Buon Natale


My Dad used to say it that way. My Grampa did, too. And my PapaNonni said, “Buon Natale”. In our house we didn’t say it in English when the whole family was around.

Buon Natale.

For my whole life, those two words have meant the sharing of good food, of laughter, of presents, of long stories told it two languages.

Buon Natale meant the meal of seven fishes, with shrimp and calamari and especially with octopus cooked by my Sicilian Grampa who pronounced it “boopie.”

The magic of the celebration meant gathering with cousins we saw only two or three times a year. It meant catching up with each other’s news, introducing new boyfriends, new fiances, new babies.

Buon Natale. Every year the location of our family party would rotate between the houses of my mother’s siblings. Some things would change, as people moved and families grew, but many many things stayed the same. The boopie, the calamari, the red Santa hats, the bottles of good Scotch under the tree.

Years have passed for me. Decades have passed now.

So many of those we loved have left us. Grampa, the original boopie chef, has been gone for more than thirty years. Our Nana left us more than ten years ago. We’ve lost my Dad, my sweet, funny brother-in-law, and my hilarious and brilliant Uncle.

But you know what?

We gathered again today. We hugged, and kissed and wished each other Buon Natale. There was wine and good Scotch. There was boopie and shrimp and calamari and calzone. We had ricotta pie and wonderful desserts.

Mostly, though, we had a new generation of little cousins who play together and laugh together only once or twice a year. We had laughs and memories and a few quiet tears.

We had each other. We had tradition and repetition and time to look back and remember that the joy of the season is really about celebrating how lucky we’ve been to have known and loved each other.

I don’t know what the future will bring, or how long traditions should hold.

But I know that my daughter will be hosting her brothers and us on Christmas. And I know that she’ll be cooking boopie.

Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo a tutti.

Well, I don’t have a picture of boopie.

Life is such a winding road


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It’s a funny thing, but this Christmas has me thinking about death.   Oh, not in a scary, sad, “ghost of Christmas future” kind of way.  More like in a “So I wonder what happens next” sort of way.

My oldest child got married in July, and two of my closest friends are about to become grandparents.

I’m thinking about the fact that my generation is in the process of taking the next step up the ladder, making way for a whole new generation of young parents and their babies.  I’m thinking that life has carried me along the winding road to where I am now, and that everything that has happened before now has led me to be ready for this next step upwards.

I don’t mind thinking about my own turn as “Nonni”, whenever it comes my way.  I don’t mind leaving the parenting to a younger set.  I don’t mind being the one who will one day get to cuddle, spoil, tickle and hand back.  I’m ready.  Life is a winding road, but it leads us all to the next phase.

And I’m thinking so much about my Dad.  He loved babies, he loved kids, he loved holidays and crowds and too much food and really good conversation and chaos and laughter.  He loved us.   A lot.

My Dad died six years ago.  For me,  the world seemed to stop turning after his death; how could the world go on without him?  But gradually I realized that the seasons continued, the days flowed by, the children grew and my hair went slowly grayer.  My life went on, but I also began to understand that his did, too.  I felt him, I “saw him”, I talked to him in my dreams.

I have felt my father’s hand and his hug and his breath many times over the past six years.  A few months after his death, my daughter needed emergency surgery.  When she slowly awoke from her anesthesia, she told me, “I was with Grampa. He was wearing a flannel shirt and he sat with me, holding my hand. We were at a little round table. I felt so safe with him there.”  She told me that she saw my Dad look at his watch, then look up at her.  She told me that he said, “You’ll be OK now.  Time to go.”  He got up, hugged her, and left.

And she woke up, looking at me.  She knew that he was with her.  I knew it too, because I felt it deep, deep in my heart.

This morning I read the blog of a wise old curmudgeon who goes by the humorous name of “Daddy Bear”.   In his thoughtful post “New Year Thinkering”, Daddy Bear thought about his own death.  He phrased his ‘thinkering’ in such a lovely way that I understood that a lot of people hold my belief that life goes on, even after death has found us. You should read his gentle words. You will find comfort and inspiration.

