Stellie Pearl's Thoughts......

I Keep Hoping That My Tomorrows Will Catch Up With Yesterday

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mom and Her Sisters, Part One~ Aunt Sis

Pictured Above in 1976: Mim, Jackie, Mom and Sis (missing: JoAnn)

My mom had 4 sisters. Only one is left, living in a nursing home in Kentucky. She and my mother haven't seen each other in over 10 years.

The eldest sister was Margaret. Everyone called her "Sis", so to us, she became "Aunt Sis".

Aunt Sis had long hair that she always wore up in a bun. Her kitchen was a sunny place, always smelling of good food. To this day when I smell green beans cooking, it reminds me of her kitchen. On her back porch was a swing, which we enjoyed. She had a ancient cat named orange and white tabby, who had been in many fights. One of his eyes was damaged. We always wanted to pet Tiger, but we wary of him.

Aunt Sis wore plain white Keds sneakers which were clean and white all of the time. When they got dirty, she would wash them. Only Aunt Sis could get them white enough to look like they were brand new.

She loved to can her garden vegetables. She had a cellar house, where she kept her canned goods. She made wonderful pies....I especially remember her apple pie. She knew every bird song, and every wild flower that grew up on the hill next to her house. I remember her showing me a flower called "Bloodroot"...when we picked it, red liquid came out of the stem.

Aunt Sis also taught me how to properly wash my waist-length long hair. Her bathroom was a comforting place. Her washer and dryer were in there, so it always smelled of soap and Downy.

We lost my Aunt Sis in the fall of 1988. She had been sick for awhile. She had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer had had to have a lung removed. (All of mom's sisters, including my mom were smokers.) Aunt Sis came down with pneumonia, then, she was gone.

I miss her still....her laughter, her advice, her smile. She was a special Aunt to me.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

You Can Hear Me

I went to visit my mom yesterday. She was sitting in her wheelchair, out in the hallway when I arrived. Luckily, Sandra (my favorite nurse) was working . She knows that mom won't talk to me. Mom, however, has been talking to Sandra.

Sandra came over, and took my mom's hand and said "Katie! Look who's here!" My mom looked up at me and had the angriest look on her face. Sandra kept saying "Look...your beautiful daughter is here to visit you!" No response.

She wheeled mom into her room, and we sat down to talk. "Talk to her," she told me. "She can hear you, even if she isn't answering you".

I started felt strange, because I haven't really talked to mom in a long while. I just kind of gave up because she never would answer me. It was like the flood gates opened....and I talked to her for a half hour.

"Remember all the fun we used to have?" I asked her. "Remember how we tried to string popcorn and cranberries to put on the Christmas tree that one year, and how aggravated we we laughed?"

The more that spilled out of me, the more constricted my throat got. I began to cry.

"Remember all those cross stitch kits we bought and then never used? What about laughing at Dad, always wanting us to use Free Coupons?"

The tears flowed freely down my face. She would make eye contact with me, and then look away. Finally, she turned to look at me, licked her lips, and said in a scratchy voice ""

"Yes!" I cried....."Yes, I'm crying!"

She asked me in the same scratchy voice "Why?"

"Because I miss you, mom. I miss talking to you. I miss all of the things that we used to do, and laugh about. I miss being able to call you after having a bad day at always made me feel better. I miss calling you, telling you about a new recipe that I have tried, or a really good book that I have just read. I miss having you in my life...."

She never answered me. She would look at me, then turn away. After all of that crying, I was spent. It had given me a headache....I was exhausted.

I wheeled her back out into the hall, and told Sandra that I was getting ready to leave. A snowstorm was on its way in, and I wanted to get home before it started. A bad stomach virus is going around the nursing home right now. My mother's roommate is hospitalized because of it. I took some hand sanitizer out of my purse, and took my mother's hands. I cleaned her hands with it, all the while telling her "Mom...there's a bad virus going around. Remember how you and I hate to throw up? Please try to keep your hands clean.....I don't want you to get sick...." Then, I hugged her, and kissed her, and told her that I love her very very much, and that I will see her soon.

That is the most I have spoken to my mom in MONTHS. I have been so hurt, and angry with her. It is like it is all melting away now. I can't go on like this...not going to visit her because she won't talk to me. I will go visit her, and talk to her....she can still hear me....even if she chooses not to answer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Eighteenth Birthday

There are certain times of your life that really stand out in your memory....some more clear than others. I remember the year that I turned 18. As much fun as it was, there was a little sadness along with it.....

