As the bristles of the broom swept the red and yellow autumn leaves from the flagstone, my mind wandered to the Springtime when I’d be delighted by the first glimpse of the purple crocus rearing its delicate petals above the recently frozen earth. But that sign of the coming warmth takes me back in time to my first memories of getting dirt under my fingernails. Going up the walk from the driveway at 14021 Grayson Road, was the small flower bed that my mother taught me to tender. There beneath the pink azalea, given to her by my Uncle Bob a few years earlier, were nestled the purple and blue crocuses. Later in the season to be joined by the tiger lilies and chrysanthemums.
My mother taught me to bury those crocus bulbs in the Fall and each Sunday as Easter approached, we’d scan the small garden for signs of their approach. When they finally arrived, I wanted to pick them, preserve their beauty, and somehow capture the exhilaration of a new season, with all its possibilities that those delicate flowers represented.
For nearly 40 more years, those crocus have bloomed at 14021 in the garden tended so graciously by my mother, now in her eighth decade. Soon, she’ll be selling the only home that I’ve ever known for her and a piece of me is sad just as I was sad when the last crocus would lose its color and vibrance. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what is fading rather than what is to come.
Decades later I now remind myself that the beauty of the flower isn’t really in its color, texture, or delicateness, but rather in the warmth that it brings to our hearts when we think about it and remember its splendor, whether its mere minutes after it blooms or 35 years after we first saw it.
I could give a detailed description of my mother’s house on the hill, including the etchings of seven kids’ writings in the “little attic” under the stairs, the small wooden arbor near the spigot in the back, or the grooves in the basement door from our four-legged family members, Puppy, TJ, or Spike. I know the physical structure intimately, but soon a new family will create their own memories there, painting over ours, and maybe even removing the crocus. Not knowing their previous significance. But that is their new journey to create and ours, those of my mother and my six sisters, will forever be in our hearts, warming us, making us laugh and cry
We had a ritual every night -- Maggie and I. She always wanted in the bed and I was determined that she’d sleep in her own bed. The new green, faux lambswool pillow top that I’d bought her at Petsmart which laid on floor next to Peter’s side of the bed, the right side. Always the right side. Never the left. I slept on the left.
When Peter first brought Maggie home, he had to tether her to the bed with the green leash so that she wouldn’t wander off and pee on the carpet. The group house that we’d rescued her from had kept her in a crate. Probably for 23 hours a day. She arrived just as scared as perhaps Peter had. Both moved in with me on the same day. Allegedly Peter adopted Maggie to save her from the confinement of her life in that metal cage on Capitol Hill. But I also knew that some part of Peter needed someone else to move in with him, to keep him company, to ground him as we merged our lives. I was all of 28 and he was a mere 23. We thought we were old enough and the time was right, but really we were just kids that grew tired of having drawers at each others’ houses.
So along with the futon and some assorted clothes, came Maggie. So afraid, completely untrained, but already utterly devoted to her savior, Peter. After a few years, she no longer required the tether, but then demanded more. I’d read for a few minutes until my eyelids grew heavy and then reach for the light, but before I could turn it off, Maggie would start pacing. She’d head around the foot of the bed to my side. She’d bark a bit, but not a full bark. Merely a half-bark that was meant to show me her displeasure. She wanted to be in the bed. “Maggie, no, go to your bed.” I’d say. But those long Beagle ears were immune to my suggestion. “Ruff” she’d say again and then add a slight jump on the bed rails with her front paws. “No, bed. Go to bed, Maggie.” “Ruff”
“OK, fine. Damn it, Maggie.” I’d say as I pushed the covers back and stepped onto the cold wooden floor to lift her up to her spot. And then the circling would begin, presumably a vestige of the time before dogs were domesticated when they needed to flatten the tall grass that would be their bed. But in my house, it was probably her attempt to stake out the perfect spot on the feathered comforter between me and Peter, who was inevitably already asleep. She had to touch both of us and would get up several times, circle, and then plop back down until the perfect spot was attained. The true signal of such was when I’d finally hear her sigh, as if her work was done, and she was now off-duty. It went on that way, each and every night for 11 years.
I’d try to stick to my ground but she’d inevitably win. Her closeness was comforting and brought a sense of normalcy to our evenings. Until it wasn’t to be any longer, that is.
