Tag Archives: Family

Picnics with the ‘Rents

When I was a little girl (a tomboy, really), my family would take car trips to nearby attractions such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Sag Harbor, Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach, and Fire Island.

Because we were relatively poor (probably lower middle class, really, with bouts of truly poor thrown in), we usually packed our own lunch into a cooler to take in the car with us. This lunch often consisted of cold sandwiches, fruit, maybe some chips or something sweet, and on really excellent occasions, cold fried chicken, potato or macaroni salad, and wat
ermelon!

But no matter what was on the menu, there was always at least one Thermos® on the trip with us. One was stainless steel and held about two gallons of liquid. The other was red plaid and perhaps a liter or two.  The larger Thermos®14867.1L.png
was filled with fruit punch or lemonade, and the smaller Thermos® held coffee for my parents, who drank coffee the way we drink water these days. They had coffee at every meal, and usually hot, no matter what the weather (though Mom was partial to iced coffee in the dead of summer).

The fruit punch or lemonade was a big deal. No, really, a BIG DEAL. My mother was way ahead of her time when it came to nutrition, vitamins and minerals. My sister and I were never, ever allowed to drink sodas, eat candy, or indulge in sweets (not even on Halloween, when we were allowed to collect money for UNICEF but nary a Tootsie Roll). We took a multivitamin every day for at least the first 17-18 years of our lives along with other supplements deemed necessary. Needless to say, we never had cavities.

But back to the beverages of these long ago picnics… I loved putting my paper cup under the spigot of the big silver Thermos® and watching the magical thirst-quenching punch fill up my cup! Having something with a meal other than 100% USDA Grade A Milk was a treat!

Sometimes, I really miss those family trips, not just for the fun picnics and the interesting destinations, but for the family camaraderie. These trips could be tedious, depending on
the length of the ride, the temperature, and the proximity of my sister to me in the back seat of the car (“her elbow is touching me!”), but overall, for a dysfunctional family, we more or less got along on these trips and there was less tension and friction than usual.

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More than the fried chicken or lemonade,that family dynamic makes me nostalgic for one more family trip. According to eBay, I can buy a vintage Thermos® for about $20.00 USD.

Maybe it’s time for my own road trip!

This post was inspired by fellow blogger, The Inspector Clouseau of Blogging.

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Sisters

I realize Christmas was nearly a month ago, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to blog! At the outset, this post might not seem like it’s about Christmas, but hang in there… it is.

Although I’m not quite sure how I feel about the day-to-day duties of my new job yet, I do like it, generally speaking. I especially like the commute, the benefits, my boss, my co-workers, the pay, but I most especially love the holiday schedule. Because I work for an academic healthcare facility, my department operates on an academic holiday schedule. Do you know what that means? It means we get a bunch of holidays! Including nearly two weeks at Christmas!

That lengthy holiday enabled me to go home for an entire week at Christmas, something I haven’t been able to do for years. Being home with my sister and brother-in-law (the only family I have left) was wonderful and Donna and I got to spend some real quality time together, just hanging out. She cooked quite a bit while I was there, and I would either help by chopping things up, or just sit at the kitchen table and look pretty while she did all the work. Either way, we got a lot of talking accomplished – about life, our parents, relationships, work, everything.

My sister is a pretty wonderful woman with lots of qualities that anyone would wish for in a friend or a sister. I feel pretty lucky to have her in my life and I learn from her all the time, especially about patience and understanding and compassion. Qualities, I’m sorry to say, I am sometimes short on.

So, even though I’m not sure about this job yet, I am sure that the holiday schedule is pretty great… because it gave me quality time with my sis.

Donna and Me, 1981
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Donna and Me, 2013Image

Mind Games

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on us, isn’t it? For example, yesterday, I was thinking about Thanksgiving when I was a kid. Most years, it was Mom, Dad, my sister, my maternal grandmother (who lived with us most of my life), and me. Some years, assorted friends, boyfriends, husbands, and/or acquaintances would join us at the table to give thanks, but most years, it was just the five of us. And given how dysfunctional our family was, there’s not really much to be nostalgic about… except there is.

I fondly remember the warmth the house took on both from the food cooking in the kitchen to the better moods my family would don for the day. I remember setting the table (my favorite chore) – picking out just the right table cloth, napkins, china, and silver – and then folding the napkins into some sort of fantastic concoction that everyone would ooh and ahh over. I would even go so far as to make fancy place cards some years. But mostly, I remember feeling happy and satisfied around the table in a way I rarely felt in that house.

Dinner at the Bain house was normally a time for fighting and rushing; it’s no wonder I have food issues today. But Thanksgiving was different, for the most part. We were relaxed and I don’t remember any fights (though maybe there were a few over the years). And after the remains of the turkey and stuffing had been put away in the refrigerator to be brought out later for sandwiches, we almost always played games – Careers, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Life, Boggle, Balderdash, Outburst, and my sister’s personal favorite, Pit. My family was at their best when they were playing games. We teased each other and bonded. We laughed and enjoyed each other, and everyone forgot about their own personal angers and resentments and issues, if only for a couple of hours.

Since I’ve been divorced from Thing 2, I’ve been adrift from traditions of any sort. Each year, the holidays have been something different – sometimes spent with friends, sometimes spent with family, sometimes spent alone. Now that both of my parents are gone, my family consists of my sister, my brother-in-law, and me, and since we live 1,500 miles apart, it’s still an adrift situation, but it feels even more so since my mother died 9 months ago, which is kind of odd, since we really haven’t had that constant family thread since my father died in 2002. But now that there are no parents, it seems more pronounced.

The past few years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving with my good friends, Juanita and Erich, along with their family and friends and they have truly welcomed me in as family, too. This year, I was invited to both J&E’s and to the home of some new friends, who happened to ask me first. Being at Brian and Deborah’s with their teenage daughters and a friend, was a close approximation to being part of a family – eating together, laughing, teasing each other, hearing each other’s stories… and playing board games. It made me a bit nostalgic.

Last night, as we played Cranium, Pictionary, and Rumikub, I couldn’t help but think of my parents and how much fun they would have been having, had they been there. My mother, especially, could be so silly and funny when she wasn’t caught up in her own anger and drama – I like to think I was seeing more of her true and better self when she was at play.

Maybe that’s what I seek each Thanksgiving and Christmas – that sense of play in each of us. Maybe being playful does release our true and best selves, the person we first were when we were children, before we learned to be cynical or jaded or too serious. There are mind games we play with each other and there are mind games we play only with ourselves. And then there are games, the good kind… the ones that make us laugh, and tease, and clap, and hoot, and high five each other… played with a board, or cards, or dice, or molding clay, or spinners, or little ships with posts sticking out of the bottom of them.

I vote for more of those kinds of games and less of the mind games!