Post-Apocalypse Thoughts


From a time before COVID-19

The economic crash of 2008 hit my small rural community pretty hard. By the Spring of 2009, our neighborhood held as many empty homes as full ones. As the summer came on, even more homes were foreclosed on or simply abandoned.

The woods behind our house began to seem wilder as the humans moved away, and there were entire days when I never heard a sound other than the calling of jays and the hammering of woodpeckers.

During those bleak months, I used to walk my dogs around the block, passing one empty house after another. Sometimes I’d look at the plants growing along the roadside, or at the ducks in the pond across the street, and I’d let my mind wander.

“What if something really terrible happened to the world, and hardly anyone was left?” I’d think. “Could I manage to feed my family with dandelion greens and fiddleheads? Could we learn how to trap birds, or kill ducks or turkeys for food?”

I always had a slightly romantic view of how things would be, of course, because this was just a daydream. All of my grown kids would somehow manage to make their way home, and we’d combine our skills and strengths to build a big garden in our yard. Maybe we’d raise chickens.

I was sure that I’d come through the trauma as a stoic, cheerful, no-nonsense kind of Mamma. I’d clean the fish and make the dinners and be happy to use the bit of power we could get from our solar generator to keep everything clean.

There was a gauzy haze over this dream, as I walked around the quiet streets.

I never thought anything would actually happen.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic of 2020, as we sit in isolation from each other and wonder what in the world will happen next, the reality of a global disaster seems far less romantic.

After about a month of worsening news and scarier headlines, I have come to an interesting conclusion.

I don’t want to forage for edible weeds in the woods. I don’t want to fight my neighbors for toilet paper or soap or cans of tomatoes.

The reality is that not only can my adult sons not move here with their partners, we can’t even get together to share a meal right now.

My daughter and her family live a mere half a mile away across those fertile woods. I’ve been caring for her children every work day for five years. But now, in the age of Covid19, we can’t be together at all. I haven’t seen them since the day that schools were closed, almost three weeks ago.

And I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

We are staying apart, staying away from all other humans, because my daughter is due any day to give birth to her third child. If I leave my house to go to the grocery store, there is a risk that I might bring the virus back and could contaminate Kate and her children.

Because she sees her doctor at our local hospital once a week now, she is afraid that she might contaminate her father and I. So we simply stay apart. In our own little self-isolation pockets.

We’re all living in fear. And we’re all dealing with a total lack of control. Nobody on this entire earth knows what is coming next. Will the virus sputter out in the summer? Will it roar back in the fall? Will a vaccine be found, or a treatment?

Or will millions die? Will the economy of the world totally collapse, based as it is on a continuing flow of commerce?

Will schools ever reopen? Will governments implode into chaos? The truth is, we just don’t know.

Once, a few short years ago, those thoughts were just a way to pass the time as the dogs sniffed the fallen leaves.

Now they are right in front of me. And I am discovering that I am not the hearty pioneer woman I always imagined I’d be. Instead, I’m just another scared and overwhelmed old woman who desperately misses the touch of her children and grandchildren, and who has no desire to harvest cattails for dinner.

No, I Am NOT in a COVID Panic!


But I could be. Soon.

I’m trying to stay calm. Really.

But when my beady little eyes popped open at 6 AM, my first thought was,

“ARGHGHGHGHGHGHG!!!!!!”

With consciousness came awareness, and I remembered a few things. Like the fact that my life savings is worth about half of what it was a month ago. And I’m retired.

Like the fact that the first really progressive candidate of my life is getting smoked by a guy I could never support.

And like the fact that the world is in the grips of the most serious pandemic of modern times.

Yeehah.

I couldn’t decide if it was good that I’d probably croak from the new virus before I end up living under a bridge, so I decided to get up.

I checked the news, because I’m stupid. I saw that last night our President gave a speech intended to reassure us. Unfortunately, between the thick layers of bullshit and the slurred speech, it was hard to tell whether everything will really be OK or Trump is taking all the Zanax left in DC.

I closed the computer and started breakfast for the kids.

