When my dad was a small boy, a (questionable) man in his very small town went missing. As my father tells it, the town siren went off and the townspeople all gathered to find out what the fuss was about. After learning the man was missing, they then formed search parties. My dad – again, a small boy – participated in the search and ended up at the home of the missing man with others. At one point, a police officer lifted my dad up to the attic opening and instructed him to take a look and tell them if he saw anything.
In my own father’s words, “I was the only one small enough to fit in the opening, so the officer hoisted me up there and asked me if I saw anything. I looked around and told them ‘no’.” Whenever my dad re-tells this part of the story, he always adds, as if an afterthought, “I think back to that now, and I think, ‘That was it? They believed me and that was that? What if I missed something?'”
However, my immediate thought (as well as every other normal human being) is always WHAT IF THE QUESTIONABLE MISSING MAN WAS UP THERE DEAD AND THEN YOU NEEDED LIFELONG THERAPY TO GET OVER WHAT YOU JUST SAW?!
But that’s just me. And all of you.
Oddly enough, this is not the only search party story my dad has told me. There’s another that involves his friend who went missing. But, as it turns out, the boy wasn’t actually missing at all. In fact, the boy stumbled upon his own search party, and joined it – hoping he’d help them find whoever they were looking for.
I am not making this sh*t up.
Show of hands, please. How many of your parents have similar stories? Is this, like, a thing? Or am I just #blessed… ?
The stories of Mark (the small town where my dad grew up) have all become classics. We hear them over and over again – and, yet, they never stop being entertaining. Mark is a small mining town built on Italian immigrants and when we all gather there, the nostalgia is thick – you inhale it into your lungs with every laugh and every story.
And the memory of every person who lived there.
It’s during the holidays that I miss my Grandmother Hilda more than ever. I cook more, for one, and when I sauté garlic in a pan for whatever dish I’m making, the smell instantly brings a vivid flash of walking into my grandparents’ home as a child after the three hour drive to get there. She would instantly start feeding us – usually with homemade tortellini in broth. Of all the people I’ve known and lost, my grandmother’s voice is still the clearest. She is as present in my mind as if she was sitting next to me this moment. She loved you hard, literally. And as much as we tried to escape her forceful kisses and embrace back then, I think I would give anything to feel it again just once. In fact, not long ago, my mom told me that I kiss and hug Ivy like Grandma kissed us. I’m not sure if she necessarily meant it as a compliment, but I will wear that fierce love like a badge of honor.
It’s funny how certain people leave a particular imprint on your soul. I wouldn’t say that I was closer to my grandmother than any of my siblings. We didn’t share some unique bond. And I wasn’t there as I should have been when her health started to fail. For that, I have no excuse other than I have yet to learn how to get my own sadness out of the way in order to be there for others.
I am a coward and I am working on that.
And yet, I idolized this woman. She was not perfect. But… she knew herself. She didn’t make apologies for who she was.
Let me say that again, because it is what I admired the most about her: she didn’t make apologizes for who she was.
She just was.
I’ve spent the last few months wading into a small pond of quiet self-reflection. I have dissected the things I most hate about myself. I am finding more and more peace with the imperfections as well as the motivation to change the things about myself I refuse to accept.
And, lately, when I start to overthink, as I always do, I say to myself, “What would Grandma say to me right now?” I don’t do this because my Grandmother was some kind of Italian yoda. I do it, because, in most cases, she would say, “Oh dio me… Jennifer! Make me laugh!” as she threw her head back and sniffed in amused annoyance.
Translation: Snap out of it, you little sh*t.
So, in the spirit of Hilda, my goal is to be myself with no apologies. Truly, now. It’s been an inner battle of mine for years, I know. But it’s funny how when you start to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you, you become gentler with yourself, kinder – and more forgiving. And for those who don’t love me… I can’t change their perception of me. I can’t change their annoyances with the things I do. I am who I am.
I can be annoyingly cheerful and talkative.
I can be annoyingly quiet and shut down.
I embrace the holidays a little too enthusiastically – and, for some, a little too early.
I’m obsessed with pretty decor and pretty fashion and pretty cooking and pretty baking.
I take lots of photos of pretty decor and pretty fashion and pretty cooking and pretty baking.
And yes, I take photos of meals I make when I’m proud of them!
The things I am working to change about myself are the things that hurt myself or others. The things that I refuse to change about myself are the things that hurt no one.
So, in the spirit of my past Chuck it! post, which seemed to resonate with many of you, let’s all embrace our inner-Hilda.
Embrace yourself – and all the imperfections. Work on changing the things about yourself that don’t make you feel good. And stop worrying about anyone who picks away at who you are just because it’s not who they are.
As Hilda would say, “They can stir that polenta all they want…”
No one can break your spirit but you.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.