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Love Letter to Ireland – the Gift of My Mother

Dear Ireland, It is not your distinct and lonesome scent of burning peat from distant cottages.  Nor your fields of brilliant green.  It is not the decades old waterfalls and winding rivers whose beauty inspire poets or your majestic cliffs that stand like loyal sentry men over the wild Irish Sea. It was not the magical taste of my very first ninety-nine ice cream cone with a flake bar neatly tucked atop. All of these things which you have given me I have loved.  But none compare to my most prized possession.  How do I thank you for the gift of a mother who almost never was?

I would start at the beginning as stories often do and tell you of a girl named Mary Foley from Cloone, Country Leitrim, tomboy by nature, explorer by heart. Who at age nine for reasons unknown, contracted Rheumatic Fever. As the days turned into night and her fever raged on, hope began to fade. A local priest was summoned to give her last rites. But then dear Eire, I would tell you of a miracle.  My grandmother Rose heard of an old man who lived alone in the countryside. A man said to have the gift of healing.  And on that very day, desperate and determined, a mother walked seven miles to see him and tell him of her daughter’s plight. As they sat together solemnly in his stark thatched cottage the old man spoke, “your daughter will get well, but in her place an animal will die.” As the sun rose the next morning in the village of Drumharkan, a rooster crowed and a child’s fever broke. And in the stillness of the barnyard a cow lay dead. And that was the day I got my mother back.

She left her home in Cloone to become a maternity nurse at St.Vincent’s hospital in NYC, was married and raised four daughters, though her heart never strayed from Ireland. I can still envision her singing and tapping her feet to a favorite Clancy Brother’s tune in our Long Island kitchen. “I’ll tell my ma when I go home, the boy’s won’t leave the girl’s alone…”  Her best friend and first cousin Lily would visit often. I would arrive home from school to the sound of laughter and the whirr of the blender concocting their favorite orange daiquiris as they talked of memories of home.

My mother was fiercely independent, stubborn and determined but above all loved by all who knew her.  She took her road test late in life and after her eighth go proudly waved the coveted certificate before us announcing she had passed – never mind how long it took her. I remember her driving instructor now a close friend, nodding enthusiastically in approval as he sat sipping tea and eating a slice of her famous apple pie.

Though my parents settled in the U.S. they celebrated their Irish heritage each and every day.  My father was General Manager of Rosie O’ Grady’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan, a haven for all those Irish or those who wished to be.  An Irish band played nightly and my father never failed to have the band sing “Lovely Leitrim” when my mother would visit.  During summers my father would rent a house for two weeks in a suburb of Dublin.  My love for Ireland was solidified during those summers. I recall the misty weather and our Irish friends announcing “a heat wave” once the temperature reached 70 degrees as they ran to the beach.  One summer, my father took us to a nearby farm where we picked out an Irish Wolf Hound pup we named Connell. My mother and Connell became inseparable and were a familiar sight around town; she driving and Connell sitting tall in the passenger seat. Each St. Patrick’s Day, my mother and Connell would travel to New York City to proudly march side by side in the parade. A tradition they shared till Connell’s death at age six -Wolf hounds do not live long due to the size of their huge heart…

My mother Mary like her beloved Connell, left us too soon.  At her wake, an old man who I did not know walked in and quietly sat in the back of the chapel.  As the hours wore on and the crowd thinned, he approached me to pay his respects. “My name is Michael Dillon. I lived in the same town as your lovely mother and we walked to school every day. Then one day, she got very sick and I didn’t see her for many weeks.” As he turned to leave, he paused, then added: “but your mother got well and a strange thing happened. A cow died.”  And in that moment a legend I had heard for so many years became a truth and my gratitude for having her as a mother forever realized.  And for that Dear Ireland I thank you.

