Lately, my husband and I have become concerned that our 14-year-old son could be “lost.” The things he used to care about haven’t seemed to matter anymore. When we try to talk to him, we HOPE for a monosyllabic answer but only get caveman grunts. Other parents have told us this is not unusual. But for our vibrant Mario, it is. We’ve tried patience and kindness – no changes. So now we are trying tough love – there is a tiny glimmer of hope. But today, I tried something brilliant: Breakfast OUT, just the 2 of us!
As long as it does not conflict with Mario’s sleeping or Jayhawks Basketball schedule, he can usually be talked into sharing a good meal – especially breakfast. I seized my opportunity this morning while hubby is away performing “Dance Dad” duties with our daughter.
“Mario how about a quick, greasy, grubby breakfast this morning at one of Mom’s favorite divey restaurants, ” I beckon. He rubs his eyes and hangs his enormous apelike arm around my shoulder and grunts. This is more or less acquiescence. Before the mood changes, I quickly throw the first sweatshirt on from my closet and off we go to Dagwood’s.
He is pretty quiet at first, but when breakfast is served, suddenly we are BOTH 14-year-old LINEBACKERS. “Jesus, Mom!” Mario laughs as I greedily hover over my food and pick my French Toast smothered in powdered sugar up with my hands, fold it and inhale in one gulp. “Calm down!”. I become Chris Farley from the SNL scene with David Spade and Adam Sandler, “BACK OFF! I’M STARVED!”. We begin laughing hysterically and fortunately, because it is Dagwood’s and we don’t see any snoots from Johnson County, nobody cares.
Mario starts talking. Immediately, he goes to football and his most recent season with his beloved Coach Pat. “We killed every team in the league,” he reminisces – but not in a braggy way. “The Johnson County Moms would be clapping politely for their sons,” he recalls with a smile, “and the Missouri players’ Moms were like, ‘Come on, D’Anthony! Get your head in the game!”. He was always afraid his loud Mom would go to a game and get into a “Mom Fight”! I draw a deep, happily reassured breath and tell him, “Mario, do you have any idea how cocky I am going to be when you play D1 football?”. He doesn’t even flinch. “It’s not that hard, Mom – no big deal.” But there is a flicker in my son’s eye – I see that he wants something and he cares.
I thought to myself, “My teenager who has been on a hormone-induced journey away from us is on his way back.”
I change the subject back to food, since my understanding of football is extremely limited. Like the Food Critic from the movie Ratatouille, just the sight of French Toast transforms me into a happy child again. I tell my son, “Mario, in the summertime growing up, Grandma Rhetta made stacks of French Toast a mile high, “(he has heard this story many times and does not comment that I grossly exaggerate the height of the French Toast stack every time). “We would grab pieces of it, shake a bunch of powdered sugar on it, fold it, and stuff it in our mouths! Then we would go play in the pool all day while Grandma Rhetta made homemade ice cream.” I am sharing with my son and he is listening. He is definitely not lost.
So 2 miraculous things have occurred between myself and my son over this simple greasy-spoon breakfast: he has shared what he cares about, I have shared what I care about – and for a few cherished moments, we are One.
Then in the car on the way home, Mario shares the most shocking evidence that he is far from lost – he is HOME and he is FINE. He tells me, “I remember the day Dad stuffed me into that bag on his Harley. How old was I?”. Uh- barely 1, Mario! He is telling me he feels connected to our family and he has shown me, in one simple Saturday morning outing, that everything is going to be okay. This has been my 3rd sign today.
Even though he is back in his dark, musty “teenaged boy cave” just upstairs – and we are worlds apart again – I know I have my son back. And yes, I WILL be the LOUDEST, most OBNOXIOUS college football Mom on the planet – he can count on that! I am looking forward to more breakfasts.
I have known many women that this atrocity happened to. But not until reading this do I fully appreciate the significance of being heard, of there being a safe “witness”. This is so important and gut-wrenching. Thank you for illuminating the darkest of subjects.
Our intention was to dance on his grave.
My beautiful cousin, who I’d not seen in 35 years, and I set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave. Our first dilemma was, of course, song choice. You have to have the right song. We bandied a few song titles about, Alanis Morrisette was a front runner.
We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. Driving down the picturesque New England roads, I felt a little faint. Mary felt a little barfy. We pulled into a store parking lot, and Mary spent some quality time behind a dumpster, hurling. It happens.
We weren’t entirely sure where the cemetery was, so we pulled into a police station to ask for directions. I said, jokingly, We should go in and file a police report. Mary said, What would…
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Tonight at Casa Tamburini, we are indulging in an old favorite: Aunt Christine’s Spinach Cabrini!!!! The recipe originates from the Junior League of Denver, Colorado, cookbook: “Creme de Colorado.” Aunt Christine has brought this sumptuous dish to many family gatherings and it is always a BIG HIT in the comfort food department!!!! Bon Appetit!
