Screened

I remember seeing this pretty great Christmas card. A family of four, all festively coordinated in their best holiday red shirts, sitting on their couch, next to their lit Christmas tree. All staring down into their iPhones, iPads, iSomethings. You can’t see their faces, but the dad in the picture is holding up his one finger, (the pointer) in a gesture of “wait one sec…”

I chuckled and said to myself, “that won’t be us.”

And it wasn’t. Because we were not keeping up with the Joneses at all. We had one lap top, one television and the wii. That was it. I have, and still do, a crappy phone, with no data plan and 200 texts per month. (And  I am almost there, so call me if you need me, kay?) My husband has his work laptop and his Blackberry. We were bare bones.

And, according to an article in Woman’s Day in October, really behind the times.

Panic set in as I showed the article to my husband.

The kids will lag in school! Their friends will make fun of them! They’ll be shunned from society! WE NEED TO UPGRADE NOW!

After I calmed down, we decided that it really was time to bite the bullet and get caught up with the rest of the world. At least partially.

So I did some research and we decided that Christmas would be a good time to introduce some technology upgrades to our household. I went to the ATT store and looked at all the new fangled phones that you could actually text on without sliding up half the phone to reveal the keyboard. Wow! (But there were too many choices. I got scared. So I still have my old phone.)

We  did, however, decide to purchase an iTouch for our 10-year-old son. It had been on his Christmas list for the last three years. Though oddly, he hadn’t mentioned it at ALL this year. I mean at all. (Though given he was in a phase, a World War II phase that meant EVERYTHING on his list had to do with outfitting him to be a reenactor of sorts.)

So I looked and found last generation’s model, which by the way I just don’t get. Even when you are trying to upgrade, you are still behind the times with Apple. The cool people have the new one. The uncool people have last generation. What evs. The iTouch 4 was cheaper and I am nothing if not cheap.

I also decided to get an iPad for the “family.” Although granted it was high on the list of my 7-year-old daughter’s wants from Santa, it would be for the family. I was certainly not going to get my daughter a piece of technology like an iPad solely because she wants it. I mean, we are behind the times, but going from 0 to 60 for a 7-year-old was out of the question. Right? Right?

ipad

I settled on an iPad (again, last generation — am I a glutton for punishment?) from Wal-Mart. I think I got a good price, certainly the best one I could find.

And boom! We are in the 21st century. Or sort of.

When I found out about my upcoming surgery, I figured an iPad would be just the ticket for me while I lay in bed recovering. So, since I was going to be monopolizing the iPad, I decided to get my husband a Kindle Fire. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I did actually blog that I would never get a Kindle. I meant for myself. I swear.)

Anyway, so I went to Staples, got the Kindle Fire HD and I swallowed hard.

We just bit the bullet.

So in the month of December, we tried to fish around with the kids about technology. My daughter was still firm on the iPad. But my son said he did not want an iTouch. At all. Great. Just great.

Anyway, fast forward to Christmas morning and everyone was thrilled with the new electronics under the tree. Even my son, who jumped for joy with his iTouch.

Over Christmas break, I walked into the living room where my family was. The cat and dog were in front of the blazing fire, the Christmas tree lights twinkled and the boughs of holly that hung gleamed bright over my window panes.

And there was silence.

My daughter, with her new pink headphones, was plugged into the iPad playing Temple Run. My son had his head buried in his iTouch playing some army game and my husband was fiddling with his new Kindle Fire HD.

They didn’t even know I was there. At all.

Guys? Guys? Family?

So I shouted, “Isn’t this bliss!” And got a chuckle or two, but no one raised their eyes from their iThings.

Okay then. We are now that family on the Christmas card.

I realize things are new, and I hope that the desire to be on the damn things constantly will dwindle.

It will dwindle, right? We won’t be that family that grunts answers to each other because we all have our heads buried in some screen will we?

I think I miss being blissfully under the technology bar.

Well, at least I have an idea for next year’s Christmas card.

Happy Screen Time.

A Brand New Day

When I was growing up, my mother was fierce and feisty about her particular brands. It was brand loyalty to the thousandth degree. Only I didn’t realize it then. It just was.

