Visions of Hotcakes Danced in Our Heads

2f64616173a616731dac6156882e3e9cDecember 23, 2016Since I started this blog back in 2010, I’ve told and retold the story of my Grandfather and his famous Christmas hotcakes. Running the story each Christmas has become as much of a tradition as leaving cookies and milk for Santa. 

Christmas Hotcakes

When I think of my grandfather – known lovingly as Pop Pop throughout our large extended family – lots of warm and comforting memories come to mind.

Most often, he’s standing in front of a microphone at a family party singing a favorite song from 1919 that begs, “Don’t put a tax on the beautiful girls, I won’t last a day without love…”

Or, he’s sitting at our dining room table playing Scrabble with my parents after one of our Thursday night dinners.

I also vividly see him standing in the kitchen preparing his famous hotcakes.

Pop Pop made hotcakes every Sunday for his kids before church. Then, he’d make them for us during our summer vacation at the beach because he usually came with us. He’d love to get up early, walk to the grocery store and buy what he needed to whip up a fresh batch. We’d wake to the sound of him whistling in the kitchen with the griddle sizzling.

“Who wants hotcakes?” he’d ask as soon as he saw our sleepy faces.

We all did. They were one of the things we looked forward to while on vacation. And we loved them the next day, too, and maybe even the day after that. By day four, we’d have rather eaten a simple bowl of corn flakes or a Pop Tart, but we never had the heart to say so, and we ate them anyway. It was a small price to pay to please a man who brought so much joy into our lives.

He also made hotcakes for us on Christmas mornings, and we’d eat them as if we never had them before, then he’d fall asleep on the sofa while we opened presents.

Pop Pop passed away in 1977, and I still think of him and his hotcakes every Christmas. Gone but not forgotten, poured but never duplicated, Pop Pop’s hotcakes were the centerpiece of our Christmas morning and our summer vacations.
Those memories will be with me always.

Summer Sounds

sounds of summerSeptember 2, 2016Today marks the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer.

I have to venture back to childhood to remember what I miss most about summer once it’s gone, since adults rarely get to experience it the way a child does. Summer seemed endless back then, with each day passing slowly, some feeling like an entire year.

As a child, how summer sounded is the easiest to recall. Here’s what I remember from the two places where I spent the most time:

The Jersey shore…
• Echoes of seagulls (and the smell of Coppertone).
• Vendors walking along the beach selling “Fudgy Wudgies” and newspapers.
• “Watch the Tram-car please,” on the Wildwood boardwalk.
• Rock music playing by the amusement piers.
• Announcements of lost kids on the boardwalk.

The old neighborhood…
• Big Wheels racing down the street.
• Hucksters peddling “Jersey tomatoes.”
• Mister Softee or Good Humor trucks.
• Crickets on a hot night.
• Baseball games playing on transistor radios.

It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, but there’s plenty to love about autumn to take away the sting. It makes me smile to think that the sounds of fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet, the crackle of a fireplace and fans cheering at football games are close behind.

Visions of hotcakes danced in our heads

f1b888ad9fd1f4971fed3a08b11b799bDecember 21, 2015It wouldn’t be Christmas without thinking about my grandfather. As I’ve done since this blog began in 2010, I’ll retell the story of his famous Christmas Hotcakes because it is worth repeating…

When I think of my grandfather – known lovingly as Pop Pop throughout our large extended family – lots of warm and comforting memories come to mind.

Most often, he’s standing in front of a microphone at a family party singing a favorite song from 1919 that begs, “Don’t put a tax on the beautiful girls, I won’t last a day without love…”

Or, he’s sitting at our dining room table playing Scrabble with my parents after one of our Thursday night dinners.

I also vividly see him standing in the kitchen preparing his famous hotcakes.

Pop Pop made hotcakes every Sunday for his kids before church. Then, he’d make them for us during our summer vacation at the beach because he usually came with us. He’d love to get up early, walk to the grocery store and buy what he needed to whip up a fresh batch. We’d wake to the sound of him whistling in the kitchen with the griddle sizzling.

“Who wants hotcakes?” he’d ask as soon as he saw our sleepy faces.

We all did. They were one of the things we looked forward to while on vacation. And we loved them the next day, too, and maybe even the day after that. By day four, we’d have rather eaten a simple bowl of corn flakes or a Pop Tart, but we never had the heart to say so, and we ate them anyway. It was a small price to pay to please a man who brought so much joy into our lives.

He also made hotcakes for us on Christmas mornings, and we’d eat them like we never had them before, then he’d fall asleep on the sofa while we opened presents.

Pop Pop passed away in 1977, and I still think of him and his hotcakes every Christmas. Gone but not forgotten, poured but never duplicated, Pop Pop’s hotcakes were the centerpiece of our Christmas morning and our summer vacations. Those memories will be with me always.

Birthdays

cupcakeDecember 9, 2015 – I was 21 when my parents helped me buy my first (used) car by giving me a small loan. I promised to pay them back with a portion of my mediocre paycheck each week.

On my birthday that year, with a good amount of that debt still owed, they gave me a card and inside it my Mom wrote, “Your debt is forgiven. Love, Mom and Dad.”

My parents have always been generous with birthday and Christmas gifts through the years, and it was just like them to do something like that. Still, that particular birthday card has always been the most memorable.

Fast forward more than 30 years later, and upon celebrating my birthday with family over the weekend, I received another memorable card. This time it was signed simply, “Happy birthday. Love, Dad.”

