Tag Archives: Memories

“Do” Risk Taking Them to Movies with Subtitles

30 Aug

One of the movies that was all the buzz in late 2000, early 2001 was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Ian and Elyse were over on a weekend and as they were watching television, a commercial came on for the movie showing the younger heroine Jen Yu leaping between rooftops and bamboo trees.  “I want to see that movie!” Elyse exclaimed.     

She was quite adamant about wanting to see it as she was in her “power girl” phase.  She had just turned five at the time and one of her favorite Disney videos was Mulan.  She would watch Mulan over and over again and was enthralled with the story.  Another Disney favorite was The Rescuers Down Under.  She started dressing like Cody and it was almost impossible for anyone to get her out of the Australian bush adventure jacket, and the brown short boots.  And then there was Peter Pan.  I had made Elyse a Peter Pan costume for Halloween that previous year and no one could convince her to take it off after that, she wore it for weeks  and always stayed in character!  The beloved, thread-bare costume was finally “retired” by my sister-in-law.     

I had also wanted to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — the academy award nominations had just been announced and it was nominated not only for Best Foreign Language film (which it won), but for Best Picture as well, among a whole slew of other nominations.  So I wanted to see it before the Oscars were on and besides, the commercial had hooked me as well, the movie looked fascinating.    

The Rio Theatre in Overland Park, KS (Photo by Nathaniel Paluga ~cc-by-sa)

 

So Mom and I took Ian and Elyse to the matinée the next day.  It was only showing near us at the Rio Theatre, a movie house that had recently been beautifully restored and was known for showing art films.  So just going to the Rio was an adventure itself as none of us had seen a movie there yet.    

We purchased popcorn and sodas, and sat down.  Mom was on the aisle, then Ian, myself then Elyse.  I knew Ian (who was nine) would love the film as he was always game to see and try anything new.  But I wondered a little if Elyse would like it.  Was it too soon for her to make the transition from Disney cartoon characters to a Chinese female action martial arts movie?  I should have never had one doubt.     

Within the first five minutes of the opening we all sat mesmerized and excited, including Elyse.  One word described this movie, WOW!    

The film’s story takes place during nineteenth century China, in a beautiful, mystical setting inhabited by the Wudan, spectral warriors from legend who effortlessly leap among the bamboo trees.  It is hard to describe what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is as it transcends genres:  it is a fantasy, romance, historical epic and thriller all in one.      

Soon after the first five minutes of “wow,” Elyse starts tapping my arm.  I was so mesmerized by the movie I hadn’t noticed.  Suddenly her little hand cupped my chin and she rapidly turned my face towards hers and she whispered, “what’s happening?”    

The movie was in Mandarin with subtitles!  It didn’t dawn on me that this could be a problem.  But Elyse couldn’t read yet, so while she was enthralled with the movie, she couldn’t understand it.  So I whispered in her ear what had happened so far.  However because the film was so engaging and fast-paced, Elyse got up on her knees and leaned next to me, “tell me what’s happening,” she kept whispering.    

I felt so bad that I had brought her to this wonderful movie that she couldn’t understand.  Finally I put her in my lap and whispered in her ear, reading the subtitles to her as they appeared.     

As with all foreign movies with subtitles, someplace during the movie you cease reading the subtitles and you begin understanding the movie without comprehension of the language.  Halfway through the movie that happened to Elyse.  She sat back down in her seat, and she only asked for explanation a couple of more times.     

Elyse (5-years-old), the year of her "Power Girl" phase

 

At the end of the film we sat in our seats just blown away and moved by the ending, stunned at what we had just experienced.  It was very quiet in the theatre as the other people in the Rio were in awe as well.   Elyse suddenly said, “that was the very best movie I’ve seen in my whole entire life,” causing a few heads to turn, and a few people to chuckle.    

A man in front of us turned around and said to her, “so did you understand the movie okay?”       

Thinking he was quizzing her about the plot instead of inquiring about her comprehension of the language and the subtitles,  Elyse replied proudly, “I sure did, it’s about this  stolen magical jade sword and…”      

 The man laughed and said “I guess you did understand.”

