Lessons from Mickey
Celebrating the life and style of a bygone birthday girl.
First, book news!
I encountered a delightful dilemma this week: there is international interest in HALF WILD! Friends from overseas want to get their hands on this book, which poses a challenge because shipping a book internationally often costs more than the book itself.
I asked the mailman during my daily sojourn to the post office and he told me matter-of-factly that shipping “was what it was.” I continued to ruminate while walking the stalls of a lovely little makers’ market at a brewery in the center of town. I chatted with a guy who writes bespoke poems on the spot on a vintage typewriter. He also sells books, oracle decks, and other works of charming art (he’s cool, check him out). He mentioned he peddles his wares on Etsy.
Around Christmastime, I splurged on a set of luxe linen sheets, handmade and shipped from an Etsy shop in Belarus. Is Etsy perhaps the quiet leader in international small business? All that to say, HALF WILD is now available on Etsy as well as Amazon. I trust my international readers to do what makes sense for them, understanding that shipping a book overseas is a challenge that is quite surmountable with the right platform and enough postage.
Lessons from Mickey on her birthday
Alas, this week was not all a-ha moments and happy entrepreneurial revelations.
Wednesday would have been my mom’s 71st birthday. She left us back in August. Nearly a year later, I am still swimming through waves of grief and anger. Weepy spells can emerge out of the blue, so I’ve taken a proactive approach by scheduling sadness appointments. I listen to old voicemails or ponder the qualities and memories I loved most, and I’ll have a good cry. See? I’m doing it right now! Maybe it’s cynical to schedule sadness, but it’s a good, pressure release valve. Without it, I might keep going about my business and then explode at Marco for no reason because there is a volcano of unfelt sadness pulsing just beneath the surface of my heart.
I haven’t needed to book as many appointments as usual lately. They’ve happened naturally, inspired by messages I’ve received from people that knew her. She touched so many during her tenure as a Human Resources executive for some of the world’s biggest companies. Some of them are just now finding out that she’s gone. Their notes express heartbreak and offer condolences. They share how she helped them when they needed it, how she was instrumental in their success. They can’t believe she’s gone.
It makes me wonder if perhaps God was facilitating a heavenly re-org and needed to call up some extra muscle to get the job done.
To say that Mickey Durmick was helpful is almost an insult. Mom wasn't helpful. She was generous beyond words and transformative as a professional ally and coach. She was who you called during a crisis. Her ability to break down problems into manageable pieces meant she could talk anyone off any ledge.
Her approach was diplomatic to a fault. Frustratingly, she would offer up the logic of the other side. She would examine the big picture and ask pointed questions like “have you eaten/slept/taken a walk today?” when she heard desperate mania in my voice.
If I wanted to skip the diplomacy, I had to preface my whining. I’d tell her, “I just need to vent!” She was game to listen and let me bitch and moan, and she was ready with advice when I was. Her gracious and tangible solutions broke down even the stickiest quandaries, whether it was a question of prom dates or performance improvement plans.
A career woman to her core, she brought her work home in beautiful ways.
We joke about the “momisms” cultivated from her life in the corporate boardroom. She brought an argument to a definitive ceasefire with a terse and final nevertheless, regardless, or be that as it may. Simple phrases, delivered with austere authority, silenced all remaining protests. She could mother like a manager, but it wasn’t cold. She offered efficiency, organization, and recognition of the unique strengths that each of us brought to the team. There were certain things that would not stand in her household. She had no tolerance for dishonesty, bad red wine, squandered potential, or dry cake.
She regularly and eagerly opened her home to colleagues, friends, and family, delighting in the opportunity to bring people together. The dinner parties she hosted were legendary, not for drunken shenanigans so much as bountiful spreads and facilitation of the kind of conversational intimacy that is increasingly rare in our quick-scrolling cultural landscape.
I gratefully recognize her quiet influence in my own home. I see her in my adamant preference for lamps rather than overhead lighting. Her touch lingers in the soft curves of my cozy things. (Though where she would toss a woven blanket, I’ll lay down a sheepskin.) I embrace her legacy of cozy communions through ritualized Thursday night dinners with an open door policy. When friends walk in the door, the lamps are lit and the smell of garlic and a sultry Duke Ellington playlist are already wafting through the house. There’s always enough to eat and a freshly-made guest bed, just in case the conversation runs long.
Her penchant for hosting went beyond a simple desire to feed people, belying an intention to bring people into her world. She perfected her gratitude practice before it was cool, counting her blessings and reminding me to do the same since I was little. She believed she lived a “charmed life” and worked hard to enjoy it. I think she wanted the same for everyone else.
She was a blessing that many people could count. She never hesitated to offer patient and practical support to anyone who was trying their best. She saw and amplified the potential of the people around her. As smiling faces reflected in candlelit wine glasses, she blessed us by bringing us into her charmed life.
Happy birthday, Mom. I hope there’s red velvet in heaven. 🍰
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Great way to honor her!