Harper, today is April 21st, 2021. You are only 22 months old and Mama died one year ago. You recognize pictures of her because Daddy has made sure you know her. I tell you that Mama is an angel in Heaven. She is. Tonight you are sleeping at Bubby’s for 2 nights. Daddy stayed home from work today to be with you. Our hearts are sad because we miss your Mama so much. She was sweet and kind with a big smile and you are so much like her. Your smile lights up a room and we all marvel at your beautiful teeth and your eyes that look just like Mama’s. You are our Blessing.
I love how you are becoming a real person with so much personality. I love that you are showing your independence and teaching us what you like and don’t like. I love that you feel safe and confident enough already to ask for what you want and need. We both love the book Feminist Baby and you are certainly one. I especially like to ask your opinion by giving you a few choices. Do you want to wear a dress? This one or that? Do you want to choose your outfit? Which pajamas do you want to wear? Do you want an egg for lunch or a cheese sandwich? Peanut butter toast or oatmeal for breakfast? You are quick to choose and you are very satisfied with your choices.
When we get dressed in the morning I put you down and suggest you look in the mirror. The mirror loves you and you love the mirror!! What a beauty you are. You were particularly pleased with your pigtails this week. You appreciate pretty things just like your Mama did.
You are very caring with stuffed animals and your dolls. You feed them, put them in the high chair or stroller, bath those that are waterproof, put them to bed, cover them up and carry them around. You are so kind, so gentle and so caring, my sweet little girl.
This was a very special month because Auntie Raya came to Toronto and took you to London for several days. What a time you had!!! You loved being with Uncle Ben and with Cousin Oscar too. Auntie told me you would stand at the top of the stairs and call loudly down to your cousin who you call “Aww”. Uncle Ben is Bee and Auntie is Raya. Raya was one of your first very clear words. You can say your name now and you call me Bubby (which makes me crazy happy). Auntie took a gazillion photos and taught us all the trick to make you smile – just say CHEESE.
This month I made sure we got out almost everyday and we walk to different parks including the playground. We got the bird feeder up and the birds are enjoying it as are a few squirrels I think. My eye is still healing and still has silicone in it so we aren’t driving too far. On Passover, Uncle Peter and Aunt Paula had us for the second Passover sedar. While we were visiting your Aunt and Uncle, you sat down at the piano and just started playing as if you had done it your whole life. That piano was the same one your Mama and Aunt Raya played on. It was in my home and before that it was in Great Bubby’s house. It was wonderful to be out for dinner. Someday that will seem normal to you but now we are over a year in a pandemic. Thankfully, people are being vaccinated and at some point it will be safe to be out again. I dream of those days and I am making all kinds of plans to show you the world.
This is a month of milestones! You have gone to the potty several times and you tell us whenever your diaper is wet or you have gone poo. You point to your diaper and say pee. Sometimes it means you want us to put you on your potty and sometimes you want to be changed. Either way you are in charge and lead us to where you want to go. Your vocabulary is increasing everyday and most sentences are still 2 words but sometimes 3. You love your books and we read every day. You are so like your cousin Oscar in that regard. We also discovered that you have motion sickness which is a family trait going all that way back to your Great Bubby who, by the way, will be 100 years in just a few weeks.
“Oh, Harper Rose Natalie I love you.” That’s what I just sang to you while I changed your diaper and put you into bed. “I love your stinky toes and your belly too”……we both laughed at that. I sang, “ We love you Bubby, Oh yes, we do. We love your messy hair and your sore eye too. When you’re not happy, I’m blue! Oh Bubby, Bubby, Bubby, we love you!” You thought that was pretty hilarious as well. Just a moment ago you were watching Cocomelon (your most favourite show) when you made a big yawn and looked at me and said Doh doh (that’s your soother) and you only get it at bedtime. You pressed a key on the keypad and shut the computer. You are like a clock, little one. First you eat your lunch, watch a little bit of a show and you are yawning (often a big fake one) and off to bed you go.
We went to the park this morning and actually were around other people. Bubby is living on the wild side now that I have had my first Covid 19 vaccine. This is our second time together at this park but Daddy told me he has taken you there about 4 times. Guess how I found it??? You led me there. I put you in the wagon and headed towards a park that I knew of. To get there I would have walked straight from your house without turning. When we got to the first intersection, you insisted ( and I mean insisted) that I turn left. I said ok since it really didn’t matter where we went. After a few blocks, you pointed left again. I said ok but I didn’t think we could find a park. Well, was I wrong!!! You led us straight into the most magnificent park for children. The best equipment – all exactly the right size. You bravely went up every ladder and down every slide. You had brought a doll baby with you and you sent her down the slides, put her on the swings and on the merry go round. We went on the teeter totter together. So much FUN!!
