Yeahhh, It’s Brrroken

A couple of weeks ago on my lunchtime walk, it was hot, my bare shoulders burned in the direct sun, and I was a little sweaty. However, the stunning architectural view looking east up Market Street toward the steely Gateway Arch, glistening in the afternoon sun, negated any physical discomfort. The sky was brilliant blue, my brain was taking a much-needed break, and my eyeballs were relieved to see something other than my computer screen. My cellphone buzzed in my brown and black Coach satchel, strapped across my shoulder, and shattered my serene respite from the workday. I stopped walking and dutifully pulled the phone out of the bag and squinted at it in the bright sunshine. Nothing important. Of course. Just a junk email. As I began to replace the phone into the usually convenient side pouch of the satchel, it slipped from my sweaty fingers and crash landed, face down, on the smoldering sidewalk. It was one of those times when a few seconds unfold in slow motion right in front of your eyes, but you are paralyzed, unable to intervene, powerless to prevent the unfortunate consequences you know are coming.

I stared down at my poor little IPhone, Snoopy on the back of the phone case starring back up at me, beaming cuteness that belied the shattered glass beneath it. I cringed as I replayed the sound of the cracking the phone had made when it smacked down so hard on the pavement. I just looked at that damn phone, unable to face the truth, unable to rescue it from its pathetic position at my feet. And then I heard Mack giggle. And then I heard Mack quote Monalisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny as she was finally admitting to her fiancé that the drippy faucet in their crappy hotel room was not functioning within normal parameters. I heard Mack’s voice loud and clear, cutting through my stunned silence, mocking my failure to keep my cellphone safe from the cruel world on a hot and sweaty day in St. Louis. I closed my eyes, I shook my head from side to side, and Mack, in her best, oft practiced, nasally Brooklyn accent, said: “yeahhh, it’s brrroken.” And then she giggled at me once more.

In 20 years or whatever it’s been since I have been using a cellular device, I have NEVER, before now, lost or broken a cellphone. Mack was the lucky beneficiary of my good cellphone record; because that kid had more broken and lost phones than working and found ones. Mack was the kid whose cellphones were always cracked, scratched, disfigured, missing parts, or on the fritz. Mack was the kid who dropped a cellphone off the railing of our front porch into the late summer foliage below, where while preparing the yard for spring plantings months later, I found it, crusted with soil, rusting, and wedged into the dirt among the Hosta sprouts. Mack was the kid whose friends provided backup phones because she had lost or broken yet another of her own. Mack was the kid who used every single one of my cellphone upgrades and her dad’s cellphone upgrades (as well as her own) for nearly a decade. I mean, seriously, during Mack’s reign of terror on her cellular devices, I used one flip phone for SIX years!

For those of you who did not know Mack and may suspect that I am engaging in gross hyperbole or perhaps even slandering my dear sweet girl, just read the following series of Facebook posts from one year in the life of “Mack with a Cellphone”…

February 11

March 22

August 22

October 17

As you can guess, in 2009 (and every other year, really), I yelled and screamed and carried on about Mack’s irresponsible cellphone ownership. I also frequently set myself up as a model example of responsible cellphone ownership, bragging about my perfect record and flashing a pristine cellphone screen and a shiny cellphone casing with all of its corner’s and its back intact. Yet Mack was never impressed. In fact, she thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I was so careful and so perfect and so smug. And do you know what? I think maybe that little imp nudged my phone from my sweaty and precarious grip that day on a St. Louis sidewalk when I so spectacularly shattered my phone as well as so spectacularly shattered my superhuman streak of responsible cellphone ownership. But, whatever and no matter. By the time I had found the strength to pick up my phone and to inspect the carnage, I fully understood why Mack was giggling at me; and I had to giggle at me, too.

Here is my phone and my girl. Don’t you think she at least looks a little guilty?

 

The Essence of Our Mack

I know that if my Mack was here, she would want me to enjoy the warm, early-fall weather. She would chide me for defining this comfortable and colorful season as the beginning of winter, instead of embracing it as the beautiful end of the summer. I know that if my Mack was here, she would want me to enjoy a few pumpkin-spice lattes. She would yell at me when I looked up the nutritional info on my phone, because didn’t I know that those seasonal beverages at Starbucks are special and don’t have any fat or calories? And I know that if my Mack was here, she would insist that a 50th birthday should be a happy affair, instead of one spent counting wrinkles. She would have denied that the gray hairs at my temples existed (even as I stretched them out before her eyes), arguing that 50 is the new 30 and that I should shut up, sit down, and watch a few episodes of Sponge Bob since I was feeling so damned old.

But my Mack is not here to hold my winter at bay or to aid and abet my consumption of too many sugary coffees or to employ her goofiest humor to keep me from turning…from feeling…old. But my Mack was here, and it is this magnificent fact on which I am determined to focus. Her time spent on the Earth was short, but it was bounding with joy and bursting with meaning. I was lucky to have shared life’s journey with her, if only for twenty short years. Mack’s spirit lives on in my heart, in my soul, and in my memories. It lives on in the hearts, in the souls, and in the memories of all the people who knew and loved her. Yet while Mack’s radiant spirit is always in the air around us, this week it must be particularly present. This week her laughter must ring a little louder in our ears. This week, the heartbeat in her gentle soul must resonate more deeply within our own, as we face this dreadful two-year anniversary of our lives without her.

Mack was a force of nature in my life, and now her spirit continues to guide me. As I have gathered up my courage to face this difficult week with resolve and at least a little grace, I have drawn from more tangible reminders of Mack’s good life than just my treasured memories. I have been reading Mack’s poetry and essays, watching videos of her playing basketball, and listening to recordings of her voice. So here I offer a sampling of beautiful material evidence of the essence of our Mack: a couple of lists in her own words, two delightful videos that depict her cheerful disposition and irreverent wit, and the precious sound of her voice.

In a Facebook game in high school, Mack offered these nine things about herself:

  1. Basketball and softball are the best.
  2. I act like a five year old.
  3. I have a freckle moustache.
  4. I like being a freshman.
  5. I enjoy music.
  6. I’m putting off homework right now.
  7. I’m good at math.
  8. I try to be nice.
  9. I need to work on my language, it’s becoming a problem.

Wish to recall something that Mack said? Here is funny little list she offered on social media of thoughts that frequently crossed her mind: 

  1. Man, I could go for a corn dog.
  2. Why’d I wear this?
  3. I hate schooooool.
  4. That was a really stupid thing to do.
  5. Yep, I failed that.
  6. When’s summer?
  7. Is it almost lunch?

Remember those silly faces she always made?
Mack’s unique way of telling me she cut off her hair

Remember the way ridiculous ways she danced:
Mack dancing a jig in a prom dress and posing for one of my favorite photos, below

And…oh my god…do you remember Mack’s sweet voice:
Encouraging Pepper to jump and “speaking Spanish”

Reading her “This I Believe” essay on the radio

prom4

And now, Dear Mack, I’m on my way to collect my first pumpkin-spice latte of the season. Iced. Grande. With whipped cream. And, no, I did not look up the calories!