The Teresa Jusino Experience

Create Like An Activist

Teresa Homecoming 2014: So Lucky to Be So Loved

My favorite flowers in the middle of Park Avenue

My favorite flowers in the middle of Park Avenue

Despite the reason for my travels, my trip home to New York wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, much of it was fun, and exactly what I needed in the face of grief. Here are some of the highlights in no particular order:

Me and Adeline

Me and Adeline

** BABIES

Oh my God, SO MANY BABIES. It seems that I can’t go back to New York without there being new people to meet. 🙂 On this trip, I got to meet three new members of my friend tribe: Eli (my friend Robin’s new son), Emma (my friend Liz’s new daughter), and Adeline (my friend Jean’s new daughter). They are all such amazing babies. Eli is super-chill (except of course when he needs a nap), and Emma is SO enthusiastic about life I can’t even believe it! Adeline is still very much a newborn, so she’s not much of anything yet, except very, very cute (and tiny!). Children always manage to come into my life when I need them most, and these three were no exception. Eli and Emma kept me smiling at my father’s wake, and holding Adeline when I went to visit Jean in Croton on Hudson reminded me that even in the midst of horribleness, there’s always rebirth and hope and happiness (and so much cute!). Welcome to the world, kids. We’ll try not to wreck the world before you’re old enough to do anything cool.

Me and my sister

Me and my sister

** FAMILY

The Boy and I had an awesome afternoon/dinner at my brother’s house in Staten Island and he, once again, impressed my brother and sister-in-law. 🙂 I also realized that The Boy and my brother are very similar in many ways, which is likely why they’ve gotten along so well the couple of times they’ve met. We had an awesome conversation about religion, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the entertainment industry, and everything in between. I also got to see my lovable nephew, William, and my brilliant niece, Hannah, who is an absolute firecracker.

Oh, and the show Girls was filming a couple of blocks away, so I was thisclose to ditching everyone and going to hang out with Lena Dunham. But I chose hanging out with my family and partner instead. Because I AM A GOOD PERSON.

My accommodations at my sister's house. I rocked that Dora the Explorer quilt SO HARD. :)

My accommodations at my sister’s house. I rocked that Dora the Explorer quilt SO HARD. 🙂

After The Boy left (I stayed in NYC an extra week to decompress after the funeral), I had a fun overnight at my sister’s place, where I got to hang out with her, her husband, her visiting mother-in-law, and my awesome nieces. There was a tinge of sadness in the air – my brother-in-law’s father recently passed away, and I happened to be at my sister’s on his birthday. My sister’s mother-in-law bought a cake to commemorate the occasion. So there was a lot of thinking about dead fathers, and my sister’s house has felt a lot of loss lately.

But later in the evening, the nieces and I got together and watched the movie Frozen, which I’d never seen, and which they’d seen a million times. I really enjoyed it! But I just need to say…you can’t just TELL people that you took wedding vows. That’s why these things have witnesses. /grownup overanalyzing

I have to say, though, I wasn’t prepared to be emotionally affected by this song from the film. But as it’s partially about siblings needing to carry on after the death of their parents, can you blame me? Here’s Do You Want To Build a Snowman?

Thankfully, I know that my brother and sister will always wanna build a snowman with me. 🙂

Karaoke at The Watering Hole in NYC

Karaoke at The Watering Hole in NYC

** BIBLE STUDY (AND OTHER SURPRISES FROM MY OLDEST FRIENDS)

I’ve known Eileen and Joanna since I was 5 going on 6 and they were 8 and 4 respectively. They knew my dad almost as long as I did, so it made sense that the first thing I did when Joanna picked me up from the airport was go with her and Eileen to “our spot,” Uno’s. 🙂 We talked (and cried) about my dad, and then we talked about other stuff going on in our lives, the way we always do, because no matter how long we’re far apart, we always pick up right where we left off.

I stayed at Joanna’s new apartment, and that was a bit of a trip, as 1) it’s her first apartment away from her parents, and 2) it’s her first apartment with her new hubby, Chuck! They were both so gracious to let me stay without the slightest hesitation, making it so much easier for me to grieve without having to worry about schlepping my stuff all over town. One of the most interesting parts of staying with them was that I got to be included in what religion means to them, individually and as a couple. They have both been baptized as Seventh Day Adventists, and while that’s not my particular bag, I do appreciate the fact that they’re both so devoted. We said grace before meals, I helped Joanna at a soup kitchen at church one Sunday (which was a great experience, and I met some lovely people), and both The Boy and I were included in their weekly Bible study that Joanna hosts every Friday night. Eileen was there, as were a couple of their brothers and other friends I’d gotten to know growing up, with one or two new faces as well. I loved how laid back it was, and how much they all were invested in learning more, questioning more, and digging deeply into the text. It was interesting, too, when The Boy (who’s Jewish) was able to remind them of names and stories from the Old Testament. 🙂 They were very impressed with him! I, on the other hand, have the memory of a goldfish.

