Thursday, October 21, 2010


My friend Michelle reminded me that she wrote a column for me when my kids were born. She was working at The Post-Trib.

"I'm not sure if you ever saw it," she said. "You were a little busy."

I did see it though. I clipped it. I have it in a wooden box for them. Along with two unused diapers the size of a Post-It. Oh, and two knitted hats (from Hannah and Winona and Calla, Michelle's craftabulous daughters). Those hats keep a thumb warm, let me tell ya.

Here's the article. Michelle has won all sorts of awards for her column/editorial writing. To have such a writer writing about my two cookie faces? However crumbled up they were back then?

How lucky am I?

Lucky yo.

Taking the Time to Look at the Past and the Future
by Michelle Holmes
The Post-Tribune, Friday, Nov. 19, 2004

Nearly 94 years and a billion breaths separate Zahra and Amira from my grandmother.

In their Chicago hospitals, the twins' mother reminds her tiny babies to breathe, jostling the little girls when they drift off to sleep in warm incubators.

Sixty miles east at the assisted living home, my mother lovingly adjusts, for the thousandth time, the oxygen tube that offers another moment, another day, another week of life to her own mother.

And somewhere in the middle -- at the very beginning of two lives, and at the very end of another -- I am offered entry.

* * *

In the neonatal intensive care unit, the first thing we do is wash our hands.

Three minutes at the sink, scrub to the elbows, rinse from the top down.

When you weigh less than 2 pounds, a germ is no small enemy.

Purses and backpacks, coats and cell phones are piled in a heap as we step into the nursery.

A sign warns us to tread lightly. "Shh, we're growing."

I do not speak at all, following Amira's parents through the dim room.

My eyes scan for other small lives, but mostly I see tubes and wires.

We'll visit just one baby here. Then the trip across Chicago for another badge and clearance to a second, brighter unit, where parents dare to hope aloud.

Once cradled together in the pre-birth darkness, Zahra and Amira do not know how many miles stand between them now.

Inside their isolettes, each fights her own epic battle.

On this day, almost before they look at their daughter, Amira's parents glance at the computer that hangs above her, where flashing numbers spell out her hold on life.

Briefly, their eyes meet, then turn with pleasure to the tiny form in swaddling clothes that they have grown to love so fiercely.

Today is good.

We can reach inside and hold the tiny hand in ours.

We can exhale.

* * *

Lunch is over at the Sterling House. A lady in a handmade sweater dozes in the lobby. In the dining room, kitchen workers gossip. The halls are quiet.

My girls and I tiptoe to my grandmother's door and peek inside. Eyes closed, she rocks in her easy chair.

Until she turned 90, I rarely saw her sitting.

At 60, she worked two jobs; at 70, she tarred her own roof; at 80, she raked leaves and scrubbed floors; at 85, she chased my babies across summer afternoons.

Today, her heart offers oxygen to live, but not quite enough to move.

So our visiting is different.

At the nursery, we look to the future. Here we listen to the past.

Stories of her father, on a Halloween, with grass skirt and ringed nose, traveling by bus across New Jersey with his famous lemon cake.

Of her uncles, and their "Christman Flying Circus" offering airborne thrills across the Eastern seaboard.

And of the chocolate molasses pancakes her mother, on her deathbed, requested for her mourners.

On this day we can forget the tubes and pills. This day she is ringingly alive, and taken in by the wonder of it.

"I've really lived a couple of hundred years," she says, her eyes shining.

And it seems true.

It is a good day.

And we can exhale.


  1. well Liz, thank you for your kind words. It is an honor to see these gorgeous little girls grow and to be your Mommy friend.

  2. I think of you as more than a "mommy friend." Always have.

    Can we still be in touch, or will it be too awkward for you now that I've disclosed my true feelings?