Mourning Puerto Rico

Another hurricane has wreaked havoc throughout another locale with a personal connection to our family. This time it is Puerto Rico, where Dad spent his final three-employment years working on this once tropical paradise. While the condo he rented was in the beautiful resort of Palmas del Mar, we soon learned that living on the beach on an island is not the same as vacationing on an island beach.

Grocery shopping was an ordeal, involving a forty-five minute drive to the nearest large supermarket with often forty-five minute lines at the check-out counter. We learned early on that ice cream would not survive the trip back home.

The best medical care for Dad was the onsite doctor at work. He knew that if he, or any of us, experienced a major medical issue, leaving the island was the best way of ensuring a healthy outcome.

Still, we enjoyed our time on the island. We’d turn on the car radio and hear music from nearby St. Thomas. I remember looking out the window each morning, waiting for the haze to disappear, revealing the island of Vieques, just twenty-five miles away rising gracefully in the morning mist.

We have been following the news reports and viewing the photographs and videos with great sadness, particularly having spent time there and knowing people personally affected. This morning a story popped up on my phone, reporting about the forgotten island of Vieques.

All the 10000 or so people on Vieques survived the storm, the deputy mayor, Daisy Cruz Christian says. But in the last week, some of the frailest have died. Supplies have been promised, she adds, but none have arrived. …There is no power on the island. No one has been restocking food or water or fuel supplies. No one knows when that will come.- Bill Weir/CNN.

Seeing first-hand these remote areas, particularly the impoverished villages along the mountain route we would often take between Palmas del Mar and the San Juan airport makes us all-the-more aware of how each minute may mean the difference between life and death for so many Puerto Ricans.

Will it ever be the same again?

                                         Somewhere in Palmas Del Mar- From Palmas Facebook page


Treasure Those Moments


I hope that all of these stories are helping you learn about my past, as well as that of my grandparents and extended family, and to also remind you of your own childhood. This is the driving force behind Mommysmeanderings—enabling you to view how the world changed through the generations, beginning with The Lost Generation (my grandparents) through your generation, The Millenials.

Now that I have received digital access to my family’s home movies, I have hours of menu-jogging material to enable me to write more stories. I’d like to tell you more about Grandma’s mother—the woman who had the sleepovers with many of her thirty grandchildren.

My grandmother was sixty-years old when I was born, and now we have a movie taken on that particular birthday. When you view it, keep in mind that she was two years younger than I am now. Sixty was a lot older back in the fifties—at least that is what I keep telling myself on each birthday.

These older movies are wonderful treasures because they enable us to see so many of our now older or deceased relatives when they were either your ages or mine, laughing and joking and acting silly. They all had years ahead of them before time took its toll on them by adding those lines of wisdom and robbing them of their independence. It’s so sad, but at the same time, it makes me smile to watch their antics.

It was not unusual for a sixty year old to wear dentures at that time, and we can see from the video that someone (Uncle Rich I believe) removed her choppers after she licked the icing from his fingers. He was such a scoundrel, and she let him do it.

We see my grandmother waving a handful of paper money around, which I suspect could be those dollar bills which we traditionally tucked inside our birthday cards. It was my grandmother’s mother who always shook a card, saying that it must never be empty. We have all kept that tradition alive.

Her hair was still peppered with color, not the silver-white, tinted just the palest shade of blue by a rinse which was popular in her day that I remember. She always wore a housedress, and she was clearly enjoying herself as she danced with my uncles and laughed with my pregnant mother and aunt.

And now everyone in those movies is gone but my mother. Time moves so fast. Cherish those moments.

Grandma’s 60th Birthday- Part 1

Grandma’s 60th Birthday- Part 2

Not My Imagination

I am constantly amazed at how our minds work, particularly regarding memory triggers. “Little Drummer Boy” is played at Christmas, and I am in my junior high chorus with my first set of braces on my teeth. My emotions and mouth are reeling from both anger and pain because I was promised I would not get those braces until after the holidays. (Incidentally, Grandma despises that song!)

