…then there was the time…

If you sit long enough with a family elder inevitably you will begin to hear “and then there was the time…” something. Some story you may have heard before but listen closely for newly remembered details and ask questions.  Especially the nagging questions.

I had lunch recently with my mother before taking her to her doctor’s appointment.  She’s a fan of MacDonald’s hamburgers and always seems to get talkative when we eat them together.  Just the two of us, no Toti so she’s fully present.

She began by saying, and then there was the time I stayed at Aunt Nettie’s during the summer when she lived on 42nd St (and 3rd Avenue) across from the Church of the Immaculate Conception. She was on the second floor.  We were three in the bed and every night they would light the statue and it would shine in the window and we could see it from the bed. (When recounting this to my sister she immediately confirmed it would freak – her – out.)

The Church is still there but they are all long out of the city.  She went on to say that Aunt Lucy lived on 1st Avenue so they would make tomato and egg sandwiches and have a picnic in the park. “I made myself a tomato and egg sandwich the other day but it wasn’t the same” “I get that, I prefer potato and egg”, to which she stated you’re just like “Your Aunt”.

I knew which Aunt she meant, she never called her by name, she was always “Your Aunt”. Taking the mention, I can’t help myself, I say, speaking of My Aunt is that how I got to go and stay with her in Astoria when I was a kid?  Was it a thing?

I was asking because as much as it’s one of the highlights of my childhood I never understood how it came about.  I figured it was because I was a pain in the ass but she said no. It’s because she never had kids so first it was me (my mother) then it was you. I might have mentioned my sister has a theory…

I have very vivid and fond memories of one of the “sleepovers” but in talking with my mother I didn’t even remember the other one. The timeline seemed odd, the one I remember was in 1965 the other was in 1967.  Ahhh my sister said, “the year everything changed” (you can be pretty sure you’re never going to see a post on that)…is the one my mother remembers most vividly. Interesting on so many levels.

There is insight in the timing but there was more insight in the rest of the conversation. In the end it confirmed the contention that existed between my mother and I and my mother and “My Aunt”.  “She had to take charge, nobody could do anything without asking her (did anyone ever try, no I did not ask that question…) she always knew best, she wanted everyone to be like her, do things her way.”  Oh boy, I’ve lived in that space.  In some ways I still live in that space and ironically my mother won’t make a decision without “asking Sandi first”.

Per my mother she was a pain in the ass, you might have noticed I recognized earlier that I too was a pain in the ass.  But she was important to me, I remember later in her life listening to her lament about being old and not belonging, of not being able to do the things that were so important to her once, like cooking her own meals. Something as seemingly small as a gallon of olive oil being thrown away when she moved from her beloved apartment strickened her. All the while she talked the tears ran down her face.  I remember thinking that no one should have to cry when they get old.

I’m never going to be a mother’s daughter, I think we’ve established that many years ago, and there’s a very good chance that I might turn into “My Aunt” with a kinder edge perhaps.  In this past month of ah-ha moments I’m noticing many of her endearing traits coming out in me. Movement is important, cooking for oneself and enjoying what you eat is important, dancing (even just around your living room), truthfulness with a touch of restraint and empathy (she might have missed that part) is important and living life to the fullest you’re capable is important.  This she did in spite of her regrets and her highhandedness. She’s been gone well over a decade but I have her picture at my desk and discuss things with her often.  There are times I think she’ll answer me and a tiny bit of fear crawls up my neck but that’s ok, I’ve also had that effect on people and in the end the goodness always comes through.

I’m looking forward to more of those ….and then there was the time…moments.

Have a good week and look for the ordinary moments, it’s where legacy lives.

 

Universal Conspiracy

That moment when the way things unfold equals the universe conspiring in your favor…can stop you in your tracks.

Yesterday Toti Nonna and I got soaked, nearly drowned !!!!! it rained so hard.  Down to our understuff, down to the phone in my pocket.  The jacket wasn’t really meant for rain or its repelability is completely gone. My favorite shoes are still wet a day later.

So I need a new phone and go online and order through our portal.

An iPhone 7.

Denied, we can’t order the 7 we can only order the 6S so I can’t approve this for you.

