Family Holiday Part II

Family Holidays should be a time for children and parents to reconnect outside of their regular routine and for those of us whose kids go to daycare it is time to find out what they are really like. For some reason although you have 24 hours a day together during a holiday it is always the necessities of life like eating and sleeping that become an enormous struggle for one main reason, you have abandoned your routine. The routine of paying someone else to look after them, while you work which most of the time feels like a vacation from your child. I think the only reason we take a family holiday is to escape the relentless drudgery of doing the same thing at the same time every day over and over again, and also to make us appreciate the life we have created and that routines are good even if they are boring.

We also have shopping to do, so when I arrived in Boston, Nana, Eva and I went off to the Apple store so I could have the keyboard on my laptop replaced after Eva the toddler turned computer eating tiger destroyed several keys. The young man at the genius desk returned with bad news,

“I am sorry Mame, but your computer is what we now term – vintage, and we can no longer replace parts.”

In the same sentence he called me Mame and called my computer vintage. I was left reeling by multiple disappointments.

“So what you are telling me is I have no choice but to buy a new laptop.”

“Yes.”

I felt like an insurance company that had just been told its client was going to have to undergo an organ transplant. I wish toddlers came with a warning alarm, one that would sound when they were about to cause you $3000 dollars in damage. Eva the pretend tiger was getting a lot less cute by the minute.

This horrible realization was made worse when the Apple genius bar tech called all his friends around to look at the dinosaur computer I had brought in.

“Take a look at this machine, it has about 30 seconds of battery life.”

“What year is that from?”

“2008” I say preempting their About this Mac search.

“Look,” one tech says to the other, “ She has no apps on her computer!!!!”

“Listen boys, I know I am old, and my computer is old but I have never had any problems with it.”

“They are built to last.” one of them answered.

“It’s that over there I have problems with.” I say pointing at Eva with Nana playing with the apple ipads on display on the Kids table.

“Are you sure you want her playing with your ipads?”

They walked me through the specs of my hypothetical new laptop, hypothetical because I had no idea where the $3000 was going to come from or when.

When we finished Nana and I had to pry Eva off of the ipad where she had discovered the kids app “Endless alphabet” which helps you learn letters and spell different words and had the unexpected bonus of increasing her vocabulary which I discovered when trying to feed her dinner that night.

“Yucky”

“Yucky”

“Yucky”

We gave up and ended up going out to eat at Legal’s seafood. They gave me a kid’s menu but I ordered Eva a meal off of the adult menu since she preferred real food to pasta and fish sticks, and maybe just maybe mommy was schooling Eva to be a food snob in the fine tradition of food snobs in the Spurling family.

I ordered her smoked salmon with toast points, and Mussels for myself. In an unpredictable toddler rage, she began shrieking at the top of her lungs, making the nearby childless diners grimace and wince and cut their eyes in our direction. If I could have anticipated her screaming fit, if I could have done anything to prevent it,

I would have. So Instead I cut my eyes back at the wincing childless diners next door. I later discovered through sobs that I had done something terrible. I was guilty of precipitating the toddler rage because I used the blanket attached to her bunny to wipe up a spot of milk she had dripped on my lap. Well I won’t do that again.

This scenario and in fact the whole trip, made me realize the problem with toddlers, you can’t lock them inside, nor can you take them out in public, so you do each equally and terribly hoping to spread out the torture of other people’s ear drums.

My solution is that when I am old and grumpy and don’t want to be around children, I will not choose to go out to dinner at a family restaurant like Legal’s seafood, and I will certainly think twice about trying to catch the early bird. There are so many thousands of restaurants in cities like Boston, if you can’t take the screeching choose somewhere else. People without children have plenty of choice, but those of us with kids are limited to restaurants with kiddy menus and highchairs- there aren’t nearly as many or even enough.

And my darling Eva just to be unpredictable for unpredictability’s sake sat on my lap and ate my entire order of mussels and I got stuck with the salmon. Our waitress brought her, her very own seafood bib, and she moved up a ranking in food snobbery. She will soon be coming out with bumper stickers that say “Say No to Fish Sticks.”

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The other thing with toddlers is that like horse and miniature daschschunds, they need to be exercised and when visiting a city, you have to find the nearest park. The next day Nana, Eva and I decided to head down to Boston Common to find the free yoga class Nana had spotted on a flyer. We hadn’t read the fine print and missed the yoga class by 24 hours so we found a grassy spot and did a little bit of stretching ourselves.

Our yoga class soon turned into sprint training, when Eva realized that there was miles of green space where she could out run her mother. When I was close to exhaustion a man appeared with enormous magic wands and began blowing bubbles the size of me, and sending them floating in the sky over the park. Like the Pied Piper children flocked around him as he dipped his wands in buckets of bubble juice and sent them off chasing bubbles from big to small and everything in between. Eva’s eyes lit up and she chased the bubbles around with all the big kids for at least thirty minutes while I tried to make sure she didn’t run out into oncoming traffic, and trailed behind her apologizing to all the little boys she mowed over chasing a bubble- there were a few.

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When it approached twilight and the bubble man had had enough, he started to pack up and I took Eva up to him and asked her to say Thank You.

“Thank you for the bubbles” came a little voice.

Then in an instant he made my entire holiday when he said,

“Your little girl, she will go far in life because she is so persistent.”

“Yes that is her to a T, you can tell that just from bubbles?”

“ Yes, I see children all the time, and very very rarely do you see a little one like her, I have only seen a few myself over the years.”

“You are just saying that because I look tired.”

“No, its true, she will go far.”

I know he is just a bubble man, not a child psychologist but it made my toddler induced exhaustion bearable and it was a lot better than getting eye cutting glares from other people. Yeah! For the bubble man.

I also asked him to tell me his secret recipe, which he did, for the perfect Bubble Mixture:

Here it is:

Home Made:

Ingredients:

1 Part      Dawn (Classic)

1/4 Part  Vegetable Glycerin

1/4 Part J&J Baby Shampoo

12 Parts water

 

On humid days use  13 to 14 parts water

How to make:

put into container hot water

gently  add and mix the Dawn, Glycerin, Shampoo

best if left uncovered one day before use

 

For the rest of our time in Boston, we hit Marshall’s a tourist attraction if you are from Bermuda, but also made time to go to the Boston Aquarium. There were more people there than there were fish but we were able to satisfy Miss Eva’s craving to see a shark. We found a perfect spot in the window of the large several story coral tank, at the top where we could watch the sharks lap the tank and the enormous turtle taking a nap on a coral bed. Eva was frightened by a fish which swam right by her head, and I think she in turn frightened the fish, but it made for a fun day out even if Eva refused to pat a sting ray but insisted that mommy pat one instead.

