Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Pong

Family Vino PONG – The old folks win. The young ones fall in love.

Vino Pong Family Style

When my eyes met yours my heart stopped in awe. For although I had seen it before it was more prevalent now. Age had done something lovingly profound to you. The mirrors in your eyes held me captive. Although I was looking at you I was seeing and feeling the love of my grandmother through you. You had been blessed with her beautiful expressive eyes. Your lips were pursed in a knowing smile. I hope you were not uncomfortable with the thoroughness of my gaze. I could only drink in the beauty and remember the wonderful memories of the other. If ever you shall leave this earth my tears are sure to flow for hundreds of years. I saw you today. What joy I feel in my heart! Image

Jade Image

“Jade, I done told you to get up out of that chair and go to the store,” said Mama way beyond mad and holding in her hand an empty container of baby formula. She stood there with disbelief in her 50 year old eyes, as I continued clipping photos from a travel magazine I had retrieved from the “free bin” at the library while enjoying my chocolate snack pudding cup. I was getting slow at jumping to her beck and call. I was tired.
“Hey, a girl gotta live her life don’t she?” I said under my breath. I loved traveling the world and eating in exotic foreign restaurants. Even if it was through extensive scrap booking and fanciful daydreams. I didn’t aspire to be the next Cover Girl, but I was big, black, beautiful and nothing was gonna keep me from going to the furthest corners of the world.
“This child can’t wait one more minute for you to finish with that foolishness girl. You really need to grow up!” Mama breathed fire. “By your age I already had three mouths to feed.” With a whimpering and hungry baby hung on her hip she was a little worn. But, Mama was rarely happy anymore anyway. The days of happiness and fun ended when mama saved my six month old niece, Aleeya, from foster care.
“I told you I’m going,” I said in the retaliatory tone that came so willingly from my tongue lately. For all the work I was doing I never felt less appreciated. Run to the store, heat a bottle, change a diaper, mow the lawn, do the dishes, respond to the crying child at three o’clock in the morning; on-and-on it went. Without looking up I knew I was one step away from a serious tongue lashing. The electricity in the air was thick and if her breathing was any indication of just how close I was to doom I thought better of saying what was on my mind, “You wanted the baby. How about you go?”
“I’m sorry,” I said instead, with my eyes averted so she couldn’t see just how disgusted I was feeling. I sat the scissors down and used my fingers to clean the bottom of the pudding cup, then licked my fingers clean. I reached for my tattered hand-me-down flats that were laying next to my chair. While slipping on my shoes I asked, “How much money is in the account?”
“The check came Boo,” she said wild-eyed, in disbelief. “You think I’m going to send you to the store with no money in the account?” Her lips were quivering and she was perspiring, “And leave that funky mood in the streets before you get back.” Aleeya started to wail. I grabbed my jacket and purse and left without looking back.
As I walked down the numerous steps of our old Victorian rental, each individual step rendered an account of its age with creaks and groans beneath mv feet. I was thankful that almost everything was within walking distance in this lame town. Mama and I didn’t drive. It was all about walking. The only bus that came through this town was the one that took people to utopia.
I reached into my purse, pulled out my iPod, and put the buds in my ears. The distraction of some funky music was a staple in my life. As I walked along I thought about how much life had changed over the past few months. My 13 year-old niece had given birth to Aleeya, and lost her to the authorities. When Mama caught wind of the situation she had jumped into action. “No great-grandchild of mine is going to be raised by strangers,” she vowed. To some degree I think Mama was trying to make up for what she hadn’t done for her children. For years she had played slave to drugs and alcohol. My oldest sister had once told me, “You got it good. Mama ain’t who she used to be.” I was by far the youngest sibling, and maybe I didn’t endure what they had, but I knew without a doubt that this was not the good life my sister alluded to.
Only one block to go. I was almost there. The smell of Burger King french fries invaded my nostrils. I wanted so badly to stop and get some, but decided not to since I hadn’t asked first. As I approached the market I knew it would be a feat to walk past the magazine rack at the entrance and not stop to look at the latest edition of Travel and Leisure, so I planned my venture into the store carefully. I couldn’t stop anywhere with a starving child singing the blues back at the house. As I entered I took a deep breath and purposefully looked in the opposite direction. Then I exhaled and headed to the formula.
The check-out lane was unusually long. It made me think about just how unlikely it would be for Mama to smile when I walked back through the door with the liquid gold. I would give anything for one of her smiles. I glanced to the front of the lane. “Dang!” I must have said out loud, as the guy in front of me turned around with a curious look on his face. There at the front of the lane was an old woman writing out a check for her purchase. People still write checks? I thought to myself. The story of my life.
At last. The checker scanned the formula as I consecutively slid the debit card, and then said with a less than sincere smile, “Your balance due is $1.99.” It took me a second to realize she was asking me for money. Surprised, I stood there for second not sure what to do. I started rummaging through the bottom of my purse for change, knowing there wasn’t any more than a handful of pennies.
Feeling humiliated I stammered, “Le-le-let me see what I can find.” I placed five pennies and one nickel on the counter and continued to search, hoping for a miracle. I felt like fainting.
“You still owe $1.89,” she said with raised eyebrows.
“Are you sure there isn’t more money on the card?” I asked mortified.
“Slide it again,” she said in a bored tone.
A male voice behind me said, “Here. I got it.” And he placed two, one dollar bills on the counter.
I turned around, “Thank you sir.” He was a handsome old man with a gray beard and ponytail. I wanted to cry in appreciation of his kindness.
“It’s okay,” he said kindly. “You better go feed your baby.”
I said thank you again, and almost ran from the store. I didn’t have a baby. Thank God.

