I used to live in Massachusetts near my youngest brother and sister. My oldest sister lives in Vermont. Over the years, some of our famdamily conversations included a healthy competition between the two states; who had the coldest temperatures, the strongest winds, the most snow. Ten years ago, I moved south to get away from the cold winters and the dreary springs of New England. Let’s face it, they don’t want to hear from me anymore.
In the winter of 2014-15, Massachusetts had a record breaking 108.6 inches of snow. The most ever since the first recordings in 1872. Vermont had a measly 83.4 inches, but still boasted its 1970-71 season when they were blessed with 145.4 inches of snow. UGGH!
When I lived in Massachusetts, my kids looked forward to snow days. In their younger days, they didn’t mind shoveling snow, as long as they were missing school and playing outside building snowmen or sledding down our long driveway. Plus, afterwards there was tons of hot chocolate- with the little marshmallows, not the large ones -and a warm cozy fire at the end of the day. The older they got, the less they shoveled and the more they slept in. I couldn’t blame them.
I usually stayed in my pajamas and looked forward to the early afternoon with a glass of wine by the fireplace and a jigsaw puzzle. (My daughter reminded me of the old blue card table I used to set up the puzzles, which I still have. I don’t use it anymore as my jigsaw puzzles are now digital and on my pink I-pad.)
This past winter, I followed the famdamily weather threads between Massachusetts and Vermont.
“It’s freezing here.”
“It’s below freezing here.”
(It’s 81 in Florida. Shhhh...)
“Gale force winds here.”
“Trees down all over the place here.”
(Palm trees swaying in a gentle warm breeze. Just sayin'...)
A couple of weeks ago, on March 10th to be exact, Stella began dumping inches and inches of snow per hour. Massachusetts got a lot of snow, but Vermont set another record. The Famdamily texts began from Massachusetts at around 10:30 pm. They were beautiful serene pictures of the nighttime snow storm. By morning, they were passing around FB pictures from other people. Buried cars, broken tree limbs, signs selling “free snow,” and such. One of the pictures was captioned, “Here’s what 20.5 inches looks like.” and it was four stacked beer cans next to a pile of snow.
After holding my tongue as I lounged on the beach in 81-degree weather, I finally involved myself in the conversation. “Hey, you guys! You know I’m writing cork stories…show me a little love.”
My brother-in-law, Cabana Boy (mentioned in one of my previous posts) saved the day. He opened a fine Pinot, stacked four wine glasses and sent me this post’s photograph captioned, “Here’s what 30.5 inches looks like.”
Great guy, that Cabana Boy.
At a wine tasting event I saw Nancy, a woman I had recently met through my golf league, across the room. On my way over to say “Hi” I stopped dead in my tracks. I noticed a tall, handsome blonde man in a blue golf shirt talking to Nancy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My heart skipped a beat.
“It just can’t be him,” I said to myself. “There’s no possible way.”
I was sure, the love of my life from almost 50 years ago was standing right in front of me. When Nancy saw me, she waved and headed my way. She walked towards me bringing my old boyfriend back to me. We greeted and she introduced her HUSBAND to me as Bill. My jaw dropped and I quickly covered my open mouth with the back of my hand before I could say, “No, his name is Toby, not Bill.”
We chatted for a few minutes and I hoped that she didn’t realize that I was ignoring her and staring at Not-Bill-but-Toby. A million questions zoomed through my brain. Why did he change his name? Was he in the Witness Protection Program? And most importantly, did he remember me? Did he miss me? Did he still think I was hot?
A few weeks later, by the grace of God, we we’re paired together in a Couple’s Golf Tournament. Again, I lusted after this Bill-not-Toby man. I found myself bumbling words and tripping over my putter as both my husband and my new friends were eyeing me with suspicion. It became obvious that something was not quite right, so I decided to ‘fess up to Nancy.
“Sorry, I’m so distracted and lusting after your husband.” I laughed trying to make light of things. “It’s just that he reminds me so much of a boyfriend from the past.”
Nancy laughed as if she heard this every day and immediately shared the information with Bill. He jumped on board and accepted my stories as if he’d read the script.
The four of us have since became the best of friends. Whenever we are together, Bill and I make sure to embrace each other warmly and laugh a little louder than “just friends” do. Our spouses go along with it, Nancy even introduces me to their friends as Bill’s past girlfriend. Together, Bill and I engage in story telling about our special times together 50 years ago; dances, the local pizza joint and the back seat of his ’65 Ford Fairlane. We’ve come up with some of the best tales, one could only wish they were true. We have convinced many people throughout the years that we are long lost lovers from our youth.
Recently, I came across a photo of Toby and myself at a high school dance. I shared it with Bill-not-Toby and he and Nancy were amazed at the resemblance. Maybe there is something to this “brother from another mother” thing.
My sister-in-law has a bar height kitchen table, as well as a large bar height dining table, not to mention her beautiful walnut bar with swivel stools, and that’s just on the first floor. Hanging out at her home is like going to a cozy modern tavern with the most committed hostess who always has peanut m&m’s at the ready.
One spring evening while sharing a glass of wine with a few of the female members of our famdamily, my niece approached us with a question about her statistics homework. That alone was funny enough.
