forever…

…friends.

Laurie and I have known each other since our daughters were toddlers. She initiated the first ever playgroup in our small town of Redding, Connecticut. For that I will be forever grateful. It was my lifeline to the outside world since I’d decided to forgo a career in NYC to be a stay-at-home mom.

I’d worked since I was 16, so being in a twosome with a child for the next umpteen years was a thousand scary thoughts all rolled into one. I’d no idea how I’d make it from one day to the next without adult companionship.

Thank God for that ad in the local paper inviting new moms to gather with babes in arms. Laurie and I have been lifelong friends ever since.

There were a number of women with whom I’d been close, but Laurie was the only one with whom I’d been so totally in sync. There were never, ever any issues over which we’d have a falling out. Never. Our daughters, only children, were our common cause. It was always about their well being. Our worlds revolved around doing our best for them. We always commiserated over that common goal. Our egos never got ahead of us that way. Amazing! Truly amazing.

It’s been 18 years since our family moved to the Pacific Northwest. During that time, Laurie and I have managed to meet up…in Redding,  NYC, Chautauqua (New York), Atlanta, Martha’s Vineyard and just last week, here in Washington State. (We’re already looking forward to where we’ll next meet.) As with long time friends the world over, we spent every waking moment catching up on…our lives…our daughters’ lives…the lives of friends and acquaintances we’d both known…and Redding, past and present.

As an unexpected bonus, Laurie and I discovered we both dreaded the thought of a Trump presidency. And so from the outset, politics wove their way in and out of all of our conversations. Empowered by our discussions, she vowed that she would help register voters upon returning to her home town in Pennsylvania. And, of course, I plan to continue trouncing Trump with the written word.

One of the first compliments I paid Laurie on this visit was that she was everybody’s enabler…her daughter’s…her ex-husband’s…her two sisters…her niece and nephew…her friends…her coworkers. It’s in Laurie’s very DNA to quietly support those with whom she’s in contact. She never pushes her opinions; instead she listens carefully, building upon what the speaker has said. To her great credit, many have remained loyal to her. And to her very great credit, her daughter is thriving in a gay marriage and enjoying an awesome career as a veterinarian.

I count myself very lucky to still be among Laurie’s closest friends. No matter the distance, no matter the passing of time, we will always be kindred spirits…

…friends…forever.

………hugmamma.787

 

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weekly photo challenge: create

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Furnishing dollhouses was a hobby my daughter and I shared as she was growing up. The first dollhouse was a gift for her which my husband assembled from a kit. We painstakingly finished it off with paint, wallpaper, roofing tiles, and electricity. We were quite pleased with the finished product, as was our daughter who squealed with delight upon seeing it Christmas morning.

The following year my husband’s aunt and uncle visited from California, bringing with them a surprise for our daughter. Driving their trusty trailer the 3,000 miles to our home in Redding, Conncecticut, they eagerly presented her with a dollhouse that uncle had built with pride. He’d built dollhouses for 3 granddaughters as well.

To our great surprise uncle had built the exact same dollhouse that we’d presented to my daughter! There was a slight difference, one that made his more convenient for 360 degree viewing. Attached to its underside was a turntable. This dollhouse could be placed anywhere, unlike the first which had to be situated so that the front of the house and the inside could be seen at the same time. Displaying it took some creativity on my part when trying to incorporate it into our home furnishings. A dilemma not easily solved in a 100-year-old, 1500 square foot, Victorian farmhouse. But I managed.

Now there were 2 dollhouses to display and furnish. Over time, the one built by uncle  was furnished with pieces selected by my daughter. She lovingly arranged each as she imagined a house should look…lived in. Miniature food was left out on the table, pumpkin carvings on newsprint on the floor, magazines and games strewn about.

The one my husband had built became a haven for the vintage finds I favored. I was delighted to have another outlet for my insatiable passion for antiques…of any size. Normal size or miniatures, originals or replicas, none of that mattered. The “look” is what I obsessed about. This dollhouse began to resemble the feel of our house…only in miniature.

