Capturing Memories of Yesterday

In my last blog, I was ranting about making spaghetti sauce.  I hadn’t made it in awhile, and it was long overdue.  I was making it because we had friends over Saturday night.  Our friend Amy was bringing by the flash drive with the photos she took of Dante’ for senior pictures – session #1.  You can read about that emotional day here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/07/14/emotional-day/

Session #2 will happen as fall arrives, and we’re already mapping out the details of that.  I’m especially excited for that session as there will be a few locations that hold very special memories for both Dante’ and me.

Dinner

Amy, her husband Matt, her daughter (and Sam’s Goddaughter) Skyler, and her boyfriend “Po” were our guests for dinner.  I worked Friday on the sauce, tweaking a few things here and there.  I used that sauce for baked ravioli.  I make a big pot of sauce and throw whatever I am not using in jars and freeze it for future use.  I made sure to leave an extra jar out, because sometimes those ravioli will “soak up the sauce” in the oven.

Any time I make sauce, I am extra critical of it.  I took a leap of faith and tried something I had never done before.  There was no going back – this was the sauce that was going in the ravioli!  Personally, I could tell the difference in this batch.  I pressed the garlic instead of just chopping it up and putting it in (so it tasted less “garlicky”).  I also felt that it could have been a little sweeter (maybe not enough wine or sugar).

When every one arrived, I was nervous.  The sauce was good – but I was still running through the things I noticed in my mind.  I shouldn’t have been nervous at all!  They all loved it!  Skyler said that she could “drink it with a straw” it was so good.  In a Facebook post, Amy said: “As we took the first bite, it was clearly evident that the sauce is the BEST we have all ever tasted!”  She went on to write, “Well done, Chef Keith.  We could “taste” the passion, heart and soul you poured into our meal. You’ll find us all at the front of the line to purchase that sauce when you bottle it!”

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What an amazing thing to read!  I felt like I was reading an review for a 5-star restaurant! I am humbled and thankful that the meal was enjoyed by every one!  I made sure to send home a jar with them for future enjoyment (No label.  No charge!)

The Pictures

If you took the time to follow the link above, you are aware at how emotional I was the day that the pictures were taken (and I wasn’t even there for the whole day).  The weather that day was far from ideal.  It was 90 degrees, humidity was high, plenty of sun, and many of the pictures were taken during the hottest part of the day.  The fact that Dante’ made it as long as he did was a “win” in itself!  It was obvious by the time I arrived for the second half of the session that he was only good for a little while longer.

I was not with them while they snapped pictures by classic cars at a car show.  I was neat to see which cars Dante’ chose to pose by.  As we looked through the photos together, he rattled off the year, make and model of each car.  There were some taken at the park which were very nice.  I could tell which pictures were taken later.  Dante’ has a habit of messing up his hair, when he gets hot, so there were a couple shots I laughed at and asked him, “were you hot?”

We went to the park right around the corner from our house and snapped a few more pictures.  There were some that we took of him standing on this little bridge.  He is just kind of lost in thought, and those really stuck with me.  He’s always thinking.  He asks a lot of questions.  He is always looking stuff up on the internet and likes to share the “facts” and “figures” he learns about with others.  I’m not sure why those photos in particular stuck out to me.

I could post many shots here, but then again, I don’t want to share them all, so I am going to share just a couple of my favorites.

First, after the park, we came home and the boys gamed a bit.  We brought the boys out to the porch and she caught some shots of them just talking.  There is a great pic of the two of them clinking their glass and iced tea bottle together like they are making a toast or something.  One of my favorite shots, though is one of them laughing.  My boy’s laughter fills my heart.  I love when I can make them laugh.  I think I was doing some silly impression of a radio guy I worked with, which made them laugh out loud.  Check out this great shot:

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A day without laughter  – is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Dante’ is ALL about gaming!  He has a handful of games that he loves (on various gaming systems).  He has some very good friends who also love to game.  When these guys get together, the noise level doubles or triples!  LOL!  They are SO into the game!  Usually, they are playing a game called Super Smash Brothers (which I SUCK at!) and they are bouncing and jumping around all over the place (which is fun to watch)!  Skyler made a cool sign and Amy lined up some of his favorite games next to it.  While Dante’ played his game, she caught this amazing shot:

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“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” – Orrin Hatch

Finally, perhaps my favorite picture of all, is referred to in the blog I mentioned above.  Amy told me that she had taken the picture.  I just hadn’t seen it yet.  Skyler had bought a cute “gender friendly” outfit for our future baby.  She had it in a gift bag.  Also inside the gift bag was the picture of Dante’ and me in a frame.  Seeing it, brought about all the emotion of the day, which I held back – because I had to serve up the ravioli!  However, I have looked at it many times since Saturday, and well up with tears almost every time.  As I showed Dante’ the picture, he could hear the crack in my voice and asked again if I am crying.  He thinks it is funny that I am so emotional.  He will have plenty of laughs in the year ahead, because I know that there will be many tears in the months leading to his graduation!  Even though I am dressed like a bum, and my head needs shaving, I will treasure this picture forever:

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“There is no greater bond than the one between a father and a son – strong, unyielding, and everlasting.”

