Ya think we’re related?

Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.

Gail Lumet Buckley

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BeckyB’s Squares Challenge: PastSquares

Family blasts
from the
distant and recent
past…

Three baby girls…one generation following another.
From the 1950s to 2021.
Bright smiles. Bright beginnings.
Stories still unfolding.

Split in Two

It was a month ago yesterday. A day split in two…spent jumping across a great divide between a mountain of horror and one of profound joy. And then back again. The beginning of a surreal progression of hours and days trying to make sense of the first part. While rejoicing in the second part. I had no head space for much of anything else.

Part One:

Are you sitting down? My youngest sister’s first words hit me like a tidal wave when I answered the phone. I could barely understand anything else she was trying to say. Through the tears. And the terror…as her voice rose in pitch.
What is it? Please slow down! I can’t understand you.
Are You Sitting Down?
I had just finished lunch. I sat back down.
In bits and pieces she told me…our other sister’s only son had killed himself. He was found the next day, alone in his apartment. No No No The despair filled my heart and it broke. It broke for my other sister and her daughter and the unimaginable loss of a son and brother. It broke for the rest of the family – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandfather, a niece & nephew. My son and daughter had visited their cousins last fall. The last time they would ever see him.
Why? Do you know why?
No, there wasn’t a note. We asked each other…But how can this be? He was such a kind and gentle soul. We went back and forth in disbelief for a few minutes, both of us crying & shouting and trying to understand the enormity of it.
No No No this can’t be real. He was only 34 years old. My mind flew back 20+ years to family reunions and to when he came along on several family vacations with us. He and my son became close and were sweet playmates during those times…separated in age by only a year. That’s how I will always remember him…the smart, funny, kind of goofy kid who told me when he was 11 that he wanted to be a businessman when he grew up. And that’s what he did.

My son (on the right) & his cousin, 1996


As it often happens, family gatherings and reunions became fewer and farther between as the years went by. Eventually just limited to weddings…and funerals. I hadn’t seen my nephew in person since his older sister got married in 2013, when he walked her down the aisle…their father long since passed.

You figure there’s always time. Until there isn’t. You think someone is okay because they act like they are. But sometimes they aren’t. Do we see what we want to see or do we need to look deeper…ask more questions? Are we afraid to do just that? Afraid of the dark places ourselves? I really don’t know. I also don’t know how his mom…my sister…will ever survive her grief…as strong as she is.

Part Two:

One hour after my sister’s call…a text message from my son-in-law…we are in the hospital. My daughter was 9 months pregnant and this surely meant good news. Two hours later…my cell phone dings with another text message. Up pops a photo of my daughter, son-in-law and their brand new baby girl…snuggled on her mother’s chest cozy as can be. My little granddaughter was born right on her due date – healthy, safe and perfect in every way. The photos kept coming and filled me with a soft ray of hope and calm as I fell in love with her on the spot…even though I live 500 miles away. That night we met on FaceTime and I gratefully lept over the divide to the mountain of profound joy…on the day split in two.

One month – and one week long visit later – and I am still rejoicing.
Thank you sweet girl.

Fourteen months

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Curious

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Today’s RDP defined my day last week (was it only last week?) when I flew from Boston, MA to Washington DC to visit my kids and their families…including one adorable grandson (well, my kids are adorable too…but you know). I had not entered an airport or stepped on a plane since February 2020. Fourteen months ago. I had not been in a crowd of people of any size since then either. I don’t have to tell any of you why. But now I am fully vaccinated and as protected as I’m going to be, so it was time to take that leap.

As a lifelong curious person, I am known for asking questions – lots of questions – but this time there was nobody to answer them ahead of time as I planned this trip (I am also a rabid planner).

Such as…
What would it be like at the airport during a pandemic? Would people cooperate and wear masks? Could I check in at the kiosks? What would change about going through security? Would it be crowded on the plane? What if…

First positive sign: the kiosks were working (good news since my home printer was not). Checking in with security meant inserting my driver’s license into a machine where it disappeared for several seconds and then spit back out. The masked agent behind the plexiglass looked straight at me…would you pull down your mask please? The big reveal lasted only a few seconds, but felt bizarrely like I was being asked an intimate question.

