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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Toothbrushes

Hundreds of thousands of us living in Connecticut this past week can commiserate with one another about how difficult several days on end without electricity can be.  Sleeping in a home with inside temperatures below 50 degrees and lugging water for flushing is not for the faint of heart!

experienced just such a week myself. Although we did not initially lose power as a result of "Storm Alfred" which brought an extremely heavy October snow, we lost our power after the fact, presumably as a result of a transformer blowing out perhaps as someone else celebrated the return of electricity; their gain, my loss. Those elusive little currents just avoided my street like the plague for the next five days.

Night five had me at my breaking point for sleeping in a frigid bedroom in sweat shirts and pants, heavy socks, and ten pounds of blankets, and I simply refused to put up with the uncivilized conditions for a fifth night.  And let's not even think about the smoke detectors that one by one starting chirping when the batteries decided that they too had had enough.  Ah, but at 7:30 p.m. Sunday as I was out for the evening came the text message from my sister, who lives five doors down the street, that I'd long awaited: our power had come back on.  A massive lottery win wouldn't have made me happier! But on the ride back home, my sister called, and I could tell by her tone that she was about to deflate my soaring mood.  It seems that most of the homes on our street had power restored...but not mine.

At my sister's urging, and it did not take much convincing, believe me, my husband and I decided to spend the night at her home.  She still has a beautiful wing of her home, once my mother's, more recently my son's, where my son Justin and his new wife Tory still spend weekends when they return from their home in another state.

Aside from the warm comfort and satisfaction of light coming on upon throwing a switch, I embraced my temporary surroundings with a new interest I hadn't expected.  I marveled at what for the past several years had been a male-dominated environment as it now blossoms with feminine touches proving that a woman has nested here with her mate. Strewn among the race car photos, racing newspapers, and men's cologne now emerge hair clips, bracelets, and ballerinas. When I glanced at the toothbrush holder and saw the two toothbrushes next to one another and so perfectly entwined together at the bottom, it proved without a doubt that this space now belonged to a couple instead of a single male.  I experienced an unexpected contentment from the toothbrushes as they were for me proof positive of a bond between a husband and a wife.  Such a simple little everyday detail, but evidencing a profound intimacy that exists in their relationship.  My "little boy" is where I have always hoped he would eventually arrive, in a marriage bond with the woman he loves, and she equally loving him back.

To be there for one another in every way, shape, and form, through whatever life tosses their way, electricity or no electricity, to entwine his toothbrush with hers, that is what I pray for this amazing couple every blessed day of their lives.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Holding Pattern

Have you ever been on an airplane when weather or air traffic prevented you from landing and the pilot had to keep circling the area of the airport keeping you in a holding pattern?  It's not a good place to be.  Oh, you may be like my husband and be so thoroughly engrossed in reading a good book that you haven't even noticed that you've been flying around in circles for a half hour, but chances are that you are aware of what's going on and it's becoming somewhat annoying to you that you can't get where you need to be when you need to be there.

That has been the story of my life lately.  There are just too many things going on at once for me, and it seems that I take one step forward and two steps back.  I just can't get any traction and get my head above water.  I feel as if I've been flying around in the same circle for many weeks, and I sense that I am running out of fuel.

When the plane can't land, there is always a reason:  the fog is too thick, too much air traffic; one reason or another that it's not safe to land.  Perhaps that's my life.  Strange as it is to consider, perhaps my holding pattern is actually protecting me from what otherwise might be a crash landing.

My son has been in a holding pattern himself.  He and his new bride will be moving out of state, but he has not secured a new job yet and so here he is in his own holding pattern until he can land that new job.  Frustrating as it is for him, if he lands prematurely, chances are he'll crash into a work situation that will not make him happy, and so he needs to just bide his time and circle the area until the fog clears.

I remember when I took Justin to Providence, Rhode Island, to his new college "home".  That had all the makings for my complete breakdown, leaving my only child so far away from me for the first time, fending for himself with no mother there to fuss over him.  Well, mishap after mishap, dead battery, roadside assistance, buying a new battery, and waiting for an installation all led to his very late return to campus.  By the time I dropped him off at his dorm, all I wanted was to get on the road.  That took care of the crying all the way home since I couldn't wait to get out of there and get back to my home, sweet home.  God saw fit to slap some inconvenience in my way so that my entire focus changed.

As anxious as Justin is for a new job and to settle into his new home with his new bride, it's stressful to leave the security and safety net of nearby family and friends and of a job you've had several years and know inside and out.  As much as I want Justin to be enjoying his new life with his beautiful new wife and a perfect new job, it's hard not to have him so nearby and on hand whenever I need him.