“A father and a son are bonded for life.  Even when a father never says it out loud, the son knows there is love.”

“Often, a father is proud when his son looks or behaves like him. It’s unclear why exactly  fathers are like this, but perhaps it’s a sign that they know they have done well raising their sons.”

“Sons always identify their fathers as their greatest heroes, while fathers always look at their sons as their greatest accomplishment.”

In her Facebook post, Amy said, “When I am entrusted to capture “A Memory of Yesterday” for some one to cherish for years to come, I pour my heart and soul into capturing the essence of who my subjects are.”

I would say that she did that perfectly.

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Emotional Day

It is still a year away, but it is becoming very real, very quickly.

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Last month, on the last day of school, my oldest called me and proudly announced, “I’m a senior, dad!”  It’s not like I didn’t think this time was coming, I knew it was.  I knew when I held him as a newborn baby that time was going to go quickly.  Life already moves quickly, and they say that when you have children, it moves a whole lot faster!  I would definitely agree!

First steps.  First words.  First day of pre-school.  First day of kindergarten.  First holiday program.  First day riding the bus.  First day of middle school.  First day of high school.  First band concert.  First awards ceremony.  How quickly these firsts fly by.  Next year, we begin to see the Last first day of school, the last final exams, and eventually, the last last day of school.

Today, we took my son, Dante’ out to have some senior pictures taken.  Times have certainly changed from when I had mine done. 31 years ago, they had the photographer set up in one of rooms in the school.  You made an appointment.  You got dressed up in a suit and tie and they put you in some ridiculous poses.  For those in sports, they may have posed with a football or basketball.  I had my trumpet with me in one pose.  They allowed you (for a fee) to pose with a friend.  I know that I have pictures with my friend Steve and Margaret.  You had to pose for one generic head shot (which would ultimately be your yearbook picture).  Most of the other poses were just awkward.  I have this one of me with the suit coat in my hand and over my shoulder – it looks so stupid!!

Our friend Amy came out and shot his pictures.  Prior to the shoot she was clear that the way we would get authentic pictures was to make sure he was dressed comfortably.  In other words, if he was not a suit and tie guy, then don’t force him to wear it.  She wanted to know his interests so we could get some shots of him being natural and relaxed.  We sort of mapped out a tentative plan and did as much as we could (knowing that he would probably get to a point where he’d be burned out).

Dante’ and his friends from school love old cars.  He has always amazed me as we drive around town.  He can point to a classic and give me the year, make and model of the car.  He loves them.  He’d been asking to go to a classic car show this summer and today, they had one in Flushing.  It was going on while I was on the air, so Sam met Amy and they took some shots near some of the cars of his choosing.  They also got some good pictures in the park where the car show was held.

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He also loves video games and arcades.  There was one in the mall near us, so that was the next stop.  Sadly, it was much different from the one that we had been at before.  Perhaps there were new owners, I don’t know, but it was more geared toward younger children.  I met the group at the mall after work and we looked at the rest of the agenda.  It was extremely hot and humid and we could see he was getting tired.

There is a park near us that has a creek, a bridge, and a trail.  We decided to go there and see what kind of pictures we could get there.  Dimitri had been out in the sun all day on Thursday and was still nursing a bad sunburn, so Sam took him home and I continued with Dante’.  We took quite a few shots there and I am excited to see them.

We walked down one of the trails and were looking for more opportunities for pictures.  Dante’ was walking ahead of me and I had a flashback.  One day the entire family was walking the trail by our old house.  He and Dimitri were walking in front of me holding hands (the picture is probably on my Facebook somewhere).  It was autumn, and the leaves were changing.  I told Dante’ that the trail reminded me of that.  Without hesitation, Amy told me and Dante’ to walk ahead of her and just talk.  For 5 minutes, I just walked and talked with my son.  Welling up with emotion, I put my arm around him and he did the same to me.  Amy snapped some pictures of us, and I am pretty excited to see them.  It was a very special moment.

