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Bittersweet Birthdays

It’s not something I talk about often, the loss of my parents. But there are times when it’s foremost in my mind. Birthdays–mine, my children’s, and this week, the company’s, do not pass without my wishing my mom and dad were here.

The Loss of My Mother

Long, long before Cookie Text, LLC, I was a little girl growing up in Phoebus, Virginia. I had freckles, a pug nose, and as many siblings as fingers on my hands. One day I was woken up and most all of them were gathered in the kitchen. My father, seated at the head of the table, told each of us to grab a sibling and hang on. I left that table without a mom. She had died in the night. A heart attack. I was nine years old, days from entering 4th grade.

I made lemonade in a brown pitcher. Family came. Family left. Still no Mom. I’d sit in Mrs. Young’s 4th grade class and she’d tell us to, “get your Mom to sign the paper,” and I’d feel a wave of confusion, sadness, and grief that I was certain no one else at Moton Elementary understood. I didn’t even understand.

The Loss of My Father

Fast forward nine years. I’m a senior in high school. This time there’s a diagnosis. My dad has cancer. Terminal: Lung, liver, and brain. He lasted a year. He died when I was home for Christmas break my Freshman year of college. I went back to school and no one knew. It wasn’t like I’d suddenly left mid-term. People weren’t asking, “Why weren’t you in class for a week,” they were asking, “How was your Christmas?”

I felt alone. I lived in the college town at the time, and took the bus to campus. I remember thinking that I’d never hurt myself, but if I stepped off the Centro and got hit by a truck, that would be okay.

Somehow life went on.

I went on. Like the thought on the bus, it never occurred to me to voluntarily quit. If something happened out of my control that would be okay…but otherwise I just kept going. In all the weirdness that was my childhood. In all the tragedy and unknown, somehow it never occurred to me to stop moving forward.

My Business Turns Three

And for some reason, amidst this week’s peppy Facebook posts, I find myself more reflective on Cookie Text’s third birthday than usual. Maybe it’s because there have been so many moments in the past year that I’ve questioned it all. There have been things that I struggled with regarding the business, especially trying to balance it and my family.

  • Am I misappropriating my time?
  • Am I neglecting the boys?
  • Is this ever going to amount to anything?
  • What in the world ever made me think I could start a business and then run a company?

I know, I know! Not my typical upbeat self. I realized one day about a month ago that I could quit. That was weird. I realized almost in the same thought that that’s never been who I am. I stay on the path. I keep moving down the road.

I want to think that the stick-to-it-ness came from my Mom and Dad.

Good People Show Up

I believe, however, the reality is it came more from the aftermath of losing them. It came from the people that appeared in my life whenever I needed a lift up or a push onward. Again and again they showed up. They still show up to this day.

From my third grade best friend who appeared at my mom’s graveside, to my 4th grade friend’s mom who would make time when I spent the night to sit and chat with me. I mattered to a mom, that mom, even if I couldn’t ‘matter’ to my own.

From my friend Belinda’s mom who gave me her daughter’s hand-me-downs before she was finished with them because she knew my widowed Dad was overwhelmed to the guy that worked with my brother and got us younger kids passes to the YMCA so we could get out of the heavy house we were living in.

In college it was the coworker who asked me to learn to play racquetball with her. I think her rides to the gym kept me from stepping in front of that aforementioned truck. She’s a best friend to this day.

I could go on year by year: people that passed into my life and showed extreme kindness. People that formed a virtual safety net to keep me from crashing down. People that provided the exact encouragement I needed at the precise moment. They still exist in my life today. They take many forms: siblings, friends, secretaries at my kids’ school…they now even appear as customers.

Look for the Helpers

No one can stop horrible things from happening. There are going to be hard times, both in life and in business. But as Mr. Rogers said, ““When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It’s these helpers that lift me up. It’s these helpers that keep on believing in me and in CookieText. Even when I can’t make sense of it all. The helpers have never let me down. I just always know I need to take more time appreciating their presence than lamenting my losses.

Birthdays Can Be Bittersweet

Birthdays without the ones you love are a little bittersweet. Of course it’s awful that my Mom and Dad are gone. It’s sad my boys never met them. It stinks that my parents have never had a CookieText®. But birthdays when you’ve got so very many people that have graced your life, they have to be more joyous than anything else. I have been blessed beyond measure for years with people that lighten my life, encourage my dreams, and make my heart soar.

Besides, as my brother Jerome says, “I bet they have CookieText® cookie cakes in Heaven.”

So on that note, thank you all of you helpers for walking this road with me. It’s not without it’s valleys, but the peaks are oh-so-great.

Cheers to Year Three, and many more to come!