Tag Archives: Parenting

A Thanksgiving Feast, Intimate

We stood next to the dining room table, a 1920’s Art Deco antique passed down from my great-grandmother Nanny. Decades-old scratches laced its corners but a fresh coat of furniture polish and a sprinkling of orange and brown Thanksgiving-themed decor, carefully placed earlier before they arrived, brought it into modern festivity.

“How many meals have been eaten at this table over the generations?” my dad observed with a hint of nostalgia as he scanned the room, his grey-white hair neatly combed and a crisp flannel button-up clothing his smallish frame.

I eyed the antique buffet cupboard next to the table. “I thought about taking all that stuff off and putting the desserts on top,” I replied. It was strategically covered with recipe books and photographs and trinkets and candles. It was always covered with coconut pies and chocolate cakes during holidays at Nanny’s house.

This Thanksgiving it was just the four of us- my mom, dad, and teenage son. It still feels weird to say that, ‘teenage’. In so many ways he is still just a boy. His dark-blond hair tousled and his imagination still intact. Although his appetite is one of a teenager. His meat-eating is making up for all the mammals he did not consume the first several years of his life.

I’d also set the table before my parents arrived, arranging the crystal glasses and beautiful black and silver bone china plates on the brown and gold place-mats. The plates were as flawless as they’d been when they arrived in packages at the doorstep as wedding gifts for me and my soon-to-be husband. He did not ask for any of the china when we separated or officially divorced. I would have shared it with him, of course. It took a year or so afterwards for me to even look at the china. Now I wash and dry them carefully after holiday meals, tracing the raised etchings with my fingers.

My mom and I shared a bottle of wine, perfectly chilled and light and brisk, just as I imagine the vines in Washington, from where it came. Back in the small and warmly-lit kitchen our appetizer spread was a gorgeous mingling of banana bread, fine cheeses, fresh fruit, honey, and my mom’s amazing deviled eggs, sprinkled with paprika. We ate and drank and chatted while the teenager napped peacefully on the couch. The main course just an hour from ready to devour.

When the yeast rolls were browned and the salad tossed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, it was time. We filled our stately plates with an assortment of both mine and my parent’s favorite holiday dishes. The light and crunchy salad paired well with the warm green bean casserole and fluffy potatoes. Tart and sweet cranberry sauce made the perfect coupling with the savory, chicken casserole (we do that instead of the traditional turkey, it is a hundred times better). Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter is good any time of year.

We enjoyed the dinner back at the dining room table, my dad at the head and my son on the other end, my mom across from me. We filled our bellies and mused and laughed. The pumpkin-scented candles flickered on the dark wood. The open window left a cool breeze to gently cascade in as the squirrels played around the big oak tree. Frank Sinatra and the like serenaded through the stereo speakers. No phones buzzing or ringing.

The table was cleared and an engaging game of “Heads Up” began. Then we slipped into a family traditional card game of “Oh Heck” which brings out the competitive nature in even me and my mom. I finally won! After all these years!

Dessert followed, still on bone china, although these plates smaller and more delicate. Home-made creamy, spiced pumpkin pie from my mom, and Coke-cola chocolate cake made by me and my son. A perfectly sweet ending.

There were times when we had sort of a house full on Thanksgiving. Various friends and family over the years and in several different dining rooms or lanais. Although this one not a house full, it felt full in the way it does when company has encased you with good energy and love and you are left smiling and dancing as you clean the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast, intimate.

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Energy Surrounding

Energies. We get in what we give out. September’s whirling storms coughed up darkness and laid it down to fester for a while. October’s breezes have blown it away, back to that no man’s land from whence it came. Halloween’s jubilant fare begins the season of social rebooting. November is on the horizon.

I went to a really good party last night. Quite spontaneous and so glad I went instead of curling up in my cave, which is sometimes needed, frankly. But not last night. There were kind people from all walks of life, better than average party chit-chat. Lots of cool photographs and art along the walls to appreciate. Music to sway to. One dear friend and lots of strangers who made me feel completely at ease. I went home with that good feeling of having ingested good people energy.

