“Myyyy friends…”

My mother remembers Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s salutations as a warm “My-y-y-y friends.”

History says the opening to Roosevelt’s regular Fireside Chats was closer to: “Good evening, Friends,” but my mother was a child at the time, and this is what she remembers.

Just as my mother recalls lying on the floor scribbling in her coloring book during Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, all of us will remember where we were and what we were doing during Election Week 2012.

Moments in our nation’s history tend to freeze our own lives for a moment, and cause us to remember.

For me, Election Day 2012 will always be linked with the end of seven long weeks of radiation therapy.

During a conversation with my mom about the latest election, she began talking about her own memories  growing up as a child during World War II. Something made me pull out my pen and paper as she spoke, and begin taking notes.

“Roosevelt’s fireside chats were a big deal,” my mother said. “We always went over to my grandparents’ house.”

My mom and her sister grew up in Toledo, Ohio, a city of broad shoulders among many cities of broad shoulders in the rust belt.  Ohio—the working class state that proved to be so crucial during an election more than 65 years later.

My grandfather was a tool and die maker for Chrysler in Detroit. My grandmother, Lucretia, was a housewife.

Everybody was a Democrat .

Roosevelt was close to a god in her family. A fireside chat was an event. Everybody clustered around the crackling radio and turned up the volume to hear the latest on the war.

“I lay on the floor and colored because I didn’t dare say a word when Roosevelt was talking,” my mom said.

My great-grandfather William sat in an easy chair in a white shirt and suspenders, drinking straight up Canadian Club. My mother remembers his brown slippers at eye-level from where she lay on the floor. My great-grandmother Rosannah sat by the bay window in a shapeless, calf-length dress and an apron, nursing her teacup. The teacup was an indispensable ritual from my great-grandparents’ native England.

“Then Roosevelt’s voice would come over the radio with ‘Myyy friends.’ If he wanted to tell us something, but didn’t want to really take credit for saying it, he would go ‘I don’t know, but my dog Fala thinks the Japanese are on the run…'” my mom recalled.

Years later, my mother would learn how historic those fireside chats were, and the precedent they set for other Presidential radio addresses.

She learned a few other things, too.

“I found out later that was straight gin in my grandmother’s tea cup,” my mom said.

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Be

Any mother knows that the urge to fix things for your kid never goes away.

My mom’s kid is being treated for breast cancer and she wants to make it better and doesn’t know how.

So today she asked her minister how she could help me, what she could do. She felt so helpless, she said.

“What about if you just ‘be,’?” he said.

When she told me this story, I jumped on it. Exactly. He nailed it. I don’t need everyone to DO as much as I need them to BE.

I need everybody to be exactly who they are. I know who to call for a laugh, a cry, a thought, a meal, a drink or a walk.

Those of us who have had jury duty know how it feels to loll around all day reading or counting ceiling tiles, never getting called into a courtroom. I know the feeling that I’m not doing anything to move the wheels of justice. But what the court clerk says is true. The fact that a jury is ready and waiting to be empaneled is helping to settle trial after trial behind the courtroom doors.

You all may feel as if you’re not doing anything to help me, but your very presence is helping me get through this trial.

Just be.

Breakfast at anywhere but Tiffany’s

I met my mom in Phoenix this weekend to see Garrison Keillor, an item on her bucket list.

So this morning we slept too long and nearly missed the buffet breakfast. We pulled on yesterday’s dirty clothes and scuffed into  our slippers, then tore down to the dining room, our hair sticking up in all directions.

We raced through the buffet line piling clouds of scrambled eggs and shiny bacon onto our plates. The waiter then asked us our room number. We were both too groggy to remember. So after tossing out five or six random three-digit numbers, I finally remembered.

So my mom grabs another plate and says to me: “Shall I get enough for the rest of the tent?”

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Then she joins me back at our table and sets down her plate of eggs and salsa.

“Did you see the bowl that says ‘fresh salsa?'” she said. “It’s right next to the bowl that says ‘stale salsa.'”

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About the time the waiters began glaring at us, my mom trots out a story about a woman she tried to defend in court back when she was working for the public defender.

