Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Art for Aunt Nell

My mother's family, specifically her parents, were born and raised in Revere, MA
My grandparents, Rose and Louie, were the only two who ever moved away

When I was a kid, we used to travel down to Revere to visit with my Great Aunts and Uncles (who were of course my mother's Aunts and Uncles, my grandparents' brothers and sisters)

We had two favorite houses we went to: Great Uncle Mike and Great Aunt Sue on Bates Street and Uncle Ed and Aunt Nell on Hawes Street

Great Uncle Mike was my grandmother's only sibling
He was married to Great Aunt Sue who happened to be grandfather's younger sister
(brother and sister married sister and brother)

I remember Uncle Mike always being in the garden with his shirt open, pants rolled up, socks showing and a jelly glass with libations next to his lawn chair in the garage
He was forever damning someone somewhere in some form of government

I remember Aunt Sue always in the kitchen or in her chair on the porch with her arms open so you could hop up for a hug and a cuddle
She gave the best cuddles and would speak so quietly and softly you would have to lean in to hear her
And when you did lean in, she would always plant a kiss on your face and then giggle with so much love and affection it made you giggle too

Uncle Ed is my grandfather's youngest brother, the youngest in a family of 11 kids
And today, he is the only surviving member of that generation

I remember Uncle Ed also always in the yard puttering - picking up the yard, gardening, or watching the birds pointing out each and everyone of them to us
If he was not in the yard, he was in the basement making something
He could, and still can, take a piece of wood, I don't care if its a twig or a board, and turn it into something of such remarkable craftsmanship you can't believe your eyes

But wherever he was, one of us was always allowed to tag along

Aunt Nell
Aunt Nell was everone's favorite
She always has been, she always will be

Aunt Nell was either in the kitchen making tea, baking, writing letters (she was the best letter writer ever) or flipping through a newspaper or magazine clipping out art work, recipes, or articles because it caught her eye and she knew just who she would send it to

When you would get a letter from Aunt Nell, which was always at least 5 sheets, front and back, and you pulled it from the envelope, a little cartoon would flutter down from the pages or a recipe was attached or an article with certain passages she thought you would like would be highlighted for you

Aunt Nell had this amazing ability to make us all feel so special.

We all received such letters from her but no matter who you ask, that person (including me) will tell you they got the most letters from her

Aunt Nell remembered everything and everyone

I could tell her about a recipe I was trying to find and four days or four months later, in my mailbox, there would be a letter telling me about how, after I left, she got to thinking about it and remembered seeing such a recipe in one of her magazines

And she would find that magazine and then go back to her recipe box and pull out two more recipes because they were similar and send them all along as well
And they would all be in her writing, on her recipe cards...I cherish those cards

Her letter would go on to tell me who liked the cookies she baked from the recipe and who did not
She would tell me what I could substitute and what I could not
She would even tell me which brand of ingredients she found to work best
And if there was a trick to it, Aunt Nell would find the trick and make sure you knew it as well

Aunt Nell's letter would then include a story.....
A story about how she would store the cookies in tins on the staircase going to the basement and when Uncle Ed would go to the basement to work, she could hear him pause, pop open a tin, rattle around for a few cookies, pop the cover back on the tin and continue on down the stairs....
And come the day she needed those cookies, say Christmas, there would never be more than 1/2 a tin left!

Aunt Nell had a story and a memory for everything

Aunt Nell died three years ago now
March 21, 2010
She would have been 90 that August
And she was my favorite

Lucy turned one a few weeks later after Aunt Nell passed and started walking that same day
Aunt Nell never got to see Lucy walk or hear her really talk

But Aunt Nell held Lucy when she was just days old
Aunt Nell was there when she was baptized
Aunt Nell helped us celebrate Lucy's first Christmas
Lucy was held, hugged, kissed and loved by Aunt Nell

Lucy had Aunt Nell and Aunt Nell had Lucy for not quite a year
But the pictures I have of the two of them are good enough for a lifetime

When we were kids and would come down to Revere to visit, we would at some point get to Aunt Nell and Uncle Ed's
And Aunt Nell would always make tea and lay out cookies for us
And Aunt Nell always let us drink our tea from proper teacups

