Let me begin this blog post with a pre-script, an FYI sort of disclaimer: I had a 500+ photo-amazing- good-time during my month long visit to the Pacific Northwest. Spending that much time with my mom and pop hasn't happened since I said the most important yes of my life in this heavenly place almost 16 years ago. I have lots to tell and even more pictures to share (you oughta know my people fairly well by the time I'm finished.) Please indulge me.
I've been home for 2 weeks now (in which time I've sent Sean to Scout camp, celebrated his 15th birthday, organized my entire house yet again--yes closets included, taught Chloe to use her first sewing machine, revamped an after-school command center to be blogged at a later date, drafted my first resume' ever, and landed a job interview-PHEW!)
Excuse, excuses! My sister-in-law Marci is prepared to stay married to my brother forever but divorce me forthwith if I don't get to it. She said, and I quote, " I know I was there, but I've been looking every day at your blog, waiting to see our memories through your eyes." Although Marci doesn't know it yet (she will when she reads this), her saying that meant the world to me. It meant she loved me. It meant that I am her sister and not just her husband's. You are my sister too, Marse and I love you!
If a blogging manners handbook existed then timely (as in a day or two) posting after a month long stay with family would certainly be discussed in chapter one...so here goes.
A bit late but no less meaningful.
Travel journal is presently in-hand.
And when I say travel-journal I mean spiral bound notebook I'd stuffed into my carry-on and written in: bills to be paid while I'm gone.
My last night at home, I nestled onto the couch next to Mom, pulled out the spiral notebook and a calendar. My quest: to try and get my exhausted, overjoyed brain to recall at least a skeletal recollection of the what and when of the previous 31 days. No easy task. Especially after midnight with two women known much more for our meals than our memories. AHA! I had it. Forget the bones, let's get to the heart of things. What did we cook?! Great food is central to every Michael family occasion...literally EVERY occasion...we even cook meals as we are planning menus for the next occasion. My method proved to be fruitful. Mom and I hammered out a heart-centered travel journal only to find out that we'd eaten 28 wonderful home-cooked dinners out of the 31 of my days spent home. One night was leftovers and two nights we ordered pizza.
WHO does this?! That's the question I walked away from Oregon proudly and rhetorically repeating inside my head. WHO cooks the fresh herbs cut from the garden two minutes ago variety of dinner 28 times out of 31? I'll tell you the who does this: Mary Michael. My mom. My kid's grandmom.
The kind of mom & grandmom I hope to be one day.
I loved every last taste of burgundy laced marinara, jalapeño infused breakfast burritos (yes, she does breakfast too) and caramelized on the grill fresh Oregon corn on the cob. The kids are still licking salt off their fingers from the homemade french fries. It should be a sin to eat so well. But this isn't gluttony. This is sharing and savoring. It's not how much food we can eat. It's how flavorful and meaningful can we make the food we are eating. It's sealing the deal in making the day indelible in the journal of Michael family moments.
One such indelible day happened on day #7 of the trip when Grandma Mary invited all off the miss-es and their dollies for afternoon tea.
My Americanisms lead my fingers to nearly type the words high tea but to avoid any cultural folly, I consulted Wikipedia. Look what I found there:
"high tea has become a term for elaborate afternoon tea, though this is American usage and mainly unrecognised in Britain. Such usage is disfavored by etiquette advisors, such as Miss Manners
The term "high tea" is also used in the United States to refer to afternoon tea or the "tea party," a very formal, ritualised gathering in which tea, thin sandwiches and little cakes are served on the best china. This usage is an analogical construction, the term "high" being associated with social "formality" (rather than a "high," or main, table). Most etiquette mavens advise that such usage is unorthodox outside commercial contexts."
Hopefully, my afternoon tea manners are better than Marci's reminder made me realize that my blogging timeliness ones are. Unorthodox when eating cherry pecan tea scones, dilly cucumber sandwiches, chicken artichoke filled pastries, and lemon raspberry tarts I will not be! Someone may have slurped a time or two while indulging in the fresh raspberry lemonade but I'm not mentioning any names ;) Suffice it to say, none of our guests under the age of 20 did any slurping. Look at Hannah's wonderful missy manners.