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The following day when Daddy and Pops flew in from Bermuda, we went for a duck tour and they had to detour our route because of the annual Puerto Rican parade, so after we got off the duck boat, we walked a few streets over to catch the parade.

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“ I feel like we haven’t left Bermuda.” I said watching the majorettes.

“I always wanted to be a majorette in primary school but my mother wouldn’t let me. In Hindsight I think she must have known I would have been really really bad at it.” I thought as I watched the young girls in tight sequined jumpsuits twirl batons.

“We watched a parade back in March when we visited Madeira.” Nana said.

“ Really, was it anything like this one?”

“No.”

“What was it like?”

“Well, I was a bit shocked.” Nana Giggled.

“Why?”

“The Madeira people paraded down the street, not with floats or cars or majorettes but enormous paper Mache penises.”

“Really! “ I giggled

“Like a Bacchanalia?”

“ I couldn’t really believe it myself, but there were huge effigies of the penis.”

Eva looked up and pointed and yelled “Penis! “

She has a point I thought, especially as the parade went on and on, the cars got bigger and bigger and the sound systems got bigger and bigger and louder and louder and louder. I wonder if the paper Mache penises got bigger and bigger too. Certainly the final car that came through, even though I didn’t have my measuring stick out ,was very impressive… Check out my phone snap below, yes those are speakers. Yes it was loud. Yes there were men driving it.

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Then Eva announced

“I have to go pee pee.” So I weaved her through the crowds to the Lennox Hotel and used their bathroom. Eva took her undies off and then very loudly told me,

“You and I are girls so we pee like this.” And she squatted in the stall.

“But Boys pee like this with a penis” She whipped out her imaginary penis and held it over the toilet bowl then shook it dry.

“Yes you are right Eva.” I said wondering if it were me, Nana, or Endless Alphabet who had taught her the anatomical name for the male appendage but what did it matter she was building her vocabulary. At least Eva wasn’t a repressed Catholic.

The next day we drove up to my parents house in New Hampshire: mountains, quiet, bliss = no cell phone reception.

When we arrived Eva said, “ I remember here, there is an orange and green froggy potty.”

“Really?” I said.

I hunted around the house, and what did I find in one of the bathrooms, but an orange and green froggy potty. She was right. Now I believed the Bubble man- my child is brilliant, she remembers the color of the Froggy potty she used a year ago. Sign her up for Junior Jeopardy.

The only thing missing from our week in New Hampshire was sleep, because we decided to put Eva in a big girl bed with protective sides. Looking back it was probably a mistake but what followed was a week of not napping, not wanting to go to bed and frequent night wakings paired with early morning rises. Holiday? Send me back to work.

Sleep deprived Eva loses all of her charitable nature and so she became a fussing Mommy hater, insisting that Daddy put her to bed, sit next to her, and otherwise become her sole parent and entire world. I would try to put her to bed but she would scream until Daddy came running, we would switch places and then she would look at me with her big blue bossy eyes and point at me from the crook of her Daddy’s arm.

“ You, You go downstairs and on your way out turn off the lights and shut the door.”

“Yes Mame.” I answered and Little Eva nestled into her favorite person in the world.

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Later on, I said to Chris, “I think Eva is your soul mate and you must have known each other in a past life.”

Nana said, “That could be true.”

“Who is my soul mate then?” I asked.

Chris without hesitation answered, “Your soul mate is Piccolo.”

“That could be true.” I said imagining my overweight aging Miniature dachshund who spoons me every night at home.

“I miss him.”

A few days later we went to the summer festival at The Fells, a historic house, and park. We patted Alapacas, and built a fairy house. Eva learned how to paint watercolors with real food, using black berries and spinach to create dies and paint a picture on a card. Then she frosted a cookie with spinach frosting, and devoured it. We waited and waited and finally the Face painter arrived, and Eva patiently waited her turn to be metamorphosed into a tiger. When we got home horseplay went to another level. I became the Tiger’s prey, and Eva stalked me around the house continually, catching me off guard and sinking her teeth into my leg and arm flesh.

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The next day was my birthday. I woke up with Strep throat- it had returned. The night before I asked my husband to bring me coffee in bed in case he wouldn’t think of it. Before we had Eva, Chris used to bring me coffee in bed every morning, but our life is different now. My birthday morning started off on a caffeine high with little Eva coming to jump on my bed and give me her present. I unwrapped it, and it was a hot pink Bermuda t-shirt.

“Thank you little Eva.”

She smiled proudly.

“Mommy and Eva can dress in matching pink for mommy’s birthday.”

“Yes” she replied.

Eva is obsessed with pink, if anything I encouraged the opposite. Her favorite colors in the past were purple and red, but now that she has settled on pink, everything has to be pink. She will only wear pink and if I try and dress her in something else she complains,

“But Green isn’t my favorite.”

I used to hate pink, but not anymore, now I accept it and even wear it if it will make her happy. Later on, on my birthday I ordered a bright pink dress for myself off the internet to make Eva happy. I also added a wonder woman bathing suit, because even if I don’t feel like a super hero, I might as well dress like one. It was my present to myself.

When I came downstairs my in-laws gave me their birthday gift. An ionic hairbrush, promising : brilliant shine with active frizz control ionic generator, releasing conditioning ions directly into the hair to remove static and smooth the cuticle for noticeably softer hair that looks and feels, shiny and manageable.

Yes my hair really is that bad, to brush it I need something with an on and off switch. They used to call me: Hairzilla in college. Those were the days. Some people’s hair thins when they get older, I think mine has just gotten worse, added by the infrequency of having time to wash it.

Their gift inspired me to tackle the mane, and I retreated with an army of bobby pins in an attempt to style my hair in pin curls, let them dry for seven hours, then brush them out with the ionic hairbrush and wala… I would reappear more Lauren Bacall than Hairzilla.