The front door opened and in came my son-in-law with my grandkids.

“Good morning!” I chirped in the happiest fake voice I could muster. “How are you all?”

“Fine. Except that Ellie doesn’t feel well.”

GASP.

I got four year old Ellie settled on the couch and asked how she was doing. “I have a cold.” The juicy sneeze that followed told me that this was true. As did the cough that followed it. “I have the chills.”

She closed her eyes. I clenched my jaw.

Her little brother hopped up on a kitchen chair and asked for a waffle.

I. Did. Not. Panic.

But I washed my hands. And my face, where the sneeze juice had landed. I hummed to the tune of Happy Birthday as I rubbed my skin raw.

“Happy Sickness, oh jeez.

I’ve been slimed by a sneeze.

We’re all gonna get it.

Staying safe ain’t a breeze.”

I plastered my smile back on, and went to give Johnny another waffle, a banana, a bowl of blueberries and a piece of toast. I obviously won’t be avoiding the grocery store any time soon.

My husband came down the hall to give me a desperately needed hug. I felt a little calmer, until I saw that he was dressed in a jacket and tie. My heart sank, as I remembered that he was headed to the funeral of a good friend. I worry every day about my husband’s health, and about the level of stress that he deals with in his job as a psychologist.

My anxiety ticked up a notch, but I reminded myself that everything would be OK. Paul would come home, I’d have a nice dinner for us to share. Ellie probably just has a cold, I told myself. I probably washed away the germs before they could infiltrate my mucous membranes.

I took a deep breath and sent a quick to text to my daughter to let her know about Ellie’s symptoms.

And to see how she was feeling, to be honest. Because she is 36 weeks pregnant with her third child. She’s been having contractions so we know that she’ll be having that baby any day now. Right here in our local hospital. The one in our community, where all the schools are closed because of…..yup….the dreaded virus.

The virus that might be in her own house in the sweet little nose of her very own daughter.

Noticing that I was getting a little dizzy, I forced myself to start breathing again.

I headed down to my freezer to get out some chicken stock. I grabbed a frozen mason jar.

Yup.

A frozen mason jar of chicken stock.

Did I mention that I’m stupid?

I noticed that there were some cracks showing in the glass. The kids were safely snuggled on the couch and I had cleaned up most of breakfast before John asked for his first snack.

I picked up the jar to show to Paul, and a huge chunk of glass fell off. The whole jar started to slip out of my fingers, and I grabbed for it with my right hand. The entire slippery thing shattered as I grabbed it, and I found myself clutching about 40 shards of broken glass.

Bits of glass and greasy frozen chicken covered the floor. It had ended up in one of my cabinets, too.

Paul grabbed a broom and got the dogs outside as I bent to pick up the biggest pieces, cursing the whole time. (In Russian, French and Italian. I’m not a completely irresponsible old lady.)

Between the blood, the glass and the chicken fat, the floor was a huge smeary mess. It took a while, but eventually Paul and I had managed to scoop, wash, wrap, bandage, vacuum, throw out and scrape up most of the mess.

He headed off to the funeral and to work. I made a cup of “Tension Tamer Tea” and sat down with my bandaged and throbbing fingers. I was trying to tell myself that the day would get better from here. That everything was OK. That it would be fine. No need to panic, I murmured.

I gently picked a few tiny glass needles from my palm. I sipped my tea and smiled at the kids.

Then I heard a strange crunching noise coming from the kitchen.

Bentley, the canine Hoover, had found an inch long piece of glass under the stove and sucked it out and into his mouth. Because chicken.

As I carefully pried the deadly glass out of his slightly bleeding mouth, I decided that enough was enough. I gave up. I let the anxiety wash over me.

So I’m not technically in a panic this morning. But I am definitely in a “WTF-Might-As-Well-Eat-The-Donuts” frame of mind.

If you need me, I’ll be in the locked bathroom. Bathing in vinegar and bleach.

The Sad, Sad Story of Nonni’s Birthday Cake


Oh, joy, oh rapture! It’s Nonni’s birthday!

Yup.

