Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

Elise, C and Mo 1962
Elise, C and Mo 1979

Back in the day, the Cunningham sisters had our, ahem, differences of opinion. My little tiffs with my sibs would begin with a snarky comment or a "borrowed" dress, and escalate into screaming matches, complete with doors slammed so hard they almost came off their hinges, and rivers of tears. We always made up quickly, though, and I well remember how good and right the hugs felt at the end of battle. In later years, when we lived apart, misunderstandings over the phone were common, as were squabbles upon reuniting after a long absence (here, I think it was the ridiculous expectation that every second would be perfection, that caused the trouble). Again, though, sorrow and forgiveness were never more than a few minutes away.

 As for the little Seyfrieds, Sheridan and Evan had a brotherly love that even strangers commented
Ev and Sher--the dynamic duo
upon. They rarely argued, about anything. It was a simple dynamic: Sheridan called all the shots, and Evan adoringly followed along. When little Ev would be asked at dinner about his preschool day, big bro would unfailingly chime in with, "I used to have Evan's teacher, so here's what he did in school! Circle time and show and tell and playground time and he practiced for the show!!" We'd turn to tiny Evan, who would merely smile and nod.

Happy Evan and baby Rose--a rare moment!

Evan and Rose got off on the wrong foot. Rose's main fault? She was born. Who needed a third party to break up The Perfect Partnership? And Rose didn't help matters much, with her infant fussing and her toddler tantrum-ing and her school years' angst. Down the pecking order, Rose and PJ got on all right most of the time, though they too had their tough moments.  PJ and Julie went from hearts and flowers when she was a baby, to bickering their way through the teenage years and beyond.

But here's the blessing: they have all gotten to a place where their love and loyalty always trump their disagreements. Years ago, I imagined grown Evan and Rose would drift apart permanently. Yet here they are, talking online often, sharing favorite bands, traveling great distances to visit. Julie and Rose have celebrated joys, nursed each other through heartbreaks, and look forward to being together in NYC next year. A highlight of Julie's recent European adventure was a week spent with PJ in Marburg, Germany, where he was an exchange student. And Sheridan gets along well with everybody, as he always has.

Evan and Rose in Hawaii
 Do I take much credit for how close they are now? Nope. But I often told them, as my mom often reminded me: "These will be the longest relationships of your lives, longer than marriage, longer than your time with us. So treasure each other. Make every effort to like each other, and value each other. You'll never be sorry."

On this Throw Back Thursday, I share some pictures of my favorite brothers and sisters. May they always love each other even half as much as I love them.
PJ and Julie, then and now

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bao's Big Bash

Look at me. Do I look like Martha Stewart? I didn’t think so. I have in my possession a book by interior designer Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life. Lord only knows why I thought I could implement ANY of her suggestions ("Make the inside of your refrigerator a feast for the eye...try keeping a small bunch of flowers in the refrigerator. Surprise pleasures delight the most.") The only time flowers would ever make their way into my messy, overstuffed fridge would be if I absent-mindedly put them there instead of on the table. That would indeed be a surprise, if not a delight.

I ascribe to the blitz-clean method before company arrives (you know, shove the pile of newspapers under the sofa,  pray no one needs to use the upstairs bathroom, light some candles and dim all the other lights.) I do not line our drawers with special scented paper. I do not have granite countertops. I do not have a mud room (unless it is raining. Then every room is a mud room.)

So what makes us think we can throw Ya-Jhu a baby shower? Probably the same brand of insanity that made us think we could have a DIY wedding for Yaj and Sher almost two years ago. Back then, while the food and decorations were all loving hands at home, the site of the festivities was Gloria Dei Church--no need to scour and scrub Chez Seyfried! But wait! We had the rehearsal dinner here, a lovely evening of thunderstorms (no chance of being out on the deck)  and 80 degree-plus temps (we have no air conditioning). It all came off fine, but I still awaken in a cold sweat remembering our frantic prep.

 Yet here we are again, mere days away from the Big Event for Bao (Mandarin for baby). Julie, Rose and I are ostensibly co-hosts, but to be honest Julie has done most of the work to date, coming up with the theme, planning the menu. We have the unenviable task of squeezing our guests into our none-too-palatial home, a task made even more challenging by the arrival of Sheridan's grand piano from New York City last week. At this writing, the huge Kawai is sharing the family room with our old Yamaha upright. If we don't move one or the other by Saturday, the shower will have the ambiance of an afternoon in the Jacob's Piano Showroom.

Yaj remains serene, a tiny Asian Madonna. She tells me (often) that she will be happy with whatever we pull together, and I believe her. I want to relax and enjoy the day, truly I do. So I have decided to relegate Living a Beautiful Life to the attic, as we write our own book, Living a Good-Enough Life.

Bao, we’ll do our best for your mom. Can’t wait to see you!

Ya-Jhu, eating for two!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Never Too Late

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday this week, March 5th. That means Easter is April 20th, about as late as it can possibly be. Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, and by Holy Week we will be in the heart of spring, flowers and robins and all. And it has me quite unsettled.

You see, Lent was supposed to be my gloom-and-doom season, when I examined my (guilty) conscience and fretted over my (innumerable) sins. As a Catholic child, I was encouraged to give something up each Lent, something I really enjoyed, like TV or Coke. So skipping the ice cream and Pop Tarts for six weeks just added to the general misery.

Mo the Picky Eater
My sister Maureen was in the cafeteria at Epiphany School in September of her first grade year. The cafeteria ladies were brutal—no recess until everything on your tray was eaten. As her classmates finished and went outside, poor little Mo remained, glumly contemplating the slimy stewed prunes on her plate.  As the time ticked by, she couldn’t swallow a spoonful . Finally, inspiration struck. When the cafeteria worker commented on her uneaten prunes, Mo smiled and said, “Oh I’d LOVE to eat my prunes, but I can’t. You see, I’ve given them up for Lent!” When Mrs. Lunch Lady stopped laughing, she allowed Mo to leave her prunes and go out to play.

When I grew older, I stopped giving up (it was kind of absurd; I’d give up desserts, honestly, just to lose five pounds), and started giving more more more…more volunteering, more praying, more general good deeds. And that was better, but I still had the nagging feeling that my positive actions were kind of selfish at root (“Look at me, God! I’m really super duper, aren’t I?”)

So I settled into a mood of mild depression, as I felt befit the 40 days. The nasty winter weather helped my blues along, with bitter cold and early darkness.  But this year! How will I be able to stay “down”? The elusive sun will be shining again, and all around me will be signs of new life. Wait—that’s not supposed to happen til Easter at the earliest! Who ever heard of a Happy Lent?

But maybe…

God never meant for us to spend Lent in a funk. Maybe it would be better passed with a sense of peace and hope and, yes, even joy. After all, to dwell only on the sadness of Jesus’ death, to beat ourselves up over our faults and scramble madly to win God’s favor-- is to miss the whole point. The point is Christ’s amazing life and His resurrection promise.  The point is that God loves us, just as we are, and we can grow to be our best selves because of that grace-filled love.

I believe we can relax about the Ben and Jerry’s and the Tote Board of Super Duper Deeds.

Lovely pic by my friend Melissa Otterbein--the heart of spring!

I believe we can welcome a late Lent this year, and enjoy every beautiful day of it.