Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Noted Local Author Lori Jakiela Kicks off Perspectives

In this exclusive essay, “Soft,” she describes her daughter’s beautiful sense of nostalgia as they ring in the New Year.




photo by chuck beard

 

My daughter Phelan weeps every New Year’s Eve.
It started when she was 4 years old. Decked out in party hats that cut lines into our cheeks, we watched Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin pretend-flirt as the ball started to fall like a small planet over Times Square. Phelan leaned into me and her body stiffened like she was bracing for impact. When everyone yelled “Happy New Year!” and fireworks and confetti filled the TV screen, Phelan buried her face in my hair. She flung herself at her father’s chest and swatted her brother.

She dropped to the floor, boneless, inconsolable, and we had no idea why.

“Goodbye, goodbye,” she cried. 

“I miss the good old days,” she said later, and I said, “You’re 4, sweetie.”

My daughter was born with a beautiful sense of nostalgia.
“Old soul,” my friend Tonya says.

Tonya runs a yoga studio filled with Buddha statues and incense, dried flowers and velvety drapes in our rusty mill town of Trafford. The studio used to be Mel’s Barber Shop. The Westmoreland Ghost Hunters occasionally stop by, believing Mel, who played stand-up bass, haunts the place.

When she’s alone at night, Tonya hears music.

Tonya knows old souls.

I think she, like my daughter, is one.

The best people are.

When we replaced the floor in our kitchen, Phelan, who was 7, wept over that, too.
She threw herself onto the sticky yellowed tiles that had been in place since the 1970s.

“Goodbye, floor,” she said, like she was losing a friend.

I tried to pick her up — the floor was not only old, but gross. Desiccated Cheerios, bits of old toast and cookie crumbs stuck in her long blonde curls.

I said, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong? You’ll love the new floor. You can slide across it in your socks. It’ll be like ice skating.”

“Really?” she said, and tried to smile.

Then she wept again.

The same thing happened when we tried to replace the stained carpet in her bedroom, when we tried to paint her walls, and when our minivan died.

​Phelan was 8 when we bought a lime-green replacement Kia. “Goodbye, van,” she said. “We had some good times.”

Lime green was her favorite color that year. It showed up in every picture she drew.

“Your brother threw up in that van all the time,” I said.

The car salesman, rubbing his comb-over, tried to console my daughter. He gave her a lollipop. He gave her a balloon.

​Phelan thanked him and kept crying.

“What’s wrong with that kid?” another salesman said.

When I was a child, I cried a lot.
My mother, annoyed and worried, bought a book called “Cry-Baby Duck” and read it to me at bedtime. Children’s books have morals, and this one wanted me to toughen up.

“Cry-baby duck,” my mother would say whenever I was upset. “Let’s have a pity party, one two three, awwww.”

The duck in that story cried because he wanted to be bigger, prettier, less duck-ish. The duck in that story cried whenever he didn’t get his way.

None of these were the reasons I cried, and my mother knew that.

“You and your feelings,” she said, like feelings made her itchy. “Grow a thicker skin already.”

A few years ago, when Phelan was 10, we found a copy of “Cry-Baby Duck” and read it together. When we were done, Phelan looked stunned.

“What kind of monster reads a book like that to a child?” she said.

Sometimes I worry my daughter is too sensitive.
Sometimes I wish I could find armor to protect her from the loss that will come and keep coming.

My mother wasn’t being cruel.

She was afraid.

When I worry about Phelan, I try to remember that her capacity for tears is matched only by her capacity for joy. One day, years ago, her brother caught her spinning and dancing in the kitchen.

“Life isn’t all daisies and roses, you know,” he said.

​Phelan kept spinning.

She laughed and said, “Who’s Daisy?”

My daughter’s first word was “abre,” Spanish for “open.”
When she said it, she held her arms wide, reaching out of her crib, like she wanted to take everything in.

“Be soft,” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said. “Do not let the world make you hard.”
My daughter is 13 now, embarrassed by her big feelings, I think.

Life feels harder and crueler every day. Just turn on the news.

And still.

In October, Phelan and I visited Times Square. She looked up at the Toshiba tower, the ball tucked safely in place. She looked around, the lights on Broadway, the smiling people taking pictures.

“It’s all too beautiful,” she said about New York, about the world.  

Lori Jakiela is the author of five books. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, writer Dave Newman, and their children.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Pittsburgh Couples with Perfect New York City Proposals

Another city of bridges provided the perfect backdrop for these romantic engagements.

Millie’s Is on the Move, and Kevin Sousa Will Make Ice Cream for Dinner

Millie’s finds a new home in Homestead, and Kevin Sousa will host an ice cream dinner with OddFellows' Sam Mason at Superior Motors in Braddock.

See Crosby Delight Kenyan Hockey Team in Surprise Appearance

When you see the look on the Kenyan players' faces –– you can't help but smile.

Watch: Remembering Roberto in the 1971 World Series

Clemente was the series M.V.P. Enjoy highlights from Game 7 –– played on Oct. 17, 1971 –– complete with comments from Bob Prince in the broadcast booth.

Le Creuset Gets Cooking with First Pittsburgh Store

Located on the lower level of The Block Northway shopping mall in Ross Township, the store will host a weeklong grand opening celebration.