We’ve got a little agreement going on. You will take as much as you can get away with. You will tell me no but once I count to 3, you know I mean business and you come with me without much fuss. It took us a bit to get to this point but we have an understanding. You’re pretty cute when you put up one finger and say one – as in one more. Grandma told a story that you were playing last week with a neighbour’s dog and that they gave you a treat for her. You put your hand out flat with the treat on it. You learned that from Grandma’s dog, Murphy who you love a lot. I am digressing. You then put up your finger and said one? Apparently you did this several times and the little poodle got 4 treats!!
Harper you are only 3 months away from your second birthday. Next month it will be a year since Mommy had to go. You love to point out pictures of Mommy and sometimes I think I see you talking to her. Daddy makes sure you say Good night and I love you to Mommy every night. He shows you her photos. Bubby loves him for that. You are very, very clever. You have a great vocabulary of more than 50 words and some have more than 2 syllables. You are starting to count and one and two are very familiar to you. You know a lot of colours now. Blue seems to be your favourite to say and to choose. You are trying out your ABC’s too.
You love to video chat with Auntie Raya – the instant you see her face you break into a big smile. Very soon you are going to spend time with her, Uncle Ben and Cousin Oscar. You are going to be one very happy little girl. Everyone around you is starting to make plans for summer. Cottages, lakes, maybe pools, farmer’s markets, pony rides, amusement parks, and sunshine fun!! You also love to chat with Great Bubby Kaye and Regine. You grab the phone from me and start to show them everything including your Barbie House, your toys, your room -anything and everything.
This past month we celebrated Purim at Bubby’s home. You and I dressed up in costume and we ate Thai food. You loved the spring rolls and ate a bit of phad thai and a wee bit of mango salad. This summer I hope to show you a world of food and someday, my sweet love, I hope to show you food as we travel the world!!! So much I want you to see. Your Mommy loved to travel and I know you will too because you are an Adventurer! Back to Purim – we had a video party with Auntie Raya and Uncle Ben and Cousin Oscar. Everyone dressed up. Being Jewish is pretty cool because there seems to be a holiday around every corner. With every holiday comes special food and music. We are now singing Miriam’s Song (singing and dancing and laughing) and Dayenu. The moment I sang it, you started singing it with me. It was like you knew it already. We are ready for our sedar with Auntie Paula and Uncle Peter. Woot! Woot!
Well I can’t end this letter without telling you about the fact that you often go into cat mode as your Cousin Oscar would call it. You meow like a real kitten and you also paw at your thighs and take off crawling and meowing. Daddy heard you the other night at about 11pm. You cried out and then meowed!! You went back to sleep. When I come into your room in the morning, you say hi but then quickly start to meow. Oooh I love you, baby cat.
I take a lot of photos of you. I want a photo in all your outfits. Now you aren’t running away from me but instead you stop to pose – your poses are more super model than candid shots. You like to look away with an indifferent look. One day you ran into the bathroom and sat on your potty and posed. Hey, little love, I’ll photograph you anywhere.
I miss Tovah so much. I love hearing her friends tell stories about her. I love talking about her with her sister and with anyone who knew her. I love the stories and I love the pictures and I love the memories. There are so many things I want to write about and so much I need to excavate for myself and it fills me up to get such wonderful feedback from those who knew her and from those who knew her from my stories.
I met with a medium last week. She was recommended to me by a womyn I have known for many years and who is a member of the London Spiritualist Church. I love visiting that church and have attended services from time to time over the past 20 years. I had a deep longing to connect with Tovah.
Lorraine is the spiritualist I worked with. We spoke by phone. She started telling me that she saw someone in ministerial garb around me – someone from way back – dressed in a brown tunic -like a monk. His hands are in prayer and his head is bowed. He is praying over me. She then said there is a woman around me with grandmother energy from my mother’s side. My grandmother is telling me that things are happening but I shouldn’t let them bother me and to think of things happening as a puzzle and take a piece away to see the whole. She told me that there are 2 younger people and 1 older person around me that are causing me trouble right now. She told me that I am good at getting people to do things but I’m very good at just doing things for myself. She told me that these current problems are someone else’s responsibility and not mine. She reminded me that we teach people how to treat us by how we treat them.
