Ain’t No Son Shine When He’s Gone

a boy and his dogChef Boy ‘R Mine was here for a week and just left Monday morning.  I am all verklempt and singing “Ain’t no son-shine when he’s gone.”  (H/T to Mona and Dena.)

My son lives in Atlanta and, as a chef, works crazy hours including weekends and holidays.  I don’t get to see him often and, when I do, it’s usually just a brief visit.  A whole week was a gift.

chef boy r mineI’m fond of saying to expectant parents that no one ever tells you how much fun kids are.  And, hoo boy, young souls make my soul sing.  But I’m learning that there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction in older children.  My son is very much an adult and living a self-actualized life.  He’s intelligent, articulate and has a wicked good sense of humor.  I enjoy talking to him.  I enjoy sitting in companionable silence with him.  I enjoy watching him play with his dogs.

He cooks for me, sometimes, when he comes home.  This time I bought a filled-to-the-brim grocery cart of quick and easy stuff so he wouldn’t have to cook, but he chose to anyway.  We had a quite marvelous Ricotta Gnocchi Bolognese that was so good we ate it for 3 days without tiring of it.  I said, as I often say when Chef Boy ‘R Mine cooks, that it was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  And it was.

gnocciAfter the first round of Gnocchi Bolognese when I was still high on the endorphins of good food, I had no sooner settled into a glass of after-dinner wine when he announced he was going to go wax my car.  I wondered aloud if I was dying and no one had told me.  He had cooked and done most of the cleaning up and was still willing to spend 4 ½ hours waxing my car.

At night, by lamplight, he waxed my car.  Not just waxed it, but washed it, clayed it, compounded it, did this and did that and then something else.  This was not just a wax job, but the kind of attention a car gets with a $400 detailing job.

When I walk to my car, I see a sparkle and shine that reminds me that I have a son who loves me and is willing to spend his vacation days with me.  Adult children, I’m finding, are a great joy.  Life is good.

Candles and Mournful Trains

010It’s Sunday evening after a 3-day weekend.  I’m so pleased with myself.  I had an agenda for the weekend and I ticked off most of my items.  Since my agendas are usually very ambitious, most is a good thing.  My baby boy is coming home to visit on Tuesday and I’ve been a whirligirl of activity getting ready for him.  Well, no, not really.  But I got a lot done.

My method, this time, was frenetic bursts of activity punctuated by long periods of rest and relaxation.  This puttering method worked out well.  I’m pleased with all that has been accomplished and at peace with what still needs to b e done.

I celebrated myself and my accomplishments by drinking wine and watching candle flames flicker.  Try as I might, I can’t get the camera to capture what I see as I sit on the couch and survey the coffee table/altar.

There’s a train off in the distance that sounds mournful, but which makes me feel snug and safe.  It’s been a good weekend to be me.

My Punkin is 29 Today

jeremyschoolsmallIt’s unbelievable to me that I can possibly have a child who turned 29 today.  I mean, really, how can that be?  No, he wasn’t a teen mama baby, I was 26.

He lives in Atlanta and so I wasn’t able to wish him Happy Birthday in person.  Atlanta is much too far for my comfort.  He might be 29, but he’s still my baby and I want to be able to get to him quickly should circumstances dictate.

I sent him, via Amazon, a not-very-exciting gift.  For some reason, he didn’t get it although tracking showed it delivered.  I feel really bad that he didn’t have a present on his birthday.  Tell me — do parents ever quit thinking of their offspring as little kids?  I imagine a 6-year-old bereft without a birthday present instead of a grown man of 29 who just shrugged it off.

He was the world’s cutest kid and I’m so ready for him to produce my grandchildren.  I can’t wait to live life through the eyes of a child again.

The Zen of a Good Sofa


The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

Buddhism, and other traditions, teaches us that contentment lies in losing our attachment to things and situations that are transitory. I think that’s good advice even if I’m attached to all sorts of things.

Home is my happy place. I’m way too attached to the structure and many of its contents. I’ve given up trying to explain it to my satisfaction much less yours. There are all sorts of reasons why being here makes me happy is true even if objectively my love for this heap is probably misguided.

How transitory is something, my sofa for example, that’s been with me for nearly 30 years? The very fabric of it is soaked in the years of my life as a wife and a mother. The sofa witnessed my newlywed years and my divorced years. It held my son and kittens and puppies. It is the perfect sofa for reading the Sunday paper with its curved back and high arms. Stretched out upon it, I daydreamed and plotted, read and wrote, loved and lived. It witnessed the barn’s transformation and was moved from room to room as room function changed with each step forward in the barn conversion.

He didn't see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

He didn’t see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

It’s a sturdy thing. It was bought during the Great Sofa Search of 1984. I scoured Wisconsin for a sofa to place in the house I was beginning a new life as wife and mother. Nothing was right. I searched and searched. I visited Huntington, WV a few weeks before Thanksgiving to visit my parents and found the sofa in a furniture store. I went back to Milwaukee and tried to find it there. I did, but as it turned out, it was less expensive to buy it from the Huntington store and have it shipped to Wisconsin.

