Baba’s Eulogy

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My beloved aunt died on November 25th, and two days later I delivered my first eulogy at her funeral. Two months later, on January 25th, my grandmother died, a few weeks after a bad fall, at age 86. Here I was writing the second eulogy in two months. Only this time, I focused more on celebrating her life more than lamenting her death.

Here is the eulogy I wrote:

My Baba Maya knew where she wanted to go and she figured out a way to get there. She got things done. She was our matriarch, our fearless leader, with a ferocious dedication to her friends and family. She was a trailblazer, a first generation feminist, a card shark, an infamous cake baker, a loan shark, a mama, a wife, a tyawtya, a sister, a friend, a Baba, and a 5-time great-grandmother. People knew Maya Nudelman and when I told them I was her granddaughter # 1, I beamed with pride. For me, like for so many others, she was a significant lifeline whose absence will be deeply felt.

When I think of Baba, I remember the cakes. The constant hum of twirling mixers and tasting buttercream directly out of the star-tipped piping bag. Baba’s cakes were at the forefront of confectionary design in 1984 amongst Brighton Beach and Forest Hills where Bat Mitzvah and wedding cake orders piled in and where she sold her treats to the Russian stores, gaining local notoriety for her “Kievsky torte” and “Mister Eex.”

For 4 decades, through my eyes, one of her main reasons for living was to feed people, especially grandchildren. She asked you if you wanted an orange three times in a row after three insistent “No’s”, a peeled orange would appear in front of you, which you’d obviously eat and so she’d obviously say, “See, I knew you wanted an orange.”

When it came to her granddaughters, she was ferociously devoted to getting to see us. She made her way, by whichever means necessary, even with a police escort, to visit Michelle in Binghamton, with blueberry bleenee – enough for her and her college friends. Or the time I lived on Wall Street, around the corner from the Stock Exchange with crisscrossing traffic patterns she somehow ended up in the high-security rotary in front of the Exchange. In broken English, she convinced the NYPD to rotate the rotunda, for the first time since 9/11 I think, because “her granddaughter lives right upstairs.” When my sister had her first art exhibition at Rutgers University, my grandmother showed up, greeting my sister who was sporting royal blue dreadlocks and proudly posed for pictures with the photos of Reena’s mutilated dolls in the background.

My grandmother perpetually preached the importance of speaking Russian and was my first teacher. I would sit on the gray and white folded table while she assembled layers of cakes and crushed nuts with rolling pins, and I would stare at the “Novoye Ruskaya Slova” in front of me and ask her letters, one by one. “This backwards ‘R’ is ‘ya?’” I would ask? Yes, “ya,” which means “I” is last in the alphabet, she would remind me. That’s how I was taught to remember it – always put yourself last.

Baba was the original “say yes” woman. When invited to a party, she always went. I remember flipping through old photos, stumbling upon strangers or distant relatives and thinking, “who are those people?” She never doubted her need to be there, to share in the celebration; if she was invited, she went, and always brought a generous cash gift.

She never forgot a gift. She felt obligated and called it such, “Ya tyebye dolzhjana.” If it was my birthday or my kid’s birthday, even a month later, she would emerge from the back, cash folded in her hand, our little not-so-secret, secret.

She wouldn’t throw anything out if it wasn’t ripped apart or completely annihilated. Why do you need more towels if the ones you have still function to dry you after the shower? This theory also applies to sheets, couches, pans, plates, clothes. This is a way of life which you cannot beat out of a person. She had cash in the back which she gave readily to her granddaughters as gifts, but she lived in the same apartment for nearly her entire life in America.

On my last visit, I asked her, “How are you, Ba?” and she answered me in the same way she always had, “loochye vsyeah,” better than everyone else. “Vsyaw bootee horosho” she always said. Everything will be good.

Beyond the profound loss of our leader, we grieve an end of an era, a shutting down of an apartment which was a portal to our childhood, to those early days of America, brimming over with innocence and ignorance, possibility and promise was enough to be blissful and hopeful. A youthful joie de vivre, a rose bud yet unopened. We were a family at the brink of opportunities, challenges, American dreams – and she spearheaded it all.

She left this world in peace, nothing left unfinished, unafraid, no debts unpaid, no journey incomplete. She leaves behind a legacy of anecdotes, a lifetime of memories. She has penetrated into every one of us – buried herself deep in our hearts where she will forever smell like sweet cream and be wearing her soft, weathered house dress, and the glasses she often no longer needed but wore for decoration, and her bold red lipstick. I’ll never picture her without her red lipstick.

