This past April, my family and I gave my mother her trip of a lifetime – Rome, Italy.
My mom was a History and Latin teacher for over thirty years. She especially loved Roman history. Naturally, my childhood was filled with stories of emperors and battles, daily Roman life and culture, not to mention word origins … oh, was there a lot of word origin lessons! Circumference, natatorium, arboretum – She never missed an opportunity to showcase Latin’s current day influence on the English language. A couple of years ago, when she was up visiting at Christmas, I asked her, “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Without hesitation, she said “Rome!” All those years teaching others about Roman history and she had never experienced it for herself.
As children, we never really appreciate what our parents do for us. The lessons, the patience, the sacrifices, the early mornings, the late nights. Until you have children of your own, you won’t know what it’s like to be a parent. You can’t know. But when you walk in their shoes, you’ll understand. And when you understand, you will want to say “Thank You”. And we wanted to say thank you in a big way … what can I say, I wasn’t the easiest child to raise and neither were my brothers! Come to think of it, I think the size of the gift you give is directly proportionate to just how much of a pain in the ass you were to rear. Yeah, Rome was a BIG gift for mom and dad – LOL.
We spent 10 days in the Eternal City and did our best to live up to the old saying “When in Rome …” – Dining al fresco in the streets, freezing our brains on sublime gelato, enjoying home-made Italian style meals in our apartment (thanks to my brother Bill, the chef), wondering how on earth tomatoes can taste SO good, drinking way too much wine, people watching at the cafes while sipping capuccini, stuffing our faces with Roman-style pizza, and doing our best to support the local ‘selfie-stick’ economy. Rome is a special place. It has a unique blend of modernity and antiquity. One minute you are dodging scooters and mini-coopers, the other you are gazing up at a facade so old that it defies reason that it’s still standing. I couldn’t help but marvel at the architectural accomplishments of those Romans – The Pantheon, The Colosseum, The Forum. Jaw-dropping efficiency. And like an Italian meal, the courses just kept coming – one after another … Piazza Navona, Galleria Borghese, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Di Popolo, The Vatican and the dumbfounding beauty of the Sistine Chapel (which, by the way, is about the size of a postage stamp).
Every step of the way, mom and dad were grinning ear to ear. Giving them that gift is something I’ll never forget.
So, I’m curious, what’s the best gift you’ve given your parents?
Family Weddings Remembering Your Loved Ones
My grandmother was a 4’8” spitfire of a woman with blazing white hair, horn rimmed glasses, khaki shorts, knee high socks, and penny loafers. Always penny loafers. Even when she was leading our Sunday summer camp hikes in the mountains of West Virginia. Every summer, I watched her lead these hikes. She never slowed down. Ever. She loved the mountains and she loved camp. She also loved to teach us young bucks good manners. Taking our hats off inside, using proper grammar, addressing our elders with Yes Ma’am or No Ma’am, and, of course, table manners.
At camp, you had to choose a table to sit at for the duration of the 3 and ½ week session. Each table had two table heads, usually counselors or camp directors, or in the case of my grandmother, camp royalty (she and my grandfather ran the place til ’73). Not surprisingly, each table had it’s own corresponding ‘culture’ (if you will). Miss G’s table (that’s what we called her) was Table #3. She and my grandfather, Mister G, had a rather ‘formal’ table culture – some might say ‘strict’. I personally like to think of it as ‘tough love’. At meals, you could opt for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if you weren’t really diggin’ the entree served that day. Yeah, not at Miss G’s table. You ate what you were served or you’d get carried out of the mess hall by your ear (true story). You also never leaned back in your chair – ever. The other major no-no at Miss G’s table was elbows. LOL. She literally used to skewer campers elbows with a fork if they set ‘em on the table. No joke. Man, did it hurt. And yes, I speak from personal experience of being on the wrong end of said fork. It was effective though. I learned real quick never to put my elbows on the table.
I sat at her table every summer as a camper. I loved my grandmother. She was a tough nut but had a heart of gold. She always greeted everyone with a cheerful “How do!” and was always there for ya when you stubbed your toe or wandered too close to poison ivy. She was also camp’s renowned thunderegg whisperer and was always helping the young first-time campers bring home one of West Virginia’s most elusive geological gems. She truly was one of a kind. The type of person that you couldn’t help but love, even if she was stabbing your elbow with a fork.
Mrs. G has been gone for over 30 years and honestly I haven’t thought about her that much recently. But the last wedding I photographed made me think of her. The bride had a little framed photograph of her grandmother attached to her bouquet so she could be with her as she walked down the aisle. A touching tribute to one of her favorite family members. It made me think of Miss G. Well, actually, I think it was more the accompanying story about her grandmother’s spicey personality that brought back memories of my grandmother.
I’m sharing this story with you because I believe that weddings are more than a just a bride and a groom, they are about family, past and present. So when everyone gathers together for your special day, remember those that got you here … even if it is just in memory.