Trash Day

102_7827Today is Trash Day. This happens every week, so it really isn’t newsworthy; but I started to look at it from another perspective today.

In this era of so much volatility and dissension, here is something we can ALL agree on; the Trash must be put out on the designated day. In homes all over my small city, and everywhere else in America, people know when their Trash pick-up is scheduled, and dutifully put out their cans and bags at the curbside. In our locale, the Recycled materials are picked up every other week in their special blue tubs. (We have a schedule hung on the refrigerator door so that we don’t miss Recycle week.) So what, you ask?

Well, here’s what I have noticed. You can tell a lot about a person/family by the way in which they put out their trash;there are as many different approaches, as there are personalities. The Extreme Recyclers, for example, who live nearby, shame us all by their miniscule amounts of trash. Sometimes they don’t even have one full bag! Then there are the Reclusive/Hoarders; they put out only what must be thrown away. Their bags are full of used food wrappers and real leftover garbage. You rarely see anything in their Recycling except old cardboard boxes and newspapers. Another type on our block is the Anal Retentive Neatniks: their garbage is organized, very neatly wrapped, and stacked perfectly in rows and bins. Felix Unger would be proud of them! There are also the Very Confused/Perplexed people who never seem to have it together….sort of living life without borders and boundaries.These folks may have no garbage one week, and tons the next.It is usually scattered about and there are often crows feeding on the ripped open bags. All of these neighbors and many other types are in our ‘hood. We like them all, and do not discriminate on the basis of Garbage Etiquette.

At our house we are somewhat organized about Trash Day. We do recycle everything we can, and always try hard to minimize what will go into the landfill. There is a lot of creative activity going on in our home; with two people so involved in Music, Writing, Film, Art, and Crafts, lots of STUFF  is being moved about constantly. When I look at the photo  above of our trash, I wonder how much we reveal to our neighbors; I think we might be a combination of each of the categories I have mentioned.

It makes me happy that there are no arguments over getting rid of trash. It is something we all have to do, and it requires no political party affiliation. I am grateful to live in a country where we are free to express our trashy ways.

 

 

The Power of Words

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Last week I was thinking about Sister Corita Kent, and her bold graphic work during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I had a poster of the work above in my dorm room  in 1969. She remains one of my favorite graphic artists for her consistently brave creative choices in making statements against War and Hatred.

The Power of Words is sometimes obvious to us, and other times seems to go undetected as we hurtle through space on our daily trips. When someone uses hurtful words, the old reptilian brain seems to hold onto those for a long time; we remember abuse and keep it close to our hearts when we wish we could let it go. Fortunately we remember praise and loving words that come our way as well. Do you remember when a revered teacher praised your work in High School? I do. It meant so very much to me that I still parade that moment around in my head once in a while. Perhaps you can remember the first time your partner/spouse said “I love you”. Those are very powerful words. Right? Changed your life?

Sometimes a very few words can cut through us to our core. About 12 years ago,when I lived in Sanibel, Florida, I got a phone call from the local hardware store. It seems that a piece of my mail had been put in their post office box. I assumed it was an advertisement, so I asked them to read it to me, thus saving me a trip there to pick it up. The person started reading:” The family of Virginia Osbourne requests your presence at a MEMORIAL Service………..”. I didn’t hear the rest. My dear friend, Bette, had passed away suddenly. We hadn’t spoken for about 8 weeks, and her son couldn’t find my updated phone number. He mailed me an invitation to her service, and it had gotten placed in the wrong mailbox. I must have thanked the person on the phone, and hung up. I can only remember sitting on the floor of my home office rocking back and forth with a pain in my stomach like I had been punched hard. These are words we never want to hear.

A few weeks ago I Googled an old boyfriend whom I had not seen in years. I was curious about how his life had developed, and wanted to “friend-request” him on Facebook. As I typed in his name, it was followed by the word “OBITUARY”. Stunned, I read the brief description of his recent death, and was shaken by sadness and regret. Why hadn’t I gotten in touch sooner? What kind of fear or vanity kept me from reconnecting before it was too late? The force of that one word pointed out the importance of doing things NOW instead of LATER.

Perhaps the most powerful word that exists is: YES. There is the story of John and Yoko from the 1960’s which involves John going to an art installation of Yoko’s; supposedly one had to climb a ladder and reach a note attached to the ceiling. When John climbed up, the note had a single word: “YES”.He said if that word had been “No”, things would have been very different. I understand.