What fun my daughter and I had creating comfortable dwellings for imaginary people. And she and friends spent countless hours playing house like the wee folk…thanks to 2 creative geniuses…

…her father…and great uncle…

………hugmamma.   🙂

autumn recalls…a bad memory

Crimson Carpet of Autumn Leaves

Image by Visualist Images via Flickr

Autumn in Connecticut remains one of my fondest memories…driving along country roads flanked on either side by trees awash in brilliant oranges, reds, yellows and rusts. My young daughter would often remark at her good fortune, being born in Redding…a rural town surrounded by more commercialized ones like Danbury Ridgefield, and Westport. I agreed. We were indeed lucky. Folks drove from far and wide to savor what we awoke to…every day. My husband and I still enjoy the seasonal change here in the Pacific Northwest, but the east coast remains the mecca for Mother Nature‘s “changing of the guard.”

One memory that will forever be interlaced with pleasanter ones of Fall foliage is my one and only brush with poison ivy. Actually, it was more like a wholehearted embrace of the menacing vine.

Without a home of her own, my mom would live with my various siblings and me for extended periods of time. Once she spent more than a year with us in Redding, It was from her that I inherited my love of gardening. We enjoyed time outdoors, on our knees, digging in the dirt. We’d often sit on the front porch of our small, 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse admiring our handiwork…flowers blooming…bees, butterflies and birds hovering…to snack on the delicacies spread before them.

Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serrata

Image via Wikipedia

The “fly in the ointment,” however, were dead leaves that had accumulated on our property alongside the road. From my mom’s bedroom window, she could see those leaves. For her it was a daily reminder that a passerby could flick a lit cigarette or match out his car window…and woosh!…a brush fire. 

My mom’s distress at the thought of a fire, pressed her to try and light one under my butt. Not something I, or my husband wanted to do on the weekends, after commuting and working in NYC all week. We assured her that all property owners blew fallen leaves to the edges of their property, where they were left to decompose. My mom was not swayed. She never let up trying to make her paranoia mine. What finally coerced me to rake and bag the leaves was my mom’s threat to do it herself. Need I say more?

Extinct?

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

I threw myself wholeheartedly into cleaning up the entire bank of our property that sloped down towards the road. Since it was a warm, summer day, and I was a naive, Hawaiian, I undertook the cleanup in shorts, ti-shirt…and bare hands. Once I got going, I was determined to do a great job in ridding the area of all debris.

And so for hours I raked leaves, scooping up handsful, emptying them into trash bags. Entangled in the leaves were vines. I decided they too needed to go. I proceeded to do battle with all vines that got in my way. At day’s end it felt good to survey all that I’d accomplished. My mom’s smiling approval was the icing on my cupcake.

Found the lotion

Image by T Hall via Flickr

My happiness was short-lived. A couple of days later my entire body was one giant itch. I didn’t have enough fingers to scratch myself into lasting relief. There wasn’t enough chalomine lotion in the drug store to afford relief either. The worse aspect, if anything could be worse, was having to go to work.

Commuting to and from my job as a paralegal at TWA was nerve-wracking. I wanted to scratch. Sitting in my office all day, I scratched while researching and writing briefs for arbitrations. Spots of pink medicine covered my arms, legs, neck and face. I wasn’t a pretty sight, that’s for sure.

Steamy Shower

Image by SweetCapture via Flickr

After a long day in NYC, I would return home, jump in the shower and stand under the hottest water I could bear. That numbed my skin, providing the most relief, however temporary. My doctor finally prescribed prednisone. It was a God-send, for it permanently cured my overall itch…from the inside out.

You can imagine my ongoing fear of vines. I don’t touch it unless I am certain what it is…like ivy…nasturtiums…or my favorite, clematis. One introduction to poison ivy was all I needed to know…

This is an old poison ivy vine from my backyard

Image via Wikipedia

…been there…done that…not going to do it again…ever…

………hugmamma.

“lobster kona style,” sam choy

In my post “christmas 2011???” I indicated that my husband and daughter prepared our amazing holiday meal. They were my personal gourmet chefs, if only for a day. But I’m not complaining. Each dish tasted as fabulous as it looked. Had I done the cooking, I’m not sure I would’ve fared as well. Sometimes I overfuss; my husband never, ever even fusses. He’s simplicity personified. And my daughter was the perfect sous chef. She fusses, but she doesn’t overfuss.

