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I have her hands; the small hands of a girl. I can still wear children’s gloves. I tend to fold my hands in my lap as she did.

I have her hands – and I have her name. Penelope.  She never, ever called me Penny. I was always Πηνελόπη . Penelope.

While I have her hands, I do not resemble her, but, her hands, ah, her hands they are always with me. I feel them when I roll dough into balls for Greek powdered sugar cookies (kourambethes) and how I hold a knife when I cut vegetables for briami (vegetable stew). My meatballs are shaped as Yia Yia’s were – she always seems to be with me in my kitchen. I see her hands in my own when I water the flowers in my garden and when I pinch the dried seeds off of spent blooms. How I wish I had her zinnia seeds, which she carefully harvested and placed in different colored tissues, then tied them in little bundles with thread. Yia Yia could neither read nor write, but, she had her own filing system that allowed her to sow her seeds come spring in the colors she chose.

I wish I had the descendants of those seeds.

I am grateful to have this photo. It is one of only a few I have of the two of us. It is the last one taken before she passed away less than wo years later. She held her hands this way because they hurt. Yia Yia never complained from the arthritis she had. She would rub her hands to ease her pain or retreat quietly to her bedroom.

Dottie gave me this picture, about a year ago, before cancer debilitated her. It was among our mother’s things. Dottie thought I might like to have it, which I do, especially since I did not have this particular likeness of the two of us.

This photo was taken in the kitchen, on the day in June, 1968 that I graduated from Proviso East High School. The sleeves of my gown are too long. 50 years later, my sleeves are still almost always way too long. I keep hoping I will grow into them. I did, however, manage the near perfect “flip” under my cap.

Yia Yia looks sad. It is her aching hands that give her that look. I know she was pleased that afternoon. She was pleased that her namesake finished high school, and she was pleased that Πηνελόπη could read and write and would vote when she turned 21. Though she never indicated it to me, I am sure she was also a bit sad that summer’s end would find me traveling away to college. She never told me to stay, nor did she tell me to go.

Our television sat on the counter top , behind me, in the kitchen. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, my world turned round and round in our kitchen. It was from the chairs around the kitchen table that Yia Yia and I watched the many turbulent events of 1968 unfold. It was at that kitchen table that I would sit, after coming home from school, and read her the news of the day. I would stop and pick up a late afternoon newspaper on my way home from school – back-in-the-day when we still had late afternoon newspapers. “Πηνελόπη, sit, Eat. Read me the news” – and so, I did, my fingers dusted with  newsprint, the tragedies, turbulence, troubles of the times passing from my lips to my Yia Yia’s ears. Sometimes, we would discuss an event or she would ask me to re-read a few lines. Mostly –  I would read and she would listen and we would be together, sharing the moments, me at the beginning of my time, she so close to the end of hers.

I treasure this image. My own world, like the world around us, changed dramatically in less that a year ithat followed my high school graduation. This image of  us, however, the two Penelopes, is forever frozen in time.

 

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As the knob slowly turned, a voice called out “can you push the door open?“.  I could, I did and was promptly greeted by a stunning woman with a mission at the forefront of her mind.

Deirdre and I chatted at the entryway in that friendly manner of people who have not yet previously met face-to-face, but who know, perhaps, a bit about each other. She asked about my heritage, I about hers, discovering our similarities, our differences, the things people reveal about each other when first they meet. She told me about her name, Deirdre, a figure from Irish folklore, and I told her mine, Penelope, of Homeric legend.

Deirdre invited me further inside. I followed as she maneuvered her wheelchair, pushing buttons as she navigated into her kitchen. She brewed for me a cup of coffee, placed a sheet of cookies into the oven to bake, set the timer, let the dog in, found her tablet, and situated herself next to me at the countertop of the kitchen’s island, which is where we dove into the purpose of our meeting – Deirdre’s website.

Deirdre has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Her life, and the lives of her family and friends, has been profoundly impacted by MS in ways many of us might imagine, and in so many other ways we likely have not. A woman of faith and compassion, Deirdre’s wit and wisdom, practicality and frustrations, insight and vision are all bundled up in her purposeful mission to invite conversation, comfort, compassion and community to all, but, particularly to those confined to a wheelchair – living one’s life on wheels.

Dear readers, I invite you to visit Deirdre’s website/blog, perhaps leave a comment or pass her link on to someone who is wheelchair confined or who lives with someone who is, knows someone or, of equal importance, to those engaging in this life-long process of extending compassion to others. We are all on this journey in life together and you, my friends, are the best of travelers and of encouraging others. In advance, I thank you.

