Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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So hard to believe it is already November. Time is flying.

I am sharing an old posting of mine. Wrote it back in January of 2014.

I had to print things out for Dad because he wasn’t on the “machine.” So he read this posting. I remember when he did. We were sitting on his back porch. Dad laughed and he teared up. When he was finished reading it he told me that I was a very good writer and that I truly captured it.

Dad died in March of 2015. When it was time for me to clear out his things I found the folded up copy of the blog posting in his top drawer.

The odd thing is I recently posted about an old place in East Providence where I grew up. It was called Tiano’s Five Acres. The name changed many, many years ago. But this was where Dad and his friend John last saw each other. My father never went back to that place. Didn’t have it in him.

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is November 1st. Not sure why I am writing about it today but sometimes I’m prompted and I just need to get things down on paper. And out of my head.

So All Saints’ Day it is.

I fondly remember my young years at a Catholic school where we could dress up on this day. As a saint. Little boys with ropy belts tied around their baggy robes and little girls with scarves on their heads.

Most of us remember the date. You had Halloween and then All Saints’ Day. Two dress up days in a row.

But it’s not the only reason I remember November 1st.

My father had a friend named John McG.

They worked together but were unlikely a pair as you would ever see. Dad grew up in Ireland. John grew up in a hardscrabble section of Providence. At the time, my dad was the father of teenagers. John had three little boys. My dad was twenty-two years older than John. He could have been his father. But he wasn’t. Dad had known John’s own father. Probably before he even knew John. We were closer in age to John than my Dad was to him.

My dad was sort of a no-nonsense kind of guy at the time. Maybe a bit of stoicism in there. John was all emotion. Loud, irreverent, funny and lovable. When John was around my Dad changed. He was lighter and laughed a lot.

Because when John was around everyone changed. Felt lighter. And laughed a lot. He was devilish and quick-witted. Dad said he would tease the women in the office or wherever he went and they loved it. Even my mom laughed like a woman years younger when John was in our house.She got such a kick out of the things that came out of his mouth.

Because everyone was just a little bit in love with John McG. Girls and guys.

He was attractive. Maybe not drop dead gorgeous but something that brought you closer. I think his personality made him really, really good-looking.

Dad started bringing him around on Saturday mornings. They were Teamsters so it was usually after a meeting. Or maybe a blood drive.

It would be early and I would still be in bed. But I knew the moment John entered the kitchen. Our house was tiny but I would have known even if I lived in a mansion. The house almost shook. You could hear the talking and booming laughter. And there was a unique energy in the house. Like Springsteen sang, “I check my look in the mirror” and make my way downstairs toward the light. Not begrudging interrupted Saturday morning sleep but begrudging the fact that I didn’t have advance notice.

Maybe in some way Dad and his kids felt John was a conduit for the generation gap that existed between us. John could say anything to my Dad and get away with it. He would tease him about his teenagers.”What are your kids doing tonight, Pat? Dating? Smoking pot?” Who would say those things to my DAD? And get away with it? John would and could. Absolutely irreverent. You had to know my dad. He didn’t swear or discuss anything untoward. And John had no boundaries with my Dad. Like we did.

You would think that maybe my brothers and I might have been jealous of this guy my father loved so much. And maybe if John were a different person we would have been. But we loved him, too.  So there was no room for jealousy.

He was half Irish American and half Italian American. I think his mom died when he was younger.

When he was scheming my dad would tease him and say,”That’s not the Irish in you.”

And John would tease Dad right back.

I remember when he wanted Dad to come visit him at his home. To see the house he built. It was a real log cabin in the woods of Rhode Island. That sounded pretty neat. So Dad, Mom and I took a drive one weekend. I was also curious to meet John’s family. To see what kind of girl had captured John. To meet his sons.

She was lovely and sweet. Italian-American. Pretty with a nice figure. I still remember the jeans she had on more than thirty years ago. Because they had zippers at the bottoms. Near the ankles.

And then the three little boys. Very young and adorable. And the light of their father’s eyes. You could see it. One of them had gotten into a spot of trouble that day. Something to do with an errant ball and a neighbor’s window. John gave the little fella a stern talking to in front of us. But once the kid was out of sight John was grinning impishly. There was no question of his love, pride and tenderness for the family.

I asked him the names of his two dogs. He said, “Oh, that one is Toothless and the other one is Useless.”He was just so funny.

Seemed John had it all and that he deserved every single bit of it. No one would ever be covetous. Or begrudge him anything.

Time passes. It’s 1986. I will marry on November 15th. It’s going to be a very small party. Thrown together fairly quickly. There really wasn’t room for all the extraneous folks that usually attend bigger weddings. So, it was a list of mostly family and very close family friends. An invitation was mailed to John and his wife.