It was a beautiful card addressed to “A Special Daughter” and in many ways, similar to cards I had received in the past – with one huge exception. It was the first card I received that wasn’t from Mom, too.

My Mom passed away a year ago in January, so there have been a lot of firsts without her in 2015, for my family and me. It’s fitting that today I think of her because she had a leading role in my first birthday and each thereafter.

This is long over due, but thanks for the birthday, Mom. This is your celebration too.

 

 

Summer Breeze

summer breezeJuly 30, 2015 – To the boy who lived on Claridge Street around the corner,

It was the summer of 1974. You stood near the cash register at Lou’s Candy Store and made an impression on me that will last forever.

Perhaps you were buying something, or just stopping by for a visit because you were a friend of the owner’s son. I knew who you were the way you know all the kids in the neighborhood, but it was the first time I observed you closely.

I felt smitten as I watched you sing along to Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze” playing on the radio. It made me realize you were a kind soul even though even though your little sister had threatened to turn my little sister’s nose upside down so she’d drown when she took a shower.

After I shared that moment with you, our paths ever crossed again.

“Summer Breeze” played on the oldies station today, and I smiled remembering the boy who touched my heart that day, just like I do each time I hear it. Funny, your name escapes me, but I have never forgotten how you made me feel that perfect summer day all those years ago.

In loving memory

390559_3716953964504_1922773106_nJanuary 26, 2015 — I once read that when a mother dies it can set a daughter free.

Strange words. I didn’t understand what the author meant when I read the article all those years ago, and now that my mother has passed away, I’m even less sure.

To be fair, I don’t remember the rest of the article clearly. It may have had something to do a mother’s criticism and a daughter trying to be perfect, but those words seem insensitive, so there has to be something more to it than that.

Perhaps I don’t get it because my mother didn’t criticize much. On occasion, she would tell me I looked tired, or that I looked like the last rose of summer, which wasn’t a compliment since the last rose of summer, the one that hung around through all the heat and humidity, looks withered and parched. Being of Irish heritage, she was also fond of saying “You are big and ugly enough to do it yourself,” whenever she thought I should handle something on my own. That sounds like criticism, but I never took it that way, and laughed it off.

I’ve never tried to act as if I were perfect for her either, but if you asked any of her nine grandchildren, they would tell you she was perfect, and she thought they were perfect, too. They could do no wrong in her eyes, and my father was fond of saying that if there was such a thing as reincarnation, he wanted to come back as one of her grandchildren.

All of us are still coming to terms about what happened. And that experience will continue for a while. The past few months were spent visiting her in the hospital, in a rehabilitation facility, in the hospital again, and finally in hospice. That’s enough to throw anyone off kilter.

Strangely, there is a positive side. I visited her daily in these places, and got to spend a lot of time with her. That wouldn’t have happened if she had been at home; I would have phoned her a few times a week, and visited on the weekends, but I would have lived by the excuse that my life was too busy and too complicated to visit so often.

We said our final goodbye at the cemetery this morning, and now life can return to a normal routine. I return to work tomorrow, I can get back to a set blogging schedule, and maybe even go to the movies. Still, the experience has changed me, and I can’t help but feel my normal routine will become nothing more than a distraction. For the time being, anyway.

Thank you Mom for all that you did for me. Your passing did not free me, but it made me realize how lucky I was to be your daughter.

Favorite blog post #1

womanDecember 31, 2014 — Taking a holiday break, so here is one of my favorite blog posts, originally published on September 9, 2012. Happy Holidays!

A Word by Any Other Name

My mother made the comment recently that she’s never used the “F” word.

She confessed this juicy tidbit while on vacation a few weeks ago, and in a Manhattan induced state of relaxation. I’d had a consumed my fair share of tequila and was feeling equally relaxed, so I boldly told her to free herself and just go for it.

As if I coaxed her to commit a horrendous crime, my father shouted, “No,” and covered her mouth with his hand to stop her. Most likely, she would not have said it anyway, but my father’s extreme actions just reinforced my curiously about this particular word, the emotion it evokes in people, and its origin.

I remember a similar conversation when I was a teenager. My father told us that men didn’t use that word in front of women out of respect. That prompted me to ask why they would use it at all; didn’t they respect each other? Or themselves? His answer made even less sense – “Well, I was in the Navy,” – as if using it was a prerequisite to joining the service. My comeback, if I can remember correctly, was that it’s just a stupid word, and its people who put the meaning behind it and make too much of it. About 15 at the time, I thought that was pretty philosophical.

I still believe that analogy to some extent, but when I spoke to my son about this topic during his formative years, back when he used to come home and share the word of the day he’d learn in the school yard, I explained that it can be an offensive word, and that he probably shouldn’t use it because it might upset someone who hears him say it.

So exactly what are the origins of the “F” word, and who were the first people to use it? It is, after all one of the more graphic words in the English language, it’s in the dictionary, it can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb, and I hear it said openly, a lot more these days than when I was a kid.

According to a web search, although not empirical in nature, in ancient England a sign to hung on the door of all brothels that stated “Fornication Under the Consent of the King”, which was later turned into the acronym we all know. Another variation is that it came from “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”.

A visit to Snopes.com showed both origins are false – no surprise there — but you have to give props for creativity.

The plain truth, according to straightdope.com, is the word is one of the oldest in the world, and has roots to a number of Germanic languages that simply refer to sex. I can’t find anything about when it was first considered profane or taboo.

So, my mother will live the rest of her life comfortably without ever uttering the “F” word. And that’s fine. My father, who spent four years in the Navy, can only say he’s lived his life without ever eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.