Today, January 17th is Mare’s birthday. She often told the story of her birth. Her great aunt, who acted as the midwife to her mother, had to walk through “snow that was this high”, she would indicate about 3 feet with her hands. Her family home was “back lots”, meaning a place off of Hillcrest Avenue, where the DiStefano family now call their compound.
The year was 1923 and Harding was President.
Mare was the first born to Frank and Angelina (Rossi) Germano, both immigrants from Italy. Frank and Angelina would have 5 more children in the next 12 years–Benny, Lena, Helen, Ray, and Anna. Thirteen years after Mare’s birth, Angelina would end her own life.
Her birth certificate gives her name as “Germain” and there are a few iterations of the name–Germani, Germain, Germano–before her family settled on ‘Germano’. Also, her mother’s maiden name was stated as “Russelli”, but was later called “Rossi”.
Mare described her Mother as kind and gentle. She had “big hands” as did Mare, and as I have, too.
That is about as much as Mare remembered about her Mother and what I know about my maternal grandmother. I had a sense that there was some shame to her death. Angelina is buried in St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery in town and I often wonder what was done to achieve that feat when the Catholic Church considered suicide a sin.
Mare had only two things that belonged to her Mother–a beautiful cut glass sugar bowl and a glass vase. I managed to break the sugar bowl when I was dusting the shelf it was show-cased on. At that time, I did not know of Martha Stewart’s advise to remove all objects from a shelf or tabletop before dusting to avoid mishaps. I now have the vase and I am very careful.
Mare was 13 years old when she lost her Mother. She was in the 8th grade and had to leave school to help manage their household and to care for her younger siblings. By this time, the family was living at 20 Bonair Avenue.
Later on, Mare and my father would buy the lots next door, from her father, at 40 Bonair Avenue and build their home, the home I grew up in.
The two youngest girls, Helen and Anna, went to live with their godparents. Helen went to Warwick, Rhode Island to live with Louise and Larry George. And Anna, 1 year old, went to relatives in town who lived in what was called the Mittineague section.
It must have been heart-breaking to leave school, for Mare loved her teachers and learning. Much later on, when Mare was in her 60’s, she returned to school, took “night classes”, and earned her GED. What a goal to set and an accomplishment to achieve!
Mare never complained about her childhood. She said it wasn’t easy, but she never said it was hard. It was 1936, in the throes of The Depression, when she was 13. Her family was poor and so were her neighbors. Her father worked as a conductor on the Boston & Albany railroad. He also sold fruit and flipped real estate. She said Pop brought a lot of “junk” home. I guess he was a collector of sorts.
She did say she “didn’t even have a doll”. Later on, as an adult she bought herself a doll and sewed clothes for it.
Her childhood experience did not leave her bitter, nor sad. She was keenly sensitive to others who experienced pain and loss and she offered a compassionate, helping hand to many people throughout her life. She had a formidable inner strength. Her byline was “to persevere” no matter what came her way.
Memorial bench at Old Tatham School in West Springfield where Mare attended grades 1-6.
I give heartfelt thanks to my Mother for all that she was as a person and all that she accomplished in her life. Truly, she was the wind beneath my wings.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
investing and creating wealth
As Joe was a smart man and there was ‘extra money’, so to speak, in the household, Joe invested in the stock market to increase his wealth. I don’t know how he educated himself about the markets and companies and investment risks. He likely read and studied somewhat and then took a big load of money to a downtown Springfield stock brokerage office to invest in stocks that he had picked himself.
Back then, I remember that he had money in Shenley Whiskey and Allegheny Steel. On his days off, he would go to the brokerage office and watch the ticker tape come through and see how his investments were doing.
He read The Barron’s.
He would come home and at the dinner table tell us what had happened at the market that day and about a particular woman who was always in the Shearson-Hammil office. She was a Jewish…
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Today it’s rainy, cold and windy. A good day to shop, online
I love shoes. I love buying them and I love wearing them. Just last week as I hopped up on the examination table in my doctor’s office she said , “I like your shoes.” Navy patent leather Weejums.