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“Don’t” Forget to Teach Them the Fine Art of Dining!

22 Aug

Nick eagerly eyes the ham on his plate (Katie is behind him).

 

Nick loves to dine.  Primarily he loves to dine out.  Now that he’s an adult, I love it that we can go out for a leisurely dinner or late lunch on a Saturday together and have cocktails, appetizers, dinner, wine and dessert.  It’s not necessarily that he loves to eat, he simply loves the art of dining.  He likes to chat with the maître d’, converse with the waiters, hear about the specials and engage in discussions about work, school, friends, family, travel or whatever.   

Nick also loves “to dine” during holidays.  On Thanksgiving, he always looks forward to coming over and smelling the aroma in the house, taking a look in the oven at the beautiful browned turkey or the clove-pricked ham, taking a bite of the water chestnut dressing, eyeing the plethora of pies and desserts while putting a finger in the fresh whipped cream.   

He likes to try new restaurants and while there are certain foods Nick doesn’t like (pork chops), he’s fairly adventurous about trying new foods.  I’d like to think that this comes from when he and Katie would spend Saturdays with us.  We would make the day an adventure and if we didn’t have anything particular in mind, my Mom and I would take Nick and Katie out to lunch.  Sometimes my sister would go as well depending on our planned dining destination.  And unlike most kids their age at the time, we wouldn’t go to McDonald’s or Applebee’s, as Nick and Katie’s palettes were far more refined, at least when they were with me.   

Nick loved food, dining and eating so much, my brother Tim gave him a chef's hat for Christmas one year.

 

One Saturday when he was about 9, my sister-in-law dropped them both off, and we made plans to head to the Plaza.  It was a crisp October day, and Mom and I were hungry for the Bookbinder Soup at Harry Starker’s.  It was one of their featured items, a classic soup with steamed fish in a rich sherry broth, served with homemade crisp sourdough bread.  (The original Harry Starker’s is no longer around, but it evolved to Starker’s Restaurant on top of Restoration Hardware at the corner of 47th and Wyandotte and they still serve this classic soup.)     

We sat down in one of the booths, and after the waiter brought over the water and bread, he went over the specials.  Nick asked him what was the “Soup du Jour.”  The waiter was taken aback for a moment, smiled and proceeded to share with Nick that the Soup du Jour was a Steak Soup, and of course, they always were serving the Bookbinder Soup.  Mom and I were surprised as well as we didn’t know he even knew the expression “Soup du Jour” – guess our Saturday dining experiences were starting to take hold.   

But that was just our first surprise.  After the waiter left to get the soups, Nick took out a little pocket-size spiral notebook.  On the cover, in a purple crayon marker he had written “Nick’s Restaurant Reviews.”   He told us he had decided that from now on when he eats out with us, he was going to do a review.  He had decided that by doing a review he would remember which restaurants he liked the best, plus it would just be fun and it would keep waiters or waitresses on “their toes” giving us the best service.    

He had made a rough spreadsheet (by the way, he’s now an accountant!) with restaurant names as columns, and twelve criteria listed as rows.  The criteria included 1) food looks, 2) menu look, 3) food taste, 4) type of food available, 5) waiter attitude, 6) soups 7) appetizers, 8) desserts, 9) comfortable chairs, 10) kids’ menu option, 11) looks/decorations (his version of ambience) and 12)condiments?!  Then there was a 13th row that said “bonus points.”  He planned on giving each criteria a score of 1 through 5, with 5 being the best.  He said he would give bonus points if something was truly awesome.   

As we waited for our soup, we all got into the spirit of Nick’s review and offered a few initial opinions of Harry Starker’s as he wrote their name into the first column of his notebook.  As the soup arrived Mom ordered trout, I had a Caesar salad with chicken, Katie had chicken fingers and Nick ordered a hamburger and fries.  We had to try the desserts, and while I don’t remember what I had, I know that Nick ordered Tiramisu.  He always ordered that or something chocolate like a torte, cake or brownie sundae.    

