Tag Archives: thunderstorms

Home, Then and Now


It is 7:30 pm on Sunday night, and I am in the middle of cooking my mother’s famous lasagna recipe.  It involves making your own bechamel, and it is the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.  I seem to remember that she found it in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which seems hard to believe, but you must remember that in the late 1960s and the early 1970s Julia Child was on tv encouraging housewives to venture away from meat loaf and pork chops.  I’m not going to share the lasagna recipe here because lately I’ve found it hard to amaze my dinner guests, which is not surprising when the NYT and Epicurious send us their best recipes on a daily basis.  Better, sometimes, to reach back in time and return to the classics.

Tonight I was so happy chopping onions and garlic and stirring pots and singing along with Florence Welch and then it occurred to me that WHOOPS I’d forgotten about the pasta. Our stove is awful and takes forever for a burner to heat, so now I am in a holding period waiting for the ziti to cook.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am making my mother’s famous lasagna recipe using ziti, simply because the lasagna noodles located on the top shelf (way in the back) were so petrified they quite possibly may have been purchased during Obama’s first term.  You see, our cupboards are very deep, and I am short and cannot see to the back.  And I’m lazy to fetch a chair to look into the bowels of my cupboards.  I hope I gain back some of your faith when I tell you I used fresh oregano from our backyard garden in the meat sauce.  That’s about all that’s left growing in this tremendous heat. That and a basil plant that has quadrupled in size during the few months since I bought it at Trader Joe’s.  I completely forgot it was there and am sad thinking about all the days when I could have had Caprese salads.

I’m making this complicated lasagna recipe so Hubby will have comfort food when he comes home to an empty house each night during this coming week.  William and his friends are off camping up north in the cool mountains, and tomorrow I get on plane to see my aunts and uncles and cousins in my hometown in northern Illinois.  I have not been in three years and am so excited to see my family . . . and to see and feel and smell the town where I was born and where I lived until I was ten years old.

In my dreams I ride my bike down the streets of this little old town.  I go through the squeaky screen door to hug my grandmother and then at other times, I have coffee with my Aunt Linda and my cousin Bridget.  In my dreams, memories of my young self get tangled up with the reality of the older self I am now.  Because I am the oldest of three, I keep the childhood memories of this place for all of us.  I tell my brother about driving to Grandpa Koppen’s house when a tornado was coming, our mother shouting at us to roll down the windows, we will be there soon!  Our own basement was mud walls and big spiders, and grandma and grandpa were just up the street with a lovely finished basement complete with pool table and full bar.  I say to my siblings, don’t you remember when we lived on Grover Street and Aunt Linda and Uncle Bill and Matt and Bridget lived just twenty steps from our own front door?  Their dog, Arfrang, was so cute and was always jumping at their screen . . . and their spunky little cats, Amos and Andy, were so fun to chase and pet.  Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas at grandma and grandpa’s when we would sit at a fancy long table in the dining room?  Then after dinner the men would smoke and drink, and the women would do dishes and talk in the kitchen.  So much laughter, and I remember it all so fondly.  I try to keep this place of my youth alive for us because I am the oldest thus have the most stories, and this is the place where we were born.

I could share here many more childhood memories from my small town in Illinois, but a big storm is moving in, and I’d rather watch that through the window than continue driveling on here.  We have lightening and huge storm clouds and a rumbling of thunder in the distance.  We so rarely get weather here in the desert; this storm is a treat.   As always, thank you for reading my words.





The Day William Left for College


August 25th.  This date had been on our calendar for a year.  Northern Arizona University Move-In Day.  I felt so fortunate that Northern Arizona University had the latest start date of all our Arizona colleges.  Weeks ago when my friends were stressed and sad, inside my tiny little heart I felt gleeful that I had TWO MORE WEEKS with my kid.  But alas, the day arrived.

Friday morning we were calm and cool, checking items off the long supply list, me darting up and down the stairs to find the stuff missing from the huge stack of college-bound items. Ruby, the Wonder Spaniel sensed something was up and jumped into the car, refusing to get out. She was very sad when we pulled her out and made her go inside, then WE were sad as we saw her watching us from the front window as we drove away.  She and William are best friends, so I’m sure Ruby will be needing extra cuddles from Hubby and me with William away (sob).  On the road by 9:30, we stopped for “brunch” at In and Out. Oh man, I’ve not indulged in several years, and wow, it was tasty.   The drive up the mountain was a chore with so many commercial trucks going slow but we were not on a schedule and, three hours after leaving home, we arrived safe and sound to the beautiful, pine tree studded, cool fresh air of Flagstaff, Arizona.

When we moved our two older children into the NAU dorms years ago, it was a huge chore carrying heavy arm fulls of stuff up and down the stairs.  This time?  Three of William’s friends who’d arrived the day before emptied our car of boxes in two trips and set everything up in such a cheery manner  (thanks Jeff, Chase, and Tyler).  The room is quite large, and I think Chase and William will be very comfortable there!  They have a great view from their windows of the grassy quad below, and the snow-covered mountains above.  Lucky boys, I’d give my right arm to be joining them.  Think of all the people they’ll meet, the things they’ll learn, the adventures they’ll have!!!

When we moved our two older children to the campus at NAU, it was super stressful. I feel like it was karma that this move went so well. We drove through torrential rain that stopped just as we arrived to unpack the car.  The rain started again as we worked in his dorm room, but as we headed to the book store, it stopped. Same happened at dinner time as we met William’s room mate’s parents for beer at Mother Road Brewery, moving on to Beaver Street restaurant for dinner, where we got primo parking spots in a town where parking can be so challenging.  What a fun night laughing with Lisa and Dan–not sure we could have gotten through that night without good friends to hang out with!!!

All week I had daydreamed about the trails we would hike once we had William settled, but the rain was torrential and thunder boomed on and off both Friday and Saturday.  My disappointment was huge that we did not get to revisit the lush, fern-filled fields of Viet Springs where we’d spent a magical afternoon last summer.

Because what I needed overall was a little bit of magic to heal my grieving heart. A little bit of “wow” that only nature can infuse into my soul.  But  . . . it didn’t happen. Instead, we drove home and hugged our pets and then Hubby sat at his computer catching up on work, and I cleaned the kitchen, bleached the microwave, and scraped the play dough off the bottoms of my favorite sandals  (my life is very glamorous).

As of today, I have raised my three children to adulthood.  What a weird feeling.  Hubby and I are trying to not be blue. But the house seems SUPER DUPER quiet without William and his friends here.  I’m not sure what to do with myself.

My oldest son’s girlfriend, Samantha, recently said to me these words (and I am holding them close to my heart):  “A secret:  Kids always need their parents.”  Crossed fingers that her words are true.