• Tag Archives summer
  • Family Reunion

    This summer has been full of reunions. We’ve had two gatherings for my mother’s 80th birthday, a reunion with my husband’s father’s family and another with my mother’s father’s family where I saw old photos of people who have passed, and whom I loved. At this particular reunion was a cousin, aged 99.

    I do not have a photo because she left early and I neglected to take a picture, but it was really wonderful to see her, since she made my mother’s wedding dress as well as mine. My cousin Mae, raised on a farm near Lansing NC, was a born seamstress. I don’t believe she ever went to art school, however she had such a natural talent for sewing that she made a long career of sewing for brides and bridesmaids, in addition to redecorating homes, some of them the homes of affluent people in our area, such as homes that belonged to the DuPont family.

    How she did this I don’t know. She went into a home with a measuring tape, paper and pencil and some chalk, took measurements, went home and sewed the drapes and slipcovers, took them back to the home and, well, that was pretty much it. They usually fit perfectly.

    I, though I inherited a similar sort of talent from my own grandmother, could never have done such a thing. I made slipcovers once. And once was enough. I had to fit the darn things at least twenty times, and I felt like pulling out my hair. I have vowed never to make another slipcover, though I will, if pressed, sew a curtain.

    At this time in my life, I am making the effort to go to as many family gatherings as I can. I appreciate being able to see and talk to people, whether they be close family or distant cousins. These days it seems that we only see distant family and friends at funerals, which is a very sad thing, but inevitable, so I like to meet with my living loved ones while I still can.

    Another such reunion took place Wednesday. This was small gathering of my father’s family at the cemetery where numerous family members, including my father, have been laid to rest.

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    My mother, far left, tends the graves through the year, since the other family members live hours away. My aunt Annie, the only surviving sibling of my grandparents, plants flowers on all the graves each time she visits.

    Now people might think a cemetery is a rather strange place for a visit, but we have taken to trying to meet there at least once a year. In addition to my father, the other graves we visited included my aunt and Godmother, Gloria, who always made the Easter Bread, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam and their son, Bill. Bill died of cancer in the early 1980’s at age twenty-five. My father loved Bill, and treated him almost like his own little boy. Bill helped my father in the mushroom houses back in the late 1960’s. I have a vague memory of my father and Bill, standing on top of a huge manure pile on the wharf next to the back double, watering it with hoses. Bill was also my daughter’s Godfather.

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    My paternal grandfather, Marco. He came to America through Ellis island in 1907.

     

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    The older generation of my father’s family. L-R: My Uncle Bob, husband of my Aunt Gloria, my mother, Uncle Dino and his wife Aunt Annie, my father’s sister.

    In addition to these beloved family members, we also visited the graves of my father’s parents, Marco and Colomba, who immigrated from Italy to America in the early 20th century. There are also graves of various children, who would’ve been my fathers brothers and sisters, who died young, and that of my dad’s brother, Albert, who was the first of the five siblings to live to adulthood to pass away.

    While we chatted at the cemetery, I found out something surprising. My uncle Dino, informed me that he had read both of my books, and is eagerly awaiting the third! He said he was hoping I would show up at the cemetery, because he had never had the chance to talk to an author in person about their books. I was so happy that he enjoyed my books. Dino asked if any of the people in the cemetery had inspired some of the characters in my books. He had a suspicion that they did, which I confirmed.

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    My baby sister’s resting place. Lori Ann inspired the character of the same name in my series of books.

     

    I told Uncle Dino about the character Lori Ann being based on my real sister, who died at age three. My mother tends her grave with love. Dino wanted to know if the main characters were inspired by any real people. I told him, no, they were not; they are strictly figments of my imagination. (Uncle Dino was happy to hear that the villains in my books are not based on any family members).

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    My parents first child, a baby boy was born in 1960. He died quickly, and wasn’t given a name.

     

    I didn’t tell Uncle Dino this because we stopped chatting about my work so we could visit with everyone else, but the above grave inspired the character of Jason and Michelle’s baby, the little boy whom they didn’t name.

    It was a very lovely day, and perfect for visiting. My cousin Joan and her husband were visiting her parents, Annie and Dino, from their home in Atlanta. We rarely see each other. It was great to catch up on family news. Joan and my sister Amy and I were very glad to be able to visit.

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    Cousin Joan and my sister, Amy

    As we three “girls” were talking we were sort of shocked to realize how old we actually are. None of us is younger than fifty anymore. Still, it’s either grow old gracefully or end up in the place we happened to be strolling around, so, ok, whatever. Fifty is the new forty, right?

