In Her Eyes

I saw her today.

She had on a pink Disney princess tiara that sat crooked over her straight, brown locks of hair. The tiara clashed perfectly with the blue, yellow and red Super Girl costume she insisted on wearing over blue heart pants and pink sneakers. The remnants of the strawberries she had eaten with breakfast were stained on the lower parts of her cheeks and when I tried to swap the tiara for a blue headband to better match her ensemble - we were going out in public after all- I got the look to end all looks from my very decisive four-year-old daughter.

That look. Her hands on her hips. The tapping of her impatient right foot. The way the sun was hitting her hazel eyes.  On mornings like that it was as though I was sent back in time. She was there which meant she was still here. Sure 99% of the time my daughters looked like the female replicas of their father, but in some special fleeting moments I saw my family.

When Madison placed the tiara on the coffee table to entertain her little sister with her best Lady Ga Ga dance moves, I managed to swap it for the blue headband that actually went with the costume. I use dance moves loosely here, folks.  Watching her I realized she would have benefited from keeping that big ol' tiara on her head. It may have helped weigh her down more. There was a lot of jerky movements going on there that needed to be anchored. Think Elaine Benes meets Charo. Once Little Ga Ga was done bopping  to"Bad Romance" she reached for the headband, seemingly forgetting all about her crown. It was moments like that when I felt like the most clever woman in all of the land.

The star-shaped sunglasses however quickly went on to take the tiara's place which I look at as the encore to her musical set entitled, "I'm going outside the house looking like this and there is not a damn thing you can do about it, Ma."

My father who was visiting at the time would chime in with his very New Yawk accent and say things like, "Let her wear whateva she wants. She's tree. When she's a teenaga, you can worry about what she's wearin'." He was of course right because my parents were always right. But.... can you blame me for trying? I am usually outsmarted, outwitted and altogether outdone by both my daughters, but I wouldn't be a very good mother if I didn't show up and at least compete. I mean if their own mother cannot teach them persistence, who can?  I could go and sacrifice a battle or two, but the war was mine to be had, my friends.

She surfaced again somewhere in between Ga Ga's "Telephone" and the Bee Gee's "You Should be Dancing, "Her movements weren't fluid the way they had been when I last had the honor of seeing her dance, but there was something in her eyes and her facial expressions that took my heart back thirteen years. I was the last one in the family that got to see her and consequently the last one to witness her dance. She was positively enchanting. I remember tears forming in my eyes while I watched her perform that night in that small dance studio on Monroe Avenue in River Edge, New Jersey. I somehow knew that what I was witnessing was special. I soaked it in and watched her intently with a huge smile on my face and an immense amount of pride in my heart. She was captivating. She was inspiring. She was my big sister and my best friend.

My Dad and I bravely set out with Toots and Trixy across two bridges because when Buddy asks you for a favor you don't say no. You don't say no to the Godfather.  Going from Long Island to New Jersey and back in one day with considerable traffic isn't most people's idea of relaxation, but for my Dad and I it was a happy venture and a time to really catch up. The baby slept on the way to Jersey while Madison happily sang the wrong lyrics to every song that came on the radio.

On the way back to Long Island one of my best friends called to share the news that she was pregnant. This of course sent me off the wrong exit from the George Washington Bridge. I live to hear news like this. The people in my life are my everything and so you bet your ass I went the wrong way. I would do it all over again to hear the excitement in her voice again. This rerouting however added an additional half an hour onto our ride, which resulted in a hungry baby, whiny preschooler and rather full bladder.

I felt like skipping back to the car after using the bathroom at the Mobile Station. Few things compared to that feeling of relief, but on that particular day I felt it twice. As I approached my once noisy car, I heard a faint melody.

"When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May. What can make me feel this way? My girl, talkin' bout my girl. My girl..."

"Again, Grandpa, again!" Madison pleaded with my Dad to continue while Chelsea was looking up at him and smiling from ear to ear with milk hugging the corners of her mouth. He had fed the baby and calmed both of them down with his charming vocals. It was a very nostalgic day for me indeed because while I looked at my two girls hanging on my father's every word I was brought right back to my childhood with my sisters. I always loved when my father sang. It made me feel safe. It was as though his voice could keep away all of the bad. It was pure happiness and in that moment I wanted to blanket myself in it. Once again, there was something in Madison's eyes that mirrored my sister KariAnn. She was with us all the time.

Chelsea started to coo and make noises at my father which I can only interpret as her asking for an encore. Madison must have agreed with my assessment because she patted Chelsea on the head and said in the high-pitched voice she used to talk to her, "Do you want Grandpa to sing again, Chels? You do?" This stirred a belly laugh from my father. Moments like that I know they are both here.

Writing about my mother became natural and altogether, therapeutic. I could keep her alive and enjoy her through my writing, but my sister was different.

I never found it easy writing about my sister. Every time I sat down to pen something in her honor my fingers became clumsy and my heart- heavy.  My sister's passing was untimely and altogether- unfair. Sure it was unfair to everyone in her life, but I spent so much time thinking of what we were missing not having her here that I didn't take enough time to realize what she lost. She should be here to enjoy this crazy world and should be raising a family of her own, with her husband who would have done anything for her. She should be enjoying the summer like she always did - with her feet in the ocean. She should be able to pick up and hug her nieces and teach Madison how to dance with the best of them.

It's hard to depict someone very important to you to people equally important to you.....when you know those people will never meet. My husband and daughters never got to see her laugh, smile, tease or care for people from the bottom of her generous and kind heart, and they never will. At least not here- not during this life. I met Mike 7 months after Kari passed away and I always believed she had sent him to me. Very catholic schoolgirl of me, I know. The way I see it though is as you grow older in this world, you have two choices. To believe or not to believe. Faith is in all its ambiguity - haunting. Faith is not only haunting, but my friends, it is also disarming. These two miracles disarm me with their charm every single day. I write this with one free hand as I bounce my youngest on my lap. Much like my two little naughty nuggets,  you too have disarmed me, my KariAnn. I see you. I feel you. I won't deny that you are here any longer.

In their eyes I see you and in your eyes I know you couldn't have dreamed up two more perfect souls to join my family.





So this one is for you, big sis. I promise to allow Madison to wear what she wants - most of the time! Especially when the color pink is involved.


Honk, Honk, Beep, Beep,
Your little sister

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