What Gender Roles?


I love being a grandmother. I mean….jeez, I love it! I get to adore my grandchildren without worrying every minute that I’m ruining their lives. (Yup. I remember being a neurotic Mom.) I get to play, make a nice mess, then have the evening to put things back in order.

I get to feed them. A lot.

I love that.

I love watching them grow. I love watching them change, and learn new things. I love seeing which parts of them are nature and which parts are pure nurture.

Ellie, at the tender age of three, is a bit cautious and very sensitive to feelings and moods. And she’s dramatic.

She also loves to solve problems. She has a certain tenacity that lets her scream in frustration while trying to put things together, then sob in outrage, then pick up the tools and start again.

She works with her tongue in the corner of her mouth, frowning and humming as she tries to figure out which piece goes where. She does NOT quit.

When she’s done, she often looks up at me and says, “I did it!!!”

She loves to dress up, she loves to dance ballet. The more glitter, the better, as far as Ellie (“I’m Elsa and Anna right now.”) is concerned. She loves hair ties, and jewelry and plastic princess shoes with high heels.

And she loves blocks, trains, cars, fitting things together and tool kits. She loves to cook, to plant flowers and to defeat the bad guys with her magic.

She is a warrior woman. She is all things that a strong, brave, beautiful, self-confident young female should be.

Warrior Woman Child

Yes, I am using a drill while dressed as Ariel. Why do you ask?

Hooray for letting kids choose their own way. Hooray for telling young girls that they can be sparkly superheroes who defeat the bad guys with drills and high heels.

Hooray.

And while we cheer for the power of little girls, let’s embrace the power of little boys to choose their own paths, too!

Our little Johnny is only a year old. He can walk, climb, throw a ball, drive a car, play the drums and smack his Nonni in the head with a block.

He hurls himself backward into whatever is behind him, whether it’s the couch, a blanket or a pile of bricks. He kicks, he squeals, he eats with both hands.

He seems like the traditional description of “all boy.”

But.

He also looks at his Nonni from across the room. He tucks his little chin, grins and toddles across the room with both arms wide open. When I scoop him up, he rests his cheek against mine and coos, “awwwwww” as he hugs me.

He puts his toys to sleep on the sofa pillows. He feeds them and sings to them and rocks them.

Johnny sings and dances when any music comes on. He asks me to sing when I rock him to sleep, but if he doesn’t like the tune, he sits up in my arms and puts a hand on my mouth. He likes gentle, repetitive songs that have words he can imitate. “Blue bird, blue bird, at my window” is one of his favorites.

He is sweet.

When he was here with me the other day, without his big sister or his Mommy, he found a headband of Ellie’s in a drawer. “Ah”, he said, handing it to me. “Ah” . He tilted his head forward, so I’d put the band on his head.

Then he started to dance. There was no music playing, but he knew that on most days, he and Ellie would dance to the music on my computer.

He twirled, he raised his hands, he picked up one foot at a time. He was delighted to be dancing in the sunshine of my living room, all by himself. He was dancing for his own pleasure.

Then his internal ballet music must have stopped, because he bent down to pick up a toy car.

Johnny

“One pirouette and Vroom!!!”

“Vrrmmmmmm!” he announced, his headband still delightfully in place.

Kudos to the new generation of parents, who let their boys dance around in pink tutus while their girls use the drill. You all give me so much hope for a happy, more balanced future.

 

 

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Way Too Clean


Well.

The house is very clean. We cleaned and rolled up the garish rug that used to be in our living room (we got it so that our old dog, Tucker the Wolf King, could get up and down with his arthritic back. He’s gone now. So is the rug.)

The floor is clean. The bathroom is clean. There’s a nice table cloth on the dining room table. The dust has been wiped off. The kitchen sink is clean and deodorized.

God help me. I even dusted the hutch.

The house smells good. Clean, fresh, summery.

Empty.

I haven’t had my grandkids here for, um, four days.

All the toys are in the correct places. The dress up items in the white bag. The building toys (all pieces in one place) are in the brown toy box. The stuffed animals are organized and washed and dried, and are resting quietly in the blue toybox. The play kitchen has been cleaned and organized.

