This morning Facebook reminded me of something that I’d rather forget. One of those ‘remember when’ posts from four years ago popped onto my screen of a picture of my dog Lucy.
I adore Lucy. We adopted her as an adult and she immediately became my shadow. Before we got a second dog (the adorable Desi), I took her everywhere with me, including in the Jeep we had at the time, pictured above with its detachable doors securely on. But seeing this picture makes me think of the gorgeous Spring day when the doors and top were off, the day that Lucy jumped in the back and I for some reason thought it would be a good idea to have my twelve-year old daughter hold on to the other end of her leash from the front seat.
Why I am telling this story? A story where I am not proud of my decisions and how this particular ride unfolds? Well, I want to practice. My memoir is coming out in a few months and readers will be privy to many more intimate moments from my young life. Consider it the practice of putting myself out there.
As I slowed down for a stop light, one block away from the dog groomers where we were headed, Emma screamed and I felt a terrible thump behind my back left tire. Had Lucy fallen? Or jumped out after a squirrel or something? Please tell me that noise wasn’t her; I thought I might puke as I put the Jeep in park. Cars in all directions stopped at the busy intersection as I jumped down from the Jeep and ran to Lucy. I couldn’t believe how far away from the car she was. She looked up at me, some blood on the concrete – coming from where, I had no idea. She tried to pull herself up but failed. I sat down in the middle of the road, unsure what to do, as my daughter joined me.
We huddled around Lucy and when I glanced up, I saw strangers approaching with creased brows and judgement smeared all over their faces. They looked at my doorless Jeep and back at my injured Lucy. Maybe they snickered at each other or maybe I imagined it. I wanted to both scream at them to go away and cry that I didn’t mean to do it. I did neither. I didn’t cry until my daughter told me that she was sorry she had let go of the leash. Can you imagine? She thought it was her fault.
A man came up and asked if he could help and when I nodded yes, my hero lifted Lucy gently up into the back of my Jeep and told me, “These dogs are tougher than you think.” And Lucy was ok, just some stitches but no broken bones. When I think about it now, instead of beating myself up about what a reckless moron I was, I try to remember the kindness of strangers. I remember the unconditional love of animals. I remember the mercy extended that prevents me from getting what I so clearly deserve. I remember that in sharing our stuff we feel more connected.
So maybe someday I’ll tell you the story of how I considered using dog food as a reward in potty training my daughter.
I love to read – always have – and especially memoirs. Years ago I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and for the first time wondered if I could ever write about my family. I was not a writer – I was a reader, I was a restaurateur – yet for over a decade that remained a pulsing thought that was buried beneath the constant activity of feeding my babies and my customers.
This summer I read Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a great book, you should read it!) which was especially poignant knowing that the author, a woman around my age, had died of cancer. But then, of course, that’s the ending for us all, isn’t it? And because of that I’m trying to be brave and get busy doing what is being whispered from inside. One of these things is to publish my memoir.
(With my dad John Krider and my sisters Bethie and Nikki)
It was hard to write. Revisiting painful memories alone was difficult; shaping it all into a cohesive narrative was another thing entirely. I cut two-thirds of what I considered at the time my final draft and started over. I shared my new draft with my mom and my sisters and they told me they were proud of me, an unbelievable gift. Why do I want to make public experiences that were sad or embarrassing and that I hardly ever talk out loud about? I want to bear witness to my own life and to use my experiences and words in the same way that others have done for me. So I decided to put Float Again out into the world.
I’m excited to partner with Flint Hills Publishing for the release of Float On. We are striving for a publication date of December 1st, which is World AIDS Day, in remembrance of my dad. I’ll share more information about the launch event and other happenings as they develop. I look forward to going on this ride with you!
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I have seen most (maybe all) episodes of Law & Order, SVU seasons included, so I am well aware of the risks of letting a stranger in your door. As a teenager I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which only graphically reinforced the lessons received in grade school about the perils of stranger danger. With my own daughters, we established a word that any person going to them on my behalf would have to know before they would leave with them (after reading a horrifying article on human trafficking). I get it. And yet.
One of these daughters asked me if a teenage boy she met had briefly in Santa Fe and connected with on social media could come for a visit and stay in our house. This boy lives out-of-state and not only have I never met him, I don’t know anyone who knows him or his family. My immediate reaction was NO WAY! But something small knocked inside me trying to get my attention – something about wanting to live a bigger, more expansive life. Something about not being afraid of the boogie man always crouching behind a dark corner. Something about being open and creating space for others, even the stranger.
So we said yes. My husband Robert came home from a business trip to be here and we talked to the boy’s mom on the phone a few times. We ate together and I made him soufflé because not only has he never been to Kansas, but no one in his entire extended family has ever been. I told him to think of our state from now on as the place of tornadoes, Dorothy and soufflés, but I suspect he will think of it as the home of the lovely Emma.
