Hope I Measured Up

I just attended my first book festival. I met other writers, learned how it all works, and got my name out there. Although I did not sell any books, I had no expectations, and there was not much traffic at this event anyway. Just getting the invitation was enough of a reward. I am getting my name out there slowly—baby steps—but that’s fine. I am in no rush.

My hope is that you are proud of me for following through on this project. So many times I wanted to give up, but then I thought of Grandpa, who faced far more difficult challenges and never gave up, so I kept going.

You all know that I feel like I have been an inadequate role model as your mother. While I graduated college with a degree in a decent major—math and computer science—my professional career was limited, particularly after becoming a mother.

While I wouldn’t change anything given the opportunity, I feel like I didn’t do enough. Was volunteering for all those committees enough: Field Day, Fun Fair, yearbook, library, brownies, class mother many times, and the lunches—hotdog and pizza lunch? Then there was the Senior Citizens Lunch and printing of the Lazar newspaper with Margaret during middle school, PTC vice president in high school, organizing the town fish fry, and the judging of the forensics tournament as well as organizing the food at the East Chapel Hill Tournament with Dad.

Daddy traveled during his career, so we made the decision together for me to stay home with you. I was never unhappy, but I always felt like you should have had a mother with a career to inspire all of you.

So now I wrote a book. I am not selling a lot, but still, there are strangers purchasing it. While I never undertook this project for any accolades, I still feel a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment. It was a lot of work. I took time to research every aspect of the book.

I hope that besides learning about Grandpa and his family, you look at me in a different way. I want you to feel proud of me.

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Here’s the Plan

Recently, someone put one of those lists on Facebook where you had to answer several questions and then post your answers. While I did not list my own responses to all thirty-four questions, I did answer one—how many tattoos do you have? I was able to post mine, which was given to both Dad and me by Bryce.

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I must say that this stick-on tattoo is quite impressive. My awesome pirate tattoo has been on for several weeks now, and while not as fresh-looking as when it was first applied, it is standing the test of time quite well. It’s appears to look quite authentic. A nurse recently told me she had to look twice to determine if it was real or not.

Therefore, I have decided that I will definitely never get one of those needle-based tattoos. What’s the point of risking infection, pain, or the expense when I can just go out and get a few dozen of my favorite tattoos and then just reapply it whenever it fades? Also, with the Bryce tattoo, I never have to worry about changing my mind. With a little (actually a lot) of elbow grease, one tattoo can easily be replaced by another.

So that’s my plan.

You Want to Eat What?

Now that I have small children in my life again, they are helping me dredge up old memories of your younger days.

Dad and I recently hosted a sleepover here with Bryce, and at dinner that night, we discussed breakfast options for the next day. When Dad offered to make French toast, Bryce seemed excited.

So the next morning when he awoke, he first announced that he would like to watch a show. That is very much like me since I don’t like to have any food immediately upon arising. Bryce still seemed happy with the idea of French toast, with a side of blueberries, so while he snuggled in our bed and watched Paw Patrol, Dad busied himself fixing breakfast. I was excited myself since I have not eaten French toast in years.

When we called him to the table, Bryce first ate all his blueberries and then just sat there. Apparently he had had a change of heart. As parents, we would have said, “Tough, tough creampuff. Eat your French toast,” but we are grandparents, so that is not what we said. Instead, we asked what he now wanted,and he stated that he wanted a turkey and cheese sandwich—deconstructed of course! Secretly, neither of us was  upset because, frankly,  the French toast looked great.

Dad looked at him strangely, but I was immediately reminded of Casey’s breakfasts back in the day. While Kelly and Jamie would typically have cereal or waffles, Casey loved to buck tradition just like her nephew. A typical Casey breakfast would be a tuna melt or perhaps a bowl of Progresso New England clam chowder.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with what she chose, but I just did not have the stomach for the odors of tuna or clam chowder at 7 o’clock in the morning. So in comparison, Bryce’s request was quite tame.

Daddy got right to work creating a beautiful “big plate.” In addition to the turkey and cheese, with a hamburger bun, Dad added some mac and cheese from dinner the previous evening. He tried to sneak in a pizza bagel, but Bryce was not interested. Obvi (as Casey would say), he takes after Aunt Casey with his breakfasts preferences, while Lily follows her aunt with her left-handedness.

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My Idea Was Stolen

I have been writing these stories since July 2015—272 in all—and while I never know what I will write one day to the next, something always happens to inspire me. Today it was a trip to the supermarket which set my creative juices flowing.

While Dad was trolling the cheese aisle, I looked up and saw Lunchables, which I packed for all of you (I think all three) to bring to school a few times. They were pricey for what you got—some crackers, meat, a drink, and some kind of dessert is one example. As I perused the selections, curious about how the selections had changed since you were young,  I saw choices which I don’t recall existing back in your day: chicken nuggets, nerds, and Capri Sun; mini burgers (cold), Capri Sun, and Reece’s Pieces; pancake and bacon dippers; deep dish pepperoni pizza (again, cold) Capri Sun, and Oreos.

Then I saw the inspiration, and grabbed my camera. Kraft stole my idea!

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The three of you know I immediately thought of “The Big Plate,” which was born out of desperation when I just couldn’t get to the store. It consisted of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think you could call it “tapas for kids.” It may be a piece of meat, a couple of slices of bananas, and some cheese. Whatever I could scrounge up in the fridge. You all loved it, and now, so does Bryce.

Love to You All!

