Last born twice.

Me and my Mom have this running joke about how she gave birth to me twice. It is essentially true and ironically the second birth occurred  Mother’s Day weekend of 1992.  The Thursday before Mother’s Day my 16 year-old self had decided that it would be pretty cool to take my Mom and Nana out for Mother’s Day on my own dime. The destination?  Tiffany’s, a restaurant that I had not at the time been too, that was well-known for its ribs and cheesecake.

There isn’t much I remember from that evening at dinner save for the fact that it was my Mom, my Nana,  my oldest nephew, and I that had gone out to eat … and the cheese cake.  I had ordered cheesecake for dessert, a cheesecake that unbeknownst to me,  had ground pecans baked into the crust.  Prior to eating this cheesecake, I remembered that I always felt “funny” when I ate the Little Debbie Brownies with the nuts on them that my older brother would bring me from the corner store. They made my throat itch so badly that I’d stopped eating them all together.

After the first bite of cheese cake that feeling I would get when I ate the Little Debbie cakes started only now it was about ten thousand times worse.  I immediately began to spit the cake into my napkin and told my Mom that I didn’t feel well. She sent me to the car while she paid the tab and gathered my Nana and nephew.  The last thing I remember is getting into the car, taking about 20 doses too many of my inhaler because I felt my throat closing, and then going cold. This would be my last conscious memory for two weeks.

When my Mom got to the car she found me passed out. I was sheet white and my lips were a dusky shade of purple.  Panicked and having little sense of direction, she began to drive around the city of Union, NJ searching for the hospital.  This search lasted approximately ten minutes and by all scientific logic I should have been brain-dead, but this situation would defy any logic you could throw at it.

Upon finding Union Hospital my Mom  pulled into the area on the opposite side of the emergency room. Desperate, she got out of the car flung open the doors and began to scream for help.  Her screaming, I can imagine based on her “normal” conversational octave, was enough to wake the dead and ultimately summon a hospital of doctors, nurses, and therapist to my aid.  I was removed from the car and placed on the ground as the team immediately began to care for what appeared to be a dead kid.

My mom was completely devastated as doctors explained to her my limited odds of surviving the anaphylactic shock I’d endured.  She was advised to call my family members so they could come and say good-bye to me. I was given last rites (it was a Catholic hospital I believe) and my family prepared for the worse. That evening in the waiting room, so I’m told, my Nana held a prayer vigil to end all prayer vigils. She prayed with absolute strangers for the complete healing of their loved ones even though, at least in my case, all hope seemed to be lost.  And just like that I lived through the night … and the next night.

Doctors cautioned my mother about being overly optimistic about my outcome seeing as how the odds for anoxic brain injury due to the delay in my treatment were quite high. These predictions seemed accurate when on Mother’s Day the only thing I kept repeating much to my mother’s horror was “Happy Mother’s Day” probably sounding a lot like Igor. However, over the next few days and weeks I gradually returned to normal (or as normal as I’d ever be again 😉 ).  My first memory? Waking up to a Russian woman who was trying to explain to me her open heart surgery by repeating the words “bad blood” with her thick accent and pointing at monstrous wound on her chest. Good times.

My mother is not a huggin’, squeezin’, excessive sugar givin’  sagely advice dolin’ kind of mom. There are times when I wish like hell she was, but then I think about this “second birth” and how people from the community surrounding the hospital where I’d been sick calling in by the droves to check on “The screaming woman’s daughter”.  I think about the lengths my mother went through to get me adequate care for my asthma even begging a pulmonologist who only saw adults to see me when every pediatrician I’d seen had thrown up their hands. Then I think, here I am,  a living breathing miracle over 22 years after my second birth not only alive and well, but thriving in ways I could never have imagined. Today I give thanks to my praying grandmother and a mother that refused to give up on her sickly little wheezer even during times it seemed the world had.  I love you Ma!

Rosie.

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Advertisements

Suspending Disbelief

There is a blissful dismissal of logic that comes with being a child. It enables them to be the gorgeous pile of mush that leaped, curious and unbridled out of their mother’s womb and into a world hell bent on making them into what they “should be”.  It happens earlier and earlier these days, the domestication of children, but if you browse a playground (that is if you can do so without being dubbed a pedophile) occasionally you come across a group of children locked in a heated debate that sounds something like this:

Kid 1: I gone be a super hero when I get big watch.

Kid 2: What kinna stuper hero you go be?

Kid 1: One dat could fly and a-a-and smash big buildins

Kid 2: Nuh uhn

Kid 1: Uh huh!!!

Kid 2: Nuh uhn Nuh uhn

Kid 1 Uh huh Uh huh!!! But you could be my super hero friend tho

Kid 2: I gone be able to to to PUNCH real hard like da Hulk … GRRRRRRRR!!!!

Kid 1:  Les go practice!

Kid 2: Uh K!

And off they go to conquer evil and place bugs in the belongings of unsuspecting peers.  Now, while no one can argue with the sheer entertainment value of hipster babies in skinny jeans with their diapers sogging full of recycled Pabst Blue Ribbon formula; One has to confess that the freedom that comes with being a child over the years has been severely compromised. The openness to have a the free range of emotions that guides the process of becoming an emotionally well adjusted adult is squelched. The result, stuffy assed adults too obsessed with not seeming “thirsty” or “messy” to feel. Some medicate either legally or illegally, still others seek alternate means (e.g. cars, homes, clothes etc.) so that to the outside world will think they are A-OK. Meanwhile they are dying on the inside.

I was and quite often still can be guilty of just this. I suspect this is what lead me back to theatre and writing.  The ability to play and bring to life the characters that are running around in my head without getting the hell side-eyed out of me by society.  Theatre has brought to my life a level of inner freedom, joy and peace that I don’t feel like I’ve ever knew, even during my bittersweet childhood.  The first piece read at a play reading I held last evening is “Reasoning”.  It was the first vignette written for a show called “The Waiting Place” that  I wrote while at UNC Charlotte and is the first complete theatrical piece that I ever had produced. The show gets its name from an excerpt of  “Oh the Places You’ll go by Dr. Seuss.” The passage goes:

“The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or a No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

This past year has contained enough waiting for me to slay father time.  While waiting I’ve tried to remain open and blindly hopeful as a child. I’ve not always succeeded, but I’ve remained aware of the message in the waiting. The same type of awareness that allows for the adult eye to see the beauty and depth to Dr. Suess’s message and long for the comfort of it’s rhyme scheme and ridiculous creatures when the adult world seems to scary to confront. I escape back to the freedom of childhood every time I sit at the key board, sit in a dark cinema or theatre, or pick up a good book waiting for my disbelief to be suspended so my imagination can run hi-knee laps around my mind.

A young woman named Ira Yarmolenko was in the original cast of “The Waiting Place”. Tragically, the May after the show went up she was brutally murdered under circumstances that I still struggle to understand.  In one of our last conversations we sounded a lot like the two children in my above scenario.  We were at the cast party for The Waiting Place” and we almost simultaneously said.  “What are you gonna do next.”  I’m not sure of what I said, but I’m almost sure the path I’m on now wasn’t even in my trajectory at that point. Ira said, “I don’t know.” and smiled a little. In such a care free self-satisfied way that I thought for sure she’d just figured out the meaning of life. Maybe she did, maybe in that moment her disbelief and any fear had been suspended and she was free to just live.

Rosie.

188_527954243667_1724_n

Ira Yarmolenko and Joshua Ozro Lucero
“The Waiting Place” UNC Charlotte 2007