Easter Memories

Easter is probably my favorite holiday, because it welcomes spring, new beginnings, family gatherings, and egg hunts. Since my mom sold her home in Greenville, we have  hosted Easter. I love packing the plastic Easter eggs with coins, candy, and clues. Oh yes, the scavenger hunt is always one of my favorites.

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Easter 2001 on Cambridge Avenue, Clifton Park

As you can see in the photo, the little ones are all in the back of my SUV around their prize. But they had to work to get there. It might be a puzzle, word finder, word scramble, or hunting for eggs, which held vital clues. They would be age specific, with tougher ones for the older children. It brought them together in excitement and challenge.

Stephen and Nick were five and seven in this photo, Marisa six, Alysia, Justine, and Charlie all four. When I was little, we always dressed up for Easter in our bonnets and bright spring colored dresses. We’d wear our white stockings and don our new patent leather shoes. I smile at this photo as all the children followed that tradition, whether they wanted to or not! The boys looked spiffy in their vests, dress shirts, and pants. Nick loved hats and so the cowboy hat had to be a part of his ensemble. I am intrigued by all that I am reminded of when looking closely at the details.

Nick and his sassy smile. He always had something in his pockets. I’m not sure what was in his back pocket in the top photo. He’s wearing a Pokemon pin on his vest, and I could almost guarantee he had a Pokemon character (probably Pikachu) in his front pocket. Stephen with his top button undone and wearing sneakers. It was a win just to get dress clothes on him, now that’s all he wears. Marisa and Alysia wear their fancy hats and are holding jump ropes in their hands.

Of course the boys were into Legos as shown in the photo with their gifts. Stephen was starting baseball, so was given a new glove. There was some Disney item and more Legos. I’m sure I have photos of their actual gifts and listed them in their journals. Details that I wouldn’t remember, but bring back so many memories.

Some things don’t change and Stephen is being hounded by his uncle to get a smile out of him. Since I probably was taking the picture, Stephen was most likely begging his father to save him. We did manage to get a smile.

Even before the family gathers, the Easter egg coloring happens. Laying out the plastic tablecloth, then newspaper, arranging all the supplies, preparing the colored dyes, always having crayons to write family names. Giving them as gifts Easter morning as everyone arrived.

Justine, Alysia, and Charlie are now 18, but I still have some tricks up my sleeve if they want their basket of candy. Yes, they may outgrow some of the activities, but we never outgrow the love of family and connection we feel when everyone gathers together. Even those you can’t be with us are never far away. These memories are sustaining, precious, and challenge me to find more ways to maintain tradition, joy, love, and celebration.

What is your favorite Easter holiday or spring tradition? Write about the memories or from a photo. Look closely, you never know what you may remember.

Crazy Apple Picking–Gratitude Day 3

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It all started with Olivia wanting to go apple picking when she was home from Miami and grew into a crazy adventure with my soul sister, Iris. When you throw in a ladder and a tractor, you know this isn’t your typical apple picking tradition. (Being the voice of reason once again, Alyssia put an end to the possible tractor ride!)

There’s something nostalgic about apple picking, the family connection, remembering the boys and their cousins going on a hayride, eating tons of apples, and capturing their sugar coated faces in a forever smile.

As much as I wanted to go apple picking, there hasn’t been time, and it’s a lot more fun when you have a group of people.

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Luckily I have many adopted daughters who don’t mind me tagging along. At least I provide some comic relief for them!

Today I am grateful for my Cuban family and all the laughter, joy, and craziness they bring into my life. It was a beautiful day. I enjoyed quality time with my girls. Each moment with them keeps me on my toes, because I never know what adventure Iris will lead me on next.

Thank you ladies for making my day special!

Settle in Sundays

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Yes, I know the Giants aren’t playing, but with some traditions come loyalty. My husband and his dad have always been Giants fans during the good and bad times. By proxy, my boys became Giants fans. Nick especially took the family loyalty seriously and dressed the part for the 2008 Giants vs. Patriots game on February 3. Giants did win, so I thought this post was appropriate!

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Nick was an avid Giants fan! February 3, 2008
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The men heading to Giants training camp at SUNY Albany. Annual tradition

Traditions create precious and priceless memories. Each summer the boys’ dad and grandpa took them to the practice fields to watch the players practice. They even had the opportunity to get their hats signed and say hello to some of the players. Besides the fact that they were watching their favorite team play, it provided an amazing opportunity for all four Cammarata men to bond and spend time together.

What I love about this photo is that not only are they all wearing their unique Giants cap, but their shirts express their specific interests. Dad always wore a blue shirt and his gold chain. He worked hard at Verizon as a fiber optics technician. He passed on 2014 and watching Giants play football just isn’t the same. Stephen was really into riding dirt bikes and loved Travis Pastrana. Nick was an avid swimmer and swam on two different teams throughout the year. Luke is the quintessential fix it man. Our friends’ kids come to Luke when they need something fixed, and  working with tools come naturally to him. He and his dad installed the hardwood floors in our kitchen and family room.

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Nick getting Eli Manning to sign his hat.
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Justin Tuck was wonderful with the boys.

Tradition sustains when tragedy hits. In 2008, Nick was diagnosed with leukemia. The child life specialist at the clinic noticed that Nick liked the Giants. She gave him a baseball hat and arranged for the boys to meet all the players. They were beyond excited. They walked around asking everyone to sign their hats. (Well Nick did. Stephen was a bit starstruck.) The tradition of going to the Giants turned into a precious event for a teen who was struggling with cancer. It gave him hope and joy if even for an afternoon.

