God I love this woman. Who couldn’t? Look at her! She’s gorgeous. She doesn’t even look like this anymore. She has cougar hair. Seriously. Corrine cut her hair yesterday into this fantastically sexy short number, and I swear that she’s one of the only women I know who looks thinner with sexy short hair. I’ve been thinking about cutting mine off in act of solidarity with her, but I am afraid I’d look like a fuzzy pumpkin.

It’s her birthday today. The infamous AM is turning… Gotcha. No revealing her age. Try to guess… You’re wrong.

As I was running this morning I was thinking about how she taught me to run. And when we run, she teaches me about life. I cry EVERY time I think about my favorite runs with her. There are a few distinct ones, some that I’ve shared about before, but many that are so private, I only sometimes have the courage to tell her how much they meant to me. But she knows. And I love that about her.

Then I was thinking about what defines her. Well, I’ve been writing a lot of college essays lately and they like you to do a lot of self-defining. What defines me? Who the hell knows. What defines her? She is undefinable. I am not being kitchsy. This is really true. Here are the thoughts that lead me to this conclusion.

She has never let being a woman define her. She doesn’t look like it, but she grew up in an era where women were not even looking through a glass ceiling. She was a hippie, she was gorgeous, she played softball, she drank beer, she loved all the wrong men, and she kicked ass at the office. She was professional and a hard ass and she didn’t really let what people thought get to her. Her father, her co-workers, her friends, herself. She just took each day as an opportunity to give it everything she had. If she didn’t, she started over. She still does this every day and she expects you to do the same. She doesn’t fall to pieces or get depressed, she cries at Hallmark commercials and she runs marathons. She is a feminist in the most beautiful definition of the word. She is totally comfortable with herself and her gender in whatever way it expresses itself, and you better respect her for it, or she’ll make you. But probably not with her fist, she doesn’t believe in hitting idiots.

She has never let her work define her. This is a big deal, because she is a company lady. She worked for the same company for over 30 years in total. When she went for her interview at 19 they told her they only had a position that men traditionally held (see above paragraph), she said, “Fine.” Did it, better than her co-workers and made it look sexy. Years later, representing the company to those people, she would remind them that despite her current management status she had, in fact, been one of them. She changed jobs within the company every few years, to keep it fresh, and she never took a day of sick leave. To reward her, at the end of her career she got a string of pearls. I think she should have gotten majority share of some stock, but they didn’t ask me. I like that after she retired they kept calling her to come back. She finally had to go work for another company so that they would leave her alone.

She has never let marriage define her. I’d heard the story before, but she recently reminded me of the time she was married to a man named Linsey. It was annulled. To celebrate she and Emily (who is like an Aunt, but more than an Aunt) took a trip to Mexico, where they promptly got hit on by every man in the area. This was not because she didn’t respect the sacristy of marriage, this was because she knew that she couldn’t let the stigma define her, and she needed to prove it to herself. She always says, you can’t make a bad decision, just make a decision, if it doesn’t turn out, make another one and move on. After Linsey, she didn’t give up on love. One time, when my heart was broken and I was telling her that I was afraid I’d given up on my best chance at love, she told me about a time she took a big risk. She ended up in an apartment alone with a mattress on the floor, a telephone and a broken heart. She told me to never give up on love, and to let myself cry it out, and then to get up and move on, and to never doubt that I was truly loved. After over 20 years of marriage to UK, I’d say she won. They are a true partnership, best friends, and brutally honest. She still takes trips with Emily. One to Vegas where she called home and told UK that she’d spent an inordinate amount of money on glasses, he pictures crystal… they were instead this fantastic pair of green square shaped EYE glasses, that remain my favorite pair that she wears.

She has never let propriety define her. I went to the beach with the YaYas one time. AM&UK’s YaYa’s are their friends from college. They didn’t go to college together, but they are linked through the Schmidt family. Frank is UK’s bestie and Maggie his sister is one of AM’s. So at the beach the HITWG (aka YaYas) tells me about how they used to pre-game, put on wigs, make up names and go out as their other identity. When we used to watch Mad About You or Dharma and Grace or whatever that show was, we used to fantasize about going on a cruise and making up a different story about us to tell every person we encountered. When I was 15 I was in desperate need of a mother. She and UK had been married 5 years, they were living the good life in Houston with Harry, dual income, no kids, planning trips and kicking ass. They came where I was, and trusted me when I told them some day I would tell them why, but in that moment, it felt like “home” as it is normally defined was not an option for me. It took me over ten years to get the confidence to tell them some of my reasons. They never asked. They just made a place for me. I hid phone bills, wrecked cars, lied, threw parties, went into the negative, got kicked out of hotels, needed lots of bailing out. None of which they signed up for. All of which they gave freely, they also have lectures as freely as I gave tearful apologies. I had spent my life aching for some unconditionality, stability and assurance. Her name was Aunt, but she is undoubtedly a mother. She has honored and helped me love my mother EVERY step of the way, and she has taught me, that life is complex, and definitions unnecessary, the human heart hold plenty of room for the mother who bore you and the mother who raised you, and both are invaluable. This is perhaps one of the most significant lessons she and UK have offered me.

She has never let trial define her. She has led a blessed life. Mostly good, some bad. For every mile on the road, you spend two in the ditch, making the road that much lovelier. During a trial she was experiencing when I was in high school, she had a difficult moment right before we were going to see my grandmother. She said pointedly to me, DO NOT TELL YOUR GRANDMOTHER ABOUT THIS. In many ways I looked at this moment and I marveled at her strength, she was such a martyr, suffering alone. I missed the point completely. She knew it was a moment, a ditch time on what was a lovely road. She tells me a lot to have a good cry and move on. She is a woman of her word. In the face of what I consider one of the scariest things an individual could face, the promise of pain and a lot of unknown, she has been vulnerable, courageous, generous, thoughtful, honest and optimistic. This is not an act, it is simply how she chooses to be. It is a decision that she makes, not an easy one, but one that she accomplishes every time. And I love it.

It’s her day. This is her year. One of the hardest things in my life is being so far away from her, not because she needs me, but because I adore her, and being with her is one of my favorite things in the world. I am one of many, many people who feel this way. She told me this morning that this is going to be a fantastic year. Last year was pretty great, but I know that she’s right. In part, because if she has decided it, then none us of really have much of a choice, she is the boss. And she has no problem being defined as such.


2 thoughts on “Undefinable

  1. this is a wonderful letter of love you have written about Marla. While I have not met her or Kenny (I am dating Kenny’s brother Stephen) I feel like I really gotten to know her from your thoughtful and beutiful letter you wrote.

    Gloria Fraticelli Stone

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