From renowned Hawaiian chef, Sam Choy’s cookbook, “Cuisine Hawaii,” I found the main dish for our Christmas dinner. I love lobster, especially dipped in warm, melted butter. I no longer indulge in the dripping delight, because of health reasons. Something I’ve spoken about ad nauseam. “Lobster Kona Style” may be a healthier, and tastier, alternative.

In a sidebar to the recipe, Chef Choy told how he and his staff caught the lobsters used in his recipes. I thought it was interesting, since I’d only known of lobster traps in Maine, and elsewhere on the east coast. I thought it was worth repeating. Natives like me might be surprised, and tourists who visit the islands might be intrigued.

Fortunately, lobsters like to gather in the waters right in front of the Kona Hilton, so that’s where my kitchen staff and I go to catch them during lobster season, which runs from September through May.

In preparation for catching the lobsters, we put pieces of fish into our traps, which measure about two feet wide by three feet long. Then we hang the traps over the sea ledge near the hotel, letting them down to between 30 and 40 feet deep.

We leave the traps there overnight, and during that time the lobsters crawl into them backwards with their feelers to get the food. The opening is shaped like a big funnel, with the smaller part on the inside, so once the lobsters get in, they can’t get out. In the morning we return to the traps, which usually have attracted not only lobsters but rock crabs and big eels. The trap holds from six to 12 lobsters.

If  the carapace of the animal is smaller than three inches, or if it’s a mother with eggs, we throw it back. Then we take the keepers back to the kitchen, because lobsters taste best if they’re alive and lively. We move as quickly as possible to prepare them for a gourmet meal like Lobster Kona Style. In this recipe, the rich buttery flavor of the lobster is offset by a tangy sweet and sour sauce. Enjoy!

Years ago when we lived in Redding, Connecticut, a styrofoam chest containing live Maine lobsters was delivered to our door. It was a thank-you gift from one of my husband’s clients. Unable to get my husband by phone, and not knowing what to do with the shellfish, I put them in the freezer. Later that night when my husband arrived home, he informed me he didn’t think I’d done the right thing. Telling him I didn’t want the lobsters to die, he reminded me that I killed them anyway, by freezing them to death. “Oh, yeah right,” I said. Lesson learned,… at the lobsters’ expense.

Without further adieu…Lobster Kona Style…

2 whole lobsters (1 pound each)

Sam’s Seafood Marinade: 1/2 c shoyu, 1/2 c oil, 2 T mirin, 1 egg white (lightly beaten), 1 T minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t white pepper, 2 T cornstarch, 1  1/2 t brown sugar. Combine shoyu, oil, mirin, egg white, garlic, ginger, salt and white pepper. Mix together cornstarch and brown sugar and stir into shoyu mixture; blend well. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Oil for deep-frying

Sweet & Sour Sauce: 1/2 c tomato  catsup, 1/2 c vinegar, 1/2 water, 2 t shoyu, 1 c sugar, 1/2 c orange marmalade, 1 1/2 t minced ginger, 1 t minced garlic, 1/4 t hot pepper sauce, 2 T water. In a medium saucepan combine tomato catsup, vinegar, 1/2 c water, shoyu, sugar, orange marmalade, ginger, garlic and hot pepper sauce; mix well and bring to a boil. Blend cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to make a smooth paste. Stir cornstarch mixture into sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened. Makes 2 cups.

Remove lobster meat from tail sections, leaving head attached to tail. Cut lobster tail meat in half, then crosswise into four sections. Marinate lobster meat in Sam’s Seafood Marinade for 45 minutes. Steam lobster shells until shell is bright red; set aside. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Dip lobster meat into Tempura Beer Batter, then deep fry in oil until golden brown. Arrange lobster meat in the empty tail shells. Pour Sweet & Sour Sauce over the lobster meat. Makes 2 servings.

Tempura Beer Batter: 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c cornstarch, 1 t salt, 2 egg yolks, beaten, 3/4 c ice-cold beer. Combine dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in egg yolks. Gradually add beer, stirring constantly, and blend until smooth.

bon appetito!…hugmamma

“hocus pocus!” real estate for sale!

