The Carousel of Time

Father’s Day seems to be a holiday put together by Hallmark who created a reason to buy cards and to spend money either with a gift or a dinner. The thought of have a day to honor the father is a nice one but doesn’t compete with the recognition moms get on Mother’s Day. Restaurants consider Mother’s Day the busiest day of the year. On Father’s Day, they barely get a crowd worth opening the restaurant for. Father’s Day meals usually  are a backyard barbecue accompanied by a gift of grill utensils and an apron that says “King of the Grill”. If anyone ever gave me a set of steak knives for Mother’s Day I would be justified in cutting off their head.

In the last few years, Tony and I have chosen to go away on vacation around Father’s Day. With many schools still in session, destinations were usually less crowded and it still wasn’t stiflingly hot. This year, however we were home. So the boys set forth to come to the house to enjoy a simple meal of pizza and mussels. A good time was had by all. No grilling, no apron and no utensils. Just cards from Hallmark.

Our oldest, Anthony, gave his father a card where he wrote, “I hope to be as good a dad as you were to me”. Anthony and Joana are having their first baby in October. They are reading the bible of pregnancy, What to Expect When You Are Expecting following up with the age old guide to child rearing, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. I had them both when I started a family and referred to Spock’s book many times especially in the beginning. I have to confess, I still would not recognize the difference in a baby’s cries.

I remember the day I brought Anthony home. My mother was there helping me recover from the cesarean I had and took care of the house while I tried to get this breast feeding thing right. There were sleepless nights and sore breasts. I was going for the Mother Earth concept by using cloth diapers. Huge mistake. The attempt failed and soon led way to Pampers. The Mother Earth syndrome was not for a nervous, neurotic first time mother like me.

Now my child is going to be a father. I remember moments of his childhood but the transformation to the man he is today is somewhat blurry. He will be a family man soon. He will have all the trials and tribulations of raising children but also the right stuff to make a good father.

The summer has begun. In our 55+ community there are children running around spending time with their grandparents while their parents are at work. I expect I will be one of them by next summer.  I haven’t thought much on what it means to be a grandparent. I will probably join my neighbors watching the kid to give the parents a break. Maybe I’ll start a Grandparent’s playgroup.

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All Those Years Ago

It was Saturday June 5, 1982. I woke up alone and got ready. Tony was forced to stay at his mother’s house that day while I slept alone in our apartment.  I did my own hair, makeup and nails. There wasn’t any team of beautifiers to get me just right. Just me and my assortment of beauty products meant to make me look glamorous. I wasn’t nervous, just went about the business of getting myself dressed. Even when my mother called upset because some relative tried to muscle an invitation at the last minute I emphatically said “No. The restaurant already has the number. She can’t come besides, I don’t like her.”  It was my wedding day and no one was going to screw it up for me. The only thing I knew was that I was marrying the right guy whose children I would have and who would be with me through the journey of our life.  I had no idea what that meant, what it would involve or how it would evolve. I just knew he was right.

And so it grew from just us to the five of us. We spent weekends at hockey rinks, dance recitals and  football fields. Summers at the Jersey shore and winters skiing at Mountain Creek. We battled with teenagers and young adults over what they wanted and what we believed in.

From the typewriter and calculator to the laptop and excel spreadsheets. From LAN lines to cell phones. From the porn shops and sleaze movies of 42nd Street to the safety of tourist attractions and the Disney theater’s The Lion King. We celebrated the millennium without the anticipated crash of Y2K and many other New Year’s with family and friends. The world changed mostly for the good, except….

I cried from a ferry that took me away to Hoboken while watching the towers come down on 9/11. Then cried again on my first visit to the memorial with the reflecting pools reminding me of what was once there. I blame that day for taking away more than just the site of the buildings. I got lost in the reality that the world could be ugly for no good reason. It made me high strung.

I didn’t know that June day 34 years ago what it meant to be married. I just knew we had to be. We encounter so many events many I remember fondly and some I forgot and some I wish I could forget. The only thing that matters now is, I got it right with this guy. My mother liked him and he liked her. After meeting him, the rest of the family forgave me for moving out of my mother’s house pre-marriage (they were very old fashion that way). “Maybe she does have some sense after all”, they whispered. I think I had a lot of sense. And maybe I was just lucky.

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I don’t know how I made it home

Memories at this point are conversations you have with those within your age group who enjoy revisiting many of the times you had. The concerts we went to, the events we have seen or the places that were and no longer are. I had such a night recently where the neighbors gathered and we started reminiscing. What I found interesting is that the conversation kept the pace with the saying “I don’t know how I got home”.

Back in the early 60’s when I was a teen, it was Palisades Amusement Park, the Great Adventure Park of its time. It had the largest outdoor salt water pool and rides gallor. Being it was only 10 miles from my house and within a short bus ride, it was a fun summer thing to do. Simple pleasures for simple minds.

Then the innocent activities evolved into the more riskier pleasures. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the drinking age in New Jersey was 21 however it was 18 in New York where the PATH train from Jersey City took us to the cool, hip bars of Greenwich Village. Before driving, the mode of transportation was hitchhiking. Thumbs out, we would hitch a ride to Journal Square which saved us money in transportation and usually got us to meet cool guys. Reaching the Village, there were a few bars of choice. I still have the matchbooks to remember their names. Mostly on Bleecker Street but once I went to the Electric Circus on the more beatnicky part of town, St. Marks Place. My memory doesn’t serve me well on many occasions but I so remember what I wore that night. The outfit I thought was the coolest thing I owned was a yellow pants suit with a matching Nehru jacket and probably had bellbottoms. Can you picture it?matchbooks

I don’t know what I drank back then except to this day, I still won’t touch a rum and coke. It must have been one of those nights I don’t want to remember.

Eventually, someone got a license and a car. There was no designated driver then, just the designated buyer of the alcohol. My friends and I took a road trip once to this infamous bar that housed startup bands in Greenwood Lake, NY. It was called Mother’s. Not the one that moved to Wayne, NJ. The real one. The lake, about 45 minutes from where we lived had only a handful of bars but the place had a draw. I only went once and just recall it had multiple rooms with bands in each and lots of dancing. Rumor has it Santana played there. After the night was over, and being the most sober and least tired, I drove home while all my friends were asleep. I knew then how big that lake really is.

Fortunately, my kids have not told me of many of their escapades. Fortunately, my mother never knew of my escapades. Fortunately, we are all still alive and have learned lessons from those days. It is still fun to talk to others who defied the safe and sober path, even for just a little while, and live to reminisce  and quote the phrase “I don’t know how I made it home”.