Posts tagged ‘life preserver’

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

The Scoop

A clean out fever sometimes strikes my Mom. Over the years, I have trained her to wait a tick before tossing or donating, to give me a chance to peruse and scavenge. If I had saved nothing else over the years, I am glad I got my hands on this ice cream scoop.

Al's Ice Cream Scoop

This is the ice cream scoop my Dad used when we were kids. (Dad is fine by the way; he just got a new scoop.) But this is the one he used when he’d make us special sundaes or ice cream cones. It was an event that made us happy, in part, because, well, it was ice cream but also because serving ice cream was something my Dad got such a kick out of. He’d put joy and creativity into the effort. And he had a system.

I can picture it. Clear as day. My Dad, standing at the kitchen counter, looking down at me, smiling. He’d fill a small cup with warm tap water and dip the scoop in the water before digging into the ice cream, explaining, teaching, sharing a secret, this makes it easier to scoop.

Dad making ice cream sundaes or serving up ice cream cones was a tradition in our house, and everybody who has ever visited has had at least one of them.

There was a time when an ice cream shop up the street went up for sale, and there was talk in the house that maybe he should go into business. I was much too young to understand having a job or being the bread-winner or the risks of small business, but it made me sad that he didn’t do it.

Even very young humans are astute enough to recognize the things that make other people happy and to feel something, even if we don’t yet know the words regret or sacrifice, that feels a little sad, something that is a little less than perfect about being a grown-up.

Flash forward to me as an adult, and this same ice cream scoop reminds me of when my nephew Alex (now a 6-foot-something 16-year-old) was a tiny little human. My brother was in the Navy and his family was in town for a rare visit. We gathered at my Mom and Dad’s house. It was the first time I’d been around Alex that he could talk and walk. He was about 3 years old.

I walked from the dining room to the kitchen with a promise of getting him some ice cream. He came dashing in behind me, saying, “Wait! Wait! I have to tell you something.” I was at the kitchen counter, holding this scoop, looking down at him, smiling.

He told me to get a cup of water. He told me that if I dipped the scoop in the water, the ice cream would be easier to scoop. He added, oh-so-proudly, “That’s how my Dad does it.”

One of my favorite sweet, funny Circle-of-Life moments.

So, yeah, things are just things. But some things, unremarkable, everyday things, are more than utilitarian. They are memory triggers. Every time I use this scoop or even just see it in the utensil drawer, I feel a little jolt of happiness. I also feel a bit covetous and secretly lucky to be the kid who stayed in Pittsburgh and got the best hand-me-downs. This ice cream scoop is a mini-life preserver.

And, that, my friends, is my rationalization. Sometimes, winter doldrums and grown-up worries are easier to bear — if you eat a little ice cream on a Wednesday.

January 29, 2014 at 8:34 pm 3 comments


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