1982 was the year I turned 18. November 20th is my birthday, and if my memory serves me correctly, it fell on a weekday. My mom let me stay out of school. She and I took the train down to NYC to spend the day shopping and eating. I loved the city, especially the shopping! We went to my favorite store, Strawberries. Mom bought me a pair of black suede boots, and some Guess jeans. We ate cheesecake at Lindy's. What a memorable day it was.

That weekend, I had a party at my house. My mom was there. All of my friends came...there was loud music and beer.... everyone was having a blast, until my dad walked in.

My mom and dad legally separated in 1982. In November she had asked him to please move out of the house. He had left, but stopped by the night of my party to pick up my brother to take him with him for the weekend.

My dad walks in....the music stops. Someone has their feet propped up on the coffee table in the livingroom, and as my dad walks by, he pushes their feet off into the floor. There were muffled "Hi, Mr. Mingrone"...."How ya doin' Mr. Mingrone...." but my dad said nothing. He came in, grabbed my brother and a suitcase, then left. I remember at the time feeling embarrassed. My dad could be hateful if he wanted to. But everyone liked him and respected him...he was the band director at our school. A lot of my friends were his students. I know it was hard for him to see his students smoking and drinking beer. But most of all, I felt his disappointment in me. But....this was MY day! I was finally legal....I was drinking, but I was at home! Back then, my mom stood up for me. Where I always felt disappointment in my dad's eyes, my mom was always there for me.

The year went from bad to worse. This was my senior year of high school, and my family was falling apart. I wanted to pretend it wasn't happening, which was hard to do. I don't remember much about the springtime months. My granny, my mom's mom, passed away in June...right at the time of my graduation. I missed my graduation because we flew to West Virginia. My classmates could be cruel, and I was often the subject of untrue rumors. Someone started the rumor that I missed graduation because I got pregnant and had to be sent away.

Turning 18 was exciting as much as it was devastating. Little did I know what lie ahead. For the longest time, I was the only one in our "group" of friends whose parents were still married. Now my family was breaking up, and I was falling apart.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

We Used to Laugh......

(Me & Mom, 1994)

We used to laugh, my Mom and I. We shared the same sense of humor, and found silliness in the simplest things.

I used to laugh at her for cleaning the bathroom "when the mood struck her."...not meaning our bathroom was dirty until she felt like cleaning it, but sometimes when she would be getting out of the bathtub in the evenings. After scrubbing the tub, she would continue to clean the sink, toilet and floor with just a towel wrapped around her. I would knock and enter the bathroom to find her cleaning the mirror with a paper towel, and a her foot on a rag, wiping the floor at the same time. We would crack up, and she would say "I might as well, while I'm in here."

Once, she and I became obsessed with doing cross stitch. I had bronchitis, and missed a week of work. She and I went to a crafts store and bought tons of cross stitch kits and thread. We finished a few things, then put it away. Years later, when we were cleaning out a closet, we found those things.....and laughed until we cried. Oh yes, we were so dedicated in continuing our cross stitch projects....every time we came across another unopened kit, we would laugh harder.

Then, there was the blue shirt. I bought a soft, well-worn used blue Woolrich shirt at a garage sale. It was a mens shirt, so it was big. A soft button-down I would wear around the house on weekends. My mother fell in love with the shirt, so I gave it to her when I moved away. The following Christmas, when she sent my gifts to Florida, in one of the boxes was the blue shirt. There was no note with it.....I laughed until I cried. The next Mother's Day, I sent the shirt back to her. This went on for years, until one of us lost track of the shirt. I can't even tell you where it is to this day. But for a lot of years, it brought us bouts of tear-filled laughter....each one of us thinking about the other.

My father, bless his heart, was a topic of a lot of our shared laughter. Not in a mean way, but some of the things that he said, or the way that he acted was hilarious to me and my Mom. When my brother and I were still young, my Mom would pick us up from school. If it was late in the afternoon, my Dad would be getting ready to drive home at the same time (he was a teacher at our school). My brother would get in my Dad's car with him, I would be in my Mom's car with her. We would be sitting at a stoplight, both cars side by side, and my Mom would look over at my Dad and give him the finger just as the light would be turning green. We would bust out laughing, then she would take off. She always beat my Dad home. My brother would be mad because Dad drove so slow. Another joke we had regarding Dad, was he would never pass up anything FREE. We were all staying in a hotel one time, and Mom and I got up early, and were tiptoeing out of the room to go downstairs for coffee, when my Dad, still mostly asleep, saw us. He started fumbling around on the beside table for the Free Continental Breakfast coupon he had, croaking in his still-sleepy voice "FREE....take these Free.......". Another time, she and my Dad had come down to visit me in Florida. We had gone out for dinner, and I was driving them back to their hotel. My Dad fell asleep in the back seat, and Mom and I were quietly talking in the front. A thunderstorm had just finished, as we passed a field full of cows. "I wonder if cows can be struck by lightening?" I asked my mom, quietly. "OF COURSE THEY CAN!" this voice boomed from the backseat. My sleeping father suddenly awoke, to answer my question. We laughed until I thought we would pass out.

