Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Brother from Another Mother

No my dad didn't have an illegitimate child, but imagine my surprise when my parents called me at UT and said "Meghan, we have some news for you.  You have a new brother".  The first thought through my head was wow that must have been some party last night because I woke up in bizzaro world.  Then I thought how in the world did this happen.  First of all my parents could not possibly have had sex.  That was just too much to imagine and I just now even had a hard time writing it. Second, we all knew my mom had ensured that she would have no more children after Graham was born.  Not saying Graham was what made her make that decision but...  ahem.  Luckily before my mind could wander anymore they clarified.  They were taking in an exchange student from Norway.  His name was Christer Jenssen and he was the same age as Graham.  I of course went into princess mode screaming he better not get my room!!!!  They assured me that he would be sharing a room with Graham and we made plans for me to meet my new brother.  When I first met him I was amazed how well he spoke English.  I could read a little Spanish and French, but my verbal skills were very lacking in foreign language department.  He seemed like a really nice guy and he fit in really well with the family.  Because I was at college I didn't get to spend that much time with him, but the nice thing about having someone from far away come live with you for a while is that you get to show them all the things that you love to do and it makes you appreciate your own life.  One of my favorite memories of Christer is the time when we went to Ohio for Christmas.  We decided to take him to downtown Cleveland to Public Square and Tower City.  Tower City had just opened and was much nicer than it is now.  There was an ice skating rink in Public Square and I loved to skate.  I thought I was a pretty good skater too.  We paid our admission fee and skated up.  I glided out onto the ice thinking I would impress Christer with my skating skills.  He didn't notice because he zoomed past me and I think he did a double axel with a twist.  He maneuvered around the rink like a pro.  I think he had me figured out because he just laughed at me as he spun around.  I screamed- "This is not fair, you probably ice skate to school in Norway".  

The thing I admired most about Christer was how he would listen.  I know this may come as a surprise to many of you but sometimes, not often, I open my mouth and speak before I think. Christer was quiet, but when he spoke it meant something.  

Thank goodness for Facebook.  I get to see pictures of him and his perfectly adorable children. I can't read most of what he writes because my Norwegian is even worse than my French, but I can still see his personality in the pictures and all the smiley faces in the comments on his posts.  I am glad I got an extra brother for a year and I hope we get to meet in person again.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kevin and Deanna's Wedding

19 years ago I was honored to be a part of one of the best weddings I have ever been to.  Kevin is my cousin on my mom's side- the Gallagher's.  He is about 7 months older than me and his whole life I was forced upon him.  He wanted nothing more than for me to just leave him alone, but I would have none of it.  I would nag him to play with me until he finally just gave in.  At family weddings he would be forced to dance with me so our families could get the "oh they're such cute little kids" wedding picture.  I think he eventually just gave up and decided to like me.  It was just easier.  His high school sweetheart was DeAnna Barrella, some really cute Italian girl from the other side of town.  I loved (love) DeAnna.  Mostly because she is just a great person but partly because she made Kevin be nice to me.  When they broke up I was just devastated, but alas they reunited and Kevin made the best decision of his life and asked her to marry him.  I was asked to be a bridesmaid.  It was my first time.  Kevin of course had to remind me that I wasn't really a "maid" but more of a "matron".  Thanks cuz.  The wedding was beautiful and DeAnna was stunning.  I think I miss the over the top styles of the '80's and early '90's.  I have always thought that big hair and big poofy shoulders make your butt look smaller, and as a classic "pear" this is always a goal of mine.  The priest at the wedding might have hit the vino a little early because nobody could really understand what he was saying, but his personality just added to the whole scene.  Wedding finishes, pictures at the church, pictures at Oberlin College and then off to the reception!!!  Woo Hoo!!!  For my friends in the south, you have never lived until you go to a northern wedding.  Southern weddings are very pretty, very gentile, and can be very fun but the North has you beat on most counts.  Our family is Irish.  Very, Very Irish.  DeAnna's family is Italian.  Very, Very Italian.  The spirits were flowing the minute you walked in the door (except Father ???, he had started earlier remember)  I have no idea what we ate, I just know that it was not cabbage rolls.  Kevin forbid cabbage rolls because we had them at every single family function and he hated them.  We ate and we drank,  And we drank and we ate.  Kevin considered me one of the groomsmen so he expected me to do the shots when they did.  Wow. We danced and danced.  The Chicken Dance, The Electric Slide, Brickhouse and of course polkas.  Cleveland is the home of Frankie Yankovic- the King of Polka and dad of Weird Al. If you are from Cleveland you know how to polka.  Then the Italian's came out in their really nice suits and danced the tarantella (?).  This Irish girl couldn't do that, but unfortunately I think I tried (yikes).   Then it came time for the bridal dance.  The Bride and Groom go to the dance floor and people stand in line to dance with them.  You pay to dance so the couple will have some cash on their honeymoon, but you get a shot of liquor for your cash.  My last real memory of the wedding is one of the uncles holding the money bag asking if I would like a shot of schnapps or of whiskey.  I thought he said to have both, so I did.  I am told we stayed for a few more hours, but who knows.  I paid for that wedding for days.  I couldn't even eat my chicken paprikash the next day but it was totally worth it.  Their wedding was one of those events that people use as a marker in family history- Before/After Kevin and Deanna's wedding.  They really are a good match and I am very happy for them.