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Memories of a Fifth Floor Walk up

My best friend Janet and I shared a fifth floor walk up apartment on E. 83rd between Park and Lexington Avenues in NYC during our early twenties. The neighborhood was phenomenal, ideal, a combination of serenity and vibrancy just a stone throw from both the Lexington Avenue subway and the majestic Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Our apartment was a tiny two room structure, the first room comprised of the kitchen and living room and the second containing two twin beds crammed so close together our toes almost touched.  A visitor entering our living room with two bottles of wine under each arm once remarked, “I’ll just put these in the kitchen!” to which I replied, “You’re standing in it.”   I remember one hot summer day our window air conditioner dripping rhythmically on the unit directly below us, prompting the downstairs tenant, an eccentric but pleasant woman to pay an impromptu visit pleading, “please, can you do something? that drip, drip, drip is driving me mad. Why the sound is going right through my teeth!” I handed her a pillow to muffle the offending din and politely bid her adieu shrugging the encounter off as typical city living, neither of us no worse for the wear. On the floor above us resided two young men, Dave and Barry, new to the city from the Midwest. Both possessed polite and kindly natures and we struck up an easy friendship often playing monopoly or simply running up and down the stairwell to each others apartments just to say hello or drop off a plate of brownies. . The casual relationship we shared with the boys gave our apartment building a feeling of dorm living and shelved the belief that living in New York meant never getting to know your neighbors. Tuesday was “Beauty Night,” a weekly ritual  we cherished involving face masks, pedicures and chilled cucumber slices on eyelids.  These do it yourself escapes soothed both body and soul though I do recall an unpleasant incident involving a peppermint foot cream which caused a burning reaction on Janet’s feet.  I remember one dateless New Year’s Eve cozily holed up in our apartment watching the entire 24 hour Twilight Zone marathon thrilled to not be out with the hoards attempting to hail a cab on a bitter night. Though it took some getting used to, our apartment’s five floor ascent allowed us the best physical shape of our life and in no time we could sprint up all five floors like marathon runners. An added perk was the old fashioned candy store we frequented only steps outside our front door on the corner of 83rd Street, a neighborhood landmark that has stood the test of time and still serves homemade lemonade and egg-creams. But as they say, all good things must end.

We said goodbye to our fifth floor walk up for a larger apartment in Stuyvesant Town located in lower Manhattan.  My dad had put his name on the waiting list five years earlier. “Stuy Town,” as it is affectionately known, allowed more space at a rent controlled price an offer we could not refuse.  So we packed up our bags and headed downtown to a two bedroom, elevator building on East 20th Street carrying too, memories bittersweet.

I visited our old fifth floor walk-up last summer, thirty years later and stood on the doorstep, it’s appearance virtually unchanged. I snapped the below photo as a testament to my first apartment and the days of living in New York City. And somewhere right now, I feel one thing is certain. Uptown or down, east side or west, a vacant apartment lies waiting. Awaiting a pair of twenty-something roommates eager to unpack their bags alongside their dreams, maybe in a fifth floor walk up…

Back in the hood with my sister Sheila…

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Magic Drinks

Featured Image -- 3062A Father’s Day Tribute…

ROCHESTER, September 26 — Eastman Kodak Company today announced its intent to stop making and selling slide projectors by June 2004.

“The Kodak slide projector has been a hallmark for quality and ubiquity, used for decades to produce the best in audio visual shows throughout the world,” the company said. “However, in recent years, slide projectors have declined in usage, replaced by alternative projection technologies.”

One of my happiest and most comforting memories of childhood was our family slide shows.  These coveted movie nights which generally took place once a year, consisted of nothing more than three simple ingredients:  a blank wall  in our living room, a Kodak carousel slide projector with my father at the mast and myself and three sisters,  huddled on the sofa,  pressed together in anticipation like peas in a pod.  My mother, who had seen the slide shows too many times to mention, usually busied herself with other things, occasionally stopping in to comment on a particularly beloved picture.  Prior to turning off the lights, my father would announce in a deep theatrical voice “Who wants a magic drink?”

They were always different in taste and made from whatever struck his fancy that night; orange juice with a splash of pineapple juice and Grenadine or perhaps apple juice and ginger ale with a jigger of seltzer.  The ingredients were unimportant.  It was the anticipation of what was to be and the lovely ritual of our movie night routine that we cherished.  Those magic drinks were just part of the show.

