Category Archives: family

Dog days of summer


One of my favorite things about our most recent visit to the Cape was the fact that Jeter could come along. Actually, it was one of the criteria, along with an outdoor shower, that I considered to be a requirement when we were searching for a rental for the week. Hey, even a dog needs a change of scenery on occasion.

Bringing Jeter along was not without complication. Originally I thought I might snag the little cabin that was poised on a hill next to the main house, as my own for the week. Once I toured the space I knew it would be better suited to the preteens since the bed was up a ladder in a loft area. Jeter doesn’t do ladders, but he does like to sleep with me, so I picked a bedroom in the cottage instead.

We also had a nocturnal visit from the biggest damn raccoon I’ve ever seen. (S)he was attracted to Jeter’s airtight food bin and bowls, which I had set up on the screened in porch. It took a couple of days before the bandit made its move, but one night we were woken up by something really loud. Turns out the raccoon was attempting a break in – directly through the screen. By the time we figured out what was going on there was a decent sized hole in the screen directly above Jeter’s feeding station. Live and learn.

It isn’t always fun having a dog on vacation. I found that Jeter was really annoying at the ocean when we were with our entire gang of kids and adults. He just wanted to be a part of everything which meant sand everywhere, plaintive and relentless barking and generally being an annoyance. When I took him solo, though, he was fantastic. He settled in and was completely chill. I believe I even caught a cat nap with my dog snuggled next to me. He was a little tired, too, from all of the swimming he did.

Good walks, good swims, good sleeps, good dog.

 

 

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Filed under Cape Cod, family, friends, road trips, Summer, Uncategorized, vacation

Tidal time

Just back from a quick trip to the Cape and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the speed of life. It was a three-day trip and we packed in a lot of time outdoors, a couple of beaches and bike rides and a few margaritas. There were friends in Provincetown to drink with and the weather was just what I needed – 2 days of sunshine followed by a day of on and off showers mixed with sunshine. There was a tremendous moonrise and hours spent working on a 1000 piece puzzle that I’m still obsessing over from more than 250 miles away. It was delightful.

I’ve been doing this Cape Cod thing for 20 years now and it never gets old. There’s always a new beach or restaurant or shop to visit and a different house to make home. Despite all the new spots to explore, there are traditions to be honored, favorite running routes and swimming spots, dinner joints and ice cream flavors. It’s a wonderful place and, even when things don’t go perfectly, I’m always appreciative of the time spent in this special place. 

38530306-4D8A-4CFF-8359-597BE360EB23-8404-000005C35C37E501                                                                         On this trip, though, I was struck by a thought I couldn’t shake – it seems that I have as many memories of time spent on the Cape as there are grains of sand on the beach. When I revisit places, eat particular foods, smell distinct aromas, hear certain sounds, I feel as if I’m sometimes doing those things with company. Over the years, in addition to my own family, I’ve spent Cape time with dozens of friends and when I see or taste or smell or hear something that reminds me of a previous, similar experience it’s almost like those folks are once again joining me. I hear their voices and laughter over the roar of the ocean and see their smiles through early morning fog and feel so incredibly fortunate to have the memories of so many times spent with people I love, in a place I love. I simply can’t wait to get back there next month with my guys!

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Filed under beauty, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, friends, Observations, road trips, Summer, Uncategorized

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

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Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

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Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

Answering the question

Ever since the news came out that I was selling Lark + Lily, I’ve been asked what I’ll do with all of the time with which I will find myself. Because my love for the hospitality industry remains, (and may in fact become stronger than ever once I no longer bear the business responsibilities), I’ll continue to work a couple of nights a week. As for the rest of the “extra” time, here’s what I’m going to do:

Hang out with my kids

Cook more interesting meals

Participate more politically

Read more

Dust my house

Take at least one yoga class a week, every week

Write more – blog posts, letters, cards, poems

Go to more events and shows

Take naps

Try to amp up my running a bit

Day trips

Work on my yard and house

Go out for cocktails

Spend some time eliminating possessions which do not bring me joy

Learn how to sell some of said possessions

Entertain at home

Breathe.

