For those who’ve been following my blog for a while you may remember me talking about being ill in the last six months or so. While I did recover from an acute illness that I had at the end of December, I was still experiencing severe fatigue when I went in for a routine check-up in early April. I told the doctor about my symptoms and she was concerned. She ordered an EKG, chest X-ray, and lab work. The results? I had mono. Seriously.
I’d already had mono at the end of my senior year when I was 17. Made me miss Grad Night, in fact. Now you may think that once you’ve had a disease, you’re immune to it. Not so fast. Apparently, as I have only recently learned, once you’ve had mono it’s in your system forever. And it can be “reactivated” by severe physical and/or emotional stress. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing the illness I had late last year (which was definitely physically and emotionally stressful) triggered the mono.
In any case, here I am a 50-year old mother of four fighting mono. It’s not funny.
I spent all day today in bed. I had a lousy week dealing with various hassles – I felt like the enemy was just pushing all my buttons. And as a result, I was thoroughly exhausted today. I mean, I could not move. So I decided I was just going to take the day off. Forget the paperwork, the e-mail, the laundry (though I did end up folding one load). My kids were on their own with meals, but the boys lucked-out because my daughter came over and fixed spaghetti.
I lay in bed all day listening to my favorite radio stations that I stream over the internet. I got up to eat dinner with the kids, but that was about it.
In any case, I had a lot of time to think today. I won’t share 99% of it because for the most part I was so angry at being sick that my thoughts had a decidedly angst-filled tone. However, about midnight I was still lying in bed just resting and I started, as I often do, writing a blog post in my head.
I don’t know if any of you reading this are “writers” by nature, but I am and always have been. And I do virtually all of my writing in my head. I’ve literally written entire books in my head. I can’t help it, it’s just something I do, often without even realizing it. Any post you read on this blog has probably been written at least a couple of times in my head before I ever get to the point of sitting down with my computer. Often they may have been written and rewritten a dozen times or more! If I could just figure out a way to connect my brain directly to the computer I would get so much more production!
Well, I decided to share with you the post I was writing in my head. It might make a good “guest post” somewhere, but frankly, I’d rather share it with my faithful readers! I hope you enjoy it and that maybe it causes you to take the time to document some of your own family memories.
So this is how the post I was writing in my head started…I was thinking about a newspaper column I read once that was incredibly stupid. I can’t say for sure that it was the “Miss Manners” column but I’m pretty sure it was, so we’ll just go with that and my apologies to Miss Manners if I’m wrong – which I’m 99.9% sure I’m not. As a little plaque my kids gave me says – and it’s got a picture of Lucy from Peanuts because apparently I’m as crabby as she is – anyway, the plaque says, “I never made a mistake in my life. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.”
In any case…I will grant you that in 50 years of living I’ve heard a lot of stupid things. More than I could ever count. And this example I’m about to relate would certainly not make the “top ten” list of stupid things I’ve ever heard, but it was still incredibly stupid.
In this column a woman was writing for advice. Her daughter had given her a lovely framed photograph of her family – i.e. the daughter, her husband and kids. This woman planned on hanging the picture in her bedroom because she didn’t think it was “appropriate” to hang family photographs in the living area. Her daughter was upset, because she had assumed her mother would hang the picture where people could see it.
Can you guess what “Miss Manners” said? I’ll bet you can’t.
Miss Manners agreed with the mother. I kid you not. According to her “expert” opinion, it is indeed inappropriate to hang family photographs in the living area!
To which I have to respond: then what is a “living area” for? My house is not a museum. It’s where we live.
I could not believe the stupidity of thinking that a HOME is supposed to be devoid of photographs of the people who live there, or are loved by those who live there. If you agree with this mother and Miss Manners, I can assure you – you don’t ever want to come to my house.
I’ll start with my living room…on the wall facing you as you walk in is a very large framed photo of my mother, her parents, and her ten siblings. It was taken, I believe, in 1945, which would have made my mom about seven years old. Whenever anyone comes over to our home for the first time they are always drawn to this photo. And I will ask them if they can guess which child is my mother. They always get it right because there is a strong family resemblance between my mother and my daughter.
