Lemon Meringue Pie and the 15th of August

I am positive that somewhere in the world the 15th of August is important to someone.  It could be a wedding day, birthday, first day of a new job, the date of someone’s death or the birth of a new baby.  To someone somewhere, something about this date will either create a new memory or bring back old memories.  For me it was a posting on Facebook that today is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.  I then remembered that the 15th of August was my parents’ wedding anniversary, and the mention of lemon meringue pie sparked another memory of something I had written a couple of years ago about lemons and this date.  It’s not that I’m living in the past because I have been working very hard at keeping the past where it belongs, in the past.  But memories are funny creatures that can grab you and not let go until they are finished with you.  Good story or not I have to go with it because the memories and the feelings those memories evoke won’t let me go until I do.

Dad had been admitted to the hospital a few days prior to their wedding anniversary August, 1982.  The Doctors hadn’t exactly said what was wrong with Dad, they mentioned asbestos poisoning, TB, pneumonia but nothing definite.  I knew, I’d known since the first time I went to visit with him after he was admitted.  I knew as soon as I entered his room but I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself to say the word; to admit to myself or anyone else what was wrong.  I remember entering his room that first day and asking what was that smell.  No one else in the room smelled anything different other than the usual hospital smells.   It’s weird I know, people can’t smell cancer but I did that day.   I didn’t say anything, I just buried the knowledge and fear deep inside and refused to accept what I knew.

August 15th came and I baked a lemon layer cake with lemon filling and whipped cream topping.  The family gathered together and we celebrated Mom and Dad’s 29th wedding anniversary in the hospital lobby by the elevators.  I also remember how much Dad enjoyed that lemon cake.   When the Doctor gave Dad and the family the diagnosis I wasn’t shocked like everyone else.  Looking back I believe Dad, too, had known all along what was wrong.

That memory led to another, of how I prayed nightly, asking God to heal my Dad and not let him suffer.  Every night I prayed and hoped and waited for my prayers to be answered.  When Dad died a short 8 weeks later I was angry, so very angry, another layer of anger added to what I already held buried deep inside.  I stopped praying, stopped going to Mass, stopped believing.  I held my anger to me like a shield keeping grief, sorrow and guilt away.  I pulled back from the people I loved most because I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling and I didn’t believe I was deserving of their love.  You see, I didn’t believe I was good at showing love.  I had learned to hide and bury my feelings so I wouldn’t say or do something to hurt others that I’d later regret; like I had been hurt.  I felt guilt for all the times through the years that I was angry with Dad for the hurtful things he’d said and done.  I felt regret that I’d never get the chance to actually speak with Dad about those times and ask him why, to be able to understand why.  Though I never heard the words I believed Dad loved me.  I could see it in his eyes, especially at the end, he loved us and didn’t want to leave us.  I loved my Dad but I never said the words to him either and I carried that guilt too.

It took several years but I was finally able to see the truth.  God had heard my prayers and He did answer my prayers.  It was just not in the way I wanted but in His way and in His time.  Dad’s illness lasted a few short weeks and for that I should have been and am now grateful.  Dad was able to die where he wanted to be…at home.  I am ashamed to admit that it was a very long time before I was able to express that gratitude to God but I know He understands.   Perhaps memories sometimes serve the purpose of helping us see things clearly, at a later time, when we’re better able to understand those things which are incomprehensible at the time.

At the age of 63 I am still a work in progress, imperfect but still making progress slowly but surely.  I remember telling my sons when they were much younger that parents aren’t perfect, they’re human beings and will make mistakes. Being a Mom and Dad doesn’t mean you’re always right in everything you say and do.  When I said that to my boys I can’t help but wonder if subconsciously I already understood that included my Dad too.  That understanding has helped me to begin letting go of things I’ve held on to for far too long. Words have power and you shouldn’t be afraid to use that power when necessary.  I’m sorry, forgive me, I love you.   Simple words that can make such a difference to someone, especially those you love…and that includes ourselves.  It’s still not easy for me but I try to give hugs more often and say “I love you” more often. Regret isn’t easy to live with, I know this, so I try to always remember that hearing the words is important too.

