Keeping up…

…with a kaleidoscope of K’s.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation. I return to school for a week of preparation for the coming school year.

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This is what I will look like in the mirror tomorrow morning.

When the school year ended in June, I was in a state of sadness because of my sister’s untimely death. My class last school year was probably one of the most delightful groups I ever had as a group. They were supporters of each other, cheerleaders for every effort, looked out for each other when others were less merciful with words and actions, and above all, kind. As I tried to keep a stiff upper lip about my sister’s passing, they turned their support toward me. One morning while driving to school on those last days, I heard a song performed by Tim McGraw. It was and still is a message for them and everyone else.

Listen to the song by clicking on this….

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Speaking of school, (Ugh!), clothing comes to mind. I spent the majority of my grade and high school career Wearin’ O’ the Plaid

My school changed uniforms after my first grade year. This is the only photo I have of me demonstrating this Oxford intelligence flare. Also note the circles under eyes...still have skin of an eight year old...amazing.

Grade school plaid jumper

 

 

days gone by

High school kilt …all the rage!

I still like some plaid, but kilts are not on my radar. I happened upon an adorable video that I tried & tried & tried to embed in this post, but alas I could not. Here is the link and you don’t need to be a member of Facebook in order to view.

This kilt baby from Pinterest is cute, but this one cracks me up!

baby in a kilt

On my last days of freedom, (rather than clean the house) I have been spending some time doing something I have a bit of a knack for…sewing. Several years ago I read the book Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan…a really good read. There is a character, Anne Marie…her nest becomes empty so she takes to collecting doll house miniatures. I am fearful that I have become a kindred spirit to Anna Marie’s character for this is what I have been sewing (and getting really excited about) for a couple of lucky daughters of colleagues.

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Hey, it keeps me out of the bars and a key to mental health!

Well that’s it for Tuesday…kudos to all the Olympians, the USA is killin’ it!

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Jubilation…

…thrill of victory & agony of defeat.

 Alphabetical Order Post: J

The summer Olympics have returned. At one time in my young life, I actually thought I was going to become an Olympic athlete… had killer instinct in competition been the only requirement then yes, “I coulda been a contender.” Lack of money and the realization of waking at pre-dawn hours for 365 days per year quickly woke me from that dream. (I suppose true Olympic talent would have helped.)

As you may recall in my last post, I mentioned I had returned home from two weeks at the beach. Well, I turned around Wednesday to go right back for several days. Jackson*, Peggy Anne’s #2, was not in attendance for my two weeks because he was busy with his summer  vacation internship in Spain. He returned to the states Sunday night after I had left; devastated that I would not be at the beach with him, he requested I come back. Who am I to say no to the beach  Jackson.

On Thursday, Jackson and I built an impressive shamrock in the sand. My photo does not do it justice.

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Ernie*, Jackson’s college roommate (also a guest at Jackson’s request) noted Jackson and I employ a thrill of victory attitude toward the sport of sandcastle building. On Friday, Ernie asked if he could join our sandcastle team. Naturally, there was an interview process (which he nailed because he was able to text his mother for a personal reference) and we asked to see his resume. Stating he usually doesn’t bring his resume to the beach he offered this…

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He put his money where his mouth is…so we said, “You’re in!” The Dream Team was complete.

For the record, these are our shovels…

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Ernie, did his best to control his envy for our plastic and wood “proprietary” sculpting tools.

To demonstrate our Olympic spirit, our “Dream Team” spent two hours with no breaks manipulating sand, sweat, sunscreen, and water to erect our tribute.

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Jackson earns all the creative praise, as he requested we construct the Olympic rings. He implemented the use of Google to be certain the rings were equidistant …as the tide went out he was quick on defeat his feet to advocate for use of wetter sand to contrast the Rio 2016 logo after noting the NBC logo to the left seemed too similar in color to stand out in the sand. (L-R) Ernie, Jackson, me.

In my mind, We received a gold medal in Olympic sandcastle building. Ernie earns the team spirit award for running back & forth for more water, limiting his creative suggestions to one, and laughing when I recommended we forego the Copacabana Beach dress code of Speedo for them as rumor had it the young men had skipped their appointments for a “Bro’zilian” prior to the trip. The man sitting under the umbrella (not in our beach group) was sorely disappointed with the news as he realized I would also pass on going topless. Ever a team player and knowing there is no I in team, the rest of the beach applauded with jubilation at my team spirit.

This was the last day on the beach. Friday evening, we returned to the condo for dinner, Opening Ceremony watching, and closing ceremonies cleaning after 3 consecutive weeks in Olympic Beaching.

Peggy Anne and I are quite the task masters when it comes to cleaning the condo which is returned to her good friends after our use. According Hubster, Peggy Anne’s sons, Ernie, and my own Son-sters; Peggy Anne and I resemble the individual below when cleaning the house.

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Click here to view….it’s worth it! 

Go USA!

Have a great Monday!