Then came November 1st, 1986. All Saints’ Day.

And everything changed.

A light went out.

John died in a car accident on his way home early that morning.

My dad had been with him in the evening. They had a drink and then my dad went home. After telling John to do the same. Probably left with a “See you soon!” or “See you Monday!” My dad came home, most likely finished up with the nightly news and then went to bed. He got up early to go golfing. Not knowing that he and John were no longer sharing the same world.

John was thirty-three years old.

It feels odd to write that number since I am now forty-nine years old and Dad will soon be eighty-three. A lot of years have passed.

When we came home that day Dad was sitting in the living room chair. He had returned from the golf course and had gotten the news. My mother went to him as he was reaching out for her arm. And he sobbed. And sobbed.

I had never, ever seen my father cry. I had only ever seen his eyes tear up and that was once. When his mother died and I caught him just staring out the living room window into nothingness. I assumed my father did his deep grieving in private. But this was something entirely different.

My heart hurt so badly when I heard about John and it literally broke when I saw my father that day.

You see, he loved John McG.

I still think of John every now and again. His name still comes up.

When we had a surprise 80th birthday party for my dad a couple of years ago, one of my brothers said, “John McG would have been here today. God rest his soul.”

John was no saint. That’s a tough status. He was human. And he made mistakes. Just like anyone of us.

Just wish it didn’t have to end the way it did. Especially to someone who was so very alive.

We always read about people who walk into a room and absolutely nothing happens. And then there are the others. Not a lot of them out there. But when they walk into a room something happens.

That was John.

I heard that his wife never remarried. Not sure why. She had three young boys and she was a young and beautiful woman. I wondered sometimes if it was because there was just no one out there that could have filled his shoes. Or filled his space. Or loved those boys like he did.

Dad retired, was blessed with grandchildren and softened with the years. I see him cry now. He has a hard time saying good-bye to me and/or my daughters when we leave him. But it’s good. He enjoys his life and his family.

I will always remember John McGinn on All Saints’ Day. It’s not the day the music died. It’s the day a light went out.

May he rest in eternal peace.

John P. McGinn

1953-1986

 

 

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I have a birthday coming up soon.

Don’t mind the birthdays so much. Maybe because I really hardly ever know old I am.

Been known to say to one of my brothers, “How old are you?”

And then I do the laborious math.

I know the difference of years between us.

What do I mind about getting older?

Wrinkles? Forgetfulness? Weight gain?

No, the thing I really do mind is my eyesight not being as keen as it once was.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. I was a young girl and I was threading a needle.

My Dad said, “I remember when I was a boy in Ireland threading a needle for my Granny.”

Oh my gosh.

I’m now the Granny.

I’ve worn the “cheaters” for years. Pushing them back on my head when I didn’t need them to see fine print. Hair had a permanent imprint from the glasses.

Finally succumbed to multi-focal glasses. Wasn’t easy getting used to them.

I’d be climbing down stairs and escalators making sure I didn’t kill myself due to a misstep while looking out the distance lens when I should have been looking a little closer to home.

I appeared, on more than one occasion, to be really challenged.

Now I am wearing them all the freaking time!

I remember a few years back, while we were taking a family photo, saying to Mom, “Do you want to take your glasses off for the photo?”

She said, “Why would I want to take them off? I wear them all the time.”

Ummm, okay.

See, I’m not there yet.

I have nothing against glasses. Some of my best friends wear glasses. LOL

I just realize it’s not so easy.

How do you put makeup on each day? You need your glasses to see but how can you apply eye makeup with the glasses perched on your nose?

The other day I was in a hotel room. Before I hopped in the shower I lined up the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in order of use.

Because I don’t wear glasses in the shower.

So, I’m like Mr. Magoo in a steam filled cubicle.

I’m not sure what I should do.

I could be chasing the botox people down, hiring a trainer to tone this fifty something year old body and furiously doing crossword puzzles to help my memory.

But what I am thinking about is laser surgery. If I am a candidate.

Not just because of the makeup or because I might put shower gel in my hair. Or gargle with astringent. Or brush my teeth with facial hair remover.

But because I want to see everything. Without assistance.

Like I did when I was young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This past summer I was driving to my friend’s home in Rhode Island with my two daughters. It’s a lovely area near the beaches. Tree lined roads winding by horses grazing, babbling brooks and placid ponds. Gorgeous old, clapboard homes on green acres dot the landscape.

My eldest, who is twenty five, says, “This area is so beautiful. Not like the usual creepy New England towns.”

