Category Archives: Family Relationships

Unchanged


I keep the change that I periodically empty from my purse in a square glass dish near my desk.  I’m sure there are better things to do with my money, and it’s not always convenient to get to on the sill behind my computer.  I still do it, though, because every time I drop coins in the dish, I see my father.

My dad was a hard working man who put in long hours in a tool and die shop an hour away from home in order to provide a house that was probably more than he could afford for his family. Sometimes when he came through the door he wouldn’t even speak to us, but I knew he was home from the sound of his change hitting the dish in the junk drawer.  He would empty his pockets a few steps away from the garage, releasing his day as he went.  Some days it took longer before he spoke to us, but mostly by the time his change and keys and wallet were in the drawer, he was with us again, and work was left behind.

Back then, that was just the shape of the day.  Now, I understand a little more of what he was doing; divesting his body as soon as he could of the things he had to have in the outside world.  He didn’t need money or identification or keys in his workshop or at his dinner table.  He didn’t need to answer to anybody, or punch a time clock. He was home.

The dish was the first thing I salvaged of my dad’s things when my mother moved into an apartment. It’s not good crystal or an interesting shape, or anything more than a storage vessel. It’s thick, sturdy, everyday glass.  And every time, even now, the sound of coins dropping into the dish makes me see him standing at the drawer, head bent, making his way back to us.

I never thanked him for what he did, and he didn’t expect me to. I thank him now with each penny.

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Filed under Family Relationships, Looking Back, Reflection, Traditions

Time For Two


My oldest chick moved to the dorm without too much fanfare at the end of this summer.  She’s doing well and seems to be integrating into campus life; she’s not a source of worry for me.  Though I miss her, I feel okay with it all.  Time will tell how each of us will react to being separated, but I am hopeful we’ll grow both closer and more independent of each other.  That’s the way life is, and a pretty good definition of parenting success.

Since she now lives two hours away from us, visits are further apart, though not non-existent.  I got the chance to drive up there by myself last month for a day of visiting, and she got to show me around and introduce me to her roommates and new habitat.  We shopped and ate, and I hunkered down in a corner of the dorm lobby and read while she went to a class.  It was good for both of us.

With the dust settling on that change, I am finding that having fewer people in the house means more time for me to spend with the two remaining chicks.  The way school day mornings work out the younger two leave at different times, not even crossing paths most days.  I get to spend breakfast time with the youngest, and then roust the next oldest in time to drive her to school.  That provides at least a few minutes to chat and make sure all is well before her day crashes in, full force.  Separate activities allow us to have separate time with both, and I’ve been making a more conscious effort to do things individually with each one.

I’m not the only one that is getting more one on one time with other family members.  The two youngest girls seem to be enjoying each other more as well, and though we still have moments of friction, they may be realizing that they only have each other now.  Their elder sister is missed, and so perhaps their bond is more appreciated.  It’s nice to see them actually sharing and spending down time together.  It wasn’t always like that.

When the five of us are back together to go up to the Inn for Thanksgiving it may feel a little strange, and I didn’t really anticipate that twist.  Our current duet will become a trio again; I hope it remains harmonious.

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Filed under Changes, Day to Day, empty nest, Family Relationships, Parenting

And Baby Makes Three


The kitten we adopted in May had his requisite session under the knife two weeks ago, and though he certainly still acts like a baby, I can’t really continue to call him one.  After our big cat died in January, I wasn’t sure how we would ever cope with having another animal to care for and watch over.  After the rigmarole involved with deciding upon a kitten and making the house and family ready for his integration, I was still shaking my head.  The fluffball came to live with us, staying on the back porch until we were sure he wouldn’t bring any dangerous diseases to our grown cats, and then, kaboom.

He’s taken over the house.

He has a definite swagger to his walk, though it’s a charming one.  He has made pacts with both older cats, though they vary wildly from “I’ll attack you whenever I want; as long as you wrestle with me, we’ll get along just fine” to “I’ll bow and look down whenever we meet, though I’ll never give up trying to get a rise out of you”.  Hear a big crash or a muffled thump? Better go look.  Stepping out of any room with a formerly closed door? Better look down because more often than not, he’s stretched out at the sill, waiting for you.  Arriving home after five hours (or even five minutes) away?  He comes running with a growly meow and a purr strong enough to jumpstart your heart.

As long as we don’t feed him after midnight, we’ll be okay.  Yes, his name is Gizmo.  At least we named him after the friendly and cuddly Mogwai and not the destructive Gremlins – though there always seems to be a mysterious gleam in his eye that makes me think the gremlin part of him is not really that far away.

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Filed under Changes, Day to Day, Family Relationships

Who Knew?


Last night I earned a few more “Mom Points”.  Did I bandage a skinned knee? Find a lost homework assignment? Help with an award-winning diorama?  No, I have done all of those things in the past, but I’m talking about one step further: I found a rendition of the Doctor Who theme for tuba.

Admittedly, I was looking online for something else at the time.  My youngest plays tuba and is always looking for “cool” stuff to play on an instrument many feel is uncool.  When I saw the site with all the TV and movie themes on it, all for tuba, I knew I had hit a goldmine, and when I discovered that it included Doctor Who I took a mental bow and pushed “print”.

