

But the more I thought about it, I realized that it wasn't my first "memorable moment" at the movies.

It's the summer of 1999, and I'm with a large group of friends heading to the movies.  We've driven 20 miles to see the new releases playing at the Capri V Theatre in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa.  More specifically, we're here to see "The Blair Witch Project."

Now I can't remember all of the people in our group, but I do remember that I was the last person in line to buy a ticket and Jessica was right in front of me.  Jess and I were both 16 at the time. There were two people selling tickets, and when Jess got up to the counter, one of the employees asked her how old she was.

Let me reiterate that.  They didn't ask to see her ID, they just asked her how old she was. 

And as I heard her say 16, my heart sank.  "Blair Witch" was rated R, and now they weren't going to sell her a ticket.  All of our friends ahead of us in line (some only 16, some older) already had their tickets, and to be perfectly honest, I was pissed off.

She told the cashier that she'd like a ticket to see "Bowfinger" instead.  I gritted my teeth and bought my own ticket to "Bowfinger" so Jess wouldn't have to go to the movies alone.   In case you don't remember that film, it's a PG-13 comedy starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy.  I'd like to tell you more of the plot, but I honestly don't remember. I was way too angry to actually pay attention.  I do remember how Jess kept forcing herself to laugh too hard at the jokes and looking over at me in the dark as if she was trying to "will" me to enjoy myself.

It wasn't going to happen.  I was way too angry at her for "ruining" my evening.

I was angry for her automatic honesty.

Which, nearly 20 years later, seems crazy.  I was mad at my best friend for telling the truth.

I recently read a book by Gretchen Rubin were she writes that "what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." And while it's hard to believe that Jessica Eakins was completely truthful every single day, I do know that she was truthful MORE than once in a while.  If there is an underlying theme in all my memories of Jess, it's that she was an honest friend that never set out to hurt anyone's feelings... but often told people what they needed to hear.

The Capri V Theatre closed a year after Jess died.  And I can't remember the last movie I saw at that location, and I honestly can't remember the last movie I saw with Jess.  I often wonder if this moment - this "life lesson" at the movies - would even be burned in my memory at all if Jess hadn't died less than five years later.  But it is.

So strive to be honest... more than once in a while.  Even if you end up forcing someone else to watch "Bowfinger."

Monday, November 5, 2018

Compare and Contrast

I was the first person from my close group of high school girlfriends to get married and have a baby.

And even though I'd already planned a wedding and had a little girl, when my three friends all got married within the same 10 month span... and then were all pregnant/had their own daughters within the same 7 month span... I felt incredibly left out.  Chalk it up to left over high school insecurities, but I just felt excluded somehow.

Fast forward a few years, and I'm pregnant again.  This time, a couple of my friends are also pregnant and we end up having our babies in February, March, and April of the same year.  "Yes!" I remember thinking.  "Now I get to go through this process again... right alongside someone else. This is going to be great!"

Remember that old expression, "Be careful what you wish for?"

Because of the opportunity to watch these other two kids grow up alongside my son, it has become sort of second nature to compare and contrast their development.  To be honest, this has been both a blessing and a curse.

After reading a social media post, I started thinking that maybe MY son should be talking because HERS was.  After spending time ignoring those gut feelings and (continually) reminding myself that "comparison is the thief of joy" - we decided to have our son evaluated.  Turns out he has expressive receptive language disorder.  And while it doesn't always feel like it, reading that post that ultimately pushed us to have him diagnosed was a blessing.

Enter the "curse" aspect.

We are taking steps to help our son.  He sees two different sets of therapists, we have a communication board in our home, and so on.  But I can't seem to stop comparing where he is right now with where he SHOULD be.  Things are progressing slow and steady, and I know in my heart that all forward progress should be celebrated.  But lately it feels impossible to stop worrying about the future.  When are these sounds going to turn into real words?  How is he going to learn to read?  Will he be able to keep up with kids his age?  Why am I worried about Kindergarten when I should be worried about how he can't even say his own name?

Now, back to those darn social media posts.  Watching children younger than him hit the milestones that he hasn't yet is heartbreaking.  There isn't any other way to describe it.  I wish I could turn off the compare and contrast aspect of my brain, but I can't.  I wish I could stop comparing his development to his older sister, but it's so hard.  I wish I could just say the right things and do the right things and "fix" him, but it doesn't work like that.

All I can do is love him for who he is at this moment in time.  No comparing.  No contrasting.  No conditions.  And some days, that's much easier said than done.