FHB Can Prevent Embarrassment

Aunt Ar sent me a text recently asking if I knew the meaning of FHB. She was visiting with Grandma and they were reminiscing about the good old days. As Bryce would say, “piece of cake.” I immediately responded “Family Hold Back.” Aunt El’s answer was “???” Aunt Ar answered  “And we have a winner.” (Incidentally, Dad also knew the correct answer. I trained him well.)

Not knowing if this little code was invented by my mother or my grandmother, I immediately dashed off a note to my cousins Eileen, Gail, and Cathy. Eileen was the first to respond: “Family Hold Back. When you had guests, so you didn’t run out of food. To my knowledge, it was Aunt Lorraine’s saying.”

While I was speaking with Aunt Ar, my cousin Timmy, Aunt Lorraine’s oldest son coincidentally called Grandma. So I asked him, and he verified that his mom had come up with the secret code. Timmy likes to joke around, so he explained that “She did start FHB, because we were poor folks and had to pretend we didn’t want seconds so the guests could eat.”

So now you know and you should remember this so if you either have unexpected guests drop in at dinner time or you misjudge the amount of food to prepare when you have planned guests, you will have enough food.

FHB. Remember this. It may save you some embarrassment.

And So They Were Married

Today is the story of Grandma and Grandpa, because on this day in 1951, they were married in that church on the hill in Boonton. The fact that they got together is amazing to me since they lived their early years separated by thousands of miles. The fact of the matter is, they never should have met, but for some reason, Grandpa was issued that passport in Moscow and he returned home, where their lives intersected ten years later.

With all that was happening in the world at that time, it is incredible that he made it safely back. But what if his ship had docked in Honolulu six months later—in December rather than June?  He would have been there when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and none of us would be here. You must know by now that I love thinking “what if.”

Fast forward to 1950 when they met at Norda Chemical. The following year, Grandpa asked my grandfather for her hand in marriage, and he said, “Take the whole girl, not just her hand.” Months later, Grandpa returned to active service and he was sent to Fort Hood, Texas.

Meanwhile, Grandma waited for him at home, and her friends threw her a shower.

When he was granted leave, he returned to Boonton where they were married in a small ceremony at Mt. Carmel Church in Boonton—that same church where we would all attend Christmas Eve mass with Grandma every year. Grandma’s best friend, Weezie Martone was her matron-of-honor, and Grandpa’s friend from Norda, Bob McCormick, was his best man.

Their honeymoon was the return trip to Killeen, Texas, home of Fort Hood. It was the biggest trip Grandma had ever taken outside Boonton other than the brief trip to Michigan with her mother for the funeral of an uncle in Michigan in 1950.

Civil War Museum in Virginia
Grandpa Stretching his legs in TN.


Their first home was a small cottage on the base, and the two of them settled down to married life, which was quite different than Grandma’s three older siblings, who were all married and living in Boonton. She was very homesick, so she looked forward to those phone calls to her mother.

 Grandma was exposed to sites there which made her realize she was no longer in Kansas.

Still, it was better than being separated. They could see each other every day.

While each day was vacation for Grandma, Grandpa was always busy at work.

Fortunately, Grandpa was never sent overseas, and just five months later, he was released from service and they returned home. Thank goodness, because Grandma really, really hated Texas!

That Alligator Dream

Although this is late in coming, I don’t want Easter passing without mentioning the alligator-dream Easter. Kelly reminded me of this when she was at our house on Easter Sunday, and then Casey told me that she had a discussion on FaceTime with Bryce about the incident.

One Easter, Jamie decided she was going to eat all the candy in her basket that day. I am not certain if we spent the day at our house or somebody else’s home, but I do recall that we were busy and no one was keeping an eye on Jamie, so she set out eating all the chocolate and jellybeans that were delivered by the Easter Bunny. She ignored the meat, potatoes, and veggies du jour.

That night she was rewarded by some frightening dreams which centered on alligators. (She probably saw a few on one of our Kiawah Island vacations!) She was not a happy camper the next day. I admit I don’t remember the details, but I imagine there was screaming during the middle of the night. I think she learned a lesson from that experience.

So both Kelly and Casey warned Bryce of the consequences of eating too much candy on Easter. I think it would be a good idea to remind him of this story on Halloween as well.

No Company Please!

I had an encouraging day yesterday—hip-wise that is. I have noticed that I am sleeping better and getting in and out of bed with less trouble. I have decreased the amount of Tylenol from twice/day to one or none, so I told Dad that I wanted to experiment with driving.

Not be able to drive has been unpleasant. I hate the lack of independence, but it has made me even more sympathetic to Grandma, who has been openly annoyed and indignant regarding the loss of her driving privileges, and people who can never drive.

Despite being excited at finally getting my wings back, I was also worried. I was afraid that I would not be able to move my foot quickly from the gas pedal to the brake in the event of an emergency—like a bunny or a squirrel dashing out in front of my car.

So I experimented by getting behind the wheel and ever so carefully moved my foot between the two pedals and was surprised at how easy it was. There was no lifting of my leg, which was what I had imagined, but instead, just the gentle shifting of my foot.

We first drove around the block, staying within the confines of our little neighborhood and then ventured out to the bigger loop road, where the speed was higher and the distance greater. Now I felt as if I had been liberated from my shackles!

Then Dad and I moved to an exciting project, which was de-pollinating the screened porch. In the past, this has been my project, but because of my hip situation, he did the bulk of the work. This involved lots of vacuuming and moving furniture, while my job was to help him fold the covers, wet Swiffer the tile floor, and point.

