It’s been a little more than five weeks since Erika passed, so I’ve had time to reflect and really think about my little bit of time with her. As I flip through pictures of her, each has its own memories. One thing that I noticed is that she and I didn’t record very many videos. I think in our seven years, there are fewer than five videos of her, and one of those is 2 seconds long and seemingly an accident where someone meant to take a photo but hit the video button. I wish there were more.
But one thing that I did want to write about is all the things that I really loved about her. The big risk that I take in writing this is how many things I’ll forget to include. These are in no particular order. None of them are any more important to me than the others.
She really was so beautiful. Her bright blue eyes. Dark curly hair. Perfect smile. As I look back through all our photos, I keep having to stop scrolling and just look at her.
Another thing was just how comfortable she was in being herself. While being feminine, she hated dressing up, never wore makeup, didn’t color her hair, didn’t even own a pair of high heeled shoes and maybe painted her fingernails once. And even then was likely with her niece Violet. I remember early on, she asked if I cared that she didn’t dress up, and I told her definitely not. I wanted her to always be comfortable with herself, and that’s exactly what she did, hoodies, t-shirts, sweatpants, jeans and sneakers ruled the day for her. On days when she might have had to dress up for work, at 5:01 pm she’d say she was going to put on her “comfies”, meaning her comfortable clothes, lie down on the couch and often be under at least one cat.
Erika was extremely driven, while at the same time knowing how to relax. Erika was a woman who literally moved halfway around the world to become the Baltimore Sun’s Bureau Chief in Moscow, Russia. She wrote a story about Josie King that earned her a finalist’s spot with the Pulitzers (I still think she should have won). And when she felt her time in the Baltimore/DC area was done, she moved to Rhode Island to work with the Associated Press. And then when she knew she could do more for the world, she gave up her highly successful career in journalism to attend Tufts University and earn her Masters in Public Policy.
As driven as she was, she also knew how to relax. One of the best examples is a maxim that she lived by: “Why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down.” Part of our daily routine was that she would come into the kitchen while I was making dinner and often, she’d lie on the floor. It didn’t seem the most comfortable, but it made her happy.
Erika was also the best at taking naps. We’d often say that if napping were an Olympic sport, she would be the gold medalist. We frequently planned our weekend schedule around her nap schedule. I didn’t mind because naps made her so happy. I could tell when she was getting close to her nap time. She might be reading on the couch and could see her eyes getting heavy. Even on vacations, she’d nap virtually every day, except one. There wasn’t anything special about that one day, she’d just say that she was “caught up” on her rest, and didn’t need a nap that day. But the next day, back to napping.
We also had a thing where she would often be the second one to get out of bed for the day. Usually after I’d walked the dog and started the coffee, she would come downstairs. After a quick celebration (yes, we celebrated her getting out of bed each day), I’d say “Good job waking up, now go rest.” and she’d go lie down on the couch. All of this is really an illustration of just how driven she was, but that she also knew how to slow down when needed.
Erika was also just so damn smart. She was the person who I could always bounce ideas off of and she would always give great feedback. I’d think my idea was rock solid, nothing could possibly be wrong with it and then she’d just start asking questions, ones that made sense, other things to think about. She also would often say she didn’t know what she was doing at her job. That everyone else was so much smarter than her, but then I’d see her getting invited to be a subject matter expert on conference panels, I’d hear her on her work calls and hear her explaining things. And of course her ability to easily write or edit. Anything I ever wrote would always go through her as an editor. I kinda wish these blog posts could be edited by her too, but then again, if she could edit them, I wouldn’t be writing them.
She also had such a big heart for others. She was always looking out for the under-appreciated and those who didn’t get noticed. We were fortunate that Erika attended an Undoing Racism workshop which eventually opened our eyes to our own internal racist beliefs and helped us to challenge much of what we know. We worked on that together. We challenged each other many times in many ways and that really helped both of us. I could not have done that without her.
When there was something she was interested in, she just went ahead and did it. She had been riding her bicycle long distances since high school. She learned how to do welding and built herself a bicycle out of some scraps. She re-learned how to skate and then to play hockey.
She learned how to identify frog noises, she learned about Mason bees and how they are good plant pollinators and got a hive for our backyard. She got us a bat house for the yard, as she was really interested in bats. Sometimes our interests overlapped and sometimes they didn’t. And that was ok. We both really enjoyed doing nothing during our vacations. Most times, we’d just go somewhere, usually Prudence Island, and do nothing together. I loved that we could just be together, do nothing and be happy.
And there was the Bruins. Our first date was at a Bruins game on November 11, 2013. The Bruins beat the Lightning. We also went to the Stanley Cup Final Game 7 together. We went to many others, both in Boston and in other cities. We did a whole vacation where we followed the Bruins up and down the west coast. It seems the last game she and I attended together was December 23rd, 2019 vs. the Washington Capitals.
It’s interesting that the Caps were the last team we saw together as they were probably our second favorite team. We even went to a Caps playoff game together in Washington one year.
We had a lot of interesting times at hockey games. From the time she was almost too nervous to meet Liam Fitzgerald, aka Fist Bump Kid.
Or when we saw “The Guy from Chicago”, Conor McGregor, as Erika referred to him. She didn’t really know who he was but had heard that he’d been in Chicago earlier in the day, which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day.
There were just so many things to love about Erika. Another thing is she was an incredible role model for my daughter. While I wouldn’t say they were very close, they did get along really well and I know McKenna looked up to Erika. Erika was a smart, strong woman who took no BS from anyone. Erika was a board member for Girls Rock Rhode Island, and was a huge supporter of the organization. It was through this affiliation that McKenna got to attend the Girls Rock camps and also learn a lot about herself. The three of us had lots of serious family discussions but Erika also never took herself too seriously and could have fun with McKenna too, including this time when we were playing the Exploding Kittens game, and the expansion pack which came with the Cone of Shame.
I also loved the times when the three of us just hung out together, having fun.
One story that I liked to remind Erika of was way back when we were first dating, this might have been in the first month or so. I was asking her about “the holidays” and what she thought of them. She said she wasn’t a fan and always looked forward to them just being over. I remember this as it was one of the first times we’d gone ice skating together and we were at the downtown Providence rink. I just looked at her and said “I’m going to get you to like Christmas.” She actually rolled her eyes at me and said, with a slight sarcastic tone “okay…” After a few together, I think I was successful, and I’d remind her of that conversation. She agreed, she enjoyed the holidays together as we started making our own traditions, like tagging our tree each year:
Like I said at the beginning, I’m sure I’m forgetting many of the things that I loved about her. So many little things. How she’d get in the way in the kitchen when I made dinner. How she’d snore herself awake at night and insist on telling me that she snored herself awake, her love of her cats, especially Yukos and Red Bull, how much she loved seeing Paws, the Paw Sox mascot visit her every Valentine’s Day, her passion for doing so much and her passion for doing nothing.
Before I met her, I really didn’t believe in soul mates. I didn’t think it were possible that there is one perfect person for me. She proved me wrong. She was the perfect one for me, she was my everything.
This is literally the last photo we took together.
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