We didn’t do much on my birthday, we took the trash out, filled up with gas for the return trip and took Eva to the playground, and on the way back stopped off at the graveyard, just the way to make me feel every year of my thirty eight, and in pin curls no less!

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When we got home I told Eva that Bunny was going to make mommy a birthday cake, but unfortunately Bunny didn’t know how to bake yet, mommy hadn’t taught her.

Later on I tried to brush out the pin curls, and a few minutes and a lot of static later I looked exactly the same as Lauren Bacall- Nope- not even close, I looked exactly the same as I did the day before.

“I think this hair needs a professional.” I said to my disappointed family.

“I just have too much hair.”

The next day we drove back to Boston, when we got back to the apartment I started the never ending process of unpacking and repacking. At some point in this process I managed to knock the bottle of hot pink nail polish my mother had leant us for the trip to paint Eva’s nails with, and it shattered on the bathroom floor, splashing me from head to toe in hot pink paint spray. Unfortunately nail polish is not meant to be easily removed, so I sighed and accepted my new splattered look as part of my derelict mom décor.

A little while later the concierge called up to the apartment.

“Hello, this is Shucredev downstairs, I was calling to let you know that we just received a very important federal express package addressed to you from Pin Up Girl Clothing.”

… Pin Up Girl Clothing… I sighed. You know as a mincing nosy front desk man, he took pleasure in making calls like these and imagining what kind of whips and chains were inside.

“Would you like me to bring that up to you, or would you like to collect it.”

“I will collect it thank you.”

When I went downstairs, I had the elevator ride down eight floors to contemplate how sometimes people just get the wrong idea about things. I looked down at myself, covered in splattered hot pink nail polish, called “Kiss Me I’m Brazilian.” If I drew his attention to it, Shucredev might have been able to recognize the shade. As I felt for the edges of my hair to see in what direction it was frizzing and I kept finding stray bobby pins in my hair suggesting some previous attempt at decorum. Then I looked over my arms, legs, and neck, every visible area of skin was covered in bites, not mosquito bites but human bites, from a toddler impersonating a tiger. I could have tried to cover up the bite marks up with band aids, but all we had, were- you guessed it- hot pink Peppa Pig plasters—and I figured covering myself in those would do more to draw attention to my wounds than to distract. Looking at my reflection in the elevator door, it occurred to me that I looked like I had spent the last two weeks in some kinky sex camp instead of on a family Holiday with Eva’s grandparents. I couldn’t wear a turtle neck in August, like we used to do as a teenagers when we came home with hickies from an eventful date. I could have covered myself in concealer but I didn’t have the time or effort left after the last two weeks with Eva and the last time I bought make up was in 2005.

I approached the front desk.

“I have come to pick up my package.”

Shucredev went hunting through the Land’s End, LL Bean and Talbot’s packages.

“Ahah, here it is, one package from Pin Up Girl Clothing.”

I saw him feel the package up, trying to discern its contents.

“It’s a wonder woman bathing suit.” I said satisfying his curiosity but disappointing him as well in some way. But he still had plenty of time to wonder about the bite marks.

The next day we flew home. When we arrived, Hamma and Gigi greeted us,

“How was the trip, did you have a good time?”

“We had a great time, Eva cost me a 3000 dollar laptop, She bit me, ruined my reputation at Trinity Place and she might have left a scar.” I say pointing to my neck.

“What did you expect, you went on a Family Holiday.” Gigi said.

“We have made you dinner, come over with Eva tonight for your birthday cake.”

Derelict Gigi had really pulled out all the stops, she might even have missed us.

“Hurrah we are home and Bunny learned to bake! “ I said.

A couple days later when my wounds had healed and the hot pink nail polish had flaked off my skin, I asked Chris, “So where are we going next year?”

Xx Derelict Mom.

 

 

 

Gigi Goes AWAL

Continued from last week’s post:

https://derelictmom.com/2014/07/26/fair-warning/

Chris and I don’t go out much, but when we do we USED TO ask my parents if they were potentially available to take care of Eva. My parents have for a long time had a busier social life than ours and so usually they are too busy, booked in advance.

Eva of course is my child, and my responsibility and I would never think to ask my parent’s to take care of her full time during the work day, although that is an arrangement that some grandchildren have with their grandparents, as good daycare is not only hard to find but expensive. But Chris, Eva and I are blessed to have Auntie Zoe in our lives making it only necessary to find a baby sitter when we have plans in the evening.

My parents did agree to take care of Eva for three whole days and nights while we were all on vacation in New Hampshire last year, and it was going to be Chris and I’s first chance since she was born to reconnect for a long weekend in New York for the occasion of a friend’s wedding. Two nights before we left Eva was struck with the stomach flu. You can see from this picture her “I am about to get the stomach flu” face. This was not the dreamed of scenario for the first time you leave your child and go on holiday but these things can only happen to a derelict mom.

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Luckily it was a 24 hour bug and she had recovered before we left but she had given me a parting gift. We arrived in New York with high hopes, but on the morning of the wedding I woke up with Eva’s stomach flu and spent the next two days in bed missing the wedding and happy only that I could throw up in peace and did not have the audience and responsibility of a toddler. Throw up ruins everything.

A few months after this trip, we decided to ask my parents to babysit again, she was two and other than a few hours here, a few hours there, and those three days in New Hampshire they had never really looked after her. This had transpired for several reasons.

  1. She is their grandchild and not their child so they have no moral or ethical obligation to help out.
  2. They are kind of old.
  3. They have an active social life.
  4. They have two other grandchildren to take care of, quite frequently.
  5. Eva is “difficult.”

In January we decided to begin a date night once a month where Chris and I would go out to dinner and my parents would take care of Eva, all they would have to do is feed, bathe and put her to bed at their house. I went to my writing group at 6pm and Chris came straight from work to meet me for dinner at 8:30pm. We ordered a bottle of red wine, browsed the menu and ordered our meal in toddler free peace. At 9pm the phone rang.

“Hello, how is it going, why are you calling.”

“Not well, have you eaten yet?”

“We just ordered, Why?”

“Eva threw up everywhere and she won’t stop crying.”

“Why did she throw up?”

“Your father fed her three Peppa Pig yogurts.”

“Why?”