I then interrupted Lorraine to say I want to make contact with someone who had recently passed. Lorraine then said she is smiling and she is standing behind your grandmother. She has a healing process to go through. She is so thankful to have had you as a friend. I felt annoyed and said I was her mother. Lorraine said but it seems she considered you a best friend. She says that she is sorry she didn’t listen to you more. She wishes she had been a little smarter and that we didn’t always agree. She heard everything you have said and says, “Right back at you, Mom.” I liked that because all I have been saying is Tovah, I miss you so much and wish you were here to raise your baby and to be with us.
Lorraine continued to talk about Tovah. She says that Tovah was very clever and she achieved quite a lot. She doesn’t have any regrets. It was all part of her life lessons. The monk is bringing her serenity.
Lorraine then asks me if Tovah was creative. Lorraine said Tovah is showing her some of her artwork and that she is wanting me to look at it. I assumed it was the pottery that she made in school and the painting of the butterfly that Raya has in her home. Yesterday Raya and I went through a large container and in it we found a bag that neither of us knew about with a sticker on it, “Artwork Do Not Bend”. It must be from her studies at Beal Secondary school. I went through the work and found a cloth with a woman on it that I have to assume is a self portrait. Beautiful! I also found an old ring of mine that I must have given to Tovah.
Lorraine now tells me that Tovah loved music and she wants me to listen to music. She wants me to know that there are a lot of songs especially country music that resonated with her and that would be good for me. Lorraine tells me there is a song by John Montgomery about a little girl hiding behind the couch and that her father killed her mother. (I grew up in a violent home and this frightened little girl speaks to me.) Tovah wants me to know that we are never alone.
Tovah has 3 ancestors around her right now and 3 angels. Lorraine was clear about one being my grandmother and then described a man that I am certain is my father. She said he has dark brown hair (not black) that is greying around a bit but he cuts it really short so you don’t really notice it. He used a product called Vitalis and I think it made his brown hair appear much darker. I asked if there is another man there. Remember she is doing this reading from me and she says that I have 14 ancestors with me. She says there is and that he is 6 foot 3 or 4. She says he is showing her 3 and then 4 fingers. I never knew Hassan, my second husband, exact height. I always say he was 6”3 or 4. I know he is there.
Lorraine says that Tovah felt she was well looked after and was ready to go. She decided that she had had enough.
She asked if Tovah had a sister. She said she is holding a lot in and that I should encourage her to talk. She said she has some concern that this will happen to her as well. At this point Lorraine, while talking about Tovah’s sister, said she herself was having an overwhelming feeling of wanting to cry and told me that she had lost 2 younger sisters.
Tovah wanted me to know that she married Wesley because she really loved him. She said that I (SandraLaya) am following my heart and I am doing what she asked me to do. She’s very pleased that I am determined to have things go as she wanted them to go. She is confident that she asked the right person.
Lorraine now asks if there is a baby. She says the sister (Raya) will be very instrumental in influencing the baby (Harper). She told me to watch the baby and when she looks up and starts jabbering, she is talking to her Mom. The hardest part for Tovah was leaving the baby. She stayed longer and endured more for that reason. She wanted to stay and love her as long as she could. She realizes now she can still watch over her. My grandmother said that she is teaching her to do what she did when she crossed over.
Lorraine then asked if someone has lost a baby. I told her that Raya had. Raya’s son Henry Oliver was still born almost 9 years ago. She tells me that the baby is with Tovah. He’s going to be close to Harper.
Finally she told me to watch for hummingbirds. Tovah said, “Mom you’ve got this”. Thanks, Baby girl.
Raya, Tovah and I lived in a little white cottage in London, Ontario for 10 years. It was not fancy. I couldn’t afford any upgrades but I also didn’t want any. I adored our wee bathroom with the wood paneling that resembled a sauna and our tiny clawfoot tub that I could comfortably soak in because I’m only 5 foot 2. I loved our country style kitchen with no counter space and no fan above the stove. Tovah was constantly annoyed with me for broiling chicken without closing her bedroom door making her room and her clothes smell of chicken. It still makes me smile.
Early in 1990 I sold our 3 story duplex. I couldn’t afford the repairs and upkeep on the house. We rented a lovely 3 bedroom home in the neighbourhood. With the sale of the house, I paid off all our debts, bought a new (to us) car and we spent the whole summer in Norway. That is another story for another time. We were in the rental only a year when the owner put the house up for sale and the next year was spent with real estate agents looking at our home, open houses and all that entails. A whole year of it!!