You can find Deirdre’s posts at https://www.livinglifeonwheels.com/blog/

 

 

 

 

 

Image of Deirdre from Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deirdre

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What better time to add a chapter to the adventures of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase than Mother’s Day, celebrated here in the States on Sunday, May 13 this year.

The vase has traveled some this past year, filled through the seasons, occasions and just because, but, it had taken a bit of a hiatus until it reappeared once more this weekend at a visit to Jennifer and Jason’s house!

What a pleasant surprise it was to be greeted this Mother’s Day with the latest traveling arrangement! Nestled inside the clear, round vase were small wooden eggs, repurposed from a forgotten display. The eggs helped to hold up stock, Hypericum berries, and glorious calla lilies whose velvety petals added to the allure of the presentation.

Not only was I honored to be the recipient of this sweet arrangement, I was also impressed at my daughter’s floral creativity . . .

. . . and, her culinary flair. Jennifer has always employed an inherently unique ability to put a tasteful array of ingredients together that whet one’s appetite in flavorful bliss. Rosemary coated chicken breasts sat on a bed of sautéed arugula with lighted warmed grapes! Topped with shavings of Gruyère, it was quite delicious.

We ate, we talked, we checked out J & J’s emerging garden, and we visited a nearby gardening center before I headed back home, my vase travelling with securely on the floor of the car. I was sated, content, and grateful for a most “motherly made” afternoon.

The saga of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase begins here.

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When I saw a notification that there was to be a spring concert at the Center in Palos Park, I marked it on my calendar in sincere hopes of attending.

My hopes were realized on a recent Sunday afternoon. As the day’s shadows lengthened, my dear friend, Kathryn, and I climbed the stone steps up to the The Center. Kathryn is an artist gifted in finding beauty in unexpected places. I hoped that she would enjoy the concert, but, I instinctively knew that she would appreciate the serenity of The Center and the Wayside Chapel.

Since my wintertime post about The Wayside Chapel at The Center, I have managed occasional walks around the grounds, taken photos as the season slowly changed from winter to spring, and subscribed to their online newsletter and notifications. I have come to realize that there are even more activities than I first imagined and vowed to take advantage of some of them.

I finally did.

 

Isn’t this a charming little cottage? It is a private residence on the grounds. I did not take photos up close, though I might have peaked in the windows. I could not, however, resist this appealing view.

We wandered about, enjoying the sweeping swathes of daffodils and Siberian swill (Scilla), the pathways and birds flitting about, and the quiet serenity of the space before us.  There is a certain calm and peace that envelopes pilgrims who wander these paths. It is hard to describe but quite palpable.

Soon, very soon, we walked over to the Lodge, following the sweet restrains of vocalists rehearsing for their performance. We were greeted by several women, one who I later discovered was the pastor. Kathryn and I found seats, chatted as long-time friends do, and waited for the concert to begin.

Oh, what joy this was! The Center Singers opened with “By Our Love”, accompanied with piano and percussion. As the concert carried us through gospel and jazz music, the old familiar hymns took on a celebratory air, with a sprinkling of hand clapping, foot tapping, and sighs of “oh, I remember that one”.

As the music ended, refreshments were offered – and we accepted. Who can say no to chocolate chip cookies? Two large trays of homemade delight along with comfortable conversation with other attendees added to the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We casually wandered around the lodge, enjoying the ambiance of such a welcoming place, chatting, taking photos, content in the moment.

“I’ll Fly Away” is a favorite of mine. The Center Singers performed a medley of songs that included it. I have posted other renditions before, so offer you this rendition that I discovered on YouTube.

 

 

 

Illustration atop this post is from the concert’s program. 

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As often happens, holidays bring the loss of a loved one to the forefront. It was particularly so for me this year with Greek Orthodox Easter. It isn’t that Dottie and I celebrated together every year. We didn’t. It was missing the unique, shared experiences that siblings hold. I miss her.

Memories are precious.

This is a re-blogging of a post from six years ago.

 

Harry, Sam and Us (from April 16, 2012)

After greeting each other on Sunday with Christos Anesti, followed by Alethos Anesti, Dottie and I quickly rolled into a phone conversation ranging from Greek Easter bread, which I had just put into the oven, Easter eggs dyed red in the Greek tradition, favorite pastries and how I was making pastichio. One comment lead to another and soon we were recalling the long ago morning we first learned the ancient hymn sung by Orthodox Christians in the early morning of Easter and for the next forty days.

As often occurs with siblings, we each recalled different aspects and had different points of view; how old we were, what room of the house we were in, what time of day.

Dottie and I had been attending Greek school, learning to read and write the language. We had also been attending Sunday School and knew the story of Holy Week and Easter, but we had never attended the Easter Sunday Agape service.

