Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pearls and Lemons is Back!

After a hiatus of almost two years, Pearls and Lemons is back. It's been a productive time away from the blog. We moved three times and ended up back where we started.Well, maybe that wasn't so productive. Two granddaughters were born. I went to New York, then London and back to New York again. I went to Lake Tahoe as often as possible. I represented buyers and sellers in some real estate transactions. I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with Marin Moms Demand Action For Safer Gun Laws. I saw the Boyle Tennis Court project finally finished. I went to Sectionals with a couple of my tennis teams. We wrote a suspense novel. Look for chapters of Mason Jarred in upcoming posts. As ever, please share anything that moves you. It great to be back, and once again, thanks ever so much for reading Pearls and Lemons.

Lila: The Next Generation

July 30, 2016

It's been a week since our grand surprise. A clutch of skin and bones and a thatch of golden hair, baby Lila roared into our universe at warp speed. Two months early, she left the comfort of Mom to forge her way outside of the womb. She was here whether we liked it or not. Why the hurry, little one? Lila, already a disruptor.

None of us were ready. Emotionally, psychologically it was so difficult to fathom that instead of a full term, bouncing baby girl we ended up with a three pound seven ounce premie. We had plans, but apparently Lila had other plans. There was no stopping her. It's been shock and awe. Frankly, a bit too much shock and too little awe, until today
Day One
A mother's love

Today Lila and I had a moment. We bonded as well as you can when one of you is in an isolette and the other is standing by your bed, poking scrupulously clean arms through portholes to catch a little skin. I felt her and I felt truly happy for the first time since she graced us with her presence. Her health is good and she's gaining weight. Today was the first time the joy surpassed the fear. She gripped my finger while she slept and I held her feet. It was the first visit we've had, just the two of us, with no interruptions and no medical interventions.

There was a transfer, from me to her. I so clearly felt my parents and grandparents and there was an acute connectedness between the generations. While Lila squeezed my finger she turned to me and cracked open one tiny eye. Then it fluttered closed and she smiled in her sleep. Another flutter of the eyelids, a squeak and a yawn. The kid looked like a baby for the first time instead of,  as Lucy put it, a minuscule Benjamin Button version of her father. Her lips are Lucy's, though. A perfect, tiny rosebud mouth.

It's been very hectic for both of us this week. She was ripped from her mother and I was thrust into being  a grandmother. Eric and I were out for a bike ride in Sonoma when I got the call from Lucy. I knew something was wrong, but I figured it was early labor and that the miracle of modern medicine could stop it. It was Eric's 65th birthday so we kept on the bike  ride until the next ominous text. At 31 weeks pregnant, Lucy's water had broken. The miracle of modern medicine could not stop it, but they did save mother and baby. Thank God.
Day Two
All three of my babies were moderately to severely overdue. I've never seen a baby this small. Scrawny chicken wings and legs with hanging skin. I must confess that when Lila and I first met I felt a tad woozy. I didn't want to alarm her father, Greg,  but the neonate scared me. Her eye was bruised, her head had a mask and she had an IV in one arm, an oxygen  contraption on her toe and she was so, so tiny. Scary tiny.

July 12, 2017

Now Lila is almost one year old. She's a happy, healthy baby. She crawls and babbles and eats an alarming amount of food as well as plenty of milk. She seems to have inherited her mother's fast metabolism as well as Lucy's sociable  nature,  self-determination and dislike of bedtime! Lila is more easy going than Mommy and seems to have gotten that from her Daddy, as well as the ability to play by herself longer than seven seconds.

Lila is a lean, strong baby just as you'd expect with lean, strong parents. A single snaggle tooth, bright blue eyes and straight blonde hair round out the look.  She charms with her gummy grin. We've travelled to London and New York. While Mommy worked  Lila and I spent some time hanging out in cafes. Lila loves to scan the room, find her subject and make eye contact.  She expects everyone to love her, and she's right. They do.

Lila and I are good buddies. I already loved her deeply, but when her other grandmother died suddenly on Lila's due date, before they'd even had a chance to meet, I felt a heavy responsibility. Grandmothers are so important and you can never have too many. Fortunately, Lila has several granddads, and they are extremely important, too.