Think of all the times you have been told YES. When you applied for a job. When you got a mortgage. When you asked someone to marry you. When you asked if your new baby was healthy. How mighty were those words? What paths did you take because of “YES”?

One of my most indelible memories is of the 1990 Amnesty International General Meeting, which was held in Boston at my alma mater, Boston University. I had been involved with my local chapter in Yarmouth, Maine for over three years at that time, having accepted the position of Case Coordinator. At the Meeting the Executive Director of AI, Jack Healey was scheduled to speak. I remember thinking a lot about how Maine was not on the radar for the superstars of AI. (Sting and the Boss never did a  fundraiser concert in Portland!) So, I began to think of asking Mr. Healey to come and speak. Now, this seemed a bit ludicrous at the outset. Why would Mr. Healey devote his time to us, when he could be speaking to much larger crowds and get more media coverage in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia? Nonetheless, the Loyalist in my genes won over my reservations, and I decided to ask him. After his speech, I summoned my courage and went down to the front of the auditorium where he stood talking to individual members. When it was my turn, I politely asked if he would consider coming to Maine to speak……and he said “YES”. The word fairly thundered in my ears. I was overcome with emotions of surprise, elation, and pride. I had asked for what I deemed likely impossible, and was rewarded with “YES”. I remember I went to the ladies’ room and got inside a stall (the only place for immediate privacy) and danced my happy dance. It was a very, very empowering moment!

Words. They have always fascinated me, from every standpoint and in every language. I enjoy studying their origins. I enjoy learning about their delicate nuances. I believe they have power to heal and to encourage and to delight. Say “YES” to someone you love today.

 

 

Bicycles

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Spring is coming. Eventually. It always takes longer than we hope it will, but it will be here soon. When Spring comes to Maine, possibilities open up. Now we can venture forth and garden, clean the yard and the garage, and prepare for staying outdoors longer each day.

When I was a child, Spring also meant Bicycles. For those of us growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, our bicycles represented many things to us; but foremost, they meant Freedom. Children in that time were far less aware of their rights and far less entitled. We saw the privilege of riding our bikes as a window of opportunity to take control of our time and choices. This Freedom meant we could ride away from the scrutiny of our parents, and be unimpeded in our important affairs.Granted, my freedom only extended to my block; still, it was independence. Sweet, gratifying autonomy.

We rode with our friends down the street and, perhaps, around the block if we were really feeling adventurous. We had plastic streamers in bright colors attached to our bike handles. If we were lucky, we had a horn to blow. Our bicycles gave us status, and we took pride in them. You probably did not get a new one for many years, so you were very careful to take care of your bike. It was, after all, your “ride”.

There was a feeling of taking part in the World in a different way, when you were on your bike. Suddenly, you could direct your travel and choose your Path; these were big concepts when almost all of your choices were made by your parents and teachers. On your bike you were in charge. Should we go to the corner store and buy penny candy with our grubby nickels and dimes? Should we ride by the house of the cute boy who sat next to us in school? Maybe we should pretend we are riding the range on our trusty horses? All of these momentous decisions could be made by us; no older siblings or parents involved. We were humans weighing our options.

Bicycles taught us many things that we would need to go a bit further on our Path.

  1. If you fall down, dust yourself off and get back up on the bike again.
  2. If someone gets hurt, carry them home on your bike.
  3. If you take care of your bike, it will last a long time.
  4. If you ride too far from Home, you might have trouble finding your way back.

They say that once you learn something, you never really forget it. It’s like riding a bike.

 

 

School Bus

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Every weekday morning I pause to look across the street as the School Bus comes to pick up my young neighbor, Ilya, who is in the first grade this year. His Dad, Michael, stands with him waiting until he is safely ensconced on the bus; the bus goes down our dead end street, turns around, and comes back by our houses on its way to deliver the precious cargo to school. Michael waits, waves as it goes by, and then retreats into his home. I watch in silent complicity from my window. I have done this. In fact, I did it for 8 years, when Caroline, my daughter, was attending the Sanibel School.

I remember the first trip we made to Sanibel, while Caroline was in Kindergarten. As we drove through neighborhoods on the Island in the morning, we would see the groups of parents and kids waiting at the appointed bus stop locations. I recall that it impressed me to see how happy they all were, standing there in the warm Florida mornings, chatting and smiling. It seemed ideal, compared to the bundled, freezing folks waiting in Maine.