This Christmas, I had my children around me.  I felt my father in the room with us, smiling and laughing and enjoying the love that they feel for each other. For Dad, family was everything. He valued his family more than anything else in his life. I felt his spirit in the laughter and joy of my boys on Christmas. He would have been so proud of the love that my children feel for each other!

This Christmas, I gathered with a huge group of my cousins and their children, eating the same traditional Christmas foods that go back generations.  We ate octopus (“pulpi”) and squid and shrimp, cooked the same way that my Grandpa taught us to cook them. My Grandpa who has been gone for 28 years.  We ate “Nana pizza” cooked exactly the right way by my sweet niece Angela, who copied her Nana exactly, although Nana has been gone for seven years now.  And it occurred to me, as I hugged my cousins and ate my “boopie” and drank my wine, that my grandparents have achieved a kind of immortality through all of us and all of our children.

Life is a long and winding road, and none of us can ever predict the roadblocks or the washouts or the detours.  Still, we go on, because we can’t turn around.  Life is a winding, bumpy road, but we are committed to reaching its end.  Life is a funny, surprising adventurous road, and sometimes I think we all wish we could pull into a rest area and just let the traffic go on by.

But we stay on the road, because we have no choice.  We bump along, enjoying the scenery as much as we can. Eventually, we come to the parking lot, where our personal road comes to an end.

But our kids drive on, past where we have stopped. They carry our hearts, our smiles, our round eyes, our preference for salty over sweet.  They drive right on, covering their own winding, bumpy roads, long after we have stopped driving.

And we live on, because our children and their children carry our spirits within them.  We live on, because even after we shed these achy old bones, our hearts stay close to those we love.

This Christmas, I am thinking quite a lot about true immortality, and about the many ways that each of us will live on. We will all live on through those who have loved us. If we leave behind a loving and happy family, how much more secure is our immortality!

Dedicating this post to my funny, smart, loving, feisty, immortal Uncle Bob.

Your Every Christmas Wish


603733_10200837417355233_1874374034_nWhen I was little, I could fill myself with the feeling of Christmas by lying in bed in the glow of the orange window lights. The bulbs were hot, so hot that we had to be very careful to keep the shades hight above them, and the curtains fully open.  The warm orange glow was so different from the usual pale nightlight glow that as we fell asleep, my sister and I would feel as if we were being wrapped in magic.  I can still conjure the feeling of drifting to sleep with my face turned toward that orange, orange light. Waiting for Santa and for the magic of Christmas morning.

As I got a little bit older, into my teens, I learned to lie on the rug with all of the lamps in the room off. I would lie as close to the Christmas tree as I could, after turning all of its big bright colored lights on. I’d look up into the branches and squint my eyes a bit. The fat, bright lights would reflect in the long silvery strands of tinsel and I would get that feeling in my stomach; that “Christmas” feeling.  I’d think about what gift I might get (new albums by Joan Baez, Fleetwood Mac, Judy Collins were high on my list).  I would be filled with giddy anticipation and that magic feeling would flood me again.

Then I became a Mom. Christmas was more magical than ever.  That feeling, that magical Christmas feeling was all about them.  I could fill myself with the magical feeling of Christmas by looking at their beautiful eyes, reflecting the glowing lights of our tree. Motherhood is magic; Motherhood on Christmas morning is indescribable.

Now they’re all grown up.  Our familiar fake spruce tree is long gone.  I sit here alone in my quiet house, resting up a bit before the big family celebrations begin.  I’m thinking about later tonight, and tomorrow morning. I’m thinking about the few hours when I can gather all of them around me, my beautiful daughter and her smiley eyed husband, my two handsome sons, my husband.  I think about “that Christmas feeling”, and how much I’m looking forward to holding it close.  Tomorrow that feeling will come when there is a moment with all of us in this room.  There will be half filled coffee cups everywhere, and piles of wrapping paper on the floor.  The house will smell of bacon, and the dogs will be watching eagerly for a crumb to fall. Paul will be wrapped in a blanket, dozing a bit.  I’ll stand in the dining room for a minute. I’ll look around the room.  I’ll stand where I can see all of them, all of their familiar faces.  The conversation will be completely casual, about nothing much.  Someone will say something funny, like they always do, and everyone will laugh together.  I’ll wipe my hands on my apron, look from face to sweet face, and laugh along with them.

