Well, the hat was a big hit. And my niece looked adorable in it. And Steve never has to wear it again, so all is right in the world.
Well, the hat was a big hit. And my niece looked adorable in it. And Steve never has to wear it again, so all is right in the world.
. . .from a neglected pot of dirt. A few weeks ago, my very thoughtful dad sent us an Easter present — a pot with bulbs in it that if cared for properly, should bloom by Easter. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. So I watered it per the directions and put it in my favorite sunny spot where my other plants live. It’s a really deep window sill off of our kitchen that is mostly hidden from the kitchen by curtains.
So it’s somewhat understandable that a few weeks would go by before I realize as I am driving to work that I had COMPLETELY forgotten about my poor little plant. As I drove to work I felt horrible. This wonderful gift my dad had sent was probably dead and shriveled — if anything had managed to sprout at all.
I was almost afraid to look at it when I got home. I was full of guilt as I pulled the curtain back. . .then I audibly gasped at what I saw. There was the neglected pot, with beautiful flowers sprouting out of it! The moss that had covered the bulbs was stuck to the tips of the flowers and leaves like a crown. I could not believe my eyes. This thing was watered only once and it was fully grown and beautful.
I removed the moss, cleaned it up and gave it some water. It’s probably in rougher shape than it would be if I had cared for it properly, but it’s really pretty. I have been admiring it all night.
I have decided that this plant’s triumph despite difficult conditions is a sign — a sign of new and better things to come. That is what Easter is all about, after all.
I love my dad. I really do. Not just because he’s a great dad, but because he is also a genuinely kind person and he makes me laugh. When he was in town for a visit recently, Andy and I showed him some of our favorite places to hang out in Milwaukee. We had dinner at Water Buffalo then headed to The Wicked Hop for drinks. But it wasn’t the food or the drinks that made this evening enjoyable. It was the stories. But I am pretty sure that the drinks helped bring out the stories.
I have a huge regret in my life. I regret not talking to my mom more when I had the chance. I’m not referring to frequency, because I was always in touch with my parents, even when I lived 12 hours away from them. I mean talking. Real, meaningful conversations. My Mom was your classic Irishwoman–private, proud and stubborn. Which means that she kept many things to herself and rarely offered information without being asked. So to learn more about my mom I would have had to ask, and for whatever reason that was never comfortable for me. When she passed away in 2002, I lost any opportunity I had to ask her questions. And now I have so many–about my family, her opinions, her scholarly work, her thoughts.
I made a promise to myself that I would not have the same regret with my dad, so I ask him a lot of questions. Questions about our family, about his upbringing, about his scholarly work, about his thoughts and feelings on things. My dad contributed to a budding field of study when it was just gaining currency in academia, and now I read his work in my classes. I consider it a gift to share an interest with my father and to discuss my studies with him. But popular culture is not just my dad’s interest, it was my mom’s as well. I asked him about her work that night. Her dissertation was on All in the Family, a groundbreaking program in television history. What I wouldn’t give to talk to her about it now as I write my thesis. My research is also related to television. Sometimes when I am stressed out from school I wish I could call her because I know she would understand how I feel. After all, she had a 6 year-old kid and was pregnant with me when she completed her PhD.
I love to hear my dad tell stories about my family, especially my mom. That particular night his play by play account of his lunch in the city (Chicago) with my ninety something year-old great Aunt Tillie had me laughing until it hurt. My dad swears that not a thing in her house has changed since 1950. If you take her to lunch she will insist you come back to her place for dessert. If she has a pie to serve and four guests, you will get 1/4 of the pie. And yes, she still drives. In the city.
The stories got better as the night went on and the drinks added up. I think that part of growing up is learning to recognize your parents as people. There are probably many things you don’t know about your parents and they are unlikely to tell you those things unless you ask. In many ways having adult conversations with our parents is like getting to know an entirely different person. And it’s great.
So anyway here’s to Mike, my dad and an amazing person.
Meet our new niece, Morgen. She was born at 4:13 am on December 16. She’s 8 pounds 3 ounces and 19 and 1/2 inches. And she’s beautiful.
I have always loved Thanksgiving. I have fond memories of cozy days at home with family and friends and helping my mom cook the traditional meal. When my mom passed away in August 2002, our family’s Thanksgiving tradition was suddenly thrown out of balance. Our first Thanksgiving without her, my dad made the turkey and sweet potatoes and I made all of the other sides. It was bittersweet–it is always wonderful to have the family together, but her absence created a painful void in the holiday.
That following March I threw a St. Patrick’s Day party. This was another holiday that was especially difficult without my mom. She was 100% Irish and celebrated the holiday throughout the entire month of March. I would come home from school to Irish music blaring on the stereo. She had shirts and sweaters with shamrocks embroidered on them, Celtic scarfs and Irish jewelry that she would wear throughout the entire month. On St. Patrick’s Day, she would pack us a green lunch–sandwich, green apple and some sort of green dessert. When we got older, my parents started throwing St. Patrick’s Day parties. Corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, soda bread and whiskey cake would be among the offerings, and the alcohol flowed freely. One year my Dad “shook his shamrocks” for their guests–my mom had bought him a pair of shamrock boxers that year and he apparently felt the need to show them off.
