I’m Sorry and I Love You

As I sifted through the pile of letters written by the three of you through the years, I discovered several reoccurring themes—love and apology. It was heartwarming to see the notes you wrote to each other and to Dad and me expressing your feelings of love. We may not say it enough, but you certainly all knew how to put your feelings down on paper. Today, however, I am focusing on letters of apology from Jamie.

Some were clearly written by choice, while others were forms of punishment which I forced you to write. Some were brief, while others were quite involved. I suspect the length was related to the depth of your guilt. Most, not all, closed with love.

Jamie, at the age of eight, we received a note of apology for interrupting. Note the postscript.

Jamie Interrupting Letter-age 7

When you were ten, you wrote us a very short note, but the humor was in your very specific mention of timing.

Jamie-Sorr- age 12

Interrupting was clearly a problem because I found a lengthy letter written at a later date when I must have instructed you to invest more thought into your apology.

I am sorry for what I did. It is wrong cuz interrupting is mean cuz other people are talking and it is also wrong and *RUDE*! I will try to avoid doing this even though it’s a habit that just happens to be a not-so-good one. It is also mean to interrupt your friends but it’s like meaner to interrupt your parents cuz it is not being respectful.

You acknowledged the difficulty in making a promise you could not keep but vowed to try. We all interrupt. I know it’s rude and annoying and from the point of view of the “interruptee,” it makes them feel as if what they are saying is not important.

I will try my hardest to stop as best as I can cuz I know I’ll do it again some other time so I’m not going to make a promise I cannot keep. But I will promise to do it as unoften as possible and I will try not to do it anymore even though it will happen by mistake.

So to the three of you: I am sorry for interrupting you, not understanding you at times, and criticizing one of you for being a “pig” for the way you kept your room. I hope you have taken the lesson of being able to step up to the plate and apologize when you are wrong. It will keep your marriages, friendships, and family relationships from falling apart, but it is not always easy.

P.S. I love you.

Sisters- Part II

I feel I am an expert on sisters since I was one of three and then became a mother of three sisters. Girls bring drama to the family, but I am learning that boys are fearless, daring, and full of much more energy. I admit, though, I know sisterhood from the perspective of the oldest. I probably made some of my mistakes because of not understanding birth order personalities. So I researched it and today and concentrated on the youngest.

What I found in my research was so true. I was not as nervous with you, Casey, and I babied you longer. A conversation from the movie Parenthood says it all: We were tense with the first.  If he got a scratch, we were hysterical. By the third, we let him juggle knives.

According to Parents Magazine, the youngest child shoulders less responsibility, so they tend to be more carefree, easygoing, fun-loving, affectionate, and sociable. That’s you for sure, and the fact that I was cutting up your food until you left for college—or so it seemed to your sisters— was because it was so difficult to let go of the baby. Ask Aunt Val.

The three of you played together, fought together, shopped together, and ignored each other at times. Casey, I know you got upset when you had to go to bed earlier, so you contrived tricks to come downstairs and be part of the action. But in the end, I believe you loved each other and still do. I have it in writing.

Sisters Poem

And even though you have always been the little princess of the family, I hope you agree with the sentiment I found on a plaque at a store in town.

Being a Sister

If I Could Be Anybody

We came from a family of writers. You may have seen the album filled with notes from my brothers and sisters to each other, the tooth fairy, Santa, and Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma would find them under a pillow, on the floor, or sailed, paper-airplane style, down the stairs. Hopefully someone knows where to find them.

I thought it was a great idea, so over the years, I collected your notes and some of the cuter assignments from your early school years. I am going to choose a few of my favorites for you all to see. Kelly is the first victim.

In second grade, Kelly was given an assignment titled:   If I could be anybody.

Here’s what she said.

If I could be anybody I’d be me.

I have a nice family and good friends.

I’m good at drawing and gymnastics.

I have a nice teacher. I do not want to be anyone else.

I do fun things. Also, this summer my family and my cousins are going to the shore.

So I just want to be me.

That year, you had Mrs. O’John. I do not believe she ever had a student who didn’t love her to death, and we were a lucky family to all have had her. She was kind and sweet and loving, and I can only hope that Jamie’s students feel the same way about her in years to come.

The shore vacation was one of our trips to Long Beach Island with the Duffords. That is a subject for another time.

Enjoying gymnastics was probably inherited from Aunt Ellen and certainly not me. I detested gymnastics and had a few tricks up my sleeves to avoid that class. Again, that is a discussion for another day.

As a mom, for me and now for you, having your child say that she does not want to be anyone else makes me feel like I was doing a good job—at least in 1992. Do you still feel the same way, Kelly?


