March 17

Today is March 17, which is usually celebrated as Saint Patrick’s Day. Although it is a feast day for Saint Patrick in the Catholic church, it is generally celebrated in the United States also as a secular holiday with parades, Irish food, and, in many cases, way too much alcohol.

This year, with COVID-19 social distancing protocols in place, things are very, very quiet. Paco will still get to have corned beef and cabbage and potatoes, but he will be eating it in his apartment instead of a dining room filled with his senior living community friends wearing green and sitting at tables decorated for the occasion.

Fun fact:  Paco’s middle name is Patrick. He finally got to visit Ireland, the home of his grandparents, last fall.
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B’s side of the family had some different March 17th traditions. B’s dad was an elementary school principal who had a running joke with his students and staff. He celebrated March 17th as Evacuation Day, which commemorates the British leaving Boston on that date in 1776 after an eleven month siege, under pressure by the Continental Army, commanded by George Washington and bolstered by cannons captured from Fort Ticonderoga. Parts of Massachusetts celebrated it as an official holiday, although not the western part of the state where his school was located. He used to make an announcement on the public address system in the morning and even designed an evacuation day card which he printed with his then-new dot matrix printer.

He also used to buy an “evacuation day” bouquet for B’s mom, known here at TJCM as Grandma. After he passed away, B and I continued the tradition of giving Grandma evacuation day flowers, first ordering them delivered to her home from their favorite local florist and then bringing them in person after she moved to our area.

In 2016, we changed it up a bit and gave Grandma a planter. We had no way of knowing that she would pass away after a heart attack a few days later. Our daughter T, who has a special affinity for plants, took over care of the planter, eventually having to separate the plants into different pots as they grew too large.

Today, the African violet and the kalanchoe from the planter are in full bloom.

On the dining room table, is an evacuation day bouquet that B bought for T.

Thanksgiving

The fourth Thursday of November is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

With so many changes in our family in the past few months, our Thanksgiving was quiet, with just spouse B, daughter T, and my dad Paco here for dinner. B did all the cooking – turkey, two kinds of dressing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, acorn squash wedges, baked onions, and cranberry orange relish, with apple and pumpkin pies for dessert. It was a lot of food for four people, but we all enjoy having the leftovers. We are in the process of making turkey stock with the carcass and vegetables, something I learned from Nana growing up which has recently come back into food-fashion.

We ate midday here and, at almost the same time, daughter E was eating a Thanksgiving dinner, five time zones away, in London. She had made turkey and trimmings and pies for her daughter ABC, spouse L, and his parents with whom they are making their home. It’s nice that E and L want to keep some United States traditions to pass on to ABC, along with British ones. She is a dual citizen, at least until adulthood. It will depend on the rules in place when she turns 18, whether she will have to renounce her US citizenship to remain in the UK.

Still, she will always be able to celebrate Thanksgiving and remember the Thanksgiving celebrations of her childhood.

64th!

Today is my parents’ (Nana and Paco here at TJCM) sixty-fourth wedding anniversary.

And it is snowing, which is a bit odd for us here in the Northeast US on April 19th.

My parents married on this date for two reasons. It was Easter Monday during a time when Catholic weddings were prohibited during Lent. (While not currently prohibited, they are still discouraged.) It was also Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts where they lived, so it was a day off work for my dad and many other workers. They thought that they would always have their anniversary off work, which they did until the Monday holiday bill was created, moving holidays from their actual dates to a nearby Monday. (Patriots’ Day commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord which began the Revolutionary War.)

Today’s celebration will be quiet.

[Three days pass.]

I started this post on the 19th. The plan was for me to spend most of the day at home until late afternoon when we would pick up dinner to bring to Nana and Paco. I was hoping to get this post out and do some other catching up and errands, but Paco wasn’t feeling well, so I went up to Nana and Paco’s apartment mid-morning to assess the situation and call the doctor’s office.