I can't remember the last time that I laughed with my Mom. It has been a very long time. I'm glad that I have the memories. I ache because there will not be any more.

I miss you, Mom, even though you're still here

I can't reach you anymore

Your eyes are open, your heart beats
yet you can't hear my words

When you look at me, your eyes are scared

I hope that you know

how much I love you and

would never hurt you

I wish that you would come back

I miss you and love you

I just hope that you know that

(Me & Mom, 2009)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach, VA was sometimes a vacation stop for us for a week in the summers, then we would drive on to WV. We would psych ourselves up for the trek across and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. The signs that read "Please check your gas tank" before we hit the bridge/tunnel always disturbed me. What if you ran out in the middle?
(ABOVE: The Seagull Motel)

Each year that we visited Virginia Beach, we always stayed at the same place; The Seagull Motel. It was a small oceanfront family motel, that only had 3 oceanfront rooms. The rest of the rooms were "ocean view". It was a pleasant little place, owned by a Greek family. The husband and wife were always in the office, along with their 2 white toy poodles. My brother and I loved to go into the office and play with the dogs.

Our favorite breakfast spot was a place called Peter Pancakes. Outside of the restaurant, there was a huge statue of Peter Pan. Their pancake menu was extensive....any type of pancake you could imagine! My father always ordered blueberry pancakes, my brother the silver dollars. My mom usually ordered an English Muffin and fruit. And me? I had to be exotic and order the Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Sauce....I hadn't a clue what Lingonberries were, but those pancakes were very good!

We spent our days at the beach and/or swimming pool. We would play and swim, and maybe stop briefly to have a sandwich in the room. My parents would round us up around 4:00 to start getting ready for dinner. We had a couple of favorite places to eat. One was a seafood place that had a huge fish tank full of fish, that always entertained me and my brother. My mother always ordered Filet of Sole with lemon. I would eat some of hers and share her salad with blue cheese dressing. After our meal, we would either play miniature golf, or walk on the boardwalk. There was a neat playground a few blocks back from the beach that had unique slicky slides shaped like rocket ships...sometimes we went there. The trip was not complete without the purchase of salt water taffy and Seafoam candy. When we would get back to the motel, I always begged to go for one more swim before bedtime. The pool looked so inviting with all of the lights on underwater. Then, sunburned and tired, I would fall asleep and sometimes feel the warm trickle of water come out of one my ears when I was almost asleep.

When I think back on it now, my parents always did so much to make sure that we had special family vacations each year. My mom didn't work, and my father was a teacher. He had the summers off, and he always made sure we went somewhere together as a family. I have so many good memories of the times that we spent together at the beach, and feel fortunate to have experienced them with my family.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mom and Donnie; Me and Dawn

(Mom is 3rd from the left)

My granny, Stella Pearl, came from a big family. She had 3 brothers, Harry, Alvie and Cecil; and a baby sister, Ruth Virginia.

Stella Pearl had six children, Ruth Virginia had five. My mom grew up with one of Ruth Virginia's daughters...they were a year apart in age, and besides being cousins, they were best friends. Her name was Donnie Lou.

While growing up, Mom and Donnie Lou were inseparable. They spent nights over at each others houses, ran wild playing outside in the creeks and hills of Aarons Fork, in West Virginia where they lived. They smoked their first cigarettes together, went to cheerleading camp together and double-dated together.

(Donnie is far left, Mom is far right)

After they graduated from high school, Donnie married her high school sweetheart, Jack. They settled down in Charleston to start a family. My mother Katie went to business college, and worked for a CPA. She met my father at a New Years Eve party in 1959. They married, and moved to New York. Mom and Donnie lost touch....for a very long time.

Ruth Virginia and my granny lived just right around the hill from each other. When we would go to WV each summer to visit, we would go over to visit Ruth. It was amazing how Mom and Donnie never ran into each other over there. I had heard all about Donnie, and how she and mom played in the very yards and hills where my brother and I played every summer. Waded in the same creeks, played in the same woods...I wanted to meet her. More importantly, I wanted to meet her daughter, who I had heard was close to my age.

