A Mother’s Lament

FYI: I might lean a little mawkish here.

Our grown children live away from us, one in Brooklyn, NY, the other in San Francisco. We keep in touch frequently via text, FaceTime, email, social media, and yet I find it’s just short of satisfying for me. I want to hold them, hug them, kiss and love on them, like we did when they were mere sprouts. Nothing beats the hug from your child, nothing. Those hugs are the warmest and most innocent, and when you’re in the middle of that hug you love that kid so damn much. You think you’ll never love so much again. In some ways that’s true. Every hug henceforth will be different. They’ll age, mature, think you’re the worst ever, etc.

Fast-forward past those teenage years and all those kins of hugs, all that dealing with teenage behaviors, and then they’re adults and they love and hug you again, differently. These adult hugs are different. They hold all the learning they’ve experienced. They hold all the regrets they have about giving you grief. They hold appreciation for all you’ve done for them. And they’re strong hugs, as though they realize that they’re aging, and know you’re aging, and they’re (in the back of their minds) worried they won’t get to hug you for years hence. I hope that’s not the case! I want to be around for all the hugs these guys bring. I’ll never not want to hug them, I’ll always remember their little kid hugs, and how they smelled, and their tiny arms wrapped tight around my neck.

It’s New Year’s Eve eve, and I’m remembering some of the most satisfying times we’ve had as a family. The camping trips to Big Sur over Thanksgiving weekend. The dance recitals, the graduations, the roller-blading, the cycling, the holiday traditions on which they insisted we hold. So many good times! Sometimes I think my best work, as a mother, is behind me. Then I hope that the best is yet to come.

Happy New Year! I hope you find your happiness in the hugs of those you love the most.

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A Holiday Musing, and a Recipe

We were fine with all the parties, cards, gifts and decorating, until the week before Christmas. Despite my flu shot in early October, a rogue strain kicked my butt to the bed for 1-½ days, and then Chris caught it, too. We lost 3 days of last-minute gift-purchasing and stressing over stocking-stuffers (disclosure: We didn’t even hang the stockings, let alone stuff them).

The important things were done, so by Christmas Eve we were all fine, attending our friends’ annual open house (they knock themselves out with the baking, steaming, cooking and gracious hosting), then home to watch some Christmas movies with our son, who arrived with his friend’s dog, on Saturday while we were out.

Some of our holiday traditions are from Chris’s and my childhoods, and some are what we’ve adapted over the years. My mother made an Italian sausage stew based on a recipe her friend passed to her; whoever wandered in on Christmas Eve had a generous serving on a crusty Italian roll. I’ve made it since the early 90s, both by my mother’s guidelines and with vegan variations, depending on who’s wandering in.

As a child I learned to bake all kinds of Christmas cookies from my mother. We’d make nearly a dozen varieties of press cookies, stamped cookies, sugar cookies, etc., then divide them into various containers to share with our neighbors, family and friends.

I’ve continued the tradition of cookie & sweets baking/sharing over the years. As a young adult with amazing roommates I was given the recipe for Winter’s Best Gingersnaps. Ginger cookies, whether snaps (crunchy) or wafers (chewy) were a marker for fall, and my birthday, right up to Christmas, although my mother, grandmother & I didn’t bake them.

I’ve made these cookies in the fall, for Christmas cookie exchanges, and deep winter warm-me-ups. They aren’t just for Christmas. Enjoy!

Winter’s Best Gingersnaps

¾ cup butter

¾ cup shortening (I use all butter)

2-¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

4 cups unbleached wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cloves

2 teaspoons ginger

Sift all dry ingredients together. Work butter (& shortening, if using) until creamy, then gradually work in 2 cups of sugar until mixture is light. Now beat in eggs and molasses very thoroughly. Gradually added sifted dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Beat hard, and don’t be alarmed if the batter is soft. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375*. Roll pieces of dough into 1″ balls, dip into remaining sugar (if desired). Place on greased baking sheet about 3″ apart and back 12-15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven, let stand 1 minute. Remove and cool on rack.

So, a cookie good for dunking in milk or coffee, and not as sweet as you might think. I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.

Now, what’s next for baking? Maybe bring back homemade bread. Fodder for another post.