As I approached the house I could hear Aleeya howling at the top of her lungs. The front door and screen were wide open. I ran up the steps and into the house. “Mama?” I called out. Aleeya was in her crib with tear-drenched eyes. I picked her up and headed to the kitchen to make a bottle. I called out again, “Mama, I’m back!”

Sitting on the kitchen table was a hypodermic needle and a small crumpled, empty brown paper bag.

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Alone

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Death, Family, Life, Love, Memories, Poetry
Tags: , , , ,

My gut wrenches with the thought that I don’t have you anymore. You are gone from me for now. Shall we some day be reunited? Each breath I take is taken with that purpose alone in mind. Your last ones were not mine to hear. I left you in the care of deep love and comfort. You weren’t alone.

Nobody knows how this feels inside. I’m empty without your smile. Always a good word you spoke. You spoke the truth. You taught the truth. You loved deep. You fulfilled your responsibility while on earth. You followed the footsteps as spoken by The Word. The foundation beneath many is there because you cared. You took me by the hand. Yes, you cared. You never left me alone.

Many are foolish enough to convince themselves into believing that the changes you made throughout the years didn’t impact who they were. I am here to state that they are quite wrong. We loved and learned to love through the changes you made in your life. For this I am very grateful. He drew you and I followed your lead. They have made a choice to walk alone.

You were so strong. Frequently I ask myself from where did you draw your inner strength? Ah, but I know. You didn’t do it alone. You were a success through many failures. But no, indeed you didn’t do it alone. Neither shall I. For when I am weak, indeed it is true, for that too is when I am also very strong. Never alone.

Who shall take your place? The lines on my face are deepening with this concern. Did you think anyone could? Was that your expectation? Many times you told me how much I was like you. I am happy you told me, but were you saying this in preparing me for the journey which you already knew so well? Daily I look at myself and know I have the responsibility of making this choice. Since I am so much like you I shall never be alone.

I saw it in your eyes on that last day. You couldn’t speak anymore  but you were telling me with your eyes. It was the expression in them that caught my heart and took my breath. I give way to tears even today when I think of how you looked at me. Did I truly understand? Did I read your expression correctly? Was I helping you through your last day in a way that brought you the comfort you so needed and deserved? If I did it wasn’t I alone.

I whispered his great name into your ear and told you he was there with us. He had your right hand as I stood on your left. We all three had a very special bond in those minutes. Even those around us who couldn’t see him standing there saw the affects his love imparted upon us. They even remarked upon it. Your breathing was calmer. You were peaceful. I hope it touched their hearts. Most certainly it touched mine. For I knew we weren’t alone.

I too shall take the road less traveled. But never alone.

 

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It's Not a Tattoo. It's Art

Original and designed especially for my sister and I who met for the first time a short time ago and decided to boast matching foot art. Some day we shall visit Italy and savor olives and cheese while sipping wine under a bella luna in our barefeet

Steak on Saturday nights! Sounds good doesn’t it? A trip to the most famous steak house in town for a delectable dinner so Nana could close the kitchen and take a much needed rest on a Saturday night. Warm sour dough bread wrapped in white linens snuggled into woven baskets with slabs of cold, creamery butter in a silver bowl as its companion awaited our indulgence. This would be followed by juicy melt-in-your-mouth rib eye steaks, mounds of ravioli, perfectly cooked green beans and pot shots at the staff. On a light note the sundaes were great!

Nana would begin her Saturday night out routine early in the day and in a somewhat predictable manner. Since the house was always thoroughly cleaned on Thursdays, the only thing she needed to focus on was getting herself ready for that night. It started with a leisurely cup of coffee with biscotti, an hour of tv aerobics, and a quick sweeping of the front porch. Next she and mama rounded-up us kids up for the more important stuff. Two errands. Shopping and the beauty salon. We knew better than to complain or she would snap a twig off of the old weeping willow tree in the backyard and give us a gentle swipe across the legs as she herded us into the car. Complain? Not on your life!

Our first stop, a saunter through Joseph Magnins with a lovely purchase from the saleslady whom I believed to live there since she was ALWAYS at the counter to bid nana an over-rehearsed “Have a happy day”. Did she know something about our Saturdays? Hmm, obviously she didn’t. I’m thinking it had more to do with her commission. The next stop was for nana to wrap her already well coiffed self into strict order at Bella’s on 6th Avenue. Nana’s hairdresser Isabella was indeed very pretty and did the same for her clientele. From her perfect eyeliner to her high-heels she had a way of turning my already pretty nana into a raving beauty with her handy tools, brushes and hair products. In awe, I knew that one day I too would be her client. Then it was back home for hot bathes, dress in our nice Saturday duds, and then wait for grandpa to get home and whisk us off to eat.

