Mom’s Things

Last night, I finally decided to open the two boxes of my mother’s things that my stepfather had carried with him when he came up from Florida in June.  I wanted to open them right away, but for some reason, I just couldn’t.  These are the last two boxes of mom’s things.  Over the four years since mom has been gone, everything else has been divided up, shipped out, given to friends, sold, or donated to Goodwill.  So the boxes sat in the corner of the bedroom for weeks.  I’d move them to clean, think about opening them, and decide to do it later.  I’d move them to a closet when guests were visiting, take them back out, think about opening them, and then just leave them. I had no idea what was in these boxes.  My stepfather said they were just some papers and things that he thought we might want.

But last night I was home alone, the evening was quiet, so I decided that it was time.  I opened the first box.  The first thing I saw was a plastic zip lock bag.  I pulled it out of the box, opened it, and reached in.  The bag was filled with watches and jewelry.  I burst into tears and collapsed on the bed. Mom was a jewelry designer, and here were more of her wild creations. Earrings that spin and twist, bracelets made of reimagined found objects, and a necklace that was filled with crazy bobbles and bangles.  And then the watches.  How many watches did one woman need? There were elegant watches (no numbers, just one little jewel to mark 12), a modern plastic watch, and then a classic Timex.  This box was filled with mom. I could feel her energy pushing at the cardboard sides and the out of the top. I had the urge to close the box back up and save it (and her) for another day. I placed each piece of jewelry on the bed, trying to remember when she made it, what she looked like wearing it, and thinking about who might wear it now (some of the stuff she made was way too wild for me, but one of my daughters can carry it off).

I decided to just stay with this bag of items for a while. I went and got some silver polish and a rag.  I sat on my bed polishing up the earrings and bracelets and necklaces until they shone like the stars peeking into my windows. I looked at all of these memories just sitting there on my bed, reminding me of a woman who was just as spectacular, creative, somewhat wild, and elegant as these pieces of jewelry she made with her own hands.  I closed the box, taped it shut, and vowed to spend this kind of time with mom on future quiet evenings across the summer.

 

Summer Time is Family Time

Summer vacation provides time to relax and regroup, time to travel, time to work on projects around the house, time to read and write, and time to try out new things.  But for me, the most important thing that summer provides is more time to spend with family.

It’s only July 23 and we’ve already had so much family time!  

Here’s a sampling:

-trips to the beach and lake and pool with our daughter and grandchildren

-family (and friends and neighbors) bar-b-ques in the back yard with badminton, bocce, and croquet

-family trip to Ireland

-visits from sisters and sisters-in-law

-boat tour of the Thimble Islands with my sister and brother-in-law

-family reunion in East Boston (35 family members from my dad’s side)

-lunch with my sister

-dinner with my stepfather

-lots and lots of time with my husband (who also has the summer off) doing lawn work, home projects, going out to lunch, making dinner, watching fireflies in the back yard, and more

-birthday lunch with my dad (who turned 88!)

-birthday weekend with my daughter (who turned 28)

 

And later this summer, we have plans to:

-visit my other sister-in-law in New York

-have my sister visit for a week

-visit our daughters in New York and Brooklyn

-have many more bar-b-ques and beach visits and parties and gatherings.
There is just something about spending time with family.  It makes me feel grounded, and it makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger and more meaningful.  It reminds me that if I have trouble, I can always come here. If I have a celebration, I can come here too.  We are here for each other, always.

 

Driving Miss Crazy

“Watch the side!”  

“I’m not too close.”

“You are almost hitting the wall!”

 

“Look out for the tour bus!”

“I see it, but I can’t move over any farther.”

 

“Slow down for the curve.  I can’t see around it. There could be a bicycle rider or a walker!”

“There are no bikers here!” (There were bikers there!)

 

“I think you better pull over or back up.  There is only room for one on this road.”

“He’ll pull over.”

 

“Be sure to yield….it’s another roundabout.”

“Remember to drive left.”

“I don’t think you’re in the right gear.”

This was what our daughters heard as they sat in the back seat of our rental car (stick shift!) as we drove through the Irish countryside this past week over mountains, around hairpin turns, along cliffs, and down one lane roads (that were meant for two cars).  At least this is what they heard when my husband was in the driver’s seat (which, of course, is on the right side of the car) and I was navigating. What you don’t experience in the dialogue above is the way I was leaning in around every curve, pushing my foot down on the imaginary brake, the sounds of me sucking in my breath quickly, and the freaked out tone of my voice.

So what happened when we switched drivers?  

Suddenly I’m calm and focused (You have to be or you will either go off a cliff, have a head on collision, or run off the road into a wall.) and we are moving our way though the curves and across the one lane mountain roads will less drama, albeit a bit more slowly than the Irish drivers behind me might have enjoyed. (My husband still did a few, “Watch the side!  Pull over now! That bus is coming right at us!”) Both girls, at some point in the trip, said, “Maybe we should let mom drive.” Not because I’m a better driver, but because it creates a much calmer ride.

So what does this say about me and about my relationanship with my husband?  

Yes.  I’m a control freak. I’m working on that.

No.  I don’t think my husband is a bad driver.  In fact, he is a very good driver. It’s just that I don’t seem to be able to stop myself from “helping” him drive. Does this send a message of distrust? Is this kind of “help” really helpful? Do I do this with other people in other areas?  My kids? My friends? My colleageus? I need to take a look at this. Helping is not always helpful!

Yes.  I can be fearful about some things.  How can I manage these fears?

Yes.  We are still married.  I think that says something.

Note:  At the end of the week (no accidents, no dents, no major scratches on the car), our daughter said, “Aside from all of the squabbling, you guys did a really good job with the driving this week!”  We all had a good laugh and decided that any couple that is getting serious about their relationship should try to drive around Ireland together. If they can make it through that, they will have a long, happy marriage! Maybe a new reality show?

Summer Projects

One thing I love about the early days of summer vacation is the way my husband and I jump into projects that we have been talking about all spring (but haven’t had the time to    even consider starting).  This year we have only been on vacation for three days and already we have tackled so many things on the list.

We have:

-recovered our porch chairs

-picked out fabric and hired someone to recover our two wicker chairs (These have needed recovering for the past few years!).

-Purchase badly needed new coverlet for our bed.

-weeded and edged our gardens.

-put in some new plants.

-repainted and affixed new numbers to our mailbox (I’m not sure how anyone has found us – including our mail – for the past few months.)

-shopped and packed for our upcoming trip.

This flurry of activity happens every year as we launch into summer.  Our intent is to keep this going all summer.  Next on the list is to sand and paint the garage, get a quote for an attic fan, rip out a garden and create a rock garden, and more. But if this is like other summers, this manic pace will subside, our need to be productive with every minute will decrease, the days will grow longer and our pace will grow slower, we will spend more time reading and hanging out and less time checking things off the list.

After all, isn’t summer really about taking a break and just enjoying the space between the end of one school year and the start of another?