I exclaim, “What?? Creepy like how? A van with no windows is creepy. But not New England!”

Later on, while we are soaking up the sun on a fabulous beach, same daughter proceeds to tell my friend that ever since she was a little kid I’ve told her probably every single ghost story or mystery that took place in our part of New England.

Okay, when you put it like that. I sound like a monster.

It’s true. I might have pointed out a haunted house or two.

The Westport house where folks claimed a ghost resided.  One of the occupants fell asleep in a rocking chair and woke up with a haircut.

I probably mentioned the ghost of the red-headed hitchhiker on Interstate 195.

Most likely gave the background of the childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden. I did take my youngest (seventeen at the time) to Lizzie’s house last year where the gruesome crimes took place.

I may have pointed out the lovely house that sits at the bottom of Metacomet golf course in my home town. Shared that murders were never a thing while I was growing up but a few years before I was born an elderly widow had been murdered in that very home during a robbery.

Could have mentioned the still unsolved mystery of the “New Bedford Highway Killer.” Eleven prostitutes went missing. Nine were found strangled and dumped in the woods. And that it was very possible a local attorney was the killer and actually indicted at one time. He moved to Florida in 1988 and there were no more murders on that stretch of highway since then.

Yes, I might have shared a story or two.

Dear Norah,

I’m very sorry and hope that you realize it’s not New England that’s creepy. Stuff happens everywhere.

It’s just your Mom who is creepy.

Hope I didn’t do too much damage. I’m just thankful that I spent a lot of quality, non-creepy time with you when you were young.

I absolutely loved cuddling up with you at bedtime every evening while reading you many, many wonderful fairy tales. As you peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Like Snow White and her killer stepmother. The orphaned Bambi who yearns for his murdered mother. Three little pigs trying to protect themselves from the wolf who wants to destroy their home. Hansel and Gretel’s great escape from the witch who attempted to burn them alive in an oven. And so many others.

I pray that, in some small way, it makes up for the ghost stories.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Sunday, my older brother and I were driving through the neighborhood where we grew up and Mom still resides.

We were talking about the train tracks along the river and I couldn’t remember when the trains stopped running. I recall sliding down, many a time, the steep hills to the river because that’s where kids played, built forts, caught poison ivy and smoked cigarettes. Boys rode their XR75s on the dirt paths. I certainly remember the tracks and hearing about hobos. But I don’t remember the actual trains.

My brother said they were still running when we were kids. Because he and his friend Billy would put pennies on the tracks so the train would flatten them.

We drove up First Street and we reminisced about who used to live in this house and that one.  When we got to the corner of First and Schuyler my brother pointed at a house and said, “So and so lived there. Always wanted to see if my name is still up there in that tree. Billy and I climbed it and carved our names.”

Billy and my brother grew up together. He died two years ago.

Shortly after he passed away my brothers and I were sharing memories of him on our whatsapp sibling group chat. I was in Malaysia, one brother in Connecticut and the other in Rhode Island.

Even though we were texting, and it was a tragically sad death, we were all literally laughing out loud recalling Billy. He was such a character and truly funny.

It’s odd how sometimes, at this age, we can hardly remember what we had for breakfast but there is such clarity in some memories that are decades old.

My little brother recalled the time that my older brother and Billy were supposed to be watching him. He was about nine or ten at the time so the older boys must have been about fourteen or fifteen. Billy and my brother really wanted to go a nearby Portuguese feast. So they dropped him off at their friend’s house and my little brother was left with the older sisters of people he didn’t even know! My older brother apologized (forty years later) and my younger brother claims he wasn’t scarred for life. Just felt a bit out of his comfort zone.

He also remembers when we would listen to the “crank call” recordings of Billy, my brother and their other friends. I definitely remember them. Because we would listen to them over and over again! Yes, Billy and company taped the actual calls. Even my mom thought they were hysterical.

My younger brother said, “Those tapes were comedy gold.”

He also said that was the very first time he heard the word “verify.”

Monsignor, the unfortunate (but not the only) target of the pranksters, said repeatedly that he did not order the pizza. He suggested that the pizza shop should call back the person to confirm the order.

Billy finished for Monsignor, “You mean to verify?!!??”

Monsignor said, “Yes.”

I remember Billy making me laugh when he was describing the telephone/address book at his house. He said the names were not all properly alphabetized by last name. He said it was so random. Like under the “P” tab it would say “Pat’s friend.”

My younger brother also remembered being on Cookie Hill with his friends. This was a small hill across the street from Billy’s house.

He said, “Billy was walking his dog (Moses) and wrestling around with him. He showed us little kids a peppermint tree. He cut the bark and it smelled exactly like peppermint.”