If nobody stops me, I might even wash the inside and outside of my living room windows.

Please, someone help me.

Someone needs to call my daughter Kate and tell her to get those kids over here ASAP before I completely snap and start organizing my sock drawer.

kids

Kitchen floor picnic? Yeah, count us in!!

 

Dogs


Dogs. Dogs and more dogs.

I tell you, dogs are like Lays potato chips. No one can have just one.

In the past two years, we have found ourselves navigating the tender steps between owning two old dogs to owning one young pup.

As we let our sweet old friends cross that rainbow bridge, we pushed ourselves to welcome a new, young puppy into the house.

This was a very smart move. Even as we grieved the loss of our slow, sedate, cranky old friends, we found ourselves viewing the world through the eyes of our happy, energetic, joyful puppy.

Len

Life is good….but I’m bored.

But now we are the aging parents of one young doggie. He adores us, and its mutual. We (as in, my husband) walk him every day. He plays with our grandkids, and takes rides in the car and sometimes gets to play with our next door doggies.

He seems pretty happy.

He sleeps with us most night, resting his chin on my chest or on my husband’s hip. He follows us around with his adoring brown eyes. He kisses the grandchildren every day when they come in. He plays with us.

He seems…mostly….happy.

Until.

Until our daughter and her family go away for a few days, leaving their two dogs with us. That’s when we get to see how overjoyed our boy, Lennie, is when he has playmates of his own. Izzy is an older lady, somewhat aloof and somewhat removed from the raucousness of the kids. When things get out of hand, Izzy barks and snarls and makes the kids behave.

I consider her my ally.

Izzy

Do. Not. Cross. Me.

Nino is a funny little guy, with some significant special needs. He has dwarfism, so he can’t run as far or as long as he’d like. His head, his big old bullet pit bull head, is bigger than the rest of his body. He is awkward at best.

And he is affectionate, energetic, loving and full of beans.

He and Lennie jump on each other, bite each others’ necks and roll over each other for hours.

You can feel the happiness pouring off of both of them as they do.

Nino

Don’t you love my giant head?

It’s clear.

Lennie needs at least one more canine pal.

Kate and Sam are unlikely to turn over their two pups to us, so we need to start shopping. Lennie loves us a lot, but he obviously needs a buddy to boss around.

Just like Lays chips. You can’t get away with only one.

Anyone have a sweet youngish dog to give away??? H’mmm?

 

 

“Il Mondo è Una Famiglia”


Before I begin this last post about our trip to Europe, I have to preface it by saying that in a million years I could never have been as warm and kind as the people I’m about to describe.

I know myself. I love having guests, but I need to know they’re coming first. Also, I like it better if I have a clue about who they are.

With that, let me tell you the miraculous and wonderful story of our day in Roccabascerana, province of Avellino, Italy.

My paternal grandparents came to the United States around a hundred years ago. Growing up in our big family, I knew that they had married in the little village of Roccabascerana. I knew that my grandfather’s brothers married my grandmother’s sisters, and that all of them came to the Boston area.

I have always wanted to go there, to see the place where our family has its roots. At last, a few weeks ago, that wish came true.

Now, I have to tell you that I had reached out on Facebook to try to find relatives still in the area, and I had connected with one man who thought it possible that we might be related. But he didn’t speak much English, and I definitely didn’t speak much Italian. We exchanged a few messages, then lost each other.

So when I got to the village with my husband, my sons and their girlfriends, I didn’t plan to try to find any actual living relatives. I was content to see the streets, the church, the piazza where my family had once walked. I took pictures of the war memorial where the family names were inscribed.

Avellino

I was happily crying my eyes out as I thought about my Dad and his parents, and all of my family who have gone. I hugged my boys and listened to the church bells in the peaceful air of the town. The only living thing other than us in the whole village, it seemed, was a sweet little street dog who came to greet us.

As I was thinking of heading back to Pompeii to process my experience, the kids noticed a building that seemed to be the local Town Hall. “Let’s go in!” they said, “We can ask about the family.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t want the embarrassment of my bad Italian or the bad manners of showing up on someone’s doorstep unannounced. But as I was trying to back out, the kids and my husband kept pointing out how much I’d regret being so close to my family and not meeting them.