There was always one slide, without fail, that was turned upside down. This would halt the show momentarily, as my father with a slightly frustrated “tsk” would right the renegade slide. And we were ready to go once again.

I loved that Kodak carousel projector and the faded yellow boxes of slides stacked beside it. They were never labeled so each reel was a surprise in itself.  Who might appear on the screen that night was anyone’s guess — my six or sixteen year old self?  Our first family pet Bubbles the beagle, or our gentle giant of a Great Dane we called Jenny?  My mother posing on the beach in her youth, or proudly cradling her first grandchild? The lack of chronology only added to the experience.

Some days, in the quiet of my mind, I can still hear the slow deliberate click of the projector, advancing slowly, telling without words the story of our life.  Slide to slide, toddler to teenager, mother to grandmother, youth to twilight.  An entire lifetime displayed on the wall of the darkened living room.

When my parents died, I cared about no other of their possessions except that time warped machine that could somehow transform me back to family vacations, birthday parties and people and places no more.  With my sister’s blessings, I brought it to my own home with the promise to bring it to family gatherings, a carousal reunion of sort.  Though it is yet to be.  It sits up on a shelf in an unused room.  I have taken it down one or two times in a half -hearted attempt to have my own family slide show but then, as it spits and jams due to age, return it in frustration to the loneliness of the upstairs closet.  I have made myself a promise. I will find a way to restore that Kodak Carousel to the beauty of its youth.  And I will mix once again, those magic drinks..kodak

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WPC – Ambience

“I walked beside the evening sea and dreamed a dream that could not be; the waves that plunged along the shore said only: “Dreamer, dream no more!”

George William Curtis

longshore

Well, not quite the sea but an image of the Long Island sound at dusk had to do for this week’s challenge.  There is something about the shoreline that has always instilled in me, a certain tranquility.  This recent photo reflected that sort of ambience I always feel when near a body of water.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/ambience/

 

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The simple, seasonal pleasure of ice skating

“Winter is here, best time of year, come on along sing a skating song…”

One of my fondest childhood memories was ice-skating on a small rink my best friend’s dad built for us in her backyard.  Round and round we would soar feeling the chill of the air on our cheeks.  Not an iPhone or computer in sight.   This year, to kick off the holiday season, I took my two sons to an ice rink near to us which overlooks the Long Island sound.  They enjoyed two hours of skating until they could stand no more. Finally in physical defeat rather than want,  they staggered off the ice with tired smiles and wobbly legs proclaiming “That was SO much fun…”

imagehttps://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/time-of-year/

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WPC “Half-Light”

halflightNature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/half-light/

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One Word Photo Challenge – Change

Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
Tomorrow be today.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

bro2
Brothers then…

brps
And now…

.

oyn
My older sister Anne, whose gentle hand I still feel on my shoulder. Then…

sisann
And now. (Anne on left)


tree2
Our backyard tire swing. Joyous come Summer….

tree1
Lonely in Winter

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/change-2015/

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A picture paints a thousand words


men

I discovered this image taken over fifteen years ago in a small town on the Amalfi Coast, while going through a shoebox filled with old photos.  As I strolled past a beautiful old church I was struck by these four men sitting together on a Sunday afternoon, the middle two deep in conversation, the bookends, content in their own thoughts. Each gentleman bore a unique expression though their emotions are difficult to interpret.  As only in Italy, the fashion sense impressed, particularly the vivid blue socks and old style fedoras.  The fellow on the far left sported a more casual but equally dapper attire with his jaunty tweed cap and stylish sneakers.

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WPC – Symbol – Irish Worry Stone

stone1  I am not superstitious by nature, but this lovely, simple symbol of my Irish heritage is never far from my side. In fact, I keep it tucked in a small zippered compartment of my purse.  Made from Connemara marble, the Irish Worry Stone so smooth and cool to the touch, is reputed to keep worries at bay and bring a sense of comfort to those who hold it.   My mother loved these worry stones and often brought them back to friends as souvenirs when she visited her homeland of Ireland.  My close friend Joe, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 32 years of age was the recipient of one of my mother’s worry stones.  When he died, I visited his apartment where his mother was staying temporarily.   As we comforted each other with memories of her wonderful son she asked if she could show me something. Entering his bedroom she gestured toward his night table.  On the corner closest to his bed, lay the worry stone. I like to think that it brought him comfort.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/symbol/

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Door

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.”