She died in that bed right there between us. We’d called the vet the previous night when we knew that the tumor in her bladder had gotten too big for her to be comfortable. That last night was without sleep. She got up, circled, and sighed only to do it again and again without the subsequent sleep. Maybe she was circling that night for all the nights that she’d miss in the future. I don’t know, but we all dreaded the ring of the doorbell at 7:30.
I wish that I could say that it was quick and painless, but it was neither and all of us hurt. Maggie cried out and tried to bite the vet. She wasn’t ready to go, wasn’t ready to give up her spot. My beagle, Mr. Enzo, two years her senior but always the submissive one, licked and cleaned her face after she was gone. His last act of obedience toward her.
Peter had her cremated. She arrived in a box the color of her fur. So fitting for the beautiful blondie that she was. Now she sits on the bedside table -- Peter’s bedside table on the right side. Her spot is now fixed there on the table and in our hearts. She’ll be there until one of us, Peter or I, die. Then, she’ll go in the box with us. No one wants to be alone. Not Maggie and certainly not me.
Four years later, I miss our ritualized fight, her endless circling, and final sighs signaling the end of another day. And yet the days go on.
What makes a man? On various levels I think I’ve been asking myself that question all of my life. And yet, I still wonder. Today marks the beginning of week three of unemployment. It’s a status that I chose for myself with visions of autonomy, time, creativity, and numerous personal projects to be tackled - finally. But, as it turns out, it’s more complicated than that. The list is long, and sure I’ve managed to check many things off, but at odd times I feel like I’ve lost a certain part of what defines me.
Shaking work is kind of like changing skin color for me. It seems part and parcel of who I am perhaps a result of my mother’s work ethic drilled into me from an early age. At eight I had windex in hand and scrubbed for pay. And yet now I am in the very fortunate situation that I don’t really need to work for a while. I know it’s a gift that I’ve afforded myself after years of saving and yet somehow it’s a gift that I resist claiming or opening, at least not without a bit of guilt or perhaps shame. After all, I’m middle-aged, aren’t I supposed to be at my productivity prime?
Odd isn’t it that I need to get used to relaxing? My good friend, Hilary, tells me that I need to get my ass on the couch and do nothing. Wow, that’s a taller order than telling me to figure out how to re-wire the house. And yet my creative self is dying to get out, explore, and dance around at this new found freedom. He’s never going back in that box. That much is clear.
So perhaps as I plow through my chore list, I’ll figure out somehow what excites me, what feeds my soul, what makes my heart dance. It’s kind of like washing dishes when trying to figure out a huge problem. Somehow between the washing and rinsing, a thought will come to me. A new way of approaching a familiar issue. Here’s to hoping that the brainstorm of my future is just a paint stroke away. If nothing else, the garage door will look better, right?
There’s a ritual in my family. It’s pasta on Sundays. We all do it, my six sisters and I. We’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember and likely many generations before us. We’re Italian. Finamore as in fin (the end or ultimate, depending on your interpretation) and amore (love). In truth, my sisters and I are only half Italian, but we never really identified as anything but Italian. My mother is mixture of Scotch Irish and French. Saying we were Italian was easier because my father is all Italian. We identified with the ancestry with the highest percent affiliation. Majority rules in bloodlines, I suppose.
There was plenty of food on Sunday, even if it meant eating popcorn for dinner other nights. Feeding seven kids on my mother’s receptionist’s salary was no small feat, so we made do. But every Sunday was the same -- always “sauce” which meant marinara sauce. It would be decades before I knew that term. We just said sauce. There was no other kind. If we were speaking to non-family members, then we might say “spaghetti sauce” just to be clear, but for all of us, we knew what we meant by “sauce.”
Mass was at 10:30 so mom was either up early to put the sauce on or we’d make it the day before. When made ahead, my sister Gloria, just three years older than me and the closest in age, would fight with me over who got to squeeze the tomatoes. Somehow feeling the canned whole tomatoes erupt from the pressure of my squeeze was a thrill for me. I’m guessing it was for Gloria as well because of the fierce battle that usually ensued to see who mom would choose for the job. “You did it last time.” “No, I didn’t you did.” “Mom, he’s lying, can I do it this time, please?” Being the distributor of justice, Mom would usually split the task up so that she didn’t have to listen to any more griping. “Frankie, you open the can and Gloria you can squeeze the tomatoes in. Then, Frankie do you want to mix the meatballs?” “OK!” I’d say enthusiastically. Squeezing the meat was the best job -- even better than the tomatoes. You get to feel the cold meat ooze between your fingers.
