This is now: we stand together with the help of our wonderful families, but our surroundings and how we fill our hours, doesn’t resemble in any way the lives we used to lead.   For some fleeting moments; I share a beer with my father before he gets on an airplane; our daughter laughs with her young cousins; or I stroll the streets of Södermalm under a warm golden sunset.  I gaze at stylish expecting Moms, Suri-cruise look-alikes, young lovers hand-in-hand, backpackers holding maps, long-legged beauties with peachy skin and bright smiles taking pictures with their friends and sipping wine.  The music coming through my headphones brings the promise of Summer.  And things almost seem fabulous again.  

Most of the time these days, I’m walking down a long train platform to find some space in the first car for the stroller; I’m fighting bicycles and other strollers for the smoothest spot on the cobblestone street; I’m doing chores with one hand while trying to comfort the baby in my arms… I’m pacing an infinite hospital hallway under fluorescent lights, gazing at decay – half the patients in the hallway are unconscious and dwindling away.  This is now: the smell of alcohol, bags of blood, a myriad of different nurses with an array of sample-taking tools and syringes labeled with nefariously long words in a language I cannot understand.  One would think fewer nurses per patient would at least offer the comfort of a familiar face at regular intervals, a true caregiver in lieu of  “the one with the antibiotics” or “the one with the trombocytes”.   Our daughter has a fever, congestion, heavy breathing – more teeth peaking through.  Her cries are not piercing, but rather a long wail, like that of a young cetacean in distress.  My husband sleeps away the side effects.  This is what it was like for them, I think, knowing other people who had to contend with the love of their lives having a deadly disease.  My surroundings are a constant reminder that the treatment can be as aggressive as the disease.  Microscopic life forms that never occupied my thoughts before are now front and center.  I’m fighting many battles against invisible enemies that can threaten the two persons I love the most.  I know the battle that awaits me on the other side of this one pertains to paperwork, finances and the question of which country will allow our family to achieve some kind of normal again.  This is how I used to take on my battles: “I entered this territory myself, I brought upon some trouble in the process, it being my own doing, I will devise a strategy and easily defeat it like I solve a puzzle.”  Not this time.  The one thing that I have in this battle that I have always had is some invincible ally.  

That was then: gathered on the rooftop terrace in DUMBO with our newborn and our best friends sipping champagne, savoring designer cake and overlooking Lower Manhattan.  Gazing at Niagara Falls, Montauk lighthouse, and Shelter Island; visiting Cyril’s in Amagansett with my brother and his lovely leading lady Bibi; and strolling with the newborn down Michigan Avenue.  Before then, there was counting down to baby, reading up on the finest baby gear and the brainiest toys.  Our friends gathered around for barbecue and berry sangria by the pool to celebrate the Fourth of July, telling tales about the first years of their small wonders.   There was kayaking in Kailua; taking the teenage kids down water slides; and snorkeling with humuhumunukunukuapua’a in the clearest of waters.  There were Mai-Tais, tikki torches, ukuleles, Rum runners and pink-sand beaches.  Lobster rolls, Ernest Hemingway’s home, viewings at the Frick Collection, cocktails amongst marble statues for the Young Associates at The Met.  There was bike riding with my love along the Hudson River, and riding down the slopes at Okemo after fresh snow and before hot cocoa.  Back when his health was never going to be an issue, my husband and I climbed the Sugar Loaf, my favorite place on Earth.  We had caipirinhas at Sunset at Arpoador.   Before then, there was Stockholm fashion week with the reigning queen of all fabulousness, also known as Executive Director or Stockholm Fashion Week and now CEO of the The Kingdom of Awesome People, a.k.a. The King Collective.  There was watching The Magic Flute in London with the McCormicks. 

At one point, I was riding down from the very peak of Jakobshorn in Davos to a pot of fondue awaiting me at the bottom.  Before Bundchen had Brady, she had Leo, and a booth at PM, with Keri, the entourage and I.  There was 6pm on Stone Street with Kim, Yen, Christie and Tor.  Bondi beach with Kalina.  Southampton with Rafi, Pri, Eleanor: mellow mornings with amazing conversation, polo matches, tennis, and picking corn at the local market.   There was L’Absinthe: Madonna and Sting dancing to the tunes I was personally picking out and playing for them at a surprise party that Trudy was throwing in the Upper East Side quiet brasserie I called home.  There were location scouts in Vancouver and the NBR Awards at Tavern on the Green.  Spielberg and Jolie giving me hugs – telling me how much they love Brazil. 