She’s coming to you now, Deda, no GPS needed. After all, she was our Ultimate Navigator.

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“Be Here Now” Club

There were just three days left in my 365 writing project and my daughter is home on winter break. My husband, off to work, suggests I put on a movie for her so I can write. He knows I feel the impending heat as I am inches away from typing an imaginary “the end” on a non-traditional manuscript in a category of its own: organically, unplanned, spontaneously-transcribed, incomplete pseudo-memoir in essays. 

Today, though, I stared into my daughter’s big brown eyes and committed to spending a day without breaking eye contact. All year I’ve prioritized my writing and I vowed today would be all about her. I lingered in each drawn-out moment of her day and stayed with her for as long as it took for her to eat breakfast because she had a five-minute story in between each bite. I played the Princess Cupcake game with her, having mini imaginary adventures as we assembled the rubber cupcakes. We played six rounds of Connect 4, where she claimed victory five of those times. We colored together, side-by-side, in one of those thin-lined, adult coloring books filled with details, where the pages seem impossible to complete. We ate string cheese, literally one string at a time, and drank ice water, eating crushed ice one at a time. We watched My Fat Greek Wedding 2, me explaining some of the vague reference but then using the infamous, “it’s Greek to me” when she asked about the sex references. I painted purple glitter polish onto her nails and icy blue with silver swirls and dots onto her toes. We Skyped with my sister in Maine where my daughter modeled her new Hamilton t-shirt and showed off her custom-ordered Hamilton-quote necklace.

I didn’t bother with my phone all day and saved my writing until later. I lived completely in every minute, savoring my daughter, who exhibited perfect behavior, appreciative and cooperative all day. 

At day’s end, I reflected on how I successfully lived in the now all day. Something I’ve perpetually struggled with my entire life felt so zen, yet I didn’t recognize the sensation. On various vacations throughout my life I’ve dipped my toe into the realm of relaxation, but it’s a foreign, uncomfortable feeling. However, had I spent the day on my default multitasking setting, stressing about what needed to get done, or focusing on writing while ignoring my daughter, I would have not only short-changed my experience, I would have inadvertently diluted the light I exude. Another by-product of being fully present was time stood still. I was not as obsessed with the ticking because my attention wasn’t directed at the time; it was on being.

Being in the now is a philosophy, a religion, a practice, a habit, a way of life; kind of like being vegan. My husband, the Eagle Scout, loves to recount the Native American philosophy of eating, which should be done in silence to dutifully honor and respect their food. Truly being present means tastes are saturated. Being in the now means I should focus less on the perpetual loud ticking of life pressuring me to hurry up, write more, accomplish more, travel more places, get more massages and manicures and focus more on directing all five senses towards BEING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW with every single thing I do.

I’ll chalk today’s epiphany up as an another example of an intangible profitable consequence of writing every single day. In fact for the rest of my life (or perhaps just the foreseeable future), I imagine there will be many occurrences where I will find myself saying, “I learned this from writing every day…”

“Learning Relationships From When Harry Met Sally” Club

Last week I watched one of my favorite movies with my son: When Harry Met Sally.

My freshman year of college in 1992, as a journalism major, my first feature article assignment needed to be based on research but I don’t remember any other constricting guidelines. I know that this was pre-Internet so a Twitter poll was not an option, neither was posting something to Facebook for the entire Freshman class to pontificate about or reply with emojis. No, I did this the old fashioned ways, by writing up a questionnaire and printing out flyers, distributing them and then analyzing the results. Brick and mortar reporting, old school.

The topic for my paper was inspired by my favorite movie at the time When Harry Met Sally. It was “Can men and women be friends?” Eighteen-year-olds eagerly filled out the survey. The overwhelming response from my freshman peers was “of course.”

What’s interesting in retrospect, of course, was my collection of data, all segregated to 18 and 19-year-olds, barely “men” and “women” at all. We only understood innocent juvenile friendships. We weren’t even legal yet, we were barely having sex. Grown up friendships are much more complicated with ripples of layers like intestines. We were privileged kids at a private university in a major city lucky enough to write articles on superfluous studies. People our age in other countries were plowing rice fields or building cars or taking care of farms. In retrospect, I laugh at the luxurious life of my freshman year where romantic comedy cinema served as inspiration for academic enhancement.

