Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy 91st birthday!

1917 - The year my Honey (she never wanted to be known as "Grandma") was born, also was the year that the Russian Revolution breaks out; the first jazz record is recorded; the 1st NHL championship game ever played the 1st time American Hockey team wins Stanley Cup (Seattle Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens); British troops occupy Baghdad; U.S. enters WWI; Mary appears to 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal; the Raggedy Ann doll was invented; 1st class mail now costs 3cents an ounce; New York State now allows women the right to vote; twice this year suffragists were arrested for picketing at the White House; and, Boys Town was founded by Father Flannagan in Nebraska. What a busy year, and those were only a few of the headlines from 1917.

Andrew Wyeth, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Dean Martin, Indira Ghandi, John Kennedy, Jr., Katherine Graham, Phylis Diller, Robert Mitchum, Dizzy Gillespie, Robert Bloch, and Zsa Zsa Gabor were all born this year. Some are still with us and some have gone ahead.

What did things cost when my Honey was born? Wow! I googled and found that in Morris county NJ (thanks!!) ketchup was $0.12 a bottle, and sugar was $1.89 for a 25 lb. sack! There was a 12-room house for sale, only $4,400.00. Times sure have changed.

Last year we celebrated Honey's 90th birthday with a fabulous family reunion. We came from all over the US to celebrate and reconnect. Honey and my Pop Pops had 4 children and they were all there, along with 11 grandchildren and several spouses, and 6 great-grandchildren! Although Pop Pops passed away a few years ago, Honey was fortunate to meet a widower who shares her life now. The most recently married grandchild and his wife hosted at their new house which also has a pool, so it became a wonderful pool party for the great-grandkids.

What a difference from family gatherings of old. Instead of being the kids playing the games and swimming all day, we were the grown-ups standing around chatting, taking kids to the potty or changing diapers, switching off parenting duties, for a chance to grab a bite to eat. Our family is lucky that we have such a rich history of family gatherings since all the cousins were kids. My mom and her sisters all settled to raise their families near each other. Only their brother headed out to explore the world beyond Lancaster County. He and his girls would come back to visit most every year though. What great memories of old - the extended family meeting after church at Honey & Pop pops house, taking turns hosting holiday meals and birthday parties. These memories call to mind the images Norman Rockwell captured.

The last time many of us were all together was a wedding 4 years earlier. Before that, it had been many years; since the last big family gatherings occurred when we were in middle school. My grandparents moved away to Arizona when I was in junior high, and we all got very busy with the active lives that teenagers have. We still had Christmas and Easter, but it wasn't quite the same.

But now that we are all getting married and raising our own children, we feel the need to reconnect with our past and share it with the next generation. So much has changed since my Honey was born. Even since I was born! I long for the simpler times of my childhood. Our kids don't have the same luxurious freedoms we had at the same age. However, when we all get together again, it's like recapturing that Norman Rockwell moment all over again. And we have the opportunity to share that family feeling, that freedom feeling with the next generation. To give them that connection to something bigger than they are.

I'm not always certain all of the changes we've seen in the last 91 years are for the better. And, thankfully, some things never change. I'm grateful to have my Honey and hear the stories of her childhood and life with my grandfather when they were young parents. Their adventures, trials, tribulations, and most especially the funny, heartwarming stories of their children (our parents) being, well, children, bring a smile to my face, and bolster me when I'm facing tough times. Somehow we manage through the worst of times, and hopefully we savor the best of times, and find shining moments that stay with us forever.

I realized as we celebrated Honey's birthday last year, that she gave us the the best gift of all. These fabulous family gatherings and the wonderful memories we treasure. I hope we continue her traditions so that our children and their children will have these treasures to hold on to through their lives.

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