Enough Said

Enough Said
A sampling of my columns and why the hell is my picture SO big?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Revisiting the tradition of rainbows on the wall (original title)

Rainbows on the wall

Published 11/28/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 11/22/2013 04:48 PM
"When I die you get the crystal," my mother said.
I was 10 and she thought if I believed the glass would be mine someday I wouldn't mind helping her set the table. I didn't mind, I loved doing it.
The hand-cut crystal serving pieces came out of the cupboard three times a year: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Like a family ritual my mother and I would wash, rinse and carefully dry the exquisite pieces, set them on the holiday table in the sun and watch as reflected rainbows of color danced on the dining room walls.
Preparing for a house full of family and friends was fun and exciting. When I was older, with a home of my own, the torch of entertaining passed to me, so I actually got the crystal many years before my mother passed away. I didn't use all the pieces like she did, but they became the constancy of tradition.
This year, for no particular reason other than I've been cleaning and sorting, I decided to hand over some of the pieces to the next generation, my daughters. It's easy sharing the objects I remember as a young girl. Handing them down before I'm gone is a privilege. I get to see the continuity of things; to tell the stories of the objects again and I get to peruse the cupboards of memories that will never fade as long as there is someone to remember them.
I kept a few small pieces, not because I'll actually use them anymore, but because I like the way they look and I'm not yet ready to shed it all. The girls took what they wanted and the shelves were clean. I can't imagine my modern daughters using the heavy hand-cut and etched oval and round bowls to hold vegetables during future Thanksgivings, but I'm sure the smaller vases will often hold flowers.
Thinking of future Thanksgivings reminds me of one of the most memorable of my past. It was a huge endeavor attempted by my mother and father shortly after they moved to the farmhouse of their dreams in Montville in the late 1960s. I had just returned home from a year in South Africa so it gave me a chance to see family members I hadn't seen in many months.
Just after my parents moved into the farmhouse my father gutted the kitchen, tore down walls and installed a bank of six windows over the place where a kitchen sink was supposed to go. Those beautiful windows overlooked the rolling hills and small apple orchard behind the house. My father convinced my mother that the kitchen would be finished by Thanksgiving. It had to be, two dozen members of the family were showing up. The double ovens were installed and the fridge was temporarily placed in a back laundry room. The rest of the kitchen, with the beautiful windows and scenery, was empty.
Because you can't cook for 24 without a sink and a stove, my dad mounted a kitchen sink on two by fours and shoved a stove up against the wall and plugged it in. A huge picnic table, with benches, was placed in front of the kitchen's fireplace and two other tables were set up. Because the walls had been removed it was one magnificent room. Using her best china, silver and all the crystal, the formally set tables were exquisitely beautiful in the rustic setting.
The house was full of family and the tummies full of food. The men napped after, and the women washed dishes. I was part of the drying crew. There were no countertops so each wet plate was passed one by one, for us wipe dry and place on a shelf in the laundry room. The crystal was placed on the highest shelf until Christmas.
Our family often recalled that Thanksgiving as one of the most memorable. The kitchen was finally finished by Easter.
I'm hoping my daughters will use the crystal with their own beautiful dishes. On a crisp linen tablecloth or on picnic table, in a house or in a barn, I hope the pieces are used and continue to make memories.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Hello world, I'm going to be a nana (original title)

Brush up on lullabies, there’s a baby on the way

Published 11/14/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 11/11/2013 01:07 PM