We were in a little tug-o-war when a car drove up and parked. A well dressed, dark haired woman got out and looked at us. There I stood, sweaty and tearful, surrounded by my kids.

“Prego?” she called, opening the door to the building. She gestured me inside. So I stepped in.

When the woman turned to me and raised her perfect dark brows over her brown eyes, I stammered out the fact that my family had originally come from this town. I told her my last name.

“Si,” she answered easily. “Antonio.” She named the possible relative I’d found on Facebook so many months ago. She lead us all into another room, where she explained to another woman that “This woman from the US is a cousin of Antonio.”

“Ah, si!” said the second kind woman. “His family lives in the village of Squillani.” I had heard this name my whole life, too. It was where my grandmother’s family had lived, I thought. “His mother was Maria Domenica. Who was your grandfather?”

Then she picked up the phone and dialed without even looking up a number. My kids were delighted, as was Paul, but I was still internally thinking, “Wait!!!!!”

Antonio didn’t answer his phone, so the kind woman (who kept speaking rapid fire Italian as if I might learn it if she just tried hard enough) indicated that we should all get in our cars and follow the two young men who worked with her and who were sitting wide eyed over the whole thing.

So off we went. The boys didn’t speak English, either, so we weren’t exactly sure where we were headed. I was hoping that we were going to the village of Squillani, where we could look around, have lunch and take photos. I was both thrilled and afraid that we were actually headed to Antonio’s house.

And you guessed it, I bet.

After ten minutes of hairpin turns over beautiful, tiny, mountain roads, we stopped in front of a lovely big house and the boys hopped out. As I cautiously got out of my car, I saw them knock, and heard them tell the young woman who opened the door, “The American cousins of Antonio are here.”

Yikes!!

I was really embarrassed to be banging on the door of a total stranger! There were six of us, none of us fluent in Italian, and all of us nervous and excited.

With a show of grace that I could only dream about, the woman smiled at us all, thanked the boys, and invited us in. She called to her husband, who came in with a puzzled look on his face. We stumbled through introductions, apologies and welcomes.

The next three hours were an amazing, life changing and really fabulous affirmation of every stereotype you’ve ever heard about Italians. It was proof of the power of family, of food, of shared laughter.

I could never, ever, ever have pulled off what this family did for a group of strangers on their doorstep.  Antonio and his wife, and his brother Mimo and his, took us in as if we had known each other all of our lives.

They sat us down, gave us cold drinks, offered coffee. We looked at pictures, finding similarities in our faces and in shared stories. We got to know a bit about each other.

At some point I realized that the women had disappeared, and being Italian myself, I suspected that there was a meal being prepared (in spite of our attempts to assure them that were not here to disturb them or to drop in for a meal.)

I was right. As predicted, after about a half hour a door opened, and Antonio’s beautiful wife, Angela invited us upstairs to eat.

And we shared one of those meals that you know you’ll dream about for years. Without any plan or preparation, these amazing women put out a “lunch” of spaghetti with homemade sauce, sausages, zucchini frittata, olives from their property, a bowl of bread the size of a bathtub, cheese, salami, wine, fresh figs, watermelon, home made lemon ice and delicious sweet esspresso that will haunt my dreams forever.

We met Antonio’s daughters, who are charming, funny, interesting and who speak English! My sons played with his young son. We all laughed, we shared jokes somehow.

We all friended each other on Facebook.

It was amazing. Amazing and humbling.

We found out, Antonio and I, that we share the same great-grandfather. We are indeed cousins.

But before we knew that fact, this family welcomed us in just because we were there. At one point, when I was once again trying to explain that I hadn’t intended to bother them, Antonio asked in a gruff, no-nonsense voice, “Why? What are you sorry?”

“I didn’t mean to bother you….”

He gestured around the table to where our families were eating, laughing and drinking together.

“Do we look bothered?” I think he said.