And she saved every bit of art work or card we gave her

I know this to be true because last September, we were at Cousin De's for a cookout
Cousin Kay, Aunt Nell's daughter, arrived and quietly handed me two pieces of paper
They were pictures I had drawn in 1976 and 1977 while visiting Aunt Nell
Both were dated in Aunt Nell's writing and labeled as being drawn by Maria Rose, age 4
My reaction was to cry
Which I of course did
Then I marveled, and still do, that Aunt Nell would hang onto something like this

And we wonder why Aunt Nell is everyone's favorite?
No, we know why she is everyone's favorite

Monday, Lucy was busy at her table drawing while I was getting dinner ready
She came dashing into the kitchen with a big grin on her face and something behind her back

When Lucy has a big grin in her face and is hiding something behind her back, it can go one of two ways

Mumma! I made you something! Close your eyes!

So I close my eyes, hear the rustling of paper and Lucy shouts

Open your eyes Mumma!

So I open my eyes and this is what I see (Lucy wrote her own name, I wrote Ziggy and Herbie's names):

I love it Lucy!
You do Mumma??
Honey, it is perfect and I love it! Will you write your name for me?

As Lucy clambered up to the table to write her name, I couldn't help looking at the picture thinking it reminded me of was familiar for some crazy reason
I felt like I had seen it before.......
But where....?

Mumma you write Ziggy and Herbie's names OK?
OK Luce
Mumma think Daddy will like it?
He'll love it Lucy, we'll show him as soon as he gets home

It was when Sean got home that it dawned on me....
I remebered where I had seen something so similar to this before......

It was at Aunt Nell's kicthen table, 1976, drawn by Maria Rose:

Maria, the Mum

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lucy turned 4

Yesterday was Lucy's Birthday
She turned 4
We blew up 50 balloons and filled her room with them as she slept
We tied 6 helium balloons to her bed
When she awoke and realized what was on the floor and why, well, her grin was worth all the hot air I expelled and the cut on my finger from tying all the balloons

She got to have a cupcake, ok 2 but they were pretty small, for breakfast complete with candles and Mummy and Daddy singing
She opened presents
Two new movies (Oliver and Company and Peter Pan) A LeapPad Game (I always wanted this one Mumma!) and of course new books

We saved a couple gifts from her Aunts/Uncle (Annette, Pearl, and my brother and family) for after dinner

Instead of cupcakes for her class, she opted to take in Marvel Super Hero Popsicles
They were a huge hit with the boys in her class

Miss Barbara made her a Birthday Crown which she wore all day
When we arrived home, a neighbor and her kids had tied a balloon to our lamp post and decorated our walk way with a birthday message in chalk

Dinner was pancakes with extra butter/extra syrup followed by another cupcake (but no candle, just the cupcake please Mumma)

We did sing one more time and Lucy took great delight in our rendition of Happy Birthday (which climaxed with Sean holding the last note for way longer than I thought he could)

Phone calls from Noni, Papa, Auntie Cheetie, Uncle John, Auntie Christine and her cousins in OK took us right to bath time

We sat on the couch, the three of us, five if you count the cats, with the Red Sox game on in the background and read the 4 new books Lucy got as gifts

30 minutes later, we tucked her in

I laid with her for about 15 minutes

As we were snuggling, Lucy says

Yes Lucy?
This has been the best birthday ever!
Oh good honey, I'm glad
Yes Lucy?
I'm glad I was bornded... (not even a real word but that's how she says it)
Me too Lucy
Yeah, I bet you were happy when I finally got out of your belly
I chuckled
Yes Lucy, I was glad you finally came out so we could meet you
Oh, huh...she pauses in reflective thought....You didn't know me before I got in your belly?
Uh no.....
Huh, bet that was crazy.....
What was crazy honey?
You got me and you didn't even know that was so crazy....good thing I liked you and Daddy when I came out
Yes Lucy, yes it was
But I didn't like you yesterday 'cause you yelled at me 'cause I wasn't bein' a good listener
Well Lucy, sometimes that happens...sometimes you're not a good listener, sometimes Mummy yells....and sometimes you don't like me too much...but that's ok, because no matter what, Daddy and I will always love you
Yeah Mumma?
Yes honey, even when we're yelling, we still love you
Even when you won't let me watch Mike the Knight or make me sit on the step
Yes honey, even then
Oh, ok Mumma....Mumma?
Yes Lucy
I like you again
Oh good Lucy, I'm glad 
Yeah....'cause you gave me a cupcake for breakfast

This makes me laugh aloud

What's so funny Mumma?
You Lucy, you make me laugh
You're welcome Mumma!

