Posts tagged ‘memories’

Dearest Diary

In 1991, my Mom, Dad, Aunt Mitzie, and Uncle Bill retired, and they decided to celebrate with a road trip across the country. They left Pennsylvania in a van, headed West. For 40 days, they drove across the United States and back again, seeing sights, visiting old friends, and proving that life after retirement is still an adventure. From August 1 to September 9, my Mom and my Aunt took turns writing in a blank book, keeping a daily diary of their trip.

I recently came across that book. (Wow.) And noted that it was written 29 years ago. (Whoa.) I am now one year younger than my Aunt and one year older than my Mom while they were on that trip.

{Please type your own cliché about how time flies because I need both hands to stop my head from spinning.}

It’s 2020. Just a little over a year since we lost Mom to dementia. Just a little over a year since my Aunt moved into a care facility for the same heinous disease. To open a book and hear their voices again, clear and strong, sweet and smart, cracking jokes and spying rainbows. Well. It’s wonderful. Or, it’s what wonderful would be if you could drink a glass of it and feel it tingle your belly, lift the hair on your arms, and blur your vision a bit.

This massive dose of joy impels me to suggest, to nudge, to encourage, to shout from a rooftop to anyone who might listen: You should keep a diary. And perhaps this year of odd lulls and extra space is the perfect time to start.

Buy a fancy journal or get a notebook from the dollar store. Make your own rules, but give it a try. Create a paper time capsule in which to stash silly, boring, beautiful moments. The moments that don’t make it into frame or album. The moments that go by in a blink. The bazillion little bits of life that make up the everyday: What you had for breakfast, an inside joke, the price of gas, your favorite snacks, songs to sing, places you’ve been, the way a day can go from rain to sun.

Whether you decide to write a diary or not, take a moment today to notice that life is extraordinary. And so are you. Cheers.

September 6, 2020 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day, a Little Bit Late

bethaschmidt lifepreserversblog tea partyWhen I was a child my built-in girlfriend and playmate was my sister. We dressed up, played dolls, did arts & crafts, and enjoyed a lot of basement make-believe. One day, as we two princesses were sharing invisible lunch at the kid-size table, Mom came in and presented us with a special tea set.

It was the tea set that she and her sister had played with when they were children. We liked it. But. I don’t think we appreciated it. We were not careful enough, or perhaps we were only young and clumsy—it’s not like we were sipping fake whiskey and then throwing the cups into a pretend fireplace—but, on multiple occasions, Mom had to come in and clean up another shattered piece.

It is impossible to look back and remember exactly how I felt in my child’s mind, but I suspect that I didn’t feel bad enough. I am almost certain that I did not empathize with Mom’s feelings. I am absolutely sure I did not fully understand them then.

It is one of the most marvelous and vital a-has of adulthood to realize our parents are people, too. It’s the thing that makes up for the moment when you learned about Santa.

Our Mom gave us everything we needed and then some. She gave up new things for herself to make sure that we got extra things. And I’m afraid that we behaved like hooligans. We broke her tea cups. And we used to raid her closet to play dress-up. I remember one occasion when we took a dress and other things that still had tags on them, and we went romping around, indoors and out, wearing her brand-new clothes.

We never did that again. The house had a new rule:  We were forbidden to go through her closet. (Poor mites. We had to make do with the gigantic barrel full of her dresses, shoes, purses, scarves, jewelry, and other accessories she had previously donated to play time.)

A couple of years ago, I moved back into my parents’ home. Yesterday, I broke a rule. I stole from her closet again. When I awoke on Mother’s Day—my first Mother’s Day without my Mom—I was missing her. I went to her closet and took out a robe that she liked. I wore it all day. I was still wearing it in the afternoon when, on eBay, while looking for something else entirely, I chanced upon a tea set that looked familiar.

When the new old pieces arrive, I’ll slip them into Mom’s curio cabinet, next to the other pieces that survived our childhood. And I will invite my sister to tea—very careful tea—the next time she’s in town.

I know most people don’t need to hear it, but perhaps I need to say it, so forgive me if this next bit feels at all preachy.

Don’t ever take your Mom for granted. Enjoy every single minute that you can with her and, whenever you get the chance, make the effort to return her most special things, like Generosity of Spirit, Undivided Attention, and Unconditional Love.

Happy Mother’s Day, a little bit late.