Man, music to my ears. Because everyone knows that women dress for themselves and for other women, not for men. If we dressed for men, well, we would just be naked, wouldn’t we? My brother told me when I was in high school when I was fussing about my clothes that it didn’t matter because boys don’t care what you are wearing.
Still, I enjoy compliments from anyone especially when they notice my shoes. The thing is since I have gained weight and am no longer my lithe, petite self, I don’t like buying clothes and I don’t like the way I look in clothes. Not that I am advocating nudity. It’s just that your feet don’t gain weight and they always look good.
I have a pedicure every month so my toes and feet are always ready for sandals, open-toe shoes, mules, or sling backs. Joanne does the best manicures and pedicures; she works at renew.calm.
I buy most of my shoes at Nordstrom, online. I am a 9 Medium. Nordstrom has free shipping and returns, though I rarely need to return shoes. I don’t pay full price; I only shop the sales. In addition, I earn Nordstrom Notes on my Visa credit card [no airline miles for me] and use my Notes for my shoe and make-up purchases. So, they are basically free to me!
Right now I have an $80.00 Note that is burning a hole in my pocket. I spent some time this morning looking at shoes, online. To my dismay, and this is happening more frequently, I did not find anything I was heads over heels about. Sorry for the pun.
I do not like gladiator shoes and this trend seems to be going on forever. We are not walking for miles in the desert sands in the Roman Empire, are we?
I do not like metallic~anything. Although I have read that metallic is out, I still see a lot of it. Studs~really? Bows and ruffles on shoes? Embellishments~no way!
So let me show you what I came across today.
Shoes that look like you stepped on an animal and still have the poor thing stuck to your foot.
Shoes that have bows.
A pair of shoes with ruffles.
Shoes that have embellishments.
A pair of shoes for the woman who always wanted to be an architect.
Shoes that you could not possible walk in and stay upright.
Shoes that say “happy hooker”.
Shoes that say “Don’t take me seriously.”
Shoes that are down right stupid.
And a pair that says, to me, “WTF?”
So, tell me what you think when you go shoe shopping. What is your experience? Pictures, please.
“When was the last time you learned something new?” was a question I used to ask candidates interviewing for positions when I was working in Human Resources. It was amazing to me how many people were stumped by this question. It was not my intention to stump anyone; rather, I was seeking out people who have a zest for learning, are open-minded, can change their minds when presented with new information. The Vice Presidents and CEOs that I supported insisted on these qualities in the people we brought on board.
I love learning new things and having my mind-set challenged by contrarian views. This week I was so challenged.
Prashna asked me if I could provide transportation to West Springfield High School to one of her 4th grade classmates who is also in the band. The Elementary School band is performing at the West Springfield High School. Prashna is in the school band; she plays the trombone. “Sure, no problem”, I say.
I picked up the young girl at the house that Prashna directs me to. Her Mom comes outside. I get out of the car and introduce myself, assuming that the Mom must be concerned about the person who is driving her daughter to and from the school for the evening performance. I also give the Mom my business card so she knows my name and has my telephone numbers and somehow I think it makes me seem more legit.
She doesn’t give me her telephone number which would be more practical, should some situation emerge regarding her daughter. I don’t even know her last name.
She is Muslim, wearing the traditional dress and head covering. She is petite and quite beautiful. She seems stressed and explains that her husband works many hours and at night. He works at a restaurant. I ask if she has other children. Yes, an infant and a three year old, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. She takes my hand and we say good-bye.
Zmrda is a lovely 10 year old girl. She is well-spoken and poised. She too wears the traditional head covering of Muslim women.
Later, Prashna asked if I can provide transportation for Zmrda, if she gets accepted in the GOTR program.
Girls On The Run is an after-school program for girls that focuses on fitness through educating them and preparing them for a lifetime of self respect and healthy living. The ultimate goal of GOTR “is to provide the girls with tools and resources that develop their ability to think critically–a skill that will serve them well for a lifetime.”