This “mature” lady has hit the glorious age of 64. As Paul McCartney famously asked, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four.”

I am hoping that my beloved boyfriend of almost 50 years still plans to hang around. I mean, at our age, it would be just too hard to switch to someone new. Am I right?

Anyway.

Here I am. Aging and not entirely thrilled about it.

Last night I spent the night with my almost 90 year old Mom. I made us dinner, poured us each a celebratory glass of prosecco, and opened the sweet card that she (my sister Liz) bought for me.

This morning I headed back here to take care of my grandchildren. I had decided the other day, as I was shopping, that I would buy myself an angel food cake. For most of my childhood, my Mom made me an angel cake for my birthday. I have so many lovely memories of that delicious, sweet, special cake. The feeling of it melting on my tongue, mixed with the richness of the whipped cream that most often topped it. I can picture my Dad smiling at the table, and all of my siblings gathered around as I opened my birthday gifts.

At sixty four, it seemed like a good idea to revisit childhood.

So my little two-year old Johnny helped me bake my cake. When his sister Ellie came home from pre-school, we whipped the cream, adding just a bit of vanilla and a bit of sugar.

When the kids’ friend Annabelle arrived, it was time for Nonni to light the candles and join the kids in singing Happy Birthday to Me!

It was great! The kids were excited, both by the idea of a Nonni birthday and the idea of a cake that angels might eat. The whipped cream was a topic of great debate; to top the cake or not to top the cake?

How the heck old is 64 anyway, they wondered? It was a number they couldn’t even grasp.

In the end, we all scooped a pile of sweet cream onto our cake and we all dug in.

A half- hour later, Annabelle had gone home with her Aunt, and my daughter came to get her kids. As a confirmed Italian Momma, I took one look at my girl, and at her 36 week pregnant belly. I saw her cheekbones, her jawbones and her skinny hips, and I had one thought:

“Give this woman some cake!!!!!”

Kate loves angel cake, and is one of those rare women who lose weight when pregnant.

(She did NOT get the latter characteristic from her Momma.)

So. I cut my remaining cake in half, and sent a big chunk home for my girl and her baby.

After helping Kate get her two little ones into carseats and headed home with cake in hand, I turned and went back into the house.

I was so looking forward to my roast pork dinner with my husband, complete with roasted veggies and cold prosecco. And I was really looking forward to my big old piece of angel cake with whipped cream.

I came up the stairs. My hyper dog Lennie was dancing around the living room, delighted to see me after three minutes away.

My food-addicted basset hound, Bentley, was lying on his back, showing his belly and gazing at me with love and guilt.

This is the sad, sad sight that met my disappointed eyes.

“But, Mom” Bentley seemed to be saying. “What were you thinking? You left the house and there was CAKE on the table. What did you think would happen?”

And thus.

An old woman’s dream has been destroyed. My hopes were crushed. Alas.

My birthday dessert tonight may well be a Milkbone.

Yes, I AM a Good Mom!


My serenity face, at my daughter’s wedding.

I think a lot mother’s question our success. We go through the day, juggling jobs, shopping, cleaning, homework, hockey practice, girl scouts, track meets and band concerts.

We do our best to be supportive and loving and patient, but we aren’t always sure that we’ve hit our goal.

A lot of mothers, I think, lie down at night and wonder, “Was I OK today?” We hope that we have done a good job taking care of our kids and our homes and our spouses and our actually paying work.

I was one of those working moms for 24 years. I often found myself hoping that I’d done it well. My kids were happy and secure, so I felt OK about it, but like many mothers, I found myself focused on every time I’d raised my voice and every time I’d given in when I shouldn’t.

I was never sure that I had been a good mom.

Well.

From the vantage point of a 64 year old grandmother, and the mom of three adults, I can tell you now that I absolutely kicked ass. I was all that and a bag of chips. I killed it. I nailed it.

There is no more successful momma than me.

Oh, yeah.

(Insert image of old chubby lady doing the happy dance.)

How do I know that I have been a totally successful mother?

Ha.

I look at my kids, that’s how.

