Sunday, February 12, 2012

st. valentine's day and other stories

i have a lot to say about growing up with my mother. 
equally, i believe she has a lot to say about her own mother. 
 now that i am also a mother, some of it makes sense. 

my experience as a child under these two women has been flawed. 
they loved one another dearly, 
but were flummoxed as to how best to like one another. 
it all started on 

my grandmother Hannah came into the world. 
she was the eldest of three sisters.
they all had really strong personalities. 
she was hannah, the eldest. 
the classical musician. 
she was a rarity on many levels.
when you think back to women in the turn of the 20th century,
sometimes you can grab a glimpse of the suffragettes. 
granted there were a lot of other things going on in those days, 
but it was truly heady stuff for women. 

hannah went to a women's college. 
Hunter College to be exact. 
it was really early in the history of women attending college. 
the education was a life gift... 
a rare one in those days. 
she graduated, continued in school to achieve a Master's degree in Music. 
with all the pluck of an eldest child, she headed to Harlem to teach music. 
eventually, she met my grandfather, had children and found herself
(at least i believe this to be the sequence of events)
more interested in teaching music than parenting. 
all things considered, 
i feel today that she got a bad rap from our family. 
the cousins all consider that she was narcissistic and self absorbed. 
i say, so what. 
she was a woman of a certain age, trailblazing for many of us to follow in her footsteps. 
women should be grateful that there were bellwethers such as she was.
she was also a most generous and kind grandmother in her own way. 
i did nothing  but benefit from her accumulation of experiences.
they were much more useful in her later life where i came in.
crummy parenting is redeemed through better grand-parenting. 

 one of the many things that derailed my grandmother and mother,
 is precisely that which they had in common. 
my mother joined planet earth 

i shall not divulge what year it was... as my mom has been lying about her age for decades now. 
she has been telling everyone she is older than she is, 
so they can tell her how wonderful she looks. 
that and a significantly good gene pool allow her to pull this one off. 
i think it is funny. 
yes again, the legacy of our familial narcissism resurges with a lot of tongue in cheekiness. 

not only had my grandmother given birth to her only daughter on her own birthday, 
but she was then forced to consider taking a back seat to her. 
i am sure that these two had trouble sharing. 
as a mother myself, i know with every beat of my heart,
 my job is to let my kids have front and center. 
it is not always easy to manage, 
especially with my own narcissism to wrangle with, 
but it is the correct thing to do. 
my mom and grandmother never seemed to be comfortable with this. 
i may be unduly biased understanding this. 
slack is cut here. 

my mom liked to make valentine's day special for us three kids. 
she put a lot of her own baggage aside to do so. 
she tried really hard to do the right thing every year too. 
i dreaded a little and loved the day a lot. 
each february 13th mom would tiptoe down the hallway to my brothers'
and my rooms to leave a small, 
pretty, red, cardboard box in front of our doors 
or on our beds. 
they were filled with chocolate treasures nestled into little crimped glassine paper cups.
fragrant, delectable, assorted, tradable, chocolatey treats. 
i remain as i always have been, a night owl. 
so i listened each special birthday, 'love-fest eve',
 for the sound of creaky floorboards. 
mom progressing down the hall to our rooms to improve each of our 
valentine's day experiences. 
i suspect somewhere deep in her heart, 
she knew that there was deep potential for at least one of us kids to be overlooked 
during the dispensing of cut out valentines or home made ones by our peers. 
she was covering the bases with that lovely gift in case our classmates deemed any one of us
i think i worried her the most. 
both of my younger brothers had a nice following. 
i was indeed the quirky odd duck in the bunch. 
all things considered in hindsight...
 i think she was wise to try to cover all the ground she could. 
i really was pretty odd. 
mostly i think, because i was so much like i am now and it was just not in favor with the under 12 set. 
growing and accepting this about yourself is hard... but it seems much harder on parents
who see it. 
 those who identify with it have an even more difficult time. 

anyways, my poor mother 
was stuck between her own mom's brand of crazy
and the need to improve on things for her kids. 
it left her sandwiched between two unreconcilable places. 
an emotional sandwich of discomfort. 
i suppose as i have for a long time now known
that she just couldn't get it all lined up to have a good time for herself. 

luckily, with all the crazy crap that my family has built its legacy upon, 
she married my stepfather 
on the 16th of february. 
i was 12 then as was my newly minted stepsister. 
it started a new leaf in mom's life... 
on a day that no other member of the family or hallmark card had a death-grip on.
i would like to think that mom had the seeds of a fighting chance. 
just getting a piece of the action to share yes, 
but with someone she loved and on her own terms. 

