Author: Jenna Serignese

Scars

Later this month, my son turns 8 years old.  The world is his for the taking.  He tells me that he does not plan to get a job when he is a grown up as he is going to be a professional baseball player, who gets to play instead of work.  He is constantly laughing, playing with his hair, negotiating, being goofy.  He is a fantastic first child, making it almost seem possible to reproduce enough to populate a basketball team, if only some higher power could promise four more just like him. Most of the time, I stay in the present, focused on my incredibly blessed life.  But as he approaches third grade, all in, there are times when my defenses are down, after I marvel at his confidence and joie de vivre, when I think about the 8 year old girl I once was. Of course, elementary school memories from over three decades ago are hardly reliable.  I have fuzzy but warm recall of great friends, exciting class plays, independence, the time I tried to bring a pet mouse to school in the pocket of my bomber jacket.  But there are other recollections as well. When I was 8 years old, my world turned on its head.  Before I entered third grade, my father was kind enough to lie to us when explaining that my parents’ decision...

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Don’t think about it. Just get through it.

About a month ago, I was at the gym. A small group of us was rotating through a circuit of six new exercises in the weight room. When it was my turn on the bench press, the bench was at a different angle, completely changing the exercise – making it feel so much heavier than it did the week before. As I pushed through the reps, the trainer spotting me as I struggled said, “Don’t think about it. Just get through it.” It is not natural for me to find myself at the gym. While now it is just part of my weekly routine, I have never been a talented athlete. But over the years I have recognized the need to keep my body healthy. While none of us knows what the future will bring, when I think about the sedentary life my mother once led, along with her poor eating habits, I know I want to do things differently. So I exercise, in the morning, the time that works best for me. I am home before my children even get out of bed. But they know that I go to my class, working to keep myself healthy and strong. But here’s the thing about the gym. There is no finish line, no medal to collect, no post-race celebration. Once I master an exercise, or sometimes, just get used...

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This is What the Truth Looks Like: My Broken Heart

I have made peace, mostly, with the person my mother has become. I am no longer overwhelmed with the daunting process of finding her an appropriate nursing home or anxiously terrified about the transition of moving her from California to Connecticut, a decision made without her input. Over the course of the last two years, we have found our new rhythm, for as long as it lasts. As strange as it is to somehow be in the role of adult to this childish, gentle, confused version of her, we make the best of the cards we have been dealt....

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Worst Kept Secret

True story:  I am no athlete.  In elementary school, I wanted the bus to break down so that I did not have to go to gym. (Once it even did – oh, the guilt!)  In middle school, I dreaded volleyball because I was the one who could not serve the ball over the net.  As I see now with my own children, team sports can bring a great sense of confidence and accomplishment.  But for me, all those years ago, I found little joy in athletics. It is kind of hard for me to admit, but in my first semester of high school, and for one semester only… I was a cheerleader. It is true.  To this day, I cannot recall what motivated me to do so.  My school did not value its cheerleaders.  I was not particularly good at it.  I had no knowledge about football.  I do, however, have the photo that has brought endless delight to my family, memorializing my brief, pretty forgettable experience as part of a squad. While the Payless saddle shoes have long been retired, I have come to a startling conclusion:  the cheerleader remains. For almost eight years, I have been my family’s cheerleader. Before the time my children could even understand, through the ages and stages, I was talking up eating, bathing, the potty.  I try to put a positive spin...

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Mastering the Visit

I am no expert on nursing homes. But after much trial and error over the last year and a half, I have discovered that, as with many parts of parenting, the key to a successful visit is often based in the preparation. Here are some things that I have found helpful when bringing small children to a nursing home. Talk it up. I talk about my mother in our ordinarily life. My children particularly enjoy hearing stories about Nana and me from when I was a strong willed kid. In fact, during our last visit, my daughter told Nana her favorite story about my childhood. Sometimes we read books that help us talk about my mother and keep her part of our daily life. I love The Grandma Book by the amazing Todd Parr, which colorfully describes all different types of grandmas who love their grandchildren, to include the ones that live with their friends. Recently, I borrowed Really and Truly by Émilie Rivard from our library, a charming book about a boy visiting his grandfather, who no longer recognizes him. Books encourage discussion, which is always a good thing. Think small. My kids are young and do not have a lot of stamina or ability to keep it together for a long period of time in a small, sterile environment. A good visit with small children will generally...

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