He raised one finger, and both of his slightly pointed eye brows. Exactly the gesture that my Dad used to make. Exactly the same expression on his face.

“Il mondo è piccolo.”  Yes, I agreed, the world is small.

“Tutti una famiglia.”  We are all one family.

I can never express how profound and moving it was for me to see my sons laughing with some of the cousins who never left our home place. My deepest wish now would be for some of them to come here to visit us, so that I could cook for them, and tell them how my connection to them and to that beautiful place has shaped me for my whole life.

 

 

 

Immigration…and Emigration


For my entire life, I have thought about the idea of immigration. I was raised on the stories told by my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. Stories about coming to America. Coming to the land of education, opportunity, promise.

I have always, for all of my 62 years, viewed my heritage through the lens of immigration to the United States. Growing up in a middle class suburb of Boston, I was aware that my grandparents had raised my parents in far grittier, far poorer, far more crowded areas of my home state.

I knew that my grandparents had left Italy in the earliest years of the twentieth century. I knew that they came here because they wanted to find work. They wanted a steady income. I knew that they came because they wanted their children, my parents, to have an education and a chance to escape the endless pressure of poverty that had marked their own lives.

As a child who came of age in the 1960’s, I was raised on the idea of the American “melting pot.” I grew up with the image of Lady Liberty holding her torch aloft. I imagined my grateful grandparents arriving in this country.

I never thought about those same grandparents leaving everything they had ever known and loved.

It wasn’t until my just finished trip to Italy that I stopped to think about the leaving part of immigration.

Last week I traveled with my husband, our two sons and their future wives to the small village where my paternal grandparents were born. I had always heard about the little town in the “hills above Naples.” I had always heard about the difficult agrarian life, about the lack of opportunity.

I wanted to see that little village because it was the place of my roots. I wanted to see it because my father always talked about it, and because I have missed my Dad every single day for the past ten years.  I had a romantic image of what it would be like to walk on the streets where my ancestors had walked.

But when I got to the little town, winding up its narrow streets, my husband and I were with our sons and the women they plan to marry. I didn’t expect the rush of emotion that struck me when I came into the tiny town center. Getting out of the car in the blistering heat of Italy in July, I felt as if I was carrying the weight of my father and his parents on my aching back. I walked to the small stone monument dedicated to those who had died in the World Wars, and there I read the names of ancestors I would never know.

I was sobbing when the church bells rang at noon, holding onto my youngest child, but thinking of the thread that tied him to my great grandparents. Did my grandmother and father hear those same bells every day? Was this the church where they were brought to be Christened as babies?

The day went on, filled with more blessings than I can name. I met loving, gracious, kind relatives that I had never know before.  I stood on the terrace outside of the little local church, with the most gorgeous valley spread out below us. I heard my sons and their loves talking about marriage. I hugged my husband of 40 years, knowing that he understood how precious this moment was for me. After all this time, to be standing in this place…..

“It’s so beautiful,” I kept saying to myself with real surprise. “It’s so peaceful and so rugged and so beautiful.”

Later in our trip, Paul and I went to Sicily. The kids had gone home, but we had more time and we wanted to see the home place of my maternal grandparents. These were the grandparents I knew best, and I felt my Grampa with me every step of that trip. We got to Augusta, where my Grampa had grown up and where my Nana’s parents had lived.

I smelled the sea and the orange blossoms and the dry wind, and I was struck right in the heart with how beautiful it all was. While I was in Sicily, I ate seafood, I swam in the Mediterranean, tasted the wine, saw the olive trees.

And one thought kept going through my mind, “How did they ever leave this place?”

We had hugged our kids goodbye as they headed back to Massachusetts, to jobs and friends and lives. I was truly sad to see them go, and there were a couple of tears when they left.

But now that I had begun to think of immigration as “emigration”, all I could think about was the leaving that my family was brave enough to endure.

How did they do it? What desperation, what fear, what sorrow could have pushed my young grandparents to leave behind their language, their food, their music, their parents, in search of something better?

What desperation, what depth of love, what deeply held hope could have given my great grandparents the courage to hug their children goodbye as they boarded the ships that would take them across the world forever?