How blessed am I with a boss that says WE can’t instead of YOU can’t.  And then hurries me along and checks in to insure he can approve in time for me to receive the next day (so far the receive part hasn’t happened).  I barely know him, I barely see or speak with him but I am incredibly grateful for the way he makes his way in the world.

Getting dressed for a business meeting yesterday was a drag but I’m one of the few people who really enjoy my meetings.  My problem was the movement yesterday. It still hurts like hell from Sunday and years of improper movement and the deterioration of neglect. Why did I neglect so many things? Yes I know why but my reclamation has begun. With some bumps and frustrations, a bit of pity and foot stamping but it has begun…

The day before yesterday was not a day to be around me, my aches and pains were thick and my patience was thin.  I had no use for a grown ass woman who can’t ever remember her key.  I really had no use for anything but at the end of the day, the very end of the day all the good started to outweigh the bad. In small ways, like fresh figs and ricotta or a comfortable position on the other end of the couch, or an exceptional visit with Gramma and Toti that brought good news of her coming home. And, yes, even the experts especially the ones I’ve been cursing and second guessing lately.

When you’re an expert, at what point is what you think you know so well no longer the truth.  When someone says something changed yet you continue on.  Do you continue with that expert?  My hesitation, my leeriness aside, I called for an appointment.

When brutal honesty mixed with pain and kindness are put to use, common ground and understanding, even a good laugh, start to emerge.  There is no one or the other cure or care for your condition he says, but there is interim and complimentary care. There is more and better. There are ideas and suggestions and adjustments (literally).  Never once eluding to the fact that this is really all about old age…albeit premature old age…just sayin.

At the end of the day relief comes in a myriad of ways.  A clear mind, a better understanding, common ground, friends whose energy takes over when yours is low and restful sleep. And while my favorite dog walking/gardening shoes may never dry out I am blessed with a universe that is truly conspiring in my favor.  I hold out hope for it all, including the shoes.

Peaches

Every year around this time, the smell of the early summer peaches stops me in my tracks.  I can’t resist them.  I can’t buy a bushel but a dozen should do.  They purposely put them in a paper bag because they need a few days and the wait can be agony. Of course once they’re home the smell just keeps getting stronger.

Finally! I have to eat one immediately and they never disappoint.  Peaches hold a certain food nostalgia for me, they are a direct link to my father and his way of making them into something special.

You can read all about that in a post I did several years ago when I first began writing about all those ordinary legacy moments; FATHER’S DAUGHTER MOMENTS: PEACHES

Cherish the ordinary moments, they are truly the stuff of legacy.

Gardening Rituals

You don’t have to be a gardener to benefit from these rituals, they will fit almost anywhere.  In fact, they already reside in kitchens, business and just plain daily living. They are born from common sense, you remember that right?

Start Early

If you’re going to get anywhere in the garden, or any of the above alternatives, you’ve got to start early.  Plant at the optimum time.  Seeds and seedlings (or ideas for that matter) have an optimum time to go in the ground not just to survive but to flourish.  It makes no sense to defy your cleared frost date or you’ll find yourself starting again.  It makes no sense to plant fall crops at the beginning of spring.  You’ll want a progression that builds on the changes of the growing season (or the market…) to take full advantage of the varied conditions.

You’ll also want to start early in the day.  Before the sun beats on your back and exhausts you and burns you (or burns you out).  Pace yourself to the environment you’re working in, be aware of the changes and use them to your advantage.  For example, get your plants in before the rain so they get a good soaking and weed after the rain when the soil will yield to your hoe.

Gardening Mise En Place

There is no difference between kitchen mise en place and gardening mise en place.  Everything must be in its place in order to conserve your energy, insure good flow, prevent injury, and make this gardening work a pleasure.  Another part of mise en place is to clean as you go.  At the end of your morning in the garden when you’re done you’re done, no back and forth and diminishing the joy you’ve just experienced with gathering and cleaning the multitude of tools you’ve used.  More than anything this insures nothing will be left behind in the garden. There is nothing worse than wondering where the hell that damn trowel went…

Protect Against Intruders

In a community garden there are a different set of intruders.  There are the rabbits.  There are the deer.  There are the birds.  There are the residents…and yes there are the other gardeners.  It’s true there are times we just can’t help ourselves.  Just one seed pod.  Just one cutting. Just one clump of this overgrown name the perennial.  We don’t mean to steal, in fact I don’t think any gardener considers this stealing but just the same we sometimes forget to ask first.