That Easter morning, my mother and grandmother were busy preparing dinner; lamb and potatoes were roasting, the bread was sitting, a red egg in the center, waiting to be sliced, and pastries were hidden from eager young mouths. My father called to us and said he was going to teach us a song. Our cousin Teddy joined us.

We sat upon my parents’ bed as Daddy explained the sacred hymn sung only at Easter. He was going to teach us and then we were going to church for the Agape service. We would hold candles and sing the chant; Christos Anesti. Christ is Risen. He said the words in Greek and we repeated them and then he sang them. We followed suit until we mastered it, which we quickly did., except for the very last line.

Dottie asked me, her voice rising, “do you remember Harry, Sam and Us”?

I did, I exclaimed! One of us, or was it all us?  We couldn’t remember who couldn’t quite master the phrase, just my dad trying to help us through it and finally saying “Haa-ree Sa-a-a-menos. Say it like  Harry, Sam and Us”.

Harry, Sam and Us!

We laughed as we remembered my father’s way of teaching us and we reflected on how lucky we were to have had a father who spent so much time with us and our cousins as well. We remembered that service, our first time in participating in it, so rich and beautiful, the Gospel being read in four languages, the candles and sense of community that comes of faith. We talked, as we often do, of how lucky we were to have the parents we did and the childhood we lived.

We celebrate two Easters here on the Cutoff. Somewhere along the years they have taken on the names of Regular Easter and Greekster. Sunday was Greekster. Our table was laden with traditional food, our talk was lively, and I smiled to myself as I recalled the memories of a long ago Easter morning.

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If-truth-be-told, we are often out-and-about in separate cars, yet, somehow, we usually manage to find each other by the time we reach the end of the road.

So it was on Friday that we arrived in separate cars. Tom needed to be at church earlier than I did, to help set up for the Good Friday service. He also brought the cross, which he meticulously crafted for our newly established satellite church location.. It was a labor of love and an act of humility from the wonderful carpenter Tom is.

I had a busy day doing household chores, running errands, checking table coverings, picking up ingredients for Sunday’s Easter dinner. I would arrive a bit later than Tom did, serve as a greeter, then, side-by-side, the two of us would worship together. It was a moving and meaningful service, both contemplative and experimental, solemn yet hopeful.

The evening air was rather pleasant as pulled out on to the road. A wispy veil of clouds floated above, hinting, then giving way to a moon that pretty full.

 

Kezzie’s Moon!

It is a sweet story, told here on the Cutoff a time or two, especially her first, full moon, which you can read about here.

Eight years have passed since that special night. While on our long ride home, the day after our granddaughter was born. Tom and I (in the same car 🙂 ) stopped at a tollway Oasis to stretch our legs. As we got out of the car, there, just coming up on the horizon, was the moon. It was big and bright and brilliant and I declared “it’s Kezzie’s  moon!”- and so it was and is and will be forevermore.

It warmed my heart when I later learned that Kezzie, way up north where she lives, was also watching the moon rising, and that she proclaimed that it was her moon, Kezzie’s moon, which gave me pause and a moment to reflect on how wondrous it is that we can also manage to find each other by the light of the late March moon.

 

 

 

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Went to a garden party 
to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories 
and play our songs again . . . Ricky Nelson

A morning meeting followed by flowers and food and friends old and new –  it was a perfect panacea for mid-March madness and the anticipation of spring!
Each year, round-about now, the District II area garden clubs, of which my club belongs, has its annual meeting.
It is, as these events tend to be, a bit of work and flurry of preparation for those in charge, a distance to travel for many of the member clubs, and an event that often competes with other events such as St. Patrick’s Day, Lent, the Chicago Flower and Garden show, spring break and more.
Gardeners are sturdy folks, however, and they brave whatever March weather may bring, squeeze in time in their own busy schedules, bring baskets of goods to raffle off, and get all “gussied” up. As the banquet room slowly fills up, it is akin to a glorious garden slowly opening up and then in bloom.
The tables were adorned with vases of tulips. There were bundled in ribbons and attendees were able to take some home.
The food was quite good and I won’t mention the chocolate mousse. I managed to lick the parfait glass clean.
Gaily wrapped and adorned raffle baskets were distributed to winning ticket holders. I love these events which bring out the child is us all – especially when we win!
 The highlight of this meeting is the program. This year we were treated to a floral presentation – Flowers by Christine. I will let Christine’s exquisite arrangements speak for themselves. Lucky were the ladies who were able to take one of them home.
This was a delightful event and a precursor to Spring which, by the way, officially arrives today here in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

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