I thought about the beauty of the sunsets in Sicily. I thought about the light on the mountains of Avellino. I thought about how hard it was for me to give up the sound of English for three short weeks.

And I thought about kissing my children goodbye, knowing that I might never see them again.

I’ll never think about immigration in the same way again. Those who leave behind all that is known and secure must be powered by a hope that I can only imagine.

 

I Am Officially Ridiculous


Oh, brother.

What a wuss. What a jerk. What a stupid, weepy old woman.

I can’t stop the tears.

Some of them are from the horrors going on at our border, but others are more personal. It’s the personal tears for which I am apologizing now.

As some of you know, I have the best job on earth. I live a life that most humans can only dream about.

I stay at home, all day, every day, with my two grandchildren. These kids are also known as the cutest, sweetest, funniest, most easy going babies on earth.

Seriously. These are the people I play with all day.

The world’s cutest kids, right?

So, what’s the problem?

Oh, boo-hoo, poor me. In one short week, I will be heading off to Europe with my husband. We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We’ll spend some time with our dear friends in Germany, then head into Italy. Our two sons and their partners will join us.

Heaven, right?

The Alps, the Mediterranean, the food, the wine, the music, the beaches, the desserts!!!!

Oh, sole mio! It will be (not kidding) the trip of a lifetime!!!! I am SO excited that I have already packed and repacked my suitcase three times! I’m ready! I am so. ready. to. go.

But.

(the sound of brakes screeching)

What do you mean, three weeks away from Ellie’s eyes? What do you even MEAN, three weeks without one single Johnny hug??? What if he takes his first steps? What if she forgets our morning ballet routine? What if when I get back they don’t even care?

Oh, this old Nonni is a nutcake. She knows it.

But.

I love my days with these goofy, happy, messy, exhausting little people. I can’t imagine surviving three long weeks without them.

Please tell me that I’m an idiot. Please remind me that the kids will be with their Mom and Dad, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

Tell me to shut up and get over it.

Remind me that I’ll be soaking up the sun and drinking great wine with the love of my life.

I’ll nod, and smile, and tell you that you’re right. Then I’ll no doubt sob a little and pull up pics of the kids on my phone.

Sigh.

I’m ridiculous.

The Little Things


I miss my father.

I miss the fact of him, the sense that everything would be OK, just because he was in the world.

Dad left us ten years ago, or at least he left this earthly plane ten years ago. He hasn’t gone very far, though, even after all this time. I see him in the raised eyebrows of my baby grandson when I do something silly. I see him in the skeptical frown of my granddaughter when I try to fool her.

I hear him, right in my ear, as I reach up to his work bench to return a set of pliers that I have borrowed. His voice is so clear that I find myself answering out loud, “Of course I’m going to clean off the dirt before I hang them up!” I hear us laughing together as I do just that.

I miss so many of the little things about Dad. I miss the smell of his skin when I’d kiss his cheek. I miss the Old Spice on his shirts. I miss being called “little girl.”

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I miss the way Dad would grin and rub his hands together to signal that it was time for a cocktail or a glass of wine. I miss sitting and sipping good Scotch together.

I miss how my Dad could make a bad day turn fun. I’ll never forget when he and my Mom and sister came to visit us during our graduate school days. Dad had come with a very good bottle of expensive Scotch, and we had promised to take them out for dinner. But it was a summer weekend, and every restaurant in town was booked solid. We ended up in our tiny apartment, crowded around the kitchen table. We dined on salami sandwiches, a bag of chips, and that excellent Scotch. We had so much fun laughing at ourselves, because my Dad set the tone.

I really miss seeing my children with their grandfather. He was the Grampa who played checkers and dominoes for hours. He taught them how to sand wood and hammer in a nail. He was the Grampa who sat on the floor and let the kids use him as a climbing toy.

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He listened to the kids when they talked to him. He looked into their eyes. Grampa made them feel special, and so they were. I miss the sound of those high voices calling, “Grampa! Grampa!” as they came in the front door.

He wasn’t perfect, our Dad. He was just a regular, hard working family man who loved his wife, loved his kids, loved the life he lead. He laughed more than he frowned, and even when he was mad, he was never scary.

