Tag Archives: Family

Back with Julie

One week after landing in a hazy, overcast, gray Geneva, Switzerland, I had my very first taste of what I’d moved 3,000 miles to experience.  And it was, of course, magical.

I was alone for the first time in weeks.  Exploring.  John was working, Jacob was safely at his first day of school.  I was on my own, with only our Bernese Mountain Dog, Charlie, for company when it happened.

I was driving down the Route de Divonne when the clouds, at long last, parted.  And there they were – just past the now glistening Lake Geneva — the mountains.  The Alps!  Mont Blanc, with its year-round snowy peak, the highest mountain in Europe. The Alps danced right there — just through my windshield.  I could practically reach out and touch them, taste them, smell their beauty.  It was magical.  Breathtaking.  Inspiring.  Unforgettable.

Google Photo

Google Photo

I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.  You know just what I mean, don’t you.  I felt like Julie when she is up there in the mountains all by herself.  When she throws her arms wide and sings with all her heart, The Hills Are Alive, With the Sound of Music.  And they are.  Trust me.  They are.

I slowed down, tried to breathe, tried to memorize the moment and keep it in my heart. Tried to capture the moment forever.  I also tried not to hit another car.

And then, well, something else happened.  From a side street to my left came a small car.  It turned in front of me, pulling behind it a long green open-air trailer.  Neatly stenciled on the back in a lacy, delicate script were these words:

jardin naturel

“Natural Garden,” in French.

On top of that trailer sat the largest pile of steaming cow manure I have ever seen.

Yes, my first solo excursion in the Swiss countryside became a metaphor for life as an ex-patriot living there:  There were moments of majestic beauty that I call “Julie Andrews Moments,” when I was filled with beauty and awe.  When I honestly felt like the luckiest person on earth.

And there was a lot of shit.  These two elements combined with travel to places I never dreamed I’d see, made our time in Geneva the adventure of a lifetime.

 

*     *     *

My bloggin’ buddy, Naomi, a wonderful traveler who actually posts her own pictures and does not cut them from Google, wrote this post about a trip to Switzerland.  Naoimi inspired me to re-post this old, old post.  I wrote it back in the days when you didn’t know me.  When you didn’t realize that some way, somehow, shit is always a metaphor for my life.

And if you ever get the chance to go to Switzerland, do it.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 — it’s not worth all that much over there!

Google Photo

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Bloggin' Buddies, Driving, Family, Geneva Stories, Huh?, Humor

A Missed Opportunity at The One-Eyed Pig

Normally, I don’t spend much time thinking about my own funeral.  But a few years ago, I attended the perfect funeral.  I decided that I want one just like it.  Because people told stories!

And of course, this funeral was held at a bar.  Which made it more of a party.

Not just any bar, though.  It was held in a slightly down-in-the-mouth watering hole, pool hall and barbeque pit.  But its name was what truly made it memorable:

Yelp Image

Yelp Image

Still, it wasn’t perfect.  Because on that very day, I missed a golden opportunity.  A chance to shine.  A chance to tell a story.  A chance to be remembered by a room full of people who would smile at just the thought of the, ummm, guest of honor, and of my story.

Damn.

Truthfully, I don’t know what happened.  It’s been decades since I had stage fright.  If I’d made a fool of myself the only people who would know it were strangers and family members.  My family has seen me fall/fail before; they love me anyway.  They have no choice.

It was Jeff’s funeral, my late sister Judy’s first husband.   Father to my wonderful niece and nephew.

In addition to my niece and nephew and their spouses and kids, of course, Jeff’s wife was there, along with Jeff’s two sons by his second marriage.  I’d gotten to know and like them at various family gatherings throughout the years.  Judy’s second husband was also there, along with his mother and sister.    Family gatherings in my family tend to be complicated.  They often involve more non-blood relations than blood relations.  Which is really pretty neat, if you ask me.

So Jeff’s funeral was well attended.  And since the bar was still open, in addition to family and friends, a few patrons stumbled in, surprised to find themselves at a funeral.  But the beer flowed, and nobody seemed to mind.  Or notice.

At one point, Jeff’s wife suggested that anyone with a story to tell about Jeff should speak up, and tell their Jeff story.

Now, it’s important to note that Jeff and I weren’t close.  Jeff and Judy had divorced nearly 40 years previously, and I had only seen him at big family events.  I was mostly at the funeral to support my niece and nephew, and to spiritually thank Jeff and my lucky stars that the two of them have been in my life.

Still, I did have the perfect Jeff story.

