A Woman of Much Importance…

The famous Aunt Ruby walked into my life two to three years before she did in Stormy’s. She was the beloved sister of the man brave enough to date and later marry my mother, a struggling divorcee with five energetic ragamuffins between the ages of 2 to 11. 

Mom, her new husband, and her five little ones – August 9, 1953

We children where introduced to her around 1952.  We all climbed into dad’s silvery teal Mercury and drove from Indiana to Ruby’s house in Illinois. Like her brother, Ruby was quiet and I thought quite dignified, yet we discovered her quick humor when we would tell her our bad kid jokes or act out as brothers and sisters often do. As we grew to know her, she became a treasured member of our cabal.  She kept our secrets.

Mom and Dad with Aunt Ruby, the matron of honor and Uncle Ike, best man.

She eventually began to fill the role of an absent grandmother. It was comforting sitting next to her while engaged in absorbing child–adult conversations.  Like my dad she was very intelligent and could add to any subject our youthful minds would conjure. 

For all her attributes, to me, an inquisitive preteen, the most valued was her frank honesty. It was an absolute boon to us kids.

As children we had been surrounded by adults who were not always judicious with the truth. We received answers that were often meant to mollify us and telegraph the idea that we were not included in family decisions. My mother was known for stonewalling and refusing to answer our questions, while making us think we should never have even asked…

When Aunt Ruby entered our lives, things changed.  Ruby, when queried, would look you in the eyes and answer honestly with further explanation should it be needed. When my mother realized this, if we asked her questions about the dreaded sex or biology subjects, she would quickly suggest we “ask your Aunt Ruby”.  Eventually we would go to our Aunt if she was available. She opened our minds to other ideas and opinions. That gift, both she and my dear Dad gave me, was the okay to be honest about situations. It occasionally causes consternation to me and others especially when they disagree.  But right or wrong I usually have some opinion…(ask my siblings and friends).  Thank you Aunt Ruby.  


Life is a highway…

The Sunday after Mr. Smith’s birthday, I left on a solo road trip.  My SUV was filled with boxes to take to store at my sister’s in Michigan and several household items that were going on to Elliot’s house in Indiana. It was so fully packed that my suitcase was strapped into the front passenger seat, keeping me company on my drive. I had a full tank of gas, a bottle of water and a chicken salad croissant for lunch provided by my lovely husband.

I traveled the Southern Tier Expressway across New York.  It winds through green mountains dotted with dairy farms and deep forests and past the exquisite Chautauqua Lake.  I drove across New York and into Pennsylvania where I eventually stopped at a rest area to enjoy a quick lunch before soldiering on through Ohio and up to Michigan.

My sister lives in a charming shall town in southern Michigan. We were delighted to have several days together with few obligations. We drank good wine, ate yummy food and shopped! I went to a movie in the middle of the day in the middle of the week! 

These statues in front of the Art Center always make me smile..
And I love any town that has one of these.

On Friday, my sister and I set off for Indiana to meet up with our brother and his wife and our niece and her family.  We visited, ate pizza and watched the movie, Billy Elliot.  I think I loved it even more than when I saw it originally.  Plus, it segued perfectly into my next day when I headed to Indiana to see my fabulous granddaughters.

The biggest reason for my road trip was getting to attend Olivia and Emily’s dance recital. I didn’t know until I got there that two-year old Elizabeth would be making her stage debut! After a week and a half of lessons, she was ready to go out there and perform to Animal Crackers in My Soup! All three girls did a spectacular job and melted my heart.

The dancers and their grandmas!
Grandpa’s Emily…

On a solo road trip, you have all the freedom and all the responsibility.  You chose when to stop and where.  You chose music or no music.  Traveling alone, I thought about how spoiled I am when I travel with Mr. Smith and never have to think about whether I have enough gas or keep track of the car keys.

Many hours alone in the car also gives you time to think.  I thought about how my road trips are always about the destination and not the journey.  I’m going from point A to point B and while I do admire the scenery, I rarely venture off the route.  I hope that one day soon on this highway of life, I manage to take the road less traveled.