I have a daughter who in many ways has followed in my footsteps. She became a teacher, like me. She is about to become a mother of three, like me.

And she has surpassed my achievements in every way.

I have always believed that teaching is both an art and a science. I was very, very good at the art. And I was fair to middling with the science.

My daughter excels at both. She is one of the most beloved teachers I’ve ever known. Kids, parents, colleagues; all of them appreciate and value her. And she’s been chosen by the school district to take a leadership role with the curriculum.

I did a good job as a follower; she is a leader.

And my sons have outpaced me, too.

I have always dreamed of being some kind of musical performer. I wanted to sing. I wanted to learn the guitar. I wished to be a soloist.

My sons have taught themselves to play music on several instruments. They write music. They sing. They have been performing with a bunch of local groups.

This weekend they’ll be in the recording studio making a recording with some of their very best friends.

I’m so proud of them!

And both of them have lived up to their vows to contribute to their communities. They are hard working, humble, kind. They work every single day to make life better for kids, teens and families at risk in the small city that they have made their home.

I must have been an amazing mom. My husband must have been a remarkable Dad. Our children have grown up to be kind, giving, generous. And all three have gone beyond my life’s achievements.

I know I’m a good Mom because I’m so happy to have written the paragraph above. I feel no competition, no challenge, no need to hold onto my place.

I am happy, so very happy, to cede the position of most beautiful Mom, most patient Mom, most beloved teacher to my daughter.

I am proud and delighted to hand over the title of family musicians to my talented boys. I am proud beyond belief.

And I no longer lie in bed at night and wonder if I did a good job.

The proof is in the next generation.

I’m happy to sit back and enjoy the reflected glory.

Those Grandma Jokes Got It All Wrong


Before I became a grandmother, I remember everyone telling me that the best part of being a grandparent is that you get to send them home after they visit.

Sure, there are lots of times when that’s true. When everyone is healthy and energetic and we spend all day riding bikes, painting, baking cookies and dancing….yes, that’s when I find myself counting the minutes until Mom arrives to take them home.

When it’s the last day before vacation, and we are all sick of our daily routine, this stay-at-home Nonni is more than ready to send them out the door as soon as I see those headlights in my driveway.

But.

When the little ones are sick, everything is different.

I have spent the past two weeks taking care of my grandchildren as they fight off a nasty virus. Their Mom is pregnant and is saving her sick days for when she gives birth. Dad works from home. Nonni here loves having the kids and loves the feeling of taking care of little loved ones who really need her.

But.

I raised three kids with lots of allergies. My two sons had pretty severe asthma. One had intermittent moderate asthma (but ended up in the hospital once for three days). One had chronic severe asthma and could go from perfectly fine to wheezing like you read about in ten minutes.

I was on red alert for about a decade. My medicine cabinet had six inhalers, four allergy meds, cough syrup, decongestants and every known herbal remedy. During those days, you could have woken me up at 3 AM and I’d have been able to tell you exactly what meds we had and how many doses each contained.

I got to the point where I could tell that one son was beginning to experience lower oxygen by looking at his little face. When it was as white as milk and his eyes had blue rings under them, it was time to grab the inhaler.

I was able to simultaneously sleep and listen to the gentle wheezes of his younger brother. There was a certain pitch that had me on my feet, grabbing the asthma meds.

I have spent nights with a nebulizer, walking from one side of the crib to the other, hoping to get the mist into the lungs of the baby who kept rolling over. I have slept upright in a recliner with a baby in my arms more nights than I can recall.

Of course, it was terrifying to leave my boys in day care. I once got a call that my son was in distress after a field trip to a farm. I made it to his daycare before they had to call 911, and took him in my car to the ER. He was treated and sent home with me. My husband and I spent the next three nights taking turns using the nebulizer every two hours.

So.

Here I am, taking care of my little grandson as he fights off a nasty virus. He is sneezing, nose dripping, running a fever, and coughing very hard. His parents are aware, and I KNOW that they are on top of it.

