6 entries in the category: Family

Creating Family

October 6th

 

 

Sunday Funday

This week I attended a bris. As we stood around the living room, the mohel leading the group in prayer, I played with the other kids quietly in a corner until everyone was exclaiming “Mazel tov!” and singing and clapping. I’d been to one of these before, two years prior, for the same family’s first son. I knew what was going to happen and was happy to be distracted.

The naming portion of the ceremony is my favorite. By custom, as the mohel explained, the baby is not to be referred to by his name until after he is circumcised. Then he is officially welcomed into the world with his new name. This baby boy was named after his late great grandmother (H) and her best friend (R). Amanda, the mother, spoke about how her grandmother and her grandmother’s best friend were tied to the hip. And now they would continue to always be together through her son’s name.

I started crying at the notion. Most in the room, including the parents, were also teary. One of the kids in my lap looked at me with wide eyes and said a bit too loudly, “Can we eat the cake now?” We all laughed.

When my parents moved to Texas more than 10 years ago, I found myself at the kitchen tables of my friends’ parents. I wiggled my way into their family vacations, Sunday dinners, and invitations to important events — anniversary parties, holidays, baptisms. I was thankful there was always an extra plate of food and often far too many questions and concern about what was going on in my life.

This bris, with my friends’ parents asking about my work, their nieces climbing all over me, and distant family chatting with me about recipes—it felt like I was home. Yes, it’s been more than a decade and I have my own family now. And yes, my parents are thriving and I’m happy for them. But also, yes: I miss them. I miss our Sunday tradition of bbq chicken, Rummicub, and bad television. I miss being able to craft with my mom. I miss swimming with my dad. I miss them being in my everyday life. Our time together now is infrequent and scheduled and often stressful.

As we head into the holiday season, I know I’m not alone in being more sentimental. It can be hard when the people you want there aren’t present—and vice versa. Here is to hoping our tables are full of laughter, and full of the family we’ve made, not just been given. And that there is enough wine to help ignore everything else.

~K

 

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Family
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Pap

October 2nd

Pap + Gram

My grandfather, Trevor, died in June. We had a memorial for him this weekend at his small church north of Tucson, tucked in the shadows of the Catalina Mountains. He joins my grandmother, who passed 4 years ago. Tucson seems empty without them. It is so very strange to visit and not see one of them.

A bit of what I shared at his service:

Trevor, or PapPap as his 6 grandchildren called him, was born September 2, 1926. He passed just a few months short of his 91st birthday. He was the oldest of four children raised in Wolfdale, Pennsylvania. His parents, Henry J. and Clarice Hague Beecham, had Trevor, Harry, Clarice – known as Sis – and Jack. Sis and Jack are still living.

When Pap graduated from Trinity High School, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific. He was in Okinawa when the treaty was signed on his 19th birthday, September 2, 1945. He returned to the United States via San Diego on New Years Eve, 1945 and would go on to continue for a few more months before honorably leaving the service.

One of the stories I remember Pap telling was how appalled he was, as a child who had grown up during the Great Depression, by the sheer waste of war. He talked about watching with horror as he and his fellow Navy men followed orders on their way home, dumping jeeps and other heavy materials off the back of the ship into the sea making the ship lighter. The only benefit was it made the trip home faster, or so they thought.

After the service, Pap attended LSU and remained an avid Tigers fan until his last days. I remember him fondly holding an LSU bottle opener that when tapped would play the fight song. He’d sit in his recliner on Saturday afternoons and cheer along with those in the stadium.

He returned to Washington, Pennsylvania in May of 1959 to start a job in finance. To his surprise and delight, waiting for him was the small town news that Maxine Pettit Donley, now a mother of two young boys, was recently divorced and had returned home to live with her parents on their family farm. Pap would tell us how Maxine had been the apple of his eye in high school, and he was considering reenlisting in the military, but instead stayed in Pennsylvania. They were married four months later. At the age of 33, he became a husband and a stepfather to two feisty boys, Kit age 8 and Rex age 5. His mother tried talking him out of the marriage; marrying a divorced woman with children was scandalous. He didn’t care.