It’s funny how the mention of the word lemon and the date, August 15th, can stir so many memories and feelings.  The difference is this time it’s with a much lighter heart.

 

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A Stitch In Time

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I started this piece of embroidery early August, 1973.  At that time I was a young 19-year-old bride of 7 months living in Iceland with my husband who was stationed at the Naval Base at Grindavek.  We did not qualify for base housing so we lived in an apartment in Keflavik.  I absolutely loved the whole experience and totally embraced the new adventure of living in a different country.  Our apartment was modest but the view from our living room window was priceless; the Atlantic Ocean in all it’s glory and I remember thinking I’d never take that view for granted or forget.  I shopped at the local stores, including going to the fish market every day for the catch of the day.  Our mail came through the military base but I’d stop at the local Post Office just to visit with any one who was there at the time.  Conversation was never a problem once it was apparent I was an American; they were as fascinated about Americans as I was about them.  Our neighbors were wonderful, friendly people who always welcomed us into their homes with such hospitality and graciousness. Icelandic was not easy to speak but I did my best and was never made to feel foolish when I inevitably butchered their language.  I’d receive smiles from the shop keepers or the person I was speaking with and then they would help with the words and phrasing.  Since the winter nights were so long in Iceland you would have many different hobbies to help keep you busy.  A neighbor introduced me to the art of embroidery and instead of starting out with something simple as she suggested I picked this ambitious piece.   It was so large that I had to use a standing frame to hold the piece.  She told me that as I worked my tapestry the back should be as neat as the front so I began working slowly and carefully.

When it was time to return to the States I only had a small portion done but I wasn’t worried, I was young and had plenty of time to get it finished.    Time, however, had other ideas and before I knew it 5 years had gone by and I hadn’t touched my tapestry.  I remember setting up my frame and working on the tapestry, watching my toddlers play as I carefully stitched away.  I’d set it aside then return to work on it every so often.  Life happens, you get busy, and before I knew it more years passed by so quickly.  It was not finished when my Dad died in 1982 at the age of 47.  At that time I had just about completed the left half of the tapestry to the lady’s shoulders.  I no longer had the heart to work on my tapestry so I packed everything up and put it away in the attic.

More years passed so quickly and before I knew it our sons had graduated High School and eventually left home to start their own lives.    Sometime during the mid 1990’s I was going through photo albums and came across pictures of our time in Iceland.  Seeing those photos reminded me of my tapestry packed away in the attic all those years ago.  I found it, set up my frame, and again began working on my tapestry.  Watching my needle go in and out, filling each space with colored yarn, I gradually realized that when I was working on my tapestry I didn’t think about anything else.  Concentrating on each stitch relaxed my mind.  I worked slowly, trying to complete my stitches so that the back of the tapestry was as neat as the front, just as my friend from so long ago advised.  I changed jobs during this time period so again work on my tapestry was haphazard at best but I kept it close at hand.  Again the years flew by and before I knew it, we had celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.   Our sons married giving us daughters and within a couple of years we were blessed with the arrival of our grandchildren.  There were parties, holidays, celebrations and sometimes painful goodbyes to more loved ones.   Health scares, happy times, harsh words, not so happy times, tears and laughter.  So much simple day-to-day life happened as I worked on my tapestry every now and then, stitch by stitch.

By April, 2010, my tapestry was almost finished except for several rows in the upper right hand corner.   Mom died April 14th that year,  and though I still can’t explain why, this urgency came over me to finish my tapestry.  I quickly realized I didn’t have enough of the colored yarn for that section of my tapestry so off to Michaels I went, sample in hand, to try to match the color.  I wasn’t able to match it exactly but I did find a color that was close enough.  To this day, when I look at my tapestry I can see the color difference in that section and I am always reminded of Mom.  When I told my husband it was done and showed him the completed piece he praised my work.  While the back wasn’t as neat as my long ago Icelandic friend said it should be, he made me feel as if I were Monet and had completed a masterpiece.  He told me we had to have it properly framed and that’s what he did.  We took it to a professional framer and I remember how excited the gentleman was to work with such a large piece of embroidery.  “You don’t see pieces like this very often these days” he said and recommended  the use of conservator glass to protect the colors of my  tapestry from fading due to sunlight.  It took time to pick out the wooden frame and the colors of the matte finish to compliment the colors in my embroidery.  I don’t know why, but I remember shedding some tears on the drive home the day we picked up the finished piece from the framer’s shop.

