Memories are made of this – family get-togethers. Any misty-eyed moment doesn’t last for long. That’s just our family’s way.
Last weekend, we gathered at Buca di Beppo’s to celebrate my birthday. For me, the kitchen and dining area reminded me of a scene out of the movie, “The Big Night” (1996). My family gave me a memory book of my life in pictures with brief stories attached.
It made me feel like I’d received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. Before I could blurt out (Sally Field style), “You like me. You really like me,” the jokes began.
Danielle, my eldest, pulled out a copy of a newspaper clip from The Syracuse Post-Standard’s editorial page. In it, my story, “Surviving the Summer With Teens.”
I shudder as I recall the final straw that summer. Our daughter’s car, and the tree in front of our house, is swaddled in toilet paper, and the paper hangers leave cackling loudly and squealing their car’s tires from here to the state line in the dead of night.
That mental snapshot and others emerge. From the moment our children are born, we gasp in amazement and wince with every milestone they pass. Their hesitant first steps across the floor, riding a two-wheeler unassisted for the first time, leaving home and going off on their own.
Then, Danielle handed me a letter I’d written in 1991, just days after she moved to Florida to go to college. Their furniture was sitting somewhere in a moving van that apparently had taken a detour. She told me she’d converted the Faberware box that their electric fry pan came in into a makeshift kitchen table.
So, I did what any loving parent would do. I wrote offering to send her “my empty Faberware box. That way you can have matching tables. Kim (our neighbor) says she may send you some empty boxes, too. You can use one for the end table – one for the nightstand.”
I talked around the edges of things. I didn’t ask if she was homesick. I tried to keep it light. She toughed that out, as well as a number of other hurdles, and did us proud.
Just like our youngest, Jenn, did when she was on her own in Oklahoma in 1999 and an EF5 tornado slammed thru just miles from her apartment. She’d heard from others at college that when there’s a sound like a freight train, head for a closet. She did with her hamster, Thumper, until the danger passed. Dave and I were in Florida interviewing for a job when we saw TV coverage at our hotel of a monster tornado (winds in excess of 260 miles per hour) and a smaller funnel cloud. The tornado pummeled Moore, Oklahoma. It was several days before we could reach her and learn the reassuring news that she was safe.
It turns out that our daughters, however, were more worried about how we’d handle the empty-nest syndrome. In a photo with Dave and I posing next to an SUV I’d flipped in Alaska, Danielle noted that I’d “forced Dave into her mid-life crisis with crazy hair days. Eggplant and violet for Judy, and blue and pink for Dave! Maybe they would be better off with some supervision.” (NOTE: I did not “force” Dave to dye his hair. I URGED him to. Family joke dating back to the movie, “L.A. Story.”)
In the memory book, I saw myself as my children see me. They viewed my early start in life, as a preemie, as an indicator that I was a fighter – as one who considers setbacks as challenges to be overcome and forges ahead.
Fortunately, my Big Night turned out much better than it did for the brothers (restaurant owners) in the movie. They were struggling to make a go of it. Another restaurant owner offers to call a friend, a popular jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) prepares his specialty, a gourmand’s delight, for the big night. But things don’t go as planned.
Maybe, they turned a negative into a positive. That’s the outcome I hope for – for myself and others. Cheers! Here’s to a wonderful year ahead.
Do you have a favorite family memory? Please share.
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Video Clip – “The Big Night” (1996) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvDb_OVbju0
Main Photo: Dessert with the family at California Pizza Kitchen, Orlando
Photo: Buca di Beppo, Orlando – let the party begin! http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=buca+di+beppo+orlando+florida+mall&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=23E12796091F3014F6EF19A7CAF328F960C58BFA&selectedIndex=48
Photo: “The Big Night” with Stanley Tucci http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/stanley-tucci/images/34074283/title/big-night-photo