Soon, Trevor would move his new family back to Louisiana. He continued working in finance in Lafayette. In the 1970s, they moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.

We gathered around their dining room table for countless meals, including one of Trevor’s favorites to prepare: gumbo. Cooking was next to football in Trevor’s heart. He loved to cook for others and enjoyed showing off the recipes he perfected during his time in Louisiana.

He was proud of his time and service at this church. He enjoyed serving as a deacon, elder and moderator. He liked being a lay speaker, choir member and Bible school teacher. On one of our last visits, he told me he once thought about going into the ministry because he loved to preach.

 

He was so happy that for his 90th birthday, his siblings – including Harry who was in good health at the time and Sis, who’d come all the way from Pennsylvania, surprised him for dinner and cake. I have photos of him crying, holding their hands, so thankful for their kindness. My Uncle Kit and Aunt Paula made sure the event went off without a hitch. In that moment, it felt like my grandmother was very much in the room as well.

I will dearly miss Trevor. I enjoyed speaking with him about books and travel. He loved me dearly in return. In his last days, I visited him with my husband, Jason. Pap hadn’t been well enough to attend our recent wedding. He held Jason’s hand and asked him to “take good care of me.”

With any luck, he is watching great football from heaven, sitting with my grandmother and great grandmother, and likely arguing with God.

Rest in peace, Pap. You will be missed.

 

 

 

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Family
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Dear World, It’s Me: Delinquent Blogger

June 12th

Mexico City trip

I’m going to avoid the trite apologies to the digital heavens about not checking in. I haven’t written anything here for a long time. My browser, for the first time in 10 years, didn’t remember how to get here.

So, that’s weird.

 

 

Hi, y’all!

Hi!

I’ve been married for nearly 8 months. I could write books on those 8 months. They are mostly this dreamy state of happiness where boxes continue to arrive from Macy’s, and dinners are made with care, and I receive love letters, and I’m living in a beautiful home. That beautiful home on the edge of the desert also happens to be the dustiest place I’ve ever lived. It is gorgeous and clean for exactly one hot minute. (Literally hot. 118 later this week.) And, there is the whole thing about living with another being you just pledged the rest of your days to.

I waxed and waned here for years about how desperately I wanted to be married. I wanted a husband! I mean, I quit my job, sold my stuff, and moved to New Jersey for two months once upon a time because I was romantic. Once married, I could add “wifey” to my bio and laugh and be smug with the others who I envisioned had a life royale.

Well, look. Come to find out, life is a bit more nuanced. I am wary of how many people ask me in a whisper, leaning in with an eyebrow raised, “So… how is married life?”

How is married life?

Married life is weird. And wonderful. And a switch in perspective. I’m doing this forever. I’ve never done anything forever.

I wonder when people ask this leading question if they are actually asking, “Are you having great sex?” Or, more likely, if they are looking for immediate cracks in the levee. Are you sad you’ve decided to jump into this age old cultural and religious tradition where the property of your father is legally transferred to your future husband?

(The name change process is an entirely different post. There wasn’t a single step that was simple, and I’ve yet to relinquish my passport for the swap.)

So, how is married life?

It’s fun. I love coming home to my husband, who’s  interested to hear how my day was, while dogs nip at my feet and beg for my attention. I love this family. I love our home.

And, married life is tricky. We are two adults with established routines, habits, bed times, bank accounts, and traditions. Thrown together, there is a fair amount of adjusting for everyone to make it feel good, fair, and loving.

And for now, today, it feels better than good.

~K

 

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Family
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Happily Ever After

November 4th

Happily ever after

Oh, dear blog. You have not been forgotten, although you have certainly been neglected lately. I’d apologize, but I have good reason. I was planning a wedding and a honeymoon and over-thinking everything.