I have to agree with a quote attributed to Shirley MacLaine, “Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
Here’s to a summer of more friends. Love, Molly
I was irritated that our plan was not unfolding as I had wanted it to. I was to fly back to Kansas to be with our older daughter while Robert was to fly to Palm Springs to spend a few days with our youngest; a complicated divide and conquer scenario dependent on flying stand-by. The new plan involved me driving in Los Angeles traffic to get to the beach and I wasn’t excited about that, in fact I was having to manage my anxiety about the whole notion. Instead of festering in my irritation – come on, I get to spend the day at the beach and almost a week in California – I tried redirect my driving neurosis. And since I was going to be in Palm Springs for several more days than I had planned, I decided to call about this sign I had seen at the pool.
So I called and it turns out Toby and his human live right next door to the condo Robert and I are remodeling. Toby – sweet, cute and appreciative of getting outside. Toby’s human – an older man with health conditions that prevent him from getting out. I sat with and talked with my neighbor for over thirty minutes when I realized I had come to walk Toby; I instantly bonded with them both. He gave me tips on a toll road to take to the beach, we chatted about books and he told me about living in Palm Springs for the past twenty years. I visited my new friends next door twice daily, laughing to myself that I was initially irritated to have my plans changed.
And the trip to the beach? The toll road was worth every penny and the day worth any amount of worry about the drive. I’m reminded to hold plans loosely and to be on the lookout for new friends everywhere. Hope your summer is exceeding your expectations. Love, Molly
Driving a Jeep with no top in the desert this week with my youngest daughter and her friend has reminded me of something that Cheryl Strayed taught in the workshop I was lucky enough to attend in Patmos, Greece – The power of holding two opposing truths in one hand. It’s hot here in Palm Springs, my friends. I finished hiking this morning at 9am and it was 95 degrees, with a high of 117 projected. In the Jeep I blast the AC – it’s got a serious blower – and with the forced air hitting me and the sun beating down, I feel hot and cold at the very same time. I can’t tell where one ends and one begins; they seem to simultaneously exist.
Which has me thinking about other opposing truths. I’ve just completed a new draft for my memoir and I feel finished and only just begun. Painful times remembered are isolating and connecting. Dancing ballet is highly restrictive and freedom-giving. Being on the trail I disappear and like those who pile rocks, want to find my way home.
I’m taking these opposing truths and holding them as jewels in my palm, wrapping my fingers around them in appreciation. I hope this summer finds you both hot and cold, too.
I’m working on a collaboration with Lawrence artist Kent Smith that is taking shape as a interactive journal/activity-book for caregivers. It’s a work in progress that I’m really excited about, so I’m attaching a short piece I wrote with it in mind.
I hope you are well and that you have moments like I did when I took this photo outside of Palm Springs, California – when you feel cradled and wholly immersed in the beauty around you.
The Biggest Goodbye
My friend Sandy was forty-six when she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that was too advanced to be treated. The speed of her decline took my breath away. I saw her a handful of times in the month between her diagnosis and her death and we laughed, reminisced about our days of working together in the restaurant business and talked about our mutual love of writing. I clung to every moment I had with her; they felt so precious. I’ll never forget the moment when I realized I would likely be making the last visit to see her. I now had the opportunity to say goodbye and I didn’t want to blow it like I had with my dad over twenty years ago. The biggest goodbye may be the most important one. I rehearsed what I wanted to say to her in my head in the car ride over: thank you for being such a good friend, I will continue to love those you love, no one who met you could possibly forget you, I love you and goodbye, my friend. Climbing into her bed the day before she died and whispering those words into her ear as she squeezed my hand was one of the most special moments in my life.
This is hard stuff, this saying goodbye. This part that goes against every fiber of our desires. We don’t want to say goodbye and can easily let it go without being said, even when we have the chance. Perhaps we think that it would upset our loved one, as if they don’t understand that they are dying. Wanting to soothe and comfort ourselves, as well as our loved one, is tangled up with not wanting to let go, much less say goodbye. We can convince ourselves that it doesn’t need to be said. Sudden deaths – whether they are the results of accidents, suicides, or acute medical situations – remind us otherwise. In those cases we often long to be able to have had the opportunity to say the important stuff. I had many years to prepare for my dad’s death but, due to immaturity or entrenched family patterns, I failed to say out loud some things that I wished I had. Things like – You didn’t say it, but I know you love me. I didn’t say it enough, but I love you. I’m sorry if you felt alone during this past year. I’m grateful I got to be closer to you this past year. I will try to keep your creative spirit alive. Thank you.
Writing these words make me emotional and he’s been gone for decades. I can’t go back and say these things but even writing them is healing. It’s never too late to reflect on what you would have done differently and to use that insight to move forward more deliberately. What I failed to say to my dad helped bring me to a place where I planned my words to Sandy. The difficulty in coming to terms with the goodbye can be rewarded by the intimacy of a moment with your loved one, a moment that can be marked by a depth that is often lacking in our everyday lives. What an opportunity if we can open ourselves up to it.