Weddings now are so pinterest perfect with every detail planned.  I long for the days when it was ok to have your reception at the Knights of Columbus so long as there was a keg and a good DJ.  Put some flowers on the table to dress the place up.  It isn't what matters anyway.  There are whole businesses devoted to the perfect wedding.  It starts with the perfect proposal, then the perfect announcement, then the perfect save the date card.  Tens of thousands of dollars are spent to ensure that the toothpicks are just the correct shade of rose to coordinate with the flowers flown in from the Netherlands.  I have even heard of weddings where the couple request that the guests wear certain colors so the pictures will look better.  Really????  I wish these people could have been at Kevin and Deanna's wedding and experienced a truly exceptional day.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pimp Granddaddy

Like most people who grew up in the depression my grandparents were frugal.  They lived for the first years of their marriage in a duplex with my great-grandparents.  Now don't get me wrong, when I say frugal I do not mean cheap.  They definitely enjoyed having "things", but they knew that fun things came after everything else was paid for and there was money in the bank, or hidden under the stairs, for a rainy day.  My grandmother loved to tell the story of her Dodge Charger and her Corvette with the airbrushed butterfly on the hood. The Corvette got them involved with the Corvette club which I probably can't write about because I am trying to keep this blog rating PG-13 or under.  I will just post this picture of a Corvette club party.  Yep, that is my grandparents.
Need I say more

But this story isn't about those cars, this story is about the Cadillac.  I have mentioned before that my grandfather had poor health and was an early patient of open heart surgery.  People generally didn't live long after they had their chests cracked open in those days and I truly believe that knowing that he may not have long to live changed the way my grandfather lived the last 15 years or so of his life. Posted on his bathroom mirror was a note that said 3 things I want to do before I die.  I am not sure if this is exact, but it was something like this.
1. A few years of good living
2. See all the grandkids graduate from high school (when he wrote this Ashleigh hadn't been born yet)
3. One more nice car

He got the few years.  Graham was close to graduation.  Only one more thing to go, so he showed up one day with a pimped out white Cadillac with red velvet interior.  We were all kind of shocked. It was so white.  It was so red inside.  It was so "un-Grandpa", but you could tell that he really loved it.  We teased him and asked if he had practiced his "South Lorain Lean". (A common driving position in which the driver holds the wheel with his left hand while leaning to his right toward the passenger seat, usually bobbing his head or bumpin' with the beat. It's a pretty badass way to drive. Copied from Urban Dictionary- known in many places as the gangsta lean.  Snoop Dog never made it to South Lorain or he would have given it the correct name the "South Lorain Lean")  He was so proud driving it and would take the long way to get everywhere.  (oh wait, nevermind, he did that in all his cars).  My grandmother loved it too.  She didn't drive it until after he died.  He probably wouldn't have made it as long if she did.  I couldn't find a picture of Grandpa with it, but found this one of Grandma and me.

I know some people would say my grandfather's wish of this car was materialistic and that the money could have been spent better elsewhere, but that is what he wanted and if his desire for this car kept him around a little longer I think it was a really good thing to want.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Perm

Many of you have heard of the legend, but few have actually seen it.  Greg Little's perm circa 1977 or 1978.  I had memories of it from childhood, but I wasn't sure if it was real or if I was just mixing up my life with an episode of Welcome Back Kotter.  Alas, while rummaging through the family pictures I found the proof and here it is.  Legend has it that he had so much hair and it was so curl resistant that it had to be permed twice.  While he was/is always very nicely dressed and has a nice classic style we aren't quite sure what made him go to the trendy "jewfro" around this time.  I am glad that I can finally validate this memory, but Dad all I can say is what were you thinking?   Oh wait... looks like I followed in his footsteps not once, but twice in my life.