Category Archives: Family

You Can Do Magic – The Cinnamon Girl’s Birthday


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Spring 2017Today is The Cinnamon Girl’s birthday and it is a day to celebrate all that she is to those of us who know her and those of us who love her. One of the many ways we will do that is to give her cards and gifts and that is good. I love – LOVE – to give gifts.

However, it occurs to me as I write this post, that she is the gift. She is the present. She is so very special.

She is the most special woman I know.

I cannot imagine life without her. I do not wish to.

I know that that our children, too, cannot imagine their lives without her in them. She has given so much to us and is the connection that brings us together, the light around which we all hover.

I marvel at who she is and all she does.

She is confidant and confider.

She is humorist and storyteller.

She is shocking in every good way.

She is kind and compassionate.

She is breathtakingly smart and stunningly quick witted.

She is incisive and insightful.

She is beautiful by any definition of the word.

There are many (myself included) who wonder if she has precognitive powers – if she is tapped into some kind of font that allows her to understand the world in ways that other people do not.

Here’s the secret: my Cinnamon Girl is magic.

She is pure magic.

Happy birthday, Cinnamon Girl. Thank you for being the gift.

 

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Only Three of Us Are Lucky Enough… Father’s Day 2017



The older I get and the more people I encounter in my life, the more I understand that I am one of the lucky ones. Not everyone enjoys a terrific relationship with their father for reasons of all kinds and I am sorry for those who do not.

But I am blessed enough to have had a great father and I will speak for my two sisters here: we were blessed to have Dad as our dad.

Whatever I try to be as a father, I learned from how my father fathered me. When I think of the memories I would like my children to have of me when they are adults parenting kids on their own, I want them to have memories similar to the ones I have of my dad.

  • Walking across the campus of my college alma mater, Catholic University, last week, I said to The Cinnamon Girl “That’s where the bank was where I opened my first adult account. Dad and I did that one afternoon my first week on campus.” He was taking care of me as he ever did.
  • Just yesterday, the hashtag #FirstComics was making the electronic rounds and I tweeted a picture of the first comic books in my collection (comics which are framed on the wall of my office). Dad bought them for me.
  • I think of dad each time I strap on my twelve string guitar. It has a hole in it that dad fixed.
  • We bought a new car in the spring and the impulse to check in with dad on what he thought was so very strong. He always had car advice even if it was not always good advice.
  • When my mother-in-law passed away last week, one of the first thoughts I had was how would Dad respond? What would Dad do?

I could share many more memories but I will conclude with this: I love my father. I always will.

I am one of the lucky three who can call him my dad.

Family 1989

Me, my sisters, our mother and father in London in 1989. Lucky family to have Dad as our dad…

 

 

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Link’n’Blogs – 6.16.17 – Fictional Fathers


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Father’s Day is this weekend. Who are you favorite fathers in fiction? I found a list that’s pretty solid, non-comic-book-y and inclusive of my personal favorite literary character of all time (and, no, it’s NOT To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch, though he’s up there!)… Click the photo!

Atticus Finch

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Filed under Family, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Fathers Day, Literature

The Passing of My Mother-in-Law


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In the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 6, my mother-in-law, Dora Thornton Durham, passed away in her sleep.

She was 84 years old.

Dora was a character in every sense of the word and her larger-than-life personality was in complete and delightful contrast to almost incomprehensibly small frame. Dora suffered from COPD and the disease took its toll on her, to be sure, but the twinkle in her eye and the edge in her wit remained until the end.

Dora and LBC

Dora Thornton Durham and Little Black Cat, April 2015.

Compassionate, intelligent and engaged, Dora had a saying for almost any occasion and many of them were wise, indeed. She was a life-long educator (her most important student being HJ jr who she taught to read) who valued knowledge and character development and she shared many, many stories about the children she had taught throughout her career. Dora married a man whom she first dated because she thought he was Don Meredith, believed in flying saucers and tried to always see the positive in negative situations. She became more liberal in her thought and politics the older she got. She was funny as hell.

There are so many things about my mother-in-law I will miss, but I will always associate Dora with how much she loved animals.

As she lay in our home in during the last days of her life, Dora was not alone. The incredible Cinnamon Girl cared for her night and day, ably assisted by first year nursing student Sous ChefHJ jr and I were around as well, and her son was by her side, too.

But I am not talking about the company she had from any of us. I am talking about our animals. We have cats and a dog and Dora loved them very, very much.

Dora shared many lovely “last words” with us when it was her time to go, but perhaps none were as precious as two directed at our animals.

As she was losing strength one afternoon, Dora saw our dog and lit up with a bright “Hi!” The wagging of the dog’s tail spoke for everyone.

Later that same day, our lovely Siamese cat Lulu crawled onto Dora’s bed. Dora looked down and said to her “soft.”

At that point, these words were an effort for her to form and they must have felt important to her.

I will cherish many memories of Dora, but, in particular, I’ll hold on to these two.

I did not have the luck to know Dora for a very long time , but I am blessed to have had 10 years with her.

I love her and I will miss her.