I chuckle again, pull the covers up over her, bend down, kiss her goodnight and tell her I'll be back to check to her

Wait Mumma!
She pops up into the sitting position
I need a balloon
I need a balloon to snuggle

She hops out of bed and chooses two balloons floating around on the floor to take into bed with her (taking great care to cover them up so they don't get cold)

Ok Luce, it's late, you need to get some sleep I'm a big girl now Mumma?
You sure are Lucy
I'm 4!
Yep, you are 4
Are you and Daddy glad you got me?
Yes Lucy, yes we are....are you done stalling?
Yeah......what's stalling?
It means you keep asking me question or doing things so you don't go to sleep
Oh, then yeah, I'm stalling!
Go to sleep Lucy Ellen!
Fine Mumma!
I love you Lucy
I love you too Mumma
Happy Birthday Lucy
Thanks Mumma, happy birthday

I just get to the door when she calls out again

Yes Lucy
You're my best Mumma!
Thanks Luce, you're my best girl
Yes Lucy?
I'm really proud of you being my Mumma
Thanks Lucy - I'm proud to be your Mumma

Lucy lets out what sounds like a cross between a snort and a laugh and says in a matter of fact/no kidding/that's pretty obvious tone

Yeah you are

I have no I leave the room yelling I love you from outside the door

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy!
Happy Birthday from your Mum and Dad
We love you more than you will ever know
More today than yesterday but not as much as we will tomorrow

You make us crazy, you give us fits and starts and sometimes, you are a terrible listener and we yell, and sometimes, your temper tantrums are so epic we wonder what the hell we are supposed to do with you.....


You give the best hugs and are unbelievable snuggly 
You are empathetic, compassionate, curious and intuitive
You are so astute; sometimes your observational skills and assessment overwhelm and intrigue me
You have a wicked sense of humor - it is witty, quick, disarming, sarcastic and sometimes, just downright silly (especially when it come to farting and butts and underwear)

Your love for books is one of my favorite things about you
When you are being read a book or looking at it on your own, you are transported in your own little head into the pages, into the story
It is great fun to watch your reaction to the the the story and your inrepretation of it

You love told me one day you loved learning so much you want to do it all the time
You adore your teacher Miss Barbara
I hope you are lucky enough to have many more teachers like her because they will instill in you a love for learning which will be with you forever and always

I've told people in the past that you are not, by nature or naturally, a sweet child
They always react by saying Maria! Don't say that! Lucy is too sweet
So I try to explain myself, sometimes clumsily, but here is my explanation:

You are not inherently sweet - it does not come naturally to you
Sometimes, I think it does not because you are busy sizing people up - assessing them, trying to determine if they do in fact deserve your sweetness
But here's the thing: when you decide you like someone?
Love someone?
When you decide someone deserves your sweetness, you give it to them
You do so with unbridled love and devotion

There is something about you Lucy that is so overwhelmingly endearing......
But not everyone gets it or you....that my dear is the way life is

But, those people that do get it?
Those that do see something in you and appreciate you?
Well, they see what Daddy and I see you in you

They see:

(Yes, a 4 year old has honesty and tell on yourself all the time!)

