Impossible to write

My mother, I think, would have loved her memorial weekend.  Everyone gathered at the lake on Friday: my dad, all my siblings and their families, my aunt and uncle and cousins, and my mother’s cousins.  We visited and hugged one another and ate spaghetti and told stories of remembrance and got caught under the tent in the front yard during a pouring rain thunder and lightening storm…and we missed her terribly as we prepped for her funeral the following morning.

The kids, even the littlest ones, helped to make the photo memory board, and arranged the fresh flowers and tied the twine bows for the centerpieces.  They loved her so much and they worked so diligently to make it special for her.

On Saturday morning there was a HUGE thunderstorm and we had a difficult time setting up the tent, but we managed.

Because, at my mother’s request, we had not had a wake, we had a reception line at the church prior to the funeral, and we were astounded at the number of people who came.  My sister is knows the deacon personally and he told her that that number of people never come to funerals.  He was so impressed by the attendance.  After the funeral, we had large gathering at the lake.  I kept looking around at all the people thinking how much my mom would have loved it; she was always happy to have people come and visit at the lake.  IMG_4935

We sent everyone away with Forget-Me-Not seeds that the littles wrote the message on.

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After everyone had gone, and it was dark, my siblings and my family gathered on the dock and sent a couple of lanterns up to our Mom.

And, I know she loved them.

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Mom’s Eulogy  July 8, 2017

My husband reminded me last night that my mother was a pretty open book, so some of what I am about to share with you you may already know.  Also, I think Father stole some of my notes.

My mother was born in Syracuse.  She was raised in Baldwinsville, on State Fair Boulevard, until the fifth grade when she and her family moved to South Otselic to live with aging grandparents.  She loved that first house though, so much so that she spoke of it regularly throughout her life, and although she moved at a relatively young age even her grandchildren know she lived on State Fair Boulevard once upon a time.  

It was in that house she began to develop her feisty personality: once she hit a neighbor boy over the head with her golf club because he sat on her ball and wouldn’t move off of it.  Another time she chased away some older, bigger boys who were picking on her and her sister as they walked home from the store.  She may have been little, my mother, but she was mighty even as a child.

In high school she was a cheerleader and a member of the color guard.  

Like most teens, she enjoyed spending time with her friends, and she told us stories about swimming at the gorge and hanging out, or doing chores at her friend’s family farms.  Because her family lived in town, those farms were particularly appealing to her, and, at one, she was even given her very own calf who she named SqueeDunk and fed with a baby bottle.  

She was very close to her cousins and loved having them come to spend time with her family or going to their homes, in their cities, to spend time with them.  Those times with cousins were some of her most fond childhood memories.

After high school, my mother left her little town for the big city of Plattsburgh, to attend college at Plattsburgh State, where she intended to study elementary education.  She quickly made a friend from Chateaugay, and went home with her one weekend.  That weekend she met my father.  

As the story goes, when they were ready to become engaged, it was agreed that my father would come to South Ot to take my mother engagement ring shopping in Syracuse.  Unbeknownst to my dad, however, my mother and grandmother went shopping the weekend prior to him coming “just to scope out styles” and my mother, of course, picked out a ring.  The jeweler put the ring she choose aside, and then totally forgot to act nonchalant when my mother, who had told my father she had no idea what she wanted, and father arrived in his store the following Saturday.  

My father purchased the ring anyway.

51 and a half years later, my parents continued to share the crossword puzzle every single morning.  She would do the “down” clues, and he would do “across”.   Or vice versa.  I’m not sure, and it didn’t really matter.  They were both in it together for the ups and downs and sidewaysness of it all.

My mother loved reading, and she read voraciously, but as much as she read, she was also horrible with book titles and never remembered until she was partway through a new book whether or not she’d already read it. This difficulty with titles also made it challenging for her to recommend books to friends or family, but it never stopped her from trying.  

She was funny.  My Anna says she was the funniest person on earth.  She told wonderful stories, had a tremendous sense of humor, and she was able to laugh at herself as she shared her experiences.