Prashna let me know that Zmrda was accepted into the GOTR program. I contacted the school coordinator and let her know that I would be providing Zmrda transportation from school to home and asked if the proper clearance was given by the parents so as to avoid any problems when I pick up Zmrda later in the afternoon.
Ms. O’Brien returned my call and said “yes” the form had stated “Mrs. Susan” [that’s what Prashna and Zmrda call me] as the ‘responsible party’. Ms. O’Brien wanted to be sure that meant me and she had confirmed it with Zmrda’s Dad by telephone.
I enjoy seeing the girls two afternoons a week. They have become friends and listening to their conversation is always enlivening.
This past Tuesday, I brought Freddy along for the ride as I would not be making any other stops along the way. [On Thursdays, I bring Prashna to Girl Scouts meetings, after we drop off Zrmrda.] As Prashna is approaching my car, she sees Freddy and Freddy sees her and they both are very excited.
As the two girls tumble into the car, Prashna tells Zmrda Freddy’s name and says that he is a good dog and says how much she likes him. She is petting him and Freddy is wagging his tail uncontrollably. Zmrda sits back and says her Mother does not allow her to touch a dog. I ask why and she says “because dogs are dirty and they have germs.”
Uh-oh, did Freddy hear that?
Islam forbids Muslims to keep dogs, and the punishment for that is that the one who does that loses one or two qiraats from his hasanaat (good deeds) each day. An exception has been made in the case of keeping dogs for hunting, guarding livestock, and guarding crops.
Most Muslim scholars agree that in Islam the saliva of a dog is ritually impure and that contact with a dog’s saliva requires one to wash seven times. This ruling comes from the hadith:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “If a dog licks the vessel of any one of you, let him throw away whatever was in it and wash it seven times.”
Prashna’s response to the situation was: “Zmrda, pet him and then you can wash your hands and your Mom won’t know what you did.”
Yes, she did say that and I did admonish her for it.
The Nepalis have their own rituals about cleanliness, washing, food and what one can and cannot do with their right and left hands.
I am uncomfortable with beliefs, superstitions, traditions, and rituals that have no basis in what is True. I know I am wandering into dangerous territory here. It just doesn’t sit well with me that parents let their child get into a car with a woman they do not know, yet the same child cannot pet the women’s dog. Which, the stranger woman or the dog, poses the gravest potential danger?
I heard a commentator on television the other day say that “it’s not that Trump doesn’t know anything, it’s that he doesn’t learn anything new and he is not open to learning anything new.”
Religions need to question and revise their man-made interpretations of Truth as new knowledge and insight unfold. Religious dogma cannot remain steeped in the past with all of its cultural backlog and baggage, if it is to be meaningful and relevant to today’s generation.
“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.” Voltaire
Jesus, the Nazarene, reminded the Pharisees and the high priests of the day that their religious practices on cleanliness missed the mark when he was asked “Why do your disciples break the traditions of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
Jesus then taught the people, saying “it is not what you touch or put in your body that defiles it; for what you put in your mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body. Rather it is “the emissions of your hearts, your thoughts, words and deeds that cause you to be unclean. But eating with unwashed hands does not make you unclean.” Matthew 15
Petting, touching or kissing a dog does not make you unclean.
To read about Prashna and my involvement with a Nepali family, read a previous story:
Are you a Jerry Seinfeld fan? I am. This is a story about nothing. Nothing special, just a typical day in the life of me. So this is how it goes…
Bruce gets up first and sets the coffee pot. Then he takes Freddy out for a 20 minute walk while I get myself out of bed and try to make myself presentable. The operative word here is “presentable”. My hair is wild in the morning and it takes some work for it to look human. There will be no pictures of me in the morning. By this time Bruce and Freddy are back. If the bathroom door isn’t shut tight Freddy bursts in; otherwise he waits for me to come out and I pick him up in my arms and carry him around and we look out the windows. Every morning!
Bruce and I have a cup of coffee and breakfast while catching up on the news of the day. We always kiss and hug and this was a special morning as it is our third wedding anniversary. And then, we go about our business.