In our house, we only used Bounty paper towels to wipe up. Our spaghetti dinners were made with Ronzoni and Ragu. Our PB and Js were made with Skippy and Smuckers. Tide cleaned our clothes and Charmin cleaned our bottoms. Electrolux (along with my mother) sucked up the dirt. Tuna was Bumble Bee, cookies were Chips Ahoy or Oreos. We drank Coke or 7-Up and my dad concocted his nightly Greyhound cocktail with Smirnoff and Tropicana grapefruit. We were Welch’s grape juice people, Marcus Dairy milk drinkers and Pepperridge Farm bread eaters.

There were literally NO exceptions. No sale, coupon or low introductory price could keep my mother from her brands. Though on a few occasions after we beat her down, we did get Wonder bread PB and Js for a field trip. (I think the bread is still stuck to the roof of my mouth. Ick.) We stayed that way even on the occasions when my dad went shopping alone. He had to hightail it back to the store for the “right” thing.

I know my mother was just a little bit frustrated by the commercials on tv that had us clamoring for whatever new item (say Frankenberry or that PBandJ all mixed together thing) hit the stores. She stuck to her guns and alas, we never got them. Unless we went to a friend’s house. I remember tasting my first Little Debbie snack at a friend’s. I was in heaven. (We were Hostess snack people and that little girl on the package of the competitor over at Julia’s house made me want to try them all. Yeah.)

I did still love to accompany my mother on grocery trips. (Even in high school. Whatever. Geek.) There was no big super sized supermarket for her. She was loyal as a Beagle to her neighborhood independent grocer. So much so that when we entered the store, the store manager greeted her and we were allowed to go into the back to the butcher’s department so she could pick out her cut. I remember always being just a little grossed out by the bloody apron on the butcher, a superbly friendly man named Nick whose sweet smile seemed to make up for the fact that he was usually wielding a knife.

Even though the store is not there anymore, it’s now a CVS, I can still remember the aisles and see in my mind’s eye where things were on the shelves. Because we only picked certain brands, it was easy.

And so my mother’s four little apples really didn’t fall far from the tree. As younger adults, out on our own, we all pretty much stayed loyal to the brands we knew growing up. My sisters became unwilling participants in a forced brand choice when they went to California. Some brands just aren’t available west of the Mississippi and they had to take what they could get. My one sister still has my mother send an occassional box of Devil Dogs because she can’t get them out there in LA LA land.

Now for me, sure I was the product of my mother’s choices, too when I first headed out on my own. I stocked my apartment with the same brands as I had growing up (when I had money that wasn’t being used for more important things like wine and beer.)

But then I came to realize that there were so many choices out there, and most were easier on the wallet than the ones I was used to. So I ventured out. And now, well, it’s a free for all when it comes to brands I use. I think my mom just might be appalled looking into my pantry.

Sorry Mom. I eat Jif now. I still like Smuckers, but your grandkids’ butts are cleaned with generic t.p. and the stains on their clothes are treated with whatever detergent is cheapest. And the pasta in that yummy lasagna you ate? It was the Stop n’ Shop brand on sale for 88 cents. Though if Ronzoni was cheaper, I’d be sure to buy that. Just for you. (Ok, just cause it’s cheaper.)

I know that brand loyalty was certainly (at least for my mom) a sign of the times. I think many housewives had the same mind to stick with the brands they knew and loved. Companies loved them back for it. There are still die hard fans of some thing or another who never waiver, I am sure. (Mac or PC anyone?) I wonder how many still do. I think in our economic situation, you sort of take what you can get. Or there’s a buyout, and well then you have no choice if you want something in particular.

I suppose I could go on, but there really was a reason for the subject of this particular blog post.  I swear.

Here it is.

With the cooling weather around here, I had a hankering for a roasted chicken with some root veggies. So I got the chicken (on sale), the cheapest carrots and a loose red onion and sweet potato (or yam, not sure), buttered (Stop &Shop brand)  and garlicked the skin, sprinkled some IGA store brand coriander over the top and BAM! Into the oven it went. I dreamed of how good it would taste as the smell of fall wafted through my house.

When it was done, I had a ton of liquid in the pan in which to make gravy. Roast chicken needs gravy, no?

I turned the burners on, stirred the pan drippings and reached for my cornstarch. I knew it was cornstarch by the familiar Argo name I remember my mother used when I was a kid. So I diluted it with chicken broth and poured it in the pan.