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    Me and Cousin Joan. (I am on a strict weight loss and exercise program as of yesterday).

     

    After we finished praying and the flowers were all planted and watered, we had lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, where we talked some more about old times. Aunt Annie spoke of the “back kitchen” in my grandparents home. It was a small room right off the back porch, sort of an anteroom, with a washing machine and laundry sink (no dryer) a cabinet and a pasta table. The big kitchen was through a wide hallway and to the left.

    She asked if I remembered the table, and I said yes, very vaguely. My MomMom died when I was a child, but I do have a few memories of pasta being made in that kitchen. This family ate homemade pasta almost every day of their lives. It sounds really good to me, but my father grew up to hate pasta of all kinds, simply because he was forced to eat it every day as a child.

    There were other remembrances at the lunch. We had a very nice day. I hope we do it again soon and I hope more cousins come next time. It’s good to reunite.


  • The Longest Day Of The Year

    June 20th is almost here–the longest day of the year.

    Sigh. This day, the official first day of summer, is always bittersweet for me. I absolutely love summer. I love the warm weather, the beautiful flowers, and the fresh vegetables. I love the beach, where I will soon be spending a week’s vacation.

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    I love carnivals, riding with my husband on his Harley-Davidson, going to the park, the ease of driving without worrying about snow, and too many other things to count.

    I know I should make each day the best I possibly can. It sounds great in theory. It’s good advice. It works for many people. However, I’m not one of them. And now that the longest day is approaching, Fall is on my radar. Sigh. In another month, the crickets will begin to sing, making me aware that Fall, with its shorter, darker days, is just around the corner.

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    This is good advice. I find myself following very little of it, though. It’s just not in my genes. I am descended from a long line of chronic worry-warts. I must admit that I do fret sometimes.

    These days, who doesn’t? Unless you are a modern day Rip Van Winkle, who has just awakened after twenty years, you must have noticed that Western Civilization is on the decline. Each and every day there is a new outrage in the news. It’s very overwhelming. Yet what can any individual do except try to do the right thing each and every day? Things were simpler back in Audrey Hepburn’s day. Maybe people struggled just as much as we do, but they certainly weren’t as nasty to each other as certain segments of our society are.

    I have often wished (sort of) that I was born a generation earlier. I know there were ugly episodes in America during my parents’ generation, things that never should have happened, but still… things were simpler. I would have been happy to be a housewife and just raise my own kids in that climate, as long as I could guarantee I married the same man I’m currently married to.

    I am an old soul, and I would have been happy to just be the wife and mom back in the late 50s — early 60s.  There, I said it. I don’t care. Back then, many more people were kinder to others than they are today. Neighbors would probably have invited a child into their home to wait for a parent, rather than call the police, resulting in two children being removed from their home for a month, and most likely suffering a trauma that will take years to overcome.

    What kind of society are we living in? It’s pretty pathetic that I wish I had been born thirty years earlier than I was, but that’s the way I feel.

    Still, it certainly wasn’t my choice. Nobody can help when they were born, just like nobody can help what color they were born. No matter how many people wish to inflict guilt on a certain segment of humanity, simply because they have less pigment in their skin in 2015 and their ancestors also had less pigment in their skin back in the day, we can’t help being born who we are. And ripping the country apart they way it’s being ripped apart now will not make up for what our ancestors did.

    Perhaps things will get better soon. In the meantime, it’s summer.

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  • Welcome Beach Season

    This weekend I went to the beach with my mother, sister and brother-in-law. My husband works on Sundays, and decided to skip this beach weekend. He stayed home to work on our garden and other spring chores that can’t wait.

    It’s always sort of sad to say hello to our beach place, because so much of my father is there. He bought the place for us in 1978. It’s just a little mobile home, but perfectly fine for vacations. My parents kept up the place so well that you’d hardly know it’s almost 40 years old. Now the upkeep falls to my husband and brother-in-law.

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    My brother-in-law, Jerry, on the porch my father built.

    My father built the porch and the huge picnic table inside it. The table was constructed inside the actual porch, because it would have been too big to fit through the door. My BIL fixed some leaky pipes this weekend, and my mother pointed out that the roof will need to be tarred sometime this summer. My sister and I just cleaned up some.

    When Dad was alive, we barely did any upkeep. He loved to keep busy, and he retired early from DuPont, so he had time for all sorts of projects. Back in the day, before my parents bought the present mobile home, we had a tiny camper in the same park. My cousins had a place next door. We had too many fun times to count back then.