Then, in the summer of 1976, it happened. Donnie and her daughter, Dawn, came out to my granny's house for a visit. Dawn had a huge bandage on her leg. She had wrecked her bicycle over at Ruth's....ran off of the bridge into the creek below. Our mothers had done the same thing when they were little, in the same spot! Dawn was two years younger than I. We talked non-stop in my bedroom, while our mothers talked non-stop in the kitchen.

We liked the same music...the same clothes....the same tv shows. It was amazing. I had found a friend, a sister, a soul mate to visit with when I spent my vacations in WV. Donnie invited us to go with them the next summer to their beach house in North Myrtle Beach, SC. I couldn't wait!

From September of 1976 forward, Dawn and I wrote letters to each other. On rare occasions, our moms would let us call each other. We couldn't wait to see each other again.

It is amazing to me, still to this day, to think about how close Mom and Donnie were growing
up, and how close Dawn and I became, and how we played in the same yards that our moms played in. Ruth's other daughter Joyce, lives in a mobile home on the other side of the garden from Ruth's house. Joyce has three sons. They all played in those yards, up on the hill, in the Joyce's sons are grown. One lives in Ruth's old house, one built a home where the garden used to be. They have children, and those children play in the same yards and the hills and the creeks.....generation after is comforting in a way.

My granny's house sits empty, there on the other side of the hill. The ghosts of the past wander her yard, her garden and her home. Donnie and my mom have lost touch once again, because of where my mom is, and the state of mind that she is in. Donnie calls once a week to check on mom, and is so sad that she can't talk to her anymore.

Dawn and I have drifted apart a little...we talk maybe twice a month. She is a mother now. She's busy working, and raising her son.

I am thankful for what I had growing up; security, love, a cousin who was like a sister to me. I am thankful that we were able to follow in the same footsteps that our mothers did. I am sad that time must move forward, and, even though the love and the memories are still there, the time that we spend together is short and bittersweet.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

~The Birthday Month~

Both my brother and I have November birthdays. Mine is the 20th, his is the 15th.

When we were kids, I never understood why his birthday came first, when I was the older sibling. He had his party first, got presents annoyed me.

My aunt and uncle would come down from White Plains, bearing gifts. My brother would be tearing around the house, playing with new Matchbox Cars, or Tonka Trucks, while I sat in the corner, glaring at him and everyone else....I am sure that they found it to be comical. I mean, my birthday was only 5 days later, but I had to act like a brat anyway.

My poor mom had 2 cakes to make within the space of one week, but I never heard her complain. My brother and I each had parties, inviting the kids from our classrooms....little heathens running around the house, tearing things up, yelling, parents put up with it all.

One year I had a sleepover...10 girls crammed into our den, with sleeping bags, teddy bears and loud, squealing laughs. There was a door off of our den that led out to our back screened in porch. There was an alarm on this door that was nothing more than an air-horn (when the door was opened, the chain would disengage, and the horn would blast). We were playing some kind of game and one of the girls opened that door.....Lord, that was loud! All of us practically peed ourselves. Of course, we thought that it was the funniest thing in the world, so there we were, laughing, rolling all over the floor and here comes my dad. It's probably 2:00am, and he comes slogging downstairs to shut off the air nothing but his boxers. Gee, thanks dad. I had to hear about that forever! "Man, your dad has some hairy legs!" "OMG! He's in his UNDERWEAR!"

Me & My Best Friend Eleni

The following week was Thanksgiving....another fun holiday at home. Some years we ate at home. Those years, my mom would get up at the crack to put the turkey on, and start her stuffing. I would wake up smelling onions and celery being sauteed on the stove. We would turn the parade on, and it would just be a relaxing day for everyone. Mom always went all out....she made her own pumpkin pies and usually a cheese cake. In my high school years, I would have been out partying the night before Thanksgiving, so I would usually be hungover the next morning! One year on Thanksgiving night, a bunch of us went to a party. My friend Louise came home to spend the night with me after, and we had the munchies. We came home and started tearing the leftovers out of the fridge. My dad came in the kitchen and said "My, you girls are awfully hungry....." Louise and I stood there, our eyes totally red, laughing so hard.....

The day after Thanksgiving was The Shopping Day. My best friend Eleni and I would either go to Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, or The Galleria in White Plains. A whole day of shopping, laughing, and looking for cute guys.....

Yep....the memories all come flooding back. New York in November....the leaves yellow and red, raked into huge piles on the sides of the streets. The smell of the cold, crisp air. The secure feeling of having your family and your friends all around you. November in New York lives forever in my heart.