Why I Bake

Granola – before

Obviously, baking yields something delicious at the end but I don’t just bake for the result. It’s about the process, too.

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, always had something that she’d just baked on her pantry shelf. Always. She never failed. (The pantry also had a metal three-drawer cabinet that housed her “candy drawer” at the bottom where we could always go for a chocolate treat.) Chocolate frosted, only on the top and in the middle, yellow cake. The same yellow cake in cupcake form with chocolate frosting. Cream puffs, chocolate chip cookies … often the same but never boring.

My gram would take the time to bake with me and I think that’s why I love to bake. I so enjoyed being with her while we baked together and if we didn’t have time to bake together I always knew the love that went into it. Precious moments. Gram didn’t have a lot of money to buy stuff but she gave me the gift of time.

As I bake, my gram is with me. I can feel her in my heart and it makes me so happy. As I’m writing this my eyes are filling with tears which is a message that my words and feelings around this are true. (Bristol Ivy said I had “ocular incontinence” and she’s not wrong!) Baking centers and grounds me. It is something I shared with my children and with with my grandchildren; the ones of the heart and the blood ones if we are so blessed.

Granola – after

Meanwhile, it settles my heart in a bizarre year. I always know that baking something fills my belly and my heart.

Knitting does something similar but it doesn’t have the heart connection to my family like baking does. I love knitting, don’t get me wrong. I can sit and knit for hours and be “in the zone” where time is lost and my mind is focused. It’s good for my soul. I’ve been knitting a lot through the pandemic and have been experiencing a little soreness in my left arm – I don’t stop and stretch often enough. I’ve also been sitting too long and have worked over the past year to get up and stretch more to help my hips and back. Both passions have helped me to pass the lockdown time in a state of (mostly) contentedness and peace and they’ve been such a blessing. My husband enjoys the fruits of my labor on both fronts.

This week I’m rushing to finish his birthday socks. I’ve got one done and one to go.

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter Designs in Manos Alegria

Gone knitting.

I am Good (Enough)!

rockandrollfebruary1976

Yes, that’s me at the piano in my preppy sweater!

A million years ago I stood at a piano in rehearsal for a high school theater production. I was singing “Midnight at the Oasis” (among other things) and it was quite the challenge for me to be sexy and sing at the same time. No, really, it was. My teacher, Frank Best, worked with me a lot. How to walk, how to hold the mic, how to get off the side of the grand piano gracefully …

A couple of weekends ago I attended my 40th high school reunion. I’m not sure how 40 years have passed that quickly, how it’s been 30 years since I stepped foot on the campus. How it’s been 40 years since I’ve seen classmates who meant so much to me. It’s funny how life gets in the way of friendships. And it’s wonderful to pick up where we left off. My theater besties and I returned to the theater all these years later and remembered our shows together and others who didn’t come to reunion this time. It was magical.

Brian back at the old grand piano (that I slid of gracefully.)

Brian back at the old grand piano (that I slid of gracefully.)

Reunited. I wish Sharon had been in this picture, too!

Reunited. I wish Sharon had been in this picture, too!

One classmate shared the picture above and others from the school newspaper on Facebook prior to the reunion. What a good memory this brings forward along with some emotional baggage that I’m ready to discard. A couple of friends commented on how they remembered that show and my song. My number one fan commented that my singing “was one of the true wonders I have witnessed in my life. No lie.” This made me smile. (And blush a little bit.)

It’s difficult for me to accept compliments although I’ve gotten much more adept as I get older. I have come to realize that I really am smart and talented. Back then I certainly could sing. (If I tried, I might still be able to sing today!) “Midnight at the Oasis” was a big hit with the audience. I felt very proud of the performance and yet my father could only say that I’d done “pretty good, Monk”. Falling short of a resounding compliment and making me feel like I’d fallen short of making him proud. So, today I’m dumping that old weight that said I wasn’t quite up to snuff. I did a really good job. If people are still remembering my performance 40 years later, I did a really good job. I can be proud of my performance and know that it was truly a special moment in time. My father’s reaction was more about him coming up short than me.

I did an excellent (memorable) job. I am good! I am smart. I am enough!

Gone Knitting.

Four Years as an Orphan

Mom Jumping the Waves at Weekapaug

When my mother died, after ten years in the prison of Alzheimer’s Disease, my eldest (at the time) nephew, Will once again wowed us with his wisdom. He told us that only now were we all adults because we didn’t have any parents any more. (Wish I could remember the exact words he used. I will have to ask his mother!)

So, I’ve been an adult for four years now and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Not only am I the first in line to die now but I am getting creakier but still feel so youthful (most of the time.) I am trying to spend the day with joyful memories of mom rather than being sad … and I’ve only had to wipe away the tears a few times so far.

Bear with Apple at Red Gate

Mom rented a house in Weekapaug, RI for several summer and we were so lucky to be able to spend the month with her there. The drive with three little kids (and Flo, my French daughter) was always an adventure and I remember thanking God for Knights Inns. We’d stop half way for the night and Kate loved the decor in the hotel and I needed to sleep! We had such good times at the beach and one of these days I will scan all the photographs so that I can share more. Weekapaug friends are still in our lives and when we win the lottery, we’re going to buy a house there at the beach. Maybe Red Gate – a huge old cottage that was our favorite, I think. A rambling old home that had been in the same family for generations. It had several porches and was near enough to the water that you could hear the waves at night.

