Just a Regular Kid, Sometimes

Charlotte has been confounding us for the past month or so. As I reported in June and early July, Charlotte was eating beautifuly earlier this summer. She ate willingly, chewed nicely, and was beginning to eat like a regular kid. Or, at least the way we assum a regular kid eats.

Then, sometimes in mid-July, she slowed down, started fighting us again, and seemed to backsliding. At the same time, she came down with what turned out to be the first in a series of three back-to-back ear infections. The first and last ear infections were double.

Last week’s final hurrah crescendoed with one ear bursting, unbeknownst to me, and a nearly sleepless night. On Friday Charlotte had her first “sick day” from school. Though she didn’t have much fever, the ear infection and sleepless night knocked her out.

The picture above was taken at around 10:00 a.m. Little honey–she climbed up on the couch to rest and cuddle. I walked away to answer the phone and when I came back she was sound asleep. I had to wake her up to take her to the doctor.

Through it all she was sweet and cuddly, patient and kind. This last dose of antibiotics seems to have knocked the demon ear infections far away. How do I know she’s finally cured? She simply can’t get enough to eat!!!! Including her hot lunch at school….

Big and Little

Philippe is in Belgium helping his mother move and I never got around to blogging while we were on vacation last month. So, here’s a picture of Charlotte and Daddy playing around the hermit crab sculptures on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. My “big” and “little” Geyskens, as I call them!

Lasting Forever: Jeffrey B. Gardner

Early this week, Charlotte said perhaps the most endearing thing she could ever say to me. In the midst of some post-bath silly conversation about mothers and daughters, she looked me squarely in the eye and said, “I hope you last forever.”

I was taken aback because I know that I won’t “last forever.”
Today, September, 11, I am reminded how quickly that “forever” can evaporate. Seven years ago I was driving to work in Buffalo Grove, IL. I was listening to WXRT and suddenly at 7:48 a.m. CST or so, Mary Dixon (my friend and the newscaster) broke into to the music broadcast to announce that a plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. At that time, that was all she knew. They thought perhaps it was a little personal plane., an accident, a stunt.

I remember the crystal clear blue sky as I followed the highway past the Chicago Botanical Gardens and Mary and Lyn speculated about what might have happened.

A little while later, I stepped out of my car and a colleague who has worked for “a small office in Virginia,” if you know what I mean, called across the parking lot to me: “A second plane hit the other Tower. It’s terrorism. Get inside.”

We spent the rest of the morning in a conference room watching the news. Were people really jumping off the World Trade Center Towers? Had more planes been hijacked? Where was my husband? (Safe in Minnesota where he and his colleagues were able to rent the last car in town to drive home.) Where was my brother? (Also on a business trip. He too was able to rent a car and drive home.) Where was my mother? (At a dog-related meeting in Newark, NJ, unable to leave for quite some time because the highways were clogged.)

In the blink of an eye, at 8:59 a.m. CST, the unbelievable happened, the South Tower collapsed. We truly couldn’t believe what we were watching. As if to confirm what we saw, the North Tower collapsed less than 30 minutes later. Its 9 second crumbling into dust is etched into my mind. Nothing, not even buildings built to withstand the impact of a 707 airliner, lasts forever.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my high school friend Jeffrey Gardner was in one of those towers. Today, as I drove home from dropping Charlotte at pre-school, I wondered about his last moments. Was he injured in the initial impact? If not, then I know with all the certainty in my heart that Jeffrey stayed in that tower to help other people and he sacrificed himself to do so. That’s just the man he was.
For the past two years, I’ve posted a sort of memorial essay about Jeffrey. Last year, in response to my post, I was contacted by my best friend from elementary school. Even in death, Jeffrey unites people and reminds them of the light that he brought to our lives.

So, again, here’s my essay. Please take the time to read it and remember that while “America [was] under attack,” as Andrew Card famously told President Bush 7 years ago, very real people were being injured and murdered. The ripple effect of their loss cannot ever be forgotten.