Later in the morning, Nana’s hospice volunteer visitor arrived. She brought a pink gerbera daisy with two blossoms as an anniversary gift from her and a gift bag from hospice with a bottle of sparkling apple juice, two glasses, a rose made of cloth, and an angel figurine. It was so sweet of her to visit and lift Nana’s spirits; we were sorry that Paco was napping and not well enough to be with her when she opened their gifts.

When I hadn’t heard back from the doctor by early afternoon, I called again and they decided to fit him into the afternoon schedule. I took him to the office, fortunately nearby to their senior living community, leaving Nana under the care of her aide.  The doctor made some medication changes and Nana and Paco both got afternoon naps.

My husband B and daughter T arrived at about five with food from a favorite local Italian restaurant. We set up their tray tables side by side on the couch with lasagna for Paco and bucatini for Nana. Nana and Paco got to enjoy their 64th anniversary dinner, topped off with sharing carrot cake for dessert.

They got to hold hands.

They reminisced about their honeymoon in New York City, seeing Bob Hope and the Rockettes at an 8 AM show.

And we had the privilege of being there.

I am grateful that they had this anniversary together, one more precious moment in their long life together. The precariousness of the day underscored that the much-discussed “quality time” is a gift that appears in our lives, sometimes planned and created, but more often appearing at an unexpected time or in an unforeseen way.  A cuddle from a toddler who is usually  too busy to stop her activity. An important discussion with a teenager during a routine car ride. A walk in the woods when troubles temporarily recede and clarity and peace return.

A time when holding hands means the world.

Thanksgiving

Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We are celebrating with a traditional turkey dinner with two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, baked squash and apples, spiced cranberry-orange relish, and apple and pumpkin pies.

We are doing most of the cooking at our house and bringing everything up to Nana and Paco’s apartment for dinner. In past years, we either hosted them here at our house or joined them for dinner in the dining room at their senior living community, but Nana doesn’t have the energy to be out of the apartment, so we are bringing Thanksgiving to her.

We are very grateful to have Nana and Paco with us for another year of celebration and, for the first time, to have baby ABC with us! She is too young to eat any of the Thanksgiving dishes, but she will certainly bring many smiles to our day.

B and I are also very thankful to have both of our daughters with us. Given that E and ABC will be moving to the UK, possibly in the spring, we are unlikely to have them here at Thanksgiving time again for a long time, if ever. We are hoping that T will find a job in her field that is within driving distance, so we may be able to have her join us for the holiday on a regular basis, but, like everything in the future, it is a bit of a mystery.

But this Thanksgiving, six for dinner – with a baby being bounced on knees and cradled in our arms and playing on her floor quilt – is the perfect number, for which we are all filled with gratitude.

SoCS: Christmas

This was our first Christmas season without Grandma (my mother-in-law) who passed away in March.

It was also a quiet Christmas for a number of reasons which I won’t enumerate here.

It was sometimes difficult to navigate the season, trying to balance happy memories of how much Grandma loved Christmas, especially decorating, with how painful it was that she wasn’t able to be here with us.

I think each of us had at least one crying jag in the process.

Some things just felt right, though, such as putting the carol singers that she made for us on the cupboard filled with her teacup collection that now sits in our dining room, instead of on the mantel in the living room.

And making her pecan puff recipe.

I am also thankful that last year, our daughter E and her husband L were here celebrating Christmas with us. It was a precious time.

None us knew that that Christmas would be Grandma’s last.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “first/last.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2016/12/30/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-3116/

 

Congratulations, Cubs!

I grew up in New England as a Red Sox fan and, despite living in New York State for the past few decades, I have retained my Red Sox loyalty.  Therefore, I can appreciate the range of feelings that the Chicago Cubs fans have experienced.

Both the Cubs and the Red Sox have deep roots in baseball history and play in historic ballparks. Both went for decades without winning the World Series. Both were thought to be suffering from “curses” and now both have given their cities and their fans everywhere a thrilling World Series win.