Hannah's sister Micah Jane was just as well-mannered while her mommy (my beautiful sister Rachel) introduced her to tea scones with clotted cream and lemon curd.
Rachel is the sister I shared a bedroom with while growing up. We made daisy chains together for hours when we were young. I taught her algebra while playing school when I was 12 and she was 7! No wonder she ended up as high school valedictorian. She's the sister I again shared a bedroom with while in college. The one I prayed for desperately when cancer tried to rob her of her dignity 5 years ago. But when you are an amazing, focussed strength like Rachel your dignity (nor your beauty) will be robbed by anything. I hope we will be serving afternoon tea to our girls until we are 95 and 90, sis! You're mine forever. Smooches.
The miss-es manners weren't the only ones invited to tea. Lucky for baby Gavin, he's still the mommy-fed variety of boy. Other than him, there were NO BOYS ALLOWED! I stole away from the chocolate covered strawberries long enough to grab this beautiful shot of Gavin resting peacefully on the shoulder of my mom's best friend, Birdie.
These 2 strong women have spent their professional careers as obstetric nurses--Mom and Birdie are what I consider women's best friend--the earthly saviors of the most important moments(s)in many women's lives. I know what my ob nurses meant to me and can only imagine the places these 2 have carved out inside the hearts of their patients over the last 30 years. Mom and Birdie are "Tier Ones"--the closest variety of friends who talk about everything and share tears of joy and sadness with one another. To bind the friendship even more tightly, they also SEW together. Now, we're talking sacred friendship. I love Birdie for being my Mom's confidante and home girl, her Tier One.
I had to give my dad a little lesson in the merits of women friendships while I was home. One day when Birdie called for Mom, Dad huffed a little and rolled his eyes (in the really...she's calling again today kind of way). I said, "Dad--you have no idea what Birdie saves you from!" I tried to shed some light on the subject by explaining how much it would hurt me if Rob rolled his eyes when my Tier Ones call me (Dad LOVES my best girl friends--they are like his other daughters). I saw a light click in his head and I really think Birdie became someone new to him--even if he'll never admit it. And guess what! I never saw him roll his eyes or heard him sigh again when Birdie called Mom for the rest of the visit. Sorry Dad, but it's true. LOVE YOU!
Strengthening friendships between cousins and sisters was a highlight in Grandma Mary's afternoon tea. We were all encircled by the comforts of wonderful food and the sights, sounds and smells of familial love known to me as HOME.
Look at the special treats we made for each of the girls. These Polly cakes turned out so cute, they each deserved their own individual portrait. I think I was up until 2 or...maybe 3 in the morning getting these girls finished for the tea. Teeny Polly sized couture dresses fashioned from icing takes a serious time commitment.
Maryn was the brave one. All gentility aside, she cut into her Polly cake in no time flat. Hand-fashioned beauty is not the thing to get between Maryn and her dessert--can you blame her?!
And, because I started this blog post with a pre-script disclaimer, you get to see even more pictures. My blogging manners are already in question anyway so I may as well share.
These were so much fun to create and even more fun to give away that I think I'll do a blog post tutorial some time this fall.
Hannah took her Polly cake home. I think it made it another 3-4 hours before she cut into it. Such a perfect Miss Manners. I loved being at afternoon tea with all of you in Oregon--the place I will call home forever. Thank you Mom. Your strength and talents mystify me. And just so you know the kids are still asking things like "ummmmmmmmm can you call Grandma and see how she makes her spaghetti sauce?" GLOAT now...I know you will anyway :)
On day #7, being in the land of berries made me feel like a queen. And to think I was there for 24 more wonderful days to follow. And, lucky you--if you keep returning to my blog, you'll be subjected to even more stories and pictures. I promise to try and make it worth a gander.
Mind your manners