It bubbled a little. And I said Hmm. Oh well. I stirred and stirred and well, it just didn’t smell like the gravy I was used to. But, hey. It will be fine.

So the rest of dinner was ready and I was cleaning up as I brought my gravy to a boil. I took my little container of Argo and happened to glance just a little closer. It was not cornstarch at all. It was Argo baking powder. Who the hell buys Argo baking powder anyway? I guess it was me. It was probably on sale.

The cornstarch, I came to realize later, was in the little white and yellow box in the pantry, a Stop n Shop brand I bought on the cheap.

Yup. I got tripped up by the old brand thing, now didn’t I?

I think my mom is probably laughing at me, drinking her cup of Lipton tea as she pats her own box of Argo cornstarch.

It’s okay. My gravy was never as good as hers anyway.

I Blog. Therefore I Am.

It’s that time of year. Kids are back in school. The leaves begin to fall. The weather here in New England gets a little nippy.

And people start wondering what I am going to do with all my free time.

Exact words: What are you going to do now that the kids are back in school all day?

Exact reply: The Bon Bons are certainly not going to eat themselves, now are they? No. They are not.

Har. Har.

If I was a different kind of person, maybe one uncomfortable with her own self, I might take issue with this comment. After all, one could take it to mean something along the lines of “get off your lazy butt and get a real job.”

Hey. I blog, remember? That means I attempt to entertain the masses with some witty prose I’ve come up with ALL by myself. For free. Cause I want to. For free. Kay?

Maybe I could have reminded this person that sometime in the recent past, “they” said that us stay-at-home moms should earn about $250,000. I don’t know who the “they” are, but hey, 250 thousand clams is nothing to sneeze at. Being a stay at home mom is a pretty good gig worth that much. Isn’t that like more than our president makes? And he doesn’t even do anything.

(Sorry. Had to.)

But since I have no plans to quit — the little people who I work for really are nice and they have a lot of hugs and kisses they throw my way –I’ll continue to work for the going rate of Zero.

I won’t dare delve into the Mommy Wars. That ship has sailed. We’ve beaten a dead horse. Use whatever colloquialism you want. Why can’t we all just get along? I’m happy. You’re happy. We’re all happy, right?

Whatevs. Doesn’t even matter.

The point is, I have a blog and I can share if I wish. Sometimes I wish and have lots of stuff to write about. Other times, well, not so much.

But today I will, just in case you were waiting with bated breath to see just what it is that I am doing with all the free time I have now.

So get ready. Turn up the yawnometer and have a seat.

Yesterday I had my head in the toilet for a number of hours. I wasn’t sick or anything. No nothing like that. It was just me and a can of Bon Ami tackling really mean toilet stains that have accumulated in the three bathrooms here over the last few months. Now don’t go believing that my toilets are dirty or anything. They are clean. Ish. But I do have children who think flushing toilets must be someone else’s job. And I don’t always know that the kids have gone off and done some business.So the two johns on the second floor end up with.. Let’s just say that toilets under a sunny window are no fun. So yeah, me, a pair of rubber gloves, a can of gritty cleanser and my daughter’s Disney Princess toothbrush did the job. (Please don’t tell her I took it. It was the first one I saw.)

Activities such as dance and soccer require things like cleats, ballet skirts and three different kinds of  shoes for tap, jazz and ballet. And since I forgot to measure the feet of my children before I headed out to make purchases like these, I spent a lot of time guessing and second guessing sizes. Sure. I could have waited until they got home from school to measure, but then they’d be the ONLY ones without the proper equipment for their activities and we all know that being the ONLY one without something pretty much equals future life disaster. So I guessed. And I took a lot  of time with it so I can tell my children that I spent hours trying to get it right. A guilt card thrown their way can sometimes trump their lack of proper equipment/attire dilemma. Sometimes.

Speaking of soccer and dance. My daughter has one hour dance classes at 4:30 and 5 on the days her brother starts soccer at 5:30. His goes to 7. So since they get off the bus at 3:30, I need to make sure they eat dinner before. And this, my friends, is quite a task. Who the heck can think of dinner at 3 in the afternoon? Well certainly not me. Well at least not before. So now I panic and head to Trader Joes for prepared meals try to cook a well-balanced meal and feed them right when they get off the bus.