He was solid. Dependable in all ways. He was a man of black and white views about what was right and what was wrong, and so was not a man of nuances around truth and integrity.

But he was always compassionate, always generous, always true to himself.

I miss him.

I feel him in the room with me, even as I write this piece. But I miss him, so very much.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men who love and nurture families.

Oh, Mother Nature…


Have you ever had one of those days when everything just seems to be perfect? One of those days where in spite of the day-to-day stresses of bills, mosquito bites and political overload, the universe seems to be perfectly aligned?

Welp. I have.

They don’t come around all that often, but yesterday was one of them.  I woke up to the realization that my colonoscopy was over, I could eat whatever I wanted, and most of my body was pain free. Huzzah!

The day was warm, sunny, gorgeous.

Spring in Massachusetts, brief as it is, reminds us all that Mother Nature must surely love us. The lilacs were passing, but the peonies were just about to open. The irises were in full and glorious bloom, and the grass hadn’t yet turned brown.

My yard, if I do say so myself, was fabulous! “Holy rhododendron”, I thought as I looked out my front window, “I am a gardening goddess!”

rhodies

There were butterflies on every blossom. Darling little chipmunks were racing around the bushes. Robins and Phoebes were singing.

Ah, nature!

It was an amazingly natural day. I loved my dear Mother Nature.

Last evening, my husband and I did something we rarely do anymore. We went out to hear good music. We drove about an hour west to meet up with our kids and some of their friends. It was a blast.

Wahoo! Great finale to a great day, right?

Then, after a truly fun and completely wonderful night of great music from Upstate Rubdown, we headed home.

We made the hour long ride home with glorious silver stars shining overhead. We were in a mood of pure elation.

As we made our winding way through the small roads of Central Massachusetts, we found ourselves commenting on how lucky we are to live where we do.

At one point, the headlights of our little car caught the glowing eyes of a possum, and we slowed to watch it amble into the woods. “Eat those ticks!”, we cried, laughing.

We counted ourselves lucky to have seen the funny little guy.

But there were more delights in store for us before we made it home to our beds.

We were absolutely thrilled to see a beautiful raccoon waddling across one lawn in a nearby town. Next we noted a delicate young doe standing in the tall grass along the road, her fur illuminated by the gentle starlight.

Mother Nature, you give such beautiful gifts! Angels were singing. Angels, I tell you.

And then, just as we turned into our very own rural neighborhood,  we found a little family of foxes playing on the grass. How beautiful! Those little golden red faces! The Mamma fox, rushing her babies out of harm’s way!

Oh, Mother Nature! You wonderful goddess, you!!

We finally got home, and congratulated ourselves on having landed in such a beautiful place, so full of the love of nature. We fell asleep to the sound of barred owls calling. How lucky we are, we told each other, how blessed to live in such a gorgeous, natural, sylvan setting!

We fell asleep.

*************************************************************************************

And we awoke to another gorgeous early summer day.  I got my beloved little grandchildren ready to play outside. I was just so filled with gratitude toward Mommy Nature!

Out we stepped, into the golden morning sun. The flowers were in bloom. The grass was green. The angels were freakin’ singing in my ear.

I moved happily toward the new screen house that we’ve set up on our glorious green lawn. I moved inside the sheltered room.

I looked up. I saw a few bees and flies attached to the inside of the screen. A few as in roughly 5, 000 bugs. All attached to the INSIDE of my bug shelter.

I gulped.

Oh, well, I thought, that’s just part of nature!

“Oh, my!” I chirped to my baby grandson, who was sitting wide-eyed on my left hip. “The buggies flew inside our screen house, honey! Let’s go outside and knock them off the screen so they can fly away and be free!”

I stepped out of the screen house, moved gracefully across the gorgeous lawn toward the outside of the screen. I thought that I could just knock on the outside of the screen and thereby send the zillion icky buggies out the open front door.

I squared my shoulders. “Nature”, I told myself, “It’s all just a part of nature.”

I raised my right hand, preparing to tap on the screen. “Look!” I said to my sweet Johnny. “We can make the little buggies go away!”