Only I didn’t tell it.

There was a room full of people, waiting to hear good stories.  Some who knew me, some who didn’t.  The perfect captive audience.

Only I choked.

I listened to other people talk about Jeff, how they’d met, how they’d interacted.  What a good guy he had been.  They were all perfectly acceptable stories.  Nice even.  But nothing memorable.

I knew that my story was better.  I would have been the star of the funeral.  Well, one of the stars, anyway.

Of course, that’s why I didn’t tell it.  Right?  I didn’t want to show anybody up.  Right?  I didn’t want to take the spotlight off the guest of honor.  Right?

Today is the anniversary of Jeff’s passing.  It’s time to correct my mistake.  Right my wrong.

Time to tell my Jeff story.

*     *     *

Wednesday afternoon study hall in ninth grade, held in the cafeteria, had assigned seats.  I sat at the table with three popular girls.  I didn’t qualify as a fourth popular girl.  They tolerated my presence.  More or less.

In the middle of the hour, Leah, the most popular and giggliest of the three, got a pass and went to the girls room.  She came back flustered, smiling.  Practically swooning.  She whispered to Karen, who immediately needed to go to the bathroom.

Karen came back just as excited.  Miss Williams, the study hall monitor and nasty old math teacher had to shush her and Leah up.

And then, of course, since there were three of them, Debbie had to take her turn going to the girls room.

Now I’ll admit, I was curious as to what was going on.  What was so exciting in the girls room?

I didn’t rate highly enough with them that they’d include me, tell me what was going on.  I sat there at the table while they exchanged notes, feeling left out.  Unpopular.  Friendless.

Study Hall ended, and the four of us at the table were held back for a moment by Miss Williams to be reprimanded for making so much noise.  But realizing that I hadn’t been included in the mayhem, I was let out ahead of Leah, Karen and Debbie.

I walked down out the door and was surprised to see my new brother-in-law, Jeff, standing in the hall, pushing a broom.  Jeff was young, handsome, and newly married.  In those days, and for the first few years of his marriage to my sister Judy, he took whatever job was available.  So Jeff had started working as a janitor at my junior high that very day.

And just as Leah, Karen and Debbie walked into the hall, Jeff put his arm around me, gave me an affectionate kiss on the cheek and flashed his amazing smile at me.

The three girls stopped and stood with their mouths agape, looking between me and Adonis.

You see, Jeff was drop-dead gorgeous.

This is why the girls were all flustered.  Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent.  Bot seriously good looking men.

This is why the girls were all flustered. Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent. The resemblance is uncanny, actually. Both seriously good looking men.

“Are these your friends, Lease,” Jeff asked, smiling at me and at them.

“This is Leah, Karen and Debbie,” I responded, not explaining that I wasn’t cool enough to be considered their friend.

“Nice to meet you,” Jeff said, smiling briefly at the girls, and then flashing me another big grin before giving me another peck on the cheek. 

“Lease, you’d better get to class before we both get in trouble.”

The four of us walked on down the hall.  But instead of walking ahead of me as they would normally do, the three girls included me in their conversation.  They wanted to know all about the gorgeous guy who had just kissed me — twice — right there in the hall.

But I just let them wonder.  The four of us walked into Miss Williams’ math class, and I sat down with my friends.  My real friends, who liked me even before they met Jeff.

Sadly, Jeff didn’t last too long as a janitor at my Junior High.  All the girls spent way too much time in the hall, staring at Jeff.  Jeff was always polite and gentlemanly, worked hard, and always had a peck on the cheek for me, especially when the popular girls were looking.

On this anniversary, I raise my glass to my handsome brother-in-law.

Rest in Peace, Jeff.

And thanks for that one time in school when I was considered cool.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Family, Humor, Wild Beasts

Freakin’ Friday Feature! TwinDaddy Does it for Me!

Today I received possibly the best honor since I received my Oscars in 1983.  And I’m pretty sure I didn’t deserve this one, either.

Yes, today, TwinDaddy of Stuph Blog honored me by featuring me, Elyse(!) of FiftyFourAndAHalf.com on his relatively regular Friday post:  Feature Friday!

Now if you don’t know about TwinDaddy, I must tell you that he and I met over a gun control post I wrote.  He disagreed with my anti-gun stance.  Strongly.  But politely.  Respectfully.  He and I have debated this issue, along with many others on which we disagree with respect, facts and humor.  Of course, I continue to always be right, but TwinDaddy is always — and I mean always — a terrific guy whether we are agreeing or disagreeing.