Now the wind outside the open window is doing a little dance.

Last week I kept thinking about how I miss my dad. He’s doing the snow-bird thing, up in Tennessee, and I haven’t talked to him in a while. It’s my mom who usually does the phone calling/texting. My mind flashed back to moments with him years ago. His coming home from a long day at work yet giving us his full attention. His reassuring words when I didn’t feel so assured. Raking the leaves and mowing the lawn together. Sitting across from him at any one number of meals over the last few decades.

He must’ve felt this across the miles because guess who was on the other line when my phone rang Friday night? We had a nice, light-hearted conversation and it was so good to hear his voice.

Sometimes the space held for these energies is closed down. And in those moments trudging through the marsh with shoes heavier than bricks. No carefree wind. The still branches either mirroring or mocking. These are the arduous of times.

But when that positive space is opened again, hope and wonderment carries along crests of waves and bursts of wind, reiterating the power of the energy surrounding. A phone call, a hug, a kind gesture, a twirl on the dance floor, a smile, a happy nod, a dancing tree, a reassuring touch on the shoulder, are welcome immensely.

 

 

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October Sunday Morning

I woke up wanting to hear A Place Without a Postcard, my favorite band’s kind of forgotten album (at least among my own collection). It’s Sunday. The final day of an event-filled short weekend. Laundry is being washed, dishes are soaking in the sink. The bamboo shade has been drawn in the office where I now sit, lest the sun’s searing, penetrating beams suck away any energy I have to make this a productive day.

October breezes are welcome. Weekend afternoon naps appreciated.

My kid is growing up way too fast. I’m trying to grasp and hold on to the smidgen of childhood he has left. I think he is, too. He always says he doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to get older. Well he doesn’t have to look too far to see what it’s like to be a kid-at-heart.  Being a systematized adult is overrated. I want to wear goofy hats and laugh at fart jokes sometimes too.

I was a kid just yesterday, wasn’t I? Good lord I graduated from college 20 years ago. Is that right? Yes, yes it is. But I’m not one to start moaning and groaning about the pains of aging. Physically I don’t feel a day over 25 unless I try to read something. Mentally I feel about 60. In Yoda years that’s nothing. Our brains have an immense amount of time to evolve and grow and settle.

But sometimes I want to curl up in bed while someone makes breakfast for me. Someone drives me here and there. Someone to tell me to rake the leaves, do my homework. Long days spent staring at posters on the wall listening to tapes from the boom box. Perhaps that’s the place without a postcard?

 

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Farewell September

We came back to thank god
all is ok
but the stench of humid decay
and fallen trees
rises like a bubbling swamp
and nighttime loneliness
pricks mockingly at the heart

Flood waters and sink holes
rip and drown requisite dreams meant for peaceful sleep

Blinding sunlight falling with the spit of rain
I want to sleep next to the open window again

A disconnect with those who stayed
and those who love but far away
a rash urge to flee again
or chop off all the hair
and wish it to grow back times ten

You are not sad
and I hope you never have to contend

I’ll take it all and bear through it as I wish September to end.

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Mass Exodus

I hear the sounds of my youth outside the window, the various chirping and buzzing. And although so familiar also so distant to me now. The heat and sand and multitude of adventures of my home now for 16 years calls to me.

It was a mass exodus out of my beloved state of Florida. Those of us fleeing north in a perpetual gridlock. At one point I blew bubbles out the window to lighten the mood. 

This monster of a storm barreling towards us is imminent. And now it is hurry up and wait. Those who’ve stayed to fight it out have boarded up their homes and filled their tubs. I want to be there to hold their hand through the eye of it. But I can only send well wishes and pray to the Universe to have mercy, weaken this thing. Mother Nature in all her glory and zen can turn to desicrate within minutes. 

Before moving to Florida over 16 years ago I lived in Tennessee, in and around Nashville where I was born and raised. It will always be a part of me. Hell, I’ve got the ever-present accent to prove it. There are family and friends there I hold dear to my heart even when we go months or years without being in each other’s presence. 

