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Lavender for Biet

Posted on: Friday

Once in a great while, if you're lucky, a person comes into your life who can affect it positively in the simplest ways; a person whose mere presence brings about small changes that you will remember forever; a person whose friendship seems, inexplicably, greater than the sum of its parts.  It may be your teacher, your butcher, your mailman, your boss, a stranger on the train, or, your neighbor.

When we moved into this dear home of ours, we met Sacha, who lived upstairs in Number 8 with her husband Mike, and Lisa Marie, who lived downstairs in Number 2.  They extended a hand and welcomed us into the building, and onto the block.  During our first few weeks here, as we maneuvered around mountains of boxes & tarps, living out of suitcases & covered in paint, we found a handmade ceramic heart hanging from our doorknob. When we were frustrated and overtired, renovating our apartment by day and working by night, we would come home and see that little heart that Sacha had made. And we knew that all this work would pay off soon, that we were building a good home.  As we laid in bed at night listening to the music of Lisa Marie's record player drifting up through the floorboards, we knew we were in the right place.

We grew to know both Sacha & Lisa Marie as the kind and generous artists that they are. Sacha continued to constantly surprise us with gifts and goodies waiting for us at our front door. Lisa Marie has always been there to turn to, acting as East Village den mother of our building.  Knowing that they are both just a couple of floors away brings me a sense of great comfort. Knowing that they love and partake in this community brings me a sense of great pride in our neighborhood.  When Biet was born, our neighbors brought me the deepest sense of alchemy I have ever known. Let me explain:

My due date was May 15th, the same day that my late Mother gave birth to her first born, also a daughter, my sister Emmy. Since my sisters and I lost Mom at such a young age (I was 4), I was enheartened by this coincidence and took it as a sign that I would have a girl, just like she did, and that the baby would be healthy and strong. Happily, both of these things happened. My Mother gave birth to Emmy in Spokane, Washington, and, 3 days later, Mount St. Helens erupted.  So, as the story goes, after the monstrous volcano eruption, all of Spokane was covered in ash. The sky turned black, the sun disappeared, and all of the cheer seemed to drain from the city. My Mother was still in the hospital with baby Emmy. As she slept one day, my Dad went down to the hospital parking lot, took the car, and drove west, away from the ash and the dark and the volcano aftermath.  He drove to the town of Sequim, far enough away to escape the ash, and famous for its lavender fields, now in full bloom. He picked wild lavender until the back seat of the car was full to the windows, drove back to the hospital, & lugged the lavender inside.  While my Mother slept, he filled every open space of her room with the sweet-smelling purple flowers. When she awoke, her room had been transformed into the only place in the hospital filled with flowers and cheer. As my Dad tells it, Mom received the absolute best care out of everyone in the entire hospital because every nurse wanted to be in her room day & night.  And Mom and Emmy spent their first days together surrounded by the beautiful blossoms.

Mom & Dad:
Mom holding Emmy:
Emmy holding me 4 years later:
On my due date, May 15th, Gaby and I saw Sacha and she told us she had dreamt the night before that I had the baby, at home, and that we named her Betty.
My contractions began later that very same day. Biet was not born until the next day, May 16th, at 6:59 pm.  After her birth, after the midwives went home, it was just the three of us: Mama, Papa, & Biet. We laid on the bed and ordered hamburgers from our favorite NYC burger joint.  Then we all three slept, as a family, for the first time.  The next morning Gaby went to walk Nico.  When he opened the front door it was sitting there.  A congratulatory gesture. A gift from our neighbor: a glass bottle with a bouquet of wild lavender.
I had never told Sacha nor Lisa Marie the story of my Mother & the lavender. The bouquet that morning meant the world to me. I still have it, dried and hanging next to Biet's crib.
And Biet, the beautiful name which we chose so long ago for our daughter, and told not a soul, just happens to be the Russian form of Betty.

I am so happy to know these women, and I thank them for the comfort and grace that they unknowingly bring me.
Me holding Biet:


  1. I am going through your archives, reading your story. Your writing is poignant and so easy to read. I so love your little blog. As a hippy chick from Spokane, Washington I smiled when I read this post. What a sweet, sweet story. Best wishes to you and your sweet family . xo


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