I’ll be filled once again with the magical orange light and sparkly tinsel feelings of Christmas.

The Sound of Elementary School


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Ah, the magical sounds of elementary school in mid-December!  Such sweet music!  Truly.

Of course, I am not always able to appreciate the subtle loveliness of children’s voices in the week before the big vacation break.  I sometimes fail to appreciate the joy that they are sharing on the first day of Hannukah and a week before Christmas.

Sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, I find my own voice raised to scary levels as I desperately try to corral them long enough to walk down the hall to music.  There are moments, I must admit, when I am hard pressed to find the positives as 24 just-about-hysterical ten year olds attempt to work together to solve math problems in this sugar heightened time of year.

At times, it is all I can do to remain calm as I patiently repeat my mantra, “If you can hear my voice, clap once. If you can hear my voice, clap twice. If you can hear my voice, clap three times.”   At any other time of year, there is silence by the time I get to three.

Today I had to resort to, “If you can hear my voice, clap seventeen times and then stare at anybody who is still talking.”

Sigh.

But you know what? The joyful noise manages to penetrate through to me in spite of my hoarseness and my minor frustrations.

The joyful noise of happy, excited, well loved, well nourished children seeps into my ears and my heart and my soul, and I end my December days thinking, “I am so incredibly lucky to be here.”

Here are some of the sounds of our school in the past two days.

One of my little girls was dancing around in the meeting area, twirling and flinging her arms out with joy.  Her hair was flying, and her gorgeous turquoise eyes were gleaming. “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, she sang in a husky voice.  I was trying to gather the children for a math lesson at the time.   “Honey”, I said to her, “I can see that you’re excited for Christmas.”

“No, I’m not!” she replied as she twirled, “I’m Jewish!”

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Two little first graders were walking in from recess, holding hands.  Both were flushed with the cold, and both were singing. “On the First Day of Christmas, my chula gave to me….”  The tiny blonde waved at me with the hand that wasn’t holding her friend’s.  Her black haired, dark eyed friend grinned at me, and the song resumed, “A partridge inapin free!”

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And there is the sound of tapping, drumming, clanging, pinging that goes on all day as little restless bodies do their very best to contain their excitement and hold in the giddiness.  Tapping on the desk, drumming on the book, clanging the pen on the back of a chair.

They can’t help it.  Music is joy, and they are joyful.

Sometimes I want to smother that joy, just for a second. Just so I can get them to sit still while I hand out the math paper.

Then I think of the children in other places, where war is raging, or famine is rampant. I think of children who are sad, or scared, or lonely, or lost.

And I look out at the churning mass of December joy in front of me, and all I can do is sing.

“On the first day of Christmas, my chula gave to me…….”

Thank you, Dad.


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My Dad loved to work with wood.  He told me that he loved the feel of the wood in his hands, and the look of the grain while he was working with it.

My Dad taught me how to refinish furniture.  We had an old maple dresser, a roughed up piece of furniture that Paul had used in his childhood.  I looked at it and saw the scratches and dents, and wanted to throw it out to buy a new one.  But Dad looked at it and saw treasure.  He showed me that the drawers had been made solid and strong, without a single nail or screw. He taught me the words “dovetail” and “mortise”.  He taught me that maple is one of the strongest, most durable woods, and that it is now so expensive that I’d never be able to buy it.

“Look,” he told me, pulling out the drawer, “You’ll get rid of this, and you’ll end up with particle board drawers and a laminate top. It won’t last ten years.”