Emily Dickinson

We visited the Amalfi Coast on our honeymoon fifteen years ago.  One distinct memory was the colorful tiles which hung aside the front door of each hillside dwelling displaying the home’s number.  Each different in theme and no doubt chosen to reflect the personality of the resident.  The majority were bright and colorful alike the ubiquitous lemon trees for which the region is known.  This door, with its weathered wood and ivy framework portrayed a cool serenity. Its simple beauty proving nature to be the preferred decorator.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/door/

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Daily Post Word Challenge – Early Bird

“Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet, with charm of earliest birds”   John Milton

dawn
Dawn of Christmas Morning 2014

pheasant
Our beautiful resident pheasant. He graced us with his presence, early morning, for over three years. Then one day, came no more…To learn more about the bird, please read my short tribute “Ode to a Pheasant” https://nynkblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/ode-to-a-pheasant/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/early-bird/

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Ode to a Pheasant

“See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs, And mounts exulting on triumphant wings”

Alexander Pope Quotes , Source: Windsor Forest (l. 111)

bird

I cannot say for certain when I first made his acquaintance or tell you the exact day he stole my heart.  We had just moved to a small town in Connecticut from New York City following the 9/11 tragedy.  Our new home’s family room sported an enormous glass window which overlooked the back yard, a spectacular bucolic setting of manicured jade green grass, magnolia trees and a pond, all bordering a 200 acre nature preserve.  I was growing accustomed to the ubiquitous deer and red fox sightings but  had never before encountered a pheasant and was not prepared for the effect his physical appearance bestowed, both in brilliance and beauty.

His presence, generally either early morning or late afternoon, was always announced by a loud and strange-sounding squawk, echoing eerily through the landscape. I grew to love this sound.  Emerging from the tall hedges of the nature preserve he would strut and bob in all his splendor, slowly cruising the yard, pecking and flapping his great wings in a display of cockiness and valor.

I often pondered from where this lovely creature came.  Was he an exotic pet from some grand estate who had fled to explore new pastures? Or perhaps a restless migrant in search of a mate? I researched the presence of pheasants in Fairfield County Connecticut and discovered that these fascinating birds were indeed not native to this area and rarely seen.   My research further allowed that wild pheasants only live approximately five years in the wild unlike raised pheasants which can live up to twelve years in captivity.  Our pheasant was chasing the years.

Sadly, the pheasant never did find a partner but instead took up with a group of wild turkeys who too frequented our property.   I would often see him among the pack, his brilliance a gem among the other gray birds.   The turkeys were a friendly lot and took him in with little fanfare.  I loved them for that.  I was pleased he had found companions though daydreamed about finding him a soul mate of his own, perhaps from some pheasant farm if that sort of thing existed. I imagined visiting, picking out a female pheasant and bringing it home. And like in a fairy tale they would live happily ever after and create for our town a whole new flock of pheasants for all to enjoy.

I longed to see him daily but as if sensing his importance he arrived only once or twice a week.  In an attempt to lure him closer, I bought a bag of wild bird seed and scattered them in a line, starting at the opening of the preserve from which he emerged and ending just inches from my bedroom window.  The very next morning, I heard him, louder than usual and realized with glee that the seed trail had worked.  He stood majestically, so close to my window that I could reach out and touch him and in that brief moment snapped his photograph which still hangs on my refrigerator and atop this story.

There was something about the beauty of the pheasant and his calm demeanor that somehow made everything so right even on those days that were not.  He became a fixture in the neighborhood and neighbors became proprietary. They began referring to him as “our pheasant” if he spent any amount of time on their property.  He became somewhat of a celebrity in our small town.