And this week I also donned a HAZMAT suit to tackle my 10 year old’s closet. I kid you not. Head to toe I covered myself. I did not want to take any chances. We haven’t seen the floor of the nice closet we gave that boy in six years. Six. But I came out unscathed. But there are some items that may need to go to the DEP or FEMA just to be on the safe side. Now before you ask the question “Why didn’t he do it himself?” let me tell you. We had this discussion and I threatened no computer games if it wasn’t done. So like a good little man, he marched up and did the job. Well, it wasn’t THE job, but it was A job. Let me just say the kid is really good at burying the evidence. I stared at the half clean floor knowing full well that the rest of the crap was buried beneath a sleeping bag and a body pillow on the other side, and looking at that beautiful kid, well, I just had to smile. He’s good. And somethings require a kid at school and a garbage bag.

And then, someone scheduled all of my kids’ doctor’s appointments for this week. Okay. It was me. But I don’t know what the heck I’ll be doing a year from the time we were there the last time. Anyway, my mistake I know. One that had me picking children up from school, driving many miles to see doctors and then taking the children back to school again. Sort of like a cab service.

So with all that tiresome work under my belt, I decided to finally take my good friend up on her offer to join her at Zumba. I thought shaking my booty would do me some good. And shake it I did. Zumba is hard. I rattled and shook my booty so hard that it actually fell off. Ok, not really, but my poor body feels like it did. Zumba is hard.

But I do like it. Maybe I will go back. Or maybe I will continue trying to figure out what exactly “homemakers” are supposed to do.

And of course, I will blog too. When I don’t have my head in the toilet, of course.

Because I blog. And therefore I am.

 

Hear It Today, It’s Gone Tomorrow

Maybe it’s the end of the world scenarios that seem to crop up every couple of months, or a pending storm that has everyone hunkering down and buying up the last of the milk, eggs and bread on the shelf because this is the “Big One.” Or like yesterday, where international news was that we are all being slowly poisoned by the arsenic in our rice.

It amazes me that the whole world can be scared to death, running in circles because of a news report, where some part of the truth may be there, albeit under a mountain of misleading or false information, rumors and facts completely blown out of proportion. And then, in a New York minute, it becomes yesterday’s news, buried beneath the publishing of the Duchess Kate’s topless photos or Lindsay Lohan’s latest escapade.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Or rather, hear it today, it’s gone tomorrow.

What an emotional rollercoaster. And it’s hard to explain it to my kids.

My 10-year-old came home from school yesterday asking about the rice thing. He was worried because his mother, that would be me, has recently found a store in town that makes killer rice pudding and I had brought some home for the joyful consumption for my family. I am not punning here. This rice pudding is the best darn thing I have ever tasted. I called it killer rice pudding and now, with the FDA coming out with these scary statistics about rice and arsenic, well, shoot. I wasn’t trying to be literal when I spoke. It was just damn good. To die for even. Sorry. That was punny.

Well now he is scared because the kids in school are saying “you’re gonna die if you eat rice!”

It was hard to try to explain to him that the media sometimes shoots first and then asks questions later. Don’t eat the rice, it’s poison. Well, not really but here are the facts…..

Same thing happens every time the media plays up the end of the world scenarios or the big storms. And then when they don’t happen, my kids are just a little bit more confused.

When I worked in the news, many moons ago, I remember times when my editor took a very small part of any news story that was provocative and made that the shout out headline. I would try to argue that it wasn’t the meat of the story, that this other part was. Sometimes I would win. Most times I did not.

Provocative sells. Sex sells. Life is boring and no one reads boring. That was what I was told as a green reporter. I certainly didn’t agree with it and don’t now. I realize that in a world of thousands of news outlets vying for the same story, competition is fierce, but blowing news out of proportion is just bad journalism.

I wish they would stop.

As a parent, I feel for my kids. The challenge of trying to make heads or tails of the world news in a time of instantaneous consumption of it is nearly impossible. And the elementary school playground can be a free for all, a cacophony of points of view depending on which network or website from which their parents get their news.

All I can say is Yikes.