Luckily, I got to be in town for Joanna’s birthday, and her family had one of their traditional birthday BBQs on the first Sunday I was there. I was so glad, not only because I was able to be there to help Joanna celebrate, but it was also really nice to be around this huge, bustling family that has always been like family to me at this time in my life. It reminded me that I couldn’t ever be alone even if I wanted to! 🙂

Me, Vanessa, and Eileen at Martha's Country Bakery in Astoria

Me, Vanessa, and Eileen at Martha’s Country Bakery in Astoria

I got to see another old friend, too – my friend Vanessa, whom I’ve known “since the womb.” Over time, our contact has gotten more and more sporadic, but it’s always great to see her when I do! She, Eileen, and I ended up having dinner one night, and it was a wonderful night of conversation. They schooled me on the ins and outs of pregnancy (Vanessa has one child, Eileen has two), which was pretty much the most effective form of birth control ever. 🙂 We talked about relationships. And we also each talked about our plans for the future, and I ended up being hugely inspired!

Lastly, Joanna, Chuck, Eileen, their brother Carlos, Lindsay and I all went out to karaoke on my last night in town, and it was the perfect way to end my trip. We basically took karaoke over. The host loved us, and we had a blast singing everything from The Beatles to Pharrell. (Yes, I sang “Happy.” And “Roar,” which is super-hard. And Joanna, Eileen, and I teamed up to sing “Man in the Mirror.”)

These people are my foundation, and I love them all more than I can put into words.

Adam and me

Adam and me

** THE BEST WRITING PARTNER (AND FRIEND) EVER

It’s a crazy thing, but Adam has been right there for me for all of my major deaths. We were roommates when my mother died, so he was there for a lot of random crying in the living room. He came to the wake/burial/after-burial lunch, even though I’d only known him two years at that point, because he knew it was important to me. When my dog, Scarlett, died, he was there when it happened, and he helped me get it together enough to figure out what to do when I was a basketcase. In the end, so I wouldn’t have to put her out on the street, he gave me the money to cremate her when I couldn’t afford it, and even though he’s someone who’s not much of a “dog person,” he patted her head and called her a Good Dog before covering her with a blanket. And he was there for me again on this trip when I lost my dad, not only coming to the funeral and the burial, but organizing a dinner with many of my friends “to celebrate your father’s life and his greatest achievement, which as far as we’re concerned is YOU.” (that’s from the email he sent) I was so touched that he thought to do that, and was so grateful to see everyone at my favorite pizza place in Astoria, Alba’s.

Many members of my tribe at Alba's (l-r): Matt, Olga, Me, Liz B, Talitha, Holly, Caroline, Adam, Deb, Lori, Robin

Many members of my tribe at Alba’s (l-r): Matt, Olga, Me, Liz B, Talitha, Holly, Caroline, Adam, Deb, Lori, Robin

Our friendship has been all over the place over the years, but it’s never been closer than when we decided to start writing together last year. Suddenly, our dynamic made sense, and I know we’re going to create some amazing things from here on out! However, it was really great to spend some time with him just wandering around Central Park or grabbing milkshakes and talking about stuff other than writing. Because no matter what we end up doing professionally, he’ll always be the guy who helped me bury my dog.

Lindsay and Me

Lindsay and Me

** CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH

There’s a reason why New Yorkers freaked out when they thought that bottomless champagne brunches were going to be no more. Bottomless champagne brunches are the cornerstone of good stories and anything interesting happening on a Saturday morning. My brunch with Lindsay and The Boy was no exception. We went to a place called Aged in Forest Hills. The food was bleh, but the champagne just kept on coming – in pitchers, no less. (Hey, I never said it was classy champagne) Let’s just say that we got up to some champagne-fueled shenannigans and leave it at that. 🙂 I had to include it in my highlights, because it was an amazing time. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with my favorite Lindtball, and she and The Boy got along super-well. It was a fun way to end my time with The Boy in New York before Joanna, Chuck and I had to drive him to the airport later that day.

Brian and Me

Brian and Me

** DINNER IN HARLEM

It’s always touching when people reach out to you unexpectedly. When I put it out to my friends on Facebook that I wanted to see everyone, but was in no mood/condition to think about planning and scheduling, my friend Brian was one of the first people to text me, inviting me to dinner in his newly purchased apartment in Harlem. It was so great to hang out and chat with him, his place is super-cute, and he made me a wonderful dinner (complete with a great red wine he got through this wine club he’s part of). Also, I got an added bonus when he got my friend Robyn (whom I knew from New York, but who now lives in NC with her family and daughter) on Face Time for a group chat! It was so great to hang with them and relive our zanier days. 🙂

You know what wasn’t great about that day? THE FUCKING RAIN. It was torrential downpours all day that day, so I was soaked to the bone. Thankfully, Brian was able to put my sneakers in his dryer so that I wouldn’t have to leave with soaked shoes!

