Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to Keep Your Kids on the Straight and Narrow

This morning, and three times a week, every week, I drive by my dad's old office.  It's not significant in my memories for being his place of work, but for being the site of many early morning family bonding breakfasts.  Getting kids to wake up early?  That's a challenge in and of itself.  Getting them to wake up early to go to 6:30am Mass during the week?  That takes promises of Burger King and foxes.  Yes, I know, those two things don't go together in the average mind.  But for me, nothing says baby foxes like french toast sticks. 

My dad used to wake us all up super early (at least in the mind of a 10-year-old) and we'd pull some clothes on and drive close-lidded to St. Thomas More.  Well, Dad would drive, and I'm pretty sure he was fully awake.  We'd sit through daily Mass like good kids, our minds ever on the prize.  A quick drive-thru BK run, and off to Dad's office.  He'd park facing the field, and we'd open our syrup packets and park a cheek on the curb, eyes glued to the tall grass below.  Usually about midway through my second french toast stick, we'd catch a glimpse of movement.  Baby foxes, not more than a couple months old, would poke their heads up as the sun rose.  Sometimes they were timid, and the early morning would barely be worth it.  Other times, they'd put on a show, romping and playing in the open for our pure enjoyment.

That was our tradition every spring.  Church and family bonding.  I think if more families put a little effort into time spent together, we'd have a society whose values more closely mirror what they should.  I blame those pre-dawn excursions on my love of food, the outdoors, and the Catholic Church.  A parent certainly could've done worse.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hehaw hehaw hehaw hehaw

My mom told me the other day that the only memory my youngest sister Kelly has of my grandma (my mom's mom) is of her getting mad in Walmart when Kelly ran over her foot with the shopping cart.  It broke my heart.  Even though she left us way too early 11 years ago, and I didn't spend nearly enough time with her when she was with us, all I have to do is close my eyes and I can see her standing in the kitchen making gravy bread (what my family always called biscuits and gravy), or pulling up the covers on the couch bed and kissing us goodnight, or calling us punchy when we were being a little rambunctious, or letting me put on her peach lipstick so I could feel more grown up, or her answering the phone in her trademark "N-yello".

There are the memories of her house that are fading as Aunt Ca renovates and makes the house her own.  The bookshelves in the back bedroom with the golf trophies and the plants, Grandpa's chair, the play food sets, the bear in the shed, throwing pop-flies to myself in the front yard, Rainbo drinks with straws punched through the top, the stationary bike in the garage, watching old Bugs Bunny videos, Land Before Time cups, the high chairs in the kitchen, the photo of the Pope that is so close it had to be professional until I turned it over and saw the Kodak logo and developed date on the back.

And there are the memories of who the family was with her, mostly Christmas memories because that's the time of year that we were all together.  Mini pizzas and mayonnaise cake and chipped beef, saving seats at Christmas Eve Mass, opening presents, everyone laughing and happy, and a little bit better because of her.

There are the memories that may only be appreciated by my family.  Grandma doing the pant jiggle on mom while she tried on new pants, the finger-stabbing tickle attacks accompanied by the obnoxious laugh-inducing "hehaw hehaw hehaw," the way that her death inspired possibly the only time that my mom heard her dad pray out loud.

And there's the overwhelming sense of a woman who was classy, warm, holy, loving, and genuine.  I hope that even if I forget all the other details, I remember that.

My favorite picture of her, on my grandparents' 50th anniversary

I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.