There I was: delivering invitations personally to the home of Bacon & Sedgwick on CPW; helping Lois, Carol and Bob figure out how many tables were left and which studios would sit closest to the stage.  There was “Hi, I’m Tom” and firm handshake from the biggest movie star on the planet at the screening of Collateral in the HBO screening room.  Once upon a time, there was the Evian resort and the Alsacian vignobles avec Leo, Hubert et les enfants.  There was Festa Junina with Gabi and the Fernos in Rio.  There were all the fun soirees in New York with Maria, Erin, Clarissa, Josy, Joanna, Yone, Emilia, Bettina… memorable dinners in new restaurants, art galleries and jazzing lounges. 

There I was, floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea with The Gibsons, climbing Masada, contemplating the history of Jerusalem’s streets and olive gardens that have been around at least 4 times as long as Brazil has existed.   The memories we have made keep us alive through the hard times – we created all of those moments, we made them happen though the friendships we made and the places we traveled.  Whether we have one hour or one year between hospital visits, we will do as we have always done: create more memorable stories to be told.  There will be old friends to visit; new streets to turn onto; new foods to taste; and new sounds to share with our children.  We will teach our children to appreciate the beautiful things in life, from fine garments to film archiving; the written word; the performing arts; museums, concerts and cupcakes; road trips and helium balloons floating up to the sky. We will teach our children that we can be happy in spite of the circumstances.   There are many lenses through which one can look at the chasm of what it was like then, and what stares at us now from morning to midnight: some ironic, some melancholic, some sentimental.  Like in cinematography, the filter changes the scene, and the scene changes the script.  There are a thousand songs I could quote that somewhat define the transitions through the times from the day I left my parents’ house until now:  “Love Story” by Layo and Bushwacka; Lift me Up by Moby; Through Glass; Patience; Pain Lies on the Riverside. 

Like in cinema, the soundtrack sets the tone for what is to come.   There are the silver linings: I could have gone through the motions; gone to the gym; met friends at a bar; taken my daughter on a play date; left the little one with the sitter for a weekly date night with my husband. I could have checked my social networks, multiple times, in search for something worth talking about, some inspiring thought on Twitter or image on Pinterest.  Chances are I would have grown bitter later for never having spent enough time with my daughter within her first year of life.  I have worked incessantly from when I was seventeen until I turned thirty four, and I may have never taken time in between jobs to reflect upon anything, if life had not handed me this surprise.   Maybe what I long for now is a routine that offers something on the other spectrum of being scared and drifting.  Maybe my domestic messes make me smile because they are the only constant I have.  One day, I know I will have a safe harbor again, and be able to grow roots.  For now, there are family bonds that need to be mended; time I need to share with my immediate family alone; time to watch my daughter learn with every interaction; time to get to know relatives I may have never really understood; and to live in a city where the most accomplished scientists in the world receive their laurels.  

The irony lies is that maybe we didn’t cherish it more when life was mostly glamour.  Earlier on, I was always worried about immigration and wondering if I’d ever meet the love of my life.  When I didn’t have to worry about those anymore, there was silly marital bickering or wondering if I could someday become like Jacqui or Suki (so elegant, balanced, well cultured in every way).   That was then: all glitter.  Unpleasant daily chores, even unpleasant work tasks and dreadfully disgusting co-workers – like Jason at GDS– were merely a parenthesis in an otherwise riveting plot.  The Production Designer and the Casting Director of those life sequences had really delivered their award-winning performance.   What being fabulous means changes at least three times between your twenties and your forties – when you get older your idea of fun morphs into something more sophisticated (in my case, anything that is invite-only). It changes when you become a parent and your priorities change; and it changes again should anyone you love become ill.  Back then, I felt fabulous when the food was perfect, the wine was top-notch and free, the conversation surrounded films, media or art, and the company was not only pleasant, but also well dressed.  Now I feel fabulous when the two people I love most can smile at the same time; when there is time for a short walk outside and a bit of sunlight; when the rest of our family and friends can virtually spend some time with us and when I accomplish a lot of the cleaning – yes, cleaning! – in one day for everyone to stay as healthy as possible.  At the end of today, I feel fabulous.  I sit here (between hospital visits) knowing that, right this second, everything is fabulous.

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: May 14, 2013, 7:25 pm | 1 Comment »