Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mornings & Pigs' Ears

In the midst of getting the kids to school on time and thinking about my endless list of stuff to do, I tend to talk myself into my day while driving the kids to their points of destination in the morning. Our daily driving route puts us from El Dorado Hills to Placerville every day of the week. My three have gotten so used to it, they just assume that Tammy number 2 is figuring it all out and they hardly respond to my morning utterances anymore. We are not exactly morning people. I think all of us were born under the sign that blinks “Open all night”, because we all tend to solve the world’s problems after 5 PM. The first thing on my mind in the morning is where I can plug myself into IV drip of caffeine. I know every café from Town Centre El Dorado Hills to Main Street Placerville. I know all the Goth kids at Habit, hang out at ‘It’s a Grind’ in Cameron Park, and have ran into a few Tibetans at Cozmic Café. But mostly, I know where good coffee reigns supreme and where free internet access can be found. I’m that old lady in the corner with the pink laptop who can easily do 5 shots of espresso, but am desperately trying to cut back.

One particular diatribe with my interior self found me on South Shingle Road, picking up lunches for Conor and Birdy and passing by Lee’s Feed. “Remind me to pick up some pig’s ears for Conor!” Huh? That engendered a few giggles. “Ugh, I mean for Skipper.” Skipper is our dog. But I’m sure you can deduce that without me. Brain death approaching, I catch myself. Why can’t I get these kids’ names straight? Thinking about Conor chewing on pig ears really lit up the day. I’ve caught that contagion of my parents’ own brain damage. I remember the litany of names called out by Bob and Sally when they were thinking about something else, but wanted our attention; Deep in a place obviously somewhere else but trying to be present, it’d go a little something like this: “Tammy, Terry, Tricia, Teddy Bear? Whatsurname?” Drat. We’d give my mom the same blank stare. “Ugh, that’s the dog, mom, I’m the oldest…Tammy…remember?” “I know that!” she’d reply in exasperation. “I just get so mixed up sometimes!” It’s not exasperation. I know for a fact that until the caffeine is pulsing through my arterial system, I’m just not gonna make any sense in the AM and the kids’ names are gonna be fair game before 5 PM because in the real world of middle age, the brain synapses are just beginning to fire around dinner time. I honestly think the profitability of the entire nation would go through the roof, if our day started around noon.

Last weekend, I was inducted into the honor society at Folsom Lake College and the president of the college called us “the brightest of the bright”, my kids were choking back the loud chortles, while my husband held back tears. I could just hear him thinking out loud “so that’s why the housework is a little behind, and I cook more than she does now.” Honestly, it was embarrassing. I wanted to congratulate the other 4 people standing with me (who were all under the age of 21) except there was two other people around my age and I wanted to ask them, “Do you forget your kids’ names ever?” I just stood there, thinking I hadn’t yet had my morning coffee and I was starting to fade. It’s tough. Maintaining a high grade point average doesn’t always mean perfection in the day to day. I’m always a work in progress.

I’m convinced that the answer to this early dementia is to play more cards on line. It is an idea that I got from my Life Span class, learning about the Mankato nuns and the brain studies they’ve done on them. Apparently, they’ve avoided dementia and Alzheimer’s by playing cards, doing puzzles and crosswords. I really like spades. I also will indulge in a little Sudoku now and again. Today, while on Yahoo games, my card partner hurled some insult at me and I laughed. “Yeah, go eat some pig ears…I haven’t had my coffee yet.” That shut her up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Arrivederci Cugini

Pictured: (Elena, Papa Maher, MoMaher, Matteo, Francesca & Fulvio)
We all gathered for MoMaher & Papa’s Golden Wedding Jubilee last weekend. The cousins from Italy surprised MoMaher by flying into SFO under stealth conditions. Family came from all around the country to celebrate the occasion and the pictures tell a story of what family means after 50 years of wedded bliss. The theme for me was Cugini or “cousins” – surely the spot light of the weekend. As mom and dad celebrated their milestone, one of my nephews was packing to leave for the U.S. Air Force. I am proud of him. Another nephew is headed to Dominican College in the Fall, a niece to a Design School in Seattle, and another taking first place with her crew team at Lake Natomas over the weekend. Having said all that, it seems like yesterday that they were all kids. Where do the years go? All these young adults springing into their lives faster than I remember them growing up…oy vey! These are cousins who have lived apart for most of their lives, but firmly bonded in this family of Joseph Luzzi and William Maher

JD spent several days on the video we showed at the party of people who were at the wedding 50 years ago. A junior bridesmaid, another cousin, hasn’t seen MoMaher since the wedding and they spoke over the weekend on the phone. Hopefully these long lost cousins will reunite in person soon.