“She wouldn’t eat anything else, she wouldn’t eat the avocado, or sweet potato.”

“But did you try the beets, and carrots and sausages I brought over?”

“No, why didn’t she eat the avocado and the sweet potato, because Sadie always eats the avocado and sweet potato.”

“Because mom, Eva’s name is Eva not Sadie and she does not like avocado.”

“Why is she crying?”

“She wouldn’t go to sleep so we left her to cry.”

“Did you read her stories in the bedroom for ten minutes before you put her to bed like I suggested.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Well Sadie goes right to sleep and she doesn’t need any stories.”

“Eva is not Sadie.”

“When are you coming home?”

“As soon as possible:”

We ate the rest of the meal in complete silence and Eva was still awake when we came home. That was our last date night and the last time my parents attempted to babysit for Eva. Fast forward six months, it was June and I decided to ask them to make one more attempt at having a babysitting relationship with their granddaughter.

“Yes we can babysit, what are you doing?” my father said. He always says yes but my mother has the power of veto.

“We are going out to eat with our neighbors. At a restaurant in town so we were within sprinting distance should Eva throw up or refuse to eat avocado. “

Two days pass and my mother sends me an email from France.

“What time do you have to be at dinner on our babysitting night, you see we have accepted an invitation for a cocktail reception from 5-7pm at the U.S. Consulate and its very important that we attend as they have an important visiting American artist.”

“8pm, so you can still babysit.”

Another two days pass and I get another email from my mother from France,

“I am afraid we will now not be able to babysit at all because the Michael’s will be moving into our apartment that night for a few nights and we will need to cook them dinner, so we cannot have Eva.”

I did not reply as we got the message.

Another two days pass and I get another email from my mother, “We will pay for your babysitter the night you go out.”

I did not reply.

Another two days pass, and I get another message, “We have bought Eva some Peppa Pig books in London.”

When they got home from London, they gave her the books and the other spoils from their trip. It turns out my mother is much better at shopping than babysitting but sometimes these past times over lap. Because they don’t babysit they would have no idea that Eva’s favorite book is “Peppa meets the Queen” and so they bought her another copy, but on occasion you do need more than one of the same thing, kind of like grandparents. So when it came to Auntie Zoe’s summer holiday we called in reinforcements and Eva’s other grandparents agreed to take care of Eva all day for the seven days they were in Bermuda before our joint holiday in New Hampshire leaving me with only seven days to cover before they arrived.

Meanwhile my parents informed me that they were taking down Sadie’s crib in their spare room because she no longer needed a crib as she was sleeping in a big girl bed. It never occurred to them that Eva still sleeps in a crib and might in some alternative universe actually spend the night at their house before she was big enough for a king size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and an ensuite bathroom.

The problem was not just that Eva was persona non grata at my parent’s house it was also that the grandparents were barely ever home. One such weekend a few weekends ago my husband Chris suggested to my dad that we take out the inflatable run around boat that he had said we could use to boat Eva around in the harbor.

Gigi and Hamma had plans for a friend’s birthday and said they would be back at some point in the afternoon so Chris dusted off the boat but thought twice before hauling it out of the shed for fear that they would not be home in the afternoon to give us a lesson in operation. Sure enough as we were feeding Eva her supper, my mother came staggering through our yard with friends.

“Do you think we could get that boat up and running now?” Chris asked.

“Why do you want to do that?” My mother answered.

“Because Dad has been saying since last summer that we could use it if we wanted to and we wanted to take it for a spin.”

“I don’t know why he told you that, he sold it to Cousin Patrick last week.”

It was just as well Chris hadn’t spent too much time readying the craft.

About thirty minutes later my mother returns.

“What does she want now?” Chris asked.

I shrugged my shoulders and appeared on the other side of the chain link fence.

“Can you give my friend a ride home?”

It was a total role reversal and for a moment I felt like I was living the Disney Movie, Freaky Friday when the mother and daughter switch bodies. My mother, a senior citizen just asked me to drive her drunk friend home.

“Sure!” was of course my answer. I got in the car and obliged. When I returned down the drive way, I came around the corner and there was Cousin Patrick with all the kids loading their boating gear into the family van. They all had mystified looks on their faces, which confused me. I drove past them and at the fork in the road as I was going to turn right to return my mother’s car, there she was, in my way, a bit like road kill but more colorful.

GiGi was swaying underneath the Poinciana tree, with flowers behind her ears and holding a tray of cupcakes each with an American Flag flying from a toothpick. She was waving and she might have been singing. I think she may have lost not only her drunk friend but her mind as well or maybe she was having a flashback to when she was a teenager in the 1960s.

I paused and unrolled the window.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you?”

“I made you some cupcakes.”

“In the last five minutes?”

“They were leftovers from July 4th, we made them for Sadie and Trystan.”

“Thanks.”

At that moment I realized there wasn’t much difference between Gigi and the teenage babysitters we hire for Eva. When Hamma and Gigi got off the boat they seemed shocked to see their house guest who my aunt had picked up from the airport earlier in the afternoon. It was clear they had totally forgot she was coming, kind of like they forgot they had a third grandchild, Eva.

With Auntie Zoe’s holiday imminent, a hung over Gigi questioned me the next day on her departure,

“When is Zoe going away?”

“Next week”

“What day next week?”

“Wednesday the 16th of July”

“What flight is she on?”

“The BA flight at 8pm.”

“Is she working a full day that Wednesday?”

“Yes. “

“When are Shelagh and Duncan coming?”

“The following Tuesday.”

“Okay”

“Why so many questions?”

“Oh no reason.”

A few days later Gigi announces that she will be leaving for New Hampshire on the morning of Thursday the 17th of July and returning on Friday the 25th. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

“Gigi has gone AWAL.” Chris announced.

Meanwhile Eva’s other grandparents arrive. They bring Eva a new pair of Peppa Pig pajamas, which she is proudly wearing when Daddy gets home from work.

“Who gave you those Peppa Pig pajamas Eva?” He asked her.

“Hamma and Gigi” she answered.

“Huh?” He looked at me.

I shook my head.

“It’s classical conditioning, like Pavlov’s dogs.”

“What do you mean?”

“Eva is conditioned to think every gift is from Hamma and Gigi”

“Oh, they buy her things.”