When he went missing for sometimes weeks at a time, he became a topic of concern. I would see a friend in the local market and ask “Have you seen the pheasant.”?   I imagined putting posters on trees in the area with his photo and the simple word “Missing.”   No explanation necessary.

The pheasant enchanted us with his presence for over seven years, surviving hurricanes, snow storms and numerous predators.  After one particularly fierce winter storm I fancied making up a tee-shirt for him stating “I survived the blizzard of 2010” and sending his photo to our local newspaper to feature in their wildlife section.

Then one day as magically as he had appeared, the pheasant returned no more. It has been over a year now.  We no longer ask each other “Have you seen him?” There is an unsaid understanding among us. Nothing gold can stay.

Yet I still stare hard when I see the wild turkeys trotting by my window, hoping, praying for that glint of brilliant color amid the backdrop of the woods.

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“My Happy Place” The Marvelous, Magical, Mystical Powers of a Bath

tub

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Sylvia Plath

I am addicted to baths. It began in my childhood, at what age I cannot say for certain. I can envision myself and my two sisters bobbing around in our bathtub, a simple no frills fixture unlike the whirlpool spas of today. My mother, who instilled this love of baths in us, laid peacefully center.  It was those calming waters which somehow righted every wrong and made life at the end of the day oh so much more delightful.  “Can you start the tub?” we would call to my mother nightly and upon hearing the rumble of the water racing through the faucet, would immediately feel comforted.

As I grew into older childhood my nightly baths and love of, continued.  I remember bringing into the tub different props for amusement. My fondest memory involve the Barbie dolls which I would plunge into the water, their perfect bodies and pointed toes gracefully leaping from the soap holder which I would use as a makeshift diving board.

When I left for college I realized with some dismay, that my nightly baths ritual would become a thing no more. Bathing in a dorm bathroom shared by who knows how many others was something I did not find appealing – not to mention the cleanliness factor. Yes sadly, my nightly baths ceased upon entering freshman year in college and were promptly replaced by a shower.

Yet one night, the old urge struck. Returning from a night out and perhaps one Tequila Sunrise too many, I made my way to the dorm bathroom.  Perfect! At 3AM on a weekday there was not a soul in sight. I undressed and proceeded to the sink, my towel tightly wrapped around me. As I began to brush my teeth I felt the towel slipping. As it fell to the floor I was faced with two choices: pick it up immediately or finish brushing and then retrieve the towel.  Given the late hour and the desolateness of the dorm, I opted for the latter – my fatal mistake. As if in a dream I watched the bathroom door swing open to reveal a tall sleepy male, no doubt someone’s boyfriend as my dorm was all women. His eyes, which only moments before were half slits were now golf balls as he gaped at me standing before him, stark nude, tooth-brush still in hand.  I shrieked, tore past him and jumped on my roommate’s bed. Babbling and breathless I attempted to explain to her what still rates as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Oh bath, how could you have forsaken me?

When I became engaged and began staying overnight at my fiance’s apartment I learned the meaning of true love.  Craving my bath one night, I mentioned that his tub did not seem well, completely clean.  I asked where I could find his cleaning supplies. “Do you have to have a bath every night?” he asked with some annoyance as he disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with a can of Comet and scrub brush he for the next 15 minutes, painstakingly cleaned the tub for me. And with that gesture, I knew I was marrying the right man.

I have two sons who have inherited their mother and grandmother’s love of baths.  I can hear the water running nightly and I have caught them filling up the tub to play their own Barbie doll type of diving game but instead they use pencils.  They catapult the pencils off the side of the tub in their own game of acrobatics.  At any hour, morning or night, at the slightest hint of a stomach ache or joint discomfort from sports, a tub is running.  Aqua therapy of sort.  I realize this is a luxury in our society and lecture them on the number and length of time spent in the bath.  But it often falls on deaf ears as my son races in from school, drops his back pack in the corner and heads up to the bathroom to turn on the bath.  He too understands the healing of the waters.

My adult bath ritual has changed only slightly since childhood.  I still take one every single night, but instead of the Barbies I bring one guilty pleasure which I lay on the side of the tub; four Hershey Chocolate kisses.  My second favorite comfort in life.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/happy-place/

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Magic Drinks

kodak

ROCHESTER, September 26 — Eastman Kodak Company today announced its intent to stop making and selling slide projectors by June 2004.

