My Soho apartment feels like one of those chic hotels in Northern Canada that are completely made of ice. As New York City buzzes on the verge of a blizzard, gusts of snow waft through my loft as I attempt to air out the smell of fresh paint.
Our upstairs neighbor flooded our building two weeks ago which is why our furniture is in storage and my apartment reeks of fresh paint. After a week’s renovations, my son and puppy and I could finally move back in, just in time for today’s storm. As the freeways are closing at 2:00 and our belongings are in storage in Parsipany, New Jersey, our make shift furniture is an air bed from Costco and layers upon layers of blankets, comforters, and coats. Crawling into bed last night was like sliding into a 7 layer bean dip or more elegant mille-feuilles cake.
My sister suggested we get a portable heater and I said we have one: our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Jetson. He was bred to keep kings warm in their drafty castles, so he is right at home warming us up in our downtown pad.
I asked my 11 year-old if he wanted to take refuge from the storm in my sister’s Upper West Side apartment, our aunt’s 5th Avenue manse or even his dad’s Upper East Side doorman building, but he said he preferred to rough it out in our freezing, unfurnished walk up. My son is resilient.
Several years ago the headmaster at his all boys school implored parents to fortify their children with the gift of the scraped knee. Let them get hurt. Let them experience that they can rebound. Don’t sheild them from life, because life happens. Fortify them with knowledge that they can rebuild from the inevitable bumps in even the most consciously paved road.
This has been quite a year for our guy. Three weeks after his 10th birthday, my husband and I stunned him with the news that we were getting divorced.
Two weeks later, we discovered that my mom, his only grandma, had stage four cancer. He lost his grandma and his intact family within three months.
My son forced me to be resilient- not because I put myself together to be brave for him, but rather because he put himself together and challenged me to follow suit. While I was at my nadir with moving, mourning, and the hell of family court, my son told me that he was tired of seeing me cry. He was tired of seeing me in black, he was tired of hearing me sound like a victim.
The very next day at his parent teacher conference, his teacher shared that our 10 year-old guy’s grades, which had understandably dipped, had rebounded beautifully. He was once again an active class participant. Even his penmanship had improved. When I asked him how he was able to rebound, he simply said that he noticed himself slipping and didn’t like it. So he decided to change. He was only in 4th grade! No therapy, no coaches, no self help books, no medication. He just decided to change and did the work to make it happen.
That afternoon, I marched into an intimidating Soho boutique and bought myself cheery watermelon colored capris and a sweater with a big watermelon heart. It was an unmistakable sign to myself and my son that I would choose love instead of anger. I would choose gratitude over hurt. I would model his courage and strength and be me once more.
Now eight months later, a historic sized storm is coming. Our worldly possessions are in New Jersey and our bare apartment is cold. Who cares. 15 months after the inception of my journey, I understand that we are so much more than our things and our circumstances. We overcame the flood. We overcame the divorce. We overcame my mom’s death. And to quote Steven Sondheim, we’re still here.
Every day I feel myself growing stronger. Not from Pilates or free weights reps, but from the reps of life.
I don’t know how my son came to be so wise so young, but I admire him. I am grateful to him. I am present to how lucky I am to have his as my partner in life, and my little boy, at least for the next few years. He is my wise little Yoda in a navy blazer and khakis. Together we will weather the storm.