Becoming a grandmother was nothing like I expected. The night Lila was born I left the hospital and went to eat in a restaurant in North Beach.  Eric stayed in Sonoma because we weren't sure how things would go with the premature delivery. It was strange to be alone after something so momentous had happened in my life.  If I had known then what I know now, and how beautifully Lila would develop and grow, I would have been ecstatic. I would have been so thrilled that my firstborn had made me a grandmother. Instead, the day Lila was born was one of the most traumatic days of my life.

It was strange for all of us, but Lucy seemed undaunted. I'll never forget the look of joy and love on her face the first time they wheeled her bed into the  NICU a couple hours after the birth so she could see the baby. She didn't see a scary, tiny creature. She saw her beautiful baby. They aren't kidding that a mother's love is blind!

It was over a month that Lila stayed in the NICU, and it wasn't easy, but we were so lucky. The kid was healthy, just tiny. One time I referred to her as our "special needs baby" and the nurses corrected me. They said she didn't have special needs, she was just small. Actually, I disagree, She did have special needs, including a feeding tube, at first, but those nurses were amazing. They had growing an infant outside the womb down to a science, It was hard to not hold her like you would a full term newborn, but the hardest part was being around the parents whose babies were really sick. That was truly heartbreaking.

We all did our best and Lucy was just amazing. Seeing what a wonderful mother she is with her baby made all the work I put into raising her worthwhile. I felt like I was paid back in an instant for decades of effort. Also, the vague longing that I had felt since my youngest (now 27 years old) was no longer a baby completely dissipated. I wouldn't want my kids to be little again because then I wouldn't have my grandchildren. You see, I'm very fortunate.
Three months after Lila was born, Lana gave birth to Sally. But this Is Lila's story. We'll save Sally for another day.

Four Generations

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Endless Summer

The real Endless Summer with my family in the '60's. 

You may think, “The Endless Summer” is the title of a movie about surfing. It is. It’s also an apt description of our summer. Our burning, blazing, summer with endless heat and endless sun. Our normal weather is typical, Coastal Northern California fare. Add cool, overcast days to 63 degrees with a chilly wind. Combine little to no sun and stir. You have just created the recipe for local conditions in May through August. In thirty-eight years I have seen little variation to this recipe.

The Summer of 2015 is an exception so extreme, that despite all my years of complaining about our cools summers, I have had enough. Summer in Mill Valley has been too long this year. I’m ready for fall. Not fake fall. We have the leaves changing colors and drifting gently off trees on Sycamore Avenue, but it's hard to enjoy when it's 85 degrees again. 

Like most seasons, summer started with hope and promise. I reveled in the warmth. Day after day, week after week we were blessed with pleasant temperatures and lemony bright, sunny skies. Sunny mornings, dinner outside and sleeveless dresses! What could possibly be better? I take it all back! Send the fog. The air quality is poor due to all the fires that have raged around the state, I'm surrounded on three sides by noisy construction projects and can't close the windows. I work from home and we do not have air conditioning. 
Thousands flee another heat wave at Stinson
My car is the only cool place and I can’t just ride around in the car and contribute to global warming! I read that for every mile you drive your car makes a pound of carbon dioxide. That is a statistic that has stuck with me. It now strikes me as irresponsible to sit in your car talking on the phone while the engine runs. 

Harbor Seal is treated at Marine Mammal Center
Climate change is real. The Pacific Ocean is warmer than the Atlantic now. Birds are dying in droves because the fish they feed on have had to go deeper for cooler temperatures. Marine Mammals are in distress for the same reasons. The center of the state is sinking by several inches a month because the ground water is being pumped out faster than it's being replenished. It's not being replenished at all because of the drought. This also affects the level of the oceans.

We've got scorched Earth, yet we are bracing for El NiƱo which will probably bring more rain than we can handle and not enough snow in the mountains which we desperately need. My clients are all scrambling to get new gutters and roofs before the rains. The promised precipitation is on the way, but it may be February until we see anything substantial. To paraphrase the song, when it rains in Northern California it pours. Man, it pours. 

California fire
Hot, cold, rainy dry, I'm going to try to not be a complainer. My daughter, Allie, makes it a policy to never complain about the weather. It's amazing. I aspire to be like her. She lived four years at UConn, several of which had prodigious snowfall, two years in Los Angeles, and now is in New York City. You will never hear anything from her about the weather.

The only time Allie was bothered by a weather related situation was when Hurricane Sandy knocked out her power for a week in 2012. She was miserable. It was horrible to have to go shower at a friends and charge her phone at the library. Too many inconveniences  while also trying to work and study. Heat  waves, ice storms, Allie won't even notice, but don't try to take away her electricity!