Seven years later my tapestry hangs on our bedroom wall and as I look at it I realize that each stitch, from start to finish, represents 37 years of my life.  I’m reminded of our time in Iceland, the early years of our marriage, the births of our children and their growing years.  I look at different parts of my tapestry and I’m able to remember certain events in my life both happy and sorrowful.  Until I started this story, however, I also realize that I never really saw the beauty of the piece as my husband did.  What I saw was failure because it took so many years to complete something that I had started so very long ago. Not any more.

My tapestry represents a life….mine.  I am as much a part of that tapestry as the colored yarn that makes up the picture because looking at it now, I remember my desire to create something beautiful when I selected this very ambitious piece all those years ago. Viewing it with different eyes, I also see that it contains my hopes and dreams through all those long years.  There is heartache, joy and life in my tapestry.  Different parts of the picture hold the tears I sometimes cried while working, soaking into the yarn and becoming a permanent part of my tapestry.  My tapestry has absorbed all the love shared during those 37 years, and I now see, as my husband always did, something of beauty, something that holds a part of me in each and every stitch.  I accomplished my desire of long ago to create something beautiful and despite time I did it…..one stitch at a time.

 

 

All rights reserved.  I hope you enjoyed my story but please remember it’s my story so no using or copying any content in any manner without the express written permission of the owner…me.

 

 

 

 

 

Eat It, It’s Good For You

My Dad was one of 13 children born to immigrant parents.  Hearing Dad and his siblings’ stories about their growing years during the 1930’s and 1940’s  gave me the impression that if you were late to the table at meal time and the food was gone you’d better be faster next time.  You were grateful for whatever was put in front of you to eat and there was no such thing as picky eaters in that family.  That is probably why one of Dad’s rules when we were kids was that you had to eat everything that was put in front of you at meal time.  This was not always a pleasant experience because, of course, you are not always going to like everything that is put on the table.  I remember the time Dad had Mom cook a raccoon; it was awful and made the house stink.  Mom opened all the windows to air the house and some of the neighbors actually commented on the smell.  That might have been the only exception to Dad’s rule about eating because I don’t remember having to actually eat that cooked raccoon  Dad tried it and he must not have been too impressed because he never asked Mom to cook raccoon again.

One morning, a couple of years ago, I woke up thinking about spinach.  I know it’s a strange thing to think about upon first waking; that green leafy vegetable full of vitamins and minerals that kids are told is good for you.  I’ll eat spinach raw in a salad but there was absolutely no way I’d eat cooked spinach until the early 1990’s.  At that time I worked at a Law Firm with lady who was Italian and she would always bring different dishes into work to share.  One day it was cooked spinach and the sight of the dish took me back to the first time I had to eat the vile green stuff as a child.  I refused to try the dish and told her why but she insisted.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I took a taste and I’m glad she insisted because it was delicious.  She called it “beans and greens”.  Spinach sauteed in olive oil with garlic powder to taste, crushed red pepper to taste, salt and pepper and a can of rinsed cannellini beans.  Believe me it’s really good with a piece of Italian Bread.  My eldest grandson enjoyed this so much that when he was older he had me write the recipe down for him so his Mom could make it and he now makes this dish himself.