(Originally written on 9/11/2006)

Jeffrey B. Gardner died [7] years ago today when the World Trade Towers collapsed. I had known Jeffrey for as long as I can remember, growing up in the same town (Livingston, NJ) and attending religious school at B’nai Jeshurun together.

More than a boy I grew up with, Jeffrey was a dear friend throughout my high school and college years. We were both socially conscious teenagers and active in our temple youth group and in JFTY, the Jersey Federation of Temple Youth.

Like all of the people who have signed his guestbook, I can attest to Jeffrey’s special qualities–his goodness, kindness, wisdom, and sense of fun. I can also recall his pride as he listened to his father sing in the temple choir on the high holy days, his clear affection for his siblings, and his love for his mother.

Jeffrey and I, along with 20 other Jewish teens, spent a special summer together in 1982. As part of the JFTY Urban Mitzvah Corps, we lived in a fraternity house at Rutgers (later Jeffrey’s alma mater) and volunteered for various organizations in the New Brunswick area. We worked with the elderly, disadvantaged children, and the disabled. In the evenings we studied and played, enriching our Judaism and bonding as a group in a way that is immeasurable. Jeffrey lived his Jewish values and he taught us how much fun (and mischief) we could have within the limits of a moral, thoughtful life.
My father had a special place in his heart for Jeffrey. Not just because they were in the same business, but because Jeffrey was respectful, forthcoming, and friendly. In business, my father could count on Jeffrey, just as I could count on him as a friend.
Since Jeffrey’s death, I’ve learned that he continued to live those values for the rest of his far-too-short life. He read the Christian Bible and the Koran in order to understand other people’s belief systems. He volunteered with Habitat for Humanity throughout the hemisphere. He worked hard at his career and prospered.

In his obituary, his sister Amy noted that he had a sun tatooed on his ankle because “a good day was as bad as it got. ” Jeffrey shone like that sun. Even when we weren’t in touch for a long time (we hadn’t spoken for about 3 years before his death), I felt his presence and the mark that he made on my life.

On that perfect sunny September morning, a day eerily like today in Chicago, hatred hilled Jeffrey. The irony that intolerance killed a soul who embodied tolerance is not lost on me.
I dedicate today to Jeffrey–as sad as I am for his loss, I strive to live a life of which he would have been proud, to be tolerant and kind and strong as a tribute to his memory.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You are indeed Z”L (Zichrono Livracha), of blessed memory.

First Day of School

It’s hard to believe that Charlotte is old enough for the first day of school, but indeed, today was Charlotte’s first day of school. She is in the petite maternelle (pre-kindergarten) at the Lycée Français de Chicago. It’s 4 full days, one half day a week. I drop her off at 8:30 and pick her up at 3:15. When we applied a year ago, I didn’t think she’d be ready. Now she’s not only ready, she’s eager.

We’re excited that she’ll be getting a wonderful bilingual education that will enable her to speak with Philippe’s family. And, we’re thrilled that she’s in such a nurturing, loving environment. Her teacher, Celine, was one of the camp counselors and we know how kind and collaborative she is. After dropping Charlotte off today, we now know also that she greets her students with big hugs.

Charlotte was very excited about school. Yesterday we had a playdate in her classroom to acclimate the children. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Today, however, once I’d walked her in and had given her a hug she said, “Mommy, you can go now.” She had been telling me all week that she was going to “like it there” and she did. Tonight she asked if she could go back tomorrow.

Don’t expect bilingual audioposts just yet. Celine explained at a parent meeting that it can take the American children up to two years to speak French. As she noted, it took them two years to learn English, we can’t expect them to learn French any faster. But, we know that her comprehension of French improved greatly in 3 weeks of summer camp, and can imagine the same in pre-k.

Why is she not holding her backpack? Because she made me carry it in!