The sweet aroma of freshly-baked bread transports me back to my childhood home in Boonton, when Grandma used to make hamburger rolls. Yes, it is true, your grandmother—who also worked outside of the home—baked rolls for our weekly meal of hamburgers. Although she cheated heavily in baking those rolls because she used pre-made frozen dough, those rolls still had that made-from-scratch taste.

On my recent trip to New Jersey, I decided to drive by a few of my former homes, which always blasts me back to the past. The house on White Oak Lane had lost that beautiful pink dogwood tree that Dad so loved, and the basketball hoop which we all enjoyed had been replaced by a new portable one.

My eyes were drawn to a particular tree at the curb—the one on our property which our neighbor, the admiral, had carefully lined with stones. Remember how I encouraged you to disassemble his rock garden and create your own because I was so annoyed at the admiral’s unneighborly behavior to all of us? The stones are still there, but rearranged by the new inhabitants of our former home.

The pen holding the farm animals at the cider mill is now overgrown with weeds, and more businesses and McMansions have sprung up around town. I felt sad seeing that the site is now so neglected.

The deck that Dad and a few family helpers had so lovingly built on the back of Grandma and Grandpa’s house is now gone. From my vantage point on the street, it appears that it is being replaced by a patio. Oh well, it will require less maintenance I guess.

My final stop was to the homestead where I lived for the first six months of my life. The house was one of only three homes located on a tiny street where the railroad track ran just feet from the front stoop. It was so close to the tracks that Grandma often said that when the train blew its whistle, they would raise their feet and laugh, pretending to allow for the train to pass by them.

Upon returning to the main road, I was suddenly zapped by a vivid flash of memory, which was of Grandpa and me filling up jugs of water from a spring located on the side of the road. Did this really happen, or was this just a figment of my imagination? I turned to a local Facebook group and posed a question about the alleged spring.

I am happy to report that my memory is working quite well. My query set off a string of replies from locals who recall accompanying their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents to fill up empty milk jugs from what one person referred to as “liquid gold.” Sadly, a combination of safety concerns because of the number of cars that stopped to bring home the gold and the eventual contamination of the water shut this site down sometime around 1969.

All good things must come to an end.

Photos courtesty of Michael DeLuca- Boonton

What Will Each Year Bring- Wow #7

“I can’t wait ‘til I’m a grown up because…” says four-year-old Bryce. He has already began making plans and dreaming about his future. We talk about his thoughts on a career—“Being Dad’s work friend” and “Helping Mommy hold her camera.” He tells me that he wants to be an adult, because “I am excited to be a dad.” He has told me that he is not interested in drinking wine now, but when he is a grown-up, milk will no longer be his preferred beverage.

When you are young, there are so many milestones to look forward to, such as getting a driver’s license, being able to vote, drinking legally, and becoming independent. Each birthday is eagerly awaited.

At what point does that excitement turn to antipathy? For me, it was each new decade beginning at forty, when I truly knew I was no longer a kid. I watched my parents age, and with each passing birthday, new wrinkles appeared, trips to the doctors increased, and their memories deteriorated.

Grandpa’s travels became primarily limited to walking from the living room window to observe the neighborhood activities, to shuffling into the kitchen for a cup of coffee or his afternoon glass of wine. Grandma now spends most of the day in her recliner, with the television tuned to whichever station was last turned on by one of the nursing home aides or a visitor.

If this is my future, it saddens me. However, my gloom turns to hope when I dine with our new friend, a ninety-four year old gentleman with a perpetual smile on his face. He greets me by name and with a hug, and we have animated discussions about our lives—mostly his because he is so fascinating—and he tells me about his travels. He has seen the world—China, Thailand, Alaska, Germany, and Ireland. He does not look just backward on his life, but happily anticipates his future trips.

