Tag Archives: Family

February Column Michiana House & Home: A gift from the heart

gift-wrap-station-4      My mother was not – by anyone’s definition – a pack rat. She did not see the sentimental value in “stuff” and did not hang on to anything that served no purpose. She harbored no collections that needed regular dusting and avoided any activity that required a large supply of some-assembly-required supplies.

She did, however, have an unusual horde of gently used gift-wrap, boxes, tissue paper, ribbons and bows that she kept in the doors and drawers of our basement cabinetry. It was the kind of wrapping paper she used throughout the year and not the huge box of Christmas paper that was stored in the attic and only brought down during the holiday season. This all-occasion cornucopia was the closet thing to a craft closet that we had and it was an irresistible treasure trove to a creative type such as myself.

It always seemed like such a treat to be sent to the basement in order to find the perfect wrapping paper for someone’s present. I took great care to rifle through the remnants in search of something that was an appropriate size for the gift it would cover along with coordinating accouterments. There were some guidelines associated with this prized task of course: I was not allowed to use any gift-wrap still in its cellophane package. I was to be extra careful with the scissors because my mother did not have time to take me to the hospital if I stabbed myself. (Yes, I swear she actually said this.) And naturally, I was not allowed to waste transparent tape.

Despite this exhaustive set of rules, I still managed to make a few mistakes. Chief among them was my inability to connect the right kind of gift-wrap with the recipient. I was fine when it came to my friends because I chose paper I recognized from my last birthday, but how was I to know that I could not wrap a gift for my grandma in paper that read “For the Ancient One?”

I also discovered it was wrong to encase an end-of-the-year teacher gift in gold wedding paper…especially if your teacher happens to be a Catholic nun. (In my defense, I thought the doves on the paper were supposed to be the Holy Spirit.) However, my finest moment came on Valentine’s Day when my brother and I presented our parents with an assortment of hand-painted rocks (yes, real out-of-someone’s-driveway-rocks) festooned in a bright pastel pink and blue print.

“Oh look,” my mother said, trying not to laugh. “Baby shower paper!”

“Is this your way of trying to tell me something?” My dad asked.

Although I didn’t get the apparent joke in what I’d done, it was my way of telling them how much I loved them. I chose the paper I liked the most because in my young estimation, it was the best of the bunch. Nothing was too good for my mom and dad and there was no better paper to cover a truly pointless, but well-intentioned gift from the heart.

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April Column for MHH- An “Eggceptional” Hunt

EasterEggHunt-main_Full             Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays and I never miss a    chance to break out the baskets, color eggs and watch The Ten    Commandments (now that I am old enough to stay up for all of it.) However, few holiday activities in childhood are as much fun (or as memorable) as an Easter Egg Hunt. Over the years, I had my fair share of backyard expeditions in search of brightly colored dairy products, but none can compare to the great egg hunt of 1982 that had my cousin and I “scrambling” over the same 12 eggs for more than an hour.

When I think back on it, we had to be the two most naïve pre-teens on the planet not to catch on to what was happening around us. We were at our grandmother’s house that Easter enjoying a traditional dinner of ham, spinach salad, green beans and my mother’s famous cheese potatoes when someone decided it would be fun to hide the hard boiled eggs for us to find.

Sure we were a little old for such an activity, but we didn’t care. We trooped out to the yard to scour every bush and blade of grass that might have an egg hidden within. With each discovery, we placed the egg in our baskets and ran off in search of the next prize. It never occurred to us that one of the big kids, my cousin’s college-aged brother to be exact, was removing the eggs from our baskets and re-hiding them when we weren’t looking.

We hunted more eggs than I have colored in my whole life! We found eggs on the fire hydrant at the edge of the property. We located them up in the trees. They were in the mailbox, on the bumpers of cars, in the rose bushes, on the windowsills and on the hose reel. No matter how many eggs we found, there was always one or two more we had passed over. We found eggs two feet from where we found the last one, but we never questioned why we didn’t see it before. We never stopped to count the eggs or wonder how so few became so many, we just kept searching while everyone snickered good-naturedly behind our backs. (I have the slides to prove it.)

I don’t know how long it took us to catch on to the joke, but it seemed like forever. It wasn’t something that was planned ahead of time, but one of those magical moments that was never to be repeated.

To this day, that event represents the meaning of Easter for me. We went out in search of something exciting and what we found kept on giving and giving. Those in on the game reveled in our innocence and delighted in the joy of our discovery. And even though I am sure he never planned on teaching a spiritual lesson with his practical joke, the one responsible for the quest showed us that the mission doesn’t end when something is uncovered, but leads to a new life of revelation waiting to be renewed over and over again.

Happy Easter, everyone!

 

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MHH Column: Restoring a labor of love

IMG_7971       It is hands down, the most ambitious home renovation I have ever embarked on. The property is a charming fixer upper that has been in my family for more than three decades, but in the past 16 years or so, has fallen into a state of disrepair due to abandonment and neglect.

There is no electricity and no running water. The windows are long gone, the roof deck is missing and the only hint of the structure’s former glory lies in the faded yellow paper still clinging to the walls in a variety of patterns like some kind of tribute to bad taste.

As I survey each room, I can’t help thinking about the family who called this place home once upon a time. They were a lovely, lively group who made many memories in the three-bedroom mansion and I have no doubt that there would have been many more had they not been unceremoniously evicted when the owner of the property did the unthinkable: She grew up.

IMG_7973    No question about it. Restoring the dollhouse my father built for me is a unique undertaking. As I strip the old wallpaper from the gutted structure and clean the furnishings I collected over several Christmases and birthdays, I am flooded with memories of this labor of love that my father spent two years of his life constructing.

This was no ordinary dollhouse. This was a massive structure that featured ¾” plywood, removable roof panels and individual shingles made from old slatted closet door material that my father seemed to have in limitless supply. It was a far cry from the cute, decorative (read: flimsy) models I was used to seeing in Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. My father was determined to make his strong enough to withstand the energy of an accident-prone nine-year-old. He succeeded and when I retrieved the house from the garage loft after my mother passed, I was thrilled to see that my father’s work, for the most part, had stood the test of time.

IMG_7976     There are certainly things that need to be done and challenges to be met over the course of the endeavor to freshen the house. I have no doubt that most of those challenges will shorten my life and cause more of my hair to turn gray, but I’m willing to take those on one room at a time. I’ve discovered that the windows and doors are not a standard size making replacement parts difficult to find. There is the formal dining room that is all-but-impossible to reach and I can’t help wondering how I will finish out that space without calling in the talents of a reputable, flea-sized paper hanging company, but I remain hopefully optimistic.

Because I know that in my quiet moments, when my mind is still, the answers will come. Perhaps out of my own ingenuity, or perhaps it is Dad offering me the solution to the situation in an effort to contribute something to this posthumous father/daughter project that will be enjoyed by generations of our family to come.

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