I will not complain, because my life is good and I did not lose my home to a fire like so many other Californians. However, I do miss my sweaters. I'd like to wear boots and jeans if they even still fit. It's been so long I wouldn't know. I'd like to drink a cup of coffee without breaking out in a sweat and perhaps build a fire on a chilly evening, but first we need a chilly evening.

October feels a bit cursed to me and this year the curse continues. I had a frightening trip to the emergency room in an ambulance due to an eyeball bleed with complicating factors. I'm better, but now my mom, on the eve of her 86th birthday, is in the hospital. Go away scary October. Bring in November. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Words of Walt Whitman

The words by Pope Francis today reminded me of this alluring quote.

"This is what you shall do: love the earth, and sun, and animals, despise riches, stand up for the stupid and crazy, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul." Walt Whitman

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bicycle Built For Mayhem

Back by popular demand - Guest Blogger Eric Crowe. Another Florida story.

The day the bear came home with us for dinner Mom was on the couch with her leg in a cast. She had broken it trying to teach me how to dismount my new bike. It was not simply a broken leg; it was a compound fracture of the ankle with three breaks in the leg.

See, our neighborhood was spread out and sparsely populated.  If I was going to visit even the nearest kid, it was all the way down to the end of Luzon Avenue and then up that sandy track to the O'Neils' house. If I wanted to visit somebody else, it was even farther (and more complicated). You couldn't just walk. It took too long to get anywhere, and if you went on foot to the O’Neil place without an O’Neil, you stood a pretty good chance of being shot, or eaten by their dogs. Uninvited visitors were not encouraged.

As I explained before, Luzon Avenue was where the last, outermost hint of suburbia abutted old country Florida. The only other kids on Luzon Avenue were the O'Neils. There was Mikey, who was my age, and his little sister Patty, and a shifting array of their cousins. But even the O Neils didn't really live on my street. They lived at the end of it, or really beyond the end of it. Their property started beyond the end of the road, but their house and barn and various other outbuildings were quite a ways up a sandy track. It started after the shell-rock ended. You couldn't even see their house from the end of the Luzon Avenue.  And it was in a different world. Although no one talked about it, the difference between those who lived on pavement, who lived on shell rock, and who lived on a dirt road signaled a definite cultural divide. But that divide didn't matter much to me, and even less to Mikey. What mattered was distance. 

So believe me when I say that I needed a bike.  What I wanted, and got, was not just a kid bike like I'd had before, or one like stupid Butchy Holmes still had, but a real bike, one with speeds.
I had pushed and pushed for a real bike, and was very glad to have gotten one. It was a thing of beauty, a bronze Raleigh three-speed that you shifted with your thumb, and pedals that allowed you to coast. It was worlds above and beyond the nasty Huffy that Butchy Holmes rode, with pedals that kept going round no matter what. But it was, ahem, kinda big. 

See, my father was a frugal man, at least when it came to bicycles. So he had purchased a 36" frame bike on the theory that if you were going to spend money on it, get just one bike. One that the kid could ride right up until he was in high school. In order to get on my bike, I had to lean it against a tree or a pole, and then climb onto it and push off. I had to push off because I could only reach the pedals when they were in the top half of a cycle. But then there was getting off.

The main dismount technique I had devised was to go as slowly as possible and then bail out. The semi-controlled crash was at best, frowned upon. While I tried to bail out where the bike and I would have a soft landing, this wasn't always possible. The results varied for both me and the bike, but they never looked good.

The subject of my dismount technique soon came up with my parents. Neither approved. My father thought it unlikely that the bicycle would last through high school if I kept crashing it, on even the softest of lawns. My mom just thought my dismount was ungainly and in poor form.

One Sunday after church and brunch (the wildest stuff seemed to happen on Sundays) Mom decided that she was going to show me how to properly dismount the bike. As an aside, I need to add that Mom worked selling advertising for the Palm Beach Post, and spent most of her time with people in old-money and tourist commerce Florida.  Those were her people.  We were Catholic, but not very strident about it. Going to church involved going to a diocese near the beach, far from our home and was almost always followed by brunch where they served Bloody Mary's. 