If you will now look to your right, you’ll see a half-dozen or so family photos – half of which are of my grandmother and her two sisters from when they had an act on Vaudeville called “Doll Frolics.” They opened for quite a few famous entertainers. I actually have a file containing newspaper clippings of ads from the papers of the dozens of cities they performed in. These photos on my wall are approximately 90 years old. And I should hang them in my bedroom??? They are history, for goodness sakes! My family’s history.
Along with the photos of my grandmother and her sisters are a few pictures of my dad from his days as an entertainer. Like his parents, he grew up singing and dancing. (His parents were both Vaudeville entertainers, which is how they met). In one of the pictures, my dad is only about five years old and is dancing with a lovely little girl. One of the other pictures is possibly my favorite picture of my dad. He’s about 18, dressed in a tux, striking a dance pose from one of the many shows he was in. He is dashingly handsome and looks so happy. And I should put this photograph in my bedroom because…?
On the coffee table in the living room is another picture of my dad in a dance pose, and on the end table is a picture of his dad, my grandfather. I have only pictures to remember either of my grandfathers by, because they both died when my parents were young.
Next to the picture of my grandfather is a photo of my older brother (now deceased), me and my younger sister. Our ages in the picture are approximately 5, 3, and 2 years old. My sister-in-law pointed out once how much my youngest son looks like this picture of me. I had never before seen a resemblance between this son and myself, but in this picture you can definitely see my son’s eyes shining out through my own.
I have a couple dozen photo albums on the shelves in my living room as well as some framed photos. One is of my older brother when he was about 25. I also have photos of my niece who passed away five years ago at the age of 19. In addition to her pictures I have a beautiful photo of a little girl who was my friend’s daughter. She passed away at the age of 10 of cystic fibrosis. This photo is a precious reminder of that sweet little girl.
On another wall in my living room is a photo of my brother taken just a couple of months before he passed away at the age of 37. I have the photo framed with a memorial card from his funeral and a quote I found in an obituary section of the newspaper. The quote says:
Love is eternal and love is immortal and death is only a horizon. And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. – By Rossiter Worthington Raymond
I love this quote because it is a beautiful reminder that, for the Christian, this life is not the end, or even the best, that we have to look forward to. There is so much more, something so much lovelier waiting for us on the other side, where our loved ones also await us.
To continue my photo tour…in the entryway you will see a dozen pictures or so of everything from my wedding day to baby pictures of my kids to my oldest son’s college graduation. There’s also a picture of my husband and his six siblings when they were kids and there are pictures of my dad and his sister – those photos are easily 60 years old. In addition to those photos are a series of three pictures of my parents: one shows my dad is in his Air Force uniform, the second is of my parents on their wedding day and the third was taken shortly after my older brother was born.
Down the hall towards my kids’ bedrooms are 8×10 photos that cover my four children’s “school years.” There are only a couple missing…for instance, the year that we got hit by Hurricane Andrew I didn’t get my daughter’s third grade picture taken. Nevertheless, this wall documents my daughter’s and sons’ childhoods – you can see not only how they grew but precisely that time when they began to change from children to young adults. I plan to give these photos to them someday…they can show their own children the course of their growing up years!
Around the corner and down another hall are numerous collages of family members from various branches of the families…Christmas photos and family reunion photos and all kinds of miscellaneous photos that remind us of our loved ones. The den that serves as our computer room also has its share of family photos.
My kids all have family pictures in their rooms and yes, I do have a number of photos in my bedroom as well! (Which Miss Manners surely approves of.)
But down the hall from my bedroom I also have more family photographs – including a collage of photos that I made in memory of my cousin Paul who died at the age of 35. Paul and I were very close, as you might gather if you saw the photo in the middle of the collage. It was taken in the front yard of the house I grew up in, and it shows Paul and I when we were in high school…Paul’s arm is around me and we’re smiling at the camera. How I miss that smile!