We brought the old bureau into Dad’s garage, and he showed me how to strip it of its varnish, how to sand it smooth.  He taught me to use a “tack cloth” to remove the wood dust, and then the two of us stained the now gleaming wood.  I thought that we would put varnish on it, to protect it, but he told me that we should use wax instead.  So we waxed it, we smoothed it, we polished it.

It was beautiful.

i put it in my daughter’s room, and later in my sons’.  It was filled with pajamas and shirts and socks.  It had stickers applied, and wax dripped on it from various candles.  But it was still beautiful.  And sturdy.

My Dad was creative.  He used his love of wood to make beautiful gifts for his grandchildren.  When my boys were very small, Dad made them wooden trains.  One for each of them.  Every car was lovingly sanded and shaped and put together.  Every car was inscribed with the name of the little boy who owned it.  They used to lie on the living room floor, pushing those trains around mountains of pillows, using them to transport plastic “army guys”, letting them crash down the stairs.    I can see them now, two little tow headed boys with big green eyes, dressed in red pajamas, so deeply engrossed in their games that they don’t even see the Mother who stands there watching them with so much love.

My Dad is gone now.  There won’t be any more furniture refinished, or trains built, or sheds put up in the yard.  I miss him every single day, but I miss him most at Christmas.

So this year, as I was thinking about decorating for the holiday season, I picked up the wooden trains from where they had been resting on the living room floor.  They had been sitting, untouched, under the branches of a big old dragon tree, gathering dust. I brought them into the kitchen.  I wanted to clean them up, but I knew from Dad that I shouldn’t immerse them in water. Instead, I wiped them clean with a damp cloth, then rubbed every bit of them with lemon oil.  As the shine returned to the wood, I could see the grain in each piece.  I ran my fingers over the lovingly carved names, and put the trains together again.

I placed them on the shelf above my front door; a place of honor.  There they sit now, with a Christmas candle, and a basket of greens, and a pretty wooden sled that my Aunt Ann gave me years ago.

I am looking at them now. So sweet.  So well crafted. So filled with memories and with love.

I wonder what I will be able to create when it is my turn to love a grandchild.

Thank you, Dad!

The Green Man


Whose tracks are these?

Whose tracks are these?

Sometimes I can feel my pagan ancestors rising up inside me.

Oh, I know.   I am a very modern American, living in the far too overcrowded Northeast.  I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, and went to college in that teeming city. What pagan past?

I was raised as a Catholic: how “anti-pagan” can you possibly get? I went to church in a nice modern building.  I learned to pray under bright electric lights.

And yet, sometimes I can feel my ancient pagan past rising up inside of me, speaking of fears and dreams and magic that is a part of my bones.  A pagan past that somehow has never been smoothed away by education or social interaction or modern technology.

I feel it on hot summer nights, when the moon rises over the wetlands behind our house. When I lie awake to hear the sounds of rushing water and hunting owls and cicadas crying in the woods. On those nights, the world of pagan spirits seems benign and gentle, and I am lulled by its pull on my heart.

But in winter, I feel those ancient spirits in a darker and more frightening way.

In winter, the wind and the night conspire to remind me of  how my ancestors once felt about the shortest day, and the onset of the darkness.

I live in a place where there are woods almost all around me.  For three seasons of the year, this is a great gift.  I see deer and fox and raccoons and pheasants wandering under those trees. For three seasons of the year, the woods mean abundant life, and peace and health and comfort.  We listen for the “peepers” in spring, to signal that the great awakening has begun, and that everything is about to burst into bloom.   In summer, we listen for the sound of hunting owls, the calls of coyotes, the singing of night birds.  And in the fall, sometimes we can even hear the smacking sound of antlers as deer and moose turn on the testosterone and fight for the best of the females.

For those three seasons, it feels exhilarating and exciting to be a part of the natural world.

But in winter, everything is so different.