We had just gotten home from church and brunch. Mom still had on her hat with the little bit of veil that extended over the eyes and a suit with a below knee length, sheath type skirt and heels. None of this mattered.  It was time to show me a graceful dismount. She was tall enough to get on the bike with no real problem despite that sheath skirt. She began to pedal around on Luzon Avenue back and forth in front of the house where my father and I were standing in the yard. As she went by she would give little tips about bicycle etiquette and technique.

The sight of her pedaling around Luzon Avenue in her Sunday best was so arresting that it stopped Grady ONeil, who was heading home, dead in his tracks. As he sat there in his truck, just beyond the range of my mother's circuits, she swung into the yard to demonstrate the dismount. She was talking to us about how to balance on the top of the pedal and swing a leg over, and it appeared that she was demonstrating this very technique in super-slo-mo. Meanwhile, the bike was going slower and slower and slower. I was thinking to myself, "Okay Mom, I've got it.”  Then the bike went over with her still in the frozen yet graceful one-leg-in-the-air pose. The skirt had caught on the frame.

 After she crashed, we all rushed to her. It was not good. The bones were sticking out of her ankle and the leg was at an impossible angle.  My father rushed into the house to call an ambulance. 

Grady jumped out and left his truck in the road and was right there with Mom.  Before that day he had been just a kind of mean old cracker who lived up the road. From then on he and the rest of the O’Neils were friends. 

Grady was a rock in the crisis, calm and collected yet solicitous. He told me and Mom that it would be all right, we just had to hang in there until the ambulance arrived. While they were talking, Grady mentioned to Mom that while Lynne, his wife had recently made him take the pledge, i.e., foreswear any alcohol intake, there might still be some around.  It was kept on hand strictly for emergencies, he said, but this definitely qualified.  Mom agreed. With that Grady hurried to his truck and zipped up the road. He soon returned with a jar of clear liquid. He administered the treatment and by the time the ambulance arrived, Mom was, as they say, feeling no pain.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Day My Father Brought The Bear Home To Dinner

Tales From The Old South

By Guest Blogger Eric Crowe

This story first needs some background and explanation about its setting: south Florida, Palm Beach County in the 1950’s. In those days there were three very distinct versions of that place. They coexisted geographically on an east to west axis, with only a few areas of uneasy overlap. There was First Florida, or Florida One. It was the grand, old-money winter resort inhabited periodically by the likes of the Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Reynolds and spawn of other robber barons and society elite. It had chic shops, art galleries, live theatre and lots of royal palms that waved in the ocean breeze. You could get an extra dry martini, Lacoste polo shirt or a yachting cap there at, well, the drop of a hat. It had lots of private beach clubs, many golf courses and even some polo grounds. Its boundaries ran along the coast from Vero Beach south to Boca Raton. (There were lots of places south of Boca that were as moneyed as First Florida, but still did not inhabit its own special cultural niche.) First Florida started at the edge of the Atlantic ocean and stopped pretty much at the edge of the Inter-Coastal waterway. 

Then there was Second Florida. It was peopled mainly by less-moneyed snowbirds of a lower social and cultural class that those in First. They were people who came from places like Canada, New York and Ohio to stay for a couple of weeks or a month. Along with them were lots of pipe-suckinggiant-hat-glasses-and-orthopedic-shoe-wearing retirees. In Second, many of the restaurants featured early-bird seating and sunset specials. Second was also where most of us permanent residents who earned their living providing goods, services and entertainment to First Florida and Second Florida lived. You could readily get some sansabelt slacks, a shuffleboard cue or some fuller’s earth for your pool filter in Second. Except for a few odd pockets like Briny Breezes and Lantana that intruded into first territory, Second lay to the west of the Inter-Coastal, where it extended a few miles, or sometimes only a few hundred yards further west-ward. Second ended at about the point where no trace of the ocean breezes penetrated inland unless there was a hurricane. 

Then there was Florida Three, the old-original Florida. It ran west from about the point the trade winds no longer penetrated eastward into the wilds of lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Florida Three had few resorts, not many snowbirds or retirees and little to no patience or regard for Florida One or Two. Instead, what it had were ranchers, farmers, swampers and other people who lived mainly off the land in one way or another. You could get catfish and hushpuppies, shells for a 4-10 or Can’t Bust-em overalls with the front-flap in Three quick as you could spit some chaw. Its inhabitants were mainly black, brown or red of skin and/or neck. They didn’t need or use Coppertone and were proud of it. 