She enjoyed traveling to the homes of her children for visits.  When she came to CT it was understood three things were required:  chocolate ice cream, Pepsi, and a willingness to drive her to Target every day she was there.  Sometimes more than once a day.  There were bonus points if the ice-cream truck showed up while she was visiting; she couldn’t get her money out fast enough when she heard that music coming down the street.

She loved Elvis Presley, JFK, lilacs, and the color blue.  She put butter on practically everything she ate, and she favored shrimp scampi and lobster tails.  She loved photos of her family and she took a million of them; always telling us to “wait for the green” when her camera was slower than she prefered as she attempted to take the photo.  

She attended as many of her grandchildren’s sporting events as she possibly could even though she couldn’t begin to explain the rules of lacrosse or soccer or baseball or softball.  But, she was there.  And she always had candy in her pocket at the end.

My mother made the best chocolate chip cookies.

She couldn’t parallel park, but she could drive a stick, and she was proud of that.  

She was always the first one to “like” our facebook posts.

My mother was a terrific card player.  And, by terrific card player, I mean to say she cheated at cards.  And, she taught all of us how to play, so you might not want to play cards with us.

She was a night owl, and often bought helpful gadgets off QVC at two o’clock in the morning.  Most of the time, by the time they arrived in the mail, she’d forget just what they were helpful for, but this didn’t stop her from gifting them to us.  All of the men in the family looked forward to the “tool of the year” for Christmas, and more often than not, these tools actually did come in handy at some point throughout the year.

My mother’s favorite place on this earth was the camp on Chateaugay Lake, and she loved every minute she spent there.  One of her favorite days of the year was Dock Day–the day the docks went into the water symbolizing the beginning of the season, and the promise of another great year of fun and family.  

She enjoyed watching the birds at her feeders (although she wasn’t a huge fan of the red squirrels), and she loved listening to the loons on the lake, stalking them in the boat, and watching their little loon families grow.

She was happiest on boat rides, or sitting on the deck, drinking Aunt Lindy’s slush, watching and listening to her grandchildren swim and play in the water.  She loved sitting around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories–she was a champion s’mores assembler–and she would sit for hours staring at the flames and listening to the laughter, never wanting to go inside until the first bat of the night was seen flying above our heads–then she was the first one inside.  

She looked forward to the camp t-shirts the kids made every year with that year’s particular theme whether it be Camp Monsoon Rainforest or Got Camp?

But mostly, she loved US.  Her family.  She loved her siblings.  She loved her cousins.  She loved her nieces and nephews and her brothers and sisters in law.  

She was a loving and devoted wife, a doting and supportive mother, and an engaged and adoring grandmother.  

She went by many names.  We called her Mom, Nanny Pitbull, Nancy Lee, and PeeWee, but Grammy was her favorite title.  She truly adored those seven young people sitting right over there:  Nicholas, Hayden Elizabeth, Anna, Ainsley, Drew, Colton and Avery Kate.  To say she felt the moon and stars rose and fell on them would be a gross understatement.  They were her world.

My mother was the most passionate person I know; she felt everything intensely, she cried with great sadness and she laughed with great joy, and she held steadfastly to her beliefs.  She did nothing halfway, but, rather, poured her entire heart into everything she did, and everyone she loved.

In the days and weeks immediately following my mother’s passing, our family received many condolences; they came in several forms: as cards, emails, facebook messages, visits, and phone calls.  And, in reading and re-reading the messages I received personally, I quickly noticed a pattern begin to emerge.  In nearly every single message: you all told me that you had lost your best friend.  

At first, I was puzzled by these repetitive messages.  They were heartwarming for certain, but how, I wondered, could all of you, each and almost every one of you, refer to my mother as your best friend?  It was a bit surprising to realize that you all saw her the way her family saw her.  

My mother was always there for the people who were important to her.  She was always ready to swoop in and catch you when you were falling, she was always the first one to congratulate your accomplishments, she was always there with a hug in sad times or a smile in brighter times.  

She always had a cup of coffee or a coke float or a glass of slush for anyone who needed one, and she always knew which of those things was needed.