25 years later I’ve watched this movie countless times. I quote along with it. My husband and I reenact various scenes as we walk along Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I know the outfits Meg Ryan wears in every scene and have always found a kindred spirit in her restaurant ordering. I realize this movie had a substantial impact on setting my relationship precedent; it planted the seeds for how I approached every future male-female relationship. Even if I had a male platonic friend, at the back of my mind I had the Harry Burns’ philosophy: even if you’re not having sex, the man will most likely think about or want to have sex with the woman.

“What if the man doesn’t find the woman attractive?” Sally asks.

“Oh, you pretty much want to sleep with them too,” Harry answers.

I’m sure millennials find this concept outrageous; many of them stylishly tout best friends of the opposite sex. And while I agree these relationships might be exemplary examples of friendships, I’d also wager to bet nature’s biological intervention inadvertently controls our sex hormones -and at one point or another, there will be a sexual thought or consideration or experiment. Sometimes sexual attraction can evolve from the familiarity and comfort of friendship as much as in unpredictable and novelty of a new partner. Friendship leads to love and as those lines blur, so do emotions, which occasionally take on a life of their own.

Ideally, I’ve always wanted to find a best friend who also “gets it off the couch” for me. (Based on Patty Stanger’s philosophy from Millionaire Matchmaker.) I’ve read articles which advised NOT to marry your best friend and others which plead the opposite. While it could be a lot of pressure on your partner to fulfill both jobs as your BFF and fuck buddy, it’s a hell of a lot more convenient.

Last week as I rewatched, this time with my 14-year-old son next to me, the evolution of time seemed more apparent. This movie became my relationship default yet now I wondered if it would feel like an obscure Casablanca reference to my teenager.

Before the Internet and Bluetooth and Instagram, a couple drove across the country together, had a conversation and learned about one another. This couple took risks, formed a sincere friendship, lived a life separate from one another, and came together, growing in love, rather than falling in love when life’s timing was right.

Maybe When Harry Met Sally was from an era before text and FaceTime, but its message is as relevant as ever. Whether it was intended or not, I received a kind of relationship tutorial, planting seeds for future interactions with the opposite sex and inspiring patience for knowing when you’ve found the one “…like you know about a good melon.”

“Not Fearing Death, Just Not Wanting It” Club

“Cowards die many times before their deaths.

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.”

I joke about how this tiny speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the only thing I ever memorized which I still remember. We were required to put this tidbit to memory in Mrs. Feldman’s 7th grade English class, yet in the last 30 years, I’ve recited these 46 words hundreds of times without truly understanding them.

I have been that coward for three decades, wincing in the face of fear, shortchanging myself out of living as fully as I could have.

It wasn’t until this morning, when my brain, subconsciously still processing Tuesday’s therapy session, sent me this bit of Shakespeare as if on a stone tablet from up above. I spent a majority of my hour discussing death with my brain PhD therapist. She wanted me to dive into my fear of death, something that’s plagued me since fourth grade, when I used to be scared of closing my eyes at night, afraid I wouldn’t wake up the next day. The therapist started out by pointing out how death is inevitable and as someone who is even more anxious about wasting time than of imminent death, I had to realize I was wasting time terrorized by the inevitable. This ironic irrationality stopped me in my tracks. If I was terrified of snakes, I could technically avoid them, but there was nowhere I can go where I can avoid death.

I’ve learned the best ammunition we have against the Grim Reaper is to live as hard as we can every fucking day because no matter how cliche, none of us can predict our last day.

After I divulged to the therapist that the pain and suffering associated with death is not what I’m actually nervous about, she asked me what it was and I realized it wasn’t that I was scared; I just didn’t want to. This critical, yet minor differentiation and clarification, alters which hormones my brain secretes in reaction. My brain reacts differently to “I don’t want to leave the party” than it does to “I’m afraid of leaving the party.” There is nothing scary about leaving a party, I just don’t want to miss out. This is called “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out,” and we have scheduled to discuss this in next week’s session.

The clock continues to tick as loudly as ever for me. As the days flip on the calendar, I age, and no matter how much I write, or how successful I am, it feels insufficient. While I’m trying to savor it all, it’s slipping away faster than I can hold onto it. I may be on my way to easing my fear of death, but I can’t imagine ever coming to terms with leaving the party of life. I just don’t want to.