Lately our home has become very “Whovian”.  Any Saturday night will find my second and third daughters parked in front of BBC America, being wowed by a man in a bow tie and fez who travels through space and time in a bright blue police call box that is much bigger inside than it looks.  It’s a wildly creative series, with a history of good writers and surprising twists and turns, and makes for some lively and intelligent discussions on the relative merit of plot direction, plausibility, and possible outcomes.  I’m not quite up on all the lingo, so they find that they have to educate me.

“Daaaah-lik, Mom.  Not Day-lik! And no, that one’s not a Companion.”

I nod and try to soak it in, if only to seem a little less un-hip to my kids. I am sympathetic to their attachment to it and we have driven in record time from my mother-in-law’s house three counties away in order to catch the mid-season finale, planned a birthday party for a Friday instead of a Saturday to avoid conflicts, and the plan for Halloween this year seems to include some sort of Weeping Angel costume for the both of them.  It was a toss-up between that and having to build a plywood dalek they could somehow push around the neighborhood, so I may have dodged the bullet there.

Soon we will be going thrift store shopping for clothes we can paint gray and contemplating the best ways to make skin and hair look like granite or marble.  A chance for more “Mom Points”, perhaps?

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Filed under Accomplishments, Day to Day, Family Relationships, Parenting, Success/Failure

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

What’s In A Name?


Four days should be long enough to name a little kitten, shouldn’t it?   After waiting patiently for the girls to shift toward a decision, I set an arbitrary deadline of nine o’clock last night, just to try to move the process along.  The time limit came and went, through heated discussions, hurt feelings, and a few shortlisted white-bread names that nobody was really ecstatic about. Even threatening to name him “Spitvalve” if they couldn’t settle on anything before then didn’t seem to light a fire under anybody.

I don’t know why, but it seems that it’s important to pick the right name for the little ball of fluff.  Something that shows some creativity, some character, something the kitten can grow into a cat with and still be dignified.  My daughters spent a little while discussing how a name is something that molds the animal.  If it’s a good name, it will be a good pet.  Personally, I think the name ends up fitting as they get older not because they grow into it or live up to it, but rather because we spend all this time picking something that will fit the personality or looks that we can perceive already.  The name doesn’t make the cat: the cat makes the name.   This pet belongs to them, though, not me.  Therefore it is their job to successfully name it, by whatever means necessary.

Everyone submitted some names for the list, then we all got to initial three of them.  Any names without initials beside got tossed on the first round.  On the second round, we only got two votes.  On the third, we each got one. Of course, by this time only the ordinary names had survived.  Anything with any character or personality had been vetoed by one or the other of them.  Compromise only gets so far before it becomes either defeat or victory for someone.  As long as only two of the three girls agree on any given name, there are winners and losers.

After waiting all evening for the white smoke to come up the Vatican chimney, I conceded defeat and sent the youngest to bed without a clear consensus.  We may have to start with fresh suggestions and see where we are tonight after another day of wrangling.

I’m getting tired of referring to him as “kitty” – Spitvalve is starting to sound quite good.

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Filed under Changes, Family Relationships, Parenting, Success/Failure

The Art Of Compromise


They had installed the litter of kittens in a large ferret cage, with shelves and ramps and hammocks swung between.  When the lady swung her garage door open, my daughters cautiously approached the shoulder tall crate and peered quietly in.  Apparently it was nap time at Feline Preschool.

“Here, they’re tired.  Let me stir them up a little,” she said, brushing past my girls and clanging the gate open.  A little head peered out of the upside down cardboard box on the bottom and just as quickly pulled back in.  With the cage open, we could see a couple of furry bodies nestled together in one of the slings, and a cocky kitty came sauntering out of the back corner to see what all the fuss was about.

Our hostess scooped kittens up and distributed them out, smooching each one loudly as she did, and soon my girls stood holding wriggling balls of fur, looking a little shell-shocked.  The kittens just wanted to find a warm place to snuggle and scrabbled up on shoulders as we tried to look at them, so they peered at each other’s kittens and tried to be judicious in their praise.  Eventually my youngest gravitated to the spotted little runt of the litter, the one who had swaggered out earlier.  My middle daughter decided she liked the one with the dramatic markings and unusual look, and my oldest was in love with the sweet, fluffy black one.  This was going to be their kitten, if we adopted one, so I hung back and tried to stay out of the way, assisting where I could, untangling tiny claws from shirts and making mild suggestions about what to look for and how to choose.  Each began to try to sway the others to her choice, because they all knew that they would be very lucky kids to leave there with even one of the kittens and asking for two was asking too much.  As the argument went on and became a little more heated, each compromised a little by saying “Well, if we can’t get mine, then I like this one…”, but they couldn’t agree on a compromise that worked for all of them.  It seemed as though each kitty was beginning to be thought of as so-and-so’s kitty, and if they chose that one, that person would have an advantage.  After the poor owners of the house had been kept on hold from their yard work for about half an hour, I urged the girls to either choose a kitten or go home and think about it, returning the next day.

At this point one of them noticed a sleepy little kitten who had climbed to the top shelf and was trying valiantly to sit upright and not let its eyes close, but kept nodding off. This was the fourth and last kit, not chosen as a favorite by any of the girls, and I listened quietly as, one by one, they decided that it would do very well, thank you.  It was hard to leave their favorites, but as we walked to the car with their choice held reverently, all eyes were on the new member of the family.

When we got home and got it settled, we found that it was sweet and curious, frenetic and sleepy, playful and cuddly – the best of all its brothers and sisters combined.  It turns out that the one that was no one’s favorite was the best choice of all.

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Filed under Family Relationships, Growth, Parenting