It was pricey. The Husband was shocked. I was adamant. I’d done enough shopping by then to know that perfect sofas are hard to come by.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn't star in.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn’t star in.

It was made by Key City Furniture in North Carolina. I believe they’re still in business. All of their furniture is made to order and each piece is infused with quality workmanship. There’s a reason my couch is 29 years old and just as comfortable as the day a confoozled truck driver delivered it to my Wisconsin home. Usually the truck drivers delivered to stores who then delivered it to the buyer. The guy was shocked to find nobody but my husband and I available to help him off-load it. He wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with taking it off the truck, but upon learning I was pregnant, he and The Ex wrestled it into the house. It’s a behemoth of a sofa.

It’s a beauty – all over-stuffed curves and delicious serpentine lines.

That first day I took photos of it to record it’s arrival in my life never imagining that nearly three decades later I’d again be taking photos of it in a new reincarnation.

The new fabric.

The new fabric.

The years beat the fabric up. Mind you, it didn’t look 29 years old, but it was frayed and looking a bit sad. About ten years ago I began pondering the idea of reupholstering it. For those of you who have never delved into the world of upholstery, this is not something you do to save money. You do it when a piece of furniture is perfect save for its fabric. I quickly learned I could buy a new sofa for what this adventure would cost.

I didn’t want a new sofa.

If I could have gotten the same fabric, I would have, but I couldn’t. It was a beautiful brown tapestry that made me smile until the upholsterers carried it out of the house a month ago.

I looked and looked at upholstery grade fabric. I began to despair.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

My mother found the new fabric at a craft supply store. It’s beautiful. As my best friend said, “It’s rich without being formal.” The name of the fabric is patchwork elegance. It’s velvety chenille of black and gold and silver and caramel and cream, diamonds and squares and scrolls and starbursts and medallions with a fleur de lis or two here and there. It’s just stunning. The chenille makes it cuddly, the design makes a statement and all of it makes me happy. It suits the room.

The upholsterer finished it within ten days. The weather and my ice encrusted road kept it hostage. Every time I called to schedule another delivery which would be cancelled due to more snow, a staff person would tell me how well it turned out, how beautiful it was, how people wanted to buy it.

With this winter that won’t end, I began to fear I’d never get it to the barn. A window of opportunity opened as did my car windows when the temperature soared to 60 and the snow began melting. I called and scheduled delivery for today at 2 pm. They were late and I began to fret, but by 2:30 it was sitting in my living room.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s nice having my old companion back. Tonight I’ll put some soaring opera fraught with love and longing on the stereo, sip a glass of wine or two, and ponder all that we’ve seen together in this world of attachment and longing and the desire for contentment and happiness. Sitting on my beloved sofa, I will finger the Tibetan prayer beads and consider the Zen of a Good Sofa.

[I’m disappointed that my 4 month old draperies are very much the wrong color.  The search for the proper window coverings begin anew.]


Christmas Guests, Memories and Memorials

doug's tree guest room 016I’ve spent the day finishing HMO’Keefe’s Christmas tree.  I’ve been working on this for more than a week now.  It’s a pre-lit tree, but whole sections refused to light.  I checked bulbs, cords, fuses, the alignment of stars and planets, and everything else and nothing, nada, zip, could persuade the lights to work.

I decided to put up HMOK’s tree in the guest room primarily so his daughter could enjoy it when he comes to visit, but also because it is a slim tree and fit into the room like it should always have been there.  He was mildly annoyed when he got it home after buying it to discover it had colored lights.  He and I both prefer trees with either white lights or a solid color.  This one has red, blue, pink, white, green and gold.  It’s grown on me over the years and the multi-colors are great in the guest room.  I’m right fond of it.

But I was not fond of its refusal to work.  So, I trundled off to the Lowe’s and found an exact match for the lights.  Now, really, what are the odds?  So, I added more lights to the sections that aren’t working.  (Maybe next year I’ll take off the non-working lights, but I didn’t feel like wrestling with cable ties this year.)

doug's tree guest room 038I was so afraid that celebrating the holidays this year would be hard that I resolved to begin early so that if I did end up in the pit of sadness, my obligations to the family and friends would be taken care of.  Funny thing.  The more ahead of the game I got, the more I have enjoyed the season.  I’m still mourning HMO’Keefe, but I think I’ve moved to the acceptance stage of things and spend a lot of time reminiscing about our years together — particularly our Christmases.  We had a long-distance relationship for years, but regular as rain, I went to Boston or he came here.

He particularly loved the spectacle that is my house at Christmas time when I put everything out.  I felt I owed it to him and to me to make sure the house is at its Christmas best this year.  I’ve had a ball doing it.

doug's tree guest room 023Today, I fixed the lights and got out the boxes of his ornaments.  He was fond of Santas, kayaks, chili peppers, cowboys, and his daughter.  His tree reflects those things.  It’s a beautiful, funny, eclectic memorial to the man I loved.  I’m so pleased that his daughter is going to be able to sleep in this room with that tree when she comes to visit.

