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Success

I didn’t miss my kids’ childhoods. I don’t regret my choice to raise them myself and be available to them. But it’s got me pondering the definition of success. I did turn down a career offer when my son was three. Entry level position with this agency with opportunity for growth. My kid’s growth was just more interesting to me at the time.

I worked through my pregnancy with him and Jason (his dad) collected unemployment. When the unemployment ran out, J got a job driving the shuttle van for the hospital which he complained about constantly. That and a bit more got him fired. And I don’t think he could continue collecting unemployment.  I was offered a full-time job washing dishes at the time (only female of about 100 or so male applicants — unemployment was high during that part of the Reagan era), but I was nursing my baby and I really did not want to be away from him.

Since we had a child, we qualified for welfare so that was the route we took. Jason would grumble and carry on regularly because of the job contacts and whatever else he used to have to do to stay in the program. I considered another job when A. was a year old — retail — but still I just could not leave my boy. By the time he was two though, with Jason not really looking for work and me feeling we can’t live this way forever, I took a job in a dry cleaners pressing shirts. (I pressed some of the most famous shirts in the city of Burlington I might add). But every morning  at 6:55am when I walked around the corner to work, I used to hate leaving my little boy standing on a stool at the front door, looking out the window at me as we waved bye-bye until we could no longer see each other. There were pluses to the job — walking to work, finishing at 2pm every day, having my lunch break at home, weekends off, a decent wage, boss and co-workers. I stayed for 5 months before I accepted a position with the Girl Scout Council. That felt like more than a job. 8 to 4, Monday through Friday and no going home for lunch. It was a grind. I took the bus to work because we only had one car, Jason wouldn’t let me drive it, and he wanted to sleep in. So I would leave in the morning, with my boy crying in the window when I left, because this was a different kind of work that took me further away, and for longer. He and his dad would pick me up at 4pm though and it was always a joy to look out the picture window from my office and see them waiting in the Dart for me. Sometimes, they’d come in. Anthony impressed everyone, he was so sweet and so “articulate” for such a wee guy.  J. would tell me what they did that day, who they hung out with, sometimes they went fishing or just hanging.

I’d try to tell myself how progressive we were with the role reversal. Househusband (who left the housework for the wife). Stay-at-home dad who took his boy fishing sometimes and bought him “jolly” doughnuts from the Freihoffer’s outlet. (Anthony loved jelly doughnuts and he also loved Cheez-lits, as he used to call them).

J.  loved smoking weed, and don’t ask me why, I didn’t get an “allowance” for working, but J. did for “babysitting.” We always called it “the allowance” and it was a huge bone of contention with us. I tried to feel “modern” but career woman just wasn’t my thing. Neither was the allowance.

Some mornings I would feel so trapped going off to this daily grind, missing my son terribly, heart breaking every morning as he cried in the window. Sometimes, when it was just Joyce and me in the office before anyone else arrived I would cry. She was so good. She was 63 at the time and we both started working around the same time. She was going through a divorce so was back to work. She’d had two children, but her daughter died in a single car crash at the age of 19. As Joyce put it (and I’ve always loved this expression relating to loss), she “healed well.” She loved her pb & j sandwiches. Every day for lunch. And nature and Twin Hills, the girl scout camp she took the boys and me to once. She soothed my sorrow after I returned from a trip burying my best friend, she soothed my sadness over my marriage and leaving my son every day.

After about a year and a half of this, I’d finally told Jason I was sick of it, I wanted him to get a job, I wanted to be home with our son. I’d been after him to get into UVM, and sure enough he did; he got a printing job that he enjoyed — good pay, benefits and hours. And I could finally stay home with the boy. But I’d also been applying for jobs in case J. didn’t get one — jobs with more opportunity. So when J. accepted his UVM job, I’d also been offered the job with what was then called Resolution. It was basically an upstart PR agency and I knew what I was turning down when I turned it down. Because I was already successful. I got to stay home and grow with my child.

Evelyn Speranza


 I love the last name — it’s Italian — Old North End Boston Italian  — and it reminds me of the Spanish word for hope. I like to think this photo is from her days in Bohemian Provincetown where she waitressed after graduating high school and before she went to Art School.  I miss her. I want her to know she is not forgotten. I think sometimes we want to be remembered beyond our family and friends. Remembered by the big wide world. But maybe family and friends are enough.

Books, Movies and the Characters

A favorite movie was Harold and Maude (seen it about three times), above info courtesy of Black Dog Finds. I’m on a quest. haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I do know I’m on a quest.

Story


We sometimes search for an entire lifetime, and perhaps never find our true love. Not necessarily a person either. In my case I was lucky, I found my love in not just one lifetime, but in two. When I met her in this lifetime, we already knew each other so well, we just picked up where we’d left off previously, and many times we didn’t need words to communicate. We could read each others’ thoughts when we were together (and sometimes when we were apart).

She died when we were in our late twenties, and that was the first time I knew the raw physical ache of emotional, psychic loss — and I howled, keened, beat myself as the deeply grief-stricken do. I pulled through to the other side, as she was pulling through to the other side. We still communicate wordlessly to this day as we once did a long time ago.

