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My kids call them “Sad” – as in “Sad” Mickey, “Sad” Minnie, and “Sad” Elmo. You find them all over near the tourist attractions in New York City, but they seem to cluster in Times Square. They are the people who dress – badly – as your favorite characters. Some have heads that aren’t quite the right shape or costumes that look like they could use a good cleaning, but tourists flock to them to have their photos taken. And to make a donation that might be supporting a family here, a family in Mexico, a family in Ecuador.
The New York Times did an article this past weekend about these characters – most of them immigrants, many undocumented. They pay big money for those costumes. Mostly made in Peru, Minnie Mouse might set you back over $400, unless you can find it used for half the price. But they buy the best costumes they can afford. They don’t have to speak as their characters, so the language barrier is no problem, and many of them don’t speak English. They do, however, try to impart some familiar trait to their characters. They want kids to be comfortable approaching them. And they work for whatever tips the tourists give them to stand for a picture or two.
I never knew anything about the sad characters. And honestly, we’ve made fun of them and we’ve chuckled when we’ve seen news articles of Elmo losing his shit and trying to take out a tourist. But there’s so much pressure on these characters. The competition for real estate on the street continues to get tougher, and the aggression has to come out if you want to be recognized over the four other Elmos vying for the attention of the tourists.
It seems like regulation is the way to go to protect not only the rights of the street performers in those costumes but the tourists as well. But with regulation may come things like permits, licensing fees, even paying taxes. Not that they shouldn’t be paying taxes, but again, some of these people support not only a family here, but families back home as well. The burdens are great and the money so scarce.
Now I feel like they truly are the “sad” characters.
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I could sum up my year in one word. School. I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations. But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things. With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.
So here goes:
I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost. My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads. I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things. But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost. I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles. I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority. I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.
I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best. The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days. A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A. A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift. Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”. I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!
I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is. I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years. While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is. He’s funny. I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate. And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia. So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck. Looking for a phenomenal surgeon? Dr. Nestor Veitia. And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.
I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life. Well, at least my life. I haven’t. But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important. Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse. If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.