Still, I am feeling a huge sense of PTSD from this whole thing. I am scared that I’m missing something. He doesn’t have asthma. He isn’t wheezing (yes, I have been checking with my trusty stethoscope), but his cough is tight and harsh and he tells me that it hurts. His nose is running like a hose.

I am sitting in my recliner, rocking him in my arms as he sleeps.

And I am feeling the scariest sense of deja vu.

I trust my daughter and her husband completely. I do! They are remarkably calm and patient and attentive parents. I know that they are on top of whatever this virus is doing to our little guy.

But you know what?

The worst part of my day, now that my little guy is sick, is the moment when I peel him out of my arms and give him to his parents to take home.

Yes, I need the rest. I am not a young Momma anymore.

Yes, he needs his parents. Duh. Of course!

But.

I wake up at 2AM straining to hear the sound of his breathing. Sometimes I have a brief moment where I think, “I hear him and his breathing is fine.”

Then I realize that I’m hearing my young and healthy dog, dreaming away on the couch. This makes me roll over, look at the clock and calculate how long it will be before he is back here with me, where I can check him out.

I am a neurotic, crazy, traumatized Grandma.

And I am here to tell you that the whole “you get to send them home” thing is a sham.

Excuse me while I go make a big batch of homemade chicken soup for tomorrow.

Marriage Advice For My Kids


Having been (mostly) happily married for 42 years, I think I know what I’m talking about.

Me and my honey, still hanging in there.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

Well, sure. Especially at the beginning. Love thinks it’s adorable that she loves Russian folk music. Love is delighted to learn all about the rules of the professional basketball world that he loves so much.

Love is starry-eyed and golden and filled with many-splendored things.

Until love has been through a few years of bill paying, work, shopping, oil changes and bouts of stomach virus. Then love is a whole lot less patient and kind. Love is still love, but now it looks a bit more like a negotiation between equal partners in a business. You want to watch another NBA game? Cool. Next week we’re going to a folk music show.

“ I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

When we fall in love, we feel that our love is greater than anything that any other human has ever known. We feel our souls soaring above the mundane worries of the world.

But then we come down to earth. We might not want to, but we have to find a company to take away our trash, and that sort of breaks the spell. We need to set up a compost pile and we need to buy toilet paper. None of this is romantic. None of this makes our souls reach for the heavens.

We still love each other, of course, but now it feels a little more mundane. Our souls go back to sleep and we find ourselves thanking our beloved for remembering to scoop up the dog poop in the backyard.

“How do you know you’ve found ‘the one’ for you?”

Oh, my dears.

There is no “one.” It isn’t magic. It isn’t kismet or fate or meant-to-be by some amorphous power.

I’m a really nice person and a good wife. I was pretty damn cute when my husband fell in love with me back in the day.

But I would never for a single minute think that I’m the only person he could have ever loved.

Love, and falling in love, is dependent on time, place, circumstance and luck. Don’t ever question the love you have because you wonder if there is someone else out there for you. Of course there is “someone else” out there! But the someone you have now is the one you need to think about.

“You have the perfect relationship.”

No they don’t. Nope.

There is no ‘perfect’ relationship, just as there is no perfect person.

Good relationships are about laughing at each other and at yourselves. They are about having very short memories, and letting go of the little transgressions.

Love is about endurance. It’s about giving in. Love is about not counting and not measuring and not worrying.

Love is trust.

Love is the realization that all day long a part of your brain is thinking, “I can’t wait to tell him this.” It’s about the tiny moments of adjustment that will make her life a bit easier. Turning on her coffee pot when you hear her step out of the shower. Making him a sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch, even if he didn’t ask for it.

Love is letting go of the things that bug you.

It’s about picking up his socks every day for 40 years, knowing that one day those socks might not be there. It’s about not eating pasta three times a week, even though you thought you’d married an Italian cook.

Love is about not saying some things, but being sure to say others.

It’s about thanking each other for the things we’ve done for decades. It’s about acknowledging the struggle.

There is no “one” for you. There is no “perfect” relationship, no perfect marriage, no perfect love.

But long term love, the kind that lets you grow and learn, the kind that makes you the best person you can be, that love is out there. You just have to let go of the poetry and embrace the daily grind.

