Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Memories Part I.

My dad's side of the family all lives in Northern New Jersey, and I think they always have. We all live within a half hour of each other, but with the busyness of life, our time together is few and far between.

My grandfather (Poppy) and my Nana were huge on family - they loved having everyone over to swim in their pools, or have Labor Day bbqs, Christmas gatherings, holidays, non-holidays - it didn't matter. My Nana loved having a house filled with people - she and my Poppy met at a ball in the 1930's, so it's fitting that she enjoyed crowds.

When I was 1, my Nana got very sick with stage-3 breast cancer. It didn't stop her desire to want to do as much as possible with family, and up until her death when I was three, she wanted family surrounding her and didn't want her children to lose touch with each other, or with my Poppy.

The year after my Nana died, in memory of her, and her love for us to spend time together as a family, my Poppy rented an apartment for my family - my father, mother, myself and my younger brother who was just a 2 month-old baby at this point; my dad's brother Paul and his new wife Maria, my dad's sister Susan and her husband Domenick, and my Poppy. We all headed to Seapointe Village - a complex in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey where we spent three weeks together (obviously since I was still almost a fetus, I remember none of this).

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Over the years, we all grew up and had new additions to the family. My Uncle Paul and Aunt Maria had two sons - Tom and Tim, my Poppy's new girlfriend Mary Ann tagged along from time to time (unfortunately, but that's another story), and try as we did, a little apartment in "The Garden" wasn't enough for us.

Poppy then began renting a townhouse for our family, and there were millions of memories in the various homes over the years:

-There was the townhouse with the laundry shoot, which Patrick decided that he needed to climb down when he was four years old. Unfortunately he got stuck, which caused quite the production for the family trying to coax him out.

-Or, there was the time that I decided I was going to use every single kitchen utensil we had and cook lunch for everyone (at like, 7 years old). I set the table beautifully, and went to work on my delicious soup, which consisted of water, salt, and a little bit of pepper. It was quite the treat for my grandpa's girlfriend when she wondered what was in the bowl and took a big sip.

Sleeping arrangements in the homes were always the greatest part - since there were usually twelve of us and only four bedrooms, each family would have to sleep in the same room. That meant a lot of sleeping bags and uncomfortable nights - which led to Patrick sleeping in the huge walk-in-closet many times (when he was twelve or thirteen he would bring his computer and speakers, and set up a whole system in the closet - ridiculous!).

Most of all, it was about being with family and enjoying time together no matter what happened. After years of renting, we finally decided to all purchase a townhouse together, so that we could have a home to go to, where we had belongings, and our own decorations, and that we could rent out when it wasn't being used. It gave more control and more comfort for us, even though as we all got older, the home has been used less and less frequently, and rented to strangers more and more.

The house itself is decorated a little cheesy for my taste - putting together the style of 11 people is a little difficult, but for the most part, there is a very tacky, but sometimes cute "beach" theme to the house. There is more beach/seashell/ocean crap strewn around the house than I ever knew existed - there's even some in the garage now because we just ran out of room. Slightly overkill, but that's okay!

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This year, I was lucky enough to get to share a piece of my childhood with J, as he joined my parents, Poppy, and Sue and Dom for five days at Seapointe. It was just like deja vu, since my very traditional parents were not pleased with the idea of me and J sharing a room - even one with two beds in it - so I got to bunk with my parents while J slept in my bedroom in my nice, comfortable bed (luckyy!).

It was really special to get J "in" more with my dad's side of the family - he was a doll as he played Spades with my uncle and Poppy on a nightly basis, held his liquor well as my uncle and dad pumped beer and mixed drinks into him (or mixed drinks, and then beer - we know and obey the old adage "beer before liquor you've never been sicker"), made it through a boring rainy day where we were practically stranded at the condo, and learned how to boogie-board with my dad on a day when the waves were pretty rough. It was a great time to spend with family and so good for J and I to have a break from our lives in North Jersey and see each other in a different light - this was our first vacation together.

J and I headed down earlier in the day - before my parents, and before my aunt and uncle arrived, which gave us some one on one time with Poppy - and just enough time for Poppy to pretty much adopt J into the family (he made a toast at dinner one night telling J - "You're one of us now, welcome to the family"). So cute. The downside, was the unpacking - especially since we brought so much crap that my car couldn't fit it all - we had to take my mom's!

