Sunday, May 8, 2016

Venery Venery Extra-ordinary


I'm sure based on my account, you would think everything in my family is fabulous and has been for generations.  Not entirely.  The truth is my mother grew up in a very different world from me.  Very beautiful and loving, but unstable.  She was determined to change her circumstances and break a long cycle in her family of having children too young and building lives on cliffs.  She grew into the ultimate champion of personal responsibility. 

My grandmother is on the left

L to R: my faaaabulous maternal GG sunning herself on her grand lawn,
my mother, my uncle, my gorgeous maternal grandmother
My mother is an Aries, and a relentless one.  Astrology might not mean anything to you--it means nothing to her--but Aries rules the head, the mind.  They obsess on solutions.  Aries rarely see problems as insurmountable.  They charge forward and love the world of the new.  Interestingly enough, this path toward the new took my mother to the old. 
Friday afternoon. My mom made that pillow.

Saturday morning.  The bandage is off.

Saturday evening and we are back to hunting for sticks. 
My parents have been together since eighth grade.  My mom dumped my dad three times in the process, presumably all to do with politics.  They first connected in health class when they had to do a project on sexually transmitted diseases.  The teacher assigned groups with two boys and two girls, probably with the idea of implanting a sense of disgust surrounding sex and the opposite sex.  Not a terrible idea.  Anyway, my mom was horribly embarrassed to use all of the vocabulary surrounding their assignment: the wonderful world of venereal disease.  My dad told her he didn't mind and would read her parts of the presentation.  So in a way, VD brought my parents together.  Good old fashioned romance. 
My dad's family was big and strong.  My grandma, Virginia,  was a force of nature and was infamous for being able to bring any one of her towering four boys to the ground with a look and a menacing trail of smoke from her perpetual cigarette.  Should that fail, a pinch in a strategic spot of the arm that immobilized them.  She was not supremely glamorous like my maternal side, but supremely badass.  She ran the teachers union, made dinner every night, taught school, and painted all her furniture once a month.  Because it was used hard and she liked to keep busy.  Sometimes painting over cigarette ash saying I'll catch that next time
More than anything, my paternal grandmother believed in family.  If someone is moving, everyone shows up ready to pack and clean, and don't be too delicate with the stemware because we just don't have the damn time.  If someone is getting married, you show up like gypsy landscapers and dig a koi pond.  Two hours later you plop the fish in and have some potato salad. Her house was a hub of creative projects and activity.  The boys had worthless cars and boats everywhere which she allowed, with one caveat don't you get any oil on my driveway or I'll run your ass over with the lawnmower and make you clean it up. She and my paternal aunts taught my mom how to do family.  My mother was an eager student. 
My dad is top left in the multicolor plaid tie.
The mighty Virginia (Ginny) is front and center.

Before the move to Columbus, Four of the six. My dad is on the left

Through this, my mom's family climbed with her.  By the time my parents had children, my mom's family had assimilated.  We never knew that my mom's family was kind of a mess before we were born and my mom didn't hold it against them.  She had guided them into being a real family.  My mom went from knowing her grandpa was one of three men (though she chose the one who was there and didn't care otherwise) to old Ohio farms that predate Ohio's statehood, big gatherings, and a cemetery with 250 years of Joneses if you had any questions. She carried her many mothers and their knowledge with her upon embarking into motherhood herself.  She taught us to love and foster beautiful things but mainly to love and foster each other.  The best of both worlds. 

My mom was quite the rebel painting her oak woodwork back then.  She was
inspired after a trip to Charleston. 

Meanwhile across the room, a  highly musical lush in training.
This series still sums us up.
Not pictured: my yet to be born brother
I set the table more in my mother's uncluttered style than my
cram that-shit-in signature.  The wineglasses are from Goodwill and the water
goblets are vintage Libbey.  Also, my mom prefers stainless flatware to silver.
I swear I wasn't adopted.  

Happy Mother's Day, to mothers past and present. You may never even realize the full scope of your work.  

62 comments:

  1. I love that your parents met in grade school. And the photos of the two families are such a contrast. I bet there was never a dull moment. It's so fun to hear family tales like this.

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    1. Haha exactly! But they all got along quite well with each other! I think there was such a novelty factor on both sides.

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  2. You are so talented at painting written portraits of people and making them come alive to the reader. Your family is fascinating and (I say a bit jealously) no slouches in the looks department. I mean your grandmothers and mom are all beautiful, and your dad....don't be creeped out by me saying this but.... kinda hot when he was young! Talk about being genetically blessed. You hit the jackpot. And so glad Barbie is better, they really do recover from a turn nail quickly, thank goodness.

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    1. Thank you so so much! That's quite a compliment to me as you know the high regard I have for your writing. Haha! I thank you on his behalf. Barbie is so much better. Though still very tired and not quite herself. Not in pain at all though which is so nice.

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  3. Stephen you are a gifted writer and supreme story teller...I absolutely love this post. You have some amazing women in your family!

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    1. Thank you so much! there really are so many interesting and strong women in my family! Hope you're having a happy Mother's Day and enjoyed your afternoon tea!