I remember when I was a kid. We had one tv, maybe six stations and I only read the newspaper when I had to bring in an article for current events. Every place was a far away land. We didn’t hear about children gone missing, school shootings and hostage situations. Celebrities were worshipped, not followed around with cameras everyday to the point of wanting restraining orders. When there was an emergency, it was a real one. You hunkered down or evacuated before a hurricane. You didn’t stay because you were sure the news was “wrong again.”

Sometimes I think life would be easier as an oblivious non observer. I would sit blissfully listening to the sounds outside and not think about the ticks giving me lyme disease, the allergens in the air or a mouse that may or may not be carrying a 14th century disease.

I could eat that huge bowl of rice pudding, and I surely wouldn’t know if it was laced with arsenic because I’m not paying attention.

Don’t worry. I won’t bury my  head in the sand. For my kids’ sake.

But I am gonna eat that rice pudding. Arsenic or not.

Parenting is no day at the beach… unless you’re at the beach

In the grand scheme of things, seven hours is not a long time. It’s about the length of a school day, the number of hours of sleep some require. A plane trip over the big pond.

Things like that.

But for me, a recent seven hour stint at the beach with my kids was, in a word, blissful. Seven carefree hours without a single argument to break up. Seven hours free of children bickering back and forth. Seven hours without a child whining those three little words “I. Am. Bored!” Seven hours watching my kids play together without trying to kill each other.

Blissful.

I realize that it could have been a recipe for disaster. Just me, and my two kids, together at the beach for a ridiculously long time.

But we had the sandbar, the warmish water of the Long Island Sound, one shovel, one pail, one beach umbrella and some sun screen. One beach chair. For me of course.

Sure the salt water and sea air contributed to the beauty of the day. And the fact that I didn’t have to play Julie the Cruise Director or referee, two hats that I have worn almost a part of every day this summer.

They did this:

And this:

We saw this:

And they gathered these:

And I sat in my beach chair and reveled in one wonderful, albeit long, day at the beach.

I was the one who had to come find them and tell them it was time for ice cream. I was the one who had to move our stuff up from the sandbar when the tide came in. I was the one who chased down the beach umbrella when a gusty beach breeze unearthed it from the poorly dug hole that didn’t secure it.  They didn’t notice anything that didn’t have to do with a hermit crab pool or seagulls flying in. Except my daughter did inform my husband that “Mommy sat all day.”

Yes. I. Did.

And it was a perfect day. Not because of sitting part. I was a little sore. And I did walk around the sand. A little.

But I got to see first hand that my kids really do like each other. It just takes some new scenery sometimes to reinforce that.

It was an “aha” moment for sure.

Summer can be a little boring sometimes. I remember feeling that way by August too when I was a kid. Lazy days with not much to do.  A little camp here. Some time at the lake or the beach there.

Not much has changed I guess.

I remember one excellent day of my childhood.

My dad took me and my brother to the beach. It was unusual because he worked and rarely, if ever, was able to beach it with us kids. But that day, it was me, my dad and my brother, without our older sisters, and we had a perfect day.

I am pretty sure my dad was sitting, or lying down, on a blanket. It wasn’t seven hours for sure, but it was surely a great day at the beach.

I hope my kids remember our day and maybe include it in the “What I did this summer” essay that is inevitable when they return to school in a couple of weeks.

I hope they remember how much they liked each other that day. And we didn’t even get a sunburn.

The Almost Haunting

Let me just start with this. I am a believer.

Here goes.

I decided to take my little girl for a “girl’s night” away in a hotel for a night. I chose Boston as what better summer city than Boston, right? And it was close. A two-hour drive and easy to maneuver.

I thought it would be fun to take the train into the big city, so I booked a suburban hotel, actually an historic inn about 20 miles away. I chose it because I knew the town and it had a great deal on some of the newly renovated rooms in the more than 200-year-old inn. Key word being renovated.

Anyway, I booked our room about two weeks before we were due to go. The day of our trip it was beautiful out. Gorgeous blue sky, puffy white clouds. CD in the player. And off to Bean Town we went. My daughter was so excited. She read Make Way For Ducklings and couldn’t wait for her own swan boat ride.

So we arrived at the inn at 12:30 and I was told by the clerk, who thought it was sweet that I was taking my daughter for a girls night, that our room wasn’t ready until 3. That’s fine. We were going into the city anyway, I told her and she said she’d put our bag in our room and it would be waiting for us when we returned.