There was talk of going to Crossroads Village and Downtown Flint, but it was obvious that he was getting close to being done.  Crossroads is a very special place for him because of his love for trains, and the fact that when he was 4, my mom spent the day with him at the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine.  Downtown Flint would have been cool because there are so many cool photo opportunities.  Knowing that he was running on empty, we came back to the house.

At the house, Amy wanted to get some shots of him playing video games.  This was important to him.  He loves gaming and his senior pictures should show that.  Amy’s daughter, Skyler, made a very cool sign that was in the shots with his video games that read:  “High School – Game Over!” The sign sat next to a stack of his favorite games.

Dimitri wanted a picture of the two of them back to back playing games, so she made sure to get that one for him.  She then had the boys sit on the side porch in the rocking chairs and just talk to each other.  Nothing forced.  Just casual conversation between two brothers.  I am sure that these pictures will be awesome!

Finally, we had Dante’ standing on the front porch and we hoped to get some shots there.  I think we got one.  In a very bizarre weather change, in a matter of seconds, the wind picked up, there was a clap of thunder, and the clouds opened up and the rain came pouring down.  Dante’ went in the house and Sam and I stood on the porch chatting with Amy.  That was the end of the shoot and it went better than I expected.

Dante’ thanked Sam and gave her a hug thanking her for a fun day.  He had been so worked up about getting the pictures done.  I am guessing he probably thought it would mean him sitting and posing like they did for me.  His photo shoot, however, was a fun day looking at classic cars, going to the park, and gaming on camera.  He thanked me too, and every bit of the emotions hit me.  My voice cracked as I told him that I still couldn’t believe he was a senior.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Are you crying, dad?!”  Yes.  Yes, I was.

I went in the house and stood in the window looking at my senior with tears in my eyes.  There was the little boy who I sang to sleep each night with Dean Martin songs.  There was the boy who waved to me from the bus window on one of many first days of school.  There was the boy who was nonverbal and pointed at pictures to tell us what he wanted to eat.  There was the boy who stood close to the TV mesmerized by the “Blue Shadows” scene in The Three Amigos.  There was the boy who sang “Elmo’s World” with grandma as they watched Sesame Street.  There was the boy I coached with his baseball team.  There was the boy who played my trumpet in his first band concert.  There was the boy who I rushed to the hospital after his tonsillectomy because his stitches broke.  There was the boy who I cheered for when he learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  Each of those things brought dad to tears.  Now here is dad, crying again.  Where that boy stood – now stands a young man who towers over his dad.  That young man is about to experience the fastest school year of his life.

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I am sure that there are many more tears that will flow in the coming months.  I can’t help it. I will cry when I see the pictures that were taken today. I will cry at awards ceremonies.  I will cry at his commencement ceremony.  I will cry at his graduation party.  Those tears are mixed with sadness, joy, and pride.  This is a transition for him.  It signifies the end of school and childhood, and the beginning of adulthood.  After graduation, he plans to go to college and maybe do something with logistics, although he still occasionally talks about working with trains.  His future is bright and I will be cheering him on until I breathe my last breath.

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I will do the same for his brother.  He’s got 6 more years before he is a senior, but rest assured, I will shed tears of joy for him in the coming years, too!  I can only imagine the wonderful things he will be doing in the years ahead, and I look forward to praising him for all of his accomplishments!  He will continue to grow up quickly, just like his brother.  In 6 years, I am guessing I will be looking out a window through tears at him, too, recounting his milestones and memories.  It’s what dad’s do.

Pass the Kleenex – it’s gonna be a long year!

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A Memorable and Unique Gift

When I started writing my blog, I knew it would be a variety of personal stories, thoughts on music and movies, and blogs about whatever happened to be on my mind.  I wondered if I’d actually be able to write new material often enough to even keep a blog.  So, I signed up for “daily writing prompts” which come to my e-mail.  These can be good “thought starters,” but they are usually things like “write about a baseball player who is in a slump,” “Write a story using the following adjectives…,” and such.  This is more “creative” and “fiction” writing.  I’m sure if I really sat down and focused, I could probably do this, but I would rather write about things I know.

My brother got me a book of prompts that I like a bit more.  They are more personal.  I have gone through that book and have jotted the ones that I want to write about in the future in my “blog notebook.”  Occasionally, the daily e-mail will suggest a prompt that I have on my “future” list.  That happened today.  Today’s prompt:

“Write about a memorable and unique gift that was not given as a birthday or Christmas gift”

The Horn Mug

After I graduated high school, my parents threw me a graduation party.  I provided my parents with a list of people who I wanted to invite.  One of those people was my band director.  As I have stated in previous blogs, he was a great mentor to me throughout high school, and we have kept in touch since I graduated (31 years ago!). I invited him to the party, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a gift.