And there was still more left in the car...
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J smiling, even though he was not thrilled that my mom's whole big car was still not 100% unpacked...(she'd kill me if she knew the license plate was now online - but I trust you all).
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I got to learn more about my Poppy, which was so precious to me now that he's 87 and noticeably getting older - through late night talks I learned how he met my Nana, about their honeymoon (where, to quote him, they "went to Colorado and froze our asses off"), and about how he grew up (I never knew that one of his brother's died at age one after he was bit by a black widow spider - crazy!). I could tell that he enjoyed sharing these stories with J and me, and his eyes lit up as he recalled seeing Nana on their wedding day - though when I asked him if he cried when he saw her because she looked so beautiful, his response was (picture this said slowly and drawn out), "Oh, absolutely...not. That would be very embarrassing." He's adorable.

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It meant so much to me to visit the same restaurants that we always went to (where my Poppy took my Nana when they were dating/married, and when my dad and aunts and uncles were young), but this time to share that with another person I love.

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We got to go to Menz Restaurant- my absolute favorite restaurant in Wildwood, where I've been going since I was three years old, which has always been the absolute best. My Uncle Paul, Aunt Maria, and two cousins joined us, so the whole gang was there together (minus Pat, who had to work - lamee). It's this really fun family-restaurant, with amazing seafood, but lots of weird crap laying around it.

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This would be an example of some of the weird crap they have there - I didn't Photoshop this at all!
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The man who owned it only had one leg, and he used to sit out of the restaurant and would ask kids if they ate a good dinner, and if they said they did, he would give them a lollipop. Now, there's a big tub of lollipops sitting in remembrance of him - it's kind of a fun, nostalgic place to go.

My dad and his nephews
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All the sister-in-laws
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"And we're the three best friends that anyone could have..."
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The fabulous first few nights were ended with a trip to Seashell Ice Cream - another family favorite that really brought me back to my childhood where I would spend hours trying to pick a flavor from one of the 60+ different options - I seriously sampled probably 10 flavors before making a decision. Apparently when my Nana and Poppy used to go there, she would get a cone of pistachio every single time, no other option even existed. This time when we headed there, I followed in her footsteps and was not disappointed at all.

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As we visit these places, as much fun as we all have, we deal with the ghosts of the past and the sadness that comes from us being together, but without someone who made such a contribution towards the family, and who drew us all closer together. As I see us growing as a family, I always am grateful for my Nana, who was so into bringing us together. Her family bonds were and are the glue that make us so happy to see each other and spend the quality time together.

I have so much more to share about the trip - but I seriously took way too many pictures, so I'll be sharing again soon (sorry if this little account was tres boring for you - skip the next one!).

Hope you're all doing well - I look forward to catching up before I head up to our Cape house for my dad's birthday on Thursday! Miss you all and hope you're enjoying the summery weather!

Currently: Watching my new favorite trashy obsession - You're Cut Off. I can't get enough of it, which I know says a lot about me :)

14 comments:

吳婷婷 said...

Practice makes perfect.............................................................

HiFashion said...

Thanks for sharing this with us: it's definitely a beautiful story. Our family all lives really close together and we hardly ever see each other, so my grandparents love doing BBQ's in the summer to get everyone together.

Couture Carrie said...

What a lovely family you have!
Gorgeous pics and remembrances, darling A!

xoxox,
CC

Chelsea Gwynne said...

What a beautiful post! Thank you for stopping by my blog! Glad I found yours as well!

Best,
Chelsea Gwynne

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

Nice pics- thanks for sharing!

That You're Cut Off show is such a guilty pleasure- lol!

Gracey said...

Aww your family seems awesome! Great pictures too!

P.S. I love the new header!

Keith said...

This has got to be one of your best posts. I enjoyed seeing all the photos. It was also cool to learn more about your family, etc. I love the new header on your blog.

張怡 said...

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Tamara Nicole said...

Sooo cute! Glad you guys had fun, and what a cute getaway:-)

蔡舜娟蔡舜娟 said...

認識自己,是發現妳的真性格、掌握妳的命運、創照你前程的根源。............................................................

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

Uou are so cute! Love the photos!

Kristin said...

Awwwwwww, what fun! Love the shot of all the bugs. Nothing beats family vaycay QT time!

♥Aubrey said...

What wonderful memories you & your family are creating! Love this ♥

Miss you hun. We must catch up.

KyungBivo中如 said...

雖天地之大,萬物之多,而惟吾蜩翼之知。..................................................