Holly and Olga at Alice's Tea Cup

Holly and Olga at Alice’s Tea Cup

** ALICE’S TEA CUP

I got to spend a great afternoon with my friends Olga and Holly (one of whom was off from work, the other who was playing hooky from work – I won’t say which did what!) in Manhattan, and we had a tea service at Alice’s Tea Cup, which is one of my favorite places in the world to get scones. It was a surprisingly girly-type lady day for the three of us – we’re none of us particularly girly – and a lot of fun. Tea was followed by wandering the streets of the UES aimlessly. It was the kind of lazy, aimless day with good friends that I desperately needed.

Robin and Eli

Robin and Eli

** WATCHING ROBIN BE A MOM / WATCHING ALEX BE A DAD

I’ve known Robin since I was 10, and I’ve seen her go through many ups and downs. We’ve seen each other go through a lot of sad shit, and a lot of stupid shit. 🙂 But the most amazing thing to watch during this trip home was Robin being a mom. We hung out several times over the course of my stay, one evening at her house on Long Island, and I was constantly amazed by how calm and centered she is now that she has Eli. There’s this zen quality about her now, a purposeful energy that I never noticed there before, and it was so cool to see. Watching her with her new son, I was so proud of her, and so glad to see her so at peace and happy. Eli is a lucky boy to have both her and her husband, Matt.

Meanwhile, The Boy and I went to visit my friend Alex, Liz’s husband, when Liz went to Houston on business and he was home alone with Emma for the first time. That was another revelation. Alex is such a loving, doting dad. He, like most of my tribe, is also an artist – a filmmaker, to be exact. Now, it’s difficult to be an artist these days, and life sometimes gets in the way. However, rather than using Emma as an excuse as to why he can’t make films, she’s inspired him to do the opposite. She’s lit a fire under him to create, because he doesn’t want to be the kind of parent who says coulda, woulda, shoulda. He wants his daughter to have the example of someone who did. I was proud of him, too, and he and Liz are also amazing parents.

All of this parent-watching totally confirmed my desire to have a kid. Or rather, made me want to be given a kid. Whether I’ll ever want to actually pop one out myself is still up in the air. 🙂

The Tribe in Croton: Liz M, Charlotte, Robin, Eli, Jean, Adeline, Katie, and me on the floor

The Tribe in Croton: Liz M, Charlotte, Robin, Eli, Jean, Adeline, Katie, and me on the floor

** AFTERNOON IN CROTON

I was so thrilled when my friends Katie and Liz organized a trip to go visit Jean in Croton (which is about an hour and a half outside of NYC). I had yet to see her new home (she lived in Forest Hills when I left New York), and I was excited to see her and her new baby, Adeline, as well as her daughter, Charlotte, who just turned seven. The house and the town are both beautiful, and also very Jean. She, Liz, Katie and I took Adeline out for a stroll, and we stopped for coffee at The Black Cow, then for ice cream at The Blue Pig (apparently, they love their colored animals in Croton). We marveled at the fact that, despite being in our mid-thirties and despite three-fourths of us being mothers, we were still talking about hugely inappropriate things loudly in the middle of a coffee shop. 🙂 When we returned to the house, Jean’s husband, Kevin, and Charlotte were back after having gone out, and I spent a good portion of the afternoon hanging out with Char, who is such a sweetheart. She showed me her “science lab” in the backyard, and when Liz presented her with a Big Sister sash in honor of her new sister, she decided to make a speech for all of us about how glad she is that her mommy had Adeline. 🙂 Too cute. Robin, Matt, and Eli joined us later, and it was so great to have all of us together in one spot after so long away. Not just me, because I live on the West Coast, but now Jean lives far from the rest of them, and everyone’s lives get so busy. These are also ladies with whom, no matter how far I go or how long we’re apart, I can always pick up where we left off as if nothing happened.

However, the biggest thing I realized when I was away in New York was that I actually don’t like being without The Boy for very long. 🙂 I was glad I took the extra week for my own grieving process, but I began to really miss The Boy about halfway through it, and was thrilled when I got back to LAX and he pulled up in his car to take me home.

Oh, and did I mention I ended up flying home in first class on my Delta flight when on standby? Cause I did. And it was awesome. 🙂  And exactly what I needed.  (BIG thanks to my friend Heather, and her mom, Lauren – who works at Delta – for getting me set up with a flight. I wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye to my dad without them)

I am so lucky to be so loved.

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1 Comment

  1. You *are* so lucky to be loved, but the best part is how appreciative you are of that love. I’m so glad you had good times to go with the sad times during your trip back to NYC!

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