When we moved from the east coast 13 years ago, we practiced a little “hocus pocus” when selling our home in Redding, Connecticut. One of the smallest houses in town, our 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse, at 1,500 square feet, was about half the size of our current one. While it lacked an abundance of living space, our 3 bedroom, 1 bath home was full to overflowing with charm. It provided the perfect backdrop for my collection of antiques and memorabilia. But when it was time to sell, we weren’t sure prospective buyers would love our one-of-a-kind, vintage home.

My husband left my young daughter and me before Christmas, to begin his new job here in the Pacific Northwest. I was anxious to sell quickly so that we could all be reunited. Just before he returned to spend the holiday with us, I learned from a friend that a neighbor and friend of hers had just died of a heart attack at age 42. The loss was especially devastating because she left behind two very young daughters, the littler of whom wore a helmet because she suffered some neurological disorder. The husband owned a local ice cream shop in a town next door to ours. Evidently their marriage had been strained because he was very controlling of his wife’s time, and her friendships.

I was so saddened for the little girls who were now without a mom, that the sale of our house seemed inconsequential. Instead of praying for our family’s reunion, I prayed hard that the children would be okay. I cried that they would be okay.

When my thoughts returned to the sale of our home, a dear friend, Carol, offered some unusual advice. While it seemed like religious superstition, we were open to anything after 2 months without a firm offer. In the dead of winter, we buried a small statue of St.  Joseph, head first, facing the street, in the dirt in front of our house. Needless to say my husband had a difficult time digging a hole in the frozen ground. But he did. And guess what? Our home went into contract later that week! We had bought it 14 or 15 years earlier for $115,000, and sold it for $245,000. When we moved, St. Joseph traveled with us. We had to dig up his statue and honor him with a place in our new home, which we have. He stands among my collectible dishware in a red, painted cupboard.

With foreclosures on the rise recently, sellers and buyers “are turning to witches, psychics, priests and feng shui consultants, among others, to bless or exorcise dwellings,” or “to help move…property stuck  on the market.” The Wall Street Journal’s “The Housing Slump Has Salem  On a Witch Hunt Again,” indicates that the ancient tradition of housecleansing is making a comeback. Tony Barletta bought a foreclosed home in disrepair at 31 Arbella St. Because of its bad vibes, he invited 70-year-old witch, Lori Bruno, who claims to be descended from 16th century Italian witches, and warlock Christian Day to process through the house casting out the negativity. “They clanged bells and sprayed holy water, poured kosher salt on doorways and raised iron swords at windows.” Then Ms. Bruno chanted ” ‘Residue, residue, residue is in this house. It has to come out,” and “Lord of fire, lord flame, blessed be thy holy name…All negativity must be gone!’ ” The bell ringing is to break up the negativity, while the iron sword keeps evil spirits at bay, according to Bruno and Day.

Historically, Catholics and Hindus call upon priests to bless a new home before occupying it. Chinese believe in cleansing a home of any accumulated bad luck before the start of their New Year. Julie Belmont, a so-called “intuitive,” working in Orange County, California, explains that with foreclosures, ” ‘It’s not dealing with entities or ghosts…anymore…a lot of it is energy imprints from past discussions, arguments, money problems. All of that is absorbed by the house.’ “

But while Ms. Bruno and fellow Salem witch Lillee Allee perform house blessings for free because they “don’t want to live off people’s sadness,” others see it as a real business opportunity. “Austin, Texas-based feng shui consultant Logynn B. Northrip is teaming up with Scottsdale, Ariz., real-estate agent Jason Goldberg to offer a package of services to create better vibes in a home, either before sale or after purchase. The two met at a yoga retreat.” Sacramento, California realtor Tamara Dorris used feng shui to help sell a home that had sat on the market for more than a year. Having placed “a jade plant, believed to bring financial good luck, in a ‘prosperity corner’,” the home received 2 offers of purchase within two weeks.

Seems to me like St. Joseph is a more budget-friendly investment, and reeks less of superstitious mumbo-jumbo. But as far as I’m concerned, hey, whatever works!

never know…might try some of it the next go-round…hugmamma.

“sun’s out!,” time to plant?

