Monday, September 20, 2010

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar...

My mom is on the far right. Her sister is on the left and their best friend Gloria stands between them. This was taken in 1947.

Cut to September 2010.

"Did you ever think you would see me walk this slowly, Cand?"

I wonder why she asked. I mean, was it truly all over my face? Was it that obvious that I was dismayed to see my mother, who was never really active even when young, but now inching herself through the parking lot on our way to breakfast, an 85-year-old in lavender orthopedic shoes? I had to think quickly. Unfortunately, I had a serious night of around-the-pool-cocktails the evening before and I think I left my brain, poker face and my editor in the car.

"Well, yeah, Ma. I thought I'd see it - but not for a few years. It's just too soon. You know, I always thought well, you'd lose it eventually."

She shot me such a look. Thank God at 5'2" I tower over her.

"Yeah, well me too. The only thing that makes it semi-ok about this whole dang getting old stuff is that I get the blue thing."

"What do you mean, getting old?! You've arrived, Ma! Ha ha"

And what blue thing? Wait just a second. I mean, I am fine WITHOUT a whole lot of information about what's gonna happen to me about the time when I can't remember where I put my car keys but I guarantee you I do not want to even KNOW what the hell turns blue. And then I remember. She means the handicap parking placard. Whew.

We have a great brunch with a few of my friends, all of us in sunglasses while indoors holding our heads listening to the hostess sing "The Trolley Song" so we all don't riot as we wait endlessly for our late arriving food. Does she have to sing so loudly, I wonder out loud, but not too, cuz my head hurts.

I look over at my legally-a-midget-in-30-states mother to see if she's having a good time and she whispers to me, "She has a great voice, but why is she wearing those Phil Silvers glasses. They do nothing for her." I glance down at her shoes and she raises an eyebrow...

When brunch is finished I take Mom to her sister's house. My aunt is recuperating from a hip replacement, something my Mom breezed through last year - standing and walking 30 minutes after she woke from surgery. Mom prepares me that my aunt is having a lot of trouble and is in some pain and she is going over to keep her company. When we arrive I see my other aunt's car in the driveway. The Three Widows of Eastwick. I steel myself. Mom looks over at me and says, "you don't have to stay."

"Thank you, Ma."

"I was being rhetorical."

"Wrong word."

She shoots me another look. If she weren't such a pacifist I'm sure I'd have some pretty bruised shins by now. But I get her drift. I'm required to stay and answer questions. I get to the front door and Mom orders me to just open it and walk on in. Having been bitten by a large Saint Bernard in my aunt's house when I was seven I get a little nervous until I remember that he'd be in Guinness Book Of World Records if he were still alive. Do you think they got another beast locked up in there somewhere?


"Who's Cujo, Cand? Stop it! Go in. Go in."

I'm thinking my aunt must be in pretty bad shape if my Mom is so anxious and I open the door. I hear my aunt Teresa call out cheerily and as always, LOUDLY - "who the heck is at my door!?" And I see a figure in an open-front wheel chair scooting herself with her heels across the room in soft foam curlers and a muu muu to see who darkened her doorstep. This 90-year-old-breast-cancer-survivor is all smiles and in the picture of health. She looks great and is so peppy. I look at my Mom like what were you talking about and Mom nods at me and whispers, "See?"

I think, my God, am I gonna be this nuts at 85, too?

At the kitchen counter is my Aunt Geri, their sister-in-law, also an octogenarian who calls out her welcome. I hug and kiss them all and the questions start at such a pace that I instinctively take a step forward to find my light. I have not seen my aunts in over 5 years but I'm shocked at how much they know about me. Their questions are all out of concern and incredulity rather than nosiness.

"How did you survive that?" "Do you pray?" "Is there anyone to help you?" "How are you managing to do it all?" "Are you ever afraid?" "Lonely?"

