Tuesday, August 24, 2010

East Coast - Part II

After all the excitement of the big anniversary party, we all settled in for some family fun. James had to return to California on Tuesday, Aug 3rd and my brother-in-law Greg drove back to Philadelphia the same night as the party... there was work to be done. My siblings had rented a townhome through Wed. Aug 4th - so that gave us a bit of extra room to have everyone together. The kids were loving it!

Everyone's pointing at Aunt Claudine who got stuck at the 'kids table'!!

Lots of wine,silver queen corn and shore tomatoes!

In case you're wondering... My BIL Greg NEVER smiles!

These guys would stay in their Grandmom's kitchen ALL DAY if we let them!

Josie adores all her cousins, but Kate is special!

All my siblings packed up on Wednesday and left the shore. My brother Chalie, wife Kim, and Kate & Jack were headed up to the Hamptons for an additional two weeks of vacation with Kim's family. Claudine returned to work in Maryland and Suzanne and her boys drove back to Philly. While in Delaware, Suzanne decided to add to her family - a rescued Airdale Terrier named Lark - to keep their AT Chauncey company! Boy, has she got her hands full!

The girls and I stayed behind with my parents for a much 'quieter' few days! During that time, we got to spend two days with my old roommate and high school classmate, Karen. We hung out at the pool with the girls and got caught up on all the news. Karen was able to join us two nights in a row for dinner - she was astounded by how much my parents had 'mellowed'. Of course, she was pleased to confide in Maddie some of our adventures (misadventures!) when we were in high school and from when we roomed together in the early '90's. (I'm trying to plot my revenge for that! :-) Josie is 100% in love with her Auntie Karen. The panda webkin that Karen gave her was quite a hit. She is named Bamboo and is the reason Josie is now restricted from computer use!

Karen nearly flipped when, a while back, she found out that my Goddaughter Katie was the girlfriend of a friend of hers - Jesse. Not long after finding this out, she ran into Jesse and Katie and greeted her by saying "OMG, you're the Baby Harper!" (cute story, I'll get to later...) Turns out Karen and Katie have run in the same circles for a few years never knowing the connection between them... ME!

That brings me to the next stop on our trip - Annapolis, MD. I lived, played and worked in Annapolis for well over a decade back in the 80's-90's. In the early - mid 80's I waited tables at a popular waterfront restaurant on Dock Street. I loved working there! The friendships I made in that place continue to this day. One of my BFFs is Nancy - we worked side -by-side there and we both 'moved on' from there around the same time. Nancy was getting married to a Marine and I was going back to college. Fast forward a few years to 1987. I was getting married and wanted Nancy by my side. But, she was pregnant and living in 29 Palms, CA. I insisted to my then-husband that part of our honeymoon HAD to be spent at the Marine base in 29 Palms. And so, it was. The four of us took a quick overnight trip up to Las Vegas. In the first casino we gambled in I turned to Nancy, rubbed her belly and said, "C'mon Baby Harper, make Aunt Michele a winner". I turned around to a slot machine, put in two quarters, pulled the arm - and all kinds of sirens blared and lights flashed! I had won a $250 payout on those two quarters! Hence, the legend of "The Baby Harper" was born. My beautiful goddaughter (Katie) was bringing me good luck before she was ever born!

Here we are, all together again: me, Maddie, Nancy, Josie and Katie. The handsome guy behind Katie is Jesse (boyfriend extraordinare to Katie, new love of Josie's life!)

My precious girls!

Once we finished lunch ( with our bellies and faces sore from so much laughing! ) Maddie took the wheel and drove the 2.5 hours to our previous hometown of F'Burg, VA. She was calm and collected making her way through the notorious DC rush hour traffic. Fantastic driver... (must have had an AWESOME teacher!). We were to spend 4 days with my friend Jamie. We arrived just in time to cheer on Jamie's daughter Emma as she collected her awards from their community swim team.

Emma and Maddie - Buds forever!

Josie and Jamie's Maria. Preschool pals/Friends Forever!

Once we got through the initial hellos and hugs, this is pretty much how the next 3 days looked:

Maria, 'little' Emma and Josie. They played HARD!!

Jamie hosted a playgroup on the day after our arrival so we were able to visit with 'Big' Maria and her girls: Riley and Hailey. We're lucky because we get to see Maria and the girls in CA too! (Dad Noah has family here!). We also managed to visit with our former neighbors (this only served to make us miss them more than ever!); our former carpool partners (Shout out to my Boi Charlie, fo shiz!) ; my former trainer/friend for life Lisa and stepson Brady. (We were fortunate to see Brady - he was shipping out for boot camp only 5 days later! We're so proud of him!); and our favorite hang-out, Chez Sunrise (home of Lori, Dave and 'little' Emma).

Our time in Virginia ended too soon. But, we had to get back to Delaware... Grandmom and PopPop were waiting to get their girls back! I'll get to that in the next post - I know my eyes feel like they are ON FIRE from all this reading & writing. Until next time...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our Trip 'Back East'

Our long awaited (since December!) trip back to the East Coast began on July 29th. Maddie was in summer school, making up credits lost when she transferred high schools. Her final class ended at 12:30 that day and we were on the plane home at 3:30! We arrived at my sister Claudine's house at 1:45AM Friday the 30th. We were exhausted, but so happy to be in familiar territory.

We drove to my parents place on the Delaware shore once we were rested. We (my siblings Suzanne, Claudine and Charles) were hosting a surprise 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner for our parents on the following Monday, August 2nd. For the first time since Christmas, we were all together. We are blessed in the fact that all the kids absolutely adore one another - Josie just disappeared among her cousins and I didn't hear a peep from her for nearly 3 days! We shared dinner each night and had so much fun catching up on what everyone was up to.

