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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Today is my parents’ anniversary. Their 55th to be exact, and I was there for all but one. They got married in November and nine months later, there I was and there I stayed. So I thought this would be a good day to honor them. They’ve made many appearances on this blog, in snippets and stories, but today is all about the endless small things that make them so special and such an important part of my life.

Before I get to that, I was wondering how they ended up getting married in the middle of November. Two weeks before Thanksgiving.

I don’t know how my grandmother ever allowed it. She couldn’t go out to lunch on Tuesday if she had an event next Saturday because she’d have to do her hair and take a shower and there were too many things to do. So how a wedding two weeks before a major holiday happened is quite the question.

Anyway, I’m sure there are a thousand things I could write if I had thought about this for about six months. Things come to me in snippets over long periods of time, never all at once or when I need them.

But the one thing I can say definitively about my parents is that their lives revolved around their children. Every holiday, every event, every breakfast, lunch and dinner, was all planned for our benefit. If we needed something, they provided it. If we wanted something, except maybe a puppy or a castle, they delivered it.

I’ll admit it – we were spoiled silly. But that doesn’t mean we got away with anything and everything. My parents parented. They gave us rules and chores, expected us to do well in school, enforced manners, taught us right from wrong. Sometimes we even had to wait for what we wanted.

There was the occasional temper tantrum when things didn’t go our way, as in the infamous words of my brother who once said, “Just get [this thing] for me so you can get me out of your hair.” But tricks like that didn’t work and tantrums were never successful.

Unlike the precious snowflakes of today, our misbehaviors were not tolerated. I can remember many occasions when we’d be out to dinner or somewhere public, and one of the younger kids would get unruly, and my father would pick them up and remove them. You would never have found us disturbing other people in a restaurant or theater or anywhere else.

We were sent to our rooms, denied television, had toys taken away from us. But the worst punishment of all was knowing you had upset or disappointed the people who filled your Christmas stockings and built your swing sets and showed up for every parent night at school.

My parents let us try anything. Music. Dance. Art. French club. Newspaper routes. But they never made us do anything. We didn’t have to play soccer if we didn’t want to. Or continue piano lessons if we didn’t like them.

They encouraged and supported but never required.

They never shipped us off to summer camp or pawned us off on babysitters. We were fortunate enough to have an extended family so on the rare occasion that they actually did something for themselves, we got a holiday with grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Maybe most importantly they let us be kids. We played and laughed, we baked cookies and ate them. We ran around and rode our bikes, sang On Top Of Spaghetti very loudly, banged on the piano and called it Chopsticks.

They took us to all the places we loved. The zoo and the park, the lake and the boardwalk. It couldn’t have been easy to coordinate a pack of kids for a day trip, especially since there was inevitably a baby involved, and nobody had slings and papooses and triple wide strollers in those days.

Still, they managed trips to Great Adventure and Bear Mountain. Pulled off dinners at Pasta Plus and the occasional foray into realms unknown, like the infamous Land of Make Believe where at least some of us were traumatized by a very scary story about Jenny Jump mountain where Jenny… jumped. Not to her benefit.

And that one time my father wanted to take us to a specific diner but wasn’t quite sure where it was so we drove for about six weeks and never found it.

We never had to endure a Halloween without a pumpkin or a Fourth of July without a barbecue. We did, however, have to tolerate my father’s particular method of grilling, where he offered you burgers in one of three ways: burnt, burnt, or burnt.

Not to be excluded, my mother insisted on periodically feeding us pork chops, which back in the day had to be fairly cooked to shoe leather lest they kill you. I have one particular memory of chewing a pork chop for about three days before I could leave the table. My mother also insisted on feeding us things like broccoli and lima beans. I don’t think “I don’t like them” was an option.

And yet there was no shortage of ice cream and cookies, Ice Box Cake and chocolate. But only if you could actually swallow the pork chops first.

My parents made every event and holiday Important. Didn’t matter if it was Labor Day or Christmas, we celebrated with a steadfast reverence for all things traditional and beloved. The meals, the music, the activities. You could count on the badminton games during summer holidays as much as the spooky sound cassette on Halloween and the precise number of candles to match our age on our birthday cakes – plus one for good luck.

I suppose I could go on all day if I tried, and even if I didn’t try very hard.

And I haven’t even gotten past my childhood. There have been a few years since then, and they have all been filled with the love of my parents. They have been my supporters and my teachers, my cheerleaders and my sounding boards.

I love them for who they are, their seriousness and silliness, their lessons and their jokes.

For all the shoelaces they tied and all the bedtime stories they read.

For the honey and the earrings and the bags of plantain chips that arrive at my doorstep today.

For laughing at my dumb jokes and putting up with my buzzing gnats.

My mother for clothes shopping with me which has to earn her angel wings and at least ten thousand gold stars.

For every meatball sandwich she packed in a brown paper bag.

My father for running behind me on the bike I could never seem to balance and for pulling us on a sled, huffing and puffing through the snow.

For every Valentine card he sent “To my favorite daughter.”

For 55 years of sharing smiles and tears, good times and bad, burnt burgers and shoe leather pork chops, Happy Anniversary mom and dad. Thank you for giving me 54 of those beautiful years.

Photo: mom and dad looking pretty spiffy in front of one of our favorite Brigantine restaurants. The kitties would also like to say Happy Anniversary, and really wish you’d send more plantain chips. Bad kitties!