Now a man, I wonder about the fascination with the squeezing. Was it just that it felt good or that, for a moment, I had been given some preferred status by mom? With seven, individual attention didn’t come easy or often so be the chosen one perhaps took on special significance. Looking back now I wish I’d hung back a bit more and seceded more attention to Gloria. Perhaps my wanting to be acknowledged led to her being less so. I’m not sure, but I imagine today that she doesn’t often see the beauty and love that is within her. But my five year old self, could only gloat a bit in having been rewarded the more sought-after job of making the meatballs.
After Mass, my father, Frank Sr., would come to visit. We didn’t know exactly when he’d arrive. He didn’t call and we didn’t know how to reach him. He would just show up, usually with soda, wine and beer in hand. His contribution to our weekly family event. We all looked forward to it, although I’m not sure how my mother felt. It’s amazing to me now that she would cook and clean each week for her estranged husband. But then again, love and rejection, I know, often leads one to doing what might seem puzzling to outsiders.
To me, my father represented a strange masculinity that I was unaccustomed to the other six days of the week. He was scruffy and although I couldn’t wait for his kiss, like his love, it always hurt a bit. His mustache was bristly against my smooth skin. But we always kissed anyway. It was probably the one way that my gender didn’t affect our relationship. He dolled out hugs and kisses to his female children and me equally and always with a squeeze of the cheek to follow. Perhaps it was being Italian that made it acceptable. All of the men in my extended family kiss each other. It shows our love and respect for one another.
The meal was the centerpiece of the day and we made it stretch on for hours, with games and conversation between courses of pasta, eggplant, bragiole (thin strips of beef and garlic, rolled and cooked in the sauce), salad, casatiello (Italian Easter bread), and usually dessert. We began eating and drinking almost as soon as Daddy arrived. First a bit of sauce and bread. “Just to tide you over” Mom would say. With lots of ground pepper and parmesan on top. Is there a better food? Looking back now I know at some deeper level that we were not only physically hungry, but also hungry for a sense of normalcy. We were perhaps more accustomed to our physical hunger. The late 60’s and 70’s wasn’t exactly the most comfortable or accepting time to be from a “broken” family of Italian Catholics.
Today, I still cook sauce on Sundays. I guess I am a creature of habit, a product of my ancestry, or both. Without pasta, the day feels somehow incomplete. It grounds me in my heritage, but also in that sense of the importance of family, in whatever configuration, to feeling loved, secure, and happy. I can only hope that my son feels that each day, but especially over shared meals. Sacred meals that feed our souls as much as our stomachs. Knowing that my sisters are also likely having the same meal, although thousands of miles away, brings warmth to my heart. The same warmth that I felt from them while growing up, trying to make sense of our our family in that idyllic suburban setting where every other house looked the same, except ours only had one parent on most days.
I have a confession to make. I kind of relish that I shock people when they find out that I am both a Catholic and a “practicing” Catholic, meaning that I still got to Mass on a routine basis. Just this week, one of my colleagues asked me why I didn’t go to a dinner and when I told him that it was Holy Thursday and that I went to Mass instead, I could see his unspoken questions on his face. I thought Frank was gay? He goes to Church?
So, there’s my confession. I like to shock people a bit. But more importantly, I want them to know that I will not be shut out. In fact, I demand to be included, even if the hierarchy of my own church acts against me -- or people like me. I believe that the hierarchy has gotten it wrong and by my presence I’m taking my seat in the pew just like Rosa Parks took hers on the bus. Except, my road is made easier. No one at my church, a small concrete block structure just outside of Washington, DC, would ever exclude me. They too want me there.
There’s power is their inclusion. I feel it in the depth of my being that I am one of the tribe. As such, I also bear the same heavy responsibilities as all tribe members to care for our sisters and brothers. The real cost of inclusion is loving others, meeting their needs, reaching outside of ourselves. For me, that’s the true meaning of Church.
My friend Jim died thirteen years ago and yet he is somehow as present with me today as he was while still alive. Perhaps more so. Sometimes, I think he haunts me - but always in a good way. Helping me to do my best, telling me to not be too hard on myself, but most importantly, to carry on his message of hope and love.