“2016: FOAD, but Thanks for Everything” Club

Eight is my favorite number, yet 2008 wasn’t so great. I had thyroid surgery in January, broke my knee in February, got audited in April, and lost my job in June. During 2016, another multiple of eight, every member of my immediate family landed in the emergency room, my mother was in the hospital twice, our apartment got flooded, a scary clown craze damaged our business, and my husband and I both lost an aunt to ovarian cancer.

This morning over breakfast, I tried a final attempt to lure my artist hubby into a last-minute holiday card. I had a funny idea which I thought might hook him:

“How about a toilet bowl showing 2016 flushing down the drain?”

His eyes looked up and he played along for a second. “Yeah and we can show Prince and David Bowie and Gene Wilder…” His voice trailed off, he looked away.

“No?” I knew he wasn’t biting.

“No,” he said and carried on with the loud chewing of the over toasted sesame bagel.

The other day a friend texted me: “2016: FOAD” (Urban Dictionary.com confirmed the acronym is telling 2016 to F-off and die.) “Amen,” I wrote back.

What a year for everyone. Our country endured a public political showdown which left half of us miserable about the outcome. Some are rallying to come together, some rally to call congress people, and I’m hoping to get through each day alive. 2016 had countless heartbreaking deaths, robbing us of geniuses famous and familiar. There wasn’t a person I met who didn’t have a health crisis, a career transition, or a relationship catastrophe yet somehow we’ve made it out, with a week to go, to read and write about it. Survivors. Collectors of life stories. Joining clubs; laughing and commiserating with fellow humans.

I am filled with gratitude for the year I was given and the stories it allowed me to record for posterity. Here are some of the happy highlights:

“I Don’t Do Holiday Cards” Club

I don’t do holiday cards. I did once. No, twice. I feel the tug, though, as beautiful cards fill my mailbox. I desperately want to be part of the “Holiday Card” club, but find once again, my perfection paralysis prohibits me from playing at all. I’m chock full of ideas, but they usually involve hand making one of a kind cards, which doesn’t work well when the holiday card list includes everyone from the doorman to Aunt Sadie.

The first time I did cards was the year after my son was born. I purchased ice blue high-quality paper which I hand cut with crinkle-cut craft scissors to fit inside the quaint coordinating color (but not size) envelopes. On to each card I adhered a painstakingly, cut-out snowflake (from white vellum paper) with a thin white satin ribbon tied in a perfect bow on the (ruler-measured) top center of the page. Inside I attached my thoughtfully crafted holiday greeting, printed on the translucent white paper with the fancy shears. I hand addressed each envelope and each completed card felt like a piece of artwork. I saved one for myself and recently came across it. My brain had remembered all of the work its creation involved, but the final product felt lackluster. Maybe this is why I never ventured into the holiday card club again. I could never meet my own standards.

The second time I attempted holiday cards was with my husband, the year we moved into our current apartment. This will be the 12th holiday season my husband and I spend as a couple, and we’ve only done the one card. My husband (Christmas Card Scrooge) agreed to do cards because I lured him in with the challenge of using his creative design skills to mastermind a dual function card: part “Happy Holidays,” part “We’ve Moved.” With some graphic design ingenuity, my husband laid out the cards to say Happy Holidays on one side and We Moved when flipped. His inner poet also stepped up to write a clever Dr. Seuss-like poem, creating a relic of holiday card genius. Perhaps this creation has left him feeling insurmountable. I, on the other hand, feel he’s limitless; we can create holiday card gems yearly. Here I sit next to an artistic ball of ideas and talent and he doesn’t want play in the holiday card game.

The truth is writing every day this year has monopolized any free moment, and even bubbled over into non-free moments. Holiday cards are the extra credit I didn’t have time for this year. I’m aware I don’t have to be so extreme about it. I could have settled on a happy medium by sending out purchased cards. Only I’ve never done well with mediocrity, which sounds and feels and awful lot like medium, so I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.

Next year, I have big plans, though. Huge.

“Starting Anew” Club

With the new year upon us, marking another trip around the sun, collectively and symbolically we give ourselves permission to make a fresh start; renewed promises, redefined goals, refreshed perspectives. Somehow seeing the January 1st date, like a blank page, gives us a boost, the momentum we somehow lack the rest of the year.

We can use any day to change our life, change our relationship, change our job, change our habits, change our perceptions. The only difference between talking about doing something and actually doing something is as easy and as hard as just doing it (Nike knew what they were talking about). Every day is a new day, a new month, a new year, a new opportunity. Life is linear; there is no going back to the beginning – we are in constant transition.