    My sister Amy and I, and our cousins, who were also sisters, were driven to Rehoboth Beach around 11:00 am by my father and dropped off. I was the oldest. My cousin Dawn was the youngest. Our ages ranged from 12 to 16. We spent the day laying on the beach, swimming, walking the boards, playing skee-ball in the arcades, stuffing ourselves with pizza and getting sunburned if we weren’t careful. My cousin Wendy had a radio. We took it to the beach each day, and listened to hits in between riding the waves.

    My father arrived at the U in the center of the boardwalk between Dolle’s and Candy Kitchen at 4:00 pm, sharp. We were always waiting, because we didn’t want to incur his wrath if he had to drive around and come back. (He didn’t like to sit and wait by the curb).

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    My father pulled up in his 1976 Chevy Van, which he bought for the express purpose of toting us girls to the beach. It had only a driver’s seat and a passenger seat, so, my father, not wanting us to be forced to sit on the floor, installed two discarded school bus seats, face to face in the back of the van.

    We would climb in, hauling our towels and other junk, pile it all on the floor and grab a seat. My cousin Wendy and my sister always got the best seats. Dawn and I never argued. Once on a trip to North Carolina, my sister brought two old couch cushions along. She and Wendy fought over who got to sleep on  the cushions. Dawn and I mostly sat in the school bus seats and kept our mouths shut. If we wanted to nap, we just found a way to do it without bothering the couch cushion queens. We didn’t want to incur their wrath, either.

    The cushion wars came to an end in a McDonald’s bathroom somewhere in Virginia. Dawn and I were keeping a low profile. We stood quietly next to the sinks and watched the catfight. It didn’t come to blows, but the whole restaurant must have heard the shrieking. After Wendy stomped back to the van, Amy, Dawn and I watched a tiny oriental lady emerge quietly from a stall where she’d been hiding, listening to the howling. We were too embarrassed to say a word. We stood silently as the lady hurried out of the bathroom. Then we walked quickly back to the van. Dawn and I scrambled into the bus seats. After Amy informed Wendy that they had frightened an innocent restroom user, they decided to share. (With each other). They each took a 3 foot cushion.

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    My sister Amy (long straight hair) and cousin Dawn around 1977

     

    But back to our beach days. My father hauled us and our sandy beach gear back to camp. We hurried to the shower house. My uncle’s place had a bathroom with a shower, and our tiny camper also had a shower, but there were beach rules. The showers in our campers were reserved for the adults. No kids allowed. So, we grabbed clean towels, washcloths, soap, Lemon Up shampoo, Long and Silky conditioner, hair brushes and hair dryers, and clean clothes, and trudged to the shower house. We had to yank a chain and hold it for water. After we finished, we walked back to camp, and sat down to eat a meal prepared by my mother. My uncle Jim, Wendy and Dawn’s dad, and my cousin Jimmy were usually there, too.

    After the meal, we piled back into the van. My father got behind the wheel, and drove us all the way back to the boardwalk. We usually arrived around 7:00. He dropped us off at the U, and told us to be back there at ten sharp before driving away.

    Nights at the boardwalk were different than days. We walked the boards, but we also rode rides. Sometimes we walked on the beach. We usually had a pack of cigarettes. Most kids smoked right out in the open back then. (I only smoked sporadically, never in school, and only for about a year). Back then people hung out under the boardwalk, but we were strictly forbidden to ever venture under the boardwalk. We never broke that particular rule, having been forced to listen to horror stories of kidnappings and other atrocities that might befall us if we went under there.

    My parents may or may not have known about the smoking. Smoking was also strictly forbidden, but almost everyone smoked on that boardwalk.

    At ten o’clock we were back at Dolle’s. My father would pull up and we’d pile back into the van. He drove us back to camp, and then he went to bed. We kids walked around the campground or listened to LPs at my uncle’s place until about midnight. My uncle was single at the time, and he was usually out at the DeBraak, a bar in Lewes. (The DeBraak was named for a shipwreck off the coast of Lewes. I’m pretty sure the bar burned down. At any rate, it’s no longer there.)  On Sundays we went to the beach, but after dinner we had to drive home so my parents could be at work on Monday morning.

    Some days my father just didn’t want to deal with Rehoboth traffic, so he dropped us off at Lewes beach. (Not a cool place, according to Wendy). I think she refused to go to Lewes once or twice, and sulked at the campground instead.