Lunch at Fedoras

Nick (about 11 years), my Mom, Katie (about 10 years) and Ian (3-4 years) at Fedora's for one of our Saturday lunches.

 

Harry Starker’s received 50 out of 60 points and did very well in Nick’s first review!  Several categories received a “5” including soups, desserts, waiter service, waiter attitude (to Nick there was a difference!) and condiments (he liked that the ketchup was served in a little white bowl).  He also rewarded them a few bonus points for the Tiramisu.    

That year and a year or two after that Nick loaded his little book up with reviews of other restaurants where we would go and have Saturday lunch.  At the time, they typically included restaurants on the Plaza, in Brookside or Crown Center  (about 1992-93).  We went everyplace from Annie’s Santa Fe (now closed) to Fred P. Ott’s; from Winstead’s to Fedora’s (also now closed, but it was a favorite!); from Houlihan’s to the Classic Cup.  We would also venture out and go to places he wanted to try like “V’s” Italian Restaurant  where he would order their really yummy French Fries with spaghetti and meatballs.  They also had a Tiramisu that he loved.  He had seen an ad for it claiming the best Italian food and that it was right next to “Cool Crest” a fun miniature golf course that we went to after lunch.    

Another favorite was Jasper’s Trattoria or the Marco Polo Market on Wornall (before they moved to their current location).  We’d get sausage sandwiches or pasta, and then of course the Tiramisu for Nick!  They always got 5 points in every category in Nick’s  book.  Jasper’s was also a dinner destination for us on the nights we would take the kids to Starlight Theatre and it still is.  JJ serves such wonderful food, the atmosphere is great and it is a family all-time favorite, including Nick, to this day.    

Trezo Vino Lunch

My Mom and Nick, after one of our recent Saturday lunches, in front of Trezo Vino in Park Place (in Leawood)

 

While Nick’s restaurant review notebook has long disappeared, the memories have not, and Nick, Mom and I still try to go to lunch on Saturdays a couple of times a year.  And sometimes Nick and I meet for lunch during the week, usually at Lidia’s (yes another Italian restaurant with a fantastic Tiramisu!) where we order the pasta tasting trio or the Frico.  The Frico is a specialty of the Friuli region of Italy – it is an envelope of golden-brown, crisp Montasio cheese with potato, leek and the filling of your choice – typically either crab, shrimp or sausage are the options available.     

Some of my favorite dining experiences have been with Nick – no matter his age, 10 or 25.  He has impeccable manners, we have wonderful conversations and we have great food at special places.  I’ll always fondly remember the time we went to Starker’s when he brought his review book and ordered the Soup du Jour.  But I especially enjoy the times we have lunch or dinner now, as eating with Nick is not just about dining, but about the time we spend together.

“Don’t” Hunt for Eggs in the Rain

9 Aug

Powell Gardens has always been a destination for something fun to do with the nephews and the nieces.  It’s Kansas City’s botanical garden, and is set on more than 900 acres of lush, rolling hills.  It was established in 1983, and my Mother and I started going there a couple of years after that, always with one or more of the four kids with us.   

The egg hunt was held along a trail in the woods at Powell Gardens

 

About a 45-minute drive from Kansas City, we would get in the car and drive out there and make a Saturday of it, doing everything from just walking through the gardens to attending special exhibits, from taking water color painting classes, to going to the annual butterfly festival (which deserves its own story in the weeks ahead!).  The kids especially loved the days we’d go for walks, have lunch in the café (or sometimes we would take a picnic) and then do arts and crafts like painting clay pots.  

In 1991 we decided to take Nick, Katie and Ian to Powell Gardens’ annual egg hunt the Saturday before Easter.  At the time they were age 7, 6, and 2 (Elyse hadn’t been born yet). The day started a little cloudy, but we didn’t let that deter us and off we went to the hunt.  The kids looked so cute – it was spring and Saturday and they were excited and talked about all the eggs they would find and all the fun they would have.   