“They are better at shopping than babysitting.”

We spent the evening in the garden drinking wine and playing with Eva.

The phone rang, it was Gigi from New Hampshire.

“What is that noise in the background?

“It’s Eva and her Nana playing the cymbals.”

I looked out the window, and Eva was running around in my orange sarong clanging cymbals and Nana was teaching her a new song.

“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…” dancing like Hindu fairies.

I wondered if when Gigi got home if Eva would have shaved her hair into a solitary pigtail and also be wearing Birkenstocks.

“What is that dreadful sound?” my mother asked.

“Its Eva and Nana singing Hare Krishna”

There was dead silence on the line. I figured my mother was reconsidering her last minute trip, and wondering how many Peppa books it would take to get Eva to take the orange robe off. I could hear her eyes roll back in her head.

The evening prayer continued outside after I hung up.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama

Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Peace, Love, Freedom, Happiness.

When I took Eva to the bathroom, I saw daddy’s electric shaver and seriously considered for a moment that if I turned Eva into a mini Hare Krishna that GiGi would hold a parenting intervention and thereby become a grandparent at last.

In pursuit, Eva, Nana and I have taken up Bhakti yoga on our holiday in Boston. Hare Krishna! Krishna Krishna!

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Tune in next week for “A Hostile Takeover and Gigi Redeems Herself.”

Xx Derelict Mom

The Witching Hour

wedding day may 31

The word “witch” comes from the Russian word that means, “one who knows,” but all the witches in my family seem to know everything, except when to go home. Therefore having my brother’s wedding at the other end of the island produced many heated discussions about when our taxi was going to be booked to take us home. Eventually the Wicked Witch of the East decided to keep our options open and hire a few staggered through the evening so we could have options. Options were good. Midnight was always a good option for me to call any party to an end, even before I had children, and the hour is thus referred to in modern lore as “the witching hour,” because after the clock strikes twelve witches and evil spirits come out to play and are at their most evil. Midnight was also about the time when my mother had had a few too many vodka flavored potions, and the Wicked Witch of the East would be at her most powerful, but she was under heavy manners to be on her best behavior, after all this was not “her” wedding because of course, the grand affair was being hosted by the other side of the aisle.

When the wedding ceremony ended, the guests filtered out into the garden for cocktail hour, otherwise known as hour from hell for mothers of toddlers. After wedding pictures which always take forever, I spent the rest of the hour trying to dodge conversations while chasing a toddler and trying to stuff her pre packed dinner down her throat. There were highlights of course, like when she threatened to throw her self in the Koi pond because someone said it was a fish pond and she adamantly insisted that toads not fish live in ponds. Of course with two year olds, the word is full of absolutes and not just for toddlers. Meanwhile while my mother was necking absolute vodka and sodas in celebration, Eva, Chris and I started to move toward the wedding tent.

Koi Pond

Finally they rang the bell for the next phase of the evening, the dinner. We found our table number. We were sitting with a bunch of Eastenders including the Gruncles, because if the family is separated for too long we get anxious, so we had all been carefully divided. Chris and I, Gruncle Michael, Gruncle Michael, Oralene and Betty who were practically family because they had worked for the family for so many years (think the witches’ familiars,) and friends Barbara and Bob Lee, and of course Miss Eva. Each table was named after an East End landmark, and ours so fittingly was “The Unfinished Church.” Fitting because we were all unfinished in our way, and some of us were very certainly heathens.

Unfinished Church

Before dinner we saw the Reverend’s bright yellow car screeching out of the narrow driveway, escaping rather than spend another minute with a witch, a witches’ familiar, or a Spurling, and he had probably been seated on the table plan next to my mother. At about the same time, someone at our table popped a champagne bottle. The vicar was gone; the party can begin.

My father was MCing and to begin the evening he introduced the wedding party. As he called each persons name they walked through the party to their seats. After the bridesmaids were seated, they called for “The Flower Boy, Trystan Hocking,” and he walked through the party to his table. I wasn’t sure he would be too happy being called a Flower boy, but never mind.

“And the Flower Girls, Sadie Hocking.”

Sadie ran and somersaulted into the party, which was met with a roar of applause.

“And the smallest flower girl, Eva Worsick.”

And then it happened, the tantrum we were fearing and expecting earlier in the evening began.

Eva started throwing punches and slaps in my direction, then kicks.

“Can you do a somersault like Sadie?”

“No!”

I tried to pick her up but she fought me until Daddy scooped her up and paraded her through the party screaming and kicking in a fitting display of toddlerhood. I was thankful later that she hadn’t taken me up on the suggestion to somersault into the wedding as she wasn’t wearing any underwear, as with her multiple objections to clothing at the beginning of the evening, we had called a truce at underwear and happily forgot she missing a significant part of her apparel. She was only the latest in a long line of women who had “forgotten” to wear underwear. I can remember getting a note sent home from nursery school because I had chosen not to wear any, and then there is my mother who just finds underwear a hassle because getting to the potty is so much quicker without them. I think that might Eva’s thought process as well, they had so much in common.

Girls on the dance floor

After Eva, the smallest flower girl’s uproarious introduction, and the introduction of the now married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Spurling, it was time for the speeches.

My father introduced the Father of the Bride and the Mother of the Bride to start the evening. The Mother of the groom, Wicked Witch of the East actually refrained from giving a speech at the wedding and gave up the spotlight to the Mother of the Bride, otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The speech drifted from teddy bear picnics to the musical Wicked and at the climax she brought out her brand new broom she had been given, complete with its own parking place outside Danielle and Giles’s Cambridge beaches hotel room. At least my mother had left her broom at home, in Alda’s closet. As the night went on I am sure she contemplated more than once if she should summon Alda to retrieve it.

When it was my brother’s moment to shine he opened with “This is the first time I have been able to speak without being interrupted by my mother, “ a reference which seemed like the same thing- an interruption by my mother. He continued with a tribute to his beautiful bride. During his speech he recounted the first time they met:

“ I first met Danielle at a 4th of July party at Coral Beach Club 13 years ago. I was 18 and she was 15. It was 2001. I was standing at the bar with my mate drinking a black and coke. I said to him, “who’s that girl over there?” he said, that’s Danni Chiappa.” I said “Who? He says,”Danni Chiappa, CHIAPPA, it means butt cheek in Italian.” I said “oh ya, well I like that set of butt cheeks.”

