Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pickles, Passings, and Pink Pastry Boxes To Go

I went to lunch with my Grandfather today.

We sat in the same dark green vinyl booth we have eaten at for years.

Munching on pickles packed in small wooden barrels placed before us, I looked across the table and found myself staring through the same thick black rimmed glasses he has always worn.

He waited for me to look over the menu, which I always did, even though I had memorized the menu years ago and had, the whole drive up (over an hours time), to think and decide on what I would be ordering.

Just as he had in the past, he pushed the Matzo Ball soup and ordered from the server two macaroon cookies to go, one regular and one dipped in chocolate. They would come sometime during the meal placed on our table next to the silverware and half empty plates, tucked securely inside the same pink pastry box they had be placed in for years. I would take these with me when I left, place them next to my seat as I drove back home and savor them and their memories the following days.

Maintaining our well worn path of traditions I stared at him and asked him about his life. Where he grew up, how he met my Grandmother, and on a few occasions stories about his son, my father, who I lost when I was five- the day he dropped me of at school and decided to never come back.

I would listen as he started slow but steady in remembering his youth, hard as his childhood was he would always smile through the stories of his struggles as it was those choices and decisions that would carry him into meeting my grandmother, his Clara. His joy.

His gaze inevitably grew distant as he talked, laughed, and even cried within his memories. I love being able to become a part of his past during these lunches. Even the moment of the stark realization that brings him back to us sitting together when only moments before he was swept away in 1950 makes me smile.

“Its always so good to see you” he always says. “Your visits bring back the love of my life although I could never truly do so, it is so very easy to forget the little things that built our lives together each and every day” and even though it is clues to my father that I long for it is always the stories of my grandparents that end up sweeping me away. These are the stories that cause him to pause more, wipe his eyes and smile.

My Grandmother passed away over twenty years ago when I was twelve. I recall my mother sitting me down and telling me of her passing, though because of my fathers choices I knew very little of his family while I was growing up. Most of my memories of my grandmother are through my grandfather eyes, long after they had actually occurred, and many before I was even born.

Grandma was Jewish, a vast difference from my Grandfathers catholic upbringing. Together, they created a life for each other, shared traditions, and grew their own lives into a family. It was his love for her why we always came to this place, her place with the Matzo Brie and Potato Pancakes. The reason why after two decades he continued to honor her by eating Kosher.

They raised three children, lived for each other and loved completely. I become witness to that over bagels and lox staring into the eyes of my Grandfathers past and I am honored for the chance to know that there was good there.

Yet todays lunch was so very different than those before it.

My heart full of their memories and my belly stuffed with too many pickles I found myself looking across the table to an empty booth and I began to cry.

“I miss you” I said.

“I know, but its okay, it’s all the way its supposed to be”

“That doesn't make it any easier”

“It will someday” he whispered- and then like he did one year ago today, he was gone.

I blinked and he was gone.

I went to lunch to honor my grandfather today. I sat in the same dark green vinyl booth we had eaten at for years.

Monday, September 7, 2009


PISMODISE is a combination of the words "PISMO" and "PARADISE" . A timeless phrase that describes her fun, magic, and fantastic scenery!

We have survived yet another family vacation! (... and as long as the children insist on being teenagers it will most likely be our last.)

For weeks I had prepared for the trip in anticipation of spending eight uninterrupted days with the kids camping, surfing, kayaking, and dune riding in beautiful Pismo Beach California.

In what I see now was clearly a warped fantasy of my own delusions I looked forward to cool brisk mornings with fresh coffee and bacon sizzling on the grill. Long walks on the beach as we searched for shells and perhaps the famed Pismo clams. Evenings would carry us into the night as we gathered around the fire and laughed, played games, and munched on S’mores and other goodies that seem to taste better with a bit of ash and smoke mixed in.

What I discovered however was that somewhere along the beautiful California coastline of our home and the Pismo Coast Village RV park where we were to stay the four wonderful children I had been thinking of in planning this vacation had morphed into.. brace yourself... TEENAGERS.

Ipods. Cell phones. Texting 24/7. Every single one of them had somewhere else on their mind and it took all my strength not to implode right there next to the dominoes and deck of Uno cards. Quickly I collected all electronics and explained that each day there would be three ten minute windows of time where they could check messages, text back friends, and listen to their choice of music. Thinking I had won the war I eagerly sat by the fire and prepared for what I was sure was going to be a fun night of reconnecting via the old fashioned way- no batteries, internet, or plugs required (Yeah I was THAT misguided).

What I saw when I looked up were four children huddled each in their own chair, hands in their pockets, faces drawn down and glaring beaded eyes that simply rolled each time contact was made. Nothing, I mean NOTHING could bring them back. I had played the dice, positive that it would all fall in my favor I just hadn’t planned on the united front that four teens can emit by simply sitting there and grunting one syllable responses.

We were all in bed by 9:00 pm.

In my optimistic ways I just figured it was due to the long day in the car. Tomorrow would be different, right? Ha.

The entire week was a game of tug a war between the kids and the parents, overall I would say it was a tie game in the end. I mean we may have never had the memorable night around the fire telling stories and singing camp songs (yeah, I know my imagination does go a little overboard sometimes. I blame it on my Mom and John Denver) but we did have some great moments both playing games and tackling adventures around town. As much as I bitch about teenagers I do love each and every one of them (Like eighty percent of the time).

...and its Okay Katie, we can go on another vacation next summer I was just kidding.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

X-Rated Chowder Hour

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this wall mural painted in a family restaurant that boasts a famous recipe of Clam Chowder?

Sad thing is the kids are the ones who pointed it out and insisted on taking the pictures.