Katie’s birthday had been in March, and she had on for the first time this really cute outfit my Mom had given her.  It was cream color velour jeans, with a matching cropped cream corduroy jacket.  The jacket had all these gold buttons sewn everywhere on it, there must have been over 50 buttons of all types!   

The Easter Egg Hunt at Powell Gardens consisted of two activities.  Kids 6 and older could go hunt eggs in a wooded area where they had cleared a trail with hundreds of eggs scattered along the route. They said it was about a half hour walk from start to finish.  (Remember that this was Powell Gardens in 1991, not many years after it had opened.  It was a little rough back then, as now the wooded trail is a lot longer, is paved and they have made considerable improvements, built lots of buildings and attractions since then.)  

The littler kids less than 6 years old could go across the field to a hilly area where they were having an Easter egg roll.  To take part in the roll, they had requested that you bring a dozen eggs so the Powell Gardens’ volunteers would have enough to roll down the hill for all the little kids.   

So I decided to take Nick and Katie through the woods hunting eggs, and Mom took Ian to the Easter egg roll with the dozen eggs I had colored the night before.  Off we all went with several baskets in hand to line up for each event.  As we lined up at the designated time, a very light sprinkle started.  But it didn’t deter any of us and when the Powell Gardens’ volunteer blew the whistle about 100 kids followed by many adults scrambled to the entrance of the woods. (There were also about 50 or more smaller kids at the top of the hill ready for the roll.)  

Kids quickly scooped up the brightly colored neon eggs and Nick found a blue one and Katie a sunshine yellow egg.  Right after each of them found these first eggs, the sprinkle then turned to a light drizzle.  I was a little worried about all of us getting wet, so I asked them if they wanted to go back to the car, as we were still near the entrance.   Both Nick and Katie said no, they wanted to keep going until they each got the eight eggs each child was allowed to pick up.  (Powell Gardens’ way of insuring that everyone would get a fair number of eggs.)   

We went further into the woods, and things were really getting wet.  The ground had already been damp from a Spring shower the day before, and very quickly things started getting a little messy.  Both Nick and Katie were worried about getting dirty, afraid that my Mom or myself would be upset for getting their shoes and clothes muddy.  Katie was especially concerned because of her new cream-colored outfit and tiptoed on patches of green to try to avoid mud.    

Because they were being so cautious about avoiding the mud, they were missing out on getting eggs they saw, as more aggressive kids in more appropriate clothing for the weather were splashing around in the mud and greenery getting far more than the allotted eight eggs!   

Katie spotted a purple egg like these before she got stuck in the mud and fell.

 

I was very damp and feeling a little cranky, so as two boys about 9 or 10 years old passed by who had been kind of hogging all the eggs along the trail (their parents weren’t with them in the woods), I stopped them and questioned them about the number of eggs in their baskets.  While both boys shot me guilty looks as if I had caught them red-handed, the one with wet sandy-hair said “you’re not the boss of me!”   And then they ran off.   

Katie, Nick and I trudged along the trail, stepping gingerly to avoid the mud but it was almost impossible.  Suddenly Katie spotted a purple egg hidden in the moss by a tree near a small stream.  She went to step over the stream but her foot got stuck in some silt and suddenly she was sinking fast with mud oozing over her shoes that by this time were already filthy.   

When I reached her, Katie’s damp cream-colored jeans were grey up to the knees and getting darker every minute. Before I could grab her hand to pull her out, she lost her balance and fell back.  She got right back up, but now the backside of her pretty cream velour jeans and the back of her matching cream jacket had mud all over on them.  By this time the drizzle had let up a little and had turned into a steady, gentle rainfall.  

A half hour had passed, and it appeared as if we were almost to the end of the trail.  However, Nick had only collected 5 of his 8 eggs, and Katie only 3 of her 8.  I looked at my poor miserable, wet and muddy niece and nephew and said, “why don’t we head back and find Grandma and Ian?  This isn’t the best day to hunt for eggs.”   

They nodded in agreement and both started saying sweet little things so I wouldn’t feel bad.  Nick grabbed my hand saying, “We found plenty of eggs, Aunt Sheree, we don’t need any more.”  