I think I'm starting to get the picture here.  Holding patterns are in our best interests and for our own protection.  So there's nothing else for Justin and me to do but to each go grab a good book and await the word from our spiritual tower that it's time to land.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wedding

It’s taken me quite a while to recover from "the wedding", certainly not because it was traumatic or overly emotional for me, but because I don’t think I realized how much energy it really takes to run on all eight cylinders for so long and then to catch up when I’ve let my daily responsibilities slack off while devoted to other, more valuable, family and major life events.  After the hustle bustle of such a huge undertaking, there seemed to be almost a crash for me as I tried to cope with a normal routine again.  I remember ascending Mount Etna in Sicily several years ago only to find I was enveloped in clouds of vapor unable to see the horizon or, for that matter, anything more than a few feet away.  I felt claustrophobic.  That is the feeling I experienced after all the wedding festivities had ended, shrouded in a cloud of exhaustion unable to focus.  The newlyweds fled to a honeymoon paradise, but I think the family left behind needs a vacation just as much so that it all "soaks in" and so that we can settle back down to earth.

The wedding day was beautiful in every possible respect.  The bride was gorgeous and so radiant the sun paled by comparison.  The groom cleaned up incredibly well and could have doubled for one of the old-time dashing, romantic stars of the big screen.  If you weren’t already Catholic at the wedding’s full Mass, I imagine you wished you were for you wanted to be fully a part of what was as magnificent as any royal wedding could be.  The music, the priest’s words, the love in the bride’s and groom’s eyes was the stuff of fairy tales.  And the reception was fun, and all receptions are not necessarily so, and no one left without remarking on how in love they could tell the happy couple is, how incredible the food was, and the wonderful time they’d had. I wanted it to go on forever.

With so perfect a day, it’s been difficult for me to cope with normalcy again. And what, I wondered the next day, would normalcy be like now that my son is a married man?  When Justin has been asked what married life is like, he responds that it’s "just like it was before, except now she doesn’t go home at night."  That sums it up nicely.  I don’t know if I thought my own life post-wedding would feel like the aftermath of an asteroid collision or something but it’s just like it was before except now they live in the same house and wear rings.  I’m not sure what I may have feared, but I guess it didn’t happen.  To my utter amazement and joy, life is as good as it was before!  Oh, I still have changes to adjust to; they are, after all, moving to another state, but I’ll still see them on weekends and still sit with Justin in church, and hear Tory sing, and still text, and e-mail, and then let’s not forget the occasional Rock Band nights!

Three years ago, when my stepson Jaime was married, I was privileged to choose and read a piece at his and Joyce’s wedding.  I chose what I thought was a pretty and appropriate excerpt from "Captain Corelli’s Mandolin" by Louis de Bernieres:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision.  You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.  Because this is what love is.  Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.  That is just being "in love" which any fool can do.  Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.  Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

If I didn’t know it before, I know now and have the deepest conviction of the solidity of our family tree.  Three years ago I thought that that reading was strictly referring to the love of one man and one woman, but I realize it’s beyond that one simple relationship.  I know now that the roots our family tree has are completely entwined, never to be disunited.  The roots have deepened, the branches thickened, and the foliage made more spectacular.  We have added new branches, but we are indeed one tree.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Story of the Cookbook

Can you believe it's June, which means it's finally wedding month?  We knew this time would fly, but this went at warp speed!

The showers are behind us, the plans are all complete, and now we're down to crunch time.  Just the little details still need to be tidied up, like the dress fittings, the shoes being dyed, the rehearsal dinner head count, and the final assembly of the cookbook.

For the past few years, once I recognized that Justin would not be a confirmed bachelor eating pizza for the rest of his life, I thought that a cookbook containing his favorite recipes would be a useful gift for him and his new bride.  As I labored over each recipe that Justin loves, I began to spend most of the time on the stories describing the history of how the recipes came to our family, whether his father's family or my own.  It was not enough for me to share the recipes with him; I felt that the reason he loves those recipes is where the real value lies.

I think the stories attached to anything in life are what make it special, whether it be a recipe, a piece of jewelry, or even a photograph.  Have you ever looked at an old family photo and even though you know the names of everyone in the photo it just hasn't impressed you all that much?  But it takes on an entirely new meaning for you when someone points out to you that this photo is of your grandfather Ed and, although he was gone before you were born, you are exactly like he was, you have his sense of humor, his integrity, his ability to solve any problem.  Now you have a connection with your grandfather that wasn't there before because you have a story about him.  You know him on a personal level.  It's the connection that you make with that person or object that makes it meaningful to you.  You can find thousands of good recipes in cookbooks and on the Internet today, but until you've got a story that makes it connected to you in some way, it'll remain just another good recipe.

The cookbook is filled with delicious recipes, but each recipe has its own story.  From the hot rolls which Justin rationed out to the rest of us so he could eat the most to the chocolate chip cookies that he wouldn't even try until well into his teens and has now requested I make as an "extra" for the wedding reception, each story is filled with anecdotes, but mostly is filled with love.

I hope that the finished product will convey the love that went into its making.  I hope that someday Justin will pass the cookbook along to his own children, and when he shares the story of the cookbook they will feel the love of their crazy grandmother who danced around the kitchen with her headphones on as she stirred and kneaded and baked while creating a family story.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial: Anything Meant to Help People to Remember a Person or Event

Webster's Dictionary defines the noun "memorial" as anything meant to help people to remember a person or event.

