I’ve Been Preparing For This Moment My Whole Life


The world is going to hell in a germ-infested handbasket, but Nonni will not dispair.

Nope, not I.

You see, I have been preparing for this terrible global emergency for years. And when I say years, I mean decades.

First of all, Mother Nature was smart enough to gift me with a well developed sense of anxiety. Some have even referred to me as “neurotic.” In the past, this was seen as a defect, but now? Not so much.

Remember the fear that swept the globe as we moved from the 1900s to the 2000s? The so-called Y2K glitch was supposed to impact every computer on earth. We were told that it would shut down the markets, the banks, the food supply, the electric grid.

This Italian Mamma took the threat seriously. That was when I put together my emergency supply shelf. And stocked it with a few little items like 24 boxes of pasta, 3 big bags of rice and enough canned and dried beans to open my own Mexican restaurant. And tomatoes, of course. And lentils!

So when the Coronavirus hit us, I didn’t have to run out and empty the store. I’ve been hoarding for years! I can feed my family for at least a couple of months with just what I have in my kitchen.

I also had the foresight, right after the 2016 election, to expect the collapse of civilization as we know it. That was when I started to gather up extra items that might be needed if a) the North Koreans attacked us or b) Trump got pissed off and turned off all the lights.

Naturally, this means that we have lots of batteries (rechargeable and regular). We have a solar battery charger, a solar radio, a solar lantern, and even both gas and solar generators.

And light sticks, just in case it’s cloudy.

Oh, and I should mention the bleach. Somehow, every time I’ve watched the news since the 2016 vote, I have felt the need to have extra bleach around.

No need for this neurotic old woman to fight over hand sanitizer. Nope. I have enough stuff right on my shelf!

Finally, in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are faced with hours and hours, days and days, possibly weeks or months stuck in our own homes with only our family members for company.

After we’ve re-read our books, colored in all those crazy adult coloring books and beat our husbands at card games, the boredom will surely set it.

We might find ourselves binge watching “Outbreak” or “Pandemic”. People will be overwhelmed with a feeling of uselessness and depression.

Except for me!

Because once again, I planned ahead.

Unlike some people I could name (Mom, sisters Liz and Mary…..) my house could use, shall we say, a little bit of organizing.

Take my kitchen cabinets, for example. Oh, sure, my silverware drawer is organized; I’m not the kind of woman who lets the spoons carry on with the forks.

But I do have an area under my sink that could be declared a federal waste site. What with all the rubber gloves, bleach, vinegar, and eye protection, I can spend a day or six cleaning that place out. I might even find that lost bottle of Scotch.

Or an old sneaker.

And there is one cabinet in here that contains everything from cheese cloth to broken corkscrews. It’s that place where we put the stuff that doesn’t already have a place. You know, like shoelaces, a waffle iron and extra spatulas.

So you see, what once seemed like weaknesses (neurosis, disorganization, anxiety) have turned into Nonni’s superpowers!

When this whole terrible ordeal is finally over, you can feel comfortable coming to my house for a delicious dinner of lentil soup, served in a clean, organized house.

There. Don’t you feel better now?

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.

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.

Old People’s Date Night


Old. But still happy.

So Paul and I have been married for going on 42 years. We’ve been a couple for close to 50.

After a while, even the most loving of relationships can get a little….settled. We recently talked (argued? I argued and he listened?) about the fact that we don’t go out much any more. We don’t find fun things to do together as much as we used to. Or as much as this stay-at-home-with-kids Nonni would like.

So on Friday, Paul sent me a text that said, “Hey! Let’s go to the movies on Sunday!”

I was so excited! I haven’t been to a movie since the last Hunger Games film came out.

All weekend long, as I went through my regular routines of laundry, shopping, visiting my mom, paying the bills, I kept thinking about a movie date. Paul did his usual weekend rituals too. He scooped up the dog poop, chopped the ice in the driveway, did his hours of billing paperwork. But last night, he said “We are going to the movies tomorrow!”

Well.

Sunday morning passed with dog walking, some writing for me, some more billing paperwork for him (he’s a psychologist in private practice….someday we’ll talk about Medicare for All). We had lunch, we set coffee up for tomorrow morning, and off we went for Date Night.

Into the giant multiplex theater we went, our pre-ordered tickets in hand. We got our popcorn and box of candy. We found our seats in the almost empty theater.

And we settled in with great anticipation to watch the previews.

Holy nihilistic horrors.

In between the countless ads for Coke products, credit cards, makeup, cars and fast food, we were treated to about 10 movie trailers.

By the time they ended, my mouth was open, my eyes were squinted and my hands were shaking like you wouldn’t believe.

What the absolute HELL?