“This has  been so much fun it’s not your fault that it rained,” said Katie, taking my other hand, “I’m sure Grandma or Mom can get my outfit clean, they’ll just have to use some extra soap.”  

Nick put one of his eggs in Katie’s basket so they each had four eggs.  We finally made it to the clearing and walked over to the parking lot.  But the egg roll was over, and we couldn’t find my Mom and Ian.  Suddenly this door opens to a big white van, and there she is on the passenger side, Ian on her lap, with some strange man on the drivers’ side.   

She explained that the driver of the van had let them take cover from the rain since I had the car keys in my purse.  At least the two of them were dry!  But my painted easter eggs were a bust.  First of all, we weren’t supposed to have brought real eggs, and the dye quickly had washed away with the rain.  The hard-boiled eggs sat in a basket on the ground outside the van with just hints of color left here and there and they weren’t allowed to be rolled down the hill by the powers to be at Powell Gardens.  

I had no pictures from this adventure at Powell Gardens, but Katie still talks about it to this day!

 

Nick wasn’t that muddy except his shoes, or at least it didn’t show on his navy pants and sweater.  But poor Katie was a disaster.  Her long blonde hair was wet and had a little bit of mud in it from the fall, and the cream-colored jeans and the cute little button jacket were wet and covered in mud and green stains from the foliage, ferns and grass.  

The rain had stopped  and we all headed over to the car.  We took off Nick and Katie’s muddy shoes and socks (all soaked) and took off Katie’s jacket and put them all in the car trunk.  Fortunately, I had a couple of blankets in the trunk.  I took one and circled it around her, had her slip off the muddy wet jeans, then I wrapped her up in it.  We put Ian in his car seat, then next to him in the back, we bundled Nick and Katie with the other blanket and we headed back to Kansas City.  

Fortunately, we had a change of clothes for everyone at the house, and had everyone cleaned up by the time Nick and Katie’s mom came over to pick them up.   My sister-in-law had decided to take all of their wet clothes home saying she would wash them, but it was a hopeless cause for the cream jeans and gold button jacket.  The outfit had its one and only “wearing” that day.  

When we talk about our Saturday adventures, Katie especially remembers this escapade at Powell Gardens.  She clearly remembers the cute outfit because of all the buttons.  She remembers hunting for eggs in the rain and getting that cream-colored outfit all muddy.  She remembers her brother giving her some of his eggs.  She remembers finding Grandma and Ian in a car with a stranger.  She remembers riding home barefoot and wrapped in a blanket.   

But what I remember from that day is what good sports both Nick and Katie were.  Especially Katie.  Instead of complaining or crying about how the day turned out, she just giggled and laughed about the fiasco all the way home. And she still laughs about it to this day.  

However, despite her being such a good sport, I have never been able to get her to go to Powell Gardens again.

“Do” Watch Silly Movies and Sing Sappy Songs

20 Jul

Blake Edwards’ movie, The Great Race has always been one of my favorites.  It’s an epic comedy starring Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate (and Crown Prince Frederick Hoepnick), Tony Curtis as “The Great Leslie,” and Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois.  

I remember seeing it at the drive-in theatre when I was 11 or 12, and anytime it comes on cable I’ll watch it again because it’s so fun and silly.  It has a great plot:  a turn-of-the-century automobile race from New York to Paris (westward across America, the Bering Straight and Russia), with a little romance and lots of slapstick.

Ian was over one weekend (he was just a little under 6 years old), and we were watching some TV before he went to bed.  I noticed that The Great Race was on, and he loved movies, so I thought he would enjoy this one.  He thought it was hilarious – he laughed and giggled, and really enjoyed the action and pratfalls, the big pie fight and more. 