I have been going through your memory boxes along with my box of cards from the three of you trying to find something appropriate to publish for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, the cards to Dad and me consisted primarily of Mother’s and Father’s Day cards, birthday cards, and Easter cards.

Finally, I stumbled upon a card from Jamie to the rest of the family, made in school when she was in kindergarten. Now she is a kindergarten teacher, so I thought she would enjoy seeing what she was able to do at that age. I would also like to mention that, among the treasures I found today, was something written by Jamie a year later. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up she said that she wanted to be a teacher. She was the only one who did not change her mind.

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Back in Time with Grandma

On one of my trips up North, I returned with a box of photo albums belonging to Grandma. One of the albums was titled, “Friends and correspondents of WW II,” and almost every picture is labeled with the name, and occasionally, the date of her friend. After my success in locating Grandma’s long-lost cousin (Ordering the Platinum Card), I decided to attempt to see how many photos I could return to their owner or the owner’s family.

So far, I have returned those old photos of Grandma’s pen pals to seven people: one is still living, one I sent to the wife of her buddy, and the remaining pictures were sent to the children. All were happy to unexpectedly receive a picture from so long ago, and I enjoyed being able to reunite these pieces of the past to their rightful owners.

After reaching out to the daughter of one serviceman in the album, she informed me that she had a few of the letters Grandma had written to her dad and asked if I would like her to send them to me. Naturally, I was thrilled to be able to have a window into what my mother was like at the age of fifteen. I thought I would share pieces of her letters with you.

She was a sophomore in high school at the time, and it was clear from the tone of the letters that she did not like school. Grandma was studying for her exams and looking ahead to her senior year, when she said that either she would enlist or have to go job hunting.

“I’m taking secretarial training, so I guess I will be spending my time with ‘Dear Sir and Yours Truly’ for the rest of my natural life. (I should have said freakish life.) But you’re hardly interested in my future so let’s drop it.”

That sounds like Grandma. Later she said that her comment about enlisting was a misstatement, because everyone had discouraged her from enlisting. I am assuming that it was never a serious consideration.

She then mentioned going to a rabbit show, where there were over four hundred rabbits.

“About all I thought about was what a very beautiful coat I could have if I decided to skin a few of the four hundred. (Personally, I wouldn’t have the heart to skin pedigreed rabbits such as those.) They were really beautiful.”

“Yesterday I went to Cedar Grove to a Rabbit Show, consisting of over 400 rabbits. It was very beautiful, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rabbits in all my life. About all I thought about was what a very beautiful coat I could have if I decided to skin a few of the four hundred. (Personally, I wouldn’t have the heart to skin pedigreed rabbits such as those.) They were really gorgeous. I could rant and rant for hours.”

Note to me or any of you: This is an interesting topic to discuss with Grandma the next time you get her on the telephone. I wonder if she will recall going to a rabbit show in 1944. I will cut her a break it she does not remember. Seventy-three years ago is a long time ago.

The letter concluded with her mentioning that her oldest brother, Larry, was currently in southern England, “and kept rather busy with amphibious training.” I will have to ask my cousins if they were aware of what their dad did while in the service.

I am curious what her friend, who was off fighting a war, would have written to his fifteen-year old friend back in Boonton, New Jersey.

More on Grandma at age fifteen another time.

You Think You Know Someone, But You Really Don’t

After losing a second family member from a sudden, unexpected death, I have been thinking a lot about the many faces we show the world.

There is the face we show to our co-workers—some perhaps seeing nothing more but the serious, business side of us. To those co-workers who we see outside our office, we may reveal our lighter side, where we share jokes and a few personal stories.

We let our hair down with our closest friends and families more, allowing them to know our opinions and some secrets, because we know they will not judge us. Few of the people in our lives know every faset of our personality.

How many of Dad’s acquaintances knew that he did not prepare taxes for the extra pin money, but rather, for the little old lady who came in each year and waited just for him?

I bet many of Kelly’s friends do not realize that she used to take photos, pro-bono, of the reuturns and good-byes of military families at the airport in Atlanta.

Jamie never announced to the world that she tutored an ill student after school each day and then made sure she was included in a special ceremony at year’s end.

Casey is now preparing to meet a refugee family this weekend and help the children with their English. I am sure few know that side of her.

Those are examples of faces that are not obvious to the world.

Reading through the comments about Aunt Sara, I saw a side of her that I wish I had known—the Sara so many of the people in Maine that lived, worked, and interacted with her knew far more than we ever did.

Over and over I heard her called a kind and loving soul. She was referred to as a “beautiful, strong woman,” with “such an appreciation of life.” More than one friend said “Sara was indeed a shining light to all of us who had the privilege of knowing her;” “she was a true light in this world;” and “was always a bright spot on this planet.”

She had just finished finalizing a new job working at a nursing home and was returning home when the accident occurred. Having visited Grandma at her nursing home, we know that working in such an environment is a calling that few answer. It takes a lot of patience and understanding, so I should not have been surprised by hearing that “she always cared about everybody;” and “she had a gift for connecting, for listening carefully, and for sharing an open, positive, uplifting outlook on life with other.”

“Over the past year, she provided us with steady comfort and support;” “Sara was a thoughtful, creative professional who helped my mom and our family through some difficult transitions;” “Sara touched the lives of so many with her heartfelt and caring attitude,”  and “Sara’s huge heart and giving spirit brought joy to so many people.”

Wow! I really did not know her. I have certainly learned a lesson about not letting distance and differences get in the way of keeping in touch with the special people in my life.

What will people say about me? If it’s not good, at least I won’t know.

Peace, Sara.

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