Category Archives: girlhood

Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One 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.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, relationships, travel, vacation

Giving up

You may not know this, but both of my parents came from large Catholic families.  Is that redundant?  I actually have an aunt and two deceased great aunts, who became nuns, for real.  I grew up hearing about how my mother’s family went to morning mass every day, staying for a marathon mass on Sundays.  It was kind of our family’s version of “I walked to school, uphill and in the snow…”  You get it.

Believe it or not, my mother somehow managed to have her two illegitimate children baptized in the mid-60s.  I can’t imagine that was an easy task.  Growing up, my brother and I made Holy Communion, but did not, other than on Christmas Eve, attend mass with our mother.  She was done.  I remember the challenge of being still and quiet for an hour, while outside the stained glass window summer’s blue sky beckoned.  It was harder than those wooden pews.  As I grew older, I developed more of an appreciation for the ritual – the readings, the up, down, kneel, the music and faces which grew familiar over the years.  And the sooty smoke wafting from those brass orbs dangling from the altar boys’ hands?  I loved it

Eventually, though, I really started listening to gospel, to the word, and some of what I heard I didn’t like.  I was in disagreement about gays and euthanasia and punishment for mistakes made.  I pictured a more benevolent god, sort of a cross between George Burns and John Denver.  I met with a priest at the Cathedral downtown and we talked and I explained my inability to own only part of my religion.  If I couldn’t believe in the whole thing, how could I practice?  Wasn’t it wrong to turn a blind eye to the tenets I found it impossible to embrace?  He echoed what I had been previously told by my Uncle Eamon, “Take what you believe in and leave off the rest.”  I walked away, sad, but committed to no longer feeling partially invested.  I left all of it.

On days, though, like today, I miss it.  The crossed ashes on my forehead, the quiet of the altar and the echo of feet on the stone floors, the honor of sacrifice… I think I’m going to mark Lent this year by exploring churches, be they literal or figurative.  A cathedral, a ski slope, a path through the woods, can’t they all be considered churches?  I’m hoping to hit each of those places within the next 40 days.  If you see me at any of those places, be sure to say hello.  Just don’t ask me join you for Burger Night at the Capital City Gastropub.  I gave up meat.

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Filed under aging, family, Germany, girlhood, holidays, Irish, musings

Not shaken or stirred, but blended

Q’s favorite Bond

My 7 y/o is currently obsessed with James Bond.  He gave up Star Wars at about the same time that George Lucas sold the galaxy to Disney.   Coincidental?  Perhaps.  If you offer him something to drink, it is completely plausible that he will request a martini, shaken not stirred.  It’s adorable.  Well, to me it is because I’m his mom.  Someone else might find it obnoxious or cheeky, but I’ve always had a soft spot for 007.  And my children, of course.

Over the recent holidays, I did some reflecting on my own memories of the Christmas season and I thought about a family from my childhood who taught me what a blended family might look like.  There was a mom and a dad and a daughter.  And an ex-husband and the children shared by he and the mom.  And the ex-husband’s son from his second marriage.  And also the son from the Dad’s first marriage.  The kids all referred to each as brother and sister and the relationships seemed pretty relaxed and fluid, kind of like a well mixed martini.  They were Italian-American and Westchester Jewish, a combination which resulted in great food and wonderful traditions. I loved them and everything they taught me about family and love and backgammon, truly.

As a divorced parent*, I might one day find myself in a similar position.  You know, blending children and families and friends with a partner.  I’d like to think  I can do it with as much tasteful grace.  I know that none of those relationships was perfect, I mean what is?, but the central thread of children which wove them all together created an inspiring family fabric, a patchwork quilt that gave at least as much comfort as a familiar cocktail, I imagine.  How about you?  Do you have any experiences like this to share?  Grab yourself a cocktail and share, why don’t you?

*I’m not a “single mom.”  The boys very much have two parents.

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Filed under Boys, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, marriage, musings, relationships

Instant Karma

image:greatmodernpictures.com

On the anniversary of John Lennon’s death I can’t help but remember where I was at that time.  Freshman year, high school, almost winter. The news took me by surprise, of course. First John Bonham, now John Lennon.  Two of my favorite bands were clearly never ever getting back together, a reality that predates Taylor Swift’s assertion by more than 3 decades.

I heard the news on the radio, I have vague memories of lying in my twin-sized bed listening to WPLJ in the dark, and hearing the breaking news.  He was shot – injured – dead,  all reported in an amount of time which seemed so rapid in those pre-Internet days, yet would certainly seem impossibly slow in our current digital days.

I was just becoming aware of NYC as the city at the center of fashion, entertainment and opportunities.  After this tragedy, I wasn’t scared about what had happened in this wondrous city, just sad that a man who had chosen to make a home here with his family, had fallen victim to one of the mentally unstable attracted by the magnetism that is New York City.  There was a memorial service, and Yoko asked those wishing to show their respects, to honor John’s memory with ten minutes of silence, a request I solemnly granted.  The time passed quickly.

I have vague memories of a bean bag chair and a window looking out to a sky filled with snow of the most pure white imaginable. There was a sense of peaceful quiet, a cottony muffled feel to the afternoon which was comforting. Things were going to be different, but life would continue.  Thirty-two years later, I still subscribe to that belief.

“What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive. Because without it we’ll sink.” – John Lennon

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Filed under aging, Events, girlhood, musings, NYC, Random