When I moved to Sanibel in 2000, I became one of those cheerful Moms at the Bus Stop every morning. So, for the succeeding 8 years, every morning, there we were; making sure our kids got on the bus and reminding them of the day’s requirements. The bus stop morning ritual introduced me to new friends and established a bond with other parents. You might be asked to pick up and deliver someone’s child at the end of the day, or maybe bring them to your house for a few hours. We all helped each other out: it takes a village.

It was a good way to start the day. After I left the Bus Stop, I would go to the office and spend my day working selling Real Estate. When school got out in the afternoon, I was back at the Bus Stop, waiting. The reward for the wait is picking up your child, and hearing all the events of their day. Book fairs. Lunch trades. Unfair teachers. Crushes on little red-haired boys. Great quiz scores. Cheerleading routines. Volleyball games. Club activities. So much great stuff hot off the press!

Time passes so very quickly when children are growing. Almost overnight they are grown up and you are not required to drop them off or pick them up; and they certainly don’t want to be seen talking to you or dealing with you while they are in junior high or high school. They are now autonomous beings (or so they think), and you no longer wait at the bus stop.

I miss those days. There was a clarity of purpose and a sense of strong community with the other parents. We seemed to all be in this together, and there were parameters guiding our daily activities. Empty nesters lose all that. We lose the comfort of the rituals.

Rituals are important. Showing up every day and being counted on teaches your kids what it takes to honor a commitment, and what it means to be reliable. Perhaps my neighbor doesn’t know it yet, but he is teaching his son something important while he shivers waiting for the bus with him. This is part of the small window of opportunity we have, as parents, to model behavior for our children. One day, soon enough, Michael will join the rest of us who are retired from Bus Stop duty.

I hope when my daughter thinks of the School Bus, she remembers me waiting. I do. Perhaps that is why I stop each morning when I hear the bus, and look across the way.

 

 

 

 

Spring Forward

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Thinking about Spring in the 1950’s  makes me realize how very different our society has become in my lifetime. I notice it everyday, but reflecting on Spring brought back some specific memories that are undeniably in stark contrast to this new Millennium.

For example, the Spring Outfit. When I was a kid, there were 4 distinct Seasons, and the clothes you wore belonged to them. In the photo above, I am dressed up for Sunday Mass in a Spring Outfit. Each year I got a Spring coat, hat, gloves, dresses, shoes, and maybe a little patent leather pocketbook. These items were specifically used only during March, April, and May. Once Summer came, they were put away in the closet. By next Spring, my Mom would probably pass them on to a younger cousin, since they most likely did not fit anymore. There were clothing RULES. (I am not sure if there were Fashion Police then, but the RULES were adhered to, or else!)

There were Spring games, too. Finally we could play Hopscotch in the driveway  with our newly acquired chalk, and make mud pies. I had these little aluminum cake pans, teapots, and plastic dishes for my dolls; my friends and I would take them outside and create meals with mud. Ah, the beginnings of my love of baking!

Bikes were big  in Springtime. I got my first bike for Easter from the Easter Bunny. Unfortunately, the Bunny didn’t get the size right. It was too big, and I started to cry because the Bunny had gone, and I was stuck with a bicycle I couldn’t ride. Since my parents were not very good at improvisation, they broke down and told me the TRUTH about the Easter Bunny, so they could return the bike and get the correct size. I miss the Easter Bunny.

There seemed to be an order to daily life. Things had rituals and reasons. “To everything there is a Season”. I believe there was, and is, a great deal of comfort in ritual. We seem to have very little of it left these days. For expediency and convenience we have traded our long-held conventions. The rites of Spring barely exist anymore. It doesn’t matter to the current crop of young people what they wear or when they wear it. No one waits for anything now. Immediate gratification is the order of the day, so Seasons have little say in most matters.

I guess Gardeners still have to pay attention to Seasons. I look forward to receiving the beautiful seed and plant catalogs that arrive this time of year; while it is still cold outside, you can peruse the abundance of flowering plants on the catalog’s pages, and dream of warmer and brighter days. Planting flowers is such an optimistic labor. There is an old poem that I love, which says:

“Who plants a seed beneath the Sod, and waits to see, believes in God”.