If I could Be Anybody
If I could Be Anybody

Never Mix Rocks and Spoons

When Bryce was born, Mark mentioned that he and his brother visited the orthopedic doctor almost as much as their pediatrician. As active boys, broken bones and stitches was apparently routine for their mom. Watching Bryce romp around the house and yard, I understand. He loves to dive head first off our bed, sofas and chairs, and when he runs at full speed, it is frequently with his eyes not pointed in the direction he is headed. As a result, his legs are full of many cuts and bruises because of being a human bull. There is so much to do, so he must run from one activity to the next. He has not been to a hospital for any stiches yet, but my crystal ball sees that in his future. It’s in his genes, from both his father’s family and his mother’s side. Uncle Mart also had the frequent flyer card at the local hospital.

But guess what, girls? I also paid a visit to the hospital which was not caused by an illness. My trip occurred in 1958—sometime between my second and third birthday. I was playing outside with my cousin, Alan. It started so innocently and involved rocks and a spoon.

Alan discovered that he could vault a rock through the air with aid of a flexible spoon. People say timing is everything, which was precisely the case on that particular playdate. Alan launched the rock at the exact moment that I executed a big, happy, wide-mouthed laugh. The outcome of this toddler physics experiment was my first trip to the hospital for an X-Ray. The doctor told Grandma that the rock did not enter my lungs so I would survive. The lessons learned here is to never underestimate the creativity of small children and to always keep plastic soups hidden from then. They can be quite dangerous!

I Appreciate You

Okay, I admit it. I am a grandma, and I am loving the role. I was warned this would happen, but I didn’t completely believe it. This is not saying I was not excited for Kelly and Mark to become parents. Not at all! I still remember the longing I had to be a mom and the thrill each time I looked into each tiny set of eyes for the first time.

It’s just that the memories of my two grandmas were of old gray-haired women with sagging skin. I loved both of them, but neither was ever young to me. But I have the birthdays so I know their ages.  My Carey grandma was only sixty when I was born and my Russian grandma—Baba—was sixty-eight. Did they both seem so old because when you are very little, anyone older than twenty-five is ancient? Will all my grandchildren remember Dad and I as dinosaurs, or will they have any recollections of us as young and energetic (sort of) and fun to be with?

What makes it so enjoyable is the renewal of the profound love that I had (still have) when you were all so young, innocent, and totally dependent on us for everything. It was the excitement and joy that you all had for the smallest discovery because everything was new, that I am now seeing again. “Look, Grandma, a butterfly”, or “Look, Grandma, the clouds are moving!” You did that to me many years ago.

What I love, love, love is when our little guy sees me and says, “I’m so happy to see you, Grandma,” and then tightly wraps those tiny arms around my neck.

Today, when I put some lettuce in his hand, and he fearlessly held it up so a giraffe could grab it from his little hand with its slimy, two foot long tongue (I couldn’t even do it), he giggled with delight and said, “Again.” There was  a sparkle of wonder in his eyes that you all had when you were his age.

I thought back to last week when Dad and I took him to the park, and as we were returning home he said to us, “I had a nice day. It was fun.” He appreciated our little outing and somehow knew to tell us. It made us feel so good, particularly knowing that a two-year-old child does not lie yet.

This makes me wonder if my grandmother knew how much I appreciated her. Did I ever tell her? When she asked me to stay with her because she was lonely, and I got my own room at her house (a big deal since I was sharing my own bedroom at our house next door with my two sisters), did I ever tell her how much I loved staying there. Every morning before I left for school, she cooked me breakfast—scrambled eggs, toast, and tea. The eggs were runny, but I loved them and no one ever made me eggs like that. Did she know how I felt?

I know all of you gave Grandma those tight hugs and drippy kisses while you were little, and I am certain she knew how much you all loved her.  But there is not an expiration of date on the feeling of happiness when someone tells us we are appreciated. Sometimes, we don’t say those words of thanks to those we love. We may say we love them, but expressing the gratitude is important, too.

So go to the store and pick up a card, and then sit down and write her a note inside with a memory and words of thanks for being the amazing grandma that she is to you.  And then she will have that card to read and make her feel happy again and again.

American Dream- Part I

If I asked  you at different stages of your lives to verbalize your “American Dream”, how many times would your answers differ? Your looking glasses would be constantly evolving and be influenced by the classes you took, people you met, books you read, the media, and the world around you.

When I was in seventh grade, my crystal ball predicted that I would become a teacher. Apparently I believed I had too much homework, because my “past me” saw my “future me” as follows: “She won’t give them homework because she feels they should have some free time.”

That never happened, because when teaching jobs became scarce, it was Grandpa who suggested I enroll in a few computer courses and that sent me down a different road. Except for the few years teaching at St. Pius School, my seventh-grade dream of becoming a teacher was never fulfilled.