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Mother To Our Children


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The Cinnamon Girl is a mother to a blended family. I brought two, she brought one. That was ten years ago and I can say having been closer to the situation than anyone, that all three of our children have known The Cinnamon Girl as a mom.

What would a kid want in a mom if they could design her from scratch? Here is what I think:

I think they would want a mom who supports them in all that they do, who lets them know how special they are. I think they would want a mother who encourages them. The Cinnamon Girl has seen our children through freshman football and trumpet playing and softball tryouts and student council and job searches, college searches and homework assignments. And everything in between.

I think they would want a mom with a terrific sense of humor. The Cinnamon Girl does not only know how to laugh, she knows how to make our kids laugh.

I think they would want a mom with shoulders on which to cry. Each of them has had reason to turn to her in sorrow. Each felt better for doing so. The Cinnamon Girl makes the small hurts go away, the big hurts small and the impossible hurts easier to manage.

I think they would want a mom who is smart. I have seen it, time-and-again, seen The Cinnamon Girl give our children wise and wonderful advice. She gives them knowing advice. She gives them the advice they need. And she does not do this unless they ask her to do it.

I think they would want a mother who has their backs. Um, yeah. The Cinnamon Girl Has. Our. Kids’. Backs. Of that, there is no doubt. Do not cross a mother who is a lawyer. Do not do it.

I think they would want a mother who does not take the small stuff too seriously and who knows that the big stuff is not always as serious as it seems at first glance. The Cinnamon Girl has been so wonderful with our kids in these sorts of situations – the kinds that arise when you are a mom. They cannot be avoided. The Cinnamon Girl does not avoid them, she handles them with grace and confidence.

I think they would want a mom who loves them. If my children doubt this about The Cinnamon Girl, they have not been paying attention.

Happy Mother’s Day, my love.

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20/20 Vision – Happy Birthday, Stretch


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MatthewStretch turns 20 today. 10 x 2. 5 x 4. 2 decades.

I do not know how this happened so quickly.

I do not know where kid went, the one who, as a toddler, would wake up incredibly early – we are talking before 5:00am here – and drag me out of bed to play with his “guys” (his little plastic football players).

I do not know where that same kid who wanted to play every sport imaginable for as long as the days, weeks and seasons would last has gone.

I do not know where the boy who would sit in front of a computer screen playing “Backyard Football” hour-after-hour has run of to or where the kid who was sure he was going to be an NFL wide receiver or tight end has flown.

I have been looking for the guy who sat next to me at the conclusion of a frigid cold, heartbreaking Denver Bronco loss with a tear literally freezing running down his cheek.

Likewise, I have been searching out the student who sometimes asked me to read his papers and asked for help on his homework.

High and low I have sought the 6 foot 7, red robe wearing graduate I hugged as he walked across a special stage.

What I have found in these searches – what I have found with this new 20/20 vision of Stretch  now that he is 20 – is a young man on his way to adulthood. Well on his way.

I have found a young man upon whom others rely.

I have found a young man who cares deeply about his world and those around him.

I have found a prayerful young man, a passionate young man, a smart young man.

I have found a young man who it is both honor and privilege to call “son.”

And I have found just how lucky we, his bonus mom, his brother and sister and I are that he is in our family.

Happy birthday, Stretch. Many, many, many returns.

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20 Memories… 20 for HJ jr.


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It’s HJ jr’s 20th birthday today.

Twentieth.

He’s 20.

20-years-old.

To say this is difficult for me to believe is something of an understatement. See, I remember when he moved into his teenage years and now he’s moving out of them.

I remember when he had a collection of sticks and toy guns…

when he tried to remember every piece of chocolate cake he’d ever eaten…

when he walked proudly across the graduation stage…

when he had a walk down a certain path and dropped his cell phone…

when he and I would sit at the dining room table and work though algebra problems…

when he has hugged me…

when he was named outstanding junior of the year…

when we went to see any number of movies that no one else in the family wanted to see (I still didn’t enjoy Elysium)…

when he almost slipped, once, and said something more than “good night” to me…

when he showed me at each-and-every stage of his life that he was the master and I was the learner by telling me about string theory or the Russian economy or any one of a number of things he knew more about than I did……

when he hugs that stupid dog we have (he loves that dog)…

when he texts The Cinnamon Girl … I am glad to be in touch even when he’s away at school…

when I think about his incredible dedication to what he wants…

when consider all the teachers at the school he transferred from lamenting that he was leaving … “he’s the kind of kid we need at this school” they said. They were right…

when I watch him in conversation with “adults” and see how he handles himself with poise and confidence

when he makes his quirky jokes; he’s just so damn funny…

when I get a glimpse into how he views the world…

when I remember the serious talks we’ve had and the difficult ones I recall what a privilege it is to be in his life…

… when he does something silly (keys in the refrigerator, anyone?)…

… when he, in his own inimitable way, lets his family know how much they really mean to him.

Happy birthday, bonus son. Happiest of birthdays.

I am forever honored to be a part of your life and forever proud of you.

 

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