That element of  waiting to see is the piece that I love. It shows the ability to delay gratification and anticipate. There is not a lot of anticipation these days. I miss that.

Paul Maurice

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He was an imposing figure, at age 25. Paul stood about 6’2″ tall, and had a mane of dark brown hair, a full beard and mustache, and generous facial features.

When he strode onto a stage with his  Strat, he reminded his audience more of a  guerrilla commando than a musician. The instrument was strapped to him like a weapon: it seemed an appendage of his human form. He had full command of the guitar, and wielded it, more than played it. This control came from serious focus; he was an intense man with a mission. His ability to coax his instrument into melodic magic was hard-won.

Sometimes he closed his eyes, and seemed to be in  another place where his Muse must have led him. He was a consummate professional, and the music flowed like fine wine.

Out of the arena, when the show was over, Paul was a gentle and self-effacing man. His talent was irrefutable, but there was no arrogance or egotism. A true gentleman with manners to match.

I watched him play many times. He was charismatic, charming, and endearing. I became friends with the members of his band, the Hometown Rockers, and found them grateful recipients of my home-baked goodies whenever they returned to play in Portland. Paul called me “the Cookie Monster”.

I just learned that Paul passed away in January of this year. I feel lucky to have known him. I am sure he would have been surprised to know that he affected me as much as he did. It was not his way to assume. I have not seen him in many years, but I remember the electricity of his performances as if it were yesterday. Go with God, Paul. As they said in the movie: “You had me at Hello”.

 

 

 

 

 

Imperfect

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It is part of the human condition, I suppose, to look for perfection. We seek it in many ways, particularly when we are young.We search for the perfect mate, perfect school, perfect wedding dress, perfect dinner plates, perfect neighborhood….all because it seems so very, very important to get it Right. No one ever says “I’d like an average dress for my 10th Reunion, please”. Or, how about ” yes, any countertops will do for my new kitchen renovation”. When did any hairdresser every hear: “cut off as much as you want..it really doesn’t matter”?

As I was walking through my living room, my gaze was caught by the long, winding scratch on the ceiling. It is a peculiar mark because it sort of zig-zags along; it could only have been created by the top of a Christmas tree being moved into a tree holder. Now, my lovely renovated ceiling is imperfect, and that mark will probably be there for a long time. It happened when the Xmas tree was being carried to its appointed spot. I remember when it happened I was annoyed that the ceiling got scraped; now it just brings back happy memories of the Holidays.

That’s the thing about imperfection. Once you get past the need for things to be completely organized, in line, shiny, and in order, there is a whole world of imperfect to enjoy! For example, the kitchen doorway, through which we enter the house, was remodeled 8 years ago. It has lovely divided vertical windows on each side, and  pretty wood molding. Well, it was pretty wood molding. Then came Theodore. My Golden Retriever/Lab/Border Collie mix dog is, shall we say, excitable? Teddy has scratched the molding beyond recognition in his efforts to convey his excitement when we arrive home. He leaps and bounds and shrieks his enthusiasm until  he is happily ensconced in our arms. So, my molding is ruined. But when I look at it now, I have come to see it as a measure of the deep and abiding love that Teddy has for us. It needs to be repaired, but it will probably stay that way for a long time.

There are many such marks and scars in my home. Paint-chipped doorways that have had too much clumsy traffic through them. Screens that succumbed to erratic protests from my Siberian Husky Misha’s claws when squirrels and cats had the audacity to stroll near the fence line. Ceiling water spots that were created by teenage  shower events. Saved pieces of china and glass that need to be super-glued because I dropped them. All things that happen from the imperfect days and nights of a family living here.

The photo of the Organic Tomatoes above is very appealing to me today:it reminds me of warm Summer days on this cold February morning. It also shows the variety of tomatoes available, from blemished and flawed to ideal. They are all full of nutrients and vitamins and juicy, wholesome wonderfulness. Do we choose the quintessential tomato? Can we enjoy the flawed? Can we retrain ourselves to view them as equally nourishing and valuable?

Perhaps in this complicated time of human history, we need a daily experiment. Could we start to modify our own behavior when it comes to perfection? Could we try to see other people as flawed, but still valuable?

Start with your own family and friends. Love them despite their propensity to make mistakes. Things and feelings and relationships can be repaired. But the Love you share with them will probably stay that way for a long time.