Danielle was going to fit right in with the Spurlings, with a last name like that she probably has a dislike for underwear too.

Lastly the groom introduced his best man, Nick. Everyone looks forward to the best man’s speech as much as every best man dreads it. Nick’s speech was so heavily edited for content that his jokes were about editing the speech with small hints at much more involved stories. He ended with the true and tested quote, “A happy wife means a happy life.” I think my brother has learned more than most in that department after a lifetime of watching my mother and father’s relationship mature.

When my father introduced the cutting of the bride’s cake he asked the Bride and Groom,

“Now who is going to hold the knife? Danni?”

The crowd peeled in laughter. I wondered how many of them were remembering when my mother and father were newlyweds and having their first argument in their first apartment. My father turned his head for one moment, and one of their brand new butcher knives, gifted from a kind relative or member of the wedding party, sailed through the air past his face landing upright sticking up in the linoleum floor. My mother had not been trained in knife wielding, therefore she missed, and now neither of them can recall the argument but they can both recall the knife sticking up from the floor. Knowing my mother she probably threw the knife when she realized the floor was linoleum and not real marble. It is scary to contemplate that the three of us came within a knife’s breath of being born and Danielle would have been a Chiappa forever.

My father’s next one liner summed up his experience of marriage perfectly,

“I was a fool when I married you, I was a fool I didn’t notice.”

And

“She thinks she’s perfect but I don’t always agree.” That was my mother inside and out she was oft heard saying to my father, “There must be some mistake I can’t be wrong.”

I am sure my mother was tutting at her table but I couldn’t see her from where I was sitting because the Gruncle Michael’s hand kept obscuring my view while he kept ordering fresh bottles of wine for our table.

Chris had missed most of the speeches chasing Eva around until two thirteen year old neighbor’s daughters appeared like out of a dream and offered (put up to by their parents) to babysit for Trystan, Sadie and Eva.

“Yes please” was our enthusiastic answer. Chris was able to return to the adult table and enjoy some of the evening until he decided it was Eva’s witching hour.

When Daddy finally collected Eva from our opportune babysitters, she was watching Finding Nemo with one eye propped open, looking like the Bride of Chuckie, with dark circles drooping down over the apple of her cheeks, and drool dripping down her chin whilst maintain a fixated stare at the TV screen. She protested when we collected her, but soon passed out, dress and all on Daddy’s lap, and Betty and Oralene who shared the taxi ride home did not seem to mind if Eva drooled in their respective laps as long as Chris continued to listen to them complain about how they weren’t allowed to make the wedding cake.

What remained of the “Unfinished Church” table continued partying until someone decided the taxi had waited long enough past midnight and that if our coach wasn’t going to turn into a pumpkin or run out of petrol from idling in the parking lot for so long, it was time to leave.

We gathered all the wayward family members and walked through the dark night, but not before Gruncle Michael went back for a roadie bottle of red wine. We did have an hour’s drive and there are traditions to uphold. When we got to the taxis we counted family members and we were missing my father so I was dispatched via hitching a ride in a van to find the missing Patriarch.

Roadie

After locating him, and forcing him to end the party, my brother, the groom, made one last attempt to remain a child forever.

“ You are going home, can I come with you?

“No I don’t think you can come with your parents on your wedding night, Gee.”

“But Danielle doesn’t want to leave, I just want you to drop me off at my hotel.”

“No Giles, you have to wait, not every night but tonight you do.”

So I left, Dad in tow, and Giles became for the first time a West End boy, and ever so much closer to becoming an adult, but as many of us know that only really happens when you have a child of your own.

The next morning there were more weary reprisals of the night before, phone calls made, post mortems had over eggs and bacon and that was only within the gates of Speakers Drive, then we all mustered enough energy to go to the post wedding brunch, the last party in a series of parties that was the wedding to end all weddings. Codfish and bananas and a side of coffee roll topped with bacon bits, you can’t beat a Bermudian spread. On the way home I snoozed in the back of my parents car, meanwhile my sister’s husband had driven home from the brunch and when he made it back to the East end he found that both his wife and two kids had fallen asleep, so rather than disturb them, he left the engine running and fell asleep, himself in the drivers seat with the radio blaring.

An hour and half later when he woke up, the entire neighborhood had tried to get through the shared driveway and had to accomplish forty point turns to negotiate their vehicles past the sleeping family, making them all inevitably wonder if they really were asleep or if they had witnessed the murder suicide of entire family by carbon monoxide poisoning, but no they were members of the Spurling family, they were just hung over from the wedding the night before.

And just because two parties is never enough my mother woke up two days after the wedding and started planning wedding number three in the east end of course. Why you ask? Who is getting married now? No one. She is planning another wedding party to invite all the people they couldn’t fit on the guest list at wedding one and wedding two. It is an eternal cycle, as long as there was still a party to be thrown, she would still have my brother wrapped around the handle of her broom.

Perhaps now that her three children are married, she might feel it is the appropriate occasion to stir the cauldron one last time and pass the broom on to a new Wicked Witch of the East. I am nominating Gruncle Michael, after he ate all the crucifix cookies my sister brought home from a Christening bake sale. But I highly doubt that my mother will allow any one else, certainly not me to determine her witching hour.

Xx Derelict Mom

Michael eating Cross cookie Holy Sacrament

Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 1: The funeral.

The auspicious arrival of wedding fever was set to kick off at a preparty at my brother’s god mother’s house for lunch on May 25th a week before the wedding. In the Spurling family there was always a pre-party but in this case it turned out to be more of a wake. Sudden death, like overtime in a football match, is certainly something derelict mom thinks is an apt description for the last week of a single man’s life, but on this day it was as tragic as it was symbolic.

The Saturday morning started off like most of the others, up with Eva, breakfast and a pint of coffee for mommy dearest. When Chris stirred I went in to see if he had had a pleasant morning.

“How was your sleep in?”

“I have been counting, Babe has barked 56 times.”

“Babe is a morning person, we are not.”

“Fifty – Seven” was Chris’s only reply as he pulled the pillow over his head.