It seems I enjoyed being part of a large family back then, because when I looked to my future, I saw “my twelfth baby getting married.” You know what, girls? Three was quite nice, thank you very much!

What did come true was “mobs of friends, relatives, and more relatives.” I foresaw a secure job, a happy marriage and children as “a good life, with plenty of laughs and good memories.”

The “real job”, which I defined earlier as one in which taxes and social security are deducted, was short-lived. It ended when Kelly was born and reappeared briefly during those few years teaching at St. Pius. When I predicted my future, I never expected to have such a short career. But is life ever predictable?

Dad was on the road for so many years. We decided to have him travel rather than to move with him, so I stayed home and volunteered for everything: hot dog lunch, pizza lunch, field day organizer, Girl Scout leader, class mom, library aid, yearbook editor, senior citizen’s lunch, PTA Vice President, Newsletter copier, Sunday School teacher, Montville town fish fry dinner organizer, newcomer committee, forensic judge, and forensic tournament food chairman. (I never contributed taxes to those jobs so by my own definition, I never worked during those years.)  Did you liked my involvement in those activities or did you cringe with all my constant appearances at your schools? For me, it was a way for me to spy on you and your teachers from the inside.

When Casey got hit with years of mysterious migraines which began in Montville and finally ended when she went to college, all thoughts of rejoining the workforce disappeared. I think that’s why I enjoy my obsessive hobby of researching our deceased ancestors and writing my two books. It’s the job I never got to do but now one I can do on my own terms and with a honey of a boss!

Maybe no one cares (yet) that we had a cousin who invented a torpedo and another who once jumped on one. I hope that someday you will want to know the story of my great- great grandfather who served in the Civil War, the cousin whose paintings hang in museums in Europe or the cousin who was a chauffeur for the head of Warner Brothers Studios. Someday you will also learn of the family who died in the concentration camps in Germany. But for now, you have your own dreams to chase; your own wishes to fulfill. I understand that.

My dream for you is like that of all parents. I hope, in the end, you have “a good life, with plenty of laughs and good memories.” I hope when you look back, you think Dad and I helped make that dream come true.

Yes Sir, No Ma’am!

There’s a game I like to play other than the license plate game. It’s called the “where are you from game.”

Now that I have lived in five states in two distinct regions and have settled in South Carolina, whenever I meet someone, I enjoy trying to figure out if they are native to the South or from another region.  Living in a military and a university town as well as an area where I have met many retirees, I am constantly entertaining myself this way.

I cannot pinpoint the specific state with the exception of New York and New Jersey. With New York, thanks to my friend Dari from Long Island, I can usually distinguish a Long Island accent from an individual from another area of New York. (Upstate New York is not so easy.) I am working on the Midwest now with a few friends from Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

New Jersey has a unique accent which I have observed from my own siblings. Aunt Ar and Uncle Mart, for example, have different accents than Aunt Ellen since they live closer to New York City. Aunt El is a bit less Northern and may have pick up some of her pronunciations from Pennsylvania. This makes the “aw” sound when she serves Grandma a cup of coffee not as drawn out as the other two, who lean more toward giving her a “cup of cawwwwwfee.”

Sometimes speed is a clue, which Mark was the first to point out when he visited New Jersey many years ago. Jamie, since returning to the Garden State, the rest of the family, including Casey, has difficulty understanding you because we have lost some of our fast-talking interpretation skills. (This is not saying I talk as fast as my fellow South Carolinians, but I have now become more aware of speed and continue to make an effort to slow down.)

There are distinct regional differences in our choice of beverages, but I will only mention one of my favorites—tea. We had a new member in our book club. When I approached the table where we were all sitting, I could not hear what she was saying but was able to hear her rapid-fire conversation. “She’s from the North,” I thought. When I got closer and heard her order “iced tea,” I knew I was correct. As you all know, in New Jersey we order tea or iced tea. In the South, it is a choice of three: hot tea, sweet tea, and unsweet tea and the last two are always served cold.

The most difficult adjustment was being called ma’am. It took several years before embracing and now enjoying the respect and politeness of the title. When I saw young women such as yourselves being addressed in this manner, I got over feeling it meant “you are old.” So when a man working in the produce department of Publix said to me, “Have you found what you are looking for, Miss?” I played my game and asked, “By any chance are you originally from a Northern state?” The answer was “Connecticut.” Score for me!

We are working on teaching Bryce to say, “Yes, sir or yes ma’am,” but he doesn’t understand the male/female differences. When I say, “What do you say to Daddy?” he answers, “Yes, sir.” However, “What do you say Mommy?” may also elicit the same response.  But I am working very hard on perfecting this with him so that when he visits Aunt Arlene, he knows how to very enthusiastically and very cutely say, “Yes ma’am” to his great Aunt Ar.

You just need to go with the flow!