My St. Patrick’s Day party was a bit simpler. I stuck to appetizers and alcohol and it was a great time. My sister, niece, brother, and Dad all came into town for it. After too many glasses of wine, and surrounded by family and friends, my Dad was inspired to invite everyone at the party (including my friends) to our house in Marquette, MI for Thanksgiving. The idea was met with a great deal of enthusiasm. Once he sobered up, my Dad had to grapple with the reality of trying to fit our entire extended family (plus others) into our Marquette house for Thanksgiving.
His intentions were good. Losing his wife inspired him to bring his family together for a holiday dedicated to thankfulness for what you do have. With his parents and his older brother all gone, my Dad was the patriarch of the family, and he felt a need to unify all of us in a special celebration. He just needed to figure out a way to make it work.
The solution was to have the celebration in DePere, WI instead. The Kress Inn, a hotel owned by St. Norbert College where my dad works, could set up a room block with super reasonable rates. The bar/restaurant next door, The Abbey, was closed for business during the day on Thanksgiving and the owners were willing to let my Dad rent it out for the day. They would let us bring in our own food and cook it ourselves as long as we cleaned up and left everything as we found it. One of their bartenders was willing to work for us. Everything was coming together.
Thanksgiving 2003 marked the first celebration that became known as Gobblefest. It has grown every year, peaking in 2007 with over 90 attendees. If I could describe Gobblefest in one word, it would be welcoming. It is not unusual for me to not know 30% of the people at my own Thanksgiving. This is because Gobblefest is open anyone who would like to attend. My cousin Jenna invited her in-laws one year. Now her husband’s entire family comes. Anyone who does not have a place to go on Thanksgiving is welcome at Gobblefest. This is what makes it wonderful.
The celebration begins with a reception in the President’s Suite of the Kress Inn on Wednesday Night. My Dad supplies the alcohol and people bring various snacks and appetizers to share. This is our time to greet each other as we arrive in town and catch up. On Thursday, my cousin Malissa and her husband Brad manage the kitchen. They get up early to start the turkeys. The turkey and sweet potatoes are always my dad’s contributions to the meal. This year we had 70 pounds of turkey to feed our 90+ guests.
For most of us, Thursday starts with a 10:00 mass at the campus church. Most of us are hung over from the night before, but we hardly mind. The mass’ intentions are for the members of our family who have passed away, a special way for me to remember my mom on a holiday that is filled with memories of her. The family is involved in the mass in various ways. This year my dad did a reading, his wife Mary, my Aunt Joan and Mary’s sister Cathleen presented the gifts.
Immediately following mass, we head to the Abbey for appetizers and drinks. Draft beer and wine is on my Dad–another one of his contributions as host of the event. Kyle, our loyal bartender each year, is ready for us when we arrive. Kyle makes a mean Bloody Mary–perfect for a Thanksgiving Day hangover. The great thing about having Thanksgiving in a bar/restaurant is the range of entertainment available. There’s a pool table, shuffleboard, video games, and of course plenty of TVs for watching the Packer game. We bring crafts for the kids and we even set up a Wii this year.
So how do you seat and feed 90+ people? It’s a team effort. Everyone brings a dish to pass. We have traditional dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes and we always have some non-traditional stuff too. My stepbrother’s wife, who is Chinese, prepares a Chinese dish for us every year. And I always look forward to my cousin’s homemade macaroni and cheese.
We set up several tables in a banquet room so everyone can eat together, and a bar in an adjoining room serves as a buffet. Dinner begins with a welcome from my Dad, then we go around the room and introduce ourselves. My Aunt Joan, my Dad’s older sister lead us in prayer this year, then table by table we helped ourselves to the delicious buffet. The room was filled with excited chatter and laughter while we ate.
Then there’s clean-up. Somehow my cousins get their kids to head up this effort. A group of us adults help to clear the tables, scraping dishes and piling them up for the kiddies to take them down to the kitchen to be washed. They do a great job. There must be some sort of bribe involved–I have never asked.
Then we go back to drinking until we decide we need a nap. Oh, sweet glorious Thanksgiving! Since our hotel is just steps away from The Abbey, there are no worries about drinking and driving. After our nap we can head back to the The Abbey for more drinking and camraderie, or we can hang out at the hotel with family. And I have to rave about The Kress Inn. It’s a dog friendly hotel, so Steve was able to join us for the festivities. Not having to stress about what to do with him during that time was a huge load off of our shoulders.
I am thankful for many things in my life. This year I am giving thanks for my warm, welcoming family.
I leave you with some excerpts from the homily from Thanksgiving mass. It has a great message about living with a sense of gratitude which I found inspiring.
“Someone has said that there are basically two kinds of people: those who have a sense of gratitude and those who have a sense of entitlement.
For those who live out of a sense of gratitude, nothing is taken for granted. Everything is a gift.
For those who live out of a sense of entitlement, everything is taken for granted. Nothing is truly appreciated since they feel they are entitled to everything they have and more.
The person with a sense of gratitude understands that they are not the center of the universe. When something good happens to them, it is a gift to be treasured and for which they are deeply grateful. The person with this understanding of life is grateful for their health, for their family, for their faith, for the people they meet each day. Life is a gift and they are thankful.
On the other hand, there are some people who look at life as if everything ought to go their way. They are entitled to be smart, attractive, successful, wealthy. They are entitled for all of the traffic lights to be green. They are entitled to the biggest paycheck because they are so wonderful. They are entitled to get their own way at work, at home, at school, in relationships.
We who were not entitled to anything were given the greatest gift of all–the gift of the Father’s love and grace. When we center our lives on that gift of love, we see life and everything in it as a gift from God. We celebrate this day of Thanksgiving.”