Sunday, January 2, 2022

A picture is worth a thousand words

I hate having my picture taken
I never know how to stand, what to do with my hands and I can't for the life of me figure out where to look
Which is why almost every photo of me is pretty much a natural disaster
But there are three photos of myself I have always loved:
One is my first or second grade school picture
I mostly love it because of my outfit
I was rocking a corduroy dress layered over a flowed shirt with the neck scarf to match
It was 1978,could have been '79 (outside chance it was 1980) and I made it work
I was smiling sweetly with my hands clasped, shoulders up and my head ever so slightly inclined giving me quite a pious, bordering on mischievous, look
Said photo is in my parent's basement in one of those little plastic frames
Someday, I'll swipe it
The second is a head shot of me when I was probably a year or two old
It was taken by either Cousin Mike or Cousin Maria, you'd have to ask my Mum, she'd remember
I had a shock of curly black hair and a darn tooting cute smile
I'm sure that photo is kicking around Mum and Dad's house somewhere and longs to be framed
I used it as my senior picture in my 1990 yearbook mostly because it never occurred to me to have my senior photos done and there was a deadline looming
The third photo is a black and white photo my cousin Maria took
Again, I am a year or two old at most
I'm pointing at the camera whilst clutching a plastic record in my other hand
Said record comes from the 1971 Fisher-Price Change-A-Record Music Box, commonly known as the Fisher-Price Record Player
It had 5 playable records, a song on each side, and you could store the records right inside the record player
The state of the art carrying handle made for tunes on the go and I could rock out to Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star London Bridge , Oh Where has My Little Dog Gone and Camptown Races any time I wanted (just to name a few)
I loved that record player and I'm pretty sure it was around the house for most of the seven Kearns kids to enjoy
I'll tell you what was not around though: my Windup Apple Novelty Bank with the hungry worm who ate the pennies
Someday I'll tell you that story which will also shed light on why the Little Drummer Boy makes my brother and I cry
Cousin Maria snapped the photo of me toddling around in my bubble suit with the same said shock of dark curly hair, chubby cherub like cheeks and what can only be described as a shit-eating grin on my face
The picture was matted and I remember it sitting on my mother's dresser for years
Then it would tucked away in a drawer in a pile with photos of my brother and sisters
It was never framed, just a photo fixed to a matting board
Over the years, from being shifted from place to place and handled by different people, it had started to get a bit beat up around the edges and showing it's age (not unlike it's subject...)
Whenever my mother comes across this photo, or the other headshot, she takes great delight in telling me what a pretty baby I was and how even the doctor who delivered me exclaimed over my eyes and my hair and my Clara Bow lips (I grew out of all three)
How he passed me around the delivery room declaring me to be the prettiest baby he had ever delivered
He was so enamored, Mum said, he wanted to take me home for his own
Mum keeps the the story going with the anecdote of the photographer from Boston who spotted me in the back seat of the car bundled up in my white furry coat and asked if he could take my picture because he was sure I could be a baby model (she said no)
The tale grows taller as she makes the bold declaration that my older brother was a perfect baby until I came along because amongst other things, I taught him to climb out of his crib
She finishes the story by reminding me that one night I climbed
of my crib 103 times (could have been 73 or 93, I can't remember)
And 103 times (could have been 73 or 93, I still can't remember) she scooped me up and laid me back down until I was so tired I finally gave up and went to sleep
Or did she finally get tired and fall asleep?
Nonetheless, the sight of both photos (and photos of my siblings) triggers a trip down memory lane for my mother
It is a trip I am happy to take with her over and over again
I love hearing the stories
It makes me realize how lucky I am to still have her, how lucky we were that someone was there to capture those moments and luckier that Mum remembers them and reminds me so I do not forget
Mostly I love seeing her face light up then contort with laughter and hearing the lilt and nostalgia in her voice as she relives the memories as if they just happened a few short days ago
We took a quick trip up after after Christmas as we typically do and celebrated what we have come to call second Christmas with them
After gifts were exchanged and exclaimed over, my mother disappeared down the hall
She came back a few minutes later clutching what was clearly a framed picture or piece of art work to her chest
I expected her to show off a gift she had received but instead, she started getting all excited and telling me how pleased she is with how this picture came out
They did such a beautiful job she said and he was so nervous because he did not want to ruin it .....
Show me! I say
And then she says well, I was going to wait until this summer.....
you know for your birthday
(it's a big one, I'm turning 50....I thought I had a few more years but turns out it's coming up in August)
And, she says, I love it so much, I almost don't want to give it up...
Finally, with a giggle and a grin, she flips the frame around so I can see it
It makes me catch my breath and my eyes fill with tears
And Mum starts the story of what a pretty baby I was.....




Thursday, February 4, 2021

February 3 is my favorite birthday of the year ...

