Posted tagged ‘family’

“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!”

June 11, 2012

Today is a perfect morning. The sun is shining, it’s cool and the birds are loudly singing their homage to the day. It’s quiet in the way weekday mornings are when people are at work and kids are in school. Gracie is asleep on the couch and breathing so deeply I know her tongue is probably out the way it always is when she sleeps so soundly. The cats are lying in the sun. Today I need to fill the bird feeders and go grocery shopping, one of my least favorite chores, but I really don’t have much choice. I’m just about out of everything-the list is long.

My niece had her baby yesterday. Declan weighed 9.2 pounds. Sarah, my niece, is a diabetic so the doctor knew the baby would be a big one. He has been watching her closely for the last month or so and knew it was time for Declan to meet the world and his family, all of whom were there. In the picture with his father, Declan is screaming and looks enormous for a newborn. I half expected to see him standing tall and maybe even saying hello. The best picture is of Declan being held by his cousin Ryder who is almost six. On Ryder’s face as he is holding the baby is the most wonderful look of awe and joy at finally meeting his cousin.

I am now the old aunt. I remember my old aunts. They were my grandmother’s sisters and were at most of our family parties. Aunt Madeline played the piano and everyone stood around and sang. My family was always great for singing. My uncle fancies himself a Bing Crosby. When I was in Africa, my sister sent me a tape of music she had recorded from the radio. I was listening to it when right in the middle I heard my uncle’s voice singing to me. He had commandeered the microphone, and I loved hearing his voice. It was a huge piece of home.

My mother always sang while she worked in the kitchen. She’d put on a CD of Tony or Frank and sing along. I have the best picture in my memory drawer of my mother working at the counter and singing as she mixed and stirred her ingredients. That kitchen was always where the singing seem to start at my parents’ parties. People would be sitting on the benches at the table or standing in front of the table their arms sometimes around each other’s shoulders. When I close my eyes, I can still see them all.

I dearly miss those parties and the singing in the kitchen. They are just about my favorite memories of my family, of all my family, of aunts and uncles and most especially Mom and Dad.

“Mothers are the necessity of invention.”

January 31, 2012

The day is warm by winter’s usual standards. It’s 49°, but there is a little breeze which makes the day feel colder. On days like today I’d love a jacket like the ones I had as a kid. With those, each sleeve had a jersey cuff inside which kept the wind at bay, and all the jackets had hoods attached. Nothing is worse than ears which are red and frozen.

We always walked to school and never thought twice about the weather. Most families had only one car, and it left early to work with the dads. In my neighborhood, the only woman who drove was a widow who had no choice. The other mothers walked to do most of their errands. The only exception was the weekly groceries. It was a Friday tradition in my house for my Dad to drive my mother to the supermarket. I never went, but I’m willing to bet my dad waited in the car. Grocery shopping was a woman’s job.

When I was a kid, there was a clear delineation between household jobs for men and for women. I didn’t know any mother who had an outside job. Every mother in my neighborhood stayed at home and took care of the house and kids. Every morning the fathers, wearing suits and fedoras, drove to work. In the winter they shoveled and switched to snow tires, in the summer they mowed and trimmed the bushes, in the spring they planted and changed tires again and in the fall they raked and burned the leaves. They took down and put up the storm windows. They got the oil in the car changed and picked out every new car. On warm Saturday mornings, they washed those cars. They read the papers on Sunday mornings and watched football on Sunday afternoons. They were the threats our mothers used to keep us in line. Everything else our mothers did.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

November 19, 2011

Streets and backyards are covered with brown oak leaves, recent victims of the last three days of winds. Pine needles in the front yard cover the lawn and garden. My world is drab and messy.

Today Miss Gracie is six years old. After I finish here, we have to go to Agway for dog food so she’ll get to pick a couple of gifts and a treat or two. Gracie won’t think this too special as it happens almost every time we go to Agway. Dogs are meant to be spoiled.