SONY DSCIn winter, I look out my kitchen window and I see the spindly shapes of the leafless branches, the sinister twists of the trees against the glowering sky.  In winter, when I look into the woods from the safety of my deck, I hear the sounds of branches creaking and of wind moving restlessly through the pines.

In the winter, the woods are dark so early, and there are so many shadows.  I look out to find the moon, but when it rises from behind the frozen wetlands, it looks as if it is covered in frost.

When I go outside in the early winter light, I find strange tracks in the snow, and I imagine the dangerous predators who stalk around our house while we sleep.

When I come home after dark, to our quiet, nearly empty neighborhood, and into my quiet, nearly empty house, I feel the ancient winter spirits nipping at my heels and I shiver in fear until I am inside, and the fire is lit and the kitchen is filled with good warm smells.

At those moments, on those dark winter nights, I can understand why the ancients celebrated the beauty and hopefulness of the evergreens.  I know why they honored “The Green Man” with his ever lasting life and his ability to stand up to the darkness.

I am in no hurry to take my Christmas tree out of my living room, or to throw out the baskets of pine boughs on my hutch.

My pagan self is resisting the angry bite of the swirling snow as I light the candles and simmer the soup, and throw another log on the fire.

Happy Winter Solstice.  Happy New Year.  May we all endure until the coming of spring!

 

 

Limp….


Christmas is over.

Phew.

We had the whole crowd here, complete with one “significant other”, some friends, and our “granddog”, Miss Izzy.

Everything was lovely, even if the dogs did have to be separated at times.  We had a huge and festive Christmas breakfast,

Bacon!  You have to have bacon......

Bacon! You have to have bacon……

 

And we opened all the loot.

Sweet pile of swag

Sweet pile of swag

 

We laughed, we swapped stories, we soaked in the hot tub together (even though we couldn’t really fit and half the water sloshed out…….) and we reminded ourselves of how lucky we are that we are all still able to be together on these special days.

For me, the best and sweetest moments were those little ones: running to get some last minute groceries with Tim on Christmas eve, waking up on Christmas morning, and realizing that all three of my children were once again under my roof.  Sitting quietly at the table and listening to the jokes and stories of my three, Kate’s Sam, and the two old friends who had come to share our Christmas dinner.  It has been so incredibly long since I have been able to sit back and look at a full table!

That was the toast that I made, champagne glass in hand, lump in my throat: “A toast to the pleasure of having all of you around my table once again!”

This morning, I woke up late.  I lay still for a bit, feeling my achy muscles. The house was quiet, but it didn’t make me sad this time.  This morning, I could still feel the vibrating energy of all those voices, all that love, all of the celebrating.  This morning, the memories of the holiday are blending gently with the memories of holidays past, and I am content to soak in the atmosphere, still filled with my children’s presence.

Today, we are tired.

Tucker and Sadie are spent, having used up all of their doggy energy in trying to get to know Izzy, and trying to figure out how to share the couch.

Tuck had no problem sharing with Izzy.

Tuck had no problem sharing with Izzy.

 

Sadie was a little bit less welcoming.

Sadie was a little bit less welcoming.

Paul and I are spent, too.  We have been busy the past few days, cleaning, wrapping, cooking, organizing, decorating, then celebrating as if we were still in our 20’s!  The late nights, rich foods and bubbly drinks have all taken a toll, and today we are feeling pretty limp.

But its a good “limp”.  Its the kind of boneless lethargy that comes from having done it right.  My heart is resting today; it can’t take any more joyful tears as I look at my children.  It can’t take any more sorrowful tears as I think of the 20 mothers who can’t look at theirs.  My brain is resting; it doesn’t have any more energy to plan another meal for my crew.  It certainly has no more energy for trying to find a way to end the senseless violence that has gripped our entire country.

Today I am limp.  I am resting on the couch, tea cup in hand, watching TV as the weathermen predict a foot of snow.

The house is warm, and clean and quiet.  The dogs are snoring, and Paul is reading a book.

I am limp.

And its a very good feeling.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

The triumph of the local movement


I’m not sure when the idea came to me.