The Red Sox fans waited eighty-six years before the 2004 World Series win, a sweep powered by the first-of-its-kind comeback from being down three games to zero in the American League championship series. The Cubs fans waited an agonizing one-hundred eight years for their win last night in a nail-biting extra-inning game seven over Cleveland.

It was such a long wait that there were no fans who remembered the last time the Cubs had won. Even though Wrigley Field is a historic ballpark, it was not yet in use in 1908.

Because the Red Sox world series championship drought was not quite as long, there were some fans who remembered the last time. One of my most poignant memories of the 2004 win was a friend of my parents who was a long-time Red Sox fan. She was one hundred years old and remembered when they were champions when she was fourteen. It was so sweet that they won that year, because she passed away only a few weeks later.

One of the common factors between the Red Sox and the Cubs World Series victories is Theo Epstein. He was general manager of the Red Sox in 2004 and is now President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. Maybe Cleveland will try to hire him? They now have the longest World Series drought at sixty-eight years, although there are teams that have never won a World Series who might want to lure him away from the Cubs as well.

For now, this Red Sox fan wishes Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere a joyous celebration. I know that you are loyal and would still love your Cubs even without this victory, but I’m glad you finally have it. Enjoy!

Catching up on the twelve days of Christmas

Today, Catholics celebrate Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. Technically, it should be celebrated on Jan. 6th, bringing to a close the famed twelve days of Christmas, but Epiphany gets moved to a Sunday in the modern liturgical calendar. Also, the liturgical season of Christmas extends through the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord the following Sunday.  (Can you tell I spent many years serving in liturgical and music ministry?)

I posted about our Christmas Eve and Day, but haven’t filled in much of the rest of our Christmas observance.  We do try as much as possible to observe Advent as a time of waiting and preparation, even though culturally in the US, most of December is packed with Christmas festivities which end on Christmas Day rather than begin there.

One of the things that helps us extend our celebration of Christmas is the arrival of my sisters and their families after Christmas. This year, they arrived on Dec. 26. We met at my parents’ apartment for food, fun, Christmas cookies, and gift exchange that afternoon and evening, followed by a big dinner at our house on the 27th.

We inherited the making of family dinners when my parents first moved to an apartment about ten years ago. Part of the inheritance came in the form of the electric rotisserie that I remember from my childhood, on which we made a traditional rolled beef rib roast. We served mashed potatoes, gravy, popovers, rutabaga which my parents prepared, baked onions, Aussie-style bread which our son-in-law made, and fall vegetable chili, which is made with carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, onion, tomato, and red and white kidney beans.

For dessert, we had four pies:  apple, pumpkin, apple blackberry, and cranberry meringue, an addition to our pie repertoire made by our older daughter and her husband. Four pies may seem like a lot for fourteen people, but we always want to have some left over for breakfast the next morning!

Unfortunately, work schedules and threatening weather intervened and both sisters and family had to return home on the 28th. That left us two days with our older daughter E and son-in-law L before they had to fly home to Honolulu. We went out to lunch at a couple of our favorite local eateries, spent time with the grandparents, and enjoyed quiet times at home.

On the morning of the 29th, we were all up at 4 AM to get ready to bring E and L to the airport for a 6 AM flight to Newark and then on to Honolulu. We wished they could have stayed longer, but were very grateful to have them with us for a week.

I did write about our (sedate) New Year’s Eve and Day, although I did have the excitement of a new poem coming out on Silver Birch Press.

Epiphany is traditionally the day that we take down our Christmas tree, although we were late putting it up this year and it isn’t dropping needles, so maybe we will wait until next weekend. B returns to work on Monday and next week’s calendar is filled with appointments, so it is back to reality, or at least what passes for routine, tomorrow.
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This post is part of Linda’s JusJoJan initiative. Join us! Read more about it here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/03/just-jot-it-january-3rd-frozen/

JJJ 2016