You have unconditional love for those important to you

You are choosy
Not everyone gets your love - and there is nothing wrong with that
It will actually get you farther than most in the long run  
You are stubborn, headstrong and opinionated - traits that will one day serve you well and traits I will never try to make you give up (though it would be great of you could temper them now and again)
You could try the patience of a saint and melt the heart of a curmudgeon.....I think you do both just because you like the challenge

Lucy Ellen, you are by far the greatest thing I have ever done in my life....
I thought I did pretty good landing your Dad but you, you are something else kiddo

I hope you know, I hope one day you realize and appreciate.......
What I'm trying to say Lucy is everything Daddy and I do, everything including
the yelling
the taking away of TV
the sit on the steps and think about what you have done until the timer goes off
Everything including the trips to
the Zoo
the Aquarium
the Science Museum
the Children's Museum
the library
Maine and England 
Everything including the countless hours of
Candy Land
Chutes and Ladders
playing with dinosaurs
painting, coloring
collecting and storing your rocks
letting you lick the spoon while making brownies and eating the cookie dough (the horrors!)

Everything we do Lucy we do because....
We love and adore you

We do it because you have brought more light and love and yes, a few more tears, arguments and stress, into our lives than we ever thought we deserved or would have

You have given us so much more than "a legacy"

You have given our lives not meaning, but a new meaning

You've given our lives direction, balance. love, laughs, tears, fears, joy and peace

Thank you Lucy for being our daughter

Thank you for what you have brought to our lives....and thank you for what you will bring

We love you to the moon and back

All our love and God's Blessings

Maria the Mum

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One of these things is not like the other

When I was younger, I had more pairs of shoes than I knew what to do with
I had suede shoes in blue, purple and red
I had countless pairs of sandals and sneakers
I had cowboy boots, clogs and a pair of wedges
I had boat shoes, moccasins, and at least three pairs of winter boots

I had, as most women do, more shoes than any one person needed

Then I turned 30 and realized I had shoes in my closet I had not worn for years
I found two pairs of shoes I had never even put on (they were still in the box, still had tags) but had moved across the country with me

So I purged and since then, I have owned and worn the following

Black comfort clogs
Brown comfort clogs
Brown cowboy boots
Black cowboy boots (though to be fair, I wear my brown ones way more)
Black sandals
Brown sandals

That's pretty much it

You are talking to a woman who went on a trip from Sunday through Wednesday with one pair of shoes
And by that I don't mean the shoes on my feet and a pair in the suitcase
I mean I went with one pair of shoes for the four days I was gone

And they were cowboy boots

I wear my comfort clogs from....okay, who are we kidding, I wear them year round

And when I replace a pair, with an exact replica, I hang onto the old pair for good measure

The old pair becomes the clogs I wear when we are knocking around the yard or when I need to throw something with no socks to run to the dumpster or across the circle to Kristen's house

And sometimes, I leave the old pair next to the new pair

And sometimes, I put on one old clog and one new clog
Usually I catch that pretty quickly as the old pair is always streteched out and worn down and just feels different

But sometimes, I don't notice until around 2 something in the afternoon while I am sitting in a meeting with a guy about life insurance and I am jiggling because my foot feels weird and has since I walked to the car at 7am this morning

Only then, when I am in this meeting with a man about life insurance who bears a slight resemblance to Matt Damon, only then do I realize that I have on two black shoes but not from the same pair

One is a new clog
The other is an old clog

Two different shoes that are seemingly the same
Two shoes that are most definitely not the equal halves of a pair

It is at that moment I realize I have on two different shoes that are really the same shoe

How did I not notice this all day?

How did I not notice this when I pulled my right foot out of the shoe, adjusted my sock and slid the shoe back on

How did I not  notice this when I took off the shoe because I felt something in the toe and tipped it over only to have a rock and what I believe was a hardened piece of Play Doh fall out (at least I'm telling myself it was Play Doh)  

How did I not notice this when every time I walked up or down the hall, my right foot kept slipping around in my shoe

How did I not notice this when I was in a meeting with a colleague earlier and I was starting at my feet while he was talking thinking it was weird that one shoe (the left one) was so much shinier than the other (the right one)

How did I not notice this when I tried to rub said dull shoe on the floor and then nonchalantly crossed my legs and rubbed it with a tissue in an effort to make it shine like the left one

I left the house today with two different black shoes on and did not notice until 2:47

In the words of Hancock and my new friend Christine with a thumbs up, 

Good job Maria, good job

Maria the Mum