My older brother said Billy was the only kid that wasn’t afraid of my dad. That’s why my Dad liked him so much. My father probably seemed big and a bit intimidating to little kids back in the day. But not to Billy.

I guess it’s a good thing my dad never found out that my brother and Billy took his car for a little spin around the block.

When we finished up our reminiscing my older brother typed, “Love U both.”

I then typed, “Love U both, too.”

Younger brother types, “Ditto. Watching movie with Patty.”

I’m like, “Write it. U don’t get to say ditto.”

And he said, “I love u both.”

You take a moment and realize life is so very precious. Just like those childhood memories that haven’t faded in forty-five years. Ensuring some people will never be forgotten.

I’ve forgotten the train’s whistle but I remember so much.

 

 

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I dropped my daughter off at the Rhode Island airport yesterday.

On the ride, I reminisced a bit.

Said, “Reminds me of all the times Papa (my father) picked us up at this very airport.”

I continued, “Papa knew a lot of people. Whenever we were out with him there would invariably be the hearty hello or head nod to/from some random person.”

Some years ago Dad was milling about the luggage carousel looking for my bags. Think we just arrived from Dallas via Chicago.

Guy walks by, “Hey, Pat, how are ya?”

Dad responds in kind.

Rhode Island is a small state. No surprise that you would run into someone you know. Or their cousin.

Few minutes later a woman strolls by, “Hi Pat! How are you?”

Dad smiles and asks her how she’s been.

Okay, doesn’t stop there. More and more people in our path with same, “Hi Pat, how are you?”

Ummm, Dad, this is getting crazy.

Dad finally clued me in on the situation. These people were all members of an Irish society based in Rhode Island. Can’t remember now whether it was the Irish Ceilidhe Club or Ireland’s 32 Society. Or another group.

Apparently they had been on a trip (and on same flight as me) and were returning back to Rhode Island from Chicago.

Just thought it was a lovely memory. And, according to my kid, I hadn’t shared it before which is amazing in itself. Because I am kind of a broken record with my stories.

Made me remember how I felt when I would first see my father as I was coming down the escalator at the airport after months away.

How he always did the heavy lifting. Not going to let his daughter pick up the heavy bags. 🙂

Brought back the fact that everyone, who knew my Dad, had a smile when they greeted him with nothing but respect.

Made me remember that every time I left him in his later years, he said, with eyes filling, “We love to have you and we sure do hate to see you go.”

How it’s hard to arrive at the airport and no one in that crowd is eagerly and expectantly looking for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The first time I ever saw a red fox in the wild was after my Dad died two years ago.

I was with my brothers and we spent the day together-just the three of us- visiting the Cape. My father loved the Cape and so did we. We went to all the usual old haunts. Spent hours reminiscing, laughing and talking about Dad.

We were heading to the beach on the “other side” as we called it. My oldest brother saw it walking through the marshland in a residential area.

Dad and the boys would have seen a fox before because they spent a lot of time on golf courses. I was 50 years old and had never seen one in the wild.

I texted my sister-in-law who is into animal spirit sightings and symbolism. She said something like the fox is representing us as we navigate obstacles, decisions or difficulties. I no longer have the actual text or photo since my phone got swiped.

Found this in a google search.

You may be called to take action in a way that shows your adaptability and ability to move quickly through obstacles and resistance.

Well, that was true because we had a lot of things to take care of after Dad died. It was all new to us.

Why would I be thinking about a fox today?

Couple of evenings ago I was in a local Malaysian neighborhood on my way to visit someone who had just been released from the hospital. As I was walking to the house I saw a big cage with an animal in it on someone’s patio.

The people were just doing normal things one does in a patio. Watering plants, sweeping the ground, etc.

I approached these people and asked, “What’s that in the cage?”

The man said, “It’s a fox.”

I replied, “Really??”

Didn’t look like a fox to me.

He said, “Yes, it’s a fox.”

Okay then. It’s a fox.

I asked lots of questions.

Where did you get it? Kuantan.

Is it nice?  Like can you pet it? Well, it bites.

How old was it when you got it? Five days old.

Did it have siblings? Don’t know.

And on and on. LOL

fox1fox2fox3

I never saw a fox that looked like this guy. LOL. So I’m not totally buying it but I will surely take the sighting symbolism just the same.

You may be called to take action in a way that shows your adaptability and ability to move quickly through obstacles and resistance.

Sometimes it is hard for folks to move quickly when faced with things that are challenging.

If there are currently obstacles and resistance in your life I honestly wish you adaptability and the ability to move through them very quickly. Fox sighting or not!

 

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