We had a handful of our favorite people in one place and I have never had a better day. There were so many loved ones and we had a chance to chat and dance and toast and inhale green chile and homemade tortillas and gingersnaps with all of them. It was an overplanned, anxiously executed dream come true.

There were lots of great handmade details that were important to our big day. I made 100 jars of marmalade as the favors, painted the cake toppers and stitched the ring pillow. The invitations were handmade and printed on vintage handkerchiefs. My mom sewed a bow tie for Nelson and made our chuppah — which was a wedding ring pattern I love. A girlfriend’s mom made my bouquet and the boutonnieres. We had friends recite poetry and help read a blessing. My grandmother’s begonia was tucked in my bouquet, and I wore her sparkly necklace that I’ve adored since I was a girl. Another girlfriend’s mom made our guest book. Others brought cookies for the dessert table. I baked a small cake.

I’ll post more photos as I can about our special day, but here are few for now:

Happily ever after


Happily ever after

Happily ever after

More to come. In the meantime, I’ll be writing thank you cards, which I hope to finish before Christmas. And moming, which makes my heart so happy and full, my cheeks hurt.

xo,

K

Posted in
Celebrate!, Family
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The Boys Down the Street

May 2nd

Summer BBQ -- Colorado style

When I was 11 or so, a new family moved to the corner house on our street. They had one tow-head toddler who couldn’t say Kelli, so he called me Ki Ki. Soon, another baby boy was on the way. The parents and my parents made fast friends. I spent many, many summer days with tan lines and blood shot eyes chasing those two little boys, and my younger brother, around the pool.

Marco?

Polo!

The scent of burning charcoal briquettes immediately takes me back to these happy days. Our parents would grill and lounge in the shade and we would squeal and play and be utterly exhausted by the time night fell. (In retrospect, this was a brilliant parenting strategy.)

In time, I became the babysitter. I’d watch the two boys regularly over the next few years. I loved the brothers like they were my own. I read their favorite books to the point of memorization. I rocked them goodnight and gave them baths. I watched Aladdin on VHS tape approximately 10,000 times. I helped teach them to swim.

In 1994, I left my family (and theirs) to study in Mexico for a year. I was 14 and communication home was expensive. I’d call home on Sundays, and sometimes sneak a call to my dad at work. He’d always accept the charges. It was on one of those calls, when I stood at a pay phone in the foyer of the Mexican high school library, that my dad relayed the bad news. Gently, he told me the younger of the two neighbor boys was sick. He’d been sick for a while and they hadn’t been able to figure it out. Finally, they knew. He had a form of pediatric cancer and was off to Minnesota for treatment. His mom left her job and was living in the Ronald McDonald house.

I cried the tears of a gulping teenage girl whose world view had cracked, and was 1500 miles from those she loved most.

My mom helped watch the older brother, still just a little one, and my parents together kept an eye on their dad, who must have been out of his mind with grief and potential loss. The details of those days and months are not clear in my memory. What I do remember is returning home six months later and the youngest brother was still alive, in recovery, everyone back at home. When I went to visit, I realized that while he was alive, he was still dealing with the repercussions of having cell-altering chemicals and radiation at a tender age of growth. His color wasn’t right for a long time, his skin black and gray. And my last memory of him as a kindergarten student a few years later was one where he used a walker, dragging a foot behind him.

But he was alive!

The years rolled on, and soon the family was off to the Pacific Northwest for work. Their house sold quickly. I don’t remember ever saying goodbye. I do remember feeling like a piece of my childhood was packed in their moving truck, tucked between the towels that always smelled of chlorine and the tonka trucks. During the next 20 years, I spent more than a few hours looking for their family online with no luck.

Imagine my utter shock when about six weeks ago, laying on my mat in silence before a yoga class, a woman leaned her head next to mine and said, “KELLI!”