My memories scatter over various times in my life. There was college and TV production shows we birthed and sent out into the airwaves over late nights and early mornings. There was childhood where the cedar trees in my backyard over looked the creek where we spent days exploring and trying to catch crawdaddies. There were the high school days of triumph and aggravation. Bonding with those of the same heart. And through it all my brother somewhere close by. 

So now I stay with him and his family in their home in Tennessee while we all wait for this storm to spin and crash its course. The course that is battering where my life is now. In all its quirkiness and troubles Florida is endearing to me and I wear it with me always. Even in the suffocating heat of August and the rainy hurricane season of September I still regard it with adoration. Various memories here, too. The birth and growing up of my son. The friends made from various other parts of the country who all came down for one reason or another. The beach, the springs, the trails, the cute little towns, all the parks, even the bland strip malls and constant flat earth. I love it all as I did when I’d come to visit in my youth. And of course the freeing opportunity to wear flip flops all year round. 

Oh Florida, and all of you there. Please be safe. Keep your walls in tact. Crouch and fight and breathe. And rise again with the sunshine waiting for another day. Those of us who fled will be back to hold and rise with you. 

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Breakfast in Milan

Green tea and almond cake
two cappuccinos and a cream-filled croissant
ordered in broken Italian
among the bright white cosmetic lights
of the Milan airport

Breakfast before our flight back home

Your happy-go-lucky smile
trumping my usual pre-flight nerves
I ordered you another brioche
and they understood.

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A Space for Travel

Cleaning my kitchen back in Florida I am reminded why I love traveling so. Even in the nicest of destinations you are stripped away from your comfort zone. And your routine, whether mundane or solid, is put on hold.

I just got back from 16 days in Italy, accompanied by my 13-year-old son, who had never been out of the eastern U.S. This was my third time to Italy, staying with the same beautiful and gracious people I met there so many years ago. Three different trips, all unique. Each during a different phase in my life.

It’s quiet here now at my desk. The usual Florida summer humidity holding steadily outside. The weeds in the cracks of the lanai having grown a foot in my absence. There is laundry to be done, floors to mop, bills to pay. There is work to go back to, alarms to set, exhaustion looming in the distance. Although I helped out in my Italian host’s kitchen (they cooked, I cleaned) it did not feel like a chore. Their lack of air conditioning use drove me insane a few times but my open window was a gateway to sounds I do not usually hear. The cooing of pigeons, lively conversations in Italian, the undeviating church bell song– became welcome melodies to my late nights and early mornings.

The back of the row of flats and the open window which carried sounds joyously.

And those early mornings. Determined not to come back with extra wobble, I jogged with every sunrise. In the peace of dawn a little world was at play– feral kitties hiding in the long grasses on the edge of fields of lavender and tomatoes. Hefty black and white magpies sitting stately on top of hay bales. Jackrabbits as big as raccoons scurrying across the skinny roads and farm landscape.

Good morning sunrise. 

The meals we shared will forever be etched in my memory, both the company and the food itself. Believe me, I have a photo of every dish I ate! There was the torta fritta, an appetizer of lightly fried pockets of dough wrapped with the freshest prosciutto, so good all our Italian friends tried to either duplicate it or find it at various restaurants and markets. There was the pasta of course, not really my favorite because it blows up my belly, but the way they cooked it with various fresh sauces, like real carbonara with egg, and spinach and pumpkin ravioli, melted in my mouth. I had to refrain from gulping my wine and coffee as the Italians are sippers. Plus you can’t really gulp espresso, not if you want any dignity.

My son finally experienced what the fuss was all about regarding real Italian pizza. He even requested it as our last meal there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him finish a plate of food like that. And the few desserts we did have were totally worth the carbs—lemon, rich chocolate and tangy yogurt gelato, a pastry called a Susanna with ricotta cheese and dark chocolate surrounded by a biscotti type crust, a pistachio cream-filled flaky croissant.

Oh, Susanna!

Spaghetti Carbonara accompanied by Lambrusco

Fresh local yogurt from the happiest cows on the planet.