What a difference a day makes, even here in the Pacific Northwest! The sun’s rays are showering down on all the tree tops; glistening raindrops hanging ever so delicately from the twiggy branches of the apple tree. It feels like spring. Yet I have to remind myself that the calendar on the desk top reads January 19. No scurrying out to weed or plant bulbs. I did that when we first moved from the east coast 13 years ago.

Having left icy winters behind whose last dregs were not gone until Memorial Day, I was elated to find that here in the Seattle burbs my garden began to show signs of new birth in February. So I got outside and sloshed around in the mud, oft-times kneeling in it to pull out unwanted stuff, and replace them with finds I’d discovered at Molbak’s or Squawk Mountain Nursery.

I wallowed in early spring, in the sunshine, in the sweet smell of new growth. I loved the sun warmly beating against my bent back, as I toiled away in the dirt. I am my mother’s daughter, I’d think to myself. She left me her “green thumb,” and she’d be proud at my constant use of it, even when I lived in Redding, Connecticut.

Friends, neighbors, and passersby would often comment upon the lovely cottage garden that surrounded our small, Victorian farmhouse. I strived to outdo myself each year. But my loveliest memory is of the abundance of wildflowers which grew from a packet. I sprinkled its contents on either side of the walkway leading to our front porch. Never one for math, I overlooked the explanation that the seeds were to be spread over a larger area than where I’d chosen.

It seemed forever before the blooms all emerged. But as they filled in, overwhelming the space in which they grew, I was like a child experiencing nature’s glory for the first time. Every morning I’d bound out the front door, which slammed shut with a loud bang. I’d walk the path, oohing and aahing at the varieties, the colors, the scents. I couldn’t count the number of wildflowers peeking out from behind one another. I tried picking favorites but gave up, because en-masse they were all beautiful!

Soon the bees came calling. And the butterflies, tiny ones and Monarchs, began congregating in my garden. Nearby, robins and finches twittered and chirped in the massive, overhanging, rhododendron shrub. Being careful not to get stung by a busy bee, my husband, daughter and I would plop ourselves down on the porch steps or an outdoor bench. Gazing upon Mother Nature’s handiwork, we were enthralled by what she could do with one inexpensive, little packet of seeds.

Those among you who are gardeners, probably know the ending to my story. Yes, it didn’t take long, perhaps a few weeks, before happiness turned to sorrow. With the first heavy downpour, my glorious, little garden nearly drowned in the onslaught. Hardier flowers were able to lift their heads once more, but the more fragile were too frail to pick themselves up again. I tried for a time to help, leaning some against others for support, propping others up with twine and stakes. Before long I too gave in, digging up the whole mess, save for a few that didn’t “throw in the towel” like me.

I replanted with specimens that were tried and true. Though the results were lovely, they never recaptured that brief moment when our house and its front path looked as though Cinderella and her fairy godmothers lived there, or Snow White and the seven dwarfs, or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

Throughout the first decade of her life however, my daughter loved the first home she ever knew, and all the flowers that grew in its gardens. And so, while I could never replicate my cottage garden fantasy, I’ve continued to make my garden here my own. I try very hard to follow planting instructions, but I’m still inclined to want every plant that I fancy to have a home with me. Grumbling to dissuade me, my husband is usually won over, and moves plants to make room for a new neighbor, or two, or three.

But thank goodness my energy’s maxing out as the years pass, for my garden space is maturing as well, meaning that it’s maxed out too. Although there’s still that wild, unkempt patch of brush at the top right of our driveway. I Wonder what I can do there? Hmmm…

it never ends…nature’s beauty, i mean…hugmamma.

return to venice

During a recent visit to Venice I felt a longing to return someday and spend more time, perhaps a month. Living as a local, I wanted to wander the narrow alleyways as if time were a luxury. Traveling the globe as a tourist is not my idea of experiencing the real face of a country. Doing so seems more like being on this side of the glass in an aquarium, observing underwater creatures swimming blithely through their sea world. With eyes wide, face pressed close, my imagination wanders, piercing the “barrier” separating me from them, be they natives of the sea or of the land. Momentarily, I’m one of them. Excitement lures me in, but fear of the unknown pulls me back into the comfort of my own skin. I envy those who can abandon themselves to what’s new, undeterred by the consequences. Like the “I Love Lucy” episode where she, wanting to “soak up local color” to prepare for a small part in an Italian movie, is drenched in grape juice when she wrestles with a villager in a vat of grapes. I’m up to scheming like Lucy, but lack her bravado in following through. What is it that holds me back? Is it my island mentality, older age, my husband’s antipathy for “dancing on the edge,” or my dysfunctional past? Whatever it is, I am fine living within this “moment.” But life has a way of changing things up, so I never say never.

