family life

The Ferris of them all

“Bueller. Bueller. Bueller…” from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the movie

An odd reflection of our harried times and the generation gap, here is a slightly fictionalized snippet of conversation from our dinner table the other night.

Me to heavily-scheduled teen daughter: “You seem really worn out. Why don’tproxy.duckduckgo.jpg you just take a day off school? You know, a flop day?”

Teen daughter chorus: “Mommmm!”

Me, rolling eyes: “I guess I’m the Ferris Bueller of this family.”

Husband: “Well, now, I’m not sure about that.”

Teen daughters swivel heads his direction in shock.

Husband, quoting the main point of the movie, which is wise in spite of some crass moments: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Me: “Seriously? Are we going to argue about who is Ferris of them all?”

Youngest daughter: “Why can’t you be normal parents?”

family life

3 holiday fails

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” Erma Bombeck, American humorist

There’s a Norman Rockwell holiday — where even grandpa’s wrinkles are picturesque — and there’s the rest of us. We’ve probably all had some blissed-out moments here and there, but, more often than not, there’s something, well, amiss.CIMG5840_edited-1.JPG

We don’t have any truly dramatic tales — thank God — but here are a trio of oddball holiday happenings that we have experienced. Can you relate?

Fail 1: The urgent-care holiday. Knowing that our home office/craft room would soon be serving its other role, guest bedroom, I did some tidying up. This involved moving a sewing machine into a closet. A sewing machine whose cover latch failed and dropped right onto my foot. This was not a whisper-light newer model. Oh, no. This was a “mid-century modern” behemoth.

The PA at the urgent-care clinic was shocked the dark-purple puffiness was “all” that was wrong. An ibuprofen was administered and some crutches and rest were prescribed. On the way home, I remembered I don’t always react well to ibuprofen. That had to be why I felt an odd tickling in my tummy.

Ho, ho, ho, you are thinking. And, you are right. Stomach flu swept through the house like lightning. By the time our guests were all here, I was sitting on the couch in a ratty bathrobe, my crutches on one side and a small bucket on the other. A pizza was ordered at some point and our guests fled at dawn.

Fail 2: The embarrassing date. The first holiday I spent with my new boyfriend (now my husband), involved delivering meals to extended family who weren’t well enough to leave home. It was lovely and we were in love to the point of practically glowing until we returned to my family home.

There, my snow-dampened boots made only brief contact with the kitchen floor. I fell like a cartoon character, flat onto my back, as he watched in horror. It was one of those falls that literally knocks the breath out of you. I couldn’t even speak, just worry that he who played hockey for pleasure into his 20s would be unimpressed with she who couldn’t cross the kitchen.

OK, he obviously realized I needed a steady hand to hold mine. So, not a total fail.

Fail 3: The crazy weather. One year, while I still lived near Chicago, a freak blizzard effectively killed our holiday. My cousin’s fiancé was stranded at a church off the interstate. She, stunning in her all-red outfit, practically cried. Most of our family was stuck at their various houses — with no food prepared. Only those who lived within walking distance actually made it. That made six of us and a whole lot, lot, lot of food.

We tacked wool blankets over the doors, so bizarrely fierce was the wind, and basically hunkered down to a long winter’s binge. Again, maybe this wasn’t a total fail. Gramma was a really good cook.

How about you? Kitchen fire? Car trouble? Baby arrival? Turkey terror? It all happens — especially on the holidays. This year, I rather hope it doesn’t. But, if it does, know you are not alone. Be blessed this Thanksgiving — no matter what!!!


family life, spiritual life

The ever-changing table

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Erma Bombeck, American humorist

The era that set all that Thanksgiving should be in my mind was actually rather brief. It began the year my immediate family returned to our Chicago-area home base and ended about 10 years later, when the cousins began to move away. And awCIMG5835_edited-1.JPGay and away.

Now, if we take into account both my family and my husband’s, we are literally scattered coast to coast. Only once in recent years have we re-created that beloved childhood gathering of 30 or so. That was the year my grandmother died on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. As she was nearly 102 and had lived a rather good life, it was more an occasion to celebrate than to mourn. We were all together. And, at Thanksgiving of all times. Gramma’s absolute favorite.