Two of my very favorite meals happened at restaurants we hiked to, enjoying the views and meaningful conversations and laughs along the way. And ah yes, the views! Everywhere my eye rested during those sixteen days there was something amazing to see. Medieval castles dotting the hillsides, Romanesque paintings on cathedral ceilings, vineyards and fields of wild flowers for miles, and white, rugged mountaintops against a clear-blue sky.

The baptisery in Parma

Lavendar and vineyards 

Castello di Torrechiara

Cremona Cathedral 

Pozza di Fossa and the Dolomiti

Possibly our favorite part of the trip occurred in a little town called Sesta, which really deserves its own story here. It’s the tiniest coolest town I’ve ever been. Nestled in a hillside surrounded by the mountains there are only 12 full time residents. Winding cobblestone streets take you past their mortared walls, which are elegantly and eerily marked with various paintings, some chipping away from weather and time. An old fountain rests at the edge of the houses, flowing forth cold, fresh drinkable mountain water. At night the paintings are softly illuminated and the neighborhood children play hide and seek among the shadows. I sat on a wooden chair and watched them as my Italian host’s father tried to communicate with me in broken English. We only stayed there for a night but that town will always be with us. Neither of us wanted to leave it behind.

Nighttime in Sesta.


Traveling, being away from home and away from all the things you think you have control over, is a lesson in self-reflection. There are things you come to both revere and loath about yourself and/or surroundings, as well as learn about yourself and other people, cultures, places. I appreciate American coffee and air conditioning and strangers who smile and wave. I revel in my goofiness, independence, and sense of adventure. I do not appreciate the loneliness I sometimes feel when the house is quiet and empty. Or the loud suburban noises reminding me of consumption and perfectionism and competition.

I do love my own neighborhood and my comfortable living space and my sometimes mundane yet solid routine. But I am mourning the flat and mountain houses back in Italy where my son and I could casually hang in that small space together without distractions or the pressing of time. Lazy moments reading. Dinner being cooked for us. Spontaneous games of Frisbee. Conversations with old friends making new memories. The promise of another day of adventure and enrichment and relaxation and effortless bonding. We must go back. Soon. And until then make time for such moments within the realm of our working days and fleeting weekends.

I am ever grateful for the space in time and circumstance in which we have to travel. Whether across the globe or down the road, everyone should have that space, too.

Take the trip, breathe it in. 

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The Fallen Leaves (the passing of time)

Trudging knee-high in leaves
discarded shelter now food for soil

The passing of time long arduous
and fleeting all at once

We wish for high winds
to carry all away

And when they do come
blow our hearts out of our chests

Maddening deafness except
the blind chatter of our minds

and the crunch swish crunch
of fallen foliage at our feet

Trek on still
with our eyes set forward

Lest we cackle like mad men
in the unforgiving forest of
despondency.

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A Kind of Kindling

All relationships need kindling

It’s too easy to become wrapped up
in the monotony of daily life
and think things will fix themselves
with the drying of the plastic dishes on the counter

But sometimes gotta get out of the kitchen
go to a place where there are no dishes to wash
no routines to keep
a different perspective and air to breathe

We played in the field after dinner
and it was not planned
I saw you smile in the dunes
and make jokes while pedaling the surrey

It wasn’t you and I arguing
or me wishing you were 8 again

We were just ourselves
and there was no animosity
or harsh words or sadness

There are new memories on the beach now
a twinkle in my eye when I look southward
and see the city where we spent a weekend

A much-needed weekend
spontaneous and free

The you and me that always has been
and hopefully always will be.

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A Rare Cold Day

It’s a rare cold day here
one meant for staying close in
and keeping the biting breeze out
Or perhaps to face the bite
let it rattle your bones for a bit
then come inside and take a warm sip

There’s tea on the stove
coffee in the carafe
Sun is gleaming on the chilly
palm fronds outside
But my couch is empty
too many cups in the cupboard

January can be an icy stare
smoke-filled rooms with nowhere
to breathe
Resolutions already falling away
A need for connection
but the line is dead

Suit up and carry on
it’s just one more day
one rare cold day
But with the birds flight
south-wind, still
a struggle to let go within.

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