Favorite Episodes: Happy Birthday Dad! Love, Your Favorite

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January (and February for me) is a time for looking back at the prior year, our wins and losses.   Favorite Episodes is a way for me to look back at what I’ve written in 2015 that was well received by my readers while diving into my blog stats and editorial calendar.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting little or no new original content. Instead I am reblogging some of my most popular posts from 2015 and developing a Favorite Episodes Season Three page in the process.

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Dad blowing out the candles on his 66th Birthday.

Today would have been my father’s 84th birthday had he not passed away suddenly at the age of 66 from an aneurysm in his stomach.  To say my relationship with my father was and is complicated would be an understatement.  But then again, aren’t all relationships complicated?  I think our relationship was more complicated than most because I was his favorite daughter and sometimes we disappointed each other. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Dad! Love, Your Favorite

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Dad blowing out the candles on his 66th Birthday.

Today would have been my father’s 84th birthday had he not passed away suddenly at the age of 66 from an aneurysm in his stomach.  To say my relationship with my father was and is complicated would be an understatement.  But then again, aren’t all relationships complicated?  I think our relationship was more complicated than most because I was his favorite daughter and sometimes we disappointed each other. Continue reading

Antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous. Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.  Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.



Growing up in a predominantly Italian American family, every family celebration or holiday meal featured a pasta dish, red gravy, and a stick (a loaf of Italian bread).  Whenever my extended family gathered together there was an abundance of noise, cousins and definitely food.

Each of these celebratory meals started with the antipasto, a selection of olives, cheeses, cured meats, and a variety of vegetables like artichokes and mushrooms marinated in olive oil or vinegar.  The antipasto platter glistened on the holiday table set by my Nana or mother like precious jewels.  My mouth salivated as my eyes set upon the round slices, marbled and reddish in color.  Salami, a cured Italian sausage, was always my favorite.  It didn’t matter to me how I ate it, plain slices with nothing added; slices wrapped around provolone; layered together with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, olive oil, roasted red peppers sandwiched in a piece of stick with oregano sprinkled on top; or even Americanized on Wonder Bread with mustard and American cheese.  More often than not, I would eat so much salami during the antipasto or first course that I would struggle to eat my main course.  I could eat pasta and red gravy any time but salami and antipasto were extravagant and reserved for holidays and special occasions, too expensive for normal daily consumption.  Salami was a special treat, not the ordinary bologna or imported ham that normally occupied the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator.  And I appreciated its specialness.

I was a finicky eater as a child with more of a sweet tooth than appreciation for spiciness, so salami was not the type of food I would be expected to like.  Meatballs and pasta, yes, cannoli, gelato, any one of the variety of Italian cookies my mother baked definitely.  But in addition to my sweet tooth, I developed an early appreciation for savory goodness of salami.  On more than one occasion, my parents had to remind me not to each too much salami before the main course, but I could not seem to satiate my taste for the savory treat I relished.  Moments after my parents reminded me, my little hands could be seen reaching across the table for one last slice of salami before the antipasto was put away and the pasta course was put on the table.  Although I loved pasta and meatballs, on the special occasions that antipasto was served, I preferred my antipasto to be heavy on the salami, hold the pasta.

As a child, an uncle brought my cousin and me to our first Bruins game and what I remember about that night besides my excitement over seeing Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito was that my uncle took us to an Italian restaurant for dinner before the game.

“Order anything you want,” he said to me.  I looked at the menu and asked for a salami sandwich.

My uncle was baffled.  “I said you can get anything you want, he reminded me.

“That is what I want,” I replied.

“A salami sandwich?” He laughed. “You can have that anytime!”  He tried to convince me to order something else.

I did not change my order.  For me, my first Bruins game was a special occasion and instead of celebrating it by ordering a multicourse meal, I preferred to enjoy my special treat: antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

As an adult, I now serve antipasto on my table when my family gathers at our house on holidays such as Christmas Eve.  And although the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator periodically houses salami next to the ordinary bologna or imported ham, I still consider it a special treat.  For me, it can turn an ordinary day into something so much more than ordinary.

Fleeting moments of their childhood

Under the glistening late spring sun, I watch my nieces and their friend dancing around the front of my sister’s mini-van in the parking lot of our favorite ice cream stand.  I look at Gianna, my oldest niece barely 13 and often mistaken for 11, goofing with her younger sister and laughing so whole heartedly that I expect ice cream to be squirting out of her mouth as she busts a gut.

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Gianna and Jenny

My sister yells for the girls to hurry up.  We both want to go home, she spent the day at the softball field with my oldest niece and I had met them there taking Jenny my youngest niece to Relay for Life so she could sell raffle tickets and the duct tape crafts she and the other members of her school’s Kids for a Cure Cancer Club had made for the fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.  I turn and comment, “It’s hard to believe in 5 years Gianna will be graduating from high school and heading off to college.”

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Gianna and Jennie – Red Sox World Series Parade

In part, what I am really saying is let them goof around a little longer.  Soon, way too soon, they will no longer be little girls dancing in the ice cream stand parking lot but young women heading off to college and the next chapters of their lives and we will be longing for moments just like this one.  Their all too fleeting childhoods are made up of fleeting moments like this; moments we should enjoy while we can.

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Gianna #15 – the shot goes in at the buzzer

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Jenny’s first softball trophy

We will yearn for the days when their young lives orbited around ours.  When every winter Saturday, we spent the entire day in the local school gym not only watching their basketball games but the games of their friends because the girls wanted to stay and wanted us to stay with them.  Soon enough it won’t matter so much to them if we stay.

When spring time meant shuttling between softball fields several days of the week.   Two girls both on two teams meant schedule conflicts – my sister would most often take her younger daughter to her game; dropping my oldest niece off to me so I could take her to the softball field around the corner from my house for her game.  Their father bouncing between the two games as my sister and I text the scores of games to each other.  As tiring as softball season can be, sooner than I care to think I will look back with a fond yearning for the spring days when Gianna came charging into my house, dropping her cleats and softball bag on my living room floor along with the dirt from the softball field.

I enjoy my role as the favorite aunt and have sometimes been accused of spoiling my nieces – guilty as charged.  I spoiled the now adult niece and nephews when they were little and I spoil the younger ones too.  It is my prerogative as favorite aunt.    I know soon enough, they will no longer be calling me at 6 pm on a Sunday night because they don’t have all the supplies they need for a school project due in the morning and neither mom nor dad can take them.  I remind myself to enjoy even that moment as it is all part of growing up.

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Christmas Eve 2013

Sitting in the late spring sun with my sister watching my nieces dance, I realize how fleeting their childhood is and I know that I will continue to tie their shoes, make Christmas magical for them, bake cookies, tickle their arms like Nanny (my Mom) did for them when they were babies, take them to Chuck E. Cheese , watch their softball and basketball games,  go to their plays and concerts and squeeze my adult bottom into the auditorium seats not designed to comfortably seat adults (and I will point out that design flaw every time), and yes spoil them for as long as they want me to.  And, I will try to be grateful for each fleeting moment of their childhoods I get to spend with them.