However, when she questioned her mother about interpreting the P-value, my sister and I just about lost it.
Now, each of us at the table had at least a college education. Some of us may or may not have taken statistics; but, none of us knew or remembered anything about the P-value.
My youngest sister instantly googled P-value: A small P-value (typically ≤ 0.05) indicates strong evidence against the null hypothesis, so you reject the null hypothesis. A large p-value (> 0.05) indicates weak evidence against the null hypothesis, so you fail to reject the null hypothesis.
I went straight to the Dummies page: When you perform a hypothesis test in statistics, a P-value helps you determine the significance of your results.
So, I’m sure some of you know exactly where this is heading. My poor niece left without anything close to the answer she was looking for. It took the rest of us a lot of discussion and a lot of laughs but we determined the amount of wine one drinks directly effects how one interprets the P-value.
Jazz music filters from my speakers as I pour a single glass of Malbec. I scoop up a cracker topped with cheese and pickles and plop into my husband’s recliner. What’s a girl to do when her girlfriend calls at the last minute to cancel your chat-fest but it’s only 5pm and the wine is already decanted?
As I pick up another cracker, I glimpse my daily journal peeking out from under a pile of newspapers. Ugh. I am suppose to write a blog post for my friend. I grab the journal and my glass and sit at the dining room table. I put pen to paper and pause...I better bring the appetizers and wine over to the table.
Washing down another cracker with my wine, I once again begin to write.
So, here I am hoping to write a story for a blog. And the question arises…What exactly is a blog? Are we all just putting words on paper hoping to inspire someone out there in the dark? Are we trying to give light to someone’s darkest day? Will we convince some desperate soul to come down from the ledge? Or is it really about us purging our souls?
That paragraph takes a lot of thinking. And apparently a lot of wine. I pour myself another glass and sit back in my chair as I sip and ponder.
Why do we write? Why do some of us empty our hearts and souls at day’s end in a personal journal? Should these most intimate thoughts be shared with the unknown masses or is it best to keep them locked away? To protect the innocent, of course. And probably ourselves. Will the readers with no faces respect and cherish the emptying of our guts or will they cast them aside and laugh at our insecurities and failings?
I’m not so sure how this is going. Do I have things to hide? Am I ashamed of what I write, of who I am? The crackers aren't cutting it, either. I stand up and stretch, then rummage through my pantry. Nothing there. But, I know there’s Rocky Road ice cream in the freezer. With spoon and carton in hand, I return to the table.
Is a blog the Sweet and Low substitute for the lack of an intimate relationship to share one’s deepest thoughts? Is the choice of Rocky Road ice cream indicative of things to come? Am I sounding too much like Carrie Bradshaw?
Whatever one’s reason to share their most personal feelings with the internet world, let’s please understand that we need to be kind, compassionate, and respectful of each other, and of yourself, as we travel through this dark journey of finding those brave enough to reach out and embrace the unknown.
I pour the final drops of wine from the decanter. Gosh, that was a small bottle. Only three glasses. Wow. Won’t buy that Malbec again. I get back into writing, but first have to see where I left off.
Reach out and embrace the unknown. Take a deep breath, cross our fingers and toes, and step over that invisible line into the uncomfortable zone.
Whatever you decide to share, make sure you have a glass of your favorite vino by your side. The fruit of the vine makes everything more palatable and Rocky Road doesn’t hurt either.
The snow had finished falling earlier in the morning and the day was a crispy 32 degrees on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The tree limbs were bent from layers of ice and snow, yet it was still a Friday evening and that meant pizza and wine at my house.
The kids played video games in the basement and my sister, sister-in-law and I sat by the fireplace playing Farkle - a dice game and family favorite.
“Grampi sent a card and signed it YFFIL,” Smithy said. Smithy is my sister-in- law. Since my two brothers married girls with the same first name, my family most graciously gave them nicknames: Smithy and Southie.
My sister and I laughed. That’s our Dad! My father was actually one of the first people on earth to use short form abbreviations for messaging way before cell phones and internet slang became popular.
“YFFIL means Your Favorite Father In Law,” I explained.
“Here’s one for you.” My sister pulled out her cell phone. “BG C32 BRADY”
That's all that was written in an email my father had sent to her. You see, the key is to try to figure these things out without having to ask him. But, sometimes it was down right impossible.
When my daughter was born in 1983, I received a card from my father. It was a “Congratulations on the birth of your daughter” card. He signed it “Congrats on FCNNGD#1 from ANGF.
I was going to have to ask him about that one. I got “ANGF-A New GrandFather.” But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how he was addressing my daughter, his first grandchild.
So, I made the phone call. He simply answered, “Fat Cheek, No Neck, Granddaughter, Number 1.”
At first I was offended, but then when he went on explaining that she was a Princess of Darkness because she was born on December 21, the shortest day of the year, I decided to appreciate her fat cheeks and no neck while she had them. Now, she answers to POD (Princess of Darkness).
And, as for “BG C32 BRADY” We finally figured it out. My dad wanted my sister to read an article in the Boston Globe, section C, page 32 about Tom Brady! So we did!
Kyle Ann Robertson
Chief Writing Officer at Ifcorkscouldtalk.com and BBWalsh.com