It may have had its origin last Christmas, when the ordeal of setting up our beloved old fake spruce had me sobbing.  The needles were wearing off, the trunk was wobbly, and it was  jam packed with memories.  It broke my heart to hang those little family treasures on its bent branches.  I knew that it was time to say goodbye to our Christmas tree, and to maybe think about getting a real tree for once!

So as the days grew shorter this year, we knew that we wanted something new.  The old tree is retired.  The kids are all grown up. It’s time for some new traditions.  But what would they be?

I was out walking the dogs one morning, looking around the yard and bemoaning the fact that the forest seems to be encroaching, coming closer to the house each year.  The hemlocks along the drive needed trimming, and the white pines have sent their babies marching right into the lawn.  I sighed, knowing that as much as I hate to cut down trees, I would have to reclaim our space.

Then it hit me.

I live in a PINE forest!  Huzzah!

Paul and I began to examine all of the likely candidates as we strolled around our property for the next few weeks.  One young hemlock looked likely, until we realized that he had sprouted up right next to another, larger tree, and his backside was pretty much bare.  Another was lush and full and looked perfect until we realized that it was only about 5 feet tall.

Finally, we came upon a group of white pines, growing together along the edge of a field.  We walked around them, noting the shape, the height, the width of the trunks.  Finally, we found our candidate.

Paul grabbed a saw, and set to work.

A likely candidate!

A likely candidate!

We dragged him into the house, and stood him up.  The scent of fresh pine filled the air.

He isn’t perfect.  He doesn’t look like your traditional balsam or spruce.  There’s a big open space in the middle where we can see his trunk, and he’s kind of skinny.  Rather than  culminating in a lovely little point where a shiny star can perch, this tree sends up no fewer than four top branches; I think it looks as if he is wearing a crown.

Unlike the metal branches of our old tree, this one has limbs that bend and sway. They droop and dip.  They can’t hold our bigger ornaments, so those are displayed along the bay window.

Still, I love this Christmas tree in a way that is hard to explain.  I love his funny top and I love his bare spaces.  I even smile at the drips and drops of sap that are landing on the gifts gathered below.

This tree has spirit.  He stands up straight and proud, unfazed by his droopy arms or his skinny middle.  He is draped in lights and festooned with garland.

He is fresh, he is local and he is real.

He says, “Merry Christmas!” and so do I.

I wish you all a renewed sense of hope in the face of tragedy, of love when shocked by hatred, of peace to triumph over anger and strife.

Buon Natale!

Buon Natale!

Time


SONY DSCI don’t understand time.   I don’t know how it flows, or where it goes when it leaves me.  I don’t know how it can change its pace, morphing from a snail’s pace to a rush without my seeing it shift.

I don’t know where my time has gone.

Just a moment ago, truly, I had a houseful of children.  They were hungry, and noisy and argumentative and loving.  They filled every corner of this place, every day.

Just a split second ago, I was getting ready for Santa.  Hiding toys in the attic, sneaking stocking stuffers into every shopping trip, disguising my handwriting as I put their names on those brightly wrapped treasures.

Time moved steadily and solidly for so many years that it lulled me into trusting it.  Oh, I felt the speed with which my babies changed from whimpers to words, I did. I knew that time was moving, but I felt that I was born along on that river, carried with my children toward a distant future.  Time passed, and my babies grew, but they were still right there beside me, riding the flood.  And somehow, for some reason, I let time trick me into thinking that they always would be there beside me. As children.  As my very own special ones. As mine.

I didn’t see it when sneaky, conniving time decided to speed up and race along so fast that I never saw it leave.  I must have been resting, tricked into closing my eyes, trusting in the steady pace of time’s flow.  I must have missed the moment when time rushed by in a swirl of icy wind, carrying my children over the riverbank and into adulthood.  I must have looked away, for only a second, but it was too long.

Now I am here, the mother of adults.  Hoping to have them all together for a few brief hours at Christmas so that I can beg time to stop, to slow its endless march for just a fragment of a day, to freeze in place for me, just this once.