Then you’ll find that the stars really have aligned and you have actually found that most elusive of human experiences.

You will have found true love.

Dog Is My Copilot


The other night I had a very sweet dream. I dreamed that I was asleep, and that my Dad was hugging me. I could feel his arm around my shoulder, and hear him breathing in my ear.

My Dad has been gone from us for 11 years, but I still feel him beside me. I can still see his smile, and his uplifted eyebrows and his loving gaze.

I miss him every single day.

So my dream was sweet, and touching, and it gave me enormous comfort.

That arm around me. The gentle breath in my ear. The feeling of being loved.

As I slowly came awake in the light of an early winter dawn, I realized that my feelings of Dad were only a dream. He was no longer here with us. He was gone.

And yet.

There was definitely an arm around my shoulder, and it wasn’t my husband’s. There was a gentle breathing in my ear, but I could hear Paul snoring and I knew it wasn’t him.

I rolled over.

And found myself face to face with Bentley, our beautiful basset hound-labrador mix.

His front leg was, in fact, over my shoulder. His soft breathing was right at the level of my ear.

And I started to laugh. I laughed so hard, in fact, that I woke up my husband and had to explain what was making me so silly at 6AM.

You see, as I started to think about it, I could totally understand why I had confused my doggie with my Dad.

Both of them were given the special gift of being able to recognize people’s moods as soon as they were felt. Dad would ask me how I was doing when I was a mess of a teenager, seeming to know when I needed to talk even before I did. In the very same way, Bentley has the gift of showing up for a snuggle as soon as my spirits begin to sink.

Dad always gave unquestioning support just when a person would need it. Sometimes he’d just quietly sit beside me; Ben does the very same thing. He knows when my grandkids are sad, or upset, or not feeling at their best. He climbs up, sits beside them, and just gets ready to listen.

Dad and Bentley. I had to smile.

And the physical similarities really struck me, too.

Dad had short legs. Bentley is a basset hound. Nuff said.

Dad had a broad chest, and big shoulders. Ditto for Mr. Bentley Bass.

And the eyes; The big, warm brown eyes. Eyes that look right at a person and give them the feeling that their every word is a treasure.

Of course, not every feature can be complimented. The slightly large nose? Yup, and yup again. Two big schnozzolas. The bit of extra weight around the middle? More to love on both of them!

Dad had big ears. Bentley has ears so big that they get wet when he drinks.

And the personality quirks can’t be ignored, either. Both my beloved Dad and my darling doggie could be described as highly food motivated. Bring on a good meal, and Dad would be there before the table was set. Rattle a plastic bag, and Bentley will be in the kitchen before you can put it down.

Not to say that either could be called picky. Bentley will eat a bug if it’s the only thing around. I once heard my Dad say that the wine he was drinking was terrible, but he wasn’t about to let it go to waste.

When the kids get silly, and start to race around the house, Bentley joins in with delight, even when he clearly has no idea of what is going on. He’ll run in circles, bark happily, and chase kids up and down the hall for hours. The joy is the point, and he would never miss a chance to express it.

Dad was so much the same. I remember in my earliest childhood, sitting on his lap watching The Three Stooges. He would howl with laughter as he watched, and we all knew that a big part of his pleasure was in sharing the moment with his kids.

But for all of his joyfulness and all of his love, my Dad was also a very black and white thinker. Right was right, wrong was wrong and he rarely noticed a shade of gray. He could be rigid in his way, and very stubborn. He saw the world through his own lens.

My dearest doggie is the very same way. While he clearly loves his humans and delights in our happiness, he also sees the world through his very own eyes. ALL food is his food; if our other dog tries to eat at kibble time, Bentley is likely to stand over both bowls. It takes a stern human and some physical reorganization to get him to focus on only his own dish.

If we ask him to get up from the couch, or leave the kitchen while we cook, he will sit perfectly still and ignore us until a treat is proferred.

“Sure, I know what you want, ” he seems to be saying, “But I have my own way of approaching this problem.”

So much like Dad!

