By Mary Cucarola – 12/13/18
“You think you’re tough, huh? You think you’re tough enough to stand up to my hot nunchuck fury? Michelangelo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
I loved to sew back in the day and made a lot of my own clothes, starting when I was a teenager. As I got older, I sewed things for my house and made all of Cody’s Halloween costumes.
My favorite was sewing his Ninja Turtle costume in the early nineties – Michelangelo, his favorite turtle. He was the one with the orange mask who said “cowabunga” a lot. I can still see Cody in the costume, with the turtle shell on his back, dwarfing his little four year old body, proudly holding the nunchucks and saying “cowabunga”, which in reality was the only thing he wanted out of the costume.
I enjoyed the whole process of sewing – creating something from nothing. Starting with a piece of fabric and a pattern, turning it into my own creation. I seldom followed the pattern exactly and sometimes that caused me painful do-overs. Unfortunately, I haven’t really sewn much over the past 15 years. I miss it.
These days it seems I spend most of my time sewing up my wounds, instead. It’s sad how I cast away something I loved for so many years to focus on my son’s problems. And, now there is the grief, of course. Sewing brought me joy – always. Yet, it’s as if I wouldn’t let myself experience it.
As I reflect on the sixth Christmas without my little Michelangelo, I see I’ve been sewing up my wounds much the same way I used to sew up his Halloween costumes. My wound pattern is the important guides and relationships I have in my life – old friends, new friends, good listeners, and family. And, I can’t forget Cody’s friends, whose relationships I truly cherish or my Higher Power/God, who guides me daily in good orderly direction, when I pay attention.
These guides and relationships are the reason I am able to experience occasional joy in my life, and I am grateful for all of them.
In that guidance, I have not conformed to anyone’s idea of how I should “be” after Cody’s death, but have followed my own path, which has been far from perfect, much like I didn’t always follow the sewing pattern. It’s an ongoing battle to balance the pain and guilt of outliving my son and live in a way that honors his short time on this earth and honors my own life, too.
The wounds are still deep, and I continue to sew them up, stitch by stitch, creating the new normal of my wounded self. But, like Michelangelo, I am tough in the face of fury. I am strong most of the time, but vulnerable, too.
I miss Cody terribly, and I will celebrate him on Christmas day with my family (in Oregon) and think of his Michelangelo days and his wild hot nunchucks. Now, he is Michelangelo’s kneeling angel and a protector of all whom he loves.
What a comforting Christmas reflection to hold close to my heart during the coming days.
Maybe I’ll get my Bernina (sewing machine) back out in 2019. There are probably a few children out there who would appreciate a handmade Halloween costume. I know the Ninja Turtles have made a big comeback – just like I am trying to do.
Cowabunga (and Merry Christmas)!
Mary Cucarola – 12/13/18