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  4. Wow! Wish this was chapter one of the book! How great to be able to say, with a straight face, that VD brought your parents together. Good looking clan (your Maternal grandmother looks like Doris Day!) with strong personalities--small wonder you are YOU!

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    1. Haha exactly! We never miss a dirty joke in my family. Thank you so much! She does! She had the Doris Day hair going for sure.

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  5. good lord.
    the best of both worlds...
    glamour and bad ass!
    and the perfect combination is in YOU!
    that table is exquisite in my book.
    as yours always are. and that's even BF... before food!
    and little barbie.
    our well puppy again! YAYYY!

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    1. Thank you so much, Tammy! Hope you had a nice time with your nephew today! I also hope he has a while to stay in the US before going back the the middleeast!

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  6. Barbie looks good, bless her.
    What a lovely story you've told. Your family...both sides....are remarkable and it's no wonder your lovely Mom raised someone as interesting and talented as you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Katherine! It's always been nice to have such starkly different sides of family!

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  7. The love in this tale made me tear up. Yes, you can make fun of me all you want. Such a wonderful tribute...

    It looks like the apple does not fall far from the tree. ;)

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    1. Thank you so much, Heather! Haha and as if I would ever judge for tearing up! I inexplicably started crying watching the Derby last night when the band was playing! I'm not even from Kentucky not do I give a shit about the Derby but found it emotional! Haha. You're right, it does not!

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  8. Fabulous post! LOVE the pics!!

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  9. What a terrific sounding family Stephen - that photo of Barbie is gorgeous - I can feel how pitiful she is feeling there. So what was in the box?
    Love Cindy F
    xx

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    1. Thank you so much! The gift actually wasn't for Barbie but was for a baby shower. But Barbie looked so cute next to it that I needed a photo. Don't worry, she got a treat after it was snapped :)

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  10. Loved reading your family stories. Nothing better than this. Thanks a gazillion for this post. Den xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Den! And happy Greek Easter! Or was it last week? I think it was.
      So I hope you had a fab Greek Easter :)

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    2. Thanks. Yes it was last weekend. I thought of you as I bought lots of good quality chocolate eggs discounted by 75%. We went to church and then celebrated with family. We always have Easter lunch together although we miss our gorgeous mum.Den :)

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  11. THANK YOU!
    We had a glimpse of YOU as a young boy!
    Barbie, looks like she SURVIVED the nail BOO~BOO.
    I would LOVE TO of had YOU as a SON!AND NO he did not make YOUR MUFFINS!

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    1. Oh I'm so sorry he didn't make them! He owes you! Hope you had a nice day!

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  12. so this is what spawned you? jk. no wonder you are so fabulous! your table is exquisite and i bet the food was too. glad B is up and running again. xo

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    1. Haha yes I am a product of VD! Thank you! Happy Mother's Day to you!

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  13. Fabulous post about your amazing family, Stephen Andrew.
    My brother's middle names are Victor David. But on school forms he always left out the David. As these names were for my father's best friend who'd died Dad finally objected, asking why he wouldn't use all his given names. "Didn't you ever think about the initials?" my brother replied. He refused to be labelled as VD.
    Also a funny story from my mother's side of the family. Her father had an aunt who was named Florence Arter. She always signed things with her full name, never an initial and surname. You can understand why! F.Arter! Amazing the names parents can saddle children with.
    Then there were the cousins of one of my oldest friends. Their mother gave them all unusual names. One of the girls was called Fonda (not sure if it was after the famous movie family or not). But it was a disaster when she married a guy called John Hiscock! Pammie

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    1. That is hilarious! Hahaha I think the worst if F.Arter!

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  14. Okay! It is still Mother's Day.....this is by far my favorite post I have ever read having anything to do with Mother's Day! It is bewitching and fascinating! And divine!
    I cannot top anonymous with those names....but my mother had a friend named "Henrietta Horsestink" She married "Samuel Smear"; I know it is true. I hope they both changed their names! Think of her name; poor thing!

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    1. Thank you so much! Hope you had a nice day yesterday! I know a woman whose last name is often mispronounced "horsedick"! I'd rather be horsedick than horsestink haha

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  15. I freaking love this post, esp you with your mummy in overalls and your Nana painting over the cigarette ash.

    In the photo of your dad in the plaid tie it reminds me a bit of you in that euro trash photo you send me years ago.

    Table looks stunning and I love it that your mum is an Aries like my O and that VD brought your parents together.

    Barbie's pink collar is 11/10.

    xxxx

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    1. Thank you FF! Hope you had a nice day! Did O and his silent financial partner get you a good present? I know they are both strong in gift giving.

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  16. I hope your family appreciates these posts bc they are so fabulous and funny! I love hearing your stories!

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  17. So glad Barbie is back in top form.

    What a lovely post and she must be so chuffed and happy to be your mum!! Loving all the family pics especially GG with her bandeau swimsuit and shades looking all old school glamour!