“The Kodak slide projector has been a hallmark for quality and ubiquity, used for decades to produce the best in audio visual shows throughout the world,” the company said. “However, in recent years, slide projectors have declined in usage, replaced by alternative projection technologies.”

One of my happiest and most comforting memories of childhood was our family slide shows.  These coveted movie nights which generally took place once a year, consisted of nothing more than three simple ingredients:  a blank wall  in our living room, a Kodak carousel slide projector with my father at the mast and myself and three sisters,  huddled on the sofa,  pressed together in anticipation like peas in a pod.  My mother, who had seen the slide shows too many times to mention, usually busied herself with other things, occasionally stopping in to comment on a particularly beloved picture.  Prior to turning off the lights, my father would announce in a deep theatrical voice “Who wants a magic drink?”

They were always different in taste and made from whatever struck his fancy that night; orange juice with a splash of pineapple juice and Grenadine or perhaps apple juice and ginger ale with a jigger of seltzer.  The ingredients were unimportant.  It was the anticipation of what was to be and the lovely ritual of our movie night routine that we cherished.  Those magic drinks were just part of the show.

There was always one slide, without fail, that was turned upside down. This would halt the show momentarily, as my father with a slightly frustrated “tsk” would right the renegade slide. And we were ready to go once again.

I loved that Kodak carousel projector and the faded yellow boxes of slides stacked beside it. They were never labeled so each reel was a surprise in itself.  Who might appear on the screen that night was anyone’s guess — my six or sixteen year old self?  Our first family pet Bubbles the beagle, or our gentle giant of a Great Dane we called Jenny?  My mother posing on the beach in her youth, or proudly cradling her first grandchild? The lack of chronology only added to the experience.

Some days, in the quiet of my mind, I can still hear the slow deliberate click of the projector, advancing slowly, telling without words the story of our life.  Slide to slide, toddler to teenager, mother to grandmother, youth to twilight.  An entire lifetime displayed on the wall of the darkened living room.

When my parents died, I cared about no other of their possessions albeit that time warped machine that could somehow transform me back to family vacations, birthday parties and people and places no more.  With my sister’s blessings, I brought it to my own home with the promise to bring it to family gatherings, a carousal reunion of sort.  Though it is yet to be.  It sits up on a shelf in an unused room.  I have taken it down one or two times in a half -hearted attempt to have my own family slide show but then, as it spits and jams due to age, return it in frustration to the lone closet.  Surely there is somewhere that can restore the Kodak carousal to the beauty of its youth so we may once again enjoy those magical images.

And I will mix for my own sons, those magic drinks..

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Please Mom, May I’ve Some More?

tates

My mother, a splendid cook and never one for following a recipe, on Sundays only, always prepared a roast. Whether it was the traditional roast beef or a succulent loin of pork I recall the aroma as if it were yesterday. The evening always began pleasantly, peacefully, as my family sat around the dining room table. And then the roasted potatoes arrived. Six roasted potatoes in that beautiful Lenox bowl, for six of us, including my 6”4 father. And at that moment, the dinner deteriorated with the frustrated pleas of my father as to why, why? my mother couldn’t make more than six potatoes. She never really gave an answer, but simply disappeared into the kitchen. This ritual went on for as long as I can remember during those Sunday night dinners and the question forever unanswered. Though I do recall her saying on more than one occasion that you should leave the table just a little bit hungry. It makes you remember how delicious the meal. I believe she just didn’t like peeling potatoes…

My best friend Janet, a fixture in my home during those years, always summed it up perfectly. “Your mother made the BEST hamburger I had ever tasted. But I always felt like it was the size of a meatball!”

Another old friend, well familiar with my mother’s cooking or lack of, used to taunt me “I hope you never have boys. They drink QUARTS of milk out of the refrigerator and full boxes of cookies at a sitting. And forget about it if they bring their friends over! They will eat you out of house and home!” Her words left me paralyzed with fear and right then, I secretly prayed for girls.