I’m not sure that I actually believe in reincarnation, but if I did?

Welp.

A sweet, smart, big old lug with a love of food and fun, and a tendency to gaze at me with his big brown eyes?

It could be either one of two beloved souls.

Feeling Thankful. And Full.


This was just our appetizer table. What can I say? We’re Italian.

This could be the usual gratitude post, about how incredibly lucky I feel to have such a loving family and friends. As I’ve done every year since I started this blog, I could be waxing poetic about the wonderful abundance of food, how much I love having people to feed, how lucky we are to be able to afford so much deliciousness.

Obligatory Turkey pic.

But the truth is, I’m getting older, crankier and more tired.

So yesterday was glorious. It was. My Mom is still here eat turkey with us, and that is a blessing for sure. We celebrated the birthdays of my little sister sister and my nephew, complete with an amazing chocolate cake. We drank a lot (as in a LOT) of prosecco. My youngest son was here over night with his fiancee and we had one of those funny-in-retrospect conversations about political philosophy while soaking in the hot tub.

Politics never came up once.

Good times!

But by nine o’clock this morning, I was home alone with my dogs, a boatload of leftovers, and a vat of simmering turkey carcass. I put on some Netflix documentaries, downloaded a few podcasts (shoutout to Stand Up with Pete) and settled in to relax.

And now, NOW I am truly grateful.

I’m grateful that my daughter and her family spent the holiday with her husband’s family. I mean, sure, I missed the kids….but I don’t mind sharing them with another set of grandparents who love them to pieces and whom they adore. I missed my middle child, who spent the holiday with his future in-laws. But again, I’m so happy that he has another family who loves him and his fiancee.

I’m grateful that my dogs didn’t get away with stealing too many bites of food (OK, Bentley licked a pumpkin pie, but we sliced that part off.) I’m grateful that the turkey was wicked juicy even though I was just too tired to brine it. I’m grateful that nobody said “quid pro quo” at any point and that we all agree that Gentleman Jack is a gorgeous bourbon. (Thanks, Uncle Joe!!)

Mostly, though, I’m grateful today that I can still put on a big meal. I’m grateful that my son shared some nice smooth weed with me (my vape has been banned in Massachusetts), so I got some good sleep. I’m grateful, god help me, that my dear husband had to work today and I got to stay home.

I’m grateful for no humans around.

I’m bad, I know it.

But I sent everyone off with leftovers! I got the laundry done (I’m an idiot. Used cloth napkins.) I did a good job!

So today, after making then big mason jars of turkey stock, I’m thankful to have a few hours to sit here like a big lump of lard with a piece of pie on my knee, whipped cream floating on my coffee and the promise of a huge turkey salad sandwich in my immediate future.

Life is good.

I hope you all had more than enough of food, family and fun. I wish you all a lovely nap!

“Let’s Pretend…..”


Once upon a time, when I was young, I loved to pretend. I loved to imagine that I was someone other the same old boring me. With just those words, “Let’s pretend,” my old bike turned into a wild stallion, and my suburban streets were instantly the wild and dusty west.

I remember, so well, those hours spent riding our horses across the west, racing to get to the next pioneer outpost.

“Let’s pretend,” I’d say, and my best friend would turn into Paul McCartney’s sister. We’d grab tennis racket guitars and hair brush mics and take off on our own version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

There was a time when I slipped easily from reality to pretend and back again.

But let’s be honest. Those days were more than a half century in my past.

It isn’t so easy to shed my rigid old skin these days. When there’s laundry to fold, dishes to wash and emails to check, it’s really hard to jump into the world of fantasy.

But you know what?

Sometimes it’s worth it to ignore the dryer, let the dishes soak and tell the messages to wait.

Because I spend all day with my toddler grandchildren, I have at least 700 chances every day to relive my childhood.

Today was one of those days, where both of my grandkids were completely invested in playing “Rescue Riders.” We try not to watch too much TV, but when we do turn it on, this show is one of our favorites. It has brave kids, funny dragons, simple problems and lots of bright colors.