I’m also excited that Chef Boy ‘R Mine will be here for 5 days this year.  I can’t remember the last time I had him for 5 days.  So, I’m in a frenzy to have the house clean and orderly, to make cookies, to celebrate all the time-honored traditions of an American Christmas.

doug's tree guest room 042The guest room is almost ready, and boy-howdy I’m glad my two guests don’t have problems with cat hair.  I’m pleased with how the room turned out.  I bought the furniture this past summer upon realizing it drove me crazy that my son and step-daughter didn’t have a proper bed to sleep in when they’re here.  The suite of furniture is gorgeous and suits the room perfectly.

Upon excavating and decorating the closet, I got the hidden writing closet up and running again.  I can’t wait to spend some serious time in there writing secrets and memories.

Hugging Lazzie Bear

big tree 010The big tree is finally up and decorated according to tradition. This is always a monumental undertaking, but this year the tree was especially recalcitrant.

The little tree is the kid-friendly one. This one is for me. Some people have scrapbooks – I have a Christmas tree. Every ornament on the tree, though mundane and seemingly uninteresting, has a story even if the story is only that it was on my first tree. Indeed, I procured my first ornament while still in high school. I love Christmas trees and this one is a lifetime of stories.

rositascantinaUnder the tree sits a Christmas Village consisting of 32 houses, several large accent pieces and a score or two of village residents. I have always put the village under the tree and the population of explosion of a couple years ago has stagnated. This year I added one new structure, Rosita’s Cantina, to honor Doug. But that one little café apparently was more than the town zoning commission could take. No matter how I arranged and re-arranged, everything would not fit and just looked terrible. I was perplexed.

thenewtreeskirtSince I am the Queen of Online Shopping, I ordered a new tree skirt which is, as is usual with me, a tablecloth. This one is a 90” round. I miss the ridiculous lace of the old one, but this has a beautiful damask texture. I’ll get used to it. But, baby, we got room for growth now! Um, actually no. Even though I added a bunch of new real estate, the village barely fits. It would seem the opening of a Mexican cantina is the sign that a town has all it needs.

lazziebearI love the walk down Memory Lane when I decorate the trees. As is probably true for most folks, most of the stories center on my child. My favorite story to tell is why there is a pink baby rattle on the tree, but my second favorite story to tell is the Lazzie Bear Event of 1987. It might have been 1986, but Chef Boy ‘R Mine demonstrated some mad running skills so I’m thinking he must have been 2 ½ at the time.

I had the most well-behaved child on the planet and it had nothing to do with my parenting, he was just a compliant, good-natured kid. So much so that I feared for him.

izzy still helping(He grew out of this in his teen years and I quit fearing for him and started fearing for me, because I was losing my mind with his behavior, but those are other stories. Back to the one at hand.)

He and I were in Lazarus, now Macy’s, and the full-on Christmas shopping frenzy was in place at the Huntington Mall. The place was crazy busy. Jeremy held my hand and stayed close without me having to tell him. He overwhelmed in crowds and wanted me to carry him, but I was laden down with too much stuff to comply. I feel strongly about folks dragging little kids around the mall and Jeremy usually did not go with me. I can’t remember why he was with me, but it was out of the ordinary for him to be plunged into the depths of commercial craziness. Neither of us were cranky, but we were both anxious to be done.

taekwondokidWith no warning at all, my compliant, well-behaved child took off at a run through the perfume department, through the jewelry department, hung a right at shoes, and launched himself airborne into the arms of one, very surprised adult wearing a white bear costume.

Lazzie Bear was the store’s mascot and for a price, children could have their photos taken with Lazzie Bear. The child had wanted nothing to do with Santa, but a large white bear trying to go on a bathroom break was the love of his young life. The smile on his face! The exuberant hugs! The myriad of kisses! The perplexity of the poor guy just trying to get to the bathroom and out of a hot suit for a minute or two.

Lazzie Bear doesn’t talk, so a patient clerk tried to explain to my son, who I was desperately trying to get to, that Lazzie Bear needed a time-out and Jeremy would have to wait awhile before he could sit on Lazzie’s lap. Jeremy was hearing none of it, still enveloping the guy in sweet, toddler love.

lazxziebearphotoI arrived on the scene, sorted out what was happening, and told Jeremy we had to go a different way to a different place and then he could have his picture made sitting with Lazzie Bear. Well. That was that. He marched me down the aisle, up the escalator, and we patiently waited at the empty Lazzie Bear booth for Lazzie to return. I have a sweet photo to remember the day by and I have a Lazzie Bear hanging on the Big Tree.

I hope you are making stories to tell this holiday season. Enjoy it and the children in your life. These are magical times.

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