Monday, March 15, 2010

Gratitude Included!

Saturday afternoon a friend e-mailed me to see if Hubby and I wanted to join her and her husband and another couple for dinner in town at 6:30PM. This particular restaurant has a happy hour that includes half-off on most of the dinner menu. But you have to have your order in by 7:00PM.

It sounded perfect. Both my boys had plans and Tom and I had not yet thought about our Saturday night plans.

We ordered quickly to take advantage of the half-off deal. The food came even quicker and all at once. I guess the restaurant's idea is to move us out quickly to get ready for full price diners.

We had other plans.

We felt wonderfully old and laughed at ourselves as we eagerly consumed our half-off dinners.

We dined outside underneath heat lamps. It was divine. Another friend called and I told her and her husband to meet up with us for drinks. We weren't leaving anytime soon.

I sat around this table and looked at my friends. I had met each one of them the first days of Kyle's kindergarten year. They were more than my friends, they've been my world for the past twelve years.

I grew up in Los Angeles with a family that kept me pretty isolated from the bigger community in which I lived. We had wonderful friends, but I don't remember my neighbors and nobody ever brought us over a casserole.

I move in New York City and need I say more? Friends were difficult to make at first, but once I made them, they have become the most loyal and wonderful friends. But, I had no community in my high rise on 80th and 1st. I knew the doorman, but that was about it.

When I as pregnant we moved to Chappaqua. We lived there for only a year. I remember that I felt isolated and lost in this tiny city in Westchester County. My sister died that year and my wonderful neighbors all brought over casseroles. This was extraordinary for me. One, that I actually knew my neighbors and two, that they actually cared enough to try and help during the most difficult year of my life.

When Kyle was five weeks old, Hubby had a mishap holding Kyle as he walked down our old wooden farmhouse stairs. He slipped, landed on his back and took the entire flight of stairs on his spine. My mom was staying with us that night. We both heard him fall. My mother was showing the first signs of her dementia. I grabbed Kyle and called 911. The ambulance and police arrived quickly. I ran upstairs to dress Kyle warmly for our ride to the hospital. The EMT asked my poor husband if Kyle had hit his head at any point during his tumble down the stairs. Hubby was unsure. All he knew is that he held on to him for dear life and took the stairs, one by one, on his vertebras.

By now, Kyle had fallen fast asleep. Hubby was being attended to carefully. They had put him in a neck brace and they were moving him quickly and carefully onto a stretcher. The EMT looked at the police officer and said, "You better get the kid to the hospital."

So, Kyle and I took his first ride in a police car. First and last, I hope. The EMT who sat in the back seat with us felt for Kyle's pulse. She couldn't find one. She leaned over to the police officer driving the car, "You better put on your siren, I don't have a pulse."

I sat in that car holding my baby, the EMT had an oxygen mask wrapped around his little face. My husband was on some stretcher being attended to by other EMT's.

I thought about my sister who had died only five month earlier. How could this be happening?

I was too afraid to be scared. We were in the ER in a flash of an eye. The doctor and I began removing Kyle's clothes. As soon as he was naked on the emergency room table, he screamed. It was the most beautiful scream I had ever heard.

The doctor was sure he was fine but told me to wake him up every hour and make sure his pupils were equally dilated.

Then Tom was rolled in. It took hours for them to access the damage to his poor back.

I didn't want my 5 week baby to spend all this time in the germ-filled ER. I had to call someone to pick him up.

I couldn't call Mom. Sadly, I couldn't trust her to care for her grandson alone. All my other friends lived an hour away in Manhattan.

I had to call a neighbor.

And he came. And his wife fed Kyle and checked his pupils as I attended hubby. And then Tom had to spend a couple of nights in the hospital for a broken Transverse Process, a small bone in your back.

And more casseroles came. It was blessed.

A year later we moved to Northern California. We joked that we had worn out our neighbors in the brief year we lived there.

As I looked around the dinner table Saturday night, I thought about all we had been through together. It took me time, but I learned the value of not only friendship, but of a community you can call home.

These extraordinary people have played a central and meaningful role in my life and in the life of my children. We laughed about the past, commiserated about the present, and worried about the future I knew we would at least have each other when our children left for school.

I thought how wonderful it was to be living in a suburb. I have never thought that before!

I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay in the moment, on this beautiful night and enjoy these friendships that developed effortlessly over the years.

The bill came and we teased one of our friends about being reluctant to buy her first pair of reading glasses. It seemed like the rest of us around that dinner table had donned a pair.

She placed the bill far from her eyes and in the dim light said by mistake, "Gratitude included."

We laughed. But I thought she said what was on my mind.

Gratitude was in my heart and indeed included on this special night.


  1. There's nothing like friends!
    Very special!

  2. Oh, this one almost made me cry. When you called your neighbor from the hospital and he came...
    People are almost always amazing, tho sometimes we need a small chisel to find this out.
    So happy you had a fun night out.

  3. Terry, this is a lovely essay you wrote! There's something about the casseroles arriving that is so beautiful and heart-warming, that says that people care in such a loving way. I think that, even though I am an idiot in the kitchen, now when someone needs help, I will always send a casserole.

  4. I can so relate to this essay, having moved from state to state with children in tow.

    Our first week living in our first house in MO I had a similar situation. My then two year old fell 'on a stick' (?) and split open his forehead. Instead of hauling all the kids to the ER alone (Jeff was out of town) I showed up on the doorstep of our brand new neighbor, a middle aged woman whose one son was grown.

    She was a proper woman, house full of 'pretties' and yet she welcomed my scabby knee-ed, dirty from playing in the yard bunch into her home. I scurried off to the ER for the evening and came home to be greeted by smiling children who, to this day, remember every activity they did at 'Miss Linda's house' that afternoon

    Oh, be be open to the blessings of those around us, who are willing to help if we are only willing to ask. :)

    So happy you had such a special evening


  5. What a story! I'm so glad everything worked out--you must have been terrified!

  6. What a wonderful piece, Terry! Even though I know from your blog that your son is fine, my heart was still racing as I read about your trip to the hospital.

    The repeated imagery of the casserole reminds me of a line from Eat, Pray, Love in which, upon learning about a family who lost a child, Elizabeth Gilbert remarks: "What that family needs is grace." Her sister, a bit more practical, responds: "What that family needs is casseroles."