Deep in the winter of 1981, melanoma threatened to steal my father's pregnant wife and my older brother's mother. After a difficult surgery, followed by an even more painful delivery - we both survived.
Weeks and months of skin grafts and other surgeries weren't enough to dampen my mother's spirit. Including the procedure that shattered her dreams of a dozen children.
Instead of despair, she planned.
When I was nine years old, she began to see the fruit of her dream. She and my father fostered several children (nine, to be exact) and eventually adopted four. She also threw herself into her special education teaching and touched more children than she'll ever realize.
I wish I could say I stood by her and cheered her on. But when I turned ten, I began to cry in silence. The emotional toll of living with the unloved began to chip away at the tenderness within me.
She announced on a Friday afternoon that tomorrow I was going to have the perfect day. My mother, who dedicated herself to her six children, volunteered at church, taught at school and helped my father's jewelry business stopped the world for me.
She drove the three hours to Santa Monica Beach. I stood with my feet in the sun warmed sand and felt the pull and push rhythm of the tide against my shins. For hours, my skin prickled from the alternating hot of the sun and cool of the water. When we finally packed up to leave I noticed I had worn my shorts backwards. Mom smiled, saying she noticed but didn't want to ruin my perfect day.
Her aunt suggested we take her to Disneyland in the wake of this great accomplishment. My daughter quietly confided in my mother that she wanted a weekend with just her father and mother instead of a loud amusement park.
My mother said she needed a perfect day.
She took the other girls while my husband and I drove my daughter to Santa Monica Beach. For over twenty-four hours the three of us were inseparable, she even slept in our room on the floor. She chose where we ate, where we walked, what we did the entire time. She smiled and laughed with every inch of her tan little body during her perfect day.
Santa Monica didn't give us the perfect day, the time together did. Damon works for Synthes and is in nearly every traumatic surgery (his colleagues were those working around the clock during the Boston Marathon bomb). Because accidents are spontaneous, he is on call twenty-four hours of absolutely every day.
Saturday, his partner braved the county as a lone ranger allowing Damon some time with his family. We were together, alone.
It was the perfect day.