At this moment, he is on an adventure in New Zealand and hopes to visit the Galapagos Islands or Ireland in his ninety-fifth year. I asked if his family is uneasy with his solo travels, and he admitted that they are. He dismissed their worries telling me, “If something happens to me while I am away, what’s wrong with that? I have lived a long life, and I am happy now. I am doing what I want.”

What a great attitude, and what an admirable and memorable man! He is my hero! If I can still be physically and mentally fit enough to still travel and socialize thirty years from now, then birthdays will become a day of pride.

The Preamble to I Do

We have now been through three engagements, with the most recent (and last) occurring this past weekend. Each engagement had a personality of its own just like the varying personalities of the characters involved.

The first happened over ten years ago. We were in town for something (was it a college visit for Casey?) when the happy couple made the announcement just prior to going out to dinner.

The setting was an off-campus apartment—I think. I must admit that this first engagement was a big surprise, although the bride and groom-to-be had been dating for over three years. I guess it was because it was my first engagement-of-a-child experience, so I was still not thinking that my first baby was growing up.  The years truly flew by so quickly.

Six years later, we learned of the upcoming second engagement as a result of a good old-fashioned telephone call to Dad by groom-to-be #2. He had called to ask for Jamie’s hand in marriage. It was so sweet.

We were sitting in the living room with bride and groom #1 when the telephone rang. After answering the call, Dad suddenly felt the need to close the door. Then he summoned me into his office. The sudden clandestine operation raised a few eyebrows, but we did not offer any confirmations of what was discussed.

Although the final engagement happened only four years after the second, it was definitely the longest in coming. As I loved to say, Casey and Chris had been together since the Bush #43 Administration.

Since this was their ten-year anniversary of something (when they met, or when they first went on a date?), I decided that if this date passed with no announcement, I was giving up—not on them, just the idea of a marriage ever happening. No one understands what took them so long. I guess they wanted  to be certain it was a match.

I knew Dad would never ever get a phone call from Chris asking for his permission to marry her, because that would cause Casey’s feminist head to explode. But let’s just say he did and Dad said no—just to be fun. That would cause a rumble of some very high number on the Richter scale.

Now we will wait to see just how long before they actually tie the knot and what kind of wedding they will have. Somehow, I think it will be unlike the first two weddings—in a field of sunflowers, at Harry Potter World, or perhaps at Kensington Palace.  (Yes, this is a wedding venue, albeit quite pricey.)

If only we could get Joe Biden to perform the ceremony. We all know that would be a dream come true.


No Tortilla Shortage

Here we go again! Another hurricane is coming, and this time, we may be in the path—or not. We are watching the forecasters as they attempt to determine who will get slammed and who will be spared.

In preparation, Dad and I went out on Tuesday looking for supplies. We already had several jugs of water from the “1000 Year Storm” along with bottled water remaining from our eclipse party, but our flashlights were in need of batteries. We headed to Lowes.

Normally when we go to Lowes, Dad likes to wander around the store trying to locate, on his own, whatever we are there for, because (as everyone knows) men don’t ask for or read directions. I, on the other hand, am not opposed to seeking assistance.

This time was different. Suddenly, he wanted to find a Lowes associate to help us find a particular item.  I, on the other hand, felt very strongly about not asking because I was positive we would be laughed out of the store. So we split up and set out on our mission. Up and down the aisles we went, until I located the empty shelves which formerly held the item Dad wanted. Days before the Mother of all hurricanes, Dad wanted to buy a generator.

For the time being, we accepted defeat and resolutely headed to the battery aisle, and then decided to go home to see if Amazon could fulfill our order (Allegedly it will arrive on Tuesday.)

We concluded our hurricane shopping with a quick trip to Aldi—not for water or bread or even wine. No siree, those are not the items needed in our household. Dad decided there was only one supply he needed to complete our hurricane kit—tortillas! (Why is that not obvious to everyone?)

When the winds begin to howl and the rain pours down, he will be making tacos and enchiladas. That’s your Dad!