Whisk

102_6251I am a wire whisk. My purpose in life is to help people whisk or whip certain foods together. I can help eggs get ready to be omelets, or mix ingredients together for pastry fillings. Basically, I am a kitchen tool for people who like to cook.

My beginning was like all other whisks; I was lying in a display at a fancy shop, waiting for the glorious day when I would belong to someone. I was in a store called SONOMA-WILLIAMS in San Francisco, which was the first store that really specialized in quality cooking items. The location of Sonoma-Williams  was  Union Square, so I got a lot of attention from curious tourists and locals who worked nearby and frequented the store on their lunch hour.

One of the office girls who would come in often at lunchtime was a blonde with long hair and glasses; she looked longingly at all of us in the displays, but never seemed to buy anything. I think she might have been sort of poor, but I know little about such matters.

Then one day a tall young woman with deep auburn hair and a fabulous face came to my display and grabbed me out of the jar. She brought me to the register where the clerk wrapped me in tissue paper and put me in a SW paper bag. I had been purchased! I was so excited, and wondered what was next. Would I be working at last in this lovely lady’s kitchen?

A few days passed, and I languished in the tissue, uncertain of my fate. Then, I was hurriedly stuffed into a large fabric purse, and taken away on a streetcar ride. I had no idea that this was the beginning of my exciting future that would take me on so many journeys.

We rode along for some time, until a girl came and sat next to us. The woman seemed excited and talked and laughed with this person, and shifted the purse around her knees. Then, with a burst of energy, she scooped me out of the purse, said something cheery  about a birthday, and handed me to the girl next to us. The girl unwrapped me, and to my deep surprise, I recognized the blonde girl with glasses who often came to SW to visit! She was my new owner, and she seemed delighted to see me.

I have lived with my owner now for 43 years. She has always taken good care of me, and I have helped her create hundreds of meals. We started out together in a small apartment in San Francisco. She really didn’t know a lot about what I could do, but she used me to mix eggs and these really awful sauces made with soups. There wasn’t much variety in her cooking, but, again, it might have had something to do with money.

As we moved around the country, from those humble beginnings in San Francisco to Boston, Maine, Florida, back to Maine, Alaska, Maine again, back to Florida, and finally to Maine one more time, I have seen and done a lot. My owner matured and read her cookbooks like novels, and  I helped her create interesting vegetarian sauces when she wanted to impress her boyfriends. I worked hard on the crepes when she was really in love with someone. I struggled to perfect the whipped cream for her magnificent pies, which always won over the guests. I have even been held briefly by her sweet little daughter when she wanted to help Mommy with the frosting.

My owner found her permanent home at last. We got unpacked 8 years ago, and haven’t seen a moving box since. Now we are settled into the best kitchen of all: we have gleaming countertops and state of the art dishwashers to keep me clean. I think my owner has succeeded in some ways; she finally has the kitchen she dreamed of all those years ago on her lunch hours in Union Square. Along the way someone lost my plastic end cap; she is not sure who did it, but I know that both of us forgive them. I have become her treasured tool; I have stood by her through two divorces, countless heartaches, and all her triumphs. I may show some wear, but I am always ready to give my best for her.

I have gotten to know my owner pretty well. You can tell a lot about a person when they handle you while they cook. She really likes me; I don’t know if it is because I came to her when she was so young and idealistic, or just because she is such a sentimental person. When she first brought me home, her  dreams were so vivid; all the plans she had were spread out before us like a magical path to The Future.

I can tell every once in a while when she looks at me or holds me, that she thinks of that day so long ago. That moment on the streetcar when I was released into her hands. It might be that she thinks about the boy she loved then, and how she hurried home with me to show him what her friend had given her. Love lost when you are so young apparently never really leaves your heart. But, I know little about such matters.

Valentine

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On Valentine’s Day we buy cards and sweets and flowers and give them to those we love. Every year we can enjoy the romance of it, or we can complain because of the lack of a sweetheart. This day points out, more than most, the need for humans to have a significant “other”, upon whom we can lavish affection. So who’s big idea was this, anyway?

Researching St. Valentine, we find that there are lots of rumors, fables, and myths that surround him. He may have been an Italian martyr who was beheaded by Claudius II. He might have been a compilation of several Saints with the same name. No one seems to be sure of the exact details of his story. Yet, here we are about 1800 years later, claiming him as the patron of love, seduction, and chocolate!