 We have lots of family birthdays to keep track of in January and February


There's my Dad, my father-in-law, my sister-in-law, a couple sisters, three nieces, at least three aunts, and two uncles not to mention some dear friends and my parents' anniversary

I spend a ton of money on cards in December, stocking up for all the celebrations I'll send by mail these first couple months of the new year

It is one of my favorite things to do - celebrate other people and let them know how happy I am they were born and how lucky I am to be a part of their life and they a part of mine

But February 3rd is one of my favorite birthdays to celebrate

It is the birthday of a very special guy who has brought so much love, light and countless laughs to my world

When Lucy was little, he was the one guy she just could not get enough of

She loved him with all her heart

Where ever he was, she wanted to be
Where ever she went, Lucy wanted him to be with her

Lucy would not go to bed without a snuggle and a kiss from her favorite guy

If he was not in her line of sight or they were not in the same room, she'd call his name until they found one another

She said his name long before she said Mumma

Her love and admiration for him knew no bounds

As she grew and matured, she started to need him less and less

Eventually, it got to a point where she would venture places without him and started to entertain herself without his constant company though he would still get snuggles and hugs on the side

Lucy is now fast approaching 12 and he is not as prominent in her mind and world

But, she shared with me the other day, he would probably always be one of her favorite guys and someday, she hopes her own kids will love him as much as she did

So Happiest of Birthdays to the guy who has made Lucy and I laugh, taught us valuable lessons about being kind, not being afraid, asking questions when we don't understand something and mostly, just being there when we needed him with unconditional love and lots of warms snuggles.............

Happy Birthday Elmo!!!!
You are our favorite fuzzy red guy and we hope you have the best birthday ever!

Turns out, Elmo shares a birthday with our other favorite guy who is not as fuzzy or as red but who:

loves us unconditional

gives us snuggles and hugs when we need them most

fixes whatever we break

makes us feel safe when we're scared

lets us ask questions when we don't understand something even if it means he has to pause the movie 7 times, rewind it at least twice so we can watch the scene again and still has to explain the sub-plot to us when the movie ends

can figure out what we did wrong on the Lego set and will take it apart, build it back up (correctly) and hand it back to us to triumphantly finish (and take all the credit!)

clears the snow so we don't slip and fall

drives us up Mt Washington every year so we can take in a view we never get tired of

plays endless games with us and almost always lets us win (though Monopoly brings out something scary and competitive in him)

makes us laugh
dries our tears

handles our mood swings (for the most part) like a pro with kindness, patience and chocolate

always lets me have the last of the Branston pickle

has brought more light, love, laughs and hugs into our world than I know what to do with

and who outranks Elmo as being our favorite guy.....

Happiest of birthdays to you as well Sean
You are one in a million and you are all ours
Or am I one in a million and all yours?

Either way, you are appreciated, celebrated and loved not just today on Elmo's Birthday (and yours) but every day

Happy Birthday Elmo....and Sean.....




We're all in this decade together .....

 January 28, 2021

Every ten years, a phenom occurs that tickles my funny bone and makes me shake my head in wonder, and maybe even a bit of fear

I am not sure anyone else would take as much delight in it as I do except maybe my Mum....and my Dad if he's paying attention

The skies do not light up with falling stars
The plants do not align
The cicada are nowhere to be seen
And there is no ritualistic dancing
But every ten years, for 14 days, all seven of the Kearns kids are in the same decade

By that I mean with my youngest sister's birthday in late January, we are all in our 40s
From the oldest down to the youngest, we are now 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 43, and 40

This will only last for 14 days
And only happens every ten years

It will end in 14 days when our only brother, the oldest child of our family clan, will turn 50 (he ruins everything)

But for now, for the 14 days in between their birthdays, I take solace and comfort, safety in numbers if you will, in knowing that we are all in the same decade together

We're all in our 40s struggling, succeeding, discovering new aches and pains, traversing through professional and personal challenges, celebrating wins, mourning losses, losing hair, getting grey hair, raising kids and trying to figure out how the hell we got here and when we'll actually start to feel like adults

This rite of passage, from one decade to another, should be cause for celebrations and surprises

So I take it upon myself to celebrate for them
(full disclosure, I blocked my SIL from this post as my brother's birthday is not for another 10 days so I do not want to ruin his surprise....so if you talk to my SIL, mums the word)

For my sister, I picked out a bracelet set
By all accounts it is thoughtful and I hope will be meaningful to her
She'll also receive 40 whoopie pies (homemade and handmade by me)

For my brother, who lives far far away and I only see every 18 months or so, I had a pillow with my picture on it made......you know, so when he misses me, I'm only a nap away
He'll also get 50 whoopie pies (homemade and handmade by me)

And finally, in honor of entering their new decades, they'll each receive 40/50 cards respectively

I have done this before
When they turned 20 and 30 I sent them cards during the weeks prior to their respective birthdays (and did it for Sean a few years ago when he turned 50 with the help of family and friends)

This year however, there is a bit of a twist - each card is filled with a little treat and each card will show up on the same day because who does not love to open a mailbox to an avalanche of cards?!