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*names changed to protect the innocent (Peggy Anne & Jackson in WHO’S Who)

 

Infectious…

…disease and Tricia Nixon.

I have just returned home from two weeks at the beach. My blog celebrated two years while I was away…cue the non-partisan confetti and balloons.

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In past years when I have taken this lengthy “rejuvenate the child-bride within me” vacation, I usually had one or two posts waiting in the wings. This year, I let the ball drop (much like the confetti and balloons above).

In part this was due to the lack of good ideas for an “I” post in my quest to complete 26 alphabetically ordered posts. A few I’s that were tossed around were a post about Instant Gratification and Instagram. As you can tell by the title, there was no instant gratification with infectious disease and since I don’t follow Tricia Nixon on Instagram, you may be wondering how I make the connection with the two topics.

Here goes…

I love being on the beach. It has been many years since I was a sun-bather; rather I spend the majority of the day on the beach sitting under an umbrella with at least 30 spf sunscreen protecting my delicate skin while reading a book. I do enter the ocean provided the waves are not too rough and the child in me cannot help, but build a sandcastle.

 

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Not my best work, but this “hexa-pus” did score a few head-turns. Thanks to all my “likers” on  Instagram.

 

I suppose it’s rather strange to see a 40 + 10 + a few more years-old woman building a sandcastle on the beach, but to me it’s relaxing. Also, once I have sand on my legs I feel obligated to enter the ocean, only to return to my umbrella shelter and book. (I finished Girl on a Train and The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss…both great reads.)

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While sitting on the beach, I tend to be a “people observer”. Let me just say, I don’t wear a bikini (you’re welcome). I used to wear a bikini as seen here, but no longer as my body has become older and wider wiser.  Since my last several swimsuits have been ordered from Lands’ End, I am curious if there are no mirrors in brick and mortar stores that sell bathing suits for I cannot believe that people actually thought that some of the suits they were wearing fit properly. I don’t just mean too tight or too small;…a few suits were too large. I saw more “full moons” than Neil Armstrong when ill-fitting swim suits were swept off bodies during the crest of a wave.

Warning: You may not be able to “unsee”!

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I did not take this photo…it was borrowed from the internet. Credit

In addition, I observed many young families making memories. This of course had me longing for the days when my Son-sters were a part of our  beach vacations.

Ocean City, 1996

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Son-sters used to gather little shells with holes so that I could insert on my gold chain.

In the evening, the Hubster and  went out to dinner most nights. As we pondered the menus of our various dining locales, usually bay side, I once again was a“people observer”. Mostly, I was trying to determine what they had ordered for dinner to see if I wanted to copy their choice.

Seafood Nachos

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This was delicious…not sure what the little green sauce was, but yummy!

One night, we sat next to a family with three daughters. As they were looking at the menu, one of their daughters (a preteen) complained in the most articulate way possible that she “despised” everything on the menu. She wanted to leave. Her parents were offering every option they could think of in order to coax her to stay, including stopping at the golden arches after they finished their meal. She was having no part of it. She complained and complained until they finally left. Hubster and I were shocked at her behavior…Hubster texted our Son-sters to thank them for their good behavior while growing up and going out in public with us.

Unfortunately, this whole scene was somewhat of an embarrassing déjà vu for me. Way back in 1971, shortly after school was out for the summer, my parents packed Baby Boy, Keary, and I in the Milkman’s 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass for our annual trip to Canada.

SainteAnnedeBeaupré, 1971

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A photo from this trip taken by Keary… (L-R) The Milkman, my mother, Baby Boy, Me.

We usually drove a direct route up the portions of I-95 that were complete and then cut across the backwoods of Maine to Jackman and on to the Canadian border. I was never consulted about the route; however I was an observant; even at a young age.

I’m sure we left at the crack of dawn. I am also certain that had I not had impetigo covering my nose, I would have been sitting smack in the middle between Keary and Baby Boy. Instead, due to the infectious disease on my face I sat between the Milkman and my mother in the front seat. (Infectious disease be damned, my parents were going on vacation.) As they were teens, Baby Boy and Keary were absolutely mortified with my scaly nose. They stated they would not sit near me, nor would they sleep in the same bed with me as sharing beds was typical on a family vacation. Keary lost this battle because as the only other same-sex sibling on this trip, she would sleep with me. At the young age of 8, I was a pariah in my own family. The photo of my family at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is one of the few from that vacation…all taken at a safe distance from my nose.

Our trip took us from Boston up I-95 and into Bar Harbor, Maine. It seems my mother had other plans for the first day of our vacation. The date was Saturday, June 12, 1971 ( I had to Google the exact date).  Tricia Nixon, daughter of then President Richard Nixon, would marry Edward Cox in a televised ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. My mother, insisted we stop at a motel with TV. It was probably about  1 pm when we stopped. My mother wanted us to eat “lupper” (lunch & supper) before the wedding was to be aired so we drove into Bar Harbor proper. A thrifty seafood meal was intended, but I had other plans. I complained about every menu choice my parents suggested. Given the infectious disease growing on my  face, my parents did not want to make a scene. Trust me, I did not get away with this kind of behavior ever, but for some reason my scaly nose, whines of a finicky eater, and exhausted parents caused my parents to choose a rather fancy restaurant. I don’t know what I ate, but it was probably fried. When the check arrived the look on my parents’ faces were of shock.

