Enjoy the Frosting on Life’s Cake this Holiday Season 

I am missing my Giorgio famiglia and this blog! It has been 4 months since our reunion and life in the modern world has taken me away from my family history research. I’ve spent almost a month in Richmond VA since September 19th when my mother was hospitalized with an irregular heart beat. She is on the road to recovery after having a near death experience that coincided with the doctors saying she was not likely to recover from her condition. It took almost 10 days for the doctors to get the right combination of drugs to get her arrhythmia under control and by then her week on a respirator had started to create other problems. The week I spent with her in the ICU was an experience I would gladly forget if I could. But she was determined ‘to beat this thing’ especially after the doctors told her she couldn’t and for the time being it seems she has.

We like to call her our “contrarian octogenarian.”  There’s nothing my mother likes more than proving other people wrong – anyone really – but especially authority figures. As you can imagine, this is not her most endearing trait and can sometimes wreck havoc on family gatherings. I don’t think she realizes how other people perceive her opinionated approach to life. It can sometimes be interpreted as mean-spirited but I don’t think she means it that way. It’s just the way she is and always has been. But in this particular case we were thankful for her determination to prove the doctors wrong. The doctors (who don’t like to be proven wrong) just say it was a miracle. I suppose we can all use a miracle now and then.

img_1198-2((So on Thanksgiving this year Rick and Sarah and I drove to Richmond to spend the day with my mother at her younger brother’s house. I love to prepare Thanksgiving dinner and Rick has always done the lion’s share of the work – turkey, dressing and gravy. (Hey -maybe that’s why I like it so much – Rick does most of the work!)

This year we took a prepared meal from a local grocery store since we were celebrating in Richmond for the first time in 20 years. It was almost as much work since the precooked turkey had to heat for 2.5 hours and I had to make my usual sides (or it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving) but everything turned out great! Right down to my mother’s birthday cake with “83” candles made from my grandmother’s scratch recipe for pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. img_1190-2

Yes – the cake that my favorite octogenarian said at least 5 times in the course of the day (that’s about once an hour) that I had made “wrong” because Nana always made it in a sheet cake pan – not in layers. Five times when I could have gotten irritated but didn’t (well – maybe a little by the 5th time I heard it) because I knew she would eventually learn why it was a layer cake. (And I learned that my grandmother didn’t like to ice layer cakes – something I never would have known if I hadn’t made the cake “wrong.”)

And in my favorite picture of the day – here is my mother licking the bowl, “just like I used to when Nana cooked,” she said between mouthfuls of frosting.


So despite her constant protests that it would have been easier to go to Cracker Barrel (the only phrase I heard more often on Thursday than the one about the “wrong” cake) I’m pretty sure my mother enjoyed the day. So the next time the favorite contrarian in your life is starting to get to you – just remember to enjoy the frosting at the bottom of the bowl. (I’m pretty sure they don’t let you lick the bowl at Cracker Barrel.)

I hope all my Giorgio famiglia has much to be thankful for this year and will enjoy peace and blessings in the coming Advent season. img_1186-2