C’est la vie.

A celebration of epic proportion…

This past weekend we celebrated Mr. Smith’s 65thbirthday.  Three generations came together and created some lasting memories. We played in the pool.  We walked part of the Towpath Trail. We played Pin the Hat on Grandpa, Grandpa Nick Bingo, and countless hands of Michigan Rummy. 

Pin the hat on grandpa!
Ring around Grandpa…

Before we devoured Becky’s delicious cupcakes,Emmet and Elliot both toasted their father with words that brought tears to his eyes.  Adam co-opted Elton John’s  Your Song, and sang  Your Sons  – …And you can tell everybody that we are your sons…and that brought tears to my eyes!

As parents, Mr. Smith and I delight in seeing our sons together, interacting with each other and each other’s children!  Seeing our grandchildren playing together and creating bonds is priceless.  Celebrations are a brilliant way to show children where they come from. It’s a big, beautiful circle of life.

Our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren gave Mr. Smith what he wanted most for his birthday – their time.  No matter where we move or where we live, there will always be space for our cherished memories.


C’est la vie.

The Prodigal Son (sort of)…

Driving home from work last Wednesday, I slowed for an intersection. Apparently, the driver approaching in cross traffic decided I wouldn’t mind in the least if he blew through his stop sign and pulled out in front of me.  As I slammed on the brakes, my right arm flew out to protect the phantom child in the passenger seat.  Now my youngest child is 34 years old and 1,600 miles away, but that didn’t stop my arm from flying out to protect my precious cargo! As a mother, do we ever stop wanting to protect our children?  Does your arm still fly out without thinking at an emergency stop?

Over the years of raising our children, I have on more than one occasion interceded on the part of my children.  I admit that I may have hovered a bit too much at times, but I always tried to fight the urge to be a “lawn mower” parent, rushing in to mow down any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort.   My goal has been to raise independent, resilient adults. Yet even though they have been adults for many years, I still worry. I have had enough life experience to understand a rejection from a college or an employment opportunity isn’t a personal denial of my child’s worth and they will survive and go on (as I have!) But as their mother I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t recognize how fabulous they each are and immediately select my son!

Those mama bear feelings reared up this spring when Adam discovered some employment opportunities in his field and decided to throw his resume into the ring. Consequently, this spring was a restless one for me.  It began with Adam’s text regarding positions open in several locations including New Hampshire, Virginia and Pennsylvania. All these locations would bring my newest granddaughter closer to me, but I couldn’t help but think about the Penn State University job in State College, Pennsylvania that would put her closest.  Following that initial text were regular updates regarding scheduling interviews and on-campus visits. We waited for other candidates to be interviewed, decisions to be made and offers to be negotiated.

Grandma’s little feminist…

Hurray! We are over the moon that Adam has just accepted a faculty position at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania and will be moving to Pennsylvania the same month that Mr. Smith and I move to Pennsylvania! We have not lived in the same state as Adam since he graduated from Indiana University in the spring of 2007.   That fall, he went off to graduate school in Colorado.  After a year of grad school, he dropped out and spent a year making salads (not feeding pigs like the biblical prodigal son).  He eventually found a professor he wanted to study under at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.  Mr. Smith helped load Adam and all his worldly possessions into a moving truck and drove with him to Texas, leaving him there in an “interesting” apartment Adam had found on the internet.  At Texas Tech he didn’t waste his life in “riotous living”.   He completed his graduate studies, obtained his PhD, met his wife, Hsin Yi, and they married.  And they gave us Eleanor. Of all our long-distance grandchildren, the distance to Eleanor has always been the farthest. Now instead of 1,600 miles apart, she will be living 130 miles away.  That is Sunday dinner territory for the Smith family!  In addition, this move brings Adam closer to both of his brothers and their families.  While thankfully not a true “prodigal son”, we are all excited and will recognize this move with great celebration and fanfare.  And I’m elated to be able to spend more quality time with Eleanor, my brilliant little feminist.  I think Aunt Ruby would be pleased.

C’est la vie.