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    1. Thank you! Barbie still isn't herself by a long shot but at least the nail is removed. She seemed worse this morning so I'm freaking out a bit even though I know it's normal to take several days to truly come out of anesthesia. It didn't help that I sliced into my nail yesterday while arranging tulips! Haha
      I'm trying hard to find a photo of GG in the Green Horny with the top down and her white sunglasses with a cig as that is how I vividly remember her!

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  18. What a fabulous tribute. I hope you had a wonderful weekend! (Glad Barbie is on the mend.)

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    1. Thank you! Haha it was kind of nice in a way because I had a total excuse to sit on the couch and watch barefoot contessa though sans wine because I didn't want to not be able to drive Barbie to the vet if need be. Aren't I just a beacon of responsibility?

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  19. Lovely post, Stephen! Families are so complicated, and you have portrayed an amazingly touching story. By the way, I loved your post on Ellie's blog. GO TEAM ELLIE!! Funny also FF said she wished you could do her hair as well. Loved that Barbie is recovering. Robin in Umbria

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    1. Thank you so much! Did you find someone to cut your curly hair yet?

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  20. Another chapter in the life and times of Stephen Andrew. I think you could just put all of your posts together and call it a book. A best seller in the making.

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  21. No- I am growing out the last bad haircut- after 3 years of bad cuts. Thanks for asking.

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    1. Ah well that's probably good. It seems like after a while curl is self-healing.

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  22. I just love that VD brought your parents together! So great! Love all the photos and your mum's 80's fringe happening in that photo with you. Are you wearing matching tartan?
    Table as always is fabulous, and glad to see that Barbie is doing well after her trip to the vet.

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    1. Haha thank you! Oh yes we were all about the matching tartans. One of my favorite photos is with my mom and sister in navy tartan and my brother and me in Stewart. I guess my dad was taking the photo haha.

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  23. My maternal grandmother worked at Libbey in Toledo. I believe as a receptionist; she went to work after my grandfather died of a heart attack in the 1950s. She ironed not just her sheets but also her cleaning rags. Ah, memories! I was particularly fond of my grandfather. I was "too little" to go to church on Sunday, so my parents would take my grandmother while I stayed home with Grandpa and learned how to play poker.

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    1. Oh wow what a fabulous woman! It's amazing what a history Ohio has of glass making. I think Sunday mornings with grandpa playing poker are just as educational and valuable as church. What a great memory!

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  24. What a lovely glimpse into the life of your mother and you! xo K

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    1. Thanks K! Hope your ORC finished up well! I need to check in!

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  25. Hi Stephen! Although I am a voracious reader, and always have a LOT to say in my "real" life, I have NEVER commented to anyone (online or off). However, I had a bit of an epiphany reading this latest entry and thought I should share. It occurred to me that although we all have sepia-toned, faded pictures of our past, we don't all feel as loyal to the beauty of them. It's all in how you spin them. Your recounting helps us see the beauty. It's a lovely talent, and I'm desperate to apply it to my life. There is loveliness in ALL of it if we look, and feel, and share. Thanks so much.

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    1. Thank you so so much, Angela! This is such a lovely compliment and I couldn't agree with you more about the way photos revive memories. I think it's such a wonderful way to visit with the past. And what's great is the way you can piece stories together with boxes of old photos. Thanks again!

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  26. Dear darling Stephen, thanks for replying to every entry on your blog. I honestly comment so seldom to a post, because I do not think I matter, and you have made me feel soooo welcome. Bless you (and Dear Barbie)

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    1. Thank you Robin! I think the comments on most blogs are where posts really come to life because you see what people connect to and often what the real "point" of the post was, which is sometimes surprising!

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  27. OH, Stephen! I'm late to go and drug my mother (lol) but I had to drop by and say thank you for the comment on my post. And then I come here and am actually LMAO, an acronym that is rarely accurate for me! This was hilarious, and I know I have a LOT in common with your paternal grandmother for certain; when we move someone, look out, comin' through, and hell yeah, potato salad after digging a koi pond? I'm in. I'm still laughing, can't wait to share this post with Carl later on tonight.

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh I know you have that in you! It always kills me how you'll post about digging a new garden or building a new structure ten minutes before a tour! But clearly you work well under pressure as you always pull it off!

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  28. Your Barbie is gorgeous. I want a black lab to go with my white one, and maybe tire him out once in awhile. I am so glad her paw is fine.
    Your family sounds like a bunch of crazies, which is great, because they are so entertaining. Much better than being boring, unless they are staying at your house during the holidays. Then you wonder why they reproduced.
    MB

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    1. Haha thank you! Oh I always wanted to have one black and one yellow lab. I had a yellow before Barbie. Barbie is actually half Border Collie and I just love having a mixed breed. She doesn't shed like a lab which is wonderful!

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  29. Now I really want you to write a book. And your Great Grandmother. Wowza. And your mama, so pretty:).

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  30. Hi Stephen - What a strong woman! I hope your mom and family reads your blog. The stories, old photos....you are an amazing storyteller. I enjoyed this beautiful and heartfelt tribute to your mom.
    xL

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