Graffiti the walls, hoist a banner, shout, sing, skywrite it, I'm going to be a grandmother.
Becoming a grandmother is not unusual, it happens all the time, but not to me. To say I am over the moon is putting it mildly because this little one will be our first. She's a girl and I could not be more pleased.
My generation of women is unique when it comes to birthing babies and having grandchildren. It was not unusual for women raised during the sixties to find themselves pregnant right along with their daughters. Not me of course, but some women I graduated with are great-grandmothers. Now some women don't get pregnant until AARP membership becomes a beacon of reality at the end of their next decade.
Today, women have choices. My generation realized a shift in roles. As a young girl I was told to marry a rich man and he would take of care me. As a teenager, the mantra of my parents changed: "Get an education so you can take care of yourself."
My mother often said, "For a long and lasting marriage financial dependence does not a firm foundation make." Sure mom, but now it takes two incomes just to make it from the produce aisle of the supermarket to the milk case.
I was an older mother, (not the norm back then), having my daughters when I was in my mid and late 30s. I remember a school function I attended when my oldest (she's the pregnant daughter) was in first grade. A woman walked up to me and exclaimed with great satisfaction how pleased she was that she wasn't the only grandmother attending that day.
"I'm the mother," I remember saying with a bit of attitude. At the time I felt offended. Did I really look like a grandmother? My definition of a grandmother was based on my own. They both wore aprons with a little chain of safety pins on the bibs. My Connecticut nana always had butterscotch hard candies in her apron pockets and my New Jersey nana had a dust cloth crammed in hers. I don't wear aprons, I don't dust and I never really liked butterscotch. I'm a Werther's kind of woman.
When I mention the impending event, every woman I know, who has trod the path I am now delightedly floating down, has told me that being a grandmother (and they always lean close and whisper this part), is even better than having your own children. You get to enjoy them, spoil them and give them back. You don't have to suffer the effects of a kid up all night after eating too many M&Ms.
I overheard my pregnant daughter talking to her pregnant friend about what they are going through. The friend was asking my daughter's advice because she's been pregnant a couple of months longer.
"Hey, ask me," I said, "I've done this twice you know."
My daughter advised me that everything is different now. Ah ... I don't think so. Whether you give birth in a fancy hospital with your husband by your side or in a cave while he's out stalking dinner, the process is pretty much the same, although you're supposed to let babies sleep on their backs now.
My daughter has registered at two large stores for baby gifts; baby accoutrements can match any kid's haul going off to college for the first time. The whole registry thing is amazing, I mean, you can register for birthdays, graduations, weddings and anniversaries, plus new home and holidays.
I want a grandmother's registry, no aprons or butterscotch candies on mine, just lots and lots of love. Never 'enough said' on love.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A temporary electronic slowdown a good thing (original title)

Electronic slowdown a good thing

Published 10/31/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 10/29/2013 01:07 PM

I came downstairs this morning to my family sitting in the living room, drinking coffee and eating breakfast, while staring at a blue television screen like it was a campfire. A message on the screen read, "One moment please."
"What's up?" I asked.
"Cable's out. We're waiting for it to come back on," was the response.
My husband told the kids not to touch the TV because I would fix it when I got up. He said I know about that kind of stuff. Actually, I know nothing about that kind of stuff, but he knows even less.
So I unplugged plugs, disconnected cables and then hooked everything back up. Then I did what every trapped-in-silence and out-of-touch cable customer does, I called (1-800-my-TV-computer-and-phone aren't working). We bundled, so I used my cellphone to make the call.
The familiar female cable company voice electronically promised to send a refresh signal.
When I mentioned that the cable employee said it would take 40 to 60 minutes to complete the channel lineup, the living room squatters scattered like teenagers at a party when the cops arrive.
I sat down with my coffee and a magazine. They had to leave for work but I had a few hours before I had to go in.
One by one they dressed and departed. My daughter, the first one out the door called about a minute down the road to tell me that there were five cable trucks at the end of our street.
I waited in a house almost as silent as the house after Gloria and Sandy. The power was on so I could hear the whir of the fridge and last night's chicken boiling in a pot on the stove for soup. Because online access was compromised I was unable to check my email, favorite blogs and couldn't access Facebook. That is a good thing because those are tremendous time-suckers.
I remember life before electronics. The phone was black, heavy and had a dial. Television was new - we had the first set on our block - and like the phone it was black plastic and huge. There was no remote, we didn't need one. With three stations, two watchable and one snowy, my brother and I were the remote. We watched what Dad wanted to, anyway.
Back then TV stations signed off at midnight. Accompanying a picture of an American flag waving in the wind, they'd play the national anthem. Then the screen would flip to a test pattern and implode to a tiny dot in the middle of the screen. On the rare occasions when I got to stay up late and watch "Sea Hunt" on Saturday night my mother would yell to go to bed when it was over. I'd press my cheek against the screen and stare at the dot and yell back that I'd go to bed when the dot disappeared.
For kids television revolved around "Mickey Mouse Club" at 4:30 in the afternoon and "Sky King" and Shari Lewis on Saturday mornings. That's when it started actually, the television as background noise filling in the empty silent space that was our days. My childhood memories are always accompanied by Western shoot-em-up sound tracks in the background.
Now, life is never quiet and we are rarely out of touch. With network, satellite and online streaming we have ear buds, earphones and surround-sound to drench us constantly in music and news.
The house is still quiet, the soup still boiling and I am loving the temporary electronic slowdown, even though I am drawn to my computer screen like a fly to a light bulb. Enough said.

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