Close-up of a carton of french-fries and chicken

I know my mother had budgeted $400 for meals for our two-week vacation for five. (She was quite an economist when it came to eating.) You’re probably wondering how an eight year old knew the budget. Well, about a week before we left for vacation, my mother and I were walking to my dental appointment. On our walk and only two blocks from our home, my mother was mugged…she screamed; I holding her hand turned and screamed as well. She would not let go of the purse. The young man picked my mother up and threw her into the street. She released the purse and I ran screaming down the street. When the police officer questioned us, my mother told the officer that she had $400 in cash in her purse because she had withdrawn that amount for food for our upcoming vacation. As it turned out my mother had forgotten that she changed her purse for the walk to the dentist. While this event still impacts some of my behaviors today, at least the money she had saved all year was not stolen.

Anyway, back to the shock and awe on my parents’ faces…the check was $42, more than one-tenth of the designated allowance for food. I never lived it down and meals were strictly budgeted for the rest of the vacation. The impetigo on my face, would not be the tour guide for the rest of our vacation.

For the record, my mother and I watched Tricia Nixon marry Edward Cox on the motel TV while the Milkman, Baby Boy, and Keary swam in the motel pool. I was banished from the pool due to the infectious disease.

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Have a wonderful week!

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Homework…

…not an “old school” h word

On June 23, 2015 our little neighborhood in Maryland was struck with a catastrophic hail storm. We were home when it hit. At first, we thought it was quite a spectacle to witness. We took some photos and Hubster ran out to grab a couple of the pieces of hail.

Hubster’s Hand Holding Hail (4H)

(I couldn’t resist the “H” alliteration)

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He only did that once because as soon as he got out there the hail took a turn for the worse. It went from golf ball sized to tennis ball sized in a blink. Suddenly, the sound on the roof became a parade of elephants trampling across rather than the pitter-patter of pesky pecking pigeons.

More 4H

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View from bedroom window

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By the time it was over, we actually felt like all was well until Hubster looked at his car. Pockmarks graced the hood and roof. My car was parked safely under the humongous oak tree which provides afternoon shade for our driveway. The tree, which we typically curse in the fall due to the amount of leaves that blanket the lawn, suddenly became my car’s protector.

Hubster’s car was 13 years old. (We tend to drive our cars for a long while.) Anyway, he thought about getting it repaired, but instead opted for a shiny new vehicle. My car was two years old so I offered to switch his new car for my more classic vehicle. This option was nixed.

About a week after the storm, we had another thunderstorm; only this time, torrential rain. Rain cascaded over our storm gutters. The next day, Hubster decided the gutters must be clogged. He took out the trusty ladder. Once he reached the gutters, he noticed the screens which are supposed to protect the gutter from getting clogged were all bent in from the hail storm the week before. He also noticed the roof was pitted. Ugh!!!!!!

We had to get a new roof, rain gutters, and down spouts.

Roof being delivered last August

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Since we were getting a new roof, I determined other outside “homework” (the school teacher in me) must take place. I did the hard work of choosing the shingle color and popping over to Home Depot to choose the new siding, shutter, and door paint colors.

Hubster completed the majority of “homework” by painting the entire house late last summer.

I chose the new light fixtures as well. He acquired the electrician to install.

Our neighbors were quite impressed with “our” homework. Many inquire if we are moving…No, we are not moving.

Home, Sweet Home

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It was worth all the work…please, no more hail.

 

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My little annual garden by the mailbox always brings a smile to my face.

Have a great day!

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Greatest…

…a superlative G word

Approximately 46 years ago I became an aunt at the ripe old age of seven. At the time, I was devastated that my brand new niece would be given the same name as my own. I can’t explain why I felt that way, but I do remember pouting on the steps of my childhood home once I learned a girl was born.

My namesake being held by her mother.

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Upon my first visit to the new parents’ home, I found the name borrowing to be very exciting.

I became known as Auntie C…because of my closeness in age to the majority of my nieces and nephews, I was anointed their leader and playmate. I would be an aunt 10 times before I became a mother myself. My own two sons would look up to their cousins who were older, wiser, and “the coolest”. (Little did the Son-sters know I was responsible for their cousins’ “coolness”.)

In what seemed like a flash, my nephews and nieces began to get married. Then as nature would follow, children would be born. Suddenly, my nephews would be called Uncle and my niece & namesake would be called Auntie C…my own brothers and sisters would also be called Uncle and Aunt (at present, 8 more times). The problem was my name…how could there be two Auntie C.s? It was decided that they would call me Great Auntie C. Obviously, I loved being called “Great”…when the name fits, it really fits.