 

 

May 11, 2020 at 5:11 pm 2 comments

Peanut Butter Fishes

There is nothing quite like the smell of toast on a chilly morning. I like it better than raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. It makes me think of peanut butter fishes.

Have you ever had peanut butter fishes?

My Grampap Daugherty made them best. I believe it was his own recipe. And, by recipe, I mean something he thought up on the spur of the moment one morning long, long ago.

In the ’60s, more so than now, meals were handled almost exclusively by the womenfolk and mealtime was a structured thing:  A time to behave, a time to eat your vegetables and clear your plate, a time to mind your manners, a time when it might be your turn to stop playing and come set the table.

But, sometimes, Grampap made breakfast.

It is an inexplicable, wonderful bit of magic how some memories can pop out clear and whole. My desk feels like a table cloth, and I am small and young. I can hear my brother and sister and I being rowdy and greedy and silly. I can hear my grandfather’s chuckle. I smell toast. Grampap is making us peanut butter fishes. And we are gobbling them up.


RECIPE FOR PEANUT BUTTER FISHES

Make toast. Spread peanut butter on toast. Cut once horizontally and multiple times vertically. pbfish_horiz


We’d yell for more. And he’d make more. I think he would have made peanut butter fishes for us all day long.

It wasn’t that we loved toast. Or fish. And I seriously doubt that peanut butter tastes good on any sort of fish except the imaginary ones. The wonderful thing about peanut butter fishes was the novelty of having our grandfather do the cooking. It was a break from the rules, a diversion from the norm. It was silly and fun and joyful and a thing we can only fully understand in retrospect:  those glimpses of grown-ups acting like kids.

Being a grown-up isn’t easy. Sure you choose your own bed time and you can drive a car and you can kiss a boy without getting into great big trouble with the kindergarten teacher. But you have to pay taxes and buy groceries and clean an entire house. You don’t get three months off every summer. There is no Santa. The homework is a lot more complicated. Your allowance is, relatively, smaller. Your stresses are bigger. You have to cut grass and rake leaves and shovel snow. And you still have to get a bath and brush your teeth every day.

With all of that going on, some days, it can be hard to get out of bed. Some days, you wake up feeling tired and defeated and overwhelmed by grown-up life. And you just know it’s going to be a bad day.

That’s when I make peanut butter fishes for breakfast.

I can hear my Grampap chuckle. And I remember not to take it all too seriously. I smell toast. And I know everything is going to be okay.

October 7, 2014 at 11:37 am Leave a 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

The Best Mom in the World

Here is a very short list of wonderful Mom things.

1. My mom packed our lunches every day for school. And she’d leave little notes on the napkin.

2. When we were kids, she would make us (well, me and my sister only) a special Christmas dress every year.

3. Sit down family dinner–every night.

4. Georgie Girl and Galway Bay and a gazillion other piano tunes. She’d play. I’d sit beside her and sing along.  

5. She tucked us in at night: prayers, a story, and a kiss with a “Sweet dreams” or “Off to Lily White’s party” or “Shuffle off to Buffalo” or “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

6. She taught me how to cook, clean, sew, and iron. Not that the student has gone on to do great things, but I can handle that stuff when I need to thanks to her.

7. Her presentation of “the birds and the bees” was straightforward and loving. (And extra points for poise because it began one quiet day while we were merrily making a puzzle in the living room, and I blurted out, “Hey Mom, what does f— mean?”) (And I didn’t use the dashes that time.)

8. She taught me to walk, to talk, to wipe my bottom, to eat my veggies, to draw, to write my name, to hit a softball, to play volleyball, to put on eye shadow, to pick out a fancy dress, to waltz, to play Perquackey, to drive a car.

9. She taught me the joy to be found in simple things and the fun to be had spur of the moment. 

10. She taught us to be honest and fair. And to take responsibility for our actions.

11. She taught us to be resilient, grounded non-wimps—but she also had a great big shoulder, an understanding heart, and unquestionable love when the tragedies of childhood broke me.

12. She is still there for me. 

I could go on for days with examples and memories, but I need to stop now to prepare the house and plan a meal for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

(How she did this sort of thing on a daily basis, I will never know.)

One day doesn’t seem anywhere near a fair trade for the most giving person I know. All I can say is that I am grateful. And I know I am blessed. And I know, in at least one thing in life, I am the luckiest person in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day to my very first and most significant life preserver.

What makes your mom the Best Mom in the World?

May 8, 2010 at 4:19 am 1 comment


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