Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives so that our lives could be better.  We, of course, spent the weekend honoring the soldiers who fought so valiantly to protect our freedoms, but our family also spent some time this weekend honoring another hero, my stepfather.

On Saturday, we unveiled my stepfather’s gravestone.  About twenty of us gathered at the gravesite. Warren’s children, stepchildren, and grandchildren, his sister, his nieces and nephews, and a variety of spouses and friends. We had decided that we would run our own ceremony.  As people arrived from Massachusetts and Long Island, London, Charleston, New York, and throughout Connecticut, we began to form a large circle around the gravestones of my mother and my stepfather (and a few lucky neighbors).  We placed a vase of beautiful flowers near the graves.  We then invited people to talk if they wanted to, stand and remember if that was their choice,  cry with us, laugh with us, and just be with us.  We spent about thirty minutes sharing stories about Warren, people adding on as they wished, and occasionally crossing the circle to give someone a hug or hold someone’s hand or give them some tissue.  We all placed flowers on both graves.  Then we stood in a circle in the sunshine under a stand of pines and remembered this kind man whose mission in life was to live in a way that would make other’s lives better.

Interlocking Rings

When my mother married my stepfather, I was 16 years old.  Their vows, which they shared on a beautiful spring day in May in the back yard of the house where I had spent most of those growing up years,  have had a powerful impact on the way I’ve looked at relationships throughout my life. While I don’t remember the vows word for word, I remember that Warren talked about two interlocking rings.  He talked about how he and my mom were each like one of those rings, with their own well developed identities, their own careers, and their own families. And he suggested that when they married, they were not choosing to break those rings or give up any of those things as they joined each other as husband and wife. Instead, their rings (their identitites, their work lives, and their families) would become interlocked, each one a complete circle, but now joined together in a way that could never be broken.  I’ve always used this symbol of the two interlocking rings to think about my own marriage, and I hope that my children’s relationships allow them to be fully themselves while still joined in some never-ending way with their partners.

This weekend we will unveil my stepfather’s gravestone. The symbol I chose for the stone is of the two interlocking rings. My four siblings (my sister, two stepsisters, and my stepbrother) and I will gather with the rest of our family to celebrate the life of Warren and of my mother, whose stone lies next to his.  We will celebrate their uniqueness and their conectedness. We will celebrate the way more rings have joined the original two as the five kids came together and then had spouses and children and the those children have now had children. Now it’s more like a fishing net, with cirles connecting to other circles in a widening fashion, never to be broken, but always to be stronger together.


Weather and Mood

We teach our students that one strategy they might use when writing a narrative (or a poem) is to use weather to create mood.  If you want to create some tension, you might consider writing in an approaching storm.  If it’s sadness you are going for, maybe some heavy clouds.  If you want something a bit more upbeat, you might set your story in the early spring with flowers pushing their way through the hard ground. This weekend proved to me that weather can indeed influence mood, not just in our writing, but in our lives as well.

I woke Saturday to bright sun, birds singing, a light breeze, and a blue sky (a rarity this spring).  As I sipped my coffee, my mobile phone rang.  There was no name on the screen, but I recognized the number as a European one.  Could it be my daughter Morgan calling from Italy?  It was!  We talked and talked.  I felt like she was sitting at the table with me, sipping coffee and conversing about all sorts of subjects (travel, life decisions, what we were eating for breakfast, work, etc.).  What a great way to start a day! It was then that the flowers arrived from my son and his family.  Irises; my all time favorite flower! The card, filled with love and thoughtfulness, was signed by Pete, his wife, daughter, dog and even the fish, Ruby! Then it was off to the city (New York City, that is) to spend an early Mother’s Day with our daughter, Mackensie.  We drove in (OK…we did hit some horrible traffic, but somehow the beautiful, clear weather made it all seem like a very small inconvenience.).  We had a fantastic Spanish lunch outside at the new Hudson Yards complex, walked along part of the High Line to see the Vessel and the other new buildings (and buildings to be), went to the fashion exhibit (Camp) at the Met, and then drove Mackensie home to Brooklyn, stopping along the way in Red Hook for a glass of rose at a very cool, old dive bar.  The drive home to Connecticut was easy, and when we arrived at the house there was a beautiful Mother’s Day message from my oldest daughter, Jessica, complete with “I love you’s!” from my two grandchildren. The weather was bright and clear and happy and optimistic, and so was I!  I was floating on the few puffy clouds that were moving across the clear blue sky.

And then Sunday came.  I woke to the sound of rain.  It was so dark and gloomy, I was sure that it couldn’t be time to wake up, but when I checked the time it was already after 7. No birds were singing. I imagine they were hiding in the trees and bushes. I felt like hiding too, under the blankets.  My head and heart felt heavy.  Instead of thinking about the glories of being a mother to four of the most amazing people on the planet on Mother’s Day, I thought about the loss of my own mother almost 5 years ago.  The tears were hanging out just behind my eyes.  The rain and the tears seemed meant for each other.  The rain continued all day long.  My husband, sensing my dark mood, suggested we go to one of our favorite spots for some breakfast.  I agreed.  We had a wonderful breakfast and then visited my mom’s grave and placed some lilacs there.  My mom hated the rain and the cold.  She definitely would have preferred yesterday’s weather.  I cried.  Hard. My tears mixing with the rain that was pouring down and running through the cuts in the stone.  We drove by my childhood home, as we do every Mother’s Day since my mom’s death.  It looked beautiful, but it made me sad.  Then we came home and just hung around.  We read the paper, cooked, read our books, and just hunkered down while the rain continued to come down.  I felt like I was sinking in the mud and pools of water that had formed on the lawn.

Weather definitely impacts mood; in writing and in life.  Let’s hope the sun comes out soon (although that is NOT what is predicted).

Rainy Days and Sundays

If you live in New England, you know it’s been a rough spring, weather wise.  It seems like spring is really struggling to blossom.  It’s been cool and rainy and cloudy.  OK.  Yes.  There were a few warm sunny days sprinkled in here and there, but they were just a tease.

Today is Sunday, and it’s raining….again.  I like to be outside.  I like to work on the lawn.  I like to walk the dog.  Not today! So instead, my husband and I spent some time in the morning “getting things done.”  We did laundry, paid bills, got ready for the week, did some work, read the paper, and even did some ironing.  It was 11:00 when we both looked at each other and said, “What are we going to do with ourselves all day?”

So we decided to go to a few bait and tackle shops!  Anyone who knows me is thinking, “What?  Bait and tackle?”  We were in search of graduation gifts for two young men in our family.  One loves to fish and one loves to sail.  We were looking for the perfect items, and, you’ll be glad to know, we found them each a great gift.

By this time it was 1:00.

“Let’s go get some lunch at the Windsock!” Tim suggested.

“Perfect for a rainy Sunday!” I replied.

The Windsock is on the property of a small airport in Stratford, CT.  It is what one would call “a dive bar.” It has been on that property for a very long time. As we entered, the small group of patrons were gathered at the bar.  We pulled up a few stools and each ordered a beer and some lunch.  I had one of the best grilled pastrami and cheese sandwiches I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted quite a few), and Tim had some great chili and a spicy hot dog. We ate and chatted with the bartender and a few of the other guests.

After lunch, we came home, read the rest of the paper and settled in for a quiet afternoon.

Rainy days and Sundays (or Mondays as the Carpenter’s song goes) can get you down, but only if you let them.  We tried to turn the tide (no pun intended) and had a great day in spite of the lousy weather!