A boat ride just for me…

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Perhaps one of my relatives could have told me I didn’t have my life jacket safely buckled.

When my niece, C’s son began to talk, he heard all of his cousins call his mother, Auntie C. One morning he woke up and asked his mother, “Mom, are you going to be Mom today or Auntie C.?”

She laughed, “I am your Mom, your cousins call my Auntie.”

That confusion aside he asked about me…she explained the relationship. It just so happened I was arriving in town that day. All the cousins were together when one of them asked, “When will the “Greatest” Auntie C. arrive?”

My niece and her son, Brendan* turning toward me.

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My nephew, Link*, beginning to feel a bit queasy inside the cabin.

Everyone laughed and a name was born….they call me the “Greatest”. You should see the looks I get when one of them calls out across the beach, “Greatest, are we going to build a sandcastle?” or “Greatest, can we get an ice cream?”. Needless to say sandcastle building and ice cream out the “ying-yang”.

Ask and ye shall receive

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Mason*: “Greatest can you build me a sandcastle?” Greatest: “Of course I can build you a sandcastle.” Socks help keep the sensitive feet from burning on the sand.

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Great Niece and Great nephews: “Greatest, we need to practice for the sandcastle competition.” Greatest: “Do you want to build a snowman?” 

When it was time for the competition, I must admit I was a bit tired from all the castle building, but the “Greatest” tries not to let them down those who idolize her.

Team Sea Serpent

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Try to look only at the youngsters. Their fearless leader should have closed her beach cover-up.

 

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One of our team members was wooed away by the call of free ice cream.

Time for dinner

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Appetizers in the yard…steamed clams, steamed shrimp, and Maryland crab dip. Interestingly, my niece, C’s fiancé, Brad* has a cast on his arm (an unfortunate arm meets ice incident…He’s a wonderful guy and I am thrilled for both of them). All weekend, all we heard was, “I have a cast. I can’t build a castle.” Seems eating clams, shrimp and crab dip are not a problem in a cast.

 

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Family Matriarch and Kitchen King….this was not the meal we ate after the appetizers, but I forgot to take a picture because I was overwhelmed with the food for that meal which included; mussels marinara, steak tips, crab cakes, homemade potato salad & cole slaw, and corn on the cob. The Kitchen insisted that we have lobsters one night, who am I to say no.

Did someone say Ice Cream?

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Echoes of “You’re the Greatest” heard between bites. (L-R) Scarlett*, Jake*, & Link

Once sandcastle and ice cream needs are met…it is time for s’more fire on the beach and fireworks….

The “Greatest” does not disappoint.   

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(L-R) Jake, Scarlett, their Dad, my nephew, Jay*, my niece C. and Brendan

 

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Lucky photo of remnants of sunset and first fireworks of the evening.

Because homes at the beach don’t come free, it is always a family effort in good times and maintenance. Everyone contributes whether cooking, entertaining, (see above photos)….

finding beach glass,

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Found by the “Greatest”

sewing,

 

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“Greatest” can you bring your sewing machine with you? 

Blood, sweat, and tears …

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Blood: I stabbed myself in the finger with the seam ripper. Sweat: They don’t call it a sweat shop for nothing. Tears: Did I mention the stabbed finger? I’ll be fine.

and learning something new.

My phone has a panoramic photo feature. I did not know how to use it. My nephew, Adamo and my great-niece, Scarlett taught me how to use it.

My first Pano

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The “Greatest” Pano

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On my last day, I woke up to a rainy day, eventually the sun came out, but the fog off the water was stubborn. Suddenly a “fogbow” (fog rainbow) occurred. I managed to capture it.

Have a “Greatest” day!

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*names changed

PS: Speaking of the greatest….I was able to squeeze in a lunch with my greatest blog inspiration, Katie Clooney of Preppy Empty Nester…it was like we have known each other all our lives and so much more….Lunch was the greatest!

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The Three F’s…

…Forced Family Fun

(alphabetical posts return…who doesn’t love an F word?)

When in the course of human events, families are brought together in a moment of mourning that resembles more of a party; it becomes necessary to reminisce. My family holds many true events in our lives to be self-evident that time spent together is always fun, whether brought together freely or by force.

When it comes to force; let me clarify that no one need notify the Department of Social Services. At no time, in the history of family tyranny was any member dragged kicking and screaming to an event; however I can’t promise that no one ever left without kicking and screaming.

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There are six of us now…(L-R) Piano Man, Beemie, Family Matriarch (FM), Baby Boy, and Heir.

Prudence, indeed, does dictate that no family event be destructive.  It is the Right of the Family to lay a foundation of delicious food, organized entertainment (usually involves us singing, someone playing the piano, occasionally karaoke, puzzle making, sandcastle building, cribbage, scrabble, charades, &  me someone crying), hours cooped up in a packed car, and everyone talking over one another. In the end the most likely effect is Safety and Happiness.