There’s a song in the movie called “The Sweetheart Tree.”  Natalie Wood sings it during one scene (actually I think she was dubbed), and it’s played during  the closing credits.  Ian just loved this song.  After the movie was over and I put him to bed, he asked me to sing the song to him.  It has very sweet and charming lyrics, almost like a lullaby.  Fortunately, it is an easy song to remember as it only has eight lines and the last four are repeated:

“The Sweetheart Tree” (Click to listen!)
(Lyrics by Johnny Mercer/Music by Henry Mancini)

They say there’s a tree in the forest
A tree that will give you a sign
Come along with me to the sweetheart tree
Come and carve your name next to mine.

They say if you kiss the right sweetheart
The one you’ve been waiting for
Big blossoms of white will burst into sight
And your love will be true evermore.

I must have sung that song to him three or four times that night, and as I finally kissed Ian goodnight, he put his arms around my neck and hugged me and said, “Aunt Sheree, I’ll always be your sweetie.”

“Do” Have a “Super Summer Saturday!”

17 Jul

The Kazoo and Bubble blowing competition (Nick has the hat on, second from left; Katie is fourth from the left).

 

Nick loves thrill rides, roller coasters, theme parks, Worlds of Fun and Disney World.  As far back as I can remember, he has loved these, and his goal when he grew up was to own a theme park.  He wrote a business plan for it when he was about 8 years old!  He was going to employ everyone in his family in his operation to optimize revenue(!) and told me I would be his Director of Marketing and could handle the advertising.   He designed his featured roller coaster on paper incorporating vertical loops, corkscrews, roll backs and more that would have made any thrill seeker hesitate before getting on the ride.   

He also loved carnivals back then and when he and Katie would come over on Saturday, if there was a carnival in town someplace, he would know about it and want to go.  So one summer he brought together his big dreams of owning a theme park, with the essence of a carnival, but with the best engineering plan an 8-year old could develop and created an event he called “Super Summer Saturday.”  

Katie wins the apple bobbing contest while Nick intently judges!

 

His idea was to turn his backyard into a carnival.  But because he and Katie were usually with my Mom, sister or myself on Saturdays, he turned our backyard into one instead.  In June, he started planning each week that he came over, creating tickets, making signage and formulating his various “rides” or old-fashioned carnival contests.  We went to the toy store and bought primarily water toys like Super Soaker water guns (smaller versions), those dive and wet slide toys (which ended up representing the roller coaster), silly sprinklers and more.    

The big day came and he we got the yard set up with different areas that were the “rides.”  His imagination had no boundaries and the simplest little things took on the essence and charm of his vision.  We had invited some other kids to come over, including my Mom’s friend Pauline and some of her grandchildren.  Everyone had a blast!  It was so much fun for the kids and Nick was so excited and proud of his creation.  They played all Saturday afternoon and delighted in everything Nick had developed.    

Ian and Elyse as water monsters ready to go to the pool on a "Super Summer Saturday"

 

While we never did a backyard carnival/theme park again (Nick moved on to going to the real theme parks), “Super Summer Saturday” became part of our family vocabulary.  After Nick and Katie grew up, Ian and Elyse picked it up.  It reflected the days of summer when the kids would come over and we would do something simple or special.  Someone would say “Let’s have a ‘Super Summer Saturday’ and go to the park!” Or, “let’s have a ‘Super Summer Saturday’ at the pool!”  What made it super is that we would do something silly or fun as part of it.   

“Super Summer Saturday” still exists symbolically for me when I get together with Nick.  In fact last week we had  a super Saturday – we went out to eat at a relatively new restaurant/bistro (Trezo Vino), had wonderful summer food with a white sangria (with the fruit infused in vodka) and did a little window shopping.    

Regardless of age or activity, any Saturday I spend with Nick  in the summer will always be super!

“Do” Help Your Niece Find Her Moondoggie

9 Jul

Ready to take-off in San Diego

 

I went to San Diego a couple of years ago for a conference and it was around Spring Break for Elyse.  Her big brother was off doing something else, and being a Sagittarius just like my Mother, Elyse is afflicted with wanderlust, and was wanting to go someplace fun for her break.  So my Mom decided to take her, my sister and myself to Coronado Island and treat for an extended weekend at the Hotel Del Coronado right after my conference.    