Fencing becomes one of the most popular ways to protect against intruders and many a community garden becomes strewn with ingenious and elaborate fencing. Most gardeners prefer not to use chemicals to keep pests away, especially if they are growing edibles, so any number of home remedies can literally stink up the place.  This too might keep away the human poachers.

Rest and Pace Yourself

Gardening, especially at the beginning of the season, can be back breaking work.  I’ve learned from the elder gardeners to set small tasks for myself and assign them over the course of different days. I can see the changes in their gardens each week when I return.  It is incredibly hard to do but in the end it prevents me from becoming debilitated too early.  I do get there eventually (not debilitated)…and by that time the garden just needs occasional grooming and then of course harvesting.

Sing

This is the equivalent of whistling while you work.  Gardening is like many pastimes in that it is at once joyful and frustrating, you know like golf. But occupying all the areas of the brain can reduce the frustration part of whatever pastime you call your own while increasing the joy centers. Science says so and despite the recent maligning of scientific findings, I still believe in it wholeheartedly.

This woman was clapping her feet together to release the dirt from within the treads of her shoes just moments before I took this picture.  All the while singing in her native language delighted that she had completed her morning in the garden.

Our lives are full of rituals, they are a combination of habit and proven technique.  Without them we just go face first into one thing or another without a compass or guidebook.  They are ordinary and brilliant and give us comfort and guidance especially if they are handed down by those who have become experts.

Enjoy your week.

 

Happy Mother’s Day From A Father’s Daughter – 2017

 

Happy Mother’s Day Rere

I wondered if this had changed in the four years since I first wrote it.  No, not really we are still, my mother and I, something…best described as comfortably, and now mutually, respectful.

She is now soon to be 87 years old and my father has been gone 12 years…12 years still seems like the day before yesterday and I remain very much my father’s daughter. My nest egg has grown and her’s remains wonderful as some frugal habits are hard to relinquish.

To her credit, and her benefit,  the one time she didn’t start from no, didn’t say no, resulted in the love affair of the decade.  She has developed a true and deep love of an old dog.  She and Toti Nonna continue to save each other each week since Lina died.  They are the reason each looks forward to the weekend.

I’ve had a new string of wonderful young people cycle through my life and on to live their fullest lives and I fully anticipate this will happen again and again.  There is something to be said for being once removed from family where one can stamp their feet and empty their angst while filling their stomachs.  I’d like to say I’ve perfected that particular method of being available.

Previously published in 2013:

 

She loves her Chinese food, me not so much.  She has a million quips and quotes that somehow grew us up and we remember to this day.  She is eighty three and like most people her age she concentrates on herself, some amazing survival instinct of the aged. She truly made a silk purse from a sow’s ear, she scrimped and saved and has a wonderful nest egg, me not so much but she is generous.

In the eight years since my Father passed we have become…something.  Something more than we were and less than we will ever be.  I have developed a certain respect for her charm, her ability to bring people to her and to make them feel…something.  Loved, important, heard, special.  She has a long line of people who will always remember how she made them feel.  Including me.

But she and I couldn’t be more different in many ways.  I am hopeful that I’ve been able to cultivate that ability of hers to bring people to me.  Maya Angelou said today that her second greatest blessing has been her ability to turn people into children of hers.  I’ve had a string of people that I believe turned into children of mine but have now moved on into wonderful and satisfying lives through new jobs, new relationships or reestablished relationships with their own mothers, and new…something.

You never really know the effect you’ve had on people, there are no Mother’s Day calls when people have taken your love and lessons and moved on to send those lessons into their own worlds.  You can be grateful for the love and lessons you’ve received from a Mother you’re only now getting to know, love and respect.   I am grateful for both the sending and the receiving.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all.