A Thousand Days in Venice is the author’s story of her life-altering, middle-aged marriage to a Venetian. “He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafe’ a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando–“the stranger,” as she calls him–and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.”

There are revealing moments in their relationship. When Fernando makes his first trip to America to see Marlena in St. Louis, she asks why the hasty visit, since she’d just arrived home a couple of days before. In response he explains that he was “…tired of waiting. I understand now about using up my time. Life is this conto, account,” said the banker in him. ‘It’s an unknown quantity of days from which one is permitted to withdraw only one precious one of them at a time. No deposits accepted. …I’ve used so many of mine to sleep. One by one, I’ve mostly waited for them to pass. It’s common enough for one to simply find a safe place to wait it all out. Every time I would begin to examine things, to think about what I felt, what I wanted, nothing touched, nothing mattered more than anything else. I’ve been lazy. Life rolled itself out and I shambled along sempre due passi indietro, always two steps behind. Fatalita, fate. Easy. No risks. Everything is someone else’s fault or merit. And so now, no more waiting,’ …”

Laughing until she cries at something he said, Fernando asks ‘And about those tears. How many times a day do you cry?’ Later Marlena’s thoughts return to his question, “Much of my crying is for joy and wonder rather than for pain. A trumpet’s waiting, a wind’s warm breath, the chink of a bell on an errant lamb, the smoke from a candle just spent, first light, twilight, firelight. Everyday beauty. I cry for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.”

My daughter has said more than once that my tear ducts are intertwined with my heart-strings. My tears flow easily when she is ecstatic or unhappy, during old films, when listening to sad, or happy, news. I don’t think I cry as much as I laugh, but it probably runs a close second. During Mass yesterday, I braced myself for a hymn that always brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. “Be Not Afraid” had been a favorite of the pastor who presided over our 100-year-old church in Redding. He’d baptized our 5 month-old, walking her proudly down the aisle, showing her off to fellow parishioners.

Father Conlisk was a close family friend who dined with us regularly. During a visit I asked our toddler to go and find her father, in answer to which she readily climbed up onto the priest’s lap. One particular Christmas morning as we sat in the front pew at church, he asked her if she’d been visited by someone special. Without hesitation she showed him Dumbo the elephant, her new stuffed animal. He held it up for all to see; the congregation broke into peels of laughter.

When Father died as a result of lung cancer, I took our daughter to the funeral Mass at our small church and later, to one held in a larger church at a nearby parish. Both times I allowed her to stand just outside the pew, so she would have a better view of the proceedings. In preparation, I explained that Father Conlisk had gone to Heaven where he would be free from pain, and find happiness with God. We  followed others to the gravesite, where I showed our 5-year-old Father’s final resting place. I think she found closure because from then on, she seemed to accept his absence from our lives. Perhaps it also helped that we became good friends with the priest who replaced Father Conlisk.

So like Marlena, I tend to shed tears for “Everyday beauty…for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.” What we may all have in common with the author is “this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up into a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb up onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. ‘Hey, do you see this? Do you see how big my pain is?’ We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting, ‘My pain is bigger than your pain.’ It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power. I’d always fought to keep dismantling my pile, to sort and reject as much of the clutter as I could. Now, even more, I made myself look back straight into that which was over and done with, and that which would never be. I was determined to go to Fernando, and if there was to be some chance for us to take our story beyond this beginning, I knew I would have to go lightly. I was fairly certain the stranger’s piles would provide enough work for both of us.”