If movies are a reflection of society, then we are in deep, deep, DEEP shit, my friends. As far as I can recall, we saw trailers for the following films:

  • A spy shoots up historical sites in Europe while drinking too much, sleeping with as many women as he can catch and driving his car over cliffs.
  • A young girl is possessed by demons into believing that she is talking to God when she’s really, um, ya know, possessed by demons. Cue the bleeding eyeballs.
  • An agoraphobic young woman is seduced and then tortured by her sadistic neighbors
  • Something happens that involves various space crafts, disgustingly oozy and aggressive aliens and a lot of women falling down.
  • A look back at WWI in all of its horrific glory; but compounded by the terror of a young man desperate to survive long enough to prevent a catastrophic death that will kill his only brother.

I think there were more, but by the time I got to them I was starting to whimper and I turned my attention to my popcorn.

“Jeez, honey, ” I whispered, “These movies are so horrible! I wouldn’t want to watch any of them!”

He agreed as we clasped hands in the darkened theater.

Then, at long last, our movie started.

“Uncut Gems” with Adam Sandler. We love Sandler, and the plot of the movie had looked intriguing.

A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

Should be very cool, right?

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong and wrong-oh-ramma.

We lasted for about an hour of the film. By that point, we had no idea of why the main character was doing anything that he was doing, who was with him and who was against him, and why any of it was even happening. There was a big fat gemstone, a very very handsome and appealing Kevin Garnett (played by the very very handsome and appealing Kevin Garnett) and other than that, we have no idea what was going on.

All we could tell for sure after an hour of enduring this “movie” was that it must be incredibly easy to write a major Hollywood script.

Even I could do it. Watch.

“What the F…. are you doing, you f…ing piece of f…ing shit?” “Oh, yeah? Well f…..you, you fu…..ing jerk!” “No, f….you! Listen, you fu….er, you f…..in’ f….with me and I’ll f….in’ f….you and your whole family, you f…..er.”

I could go on, but what’s the point?

After an hour, we both had head aches, the popcorn was gone, and we still had no idea why Kevin Garnett wanted the big gemstone or where it was by the time Adam Sandler got attacked at his daughter’s school play.

I am not f…..in’ making this up.

We looked at each other and recognized the horror on each other’s faces.

“Wanna get outta here?”, my honey asked me. I grabbed his hand and we bolted out of there.

From now on, Date Night will have to revolve around ice cream, a walk on the beach or a Disney Movie.

We are just too old for this shit.

Heading home for dinner, a drink and our jammies.

If Anthropologists Found Me


So I’ve been reading about ancient bones lately.

No, not the geriatric news report. More like the ancient skeletons that scientists seem to keep finding in strange places. The old bones of our distant ancestors what are unearthed when archeologist and anthropologists get grants to muck about in the wilderness.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Take the old Kennewick Man, for example. This old native American lived up in what we now call Washington State. But he lived there around 9,000 years ago.

His bones were dug up and all kinds of smart and learned people started to analyze his life. What he ate, where he lived, how he hunted. They figured all this out just from looking at his dusty old bones.

And then there’s Ötzi the Iceman, whose mummified remains were dug up in the Alps. He did his hiking some 5,000 years ago and died on one of his treks. (One of the many good reasons why I have told my husband that I’m no longer interested in mountain climbing.)

When scientists analyzed these remains, they were able to describe exactly what the dead men had eaten, and how long before their deaths those meals has been enjoyed. They looked at the bones, at the hair, at the teeth and the stomach contents and came up with all kind of facts about the men. Where they lived, what they did for work, how far each walked in a year.

Fascinating.

So it got me thinking.

If I died today, and somehow got myself buried or frozen or mummified or hermetically sealed in a big old bag, what would future scientists make of my remains?

If they looked at my stomach contents, they would no doubt conclude that women who lived in my time were sustained by pasta, chocolate and a boatload of wine.

Suppose those future anthropologists examined my bones? I bet they would conclude that I had lived a highly active, athletic life. They might surmise that I had spent my adulthood working with my hands.

They would think these things because they’d see several broken fingers.

How would they know that all were broken when I tried to learn how to play basketball, but managed to jam my fingers more often that palm the ball?

They would see a broken bone in one foot and broken toes on each of my feet. “Athletic”, they might think. “Maybe a runner.”

I don’t suppose it would occur to them that I might have slipped off of a flip-flop while walking in the wet grass, thereby breaking a metatarsal bone. They’d have no way of knowing that I would have then stubbornly walked on that broken foot for six weeks before going to the doctor.

And there’s no way in the world that those future scientific geniuses would realize that by slightly favoring that right foot I would have caused my ankle to freeze up and for two of my toes to basically fuse.

I’m sure that if my old mummified carcass was examined closely by future scientists, they would see the scar tissue in my jaw, too. They might use that scarring to infer that I ate a lot of very tough and chewy meats. They might assume that I used my back teeth to chomp on fibrous vegetation, or large fruits and nuts.

How in the world could they know that my jaw was out of alignment because when I was 16 years old I accidentally threw away my orthodontic retainer, which my Mom had mailed to me while I was on a trip to North Africa?

They might think that the indentation on the right side of my forehead was caused by a fight, or a war or some other heroic action.