My father hates his job and even though he’s 68 he can’t afford to retire (challenges associated with having young children at an older age). He is desperately seeking a new job and lifestyle. My sister wants to alter her geography to be closer to the family. Everyone wants to get healthier. Particularly in an era where our social circles tend to over-share, we’re tempted into a constant re-evaluation of our lives. Are we doing enough? Accomplishing enough? Seeing enough? Having enough fun? Are we happy enough? Maybe it’s just a reminder the clock is ticking loudly … it’s time to get busy living because we can’t help the fact that we’re all actively dyingNO PRESSURE. Tick, tock, tick, tock. 

Before I went to college I spent a day with a cousin I saw rarely because he lived six hours away. I’ll never forget what he told me on that day: “your life drastically changes every six months. Just look back and see how different it was six months ago.” Initially, I dismissed this notion, but every so often I think back six months and note the difference and his comment feels incredibly poignant; even more so since he died unexpectedly two years ago at 45 years young.

I’m no different, I coincided the end of this 365-project with the last day of the year and there will be a huge hole each day after where my project used to reside. I will not stop writing, but I will stop writing in this (lonely) club and begin a new kind of writing. I look forward to embracing the new; bigger projects, looser constraints, armed with the evidence to forever remind me of what I’m capable. (WRITING EVERY SINGLE DAY!)

“I Kept My First Wedding Photos” Club

For years after I got divorced, I didn’t think about the two boxes of wedding photos I left at my ex-husband’s apartment. Last year, a decade after I left the apartment, my Ex moved and asked me if I wanted the photos. One box contains the wedding square-shaped proofs and the other box contains the hand-printed photo album. Instinctively I said I’d take them thinking I always had the option of getting rid of them later. I considered one day our son may want to look through them. I also thought about the people now dead, yet preserved in these photos, from an event which happened, even if the occasion it celebrated has since been rescinded. 

It’s awkward to flip through the photo album and look at me 15 years ago, dressed in a dress which never fit properly, marrying a man I never really matched. We both look younger and more innocent and my eyes dart around the photos searching for clues in the photos. Where is the magic? Where is the spark? Where is the passion?

After the wedding was over, I remember thinking, “That was it?” I had a nervous stomach and diarrhea before they announced us and waited for a euphoric epiphany feeling during our dance. I tried to soak it all in, waiting to be floating in a cloud stamped with “best day of my life” and was grossly disappointed when it never came. I put my black winter parka over my wedding dress and walked the few blocks from the wedding venue, across the street from The Flatiron Building to the W Hotel in Union Square, where we spent the night, overslept, and missed our flight to our honeymoon. We caught a later flight and flew first class. We traveled to three islands and stayed at the Four Seasons in Maui. I had controlled as much as I could to make the nuptial celebration pretty and perfect; what I couldn’t direct was the course of the actual marriage.

It’s easy to analyze this all retroactively; reviewing snapshots with scrutinizing critiques, but in the moment I was clueless, hopeful 26-year-old girl who wanted to be loved so damn badly. I thought I was creating my fairytale, but turns out I was only creating memories. Memories forever immortalized in these two boxes for which I have to find storage in my new house, in my new life, with my new husband.

Incidentally, I am also on the hunt for a photo storage solution for the hundreds of curling black-and-white photos I inherited from my grandmother of my parents’ wedding 43 years ago. They divorced after 25 years and I still look at these photographs longingly, convinced I have never seen either one of my parents as happy or in love as they look in those photos. Also, over 50% of the people in the wedding photos are dead and I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve them as historical artifacts of our ancestry for all future generations.

“It’s Not Always the Worst Case Scenario” Club

Earlier this year I watched a Dr. Oz segment where a psychiatrist suggested coping techniques for those of us who struggle with immediately jumping to Worst Case Scenario explanations. Occasionally I go there too soon, without justified reason and rile myself up unnecessarily. The psychiatrist offered this advice: instead of assuming the worst, think the opposite; assume just as extreme in the best case scenario. For instance, if I haven’t talked to my sister on the phone in a day, don’t assume she crashed her car into a snowy ditch on the roads of Maine; instead, assume she won the lottery and jetted off to Europe real quick (without telling me?!).

This morning my husband drove my daughter to school and forgot his cell phone. Actually, I’ll clarify to say he deliberately chose not to bring it because when my teenage son suggested he bring it, my husband retaliated that he was only traveling a mile away.