The treat inside each card could be:
a handful of confetti
a picture of me
a heart I cut out and decorated
more pictures of me
little hearts that will flutter to the ground as they open the card
pictures I procured from their spouses
more confetti
and more pictures of me

But my favorite card filler has to be, hands down, the birthday hug
because right now, we could all do with more hugs.......even if you are not turning 40 or 50, but especially if you are

(the hug: a picture of me, 5x7 in case they want to frame it, with accordion arms made from construction paper complete with my hands......my actual hands traced on and cut out of construction paper taped to it...go on, wrap those arms around you and hug....)

Happiest of birthdays to my big brother and my youngest sister: you are essentially the same person with a difference of 10 years

And you continue to be two of my favorite people ever
Thanks for making me laugh, making me cry, picking me up when I needed it and pushing me down when I deserved it

Thanks for keeping me honest, for being honest and simply for being you

Mostly, thanks for my nieces and nephews, my SIL and BIL.... all good and welcome additions to the family clan

Many happy returns of the day and a birthday HUG to you both



Happy Birthday Dad

 January 19, 2021

I got my gift of gab from my Dad,
I mean my Dad can talk to anybody about anything even if he knows nothing about the person or the subject
He has this innate ability to just be able to chat up anyone and make them feel comfortable enough to start chatting as well
Going on errands with him is like watching the Mayor work the rope line

When we were little, Dad used to make secret sauce for our white rice
He'd make a big production about getting the measurements of the ingredients just right but never let us see what he was actually doing
We'd hear him in the kitchen stirring, measuring, tasting and muttering as he added a bit more of this and a dollop of that until the taste, color and consistency were just right
Then, he'd make a big deal about bringing the bowl of secret sauce to the table and we'd drown our white rice in secret sauce
It was years before he told us what it was made of
To this day, I do not like white rice without a serving of secret sauce

Dad always had a dog eared paperback book in the car between the seats, in the bathroom or tucked under his arm
From him, I learned to always have a book (now a Kindle) with me to fill the void whilst killing time
And from him, I grew to love Tom Clancy, Nelson DeMille, WEB Griffin, and Louis L'Amour

Dad always has a pocket knife or a jack knife within arm's reach
I'm pretty sure if you polled his 7 kids, at least 5 of us would be able to pull one out of our pockets or purse
And most of us can tie a square knot without looking
I am not one of those us who can handle a square knot but I do have a knife in my purse, two in the junk drawer and one in my glovebox
All of his kids can, to some degree, quote John Wayne
And most of his kids, if you look in their cars, will have a copy of a gazetteer

Dad taught me about Ohm's Law and let me borrow his meter; I won first prize in the Science fair
Dad did not have the patience to teach me math so I went to Summer School
Dad chaperoned all our Survival Trips in Jr High and from him I learned how to start a fire with dryer lint, water proof my matches and use a coffee can as a survival kit
I also learned what happens to the kids who sneak out of their tents after "lights out"

Dad would spend hours putting the lights on the Christmas tree
He would literally wrap the lights around each and every branch until the tree was visible from space
Then, he'd drape tinsel by individual strand on the branches so meticulously the tree looked like it was shimmering
We always had the best looking tree on the street

He worked at the phone company for almost 40 years
Some guys he worked with would tell you he was the ugliest son of a bitch ever
Others would tell you he was the best boss they ever worked for: tough but fair and he'd go to bat for you
All of them would agree he loved the phone company and he had their respect

Dad can wear pink and yellow like no other guy I have ever seen
And when he wore a flannel shirt, he looked like a lumberjack
He pulled off both with ease and charm and was truly one of the most handsome men in the stands at our basketball games or school events
I know this because on more than one occasion, one of the girls I was sitting with would nudge me and say oh my God! Look at that guy up there in the pink shirt - he is so handsome! Look at him.....

Dad has a voice that commands attention
Even when he was not yelling or speaking sternly, he could make you snap to attention just with the sheer gravitas and authority in his tone
It also helped that Dad was tall and broad and his presence physically overshadowed most people in the room

When we were growing up, Dad traveled a lot for work
Sometimes, he would get called out last minute and he'd leave at odd hours of the day and night
The phone would ring or his pager would go off and Dad would be gone
Somehow, he convinced some of our friends that he worked for the CIA and he swore them to secrecy
Told them they must never speak of anything they saw or heard in our house including how much he traveled and how quickly he would leave the house
Dad has beaten cancer, outwitted a couple heat attacks, and
somehow managed to outlive more runs ins with chainsaws, log splitters and mishaps with heavy machinery (and some hand tools) than any one person should

He's walked various daughters down the aisle, referred to all of his grandkids at some point as Shortcake or Froggy, and can draw Bugs Bunny anytime, anywhere with any writing instrument on demand

He's Jack, Big Jack, Uncle Jack, Papa, Papa Jack, Dad, and Johnny to some

Mostly he's one of my favorite people
And today just happens to be the anniversary of his most recent trip around the sun
And marks the beginning of his next trip around the sun

So if you are knocking around the Queen City up there in Maine, or here on Facebook, and you bump into my Dad, Jack Kearns, wish him a happy day

Happy Birthday Dad....

Thanks for teaching me that life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid so try not to be stupid....