A Separation of Souls

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I have not yet told Eilis that my mom has died.

Shortly after 10:00 PM last December 23rd, my sister called to tell me that the hospital had just called to tell them my mom died.  I hung up the phone, crying out loud, and called my family to me.  Eilis, instead of joining Jim and Granuaile next to me, raced away from the room yelling, “I don’t want to hear it!”

And I think in that outburst, she found a place in her mind where if she didn’t hear it, it didn’t have to be real.

Eilis and my mom were fast friends.  We moved back to New Jersey when Eilis was four months old, and from the time she was just a few months older, she loved spending nights at Dram’s.  At 18 months old, she would pack her own bag, anxious to have even just a few hours in my mom’s company.  They would play for hours, exhausting each other with laughter and songs, and my quiet, reserved Eilis came into her own with my mom.  She seemed more animated, more outgoing, more loving.  Eilis wasn’t a huggy kind of kid.  She would sooner hug a tree than a grown up, but with my mom, she was so different.  Eilis was her true self with my mom, and the two of them were like soulmates, destined to find each other on this earth and complete each other.DSC01864

 

The day my sister Bean died, my mother took Eilis home with her.  Instead of going home to fall into the desperate pit of her own grief, she wanted Eilis to be with her, and my tiny two year old was anxious to go.  She didn’t leave my mom’s side, know ing even at this tender age that she had a job to do, making sure her kindred spirit survived the first few devastating days after Bean’s death.

One weekend, during one of their infamous sleepovers, my mom got sick.  holakxmas2An ambulance had to be called, and Eilis was there as they lifted my mom’s pain wracked body onto a stretcher and into the glowing cavern that was the back of the emergency vehicle.  The police came, there was a cacophony of dispatching calls coming over the squawking radios, and the lights and sounds were just too much for my sensitive kid.

It was the end of the sleepovers.

Eilis was afraid to go spend the night after that, and my mother knew.  She talked to me often about how guilty she felt over Eilis being exposed to human frailty in such a traumatic way.  I had a hard time getting Eilis to even go visit after that, and she was more than happy to pass on the mantle of best sleepover buddy to Granuaile as she got older.  Eilis didn’t get over it, silently lamenting the loss of this precious bonding time, and I think it impacted her more than we ever realized.

 

Today, after one of her increasingly rare visits to my stepfather at the home heshared for nearly 40 years with my mom, Eilis and I were driving home.  We were talking about our annual visit to Walt Disney World this coming Christmas, the first one we are taking with my sister, her husband, and my stepdad.  In between conversation, she was singing along to theCD she had popped into the car stereo.  And then she was crying.  The tears were silent, yet they poured as if a flood gate had been opened down her cheeks, dripping onto her shirt.  Quietly, acknowledging for the first time the loss she suffered last December – if not those many years ago – she said, very simply, “I miss Dram.”

I can do nothing with my own broken heart except pray that this is at last a step toward healing for Eilis.  Perhaps this is the beginning of her heart accepting – or at least understanding – the loss she has suffered.  And even though they can’t be together, maybe this is the point where Eilis lets the memories be of some comfort.  Maybe she can focus more on the bond they had than the separation they suffered.

And maybe she’ll find peace.

O is for Only in America – a-to-z blog challenge

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I may have expressed a fondness for the Mo Rocca show on the Cooking Channel “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”.  I love it – beyond love.  It is a look at the grandparents who came to this country from foreign lands, bringing with them the recipes from generations of Irish grandmoms, Italian grandmoms, Jewish and Russian grandmoms.

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I am always touched by this show.  I am smiling, thinking of my own grandmothers and their recipes.  Both of them were Irish, and while there weren’t elaborate meals, there was stick to your ribs soups and stews, Irish soda bread, pudding cakes – everything made with the love of generations.

This past weekend, the grandmom came from Thailand.  She grew up in poverty, but came to this country filled with hope, optimism, and a determination for a better life.

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And when Mo asked her, all these many years and American experiences later, what she thought when she came to this country, her face lightened and brightened.  A smile poured across her face like maple syrup over pancakes – slow and sweet.  And with the joy of a thousand Christmases, she exclaimed, “It was WONDERFUL here!”

And you know she still believes it; it IS wonderful here – you could read it in her happy eyes and joyous face.  Most of us will never know or never experience the things that some of our grandparents knew and lived through.  We will never know hunger so great or poverty so desperate or intolerance for beliefs so oppressive.  But we can know how much it meant for our grandparents to get here, find a better life, and hold onto the traditions and the foods that will help us remember where our lives – our histories – began.