Eva and I wandered next door to see Hamma and Gigi. We played with Babe so she wouldn’t bark, and then Anna Laura and Sadie showed up to go swimming. I declined an invitation to join in because I had already decided to bake a paleo dairy free gluten free apple pie. I am a baking geek I know and so when they all descended on our little beach I retreated to the kitchen to whip up my dessert. Chris took Eva to join in on the fun, and soon most of the family was in the water, it was in fact a Bermudian tradition as the beginning of summer is celebrated on May 24th Bermuda day. Out came the noodles, the floaties, out came the rubber rafts, out came the kayaks and the swimming implements got bigger and bigger as each kid tried to out do a grandparent, while Anna Laura and Chris tried to make sure no one drowned, a kid or a grandparent. And then Piccolo my little dachshund got in the mix, barking and running his little roly poly body up and down the stairs, dreadfully worried about all his humans and their dangerous obsession with bathing in the sea.

“I am worried about his heart,” my mom said watching Piccolo run up and down keeping up with Babe, the Doberman who had a bit of an advantage.

“Whose heart?” Said Chris

“Piccolo, he shouldn’t be doing so much vigorous exercise with all that excess weight.”

“The vet said he should exercise.”

‘The Doctor said I should too.”

“Time to abandon the floatie.” Chris pointed to the teddy bear floatie mom had appropriated off of Eva who was crying.

“She should really have water wings.”

“Maybe, if you can convince her to wear them, she goes everywhere naked.”

My mother decided it was time to show off, so she broke out all of Babe’s water toys, which just drove Piccolo even more crazy. Meanwhile to appease my mother, Chris put Sadie and Eva in a kayak and was floating them around like twin Queens of Sheba.

My mother threw a Frisbee, it narrowly missed Chris’s head but I am sure if it had hit him she would have said it was an accident.

Babe bounded after it, effortlessly and with much enthusiasm. Babe and my mother’s game of water fetch was her favourite thing to do in the world, and here we were finally the first day of summer and Babe was loving it.

At some point Chris made the parental judgment that Eva was waterlogged, when her knees began to look like raisins and he brought the kayak back into the beach, wrapped her in a towel and told her it was time for lunch and left about ten minutes after Sadie and Anna Laura had left to shower and change next door for the party.

When Chris came into the kitchen, I looked at him and asked,

“What’s all that barking, why is Piccolo barking like that?”

I said unfamiliar with the regularly occurring summer cacophonies as I tried desperately to hang on to the vestiges of our mild winters, hence the baking of an apple pie.

“Oh your mom is throwing toys for Babe.”

“Oh, of course.” I answered and resumed the finishing touches on my culinary masterpiece.

“Where is dad?”

“He went out for a kayak.” Chris replied.

Chris rinsed Eva off and was watching a cartoon with her when about ten minutes later I brought her some lunch. I could still hear Piccolo barking.

“That’s weird,” I said to Chris.

“What?” Chris answered.

“Piccolo is still barking.”

“There is nothing weird about that, I assure you.”

“Yes there is, I said.”

“Look”

I pointed to the clock.

“My mother can’t possibly be still on the beach, she needs at least thirty minutes to put her face on.”

“Her face?”

“You know, her makeup.”

“Oh.”

“And listen..” I said.

“He has probably gotten stuck trying to climb a palm tree again. Let me go out and see.”

Meanwhile I had no idea what had been transpiring on the beach because I was elbow deep in almond flour egg batter and coconut stewed apples. As I wandered out of the garden toward the beach I dodged, chewed Frisbees, dog toys, sticks, and children’s floaties, discarded swimsuits and partially deflated water wings missing their pair. As I rounded the stairs I located Piccolo barking on top of a kayak at Babe who lay in the sand, understandably exhausted from all her running about.

“Mom?”

“Dad?”

I figured Mom had left to get dressed as she often will leave Babe on the beach, who eventually gets bored and comes home. And I figured Dad had done the same, and left his kayak pulled up on the beach.

I took another look at Babe from the top of the stairs.

“Babe, Babe!”

No answer.

Piccolo kept right on barking.

“Oh god, Oh no.”

I noticed she wasn’t looking at me, and then I surveyed the scene, instantaneously remembering my CPR training from age 14. It was at that moment I observed a large bowel movement next to her in the sand.

I ran down the stairs and put my hand on Babe, and tried to move her head. I stroked her fur, and all that came to me was “Oh Babe.” And I patted her again.

I stood up, picked up Piccolo and told him.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

Piccolo was very upset. I ran up the stairs with him in my arms and brought him inside to Chris and whispered so Eva would not hear.

“Babe had a heart attack on the beach and she is dead, look after Piccolo and I will find my parents.”

He nodded, and I locked Piccolo in the living room with Eva and Chris and sprinted next door.

Babe was really my mother’s dog, she was home the most, fed, bathed and walked her, and they had a mother daughter bond, that she didn’t really have with her biological children. So naturally, I ran yelling to my parent’s house looking for my mother,

“Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom where are you! “

Out of breath I checked the shower, she wasn’t there, finally she emerged from the back with Anna Laura, Sadie and a pair of scissors, they had been half way through cutting Sadie’s hair.

Out of breath and high on adrenalin, I started half yelling half breathing.

“Mom, you have to sit down right now, I have bad news to tell you.”

She looked terrified and sat down, my sister then came rushing out.

“Oh good, you are still here, you sit down too, I said to them.”

They looked ashen.

“On the beach,” I said, “Piccolo was panic barking on the kayak. I ran out to see what had happened and…”

“Oh my god “ my mother said, swooning with her hand over her eyes.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

“Oh, is that it?” Mom looked relieved.

“What!!! Babe Died” I said.

“Oh Phew” my sister said.

“What do you mean, phew?” I said about to pass out from the sprint I had made in record time.

“Babe is dead.” I said again.

“We thought you were going to say your father.” Anna Laura said.

“Does anyone know where your father is?” mom asked

“No, I said- I came yelling and I didn’t see him anywhere.”

“He went out on a kayak.” Anna Laura said.

“The kayak is on the beach, he must be back somewhere?”

“Let’s go see Babe,” My mother finally mustered.

“What shall we do with her?” I said pointing to Sadie who looked like she was about to burst into tears.

“We should bring her so that she learns.” Anna Laura said.