Whatever St. Valentine’s story may be, it gives us the opportunity to reflect upon those who willingly give their lives for a belief. Some people cling to their Religion strongly and will give up all else in defense of it; some people have political ideologies that they stand behind, and, in the end, will sacrifice everything to defend. Certainly anyone in the military has to take an oath to defend the principles of their Country.

There are all kinds of belief systems. Some may seem foolish to us, yet they hold validity for those who espouse them. We, as a species, have such a variety of reasons to get up in the morning. For some of us, it is our family. For others our work. Still others have the motivation to make the World a better place by helping. Almost all of us find a construct that makes life worth living.

For those who seem to derive their motivation from their own super-inflated ego and its demands, I hope today they will take a cue from St. Valentine: his name comes from a latin word that means “worthy”. Maybe they will miraculously see that to be worthy of adulation, one must actually do something for others. We can only hope.

I have read that for people to find meaning in their lives, they have to believe in something. I believe I will have a donut. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Richette

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Being a Woman “d’un certain age”, as the French would say, brings on reflection and more attention to one’s roots. I have been thinking a lot about my maternal Grandmother, Richette Cianchette Frederick, lately. As I remember her, I marvel at the accomplishments and seemingly endless energy of this wonderful immigrant lady.

Richette was born in Italy, and came to America as a child around 1910. Like most women of that era, she married very young and had a large family. Her six children included my Mother, who is pictured here on the right. On the left is my Mom’s twin brother, Uncle Bill, and holding her twins is the beautiful woman who is my Nana, Richette.

Life in the 1920’s on a small farm in Maine was hard. My grandfather worked on a construction crew, so he was gone all week. This meant that my Nana had to take care of six kids, a farmhouse, and the farm hands that were  needed to help with the animals and crops. So, there must have been daily baking of bread and cooking for all those people. There must have been washing and cleaning and mending and general child care. No dishwasher.No dryer. No freezer. No convenience foods. No air conditioning. Wood heat. The enormity of chores and food preparation is, to modern homemakers, unthinkable.Yet, she, and most of the women of her generation, had no choice but to get up each day and do what needed to be done. If I really think hard about what her days were like, I become tired myself!

In addition to raising all these children, keeping them clean and healthy, managing the farm and its workers, and taking care of a large farmhouse, she seemed to find time to create. She sewed, crocheted, tatted, and embroidered; all those needlework projects that exist from the early part of the Twentieth Century were made by Women like my Nana. She never sat down without something in her hands to work on. She would, in later years, be creating dresses and hats for her grandchildren’s dolls; or embroidering table cloths and crocheting potholders. I cannot remember her ever folding her hands or sitting in a completely relaxed manner. The word “chill” was not part of the vernacular of that era.

After her children were grown, she operated a hot dog stand on the Main Street of tiny Pittsfield, Maine. This small enterprise became well known, and there are still people today who tell me that their childhood memories include going to get a hot dog for a treat (if they had behaved well). I can recall standing by her side while she cooked onions on the grill and prepared the rolls,  mustard, and relish, as the hot dogs steamed. It was all very exciting, and I was at eye-level with the grill as those fabulous onions gave forth the intoxicating aroma that lured in her customers.

My Nana was a World Class Cook. I can remember long tables of clamoring grandkids stuffing themselves with her spaghetti and meatballs, fabulous bread, and Italian cookies.There really weren’t any recipes….she just created everything from scratch and remembered how to do it all.

Richette was beloved by her family, her friends, and just about anyone who knew her. She never gossiped, complained, or indulged in self-pity. She was kind, soft-spoken, full of love and light, and laughed easily. This lady who came from the beautiful Abruzzo region of Italy made a new life in her adopted land. Pettorano and Sulmona were far away, and she insisted that her children speak English, not Italian. (We always knew that the topic was not for our ears if my grandparents spoke Italian around us; that was the only time the grandkids heard it spoken.)

I wish that my Nana had lived a longer life. She died of Cancer at the age of 63, and I was just thirteen. I was lucky to have known her at all, but the memories leave me wanting to have known her even better. She had an indomitable spirit, and extraordinary energy. I remember her singing as she washed dishes; she had a sweet voice and a good musical ear.She loved flowers, decorating for Christmas, Nat “King” Cole, and President Kennedy. She was a creative whirlwind.

Lucky me: I have some of her genes.