The history of dedication to the beliefs of Forced Family Fun come in the way of photographs to be presented here as proof and submitted to a candid world as our country approaches its 240th Birthday, a few samples of the Three F’s ala Birthday Celebrations of my family.

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A dual event for the FM and Susan…FM front right, Susan in the back just to the left of the light on the wall. Girl at the left unknown, but seems genuinely thrilled to be invited.

 

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Keary’s 11th Birthday….she is in the white dress with navy belt…I appear not to have been invited in the cat top and “head lice free” hair cut, but due to my 5-year-old popularity among her friends who cherished the times I invaded their privacy; still managed to photo bomb this photo well before it was a thing.

 

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My 40th 50th Birthday…me in the crown (they recognize my royal status)…many family members could not fit on the stairs. Also, while I don’t hold a grudge, some couldn’t make it.

 

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The Milkman’s Birthday (1975?) with my nephew, Jay.

 

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Milkman’s birthday (1991) with #1 Son-ster…plenty of cakes to go around.

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My mother’s birthday (1984).

Hubster and Son-sters…here are a few of your birthday celebrations.

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Hubster at 30…#1 Son-ster…#2 not born yet.

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#1 celebrates 4 years… #2 on the right, waiting patiently (patience not always a virtue at age 21 months) for cake.

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#2 celebrates 2 years

To my brothers… I am petitioning for Redress in the most humble terms that you be more forthcoming with family photos of your birthdays so that I may declare your birth-rite to the Three F’s in birthday posterity.

Because we have mutually pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes (← funny), and our sacred Honor I do declare; Forced Family Fun occur on a more regular basis.**

God Bless the USA!

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** a few lines from my post borrowed from the Declaration of Independence (DOI). Apparently the DOI was not well-received by the King 240 years ago so I hope my spin has a better response from my tens of thousands of readers.

Please Excuse…

… the interruption in my quest for 26 alphabetical posts. An alphabetical post starting with F will be concluded in its entirety a few days after this brief 30th Anniversary message.

This post is brought to by the writers of a few song lyrics. Credits at the end of the post. I want to stay on the right side of the law.

Wise men say (mostly, my mother) only fools rush in…*

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You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation…..♥

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The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall…♦

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I hear babies cry, I watch them growcorinne190

 They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever knowcorinne189

 And I think to myself

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What a wonderful world!◊

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*”Fools Rush In”: SONGWRITERS
MERCER, JOHNNY / BLOOM, RUBE

♥”Only the Good Die Young”: Billy Joel

♦”When You Say Nothing at All“: written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz.

◊ “What a Wonderful World”:  written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss.

E is for…

…eulogy.

For obvious reasons (read here) it has been almost two weeks since my last post. 

It is with a heavy heart that I publish this eulogy which was written by me and read to family & friends at my sister, Susan’s memorial last weekend. She was previously known as the Irish Twin on my blog to protect her privacy, but I feel it is important to name her as my parents intended. 

Yesterday is gone, today is almost over…never pass up a chance to love and reach out…tomorrow isn’t promised.

Susan was born to stand out, rather than fit in…

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First Communion, 1956…Susan in her glory in the veil and white dress. My three brothers and the FM.

Some may describe her as simply a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mother, an in-law, a grandmother, and a friend.

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A family portrait, by her 1956.

Love for her because she was family was easy; at times liking her and keeping her within your circle was challenging; especially when she would seek you out in the wee small hours of the morning after you had been up all night trying to put a sick two-year-old to sleep. Most of us, her siblings, will state for the record, as we are safely out of earshot, that Susan’s apple didn’t fall far from our mother’s tree.

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Our mother and Susan…a proud moment.

Through the years, I recall hearing from our mother (almost with a statement of pride) that Susan contributed to a nervous breakdown of one of the nun’s at Our Lady of Lourdes School.

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Hard to believe the above was true, but trust me it happened.

The next memory repeated from our mother was that Susan stated under no uncertain terms would she attend a Catholic high school. As the story goes, because she was adamant about this, Susan would attend a local public junior high. Due to proximity, her designated school was less than desirable, per our mother. Being frightened for Susan’s well-being our mother went to the Washington Irving School (WIS) in Roslindale and told some story (probably not true) in order to have Susan enrolled. Whatever the story was, it worked. Susan would attend 9th grade at WIS and go on to graduate from Roslindale High School (RHS), where according to our brother,  the Piano Man…she learned the latest dance moves and would come home with a new 45 or album to show the family how to dance. Dancing to her own tune would be the unspoken mantra for life.

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Susan was a trailblazer; for which I suppose the rest of us can be grateful because if Susan had forged the route, whatever we did that may have disappointed our parents seemed far less a problem because Susan had already pushed the envelope…before us.

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Relaxing on our parents brand new living room set…we were not permitted to sit on sofa unless the slip covers were present….mutiny in action!

