A couple odds and ends before we get into this week’s installation:
– For the two of you who dug the Hope’s Treat musical project, another of my offbeat musical explorations (not directly related to this blog) has been loosed on the world. The tunes live here; some writing that attempts to explain them is here.
– For the somewhat more of you who dug the blog post on sauerbraten, my parents very kindly unearthed my great-grandma’s sauerbraten recipe, along with a side recipe for potato dumplings.
If that sounds interesting to you, click here for the handwritten recipe. Let me know how yours turns out.
And now for this week’s adventures …
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I’m pretty well gassed when it comes to writing about my family.
There have been times in recent months when I’ve sworn that I’m not even going to think about anything that happened before I was 21, ever again, because I’ve spent so much time over the past four years picking it to shreds.
And, there have been lots of nights when I sat down at the computer and wondered what the hell else was possibly left to say. (Tonight, for a few minutes, was shaping up as one of those nights.)
I still plan to spend a bunch of time when I’m done here thinking about the history of freshwater mollusks, and the works of Hans Christian Andersen, and chocolate milk, and a bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with my bloodline.
I find, though, that when I get burned out, something comes along to cheer me up and remind me why I do this.
Like the somewhat out-of-season calendar entry I’m featuring this week:
The first of two Els on my grandpa’s calendar — my Aunt Elaine — showed up, with her husband, at 1107 Hope Street in time for Christmas dinner. To extend the holiday festivities, my grandparents also talked on the phone with my dad and the other El, my Great-Aunt Eleanor.
If either El knew what my parents had in mind for the next day, they did an El of a job keeping it quiet.
My grandmother’s handwriting — my grandpa wouldn’t burst out like that — tells the story of what looks to have been a much-enjoyed post-Christmas surprise visit. I can only imagine the looks on their faces when Baby Kurt and family turned up at the door.
Since Aunt Elaine and her husband were already there, I’m guessing we stayed with my other grandparents elsewhere in Stamford. That’s the best kind of surprise visit — one where you can spend plenty of quality time, but don’t have to shoehorn borrowed cots and folded-out couches into every room in the house.
In fact, I know that’s what we did, because another entry from a few days later makes reference to a special sleepover on Hope Street. My grandfather’s all-caps seems a little more excited than normal — this visit seems to have been one surprise after another:
A momentary pop-culture sidetrack: December 31, 1973, would have been my first New Year’s Eve. I doubt I stayed up long enough to catch the deliriously funky New Year’s special featuring George Carlin, Tower of Power and Billy Preston. But my dad, free of his kids for the night, just might have tuned in:
Anyway: When they planned their surprise visit, my folks might have had other things on their minds besides spreading holiday cheer.
Connecticut had been hit by a historically nasty ice storm a week-and-a-half before, and it’s possible my dad and my uncle came to town, in part, to save my grandfather the physical stress of cleaning his yard. (They spent some time doing just that, as recorded in an earlier blog post.)
Both sets of grandparents had also come to my folks’ aid three months before, after my mom got into a car accident. (Wrote about that too. See how I might get burned out?) Perhaps, with my mom feeling better and more mobile, my folks came up for Christmas as a gesture of thanks.
Whatever the reasons, my parents’ surprise holiday visit seems to have pleased its unsuspecting recipients.
And that, to me, is refreshing, even inspirational.
I suppose that under everything I write — under all the YouTube links and wise-ass cultural references and lengthy digressions — is the spark of interpersonal contact with someone who is loved and cared about. That’s what family life is about, and what family history is about.
And that’s what happened the day after Christmas 41 years ago, when a big brown Plymouth Satellite pulled into the driveway on Hope Street.