Then my aunt Geri says, "Candi I am so proud of you and your independence and your self-reliance. I know it hasn't been easy, and you are a credit to being a woman. You are doing it all with such grace." To which my Aunt Teresa adds, "Honey, it's a man's world and any bit of success that you have - we ALL know you earned." And finally my mother added, "Look how you've shown your daughter what it means to do it on your own..."

And I can't speak. And for an uncomfortable heartbeat there is silence. Blood is thicker than water and history is glue that binds you together. I think of each of these women - each burying young husbands, one burying a child, another bankrupt, another surviving breast cancer twice, never remarrying, matriarchal warriors raising families through poverty, instilling pride and a deep sense of responsibility in me, my siblings and all my cousins. I don't believe in coincidences and so it was no surprise to me that this moment occurred on this day, the 26th anniversary of my father's death.

Thousands and thousands of women before us have fought for their rights, their families, the right to vote, wages and everything else that you and I take for granted. And so did these three women before me and I never thought about it until that moment.

The lives we women lead begin with our mothers and mother figures. And I thought about what was going on in my life - and the issues I was facing that seemed so insurmountable in the car a few moments before. Then looked out at my audience, consisting of wrinkles interrupted by grins passing nods and winks between them, as if I had just entered the club, and I knew that they understood. Really got it. I will never forget this moment, having the three of them together, supporting me and praising me and I secretly rejoiced and took it all in.
Then my heart stopped.

"Oh God, does this mean I am going to have to wear faux plastic lavender Birkenstocks????!!!

Oh yes I am wise, But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price, But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible
I am woman

You know you love me - Candi

Saturday, September 04, 2010


I came home late last night tired after a long day of errands in the heat. California heat is not that bad, you know because it's a dry heat.

OK! Would you please shoot me in the head...I got news for you, heat is heat. And yesterday was hot and it was the beginning of Labor Day weekend and traffic was a bear. No matter how low I turned the AC in the car it's still black and I still felt like I was in a terrarium. Remember those? And Chia Pets? And Sea Monkeys? And suction cups to make your boobs grow? Did I lose you there?

On my very last nerve I pulled into my driveway that leads up to my beautiful home and there it was.


A huge sign was planted in my lawn, announcing to the whole world that I am moving. Eventually. (see earlier post) I was furious. Who would do such a thing? Who gave the sign person permission to do this? Who said I wanted to sell my house? Oh wait, I did. And again, if I looked at my immediate reaction of anger it thinly veiled my real emotions. Sadness and fear.

I always knew this day was coming. I had planned for my exit even as I was making my entrance into our little neighborhood. I had a plan. I moved here because of the fantastic schools. Bambi went to these fantastic schools - and got into amazing universities because of her education (and talent and drive!). But she is done and it is time for me to move on. That was also part of the plan - to return to the care and feeding of me. It is time I stepped up. Forward. Soaring. Leaping. Into the unknown. No net. Just wits.

But the sign affected me in a way I wasn't prepared for. I had a full on night terror. The kind that have you moving in slow motion as the 'thing' chases you. I was trying to scream like Nicole Kidman in "The Others" - this is my house! Get out! Get out! - but no sound would come out. And then the 'thing' caught me - and it was me.

(No more vodka before beddy-bye time for Ms. Milo.)

My little inner child shouted, I can't have a sign up before I know exactly what is going to happen to me next! I need, I thrive on directions. Clear lines. Black and white. No grey. And my ties to this home that I painstakingly rebuilt from the foundation up - are strong. I love my house. I love being here. I love what it feels like. I know where everything is. But honestly it is not the same without Bambi. There are many rooms I don't even go into - and not just because they look like a thrift shop exploded in them - it's that I have no need to. The realization that I was maintaining a home for a lifestyle I no longer have, made me feel incredibly sad but also pointed out that the original plan (the one I came up with while on my knees talking with God, during the initial stages of my divorce 13 years ago...) is the right one: when she graduates, sell.