There is nothing about that divot to tell them that I dropped a huge canister vac on my head while falling down a flight of stairs.

So I wonder.

I wonder if Kennewick man was just a clumsy old dude who got drunk and landed in a bog? I wonder if Ötzi the iceman wasn’t really a high altitude shepherd with bad teeth from eating too much grain. Maybe he was a singer who was on tour in a mountain town when he passed out from a night of eating caramel corn.

Who knows?

I just know that we should question our assumptions.

And that if future anthropologist stumble across my frozen carcass, they will never guess what the tattoo on my back really means.

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!

Clearly, I Didn’t Think it Through


Oh, what was I thinking? What the hell on earth was I thinking?

Since I spend so much time at home with toddlers, there are moments when the house feels way, way, way too small. The toys seem to all pile up in one place, and the running around in circles starts to feel just a little bit claustrophobic.

I guess that’s why, in a moment of mental weakness and overwhelming crankiness, Nonni here got the brilliant idea of cleaning out the basement and making it into an additional play space.

Oh, smart old Nonni! Won’t it be lovely when you can send the kids downstairs to play with the doll strollers, the blocks, the climbing structure and the awesome interconnected tunnels?

The kids and I spent a full week organizing, cleaning, moving stuff around and setting up a toybox.

Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!

What a fun, warm, wide open playroom we’ve created! Hoo-rah!

So.

The kids now play in the spare bedroom (lovingly referred to as the “nappy room”), in the kitchen, in the living room and dining room AND in the basement playroom.

How freeing to have more room.

I’m not kidding. When things get a little tense, and the kids can’t seem to agree on one single thing, it can be miraculous to have a whole new place to fight…..I mean, “to play”…..There are new items to fight over, new games to invent and play, new furniture to jump on.

But if you are reading this little memo, you might already have found the flaw in my ingenious plan.

Right?

Right.

If one child is in the living room, deeply involved in pretending to be a dragon, at least one other child is in the basement. Nonni, for all her marvelous nurturing powers, can only be in one place at a time.

Ergo: wherever I am at any given moment, there is a tiny person with the lungs of a town crier in the other space. And that child will be shrieking “NONNI!!!!” so piercingly that it’s a wonder the cops haven’t been called.

I swear to you, sometimes I’m sure my ears are going to bleed.

I’ll give you a couple of examples of the challenges I face.

Today my sweet Ellie was in the dining room, playing with a nice tray full of kinetic sand. Johnny decided to head into the basement playroom to “Play Rescue Riders”. I was washing dishes.

Suddenly, I heard a death shriek from the basement. “NONNI! HELP! COME NOW!” I dropped the waffle dish in my hand and ran toward the basement.

Aaaannnnnnd, at the very same moment……”NONNI! COME HERE!” Ellie called from the dining room. I ran down the stairs, yelling over my shoulder, “Wait, Ellie! Hang on!” I threw open the playroom door, ready to grab Johnny and head for the Emergency Room. I swear, my phone was in my hand, all ready to call 911.

And there he was, sitting calmly on the old sofa in the playroom, a plastic box in his hands. “You help me open dis?” he asked.

Once my heart stopped scrambling around in my chest, I opened his box and said, as sternly as I could, “John, do NOT scream like that unless you are hurt! If you need me, come upstairs and get me.”

“OK!” he grinned cheerfully.

I trudged back upstairs, to where Ellie had been reduced to sobs and had not stopped chanting, “Nonni, come here. Nonni, come here. Nonni, come here……..”

“OK,” I think I sounded reasonably calm. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I wanted to show you what I made.”

I looked at her creation, told her that it was fabulous, then repeated my message. “You can’t scream for me like that, honey. Not unless you are hurt. If you need me, come get me.”

Yeah.

Sure.

The message apparently was never received because this afternoon our friend Bel came to spend an hour or so with us. Her visits are totally the highlight of every week. We all love her to bits. Bel is, like Ellie, four years old. She is funny, sweet, creative, kind and energetic.

She also has the voice of an operatic soprano trying out for her first solo aria. The girl can etch glass with that voice.

And so by the end of today I found myself racing from room to room, from one floor to the next, answering shrill cries of “NONNI!” They seemed to be coming from everywhere at once.

Now I’m not a newbie. This childcare gig is not my first time around the manipulative toddler block. I know that 9 times out of 10 the screams don’t mean severed limbs.

But. These are not my kids. Neurotic old woman that I am, I am not quite prepared to ignore the ear piercing shrieks of little children.

Holy fatigue, Batman.

So.

I have a new plan.

I’m thinking that from now on, the kids and I will enjoy our days safely closed in one room. The smallest room I can find. I’ll lock the door and keep us all within each other’s eyesight.

That way when someone screams “HELP! NONNI, HELP ME!” I will immediately recognize that the problem is a doll’s sock and not an invasion of zombies.

And I will hopefully prevent the impending heart attack.