It’s an hour later and my husband isn’t home yet. Where can he be? Logically I begin: Maybe he ran into a friend and got into a long conversation about the electoral college? Maybe he decided to grab some bagels on the way home? Only both of those things would still have had him home by now. I review the morning in my head. My husband had mentioned he didn’t feel so great; a little nauseated. He said maybe some fresh air would help. Perhaps he’s standing on a corner deep breathing into his asshole? (His words, not mine.) These are the coherent scenarios I discount immediately.

Of course, it seems absurd to ponder he had a heart attack; he’s a young healthy guy. Yet, I’m staring at the phone waiting for a strange number to reveal itself on the caller ID and it might be a Lieutenant Smith from the Fort Lee police telling me they found my name and number in my husband’s wallet in case of emergency. I hope he moved that card into his new wallet otherwise it’ll be hours before they find me.

My son jokes he’s having a secret affair. I laugh, thinking in the old days my jealous rage would have instantly gone in the cheating direction, but that’s not as scary as dead. Every door slam down the hall makes me crane my neck; my stomach is in a knot. Seriously where is he? I try the extreme good scenarios: maybe he went grocery shopping on his own… or … Nothing. My brain is stuck on dead.

He finally walks in an hour later, hair disheveled (or sexed up) if he’d been sleeping.

“Where have you been?” I ask.

“I just sat in the car in the garage for a few minutes. I told you I didn’t feel good,” he says. He’s looking at me like I’m the asshole.

“You could have come upstairs to sleep,” I say and the lump travels from my stomach to my throat and I burst into tears. “You were missing for over an hour. I was so worried.”

“Sorry,” he says and it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I’m the type of wife from which a husband has to hide in the car.

Maybe this incident will serve as future evidence to remind me not to jump to worst case scenario; better to assume your husband is being slightly inconsiderate. Only he will plead not guilty, insisting it was not his intention to worry me, and contending he is just the illiterate version of time; the direct opposite of me, the daughter of “the Nazi of time,” who can guess the time accurately within five minutes any time of day.

“Rediscovering Memories” Club

One of the things my ex-husband held hostage after our divorce, was the equivalent of a studio apartment of things we stored in his parents’ basement. I wasn’t interested in the old leather couches or my son’s baby clothes, but there were two small boxes containing some old journals, report cards, greeting cards, and other mementoes. I didn’t remember exactly what was in there, but I knew it could trigger some of the high school memories I had buried because therapists have told me I tend to repress things I don’t want to remember. Imagine this phenomenon!  

Recently my teenage son was able to liberate these boxes and the trip down memory lane yielded tears of laughter and tears of sadness because history can slap you in the face and sting like a winter wind, wishing you can give your younger self a hug.  You would tell your younger self it will not only get better but that you are totally normal. I was always hard on myself. I berated myself for inconsistent writing in the journal and rather than do it badly, I didn’t do it at all. I remember feeling “stupid” for documenting the munition of my life and 30 years later I’d love nothing more than a peek back into that world.

As I read through the few journals I found, I was surprised to discover my voice sounded already like me. I was a bit more closed-minded and inexperienced, complaining how no one loved me or understood me and could never imagine a happily ever after for myself. In other words, a typical teenager. This is the same me I’ve been hearing in my head my whole life; she’s never left. 

I read things about the drama happening between my parents and how I worried about my mother’s drinking. I wrote about average adolescent angst. One thing I didn’t remember writing: “When I grow up, I want to be an actress. I want to go to Hollywood. Only my parents would never support that.”

What? I wanted to be an actress? Who me? Ms. Over-sharer? Well, I never!

I’ve only dipped into some of the found treasures. There were report cards from my elementary school, my 100-page biology report on the porpoise, my 20-page report on Lyme disease for my “Human Infectious Diseases: From Aids to Influenza,” class (not the best class for a hypochondriac), and a one-scene screenplay I wrote about a fight I had with my sister about who cleans up the dog shit in the backyard. 

There were dozens of letters I had written to my sister when I spent one summer in a French emersion program in the south of France and another time when I took photography classes at UCLA. Whereas I was disappointed with my journal writing endeavor, I was proud of my letter writing, especially considering my audience was my eager-to-please, filled with unconditional love, sister, 6 years my junior. This pride is blatantly evident as I’m the one who kept all these letters from a quarter century ago even though they were technically hers to have.

There are many letters still folded in tiny squares left to be read and notebooks to rummage through, but not all at once. I can only tolerate so much nostalgia from the attic at a time.