If you needed to talk; she was there to listen.  If there was something she felt you needed to hear; she would tell you. If you needed to sit on her front steps in Dannemora or on her front deck at the lake and enjoy the evening air, or if you needed to sit at her kitchen table and visit for a little while; she was there.

My mother was loyal.  If she loved you, you were hers for always.  No matter what.

Because, my mother, I’ve come to understand, though she had many friends, was simply not friend material. That’s just not who she was.  No, my mother was BEST friend material.

She was your best friend, you told me she was.  She was certainly MY best friend.  And, though we will never, ever, fill the void she has left, I know she would want us to move forward loving one another.

On behalf of my dad and our family, I would like to invite you all to join us in remembering my mother today at her favorite place on Chateaugay Lake.  We have a big tent, so let it rain.

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These Days

Steve is working on the bathroom remodel; there’s crashing and banging and sawing and drilling and hammering and swearing filling the house.  Hayden is doing her nails and otherwise prepping for homecoming while her music volume constantly increases to cover the crashing and banging filling the house.  Anna is drawing a “Welcome October” picture for me in my bullet journal.  I told her a simple sketch would be sufficient, but she is an artist, and nothing for her is ever sufficient; it must be perfect.  And, I am researching a new book idea.  There are two dogs at my feet; one because she is always at my feet when I am in my office, and the other because she is terrified by the banging and crashing filling the house.  It’s raining.  That will ruin the homecoming pictures.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty perfect Saturday in the fall.  There’s spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, simmering away, filling the house.

Steve and I just celebrated our ninetieth wedding anniversary, and I wonder, so often, how it is that we got here, to this place, these weekends, that I so dearly love.  Sometimes it feels like such a long ride, and other times I think we are still at the beginning.  We are the among the lucky ones, I know this.  We’ve had plenty of bumps and bruises along this journey, we’ve suffered some great losses, but we have never faltered, we have never doubted our love for one another.  Many of our friends have divorced or almost divorced, a few of those divorces quite shocking, and each time we wonder how it is that a marriage can get to that point, each time we are so thankful that we don’t know the answer.

I know I sound a little, or maybe even a lot, self-righteous.  But, I truly know that our success so far has as much to do with luck as it does with our hard work.  I know that it could all fall apart tomorrow, that some unforeseen event could shake us, some minute shift in the universe could rock us to our core.  I know how blessed we are to have these moments, this family, these Saturdays.  I take none of it for granted, and I do, I honestly do, wonder how we got her so relatively unscathed.

Because these days?

These days are the days that sustain me.  These little days with my little family.  I am such a lucky woman.

 

 

 

 

 

A Joyful Noise

So, this week is Spirit Week at the high school; five days of dress up and mayhem leading up to Homecoming on Saturday.  Tuesday was holiday day, and the Seniors dressed for New Years Eve, and ran throughout the building at 12:00 in the afternoon blowing noise makers and yelling, “Happy New Year.”  This perk of being a Senior is apparently quit startling to some of the underclassmen, freshmen especially, but is a tradition everyone in the know greatly anticipates and joyously awaits.

It got me thinking.

Why can’t we be so joyful about every milestone in our lives?  Forget sweating the small stuff…why don’t we celebrate with complete abandon?  I want to run through the halls of my home and scream and praise my family for everything we do!  Made the volleyball team?  Yay, you!  Suffered through the pain of getting your braces tightened?  Hip hip hooray!  Got an A on that AP Psych test you studied for all week?  That’s awesome!  Congratulations!

Okay, sure, I already do that, I already praise those things each day, but I’m talking bigger and better.  I want my kids to more than hear our praise, I want them to understand that every single day is a gift, and that they should be proud of what they accomplish in that day, in the manner in which they celebrate that gift.  There’s too much stress in the world.  I want them to focus on the goodness they see and they create.

And, I want them to do it with noise makers.

 

Smith invasion 2016

Steve’s mother and two of his sisters rented a house in Niantic for a week in late August, and we spent that week running back and forth between that house and ours.  The view from the top deck of the Niantic house was incredible.