My carryon and I made it through the screening process without incident. All the while I am breathing through a N95 super mask with rubber bands around my head trying not to hyperventilate. Which I had just pulled down for the agent. I wondered…what if?

As I walked to the gate I began to notice changes…

Except for passengers waiting at one gate, there was hardly anybody there. Most restaurants were closed. Coffee kiosks were gone. The bar was closed. This was mid afternoon.

So far it looked similar to the outside world as we know it now. It also sounded similar…muffled…as gate agents gave directions through masks into microphones. The directions for boarding were posted on the information screen as well. Perhaps that was why.

The flight was only about half full…allowing distancing…sort of. Drinks and snacks were handed out. Masks came off to eat and drink. That…I thought to myself…is one good reason why you wait to fly until you’re vaccinated. And then – as a friend of mine once said many years ago – you give it to God or whatever higher being you believe in – at times like these.

The plane arrived in DC on time. I knew my daughter would be arriving soon to pick me up. I figured I had a few minutes to linger in the gate area before leaving to find her in the line of cars outside the terminal.

I noticed how, in DC, passengers apparently don’t need roped off seats.

My daughter would usually text almost there! when she was about to arrive. When I hadn’t heard from her after a few minutes, I decided to make my way out past security anyway. By then most passengers from my flight had left. As I carefully rolled my suitcase past various security guards – paying close attention to where I was walking – a random thought hit me…I wonder if people still come inside to meet passengers anymore...

Which is why clueless me didn’t notice this masked little blonde almost 5 year old until he came close to alarming the security guard…

I will wonder no more…people still DO meet passengers inside the airport. Three of my favorite people in the world were there to surprise me. Daughter. Son. Grandson. I hadn’t hugged them since last August. Far too long.

Four days later I flew home and it was much the same experience. I am, however, already looking forward to returning in June to meet my newborn granddaughter.

I am very curious about her. ❤️

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: March 5th

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: March 5th

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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This post was published March 5th, 2019 as an entry for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge. I enjoy Cee’s photo challenges and this was no exception. Tender moments? I have dozens of photo albums full of them. Frozen-in-time moments that trigger sweet memories and smiles. The big sister and little brother below now live only a few blocks from each other. Little brother is a grown-up uncle to his big sister’s 4½ year old little boy. This May he will also be an uncle to his big sister’s new baby…a little girl. More tender moments to come.
(on a totally unrelated side note: I will be a grandma…again…which probably should have been the lead sentence! 😊)

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Tender Moments

This post inspired by Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge. The topic this week: Tender Moments

Being a big sister is not always easy.

I know that from experience, as I was a big sister 4 times. By the time my youngest sibling was born, I was in high school and became more of a surrogate parent than a sister. 

My daughter was almost 6 when her brother was born.
Five and three quarters! she would be quick to remind us.

The transition to sharing parental attention was a challenge I understood and tried to make as smooth as possible for her.
Without shortchanging her little brother.

Well, my husband and I got lucky. And with some guidance on our part…their relationship blossomed from the start. Her love for her brother was palpable. As was his for her. Not without some healthy competition of course. And normal periodic friction. Racing to the front door to be first. To the car for the front seat (Shotgun!). And down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

But there were also the quieter moments. Looking at picture books.
Playing games. Giggling at secret jokes.

And sitting under the backyard trees exploring what was hidden in the grass.

tender moment 9-3-88
Big sister age 6½…exploring nature with little brother…age 1¾

Their childhood together lasted until he was 12 and she was 18 and left home for college. Nineteen years ago.

But their connection remains solid to this very day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 18

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 18

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published December 18, 2018 as an entry for Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge.

Now…in 2020…a stark reminder of all that we may have taken for granted before. Most glaringly in my eyes…that gift of time together.

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Photo a Week – Things That Matter Most

Nancy Merrill is hosting a photo challenge. The theme this week:

A Photo a Week Challenge – The Things that Matter Most

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO OF THINGS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO YOU.

The things that matter most are not things. At least not to me.

I have heard it said that when you are on your deathbed, you don’t wish you had spent more time at work. More often it is…I wish I had spent more time with my family.
My friends. My kids. My grandparents.

The “things” that matter most to me are the family and friends I love and care about.
And who love and care about me.

What else matters?

That I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and enough food to eat.