Three adjectives that come to mind in describing my mother’s portions… taste, spoonful, sip. “Give Kathy another taste of the string beans.” “Your father would love a spoonful of the turnip.” “Can you pour me a sip of orange juice please.” Get the idea?

I fear that I have carried on her tradition. My two sons, aged 12 and 14 are of average weight and seem to be satisfied with my portions but it is their peers that take notice when their plate is a little lacking. Just yesterday, a friend of my son asked politely if I would mind filling up his entire glass rather than only half. “Seconds” are a word so unfamiliar in my home that it is only understood as a time value. And, yes I guess I have to admit that when I make hamburgers for the family they are more slider than burger. Actually, my mother may have coined the term slider fifty years ago without even knowing it!

But unlike my mother and the potatoes, I am open to change. While preparing my list for the supermarket this morning I have made a decision. I will buy twice the normal quantity of everything. For tomorrow, let there be leftovers!
.

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You Get What You Pay For

 

I first saw him in the elevator of my office building, tall, cute and impeccably dressed. We exchanged nothing more than a few fleeting glances/smiles over the next couple of months and then one afternoon, somewhere between the 9th and 12th floor, he uttered the words I had dreamed of…would I like to meet for a drink that night?  Ecstatic I floated back to my office, furiously contemplating where I could find a more enticing outfit than the frumpy gray suit I was wearing, ideal had I been operating the elevator.  I needed something special… cute, flirty, fun.  But where to find in 3 hours?  And then a light bulb.  The $19.99 and under dress store which sat in the lobby of my building.  I had never entered the store but passed it daily on my way to the elevator bank always pondering the type of dress you might find for $20 bucks.  But desperate times call for desperate measures I reasoned.   Did I dare?

The bar was packed as we stood making small talk that evening. I had never felt more attractive and carefree as I sipped my Tequila Sunrise, in that cobalt blue, stretch cotton mini dress (yes, dear reader, score for the $19.99 and under dress store!)  I admit it may have been a tad tight and perhaps the material a bit thin, but for the price, what could one expect. It was how it made me FEEL that was important.  Plus the fact, real or imagined, that my date could not take his eyes off me!   The conversation flowed and the bar, Ryan McFadden’s, a popular neighborhood watering hole, pulsated with energy and possibility. The music was phenomenal!  After my 2nd cocktail, I boldly asked him to join me on the dance floor, something out of the norm for me but the dress fueled my confidence.  As we jumped in time with the crowd to the strains of “SHOUT” I suddenly felt myself losing my footing.  The floor, ladled with beer from overzealous imbibers was awash.  The next thing I knew, I was horizontal.  Brushing myself off and struggling to maintain my dignity, I slowly rose to my feet. Several people behind me were laughing.  “Your dress,” one sympathetic woman whispered, “it’s totally ripped up the back…”   My last memory was the disappointed look in elevator guy’s eyes as he wrapped his rain coat around me and hailed a cab.  And with that gesture, the night was officially over.

For the next 6 weeks I took the stairs up to my office, all 12 flights. For that reason or others unknown,  I never ran into the elevator guy again.  The $19.99 and under dress store closed shortly thereafter as well and ironically, a tailor moved into its space.

 

The Tasting Game

Yesterday, hearing screaming and pounding feet from the upstairs of my home, I found my two sons spraying each other with bottles of some type of cleaning fluid.  Equally horrified and terrified, I screamed so loud that my throat felt the effects for some time after.  “You could KILL each other!  That is POISON. What are you thinking!”  Dejected and guilty they slunk away. As I stood in my bedroom trying to calm down,  I suddenly felt an immense guilt as I myself reminisced about the childhood “games” my three sisters and I too had enjoyed.  Below are a few highlights from memory:

1.  The pulling hair game – One sister was in charge (we rotated) and sat in front of the other two who lay side by side, perfectly straight, arms at their sides. The object of the game was to attempt to make the sister who lay before you laugh. Once they showed even a hint of a smile, you would yank their hair to get them to return to an expressionless grimace and motionless body. Again and again the torturer yanked ignoring the awful shrieks of his captee hissing ” legs down, no smile!! You are smiling!! Lie straight!!!!” It was a particularly cruel game as it was virtually impossible to lie straight and motionless while ignoring the pain of the hair pulling. I recall, trying to decide which piece of your hair (bangs, back, front) you would allow the torturer to hold when it became time to yank.  I always went for the outer hair as underneath layers were always more painful.  The game always ended up with someone in tears, yet we never tired of playing.