Jim, or Fr. Healy, was my pastor. He was a Catholic priest who died of AIDS. Somewhat controversial in the mid-nineties. I remember being totally surprised of his diagnosis. Not because I ever really believed that priests were perfect, always celibate, or anything like that. No, I was surprised because it was hard to believe that Jim had personal passions. He drove an old station wagon and only seemed passionate about establishing a greater social justice in our world.
A gifted and animated liturgist, I listened to him, filled with the fire of love for his sisters and brothers, nearly beg and plead for those of us in the pews of that humble, concrete block church to take action. Write our congressperson, donate some of our treasure, make a meal for the homeless shelter. Anything, but something. His message is simple , hopeful, and tough. It goes something like this:
God is love and mercy. God lives within each of us and therefore we have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters. We will be weak, at times, and we may even stumble, but God always loves us. God forgives us - always and unconditionally. That isn’t to be questioned. The only question that we need to ponder is how we can use the unique gifts that we’ve received to make this earthly experience better for everyone. Not everyone, but those illegal immigrants. Not everyone, but those Republicans (or Democrats) with whom we disagree. Not everyone, but those who don’t work hard enough and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. No, just everyone. Period. Do something. Now.
It’s a message that is both uplifting and hugely challenging. Perhaps it’s that message that haunts me because of its power in my life. And the power to change the world. I want to believe that we can do that. I want to raise my son in a way that he will grow up to believe this message. That he will own his responsibility for being part of it. For doing his share.
I believe in Jim’s message so much that I’ve created a blog where his weekly homilies can be heard as podcasts decades after he first delivered them. Although this isn’t an advertisement for that site, those interested can check it out at www.fatherhealy.com Listening to his messages again now, week after week, brings tears to my eyes once more. It also brings a renewed sense of urgency to do more.
I guess what amazes me most about my being haunted by Jim and his words is that somehow he’s penetrated the core of my being. Struck gold, as it were. I know there’s no going back, only looking forward, always questioning my role and my responsibilities to others. I wish I were as selfless as these words may make me appear, but I do wonder out loud here what our world might be like if we each did more for others. Like my mother’s handwritten reminder on her refrigerator says, “I live simply so that others may simply live.” How can I live more simply is a great question.
But how we take action seems important too. I remember from my sophomore year Basic Judaism class that there is a commandment in the old testament that says that farmers should leave one corner of their crop unharvested. Doing so means that those needing food can retrieve what they need, but without the shame or embarrassment of having to go to the center of the field where they might be seen. Just as Jim’s words of love, hope, and responsibility have stayed with me throughout the years, this biblical story has as well.
In today’s modern world, where few of us are farmers, but all of us with gifts, what field might we leave unharvested so that others may eat?
The harder she squeezed, the more she loved you. That is what we told ourselves. Well, that is what I told myself to soothe my aching cheek. Known as Gang Gang because my oldest sister, Susan, the oldest grandchild, couldn’t say grandma. My cousins the Peakes called her Wawwy and the my other cousins, the other Finamores, called her Granny. I never liked that. She was only 59 when she died. Too young to be called Granny. I prefer Gang Gang.
I stood at the bottom step with my six sisters lined up the stairs in order by age. We’d see that 1969 white Chevrolet Impala with a black vinyl top and a plastic orange flower taped to the antenna coming down Grayson Road. What excitement that Gang Gang and Pop Pop were visiting. I was in my green velvet suit and it wasn’t even Christmas, Easter, or a Feast Day. The sauce and lasagna were ready. Meatballs made. Salad chilling in the refrigerator. We were ready to act as if our Dad, their son, lived with us. It was Sunday, his day to visit us. But first we had to endure the squeezing of our cheeks. The pain was somehow enjoyable. I was either a masochist or a sadist. I didn’t know the difference then. I still don’t know, but I know that I don’t like to cause pain. I don’t like receive to pain either, but if given the choice between giving or receiving, I think I’d prefer to receive pain.