We walked over to the commuter rail station after a quick stop for some sustenance. (Ok it was really Swedish Fish, Taffy and some dark chocolate orange creams for mom.) We hopped aboard and off we went.

After a day of walking, an awesome Swan Boat ride, lunch at an Au Bon Pain (Park Plaza veranda version) Newbury Street, Copley and some crystal barrets at a kiosk, and a trip to the Top of the Pru, we rode the T back to North Station because my 6-year-old wanted to dine on the porch of the inn back in the suburbs. I think the city might have been a lot for my little country babe.

Alas, the T was late and we missed the 6:25 p.m.train back to the burbs. We had to wait another full hour. It was okay. My daughter said she wanted to “people watch.” I think she was mesmerized by the amount of sequins and tiny skirts we saw on the women going to the J Lo/Enrique concert at the Garden, which is attached to the rail station.

Finally we caught the 7:35 p.m. train and arrived back at the inn at 8:45 for a dinner on the porch. We were tired and were excited to eat and then snuggle back in our room in our big bed. My daughter even  said NO to dessert, much to my chagrin because the inn’s selection made my mouth water. I paid the bill and went into the lobby to get our room.

The night clerk took my name, checked her computer and then looked at me and then my 6-year-old and said, “Huh. Well it’s not exactly what you booked.”

Turns out, they were fully booked in the main inn and put us in the “cottage” across the street. Not one big bed, but two twins in an efficiency style room fronted by a dumpster in the parking lot.

Yeah. NO. Normally I am pretty accommodating, but that night, me and my tired little girl wanted a king bed, in a renovated room that I booked, nearly 2 weeks ago. The fact that they were booked was surely not my fault. I was, to say the least, pissed.

The clerk, who had walked us to our room, looked at me and, apologetically, said, she’d see what she could do that she had a man checking in later and would try to switch his room with ours. We walked back to the inn and she got on her compute again and said, “OK, I will switch the room. Again, not what you were told, but nice. And it’s right upstairs.”

Fine. It was now nearly 10 at night. Who she had checking in that late, I don’t know, but better him across the street in the dumpster room than us.

We walked upstairs to Room 24, a king poster bed, toile bed spread, fire place and a private bath, and the moment we got inside, my daughter look at me with terror in her eyes and said she was scared. She was adamant that she didn’t like it here, didn’t like the room because it was scary. She started to cry and I knew I had to take her out. I called my husband and told him what was going on and he tried to find us another room in town, but nothing. I decided to just take her home.

We headed back to the lobby and the clerk looked at us and said “Uh oh.” Not a surprised Uh Oh, just an uh oh. I explained that we didn’t get what we were told we would and my daughter was afraid and I just couldn’t make her stay there. Easy peasy and the clerk gave us a full refund on our room. No questions asked.

Well that’s just fine, except for a little voice that told me to look further.

The next morning, after driving my sleeping, and much happier girl home, I looked back on the hotel’s website. There was a little place on the hotel’s website that detailed “The Haunted Inn”.

I thought no way in hell would a clerk have tried to put us there, but I checked further and sure enough it says in bold letters, “if you want a paranormal experience, ask for — can you guess what room number? . ROOM 24.” Turns out, the hotel was on Ghost Hunters and a few other articles and shows had investigated ghosts as well as detailed letters from guests who got more than they bargained for.

Yikes.

I can look at it as a coincidence, maybe a reaction to a series of events that my daughter just wanted to go home. Or I can look at it as a reaction of an innocent child to something she couldn’t explain. She was afraid to be in Room 24.

I haven’t decided what I want to do about it. The clerk had to have known that was the room that was well documented as a paranormal one and I am not sure why she would have tried to put us there. I realize she was trying to accommodate a mistake the inn made about our room, but I would think she would have told me about the possibility of a ghost hanging out with us during the night.

In any case, I probably won’t tell my girlie about her almost haunting until she is much older.

And I will try to figure out what to say to the hotel manager.

And I will remember that the next time I want a night away with either of my kids, I’ll book a hotel and ask the clerk whether there is any possibility that it’s haunted.

Three’s a crowd.