Growing up, I had read a lot of poetry, and was familiar with Rudyard Kipling.  I had read many of his poems, and was familiar with his poem “If.”  The card that accompanied the gift had Kipling’s poem on it.  I had never read it in the context of a graduate before, but as I did, it was even more meaningful.  Here it is:

If – Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”; 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run– 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, 
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

I opened the box that accompanied the card.  Inside was a pewter horn-shaped mug.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Inside the card, Tom wrote the many reasons why they enjoyed giving the mug as a gift.  He spoke of the various things that the horn stood for and things that it represented.  That, in itself, made it a very cool gift.  What made the gift so special to me was what was engraved on it.

I had seen the coolest shadow box one day.  I don’t remember where we were, but I told my mom that I wanted to get it and give it to my band director as a gift.  As I recall, it had musical notes on it and maybe a violin.  On the glass were the words “Where words fail – music speaks.”  Such a powerful quote!  I gave it to him toward the end of my senior year and included a note of thanks.

A few weeks later, I received his gift.  Engraved on the horn mug were the same words – “Where words fail – music speaks.”

It remains one of the most unique gifts I have ever received.

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31 years later and those words are just as powerful and the mug still is very special to me.

 

 

Tassles in the Air ….

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College is hard.  I know, I’ve done it.  Going to college while working two jobs (full and part time) is unheard of.  Yet, that is exactly what my wife did.  I don’t know how she kept it all straight!  She juggled her full time job, her part time job, planning birthday parties, running family to doctor’s appointments, planned holiday get togethers, kept the budget and made sure that all of our bills were paid on time, AND the rest of the every day things that happened in her life!  She did it.  Tomorrow, she will walk the stage at graduation with her Bachelor’s degree in Medical Case Management.  To say that I am proud is an understatement!

Let me back track and say that when we first met, she was doing much of the stuff I previously mentioned.  We met after I got my Associate’s degree and she was working on hers in the same program.  During that time, she was not only doing almost all of the things I mentioned, but she was also going through some health issues of her own and working in her own doctor’s appointments.  She was traveling to do speaking engagements, running marathons, and more!  I used to ask her how in the hell she did it.  Her reply was simply, “It has to be done.”

Before we started dating, it was clear that she was a very independent woman.  She took care of what needed to be done and was one of the most organized, level-headed, rational, and smartest women I had ever met.  She wasn’t going to let the world tell her what she could and couldn’t do and constantly put it in its place.  She was a self starter who saw deadlines as a challenge and over delivered every time.  I used to call her Wonder Woman.  I still do.  The things she has accomplished and will continue to accomplish leave me standing in awe.

Throughout the schooling that led her to this degree, I only heard her “stress” over one class – Statistics.  I have never taken this particular class, but I have many friends who have.  They told me all I need to know about it – it is one of the most difficult classes a student can take.  Factor in that she was taking this class online with a teacher who was very “hands off”, and you can imagine her stress level.  This was the only class I thought might “break” her.  She plugged away, went to videos online, read more, found tutorials on the web.  Her final grade in that class was still an A!  Wonder Woman once again triumphs over evil!

Through it all, I made sure to do what I could to make it a bit easier for her.  I cooked and cleaned when I could.  I made sure the house was quiet when she was taking exams or recording videos.  I proofread her papers and offered suggestions for conclusions.  I did all I could to support her and give her the time and space she needed to focus on school.

So, tomorrow, she will walk the stage and thousands of people will watch her receive her diploma.  To them, she is a name – another name that proceeds or follows their graduate.  To me, she is a tower of strength.  She is a prime example of determination and will power. She is a woman who accomplished what she set out to do – and no one was going to stand in her way.  She is the product of many hours of anxiety, studying, sweat, frustration, tears, hard work.  She is a picture of success.

Sam, this blog is a poor attempt at me trying to come up with the words to say how proud I am of you.  You continue to leave me watching in awe of all that you do.  As I look back and wonder just how you did it all, I can hear you saying back to me, “It had to be done.”  You will continue to grow and move up into positions of importance and authority.  Your future had always been bright, and this will only add to the possibilities ahead.

I am proud of you.  I am proud to be your husband.  I love you with all that I am.  Congratulations, my love!  You deserve to stand tall and be recognized for this amazing accomplishment!

Oh, and I will probably cry tomorrow.

ADDITION TO ABOVE POST:

She did it!  I held it together and didn’t cry.  Here she is newly graduated!

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