This morning I had an appointment at the salon for a manicure as I do every other Wednesday. It is always a pleasure to see Joanne at Renew.Calm and receive a spa service from her. I have been going to her for years and knew her when she worked at the salon at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires. I was Director of Human Resources at Canyon Ranch for more than 3 years. She is from West Springfield and we have a lot in common. She used to give my mother manicures and pedicures, too.
After my manicure I went to Savers to drop off some of my gently used clothes which no longer fit [for obvious reasons]. Mostly all my clothes are from Talbots and they ranged in size from 4/small, to shall we say infinity? I once had a financial adviser tell me to stop gaining weight to save money on clothes. Oh! If only I had followed her advise I would be a richer and thinner woman. But, alas, that was not to be.
I also went inside Savers and shopped for vases which I make glass sculptures for the garden.
I also look for frogs for the garden.
I found a few vases and a bright pink/fushia/purple string of tinselly garland. It will work beautifully into our sitting room holiday decor. I would say I scored!
I checked out the cookbook section, but didn’t find anything. I was looking for something with a holiday theme, even though we already have about 5 Christmas cookbooks at home. No luck. But I did see a book entitled “Living Somewhere between Estrogen and Death”. What the heck? I didn’t even pick it up.
While I was cashing out, the cashier took a telephone call. She said only one word–“No”–and hung up and started laughing. I asked what was funny and she said the person on the line asked if they had any Tylenol or Ibuprofen. That is funny.
Then off to the post office to pick up our mail and packages. Only junk mail in the box and a package from the printing company I use, Evermine, of the Soap by Susan labels I use on soap boxes.
On Thursday, I will be at a house party hosted by Laura Dromgold, our former yoga teacher, selling Soap by Susan along with a woman selling hand-crafted fine jewelry. Last year, I had a successful evening and ended up spending all my sales money on jewelry. I am hoping for a repeat.
While walking out of the post office, a man was making a repair to the cement walkway. I told him he did a fine job, nice and smooth and he was appreciative of the compliment.
Next stop was Rite Aid to pick up prescriptions and buy an antihistamine for Freddy. As I walked in, I remembered it was our anniversary and thought I should get Bruce a card. So, I found a card that seemed kinda right, but I will make some changes to it, to get the message ‘just right’. We usually give each other cards and we don’t generally exchange presents.
Of course, I had to look at all the crappy, tacky Christmas stuff made in China. I have been in the store about 10 times since Halloween, but I still need to look down that aisle each and every time I go in. I love looking at Christmas decorations; it makes me feel happy. Looked at chocolates, but didn’t buy any.
Then I saw a display of West Side Terrier stuff–caps, tee shirts, socks, etc. The baseball cap was very nice looking and made in the U.S.A.. I thought of getting it for Bruce and then thought I might as well get one for myself. The sales benefit West Side High Sports–such a deal. And a nice anniversary gift surprise.
I get to the register and cash out and realize I forgot to get Freddy’s medication. I look for Claratin–jeez, there are a lot of choices.
I went to a different register to check out, so the same person doesn’t see me again. At the register, I see a small holly plant and think of a spot it will look just perfect in our living room. I ask the cashier if she thinks it will last til Christmas and she smiles. Okay then, moving right along. I had to read each newspapers’ headlines. Harvey Weinstein made headlines and a big picture of him in the NYT. I think he is the man of the year in that he caused a sea-change in the way harassment is being spoken about and reported on in America. And Bruce wonders why it takes me so long when I am in a store?
I am starving at this point and usually I would go to Wendy’s for a chicken sandwich and fries. But I think better of it, knowing Bruce will be waiting for me to have lunch together. And sure enough, Bruce is warming up homemade chicken rice soup for us. Bruce and Freddy come out to greet me. I am a very fortunate woman, on this day of our third wedding anniversary.
Someone once wrote, “Don’t despise the day of small happenings.” I love all the small details of my life. They make my life whole and lovely.
How about you? What is your daily life like?