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Our son, cancer-free, came home for Thanksgiving, with goodies. Without his GF, who has shared Thanksgiving with us for the last 3 years. I admit that it was strange, and slightly awkward, as he offered nothing about their breakup, and that was what we wanted to discuss. We did not. I was disappointed about that, but we don’t pry. Our adult children know we are here for them, and when they want to share, we listen without judgment. We FaceTimed with our daughter and her husband, and it was good, but nothing about our son and his current status.

We stayed up late (too late) and woke early. No talk of the break-up or how he’s managing that. Chris and I served hypotheses but without Colin’s input, it’s all speculation. So we remain as clueless now as we were a week ago.

Coming from a family who was all about being in everyone’s business, this was difficult for me to respect our son’s boundaries, yet I — we — did. I’m grateful to have had time with our son, and for the technology that allows real-time conversing with family far away. And yet I’m left wanting.

I know we may never know the gory details. We may be better off. And that we can offer a safe place to land for our adult children is a comfort. I did not feel that my parents’ home was a safe place; indeed, it was often one of ridicule for not being more than their expectations for their children. And yet when I was with my parents I was doing the best I could do at the time. I’m grateful that we recognize that, and can let our family be who they are, without judging them. We’ve come a long way from our respective families. I hope we can continue to forge a path and still find places to connect and share.


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Quick Update

I know it’s been a weird year — why aren’t those homonyms spelled similarly, I wonder — and it’s taken on more weirdness recently.  And weirdly, it’s just little stuff, nothing major. I appreciate the lack of drama and resent that these niggling issues require as much attention as they do.

Our son will be joining us for Thanksgiving, and it will be the first time in 6 years that we’ve hosted. So far it’s just the 3 of us. We’ve enjoyed the years he & his roommates, GF and others have hosted and contributed. This is the year to pull back and lean on family. It’s been challenging for all of us, on many different levels. We’ll miss our daughter and SIL and will FaceTime with them. And we’re grateful for what we have, and that’s enough.

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Unexpected Feelings

So some men in powerful positions were recently accused of sexual harassment/bad behavior. As a woman who has experienced that, I’m all over those who are going forward. Men don’t get that women will own our power and their attempt to take it from us without consequences. The men that harrassed me won’t face consequences , aside from what Karma delivers them, and I  hope they rot in hell, or worse. Those experiences were the worst. I can’t change the past but I can move forward, which I did, but the feelings of violation still bubbled up, at unusual times and unbidden.

I walked a mile tonight in a t-shirt and shorts, and felt no cold, in 55* nighttime temps. I felt nothing as far as weather was concerned. My focus was on not letting my sexual predators get away with their deeds. What they did was not my fault. What happened to other women was not their fault. You guys who took advantage of a situation, or worse, it’s on you. Rot in hell, motherfuckers.

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An Unexpected Autumn

So, our son tested cancer-free, we lost a dog very suddenly, and gained a puppy, also not planned. The puppy, Teddy, is fine — he’s smart, likes his walks, needs challenges to keep from being bored, much like our kids when they were 2-5 years of age. Sometimes I relax or am otherwise engaged and he reminds me that he is a priority. A leap from 5 feet away into my lap gets my attention.

In September my MIL had some health challenges that could be surgically resolved. She said no that, and within a couple of weeks went from vibrancy to hospice. My SIL, her firstborn, cut short her vacation and was with her when she passed. I know it was hard for her, and am grateful that my MIL didn’t die alone. Nancy Gallagher taught me how to be a mother-in-law, among other things, and I hope to pass on those skills to my daughter and future daughter-in-law and anyone else who pays attention.

Chris went to help my SIL help with the funeral arrangements, leaving the day after MIL passed. His timing was perfect. He stayed 2 days, returned for my birthday and an important bike ride, and we flew to Texas for her mass and inurnment days later. The next day, Monday, we picked up our daughter and her husband, then Tuesday drove another 180 miles for the mass, inurnment, and a weird dinner at a Thai restaurant in Victoria. The dinner wasn’t the worst. Dealing with our extremely conservative nieces and nephews, and their adult children was awful. They can’t debate issues without devolving into ad hominem attacks. The conversations were stilted and awkward. I couldn’t wait to get back to my SIL’s place, where the hot tub, wine, and/or cigars on the wrap-around porch offered some balance to that awful, awkward day.