Fathers

It’s amazing to me that 22 years have gone by since my father died of cancer. On a very sunny morning Memorial Day weekend in 1990, he died of metastatic breast cancer, just three weeks shy of his 62nd birthday.

My dad’s birthday and Father’s Day nearly always fall within days of each other. After he died, before my own marriage and kids, my siblings and I used to ignore the whole Father’s Day thing. It was a holiday that didn’t belong to us anymore (stupid thought I know, but we were young.) We didn’t want to celebrate, since he left us way too early. We all tried to ignore it and would sometimes get together at my mother’s house and have a non-celebration about nothing. Although as hard as we tried to not miss him,we did anyway, and let each other know with silent looks and sighs and the occasional raising of a glass up to heaven. It was just empty. Not having a father to celebrate Father’s Day sucked.

Many years have passed and the emptiness is certainly less than what it once was. We celebrate Father’s Day for my husband and my kids love it. But the emptiness of the absence of my own dad, well it still occasionally creeps up on me. That and the fact that I really did not get to know my father in the 23 years we had together. The time was short, I was young and I suppose I just thought I would know him when I was older. But since the cancer changed that for us, I have my very Swiss Cheese like memory to rely on. And sadly memories of him are fading.

I do have some stories from my siblings and the occasional photograph from a cousin that will pique my interest about my dad and his family. It amazes me the amount of people out there who are related to me but whom I don’t know at all. I think there was some where in excess of 40 first cousins in my dad’s family tree.

There are little snippets of his life that my sisters have told me or that I garnered from pictures. For me, the concept that he was this close to moving our family from Connecticut to California for a career in animation is kind of a hoot. He apparently was going to go into digital animation with his cousin back in the 60s. He could have spawned Dream Works!

Or not.

He ended up as an engineer and then settled on a career in graphics. I am not sure exactly what he did but there were large cameras and trips to Germany involved. Again, I didn’t ask.

As far as his family, there are pictures of people I know I am related to, but have no idea who they are. Like a group of young adults hanging out on a stoop in Brooklyn, or other groups of people all smiling. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know what his life was like there and what kind of life he had after his own father died when he was 13 or so.

I would have liked to know where he came from. Where I came from.

I wish I would have told him to write his life story for me so I could share it with his grand children, two beautiful kids he would never even get to meet. There are pictures, but I have so many questions I would have asked him if I had known then that he wouldn’t be around now.

My son is very interested in history, specifically wartime history, and he is beginning to ask questions about the military careers of his grandfathers. All I know about that is my mother received an American flag at my father’s memorial service in 1990. It’s tucked away in a closet at her house. My father was a member of the United States Navy and I have no idea how long he was there or what it was like for him when he was in Korea. There is a picture of my dad in a naval uniform hanging out on a grey ship. He was smiling, so it must have been a good day.

I am pretty sure he went to college courtesy of the GI Bill. And I know he was smart, like scary smart. (I am crossing my fingers about this for my kids.)

Next year, my son will have a project where he will have to portray a Secret Jewel or something like that — someone in the family who did something notorious, or just maybe did something. I wish I had that kind of project when I was in fifth grade. It would have forced me to find out about things that, at the time, I had no interest in. Perhaps then I would have written down my own father’s life, then every June I could celebrate his birthday and Father’s Day by remembering him for who he really was.

Who he was to me back then, I am not sure. Today he is the guy I remember who called the little charred things on the grill “meat” I am sure they once were. He loved to make chili and chicken wings, he was a great animator, a pretty good artist and could give Bob Hope a run for his money in the joke telling department. He did card tricks and played intellectual games with us and made sure most, if not all, of his kids knew the capitals of all the states. He did the New York Times Sunday Crossword in red ink and rarely, if ever, had a mistake. He was fashion forward (not really) but he brought back a pair of clogs from a trip to Iceland or Germany and wore them proudly. (Crocs anyone?)

He was silly and he embarrassed me when I was young. But back then, at least for me as I probably rolled my eyes about everything, parents were to be seen and not heard.

I’ll remember to tell my own kids not to roll their eyes at me, that someday they will want to know ALL about me.

Anyway, today, June 15, is his birthday. He would have been 84. Happy Birthday, Dad. I hope you are toasting with St. Peter, playing cribbage and having a vodka and grapefruit juice — and some burnt short ribs. And Happy Father’s Day, too.