We all seem to emerge from childhood with “baggage.” Perhaps a lucky few escape, body, mind and spirit intact. But spending our adulthood living in the past, wastes what’s left of a good life. As we peel away the layers of yesterday’s disappointments, we make way for tomorrow’s possibilities. Better that we declutter, rather than hoard negative experiences simply to have someone, or something, to blame for our inability to cope or our downward spiral. The process may vary for there are probably as many paths toward resolution, as there are individuals in the world. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. However the common denominator should be compassion and a positive attitude, toward oneself and others. We all deserve to live our best lives, going forward. Maybe when we disavow our mountains of past pain, we’ll be able to abandon our fears of the unknown, and…return to Venice. 

live our todays and tomorrows, never our yesterdays…hugmamma.

redding ct, like the maui of old

When someone learns that I’m from Maui, she always exclaims “Oh, don’t you miss it? Why’d you ever leave?” I take a breath, preparing to answer what I truly feel in my heart.

Maui as it is today, even as it was 15 years ago, is no longer the island of my childhood. As with the neighboring  islands, in fact as with other popular destinations, tourism has transformed what was a less populous, less commercial, off-the-beaten-track locale into a mecca for the rich and famous, and even the not so rich and famous. Mind you, I came to terms with the drastic change some time ago. On one of my last trips to Maui, years ago, it was apparent that visitors to the island provided a livelihood for the majority of the locals. So I wasn’t about to admonish them as co-conspirators in the “ruination” of Maui, while I left to make my living and home elsewhere.

Before my daughter was born, actually before she was even a possibility, I was returning home to Long Island, New York from a business trip to Kansas City. Seated next to me on the flight was an attractive man dressed in cords and a sweater, appearing very much like a New Englander. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of many things.  One of the topics was where we resided. I explained that while my husband and I lived in Westbury, I wanted to move somewhere reminiscent of my birthplace, Maui. I desired the same small town atmosphere, where neighbors knew each other, where children played together, where there were town parades, fairs, picnics. Without hesitation, my traveling companion blurted “Redding, Connecticut! You should move to Redding, Connecticut!” 

I’d never heard of the town, so my new friend proceeded to describe it as a small, rural community isolated from the hubbub of surrounding towns by vast acres of pristine land, much of which belonged to the town ensuring that they would never be commercially developed. He went on to explain that to enter Redding, one either drove alongside reservoirs which supplied water to the town, or along country roads shaded by trees. The idyllic picture seemed lifted from a postcard. Giving me the name of the realtor who helped find this New York City writer a getaway home, I was convinced that my husband and I needed to make the 75 mile trip north of NYC, in search of Redding.

We got more than we bargained for, as a result of our hunt for a new home. Nearly bereft of hope that we’d be parents someday, Redding was the answer to our prayer. After 16 years of marriage, our daughter was born. The first 11 years of her life were spent in an oasis within the midst of suburban Connecticut. Watching her in those early years was like stepping back in time, into my own childhood Paradise. 

Topographically different, Redding had rolling hills, and a man-made lake in which to swim; Maui boasted a dormant volcano, and ocean waves upon which to surf. Redding’s landscape was dotted with sugar maple trees, whose leaves were seasonally transformed into the colors of the setting sun. So unlike Maui’s tropical palms swaying gently in the evening breezes, as the glassy Pacific waters below mirrored the shining  moon overhead.

In spite of their disparities, the people of both Redding and Maui were alike in their hospitality toward newcomers, and the friendliness within their communities. Schools were small, so while students didn’t know everyone personally, they were aware of everyone through friends or others. Children looked forward to trick-or-treating, door-to-door.  School plays were exciting affairs, as were school dances, and basketball games. Sleepovers were commonplace, as were play-dates and church picnics. Dads coached sports teams and led the Boy Scouts; moms were Girl Scout leaders and drove carpools. Children caught buses to school, or walked. Neighbors helped one another; they prepared meals for a family with a cancer-stricken mom; they cared for children when parents were tending to emergencies; they consoled those who laid loved ones to rest.

My daughter’s memories of an idyllic childhood in Redding  are just that, treasured remembrances. And so it is with the Maui of my youth. So when I’m asked “Wouldn’t you want to live there now?” I always reply,  “The Maui where I grew up is in my heart; it’s with me, wherever I am.” I know my daughter feels similarly about Redding, Connecticut, the town she still calls her home, though she’s not lived there for 13 years.

“home is where your heart is,” truly…hugmamma.