At this point there were still angels singing. Mother nature and all that crap were still humming along in my mind and heart.

I prepared to lower my hand so I could knock on the outside of the gazebo.

And approximately 2 milliseconds before I lowered my palm onto the screen, I happened to notice THIS GUY.

spider

The. Spider. From. Hell.

I did not scream, drop the baby and set the yard on fire.

For which I am extremely proud.

However.

I did decide that the sun was too darn hot for us today. I did bribe the kids with ice cream. I did get us all safely inside where I made everybody strip down, allegedly for a “tick check” but really for a “could the world’s biggest spider possibly be hiding in our underwear” check.

I didn’t lock every door or window, but I did double and triple check every screen.

Holy horror, Batman.

After a nice lunch (eaten up at the highest table and after I checked the floor six times), I got all of us into bed for our afternoon nap. Naturally, I pulled back all the covers and looked under the bed, bureau and bookcase before we laid down. I checked the window screens a few times and stuffed a bunch of pillows between the bed and the wall.

And as we drifted off to sleep, my beloved babies cradled against me, my sweet doggie at our feet, I thought to myself,

“Mother Nature, you fucking old bitch.”

 

“I Got Better….”


Way back when, way way back, my husband and I went to see the ridiculously funny movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” We laughed, hard. In fact, all these years later, we’re still laughing over some of the lines from that classic.

Lately I’ve been particularly drawn to the line, “I got better.” In the movie, the line is said by a peasant who has been clamoring to have a local woman declared a witch. While everyone is yelling about her, he cries out, “She turned me into a newt!” Everyone turns to look at him, standing there in an obviously ‘non-newt’ state. He shrugs and says quietly, “I got better.”

So here I am. Better.

You see, I started this blog way back in 2011, when all three of my beloved children moved out of the house within a few weeks of each other. I was bereft, crushed, inconsolable. I cried myself to sleep for months. If you doubt that, go back and read some of my first posts.

Pathetic.

I missed my children the way you’d miss an amputated limb. I yearned for them. I craved them. I sent wishes to every first star, every birthday candle, every dandelion seed. “Please, oh, powerful universe!” I would lament, “Let me have one night with my three best beloved babies under my roof!”

Oh, the joy of those first few holidays, when I would wake up at 3AM and wander the house, just listening to the sound of their breathing (snoring, but still.)

I was a freakin’ wreck.

But ya know what?

I got better.

And this is how I know.

Yesterday we hosted the family for a triple birthday celebration. Our baby Johnny is turning one year old this week! And Uncle Tim (my ACTUAL baby boy) is turning 26. Papa, my darling husband and the best Dad/Grandfather ever, is turning 62.

So, in spite of the fact that I was wicked, wicked tired, I prepared to host a big family fun day.

I didn’t clean, because my back hurt. I mean….it’s just the kids, right?   I didn’t put toys away because, hey, the grandkids would be here. I didn’t bake a cake. I mean, seriously? Can’t one of the kids make the cake? (They did.)

And I didn’t get up early, even knowing that they were coming. I was tired. I slept. I rested. I waited for them in my pj’s for the most part.

Then, at last, they all arrived! We were so lucky! We had my daughter, our son-in-law and their two incredibly adorable kids. Yes. Yes, I am obsessed with these two.

We also had both of our sons and one ‘if-all-goes-well’ future daughter-in-law. Only one ‘if-all-goes-well’ daughter-in-law was missing. But her band is on tour and I’m a huge fangirl, so…..it was OK.

It was really, really fun! We ate too much, we drank a lot of delicious beverages and we laughed together. As the day went on, and everyone realized that the Celtics would be playing the key game of the season at 8:30, they all decided to sleep here at our house.

My reaction?

“Oh, my GOD! If they all sleep here, I can go to be early with ELLIE!!!!!”

Which I did. We laughed, we giggled, we snuggled, we snored together.

At no time did I wonder where my kids would sleep (they outnumber our available beds). I didn’t tell them how much I loved them. I didn’t make sure they had pillows, or sheets, or blankets, or even beds.

