Tag Archives: traveling

The Traveling Umbrella

My name is FiFi and I am a traveling umbrella.

I was born in a Totes factory 10 years ago. During that time I have traveled all over and have had many different owners, each with a different story.

When I came off the assembly line I was shipped to Macy’s with all the concomitant hopes of acquiring an upscale owner, preferably a liberal, since it was Manhattan. I figured this human would realize my quality and take good care of me. But since I was not the only umbrella on the shelf, it took many months for someone to notice me and to fall in love. It was such a sad and nerve wracking time for me and I thought it would never happen. Each time I saw someone perusing the isle I wanted to jump up and say, “Pick Me, Pick Me”, but I guess that was impossible. I probably would’ve caused a heart attack or stroke if I had done that.

But one day, when I had given up hope of ever getting a home, a fine young man named David recognized my intrinsic value and glow on my face and said, “That’s the one!” I was literally (at least in my mind) jumping for joy. But the joy was short lived because he didn’t really love me, no—he was gong to give me away. Not even one hour after rescuing me, I found myself practically smothered in giftwrap. With a heavy heart, I knew I would have a new owner. I could only hope and pray that she was responsible and would properly care for me. A few days later, I had a new owner named Camille, David’s girlfriend. She seemed very pleased at the time and in the beginning took me with her anytime there was rain or even a threat.  But one day, while riding the subway, she left me on the seat. I tried to call out to her, “Wait, wait, you forgot me,” but she couldn’t hear my silent scream. Suddenly, and without warning, I was alone again—on the subway, no less, with all kinds of undesirables and that dirt.

I sat there silently crying when another miracle happened—just the right person sat down and, seeing nobody claiming me, came to my aide. His name was Mark and he was an investment banker. Wow, I thought, I hit the jackpot. Yes I was broken up about losing Camille, but this guy was wealthy and I definitely could live with that. I had visions of a penthouse on Central Park West, with a doorman and a nicely furnished, well organized closet for my home. But, unfortunately this guy was a total slob, and I was carelessly thrown into a plastic tub at the bottom of the closet.  I felt hopeless, not knowing how I would get out of this predicament. Was there a foundation that dealt with abused umbrellas—I didn’t think so—and how would I even let anyone know. But luck shined on me again, when my captor decided to clean out his closet and donate junk to Goodwill. Now, although I was glad he was doing this, I was insulted that I was being categorized as junk. Nevertheless, it was a blessing because within a few days, Sara, who was planning on moving to Augusta, GA, paid $4.00 for me. Granted, that was ridiculous for a fine Totes umbrella like me to be sold for so little, I was happy that I seemed to have acquired a new home. In addition, I would be leaving Manhattan where I could easily be left on the Subway. No subway in Augusta.

Within a week I was in a nice warm climate, with my new owner. Her house was lovely and, for the first time in a while, I felt content. She usually kept me in her car for those sudden downpours. I was beginning to feel settled and, dare I say, relaxed, when she visited her favorite coffee spot, Starbucks. It happened to be raining that day and for some reason I felt uneasy. I knew it was predicted as intermittent showers so there was the risk of forgetting me if it became sunny. My fear came to fruition when one day, she left me on the seat. I was bereft and felt my life was over. Someone put me in the newspaper rack where I sat, feeling abandoned and alone, for weeks. I began to see a woman every day and I telepathically pleaded with her to please adopt me. So one day, Marilyn who had gotten my message, realized that nobody was going to claim me, and being the brash New Yorker that she is, took me home. That was three years ago, and we have been through so much. She is not perfect, but she loves me. She keeps me in her car and takes me into the gym periodically. The problem with her is that she has “lost” me so many times I cannot count, but somehow always finds me. It seems that we are meant for each other and maybe, just maybe, I have finally found my forever home.

Adversity Teaches Empathy

It is amazing that so many people take for granted being well and feeling well. There is nothing more humbling than having a debilitating illness or injury to bring you back to earth. I have been one of those athletic people who would look at someone struggling in the gym or out just walking slowly, without trying to understand that each person has a story. I have been struggling for many months with debilitating back pain and severe degenerated right knee. My back and knee pain was so bad that I would have to hobble from bed into the bathroom each morning, walking like I was 85. The constant, unrelenting pain and soreness also affected my state of mind, causing depression. It is so hard to look at the bright side of things when you are hurting over and over and life looks so bleak. It was so humbling and embarrassing on my trip to Guatemala. On the plane I would start to get anxious when we were about to land knowing that my back and knee would be so stiff that it would take a while for me to unbend. Getting up and carrying my luggage out of the plane was torture. I always thought of myself as this physically fit specimen and now I felt like a cripple, limping down the aisle. Things that I used to take for granted, like climbing down the steps of the airplane (in Augusta for some reason you have to climb down these stupid steep steps to get off the plane) caused me so much anxiety—being so afraid that I would fall or need assistance. When you are physically well, things like that don’t even occur to you. Now things that were never issues were now major concerns. Once in Guatemala, I was in constant pain, living on Ibuprofen. It prevented me from going on walking tours and, coupled with me being lonely, I was miserable. When I went on a tour to Panajachel I had to constantly climb in and out of the boat that ferried us from village to village on Lake Atitlan and that was pure torture. Once if it had not been for two guys holding me, I would have collapsed, due to my knee totally buckling under me. Back in the States, it did not get any better and I have since had knee surgery (much more extensive than I thought it would be) and have also had epidural steroid injections to my back. I want to travel now, but I was unable to plan for anything due to the constant uncertainty of my physical condition. Whenever there is a life altering event, whether it be a loss of a job, illness, death, divorce, you always look for a reason. The thing is that I feel there are no coincidences in God’s world and it may not be revealed until years later or weeks, you do not know. I am slowly starting to feel better but being so debilitated gave me real empathy for others. When I see people hobbling slowly across the street I know that there is a story behind it. I have a friend who suffers from MS and is on disability. She is estranged from her family who is totally unsupportive, yet she still perseveres. Another woman I went to school with just finished battling stage 4 uterine cancer, having gone through hell with chemotherapy, major surgery, colostomy, and having to rely on others since she lives alone. Then I look at myself and realize that maybe it is not that bad. Of course, when you are feeling better it is easy to look back and say it was not so bad. I am still having problems with numbness in my body, but maybe this is God’s lesson for me; be grateful for each day that you feel well and don’t take it for granted. It has given me a better understanding of other’s problems and pain, physically and mentally. Nobody has a perfect life, although sometimes it seems that some people do on the outside. It has also given me more of an incentive to change my life because I can appreciate that there are no guarantees that you will be around tomorrow or even later in the day. We take for granted that we have an infinite amount of time to achieve that elusive happiness and that is not true. My friend Janet is now in France with her husband, one among many trips they take. They are living now, not putting off what may never happen if they waited. Being so ill has put a time frame to my plans. I know that I absolutely cannot continue to live a life doing what I don’t want to do. I ask myself sometimes, “when are you most happy.” The answer always comes back, “when I am not at work.” It is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. I am so consumed with making money due to my upbringing (compulsive gambler dad) when money went flying out the window and life was insecure, that now it is my main focus. Yes, money does buy things I like, but continuing doing what I don’t want to do is killing me over and over. One day I will wake up and it will be my last day on earth and I will die never having taken the big risks and living a life of my dreams and how sad is that?