An early memory for me, was one afternoon returning from a shopping trip in downtown Boston with our mother. I was kneeling on the train seat looking out the window on the Orange Line which paralleled our childhood home. Our mother was also gazing in the same direction as the train lumbered above Washington Street passing our house. Susan had the window to the third floor bedroom open; she had half of her body hanging out the window in order to smoke a cigarette.

Our home

The window she was hanging out of was actually in the back of the house.

The walk home with Mum from Green Street Station was grim. As we opened the back door, Susan was sitting at the kitchen table acting rather nonchalant. Our mother, who was smoking mad, laid into her with the usual inferno and brimstone that was appropriate for Susan’s rebellious effort toward doing what she wanted in a smoke free home. Unfortunately, Susan would continue on a smoker’s path for most of her life. At 13, I myself, who apparently didn’t take the advice of “Don’t try this at home”, suffered the same fate as Susan, only I gave it a try in the bathroom…live and learn. My first and last cigarette!

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Around the age the window incident occurred.

Susan was quite the trendy dresser.

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She saved this pink suede miniskirt. She wore this many times, single digit size on the label inside. Susan bequeathed it to Keary when Susan married, but as my nephew, his wife and I were cleaning out Susan’s home; we discovered Susan took it back.

After graduating from RHS and then Boston Business School, Susan went to work. She was truly a Downton girl, taking the subway to her job in the city. Her weekly paycheck went to more fashionable clothing for herself; although I have a vivid memory of a lime green plaid jumper that she bought for me, more cigarettes, and dancing at the Surf in Nantasket Beach or heading down the Cape.

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Her good looks and sense of style earned her an opportunity as a model with the Ford Agency, New York City as part of the Fashion Board for Seventeen Magazine.

A model in the making

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Susan was our parents second child. She arrived 12 months and 4 days after the Family Matriarch (FM). The term Irish Twin comes to mind, although we were clearly good “French-Catholics”.

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Often undeclared; I believe, Susan looked up to the FM, but at the same time always felt like she was in her shadows. Given Susan’s bright-eyed beauty, boisterous personality, bold disposition, and fragile temperament; it is hard to imagine why Susan felt that way, but she did. It was difficult for everyone in our family to instill in her that standing shoulder to shoulder, in fact made you stronger than squaring off face to face.

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My wedding… given our body mass index in this photo, we look like we have survived a famine.

Often fighting for her independence in true Boston form; suddenly Susan, felt the need to move out of our parents’ home. This day stands solemnly before me with Susan positioning herself on the second floor landing throwing some kind of duffel bag down the steps to the hall below. With the duffel bag at the Milkman’s feet, he pleaded, “Susan, cut it out now.”

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My #1 said this photo reminds him of Sally Draper in the later seasons of Mad Men.

She would move mountains to make this happen. There were tears and hostile words among most who watched her dial with force, on our rotary phone, the number for the local taxi company. In what seemed like an instant she was gone.

Although she never revealed the address of her new home, if she wanted to come home, the Milkman was a phone call away. He would drive to Kenmore Square to pick her up and bring her home for a visit or holiday.

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In November, 1969, Susan stood with the FM as her maid of honor when the FM married the Kitchen King, one of the sons-in-law who managed to survive our mother. Not long after this wedding, Susan would bring home a young Navy Seaman, Ronald M. to our family Thanksgiving in Jamaica Plain.

Ron was certainly smitten with Susan and when honorably discharged from the Navy stayed in Boston in hopes of winning her hand. They married in July, 1970. Without this match we would not sit here today with Rex*, Ranger*, his wife, Maggie*, affectionately known by me as “The Saint”, as well as Annabelle* and Ranger Jr.*, Susan’s cherished grandchildren. Forty-six years ago next month, our family lost Susan to distance as she moved with Ron to Muncie, Indiana his hometown.

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(L-R) My mother, the Milkman (our father), the FM, Ron, Susan, the Piano Man, the Heir. July, 1970.

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The once happy couple with me on their wedding day.

When cleaning out our parents’ home back in 2008, with Susan in the room, I found a letter amongst our mother’s possessions. Knowing Susan’s fondness for removing evidence, I have to be honest; I quickly absconded with it (see it’s in the blood) and brought it home to Maryland.

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I forgot about the letter, but recently found it. When I read it I was filled with emotion for I knew Bill M., Ron’s father, wrote a heartfelt letter to my parents just four days before Susan and Ron’s wedding in Boston to offer comfort as Susan would soon move away from the family.

Bill tried to ease our parents worry about the family she would now be moving toward. He wrote about two young people in love who did not want to be apart. He assured our parents, after meeting Susan that not only was she easy to look at, but she fit right in with their family who did not have monetary wealth, but plenty of family love. He wrote that Susan had shared our parents’ apprehension at such a speedy Love Story and that he himself shared some of these same feelings with the two lovebirds. It is sad for me to think that I never was able to share that letter with Susan, but fortunately I have now read it to her two sons who know that she was indeed loved by the M. family. Having spent two summers in Indiana with Susan and her in-laws in my early teens I always felt they were a wonderful family who made me feel right at home.

