You Can’t Go Back..Thank God.

I remember the horror I felt when I discovered my grandmother’s little crematorium she had rigged up in her postage stamp sized backyard.  A pile of ashes were all that was left of old photographs, letters and documents.  The little Italian lady had finally gone ’round the bend, gleefully incinerating our memories, history lost .  Was this some sort of resolution of a past trauma?  What was she hiding?  No and nothing.  She very calmly looked at me and said “no one will give a damn about any of this stuff in 50 years, this is my business, I don’t want to be remembered by these pictures”  It took me 30 years, but boy, do I get it now, as I stand poised to throw this Senior Year scrapbook into my fire pit.  This collection of memories I would like to forget has got to now.   What a shame you missed the dawn of the backyard fire pit era Neno, you would have loved it..there would have been nothing left to burn on South Augusta Avenue.

My Senior Year scrapbook has been tucked safely away for 30 years. It is a massively overstuffed testament to an 18 year old girl, circa 1983, with a smart mouth and a too cool for school attitude. I placed it high up on a closet shelf many years ago after I had my first child, making a mental note to never let my children see it, but I wasn’t ready to pitch it just yet..I’m ready now. The babies are 12 and 14 now, it’s gotta go. I took it down, all the mementos spilling out ..awards?  Hardly.  Matchbooks from bars we illegally entered at 17?  Affirmative.  Spoke to soon, there were two awards..”Senior Lounge Queen” and “Sloppiest Uniform”..egads.  Page after page of wildly inappropriate messages from my friends, only girls, as I attended an all-girls Catholic high school.  Everything you have ever heard about Catholic girls being the worst is absolutely true..we cursed, smoked, and spent ridiculous amounts of time trying to find a way around the rules and Sister Dorothy MacArthur’s iron fist.  Short and heavy and no spring chicken, Big Mac was our Principal who could pack a punch.  Once, when I was probably cutting a class and sneaking into the Senior Lounge to probably nap, she flew from a dark hallway corner and practically knocked me out of saddle shoes, pinning me against the wall .  I remember her crucifix digging into my chest and trying desperately not to laugh. We spent hours sitting in the cafeteria creatively trying to change the birth year on our drivers licenses and the grades on our report cards.  I amassed a fortune of “JUGG” slips..after school detention slips.  These were also proudly taped into my scrap book..”disturbed quiet study hall” and “late” ..recurring  themes in my crazy, I don’t give a shit high school world.

So, what was wrong with me?  Who was I? Looking back now I can honestly say I have no freaking idea,  I had a loving, supportive family and no trauma to blame my behavior on. I was also a loving daughter and a hard worker. The late slips were largely due to my before school job, opening a bakery at 5am and then rushing to school at 8am.   I believe the answer was and is, we just thought we were funny as hell. I empathize with kids today, putting it all on the internet..we would have done the exact same thing were the technology available.  Believe me , the fact that there are some low quality Kodak Instamatic photos and my friends’ scrap books floating in the ether is bad enough.

The 30 year reunion is coming soon, and I doubt I will attend. I just can’t spend an evening talking about that girl that I am not very proud of. She wasted her parent’s very hard earned private school dollars and drove her teachers nuts.  I think I have redeemed myself to my parents, but I do owe Sister Mary Earle, the Head Disciplinarian, a heart felt thank you.  She has died, but we will catch up eventually. “Smurle” was a genuine lover of bad girls , and I caught her smiling at me more than once, she didn’t let me off the hook for my transgressions, but she could have made my life a living hell, thanks Smurle. Time to go channel my grandmother and burn baby burn.  Image

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today my parents have been married 52 years.  Fifty-Two years. Wow.  Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.  I strongly suspect you are as incredulous at that number as I am today.  “Where the heck has the time gone, and how come one of us hasn’t buried the other under the floor boards?” are some of the thoughts I know are running through your minds, and that is why I think you have been married 52 years.  Ron and Fran, the Real Deal.

Mom and Dad’s commitment to each other and their philosophy on child raising (though I doubt they would admit they had a “philosophy”, just doing whatever it took at the time) has impacted my 24 year marriage and 14 years, thus far, of child rearing , more than any other influence I can think of.  They loved each other imperfectly and  raised their children imperfectly… how perfect. Try as I may to replicate your naturally perfect imperfections , I may never truly succeed, but will die trying, and I want to thank you for all of it.

Thank you for marrying young and showing that you don’t have to wait until you are 35 and financially sound to start a family. That a marriage can be successful and loving without talking the relationship into the ground and drawing up notarized agreements.  I loved having young parents and all the years we have been able to share together.  Marrying young and staying together means catching your beloved in a certain light some days and suddenly the wrinkles erase and the hair is back on top.. magic, isn’t it?  I married young too, and I have never regretted it. He’s like you Dad, smart, strong and gentle.  We are growing old together thanks to the road you both plowed ahead of us to show me how possible it all can be.

Thank you for raising us in that tiny, two bedroom row home on College Avenue. I am sure you would have preferred another bathroom too, but you chose to send us to schools that you thought would give us a step up at the time instead. There was no place to hide in our little home, which came in handy when we huddled together when Hurricane Agnes blew through in 1972.  A tiny home meant having  a bunk mate, my sister, who held my hand at night when I was scared of the witch who lived in the hall closet . It also meant sisters trying to kill each other, strangulation was not uncommon, but we weren’t the freaking Cleavers after all.  Funny, despite the cramped quarters,  I thought we were rich ..after all, we took a trip to the seashore every year, no one else on our block got to do that.

Thank you for letting me have a childhood that didn’t have you organizing and orchestrating my every move.  Thank you for not following me around like today’s  neurotic  parents and shoving my achievements into the spotlight so you could bask in the glow.  Thank you for letting me explore what interested me, not you.  I stumbled, screwed up a little, but did my own work, and found my own jobs, knowing that some solid emotional support was quietly holding down the fort on College Avenue.  Yeah, and thanks for believing me even when I didn’t tell the truth… we did get the High School boys to bring us Boones Farm that night Father John called you and kicked me out of the school dance..I said he was lying because he said we were drinking beer..not the Tickle Pink wine .  I don’t think I ever lied to you again, you believed me over a priest..I had a responsibility to honor that trust.  Thank you for always making me feel beautiful and loved.  No matter how old, tired and fat I feel, I  see that  intense love in your eyes that says you see something I can’t see in the mirror.

Mom and Dad, I know it hasn’t always (ever) been easy for you, ” robbing Peter to pay Paul”  was frequently heard growing up in our home.  I can’t speak to your private struggles or marital woes, those weren’t mine to know.  I do know that your love for each other has kept the light on for all of us, kids, grand kids and friends.  Fifty years from now I can hear my son telling his grandchildren about his Grannie Frannie and Pop-Pop …your love story will touch lives we will never anniversarymeet, that’s real love.  Happy Anniversary!