Elyse had turned 12 a few months earlier, and this was one of her first trips without Ian.  So I was a little concerned that she might get bored without him, since we weren’t planning on doing anything but relax at The Del.  But she loved the water and easily made friends, so this wasn’t a stumbling block at all.  Besides, she and my sister were swimming BFFs, and there was so much to do at The Del.    

Elyse holds her surf board (standing south of The Del) on Coronado Island

 

Laying by the pool and swimming had its fun moments, unfortunately there were no kids around the first day and I could tell she was getting a little bored, but I knew she would never say anything.  I had noticed that The Del gave surfing lessons.  I casually suggested this to Elyse (who is an awesome swimmer) and she jumped at the opportunity.  We went and signed her up for two morning classes for Saturday and Sunday.   And she would be in a group of 10-15 year old kids, so maybe she could meet some kids for the weekend to hang out with at the beach or the pool.    

She took to surfing like Gidget on just the first day!  In fact better than Gidget!  (Baby Boomers reading this will know who Gidget is of course!)  Elyse listened intently to the instructor and was up on the board catching the waves in no time at all that first morning.  She absolutely loved it and had so much fun.  And she was excited to tell her friends at school that she learned to surf over Spring Break.  The class was just three hours long, and afterwards, she came over to where I was reading on the beach and sat down next to me.  We had some lunch and Elyse shared with me the thrill of surfing and how that was now going to be her new sport.  I reminded her that she lived in the heart of the Midwest, and that probably wasn’t practical.    

After just a handful of attempts, Elyse was up on the surfboard in no time at all!

 

 While eating our lunch, there were some kids on the beach building a really awesome sand castle and on later inspection it was actually a sand fort.  They had dug this huge hole and were building a fortress around it.  One of the boys working on the fort had been in Elyse’s surfing class and he was about a year or two older than her.  She said to me, “don’t you think that boy is cute?”  I agreed and suggested she go down and help them with their fort.  Surprisingly she got very shy, and said no it would be too awkward, and what if they didn’t need her help or what if they wouldn’t talk to her?    

So I suggested that she walk down a ways on the beach (opposite the direction where they were building the sand fortress), then turn around and casually stroll back by them.  I told her to stop and say “Hi, I really like your fort, do you need any help?”   

She giggled, got up to do it, then ran back and said “I can’t do it.”  I was somewhat perplexed by this new shyness, as she’s always been confident around other kids, including boys, and never had a problem meeting new people.  Then I realized she was being shy because this kid wasn’t just any boy, but because like Gidget, she had found her Moondoggie (except she was a junior Gidget and he was a junior Moondoggie!).     

Elyse with her "Moondoggie" working on the sand fortress at The Del

 

I gave her a few words of encouragement, and told her there were girls around him, probably his sisters, and to talk to all of them instead of speaking just to him.  She walked back down in the opposite direction, casually turned around, and started strolling back in the direction of the kids on the beach building the sand fort.   

In no time at all, Elyse had said hi, told them they really had a cool fort, asked if she could help, and then was inside the fort digging out sand and forming a wall while standing right next to her Moondoggie.  As I suspected, the other girls did turn out to be sisters and cousins.  And Moondoggie turned out to be a very nice boy named Brendon.  They were from Arizona, and their family was also on Spring break.   

Elyse hung out with them on the beach all day, and had the best time with not only Moondoggie, but also his sisters and his cousins.  They also had fun surfing again the next morning.  While there wasn’t a permanent connection with Moondoggie, Elyse ranks this trip to San Diego as one of her favorites and has been after us to go there again soon – not only to surf, but on the remote chance that her Moondoggie will be there, and that she can accidentally run into him walking on the beach.  Because like Gidget said, I’m sure Elyse would agree that “honest to goodness it was the absolute ultimate!”   

“Don’t” Just Shop for Them

4 Jul

Nick about 2 years old looking very dapper!

In 1979, I had moved to Chicago to work at one of the world’s largest ad agencies, and I loved my work, my friends, my life there immensely.  While I traveled back to Kansas City for holidays, more often than not, I urged my family to come visit me as Chicago had so much to offer.  