 

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Stephen, me, and my hubby, Luke

The Giants pulled out of Albany for training camp, but even though this particular tradition discontinued, Luke and Stephen continued in memory of Nick and Grandpa. I was honored to become a part of the tradition.

We keep traditions for many reasons. They reflect our values, express our loyalties, and create memories that evoke joy and gratitude, despite sadness when those who began the tradition are no longer with us. Traditions connect us, and I’m sure Nick and his Grandpa are watching this year’s Super Bowl wearing their Giants gear.

What is your Super Bowl tradition?

Step Back Saturday

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Do you remember these?

As I looked back on my week, I noticed that I focused on a couple of the senses: vision and hearing. I wanted to think of something that had brought me joy as a child and was soft to the touch.

I had a hand muff as a child It was beige, faux fur, and I was probably 6 or 7 when I got it. We always dressed up for Sunday church and major holidays, so having a hand muff to go with my fancy jacket was key.

I don’t know if this is a figment of my imagination, but I remember having my muff when my sister, Stephanie, and I received our First Communion. Writing memoir can often be subjective, because we get this vision of fact in our head that is based on a child’s memory. Whether the details are exact isn’t a deal breaker. It’s gathering the sparks of memory that roll out into other threads of memory that count.

So I’m going with this story until I find photos that tell me otherwise. I lived with my parents, my brother, and two sisters on Braxton Street in Hempstead, Long Island. We could walk to school, and my aunt lived down the street, so we often visited. It was a close knit neighborhood where everyone knew each other.

I remember our white dresses and the veil that rested like a head band on my head. I have a memory of my hands in my muff and how warm they were inside. It was a cocoon of comfort until my hands got too hot and I had to take them out. The muff was soft and I would hold it and run my fingers through the fur because it was a prized possession.

I don’t know if it was tradition, but later that day we walked around to all the houses in our dresses and told the neighbors about our Communion. It was obvious with what we were wearing, but who could resist little girls in white, holding muffs, and smiling with missing teeth?

Neighbors gave us money, and we went home to celebrate. I guess there are two memories here, but that’s the joy of writing about the past. As it unravels, threads lead you elsewhere. Something soft, something white, but a wonderful memory of childhood and community.

What is something soft that you remember as a child? Maybe you still have it. Does it feel the same? What memories does it bring up by holding it. Look for photos to spark where you held it. Bringing the senses into memoirs creates the whole picture, so that others remember it along with you.

Settle in Sundays

It’s a mellow Sunday morning. I’m relaxing by the fire and catching up on my reading and writing. Yesterday, my sister, Michele, her family, and our mom came over for a weekend meal. I made meatballs and sauce for subs and minestrone soup packed with veggies. Michele’s husband, Rich, loves to cook and made a chicken cutlet version of Nick’s sandwich (I will explain this sandwich another time).

While the guys watched football, the gals started on a murder mystery puzzle, where you read a story, put the puzzle together, and solve the mystery.

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While solving this type of mystery isn’t common for us, puzzles have been a family tradition since I was very little. I got into puzzles when I fractured my shin when at 8 years old. I read books, recorded songs on a tape cassette from the radio, and put together a lot of puzzles. My bedroom had been covered from wall to wall with every type of puzzle imaginable. Some were intricate pictures of everything I loved and some were a solid color so that you had to place pieces by shape.

My dad also loved doing puzzles and when we moved to Greenville from Long Island, he still traveled to the city for work. He was often gone, so missed out on doing a lot of the puzzles and so many other parts of our lives. I’m not sure how it started, but we didn’t want to finish without him, so we left a piece out. When Dad came home he would press that last piece in, and we would cheer. This tradition continued for years, even waiting for my dad to visit my home, so he could put in the last piece.

Our family doesn’t put together puzzles much anymore. So doing this mystery puzzle creates a nostalgic effect, especially since my dad has been gone for almost 20 years.

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My Dad and I at my College of Saint Rose Dance

I always looked forward to my dad coming home. When he put that last piece in, my puzzle and my world were complete. Now he resides in my heart and this puzzle tradition created a beautiful memory.

What did you and your family do together when you were a child?

Is it something you can bring into your current family if you are on your own now?

Create the activity and before you know it, your family will think of it as tradition.

Settle In Sundays

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Growing up, Sundays were meant for cooking sauce and meatballs, relaxing with the family, and settling in for some good food and great company. My mom would spend hours  browning the meat, mixing and frying her top notch meatballs, and slowly cook the sauce all day so that the juices of the meat soaked in adding the perfect flavor.

Sometimes we had ravioli or spaghetti or rigatoni mixed with ricotta cheese. Loaves of Italian bread would be cut up and a big salad would finish off the meal. Coming together over pasta every Sunday was a way to connect the family that was always going in different directions. With four kids and a dad who was often away during the week for work, it solidified what was important and that we were a unit that could get through anything.

When we all had our own families, for a very long time we kept the tradition of Sunday meals with whomever lived close by. Even if it wasn’t every Sunday, at least we kept the connection a couple times a month. Now that all our children are either on their own or in school, it gets harder and harder to get together. It’s easier to make excuses and only get together on holidays.

But that’s not what our family stands for. I have a wonderful time with my immediate and extended family. I miss not getting together every week. Of course with life as crazy as it is, maybe every week is too much to ask. But having a monthly Sunday where we can all settle in, share our stories, and enjoy our company is something I long for.

I plan to reinstate Pasta Sundays in the hopes that this tradition of love and family bonds will continue.

Each Sunday, I will share a family tradition. What is a family tradition that you remember as a child or have started with your own family? I’d love to hear about it!