Monday, December 31, 2012

"It Isn't Like It Used To Be, But The Memories Are Good."

My younger daughter was in the middle of a fight with her older sister on Christmas morning.  She had to leave for work at 6 a.m. and her sister wouldn't move the car until she, "asked nicely."  It was insanity.  My daughter told me that when she started the car, the lyrics playing on the radio were, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."  Her head was pounding, she was in tears, but she started to laugh.  That's the memory that will stay with her.

We had lunch the other day at R. J. Grunt's in Chicago.  She knows it's the one restaurant I choose over all the others because it holds happy memories for me.  Each time I walk in, I feel like it's the late '70s and I'm wearing my Frye boots and tight jeans.  She told me about dinner on Christmas night at her boyfriend's aunt's house.  She brushed over the fact that her boyfriend's dad said that HE didn't invite her.  Her favorite moment was when the aunt yelled back that SHE invited my daughter and was happy she was there.  I did my best to hold back my rage against the little twit who wasn't thrilled to have my daughter at dinner.  She sent me a text later that night that read, "Thanks for being my friend, mom."  Thank you, sweetheart.  That's my favorite memory from our lunch.  The twit isn't worth my time.  Not worth her time either.  I know the boyfriend isn't right for her.  What do I do?

I promised myself that I would start organizing the piles of papers downstairs.  I actually started the project and came across the sweetest photo of my son when he played T Ball.  He's 6 years old and holding a mitt.  I moved the photo into the kitchen and each time I look at it, I smile.  There was another photo of my daughters when they were 4 and 6 years old.  They're walking down the street in heels and baskets on their heads.  I showed the photo to my husband.  Somehow that photo erased all the bad memories from the Christmas morning fight.  Happy memories filled us with, well, happiness.

That's the key to joy.  Happy memories.  I'm sitting at the table reading my paper and a letter to the editor is from a gal who recalls happy times at Christmas when her children were young.  Her husband is gone now.  "It isn't like it used to be, but the memories are good."  

I'm grateful for the happy memories.  My resolution is to tap into those memories when life breaks me down.  I'll look at the photos and smile.  I'll be grateful to add new memories throughout the year.  Hey....I CAN add new memories.  I'm not limited to looking at a board with photos of my kids.  Imagine a prison cell with a corkboard filled with images of your family.  Happy memories from the PAST. 

Looking forward to a Happy New Year.  Happy Memories.  Grateful that I'm free to build new memories. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life...When You're Free

I guess most people would say it's not a great Christmas when the police show up in your kitchen.  That's what happened to me this year.  Technically, the police were there the morning AFTER Christmas.

My mother and oldest daughter continued the fight that started on Christmas morning.  That's when the younger daughter went into her sister's room and asked her to move the car so she could leave for work.  She works at one of Chicago's most prestigious restaurants and she was preparing for the Christmas brunch being held there.  All she did was ask to move the car.  She wasn't, "sweet."  She was in a rush.  The older daughter said, "Ask nicely."  And then it was, "Good Morning Vietnam."  Two young women screaming at each other to the point that their brother had to break up the fight.  One daughter left for work, and told me later that her head was pounding so much, she never really felt the joy she should have at brunch.  

The older daughter continued her rant for two full days.  Right after the morning fight, I tried to hide her car keys.  I didn't want her to drive in a rage.  She screamed that she needed a break.  A time out.  I went to Christmas Mass with my mother, husband, and son.  We were there 40 minutes early.  We needed a break.  A time out.  Thank you, Lord.  You're always there.  My daughter went to Mass at another parish.

I was hosting Christmas dinner for my family and my brother's family.  My daughter returned, and instead of giving her a hug, and being grateful that she came back, I said something stupid and cruel.   Guests were literally walking through the door, and my beautiful daughter was in tears.  I wished at that very moment that I was in a cell.  Peace.  

The next morning, day after Christmas, my daughter confronted me about that cruel comment and we went at it for the entire morning.   My mother was in the middle.  It got loud and my son was worried.  At one point, I turned and there walking into the kitchen was a local police officer.  I just looked at him and said, "This is the way Italians talk.  Was it the neighbors?"  He said, "I understand.  I grew up in a Sicilian household.  It was your son."   He left, after calling off the rest of the squad cars making their way to my house.

Christmas started off so right this year.  I shopped for everyone and I was grateful to have enough money to buy what the kids needed and wanted.  The week before Christmas, I planned an outing downtown so my mom could shop for her five grandchildren, with the kids there.  She gave each one cash, and off they flew to find a perfect gift. We went out to lunch in the city.  It was such a joy.  

On Christmas Eve, we took the kids and my sister-in-law to a French restaurant for dinner.  We brought meals to my in-laws since they can't walk. We had a terrific night.  Later we opened gifts at my house.  My son loved his gifts.  My younger daughter loved her gifts.  My older daughter was sad because she thought no one appreciated the gifts she gave everyone.  That's what set her off.  It's never a perfect Christmas, is it?

Through all of this, I've been grateful to have the freedom to be part of this mess.  It really is a wonderful life as long as you're free.  And as long as Officer Nelson keeps driving past the house.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Five Girls From Kindergarten 50 Years Later

My parents came to Chicago from Italy in 1955.  We spoke no English in the house.  It's crazy to imagine how two people left their country with no plans and managed to find a comfy part of the city in which to raise their family.  They didn't know how to speak the language, yet they somehow knew what was best.

When I started Kindergarten, I only spoke Italian.   I remember that first day clearly.  Mom is holding my hand as I approach the glass doors to school.  I wasn't afraid.  That day, or a few days later, I was sitting at my desk across from another little girl.  I was talking to her and she kept laughing.  I thought she understood what I was saying.  I loved it!  I just kept Italian.   She just laughed.  The teacher came up to us and in order to keep me quiet, she placed masking tape over my mouth.  (Parochial School!)  I learned later that year, as I started to understand English, that my new friend was laughing at the gold hoop earrings in my pierced ears.  No one else had pierced ears with gold hoops. 

That little girl is still my friend today.  There are 5 of us who have been friends since our early days in school.  This year we turned 56 and we were born in 1956.  So grateful to be able to say this.  We get together once or twice a year to celebrate and catch up.  Life has thrown us all a curve or two or three.  Through it all, we've managed to be able to hold on to a piece of our childhood.

Last night we celebrated our friendship at a terrific restaurant.  Not one woman at the table looks over 40!  Gorgeous, smart, warm, generous, funny.  I'm so grateful to linger over dessert to catch up and share.  No timer on a phone that says, "Your time is up."