When I was about 7 years old one particular dinner included cooked canned spinach.  As I looked at the mound of green, stringy stuff that was put on my plate I just knew it wasn’t going to taste good.  I’m sitting at the dinner table, moving the green stuff around with my fork and wishing I could sneak it onto one of my sisters’ plate.  Dad noticed and gave me “the look” which said I’m watching and you’re going to eat it.  I remember my first mouthful and the shudder I felt in my entire body.  It was just as yucky as it looked; mushy and bitter.  I told Dad I didn’t like it but he said “eat it, it’s good for you”.  Another taste, another shudder and I managed to swallow the green stuff.  I don’t remember why but Mom gave me a glass of root beer.  She probably thought it would encourage me to eat the spinach and avoid any problems.  So it was a taste of spinach, gag and shudder, then wash it down with a drink of root beer.  I had to keep going until the spinach was gone.  “Now that wasn’t so bad was it” Dad asked me with a grin.   I looked at him and without answering his question promptly vomited said spinach, with root beer, all over the dinner table.  My younger sister Pat had, and still does, a very delicate gag reflex and she followed suit loosing her dinner too.  Spinach and root beer is not a pretty sight and there were no leftovers kept from that meal.  Dad started gagging too and very quickly ran for the bathroom where we all heard him loosing his dinner.  I never had to eat cooked spinach again.

As our boys were growing up my husband also had this “eat what’s put in front of you thing”.  It must be a latent gene that becomes dominant in males upn attaining fatherhood.  I didn’t use root beer like my mother but I always made sure there was a plate of bread with peanut butter and jelly on the table at meal times.  My husband, wise man that he was, never said anything.  Our boys were expected to try new foods but if they didn’t like something they didn’t have to eat it; they could enjoy peanut butter and jelly.  Fussy eating eventually worked itself out as our boys got older.

I’m still not sure, though, why I woke up thinking about spinach that morning.

 

 

All rights reserved.  I hope you enjoyed my story but please remember it’s my story so no using or copying any content in any manner without the express written permission of the owner…me.

 

 

Grandma’s Little Chicken Whisperer

I have 7 grandchildren ranging in age from 15 to the youngest who is now 3;  6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.  They are, in my opinion, wonderful, intelligent, beautiful individuals who bring much joy to my life.    This, however, is about our youngest grandson who is celebrating his birthday today.  I’d like to share some things I wrote the day he was born and a few weeks after he was born.

I’m In Love Again (written July 3, 2014)

Today I met someone for the first time and it was love at first sight.  As I looked into his beautiful blue eyes I knew I was lost.  When his tiny finger closed around my finger he laid claim to a piece of my heart and I gave it willingly and without reservation.    As I held him in my arms my eyes filled with tears as I allowed myself to finally let go of the fear and feel the joy of him that I’ve kept buried these past months.  You see, there was another special someone I never got to meet two years ago and I was afraid it would happen again.

At 6:45 am today I met my 6th grandson and 7th grand child.  It is such a beautiful sight to see your child tenderly holding his child for the first time.  His arrival wasn’t easy but he and his mother were kept safe because God heard my prayers today and all the days of these past months.  Thank you Adam and Michell for this most precious gift.  Mom and Dad are still deciding on his name and I can’t wait to hear what they decide.

Welcome little one, Grandma loves you.

 Rocking Chairs, Babies and Heaven (written August 9, 2014)

Saturday the 9th was my husband’s birthday so I was up and around early making a chocolate chip date nut cake, one of his favorite cakes.  By 9:00 am the cake was cooling and I was sitting in my rocking chair on the back deck enjoying the fine summer morning.  Grandsons #3 and #5, who live next door to us, came running over and joined me.

“Hi Grandma, watcha doin”? asks Grandson #3.  “Just enjoying the day” I told him.  “Grandma, what happens when you’re dead” he asks.   There’s a saying “out of the mouths of babes” that often runs through my head when I’m having conversations with my grandchildren.  ” I don’t know, I haven’t been dead yet” I tell him.  “But what do you think happens when you’re dead, dead” he persisted.  “Then I would say you go to Heaven”.  “But where is Heaven”? both grandsons ask.  “I don’t know for sure since I haven’t been back there yet”.   They totally missed the back there part of my statement.  “Do you think Heaven is in outer space” grandson #3 asks.  “Maybe” I reply “or maybe it’s in another dimension” I tell them.  On a roll now, he goes on about the places where Heaven could be, like the edges of the universe or some weird places in the video games he plays.   “Heaven is wherever God is” I finally tell them.  “Grandma, when you die you have to come back and let me know where Heaven is and what it’s like” grandson #3 states.  “She’s not going to die” his brother yells while glaring at his brother.   Ignoring him, his older brother continues, “Grandma, promise you’ll come back.  You can leave me a note or haunt me but promise you’ll come back” grandson #3 insists.  “I’ll do my best” I promise.