We spilled back into the house after the funeral, an ornery young cousin I had never seen tormenting my tiny daughters by throwing a lovey into a loft and the rest of us talking at 90 mph while holding Chinet plates on our laps and eating something, somewhere.

It was almost as if gramma was there, bustling around the kitchen. At least for me. I grew up with her as part of my household, more of a daughter born out of due time than the tail end of the grandchildren. She was the family cook every day, but especially at Thanksgiving. Other than a side dish here or there prepared by my mother or one aunt, gramma single-handedly cranked out massive holiday meals for six decades.

Then I began. Not with turkeys. Oh, no. Someone else has always done that. My husband, with his love of thermometers and the scientific method, is in charge these days. He hits golden perfection every year. I cook side dishes, decorate and, perhaps most importantly to me, make sure the seats at our table are as full as possible.

Separated from family by death and distance and the occasional divorce, there’s something in me that seeks out anyone who is also missing that childhood table, even if it was never anything more than a painting or a wish. I haven’t always succeeded. My husband and I have spent a couple Thanksgivings on our own. But, more often, our ever-changing table is surrounded by a noisy mix of international students and friends, neighbors, co-workers from far-flung states and anyone else who, like us, wants a bit of hullabaloo for the holiday.

We feast. We talk. We are together. Maybe for a year. Maybe for a season. Someday, we pray, forever.

family life

I married a Boy Scout

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin, American founding father

One recent afternoon, I not-so-innocently remarked that our crock pot lid was not long for this world. My husband slowed, glanced toward the appliance and moved on without saying a word. I was in no way surprised, however, when I opened the caCIMG5753_edited-1binet a couple of days later to find the cracking plastic lid had been upgraded to a glass one that fit perfectly.

It’s true. I am married to a Boy Scout. If my husband had a tattoo — which he wouldn’t — it would read, “Be prepared.” Our eldest daughter, adolescent wag to be sure, once suggested his basement “stock room” could produce a kit that would serve us well if a giraffe somehow became stranded on the roof. “Actually, it could handle any African land mammal,” she concluded.

My husband grinned. I rolled my eyes, wondering if such a thing might actually be true. The past would suggest it very well could be. Need sections of drain pipe for a science project? He’s got them. Sandpaper to cover diorama pueblo models. The same. Miniature strips of oak flooring for an equally miniature scene from an Edgar Allen Poe poem? Twenty embroidery hoops for a craft class? Fifteen feet of Velcro? Ping-pong balls? Poster frames? A hand-cranked camping lantern? A tool for punching holes in a belt that’s too big or too small? He’s got us covered.

I sometimes wonder if he lays awake at night, pondering what we could possibly need and figuring out where he could get it. I know I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about where he will put it. One basement can only hold so much.

That’s the part of his preparedness that requires a delicate dance. His “stockroom” is my “hot mess.” At least until we need something. And, he’s miraculously prepared. And, I’m smiling and holding the item in question in my hot little hands.

You know, overall, we both sleep pretty well. Perhaps we should leave it at that.

family life

Secrets from my children

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin, “Poor Richard’s Almanack”

She almost caught me. Just when I was looking longingly at a newspaper circular for elastic-waisted pants — the mom jeans to end all mom jeans — my youngest daughter strolled through the kitchen. I flipped the paper over in a flurry. I didn’t want a horrified, “Moooom!” that early in the morning.

If she has her way, I will be wearing jeans that lift this, enhance that until I am dead and, quite possibly, beyond. Little does she know my little secret, however. (Imagine a devious smile here.) For several years, I have been buying all my jeans a size too big and altering the waist so they don’t slide down. Fashionable? Yes. Comfortable? Oh, yeah.

Ditto on the shoes. Shhhh! There are no pointy toes in my closet and there never will be. I’ve got boots, flats, sandals and on and on. Everything a younger woman might have. But, no pointy toes. (I also have Birkenstock knock offs that I wear with socks, but she can’t say a thing as these are oddly fashionable with teens at the moment. Go figure.)

It’s not that one’s children really need to know everything about their parents anyway. The fact that the palm I just re-potted and tucked into the corner of the kitchen came out of a neighbor’s garbage pile is none of their business, for example. “Help me, pleeaassse,” it said. What could I do? The fact I can “hear” plants is similarly my own.

As is my stash of chocolate. Enough said?