Three was filled with things that bit, scratched, punctured and poisoned. Things that made you jump when they went bump in the night. It had stuff like gators and garfish, rattlesnakes and water moccasins, snapping turtles and big land tortoises. It had lots of insects that bit, like mosquitos, chiggers, and fire ants. It had giant, leathery bugs that looked like they would bite or sting, even if they didn’t. It also had lots of plants that cut, poisoned and stuck you. Plants like sandspurs, saw-grass, palmettos, Spanish bayonets and many other thorny or itchy things. Most of the dogs that lived in Three had ticks, and it was not considered remarkable if they had lost an eye or a leg. A great deal of Three consisted of miles of palmettos interspersed with scrub pines and grassland, but there were also lots of canals and swamps covered in algae and hyacinth. It was pretty uniformly hot, humid and flat in Three. 

My earliest memories are of living where Florida Two ran into Florida Three. We lived on Luzon Avenue. It was way west of Lake Worth and even west of Military Trail, a geographic and cultural dividing line. If you wanted to be charitable you could say Luzon Avenue was a westernmost outpost of Two, but most of it was really in and part of Three. We lived there because this was where my father built our house. 

My dad worked in Florida Two as a dispatcher and foreman for the Rinker truck drivers. (More on that later.) Our house was pretty large for just the three of us because, as the dispatcher for a concrete block and transit mix company, he got a very good deal on these main construction materials (i.e., free). But since we also had to have some land to put that house on, that land was in Three. This was because land was cheap in Three. Moreover, you could build pretty much whatever kind of house you wanted to, and build it however you wanted to do it. No pesky building inspectors involved. This suited my father’s philosophy, as well as his house-building skills. It also explained the rather unique means by which the hot water heater connected to the bathrooms and the kitchen. 

So our house was on Luzon Avenue-nominally a far-flung outpost of Two, but really in Three. The first clue about this was that Luzon Avenue wasn't paved. It was a "shell rock" road of crushed white coquina and coral. Everyone could spot this as an old-Florida road material. If that wasn’t enough tip-off, conditions at the end of Luzon Avenue left no doubt. While the first house on the street was a tidy bungalow with green awnings, in which Emily and Vincent Pangalon lived (i.e., some of the people who put the Luzon onto Luzon Ave.), the shell rock ended at the gate to the O' Neil's place. It was just sand and dirt from that point onward. 

The O'Neil's were large and a lively bunch. Their family had been living in the area way before anyone else moved in. They turned out to be good neighbors and friends, especially in a pinch. But this was hard to predict from first impressions. None of the senior O' Neil’s, Grady or Lynne, or Grady’s brother Jelly, had any teeth of their own. Moreover, Grady actually still made moonshine and made it on the premises in a still. But I digress. 

The only reason any of this relates to the story of the bear who came to dinner is simply that you must be introduced to the fact that our house and roads we travelled to get to it were in Three. These roads were frequented by all sorts of travelers who were not often to be found in One or Two. This is why, as my father and I were heading back home one Sunday afternoon, from some sort of errand or other, he didn't seem to be all that surprised when we came upon the man standing on the shoulder of the road next to the canal, with his thumb out, hitchhiking with the bear. 

When he saw them, dad immediately began to slow down. We pulled to a stop just past where they were standing. Dad backed the Impala up and asked the guy if he needed a ride. He said they did. So dad and the guy talked for a while about whether the bear was a good passenger. The guy allowed as how he was. He said the bear was well mannered, used to car travel, and what's more, unusually presentable at the moment, since it had just had a bath in the canal. After a little more discussion it was decided that there was plenty of room for all of us in the car, as it was a convertible and we already had the top down, as long as all the humans rode in front. 

So I scooted into the middle, the guy got in next to me and the bear got in the back seat. I could tell that the guy must be telling the truth about the bear’s bath as soon as it got in the car, because it was still pretty damp and smelled like canal water. My father and the guy quickly became occupied talking about where he was coming from (a town somewhere south of us where a circus had just ended its season) and headed to (Winter Haven, a circus winter-quarters town to the north). But I was too preoccupied by the bear in the backseat to pay much attention to this conversation. 

I was kneeling on the front seat facing back toward the bear because somebody had to keep an eye on things. The Impala had a red leather bench backseat. When the bear sat on it, the whole seat squished down to no more than about three inches high. This seemed surprising, not just because of what it revealed about the weight of the creature sitting on it. It was also surprising because my father usually worried about preserving the condition of the leather so much that whenever I rode in the back seat I had to take off my shoes. 