In any event, at six, I didn’t have a choice. I was the receiver. The door opened and we all screamed and yelled hello to Gang Gang, always the dominant figure among the two, despite the hugeness of Pop Pop. A result of too much pasta and probably too much alcohol. We loved them both, but Gang Gang’s personality made her stand out. She stood out like a cherry flavored lolipop. I love cherry flavored anything. One time Peter, my partner of fifteen years, and I ate cherry pie every night for six weeks while our kitchen was being renovated.
But on that Sunday morning, just after 10:30 am Mass at Our Lady of Angels at 1 Mary’s Way, after having lived through an unintelligible homily by Fr. Welch, we were finally ready in the receiving line for Gang Gang. First there was her warm, wet kiss. Being the first, there was a trace of her bright red lipstick that was in sharp contrast to her jet black Italian hair. I loved her face, her hair, her roundish body, and brash mannerisms. Sometimes I can’t wait to die, believing that there must be an afterlife, because I want to see her again. I want to have a conversation with her. I want to ask her so many questions, like why she seemed to favor her oldest son, my uncle John. But I also want to ask her where she got the recipe for President Kennedy’s Seafood Casserole. A few years ago, I found her old recipe book and recreated a booklet of my favorite ones for my family members, including that casserole.
But there on that bottom step, after the kiss, I knew to expect her thumb and forefinger. They would squeeze my cheek until it hurt, until I couldn’t feel it any longer. I loved that pain. I loved her more than I knew.
I wasn’t allowed to go to her funeral because I was too young. It was that same year that I remember standing on the steps. She died suddenly in Rome. Her dream was to go back to Italy, her homeland that she’d never seen as a second generation immigrant. She wanted to go there and then onto Lourdes to finally be cured of the cancer that ate through her ovaries. But she never made it. She died a day after my birthday. Her limbs turned black and in two days she was dead. Maybe a bad blood transfusion to make her feel good for her transatlantic flight or maybe a return of the cancer. It didn’t matter any longer because she was gone.
No more squeezing, but after the initial shock and sadness and largeness of her absence, we went on. We went on, loving our Pop Pop who became bigger in our minds and in his girth. God I loved him. And Gang Gang became a mythical figure with images of her forever woven into the folklore of our large Italian clan. Taken too soon, but somehow always in our hearts and in our stories.
When she cooked she moved about her tiny kitchen of apartment 109 on Manchester Avenue as if she was the only one in it. I was in between her and the aluminum foil in the third drawer. She reached and opened the door, pushing me out of the way, but not on purpose, but merely because I was there. It was her kitchen and she was in a hurry. She needed the foil. The next time, I’d move. I’d get out of her way, but I wouldn’t leave that tiny kitchen where I could get all sorts of morsels of food and taste the pasta before it was done. No, like most everyone, I wanted to be with her. Near her. In her way, even if it meant pain. The pain of be squeezed harder than I thought possible. The pain of being pushed aside. It was all worth it. Gang Gang exuded love, compassion, and caring for us, her grandchildren.
Now she resides forever on Georgia Avenue in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. Not Silver Springs, no there was just one spring. And Gate of Heaven. Only the gate. I hope that she got in further than the gate. If she didn’t then there’s no hope for any of us. If there is no heaven, then I’ll never see her again and my six-year old memories of her will have to suffice. For the time being, they do suffice. I feel close to her, connected in some way that is impossible to explain. Like somehow she lives on in me. Not only in my memories of her but in what I do.
I squeeze my son’s cheeks and he runs. The dogs are more tolerant. I love them all and I squeeze their cheeks with regularity. My mother-in-law has the world’s best cheeks for squeezing. I’d love to grab them and just squeeze all of the blood right out of them. It would feel so good to do it. Maybe I like giving pain more than I want to admit. But the site of those bulbous mounds of flesh high on her protruding cheekbones are so tempting. I wish I could muster up the guts to make that squeeze, but instead I try to put my son up to the task. He loves her, although I’m sure that she wouldn’t love him if he actually squeezed her cheeks. What else can I say, but her cheeks tempt me.
When does an action become one’s trademark? The squeezing of cheeks was and somehow still is my Gang Gang’s and she has been dead since July 18, 1972. The last picture was taken on July 15th in St. Peter’s Square in front of a granite column. That picture, now an 8 by 10 is on my dresser. I look at it every day, sometimes many times a day. She still stands out although her husband is there. What is she saying to me? What is she communicating with that smile, like the Mona Lisa? I’ve had that picture in my bedroom for six years now and I still can’t tell. I want to ask her, but she just smiles. Maybe she’s happy that I remember her squeezing, maybe she’s happy that President Kennedy’s Seafood Casserole lives on after her death, or maybe she’s just dead. Gone forever. I don’t know, but I do know that I love her, not loved her, but presently love her for the excitement that she represented to me and the pain that somehow felt good and has stayed with me now into my forty-third year.
