Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Magic Moment

"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you..."
~ Wicked "For Good"

Four years ago today, I met Ylaria.

Some time ago, a friend of mine and I were talking about the universe and the way things happen when you least expect them to and the magic that lies behind so many little moments. Like how you could be running late for a job interview and almost decide not to go at all but you manage to finally grab a cab and get there and two days later, you're hired. (This was basically the story my friend shared.) She asked me then if I had ever had a moment like that.

If I had to pick one magic moment, it would definitely be meeting Ylaria. To be honest, I never should have met her at all. It wasn't logical that our paths crossed. I count my blessings every time I think about how the stars lined up on November 10th, 2007. You never really do know when your life is going to change forever.

It started out as almost nothing really. I happened to see the link to Ylaria's caringbridge site some time in October and I read one of Belen's entries where she talked about being in NYC for treatment. I signed the guestbook and said to myself something like: "It would be amazing if we met. I would love to meet Ylaria." I remember looking up as I said this. Was I praying? Was I intentionally asking Manny for help with something that I reasonably understood could never happen? I have no idea. But beyond all logic, I am convinced he heard me.

A few days later, I signed up for my first Ronald McDonald House volunteer dinner with Project Sunshine. November 10th was a Saturday in 2007. I was finishing up a 6th day of work and I was absolutely exhausted. I had just started my new job 2 months ago and I had been working long hours. Once our Saturday programming started, I was working Monday-Saturday. I was tired. I almost went home. I could just go to next month's Project Sunshine dinner, I thought to myself. I convinced myself over and over that I didn't need to be there. Nobody would miss me if I didn't go. But this nagging voice in my head kept telling me to just go. It insisted. And so, I took the 6 train to 68th street and made my way to the Ronald McDonald House.

Once there, I helped prepare food. I chatted with the other volunteers. I helped get the craft table together. I stayed busy. I can't remember now if I thought about meeting Ylaria. This is NYC, after all, and even if you're in the same building with someone, the chances of running into anyone without actually planning it are so slim. Add to that the fact that we had never actually met and the chances decrease even more. For something like that, you'd need magic, pure magic. And on November 10th, 2007, magic is exactly what I got.

For reasons I can't even explain (because I have no real idea WHY I did it), as dinner was being served, I decided to walk around and speak to the families. I introduced myself and asked them their name. I told the families about the craft table and asked them how they were doing. Looking back, Gino must have gotten jipped. I don't remember the exact details, but I went up to him as he was carrying Ylaria in his arms and must have said the standard, "Hi, my name is Olivia. What's your name?" I remember him replying, "I am Gino and this is Ylaria." At which point I screamed (Yes. Screamed.) "THIS is YLARIA!?!?!?!?!". I am not sure I ever told him about the craft table, I was so excited. I honestly felt like I was meeting a movie star. It was amazing. The memory still makes me smile.

A few days later, Gino asked me if I would be willing to stay with Ylaria for 20 minutes so he could run some errands. Ylaria was quieter back then so I did most of the talking that day. We played cards (which basically consisted of her-- silently-- picking up the deck of cards and dumping them on the floor for me to pick up. What can I say? When you're 2, the little things can be so fun. And when you're OCD like me, cleaning is a real enjoyment.)

Ylaria was sizing me up, I am sure. But, she must have decided she'd keep me around because she let me visit her and would often tell me (NOT ask. Ylaria had real character. She informed you of what you would be doing. She never asked you.) that I would come back tomorrow. And I did. It was never an obligation or even something I did to just be a "good person". I adored Ylaria. From the very beginning. I cherished any moment I could spend with her. I still have my old yearly planners. From time to time, I flip through them to see the dates where I had "YLARIA" written down. If I am going to be completely honest, I have kept those planners for that one word alone. I am still trying to recall moments. Sometimes I just sit and think for a long time hoping a forgotten memory will be remembered.

I am not exactly sure when the Dora band aids came into the picture but it must have been within the first few visits. Ylaria loved Dora when she was 2 and when I saw those band aids in the store one day, and I just knew I had to get them for her. The band aids were a huge hit. She never really saved them for herself. Gino and Belen would try to tell her not to use them right away but once we were alone, she'd open up the box and start putting band aids all over my fingers and arms. Ylaria was incredibly precise in her placement. If she didn't like the way a certain band aid looked, she'd rip it off and place it somewhere else. I can't even count the number of times I left the RMH covered in band aids. I got a lot of stares on my way home but I never cared. Some people will never understand the magic in Dora band aids. To this day, I always make sure to have a box of Dora band aids on hand. I can't bring them to Ylaria anymore, but when I need one, I picture Ylaria with me and I put it on with her incredible precision. Ylaria taught me so much in our time together. She was one of my best teachers. How to properly put on a band aid is one lesson I will never forget. Wearing it makes her feel less far away.

I could go on and on and on about Ylaria. I could say over and over and over that I love her and I miss her but it never seems enough. Sometimes there really are no words. And there certainly aren't enough words for all of Ylaria's magic. Today, all I can really say is that I grateful. I am grateful and honored and humbled to have been Ylaria's friend. To have been her sidekick.

There are magic moments everywhere. Meeting Ylaria was mine.

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