But TD is more than that.  He is a sensitive, father of three incredible boys that he loves deeply and is not embarrassed to let everybody know.  He’s a fun writer of fiction and other stuph including poetry (even I don’t go there!).  He writes about feelings, deep, sometimes dark and sometimes light, feelings that really point out how alike we all are.  He writes about his struggles with depression, divorce and parenthood.

In short, he writes about life.  And his is worth sharing.

In addition “his” blog is filled with all kinds of stuph by not just TwinDaddy but also by Revis and 1Jaded1!  Three Mints in One! Each of them have their own stories to tell, and they are well worth reading.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that TwinDaddy is an anarchist — which is way far to the left of my socialist tendencies.  He is trying to destroy the world.  You see, most every week, TwinDaddy features one of his bloggin’ buddies in a post, asks them to pick some of their own special favorite posts, and asks his followers to read their stuff and THEN asks them to follow those blogs.  Basically, TwinDaddy shuts down the economy of the United States along with virtually every English-speaking country just about every Friday.

It’s been a busy day for me today, so I couldn’t give TwinDaddy the accolades he deserves until now.  So what I’ll do is carry forth the love.  To prove just what an honor being Featured on a Stuph Blog Feature Friday is, here are the other folks who have been so honored:

The Mercenary Researcher

Guapola

The Matticus Kingdom

Daises From Dust

Behind the Mask of Abuse

Rarasaur

Alice at Wonderland

Knocked Over By A Feather

33 Grams of Blog

So you can see, I’m in good company.

Thank you, TwinDaddy, for featuring me today.  But mostly, thanks for being such a good bloggin’ buddy.  YOU Seriously Rock!

Google Image

Well, I said you rock.
And you write poetry.
You wanna make something out of it?
Google Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bloggin' Buddies, Family, Huh?, Humor, Taking Care of Each Other, Word Press

Losing Hearts in Venice

Eight-year old Jacob looked at me as if I’d gone crazy.  He stopped in his tracks, put his hands on his hips, tilted his head and spoke to me in a tone that was a prelude of the teen years to come.  Looking back, he had some justification.

You see, I was talking to him about Florence, Italy.  I was telling him some of the things I’d learned about the city and its history in preparation for a visit we’d be taking there in about two weeks.  I finished up my quick summary of the history, the art, the architecture, the famous people who’d lived there.  I then offered an enticement.

“You know what, Jacob,” I said.  “I read that most Italians find Florence to be their most beautiful city.”

“Mom,” my son said with his hands on his hips and his lips pursed, “how can any city be more beautiful than Venice?”

Because like me, Jacob had fallen in love with Venice when we visited that city a year earlier.

We actually went to Venice twice.

In August 1998, John, Jacob and I had gone to visit American friends who  were staying in Trieste, which is on the other side of the Aegean Sea.  Venice could be easily reached via a short train ride.

Truthfully, I wasn’t all that excited.  Venice wasn’t really high on my list of places I had to see while we were in Europe.  But we were so close, so of course going seemed like a great idea.  We’d spend a day there, and then on other trips I could see Rome and Florence — the Italian cities I really wanted to visit.

Our train was delayed by a couple of hours, and the evening train cancelled.  So we had four hours to see the city.  It would be plenty, I was sure.

Until, that is, I stepped off the train and found that I really had been transported — we’d landed in a place that was nothing like I’d imagined.  A truly magical place.

I’d read that it feels like you’re back in time because there are no cars in Venice.

I’d heard about the light in Venice, that there is nothing quite like it.  The buildings, mostly built of marble of different hues, reflect the water and the water reflects the buildings.  They both seem to dance at the slightest breeze.

I’d learned about the architecture in Venice, a mixture of European, North African, Middle-Eastern with hints of Asian, styles and materials brought back from the known world by the traders and explorers that built the city and made it fabulously wealthy.

But nothing, nothing, had prepared me for the impact that the beautiful city had on my heart — from the moment we stepped off the train.

Our afternoon gave me a much too quick taste of the magic.

With two young boys and a baby in tow, our first stop was for a late lunch — pizza on the Grand Canal.

Marco just couldn't believe that he'd missed the ice cream boat!

Jacob and Marco, who just couldn’t believe that he’d missed the ice cream boat!

We crammed as much as we could into an afternoon.  August 31st, when everything was mobbed.  We spent time in St. Marco’s Square, visited the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, crossed the Bridge of Sighs into the Doge’s prison.