At first the bear just sat there, enjoying the breeze of our passage that had chased away the gnats and bugs that were surrounding it. The bear had a muzzle on. The muzzle was attached to a chain and the guy was holding onto the chain. That seemed somewhat reassuring. At least for a while, until, as I watched it and the bear looked right back at me with its big, dark-brown eyes, it just reached up and unsnapped the muzzle. Surprise! 

It seemed like it took forever for my exclamations to penetrate the conversation going on in the front seat. When I eventually broke through with pointed comments about "hey, it took off the muzzle" the guy finally turned around and looked. He kind of jerked the chain around and said something like "cut that out." Then (I swear this is true) the bear just put the muzzle back on. No further fuss or discussion ensued. Nothing about the fact that the bear could take its muzzle off-or put it back on. 

At some point, while I was focused on seeing if it would remove the muzzle again, or maybe do something others thought was remarkable, my father invited the hitchhikers to our house for dinner. Although I might not have known that bears were such good hitchhikers or could take off and put on muzzles until just then, I knew that this spelled trouble. 
Arla and Eric Crowe

It was not just the surprise of suddenly appearing home with unannounced and unexpected dinner guests. My mom was pretty used to things like that happening. She was almost always happy to have company, but the problem was way more complex than that. It involved first, that mom was now sitting at home with a broken leg in a giant cast. (More on that later.) Second, it involved the fact that it would be Auntie Anne to whom we were bringing these guests home for Sunday dinner. 

Auntie Anne had raised my mother. Although she was not vocal about her disapproval of my father, it was still palpable. While my mother often enjoyed it when my father hatched some crazy plan, Auntie Anne did not. Auntie Anne not only did not much approve of my father, she was also not that happy to be stuck in Three. In winter she was usually in One, where she spent her time in a cabana on the beach enjoying those trade winds and going out to dinner someplace that had a view. Instead, she was now sweltering at our house, where the fan just made you hotter, while she tended to Mom whose leg cast, from toes to hip, severely limited her usually prodigious ability to dispense hospitality. 

So I smelled trouble brewing. When we pulled up in front, my father jumped out and began to yell: "Arla, Ar! You gotta see what I brought you." "What is it?" "A bear." "A what?" "It's a bear that was hitchhiking with its owner and we picked them up." "Well bring them in, you know I'm stuck here on the couch." (Mom later related that at that point she thought, given that my father was somewhat prone to exaggeration, that he must have been referring to a big dog, or to one of his hairier buddies, but not a real, actual bear.) So dad dutifully began to escort the guy and the bear toward the front door. 

Then the screen door opened with a bang. Auntie Anne stood in the doorway. Her arms were crossed and she was quietly composed, but the look of frosty resolution in her eyes made everything just stop. It was only many, many years later, when I saw the scene where Gandalf confronts the Balrog on the bridge, that I ever encountered anything quite like that moment again. "Bob Crowe, you are NOT bringing that bear into this house." She stood there, all five foot one and ninety pounds of her and she didn't even yell, except for the NOT. But we all knew that bear was not coming into the house. Even the bear knew. Bear, you shall not pass! 

After a while things calmed down. My mother was able to peek out the front window and see for herself that it was indeed a bear, whereupon she concurred that it was not invited into the house. The guy was invited to dinner. The bear stayed in the yard. I think we had chicken and the bear had some Gravy Train. Many stories were told, but the only other clear memory I have left of the evening from that point on, was about after dinner, when we went out to hang with the bear. 

It had been sitting out there for quite a while by then and had attracted a pretty good sized gathering, at least for our sparse neighborhood. Among the onlookers was my arch-rival, Butchie Holmes. So it felt pretty good when the guy had the bear do a few tricks for us, and really good when the guy asked if I wanted to ride the bear. He put me on the bear's shoulders and it kind of loped around the yard for a minute. Beat that, Butchie. A couple of other kids got rides, but not Butchie. 

Then the guy and the bear got back in the Impala and my father drove them somewhere to catch the next ride toward Winter Haven. 

Bob Crowe and Santa Claus

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wedding Bells

They say there is a “wedding season”. There certainly was in our family this year. With eight grandchildren born in twelve years, there are bound to be some milestone events that are close in time. We had a festive spring with two beautiful, happy brides and two handsome, strong grooms.