2.  The “Hanging Game” – We had a staircase which allowed iron rungs wide enough for a pair of children’s legs to fit through. Once through you would lower yourself backwards to the ground while hanging by your legs from the staircase.  The perpetrator stood behind you and tickled you until you ended up surrendering or in more cases than most, falling through the rungs onto the wooden floor. I don’t ever recall more than a bump on the head and we luckily escaped more serious injury.

3. BBQ singe – a favorite as it generally took place when our cousins came over for summer barbecues. The game was quite simple. Search the yard for a steady long stick which would be “dipped” in the smoldering embers post bbq. We would then race around attempting to singe each other on the arm or leg or any other uncovered area on the body before the glowing embers cooled. The last person “unbranded” won. Again lucky all burns were superficial as the sticks cooked off while racing around yard..

4. The “Tasting Game” – I believe our favorite and a departure as it went beyond the general rule of only sisters to include neighborhood friends. As a matter of fact the game always had to have a newcomer as those that partook learned quickly the peril and would never play again. It began simply, enjoyably. One person would be the taster and sat blindfolded at our kitchen table as my sister and I ransacked the cabinets for delicious tidbits to allow the taster to sample. The object of the game was for the taster to guess the food he or she was fed. The first spoonful was intended to gain trust and always delicious. A spoonful of chocolate syrup, a dollop of honey, a chocolate square. As the taster delightedly guessed each item with ease, the game would then turn more sinister. The last spoonful always contained an item of food that would instantly and inevitably end the game. What followed was the blindfold being torn off amid a barrage of angry words uttered moments after that spoonful of raw egg or perhaps smidgeon of Alpo dog food, met the shocked taster’s tongue. Almost each and ever time after the tasting game occurred my mother would receive a call from an angry parent demanding how such a thing could have happened. I wonder what she told them.

Here’s to uncensored childhood and the “games” we played – not a smartphone in sight. And we lived to tell.

THE BURREN

6AAAC2EA-C4AA-4FB4-85D0-D3F2D9DFCBE6Derived from Gaelic, meaning “Stoney place” the views of the Burren, located in West County Clare, Ireland, are truly out of this world and are often described as similar to a moonscape.  I had the good fortune to visit the area this summer and although windy, dark and rainy, it only added to the appeal…

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Stones or Brick

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge “Green”

 

“How sweetly lies old Ireland, Emerald green beyond the foam, awakening sweet memories, calling the heart back home.”

This challenge proposed a challenge for me having just returned from a one week jaunt in  Ireland, my mother’s homeland and the magical country often referred to as “a thousand shades of green.”  The many photographs I took displayed the countryside in magnificent hues – emerald, jade, moss, olive, mint.  All different, all breathtakingly beautiful.   Which one is your favorite?

windown at moore
A glimpse of nature’s green. Claremorris, County Mayo

doolinriver
A river runs through it, Doolin Ireland

st stephens green
What’s greener than St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin? An oasis within Dublin city

moore hall
Moore Hall, County Mayo, Still grand in its ruins and purported to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland…

cliffsofmoher
The iconic Cliffs of Moher

https://ceenphotography.com/2019/10/29/cees-fun-foto-challenge-green/

A Dapper Donkey

On a recent trip to Ireland I found the very best days involved driving aimlessly through small towns and villages, up and down winding country roads, never knowing what sights await. On one such occasion, somewhere in County Mayo,  I spotted this donkey standing at the side of the road, his steady and placid gaze beckoning me to pull over.  I snapped a picture of this handsome lad who was more than happy to oblige…

donkey