Posts tagged ‘family’

Anna & Oscar Schmidt

In 1916, Anna Groll met Oscar Schmidt. And the rest is half of my history.

The Schmidts are a special kind of life preserver.

We like jokes:  good jokes, bad jokes, new jokes, old jokes, older jokes, and jokes your great great grampa fell out of his cradle laughing at. We appreciate clever wit, dumb puns, and the corniest corn. We enjoy intentional and unintentional physical comedy. We love practical and impractical jokes. We like to make other people laugh, and getting our own family members to laugh is one of our favorite things.

Seriously, if we were in a situation where the sound of one tiny titter could trigger an avalanche that would kill us all, someone would tell a fart joke.

(And you know Joel just giggled at the phrase tiny titter.)

As much as we like to laugh, we like to talk. We are story tellers. We are enthusiastic conversationalists. We have this hereditary ability to take part in three to four conversations simultaneously, which comes in handy in a large family. Sometimes, after an evening together, going back out into the real world is like being in a bar when the music suddenly pauses.

I guess what I’m saying is, we’re loud.

We are a down-to-earth and practical people. We were taught to live by good, old-fashioned values. Do what’s right. Help others. Be kind. Tell the truth. Share your stuff. Honor your parents. Help with the dishes. Don’t leave your camera unattended at a family get-together.

And never ever ever forget that family is important — and that you are loved. From the day you are born til long after you leave this world, you will be cherished and adored, warts and all and always, no matter time nor distance.

And that’s a good counterweight for the merciless teasing.

If you’re not family, we won’t tease you . . . as much. But we’ll shake your hand and welcome you in and ask about your family and treat you like a long-lost friend. Even if you were only stopping by to take our order.

We presume jolly goodness in everybody. If you are a meanie or a sourpuss, you will confuse the heck out of us.

But we’ll try to make you laugh. And we’ll probably try to feed you.

We like to cook, and we like to eat, but mostly? We like to see other people eat what we have cooked. Bring us all together and we could feed an army. And send each soldier off with a leftover container. And a hug. And a story about Grandma’s donuts or Aunt Theresa’s nut rolls. Or Uncle Tom’s mashed potatoes, Aunt Margie’s green beans, Aunt Annie’s maple brownies, or Uncle Joe’s fried sweet potatoes. Or a time you picked berries at Aunt Marie’s and she put them in a pan on the stove and made the best jam you had ever tasted (or ever will). Right on the spot. Without a recipe.

And I’m sorry if I just made you tear up. Or feel hungry. But you know and I know there’s a crowded, bustling kitchen in the afterlife. And it smells like heaven.

Yes, we are also a sentimental people. And, despite a great deal of splashing about, our waters run deep. We know heartache can be survived. We know Goodness triumphs. We know the world isn’t perfect. We know Life can be funny. We know we are blessed and lucky.

We are who we are. Because sweet Anna Groll met Oscar the nut.

August 12, 2015 at 6:05 pm 1 comment

Thanksgiving

If I had to pick a favorite holiday in the year, it would be Thanksgiving. As an adult, I like the sincerity of it. The lack of advertising-skewed priorities. The quiet days off. The unadulterated meaning:  to simply give thanks.

As a kid, the appeal was a little different. Thanksgiving was the annual mega-gathering of my Dad’s side of the family. Thirty to forty people, with more than half of that crowd the funny, cool playmates called cousins. It was the one time of year that we all saw each other. And it was a big, loud, boisterous day. Hug lines forming as each new relative came in the front door. Food lines forming for dinner as we navigated around the kitchen buffet style and, with our well-laden plates, wandered to one of many tables set up around the house. And, of course, the well-worn lines of family jokes to make us giggle again and again. It was a day filled with story-telling, catching up, practical jokes, skits, live music, dancing, cards games, ping pong, and more.

I find it impossible to recall a single Thanksgiving. Rather all the years exist as a jumbled blur of all of these things, a constant whir of voices and laughter and tradition, punctuated by individual memories:  Aunt Margie’s perfect green beans with bacon; Aunt Ann’s chocolate maple brownies; Grandma’s stuffing served in a great big cooker by ice cream scoop; listening to grandma and my dad and his brothers and sisters tell stories of their growing up; the year we hung underwear on Aunt Theresa’s car; the year Denny, Joel, and Tommy were missing for military duty; the year that Johnny, Denny, and Tommy mooned and took pictures on my unattended, undigital camera; the year(s) we oohed and awed over the arrival of the great-grandchildren; the time Uncle Tom sat in front of Aunt Marie and poured gravy on the angel food cake she’d made and ate it without saying a word as she spluttered and we all played along as if this were a perfectly normal way to eat angel food cake.

This mush of memories means that sometimes Thanksgiving includes time spent throwing a football out in the street without coats on as well as the adventure of battling treacherous snow and ice to arrive in time. It means that Thanksgiving includes the entire family all at once, whether they attended each year or not. It also means that Thanksgiving includes everybody, including the dear ones we have since said good-bye to.

My sentimental side yearns for a time machine for just one more chance to gather on Thanksgiving, to hug each one coming through the door. To hear Uncle John’s laugh. To see Grandma’s eyes mist up as she tells about the day she met her Oscar. To hear Aunt Marie describe her most recent recipe in complete detail. To pull up in front of that big house and know that both Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom would be there to greet me. To set up Uncle Joe with a “How are you?” so that he could grab someone’s butt and say, “Ah, I’ve been feeling bum all day.” Even, yes, to help wash the dishes after 30-40 people had snacked, dined, and had dessert.

In the looking back, my heart aches. And the feelings of loss are nearly unbearable.

But.

That is Life. As we get older—if we were lucky enough to be part of a big loving family—we must say a lot of good-byes. And Life does go on if we remember to be thankful for the big loving family part. And to balance the sadness of good-bye with the happiness of saying hello to new spouses, new babies. To understand that change isn’t always bad. And to realize that the Thanksgiving dinner tables, which used to sit in dining room, living room, family room, basement, and den of one house are simply a bit farther apart in homes in Pennsylvania, in Virginia, in Utah, in Colorado, in New Jersey.

I know that, at each of those tables, the traditions go on. The last name is handed down. Someone is still making perfect mashed potatoes. That smell of turkey still permeates the air. A sincere prayer is said. The tales of Anna and Oscar and their offspring are told. And the laughter rolls.

Tradition is one of the ultimate life preservers. But its magic lies not in tedious, unchanging repetition. The magic is in the oral history that tells us where we came from, in the people we learned to admire, in the activities that teach us what’s important and what’s to be forgiven, in the honoring of father and mother, in the joy of children, in the preservation of values, in the sacred knowledge of unconditional love.

So today, as I have a slice of my Mom’s pumpkin pie for breakfast, as I enjoy the break from my adult responsibilities, as I find a little time to reflect on more than chores to be done and deadlines to be met and the accumulation of failures and disappointments that can make us doubt who we are, I see clearly, above all, the blessing of being a granddaughter of Anna and Oscar. And I give thanks for my place in the world as daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and aunt.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

November 27, 2010 at 7:33 am 4 comments


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