Sunday, June 12, 2011

California Trip & Memories

In life, if you are really fortunate, you have family that become friends, and friends that become family. I count myself among the blessed. I live in a “sorority”, as I like to call home, with four of my best friends and I have friends that over time have become family.

This week, I got to spend time with my “California family”—Ylaria’s family. It was a wonderful, relaxing vacation, one which I sorely needed. I text Belen on a daily basis and we talk on the phone from time to time, remembering a beautiful Ylaria moment, laughing about something ridiculous and just catching up on life. But for some time now, I have really needed to give Belen a big, huge hug and have one of our amazing laughing fits together. I am happy to report that I did a lot of both this week. My abs got a great workout from the many times I was laughing so hard I literally couldn't breathe. We also made our token trip to the bookstore and read together. We ate a lot of tasty food-- always important, especially when one is on vacation and the calories don’t count!—In N Out Burger was awesome and the Basque restaurant was simply delicious. I think I might still be full from that meal! Our attempt to find the infamous Schwarzenegger house was another highlight; I am still amazed at the size of those houses. And, of course, our Ylaria time. Sitting on the grass, arranging her flowers, and remembering Ylaria together meant more than I could say.

It’s been difficult over these last few months for me to really talk about Ylaria. Not because I don’t want to or because it’s too painful, but because I am not sure it is entirely understood—my desire to talk about and remember her on a regular basis. My need to say her name. Even now, I feel that I am taking a big risk here, that there will be people who read these words and automatically assume I am sad or depressed. But, I can assure you that I am not. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I am sad in the moments when I feel that I cannot say her name or share her magic. Ylaria always made me happy, so incredibly happy (yes, Belen, even when she put me on a time-out.). Remembering her and sharing stories makes me happy. It’s been said that you only really lose those you love when you forget them. I firmly believe this. Talking about Ylaria and writing down my memories keep her alive and help her feel closer despite the distance. It’s actually impossible for me not to talk about Ylaria (as evidenced, no doubt, by the countless times I refer to her in my writing). She is so much a part of me that I see pieces of her everywhere I go. Ylaria is everywhere. And so, in closing, I am going to share another memory. A special one because it’s one I haven’t shared in its entirety before. It’s the story of how we met and all the magic that went along with it…

I have been asked a number of times how I met Ylaria. As Belen has said, the way we met was rather strange but the fact that we met was simply meant to be.

I found Ylaria’s caringbride page through another website some time in October 2007. I read the update and signed the guestbook. This sounds so simple, I know, but here is the part of the story, I have never told anyone and the piece of the puzzle that proves our meeting was planned well in advance of its actual occurrence. As I was leaving my message, I remember thinking to myself something like: “They’ll be in NYC, hopefully we’ll meet.” Now, I have lived in New York my entire life. I know the likelihood of meeting anyone without actually scheduling it in is close to impossible. I know this and I knew it on that October night too. I wasn’t even a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House at that point either. Looking back now, I think my brother heard my words.

Days passed, and I signed up for my first ever volunteer night at the RMH through Project Sunshine (another volunteer organization in NYC). The dinner was scheduled for early November (November 10th, to be exact). Now, here’s the second piece of our story that truly makes me believe in magic-- in the magic of our meeting. I was exhausted on November 10th. I had been at work that day and by the time I was leaving the office and getting ready to go to the dinner, all I wanted to do was go home and nap. And, I nearly did. I was about to get on the train home, when this little voice in my head told me to just go to the Ronald. And so, despite my hesitation, I went. I helped prepare and serve the dinner, and I did arts & crafts with some of the kids. At one point, I decided to walk around the dining room and make sure the families were ok. I walked up to this absolutely beautiful little girl and her dad and introduced myself. Gino introduced himself and Ylaria. (This is the slightly embarrassing part of the story where I screamed “This is YLARIA?!?!?!”) The rest, as they say, is history.

I can’t tell you how many times I visited Ylaria when she was in NYC. But, over the years, I became such a frequent visitor that the receptionist at the RMH would smile when I walked in and say: “You’re family is here!” And I really did (and do) consider them family. So to my California family, thank you. Thank you for a beautiful vacation, and most importantly, thank you for Ylaria.

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