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    View of canal from Lewes Marina

     

    What great times. We weren’t angels back then, but we certainly survived. I’m glad we kept my parents’ beach place, even though times are hard right now. We don’t have the income we used to, on account of Obama’s economy. Still we all agree we will keep the place for as long as possible. Why shouldn’t we? My father worked hard for that place. He wanted us to enjoy it.


  • Winter’s Almost Over

    We made it! Winter’s almost over.

    This was the scene in my hometown after the recent snowstorm.

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    It’s very pretty, of course, but also, I must say… Winter is getting old! The following photos were taken this morning. They still look wintry, but there’s a subtle difference. More sun & less snow. The gnome under the red maple tree was completely covered last week. Now he’s emerging from the snow.

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    Our Lady was also almost covered with snow, but here she is, standing in the sunshine. Soon the rock garden surrounding her will be blooming again.

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    I’ve been keeping my eyes open for the first robin, but as of yet they haven’t returned. My bulbs are still covered with snow. As soon as it melts, I expect to see them poking through the ground under the weeping cherry tree. I’m looking forward to visits from my grandkids this spring. They love our home.

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    Soon all the drabness will be replaced with bright colors and scenes of spring and summer. We’ll open our beach place, and my brother-in-law will take us fishing in Delaware Bay.

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    I will miss only one thing about winter: The beauty of the scenes above. I won’t miss the short days and long nights or the cold. I’m really looking forward to beach time, so my eyes can gaze on scenes like this one:

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    There’s more work in spring, with the garden and other chores, but the brightness and warmth make the work seem easier. Today I’m doing laundry. I think I’ll hang it outside. There’s plenty of time for it to dry, since the days are longer.

    I’ll close with the following song. It’s a song from my teen years, and brings back too many memories to list here. It will also be included in my upcoming post detailing “songs” for each character in the Storms Of Transformation Series, as Sandy’s song. Maybe you’ll recognize it. 🙂


  • Bring on Spring

    I know this sounds ridiculous since winter is barely two weeks old, but bring on spring. The days are already getting longer. I love this fact. Here are a few pictures of sights I’m longing to see.

    IMG_2336My husband and I haven’t gone riding since September. We were both too busy to do much riding this year. He’s been working on refinishing our basement/TV room, and I’ve been working on writing. Pictured above is a spring scene on a back country road near our home. It’s hard to see, but corn is sprouting in the field. I can’t wait to see such a sight again. Winter can be beautiful, but it’s just not my favorite season.

    IMG_2335I love Spring. Above are cherry blossoms. This tree is my favorite. The blossoms only last about a week, so I spend a lot of time under the tree each April. Below are Hyacinths, blooming under this same tree. I usually see them poking out of the ground in mid-February.

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    February is also the month I begin training for the DE Half Marathon. I haven’t decided whether or not I’m running this year. I need to make a decision soon. The race is an awesome experience. It gets me in shape and makes me feel accomplished, but training in winter is a drag. I have a few weeks to decide whether or not to enter. Here’s my best time, last year after my 10 miler.

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    After the race, it’s time for spring to really get going. The tulips bloom under the cherry tree in May. My granddaughter loved the flowers 🙂

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    It’s not that far away. I can do this! I’ll think of spring and enjoy the longer days. I don’t believe in wishing my life away, so I’ll enjoy winter’s beauty, but I can still dream of spring.

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    And then I can say, Bring on Summer. 🙂

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    My favorite season.


  • Summer’s Over

    Summer’s over…I don’t like the sound of those words. Here we are again, though. School has started, Labor Day weekend has passed, and I’m beginning–reluctantly–to think about my Christmas gift list.

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    Our garden is finished. Today my husband picked the last of the green beans, and took down the fence. The deer will have a field day now, eating what’s left of the tomatoes and melon patch.

    We had a very nice summer. We enjoyed our beach place, on the infrequent weekends we were free to use it. We plan to spend a few more days visiting our favorite places, before it’s time to winterize.

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    As always at this time of year, I feel a sense of dread. The darkness of winter is closer. The fact the the days are getting shorter bugs me; I like warmth, sunshine, flowers and lingering light. But…there’s nothing I can do about it.

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    Soon we’ll be seeing sights like this. Fall is a beautiful season, and even though I don’t like winter, I think I’ll try to make the best of it. There’s beauty all around. I plan to see it everyday.

    Yes, summer is over…but it will be back again next year.