Happy with that answer they both leave to go play and I continue to sit, rocking and enjoying the morning.  Soon my daughter-in-law comes over with the baby and they both join me for a visit.  He’s coming up on 6 weeks of age and is a delight.  We talk for a bit and she mentions needing to get some weeding done so I reach for the baby letting her know she can leave him with me.  Soon it’s just the two of us and since he’s awake and looking around I explain a bit about the world he’s seeing.  I tell him how blue and beautiful the sky is this day.  How the sun’s golden rays highlight the dew still present on the grass making it sparkle like diamonds.  I tell him about the clouds slowly floating by, huge and white and if he looks carefully he can sometimes see animals or people in the clouds.  That’s a game from my childhood I still play to this day.  I tell him to listen for the music of a summer’s day; the gently blowing breeze as it dances through the leaves on the trees, the melody of birdsong everywhere.  I tell him how it’s important to be able to sit quietly and enjoy the beauty of the moment.

Looking down I realize he’s fallen asleep so I continue to rock him and watch him.  I catch fleeting glimpses of smiles on his little face and I’m reminded of what my grandmother told me so long ago.  She said when a baby smiles in his or her sleep it’s because they’re being visited by the angels they played with in Heaven before they were born.  So I continue to rock him and watch him, feeling an overwhelming sense of love and peace and awed by the miracle of him.  I suddenly realize that God gives us hints about Heaven if we’re only wise enough to pay attention.  In that moment I know where Heaven is because I’m holding a tiny piece of Heaven in my arms.

 

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Today our little guy is a walking, talking, and very active 3 year old.   This picture is one of my favorites of him and I believe he heard my words to him that sunny August morning three years ago.  He shows me every day how to see the world with new eyes; to look with wonder, excitement and joy and see the beauty of each day.   We’ve gone fishing and caught sharks, we’ve traveled with his toy trains, flown with bubbles as they ride the wind.  His imagination is taking root and growing and I’m happy to travel on those adventures with him wherever it takes us.

We are beginning to wonder if there isn’t a smattering of Italian somewhere in our family trees as he has a habit of adding an “a” to his verbs.  “Tooka ma broom”, spanka ma butt” (that was Papa), “eata ma cookie”.  He loves to help with chores, especially taking care of his Dad’s chickens.  The birds may not be so fond of him, though, as he  likes to pick them up and he’s gotten into trouble on more than one occasion for chasing the chickens.  I call him my “chicken whisperer”.

On his first birthday we discovered he did not like the birthday song.  He started crying as soon as we started singing.  He cried at his cousins’ birthday parties when it came time to sing “Happy Birthday” too.   I’m not sure if it was the sound of our voices or the song itself but he would cry every time.  I don’t believe that will be a problem this year.  One of his favorite television shows highlights youngsters’ birthdays and he just smiles when the birthday song is sung.  If he cries again this year then I’ll know for sure it’s our singing.

I was laughing so hard when we were singing the birthday song to him at his party on July 1st that  I couldn’t hold the camera still.  The problem is obviously our singing.

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A family tradition I started with our eldest grandson’s first birthday was a visit from Grandma and Papa on the day of their actual birthday.  We bring the birthday child a package of those miniature cupcakes, a birthday card and gift.  Our teenage grandsons have assured me that they are not getting too old for those little cupcakes, it’s tradition after all.   We’ll visit Aiden later today and give him his birthday cupcakes.  Happy Birthday grandson, I love you.

 

All rights reserved.  I hope you enjoyed my story but please remember it’s my story so no using or copying any content in any manner without the written permission of the owner…..me.

 

Who Killed Dad’s Monkey?

I keep a daily journal and jot things down about our monthly sister meetings and other events that happen in a day.  Those musings will spark a memory and then I’m at the keyboard and the memory takes written form.  The following story came about from our May 17, 2014 sister meeting.