I love this show – one that could only have been made here in America.

School Friends, Teachers, Tutors – and the Christmas Shopping List Grows Longer!

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With three daughters, all of whom have friends and teachers they like to give holiday gifts to, it seems that the holiday budget has to grow to nearly the size of the national debt in order for me to accommodate all the people on the list!  The kids also like to give a little something to the grandparents that’s just from them.  Add to that the people I always find at this time of year that I’d like to give a little something to – like the two girls who tutor me in chemistry and save my sanity.  And the guy who works the tutoring desk who asked me the other day if I knew the DMX song that was playing in the tutoring center (I did not) – he earned a spot on the list by insulting me when he said, “But you’d probably know it if it was Tony Bennett, right?”  He gets the burnt cookies.

But what is a mom with a budget tighter than that chunky monkey Santa’s squeeze down the chimney to do?

Let’s go to my old favorite standby – Oriental Trading.  The place has everything you could ever want to make your own inexpensive gifts!  Something cute I found that would be great for Grandmoms and teachers is this adorable gingerbread man necklace.  It’s festive for the holidays, and you can make 12 of them from one kit – that’s just over 50 cents each!  For the teacher, add a $5 Starbucks gift card, and she’ll have something handmade to help her remember your child for years to come, plus she gets a little treat while she’s out doing her own Christmas shopping!  You can find this and MANY more gift ideas at www.orientaltrading.com.

For your teenagers friends, think along the lines of something your own teen would like.  Perhaps have him/her choose a collection of songs they like and make each teen a CD that they’ll all enjoy listening to.  Teenagers also love photos of themselves with their friends, and you can find frames of all sizes and shapes at the dollar store.  Buy a simple frame, grab some wooden letters that spell out BFF at your craft store, have your teen paint them, then glue them to the front of the frame.  Print out your teen’s favorite picture with each friend to put in the frames, and viola – the perfect gift for around $2.50!

Younger kids get a kick out of snowman soup!  Again, hit up places like Oriental Trading or the dollar store, and find some inexpensive holiday themed mugs (Oriental Trading usually has plastic ones at $10 per dozen.  In each one, put a single packet of hot cocoa mix, a chocolate kiss or two, a candy cane, and a few marshmallows.  Wrap the whole thing in cellophane, and tag it with this little poem:

Snowman Soup
Was told you’ve been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm the spirit.
So here’s a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It’s sure to do the trick!


These also make great party favors for your holiday parties, and if you are going to make a bunch, skip the mug and put the ingredients in a holiday treat bag, twist tied at the top.  You eliminate the cost of the mug and save about .75 per gift!

Never underestimate the value of Christmas cookies and holiday fudge.  I know we all say a dozen times a year “If I eat one more Christmas cookie, I’m going to explode!”  But we usually say it as we are snagging another cookie.  What other time of the year are you going to have this many fabulous treats in front of you?  As someone who is lucky I don’t burn the slice and bake variety of cookies, homemade treats are one of my favorite gifts!

I hope this helps you save a little in your holiday budget for you to do something nice for yourself this Christmas season.  Splurge on some fuzzy slippers you can wear while sipping your snowman soup and noshing on those Christmas cookies.  You know you deserve it!.

 

 

 

Frugal Christmas Gifts – Perfect for Grandparents!

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With how scattered we tend to be, it isn’t the easiest thing to get everyone together for a family photo.  But there is probably nothing more your grandparents would like than a photo of all of their grandkids together.

But holy cow!  Have you seen how pricey those photo packages at the mall can be?  And then you have to get everyone dressed up, hair combed, shoes tied, dresses fluffed – it’s a pain in the butt, and the smiles you get aren’t going to be happy ones.

Thank goodness for your digital camera!  Pretty much everyone has one these days, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy one to get a good photo.  And dressing up?  Forget about it!  While I’m sure Grandmom loves to see the kids in their holiday finery, she loves seeing them on a day to day basis even more.  Put them all in jeans and a t-shirt from Grandpop’s favorite sports team.  Le tthem be comfortable and happy, and save the money on the fancy holiday clothes they are only going to wear once.If you want, include Grandmom or Grandpop in the photo.  That way, they can always look at the picture and see how happy their Grandchildren are to be around them, surrounded by the happiness that will make the fond memories of Grandmom they’ll have all of their lives.

You can find reasonably priced frames in virtually any store, from a mall department store to WalMart, so your whole gift can cost less than $25 when it’s finished.  It’s a great way to capture the happy faces the grandparents look forward to seeing, except there’s no clean up after they leave!