“It was a well-endowed black woman,” my mom said. “She had been picked up for shoplifting. The judge asked her what had happened and she said ‘Well, I was in the store and saw something I liked, stuck it in Titty City and walked out.'”

I guess the judge cracked up. No jail time.

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We get back to the hotel and get ready for a quick dip in the hot tub. And my mom starts laughing in the other room. Seems she got her bathing suit coverup somewhat askew.

 

Singing telegram

Buzz. Buzz.

I picked up my cell phone. It was my mom. Singing.

“It’s a small world after alllll, It’s a small world after alllllll….”

She knows it’s the six-month anniversary of Dennis’ death and she thought she would plant that in my head so I couldn’t ruminate too much on the sadness.

It worked. That stupid song is running through my head.

P.S. It wasn’t really “It’s a Small World.” It was actually a dirty song with lyrics I will spare you. But it had the same effect.  The stupid song is keeping  the sadness at bay.

But I do want to strangle her.

My mom’s version of Boxing Day

It’s 1:44 p.m. and I’m having a helluva time getting my mother dressed to go shopping. We slept IN and then fiddled around over coffee.

I thought she was getting ready, but I heard Swan Lake go on the CD player and the next thing I know, she’s in her lipstick-colored polyester nightgown doing senior citizen grand jetes across the living room.

We’re going to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake in June. She’s jazzed.

“I don’t know, when we’re watching Swan Lake, how I’m going to keep from dancing in the aisles,” my mom said.

She just tippy-toed past me. She’s still in her nightgown.

“Here’s where the guy in the codpiece leaps across the stage,” she said. “Everybody’s looking at the same thing. We might as well all admit it.”

Her own bad self.

Plum Puddin’ and A Very Chick Christmas

I used to set Dennis up with this question:

“So Dennis, I’m a good cook, right?”

He would hesitate and then say: “You’re a great journalist.”

O.K., so I can’t cook. I try. I really do. But it’s not a natural thing.

“Taught her all she knows,” my mom explained to the neighbors when we showed up for Christmas dinner with crescent rolls I’d made.

I couldn’t figure out how to roll up the dough. So I just did some oregami and baked it. The rolls looked as if I’d fired them all against the wall before I stuck them in the oven.

“They were quite random,” was my mom’s observation.

My crescent roll disaster came on the heels of my waffle mishap. I made waffle batter and poured it onto the waffle iron. But it sizzled and poured like lava out of the sides of the waffle iron. After it cooked for a while,  I scraped the sort-of-cooked waffles out from the waffle iron grid with a fork and poured syrup on the pile.

Now we have to contend with a glue-y waffle iron.

After a ham dinner at the neighbors, we came home and ate more plum puddin’ and ‘ard sauce. This time, we googled the recipe to see how accurate my mother’s memories were about her grandmother making it.

It turns out she remembered correctly about her grandmother drying the suet out on the clothesline for plum pudding.

“Sometimes the birds would attack it,” my mom said.

Suet is the hard, crisp fat around beef kidneys and only the Brits would figure out a way to mix something gross into a pudding.

Great Grandma Rosannah made her ‘ard sauce in a “saucep’n,” according to my mom.

“At Christmas we always had lamb and mint sauce,” my mom said. “I hated it.”

Great-grandma Rosannah would serve Christmas dinner at a large table with a lace tablecloth, my mom said. Her cousins, the Peters family were there, too.

“The Peters were Catholic so they took up half the table,” my mom recalled.

We came home from Christmas dinner at the neighbors and took a yule nap. Napping is a luxury I rarely get at home, so the spontaneous napping is a valued staple of a chick Christmas.

Then we woke up and I took one more crack at my kitchen skills.

Success. It seems I can handle a taco bake. Tortillas, hamburger, cheese, onion. Layer it and bake it. Open some wine and turn on “Going My Way” on AMC.

We capped off our Chick Christmas by singing “Ave Maria” in Latin along with Bing in between bites of taco bake.

Somewhere up in heaven, Great- Grandma Rosannah is smacking her forehead. Hopefully Dennis is patting her arm and saying “At least she’s a good journalist.”

Christmas Eve

(Caveat: For some reason, I can’t rotate my photos, so, my apologies.)