We had our monthly sister meeting on Saturday, May 17th.  It was a fun afternoon but when it came time to play a card game we call Canadian Salsa I opted to keep score.  I believe it’s more fun to watch the fireworks than be involved in setting them off…and there were some fireworks as some of my sisters are very competitive.  They sometimes get very testy and use language you wouldn’t expect to hear from nice, older ladies.  All of my sisters can give as good as they get resulting in the fireworks I mentioned.  Sister #4 reminded us that May 18th was her son’s 21st birthday but he had to work 10 am until 10 pm that day so she invited us all to her home on May 20th to help him celebrate the occasion.

Everyone gathered at Sister #4’s home on the 20th for our nephew’s birthday.  We were talking and having a good time when Dad’s monkey was mentioned.  Dad always had animals of one type or another and this was a small monkey but I’m not sure what type. I can still picture him in his cage sitting there watching and waiting for someone to get too close to him.  Sister #4, who was 3 or 4 years old at the time, remembered the morning the monkey was found dead.  Stiffer than a board dead.  Now what I remember, being 7 or 8 years old or so at the time, was that this critter was a mean, nasty, vile, monkey but Dad loved him anyway.  I don’t remember the monkey’s name but I do remember how he liked to throw poop which drove my mother nuts and was the reason none of us would chance getting too close to his cage.  Sisters #5 and #6 had no memory of Dad’s monkey and I told them that was because this happened before they were born.  The monkey matter involved myself and Sisters #2, #3 and #4.

The day before the monkey’s demise my sisters and I found a bag of those peanut candies; the soft orange colored candy that looks like peanuts.  The monkey loved that candy so much and when he saw we had the bag of candy he decided getting candy was better than throwing poop.  Since he was being so nice we continued giving him the candy until we ended up feeding the entire bag of candy to Dad’s monkey.  Sister #4 kept insisting she was too short to reach the cage so she couldn’t have been the one to feed the monkey the killing piece of candy.    I’ll admit I was tall for an 8 year old but I wasn’t the only one feeding the monkey those candy peanuts; there were 4 of us involved in this caper and I reminded my sisters they did make chairs to stand on in those days.  In our defense we didn’t intend for the monkey to die from a candy peanut overdose.  It was one of the few times the monkey behaved nicely and we were simply enjoying giving him his favorite candy.  I remember how we giggled as he happily chattered at us while holding his little hand out the bars of his cage for more candy.  He wasn’t so happy when the bag was empty, however, bouncing around inside his cage and making familiar noises that warned you to get away which we were very quick to do.  He had eaten the entire bag of candy, after all, and what goes in eventually comes out.  None of us wanted to be within range when it came out.

The only one to miss the monkey was Dad.  He thought the monkey died of old age so maybe we didn’t really kill the monkey after all.  We were, however, smart enough at the time to not mention the bag of candy to Dad until many years later.

The next day Sister #5 told me about how she had fallen asleep in her chair the night of her son’s birthday party.  He and his girlfriend had gone out after the party and when they came home later that evening they woke her up to give her a bag of the marshmallow candy peanuts.  She was just grateful it wasn’t a monkey.

 

 

All rights reserved.  I hope you enjoyed my story but please remember it’s my story so no using or copying any content in any manner without the express written permissionof the owner….me.

 

 

Welcome !

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 8.18.21 PMGrowing up with five sisters in a two bedroom house was challenging, frustrating and a character building experience. As with any group of people who witness an event, what is remembered by each individual will be perceived differently. My stories are a telling of what and how I remember things. A mixture of childhood memories and events as they happened through the years.

I will also be including stories from our monthly sister meetings. In 1997 I came up with the idea of getting together once a month so we could keep in touch with each other, share what was happening in our lives and with our families. I hosted the first sister meeting October, 1997 and we are still getting together each month in the present. Our monthly meetings have helped us through some very difficult times over the years and I hope the sharing of my stories as I remember them will be enjoyed by all who read them.

 

All rights reserved.  I hope you enjoy my stories but please remember they are my stories so no using or copying any content in any manner without the express written permission of the owner…me.