But something very profound happened to me in the latter part of 1983.  On November 1, 1983 I became an Aunt for the first time.   Unfortunately, I was not there when Nicholas Michael arrived in this world.  I had to hear about the news on the phone from my Mom, and I was so disappointed that I couldn’t be there to share in my Mother’s joy about being a grandmother for the first time, or my brother’s and sister-in-law’s elation at becoming parents.   

I held my first nephew for the first time over the Thanksgiving holiday when he was one month old.  I came home loaded with presents from Marshall Field’s – blankets, little outfits, cute bibs, stuffed animals and more.  I brought a whole second suitcase just to carry everything.  He was absolutely, totally adorable.  He had big blue eyes that melted your heart and was a wonderful baby in every way.  

Once Nick arrived, I started coming back to Kansas City more often, about every six weeks.  I would hear about how he was growing, talking, walking and missing it all, so I would come home as often as I could.  And with Nick’s arrival, I found out about the pure pleasure and fun in shopping as an Aunt.   

The Harrod's Bear

I had gone to London in  October of 1984 for business, and shopped at Harrod’s in Knightsbridge buying him a baby blue cotton romper with a matching hat and other cute things and toys for his first birthday.  I also visited Selfridges on Oxford Street and picked up a pair of grey plaid knickers with a matching sweater at a children’s boutique on Piccadilly Street.    

For his second birthday, again at Marshall Field’s, I bought him a camel’s wool double-breasted coat, with the collar, pocket flaps and buttons in brown leather.  It had a matching cap, with the bill in brown leather, and came with leggings made of brown leather as well.   

I don’t know if I started my Aunt shopping frenzy just because that’s what aunts are supposed to do (?) or because I felt guilty, jealous or something else for not being around him as much as my Mom and sister.  I guess I worried that Nick wouldn’t get to know me.   

Many of my friends at the time (also single working women not remotely concerned about getting married or having kids, after all, this was the 80’s) were Aunts and saw their nieces and nephews often because they lived in the same town.  Gone was the old cliché of aunts as old maids – the new aunt was hip, had a good salary to afford spoiling, and would take her “weekend kids” anywhere.  They were fun to be around and good company.    

Nick about 14, always looking good!

Being an aunt is all about giving – not just your credit card, but giving your time, your wisdom, your love.  Aunting is also a special honor and privilege in terms of receiving.  They love you not because your family or the gifts that you do spoil them with because you can, but because of that special bond that they have with you.   

So one of the happiest days of being an Aunt out of the hundreds and hundreds that I’ve had, was the day I was home for another holiday.  I walked into my brother’s house and Nick (a little over 2 years old) comes running out of his room into my arms yelling “Chicago, Chicago!  My Chicago is home!”   

He did know me!  He just didn’t know my right name.  He thought my name was Chicago!  The family deduced that he called me that because when people would talk about me when I wasn’t around it would be with Chicago attached to it.  Thus my name to Nick for a year or two was Chicago. It was fine with me.  

Katie, my Mom and Nick in front of the Chicago Art Institute

Nick grew up to be a great dresser, with an eye for classic clothing from fine department stores – dress shirts from Brooks Brothers, suits from Halls.  He always look impeccably neat and pulled together.  I’d like to think I had a bit to do with it from those first outfits from Marshall Fields and Harrod’s.   

A couple of years ago Nick, Katie, my Mom and I went to Chicago for the weekend to go Christmas shopping.  We had the best time.   We didn’t just shop – we went to the top of the 95th of the Hancock Building, to the Chicago Art Institute, had Chicago pizza at Uno’s, martinis (by that time they were 22 and 21) at the Grand Lux Cafe and brunch at the Ritz-Carlton.  And we went to Marshall Fields.   

I came full circle as an Aunt with Nick on our trip to Chicago.  Beyond being able to have the means and the desire to shop for them, Nick taught me over the years how much fun it was to just be with them, to love them, especially the day he yelled “Chicago, Chicago, my Chicago is home.”