My adorable niece, Lily, married wonderful, dimpled Jimmy in April. It was only a question of “when” with these two who have been so in love since high school. When I congratulated the groom’s father he thanked me and announced gruffly, “We’ve been waiting eleven years for this.” I think that was his way of saying he was happy. I’d be happy, too, if my son was marrying Lily. Smart, lively and funny, Lily has had a sparkle in her eye from the beginning. And she has rock solid values, family values, thanks to my sister, Laura, and my brother-in-law, Les.

Lily and Jimmy had a co-ed shower and they had to answer questions about how well they knew one another. They did not miss predicting a single answer. The one I loved most was the question about what Lily would want Jimmy (who happens to be a firefighter) to go back into the house to save after all the essentials had been rescued. He said Lily’s Uggs. When Lily was brought in and asked what Jimmy said he would save, she was confident in her answer. “My Uggs”, Lily replied.

The wedding in a campground was so perfectly them. It was rustic and inclusive and traditional without being fussy. My nephew, Jeff, was a groomsmen, and sang a beautiful song. I cried when Les made his father of the bride speech. You could just feel how thankful and proud he was.

Lily & Les

Lily looked so beautiful and you couldn’t even tell she was covered in Poison Oak. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been told. Jeff got it too, and went to the ER the day after the wedding. It was a smashing success, but I think Laura was a little exhausted when it was all over. There is so much emotion in being the mother of the bride, as I was to find out myself three weeks later when Lucy got married.

The cousins on our side are a motley crew, and I mean that in a good way. Lucy is the oldest and Jeff, at 21, is the youngest. In business, in the military, in PR, they run the gamut. Multi-national, they cover the spectrum: Scandinavian, Italian, Chinese, English, Irish, Russian and Polish and more. They’re a diverse group of young adults. Related, yet so different.

Jimmy (left) joins the wild and crazy cousins. 
Showers and bachelorette weekends and weddings had Allie flying coast to coast almost every month all spring. We almost didn’t have her come back for Lily’s wedding, but we couldn’t stand the idea of her being the only cousin not in attendance. It wouldn’t have seemed right without her. Anyway, we made her fly all the way from New York to be our designated driver. That’s fair, right?

Lucy didn’t really want a wedding shower, but three of her friends and I insisted. She agreed only if it would be low-key and we’d just invite the local ladies so it wouldn’t put pressure on the out of towners. Agreed. It was amazing how much that celebration, that day, made it all real for Lucy and for me. I think that’s the purpose of the tradition.

Sisters from different misters. 
As a successful woman of 33, Lucy didn’t need to be showered with gifts to start off her new life with Greg. She already has a life with Greg and a fair number of pots and pans. It wasn’t about the gifts, although they were beautiful. It was something so much more intangible, yet real. Truly, she was showered with love and good wishes for the life ahead of her. And I got a kick-ass paint color from Sarah’s dining room, thank you very much.  

Lucy & Sarah - friends from birth. 
Planning a wedding is much like planning other events, except that it’s laden with emotion and meaning and can never be replicated. We have friends who had some things go wrong at their wedding and it’s still a source of frustration for them. “Once in a lifetime” event planning can be a little scary.

Ready for dinner. 
With Grandpa David
Like any smart groom, Greg was willing to let Lucy make most of the decisions and she did a beautiful job. She and her helper, Bethie, thought of everything. Lucy has incredible taste and the location was spectacular so the wedding was like something out of a magazine. All the months of thinking, organizing, planning and yes, stressing, really paid off.

My lovely daughter.
When you have a million friends and a large family it’s a challenge to have a small ceremony. I think the final number was around 85 guests and it was perfect. I still love looking at the photos and reliving the moment. The weather cooperated and every detail merged flawlessly into such a lovely time.

Lucy surrounded by my family. 
 Lucy’s upbringing was a bit unusual, which I addressed in my mother of the bride speech at the welcome dinner. Raising her was a group effort and I could not have done it without all kinds of help. Although our marriage didn’t stay together, the family is still strong. We all rally for an occasion, when it’s for one of the girls. I love that.

This occasion, this wedding, truly was a celebration of Lucy and Greg and their families and friends who love them. It feels really quiet in the family now with no big events on the horizon. Almost too quiet. But things will change. They always do. As they say, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage…