Today is my brother’s 50th birthday. I know I’ve said it before, but my brother has been the one constant in my life. This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have our times of conflict. I recall darts being thrown at my feet to encourage me to vacate his room and spats over typical sibling bullshit, but, ultimately, if I ever needed anything, I’m talking protection, advice, $, he gave it to me.
Having only one sibling, and about a half a parent, made for an independent life. There are times when weeks, maybe even months, have passed without my brother and I speaking. Like some sort of German standoff, I may have even consciously not called him just to see how long it would be until he called me. He always wins. It doesn’t really matter, though, because when I do finally break down and dial his number, he almost always answers.
The thought that there is only a single person in the entire universe who shared your childhood is sobering. Without my brother, I’m the sole keeper of legends and memories – a pretty weighty responsibility for the child with a reputation for being a bit wild. Even though our recollections aren’t always (ever?) identical, the comfort of knowing that he was there, we were in it together, is reassuringly grounding. The world feels like a safer place with him it.
Our mother complained that the boys in her family (and there were a lot of them) were treated better than the girls, they were considered “princes,” while the girls were more scullery maids. As a parent, she continued that tradition and, if you’ve ever met the Lilly boys, you know I’m guilty of the same thing.
On a Veteran’s Day a half century ago my brother was born. His uniform is more lab coat than camo, his throne the same stool he’s been sitting on for at least 35 years, but these details do nothing to diminish the fact that, to me, he is a hero and a prince. Happy birthday, TJM!
My youngest son goes to a magnet elementary school in our neighborhood. The latter fact is more the reason he attends that particular school than the arts and humanities centered curriculum, but we do enjoy many of the activities based upon the school’s theme.
This week the school community’s marked their Third Annual Multicultural Celebration. My son came home very excitedly to share that his class would be representing France. After a visit from a French college student, he was obsessed by the thought of making crepes as our contribution to the event. The sound of his voice repeatedly saying “crepe” in an attempted French accent, convinced me that this was an idee fixe that deserved to be indulged.
tedious remarkable number of suggestions from my 9 y/o with regards to how to make crepes (the batter must be made the night before cooking, beer is a necessary ingredient…), I located a reasonably simple recipe on Epicurious. Late Wednesday night, after closing the Wine Bar, I stirred up a triple batch of the recipe and went to sleep with a clear plan – and conscience.
After school, I hit up the store for a medium sized jar of Nutella and, upon arriving home, immediately got busy heating up two nonstick sauté pans. I brushed the hot pans with melted butter and got into the rhythm of working two pans, while also peeling and chopping a few apples to cook with brown sugar and cinnamon for an alternate filling.
The process was satisfyingly quick. In barely an hour, I had approximately 40 filled crepes, divided into two dishes with about twice as many Nutella ones than apple. I dusted the crepes with powdered sugar and we were on our way.
The event (and the crepes) was fantastic. The number of nations represented on the incredibly laden tables was mirrored by the audience in the multifunction room. The smells and flavors were rich in a way completely unrelated to any world currency. It was positively heady. I am so lucky to live in a city where my children have the opportunity to attend school with such a culturally diverse population. C’est magnifique!
Not quite the view with which I have become familiar.
How’s that for a title, my friends? It has a certain dramatic flair, yes? Before you start to worry that you, by not offering your pet this service, are being a neglectful pet keeper, let me tell you how we arrived at this point.
Nearly two weeks ago (Thursday, 9/25, the same day the real Jeter played the field for his final time) my Jeter was neutered. The procedure went well and he returned home the same day of the event, a bit sleepy but in his usual good humor. His recovery has gone well, other than some not so appealing drainage from the incision area. Naturally, this became apparent to me when Jeter cozied up on my bed, my bed with the white comforter. Two loads of laundry later…
Jeter seems to have found the area between his rear legs even more compelling than usual judging from the number of times I’ve had to correct his somewhat vulgar behavior. The result of his excessive oral attentions? A “hot spot” of sorts has appeared on what remains of his testicles, demanding a round of antibiotics and the aforementioned hot compresses. Both three times a day, thank you very much.
His stitches have been removed and the wound, from the intimate view I have been afforded, is looking better. His demeanor, fortunately, has been as lively as ever and I am reasonably confident that he hasn’t suffered any real discomfort. That being said, I am probably even more eager than he is for a complete and quick return to his previous clean bill of health. It’s not that our time together during his convalescence hasn’t been special, but I’m sure we’re both looking forward to his resuming his dog park activities. It’s time for Jeter to get his foreplay time somewhere else.
Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed. Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport. He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it. Good boy, good trip, good memories.
The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo. If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World. There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4. I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course, I always check reviews and feedback before committing. This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.
During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise. I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around. We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in. I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went. We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol. The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar. I think Disney knows their market.
Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive. Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age. But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides. We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission. The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway), were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day. I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper. The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender. It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.
One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers. Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace. I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else? Very.
Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend. Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros. I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter. Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage. Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage. There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.
Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition. I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves, sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force. Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating. Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected. That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent. Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.
As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything. She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.
We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now. There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long. For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach. There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family. She’s truly the mother of my heart.
Yesterday was a long day. I mean like really long. Quinn and I did a 12-hour marathon tour of Disney beginning with the Magic Kingdom, hopping over to Epcot and then finishing our night back at the Magic Kingdom. We had fun even though the unrelenting sun began to make me feel like I was literally being baked by about 4:00.
I think I’ve done the Disney thing about 5 or 6 times. The composition of each of those visits has been different – with a friend and her family, with one child, my husband and his mother, with two children and my husband, etc. I don’t think two trips have been the same.
It’s impossible to walk around the park without encountering memories from past visits. There was the time Liam melted down on It’s a Small World because the stimulation overwhelmed his senses and his Dad had to hold him down. A favorite family* story to retell is about Griffin’s freak out on Splash Mountain when I had to hold him with all of my might to prevent him from climbing out of the log flume in terror. When the ride came to a stop, the first thing he said in a normal tone was “Can we do that again?” I don’t think so.
Yesterday confirmed for me that Quinn really doesn’t like rides – and I’m okay with that. We stuck to the tame stuff, not venturing anywhere near Space Mountain or that runaway railroad. We rode the carousel together and in my mind’s eye, I saw one of the few photos of myself from a previous trip. The nearby Dumbo ride immediately conjured an image of Liam and his Dad aloft. Good memories.
Mid-afternoon we caught the monorail to Epcot and that’s where he really shined. We went directly to the World Showcase and Quinn traveled around collecting stamps for his passport. Liam had displayed the same enthusiasm during one of our times there and I could picture him, passport in hand. I could almost taste the margaritas in Mexico, remembered from a previous trip, along with England’s fish and chips. I finally indulged myself in Germany, or Deutschland as Quinn likes to say, with an incredibly refreshing wheat beer flavored with grapefruit. I won’t forget that taste soon.
Around 7:30, as the skies began to darken with an impending shower, we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We were traveling against the tide as people made a dash for their cars before the skies opened up. I remembered being caught in a downpour years ago and smiled knowing I had packed plastic bags to protect my camera, a lesson learned that long ago day. We got a little wet, but the last hours of our day were the most comfortable temperature-wise. The lines were short and we quickly hit three more attractions before the fireworks commenced. Naturally, one was the Haunted Mansion. Quinn loved it.
*I say “family” because that’s what we’ll always be. Divorce changes it, but certainly doesn’t end it.
“In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”
There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.
When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.
Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.
You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.
Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.
Some girls are really lucky.