Category Archives: Love

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

My family, like most families, has a lot of inside jokes. Many of them have beginnings so obscured by time, it would take at least two of us to nail down its origin story. Most of them are throw away lines we laughed disproportionately at in the moment. Others weren’t that funny to begin with, but repetition and the occasional perfectly timed delivery through the decades have made them set pieces of our repertoire. Some have not only endured but thrived to become such a part of our lexicon that we forget there are only four of us who know what we’re talking about. Those are the jokes we make to the people who weren’t there – the phrases we toss out to strangers, not recognizing we are talking nonsense until the look of confusion, and possibly low-level fear, on our companion’s face registers in our brains. Then we can either try to explain the joke or apologize for slipping and making a joke whose target audience is exactly three other people.  

In my family, the joke that I make to non-family members the most is, unfortunately, of the “wasn’t actually funny to begin with” nature. Like many jokes of that ilk, it started with a dad. Before Mike was officially my stepdad, but when it was clear he dug my mom enough to stick around even with the two young kids she had, we started doing family outings. We had a good time. However, like all kids stuck in a car for more than five minutes, my brother and I would begin to demand ETAs for our destination. Mike decided that the appropriate answer to that question was “twenty minutes.” Actual time or distance was irrelevant. The answer was always twenty minutes. We would leave our house in New Jersey, be on the road for ten miles, ask how long the drive to the Poconos is, and would be immediately told, “Twenty minutes.” 

My brother and I were 10 and 11ish, certainly old enough to tell time. We were also precocious enough to have poured over road maps with our mom, trying to figure out the distance using the provided scale. There was absolutely no way it was twenty minutes. Exasperation and cries of, “Miiiiiiiike! For real how long?” would come from the back of the car. But Mike was unflappable. It was twenty minutes. There was a philosophical argument that the trip was a series of twenty-minute increments, and that it was always twenty minutes to the next set of twenty minutes until there would be only the last twenty minutes remaining. The counter argument was that Mike could out annoy a couple of kids cooped up in the back of a minivan. 

Through the decades, we have waited twenty minutes for anything you could possibly wait for. If one of us asks how long for a given thing, there is a strong possibility of the answer coming in unison. It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “When are they coming? And don’t say twenty minutes!” Our automatic response to anything involving time was, is, and always will be, “twenty minutes”. 

It was never a funny joke on its own. The humor was always in seeing how long you could stick to your guns before a vein started popping out of the forehead of whomever you were antagonizing. There are moments of rejoicing when the answer truly is “twenty minutes”. We giggle if we have to set the microwave timer for twenty minutes. No matter how sincerely you say something is going to be twenty minutes, it is met with heavy skepticism in my house. 

Tonight, over thirty years after Mike decided a third of an hour was the base unit of time for our family, I overheard my parents in the kitchen. Mom was making “Mikey Surprise” for dinner. It’s a dish involving Fritos best described as “Thank God Mike met my mom when he did because my dude had been single for way too long”. It’s also delicious. Deferring to the recipe’s creator, she asked Mike a perfectly innocent question: “How long does it cook for?”. 

“Twenty minutes,” was, once again, his answer. 

My mom replied the only way she could at this point, “For real twenty minutes?” 

I found myself smiling in the other room as I listened in. Mom walked into that one, and even if it were true, Mike has earned the distrust. An innocuous unit of time has become part of the private language of our family. It’s a nothing phrase that unites us, drives us crazy, and makes us laugh. 

There is an entire lifetime in twenty minutes.

Guest post by my daughter – Amanda B. Moretto

YIN AND YANG

When you look at your children (if you happen to have some), you see beginnings and wonder about their future. They are your sun.

 

When your children look at you (again, if you happen to have some), they see endings and wonder about your past. You are their moon.

 

Your children will make you crazy over and over again…

That’s their job.

It’s paybacks for all the crazy you put your own parents through.

 

You will make your children crazy over and over again…

That’s your job.

It’s your earned privilege for reaching old age without having killed them when they made you nuts.

 

Hopefully, whether we see beginnings or endings, we will all do it with love in our hearts…and not hurt each other along the way. Know that we all need the sun for its warmth, and the moon to light our way in the darkness.

 

♫ MISTY WATER-COLORED MEMORIES . . . OF THE WAY WE WERE ♫

He wanted to be scary…she wanted to be pretty.

She was six…he was five.

This was one of those Halloweens that seared itself into the recesses of my mind, just waiting to bring a smile upon request by my consciousness.

I make that request every year at this time.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I said, “to hell with it!” and cut a good white sheet to drape over my little boy’s frail frame? And wasn’t it that same yesterday when I taught my little girl the Roaring Twenties song, “Anything Goes?”

I can still hear him roar as he raised his stretched arms, because, to him, that would be much more frightening than simply shouting “boo!”

Placing the dark brown wig over her bright red tresses to hide her identity from her classmates was the only demand my little flapper made.

To ensure the whole Halloween experience would be absorbed into their own memory-banks — I reminded him to roar at each door . . . and her little girl voice belted out: “In olden days a bit of stocking was looked on as something shocking…now, heaven knows —anything goes!”

This Halloween season, I hope you share your own recollections with friends and family, and keep building on those “Misty, water-colored memories.”

I’d also love to read them in the comments section of this post, if you’re so inclined, Dear Readers!

 

 

 

ONCE MORE. . .WITH FEELING!

Old couple watching TV

“Would you like to go to NYC for New Year’s Eve?” he asked.

“Sure. Why not,” she said.

And so,  they held hands.

“What is your favorite color dead leaf?” he asked.

“Orange,” she said.

And so,  they dated.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Have another beer,” she said.

And so,  they laughed.

“He asked me to marry him, is that okay?” she asked.

“About time. It’s your life,” her children said.

And so,  she said yes.

“Does Bastille Day work for you?” he asked.

“Definitely,” she said.

And so,  they were married.

“Will you hand me the remote?” he asked.

“Here ya go,” she said.

And so,  they smiled and grew old together.

 

WHEN IRISH EYES STOP SMILING

 

Her heart stopped. And my heart broke.

“Is she gone?” I asked.

“Yes,” the doctor said with tears cascading over her pale cheeks to drip from her chin.

I threw myself over her soft body like I had seen women of the Middle East do in the midst of bombings, while mourning their dead children.

I wailed like them for our little girl, Katie Scarlett. Only ten years old.

I kissed her head and said, “Good-bye my little girl.” I thought I might not be able to stop sobbing. My adult daughter and my husband moved back to let me hold her close one last time.

I’ve seen death up close before. But, for some reason, this was different.

I asked the doctor, “What happens now?”

She said her body would be picked up and her ashes should be available for us to pick up by the end of the week.

I cannot reconcile myself to this loss. There are so many holes in my life now. Our beautiful Irish girl was gone from us. Our beloved Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, was not coming home.

 

Katie Scarlett at one year old

Katie Scarlett at ten years old.

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