It was their mother. By sheer coincidence, after more than a decade of living elsewhere, we are neighbors again in an entirely different neighborhood. I hugged her with a ferocity that I think scared us both, and told her through tears how I’d searched for them. How was her youngest son? I asked it hesitantly, wondering all these years if the cancer had come back.

“Oh, he just graduated college. He lives with us! He’s great.”

He is great. That weekend, I got together with their family. Their eldest son, now a PhD candidate in northern California, was home visiting for the weekend — again by chance. We sat and reminisced, and I soon realized that while it was so important to my childhood — the time we’d spent together — the boys barely remembered me. They were more than ten years younger and their memories, of course, were those of little ones: blurry at best. But they did know of our family from the stories their parents had repeated, and I hugged them like an older sister would.

It was, and remains, a wonderful set of coincidences that brought a friendship together again.

~K

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Arizona, Faith, Family
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Stepping Up

April 25th

 

Desert Color

This weekend I attended a women’s retreat in the woods of northern Arizona. (I have several posts in mind after participating in the intensely emotional getaway.) One of the greatest gems I took away from the weekend was hearing a woman describe her struggle to daily pour love unconditionally into her family — and how she knew she was called to do so anyway.

This has been my unexpected struggle. Let’s have a real, honest talk about being a parent. Whether you birthed, adopted — or in my case, inherited your kid(s) through a relationship — being a parent is every stupid Hallmark cliche. It is the most rewarding job. It is the most thankless job. It is hard. It is sweet. It is agonizing. And you really do feel like your heart is living outside of your body when you watch a 16 year old drive away for the first time and you can’t catch your breath.

(Or I was just having a panic attack. Either way, I still say countless prayers that kid is safe, and everyone else around him is safe, and they are all wearing seat belts and no one is texting or distracting the driver and on, and on, and on.)

Being a “step” parent has not come naturally. Actually, it has been a really difficult. I came into these kids’ lives in their early teens, when our brains return to the selfishness of toddlers, only now demanding spending money and independence, not bedtime stories and candy.

We’re all in this for the long ride of being a modern family — where at events we sit with their mom, her husband, their step-brother and collectively work to entertain his two-year-old adorable daughter. I love these two kids, and yet I’m hesitant to call them mine. This weekend, I was asked 100 times by other women, “Do you have kids?” Sometimes I said, “Yep. Two teenage step-kids.” And other times I stumbled along with “Uh, I’m helping my boyfriend raise his teenagers.” Or “My boyfriend has kids.” I want to claim them. I want to tell everyone who asks that yes, these kids are mine. I do their laundry and pack their lunches and cheer for them at soccer. I tutor in Spanish and bake their birthday cakes and know their favorite bands and how to make small talk about Nickelodeon programs and Disney stars. I know they love Bernie Sanders, so I pay attention to his speeches.

What I don’t want to do is have their mom somehow overhear me calling these kids my kids. That’s what stops me. She birthed them. She is co-parenting them. She is a good mom and I don’t want to step on her toes. I feel like an interloper claiming territory that isn’t rightfully mine.

And when they are in the throws of being teenagers — it is “stupid” to make a bed, and “stupid” to be on time and “stupid” to practice piano — I want to put on my running shoes, grab my dog and walk away as quickly as possible before muttering how they aren’t mine. They are both wholly lovable and entirely annoying on any given day — which I’m fairly certain is the definition of “teenager.”

In those moments of sheer frustration when I know they would be listening to me if I was their mom, anger takes over my control panel and my emotions boil over in hurry. And in those sweet times when they give me a hug unexpectedly or want to spend time together, joy rules. I beam and nearly fall over from patting myself on the back and how well I got this. 

It is a parenting roller coaster. It can be scary and make me scream and my stomach hurt, and I just want to be let off the ride. And it can also be the most thrilling, awe-inducing, joyous ticket in town — which, I am now fairly certain is the definition of “parenting.”

 

 

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Family
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