Grandpa took pride in his bride of 30+ years and she loved that he did. He loved carrying her on his arm knowing they didn’t get any prettier than her (or spicier for that matter).  He was an extremely hard working man who kept a rigid schedule. Always up before sunrise and home before sunset. He took very good care of his family including us grand kids who had moved into his home at his prompting when mama and daddy separated. He wanted us there with him and it was the best feeling in the world. Being wanted, loved and well cared for made for a sturdy and happy life. That’s not to say he didn’t have expectations for us. He did. And was very rigid on how they were carried out. We never questioned him! We did just so. Oh but how we loved him for his strength and direction. He was an entrepreneur and taught us the game just as planned. We were a tight family because we played by his rules. His long arduous work week always ended in our Saturday night outing. Any physical expense it may have cost him to shower and get ready we were all there together walking to the car like little soldiers headed for the steak house.

As I look back to those nights I feel confident in saying the restaurant scene was always somewhat rehearsed because somehow it always played out the same. We were always greeted by the same Greek Goddess who no doubt only moonlighted as a hostess on Saturday nights in her gold lame and stilettos to get my grandmother’s goat. Then off to the table we would go. By this time I would have heard a snicker from behind. Nana was somewhat (okay, very) jealous of other women smiling at grandpa or saying hello to him by his first name and would never let it go until addressed. Not a good way to start dinner but weekly non-the-less. Next was the waitress. Her “hello” to grandpa along with a gentle pat on the shoulder was certain to more than raise my grandmother’s eyebrows and cause pointed darts to fly in his direction instantly. How we continued to share family dinners at the steak house week after week still amazes me. Grandpa would sit there and smile while nana made certain that everyone within hearing distance knew good and well how rude and inappropriate the staff were. Her biggest complaint being that they new her just as well as him, but never even attempted to greet her in such a comfortable, shall we say, fashion. As an adult I can’t imagine how or why they did this week after week? Perhaps this explains why I very rarely eat out! Mystery solved.

The sun is shining through the gray clouds. I love it. After all, we are in sunny California. The sun is supposed to shine. Right? Some people think it’s always beach weather and that Hollywood is right around the corner. Not always so. I spoke to a friend who lives in another state the other day and has never been to California. She asked if I had been to the beach since returning to California. Although it might be tolerable there, I would rather venture that one hour drive when I know without a doubt I can lay back in the soft, warm sand without inhaling a salty, mouthful of the gritty stuff. Winter in central California doesn’t typically inspire a trip to the beach. Oh, how I look forward to a ride to the coast when the weather warms. Soon, I tell myself, very soon. Perhaps only one more month.

A brisk walk has been on my agenda all day. I must fulfill my need for the outdoors before sunset, which is about one hour away. It was in the 50s today. And, a faint southerly breeze reminds me that summer is still but an illusion. And, it’s not an entirely pleasant wisp of wind, since the town I live in is surrounded by dairies. Lots and lots of cows. I would venture to say there are no less than ten of them within a five mile radius of my home. So, regardless of the country beauty that surrounds our housing development, the scent of the cow poop shall be a contender for my attention as I vigorously stroll the avenue. I am happy to say this scent is in no way toxic.

As I set out with my little dog on her leash in one hand, and a doo doo bag in the other, I surrender myself to the exhilaration of the moment. A half block away I turn the corner which leads out of the neighborhood and onto a paved path that is flanked by freshly plowed fields with old redwood barns. There is also a creek and barren trees that have given way to the wind and list to the south. I feel their pain.There are more clouds rolling in from the south-west that are darker than those through which the sun currently peeked. Perhaps there is more rain on the near horizon. Not a bad thing, I think as I walk vigorously to combat the chill.

In the field across the street are prolific patches of lush green weeds everywhere the tractor could not reach, and inspired by the recent rains followed by spurts of warm, nurturing sunshine. As I look a little closer I spot a culinary treasure! The wild greens I grew up eating every year during the spring. Mustard greens! I get excited, pick up my pace, and decide I will return with a knife and bag to gather some for dinner.

As a child I had the unique opportunity to eat many things that the kids down the street never knew were eatable and did not particularly like. The mustard greens were one of these. My grandfather, a first generation Italian-American, plowed fields in the early spring and brought bunches of them home for dinner. Although, Nana would usually cook them, on occasion he would take on the responsibility. He was gruff and extremely down-to-earth in all aspects of his life. Including his cooking. His preparation of the greens was basic yet delicious. After he boiled them he would fry them with bacon and garlic. I too will pass on the grand tradition of teaching my sons the art of cooking from what the earth so willingly provides.

Once I reach my intended destination, and turn-around point, I realize I must hurry. I feel the threat of an impending down-pour, yes, it begins to sprinkle. As I turn back I am treated with a spectacular sight. The sun has graciously provided me vivid purple reds as she makes her decent in the west on the fair side of swaying palms. Tonight the sun will set and lure the willing eye of every artist and picker of wild greens. I shall return to pick them tomorrow.