8-14-90
Family…the Beginning

frisbee
Family…the next generation

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Food

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Shelter

Thanksgiving Revisited

Thanksgiving 2020 Centerpiece – a gift from my daughter and her family

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a traditional American holiday, but – as one friend texted in response to my Happy Thanksgiving text…Hopefully last one like this....

My husband and I are celebrating on our own this year, as many others are. A smaller version of the feast we used to make years ago…(cooking less is a silver lining here)…we are still as thankful as ever. That part hasn’t changed.

And, no matter what, there will be pie. But just one. Pumpkin.

Do we miss sharing this day with friends like we did last year? Most definitely. And the special times with friends and family from many years back? Absolutely.

But I know we are not alone and my heart goes out to the thousands who don’t have a job or a home or enough food to feed their families…much less a Thanksgiving meal. The pandemic’s ongoing toll.

So my focus today is on gratitude for what I am blessed with…and also for looking back on memories made in years past.

Below is a post I published on November 22, 2018 – the 4th Thursday of November – and, in the United States, celebrated as Thanksgiving.

🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧

Thanksgiving

A day – if you’re fortunate – set aside for family.
For gratitude. For sharing a meal.

Usually a massive meal – in our house it was based around turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, some kind of vegetable. Rolls or banana bread. Every year the “fixins” changed somewhat.

The most important part: many pies. The dinner was basically a stop on the way to pumpkin…apple…cherry pies.

And my personal favorite…playing cards while eating dessert: aka pie.

Dinner was also all about the conversation and stories we shared. So much time and opportunity for prolonged discussion when you are passing endless bowls of food around. Pouring wine. Pouring water. Carving more turkey. I just never knew what subjects would come up; but many became classics.

Such as…

In 1990, my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving.
I had never cooked a whole turkey before. An overwhelming task. I had heard horror stories about overcooked turkeys and dried out white meat. That would never happen to me…I’ll cover it! That should do it.

My parents and my in-laws were coming – to join me, my husband and our 2 kids.

I dusted off the big blue covered roaster pan my mother had passed down to me. Coated the fresh turkey with spices and some oil. Tied the legs together.

I put the cover on. It went into the oven. I set the timer. And let it cook. And cook. Many hours later – when, according to the recipe it would be done, I removed it from the oven. Look it’s ready! With great fanfare, I lifted the lid…Oh No!

It looked like a turkey snow angel! All the turkey meat had slid off the bones. We had turkey stew! There was nothing to carve. Legs askew. Wings fallen off. My mother was horrified. I laughed. And laughed.

It still tasted great…and…the white meat was NOT dry!

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

The following year:

Twelve family members gathered at the dining room table to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast – including my parents, my husband’s parents, my grandmother, my sister and her family.

1991
1991

Upon noticing someone struggling to remove the meat from a turkey leg, my father-in-law shared a memory…a story that has become part of family lore.

He began describing his job at the First National grocery store in the 1930’s. When he helped get the turkeys ready to be sold for Thanksgiving. The turkey carcasses were brought to the store and his job was to pull the tendons out of the legs. Apparently, this made the turkey legs easier to eat. He went into graphic detail. Right in front of everyone. Who put their forks down and stared at him…as he explained this was probably not done anymore. Those pesky tendons still attached.

GROSS! we protested.

Shocked faces…especially those with turkey legs eaten or half eaten on their plates. There may have been some gagging. My big city brother-in-law’s face turned white. He got up and left the room…

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

Empty nest Thanksgivings…

 left more time for documenting…

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But traditions remained the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Night

One Word Sunday: Night

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Petworth Neighborhood – Washington, DC
February 21, 2020
6:26 PM

The last time I was able to visit my family in Washington DC was this past February. Four days with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. A dinner out with my son. Memories made.

It was right before the pandemic exploded onto the scene here in the United States.

Little did I know on this beautiful moonlit night that I wouldn’t be able to see my kids again for many months to come.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Labor of Love

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #113: A Labor of Love

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When you are only 13 years old and decide to sew a patchwork quilt for your parents, it’s a labor of love. That’s what my daughter did 25 years ago amidst her very busy life as a middle school student.

She sewed our Christmas gift that year (and I think it took all year!)…by machine and by hand and presented her father and me with a quilted king sized bedspread, which has lasted to this day.

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Christmas Day 1995