On Monday evening, James, me, Maddie and Josie escorted my parents to the restaurant for the celebration dinner. Above you will see my Mom & Dad entering the room we reserved for the event. They were completely surprised and shocked. We managed to pull together a lot of the people who have shared a large portion of our parents married life.

The first surprise was seeing our neighbors from when we moved to Maryland from Philadelphia in 1976. Kathee B and her new husband, Dan; daughter Carey and her son; and Kathee's mom Shirley. We go back such a long way with Kathee's family. We were all so thrilled to celebrate Carey's birth and to see her years later with her own son was just awesome! As with any close neighbors, you don't only know them but their family as well. This was the case with Kathee - we knew her Mom and Dad and her brothers. We were so pleased to see her Mom, Miss Shirley - still a firecracker at 95 years old!! So much had changed yet stayed the same... the pure joy and love the families shared through the years was still there.

Maddie, My Mom and Kathee look over the photo book we had made for our parents

Also on hand were George and Celia P. They were our neighbors on the other side of my parents house. We lived next door to them for nearly two decades. George and Celia raised their two sons next door. Both my parents and George and Celia moved from the neighborhood around the same time... George and Celia built a beautiful home on the water in Maryland and our parents built theirs in Delaware. They both looked great and we were so appreciative of them making the long drive to the shore to share in our celebration.

George, Celia and Mom

Kate (Chalie & Kim's daughter); Suzanne; Celia; and Kim get caught up on family news

From the late 1970's until they built their house in 1996, my parents kept a travel trailer at the shore. They shared 20 years of summers with their neighbors at the campground. Most of these folks ended up selling the campers and buying permanent homes in the same area. Dot and Lou H. were directly across the street in the campground from my parents for those 20 years. They watched us grow up, then saw our children come to spend time with PopPop & Grandmom at the trailer! Our parents were very surprised and so thrilled to see Dot & Lou - as were we... I remember clearly Dot & Lou being my 'safety net' when I would go out on dates down the shore... "If you don't see me back by midnight, call the police!". Long before cell phone days, these two were our de facto guardians in Mom & Dad's absence.

Mom greets Miss Dot

'Uncle' Pete, Pop and Mr. Lou get caught up on all the news

Another couple who continue to share our parents lives are 'Uncle' Pete and Miss Donna. They too were campers - living right next door to my parents for over 15 years. Maddie and Dana (Pete and Donna's granddaughter) grew up together at the shore - they met as babies and continue to be friends to this day. Pete and Donna also moved into a permanent home at the beach a few years back. All 6 of the grandchildren adore their 'Uncle' Pete and Miss Donna. I honestly believe that they love my parents grandkids as much as their own!!

Maddie, cousin Kate and Miss Donna

Pop, Maddie, Miss Donna and Uncle Pete discuss how difficult it was for Pete to keep the dinner a secret...he is definitely 'the weakest link' when it comes to keeping a secret!!

Finally, we owe such a debt of gratitude to my parents current neighbors, Miss Mary & husband Ron and Nick & Jane. They see our parents everyday and didn't let on the smallest clue about the dinner! Miss Mary helped Claudine compile the guest list and advised us on a restaurant selection. As far as my siblings and I are concerned, Miss Mary had the toughest job of all! We cannot thank her enough for all the help she lent.

During our parents 50 years of marriage, we were truly blessed to be surrounded by their friends - who in turn became members of our extended family. Before dinner started, I gave a short speech describing how our parents met, how our Mom gave up all she knew to move from Canada to Philadelphia to marry our Dad; and how they built their lasting partnership. I described the invaluable lessons our parents had taught us, based on three simple principles:

LOYALTY: to family and friends. Be a good neighbor. Don't let people talk trash about your siblings or your friends. When someone messes with your sister or brother, they mess with you. And, when times get tough - dig in and stay true. Not one of us faced adversity without the knowledge that our parents were right there with us.

WORK HARD: at everything. Keep a good work ethic. Nothing worth having comes without a bit of hard work. It was not until we were older that my siblings and I recognized the sacrifices our parents made to keep us all in good schools and a safe environment.

HELP OUT WHEN YOU CAN: Always lend your time or resources to those in need. You don't have to have a lot of money to contribute to making the world a better place. Our parents were always available to help out a neighbor, take care of a sick loved one, rescue an animal or just volunteer time to their community. They continue to do so to this day! Our Mom volunteers at their church's thrift shop and collects school supplies for underprivileged children through her local Ladies Club. Our Dad has volunteered for years on election days, helping voters at the polls. Not to mention, his seemingly unlimited repair talents: He has performed work on all of our houses - even climbing on the roof of my home in Virginia (at the age of 70!) to power wash the house!!

I hope my siblings and I can pass these values along to our own children and live as successful lives as our parents have.

Finally, my brother Charles, led a toast to our parents. He thanked them for the love and support they have given all of us and wished them many more years of love and laughter.

Mom & Dad with their Grandchildren

Me, Claudine, Dad and Mom, Suzanne and Charles

All of us spent the next few days, until Wednesday, August 4th, at the beach with our parents. The kids had a great time hanging with their cousins. James and I were able to hear all about Chalie and Kim's new house, learn about Claudine's search for a new doberman puppy; and share in the excitement of Suzanne & Greg getting ready to have Zack starting to apply to colleges. It all seems to be going by so quickly! I'm sure that's how my parents feel about the last 50 years!

Tomorrow I'll share the details of the rest of our trip. I figure this is enough for one day!!! Have a great day!!