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This was a several page letter.

Susan was an incredible smother…mother. Rex and Ranger speak fondly of the wonderful science projects she created for them. She They often won awards for the projects she tirelessly produced on their behalf. In 1982, Susan returned to Boston with the boys for a several months long stint. She enrolled Rex in the second grade at Our Lady of Lourdes School, however she found no place in Kindergarten for Ranger because of the late enrollment. Due to Boston’s bussing, Ranger would have to attend a public school a great distance away. Susan would have no part of this and having learned from the best, our mother, she found the closest and best public school for the cherubic Ranger. Once again no room in the inn, so being wise on her feet and tearing a page from our mother’s playbook, she declared Ranger a Native American. A seat was suddenly opened.

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Susan, her two sons (my nephews) in the front Rex* & Ranger*…my nephew, Adamo* ( youngest son of the FM) is the little guy to the right. The FM in the hat carrying a box, the Milkman to the left.

Susan would return to Muncie and eventually her husband Ron would be transferred to Oklahoma. There they tried to make a life. Circumstances were not in their favor.  In 1989, Susan moved with her two boys to Maryland. I know they appreciate all the efforts their mother took to make a life for them when she was a single parent. Today, I see that they stand in awe of the fact that although their parents divorced, somehow these two people managed to push them towards adulthood. Their closeness proves that their mother and father shared lessons of a family’s love.

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In happier times.

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Their first trip to DC when they moved here to Maryland in 1989. I can’t explain my outfit (me on the right) other than to say I was a nursing mother.

While raising two teenagers on her own, Susan worked for Johns Hopkins University, Institute for Policy Studies. Knowing that a business school degree would not earn her security for life, Susan persevered and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from the Johns Hopkins University. Academic accolades were prominent as well as invitations to membership in prestigious academic clubs.

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With her JHU Fellows in the 1990’s.

Her job provided her opportunity to travel the world. She went to Africa, The Netherlands, Estonia, Romania, and Rome. It seemed the world was calling.

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One of her trips to Africa.

With elation came deflation; each occurrence does not require an itemized line for having lived through it with her or at times, without her because of her intense need for privacy; the road was rocky. Those mountains she moved to get out of the house so many years before became walls; disguised as frequent ups, downs, sideways and byways. She interpreted our lack of enthusiasm toward the latest and greatest proof that life had not handed her a bouquet of roses as we were somehow against her. As those who cared for her tip-toed around on egg shells in hopes of not wanting to send her away again, it was often problematic to keep one’s own strength.  We truly did care and want her to be happy. We reasoned and offered a helping hand that at times was bitten as we reached out.

Susan returned to Boston for ten years and was present for the care of our parents as their lives came to an end. Eight years ago, Susan returned to Baltimore to rejoin her grown sons. The bites would heal even though they still hurt. We came back for more because Susan was our parents’ daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mother, an in-law, a grandmother, and a friend.

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1994…the Milkman’s 75th birthday

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Three grandchildren not born yet, 1986….eight great grandchildren as of today.

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How I choose to remember her.

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All the family we could wrangle before it was time to eat…at the FM and KK’s home. In the front is one of my great-nephews, he is three…we typically do not include face painting at our family memorial services, but he attended a birthday party earlier in the day. He was a stand out at the Mass.  Susan would have loved it.

In loving memory of my sister, Susan…gone too soon.

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*names changed …need a refresher on Who’s Who, read here.

Difficult…

…a d word in passing.

It is about 11pm as I sit down to write this post. Once again the mission to 26 alphabetical posts has pointed me in many directions. Dreamer, decade, dutiful, daughter, dolls; all d words and posts that were started, but now cast aside.  This will be a challenging post to write as my head is pounding and my eyes are drooping.

My sister, the Irish Twin died today, 68 years young.

My d words will not feature bolded font for the Irish Twin used to be the bold one. Sadly, in the last 8 years we lived a little over a mile apart, but may as well have been living on opposite ends of the continent. It is not that we had a falling out of any kind; it was a complicated relationship.

I have many wonderful memories of the Irish Twin as well as some family tales (mostly true*) of tumultuous times. The photo below was featured in a post about my mother, but I doubt she ever read it. (See asterisk above) I mentioned the blog to her, but sometimes I think looking back was just too difficult.

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The Irish Twin is in the striped sweater. Keary in the red sweater re-posted this photo on Facebook for National Siblings Day. The Irish Twin was none too pleased. 

I have to admit it is not the most flattering, but if you knew her this would speak volumes. Her own sons admitted to me today that indeed the above photo captured her essence.

My nephews lost their Dad last August, so as Father’s Day approaches, they will now include their Mom. One of her sons is married and has two young children. They will miss their “Mimi”. The Irish Twin was a frequent sitter.

