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

A chip-sniffing dog

“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” Mark Twain, American humorist

Miles, our Appalachian porch dog, is well fed to say the least. And, well watered. That means little when it comes to the street, however. There, as he does when running off leash in the woods, his mildly feral ancestry seems to come right to the top.

Never mind that he has a perfectly clean bowl at home, there is not a puddle he does not desire to drink from. Never mind his own food supply (supplemented with table scraps), there is not an ant-covered donut, tire-tracked pizza crust or desiccated chicken thigh that he will not eat.

And, he’s sneaky. He, led by his nose no doubt, knows that food is ahead when we suspect nothing. He behaves nonchalantly, walking along as if he had never even thought of a donut in his life, until he is within mouth reach. Then, he lunges, jerking us toward the food and gulping whatever it is he has found in a single movement.

Once, when we were walking near the back of a pizza place, he came upon an entire half of a pepperoni pizza that some unfortunate soul who lost control of his box must have dropped. That find, too big to gulp, didn’t make it down his gullet, but nearly everything else we’ve stumbled upon has.

Except for the chips.

They inspire only the same kind of interest he displays at fine looking trees and fire hydrants. Sniff, sniff, sniff and onward he walks, the “food” left behind. He’s especially disinterested in cheese curls, veggie fries and, we discovered just this week, fiery pork rinds.

What can I say? The dog, such as he is, clearly has some standards.

family life, women

Listening to the season 2

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank, writer, hate-resisting firebrand

The other day, our youngest daughter asked me to get something on a high shelf in the kitchen. Our house is old. Our cabinets are exceedingly high, built no doubt for a year’s worth of canned goods. So, I got up on my tip toes and reached in a manner than would impress any yoga instructor. As I have done for the last decade plus.

Then, I sunk back down on my heels. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You’re as big as I am. You get it.” We looked at each other and laughed. It’s true. Anything that is within my reach is now within her reach.

Both of our daughters are now somewhat bigger than I am, in fact. A sudden growth spurt that caused even the older daughter, who hadn’t grown in nearly two years, to move from petites to plain old clothes came upon us this summer. They literally grew like weeds in garden soil, like shelter puppies of mysterious ancestry, like piles of laundry.

So, today, when both of them headed back to school, a bit bleary eyed given the insanity of the hour, they looked more ready than ever. So tall. So grown up. So ready.

Everything is in reach.