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Filed under Boys, family, friends, ideas, musings, Random, Restaurants

Mythical beast baby

This kid has flow like a river. Maybe that’s what you get when you give a child a middle name like Hudson. He’s got such a wonderful warmth to him, always generous with the hugs, and people simply like him. It’s charm at its most essential.

In a hundred ways he reminds me of me, but I just keep thinking he has things so much easier, so much better. There’s a security in his life that I never knew at his age. That probably doesn’t matter, though, when you’re a senior in high school and on the verge of what’s next. Cusp is a four-letter word.

Out of all my children, he’s the one I worry about the most, at least these days. They take me on their emotional journeys individually, just like the Mom & Me trips I take with them. There are turns. Fair enough, I suppose.

As a mom, I want my children to live truthful lives. The sooner they learn that being honest and direct works best most of the time, the happier we’ll all be. It’s a milestone just like learning to walk, which Griffin did at 9.5 months. Some things he gets quicker than others, but he’s always loved.

If you see him today, wish him a happy birthday. Then tell him to go home. He’s grounded.

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, family, love, moms, musings, Observations, Spring

So mothers be good to your daughters too

D0CB0C7D-372C-4FFF-A072-2C34D5F64266-1258-0000011A65462537When I was a child I often heard about my Oma with whom my mother had a strained relationship. The complaint my mother frequently made was that Oma treated her sons and daughters very differently. Sons were useful and contributed to the family’s existence and thus were to be indulged, while daughters were primarily useful only for assistance in taking care of the boys. Even though this was one of my mother’s greatest criticisms of her own childhood, you’re probably not surprised to hear that she herself was guilty of repeating the same behavior. Habits are hard to break.

I met some family members on my trip with whom I had never before crossed paths. It’s an odd thing meeting someone you’re related to after living five decades on this planet without ever encountering them. What’s even odder is when you realize how many remarkably similar experiences you share despite not having ever known each other.

Did you know that the word “cousin” is the same in both English and German? That fact makes me smile.

My cousin and I sat across the table from one another and told the stories of our lives, our relationships, our health and our mothers. At times the thread of our conversation was so personal and intimate that it was impossible to believe we hadn’t before met. There’s never been a time when I felt so firmly that someone understood exactly what I was talking about when I shared some moments from my own mother-daughter highlight reel. Why? Because she had experienced the same sort of unhealthy situations.

Our mothers, sisters that they are, had not really grown up together since my mother is more than a decade older and had left home when she was in her early teens. Despite the lack of time the two of them shared, what they did share was their own mother and that left a mark on each of them which they in turn, left upon their own daughters.

Neither my cousin nor I ever knew our fathers. When we were sick or injured as children, often we had to seek care on our own because our mothers were unavailable to us. We each have witnessed the astonishing deception of our parent in the way they conduct themselves with other adults and children while neglecting the very children they delivered. It is uncanny.

My cousin and I responded to our mothers’ disregard for us by growing into strong and capable women. We became educated and learned to understand that our mothers are frustrated, narcissists who will never perceive our own success as anything but an affront to their own unsatisfying lives. We severed our ties to these women not to hurt them, but to protect ourselves, and we’ve struggled with allowing others into our hearts and souls after suffering the disappointment and pain of what should have been a primary relationship in our lives.

I learned that my cousin has a physical condition very much like my own – we both have extremely low heart rates and a genuine need for vigorous exercise. She runs, too. Maybe that’s how we have learned to keep our blood flowing and our hearts alive. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that meeting her has changed me. Something good has come from something less than positive. I think my ability to recognize that is what makes me fundamentally different from my mother – and like my cousin.

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Filed under Europe, family, Germany, girlhood, moms, musings, relationships, secrets, Uncategorized