I sent out my Thanksgiving cards today and they got me thinking. Thanksgiving is the least pretentious of all the holidays. No colored lights gleam in the darkness, no special decorations or costumes or new spring clothes are any part of the day. Christmas has Santa and Easter has its bunny, but Thanksgiving just has itself which is more than enough. It is the one holiday without the hustle and bustle of days of preparation. It is a day when we can take time to remember the people we love and the people we have loved. We get to be thankful for being together, and we get to share a sumptuous meal. I think the sharing of food is one of the most intimate moments which brings people together.

When my Ghanaian student, now a woman in her fifties, was here we all sat and ate a Ghanaian dinner. It was the sharing of a culture, of my memories and experiences and of the bond which has held strong between Francisca and me despite the forty years since we last saw each other. It was more than a meal: it was a celebration of friendship and family.

On Thanksgiving, most of us have a turkey at center stage. We cook foods we’ve eaten since childhood, foods which connect the years, strengthen the bonds between family and friends and touch all of our memories. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without green bean casserole or Tony’s grandmother’s cole slaw or my mother’s squash dish. This year, as on every Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for the years of memories, for the gifts from this one unpretentious day.

“Family is just accident…. They don’t mean to get on your nerves. They don’t even mean to be your family, they just are.”

June 26, 2011

The sun has yet to appear but Gracie is resting on the lounge so I know the day is a bit warmer than it’s been. Earlier, while the coffee was brewing,  I was out on the deck and brought in the jelly feeders to clean and refill. I’ll go back out after this and also fill the seed feeders. Company comes tomorrow so I have a lot to do today. Well, actually, I just have to shop and make beds which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s because I’ve already done a little bit every day for the last couple of days. We have an itinerary of sorts. Tomorrow night is baseball: the Cape Cod league. Tuesday is movie night, and I’ve suggested the audience bring their woolies as it will be chilly. Wednesday night is still open. The days are also open though a whale watch is a possibility. I want to take them to my favorite lunch spot. It’s on the channel to the harbor and has picnic tables, nothing fancy except great food.

When my whole family lived on the cape, relatives we hardly knew crawled out of the woodwork and came to visit. One was my father’s cousin whom I had never heard of let alone met. I don’t even remember her name, but I certainly remember her husband Ray. He said his mother wasn’t the greatest mother, and he still had occasional diaper rash from being left unattended as a baby. He also told us he was swimming in the ocean and swallowed a clam, shell and all. Ray was perfectly serious and his dutiful wife nodded in commiseration. My father’s aunt Helen, the cousin’s mother, also came to visit. I hadn’t met her either. She was the one who once had a huge shadow on her chest doctors thought was a mass of cancer. It was her change purse pinned to her slip. My mother’s Aunty Clara once stopped by to visit, but my parents were off-cape for the weekend. She wanted to know who was a babysitting. I was said I. She was appalled my parents had left us alone. I was twenty-one at the time.

My Aunt Barbara and My Uncle Lorrie came often. I knew them well, but I was never really all that excited for their visits. I had to sleep on the couch, and they brought with them cousin Bobby whom we all detested. I didn’t remember the incident, but my mother reminded me I once punched Bobby in the face. It seems he was harassing me, and, despite my polite requests, he wouldn’t stop. The punch was perfect persuasion. After that, Bobby seldom came down to visit with my aunt and uncle. He wasn’t missed.

I don’t get much company here. That surprises me as I really am a good hostess. It probably has to do with how little I see my off Cape relatives, though I really enjoy most of them. It’s the same day round trip I hate as I can’t stay over because of Miss Gracie. My sister is the standard bearer for the Ryan family and goes to most of the events. For that I am eternally grateful!

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

June 19, 2011

This is from 2010: All I can add is how much I miss him still, each and every day. I cried a bit today filled as I am with memories of my Dad.

Father’s Day gives me the chance to use my whole posting to talk about my Dad. He was the funniest guy, mostly on purpose but lots of times by happenstance. We used to have Dad stories, all those times when we roared and he had no idea why. He used to laugh along with us and ask, “What did I say? What did I say?” We were usually laughing too hard to tell him.