so with two children in college and the generosity of the US postal service, 
i may break out the mixer and bake some biscotti to send north to my own 
deprived darlings. 
they ought to have  their own heart shaped cardboard boxes filled with some chocolate confections.
the sweet maniac that still lives here, should have her own jar as well. 

luckily, all three of the kids all like the chocolate biscotti, filled with chocolate chips and pistachios.
the recipe for these was published in Martha Stewart Living magazines several times over.  

 if i feel unduly gleeful and feel like baking my own 
that were once published in the now defunct 
i will dust off the large pans and do a batch or two of those as well. 
thank you epicurious dot com for warehousing this recipe. 
i will say, i spent a while updating what the test kitchen did to my recipe. 
if you are inspired to trust me on my own directives, 
they can be found in the notes section 
under the actual recipe. 
that can be found here for your own personal test kitchen to give a go. 

there are dissenting ideas and everyone is a critic,  as we all know.
what this recipe will do for any experienced baker is give you an outline. 
change every addition as you like. 
the cookie is tasty. 
nothing is sacred, and that is in its own right, is the magic of a good basic recipe. 
for beginners, there is enough information to make these perfectly the first time. 
that is no small feat. 
use my notes to make it foolproof. 

anyways, i am going to be a mellower mom, 
with a sweet smelling house. 
not one always filled with fumes from drying paint or last night's garlicky pasta. 
back to my own basics. 
things that make my children nostalgic for when i was nicer to them.
not all smart assery as i tend to be nowadays. 


as for the fumes of my metallic garden. 
i plan to perpetuate them yet another day. 
i spent today at a trunk show for a shop in town today. 
i enjoyed meeting new folks. 
i enjoyed leaving even more. 
really, i just wanted to do some more flowers.
the chance to usher SPRING into the here and now, 
in spite of a very mild winter, is too tasty for me to pass over. 
so i was itchy to get home and back to things. 

facebook is where i post photos of my things as i make them . 
there often are a lot of my nice customers from my etsy components shop who visit.
often there is an expression of  an interest in depleting my floral inventory.
these folks seem to need some blooms for their own seasonal creations. 
i am making a second batch of flowers as soon as the winds die down outside and natural light returns.
it seems possible to do yet a third batch, since i need them to fill my wholesale orders too. 
I feel my inner Sally Field ... 
'you like my flowers, you really do!'

i am resistant to answer one of my newer followers. 
i will say it here. 
when i do a lot of flowers, they are done for my own interests. 
you as potential customers should not hold the expectation to get an answer to questions
that are better off not posed. 
today, i received one of those unfortunate ones. 

the least enjoyed question is about how i color my flowers. 
the second most irksome is where do i get them from. 
and thirdly, can i tell them how to put them together. 
the answer is no, i am not going to give you my sources or techniques.

i am not trying to be rude, really i am not, but consider that 
i have those aforementioned children in college to pay for. 
please consider that i am creating my own art to share out as i see fit. 
please do not be rude and ask. 
no matter how nice you think you are being, you are upsetting me. 
thank you for understanding 
(if you do). 
i will sell some of these to folks i know and have well tested relationships with. 
i make these to serve my own needs.
 it has taken me nearly 15 years to do this. 
you would not ask your doctor how to perform surgery. 
you would not ask your lawyer to write your will for free. 
sensitive treatment of artists is often overlooked...
and it ought not be that way. 
we add that  special something to the community at large. 
the softness and mortar of our society relies on what we do as creators. 
show some respect please? 
i believe it is well earned.

anyway, i think i am pooped and need some sleep. 
those flowers beckon in the dreams for tomorrow. 

happy valentine's day 
mom, grandma, halley, graham, tessa, chris, joss 
and everyone else. 



  1. I've printed your recipe out with your additional notes and hope to make them this week...perhaps even in time for the big love day, thank you!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, as I do all your posts...but this one piqued my interest just a wee bit more since I LOVE people's history...I do a genogram for each of my clients going back at least to their grandparents and so I couldn't help plotting yours a bit in my head...

    1. meshel, you are a very kind woman and i am itchin' to hear how your cookies may have turned out!
      plot my family lines... i look forward to anyone making more sense of them than i can.

  2. love your story... I totally agree with with your answer on people asking for your sources and how you do things.... I have had questions like that many times and now I will add some of your answers to some of mine... if you don't mind. :o)
    I love your truly have a green thumb...

    1. thank you for leaving a comment... i adore that someone agrees about how rude some 'customers' can unwittingly be. i keep trying not to snap and answer these questions with total aggravation in my voice. counting to ten and knowing i speak for many others in my responses helps keep my lid on many days.