Archive | September, 2020

Time To Tell Our Stories

27 Sep

Maybe it’s my age, or the absence of my parents and the missed opportunity to ask them questions, that motivates me to write down the stories of my youth. Not spending time with my children and grandchildren, makes oral tradition impossible. So blogging it is.

The little house I grew up in. Two parents, five kids and a dog.

My father was a blue collar worker, something you see less and less in our country. He worked in a “machine shop” milling parts for large machinery. Every year the company had an employee picnic. I can’t tell you how much we kids looked forward to the day.

My dad worked hard, but he also loved to play. He loved the beach and swimming.
William, Tomm, and Me holding Michael.

The event was held at Schwaebische Alb, a large restaurant/picnic/event center in Central New Jersey. It was named after a beautiful area of Germany filled with castles, verdant valleys and the mountains of the Black Forest. It was a perfect location for a day of family fun.

Schwaebische Alb Restaurant CLOSED
1960

The picnic was a magical day. We kids were given free reign to play, eat and participate in a myriad of games and activities. There were unlimited hot dogs and hamburgers. Jersey corn on the cob floating in butter was served in the afternoon. I especially loved the troughs of soda on ice as we could have as much as we wanted, unlike at home where soda was off limits. My favorite was root beer.

Late in the day, chests filled with ice cream sandwiches, cones, dreamcicles, and rockets appeared. It was all the variety that was sold in the ice cream truck that came through our neighborhood in the summer, but Mom rarely said yes. We were in heaven.

I think, better than the food and treats were the games. Watching our parents, and sometimes joining them in three-legged races, sack race, egg toss (tossing raw eggs while getting further and further apart) and more. Seeing our parents relax and play was such a treat for us kids.

As manufacturing jobs slowed, my dad went to work in the “office”. His fellow blue collar workers shunned him.

My father worked many years for a company that valued its employees. There was a sense of family and belonging that produced some of my best childhood memories. I’m not one who longs for the “good old days” and I’m not sure why it came floating to the surface this week. Holding onto happy memories gives me hope for our future. Time to tell our stories.

DOS TORTAS

Life Is Strange And Wonderful

20 Sep

Looking back over my previous blog posts, I see that I have three blogs devoted to my house full of statues, paintings and pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe (I love looking around and seeing her). Of late I am reading a book that was recommended by a friend. It has definitely taken things up a notch.

It is written by a man who began having visions of a woman who told him to pray the rosary. Not being Catholic he was skeptical at the least.

From a church in Cartagena, Columbia.

The kicker for me is that in January we were in Cabo San Lucas during a layover from our cruise. It was a lovely evening, the sun was going down and I went for a walk by myself along the marina. A woman was there with her young son in tow. There were no other tourists about and she looked quite desperate to make a sale. For some unknown reason I bought a rosary from her. I have no idea why. I’d completely forgotten about it until I was introduced to this book.

Sharing this personal shift in my life feels very vulnerable. All I can say is that since I’ve begun praying the rosary I feel more at peace than I have for a long time time. The mantra-like prayers from my childhood soothe the daily stress with their repetitive cadence. Saying the rosary also reminds me to be grateful as I think of the many people who are having a hard time in the world. Life is strange and wonderful. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

DOS TORTAS

Changing The Past To Change The Present

13 Sep

When the stay home order was issued in Mexico in April, I thought to myself, “cool, my introverted tendencies will make this a walk in the park.” As time has gone on, it’s not been as easy as I thought it would be.

This week I remembered where the desire to hole up, live in a cave, retreat from the world began. It started literally at a Retreat. As I have mentioned before, I was raised Catholic. I loved the ritual, incense, mystery of it all. In the early 60s the mass was still said in Latin. We learned the Lord’s Prayer in Latin at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Catholic School. Something about it spoke to my young spirit.

My first communion.

About a half hour from our house in New Jersey, there was a convent/retreat center run by nuns. My mother pulled some strings so that I could attend a girls weekend. Apparently I was below the age limit. When I arrived I was assigned a cell-like room containing a single bed, side table, bible and cross on the wall. It was heaven! With four brothers at home, three younger than me, I reveled in my own space and solitude.

Two of my three younger brothers.

We attended mass in a beautiful little chapel with stained glass windows and rich, warm, wooden pews. Quiet was everywhere. Meals were silent with a nun reading aloud to the clink of glasses and scraping of plates. During free time I walked the grounds among tall trees, flowers blooming and nature sounds. It felt like another planet compared to my day-to-day life in a small 1950s house with two adults and five children.

There was no front patio when we lived here.

On Saturday afternoon each girl met individually with one of the sisters who asked about our lives. It was perhaps a first that someone asked me about ME, how I felt, how my life was going, what I wanted, and then listened. I poured out my heart thinking, or perhaps not thinking that my words were confidential. I told the sympathetic confidant that I didn’t think my mother loved me. Innocent words from a child lost in the shuffle of her mother’s incredibly busy life.

These pictures are of a younger me than the story. All dates are dubious.

The nun told my mother, who felt ashamed and humiliated by my words. My mother had attended Catholic school as a child and was subject to shame and humiliation by the nuns then as well. I guess it all came back. On the way home in the car she passed on that hurt to me. “How could you say such a thing?” She was very upset and needless to say, I never went back.

My mother at 30 on my christening day.

The conversation was never mentioned again, as happened frequently in our family. But somehow I think it changed her. I used to have to go for weekly allergy shots and we went just the two of us. She would take me out for a banana split after the very painful treatments. It would have been prohibitively expensive with my siblings in tow. Although personal loving words were rarely uttered and the physical caress was lacking, I remember moments of feeling loved by her. Stringing them together, I can sincerely change the past. My mother loved me, and as all mothers, did the best she could.

DOS TORTAS

Pandemic Fatigue

6 Sep

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this whole pandemic thing. We got Alice (my mother in law’s) permanent residency card, and I haven’t been anywhere since.

Up at dawn and off to Immigration.
Waiting outside of Immigration.

I used to think it was fun staying home. I don’t anymore.

My ladies are bored too.

I paint and swim, watch Netflix and sit on my ass.

They’re getting a bit weird.
And weirder.

I think I need some new inspiration. What keeps you going?

DOS TORTAS

So true.
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