The last room we’ll visit on our tour of my home is our family room/school room. You may be surprised to learn that this room has the least number of family photos of all the rooms in my house! The reason is that this room doubles as our schoolroom so one wall is taken up with a timeline of the world and another wall has a giant periodic table and there are historic photos and the pledge of allegiance and the Ten Commandments and a Despair.com poster or two (just for fun). But I do have a few pictures in this room. One of them is of my late brother, a University of Florida Gator fan (we still managed to get along even though my family are diehard Seminole fans!) In this photo he is wearing a Florida Gator hat and is holding a live baby alligator! He caught this little gator one year when he went camping with some friends in the Everglades. (No, he did not bring the gator home!) He was in his 20’s in this photo and it might be my favorite of him. He is so good-looking and it’s just too crazy that he’s wearing his Gator hat and holding an actual alligator. I love it.
On the shelf next to my brother’s photo I also have a picture of my late niece, taken about a year or so before she passed away. In it, she is pursing her lips and has a kind of, “What do you want?” look on her face. She was an absolute knock-out and this picture of her just captures her in a sweet, yet sassy way that I love.
The last picture I will point, out as I finish our tour, is of my dad and I’ve posted it below. For at least thirty years, my dad’s second job was as a referee/umpire at baseball, football, and basketball games. When my parents moved from our native Miami in 1989 my dad was 55, but he still got involved in refereeing in their new hometown. After his first surgery for cancer in 2002 he could no longer run up and down football fields as a ref, but he still managed to stay involved for a few more years, as a timekeeper at high school football games. I believe he truly loved his years refereeing even if it meant being out at night after working a full day as a letter carrier. In fact, a friend recently told me that in his memories of my dad he’s always wearing either his postal uniform or his referee uniform!
Several years ago my parents showed me the newspaper clipping in the photo below. I didn’t remember ever seeing it before, though I surely must have seen it when it first came out. The clipping is from “The Miami Herald” – from the front page of the sports section – and it’s probably about 30-35 years old. When it came out in the paper’s sports section, understandably, my parents’ friends and family all cut out the picture from their copies of the Herald and gave them to my parents, so they had several copies.
When my parents showed me the clippings a few years ago, I took a couple of them and had one framed for my parents, and the other framed for me, for my family room. By this time my father was already fighting the incurable cancer that we knew would take his life, and it was a special memory I wanted to preserve.
The caption, as you can see, is “Shout It Out.” This photo was taken about the time that Shout stain-fighter was first hitting the store shelves and their tag line, “if you can’t get a stain out, shout it out” was well-known, which is obviously the reason the editor, or whoever named the photo, chose that caption. But it is perfect, don’t you think?
To set the picture up for you a little bit…the game being played was between Hialeah High School and Norland High School. In the caption it says that my dad called the runner out (the Hialeah player) after the catcher tagged him out at home plate. What the photo doesn’t indicate is whether the player was stealing home, or whether the play was made after a hit. The reason I say it’s unclear is because you have another Hialeah player behind home plate, holding a bat, and pointing at home plate. Was he the batter who got out of the way of the runner stealing home plate? Or was he the player on-deck who is saying to his teammate, “Hey dude, you missed the bag.”
I love the picture not only because it’s of my dad in the referee uniform we saw him in so much, but also because of his emphatic expression. I also love the way the runner is turning around to look at my dad after the call. Is the runner thinking of arguing with the ump? If he knew my dad, he wouldn’t have tried it! My dad took his umpiring and refereeing duties very seriously, and you did not want to give him any grief when he was calling a game. He’d throw you out in a heartbeat!
In any case, I know that no one can quite love this photo the way I do, unless they also knew and loved my dad. But I still think it’s kind of fun to look at and I hope you get a kick out of it.
And if you ever do come to my house, you can see this photo and the dozens (hundreds?) of other photos spread around my house because I most certainly do not hang family pictures only in my bedroom!