Aunt MaryElla’s mother passed away the morning of the party and her funeral is tomorrow. She lived into her late 90’s...leaving a legacy of children, grandchildren and great children. She left a large family, filled with cousins and they took care of her until her last day.

Having had a late night supper with the Lake Como contigency on Tuesday night, seeing the young cugini ‘girls’ JD visited in 1995, now having children of their own, it’s amazing how time has passed. The laughter and stories are the same. Two year old Matteo delighted us all with his charm and sweet disposition. Fulvio, Francesca and Elena honored everyone with their presence, and knowing that it won’t be long until we see each other again, we simply hug and kiss our farewells all the way out the door, ciao caro, ciao cugini..buon viaggio! Ricordarmi! Remember me... Fulvio & MoMaher

The weekend was filled with local cousins, Italian cousins, and out of state cousins. Some had surprising and good news, a very special one was recovering from surgery (thankfully with very good news), some were a little too far away and sorely missed. We wish them much love; and to those who spent a little time with us this last week, we say simply “Arrividerci Cugini… Finché incontriamo ancora…Dio la benedice! ” Farewell Cousins, until we meet again, God bless you!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Golden Jubilees & white dress shoes

My sister-in-law, Cindy, has a birthday today. I wonder if she knows how much I miss her. She lives out of state with JD’s brother, Pat and their two daughters. It was sad when they moved from Sacramento years ago; both having careers closely connected with engineering and government contracts. When they first started out their married life together, we lived about 5 miles away from them and our oldest girls were just starting school. I have so many great memories from that time. There is something magical in the beginnings of family life. I remember the window of opportunity, encouraging Pat to travel to South Dakota to propose to Cindy and the telephone call he made to us on that same trip telling us that they had eloped or in his words “gone to Deadwood.” I’ve missed the years of cooking dinners, coffee klatching and wine tasting, but life has a way of taking families on journeys. The joys now are found in the cross roads when you come together to celebrate family milestones. Speaking of which...

It was a little over 21 years ago that JD proposed to me at the Cliff House in San Francisco. We were having dinner with a couple who were celebrating their Golden Wedding Jubilee. I always wondered about the special luck and blessing it was for us as a young couple to celebrate the night of our engagement with two people who had already spent half a century together. They were a couple crazy kids; teenagers really, who were married by a Justice of the Peace in 1937 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Reflecting on that a little further, I wonder if there was something in that South Dakota water, given that JD’s brother did the exact same thing almost 60 years later! It was simply amazing to hear the story of how Gene and Delores swept away in the middle of the night to get married. If Delores were alive today, they’d be married 71 years this September 25th. I remember them dancing at our wedding. There was a lot about that wonderful day that is a blur to me now, given that 20 years has come and gone. However, rock crystal clear in my mind, was Gene, all decked out in his white dress shoes and driving the red Cadillac; his wife of half a century next to him, still very much remembering Deadwood, but a thousand miles and 50 years away.

Next week, JD’s parents are celebrating their own 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve known them almost half their marriage. The day will be crowned by an amazing party to celebrate the occasion with many family and friends coming from all over to celebrate the milestone of a half century of marriage. It’s the occasion that one has to see as a blessing... in counting the years like bars of Gold; because marriage to one person for half a century is a rare achievement nowadays. The ear-marks of such rarity being the memories; of joys and sorrows that sharing your life brings, like an investment that has had its ups and downs, shortfalls and yields. Most importantly, marking something irrevocably sacred and meaningful.

MoMaher, 50 years ago, April 12, 1958

The Golden Wedding Jubilee bring people together to celebrate a part of life that few couples ever reach, the half century mark. Considering that I’m not even half way there yet, I will be watching the days closely and taking notes. The South Dakota contingent will be there. It’ll be nice to wish Cindy a belated Happy Birthday in person and I am looking forward to seeing Gene again after all these years, hoping beyond hope that he’s wearing those white dress shoes and saving a hug for me.

Tammy Maher is columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at www.familyfare.blogspot.com