We have all attended memorial services for someone who has died, whether that someone is a family member, friend, neighbor, family member of a friend, or even a pet or a jack-o-lantern than has fallen from the porch (or been nudged over the edge by an older brother).  It is a time when we come together and share one another's sorrow and lift one another's spirits with stories and anecdotes about the departed's lifetime with us and pay tribute to the deceased.

Memorial Day is a time that we also come together, but how often do we remember the reason that we Americans set the day aside?  How often do we take even a moment to honor the memory of those who have given so much of themselves for our freedom and liberty that we are so fortunate to enjoy in these United States?  Do we pause for just a minute to salute our flag and cherish what it stands for?  Do we thank a soldier or veteran when we meet one?  Do we give a thought to those men and women who fight for us right this very moment so that we are able to come together in freedom?

This Memorial Day, let us enjoy our freedoms by coming together and doing something to help us to remember those exceptional men and women who have sacrificed so much for us.  Were it not for them, we might not have the opportunity to come together at all.  Let us raise a glass to their honor, say a prayer for their safety, and shout a loud thank you for their selflessness.

Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One More Month

One more month until the big day arrives, the day my "little boy" takes a wife.  When the date was picked such a long time ago and the wedding Website went live last July, I knew the time would go by quickly but I don't think I honestly knew just how quickly it really would go by.  I set some lofty goals for this wedding, you know, wearing a size 6 dress, having a six-figure savings account set aside for the young couple, not crying and blubbering like a fool on the big day.  Well, the first two didn't happen and you can rest assured that the third one won't either.

I cry at everything.  I cry when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when something is beautiful, when I see newborn babies, when someone shares good news, when someone shares bad news, when I watch Hallmark commercials.  Business as usual for me.  With elements of happiness, beauty, and good news, this wedding should have me bawling for days.  I'm going to have to start meditating or something so I can make it through the wedding day without sobbing the entire time, for if I do I'll look back for years to come at my puffy eyes and red nose in all of those wedding photos and that will make me cry some more.

I've read some tips on how to prevent yourself from crying, such as taking deep breaths or pinching yourself on the arm as a distraction, but I have a feeling if I'm not the one in the wedding photos with the puffy eyes and red nose, I'll be the one hyperventilating with the bruises all over her arms.

Oh, well, as my sister always says, I am a tenacious optimist.  I'm sure I can do it.  I'm going to peruse some self-help books starting tonight.  I'll figure it out.  And if I lose two pounds a day, I'll bet I can have my dress altered to a size 6.  And there's absolutely no reason why I can't win the lottery and stuff a nice chunk of that money into their savings account for them.  I can do it, I know I can.  After all, I've got one more month.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rock on, White Lies

I am a middle-aged woman with an addiction problem...I am addicted to Rock Band.  I love to sing, although I am a very poor singer.  I'm great on getting the tempo just right and sing the words the way they're meant to be sung, but the finished product is really quite awful.  But it's fun, and I think that's supposed to be the main objective of the game.

I love the thought of playing Rock Band.  I love rushing to my sister's house just down the street from my own at 10:00 o'clock at night for a "quick hour", which turns into three.  I love to sing my little heart out, squirming around in my chair as if I'm dancing while I sing, and behaving like I'm a teenager.  I love my sister looking at me with her quizzical look asking, "HOW old are you?"  I love our Rock Band 2 and 3 song choices, I love our Beatles edition, and I love our AC/DC live tracks.  I love it all.

But what I really love most about playing is the precious time that it gives me with family and the fact that it is our special little treasure.  That's the real addiction in it.  We (I think Emily is responsible) have dubbed ourselves "The White Lies".  That's as good a rock band name as any.  Justin is awesome on guitar and vocals (I do loan him the microphone from time to time to sing a song or two).  Emily is an excellent drummer (and I let her sing a little too).  Tory can do it all; she is simply amazing on all of the instruments and since she happens to be a professional singer it's pretty wonderful of her that she does not once cringe while I'm sounding like a wounded cat.  Kathy is great on the laptop.  She uses her laptop while we usurp her living room for our nights of merriment, and eventually she caves.  If she happens to know the song, she'll belt it out without a mic and drown out the lead singer of The White Lies, which happens to be me, of course.  And we love it.  And we love that we can get her to take over guitar when Justin takes over the mic.  She says she's not competitive, but just hear her roar when she's had a great performance.  Her initial efforts to ignore us are futile for she suffers from the same addiction as I do.

Our schedule may have to vary a little once the wedding of the year takes place.  Next thing you know, Emily will bring a guy home to meet us, who, if he knows what's good for him, will like Rock Band.  Then, in a few more years, it may change again once we add some little tykes to the mix.  We'll just get some Fisher-Price add-ons.  Change may cause us to adjust a little, but this family thing we've got going on is too good and too strong not to survive.  Some people go to a lot of expense and trouble to find entertainment.  We find it on Friday evenings right there in the living room, just the five of us, and an occasional "guest star" only adds to the memories we get to share.

This kind of fun can't be purchased, and this kind of love can't be diluted by distance.  May we forever rock on, White Lies.

Copyright Priscilla Garamella 2011