Mom & Kate at the Zoo

When mom visited us in Cincinnati, she loved to take the kids out for a day with GranJan. Up until she couldn’t travel anymore, she would borrow my van and drive to the mall and the day was always a favorite of the kids – mostly the girls because my son was so young – but they’d shop for clothes and toys, have lunch and Auntie Anne’s pretzels. Build A Bear was always a favorite stop. Toy R Us was across the street and there were hours spent there, too. Mom loved the zoo, too. We were always members of the zoo and loved going down there for an hour or for a day …  and in the winter, it was even more fun because the animals were (mostly) more active!

She was a task-master, a critic, a tennis fanatic (both on the courts and around the courts), a caring daughter, sister, aunt, friend. We were lucky to have her for as long as we did! My life today is better because of her … even with the disagreements that we had! 🙂

I miss her. I know she’s free of her disease now and I’m sure she’s proud of my three kids and of me. She’s watching over us every day – and she’s smiling!

Gone knitting!

Fathers’ ? Father’s? … A day for Celebrating and Remembering Dads!

Everybody has a father.

My father had a father …

He looks like he was the penultimate lawyer (and I think he was an excellent patent attorney). He was gone before I was born so I never knew my father’s father. He must have had a more relaxed side, too … here he is resting while my grandmother does the dishes on a camping trip in Rye (NY?). I think we’d have called him “Grandfather”!

My mother had a father …

This is Grandpa Jack making up a bouquet of pussy willows. I didn’t know him either. He was gone before I was born. Mom was only 14 when he died and her younger sister was four. Oh, the stories about Grandpa Jack! He was a milk man and at one time drove a horse-drawn milk truck. He must have been an entertaining guy … here he is wearing a woman’s bathing suit! (Nice legs, Grandpa!)

I had a father …

He was a really great provider and a dedicated gardener. He was a handsome guy! I remember loving to be out in the woods with my dad. Puttering – picking up sticks or trimming bushes. He’d cut a branch of a birch tree that smelled like root beer. Or a big green leaf that smelled like skunk. He almost always had a cigarette in his hand. He would bring us to church (“I see the steeple” would win a penny) and sit in the car and wait to pick us up, reading his Sunday paper and smoking cigarettes. He had a running battle with the squirrels in the back yard who would rather eat bird seed he put out for the birds than the corn he’d put down for them. Mostly the squirrels won but Dad seemed to enjoy the exercise! He loved Maine and was quite a good photographer. He always came in from (snow-) blowing the driveway covered head to foot in snow and stamping his feet. He always rubbed Nouki’s belly at the top of the stairs as he went up to “change” after work. He cried when he had to finally put Sam to sleep. It was the first of two times I ever remember seeing him cry – the second was at his mother’s funeral. He would buy my the pink pistachio nuts that stained our fingers if I went with him to the store. Sometimes on Saturday, I got to go with him to work – and we ate lunch out of the machines at the automat in his building. It was a treat to spend time alone with him because it didn’t happen often. Dad drove American-made cars, mostly convertibles. I remember a Sunday drive with the top down when Jeff was a baby and a cloth diaper (burp cloth) flew out of the car … we all laughed and drove on. He liked coconut ice cream cones at Ho Jo’s and eating fried seafood at Burt’s. He always wore a suit to work with a white shirt and tie. He called me, “monk” (short for monkey). Oh, how I’d love to hear his voice today. Memories are comforting and there are many. I was lucky to be his little girl.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I still miss you all these 27 years later.

Gone knitting.

 

Memories and Peace

Whenever I hear this song, I’ll remember Diane. She was my neighbor and friend. She called me to ask me for help with caring for her children. I couldn’t help her when she really needed help. I know it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my rules, I tried my best. I simply couldn’t provide an au pair for her children when we all knew she was leaving our world for a better place, leaving her children to grieve her loss, open and raw. The program regulations do that to protect the au pairs. I still felt helpless.

It’s funny how songs reminds us of something and can have such powerful, nearly physical memories attached to them. This version is only slightly different from the original but still invokes strong memories for me. Diane’s in the arms of the angels and her family soldiers on. They moved away and, last I heard, they were moving on; Jim was remarried and the kids were doing well. Tyler and Samantha. I’ve not heard from them for a long while. I don’t expect I will again but I still think about them and Diane every time this song is played.

My loss is not like theirs but my life, too, was forever changed in 2007. Everything I ever believed was called into question. It’s been four years and a half and I’m still working to make sense of a re-ordered world. A world that is strangely unsafe and only somewhat familiar. Without choice, I’ve been soldiering on, like Diane’s family. I do pretty well most days and am grateful for friends and family who have faith in me when I loose faith in myself. I know I have angels in my life who are watching over me (as Diane, no doubt, is watching over her family) and hope this path will dump me out into a sunshine-filled field where I can find safety, comfort, happiness and peace.

Gone knitting.

Loss of a Mother

My dear friend and my children’s elementary school art teacher lost her mother recently. Since seeing this on her Facebook page, I have felt an extreme sense of sadness in my heart. My mother has been gone now for nearly two and a half years … it’ll be three years in October … and I miss her so much. I’ve missed her for years longer, though, because she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for ten years before she passed away.

Here are lyrics for a wonderful song that I found amongst my friend’s messages … it’s very comforting, indeed.

Look for me in Rainbows

Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new,
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Time for me to leave you, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
Just look for me and love me, and I’ll be close to you.

It won’t be forever, the day will come and then
My loving arms will hold you, when we meet again.

Time for us to part now, we won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, shining in the sky.
Every waking moment, and all your whole life through
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Just wish me to be near you,
And I’ll be there with you.

Music and lyrics: Conn Bernard (1990). Vicki Brown