Hey, it’s good to be back home again

I realize that I’m writing this at the back end of my vacation, but since I haven’t posted since March, I think you, dear reader will forgive the faux pas.

I’m back home in the Hudson Valley of NY where I grew up.  I’m a little further south than where I actually lived, but that’s due to the fact that my family lives more in the Newburgh to Westchester area than the upper Valley near Kingston.

Still and all, it’s been a good trip.  With the pandemic happening last year, any trips were canceled due to health concerns, and now with the Delta variant becoming more of a problem in places, our decision to use AirBNBs to stay in, rather than hotels, ended up being the right choice.  Interaction with the public at large has been mostly at arm’s length, as everyone for the most part is still social distancing, some are wearing masks again, and others have never stopped.

This trip has mainly been one of connecting and reconnecting with my ever-enlarging family.   On the way here, we stopped in Syracuse to visit with my maternal cousins, who I haven’t seen since 1999.  While there, I was able to meet my first cousin once removed (my cousin’s daughter) whom I’d never met.  The boggling thing about that is, they only live two hours away!  Between work, responsibilities, and just life, the years have gone merrily by and we just haven’t gotten together.  Every Christmas we’d exchange cards and write in them that in the next year we needed to get together.  But we never did.  That oversight has now been rectified.

Mom, myself and brother 1967While here in the Hudson Valley, I managed to reconnect with my estranged brother and his family.  He has lived in Westchester County for the past 20 years and has a 13 yr old daughter that I’d never met.  I knew she existed, and what her name was, but I was unable (for a variety of reasons) to get there to see them.  Too, there’s been bad blood over the years, (don’t ask) and reasons why I didn’t want to go.  There was one particular reason I did need to go, and that was to collect the family photo album he’d had in his possession since we cleaned out our parent’s house.  Up to now, the only photos I had were a couple of when we were children and one or two of our parents.  I’ve had NO baby pictures at all, and that’s been a sore point of contention for me.  As I get older, I want to be able to have that family history to rely on and share with my birth mother, with whom I’ve recently been connected.Mom, myself and brother, Easter

Finally, I was able to meet and interact with my half-sister and her family.  When I was reconnected with my birth mother, I managed to meet my half-brother and his family (well, most of them) and get to know them a wee bit.  My half-brother is a workaholic and is more than a little introverted, so both meeting and getting to know him have been problematic.  My wife and I had set up a get-together for the family at our second AirBNB, but for whatever reason, my half-brother decided at the last minute to decline.  His children are older than his sister’s (college-age versus toddlers) so getting together that side of the family might have proved a bit more difficult.  Even so, it was a good time.  I got to meet my brother-in-law and my nephews are both amazing and hilarious.   Watching them play caused me to remember how my brother and I played and interacted.

I would definitely say this trip has been a success.  I have a treasure trove of memories for the future and a box full of slides to digitize and share with my birth mother, and my other family so they can see what has been obscured these many decades.

Going home will be good (the beds in these AirBNBs are murder!), but I’ve had a really good time here too.  Vacations are both tiring and awesome.

Melancholy Holiday

Today, 31 years ago, my Mom died.  This is a picture of her at age 8, with her Uncle George in Ballston Spa, NY.  One of my cousins shared this picture with me about 5 years ago.  I don’t recall ever having seen it before at that time.  My cousin told me that George apparently always had these pants that were too big for him, so the family invariably called him George ‘Baggy Pants‘ Burton.  

Her passing (to me) was one of those things that you’ll remember as long as you live, and of course, the day just happens to be the same one as when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

I’m not going to relate the circumstances of her passing, that’s a story left untold.  I remember it vividly, that’s sufficient.  I don’t have a lot of pictures of her growing up and in her teens and twenties.  I do have a few pictures of her and my father, but the majority of the family pictures are with my brother, who, for whatever reason refuses to share them.  (Which admittedly is somewhat weird, since he is in denial about what sort of childhood he had with them and myself)  Consequently, I’m left with my own memories and a few pictures that I’ve had saved, as well as shared photos from my cousins who are still living.

Every year that goes by, I celebrate her birthday on July 14, recall my parents’ wedding anniversary on October 8, and of course mourn the date of her death, November 22.

I miss you every day Mom.  

Twelfth Night

I was talking to one of my co-workers today about some things, and happened to mention that once I got home I would be helping my wife un-trim the Christmas tree and get the ornaments and such put away for the year, in concert with ‘twelfth night’.  He said that he’d never heard of that, and rather than go into the whole Epiphany tale, I just said “you’ve heard of the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas, right?  This is an offshoot of that..”  He agreed in assent that he had (I mean, who hasn’t?) and that he was unaware that anything was attached to that, that had any meaning.  I merely smiled and said that it was a tradition both in my family and my wife’s family, and we’ve been keeping it in our marriage over the last 26 years.

On my way home from work this evening, I noticed a lot more Christmas trees out on people’s curbs than I normally have for the last week or so.  Certainly, the people next door (who rent, FWIW) have always had theirs on the curb the day after the holiday, as if they needed to get the tree down and out of the house just as soon as the presents have been ripped open and (in the kids’ case) played with.  I always thought it an odd thing to destroy the beauty of the holiday by sanitizing your house as soon as possible as if it was a necessity.   All the effort goes into decorating, and as soon as you can, get rid of it all?  Weird.

My wife and I had been discussing for the past several days about how and when to de-trim the tree.  It was already agreed that it needed to be done before tonight, but there’s a process to it all, considering the tree needs to be taken apart, bagged and lugged down to the basement, and the ornaments need to be situated in their respective boxes (although unbeknownst to me, she had purchased a new ornament storage box that needed to be assembled) and then lugged upstairs to the spare bedroom that we use as an ad hoc storage area.

Since she’s retired, she said she would begin doing it today, and then I came home from work I could do all the items that were in the taller range since the tree is 7 feet tall (2.13 m) and she’s at best 5’3″ (1.6 m).  True to her word, once I arrived home she had been working diligently since about 2 pm and had the tree pretty much divested of the majority of its decoration.  She was only missing a couple of balls (that she’d humorously christened ‘Jack’ and ‘Diane’) and needed a place for some of the larger decorations, and thereupon needed the new storage box mentioned above.

I built the box (pretty straightforward, it only needed to have the inserts put in and situated), brought it into the living room and commenced assisting her taking things off the tree, discussing which box then went into and so on.  The stockings were removed from the fireplace mantle, placed into the box they’d come from, and in about 45 minutes the tree was looking pretty bare once more.  The lights are my bailiwick since I’m the tall one and don’t require a ladder to put them on.

We’ve been using egg boxes to wind the lights around, it’s convenient and works well, the light strings don’t get tangled while in storage, and they’re easy to find.  My wife mentioned that perhaps next year we could get some new lights (LED ones?) and use them as they’re a bit more cost-conscious.  I mentioned we have several light sets I purchased a couple of years ago on sale at the local Kmart that were on clearance which we’ve never used.  While I’m fairly certain they’re not LED, they’re a bit newer than the ones we have presently and might be a good upgrade.  Since we used color lights this year instead of the clear ones in years past, she was pleased with the way that it looked, and said that we might do it again this coming year.  We’ll see how it all pans out 11 months from now.

At any rate, the tree is down, stowed away and the ornaments are back upstairs slumbering until Christmas 2020.  I do lament over the fact that I don’t have a lot of the ornaments that I grew up with, but I think they got tossed in the great move of 1992, and for that, I’m truly sorry.  In the future, perhaps I can move on from that debacle.  Still trying.

Twelfth Night is accomplished.  On to the doldrums of January.  Hurrah?