When we got back to the train station, I made John promise me that Venice would be our next destination.  An afternoon was not nearly enough time, and my heart was breaking at leaving the magical city.

We started planning to go back to Venice the instant we arrived back home to Switzerland.  Jacob had a 5-day weekend in early October.  So we booked train tickets, a hotel, and got ready to go back.  We arrived at dawn, which is when all the guidebooks tell you to arrive in Venice.  Because the colors from the sunrise reflecting on the water and on the buildings that line the canals.  It is a sight that I will not even try to describe.  Indeed, I’ve never seen a photograph or read a description that did it justice.

Our visit was filled with beauty, from start to finish.  But it is the last night I want to tell you about.

We had done as much touring as you can do with a 7-year old.  A few museums, a lot of churches.  We climbed the campaniles (bell towers) of many churches to get the perfect view of the city that all three of us had fallen for.  We saw masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto and others, still hanging where they were meant to hang — in the churches of Venice, and in the unique light of Venice.

We went on a gondola ride, of course.  It was wonderful AND schlocky.  We saw Marco Polo’s house.

PIC00022 (2)

But on the last night, Venice captured my heart, and Jacob’s.

We’d finished dinner, and wandered back into St. Mark’s Square.  Jacob wanted to climb the Campanile, the bell tower.

PIC00010

Jacob with the St Marco’s Square behind him. The Campanile standing tall behind him.

We’d climbed the Campanile once already, but Jacob wanted to see the city from that prospect one more time on our last night, hoping to view the city as the lights came up on the buildings.

We loved the view, but were surprised to find that the buildings weren’t illuminated.  We climbed back down into the square, which was completely empty except for the three of us.  Two rival orchestras that were setting up outside of two restaurants on opposite sides of the Square.

The three of us wandered into the center of the piazza when it happened.

Behind us, one of the orchestras began playing a Viennese waltz.  The sound transformed the square into our own personal ballroom.  The light was fading, but soft lights around the square glowed on the Basilica, the clock tower.  Jacob took my hand, bowed, and walked me into the middle of the square.  John, the non-dancer, gave Jacob and I our moment.

My son and I — we danced.  Just the two of us, all over the cobbled square.

The instant the first orchestra had played its last notes, the orchestra on the other side began.

I could have danced all night, from My Fair Lady.  It was true — I could have.

As people began to fill the Square, we thanked both orchestras and headed back down to the Grand Canal, for a last stroll past the Doge’s palace, Vivaldi’s church and the other buildings that had seen millions of people like us come and go.

We crossed a small bridge and stopped to look across the canal at the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, and the golden ball atop the customs house.  We gazed back at the gondolas covered and berthed for the night.  We turned towards the Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners crossed from the Doge’s palace into the Doge’s prison and sighed at their last breath of freedom.

Jacob stood on that bridge with tears running down his cheeks as he looked at the beauty that surrounded us.

“I can’t believe we have to leave Venice,” he said, his heart breaking along with mine and John’s.

Photo credit:  Photozonly.com

Photo credit: Photozonly.com

della Salute by Claude Monet.  He apparently liked Venice, too.

della Salute by Claude Monet. He apparently liked Venice, too.

Was Florence more beautiful than Venice?  I don’t honestly know.  We spent nearly a week in Florence, but it rained so hard that we literally never could see the views and the vistas of that city.  But if you’re going to have a vacation where it pours, I highly recommend Florence.  There are one or two things to look at.

But Venice.  Ah, Venice.  I have never been anywhere like Venice, a place I really wasn’t that anxious to visit.  It captured my heart, and John’s and especially Jacob’s.  It is a magical place.  Words and pictures, even by Monet, cannot capture its beauty or how it made me feel.

***

I was inspired to finally write this story by DJ Matticus of The Matticus Kingdom who wrote this lovely post.  In the last year or two, John of Johnbalaya sent me back to Venice not too long ago, as did Renee of Renee Johnson Writes.

Somehow, I’m always happy to go back.  Magic and Venice.  Yup.  I’m willing to do either any time!

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Humor, Travel Stories

I’d Prefer Flowers, If It’s All the Same To You

At my house, we’re not big on Valentine’s Day.  We have a nice dinner, John gets me flowers and I get him a book.  This year the book I got him is on the Civil War.

I don’t get mad if he forgets.  I mean, we’ve been married 27 years.  I know he loves me.

But I would certainly start a Civil War of my own if this was his idea of a Valentine.

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com.  Thanks for the laugh!

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com. Thanks for the laugh!

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Filed under Awards, Books, Family, Holidays, Humor