I know you’ve heard this before, but it is one of my favorite Dad stories. He, my mom and I were in Portugal. I was driving. My dad was beside me. On the road, we had passed many piggyback tandem trucks, some several trucks long. On the back of the last truck was always the sign Vehiculo Longo. We came out of a gas station behind one of those. My father nonchalantly noted, “That guy Longo owns a lot of trucks.” I was laughing so hard I could barely drive and my mother was roaring.

My father wasn’t at all handy around the house. Putting up outside lights, he gave himself a shock which knocked him off his step ladder. He once sawed himself out of a tree by sitting on the wrong end of the limb. The bookcase he built in the cellar had two shelves, one on the floor and the other too high to use. He said it was lack of wood. When painting the house once, the ladder started to slide, but he stayed on his rung anyway with brush in hand. The stroke of the paint on the house followed the path of his fall. Lots of times he set his shoe or pant leg on fire when he was barbecuing. He was a big believer in lots of charcoal lighter fluid.

My father loved games, mostly cards. We played cribbage all the time, and I loved making fun of  his loses, especially if I skunked him. When he won, it was superb playing. When I won, it was luck. I remember so many nights of all of us crowded the kitchen table playing cards, especially hi-lo jack. He loved to win and we loved lording it over him when he lost.

My father was a most successful businessman. He was hired to turn a company around and he did. He was personable and funny and remembered everyone’s names. Nobody turned him down.

My father always went out Sunday mornings for the paper and for donuts. He never remembered what kind of donut I like. His favorite was plain. He’d make Sunday breakfast when I visited: bacon, eggs and toast. I can still see him standing over the stove with a dish towel over his shoulders. He always put me in charge of the toast.

If I ever needed anything, I knew I could call my father. He was generous. When we went out to eat, he always wanted to pay and was indignant when we one upped him by setting it up ahead of time that one of us would pay. One Christmas he gave us all $500.oo, not as a gift but to buy gifts.

My father left us when he was far too young. It was sudden. He had a heart attack. I had spoken with him just the day before. It was pouring that day, and I told him how my dog Shauna was soaked. He loved that dog and told me to wipe his baby off. I still remember that whole conversation.

“Families are about love overcoming emotional torture.”

February 4, 2011

The sun is shining. It has been gone a long while. I missed it.

In my town, this time of year, there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to do so winters found us inside far more than we liked. The theater had one matinee on Saturday, and it was usually filled though the balcony remained empty by choice of the owner: too many opportunities for flying candy missiles. The bowling alley was another choice, but that was really expensive to a kid on a 50 cent allowance. You had to rent shoes then pay for alley time. Begging for a bit more money from my mother sometimes helped. It was candlepin bowling. You know, those little balls, because that’s what every bowling alley around here had. I was never a very good bowler. Beyond those, there was nothing outside the house for a kid to do on freezing winter weekends when it was too cold to be out for too long. On the warmer days, though that seems an oxymoron, we could skate for free at the town rink or at the swamp.

I think we drove my mother crazy when all of us were stuck inside the house. Teasing little sisters was fun, but they always screamed to my mother who yelled some threat back to us should we continue. Most times my father was mentioned in the threat. That was enough to make us stop. My father was usually the parent we wanted to avoid when it came to punishment. He’d whack us; my mother seldom did. She was more the screamer. Later when when we were older, she’d occasionally throw things but we always ducked and ran away laughing but not so she could hear us. That would escalated the situation which, for all intents and purposes, had ended with the toss.

When we were in our teens, my father grounded us, but it never lasted for long. He’d tell us we had to miss some important event, one which we’d circled on the calender or bought new clothes for or had been planning for months. We’d cry and stomp our feet but it was all for show. We knew he’d make us stay in our rooms until close to the event then he’d come upstairs and tell us we could go, but it better not happen again.

It my mouth which got me into trouble. A quick wit is not to be used on angry parents or anyone in authority. I was a slower learner. I just couldn’t help myself. I was thrilled when I got old enough to be funny without being sent to my room.

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