I just grabbed Miss Ellie, and cuddled her until we both fell asleep.

Heaven.

Papa joined us at one point, and so did our puppy, Lennie. Whatevs.

All I remember is feeling Ellie’s arm around my neck, her hand on my cheek, or breath in my hair.

Angels were singing.

We all woke up, had a big breakfast cooked by my son Tim, and sat around sipping coffee and playing with the kids.

It was only late this afternoon, long after everyone had headed home and I had put the house back to the way I like it, when Papa sent me a text from work. “What a great couple of days, huh? When was the last time we had all three of our kids sleeping here at once?”

The fact that I didn’t know how to answer is what lead me to this post.

“I got better.”

And it’s all good!

Ellie and Tim

“I love my Uncle Tim!”  

Joyful, Joyful….


Children have so many skills that are lost to the rest of us. They have such gifts that we have somehow let fade in ourselves.

Today was a cool, sunny day.  It was nice. Not hot, not spectacular, just really nice.

Ellie and Johnny were here, and we spent the morning playing, making pancakes, eating said pancakes, and watching the sweet movie “Trolls”, which Ellie loves.

We ate lunch, and suddenly Ellie looked at me with her huge brown eyes and said, “Nonni! We forgot to play outside!”

As if that was her job. As if she had an inborn responsibility to play outside.

What could I do but agree with her?

Given the cool temperatures, I gave her a pair of shorts and T shirt, telling her it was too cool to play in her blow up pool. I put Johnny in pants and a shirt and a big old floppy sun hat, then greased them both up with citronella bug goo.

We stepped outside into the sunshine.

On my lawn sat a big blue pool. A blow up pool. A ten dollar pool. We had put about six inches of water into it yesterday and the kids had played near it. But we have a very very very deep well here, so the water was absolutely FREEZING. Yesterday Ellie had splashed a bit, but wasn’t able to get herself into the icy water.

But. The water had sat out all night (in the rain) and all morning in the bright sun. By the time we got outside today, it had warmed just enough to entice her.

And off she went.

I sat on a lawn chair, just watching. Johnny touched the water carefully, then sat back down. Up again, touch again, smile at Nonni, sit back down in the grass. That was his schedule for the next hour.

But Ellie?

Oh, my sweet, beautiful Ellie.

Once again this little girl, not yet three years old, has taught me what it means to live a good life.

Ellie raced onto the grass, danced in a circle and crowed, “This is a great day!!!!” Her invisible pals, “Elsa and Anna” were there with her right away. Ellie touched the water and shouted “It’s warm!” Then she peeled off her jeans and jumped into the pool.

For the next hour, she jumped in and out of the little pool, splashing, screaming, pouring water over her head. “Elsa and Anna are washing their hair!!! Look at Elsa’s face!” After pouring water over herself, she’d throw back her head and shriek.

She screamed. She yelled. She howled with joy.

She jumped, splashed, poured water onto the grass, onto her head, onto her feet, onto her baby brother.

And the whole time, the joy was just pouring out of her. Out of ever pore, every molecule, every tiny speck of that little girl, nothing but pure, pure joy came rushing out.

I sat there in awe.

She was the absolute epitome of happiness. She WAS joy incarnate.

She experienced that one hour outside today as one of absolute and total euphoria.

In a ten dollar pool, on a crabgrass and dandelion filled lawn, this sweet, pure soul danced and played and felt herself to be filled with the most innocent and unsoiled joy. She had no thought for how she looked, or who was listening, or what was happening outside of her circle of happiness.

I sat in awe. I watched her. I wanted to cry, because I couldn’t remember ever feeling that must pure happiness in such a simple way.

I watched her. I listened as she threw her head back and screamed, “I love this pool so much!!!!”

Ellie is joy. She is innocence. She is love.

So is every other child on the face of this beautiful, joyful earth.

In honor of Ellie and John, I need to continue speaking out on behalf of all of the joy filled children in this country, in Africa, in Syria, in Iran, in Iraq, in Russia, in Chechnya, in Puerto Rico.

They are joy.

We really need to find a way to learn from them.

pool kiew