I listed my house. I'd say that is pretty damn concrete. I came up with a price and signed the papers. We just never discussed the sign. So, while my agent was showing and showing and people were tramping in and clopping out - and I was eating frozen yogurt down the street killing time - and chanting my mantra; "Run Forrest Run, Sell Susan Sell, Buy People Buy" it didn't really sink in. I actually thought, "hey, maybe we're not going to do a sign..." Then I saw the sign. My reality check just bounced. Bambi is gone and I am selling my house.

I cried.

What do I do now? Where do I go? A year ago around this time, before the November To Remember it was to New York. I was dating someone exclusively (I was dating exclusively... him, not so much...) who lived in New York and I was in love. Bambi had gotten into Boston U, Emerson, New York University and Syracuse. So it was a natural that we should move ahead with our plans to be one big happy East Coast/NYC family.

Today? Well, still Tucci-less I don't know if NY is the place for me. But I gotta tell you, it beckons me. It is my heartbeat. It has always felt like home. It is where I feel alive and talented and beautiful and never in a hurry because everyone is moving as fast as I and talking as fast as I... Just typing this makes me pause. If this is the place for me, where I can most be me again and yet I cannot pull the trigger, it must be that I am afraid. And if you know anything about me by now, you know that I am now pulling on my HAZMAT suit because I am walking directly into this fire! And getting over this fear!

Even Liza and Frank challenge me; "...if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere..." Oh you didn't know that song was written especially for me? Huh. Sure, I giggle but my logical mind freezes. Do I know enough people? Can I make a living doing what I love? Who will kill the spiders?

And then I realized that I am coping with these same things now - I live alone. Work is tough here, too. And I kill the damn spiders. Only I do this in a giant house with a lot of doors that have a lot of stuff I don't need behind them...

I wavered about selling when Bambi decided on a college in California. I know, I know. Could you die? After all that. She is here. I thought to myself...Do I stay here and be...ok, be what Candi? What are you gonna be? What can I be to someone who is well on her way and living her life? That's silly. I need to do the same. I need to jump. Bambi and I had a conversation about my downsizing and moving. And the night before I moved her into her dorm - and on the hottest day on record for that day in 110 years I kid you not - we walked through the house thanking it for all that it had done for us. Blessing it for keeping us safe and warm and cool and close to her friends and great schools. And then she said good-bye. To us both.

I did, too. And then I thought...hmm maybe I'll stay so that when she comes home she'll see I've kept a shrine to her... and then the nice doctor puts the crazy Candi on little pink pills to help her get a life...the SIGN, damn it! There it sits reminding me to keep my word. Eyes on the prize.

Here I am doing all this training and hard work to get myself back into shape for the next phase wherever life and my God with his wicked sense of humor takes me next. Musical Theater workshops. Private acting coaching. Performing in "Cabaret" with Kris Kardashian-Jenner. Memorizing monologues. Learning songs and putting them in a book. Putting my butt on the line every single day - being as brave as any person I know and suddenly I waffle about the one thing that has the power to set me free...

I think I was in my "oh this is gonna happen eventually" mode if truth be told. And never really thought I would have to box everything up and find a new place to live. But the sign tells me every time I see it, that I have to do just that.

I decided today when I went out to get the paper that I would look at this as my own sign that things are going according to plan. And that I have never been let down. That things happen for a reason, for the best. That I should expect the best. I have pared down my life to include only the things and people that make my heart sing. And I will gladly hand over the keys to my home to someone else to love and cherish.

I am replacing my sadness and fear with excitement for all that life is going to bring. And I have decided to concentrate on that hope, that expectant joy, that grey. That Tucci. I know it is out there. I have never known anyone to find all that they were seeking inside their home, alone. Unless they were wearing a nun's habit - and then usually the bar was set fairly low...

So look out...wherever...cause I'm coming. And wherever I go, there I freaking am. Do I think it'll be New York? Funny you should ask that. Today my neighbor asked me where I was going to move - and I said I wasn't sure. She looked at me and said..."Maybe you'll move back to New York. You're from New York, right?"

I take that as a sign.

You know you love me, Candi