One day I was sitting in my taxi – yup, I was driving a taxi full time that year. I just didn’t have the capacity to work in a normal workplace environment. I needed a break from bosses, corporate culture and all the BS that came with it. So I’m in my taxi and I say a prayer. “God, I need a house that my girls and I can live in until they graduate high school. It has to be in the South Secondary School district.” South had a great reputation as one of the best high schools in the city with about 95% of the graduates going on to post secondary schools. That was my goal for my daughters. I opened up the newspaper (that’s what we did in 1994) and there was a little ad “Rent to Own”, 3 bedrooms, Old South. I called immediately. Where is the house located? It was exactly where I needed it – within the school district parameter. I’ll take it, I said. The owner asked if I had seen it yet. Nope. He insisted that I go and look first and call him back. I was annoyed since it meant checking out of work to go look and losing money that we desperately needed.
I drove across town to find this adorable little white cottage. I walked through to find 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. The basement was dry and clean and completely unfinished. The backyard was ginormous!!! There was a long driveway and an old wooden garage. Perfection!!!!!!! I called him back and we arranged to meet at 4pm. He told me the monthly mortgage amount – same as I was paying at the other house. He said if I paid on time every month, he would get me a bank mortgage. I found that very unlikely but a year later his wife cosigned for a mortgage and the house was really mine. We lived there for 10 years.
The other miraculous thing he mentioned was that he knew we would want to paint and fix the house up so he would give me the keys right then and there. We weren’t supposed to start paying for 2 months. He said he didn’t live in town and he only asked if I was going to be there often to switch the utilities to my name!! Later that day I called our landlord and gave notice asking if we could move in 1 month. I had not put up a security deposit and there was no last month rent paid. They called me back an hour later and asked if I would consider moving out earlier. The end of the month was a week away. I quickly agreed. 2 months without paying rent gave me the down payment I needed. The next week was a whirlwind of cleaning and painting our new house, moving everything and cleaning up the old house. I was working 12 hour shifts six days a week at the time. My best friend Alice, Raya, Tovah and I became painters. I bought our paint on the backroom shelf at the paint store for $5 a gallon. Raya was about 14 years old and Tovah was 11. We had our house and I had my miracle. I chose fun colours – forest green for the living room, yellow for the kitchen, a green for my bedroom, yellow in Raya’s and turquoise in Tovah’s. A few years later it was evident that the colours were bothering Tovah and we painted her room and the living room white. It was an instant attitude change for her.
It’s a rainy summer afternoon today and it just reminded of similar hot and muggy days in our cottage home where I would sit out on the porch under the aluminum awning (listening to the sound of rain) stretched out on a papasan chair that I probably scavenged from the street. I loved finding things out on the street and bringing them home – I still love a good find. “Is that garbage?” brought a smile to all of us. I once embarrassed Tovah because I took old railway ties that were out in front of the home of one of her friends. They were there to be taken but Tovah was having none of it. Mom, how could you do that?? I found a child’s swimming pool and dug out a pond using the railway ties as a little walkway to it. Hmmmm, wish I had a photo of that. Eventually I spent money on a pond liner. I put in some goldfish and just loved this space. I also had a hammock. Memories that I am recreating on my little balcony here in Toronto. Memories that bring Tovah into my space and hold her in my memory.
I can feel her here today as I can feel the humid summer air on my skin. I have chicken cooking on a little indoor grill. I would often grill chicken on an old gas barbecue that I inherited but I would fill it with charcoal because I also have a fear (like my fear of birds) of propane tanks. I love summer so much and I hate using air conditioning after spending most of the year being cold. This was an ongoing argument in our little house. One day I came home to find an air conditioner in the kitchen window. My girls had asked their father for one and he had come over and installed it for them. Both their bedrooms opened onto the kitchen and this gave them the cool air they wanted. I closed the door between the kitchen and living room where my bedroom door was. Open windows and a fan!!! Summer breeze! Summer bliss!
One summer I bought an above ground pool that was on sale at Canadian tire. The upper rim was inflatable and you only needed to fill the pool from the outdoor hose and it took shape and we had a nice sized 3 foot pool. At night the girls and I would wrap ourselves in sarongs and go out into the backyard – no lights on – and slip into the pool completely nude. We’d swim around, talk, laugh and cool off. Then into the house for a comfortable night’s sleep. The girls with a bit of air conditioning and me with fresh air from my window.