Joe

Today’s my Joe’s 16th birthday. I’ve already taken him for the birthday walk and plan to get him a lovely beef rib at the butcher’s later today. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks.

When my wasband (rhymes with husband, it’s my hairdresser’s term) moved out, A. was 10 and M. was 4. It was time for a dog. Basically, I swapped one Capricorn for another.

A. wanted a golden retriever, M. wanted a poodle. Believe it or not, Joe was a compromise. When I drove up to Milt’n (I won’t share any Milt’n jokes here, but real Vermonters know them well) to fetch Joe, it was early March and there was still plenty of snow on the ground. I drove way out over winding roads through East B*mF*ck, feeling like I was going deep into some hole I might never return from. I did — with Joe. It was a toss between him and his sister — a black and white version of him.

I do wish I’d gotten her, too, and had I realized female dogs can be easier than male dogs, I might have brought her home instead of Joe. (I also learned that an only dog can be a lonely dog). But no, I brought the Joemeister home.

A beagle mix with some tawny golden spots (if I stretched my imagination) and he was half poodle — if you can believe it. Apparently, around the time he and his sibs were conceived, his beagle mom had been spied cavorting with a poodle. I believe in the poodle dad for all the times I’ve caught him jumping up at the counter to pull various treats down (birthday cakes for one), or on the dinner table getting into the butter. When I took him to the vet the first time, I was told “he isn’t a highly trainable dog, but he’s got a lot of love to give.” Got that right. He does. We could learn so much from dogs.

Even people who aren’t dog people end up loving Joe, he’s such a personality. When my cousin, an avowed cat lover, visits, she gushes “Jo-oooo-e, isn’t he cute?” (the first time she said that was shortly after the table incident with the butter — and that was when he was about 14). The dog ate my homework excuse? Teachers, please, that could very well be true.

Needless to say, as he ages, I have had some scares (I really thought he was on his way out this past fall), but lately he’s been as gung-ho crazy as ever. There’s a blog I occasionally visit, and the first time I did, Michelle was worried about her 15 year old pooch, Duncan — it was around the same time I had my Joe scares.

I don’t know how I ended up on her blog yesterday, but I was sad to see Duncan was gone. I don’t believe there really is any one word big enough for the big feelings of deep love and deep loss. So I’m not even going to try — but sweet, crazy Joe — here’s to you, pal! may we have another good year.

Time


For some reason, every year I look forward to Halloween (maybe it’s the magic of the season), want to dress up (this year I actually got as far as a costume), reminisce about returning to the Ted Williams Haunted House in Lakeville, and end up feeling disappointed at another Halloween gone by that I haven’t seized a new memory for; one I want to save for the archives. And I end up thinking the same thing — next year. I do this with a lot of things and the hard thing about it for me is that the years keep going by, I don’t get the moments back, and I have this thing about wanting to live full throttle, with no regrets, yet I allow things (people, opinions) to hold me back. After reading a Shutter Sisters post this morning, I was reminded of how often I have been able to say yes — to others; it’s time to say yes to me.

Today is All Soul’s Day, or Dia de Los Muertos, so I haven’t entirely missed the boat for this year’s Samhain celebrations, but I do have to create my own. Here in the northeast, we don’t have big celebrations today — as a Catholic, it is a Holy Day of Obligation I have long neglected. But today I will celebrate it in my own way. Lighting candles for my loved ones on the other side, taking a dance class tonight, and exploring ancient cemeteries here on the cape with a friend.

** I think my son’s makeup in the above photo is pretty cool for a Day of the Dead look, but I don’t think I’ll go quite that far today.

Grown Up


He’s actually a grown man now, one I am proud of. I know this, I recognize this — the time flies and it’s hard to believe that he is no longer my sweet rockin’ boy. Is this how my parents feel about me — that I am still their girl even though I am a grown woman of 51?

I am still so smitten with my kids, their charm, their humor, their humanity, the privilege of watching them grow into adults I enjoy being around. I am letting go — slowly, finding my way back to a life beyond motherhood, but man I cherish those memories like nobody’s business.

Evelyn Speranza Pizzo Bash

Today would be my beloved mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. I think of her just about everyday, how I loved her, and how I wish I had thought to have her move in with us instead of us leaving Vermont. It would have been hard living together though — we were both headstrong, independent, sometimes too proud women.

I hope she knew how much I loved her. I could be a real jerk in the early years of my marriage to her son, but even when Jason and I divorced, Evelyn continued to be a big part of mine and my children’s lives.

Alzheimer’s finally got her, as it did her father. It was a long goodbye, with the final send-off this past April. She used to say put her on an iceberg and let her go. Christine held ice cubes in Evelyn’s hand on a visit and said to her mother, “It’s okay, Mom. You can go. This is your iceberg.” On some level I think this reached her and she was finally able to let go. She was a beautiful woman, the best mother-in-law a girl could ever ask for and a fabulous grandmother. She adored her grandchildren and would do anything for her kids. Evelyn was there for me many times when my own mother wasn’t. She was a mother to me too, prickly as I could be. Thank you Evelyn. I will always remember you with a heart full of love and the lessons I learned from you.