A bridge. That’s how I often think of myself. Connecting people. Not letting anyone go. Never wanting anyone to feel left out. Not wanting to be left out myself. I think it started when I was a kid. I can picture my mother and some of my sisters sitting around the kitchen table in our house on Grayson Road. The same house my mother still lives in, but alone now with 4 spare bedrooms.
They sat around that table talking, telling stories, laughing and likely drinking and smoking. It was the 70’s. My sisters and their friends were old enough to drink and my mother was more liberal then. Everybody smoked. There were more women in that house than I could count, but I loved it. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who of my sisters’ friends lived with us for a time and who was just visiting.
Today, nearly forty years later I’m still in touch with many of those girls, now women. I have to be careful on facebook not to compliment just one because then the others will chime in that I didn’t say anything about them. I should know better anyway, but sometimes something is so endearing, a smile, a comment, or a memory that I feel the need to reconnect with them and give a compliment. Not ever meaning to exclude the others.
Relationships are like flowers in my garden. Always precious and surprising in their splendor. I feel so grateful for the people that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life. Each one gives me something different and touches me in ways that last through the years. Sometimes nourishment in times of a drought. Always comforting, even in just reliving memories from around the table.
Whenever someone learns that I am the last of seven children and the only boy raised by a single mother, I can anticipate their next question. What was it like growing up in a house full of women?
What I’d really like to say is that women take forever to get ready and hog bathrooms. I know it’s a stereotype and generally I am against stereotypes, especially the sexist ones, but growing up with my mother, six sisters, and their assorted girlfriends in the house, I think I have some street cred. Sure, our house had three bathrooms, but in my experience, they were hard to get into.
“Wait. I am putting on my makeup!” someone would yell as I slowly opened a bathroom door. It was soon slammed shut and locked for good measure. Why they didn’t lock it in the first place is another matter. One down two to go. To the master bath. Unfortunately, to get into that one required entry into the master bedroom which was always a problem. Someone was always in some stage of dressing or undressing in front of the largest mirror in the house. Usually it was Patti, my second oldest sister. More than once, I’d opened that door only to see a towel on Patti’s head and then hear the scream. “Ahh...Frankie, I’m getting dressed!” I saw her naked so many times, that I eventually I didn’t flinch, but just closed the door quickly. It seemed comical to me that she had a towel on her head but nothing on her body. How was her hair going to get dry when she had it wrapped in a towel? Why didn’t she use two towels -- one for her head and one for her body? These were questions that I thought but knew that I couldn’t actually ask.
I’d try the downstairs bathroom, but I really didn’t want to because it was, well, downstairs. Strange things lurked down there. Most likely, Chrissy or Peggy would be in that bathroom anyway. Probably Chrissy. Peggy was more of a tomboy so she claimed less bathroom time than the others. If I’d find one miraculously empty, someone would usually yell “Put the seat up!” I didn’t need the reminder. I’d learned early on after potty training that I’d better do that. What could be worse than hearing the scream of a woman sitting down on a toilet without a seat? And why did they wait until the very last moment to go which caused them to be in such a hurry that they didn’t notice that the seat was up? Couldn’t we all take responsibility for moving the seat appropriately for what we were doing and leave the seat in the down and covered position for the next user? More unspoken questions. I took the easy route and just put the damn seat up when I went and down when I was done, always with the lid closed. They hardly ever closed the lid, not that I’m bitter or anything. I’m just saying.
I speak to at least one of my sisters every day. Today, I spoke to both Toni and Peggy. Yesterday, I talked to Susan three times. I know their phone numbers by heart. Chrissy actually quizzed me on her number once when I went a long stretch without calling. I love them. Can’t imagine my life without them, but I sure am glad that I don’t have to share a bathroom with them any longer, or wait for them to get ready for church, or God forbid go clothes shopping with them. Some things in life are best left as childhood memories. So, my standard answer to the recurring question of what is was like is usually “interesting and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”