A few photos from past posts…

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Easter, sometime before I was born. Boston Commons. The Irish Twin is standing behind two of my brothers.

 

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Exactly one year ago, the Irish Twin (watch and black purse) goes out to dinner with us when several of our siblings come to town.

The Family Matriarch has asked me to write the eulogy for my sister. Since the letter e would be my next post, it seems the timing was set in fate. As the unofficial family historian, I hope to portray a woman who took risks we wished she hadn’t, moved far away too many times, wore her emotions on her sleeve while shouting them from her mouth, valued her privacy above some relationships, would defend a family member to her demise, and provided a smother’s love to sons, a daughter-in law, and grandchildren.

Thanks for taking the time to read…eulogy, more than just an e word to come.

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Cutting Corners

… two C words

26 posts to keep me writing

When this quest to write 26 posts in alphabetical order began, I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to “choose my words carefully.” As this weekend approaches, many in my life are celebrating a child who will commence with the rest of his/her life.

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This is my commencement, 1985. My father was thrilled when I received my degree because he knew this meant I  (the baby of the family) was off the payroll. When I received my Master’s Degree 24 years later, the Hubster and Son-sters attended…they couldn’t believe that my “home office”, where I wrote endless papers and completed my Master’s portfolio was finally cleared for more important functions again, like eating dinner at the kitchen table.

I truly do not believe that college is for everyone. I do believe that education whether self-taught after completing high school, learning a trade, military service, civil service, or time spent at a luxury all-inclusive parent funded 4/5 year resort (some call this college) is essential to survival. I also believe that learning is life-long. This will sound cliché (another C word, if your counting), but I can honestly say, I think I learn something new every day.

A few years back I wrote an essay about Memorial Day and Education, I posted it last year. Some may call it “cheating” to repost, but I call it “cutting corners” in my quest for 26 posts. Also, fear not, I do not intend to bold every C word, but I will update the post for clarity.

 

Memorial Day & Education

Many of us have come to recognize Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer. The weather is usually warm and the “great outdoors” beckons.  It is not that we don’t care or have truly forgotten the real meaning of this day, but the demands of life have a way of forcing us to think of the holiday as merely a day off from work or school to relax.

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Memorial Day was listed as an official holiday in the District of Columbia in 1888 although many cities and towns across the United States try to lay claim to its beginnings. The actual name given for the remembrance was Decoration Day. The holiday became official chiefly because a significant portion of federal employees would have lost a day’s pay in order to participate in ceremonial events to honor those who died and with whom they fought in the Civil War.¹

My school holds an annual Memorial Day Assembly to remember and thank fallen heroes, those who served & serve, recognize the sacrifices made that enable the freedom to learn and celebrate the achievements of students.

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Service members; both present and past, of students, faculty and staff are remembered on the Wall of Valor. This year marks 30 consecutive years for this assembly.

Seventy-three years ago, May, 1943, my father was a Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corp. He was stationed at Lowry Field No.1 in Denver, Colorado. In a letter to my mother, his “sweetheart” at the time, he wrote about his course work.

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He was learning about the effects of “magnetism in electricity” in order to improve flight equipment powered by electricity for the war effort.  In his exquisite penmanship he also noted with regret that he wished he “had been a little more studious” when he was younger as he wouldn’t be struggling to learn the lessons he was being taught as a 23-year-old man.

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He spoke of the great opportunity he was given by being permitted to attend the classes as many of his fellow soldiers had already attended similar schools. My father did not have a high school diploma as he lived most of his young life in a Catholic orphanage. He considered these men much smarter than he and apparently he asked many questions. At least I know that my many inquiries today come to me through honest heredity.

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As I read his letter, I think about the fact that cursive handwriting is no longer taught in school. I am saddened that this man’s great-children who are elementary age at present, will not be able to read the words he wrote during one of the most difficult challenges our country endured.

This Sergeant did not fight the battles of World War II with a weapon in his hand on the front lines, although I am certain he was trained. He learned in a classroom in order to build and repair safer, stronger and technologically advanced flight equipment.

Learning is life-long and one of the many great freedoms afforded to all in the United States of America. The opportunity of education is not to be taken lightly although difficult to convey its importance on some of the very young as my father had lamented seventy-three years ago.

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New Mexico, 1945…Sweetheart and the Milkman

On this Memorial Day, as it became known after World War II, we continue to decorate in red, white and blue. We hold strong the high expectations of education for all and we remember and honor those who sacrificed in battle and studied in a classroom in order to provide for us the most precious freedoms we have today.

In loving memory of (the Milkman) my father, the Sergeant, and those who died in the service of our country. A special thank you to all United States military personnel present and past.

 

Happy Memorial Day!

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¹credits to:  © 1994 – 2009 SUVCW & David Merchant   Updated 4 April 2009 and CRS Report for Congress, Federal Holidays: Evolution and Application, Updated February 8, 1999, Stephen W. Stathis, Specialist in American National Government Government Division