Everything was going along without complications until I looked up and saw a gecko out for an afternoon stroll on the screen.  I no longer fear these little green friends as long as they know their boundaries. But after the setback I experienced when I shook my leg after thinking a bug was crawling on it, I told Dad I was feeling anxious about not being alone, particularly after witnessing Gordon jump. I was positive I was in danger of dislocating my hip.

I can just imagine the call to 911 and my doctor. “How did this happen?”

“Gordon did it,” I would explain while they would look at me and shake their heads.




Mutual Appreciation Society

It has now been five weeks since my hip replacement surgery, and I must say, Dad has been a real trooper in taking care of me and the house without complaining. He has been preparing all my meals until I could handle breakfast and lunch on my own, and he has continued cooking his delicious gourmet dinner meals (with an occasional Healthy Choice frozen dinner or pizza thrown in).

Cleaning the entire house has been unchartered territory for him, with the exception of the dishwasher, which nobody can do as well as him. Anyone who has attended his dishwasher-loading seminar can attest to this.

Now he has suddenly been thrust into total housekeeping—changing the sheets, vacuuming, dusting, swiffering (dry, but he hasn’t jumped into the task of cleaning with any kind of liquid cleaner), laundry, and my favorite, which is cleaning the toilets.

It has been a learning experience for me as well, because I have had to learn to lower my standards as Dad does his best to take on all these new tasks. (I know that he will read this and say, “What do you mean you have to lower your standards?”) But I know we have different definitions of how much and how often to clean, but he has done a very good job with doing the laundry and changing the sheets without being nagged. There are certain chores that I have not even mentioned for fear that his head would explode.

For example, I am positive that when he cleans the bathrooms, he does not clean the entire toilet and sink with disinfecting wipes. I am positive he will be surprised to know that every few weeks, I Mr. Eraser the walls near the sink to remove the water stains. This too I have kept to myself.

One day, he surprised me by dusting the six-inch-wide white floor molding, pointing out how dirty it had been. Score one for Dad!

The fun part was trying to explain to him how I hang my clothes. A few years ago, I decided I was tired of wasting time trying to find a particular shirt or pair of pants, so one afternoon, I decided to organize my clothes by color and type of clothes—pants in one area, capris, shorts, shirts, (separated by length of sleeves of course), sweaters, sweatshirts, and dresses.

Since he is colorblind, differentiating greens and browns, and pinks and whites presented a challenge. I know he disagreed with my arrangement, but it was my closet, not his.  Still, there was not too much complaining—some, but not much.

Today, while he was out playing eighteen holes, I decided to do some laundry and wet-mopped the floors. He knows about the laundry, but not the floors. I expect he will yell at me when he reads this and learns I cleaned the floors (and Mr. Erased the wall in the half bath). But he yells (with love) because he wants me to get back to normal so he can return the cleaning chores to me.

Soon, dear. Very soon. I hope he appreciates what I do. I appreciate what he has been doing.

Were We Really Prepared?

With all the grim talk about North Korea launching missiles, I attempted to look back on a time when we had a very frightening situation on our doorstep—the Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope you all learned about this even at school. It involved a deal between Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. It was an awful time, but since I was only seven, my memories are quite fuzzy.

What I do remember were the drills. I know many speak of hiding under their desks. I don’t recall that. What I recall was being shepherded out in the hallway—presumably because of the windows in my classroom—and then being told to sit on the floor and cover our heads with our hands. I look back and think how naïve people were in believing that we could survive a nuclear attack by simply protecting ourselves with a desk or sitting away from a window.

I have vague recollections of seeing fallout shelter signs around town. I believe they were in the gyms of some of the schools. Perhaps someone reading this can add to or correct my memory.


Grandma apparently was preparing for our doom by stockpiling canned food such as soup, vegetables, and Spam—which was a disgusting ham-like meat. I guess the thought was that once the bombs were dropped, depending on where one lived, some people would survive but the food supply would be unsafe.


When the crisis was averted, Grandma told me that one night, when she did not have the opportunity to go food shopping, she prepared a “fallout meal,” which consisted of all the food stored in the basement like the soup, Spam, and canned peas and creamed corn.

What would Dad cook for our fallout meal? I think it would be more ethnic than Grandma’s dinner.

For a Million Bucks, It’s Yours!

I spent many Saturday afternoons at the State Theatre in Boonton. For just 50 cents, we could see the latest movie in that grand old building with our friends. I have many fond memories of that very unique theatre, where you entered underneath the big screen and walked up to your seat. There are just a few theaters in the country with this configuration.

As I recall, during those Saturday matinees, it would be rare to see an adult present in the audience. When the theater was filled to its maximum, the balcony would be opened to accommodate the overflow crowds. For me, that was a rare treat to be allowed upstairs. (Or maybe we snuck up there.)

Every Disney movie that played during the sixties I saw at the State Theatre, as well as the nearly four-hour saga, Gone with the Wind. I cried when Rex and Scarlett’s daughter, Bonnie, died after falling off of her horse; sobbed hysterically when Tony died in the arms of Maria in West Side Story, and held my breath while the Von Trapp family hide in the abbey from the Nazis in The Sound of Music.

I recall seeing The Godfather with Grandma, who regretted going with me because of the sex scene during the wedding. At the time, I believe I was seventeen, so I am surprised she went with me. She should have known, since it was rated “R.” What was she thinking?

The last flick I saw there was one of Dad’s all-time favorites: Smokey and the Bandit. We had been dating for five or six months at that time, and it was the perfect movie since it had cars to make Dad happy and Sally Field and Burt Reynolds for me.

The theatre was on its decline by then. I know this because I remember it had rained that day and the ceiling leaked. The precipitation added to the charm.

I hear it’s on sale now, so if you are looking for something to do with that million dollars hanging out in your bank account, there you go!