Daughter, Son-in-law, husband and I woke up about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, finished packing, had coffee, hugs and tears goodbye, and drove to Austin to the airport. So much of the air we breathed was tainted by the odorant added to gas as it is pumped out of the ground, and it was awful. Even with the air set on re-circulation it was present. Three of the four of us have spent significant time in Texas, and we could not be more happy to live in Not Texas. At least, not that part of Texas.

Daughter and SIL left shortly before us, at a gate across from us. We had hugs and I cannot love our SIL more that he took time off from a new job to support our daughter as she supported us in honoring Chris’s mother, my MIL, and her last grandmother. My heart overflowed that they made the last-minute plans to support us, and the rest of the family (whom SIL met for the first time; he handled the Rosary like a boss; very impressed). I learned that although he’s Jewish by birth, he attended a Catholic high school, and knows liturgy inside and out.

We arrived in CA Wednesday afternoon and after we picked up the dogs (who were so happy to see us) I got laundry done, plants watered, etc., etc. and we settled in. Saturday we woke early, loaded the tandem bike and drove to Davis, where we found a perfect parking spot, and rode the Foxy’s Fall Metric Century plus enough miles to make my age in miles, as it was my birthday. We met up with several friends with whom we’ve ridden before and really enjoyed the day.

I flew out Monday to New Jersey to stay with my youngest sister and spend too little time with my middle sister and bother. My youngest sister, T, and I took the train and metro to my daughter’s place, met her cat, Jenny Lynsky, and enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner in Brooklyn. We found respite in the Brooklyn Botannical, Garden. It smelled like fall, and shielded us from car noise for a spell. Spending time with my family helped me process  my grief, of which there has been too much this year.

I was happy to be there, spend time with my siblings, and act as a sounding board for T as she transitioned from TSA to DEA 12 week training. I can’t wait for more sibling time. I’m immensely grateful to Chris, who anticipated my needs and scored a 1st class plane ticket from Philadelphia to Sacramento. I’m humbled by my many blessings.

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An Unexpected Summer

So most summers I sell houses, my husband keeps a refinery from blowing up, we walk our dogs and we ride our bikes frequently. June dealt us a couple of blows from which we’re still reeling. Our son was diagnosed with Stage 1 testicular cancer & had the infected teste removed (in a  4- day span from his having “pain” to having 1 testicle removed). ITen  days laterwe lost our older (very nearly 12 years of age) dog, to a very random lung disease. And a week after we lost him we found and brought home a new Schipperke puppy. Oliver, our 10 yr. old Schip, was having none of the puppy’s antics; he was the canine version of “Get off my lawn, kid” for 6 days.

Teddy the pup figured out how to manipulate the dog door the second day home, and the stairs the day after. The next day he escaped from his kitchen pen (it’s tile and easily cleaned) and ran a few steps up, then decided to take 2 steps down. He missed his mark, tumbled, yelped. Oliver woke up and recognized our new pack member. They’re almost inseparable, but Oliver  wants time-out more than Teddy does. They’re seriously cute playing together. Oliver has a tender side we never saw before.  Watching Oliver progress from wannabe #1 dog to top dog has been interesting. And watching Teddy grow from “Hey, I’m new here!” to knowing how to ask Oliver and us to play with him, has been illuminating. When we let him play with Oliver outside his kitchen compound, he runs to the back door when he needs to go. And he and Oliver go out and pee. It’s a good thing. We’re chuffed by how well Oliver and Teddy get along, as well as how they interact.

So we had some bad news and then some good news. Our son’s cancer hasn’t spread and he qualified for MediCal. We have a new puppy to train (so much work…good thing we’re doing this together). Daughter has her hammock-cat and we look forwarding to  visiting them and meeting that cat.  I have much for which to be grateful, and I am.

We gave up our vacation and annual trip to Texas to see my MIL and other in-laws and friends to contribute to our son’s GoFundMe (we gave outside the app, as did others, and I appreciate all who generously gave). And now that we have a new puppy we tag-team and our time together is precious. Chris is taking vacation days to bond with Teddy. I know it’s temporary.

Thankfully, we coordinated our nap times, and it was a good day.



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