God help me, I have even heard myself making comments like, ‘Burple wouldn’t fight the Slinkwings.’ as we discuss the latest episode.

So what could I do when Ellie turned those huge brown eyes on me, and said, “We’re playing Rescue Riders! You are Chief Duggar!”

I pretended to be the Chief, of course. Ellie was one dragon, Johnny another. We raced around the house, shouting things like, “Oh, no!!! I’m caught in a cave with Elbone!” and “Winger is getting sick with the Dreaded Dragon Flu!”

Maybe it was because it’s been a tough week, but I had to throw myself fully into my role. It could have come from a desire to prevent the two year old from belting the four year old. Perhaps I was hoping to stop the four year old from whining and sobbing at every move made by the two year old.

Or maybe the laundry and dishes and bills and news alerts and school shootings and impeachments had Nonni feeling like she just wasn’t up to facing reality today. Whatever the cause, I found myself free to throw myself fully into the pretending and the fantasy roles.

It was fairly exhausting, to tell you the truth. After a while I was getting a definite headache.

But then “Chief Duggar” got trapped in a cave, and I found myself hiding in a closet. I heard the “Rescue Riders” searching all through the house and found myself in the darkness, behind the coats and shirts, trying not to giggle.

When at last the two little dragons found me, and opened the door to my “cave,” all three of us burst into the kind of honest, deep, belly laughing joy that rarely happens in the life of an older lady. We laughed so hard that we were crying.

I found myself sitting on my guest room floor, with a laughing little one in each arm. I kissed those sweet, sweet heads and pulled them in against me.

I have no doubt that at some point tomorrow my back will ache from hiding, my foot will hurt from running, and I will be heartily sick of pretending.

Still.

It was worth it.

It was so so so worth it.

As I head off to bed tonight, I’m going to try to remember the feel of riding that stallion across the wild west.

“Company” is Coming


Quick! Dust that shelf!

When I was a young adult, I felt completely comfortable coming home to my parent’s place. It was the house where I’d grown up. One bedroom was “mine”. I knew where the dishes were kept, where the good Scotch waited, where the extra towels were kept.

Coming in the door was coming home. Just like I’d done about a million times before. Key in lock, door pushed open, “Hi, Ma!” as I came up the stairs into the kitchen.

Home.

But gradually, as the years went by, “home” became the apartment where Paul and I lived. It became the house we rented when our first child was born. Then the house we bought to raise all three of our children.

Visits to my parents house became visits.

I realized that my parents would plan special meals for our visits. They’d put on a tablecloth. I started to ask permission to have a glass of wine or a bowl of ice cream.

I was a guest, in my own home.

Weird, but cool. I felt like a real adult.

I never wondered how that felt to my folks, though.

Then my kids grew up. They moved away. They all have lives. My daughter lives only a half a mile away and brings her kids here every day for me to care for while she and her husband are working. So she still feels pretty comfortable here, and has no worries about opening the fridge for a snack.

But my sons live two hours away, and we only see each other every couple of months.

When they come home, I notice that they are happy to grab themselves a beer, or toss a load of laundry into the machine. They seem to feel like this is still more or less “home”.

But something bizarre has happened to me, the momma.

It’s scary and it’s weird. Me no likies.

Yesterday our son Matt and his fiancee were planning to come for dinner. We haven’t seen them for a bit, and I was looking forward to catching up. I did what any self respecting Italian Momma would do. I shopped, I baked, I roasted, I sauteed.

But I also cleaned the kitchen. I threw the trash and washed the can. I cleaned the bathroom and put out new soap. I adjusted the sofa pillows and swept the floor. I vacuumed the steps.

As I was washing the doggie nose prints off the living room window, I suddenly stopped, vinegar soaked rag in hand. “What the hell am I doing?” I asked myself. “Did I seriously just clean the toilet for the kid who I potty trained in this very room?”

I shook my head at my foolishness, gave myself a little smack, and went back to cleaning the windows.

Then I straightened up the pinecones on my shelf and changed the batteries in all the Halloween lights.

My kids are “company”.

Holy crap. Time must be flying.