Hot Fun in the Summertime: My Childhood Favorite Day

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It was summertime 1973 and the house had a different rhythm – a teenaged rhythm.  3 teenaged sisters and a brother were home from boarding school and there was no rest for the curious.  I woke up early to the sound of Malin and Laurie’s swim lesson in the backyard pool.  Mom was making French Toast and the seductive aroma jolted me out of bed.

Down the hall, I heard James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.”  Jeff was awake and getting ready for another hot day in the fields with Mr. E.P.  Dad was on the ranch in Texas.  Running downstairs for breakfast in my favorite Speedo racerback swimsuit, I slid my fingers across the red velvet stripes on the wallpaper the whole way.  “I will feast on a rolled up slice of French Toast with powdered sugar,” I planned, “then to the pool for a quick swim until I hear the motor of the the ice cream maker churning fresh peach ice cream.”

 

There was nothing better than drying my pruney, water-drenched self atop the air conditioning unit near the ice cream maker in the summer.  My body pressed against the coils with hot air spewing – and leaving a checkerboard imprint on my legs.

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Occasionally, the lure of wild honeysuckle draping across the backyard fence would lure me from my drying time atop the air conditioner and I would quickly hop off long enough to snap a blossom and gently pull the stem just enough to make the natural honey ooze.  Then immediately back to my post beside the ice cream maker:  nothing would deter me from my mission of pulling the paddle with freshly churned peach ice cream out of the magical drum surrounded by ice and salt.

“How DO you do this,” I asked Mom each time.  She was certainly busy but managed to make each day perfect.  I think summer was her favorite time, too.

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Mom and Dad honeymooning in Tennessee 1952

That summer, I rode my bike after supper with Laurie, my 15-year-old-sister.  She was my favorite playmate – she did my hair and makeup, taught me exercise moves, played The Beatles’ red album for me while I fell asleep at night, made homemade pretzels with me and told me where babies came from that summer!  

Summer was a time of electric energy, days filled with warmth and nonstop activity until I collapsed, water-logged and brain spinning with images mysterious teenage music (there was an earlier summer my brother had a cool garage band), posters, phrases, friends, clothes, hair and skincare products and LOVE.  At night, I would maneuver a way to climb in the back of the station wagon to “Circle Town,” listening to “Honky Tonk Women” on the local radio and sipping on a Cherry Coke from Big John’s.

 

When August came and my teenaged playmates packed up to return to school, I was so sad and “Alone Again, Naturally.”  Then the letter writing began – daily trips to our hometown Post Office to check out Post Office Box 156 and look for teenaged news and treasures became my occupation.  What a life I had as the youngest of 7 – each season’s memory dotted with loving memories of what “they” were up to and how much I had to look forward to.

 

 

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3 Things I Learned Over Breakfast With My Son

Mario Saddle Bag 0124151041 0124151034 0124151026 Pre Bowl Game RallyLately, 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!

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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.

0124151026He 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.

Mario Saddle BagThen 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.

It’s a Cabrini Kind of Monday!!!!

cAQmKAXg13c213531323331343fehL8TaG_1385495137 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:

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.