Return of the Ogee: Phipps Restores Historic Glass Architecture

For the first time since 1937 — and just in time for its 125th birthday — Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is bringing back the curved glass peak, known as an ogee, that sits atop the heart of the conservatory.

Last to Buy a Ticket and She Gets Best Seat in the House

A lifelong fan buys a last minute, front-row seat to see Elton John in Pittsburgh, no scalpers needed.

Find the Devil in Gallery D at the Carnegie International

The 57th Carnegie International is now open, and with it the premiere of Alex Da Corte's "Rubber Pencil Devil."

Tango in the Taproom on Tuesdays

North Side pub will offer Tango Tuesdays where you can move to the music and take some dance lessons.

A Comedy about Coming Out: CMU Grad's New Film, “Lez Bomb”

Jenna Laurenzo's new film about a woman who brings her girlfriend home for Thanksgiving in an attempt to come out to her family will be featured at the Reel Q LGBT Film Festival on Saturday.

Leslie Odom Jr. Bringing “Hamilton” to the People

The “Hamilton” star will perform with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall for a one-night-only concert perfect for those who may miss the musical in January.

6 Things You Need for a Successful Fundraiser

We asked local nonprofits to give us their best tricks and tips.

Sweet Spot: The Bakery that Serves Dessert with a Purpose

Wes Lyons and Amber Greene's Cakery Square serves its cupcakes with a side of youth empowerment.

Healing with Music in The Key of Community

A Mt. Lebanon resident and her friend create a nonprofit that aims to transform lives by sharing the arts through piano donations, community projects and educational programs.

Single Black Mothers: How One Woman Changed the Narrative

The traveling photo essay and video series created by Heather Hopson aims to change the narrative surrounding the negative stereotypes.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


See Crosby Delight Kenyan Hockey Team in Surprise Appearance

See Crosby Delight Kenyan Hockey Team in Surprise Appearance

When you see the look on the Kenyan players' faces –– you can't help but smile.

Comments

Watch: Remembering Roberto in the 1971 World Series

Watch: Remembering Roberto in the 1971 World Series

Clemente was the series M.V.P. Enjoy highlights from Game 7 –– played on Oct. 17, 1971 –– complete with comments from Bob Prince in the broadcast booth.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Millie’s Is on the Move, and Kevin Sousa Will Make Ice Cream for Dinner

Millie’s Is on the Move, and Kevin Sousa Will Make Ice Cream for Dinner

Millie’s finds a new home in Homestead, and Kevin Sousa will host an ice cream dinner with OddFellows' Sam Mason at Superior Motors in Braddock.

Comments

The Black Cat Market is Pittsburgh's Newest Cat Cafe

The Black Cat Market is Pittsburgh's Newest Cat Cafe

Co-owners Olivia Ciotoli and Indigo Baloch opened the Lawrenceville location to provide a venue for animal interactions for those without the ability to keep pets themselves.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

Hone your gardening skills at these top Pittsburgh-area nurseries, garden centers and shops.

Comments

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

A movie-going experience is about more than just the movie. PM Film Critic Sean Collier takes a break from movie reviews and shares the best spots for cocktails, classics and comfort.

Comments


Phantom Fright Nights is Creepy, Essential Kennywood

Phantom Fright Nights is Creepy, Essential Kennywood

The Halloween attraction turns the playful park sinister in delightful ways.

Comments

What Lurks in the ScareHouse Basement?

What Lurks in the ScareHouse Basement?

Venturing into the popular haunt's extreme, underground attraction.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Shazier, Steelers Return to Cincinnati Still Seeking a Happy Ending

Shazier, Steelers Return to Cincinnati Still Seeking a Happy Ending

Sunday's return to Paul Brown Stadium will be the Steelers' first trip back since last December when linebacker Ryan Shazier went down and stayed down. But this time he’ll be back on the sideline with his team, and most significantly he’ll be back on his feet.

Comments

Pens Want to Send Early Message, More Will be Necessary

Pens Want to Send Early Message, More Will be Necessary

The Pens open the season against three teams that have a legitimate shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup nine months from now.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: First Man

The 400-Word Review: First Man

"First Man" manages to capture the awe that landing on the moon should — and all but guarantees Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: A Star is Born

The 400-Word Review: A Star is Born

The high-profile remake is a good, old-fashioned movie musical with a lot to offer.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Couples with Perfect New York City Proposals

Pittsburgh Couples with Perfect New York City Proposals

Another city of bridges provided the perfect backdrop for these romantic engagements.

Comments

Love and the Law: This Couple's Professor Nailed It

Love and the Law: This Couple's Professor Nailed It

When Julia Conley and Scott Scheinberg's law school professor predicted two people in the class would end up married to one another, they never imagined it would be them.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Le Creuset Gets Cooking with First Pittsburgh Store

Le Creuset Gets Cooking with First Pittsburgh Store

Located on the lower level of The Block Northway shopping mall in Ross Township, the store will host a weeklong grand opening celebration.

Comments

Return of the Ogee: Phipps Restores Historic Glass Architecture

Return of the Ogee: Phipps Restores Historic Glass Architecture

For the first time since 1937 — and just in time for its 125th birthday — Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is bringing back the curved glass peak, known as an ogee, that sits atop the heart of the conservatory.

Comments