We went to Newport, and took a boat tour of the area.  It was great to see a couple of lighthouses and the mansions from the oceanside angle.  Also, it was just a really pretty day and a great time to be on the water.

We loved Newport!

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We shopped at Old Mistick Village where, as always, we were greeted by ducks.

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This one was my favorite:

We shopped for back-to-school, we kayaked, grilled out, went to the casino, got ice-cream, argued and laughed.

Some of us got a little older.

We had a great week.IMG_3230

Our Happy Place

We made a quick trip to Maine this weekend.  The traffic was the worst we have ever seen, the campground was old and dilapidated, and the weather Saturday morning was less than pleasant.

We had a great time anyway.  We set up the tent and left it there reminding ourselves that it didn’t matter that the campground was a dump; we were only sleeping there anyway.

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We went to all the usual places, but decided to eat someplace new.  The Beachfire bar and grille in Ogunquit did not disappoint.

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Couldn’t gamble with breakfast though.  No trip to Maine is complete without The Bagel Basket.

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The weather improved quickly, and we spent a great late morning/early afternoon on the beach until the tide finally kicked us off.

Of course, we went downtown, and to Perkin’s Cove.

We visited with Bear at the Life is Good shop.  Bear is thirteen this year, my kids have patted his head every one of his years.  They are always anxious to stop in and see him.    It will be a sad, sad, day when Bear is no longer a part of our Maine trips.

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And, the sun has set on another year in Maine.  No matter where we go in our lives, York Beach will always be our happiest of places.

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The Summer of Nancy

This is Nancy.

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Nancy showed up at my parent’s camp one day via a shopping trip to Target in which Hayden casually threw her into the cart declaring she loved Nancy and that she would love her and feed her and play with her everyday.

At first, Nancy blended into the family nicely and played well with others.

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But, rather quickly, all others were forsaken as Nancy’s charm caused everyone to gravitate towards her and her alone; everyone wanted the attention of Nancy.

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They loved her individually.

They loved her in pairs.

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They whispered their secrets to her.

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Even the adults were smitten with Nancy.

Occasionally, Nancy got a little frisky and attempted to mess with anyone not paying enough attention to her.  Luckily for Hayden, Nancy was unsuccessful in bumping her off the paddle board this time.DSC_0345

Only because Nancy decided it was more fun to be pulled around the lake.

One day, Nancy became a little too frisky and ventured out into the lake unaccompanied.  She managed, with a little help from the wind, to make it several camps down the Narrows before Hayden, the love of her life, was able to rescue her.

It was a close call, but tragedy was averted and this, the Summer of Nancy, was saved.

Until next time.

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Notice the beety, evil eye.  She’s plotting something.  I just know it.

Memorial Day 2016 or Avery’s First Memorial Day

This holiday, my brother, my sister, and I, families and dogs in tow, descended on my parent’s lake house for a weekend of dock installation, baby snuggling, barbecue, thunder and lightning storms, swinging, sliding, laughing, tickling, and togetherness. Much merriment ensued.

There was traffic. IMG_2687

Though some of us remained unfazed. IMG_2690

There were ridiculously unsuccessful photo shoots.

And, the first kayaking of the season.

There was swimming.  Even though the lake was freezing cold, and it appears to be more noodle lounging than swimming.

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There was some getting our toes wet.  Even though Hayden’s bracelets were more interesting.IMG_2714

There was some walking on the newly installed docks.

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And, some snuggling off to sleep in the arms of a loving cousin, Anna.

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There was pink eye.  And, there were horse fly bites.IMG_2699

And, there were rainy day activities, too.

But, the best thing was the Grandma love.

And, the moments I wasn’t quick enough to capture on camera.  Like the Colton giggles as Pop was tickling him, or the gust of wind that blew the canopy off the deck and simultaneously dumped a gallon of pooled water on my mother-in-law and almost took Grandma over the side of the deck chair and all.  Drew was a both a huge helper and big goofball, Ainsley was super loveable and a hugger, and we crammed twelve of us on the boat for the inaugural ride of the year.

All in all, it was a terrific weekend.