“Okay, I will get Eva too but we all need to remain calm.” I said even though I had unintentionally let everyone believe that Dad had had a heart attack on the beach by accident.

We reconvened on the beach around Babe’s body. Myself, Eva, Chris, Anna Laura and Sadie.

Mom bent over and tried to feel for a pulse.

“Mom, I already did that, she is gone.”

“Shall we do CPR?” Mom said

“No mom, she has been gone about ten minutes, there is no point, it was a massive coronary.”

Just then we noticed something on the horizon. My father, paddling back to shore.

Like all dreadful moments, when you can see something has happened but you can’t tell what, Dad thought something had happened to one of the kids but upon counting heads, he realized he was only missing a fury one.

“We can’t just leave her here.” Mom said.

Chris volunteered to get a wheelbarrow while we filled my dad in on what had transpired.

“How many valiums did you give her last night in the thunder storm?” I asked.

“Three.” Mom said. “And she had her pee pill this morning and her eye drops.”

“Too many medications.” I said

“She only has half as many as me” Mom replied.

“Did you give her your pee pill by accident, that would probably kill a horse” I said.

She ignored me and instinctively, like you do after you put your child to sleep, started collecting Babe’s toys which lay scattered on the beach, a testament to her last happy moments doing what she loved. She took the Frisbee and fired it in the air trying to make the garden but it got my dad right in the face.

“Jane!!!!’ Somehow the trauma of the moment had made my mother a perfect shot.

The drama of the moment had everyone else scurrying about.

“Jane, we need an old sheet or something to lift the body in.”

My mother left and returned a few minutes later with my father’s limited edition St. David’s landmarks, hand-woven furniture throw, a collectors edition item from the American Indian descendants of the Pequot tribe.

“You can’t use that to wrap her body in” My father yelled.

“Why not?” my mother asked, always ready to throw his historical interests under the bus, or in this case the dead body.

“Because,” my father stammered not wishing to say he didn’t want to part with the throw.

In the meantime, Sadie and Eva stood together looking over the sea wall at all the activity. Listening to them talk to each other helped give the moment some levity and inspired this blog post.

“Babe died.” Sadie said to Eva

“Mommy, why did Babe die?” asked Eva pulling on my pant leg.

I crouched down between them.

“Because she did a poo.” Sadie pointed at the poo.

“No, Babe died because it was time for her to go to heaven and become an angel.” I said.

“Poos go in the potty.” Eva pointed down at Babe’s body.

“We are not going to die, Eva, because we do poos on the potty.” Said Sadie.

Hamma and Gigi and Chris moved Babe into the wheel barrow and wheeled her back to their house, outside the gate to the garden where all the pets are buried and where Chris and I got married.

Hamma laid her body on the grass.

“Now we have to clean the sand off of her.” said Gigi.

“What! “ said Hamma, “Why!”

“Because she is covered in sand and she can’t be buried with a sandy face.”

My father sighed and went to fetch the hose.

“In a situations like this, you just do as you are told.” He said.

I thought by situation he meant “marriage” not “death.” I wondered what he would do if he could go back to his “sudden death” week before he married my mother. I know he attempted to delay proceedings but she insisted that they get married before the end of 1969. He waited until December 27th but now it’s been almost 45 years… forty five years of fetching the hose.

My mother affectionately washed off Babe’s body. I wondered if the next step was taxidermy, but then I realized that that was something only I would consider, and my dogs were small enough to fit into a freezer, Babe was not.

Chris stepped in and decided to dig the hole in the garden.

“We had better do it now before rigor mortis sets in.” He returned with a shovel and got to work.

“I’ll call the Jones’s and tell them we will be late.” We were always late but they deserved a warning that we would be arriving even later and with a large risk of spontaneous crying.

Mom was already crying and so Sadie went around and hugged everyone to make them feel better. Whereas Eva just wanted to know,

“Why is Daddy putting Babe in a hole?”

“Because after she died, she needs to be buried and then she will go to heaven to become an angel.” I replied doing my best. I probably could have done better if we had had more warning.

My sister piped up, “But you said you were a heathen on your blog.”

“I am a heathen but I still believe in heaven and angels… and fairies and ghosts.”

“Mommy what’s a heathen.”

“It’s your mommy’s nickname.”

We decided to go to the party and return afterwards to host a proper funeral. Meanwhile my brother arrived at the party and was told by his godparents the terrible news. He was shocked and devastated, devastated that the sister he lost was the one that didn’t talk back, and the one who couldn’t read or write blogs, and for a moment Babe’s passing took emphasis off the event at hand. The rest of us arrived forty five minutes late, the approximate time needed for Chris to dig a hole and the rest of us to argue about it, shower and dress.

And so my brother’s wedding pre-party became Babe’s wake, as the family, the wedding party and the soon to be “outlaws” toasted to her memory. Who doesn’t love a dog, even one that barks fifty seven times at 8am.

Later at the funeral, even Chris wiped away a tear for Babe, for the dog, who would never bark for the fifty eighth time. I played Taps on my laptop and read a poem by Lord Byron.

Epitaph to a Dog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaph_to_a_Dog

It begins:

Near this Spot
 are deposited the Remains of one 
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
 Strength without Insolence, 
Courage without Ferocity, 
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

It ends:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; 
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

A video of the funeral:

http://youtu.be/sy0tU3KxpcU

A week before my brother’s wedding, my mother had lost more than a friend, she had lost her last daughter, her final child, and when my brother was lost to the institution of matrimony, when he and Danielle exchanged vows she would for the first time, have an empty nest. My father was going to have to take Babe’s place in my mother’s affections, by peeing the bed, being spoon fed, stealing roast beef, and tearing up my mother’s decorative pillows, it wasn’t after all, far from believable. A few days later after Hamma was forced to go on my mother’s regular dog walk at Ferry Reach, I found Hamma hiding Babe’s collars and leashes and he tried to give me one of her dog beds, out of fear that my mother would have his initials embroidered on a new cover by LL Bean.

It was clear after the wedding, my mother would need a new focus.

Stay tuned for Two weddings and a funeral part 2.

Here is a note that came back from Eva and Sadie’s nursery the following day as Auntie Zoe had been informed by both girls of Babe’s untimely demise.

Babe died003

Babe was always part of the fun.

Babe was always part of the fun.