I remember one day I smudged the house with sage to clear the energy. I don’t remember what was going on at the time but it felt like something that needed to be done. I learned smudging when I had a contract facilitating a women’s group at the Oneida Community. I have adopted it as part of my own practice since then. Tovah came home from high school – the house was sparkling clean because that’s what I had been doing all afternoon. Tovah was furious because she was certain that I had been smoking marijuana. She wouldn’t believe that it was sage. It’s funny because I don’t like marijuana (it makes me paranoid and is not fun). There was no changing her mind or convincing her. Tovah could have some very strong opinions. For instance she was also absolutely certain that I ate raw ground beef. She swore she saw me do it!! I never did but I did marinate steak and would eat it raw while putting it on the skewers to grill. Just last year she was still convinced that I ate raw ground beef.
At one point Raya lost her wallet. She looked everywhere. We all looked for it but we couldn’t find it. One early evening Raya came into the living room and asked if I would use my pendulum and see if we could locate the missing wallet. I felt it was worth a try but didn’t have much faith in the process. I spun the pendulum – clearing the energy and asking for guidance. All of a sudden Tovah comes barreling out of her bedroom and runs into Raya’s room. We here some crashing and banging and then Tovah yelling, “I found it!”. She had the wallet in her hand. She said that she was sitting on her bed and out of nowhere she could see the missing wallet in her mind. It was in Raya’s room tucked back behind a solid wood bookshelf. That was my magickal daughter.
I asked Raya today what Tovah would have been doing in her room. I realized that kids didn’t have the electronics they have today. Raya said Tovah would try on clothes, play around with make up, do her hair and that she was always listening to music and both singing and dancing. That’s my Tovah. Raya asked Tovah’s friend Heather the same question and she said that Tovah talked on the phone ( we had a portable one). She remembered Tovah’s comforter – white with jelly beans on it. She didn’t think Tovah spent a lot of time in her room. We often watched television together. We ate dinner together almost every day. Raya, Tovah and Mom – we were invincible, inseparable and we always had each other’s back.
I have an irrational fear of birds. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. I have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. I’ve just always been afraid. It’s silly and irrational but it is what it is. I especially think they are going to attack my head and ears!! That will explain my plan to solve this dilemna.
My daughter Tovah was with me in October, 2006 when I found my apartment. She looked out the window and said that it was perfect for me since the balcony was completely netted and would keep out the birds. We always joked that her eyes were like x-ray eyes – nothing got past her. This sealed the deal and I signed the contract. I love it here. Eventually Tovah met Wesley and moved near me which was an added blessing. She loved this Beach neighbourhood as much as I did.
After Tovah died, people including her sister Raya, said that she was visiting them as a Robin. A robin came up to Raya and sat at her feet squawking loudly at her. I have never heard of a squawking Robin. I said she wouldn’t come to me as a bird because she knows how irrationally afraid I am. Raya said that she thought she would anyway.
Just a week ago, I met with a spiritualist. I truly believe that she made contact with Tovah. I will write more about it soon. She told me that Tovah wanted me to watch for hummingbirds – especially the way they flap their wings wildly and don’t move. There is a message there for me. I have visited a butterfly conservatory and they also had hummingbirds. At first I didn’t think I could go in but in the end I did and found that the hummingbirds didn’t frighten me. I was sure that this was the bird that my girl would visit me as. I was wrong.
This morning I found a robin on my 100 square foot balcony. Inside!!! Pacing on the railing. Sitting on my hammock! Flying around!! Trapped!!! I didn’t know what to think or what to do!!! I texted Raya and my brother Peter. Help! What should I do???
A few days after Tovah died, I woke at 2am and felt an incredible urge to sit on my balcony. I felt compelled to sit there day after day bundled up in blankets with warm furry slippers that both Tovah and I loved. I started making my balcony my haven and I have spent hours there. One of Tovah’s friends gave me a gift card and I used it to buy a hammock. I bundled up and laid and rocked in it since late in April. I often nap in it or sleep a few hours in the night. I feel closest to my baby girl when I am on my balcony.
This morning I found that robin – trapped and afraid. My anxiety was over the top!! What should I do? I wanted to do this on my own. Face my fears. Be brave. My brother suggested a broom to gently nudge the bird up to rip in the netting. Raya suggested getting someone to help or to contact my building manager. She reminded me that the wee bird was also very afraid. A good friend then called me out of the blue and agreed that she could come around noon to help. That was 3 hours away. So what should I do?
I decided to try. First – a hat to protect my head. I had a large floppy brimmed hat that belonged to Tovah.
I then took out my Priestess Pom Poms that had been given to each womyn in my cohort at our ordination last summer.
Then I prayed. I stepped out on the balcony waving my Pom Poms and she flapped her wings. I moved toward the end where the opening was and waved upwards and out she flew!!!!!!!!! The whole thing was less than 30 seconds.