Never Enrage Football Fans

The end of summer signals the beginning of a new school year, the cooling of the evenings, the reduction of daylight, the commencement of Halloween and Christmas decorations displayed way too early in our local stores, and the kickoff of football season.

This past Saturday, Dad and I donned our Gamecock apparel and settled down to watch the first game. Excitement was in the air in anticipation of the 2017 season.

It was a lively game—from the opening kickoff return for a touchdown until the clock ran out. We were on the edge of our seats until the final play. This excitement-to-the-end game reminded me of a very historical game occurring years ago. I asked Dad if he thought all of you were familiar with “The Heidi game.” I bet not all of you are.

It was November 17, 1968, and the players were the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. With little more than a minute remaining in the game, the Jets were ahead by three points after a successful field goal. After the kickoff, the excitement began with a Raiders touchdown followed by a fumbled kickoff by the Jets, which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Oakland—both touchdowns occurring within just nine seconds. The final score was Oakland 43 and New York 32.

So what is the point?

What made this game legendary, including tying up the switchboards of NBC, the local telephone company, and the NYPD, was an earlier decision by NBC executives to switch to the showing of the children’s movie, Heidi, in the event that the game exceeded its allotted time.

After the Jets’ kickoff following their field goal, the network switched to a commercial and never returned to the game. The only people who witnessed the double touchdowns were those who were fortunate enough to be in the California stadium.

The thousands of calls coming into the switchboards were split between viewers begging the movie to begin as scheduled and angry football fans enraged by not being able to see the conclusion of the game. Ironically, the network execs had decided to reverse their decision, but because the switchboards were jammed, they were unable to get through to the man responsible for pulling the plug on the game. The score was eventually scrolled across the screen, much to the ire of the fans when they realized how dramatic the final minute of that game had been.

This debacle led to a new clause in the NFL contract, which required all games in a team’s home market to be broadcast in their entirety. They also installed a dedicated phone in the control—“The Heidi Phone”—insuring that the lines of communication would always be unrestricted to those in charge, thus insuring that this disaster would never occur again.

As for me, I am positive I did not watch the Jets-Raiders game, since I had little interest in football at that time in my life. However, if I did, it would have been a Giants game, not the Jets that I would have watched.

But I do recall tuning in to watch Heidi that evening as well as remember the ensuing hullaballoo. The moral of the story is that you never ever mess with football!


Count Your Blessings

Another natural disaster has wreaked havoc on millions of people this week. This time, it is the horrific floods in Houston which have affected strangers as well as several members of our family. As I mentioned previously, “Mother Nature can bring us beautiful sunrises and sunsets, breathtaking mountain views, and flowers of every color. But she is not always our friend.”

Unlike the flooding we experienced back in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd invaded our home in New Jersey, social media and television during Hurricane Harvey was enormously helpful in locating people trapped in their homes. A tweet by a desperate man seeking help for his wife who was in labor was noticed by two nearby rescuers in a pick-up truck. The Houston police department was asking for boats on Twitter, and their requests were answered. You want to send money to the Red Cross, just text REDCROSS to 90999, and ten dollars will be donated to Red Cross disaster relief. How cool is that!

Fortunately, our Houston family members did not lose power—only water—but we knew they were safe because of texts from their phones and posts on Facebook.

During that storm in 1999, when Floyd dumped 10 inches of rain on us, we sent out a call for help for a generator from our friend, Don, after staying up all night bailing out the basement. Then we waited.

Nobody texted or tweeted or posted our calls for help back then. When our telephones went dead, we could do nothing but wait until Don came, so we just bailed, rested, bailed, rested. After this experience, Dad installed back-up battery-operated pumps in our basement. He forever referred to that house as Water World.

Our water problem in New Jersey back in 1999, along with the South Carolina Flood of 2015, was just minor inconveniences. We did not lose our homes, and both storms were truly just small nuisances compared to the suffering witnessed by those who lost everything during Katrina and Harvey. We have a small anecdote to remember but nothing really very noteworthy.

We were truly fortunate.