We picked our son Theo up this morning from his night out – his friend Xan’s birthday party and sleepover that was apparently tons of fun. When we arrived, his friend’s mother, Tenaya, looking lovely still in her pajamas had Xan’s younger sister, Magnolia, wrapped around her like a scarf. Somewhere in the house, the boys were engaged in games and conversations that had begun the night before. Theo didn’t seem ready to leave the fun, so David headed off to the gym and I sat down for coffee and a chat with Tenaya.
From the few conversations I’d had with her over the last couple of years, I already found her super-smart, funny and an incredible organizer. She and our friend Patty (see January 11, May 31 and June 12) are very close and together they had organized the school’s largest fundraiser event last fall, a huge undertaking even when the school isn’t celebrating its 125th anniversary! The event was classy and fun, and I was grateful for Tenaya for working with me to make it as green as possible. What I hadn’t been aware of at the time was that Tenaya was recovering from stage 4 lymphoma and was still undergoing treatment. On the day, she and Patty both looked radiant in their long black gowns. Now it’s clear to me that Tenaya was celebrating much more than the school’s grand age that spectacular day.
Having experienced leukemia in our family, I understand how frightening such an illness is for a family, and as a mother who was recently suffocating on a regular basis, I have felt the terror of not knowing if I was going to be able to stay alive to care for my child. Tenaya’s ordeal was many times more terrifying, but you wouldn’t know it to talk to her this Sunday morning in June. She cuddled with her daughter, chatted with her son, prepared coffee and raved about the book she is currently reading, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton , another witty, honest woman who has refused to be defeated by life’s challenges. As I watched and listened to her, I realized that her humor, strength and honesty are gifts to all those around her, especially to her family. The fact that she and her husband Jonathan, who is scheduled to undergo back surgery in just over a week, were able and willing to throw such a long party for a group of highly charged boys, show how these qualities can keep a whole family strong. Just before I sat down for coffee with her, I decided to give her a couple of brightly colored Ikea cushion covers that I love but which don’t match anything in our house. Though Tenaya and Jonathan both a very loving and positive approach to life, if there are moments when life seems tough, heavy or dark, maybe the cushions will add some color and comfort.