Making pasta at our house is always fun – for 20 years, my husband, Michael, has been my “Official Al Dente” judge- here’s the recipe:
9 oz spaghetti, broken into pieces, cooked al dente and drained
1/2 cup butter, melted
20 oz. frozen spinach, cooked and drained
4 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup diced onion
1 dash dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients. Place in a 9×13″ casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Makes 8-10 servings.
It is only January 11 – still technically the holiday season. A brisk wind whirs around my house keeping the temperatures cold and ice is on the way. Christmas cards still not finished and packages to family yet to be mailed (sorry, family!!).
But today, I shall enjoy the day doing my VERY FAVORITE THING: preparing a winter’s feast to enjoy by the fire in my precious Fairway home with the dearest of the dear – my family and close friends.
Here is the menu – if you BEG me, I might post recipes:
Linguine Primavera a la Mikey Tamburini;
And “Hell YEA!” Madam Cheeky drove way the hell out to South Johnson County to the “Nothing Bundt Cakes” store for a chocolate chocolate chip cake to top our tummies off. I will post a smiling pic of the guesties around the table like those fancy entertaining magazines do, PROMISE.
Meanwhile, Mario is begging for Grandma Rhetta’s Bran Muffins so I need to hit the kitchen!!!
Happy Sunday, everyone, and may all your meals be cozy!!!!
Aunt Malin's Beef Pot Pie
3 lbs beef cubes
3 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup flour
2 chopped onions
3 cups frozen veggies (e.g., green beans, peas and carrots)
4 cups (boiled) water with 4 beef bouillon cubes in it
Enough pastry to cover ingredients in 9 x 13 pan
1. Cut beef cubes into small pieces, put flour in bag and shake cubes until well-coated. Brown in olive oil.
2. Stir in onions and saute. Cover and cook 45 minutes. Add frozen veggies and cook 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Transfer to 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover with pastry. Bake @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until pastry is brown.
Miss Rhetta's Crunchy Fudge Sandwiches
12-oz butterscotch morsels
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup powdered sugar
12-oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons butter
1. Melt together the butterscotch morsels and peanut butter.
2. Combine peanut butter mixture with Rice Krispies. Spread evenly in 9 x 13 pan.
3. In a double boiler, melt the rest of the ingredients. Pour chocolate mixture over Rice Krispies and spread evenly.
These days, most of my “Zen” friends are choosing one simple word to depict the state of being they want to exude all year instead of going to the trouble of creating long Resolution Lists. Simple and clean, easier to attain and measure, I am in favor of it! My “word” came to me about 2 hours ago while I was waiting in the checkout line at the Hy-Vee grocery store. AWAKEN.
Remember when Jesus gets all pissed off at the lawyers and pharisees in Godspell and belts out “Alas! Alas! Blind Fools!” to awaken them to the fact that they were merely repeating their predecessors’ mistakes? My mind immediately went to this song in the sweet moment at the Hy-Vee checkout line when I encountered “Becky,” the former Little Sister I once knew a long time ago when I worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She had an endearing speech impediment and looked like Strawberry Shortcake 8 years ago. But now she’s all grown up, living on her own (about 250 miles away from home!), has a job and an apartment – and the same joyful and giving heart she had as a little girl. My heart jumped as I caught her eye – I knew she might not remember me but she lit up the minute I mentioned her Big Sister’s name, “Sally,” the retired teacher who was determined to be a companion and role model to Becky – and awaken her to new ways of living to help her avoid making the same mistakes as her family. In one explosively happy moment, I KNEW FOR SURE that Becky had been awakened – and that she still had that little girl’s joyful heart. Becky was cheerfully sacking the groceries of the man in line ahead of me and she told him, “I like your hat, sir!”. It was a Chiefs hat. The man lit up. Sweet little Becky awakened him from whatever preoccupation he may have been consumed with in that moment (rent, job, illness) and reminded him that there can be joy in life even in the grocery line!
When it was my turn to go through the line, the clerk checked the price of a beautiful pink begonia that had caught my eye and asked, “It’s $25.00 – still want it?”. Still glowing from the beautiful moment I had just seen pass between the little girl with practically nothing I once knew and the grown man with grown concerns – the begonia immediately represented my Word for 2015 – AWAKEN Of course I want it! This thing has magical powers (I wanted to shout but restrained myself!).
I told Becky that I knew her a long time ago and she was thrilled to be remembered. Repeat after me: SHE WAS THRILLED TO BE REMEMBERED.
Yes, Becky, believe it or not, you are remembered and treasured in my heart. And you are the reason AWAKEN is my Word of the Year – you see, it’s when someone as innocent and humble as you can change the heart of someone as old and pessimistic as me – that’s when I am positive that GOD lives and works in our hearts all day everyday – if only we would AWAKEN……..