Before it once again gathers us all in its powerful arms and races away with unstoppable speed, into the night, into tomorrow, into a time when this Christmas feels as if it happened only a moment ago.

Barley Sugar Memories


Christmas is the season of family. Of warmth and home and memories.

The Christmas season is the season of nostalgia.  As the days grow colder and darker, and the first soft flakes of snow begin to fall, we are swept with emotion, and the special memories of days gone by.

For me, most memories are centered on my children.  I remember the excitement of buying just the right toys so that I could bring the magic to Christmas morning.  My heart would pound with excitement as I watched my little ones rush to the tree.  The sound of their voices, amazed and delighted and somehow always surprised that their wishes had come true; I can hear those voices even now, echoing in my heart and reminding me of how much joy it gave us to give to them.

I remember the stockings, filled with candy and puzzles and tiny, silly toys.  How I loved sitting in my bed, watching as they poured their treasures onto the rug and called to each  other to share what they had found!

But sometimes my Christmas memories go farther back.  Back to the time when I was the little one in my brand new flannel pajamas, lying awake in the magical glow of the orange window lights, wishing with every ounce of my strength for snow, for reindeer, for that one special gift.

As always, this Christmas season has been filled with catalogues and offers of bargains. Now that I no longer have a list of special wishes to fill, I find myself overwhelmed with page after page of glossy offerings, from outdoor gear to electronic gadgets; it seems that I can have it all.  For the most part, I quickly flip through the pages, and add the shiny booklet to my recycle bin.

But tonight, as I went through the mail, I found myself enraptured by the pages of a little catalogue called “The Vermont Country Store”.  It was selling maple syrup, cast iron cookware and old fashioned jelly glasses.  Each page contained a sweet, but expensive, trip into Old New England.  I turned the pages, smiling at the reminders of my childhood: Turkish taffee, Skye Bars, Boston Baked Beans.  I laughed at the idea of anyone buying the silly glass “log cabin” filled with maple syrup.

Then I turned the page, and found a picture of “barley sugar candy”, and I went rushing back in time.  Back to my childhood. Back to the time when we would travel from our home in the suburbs into the city of Boston, either to shop for Easter clothes or to visit the “Enchanted Village” and the Christmas lights on Boston Common.  Each of these trips was exciting, magical, memorable.  My siblings and I would put on our best clothes, holding tight to our Mother’s hand as we gazed with wide eyes at the buildings and the hurrying people. We knew that our parents had grown up in the city, but it was a foreign land to us. It was scary and seductive, mysterious and so much fun.

And as I looked tonight at the picture of the barley candy, one clear memory came back to me, as sharply as if it had happened today.

We were in Boston with my mother and her mother, my Nana.  We had gone to the Boston Public Gardens for a ride on the swan boats. It was probably spring, and we were most likely shopping for our annual Easter outfits.  I’m not sure.

What I do remember is that we had gone to “Bailey’s” for ice cream, and that I had eaten a dish of butter crunch served in a silvery metal bowl shaped like the petals of a flower.  I can remember my spoon clinking against the side of the dish as the creamy sweetness melted into the bottom; I can remember the sound of my Nana’s laughter as she talked to my mother.

As we got up to leave, and the grown ups went to pay the bill, we saw a big glass jar standing on the counter, next to the cash register. It was filled with bright red lollipops, in the shape of little lobsters.  I remember how the light glowed through the cellophane, and I remember my Nana reaching out and grabbing a whole handfull of those treats.  “These are barley sugar!” she told us, as she handed them into our waiting hands.  “They’re special.”

I remember how sweet and how special those pops tasted; like nothing I had ever enjoyed.  Like honey, like maple, like something totally unique.  They were hard, and thick and they lasted the whole long train trip home.

I had forgotten all about barley sugar pops until tonight, when one page of one Christmas catalogue brought me back to a special memory of my Nana and my childhood.