Water aerobics and breakfast by the Indian River wore us out, so we intiated the Christmas Eve tradition of the afternoon coma nap.

I crashed on the bed and my mom sacked out on the couch. She left this for me when I woke up so I wouldn’t know she sneaked out to get me a Christmas present.

We attended a candelight service at the Unity Church in Melbourne. My mom said she wanted to “look like Taylor Swift, but I think I look like Taylor Slow.”

My mom cried through “O Holy Night” because “there are just our two candles and there should be three. Dennis should be here with us,” she said.

I felt the same way, but didn’t dare go there because I was afraid of the power of really feeling that loss on Christmas Eve. So I held it together.

Fortunately, I was distracted when somebody behind me sneezed into my hair.

When it was time to douse the candles we were holding, the minister had us hold the candle up to our lips and say “Peace” to put it out.

The little girl next to me keep saying “Peace, peace, peace, PEACE” but her candle kept burning, so she finally spit out “PPPPEACE” and it went out with a sizzle.

Tonight we ate plum puddin’ and ‘ard sauce, which is very rich and very delicious.

Then, we settled down to observe our Christmas Eve tradition of watching nonstop police procedurals.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Quotes from Christmas Eve Eve

First of all Merry Christmas Eve to all.

I’ve been doing well, thanks to my mom’s special brand of comic relief.

The only time the grief overwhelmed me was tonight in, of all places, Olive Garden. Right in the middle of my spaghetti with meat sauce.

I started wondering how to make Dennis’ life mean something. To let people know how unique my husband was, and to place his brilliant light on a sea of humanity dancing with light.

I am not enough for the task. I have all of his things, his old photos, his dreams, his elementary school report cards. I am their steward and I don’t know what to do to make all of this matter as much as it should.

So I sat in Olive Garden and cried as quietly as I could.

My mom knows to sit with me quietly and let my eyes fill. She lets me talk. She doesn’t fix it and vowed to give me a quarter anytime she forgets herself and makes a suggestion. She’s letting me make my own way, just as I’ve asked her to.

Sitting on her hands when her daughter is in pain is probably the toughest thing a mother can do, but that’s what I’ve asked of her. Because she loves me, she sits and lets me fight my way through my feelings until I emerge on the other side.

Then, she greets me, and goes back to being her own bad self.

Dec. 23 was Dillards Day. The closest Dillards is 90 miles from Ventura, so the Orlando Dillards was a spiritual experience that includes a ritual where “we take clothes off, we put clothes on , we take clothes off, we put clothes on,” to quote my mom.

And then there’s the expensive pearl necklace we looked at:

“By the time you can afford something like that, you’ve got a neck like a turtle,” my mom said.

Christmas Eve is water aerobics and Belk and Macy’s Day where we Watch the Guys Shop At The Last Minute.

Them, some sort of candlelight service. My mom wants one with handy fire exits in case some kid starts the curtains on fire.

Merry Christmas to all. Now everybody go to bed and wait for Santa Claus. My mom says she won’t consider him unless he shaves the beard.

Quotes from Day Five of a Very Chick Christmas

My mom as we walk into the hotel and see people sitting on couches in the lobby playing with iPads.

“I love Christmas when you see family members trying to get away from one another.”

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My mom when she called the Toshiba tech repair guy to find out what was wrong with her computer:

“He asked me if my cookies were enabled. I told him it was none of his business.”

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My mom calling her answering machine at home to pick up messages:

“I have to pick up my messages, but I forgot my safe word.”

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Her response to my observation that she can sleep anywhere, including on the shuttle bus to Disney World and while waiting for the ferry.

“Hey, a lot of my peeps are dead. All I do is sleep a lot.”

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My mom napping while waiting for the ferry to the Magic KingdomMy mom napping on the Disney World shuttle

Quotes from Day Four of a Very Chick Christmas

My mom, rummaging through a pile of books and papers.

“It’s right here, under my book on how to unclutter your house in a week.”

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When her wallet fell on the floor:

“Want to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to find out who has to lean over to get it?”

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As we enter an ice cream store in the hotel in Orlando:

“Let me check the nutritional information on that ice cream.”

(Checks information)

“It says it’ll kill you. Let’s get some.”

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